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Journal: In general support of /. editors 6

Journal by maynard

I've seen the comment forums filled with off-topic posts about a badly deployed beta upgrade. Community members are pissed and they're venting and they want site owners to not just listen but act on community concerns. And so we see a temper tantrum that likely has only alienated corporate owners and made life for editorial staff miserable.

I have sympathy for both perspectives. The upgrade really is a mess. Commenting doesn't work, layout wastes space, fonts are poorly chosen, etc. Yet I also recognize that software upgrades are necessary. Slashdot is looking pretty creaky. Another coat of whitewash over cracks in the woodwork won't do. Deciding to rewrite and build something new is a defendable choice. But owners should know that simply deploying something new is not the same as building something that works. As an old timer here, I'd like functionality considered above mere design. Ideally, a good new site would merge the two seamlessly.

Of course, no one screaming out there in the community cares what I have to say. I've been absent so long I'm barely a member these days. But I think the continued tantrum is going overboard and risks causing more damage than good. Destroying /. to save it is no solution. Make a stink, get your views known, but editors have posted a place for dialog and it's time to use it. Crapflooding every article with off-topic rants about the beta now diminishes community goals. It's counterproductive.

I'd like to see /. resurgent. I think Reddit has gotten too big and the Internet needs competitors in link aggregation and commenting as a checks and balancing mechanism. Slashdot still has popular heft and a functioning community. I'd encourage owners and editors to consider this community response as an encouraging sign. People care. And that means that with appropriate management-community dialog, the site remains viable going forward. The question is: after this period of decline, how do you retool to challenge competitors like Reddit and grow at their expense? Throwing away your community doesn't solve that problem.

User Journal

Journal: 2001: A Space Odyssey - Discerning Themes through Score and Imagery

Journal by maynard

2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my favorite films. Recently, I wrote a ~25,000 word analysis, with image stills and video clips, discussing Nietzsche's philosophical themes of Ascent of Man and Eternal Recurrence implied therein. Comparing HAL's murder of the Discovery One's crew in contrast to Moonwatcher's killing of a competing ape tribe leader over a water hole, I note that both gain sentience through violence. Another argument proposes that the apes are as maladapted to their savana environment as is modern man by his tools and socialization, leading to dehumanization by technology rather than triumph. I list several motifs in imagery, contrapuntal use of musical score that evokes emotion in opposition to visual narrative, analyze actor micro-expressions used to imply character intent, and end with subsequent impact of the film on depictions of artificial intelligence. There are numerous citations from Bizony, Freud, Kracaeur, Nietzsche, Zizek, and more. Perhaps some /. members who also love the film might be interested in the read.

User Journal

Journal: WTF happened to you, Apple? 3

Journal by maynard

As a long time Apple customer (I still even own an original Apple II), I've come to rely on the firm to design high quality equipment and provide top tier support to sustain consistent workflow. I don't expect the firm to work miracles, but I do expect honest communication when problems arise.

I have a 2010 27" iMac. Recently, the firm has recalled 1TB drives shipped with units from this era. I had purchased Applecare, so the machine was still even under warranty. It had never been opened, it was - other than some minor cosmetic blemishes on the screen - as original as it had been sold. So, I contacted the nearest Apple Store and arranged to have the unit serviced.

On the 23rd I spoke with a Genius Bar (tm) representative who assured me it would almost certainly be same-day service. Though, it might - if there were problems - take up to three days. Regardless, he assured me, a representative from the firm would call me and give an update regarding the status of the repair. Since I've moved from the United States to Australia, he also offered a power cable with the new connector. Great! On the 24th at 9:45am, I brought the unit in for servicing in its original box and coating with its original foam cover.

I asked the representative to also check the superdrive, as I thought that it wasn't reading discs properly any longer. And, no that isn't because of region coding differences. It really did seem to be a head alignment problem in the drive.

'No worries, we'll fix it up for you! Expect a call late this afternoon.' Came the reply.

They conducted an analysis of the machine, we did some paperwork, and then I left with an empty box at a bit after 10am.

No call that afternoon was forthcoming. But, OK. Maybe they had a backlog. Whatever. Then no call came the next day. Fine. And then no call came the next day - three days in. However, it was the weekend and I thought, 'hey, I'll give them a break. Maybe they don't service machines on Saturday or Sunday, even though the store is open.'

Then no call came on Monday. By Tuesday morning I was angry. Not only were they five days into a repair that was - at most - supposed to take three (with a verbal promise of same day), but they hadn't even bothered to call or email me to give a status update on the repair. And I have a work backlog to deal with.

So I called and spoke with the manager. I told him that the issue wasn't that they were taking longer than expected to resolve the repair. The issue was a lack of communication with their customer. The firm wrote on my sheet that a staffer would call with an update within 48hrs and nobody did. Further, they made me wait thirty minutes on hold calling for a status update only to lose track of me and hang up.

A staffer called back and told me the machine was ready for pick up.

I get to the store and immediately I feel like I am not wanted by these staffers. They segregate me off to the side. Then they bring me to the back genius bar desk and bring out the machine and paperwork, but - unlike when they inventoried the machine during the initial sign in - they didn't turn the machine on to prove its functionality during check-out. The staffer clearly wanted me to sign the paper and leave as quickly as possible.

I asked about the power cord. She refused and suggested I speak with a staffer who would sell me one.

'OK, fine.' I thought, 'I don't need a power cord and I definitely don't want to be here any longer. These people are rude.'

