What’s in a name?

I’m currently reading a book which deals a lot with how words shape actions. It’s a bit like Orwell’s description of how the way words work in newspeak makes it impossible to even form seditious thoughts based on the language (since such thoughts are usually verbal rather than visual or mathematical or whatever). The first part of the book dealt with the way translation can change the meanings, and therefore the discussion, understanding, and application of concepts. Basically, all instances of “human rights” ended up being translated as “freedoms of individuals”, which isn’t anywhere near the same*. This narrowing of the meaning of human rights then affects what sort of things are considered within the purview of “fighting for human rights”, and it entirely excludes any claims to positive rights, as well as collective rights/freedoms.
Similar problems with the meaning of words are everywhere. The fight over the word “believe” should be pretty well known to everybody even remotely involved in the evo-creo wars, so is the meaning of the word “evolution”**; the “it’s colder here, therefore there is no Global Warming” nonsense; the hideous anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-disconnect-the-permanently-vegetative-and-the-braindead-from-life-support arguments hiding behind a ridiculously broad and factually meaningless meaning of the term “sanctity of human life”; etc.

Right now, I’m particularly interested in the way the words “politics” and “democracy” are thought of and used, and how they’ve become narrowed and hollowed out in very interesting but damaging ways.

Politics are defined by wikipedia broadly as “a process by which groups of people make collective decisions”, and in this broad definition they’re used to describe all sorts of interactions with others, about all sorts of issues, by all sorts of means, at all sorts of levels within a hierarchy/organization (see: “office politics”); but when it comes to the area from which the term originally came, i.e. issues of state and government, suddenly “politics” ends up being far narrower in meaning, and becomes almost inextricably linked to professional politicians and partisanship, thus creating the absurd notion of “apolitical” social engagement. This is the arena in which NGO’s, charities, community organizations, churches, scientific organizations, etc., as well as members of all of those are supposed to operate. On first glance, this seems like a good thing***, but in reality creating this fictional divide between “political” and “apolitical” social engagement results in a host of problems.
In the book I’m reading, for example, a charity that conducts “civil education” is described as absolutely obsessed with remaining “apolitical” even though they deal with issues of political engagement and decision-making. Because of this, their education attempts become worthless and meaningless, because they cannot address the issues that people actually want to know more about and learn to act about. They end up serving cookie-cutter speeches on highly abstract topics (like the Greek roots of democracy) which have no connection to the real lives and issues of the people who are receiving this education, because those issues are “political” and therefore cannot be addressed. A similar thing happens in American politics. Any entanglement with “politics” is seen as inherently negative (and as breaking the rules of society, by entering the arena of politics when it’s supposed to stay “apolitical”), and entanglement can simply mean having a point of view that closer resembles the stance of one political party on any given issue. And when “reality has a liberal bias”, reality itself becomes either vilified and discarded****, or it gets “balanced out” by a counter-factual view, just to avoid the appearance of taking sides and becoming “political”. Something similar happened with the stupid ACORN drama: simply because “voter registration drives” are something the Democrats support more than the Republicans, and because the people that were being registered were part of the demographic more likely to vote for Democrats, ACORN is being marginalized, vilified and attacked for having crossed the imaginary line between “apolitical” and “political”. And in an extra special case of vileness, the same people who jump on others for being “political” will engage in very similar things, but as long as they can hide them under the umbrella of something (in American society) undeniably “apolitical” and untouchable like religious freedom, they are considered safely “apolitical”. Something similar is happening with the Teabaggers who are claiming the umbrella of libertarian anti-politicism (ha!) to protect themselves from the “taint” they themselves see in those who engage in issues they oppose. It’s hypocritical, and extremely detrimental to real, honest political and social engagement.

Something very similar is happening to “democracy”. It’s supposed to be a political (as per original definition of political) system in which citizens govern their society themselves. One tool of democracy is a republican government, but it is not the only available tool, nor is a republican government the only kind of government a democratic society can have. Recently though, I have begun to notice that “democracy” is now being used almost exclusively to mean “a government you can vote for”. Voting in elections seems to have become the sole meaning of “democracy”. The crassest example of this I remember were the events in Honduras. There’s been an illegal coup followed by martial law and deconstruction of constitutional rights of the people. But the international community seemed not to care about that, and was fully pacified when the illegitimate government staged elections, and claimed that as a “return to democracy”. How absurd! There’s nothing democratic about the situation, but the symbols of democracy have now become its entirety: as long as people get to cast a vote, it counts as democracy. I noticed a similar effect in the USA when in a conversation about state-run healthcare it came up that the Californian government instituted something-or-other (I have only vague recollections of that conversation, sorry), which politicians then fucked up and stripped bare and it didn’t work, and that’s why government healthcare would be a bad idea. Someone from Europe then immediately answered with surprise why there were no protests, no boycotts, no calls for resignation, no outraged citizenry demanding that the situation be rectified. And indeed, why weren’t there? These are essential for a society to continue functioning democratically. But when democracy just means voting, then these other actions don’t occur to people, and in some cases are even seen as undemocratic (calls for resigning are seen like that, but since Americans also often confuse capitalism and democracy, actually democratic actions against businesses can also be seen as undemocratic and unAmerican).

