Archive for January 4th, 2011

Dangerous Intersection Interviewed on KDHX

| January 4, 2011 | Reply
Dangerous Intersection Interviewed on KDHX

A big thanks to Ed Bishop of St. Louis radio station KDHX for inviting Dangerous Intersection onto his show, Reality Now. Ed, a journalism professor at Webster University in St. Louis, created his show after attending the 2005 National Conference for Media Reform sponsored by Free Press. Ed’s show focuses on media issues, and on January 3, 2011 Mark Tiedemann and I joined him for his half-hour show. We discussed the origins of Dangerous Intersection, citizen journalism, religion and political labels, among other things.

If you’d like to hear the January 3rd show, it is available at the KDHX site, but only for a couple of weeks. Note for aspiring citizen journalists: the next Free Press National Conference for Media Reform will be held April 8 – 10 in Boston, Massachusetts

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7 billion reasons to consider 7 billion

| January 4, 2011 | 2 Replies
7 billion reasons to consider 7 billion

In the three minutes it takes to view this excellent National Geographic video on the rapidly increasing numbers of people, earth’s population will increase by 170 people. That explosive growth has real life ramifications that will affect our quality of life:

I applaud the willingness of National Geographic to discuss this critically important issue. Many people and organizations shy away from the topic of the earth’s carrying capacity.

Another organization dedicated to making sure that we don’t shy away from the topic is Global Population Speak Out (GPSO). Here is GPSO mission statement:

The Population Institute, based in Washington DC, is seeking prominent scientists, scholars, and other concerned citizens to participate in this international program of action. The mission is to raise awareness in the global community about the current size and growth of the human population on Earth — and to highlight the challenges this size and growth present as we attempt to achieve planet-scale ecological sustainability.

I am proud to say that I am Pledger #36.

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Scalia’s Problem

| January 4, 2011 | 11 Replies
Scalia’s Problem

Recently, Justice Antonin Scalia shot his mouth off about another bit of “social” judicial opinion and managed to be correct to a fault again. Here is the article. Basically, he is of the opinion that if a specific term or phrase does not appear in the Constitution, then that subject is simply not covered. Most famously, this goes to the continuing argument over privacy. There is, by Scalia’s reasoning (and I must add he is by no means alone in this—it is not merely his private opinion), no Constitutionally-protected right to privacy.

As far as it goes, this is correct, but beside the point. The word “private” certainly appears, in the Fifth Amendment, and it would seem absurd to suggest the framers had no thought for what that word meant. It refers here to private property, of course, but just that opens the debate to the fact that there is a concept of privacy underlying it.

The modern debate over privacy concerns contraception and the first case where matters of privacy are discussed is Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965. That case concerned the right of a married couple to purchase and use contraception, which was against the law in that state (and others). The Court had to define an arena of privacy within which people enjoy a presumed right of autonomous decision-making and into which the state had no brief to interfere. Prior to this, the Court relied on a “freedom of contract” concept to define protected areas of conduct. Notice, we’re back in the realm of property law here.

People who insist that there is no “right to privacy” that is Constitutionally protected seem intent on dismissing any concept of privacy with which they disagree, but no doubt would squeal should their own self-defined concept be violated. Therein lies the problem, one we continue to struggle with. But it does, at least in Court tradition, come down to some variation of ownership rights—which is what has made the abortion debate so difficult, since implicit in it is the question of whether or not a woman “owns” her body and may therefore, in some construction of freedom of contract, determine its use under any and all circumstances.

[More . . . ]

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Big wasted money

| January 4, 2011 | 5 Replies
Big wasted money

I know I’ve quite recently written about the immense amount of money the United States is pouring into Afghanistan, but this terrible waste of money simply must stop. It occurred to me that the huge amount of money we are spending to fight poor people in Afghanistan needs to be described in terms that make it more understandable to the average American.

Imagine that the federal government made a big announcement tomorrow that it would start funding large-scale improvements for each of America’s largest 100 cities. In accordance with this new program to build bridges, hire teachers, convert buildings to high energy efficiency and retrain workers (in addition to other things), the federal government would pay each of America’s biggest 100 cities $20 million.

Imagine this celebration! The citizens of each of these cities would be treated to ribbon-cutting ceremonies complete with large replicas of checks, each of which contains the number $20 million. The mayors of these cities would tell their citizens about all the great things they will be able to do with $20 million.

Now imagine that while this celebration is going on, a 10-year-old child walks up to a reporter on the street, tugs at his sleeve, and tells him that something is wrong. The cameras keep rolling as the surprised reporter asks the child what could possibly be wrong with each of America’s 100 biggest cities getting a grant of $20 million. The child pulls out a calculator and explains that $20 million times 100 equals only $2 billion. The reporter asked the child what could possibly be wrong with this. The child explains:

$2 billion is what America spends in Afghanistan each and every week. In order to spend a big amount of money on America’s 100 biggest cities, an amount equal to the amount we waste in Afghanistan each year, we would need to pay each of America’s biggest 100 cities $20 million every week for a year.

The reporter blurts out, “Think of the huge number of teachers and police officers we could hire for that kind of money. $20 million times 50 weeks means that each of American’s biggest cities would get $1 Billion. Think of the crumbling bridges we could fix with that. Think of the improve schools, the improved health care and the collective relief we would feel knowing that our hard-earned tax dollars are being used wisely.

At that point, the child would again tug at the reporters sleeve and remind him, “We are not spending tax dollars in Afghanistan. It is all borrowed money we are blowing over there. In fact, 42 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government in 2010 is borrowed money.

At that point, the reporter might look at the camera and say something like, “That’s it from here tonight. I’m speechless.”

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