moldybluecheesecurds 2

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dump the death penalty

California is considering the case of a death row inmate scheduled to be executed on December 13th. Stanley Williams was a notorious gang member and a four-time murderer, but has spent his 24 years in prison turning his life around by becoming a noted antigang crusader. He's even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But unless the Governator commutes Mr. Williams' sentence, he will be killed two weeks from now in the hope that his death will make amends for the four lives he took more than 20 years ago.

To be honest, I am frustrated that this country still debates the death penalty.
Numerous studies have shown that it has no deterrent effect on crime. It costs no less than life imprisonment. And it's arguable whether it is a more severe punishment to make someone spend 50 years without personal freedom or to kill them quickly and painlessly. So really, do we like the idea of vengeance that much?

Mr. Williams is an interesting case because there's little doubt of his guilt, but yet he's spent 24 years trying to make amends for the harm he caused. The Christian Science Monitor article highlights an interesting point - if we kill Mr. Williams, what message does that send to the rest of prison inmates? Basically, it says you are too bad to be redeemed. That even doing Nobel Peace Prize quality work is not enough to save us from the inherent evil in you.

Having spent the last few months researching the juvenile justice system, it's clear that America has a problem with accepting rehabilitation. Just a few states are really proactive in helping juvenile delinquents - helping, not punishing. And these states are rewarded with dramatically lower reoffense rates than their more punitive peers (like Minnesota). Research shows that many adults also can be redeemed through treatment, particularly for mental illnesses that afflict a disproportionate number of inmates.

And add to this the fact that death penalty cases have been prosecuted so sloppily, that due process rights have been violated so regularly, that former Illinois governor Jim Ryan commuted the death sentence of every death row inmate in the state, nearly 200 inmates!

I'm of the philosophy that people will take opportunities to redeem themselves. Mr. Williams has and will continue to work as an antigang crusader if his sentence is commuted. Many other death row inmates have similarly committed themselves to making good out of a life gone horribly wrong. These folks still serve time, unquestionably, and some will never feel ashamed for their horrible crimes. But they still spend a lifetime behind bars, just like the good ones.

It's time to dump the death penalty, like every other civilized nation on Earth. It's not worth it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Turn to corn

With energy prices hitting record levels, it's no surprise people are looking to alternatives to imported fuel oil and natural gas. Wood burning stoves have been around for a while, but the latest and greatest rendition takes renewable resource heating to a new level: corn-burning stoves. These stoves can put out heat for up to 40 hours on a single load of corn and avoid some of the disadvantages of wood stoves (i.e. importing bugs with cordwood). I'm seriously thinking about the possibilities...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm sold on intelligent design. It just has to be fair.

It's obvious. If the Kansas school board is going to support non-evolutionary theories in the classroom, they have to be fair. Those of us with alternative beliefs must be respected as well.

Fashion note #2

The belt loop fashion note reminded me of another fashion thing. In a group of mixed-gender young adults in a casual environment, sock color is often indicative of relationship status. Bachelors buy their socks in bags at Target for $6.99. Men in relationships have full-time fashion advisors (whether female or gay partner) and white socks get relegated to exercise and yard work duty.

Next week: hopefully back to more serious topics.

Fashion note #1

So I realized today that there is a fail-safe way to determine how formal your pants are. Belt loops. My jeans and other casual pants have 5. Some of my "business casual" pants have six. My wool slacks (see, they even have a fancier name) have 7.

Enjoy this insight while you can. In all likelihood, this will be the only fashion note ever posted here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's no cash cow, but a hybrid car still has its benefits

This guy has a full-blown economic and financial analysis of the benefits and costs of hybrid cars. His conclusion? It's not worth it yet.

While I applaud his extensive effort, he leaves a few things out...including several government incentives, such as the $3,150 federal tax credit starting next year, and a bevy of state financial incentives. Several states also allow hybrid drivers access to HOV lanes even when driving solo and Boston is considering offering free meter parking downtown.

Omninerd also leaves out one big thing: used cars. Given the ridiculous premium on a new car that depreciates as soon as it leaves the lot, what about the financial benefits of switching from a 1999 Accord (to use his example) to a 2004 Toyota Prius? It may not be a big personal cash cow, but a hybrid car is one way to help the environment and pay a little less at the pump.