Basically, when you reduce “democracy” to “politics”, you end up taking away a lot of tools for people to actively and meaningfully participate in their own societies, and create false, “balanced” realities that hinder people’s ability to know what to act on.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

*for example, the difference between “the freedom to receive legal counsel” and “the right to receive legal counsel”: the former only deals with the negatives, i.e. that you mustn’t be prevented from acquiring legal counsel; the latter goes further and deals also with the positives, i.e. not just not being hindered from acquiring counsel, but also being provided counsel when you cannot acquire it by your own means

**you know… differences between evolution and The Theory of Evolution, the misapplication of the word to describe the development of stars, the even worse misapplication of the word by creationists to describe All Science That Disagrees With My Faith and their consequent unwillingness to accept the very narrow and unspectacular meaning of the term (i.e. descent with modification), etc.

***an effect of the “ghettoization” of politics as the sole purview of professional politicians and political parties and their often nasty public battles; because of this, politics are seen as something dirty, corrupt, non-grassroots and entirely undesirable, from which it’s good to dissociate oneself

****best example is AGW: it’s science, so it’s supposed to be “apolitical”. But in reality there isn’t such a thing as apolitical, especially since this particular scientific is caused by human actions, and will need more human actions to be rectified. But this fake separation of issues into political and apolitical has resulted in a lose-lose situation in which the science can remain “pure” and “untainted” by politics by not drawing the necessary conclusions and thus failing to solve the problem; or it can commit the sin of becoming “political” by suggesting necessary actions, at which point it becomes tainted, motivated by political agendas, and just another political stance to be accepted or rejected at will.

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28 comments on “What’s in a name?

  1. David Marjanović says:

    The fight over the word “believe” should be pretty well known to everybody even remotely involved in the evo-creo wars

    Much of that, remarkably, is confusion between “believe” and “believe in”. But anyway, the fight over “belief” and “faith” has assumed epic proportions.

    the absurd notion of “apolitical” social engagement. This is the arena in which NGO’s, charities, community organizations, churches, scientific organizations, etc., as well as members of all of those are supposed to operate. On first glance, this seems like a good thing***, but in reality creating this fictional divide between “political” and “apolitical” social engagement results in a host of problems.

    ***an effect of the “ghettoization” of politics as the sole purview of professional politicians and political parties and their often nasty public battles; because of this, politics are seen as something dirty, corrupt, non-grassroots and entirely undesirable, from which it’s good to dissociate oneself

    You know, you put a lot into words that I’ve never even fully consciously – lucidly – thought about.

    And there I was thinking I was good at explaining.

    But when democracy just means voting, then these other actions don’t occur to people, and in some cases are even seen as undemocratic (calls for resigning are seen like that, but since Americans also often confuse capitalism and democracy, actually democratic actions against businesses can also be seen as undemocratic and unAmerican).

    So true, so true, and… so true, respectively. :-þ

  2. Walton says:

    Hmmm. I agree with you that a rigid divide between “political” and “apolitical” social engagement is meaningless, and that the term “political” shouldn’t be restricted to describing the work of professional politicians and politicial parties. I agree with quite a lot of your post, in fact.

    But I’m going to address one point where I disagree with you. I think you’re reading far too much into the concept of “democracy”, and assuming it to be more coherent and meaningful than it is. You say that democracy is “supposed to be a political… system in which citizens govern their society themselves.” But what does it even mean to say that “citizens govern their society themselves?” For this concept to even be coherent, one must presuppose that the world is divided into discrete “societies”, each with a separate identity, consisting of citizens who share a common bond and recognise that society as “theirs” to govern. But in that case, what is my “society”, and what are its outer boundaries? Oxford? England? The United Kingdom? The EU? Why should all the people living within a particular arbitrary geographical designation, no matter how they got there, be treated as a “society” with a collective interest in “self-government”?

