Another wrongful conviction and release from death row

http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/28/justice/louisiana-inmate-exonerated/index.html?c=homepage-t

Harper continues to impress

Canadian Prime Minister Harper has done a couple of things this week that show appropriate leadership.

The first was with respect to the vote on having a debate as to when a fetus becomes a human being.

It was a transparent attempt to reopen the abortion debate which has been defunct in Canada for 20 years.  A backbencher raised the issue in a private member’s bill.

Harper’s position was that the party had been elected on a platform that included a promise not to reopen the abortion issue, and he voted against the motion, which had the backing of a majority of his MPs.

He was criticized for allowing the motion to be brought forward.  I don’t agree with that.  Unless a vote is a proper confidence vote members of parliament should be voting in accordance with their conscience. 

Authoritarian leadership is not strong leadership.  Compelling is not leading.  A good leader will allow others to take initiative, and within reason, give others scope to be wrong from time to time. 

I’ve long thought that backbenchers didn’t have enough freedom and that defeated the whole purpose of a House of Commons. It isn’t freedom if it is only freedom to do what somebody else agrees with.

Weak leaders assume that they either have to vote with their party or compel their party to vote with them.

Either option is an attempt to put PR or spin over principle.  I am not convinced that tolerating appropriate dissent will necessarily be detrimental to public opinion.

The other thing that Harper did this week was declining to speak at the UN.

He’s been criticized for that decision for reasons that are indistinct.

It’s a common failing of politicians to insist on pontificating at every opportunity.

If 170 people give the same speech about Iran I don’t see what a 171st can add except tedium.  Every speaker after the first should stand up, say they agree, limit any additional comments to genuinely new material, and sit down.

In law there is a principle against calling innumerable people to give the same evidence.   I wish it were the same in politics.

Such speaches have dubious value in diplomacy anyways.   What is said in public tends to damage and inflamme and get in the way of a solution.  Calling nations out is often necessary but should be done strategically, not mindlessly.  The solutions will always come in the back rooms without media present. 

So good that Harper didn’t act like a typical politician to seize any available podium.

Nations and business continue to screw up most important cyber security feature.

http://m.torontosun.com/2012/09/28/canadian-energy-firm-hit-by-cyber-attack How long is it before the idiots in our civilization’s security teams leave the missile launching systems exposed to the internet. The most important cyber security feature is a hard disconnect. Anything that doesn’t have to be online shouldn’t be. Quit trying to firewall things that shouldn’t be accessable to the internet anyways. Use mp3 type filtration technology on phone lines that shouldn’t be carrying data so that the only information that can pass through is sounds that are audible to the human ear, to prevent some idiot hooking up a computer line where they shouldn’t. The next line of defence is against flash drives and internal hacking. Nothing sensitive should be on a Microsoft system. Ever. Have different system ports so USB and other vulnerabilities are a non issue. If somebody packs in a flash drive they won’t be able to use it. If you have a high security installation, do you need cd burners? Do you even need cd players? So many basic procautions that aren’t taken.

One way of handling Isreal

The real imminent threat is Isreal, not Iran.

Isreal has never admitted having nuclear weapons but is universally believed to have them, in violation of various UN ordinances.

Here’s the proposal: whatever applies to Iran applies to Isreal.

The motion should be about both.  UN inspectors should demand to have complete authority to inspect all Isreal’s sites and to dismantle any Isreali nuclear weapons and their nuclear weapons program.

I suspect given the inadequacy of the Iranian nuclear program that Iran would jump at the opportunity for what would be a PR victory.

Let’s face it, Isreal is more dangerous and crazy to outsiders than North Korea.  Right now there is a better than 50-50 chance that the next wartime use of nuclear weapons in the world will be by Isreal.  They are the real threat to peace and we need to start pressuring them to take away their toys before they do something stupid.

Benjamin Netanyahu Says World Must Draw ‘Red Line’ For Iran: via HuffPost

Benjamin Netanyahu Says World Must Draw ‘Red Line’ For Iran: via HuffPost http://huff.to/SdnFG0 The biggest threat to Isreal is Benjamin Netanyahu. If Isreal attacks Iran they will become even greater pariahs than they are already. If the nuclear facilities are hit it will only be possible with nuclear weapons to do meaningful damage because the facilities are so well dug in. If there is any meaningful attack a cloud of radiation which we can expect to be worse than Chernobyl will cover much of the middle east and depending on winds could hit over half the world’s population in east Asia. If the US backs Isreal in that situation it will be a declaration of war against the entire world. Isreal would probably be annilated, and not necessarily by Iran. The radiation could spread to the nuclear nations China, India and Pakistan. If Russians are assisting the projects as expected they will be killed and it will be a declaration of war on Russia. Much of the earth’s population will be more affected by such a terrorist attack than the effect of the 911. If that is a sound basis for invading Afghanistan to bring criminals to justice it would be more justified to attack Isreal on the same basis. So often the world has been united against the atrocities of Isreal, with only Isreal and the US voting against UN resolutions. Backing Isreal has already been devastating to the international credibility of the US. If the US backs Isreal on such an attack it will be ceding the world to China. Such an attack is the kind of world changing event that will be condemned for hundreds of years. It would be the first nuclear attack since Nagasaki. It would likely require the entire Isreali nuclear arsenal to have any kind of meaningful impact. The US would have to decide between Isreal and Japan. The Japanese will almost unanimously condemn such an attack. Back Isreal and relations with Japan will be icy. Japan will shift further towards China’s sphere of influence. Whoever counterattacks Isreal will have the moral high ground. It would be preferable that Isreal be annilated in response to such an attack. If we want to end war we need that statement out there, that anybody launching a war without UN sanction will be eradicated without mercy. That will save many lives in the long run. I don’t recognize a distinction between combatants and non-combatants. Most soldiers are innocent pawns of non-combatants. They are human beings and have families. Even in the Nazi SS only 20-25% were able to bring themselves to shoot to kill. The death of a soldier is in no way preferable or more desireable than the death of anyone else. Soldiers are usually from the exploited class of a nation and are uniquely positioned to receive no benefit if their side prevails. The Geneva Convention concept that there can be a sanitized, moral war is a load of steaming BS. The attacks in the second world war on opposing cities have never troubled me. All the people who gave approval to a war, who voted in the politicians that pursued it, who contribute to the war effort, have at least as much culpability as those they would have die in their place. I think it’s time for the people at Mossad to start drawing straws to decide who does what needs to be done before that maniac leader of their country gets everybody killed.