I picked up the computer and left as fast as I could.

Only two years ago you offered best in service. While I don't expect freebies, I certainly do expect follow through on promises. Your store failed in every respect, from meeting policy obligations your company set for staffers in dealing with the customer to fulfilling verbal promises your staffers provided on the side.

Bad bad bad bad bad. Frankly, worse than Dell.

Apple, what the hell has happened to you? This professional customer who buys top of the line equipment to support his business workflow now wants to find an alternative. For Adobe is where I butter my bread, not Apple any longer. And its clear to me, Apple has determined that I'm not how they butter their bread either.

User Journal

Journal: Alternate Bailout: Let us liquidate our 401Ks! 2

Journal by maynard

Underneath the all the conflicting rationales behind Paulson's bailout plan is a simple fact: US citizens, on average, owe more on their mortgages than property valuations justify. Giving Wall Street firms bunch of the Public's money to offset their losses won't change that underlying fact. Further, it will worsen the situation for homeowners given that the very same people who are unable to pay their mortgage loans will be required to pay off the bailout. Just who are they trying to save anyway?

Here's a Main Street solution: Why not change the rules for 401K retirement accounts to allow individuals to liquidate all or part of their retirement holdings without penalty, as long as the money is transferred to their mortgage holder to pay down principal on their home. The money should also be available to help individuals refinance out of dangerous variable interest rate HELoC (Home Equity Lines of Credit) and ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) loans.

In each case, if the homeowner has enough funds saved in his or her 401K to offset their negative equity stake and/or get out from under a risky loan, the homeowner wins and the mortgage banks win. Society wins. Also, no public funds would have been used. And US citizens wouldn't be held responsible for paying off a bunch of Wall Street parasites who lost everything due to their irresponsible profligacy. Thus, a moral hazard for the rich would not - this time, at least - have been promoted as U.S. fiscal policy. Just an idea.

Discuss.

User Journal

Journal: Why I now refuse to moderate 4

Journal by maynard

Moderation Rated As Unfair
sent by Slashdot Message System on Tuesday April 08, @12:05AM

Some of your past moderations have been meta-moderated by other Slashdot readers. Here are the exciting results:

        * Re:Moon landing 1969 from the discussion "Design of Next-Gen NASA Rocket Showing Flaws" which you moderated as Interesting was voted Unfair.

Summary of your recent moderation: 50% Fair

For your poor moderation, you have been assessed a karma penalty.

Thank you for moderating.

Not that I give a shit about karma, but go click that link I was m2'd as unfair for moderating as Interesting. That was an interesting comment. Which just shows that the social problem moderation was created to solve is not amenable to systemic solutions. Programs can't fix this brokenness. And yet more programs to re-massage the social milieu the previous programs had already failed at doing ... well they don't work either. And then it's turtles all the way down.

Not that I have a solution beyond giving up. So far, online society has been shown to ... not scale.

User Journal

Journal: "$170.42" [SS; ~1400 words; mostly SFW] 2

Journal by maynard

As my date laughed, the crow's feet by her eyes widened from lines to full crevasses, like a river having carved out little ravines. Certainly, by the look of her forty-two years, she had been born in a prior geologic age. But then, so had I.

She had just uttered some quip about a college internship, which I missed because my attention had been diverted by a young waitress, with a very tight figure, performing the bee dance with her ass. The waitress waddled along provocatively to some other table holding several full plates in one hand, but my date's eyes had slow-blinked in laughter at just that moment. I don't think she noticed.

"He was so little, so precious, " she said, "I just knew right then that teaching was going to be my future." She lifted her glass of Chianti, rolled the red liquid seemingly entranced in thought, and then took a shallow sip.

I didn't have a good followthrough, but fortunately that waitress intervened to check on our dinner.

"Excellent. Thank you." I took a small bite of the creamed spinach with pine nuts to show my appreciation. My date ignored her.

"So, what do you do again?"

"I'm a chemist."

"Where did you go -"

"- Penn State for undergrad; UT for my Ph.D."

"Interesting." At that instant, her eyes appeared to fix upon the wine label, unwittingly expressing just how boring she felt my career path had been.

"Yup."

"So," she tried again, "why not the university life of a professor? Don't like teaching?"

"No, it's not that. My research didn't pan out like I expected. And it took a bit longer than most to earn the Ph.D. When it was over, I had a string of publications with obvious and predicted results. I took this big risk on radioactive solvents as catalysts, which went nowhere. And -"

"- Oh."

Her face showed the confusion everyone outside my field does whenever I try to explain its more obvious details. I should have known better.

"It's just a job. Pays the bills."

"Hey, we all need a job." She smiled and our eyes touched for the first time that evening.

Hypnotized, I forgot to sneak a look at the waitress as she passed by toward another table. For just a second, imperceptible to others yet for us like a slow-blues riff ringing out a whole note in vibrato, we existed together not as one flesh but as one soul. And then it was over.

My date found a spot in the tablecloth to be distracted by. Her forefinger slid up the stem of her wineglass to the rim, whereupon she made circling motions along its lip. Her face pointed toward the table, but her eyes just then peaked back through strands of auburn hair and I felt the stirring of flesh deep inside.

"Hey," she said, "try a sip of this wine." Her hand pushed the glass across the table toward me. As I reached for it, I felt her finger ever so slightly press against mine as the glass passed into my hand. At that instant, I heard the slight whisper of a gasp uttered from her lips.