    And what can it mean to say that citizens in a society “govern themselves”? In any modern democracy, decisions are not made by consensus, but by majority. There will always be citizens who take strong exception to the decisions which are taken – yet they are bound, and can ultimately be compelled by force, to comply with the laws laid down by the majority. In what sense are they “governing themselves”? If they want to change the laws governing them, they have to persuade other people to agree with their proposed changes – so they’re not “governing themselves”. Rather, the minority at any one time is being governed by the majority.

    Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not characterising democratic mechanisms as a bad thing. Elections provide a check on over-mighty government, and they create a political force that can counterbalance the excessive power of the state bureaucracy and of corporations and property-holders. As such, they’re a very good thing. But I don’t think democracy should have any role beyond electing people to serve in public offices. I’m completely and intractably opposed to “popular initiatives”, for instance: it is the popular initiative process, where the majority really does get what it wants, that destroyed California’s state budget, that prevents gay couples from marrying in several states, and that banned minarets in Switzerland. A majority of voters, in any country, are politically and economically illiterate, prejudiced, small-minded and easily manipulated by propagandists; so any society that is really “ruled by the people” is doomed to disaster.

  3. Walton says:

    (continued from above)

    Rather, I would say that the best force for the good of individuals in Western societies today is the concept of constitutional rights, and their enforcement by a strong, active, independent judiciary. This is why, for all its flaws, I greatly admire the US Constitution and the Supreme Court – along with similar arrangements in other countries, such as the “Constitutional Courts” which exist in much of Europe. The UK has been traditionally lacking in this regard – which is why I strongly support maintaining the Human Rights Act, and, longer-term, moving towards a written constitution. In this area – the protection of individual rights – democracy is more of a hindrance than a help; the whole point is to protect individual rights against the majority will. Hence why I’m against election of judges, and why I think national constitutions should be made deliberately difficult to amend.

    Apologies – I didn’t mean to write as much as this, and I realise I’ve gone off on a tangent that doesn’t directly address your original post. But I think it’s a related, and important, point.

    Btw, congratulations on keeping up the blogging. Every single one of your posts so far has been interesting and thoughtful.

  4. David Marjanović says:

    But what does it even mean to say that “citizens govern their society themselves?” For this concept to even be coherent, one must presuppose that the world is divided into discrete “societies”, each with a separate identity, consisting of citizens who share a common bond and recognise that society as “theirs” to govern. But in that case, what is my “society”, and what are its outer boundaries? Oxford? England? The United Kingdom? The EU?

    All of them. There’s on reason to suppose there can’t be several nested in each other.

    Why should all the people living within a particular arbitrary geographical designation, no matter how they got there, be treated as a “society” with a collective interest in “self-government”?

    Because they can’t escape?

    But I don’t think democracy should have any role beyond electing people to serve in public offices.

    Removing people from public offices without bloodshed.

    A majority of voters, in any country, are politically and economically illiterate, prejudiced, small-minded and easily manipulated by propagandists; so any society that is really “ruled by the people” is doomed to disaster.

    Depends on the level of education, and on the constitution.

    Hence why I’m against election of judges,

    Agreed.

    and why I think national constitutions should be made deliberately difficult to amend.

    But not too difficult either – I think that’s what we’re seeing in the USA.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    There’s on reason

    There’s no reason, obviously.

  6. Jadehawk says:

    yay! discussion! on my blog!

    ahem, anyway, I’m about to leave, but I am SO going to have responses when I come back!!!!!

    *excited*

  7. Walton says:

    David M.

    Because they can’t escape?

    That’s really my point. Most people don’t choose their nationality or the “community” in which they live, and many don’t have the resources to move. So they don’t have the chance to opt out of the “society” of which they form a part.

    Which is why I think the idea of “society” being “self-governing” is incoherent. If A doesn’t have a choice about being part of community X, and if the majority of voters in community X then vote to force her to obey laws that she personally despises, how is she exercising “self-government”? She isn’t.

    In short, I would say the idea of “self-governing communities” can only work if people have complete free choice over which communities they wish to be part of, and can leave any community at any time if it does things they don’t like. Obviously, this doesn’t usually apply to nations or geographical communities in the real world. That’s why I don’t think “the people of a nation” can ever be said to be exercising “self-government” collectively; rather, democracy at the national level consists, even in its purest theoretical form, of the majority coercing the minority. And so we should stop pretending that the laws enacted by elected legislatures represent an exercise of “self-government” by “the people” – and try, instead, to develop a political system in which the freedom of all individuals, including unpopular minority groups, is protected against majority rule.

    Removing people from public offices without bloodshed.

    Yes, obviously – I saw that as implicit in the right to elect people to serve, but I should have been clearer in what I meant. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the ability to remove potential tyrants through elections, without needing to resort to assassination or civil war, is the most important benefit of democracy.

