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3.13.2004

Arnold Schwarzenegger For President,
By Thomas Paine, American patriot

" . . . Neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow. The parliament or the people of 1688, or of any other period, has no more right to dispose of the people of the present day, or to bind or to control them in any shape whatever, than the parliament or the people of the present day have to dispose of, bind or control those are to live a hundred or a thousand years hence. Every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated. . . . "


Quoted in the April, 2004 Atlantic Monthly


Quote Of The Day
"Baking With Sylvia"


". . . This is what Moses's book does, and what several recent readings of Plath's poetry do. It is almost as though, in order to rehabilitate her after the pathologization of previous decades, we need to put her in an apron and make her Supermom. Moses has gone so far as to publish a magazine article titled "Baking With Sylvia," which pictures Moses standing, without irony, before a handsome gas stove demonstrating what she believes to be Plath's favorite recipes. . . . "

"Domesticated Goddess", by Christina Nehring, The Atlantic, April 2004

3.12.2004

How I could have made it this far in life without being part of the The Miniature Mediterranean Donkey Association , I'll never know. -D.O'Connor
Quote For The Day

"...Vezzoli was even more ecstatic. 'We have taken it all from Pasolini,' he told me. 'He called TV interviews the lowest point of humiliation that a human can endure -- forty years ago. Pasolini understood even before Warhol where our society was going . . . "

The New Yorker, Mar. 15, 2004, "The Designer"

3.11.2004

Princess Di: Still dead. --D. O'Connor
Ranking the horrors: Terrorism, alcohol, Nazis, nukes
By John O'Connor, advisor to the free world

The great Irish poet, WB Yeats, famously advised posterity to cast a cold eye on life and death. Not always easy to do, but here goes.

The tragedy of 9-11 killed, in round numbers, 3, 000 people. This traumatic event captured national attention, justifiably, and has continued to keep it.

In the interest of the cold-eye view, however, I supply two considerations.

First, drunk driving. It kills about 17,000 Americans a year. Since that's a statistic, let's round down, make it 15. Or, depending on your mistrust of the figures (I am quoting MADD, which is quoting the government) make it 12. I rounded up a little on the 9-11 to get the 3,000.

Being generous with 9-11 and stingy with drunk driving, we are having about four 9-11 style slaughters every year. They don't happen all at once, admittedly. They are not done by foreigners. And by no means are they as politically sensitive as death by hijacking. But they are deaths nonetheless.

If we had four 9-11's happening every year, we would conclude that the sky was falling.

How come it doesn't matter if it's drunk driving? I think I know the answer -- this is a rhetorical question. But it is a question worth raising. Some deaths are more equal than others, apparently.

For further comparison, the Holocaust. If you mistrust statistics, I will spot you a million fatalities, and go with five million instead -- not that this is true, but for the sake of argument. Using this lower number for the sake of emphasis, the Holocaust is still 1,667 times bigger than 9-11. To put that in perspective, if the Holocaust had occurred at the rate of 3,000 deaths per day, it would take about four and a half years to occur. You would have to have a 9-11 sized event, once a day, every day, for four and a half years, before you would equal the Holocaust. And that is using five million as the sum. If the six million figure is used, it goes on even longer. You do the math.

I could go on and on.

My point is that the safety of air travel, while a legitimate concern, is probably not our main worry. Our main worry should be finding weapons of mass destruction -- items which can cause 5 million fatalities in a single day.

Yes, every hijacking is a nightmare. But one nuclear bomb could ruin your whole day.

I view Osama, not as a complete red herring, but as a distraction from the destruction. In my own opinion, air travel is probably safer now than before. If the restrictions are loosed, it will largely be due to the agitation of business travelers and the air-businesses themselves, not to the laxity of the public.

Capturing Osama is of course a worthy objective. Killing him, however, might be a mistake. The name of the game here is martyrdom, and we should be cautious about making a martyr of him -- especially since one can only kill him once.

A single nuke could mean a Holocaust in a single day. That's what we need to worry about.

3.10.2004

The Presidency, the Problems and Arnold Schwarzenegger

It's not Arnold Schwarzenegger who should worry us. Nor is it the young immigrant who arrives in the United States at 10 years old, works hard, succeeds through his or her own merit and deserves a chance at the nation's highest office.

For how can anyone be troubled by the meritorious who are born outside the US borders and denied under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution the right to be President. Only Sen. Orrin Hatch's "Equal Opportunity to Govern" Amendment that allows the foreign-born who have been citizens for 20 years to become President can set this right.

What could be wrong with this?

There are several problems. To begin with, the amendment doesn't just open the Presidency up to Austrian body builders. It also becomes available to former foreign prime ministers, senators, ambassadors, generals, dictators, princes, earls, dukes who can by active or surreptitious campaigns try and attain the Presidency and, in turn, bring an unwelcome dimension to our politics and policies.