"Excuse me," she said, "I'll be right back." The mood vanished before the napkin was off her lap and on the table. She stood up and walked to the nearest waiter, who pointed to the restroom.

The waitress stopped by to ask if we would like anything else. She had that perfect mix of professionalism to deter unwarranted advances by customers, yet while somehow also wearing unreasonably revealing attire. Nipples pierced back at me through her low cut white blouse like the eyes of a mountain lion. Her stomach flatter than Kansas, and think I noticed a belly button ring extruding out underneath black silk fabric. She wore some kind of rosemary light oil scent, but all I could smell was sex. Sex all over her. In that second I imaged that her boyfriend had just bent her over their kitchen table, lifted her miniskirt, and quick-fucked her silly on the spot only minutes before her shift had started. And I wanted to be him.

She stood there patiently waiting for my reply.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO FINISH STORY

Copyright ©2008, J. Maynard Gelinas.

This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommerial NeDerivs 2.5 license.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/

User Journal

Journal: The Occupation [ss, nsfw]

Journal by maynard

So that's how they got Litvinenko.

It was a bit thicker than a thread of hair; no longer than a BB pellet; dead black, with little spindly appendages wiggling and grasping about upwards. He rolled the device between his thumb and forefinger until it was but a thin reddish smear.

I survived! This time. Miniature bots. Nanobots. They can be bugs, parasites watching and listening to every second of your life. Or killers, filled with Polonium 239. Tiny things designed to attach and listen until they're told to exercise extreme prejudice. That's how they kill these days. Christ I need a cigarette.

"Cigarette?"

Am I kidding? I can't smoke a cigarette. It takes just one drag off the wrong butt and you're dead. Within seconds. Not like in the old days, when they killed over decades. Cancer was no conspiracy.

Oh fuck. There's a pebble-cam. Time to move.

A blur of imagery and sensation follows. Warmth changes to cold. Sirens honk. Time drops not by drip but by staccato bursts. Then he finds himself standing outside a cafe door holding a warm cup of coffee. A thing flashing intense blue and wailing like a dying cat screams by across the road.

Fucking UFOs. They hide. Sometimes they're only whirling blobs of gas. Other times they're like that. Who do the aliens want today? When will they come for me? They take us one by one. Up those beams of blue into their big round floating space ships. Big eyes they have. That time I saw it. There's gonna come for me. I saw one of them. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

"Cigarette?"

Only if I want to die. Where's my knife? I can feel the worms twisting inside my brain.

He saw a Pterodactyl fly overhead, lazily swooping in circles, floating up upon an atmospheric thermal. It was beautiful and so he felt compelled to stop and watch nature, basking in the glory of God's creation. As his head was turned upward and his eyes locked upon the sight, suddenly he lurched forward off balance as an alien, briskly walking, bumped into his back. He turned as the man past by and saw that the man's face was that of a pig.

They're on to me again! I have no time to spare.

"Spare."

Sharp ice crystals burned themselves into his forearms and he shivered. A mob of moving and intertwined figures spread out ahead, bobbing up and down out of time, as the aliens moved to and fro on the sidewalk. Golden rays beat down upon the afternoon asphalt and cement. Occasionally, a human being was spotted among the masses. He pressed his back against a great glass wall and slithered until he reached a corner, allowing passage into a small alley. An alien, somewhat resembling a female human mannequin, wore a heavy mink coat that could not hide the thing's ridiculously overlarge breasts nor its thread thin waist. Cherry colored cheeks and puffed out lips set the face. It floated along the sidewalk with the air of royalty - its legs never once shuffling to take a step; its perfume, smelling of rose colored shit, dissipating in slow motion like fog upon a coastline. He escaped in the other direction toward darkness in the alley beyond.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO FINISH STORY

REVISION 1 ROUGH DRAFT

Copyright ©2008, J. Maynard Gelinas.

This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommerial NeDerivs 2.5 license.

User Journal

Journal: Curl-Free Vector Potential Effects in a Simply Connected

Journal by maynard

Full paper in PDF form (warning: very large pdf!)

"Curl-Free Vector Potential Effects in a Simply Connected Space"
Raymond C. Gelinas
Scanned from the 1986 Tesla Symposium

ABSTRACT:

A gauge invariant expression for the phase difference between two points of a wavefunction is derived using the Schrodinger equation for a charged particle in the presence of a vector potential. Such a phase difference is found to be the gauge invariant in a simply connected space in the quantum formalism. As applies to the Aharonov and Bohm effect, these findings therefore show that a multiply connected space is not an essential condition for establishing gauge invariance. That the Aharonov and Bohm experiements are constrained by a requirement for a multiply connected space, is a consequence of the properties of electron beams which cannot provide two separate sources of mutually phase coherent de Broglie waves. The macroscopic quantum interference properties of the superconducting Josephson junction are described. It is shown that a Josephson junction provides quantum interference between two mutually phase coherent souces of superconductive wavefunctions and therefore enables detection of curl-free vector potential effects in a simply connected space. An experiment is described to detect a change in phase difference of the superconductive wavefunction across a Josephson junction caused by a remote source of curl-free vector potential.

User Journal

Journal: WANTED: experiences of censorship at Huffington Post 2

Journal by maynard

I recently had a comment censored and my account posting privileges revoked at Huffington Post after submitting a single comment. The article concerned Depression, not mainstream politics:

link

My comment questioned the author's use of a NY Times lay article to refute an assertion quoted by another author, a psychiatrist whose quoted work cited peer reviewed studies to support his assertion. For this my comment was not published and my posting privileges suspended.