  8. Jadehawk says:

    Answer for Walton, part one:

    ok. first, read this post, if you haven’t yet, because it talks about some of the things you mention.

    Secondly, you’re still operating under the philosophical assumption that humans are naturally individuals. This is wrong; humans aren’t tigers. Humans are naturally societies, and as with everything in nature, the limits, ranges, etc. are fluid rather than well defined. Why are you bringing essentialism into this, by asking me to define what a “society” is? And why do you assume a person can only be part of a single society at any given time? All of the things you mention are different levels of societal groupings, and people must be able to participate in all of them, at all levels, whenever it’s relevant to them (preferably with a right-to-decide in proportion to how it will affect them, but that’s a separate subject actually). Anyway, humans are naturally part of societies, and until we invent the teleporter, the most important aspect of a person’s society is geography. This is a fact of life, so that’s what we need to take into account when talking about self-government and society; everything else is pointless sophistry. So the question “why” I should consider something a society is meaningless. They already are, so that’s what we got to work with. In la-la-land where energy is limitless, and transportation instantaneous and unlimited in range, we can worry about the concreteness of societies; here in the real world, these things are defined for us; lemons → lemonade.

    Thirdly, again because of your apparent inability (or unwillingness) to think of people as groups, you do not understand what I mean by “self-government”. It’s meaningless to talk about any form of government when only an individual is concerned; government only comes into play when there’s more than one person. When I live in a house all by myself, I don’t govern it. When I have roommates with which I need to be able to get along, we can govern ourselves by establishing and policing rules (whether by consensus or majority rule is irrelevant at this stage), or we can be governed by others who establish the rules for us, like a landlord. Having to convince others of the rightness of your opinion IS self-government, in the only meaningful sense there can be: being part of establishing the rules of cooperation, as opposed to having them imposed from above/outside.

  9. Jadehawk says:

    Answer for Walton, part two:

    Fourthly, unlike SC I’m not actually an Anarchist. I have not said anything against constitutions and unelected judiciaries. I do note though that you are falling into exactly the trap I described where democracy=voting. It doesn’t, and it’s specifically the elements of democratic action outside of the voting-booth that I was describing here. And without them, we would still work upwards of 12 hours a day, without weekends; we’d have child labor; we’d have no voting rights for women, and no anti-discrimination laws. You really should finally follow SC’s advice and learn the history of the late 19th and early 20th century. It’s the history of non-voting democratic action winning against the power of the Robber Barons and white male supremacy.

    Fifthly, just learn about democratic action, especially outside your own reference frame (western democracies), in general. You cite cherry-picked cases of referenda with bad results, but the evidence I have suggests that overall the tendency is for referenda to be more positive than negative, with the exceptions of 1)budgets 2)constitutional changes, which are absurd to conduct via popular vote alone.

    Sixthly, you’re obsessed with “freedom of choice”; this is another one of those situations where you’re arguing hypotheticals over realities. The reality is that we don’t have unlimited freedom of choice, we never will, and we never have. For true freedom of choice to exist, we’d each have to be capable of functioning in health without the existence of others, we would have to actually possess free will, and have access to unlimited and instantaneous space, energy, resources. In reality, our choices will always be limited and the humanistic and humanitarian goal should be to maximize happiness and minimize misery within that framework of limited choice. This is actually also something that I mention in the post, but only slightly, so let me expand on it: in the country the book i’m reading describes, “democracy” has indeed been reduced to maximization of political and civic freedoms. This type of democracy doesn’t actually help many of the people in that country live better lives though, because these theoretical economic and civic freedoms don’t address their real needs in their real, limited situations in which they live. These people live in very specific circumstances, in which “freedom of choice” doesn’t mean much, and doesn’t help any, whereas participatory decision-making, tools for getting the economic and social problems in their villages/towns addressed and realistically solved, knowledge of group-rights and channels for group-actions, etc. do. They could actually use more actual participatory democracy, but they have no use for more freedom.

  10. Jadehawk says:

    Answer for David:

    “you know, you put a lot into words that I’ve never even fully consciously – lucidly – thought about.
    And there I was thinking I was good at explaining.

    it only looks that way, because I’ve spent an incredibly long time formulating it. I worked for 3 days on getting the phrasing right, and really the whole concept has been rattling around in my brain since this lightbulb moment, which was… four months ago? so yeah, this post is 4 months in the making. Don’t expect me to sound this smart in person, in real time ;-)

    “But not too difficult either – I think that’s what we’re seeing in the USA.”

    and in South America, where many constitutions have been written by semi-dictatorial transition governments and are highly discriminatory. The struggle to have actually just constitutions has been ongoing, and difficult to achieve, when you have the rich and powerful against you.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the ability to remove potential tyrants through elections, without needing to resort to assassination or civil war, is the most important benefit of democracy.

