A belated Fourth of July greeting...

from a webcomic I only just came across today. Well, yesterday, if you want to be technical about it...


Do read the Archives. They're... Interesting... This, in particular, struck a chord with me. Although, in my version, the finger-doll is John Bolton. I mean, everyone already knew that the White House (any White House, really, regardless of the party affiliation of current occupants) regards the World Bank and the IMF as sections of the Treasury and State Department, respectively. It's depressing - and it's depressingly justified - but it is not, in the final evaluation, unexpected or unprecedented.

Bolton is one of those two. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out which...

Oh, and I found this piece of information from his front page extremely interesting:

Yes, [Zarqarwi] renamed his organization "Al-Qaeda In Iraq." He did this in December 2004, nearly a year after we invaded based in part on the premise that he was a member of the organization.

[Zarqawi] and bin Laden also appear to have hated each other. But, after the invasion, Zarqawi's renaming of his group made sense for them both.

So much for 'fighting the terrorists abroad, so we don't have to fight them at home' - that was utter BS from the word go, of course, but it's always nice to see one's prejudices pandered to. Nice in a rather tragic sort of way, when it comes to geopolitics these days, but I suppose it's only human to look for a silver lining...


No discussion of the War...

...is complete before mention has been made of the Roman Ratlines

Read it and learn.

Were these people prosecuted?

Was there ever an independent investigation as to just how far up the Vatican burocracy the rot went?

Was the Vatican leadership purged the way other axis governments were?

The answers, my friend,
are blowing in the wind

Desecrating Lady Liberty

I believe that this picture speaks for itself... Oddly, though, the people who made it seem to think it's pro-christian... I myself can hardly think of anything less likely to prompt me to convert...

EDIT: Aargh, this clearly isn't my day today... I forgot to hat-tip PZ over at Pharyngula for advertising the pic.

I hold these truths to be self-evident

This is a project I've been wanting to take up for some time. In point of fact, it's a project I've been wanting to take up ever since the French told the European 'Constitution' to drop dead.

I have boldly boasted that I could write a European constitution that'd pass popular referendum - by a wide majority - in a majority of the European countries (well, a majority of the countries I want to be part of any union with, anyway...). So before I make such an attempt, I should perhaps outline some very preliminary goals:

The constitution should be concise and of reasonable length. It should outline the spheres of authority of the different powers of the state, and not much else. Statements that can not be clearly and immediately translated into empowerments of - or restrictions placed upon - the different branches of government, while often well and fine in their own right, simply do not belong in a constitution.

While statements such as 'citizens are not allowed to beat their kids' certainly reflect admirable sentiments, they should be built into the laws of the land, not the constitution. On the other hands, statements such as 'government employees are not allowed to beat citizens' clearly fall within the realm of constitutional texts.

While I fully realise that most laws will never be read by most citizens, the constitution of a country is a law that must, in my opinion, be readable by any literate citizen.

This holds true for any constitution, but for a European constitution it is particularly vital, since two things the current European Union does not possess in abundance are transparency and democratic legitimacy. Which brings me to my next point.

I will very deliberately not attempt to think this paper into the existing European framework. What we essensially have today is a free-trade zone with a political superstructure. That's a backwards way of doing things. Partially because such free-trade zones are a relic from the pre-industrialised economies, and partically because it scews the perspective of the Union: Most of its institutions tend to think in terms of trade, and consider such things as education, environmental protection, local tax structures, etc. strictly as an afterthought. Again, this brings me to my next point.

The document must be compatible with the Union we have today and make provisions for the continued function of most of its institutions and provisions for the gradual out-phasing of the Union burocracy in favour of the new burocracy. It would be utterly unreasonable - not to mention foolish and dangerous - to simply scrap the Union out of hand, so this reverse-compatibility is a necessary clause.

Much the same can be said for the existing political and burocratic structures of the current member countries. The constitution must mark the starting point of a process, not the end-point.

At the end of the road, many of the functions that are today carried by the individual member states will hopefully be carried by the new and improved union, and we will hopefully have a united, European public conciousness and political environment. But until that happy day arrives, provisions must exist for states to carry on business as usual, and provisions must be made to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Which brings about my final point - and by far the most thorny one: One of the great and enduring problems of the United States of America is that the vote distribution is scewered in favour of the Flyover States.

In short, a vote in Kansas is worth more than a vote in New York, because each state recieves 2 senators, a number of representatives proportional to their population, and a number of electors (for presidential races) equal to the sum of the two former.

Thus, if state A has - say - a population equal to the combined population of states B, C, and D, states B, C, and D combined will have parity with state A in the lower chamber, but states B, C, and D combined will trumph state A in the upper chamber and in presidential elections.

While this structure makes perfect sense in a newly formed union, where the member states still retain a sense of self and retain isolated political communities, it makes zero sense once the union possesses a real political conciousness on the federal level.

Thus the transition from a fledgling union to a fully formed federation is an issue that must be dealt with at the very inception of the federation in question.

There is no easy way around it: Simply assuming from day zero that the new union will act like a single political entity - and to structure the constition around that assumption - would turn the paper into little more than an annexation request from the point of view of the smaller members of the new union.

On the other hand, there must be some sort of transition scheme laid out from the very outset, since it is highly unlikely that the areas that recieve special privileges will give them up simply because they have become relics of a transition that is long completed.

This is the single hardest point of the process, and I must confess that at this point in time, I know of no scheme that seems workable.

Well, well, well... Who would'a thunk that?

Looks like él Prezidenté Shrub has been violating the constitution of the United States for quite a while longer than I guessed...

Not, I hasten to add, that I should be surprised by this...