All blame and no shame

With the lies finally having caught up to him, his administration under investigation for perjury and other crimes, and his policy efforts DOA, the President has decided to step up the blame game. Understandably tired of being held accountable for the numerous miscues that led to the Iraqi morass, Bush has gone on the offensive. Those who criticize him are flip-floppers because many of them originally supported the resolution to go into Iraq - ignore the man behind the curtain, you followed him after all! Oh, and as usual, we are helping the enemy and hating the troops by "sending mixed signals."

Sure, there's plenty of politics here...but the arrogant attitude of the President represents his entire party. Republicans came to Washington in 1994 full of energy, ideology, and a desire to reign in overbearing government. If they still had their principles, they'd know that they have seen the enemy, and he is us.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Science v. religion? Try democracy!

To those saddened upon hearing that the Kansas Board of Education approved of teaching pseudoscientific "intelligent design" alongside evolution, take heart. This week, Dover, Pennsylvania residents injected a fresh dose of democracy into the science v. religion debate. Their school board had recently done something similar to the Kansas Board, watering down science curriculum with religious theories. Well, the people of Dover spoke loud and clear, tossing out every incumbent school board member in this week's election. God Bless America!

Screwing the oil men will mean screwing ourselves

Are oil and other energy companies reaping immoral profits in a time of price crunches? It depends on your perspective.

Some folks see big profits as a sign of profiteering off needy folks during Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. There are even some U.S. Senators who talked the oil companies into coming down to Congress to explain how they made so much money while prices were going so high.

The other side of the that oil companies made a lot of money because:
a) supply got tight as the hurricanes hit oil production facilities
b) prices went up with scarce supply

The Economist has an article (paid regitration required, sorry) defending the oil companies or, more specifically, the basic economics. They argue that this is how supply and demand works and that slicing off oil company profits with a "windfall tax" will just screw us later when poor investment in infrastructure leaves us with even tighter supply and higher prices.

I'm with the Economist on this one. If you prevent people from making money when they serve in a time of tight supply, you remove the incentive to do so. Even if we did something smart like using the entire windfall tax profit to build alternative energy infrastructure, we still leave a specter of arbitrary profit seizure over the energy market. It's not good politics.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"Hard choices"

Congressional Republicans have rediscovered their inner fiscal conservative and have come to budget-cutting with vigor not seen since President Clinton balanced our budget in the late 1990s. Of course, this budget balancing will require some "hard choices," like cutting working families off food stamps, cutting working families from child care assistance (that helps them continue to work), and $70 billion in new tax cuts

E.J. Dionne says it right, that asking Americans to make hard choices means admitting that you can't finance a war on tax cuts, can't finance homeland security on tax cuts, and can't pay for national disaster relief on tax cuts. In other words, ask the wealthy and the middle class to pay for what they're getting.

On the other hand, it's fun to reduce any bootstrap building programs to the poor, since they can't make political contributions (like oil companies) and are less likely to vote.

If we're finally ready for honesty in budgeting - paying a fair price - then sign me up. But stop kicking the poor while they're down.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Desiring acceptance doesn't mean opposing a cure

For a class on science and public policy, I’m reading about how some Germans oppose stem cell research and other genetic therapies because of the intrinsic dignity of human life. Some even go so far as to say that it’s better to support persons with disability with stronger social programs and tolerance than through stem cell research.

I’m sorry, but I think that given the choice, most “people with disabilities” would be delighted to give up that moniker and just become “people.” Now, there are many compelling moral arguments for restricting stem cell research (although none I agree with), but I cringe at the idea that being born with a disability means you should refuse a cure if it’s available.

Think of it this way. It’s been a great social accomplishment that people with physical or mental disabilities have come to be understood as people who are different instead of evil or cursed by God, as many were even a hundred years ago. The recognition that their disability comes from genetic mutation or illness means we should make as much effort toward curing them as we do for curing cancer or preventing smallpox. Does such research negate the value of greater social acceptance of people with disabilities? Absolutely not. But it shouldn’t be precluded by it either.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hark! Is that the sound of political backbone?

Congressional Democrats have made the French look like hardball players in the years of President Bush's administration, so it's nice to see them sticking up for America again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Loud and proud

This guy at the computer next to me was talking to his significant other while I was trying to work. His rather gruff and unfriendly demeanor caught my attention, especially as the conversation reached its conclusion. She obviously had just said something like "I love you" to him and he sort of mumbled, "you too."

She felt a little peeved that he wouldn't give the same response, judging by his forthcoming lame excuse that he was "in a room full of people, but you're in a room by yourself."

According to Rico Suave, to express love when near other people is "not proper."

Screw that. When I love someone, I say it loud and proud!