Even if notable statesmen like a 40-year-old Winston Churchill or a
45-year-old, former Mexican President like the beloved Lazaro Cardenas were to emigrate and become US citizens, the benefits they would bring to the Presidency might not outweigh the harms or weaknesses. By the time someone reaches the age of 40, political learning and habits regarding government, freedom of speech, press, religion, civil and criminal justice, may have become an unchangeable part of a political character.

It's not easy to assume that ideas and habits formed in London, Moscow, Ankara, Beijing or Sao Paulo would be easily unlearned by a 40-year-old immigrant even after 20 or 30 years in the US. Consider what different political habits will have been learned by emigres such as a former Russian minister who confronts old communist bureaucracies and new oligarchs; a former Columbian senator whose early career was battling Maoist guerrillas; or an Indian Governor who used what we might consider excessive force against a mob of Hindu nationalists.

And to assume revolutionary exiles like the Mexican Emperor Agustin de Iturbide who lost his title at age 40 could not alter national politics or aim for the presidency is to forget our own history and the political rise of figures such as former Vice-President Aaron Burr or Presidential aspirant Senator Huey Long.

Then there is the problem of foreign policy. If a famous Canadian-born or Mexican-born statesperson--or even an actor, lucid in thought and commanding in speech--ran for President during deteriorating relations over debt repayment, immigration policy or border disputes, their nationality could add venom to a traditional divisiveness even more than that during the Mexican War, pre-WWII or Vietnam.

This is not an impractical hypothetical. In the same year Napoleon lost his Waterloo, some New England leaders were considering secession over our war with England. It is prudent to consider whether these anti-French Federalists could have been driven closer to secession if the famous Frenchman and hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, had been President instead of the Virginia-born James Madison.

Or take a hypothetical for today. Consider what divisiveness might follow the election of a Taiwanese-born or Chinese-born President were a crisis to arise in the Taiwan Straits. Add to this the danger or suspicion that foreign nations could become involved in an election, directly or covertly, financially or with military threats, in supporting or trying to defeat their native-born son or daughter.

This is not to discard the contribution of foreign-born politicians and
statespersons: the brilliant Swiss-born Albert Gallatin in the 19th century, as well as others like Henry Kissinger and Madelaine Albright whose contributions have been alluded to by Gov. Schwarzenneger.

But a foreign-born Congressman or Senator, like the German-born Carl Schurz has dozens of other colleagues who can vote down whatever foreign bias he or she may have. Likewise, though close to the President, a Secretary of State or National Security Advisor like Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, advises and acts but does not hold the executive power and make the final decisions. The nature of the Presidency, especially in the 20th century is far more singular and powerful.

Amendment supporters may claim that rejecting the Hatch Amendment is xenophobic. The Constitutional drafters should not be cornered into this bigotry. They would as easily have favored a French Constitutional ban on Thomas Jefferson becoming the French President as they favored the American ban on the Anglo-Saxon Brit William Pitt becoming ours. Reason and historical lessons governed their decision, not irrationality.

The fundamental design of the Constitution can appear arbitrary. The separation of branches denies men of merit or genius from fully contributing their talents. If the Senate Majority leader has the military genius of a Julius Caesar or Napoleon, he or she cannot command the armed forces. If a Supreme Court Justice is a brilliant Nobel-prize winning economist, he cannot in the middle of a recession draw up legislation on the House floor.

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story noted these dangers to the presidency in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution. He wrote that "the general propriety of the exclusion of foreigners, in common cases, will scarcely be doubted by any sound statesman. It cuts off all chances for ambitious foreigners, who might otherwise be intriguing for the office; and interposes a barrier against those corrupt interferences of foreign governments in executive elections."

Is all this ridiculous to consider? Perhaps. But seeking to create angels at home can convulse society as much as searching for dragons abroad.

Democratic sensibilities can change quickly. What founding father--or even statesman in 1950--would have thought that a film actor could campaign on a recall for two months and suddenly become governor of the most populous state in the US?

-S. Schudy





3.09.2004

Blame India Watch

Stumbled on this site which describes itself as being:

...concerned with the increasing anti-Indian/anti-India sentiment among tech workers, as well as media coverage that focuses disproportionately on Indian workers or propigates anti-India(n) sentiment. What began a few years ago as IT grumbling about Indian-specific H-1B "Temporary Guest worker" and L-1 "Intracompany Transfer" workers and immigrants has now morphed into the outsourcing issue, and is now gaining international attention. We aim to highlight this scapegoating, encourage IT workers to put a stop it, and redirect the anger to where it belongs. --DOC

3.08.2004

Another Media Blog

A new blog called That Liberal Media is recently published by several already-established bloggers. Probably worth keeping track of. Apparently inspired by Eric Alterman. -- David O.

3.07.2004

Welcome to the relauched Irrationalist, a group blog by David O'Connor, John O'Connor and Scott Schudy. The blog is a work in progress and we welcome your comments and questions. If you send us email we will assume that the email is available for republishing on the site unless you specifically request that we not republish it. --David O'Connor

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