I've send two emails to the editorial staff at Huffington Post, none of which have been returned. I must now assume this is policy at the site and not a rogue editor.

QUESTION: Has anyone else experienced this type of arbitrary and capricious censorship there? If so, may I quote you? Please reply here or contact me by email. I am working on an article about the issue.

User Journal

Journal: How to Impeach and Remove the Bush gang with the GOP 1

Journal by maynard

If, like me, you believe Attorney General Gonzalez, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush have all committed high crimes and *cough!* felonies *cough!* but fear that removing these criminals from office would be a distraction at best and a nightmare for Democrats at worst, here I offer one possible way this could happen successfully. But you're going to have to stand with a few Republicans to make it work. Just like we did during Watergate when Nixon got the boot and Vice-President Ford was handed the Reigns.

Thus, it is Republicans who will decide the success of impeachment and removal. If you want to impeach, you're going to have to make a few friends with the GOP. One in particular, John McCain, would appear to have most reason for revenge against the Bushies. But feel free to imagine this scenario with any of your most palatable Republicans.

"But ... but ... but ... I want to support a Democrat for President!!!" I hear many scream.

Well, sorry. As much as it sucks, the Democrats lack a supermajority to force the issue. And further, doing so would only incite yet more partisanship warfare at a time when national unity is critical to success.

There is ample evidence to impeach on the grounds of Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice. These men are criminals. And if they are let off without sanction, we will set a precedent for lawlessness in the executive that threatens the very foundations of our republic. Thus, seeing Justice done is far more important than Democratic partisanship. Or Republican partisanship. Equal justice is mandatory for the functioning of our constitutional republic. Partisanship wins, less so.

Here is one possibility for how a successful change in leadership might occur. We need seventeen Republican senators and only a few (if any) congresspersons:

  • Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid arrange a little meeting with John McCain. They offer him an interim presidency to support impeachment and removal for Gonzales, Cheney, and Bush. McCain may be willing to do this because - I suspect - he is still a little pissed with the Bushies for insulting him, his wife, and his adopted children during the 2000 primaries.
  • John McCain has a good deal of political clout with Republican Senators. He arranges a little backroom brokering behind closed doors with Republicans and gets the necessary seventeen.
  • Nancy Pelosi places in three parallel articles of impeachment against Attorney General Gonzalez, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush. She next immediately steps down as Speaker of the House temporarily. John McCain is handed the Speakership duties pro-tempe. Note that the role of Speaker of the House can be assigned to any citizen, regardless of House membership.
  • The new Speaker places articles of impeachment on the agenda and stifles all debate, instead forcing a voice vote to immediately Impeach all three. Without a roll call, votes are not recorded - so Republicans aren't on the record.
  • Senate immediately takes up the trial and convicts on the same day.
  • John McCain is sworn into office as President of the United States. He chooses a vice president of his liking.
  • Nancy Pelosi returns as Speaker of the House.
  • Bad news: John McCain - like Gerald Ford - will have the opportunity to pardon. \*shrug\* I'm not a vindictive prick, I just want these assholes out of office. Fine.
  • '08: we fight it out on the election battlefield, just like every other presidential election year.

No debates. No bullshit. No media storm before it happens. Just walk in, do the deed, and get the fuck off the house and senate floor in one day flat. Don't let them prepare. Don't give the Bushies one inkling of the shitstorm coming their way. Do it all backroom and then stick the knife in once you've got the votes. Gonzales, Bush, and Cheney would be then out of office without recourse. Plus, the Democrats would have not used impeachment for partisan gain. So at least a minority of Republicans would have cause to support the action. Certainly McCain, who I think would consider this fair turnabout.

Everybody wins. Except for Gonzales, Cheney and Bush. Who get what they deserve.

[EDIT]: A hat tip to Bill White, who proposed much the same plan over in this discussion at theforvm.org. Original text maintained at daduh.org.

User Journal

Journal: A letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Journal by maynard

Madam Speaker,

      As a registered Democrat in the state of Massachusetts, I contact you not as a California 8th district constituent, but as a citizen of the United States first, and a party member second. I have already contacted my representative, congressman Capuano, with these concerns.

      Our president and vice president have committed grave crimes against the republic and the office of the Presidency. The most obvious and recent was the commutation of Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's aide, after a jury convicted and a judge sentenced him to a standard 30 month jail sentence for his crime of perjury and obstruction of justice. These are felonies. But President Bush, while admitting that Mr. Libby broke the law, commuted his sentence anyway - even though he has never done so before for anyone else convicted of the same crime. Citizens must conclude then that rule of law is only for those without friends in the White House.

      This is more than just the appearance of conflict of interest. It undermines the whole judicial system. Rule of law has been tarnished at the very top. One could detail any number of other examples where the president has flaunted law, but this is instance is so obvious, so contemptuous of our most basic and cherished principals as set forth by our founders, that there is no more rationale needed to impeach.

      In fact, Ms. Pelosi, I argue that it is your RESPONSIBILITY to begin impeachment hearings immediately. If you do not remove those men from office, it will set a precedent that we - the citizens - may never undo by legal means. I fear that we are at the precipice of despotic tyranny. You swore an oath to defend the constitution. Not the Democratic party. Not your congressional seat. And most certainly not Mr. Bush, as his aide seemed to imply recently during senate testimony.

