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Comment: Apparently cell phones are more distracting (Score 1) 195 195

I reported some facts, added a little interpretation, and finished with one sentence of speculation. Where did I suggest banning anything?

Surprisingly, you reminded me of something relevant. IIRC, there's evidence that talking on a cell phone (hands free or not) is _more_ distracting than talking to a passenger in the car. (I don't have time to look up sources ATM.) It sounds weird, but it's plausible that interacting with something that's actually in the car is less distracting that paying attention to a disembodied voice. Most of the "distractions" you mentioned aren't interactions in the same way. E.g. you don't have a back-and-forth interaction with a license plate or even a radio; you just look or listen.

Comment: Reminds me of hands-free cell phones (Score 4, Interesting) 195 195

When the dangers of driving while holding a cell phone became clear, many places banned hand-held cellphones while driving but allowed hands-free cell phones. After further research, it seems clear that hand-free cell phones aren't any safer. Even a little distraction can be very dangerous when you need quick reflexes. Minor distractions are particularly dangerous because most of the time you don't need quick reflexes; you're just cruising down the highway -- lulling you into a false sense of security. I'm guessing a HUD causes similar problems.

Comment: I disagree (Score 1) 1082 1082

I think the government works too capriciously as is -- because of the inflexibility I mentioned. It seems counter-intuitive, but it wouldn't be the first time that a well-intentioned, strong rule backfired -- causing the rule to be strong in principle but weak in practice (because everyone ignored it).

Passing laws is a real hassle in the US. They have to get a majority of votes in the house, 60% of votes in the Senate, not be vetoed by the president, and not be struck down by the courts -- and that's not even counting hurdles within congress (committees, leadership support, etc.) And you know what? It isn't needed. Many governments operate just fine with a parliamentary system that only has one real legislative body and a judiciary. In fact, well functioning presidential governments are quite rare -- and now we're seeing why.

What's the effect of a screwed up legislative branch in a presidential system? The executive branch taking more power (e.g. Obama's executive order wrt illegal immigration). That's now how it's supposed to work, but sometimes things need to get done, and if the legislative branch sits there, one of the other branches will take its power. In the longrun, it's dangerous. It's exactly the thing the checks and balances (inflexibility) was meant to prevent. Oh well.

Ditto with the constitution. The interstate commerce clause is used as the justification so much federal legislation, but it wasn't meant to be that way. The issue is that the constitution was not written with the needs of a modern government in mind. Rather than update the constitution (which is a pain in the ass), we warp the constitution to fit our -- often legitimate -- purposes. However, once we start bending the meaning of the constitution like that, it stops blocking the bad things it was meant to block.

Like all things, there's a happy medium between to weak and too strong. I just think that we're on the too-strong side.

Comment: I'd be all for that, but... (Score 1) 1082 1082

So your argument is that the 19th amendment shouldn't have been necessary, and it was only needed because the courts wouldn't apply the 14th amendment properly?

That's a self-consistent reading, and I'm all for giving people more rights, but I just don't see it in the text of the 14th amendment. Does the "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" really mean "any right [that doesn't violate the golden rule]"? It would be nice if it did. I'm not holding my breath for the courts to enforce it that way.

I agree with the raisin ruling, but that really seems like a 5th amendment thing to me ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation"). I also agree that there are many laws that should go, but just like for the raisins, I think a lot of the fire power comes from other amendments -- without the need for everything under the sun to be a privilege or immunity.

Comment: Right(s)... (Score 1) 1082 1082

The constitution does not endow rights. The constitution delineates most rights mainly by restricting the government's ability to interfere.

Reconcile your argument with the 19th amendment: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

What's your reading? Did women always have the right to vote but the government was interfering with that right until the 19th amendment restricted the government from doing so? Just because the amendment used a double negative doesn't mean the right existed beforehand hand.

That's was a warm-up. Now, reconcile your argument with the 13th amendment: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

I'm sure that amendment didn't give anyone rights -- rights that were never explicitly banned before...

For all intents and purposes, those two amendments enshrined rights in law. Before them, slaves were and universal suffrage was not. If that's not endowing rights, I don't know what is.

Maybe you just want to argue about some sort of relativism -- that rights float in the ether independent of government. Regardless, there's a bonus question: if the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment is so powerful, why was the 19th amendment needed? Do you see where I'm coming from?

Comment: Those took constitutional amendments (Score 2) 1082 1082

So, they can't decide women no longer have the vote. They can't decide black people can be property.

That's true because of the 13th and 19th amendments, respectively. Those rights were not due to court rulings (which went the other way).

