Tag: public policy

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If You Can Vote for American Idol on Smartphones, Why Not Presidents?

Over the weekend, my 94 year-old father-in-law asked what I would do to assure that every American who could vote would do so. That was an unexpected question, but one I addressed gingerly. This post is my answer restated for a public venue.

Simple answer: Smartphone. According to PewResearchCenter, nearly 70 percent of Americans own one of the devices, but the number among voting age adults tops 80 percent, according to other estimates. Surely a program could be in place by the 2020 Presidential race, and if lawmakers were truly serious about universal suffrage, a Manhattan-like project could make it happen by the next Mid-terms. 

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O Canada, What Say You?

What do two forts share in common? Kaci Hickox, the 33 year-old healthcare worker from Fort Worth, Texas, taking refuge in Fort Kent, Maine. Surely you know of the so-called Ebola nurse and the legal scuffle about quarantining her. As an Aroostook County native born about 70 kilometers (okay, I rounded up) southeast of FK and having traveled widely across the Lone Star State, I know something about the character of both regions. Think independent-mindedness times two, which equals “Don’t tell me what to do”.

The simple story: She volunteered in Sierra Leone, where the disease rages. She returned to the wrong state, New Jersey, which put her in isolation. She fled to one of the most rural and remote areas of the Northeast. Maine’s governor demanded voluntary quarantine. She defied it. A federal judge ruled against the Gov. News reporters who couldn’t find Fort Kent with a Google Map ruined the autumn tourist trade by filling up the only hotel. We all wait to see if she stays symptom free through November 10. Pass the popcorn. The suspense is thicker than a horror flick. 

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Twitter's Defiance is Good News

I love Twitter, all the more since Eric Snowden’s revelations about the U.S. government’s secret spying program. The company largely stands apart from other techs’ positions, but not completely. In December, I scolded Twitter, along with Apple, Facebook, Google, and a smattering of others for their “disingenuous and self-serving” call for global government surveillance reform.

Today, Twitter tweaks the government regarding an agreement that expands disclosure of information requests, including those that fall under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In a startling act of defiance, Twitter chooses not to disclose the number of FISA and other national security-related requests, contending they’re scope is an “overly broad range”.

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Some Advice to the Washington Post's New Owner

Today, in the Guardian, former CIA analyst John Kiriakou accuses the Obama Administration of abusing the 1917 Espionage Act, claiming that “only 10 people in American history have been charged with espionage for leaking classified information, seven of them under Barack Obama”.

From Day One, the Obama Administration sought to plug any leaks. What’s said in the Oval Office stays in the Oval Office. That’s context for understanding the aggressive approach to whistleblowers. It’s philosophical. The current White House sees leaks as betrayals, so why not view whistleblowing as treason?

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Learn From Thine Enemy

Yesterday’s New York Times story “Relief Agencies Find Hezbollah Hard to Avoid” touches on something I’ve been meaning to blog about for weeks.

One reason for Hezbollah’s success comes from working as a kind of government within the government of Lebanon by providing key social services. I don’t mean to defend Hezbollah insurgents, for my government views them as terrorists, but I also can’t ignore that the organization is doing something right: Serving the people. 

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Yeah, I’m Angry

Family friends run a construction business. The husband, who is from Central America, sees a fair number of people looking to take advantage of Hispanic business owners and workers. The presumption is Hispanic means illegal immigrant. And if the, uh, American doesn’t pay, there’s nothing the illegal can do. In fact, there often are threats about turning in the Hispanic immigrant to US authorities.

Now, this man is legal. He has a green card and runs an honest business. But he witnesses plenty of discrimination against Hispanics and gets some of it, too. I mention this because, one, it really pisses me off and, two, there is this immigration debate raging on Capitol Hill. 

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Be Better Neighbors

Yesterday, I wore my Alienware T-Shirt, with the company’s logo on the front—an alien, of course. For some reason, I got several questions about it. So I said: “Well, this is my illegal alien. He’s afraid of getting sent back to his home planet, and I’m protesting with him.”

There’s truth to what I said. I’m unfavorable to the hardline US legislators are taking with this immigration bill. I just don’t see turning all these immigrants into criminals, or turning them away. As one of the sixth graders pointed out today in the Sunday school class I teach, most Americans are immigrants. And to the Native Americans here 400 hundred years ago, the off-continent settlers were the illegals and, as it turned out, invaders, too. 

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You’ve Got Be Kidding

I am glad it’s an election year. Conservative legislators held a news conference today, where they lambasted Senate lawmakers for passing an immigration amnesty bill. The House wants to tighten immigration rules.

According to CNN, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) said, “I say let the prisoners pick the fruits”. From Rep. Steve King of Iowa: “Anybody that votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet letter A”. The brand should be on these representatives and their colleagues making these outrageous statements.