      Seek out responsible conservatives who realize the danger to our republic. They exist. As Bill Moyers has shown in his interview with Bruce Fein and John Nicols. It is clear that the Democrats do not have a supermajority to force the issue. But you could raise one with the help of responsible Republicans who would be willing to take the helm after Bush and Cheney's removal from office. All we need is another honest Republican, like Gerald Ford, at the ready.

      If you fail to act, you and the 110th congress, may well be remembered in history as that feckless and cowardly legislature that handed a modern Caesar his dictatorship without even a whimper or a cry. Today, you needn't hide a knife under your senate robes, legal means exist to achieve the same result. Tomorrow, that may not be the case. Democrats are watching, Speaker Pelosi. Please act. I don't want to live under the thumb of a despotic state. I am a citizen, not a subject.

Thank You,
J. Maynard Gelinas
ADDRESS REDACTED
Registered Democrat

User Journal

Journal: Applecare Support Nightmare 53

Journal by maynard

Apple is now [EDIT: OFF] my shit list. Not that I think Steve Jobs actually reads the email sent to his public address [EDIT: HE DID! AND HE HAD AN EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT COMPLETELY RESOLVE MY PROBLEM! SEE COMMENTS FOR DETAILS], but here's my letter in an electronic bottle meant for him:

[EDIT: to include email header info]

Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2007 16:33:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: maynard@some.hostname
To: ****@apple.com
Subject: Apple Support Nightmare

      Mr. Jobs,

      My name is J. Maynard *******. I am a longtime Apple customer. In fact,
I have an original Apple II (not II+) still in my basement (and it still
works!). I am also an IT Manager for one of the labs at MIT.

      So, I am most disappointed by this experience I will relate. In
September, '06 I bought a white 2Ghz Macbook to replace a four year old
15" TiBook G4. Immediately I had problems with the unit, which finally
went back for service under Applecare. The system was returned still
broken. So I sent it back again. This time the unit has been out in
service for nearly a month.

      See Dispatch number: D11412***.

      After three weeks of my laptop staying "On Hold" waiting for a part, a
CSR recommended I speak with "Customer Relations". I called and spoke with
"Tina", who offered to replace my laptop. And then the process just halted
as I tried calling to confirm and never received any callbacks. I have no
idea what happened.

      See Case ID: 76882***

      Further, Tina informed me that I would not get my boot disc back, even
though the boot disc had not failed. While I did back up my critical
documents, I have GBs of ripped music, application installs, etc which I
will lose.

      At this moment, I still do not have confirmation of a replacement unit,
I'm out a laptop for a solid month, and I will lose my data. Mr. Jobs, you
have a serious problem with your support process and procedures. If
someone at Apple does not resolve this pronto, your company will lose not
only my future purchases, but also my purchase recommendations to graduate
students, professors, and support staff at MIT.

      That computer is a TOOL, not merely a product. So, to sell me a
nonfunctional computer, and then destroy the data it manipulates, is to
negate its very utility; the raison d'etre for my purchase.

      I just want to make this one comparison: Apple II; 30 years old, still
works. Macbook; failed within months, could not be repaired even under
Applecare, customer waited a month for unresolved "service".

Sincerely,
J. Maynard *******
24 ****** St.
*******, MA
021**

User Journal

Journal: Partial transcript of the ACLU Strossen / Scalia debate 1

Journal by maynard

About two weeks back, the ACLU hosted a one hour long televised debate between ACLU president Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. C-SPAN has posted a podcast of the debate, however, unfortunately, no written transcript is available. I've hand transcribed about fifteen minutes of the program for my own project, and thought there might be some members who would appreciate the posting of it here. Transcript is below the fold:

Starting 14 minutes 13 seconds into recording:

Moderator: But Professor Strossen, there are these other cases --

Strossen: There certainly are, and here we get to the 'but Nino I don't want you to think you're too popular with this group' [referring to a prior discussion about a privacy rights decision in support of the banning of police infrared imaging by helicopter within homes unsuspected of any criminal activity] I think the -- uh -- and I do enormously respect your -- uh -- being here and thank you for the votes that happen to coincide with ACLU positions. Let me zero in on what I think is probably the single biggest difference, and that is although you have a great respect for privacy in the Kyllo case in enforcing the 4th amendment -- uh -- many people, and including those of us in the ACLU who are very distressed at your failure to find within the constitution protection for what we think is at least as important a type of privacy, namely the right of consenting individuals -- mature individuals in their own homes -- to decide what they are going to see, or read, to decide with whom they are going to live, what kind of sexual intimacies or relationships they are going to engage in. Isn't this, in fact, a confluence of the 1st amendment and the 4th amendment. That government should not have the right to criminalize -- uh -- certain materials that we read, and should not have the right to criminalize certain sexual intimacies.