That's an important distinction between the above two cases and SSM. Ostensibly the objection to this ruling is that the right did not come from the legislative process. Although I'm sure opponents would be equally pissed if SSM were legalized by a legislative process, I do think the gripe has some merit. SSM was legalized by one vote out of nine. It can be undone by the same amount. Other rights won through the supreme court (such as abortion and even the right to use contraception -- Griswold v. Connecticut) can also be undone if the supreme court membership changes. The same is not true for a constitutional amendment -- which is how many other major rights were endowed.

Is it a good or bad thing that the legislative process got bypassed? I don't know. I'd much rather see this type of thing handled by the legislature. However, I'm pragmatic. I think that we see lots of end runs around the legislative branch because the constitution is so darn inflexible with so many hurdles to pass legislation and constitutional amendments. That inflexibility was well intended, but if the constitution were just a little more flexible, I think we'd see the government work much more smoothly.

Comment: Re:There will be negative effects too (Score 1) 292 292

That sounds like a strong reason to pander to the base if neither party has accurate polls for guidance. If the candidate with the lager base can make swing voters not vote by pandering to the base (as you suggest), then that candidate has won.

Comment: They need to be more upfront about the length (Score 4, Insightful) 292 292

I've been burned by interminable pools too. I'd be a lot more willing to answer polls if the people on the phone started with something like, "Hello. We're doing a political poll that has X questions and will take about Y minutes. Are you interested?" Y would be 3-4 minutes tops. I'd answer that type of poll.

Comment: There will be negative effects too (Score 2) 292 292

I agree that there could be positive effects if polling became useless, but there could also be negative effects. It's not clear to me which effects will be stronger. My guess is that it'll be a wash.

Two possible examples:
-I think that politicians have a good idea of what their base wants even without detailed polls. If politicians have no idea what the rest of the electorate wants, maybe politicians will pander even more to their base because it's a known quantity.
-When there's real hysteria, politicians don't need polls. Take the recent ebola scare/hysteria. I don't think politicians jumped on it because of polls.

Comment: Re:Krauss' claim is not about moral authority (Score 1) 305 305

He kind-of-sort-of recommended three children when he said that there was no need to breed like rabbits. I think three is larger than the average size of a Catholic family in the USA, but maybe it's smaller than the world-wide average? In any case, I agree that the pope is a smart guy. I've been pleasantly surprised by him.

Comment: That's a silly question (Score 1) 305 305

How many who whine about global warming and oil companies are willing to take a bus to work or ride a bike 4 hours each way? No hands I see ...

You don't see any hands because those are ridiculous solutions. I do know people who have, for sustainability reasons, moved to densely-populated areas and sold their car -- instead choosing to use public transportation, bike, walk, etc. (They rent cars/trucks when necessary, which isn't often.) Many young people are also making this choice, although I can't vouch for all of their motives.

Yes, the suburbs and many American cities are designed so that anything except a car is an impractical way to get around (with limited exceptions). However, that doesn't mean that cars are the only solution to transportation. It simply reflects where you chose to live.

Comment: Science can say a lot about what's good and bad (Score 1) 305 305

Science can tell us what the planet is and where it's going, but it can't tell us if that's a good thing or not.

I disagree. You have to assume that people interested in their (and their offspring's) physical well being, and scientists darn well can tell us if something is good or not. (I'm not saying that's the only assumption you have to or should make, but those other assumptions can be factored in too.)

However, the scientific answer is a much more complicated calculus. The pope can just tell people to stop destroying the environment. Science gives more nuanced answers like: this amount of environmental alteration will give you a better diet/lower infant mortality rate/more material wealth/etc., but go beyond that and the opposite will happen. E.g., catching this many fish is sustainable, but catching more that that will lead to population collapse and you not catching anything -- i.e. that's a bad decision.

Is that math somehow morally empty? That's an individual's decision. Then again, the majority of humanity doesn't take their cues from the pope, so some will see his proclamations as morally empty too (although non-catholics may see logic in the pope's writing, in which case we're back to judging the morality of math).

Comment: Re:Krauss' claim is not about moral authority (Score 1) 305 305

It's a little weird to say that the pope went there when in fact the pope took the position furthest from there, but that's semantics.

Regardless, my point stands: the pope is restricted by his moral authority, and that's a real problem if he's leading the charge. (That said, I think the pope will do much more good than harm, but he could do so much more good if he would tell people to use condoms.)

(I have another response to your original post, but I'll put it in another comment.)

Comment: Krauss' claim is not about moral authority (Score 4, Interesting) 305 305

Krauss brings up points that the pope doesn't _because_ of the pope's "moral authority". For example, Krauss makes the point that contraception is a must. A large world population is simply unsustainable without doing major environmental harm (and may simply be unsustainable, period). Needless to say, the pope couldn't really go there, although he has previously said that people should have fewer children -- never mind how.

So, while I think the pope is doing much good, he is dangerously restricted by the very moral authority you mention. It's a double-edged sword.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (5) All right, who's the wiseguy who stuck this trigraph stuff in here?

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