Wednesday, 29 December 2004

No democracy for brown people

Title stolen shamelessly from Spoons. He objects to reserving positions for Sunnis, as does Kris. I’m not as concerned with it at the moment because it is just another interim government which will draft a permanent constitution.

Over the longer run, they have a point, though I suspect Kris would disagree with me; maybe Spoons too. Iraq seems like a country that screams out for federalism. In their case, establishing states (or provinces) to act as a counterbalance to the central government. If they created a Senate that represented these provinces it would insure de facto representation for the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds at the federal level.

As for permanently setting aside “Sunni” positions in the executive? Seems like a bad idea, though giving them equal representation in the Senate is a good idea—after they’ve ceased the violence and allowed elections to proceed in their area.

Creative destruction

Apparently Norm Mineta can’t figure out why the legacy airlines are in such big trouble. (þ Brian J. Noggle)

He could save us taxpayers a bit of money by just reading Virginia Postrel’s weblog. More succinctly: U.S. Airways sucks monkey balls, and they’re tightwad scum too.

Keeping up with the Majors

Belhaven College wants to upgrade its home football field, which it shares with Jackson Public Schools, to have better facilities and artificial turf.

Left unmentioned is that Belhaven’s generous offer to pay for most of the renovations might have something to do with field envy for the new surface at Harper Davis Field a few hundred yards west. It’s gotta stick in those Presbyterians’ craws that us Methodists have ourselves a better football field.

Broken when I'm lonesome

I apparently have a love-hate relationship with my students; in my mailbox at work today were a Christmas card from a student and my abysmal (at least by Millsaps standards) course evaluations. Four students in my intro class apparently thought it would be amusing to give me the lowest possible ranking on all 19 questions, even such procedural items as “gives clear directions” and “presents [material] in a clear sequence.” Ah well, at least I “demonstrate knowledge” of what I’m teaching…

My response to all this, of course, was to finish my SPSA paper on voting in recent presidential elections and continue getting organized for my trip to Florida tomorrow.

Why not just have governors appoint judges?

I’ve never understood the fascination with electing judges. I’m a political junkie and I usually leave the ballot space for judges blank simply because I don’t know enough about them to make an informed decision. More reason to have governors appoint judges ($):

Nine out of ten American judges stand for election. The theory is admirably democratic: if the people who make laws are elected, why shouldn’t those who interpret them be too? But that theory is increasingly coming into conflict with the idea that judges should be impartial.

Until recently, judicial candidates were usually prevented from saying much, on the basis that it could later raise questions about the courts’ independence. Conservatives have long fumed that such curbs have let “activist judges” hide their views on subjects such as abortion; the restrictions, they add, infringe free speech. In 2002 the Supreme Court agreed: in Republican Party of Minnesota v White, it struck down Minnesota’s “announce clause” prohibiting judicial candidates from airing their views on disputed issues.

Dead Again (Again)

Allow me another plug for the one, the only, Dead Pool 2005… and tell ’em we sent you. It’s all in good fun, and there’s no fee to enter, although Lair may get testy with you if you don’t have a blog. All you have to do is pick the 15 semi-famous people you think are gonna die in 2005. So, in the immortal (or at least immoral) words of Gwen Stefani, ”what you waitin’ for?”

Britain's older poll tax

Jane Galt is amazed to discover Britain’s television police, responsible for ensuring the BBC gets its £121 a year from TV-watching Britons—even if they never watch the BBC. From the article:

The fee is very much a part of British life. It is a criminal offense for anyone with a television set not to pay it, whether they watch the BBC or not. Fee-evasion cases make up 12 percent of the caseload in magistrates’ courts. Although most evaders are fined, 20 people were imprisoned for nonpayment last year.

The BBC took in £3.9 billion ($7.5 billion) from the fee in 1993, but 5.7 percent of television owners still failed to pay. TV Licensing regularly carries out campaigns to warn them about the consequences of inaction that say, for instance, “Get one or get done” – “getting done” being slang for getting caught.

Enforcement officers visit homes and businesses about three million times a year. They have a variety of weapons at hand, including a law that requires retailers to notify the government whenever someone buys a television; a database with TV-owning information about 28 million Britons; and specially equipped vans and hand-held devices that can detect unlawful television-watching.

The predecessor of the TV licence, the radio licence, went away in 1971. For more details, visit the TV Licensing website, where you can learn about the TV licence in 12 different languages.