(applause)

15:37 Scalia: Well, that may well be so. I do not take -- I do not take any public view on whether it would be good or bad for government to allow that. That's not the business I'm in. My job is simply to say whether those things that you find desirable are contained in the constitution. Now your -- your -- Washington -- uh -- President said in his remarks before this session that -- uh -- what the ACLU is for is democracy. Right? --

Strossen: -- I thought you would like that. --

16:11 Scalia: -- You thought I would like that. -- I'm in the business of enforcing the laws. What democracy means is that on controversial issues -- even stuff like homosexual rights, abortion, whatever -- we debate with each other, and persuade each other, and vote on it. Either our representatives, or through a constitutional amendment in the states, we decide the question. Now, there are some exceptions to that. In any liberal democracy -- and in ours most of those exceptions are contained in the bill of rights. But that bill of rights was adopted by the majority. Which is why it is proper in a democracy to have a bill of rights, because the majority adopted it. Now when they adopted it, what did they take out of that general principle -- what did they take out of that general rule of democracy, that we allow open speech, we persuade each other, and we vote -- what did they take out of it? They never took out these issues! Abortion, homosexual conduct, what -- nobody ever thought that they had been included in the rights contained in the Bill of Rights, which is why -- uh -- abortion, and homosexual sodomy were criminal for two hundred years. Now whether that's a good idea or a bad is -- is -- not what I'm talking about. That's not my job to say that. It is my job to say whether the Bill of Rights has taken it out of the realm of democratic debate. Just because you feel strongly about it, it isn't necessarily in the Bill of Rights.

17:39 Strossen: As -- as -- you rightly say, the -- uh -- constitution included an amendment process, and the ACLU's defense of rights does not stop with the Bill of Rights, nor does the constitution. Fortunately, the constitution was amended after the Civil War, to create equality rights, and rights for African Americans, and others who had been excluded under the original constitution, and it is the 14th amendment -- as you know, Nino, we agreed we would be on a first name basis since we usually are -- uh, that you understand, Nino, that the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment has been interpreted by -- I think you are the sole exception in the modern court, to refuse to find that as a source of protection for implied fundamental rights. Going back to the nineteenth century, Supreme Court justices have recognized -- uh -- that that carved out an area free from government regulation, and that area has always included basic decisions about our own bodies, our own relationships, and what we do in our own homes.

18:47 Scalia: Well, whoever said that was wrong. Uh, (laughter) you have a text that says no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law. That's not a guarantee of any right, it's not a guarantee of life, of liberty, or of property -- you can be deprived of all three of them, but not without due process. And I will enforce the due process clause when what it is directed to are the procedures of trial -- procedures that are necessary to deprive you of life, liberty, or property. But to say that there is within that due process clause some substantive right to abortion -- or to anything else -- I mean, words have no meaning if you begin to talk like that. And when words have no meaning, a democracy cannot function -- because that is how we express the people's will, through words. So, -- now -- you may say -- and you may be right -- that -- I'm not the only one on the modern court, that at least Clarence Thomas is not a fan of so-called substantive due process, which is a contradiction, and, frankly, more and more law professors are abandoning substantive due process because it is such an obvious contradiction in terms.

(crosstalk)

20:00 Strossen: It's interesting that on the modern court, the very first justice to read the due process clause as protecting the right of individuals to choose to use contraception was a Republican justice, the very revered John Marshal Harlan, but let's come at it from another perspective Nino --

20:18 Moderator: -- Actually, before you do, may I ask you (Justice Scalia) to explain --

20:20 Scalia: to explain whether I would change my mind?

20:24: Strossen: (laughter) May I please make another point?

20:26 Moderator: I was just going to ask Justice Scalia to explain what "substantive due process" means.

20:29 Strossen: Oh. That there are -- um -- affirmative (laughter) He doesn't -- um -- he doesn't believe in it, how could he explain it! (laughter)

20:38 Moderator: He knows what it is! (laughter) Well, whoever would like to explain it.

20:41 Scalia: I don't believe in anarchy either, but I'm (laughter) -- go ahead!

20:49 Strossen: I wanted to start from the opposite perspective, that -- uh Nino, let's put aside what the Due Process clause does or doesn't say. We are a government of limited powers, and unless the framers gave a power to the government the presumption is that we as individuals have that freedom that government may not intrude upon. Where in the constitution does the government have the power to tell free individuals -- adults -- what we may or may not do in the privacy of our own homes with our own bodies, and with those we choose to live with?

(applause)

21:28 Scalia: Nadine, you're appealing to some natural law --

21:31 Strossen: -- Yes! --

21:32 Scalia: I don't know that -- uh -- that I've been appointed to apply natural law, I apply the limitations upon democracy that the American people have adopted. And as long as those are not infringed, the constitution hasn't been violated. It's not up to me to decide -- you know -- what ought the equal protection of the laws to mean. There's a lot of things it could mean, it could mean that in all public buildings you need unisex toilets. Now, you know, does it mean that? No, it doesn't. Why doesn't it? Because nobody ever thought that's what it meant.

22:08 Strossen: Well, let say what that --

22:09 Scalia: -- And, in 1919, when, when, when women's right to vote -- uh -- came up, nobody thought the supreme court would suddenly say 'equal protection of the laws means women suddenly have the right to vote' that's not how it was done! We amended the constitution because it was very clear that when the equal protection clause was adopted nobody thought that it prohibited discrimination in the franchise on the basis of sex, on the basis of literacy, on the basis of property. So the American people did what you do in a democracy, they amended the constitution --

22:45 Strossen: -- Nino, in --

22:46 Scalia: -- and that's the way all this other stuff ought to be brought in.

22:48 Strossen: But when the equal protection clause was adopted, nobody thought that it would outlaw racially segregated schools, nobody thought that it would outlaw interracial marriages. And fortunately, the United States Supreme Court did have an evolving interpretation of the equal protection clause that did read it as prohibiting those vile practices.

