Saturday, December 04, 2004

Ghost for Sale 

This is truly a heartwarming tale. A woman, to assuage the fears of her young son that he would be haunted by his grandfather (the woman's father) has offered Grandpa's ghost up for sale on Ebay. Isn't that touching? No. It's not. It's retarded human interest rubbish.

But this is the interesting part:
A message left with San Jose, Calif.-based eBay Inc. in San Jose, Calif., was not immediately returned Saturday.
First, I don't understand why they would want to contact Ebay about this, unless they want Ebay to say something cute to make the cute story even cuter. But why didn't Ebay take them up on it? Sounds like good marketing fodder to me: "Our service helps young children cope with the deaths of relatives and you can unload all your old shit onto compulsive internet shoppers."

What is Ebay hiding? Hmm? HMM?!?!

Drug War "Victories" 

Usually when I write about drug war victories, I am talking about victories against the war on drugs, not the "victories" of the war on drugs.

Today, we have more news on one of the latter.

Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela was the leader of the Cali cartel in Colombia. The man is a murderer and deplorable person. The only reason I'm a little perturbed he's facing trial here in the U.S. is that it's not for murder.

But of course, he didn't get to where he was without setting up a substantial infrastructure for the trafficking of cocaine. For example, the crimes he was extradited for occurred while he was in prison:
"In 1999, ICE agents received initial information that the Cali Cartel was continuing its drug and money laundering activities from within Colombian prisons," the U.S. agency said.
Money corrupts, even (especially?) here in America. And the Orejuela's aren't just rich by Colombian standards - they're really, really rich.

That infrastructure for trafficking, whatever the DEA thinks, is still largely there. And I assure you that someone just as horrible as Orejuela and his brother has stepped into the power vacuum and it is business as usual down in Colombia. That's assuming, of course, that the Orejuelas are unable to run their empire from prisons here and in Columbia - hardly a good assumption to be making considering the power men in their postion wield. Either way, cocaine, because of massively inflated profit margins created by prohibition here in the U.S. and abroad (often largely the result of U.S. diplomacy), is making more horrible people really, really rich.

And Orejuela knows the score:
"Colombia needs economic assistance from the United States and the U.S. government needs to showcase results in the fight against drug trafficking," he told Semana magazine. "My brother and I have a symbolic value in this context."
I have to say I don't like agreeing with this man, but he's right. This this all show. The United States government spends (are you ready for this?) about $20 billion dollars a year on the drug war, the vast majority of that going to law enforcement and interdiction, not treatment and education (which may be a good thing since the ONDCP feels the need to lie in its ads).

How do we spend your taxpayer money in Columbia? Primarily in two ways. Military assistance to the government for use against traffickers (and anyone else they don't like - there's frighteningly little oversight when it comes to who your money kills). And "coca eradication" - spraying of suspected coca fields with poison - thanks to the skewing of the market created by U.S. prohibition of drugs, the only viable cash crop for the majority of Columbia's poor farmers, a situation mirrored in Afghanistan's fabled poppy fields.

I have to get back to studying, but my point is this. It's not bad that guys like Orejuela are behind bars - that's good. But it doesn't do anything in the long run. We have to tackle this problem from the demand side, not the supply side. And we need to do something to cut the profts available for drug traffickers. As long as people are getting fabulously wealthy from this business, someone will be doing it - be it the Orejuelas or their inevitable replacements.

I'll be posting much more on the broader subject of the drug war periodically in the future. Law school has taken me out of the debate temporarily - but I'll be back.

(Edited so I can procrastinate more)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

American Fundamentalism 

NOTE - before reading this post, remember that I do not wish to deny anyone the right to personally practice any form of any religion that does not infringe on the liberties of others. This post is aimed at a narrow ideology, and not at all Christians or people of faith. It is only the attempted imposition of religion through the state that disturbs me, and this (perhaps alarmist) post is about that.

I just ran across this lovely David Brooks column today:

Thought I'd pass it on since it goes well with an earlier discussion I participated in over at Professor Leiter's place. That discussion focused on fundamentalism and how those who do not know American Fundamentalists and have not lived in their midst insist that they are somehow less, well, fundamentalist than they are.

Brooks has become enamored of one John Stott, apparently a really nice "evangelical Christian" (a term which is fast becoming a euphemism for "fundamentalist" - this is unfortunate as I know a great many reasonable evangelicals but no reasonable fundamentalists).
This is why so many people are so misinformed about evangelical Christians. There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored.
Basically, it looks like Brooks read a book by Stott, fell in love, and is now appalled that he is not the public face of the "evangelicals" while Falwell, Robertson (and I would add Dobson and many others) parade about like the petulant hypocritical moralists they are.

I am unfamiliar with Stott, so I won't make any assumptions as to his under-the-radar popularity among "evangelicals" - which Brooks asserts is vast. I will say, however, that Brooks is a fool (not that this is surprising) to suppose Stott's pleasantness makes him preferable to the loons that are now the public face of American Fundamentalism (or "evangelicals" if Brooks insists).

