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Showing posts from 2004

Second Amendment Language

I know politicians omit and embellish facts. I know court is not about "the whole truth" but rather only those facts a judge and the lawyers decide to present -- and as they see fit to present them. I know the press is not "truthful" but whatever facts and statements the reporters can squeeze into limited space and time, as influenced by biases. I know texts are never "the truth" nor is my reading of them likely a complete appreciation for what was written.

"A well-regulated militia..." reads the Second Amendment. Does anyone know what "regulated" means? It's not what most people assume it means. "Regular" meant well-prepared, or well-equipped. Hence, a "regular" army is better than a "guard" on-call. Regulated does not mean "governed" in all instances, just as "run" does not always mean something people in track meets do. "Regulated" can mean "well-prepared" or …

The U.S. Model vs. European Democracy

As I understand it, the "federal" system in most countries has a lot of power -- such as a national sales tax, national education system, national health care, national law enforcement, national regulations (versus national "minumums" in the United States), and so on.

For example, the GST or VAT is a national sales tax used for national programs. The United States could not have such a tax without a change to our Constitution, which requires approval of three-fourths of the states. (Switzerland has an "easier" two-thirds requirement for national referendums on Constitutional matters.) It was a long battle just to have a federal income tax in the United States. Even today,
people debate if the Amendment was passed properly.

I also believe a teaching certificate is good nation-wide in most countries. In the United States, my California credential was accepted by two states, as long as I took some additional courses. California accepts no other states' (…

Comparing Democracies: Switzerland

Regardless, calling something "direct democracy" does make it sound, to the public, as if they are in control. On this matter, I must admit Chomsky is correct (gasp!) -- you can tell people they have rights and powers, yet make them so difficult to exercise as to render those rights almost meaningless.

Sartre and Camus claimed words were both meaningless and all we have. We can manipulate them to control people, or to free ourselves.

If women could not vote until 1971, and men (the voters) made the decision to allow them power, it's almost laughable. That's like saying "All men are created equal" then making Africans count as only a portion of a man (which the United States did). French-speaking Catholics were restricted in Switzerland until 1978, when public protests (phrasing it nicely) resulting in full rights and even a Catholic state.

You can call yourself a democracy, but is it democracy when only certain people get to decide the rules and laws for ev…

Europeans Don't Understand U.S. System

A curious survey was conducted in Europe by The Economist, using the size of Europe as a starting point for developing the questions.

First, remember that America is a system of "states" with independent central authorities. A common currency and common defense was developed, but each state oversees: education, most welfare, transportation, local security, medical care... et cetera. Even the death penalty is a state-by-state issue at present. In other words, The Economist began with the historical comparison of the US to the EU.

So, we have 50 States. How many were in the EU? I recall, at least at one point, 15 major members.

Anyway, the question then became how many could name the States in the USA, at least two governors, explain the Republican form versus European Parliamentary forms, et cetera.

It turned out most Europeans thought the USA had a single system, one set of standards for education, one national set of laws, et cetera. The results of the survery were quite st…

Referendum and Direct Democracy

I was asked: "What and when was the last federal referendum in the USA? How much of what kind of legislation is subject to referendum in the USA?" - Jerry

This goes to culture and responsibility:

Think of this in terms of philosophy, not mere politics. It is easy to call for a vote, but people are reluctant to do so. Is that because change would be "bad" or because they don't care?

Maybe this is a good thing? Maybe static systems are better than wildly fluctuating ones for philosophical reasons?

When things are very "easy" do the people take it for granted? What can we do to make people realize they can exercise power? It is extremely easy (compared to our population of 300 million) to get matters to Congress, and then to the States.

Does the ease of petition make it an empty act? I don't even know how many petitions I have signed or not signed since 1986, when I first registered to vote. I suppose I've signed a dozen or so, with three of them…