23:14 Scalia: Well, that's fine. The question is whether that's right. The question is whether, whether, you can live with an evolving constitution. Once you say it evolves, it doesn't depend what the people thought they were doing when they adopted it -- it evolves. Somebody is going to have to decide how it evolves. Why in the world would you want nine people from a very uncharacteristic class of society -- to whit, nine lawyers -- to decide how the constitution evolves? It means whatever they think it ought to mean!

23:44 Strossen: I would want it for the very same reason that I'm happy that we are not a pure democracy, that the framers of the original constitution -- and certainly of the 14th amendment recognized that there are some rights that are so fundamental that no majority can take them away from any minority; no matter how small and unpopular that minority might be. And who is better positioned to represent and defend and be the ultimate backstop for rights of individuals and minorities than those who are not directly accountable to the electoral process? Namely, federal judges.

(applause)

24:21 Scalia: Well, you know, try putting that in the text. If that was the deal, it should have been in there. How many people would have voted for it? It would have read -- uh -- the phrases within the constitution that have generalized meaning, due process of law, equal protection under the law and so forth, do not mean what they mean today, but rather, they will mean whatever an unelected committee of nine lawyers, known as the Supreme Court, thinks they ought to mean from time to time. Who in the world would vote for government by such an aristocracy? I can't imagine.

25:00 Strossen: This is what the broad textured clauses of the constitution themselves say, Nino. By definition, the framers could have chosen very specific language, and they did, in certain clauses, so one has to assume that they deliberately chose capacious language -- to quote your colleague, or to paraphrase your colleague Justice Kennedy in Lawrence vs. Texas -- if they had intended to confine the meaning of the due process clause to very specific rights, they were capable of writing such specific language but they did not pretend to know what meaning would be appropriate as society evolved. And that was a clarion call for future generations to expand -- hopefully, we're coming closer and closer to what was the aspiration of the Declaration of Independence but far from the reality of equal rights for all under the law in this country.

(applause)

26:05 Scalia: Nadine, language can be capacious without implying that its meaning changes in the future. When they said 'due process of law' they meant those rights of Englishmen in 1791. And the reason they didn't set them forth in detail is because it would have taken a casebook this fat! Of course they couldn't list them all. So they said 'due process of law' which meant something different in France in 1791, or in Hawaii in 1791, but they knew what it meant in America -- it meant, that process which was the right of Englishmen. There's no necessity to say, 'oh, and they invited the Supreme Court to give this thing new meaning' -- whatever new meaning this Supreme Court thinks is a good idea in the future. Someday, Nadine, you're going to get a very conservative Supreme Court --

26:57 Strossen: -- I think that day has come! (laughter) --

26:58 Scalia: And you're going to regret what you've done.

27:02 Strossen: I think that for those who would conserve the original meaning of the constitution, I think that would be fine. But Nino, do you think that the Supreme Court was wrong in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954? As the court itself has acknowledged, it clearly was not the intent of the framers of the 14th amendment to outlaw racially segregated public schools.

27:23 Scalia: I don't know. It -- uh -- I think, Harlan, when he dissented in Plessy, had the better of the argument, as far as I'm concerned, and I think that would have led to the same result in Brown. But even if you assume that -- yes -- suppose, I have to say yes, Brown was wrong -- which I don't think I do -- but even if I did, what does that prove? I will stipulate that if you have an aristocratic supreme court, who changes the constitution whenever the Supreme Court thinks it's a good idea, you'll get some good stuff! I mean, a king would give you some good stuff. But -- you know -- the untidy process of democracy will not produce. But that doesn't prove it's a good system, just because now and then it gives you good results.

User Journal

Journal: 29 New US Nuclear Power Plant License Permits Sought

Journal by maynard

Dale Klein, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), was interviewed on C-SPAN's Newsmakers this last Sunday on October 22nd, 2006. Regarding twenty nine recent pending license requests for the construction of new nuclear power plants in the US, he stated that there will be a nuclear renaissance in the United States:

"I do believe that we will see license applications in 2007 and we are looking - we have expressions of intent from a lot of the utilities indicating up - as I said, up to about 29 new nuclear plants. So I believe that there will be a [nuclear] renaissance in the United States."

The interview covered a broad range of nuclear issues, such as: Licenses and permits for pending US nuclear power plant construction, nuclear waste reclamation and the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, the threat of terrorism against nuclear electric generation facilities, as well as the scope of citizen involvement in the regulatory process. He was interviewed by Cox News reporter Jeff Nesmith and George Lobsenz of Energy Daily, with the event being hosted by C-SPAN's Susan Swain.

Pending Nuclear Power Plant Licenses

Both Lobsenz and Nesmith directly questioned Klein on the issue of new nuclear power plant construction within the United States. Citing the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (full text of legislation), which provides billions of dollars in incentives for the construction of new nuclear power plants through tax credits and loan guarantees, Klein said that the NRC had received twenty-nine 'expressions of intent' from the nuclear industry to build new nuclear power plants throughout the country. Further, he stated that worldwide, there are "... 140 plants either under construction or being planned."

Klein referred to Department of Energy projections which indicate a 50% increase in electrical demand by 2025, along with environmental concerns over global climate change due to carbon emissions, as principal reasons for the reconsideration of nuclear power generation. Currently the United states generates about 20% of its electrical capacity from 104 nuclear power plants. However, private funding availability for nuclear power generation isn't certain, with Lobsenz noting that:

"There's a lot of questions on Wall Street about whether they want to invest in a nuclear plant. I think if you talk to the industry they'll tell you, well, we're going to iron out all the kinks in the regulatory process and building these plants with the first six plants and after that it will be more like a cookie cutter and these plants will be a lot cheaper to build and a lot quicker to build.