Here's the most interesting part:
Most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed. As he writes:

"It is not because we are ultra-conservative, or obscurantist, or reactionary or the other horrid things which we are sometimes said to be. It is rather because we love Jesus Christ, and because we are determined, God helping us, to bear witness to his unique glory and absolute sufficiency. In Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ God's revelation is complete; to add any words of our own to his finished work is derogatory to Christ."
There's a word for that last bit, and it's not "evangelical" - it's fundamentalist. To "evangelize" is to teach the gospel. You can do that without believing that the bible must be taken literally and without interpretation. "Fundamentalism" is strict adherence to a very particular reading of a religious text (or, I suppose if you are a fundamentalist, the "true" or "literal" reading of the text).

If we want to be precise about what American Fundamentalists are, we ought to call them American (because they adhere to a reading of the bible with roots in American Protestantism) Fundamentalist (because they adhere to this reading strictly, and often disparage those who do not do so) Evangelical (because they energetically attempt to push this reading on others) Theocrats (because they attempt to do so through the state).

Perhaps Stott is not of the "theocrat" variety, and that is why Brooks finds him so superior to Falwell, et. al. If that's the case, then perhaps Stott is an okay guy afterall. As I said before, I've no desire nor inclination to deny a man his choice of faith (or his choice not to have it).

But if Stott is one who believes the United States should be run on principals of fundamentalism, then why Brooks insists that having a man he describes as like Mr. Rogers but with a "backbone of steel" present American Fundamentalism to the public makes it somehow more acceptable is beyond me.

Perhaps that's not his thesis, since at the end he wraps up the column by saying that politicians ("especially Democrats") must begin their "appealing" to "people of faith" (another very unfortunate euphemism) by "understanding the faith." Clearly he does not understand it, like too many others for whom only the imposition of actual theocracy will force recognition of the fact that American Fundamentalism as it attempts to capture the state diverges from its close Islamic cousin (e.g., the Taliban) only in the book it purports to be absolute truth and the means (though in the case of abortion clinic bombers, even this distinction is blurred) through which it strives for its goal.

I guess someone is going to have to make a Hollywood movie, replete with all the special effects bells and whistles, about what would happen if these people manage to completely tear down the wall between Church and State and rule the U.S. as they would have it ruled (according to their own strict reading of the bible) before people will wake up.

As a civil libertarian, I am finding it harder and harder to defend the right of these people to practice their faith while simultaneously defending my right to be free of it myself, but both are too important to allow either to lapse.

Evangelize all you want, just don't do it through the government of my country.

UPDATE: Both David Wiens and Doug Barnes do their part. Wiens points out that Stott is not the theocrat-type (I tried to clearly leave this possibility open in my post), nor is he American. Good to have the info. I think this only supports my thesis that Brooks (like too many people) fails to understand American Fundamentalism and the potential threat it poses - if he did, he would not suggest that a non-theocrat Englishman like Stott could lead that movement.

New Links, Cont. 

So I've discovered a new way to procrastinate. I'm building my link list on the left side of the page. Here's the new ones:

Under Music/Culture (which will expand exponentially sometime when I decide to do it proper justice - it started as a cheap heading to promote myself as a dj but deserves to be used for real):

- Creative Commons is a cool idea that allows people to share their creative works with protections alternative to and more flexible than our copyright laws.

- Wikipedia you should know about already, but it's basically a free information source, built upon continuously - similar concept to Creative Commons in terms of making more information available to more people at less cost and with little restriction.

Under Friends: You Must be Present to Win is the blog of our local Texas Law Review IP law geek, Doug. Dig it.

Under Law:
- Becker-Posner blog will be self explanatory to anyone who would care to read it, coming soon.

- Tribe Blog much the same, also coming soon.

UPDATE: Tribe Blog turns to be a fake. Removed.

This is fun.

UPDATE AGAIN: Very special newbie on the friends list - my good friend Toy. She's one of the few people in the world who can order me around without reservation (but don't use that word w/ her...she's Comanche and proud).

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Pet Segregation 

Law Prohibits Dog and Cat in Same House.

Our canine superiors are cementing their control. They're passing laws making it illegal to have a cat and a dog cohabitate. Through this measure and their advanced surveillance techniques, the dogs are clearly planning to elminate both their arch nemeses, the cats, and the humans that support them in one swift assault. The law, of course, prevents any of the canines themselves from being unwittingly destroyed in the catastrophic attack to come.

God help us cat lovers, one and all.

Monday, November 29, 2004

New Blogrollers 

Trolling the law-related blogosphere for info on the Raich case inspired me to add a new "law" section to my blogroll to the left. It's in its infancy, with just the ones I visit fairly regularly so far, but will be augmented as time passes (and permits).

Check 'em out if you wanna geek out on some legal stuff.

Leiter will remain in the politics section for now because I'm a lazy bastard.

Medipot Oral Arguments 

Larry Solum, via his blog, gives us a very comprehensive and detailed play-by-play of the Raich oral arguments today.

For those who are interested, I highly recommend checking it out.

Back from the Boonies 

I've just returned from the webless wasteland of Northern Florida. I got no studying done and panic is setting in quickly.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the Raich case today. That's the medical marijuana and federalism case for those who are keeping score. Probably the most anticipated case of the session - definitely my most anticipated case.

We'll see if compassion and reason win out over hysteria and misinformation.

Back to the grind. Light posting until the torture of finals leaves me twisted and twitching under my bed.

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