The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys: via HuffPost

The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys: via HuffPost http://huff.to/UKvEjZ Generally being unable to pay bills is not a criminal offence. Threatening a criminal charge to gain an advantage in a civil case is itself the criminal offence of extortion. It is also known that occasionally debt collectors pursue non-existant debts. Then there is the scandal of tricking the already cash strapped marks into going to courses they have no obligation to attend. If there is an implication of any consequences for non-attendance, the prosecutors involved are participating in a criminal fraud. From Wall Street to right wing politics to charities, debt collectors, military contractors, phone companies that routinely add fraudulent third party charges to phone bills, SEC people who let Madoff go on with a wink and a nudge, a sheriff in Arizona who routinely and knowingly falsely charged and jailed anybody who got in his way, including judges, the FDA which allows harmful drugs on the market on the basis of fake research and fires whistleblowers who try to do their jobs, fraud is becoming the cultural norm in the US, with the right wing and Republican party leading the charge. How can the US have a future while this is the only activity that seems to prosper?

Ranking Canadian Prime Ministers

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/trudeaumania-prevails-26-per-cent-name-harper-worst-pm-in-poll/article4567793/

How do you rank prime ministers?

There are multiple roles that a prime minister plays. Head administrator. Statesman. Moral leader. Mediator of interests.

Here is how I would rank them using scales of 1-10:

Trudeau: Administration 1, leadership 10, mediating interests 2
Mulroney: Administration 1, leadership 1, mediating interests 1
Chretien: Administration 10, leadership 6, mediating interests 5
Harper: Administration 8, leadership 6, mediating interests 4

I don’t really count the three prime ministers who were in for a couple of months before getting trounced due to lack of a meaningful sample.

Canada will be Trudeau’s Canada for the foreseeable future. He brought in strong constitutional rights and appointed strong judges to articulate them. He brought in social programs that are taken for granted, even by the right. He said that the government didn’t have any place in the bedrooms of the nation and got rid of laws that made certain consensual sex acts between adults illegal.

Trudeau was a great and visionary leader. But he was a terrible administrator and insufferable jerk. He did whatever the hell he wanted and if he didn’t like somebody he’d give them the finger or say F- you.

Trudeau was the author of programs that aggressively pumped money out of the western provinces and into the eastern provinces which made him almost univerally unpopular in the west. But he didn’t care because he could get enough seats in Ontario and the eastern provinces.

He did things to please Quebec, including forcing French down the throats of provinces where natural French speakers have fewer numbers than most minority groups.

Mulroney was appalling from start to finish. There were constant scandals when he was in. He nearly destroyed the country through his arrogance and brinksmanship. He was as awful an administrator as Trudeau and between the two of them they nearly bankrupted the country. When the Conservatives were tossed out in 1993 they held on to only two seats, and deservedly so. He was without question the worst prime minister in history, at least in Canada, and probably in the anglo commonwealth states.

Chretien while in his partnership with Paul Martin was without question the best Canadian prime minister. He ran a tight ship and there were very few scandals. They fixed the deficit and debt issues without destroying the country and moved Canada financially from worst to first in the western world.

Probably one reason that Canada is doing so well now is that Canada hit bottom first. Canada had the opportunity to make changes while the rest of the world was relatively stable and had gone through the phase of reckless overspending. The cuts were disciplined and not particularly ideological. They were with a view to a long term plan rather than the random, panicked and extreme cuts that we see these days where the focus in most countries is only on this year’s budget projections.

Under Chretien the government was mostly invisible, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. After around 25 years of in your face government Canadians needed some leadership that would back off and leave them alone and quit screwing around with everything.

Harper is often maligned but he’s closer in character to Chretien than to Mulroney.

Administratively, his government represents for the most part a continuation of the Chretien approach.

Notably Harper didn’t drink the same koolaid as the right wing ideologues who have screwed up most of the western world.

Right wingers are usually terrible for the economy and for deficits. They usually condemn “liberal” overspending and then manage to double the debt with every government.

Harper has also done some things I disagree with. I don’t know how he would compare to historical prime ministers, whose policies I don’t know much about, but he’s a far better administrator than Trudeau or Mulroney.

We often forget with sound bites and highly politicized but narrow issues in the press, that government’s most important role is to run the place, i.e. administration.