I think a lot of people need a lot of convincing on that, particular the money men."

Nuclear Waste Reclamation and Yucca Mountain

Speaking to the issue of the upcoming Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Storage Facility and nuclear waste reclamation, Klein appeared to contradict long standing US policy against the use fast breeder reactors to reclaim and extend the life of nuclear fuel stock. Calling it "recycling," and noting the large number of nations that already reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Klein suggested it might be a wise policy decision:

"France currently recycles, Japan is recycling, Russia will recycle, United Kingdom recycles. And so there is a lot of experience in the recycling era. Whether that's a viable option for the United States will be a policy decision."

This is in contrast to longstanding US policy against the construction of fast breeder reactors, going back to former President Jimmy Carter's 1977 veto of the Department of Energy Authorization Bill on several grounds, one of which being that it funded the construction of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. Since then, no new fast breeder reactors have been proposed on US soil for commercial fuel reclamation.

One of the principal concerns over the use of breeder technology is that it converts non-weapons grade nuclear waste from uranium into highly radioactive plutonium, which can then be used in the construction of a nuclear weapon. However, reclamation would also stretch out the expected life of a limited nuclear resource, and in the process, reduce the amount of radioactive waste that would need to be stored at Yucca Mountain. As Mr. Nesmith noted, one of the primary arguments against construction of the Yucca Mountain facility is the problem of transporting large amount of nuclear waste cross country for storage.

Threat of Terrorism

Dr. Klein did not speak long on the threat of terrorism against nuclear electric generation facilities, such as crashing a jet airliner into a nuclear power plant (warning: PDF; google cache html version), however, he did address the subject after several direct questions were posed. Lobsenz asked, within the context of 9/11:

"However, the NRC has said that in doing environmental reviews of new plants it will not be looking at possible impacts from terrorism. And I think that there's been a contrary court decision questioning the NRC's position on this. And I guess the question I would have for you is, this is clearly an issue that's in the public's mind about nuclear plants. And if you don't have a public dialog in the course of doing an environmental review, how are you going to address this public concern? Shouldn't there be a public dialog in relation to the building of these new plants about what would happen if there is a terrorism attack and maybe you could even reassure the public somewhat that something is being done?"

Dr. Klein responded by pointing out that the specific issue being questioned had to do with a dry cast storage facility at Diablo Canyon. He then offered a to sooth concern about the potential threat, saying that "...nuclear power plants are examined for terrorist activities. We take that very seriously. We have a very robust program."

Nesmith, noting that the National Academy of Sciences report on nuclear power plant terrorism was less optimistic of US defenses, asked if a plant-by-plant review of safety procedures, as the report recommended, due to it's finding (his words): "that it's only a matter of time before a determined, well-equipped terrorist crashes an airliner into one of these plants and releases a large amount of radioactivity."

Dr. Klein assured Nesmith that such a review had been conducted, "Yes. We do have a very robust plant-by-plant analysis both for pressurized water reactors, boiling water reactors. We have a very detailed assessment."

Scope of Public Participation

Lobsenz also discussed with Dr. Klein the scope of public participation, and limit thereof. Noting that the only means for public participation the review process was through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), he asked about security requirements in disclosing information to the public. Dr. Klein responded:

"In terms of the public's participation, because of the security requirements that are there, there are certain things that we don't go into a lot of detail on how we address security for obvious reasons. The terrorist get too many hints the way it is. So we don't want to provide a lot of information about how we address that, but I can assure you we do look at safety, security and reliability and we are addressing potential terrorist threats in a very robust and effective way."

How this addresses public concern for reactor safety, or what other venues might be opened for the public, was not addressed. However, it would appear that a good deal of thought has been put into place to prevent a new resurgence of the anti-nuclear movement so popular back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Conclusions

Based upon this interview one can reasonably assert several statements of fact:

  • The Bush Administration is vigorously promoting a dramatic expansion of nuclear power generation throughout the United States. There are 29 pending 'expressions of interest' for licenses to construct new plants. And there are 140 plant facilities on the drawing board or currently in construction throughout the world.
  • A policy review of fast breeder reclamation technology appears to be underway, with the likelihood of a transition away from opposition to new breeder facilities as set by former President Carter.
  • Dr. Klein acted to assure the public that the threat against nuclear power plants from terrorism is being handled with all due diligence. Even as the two reporters directly questioned him about a NAS report that suggests the threat is real and highly dangerous.
  • The limits to public participation in regulating the nuclear industry are in the form of EPA procedures, thereby forcing all concerns to fit within the framework of environmental concerns. Terrorism, and other issues, are apparently not relevant issues for public participation.

Based upon this interview one might reasonably ask: is the threat from global warming due to human carbon emissions greater than the threat of radioactive contamination due to a nuclear accident or terrorist attack? Is the transition to promoting nuclear fuel reclamation through a new class of fast breeder reactors a wise policy move, or a dangerous one considering its nuclear proliferation potential? And what should the scope of public involvement be for future nuclear regulation?

All worthy questions. The answers, however, are far more difficult to discern.

---

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Text Copyright ©2006 J. Maynard Gelinas.
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