You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for January, 2003.

Quote of the Day

January 30th, 2003

“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”
Richard Feynman, physicist, Nobel laureate (1918-1988)

Host suggestions?

January 30th, 2003

I need to change hosts. I was considering dreamhost until my morning surf took me to genehack — his problems are very similar to my current problems with your-site (but I have an added spam bonus with my account). Any suggestions?

Vet focus

January 29th, 2003

The San Antonio Current has published an interview with three Vietnam veterans. The questions and discussion focused on Bush’s proposed war with Iraq. It’s eye-opening. Some choice bits:

Fichtner: “We always think of civilians as the innocents. The soldiers that are killed are thought of as the enemy, as evil, and that they deserve to die. Most of these Iraqi soldiers would not choose to be soldiers, they were probably drafted and serving their time. They’re not part of the regime; they’re just people, just as innocent as the children and civilians.”

Elder: “This may be totally utopian thinking, but every time a missile is fired it is cheating the community I teach in. I have 30 kids in one classroom in a public school, which is an obscene number. There is a connection I can’t ignore.”

Wetzler: “Preemptive war means our policy runs contradictory to yours. It means every country is subject to a preemptive war if it threatens American interests. If every country in the world is a prospective enemy, it means we are the enemy of everyone in the world.”

Of course, not every vet would agree with these guys — they are only a sample of 3 after all. But they do have insights into the reality of war that most of our population lacks. Their comments are powerful.

Happenstance

January 23rd, 2003

Here’s the summary version of today’s update: if convicted felons who have served their time had the right to vote in all states, the Democrats would control the Senate and Gore would be President.

Convicted felons in all 50 states face some form of political disenfranchisement. In some states, they cannot vote while they are incarcerated. In others, they cannot vote while incarcerated or on parole. In still others, they can never vote again. The United States is unique among modern democracies — while some other democratic nations restrict the voting rights of currently incarcerated felons, no other nation permanently restricts the voting rights of former felons.

Today, as felony convictions in the U.S. soar, the percentage of the population that cannot vote due to these restrictions is growing. Furthermore, felons tend to be disproportionately poor, black and uneducated — all of which suggest a tendency to vote Democratic. Sociologists Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza have examined the impact of felon disenfranchisement on Senate elections in all 50 states since 1978, and on several presidential elections. They statistically account for felon characteristics, felon voting trends in states that don’t restrict ex-felons voting rights, and voter turnout, they have estimated the impact of allowing felons to vote. The statistical analysis is not complicated and fairly easy to follow — and it was done right.

Uggen and Manza find that if non-incarcerated felons had had the right to vote, Democrats would have won 7 key Senate seats since 1978 that would have allowed them to maintain control of the Senate continuously since then. Furthermore, they estimate that had ex-felons been able to vote in Florida in 2000, Gore would have won Florida by over 80,000 votes.

Why do some states restrict the voting rights of felons? Most of these laws date back to the 1850s, and there is good evidence (for more, see Alexander Keyssar’s book The Right to Vote) to suggest they were motivated in part by a desire to take voting rights away from poor whites and blacks.

Regardless of one’s philosophical approach to criminal justice, these laws make no sense: if you favor the rehabilitation approach, it would be foolish to assume that taking away an ex-felon’s voting rights would make her or him less likely to commit future crimes; if you favor the punitive approach, it would be equally foolish to assume that taking away an ex-felon’s voting rights constitutes any greater punishment than imprisonment or restricted job opportunities.

The only reasons to maintain felon disenfranchisement are to avoid appearing “soft on crime” or to maintain an electoral advantage. Neither of those justifies maintaining an unfair, dishonest and philosophically nonsensical restriction on universal suffrage. Furthermore, given the known biases of the criminal justice system (particularly with respect to drug sentencing laws), restricting the suffrage of ex-felons amounts to a violation of the spirit of the 14th Amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Don’t forget

January 22nd, 2003

Both supporters and opponents of abortion gathered in D.C. today:

“Dueling protests are a ritual in the nation’s capital on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But both sides said there was greater urgency this year with the GOP now controlling Congress and the White House.”

I’m not feeling good about this one folks. If you’ve ever considered donating to NARAL, now might be the time to do it. And while you’re doing that, check out their state-by-state summary of abortion laws.

Count Me Out

January 22nd, 2003

Here’s a job I know I don’t want: commercial diver. The Philadelphia Weekly has a cover story about a team of commercial divers with headquarters in Philly who work all over the world. They swim up raw sewage pipes, dive down into cracked dams, swim around inside sinking oil tankers, and plunge into the water surrounding the rods in nuclear reactors. They make good money, but not as much as you might guess. Personally, I think they’re insane.

Wubba?

January 20th, 2003

Before Afirmative Action is a brief account of the effect the GI Bill had on Brown University’s student body.

“The great lesson of the program, as demonstrated by the following profiles of some of its first students, was that highly motivated people can excel at an Ivy League school, even if their academic background doesn’t follow the conventional pattern coming in. ”

It’s worth perusing.

You cruise, we lose

January 16th, 2003

Taking a cruise doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest, particularly not in light of the recently reported illnesses on various ships. But after reading Rebecca Patt’s article about what ships are legally allowed to dump into the oceans [in Metro Santa Cruz], I feel ill. It’s gross, disgusting, unsightly and really bad for the environment. You won’t be catching me on a cruise in this lifetime.

Doh!

January 16th, 2003

I’m having this problem. I keep forgetting that we don’t live in MY America anymore. We live in Bush’s America, where the only people who matter are the rich people. And not even all the rich people matter, just the ones with strong corporate ties. I keep forgetting that the Supreme Court’s job is no longer to protect the constitution (like it was in MY America), but that now it’s to protect the interests of those corporate-tied richies. I keep forgetting that.

But Eldred reminded me.

In related news, I take serious issue with the opening paragraph of the Washington Post’s article on the decision:

The Supreme Court upheld a 1998 federal law yesterday that extended the life of most copyrights by 20 years, deciding a landmark copyright case in favor of artists, writers and the entertainment industry.

Not only does this decision do nothing (bupkus) for artists and writers, I believe it harms them.

Singing in the choir

January 15th, 2003

Greg Easterbrook has written a detailed review of High and Mighty, Keith Bradsher’s expose of the SUV menace in this country. Easterbrook’s article is more of an overview than a traditional review — he goes into great detail about the politics, psychology and consequences of SUVs. Easterbrook’s article is simultaneously fascinating and sickening (except for the last sentence which spoils the intent of the last paragraph by going too far).

I’ve put Bradsher’s book on my “to be read” list.