    Bingo.

    For true freedom of choice to exist, we’d each have to be capable of functioning in health without the existence of others, we would have to actually possess free will, and have access to unlimited and instantaneous space, energy, resources

    and knowledge, to make the free market work.

    I worked for 3 days on getting the phrasing right, and really the whole concept has been rattling around in my brain since this lightbulb moment, which was… four months ago? so yeah, this post is 4 months in the making. Don’t expect me to sound this smart in person, in real time ;-)

    The lightbulb moment is impressive enough, “even” in its wording. :-| That’s plenty enough! If you “merely” sound like that in real time… :-) I basically hadn’t thought about the entire issue at all, and don’t read SC (because I’m already too good at procrastinating).

    and in South America, where many constitutions have been written by semi-dictatorial transition governments and are highly discriminatory.

    Interesting. I had no idea.

  12. Walton says:

    Jadehawk,

    Secondly, you’re still operating under the philosophical assumption that humans are naturally individuals. This is wrong; humans aren’t tigers. Humans are naturally societies, and as with everything in nature, the limits, ranges, etc. are fluid rather than well defined.

    I think you’re drawing a false dichotomy here. True, humans are social animals with a natural group/tribal instinct (though the strength of this varies from person to person); but humans are also individuals. I’m part of plenty of overlapping communities and social groups, but I’m still an individual, with my own needs and wants and ideas separate from those of others. I don’t know why you are so keen to deny that humans are individuals. There’s no contradiction between being an individual and being part of one or several social communities.

    Your post raises a lot of other issues to which I’ll respond in more depth later or tomorrow, as I need to study right now.

  13. Walton says:

    Jadehawk, you should be very proud. You know you’ve really “arrived” on the atheist blogging scene when your blog starts attracting hate posts from a certain persistent internet lunatic. :-)

  14. Jadehawk says:

    Walton, I’m not denying that humans are also individuals; we’re not the borg (and if we were, we wouldn’t need government either), I’m merely saying we don’t live as individuals in any meaningful sense of the word. Even the biggest loners don’t function well when not somehow integrated into some form of community, and the moment you have a community, you need means of cooperation (with the occasional exception of a hermit or two)

    and yeah, I’m tickled pink to have attracted the clinically insane :-p

  15. David Marjanović says:

    Ooh! Ooh! Which one of the dozens of persistent internet lunatics was it? :-) (It appeared and got deleted since I last looked.)

  16. Paul says:

    I’m guessing Mabus, he’s the most persistent atheist blog troll. I think he runs a spider, it’s the only reason I can think of for him to post where he has (he even gets deist or simply religious secular blogs on occasion).

    Not much to contribute except for saying good post, I’ve had thoughts along the same lines before but don’t really know what to do about it.

    Oh, and thanks for using “taint” as a descriptor when talking about the teabaggers. Almost needed a new keyboard.

  17. David Marjanović says:

    he even gets deist or simply religious secular blogs on occasion

    LOL!

    Not much to contribute

    + 1 :o)

  18. Pygmy Loris says:

    That’s a very insightful post, Jadehawk. Some of my friends often talk about liberals, in particular, being content to vote on election day and then pat themselves on the back as though their participation in our democracy is over until the next election day. One reason people may not be protesting too loudly may have to do with the perceived social consequences. So much of our lives are open books, and groups like our employers may be watching what we do. If someone is looking for a job or has a precarious job situation, they may not want to do anything that could be perceived as “rocking the boat.” There are precious few laws that protect workers in the USA and many of us are at will employees who can be fired at anytime for no reason.

    David, (in response to Walton about changing constitutions)

    But not too difficult either – I think that’s what we’re seeing in the USA.

    If the US Constitution was easier to change, we probably would have seen our rights rolled back rather than expanded. The USA is a deeply conservative country compared to most of Europe. Remember, a huge portion of the American population really thinks Obama is a left-winger. Another large segment thinks Obama isn’t necessarily a crazy left-winger, but he’s too liberal for them.

    I know more than a few people who have called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw any kind of health care reform. They’re crazy, but they’re also politically involved and the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    Pygmy Loris

    BTW, I have no idea how to make TypePad work with your blog.

  19. Pygmy Loris says:

    Is this going to work?

    Success! Had to turn off third party cookies. Thanks Caine!

  20. Pygmy Loris says:

    I meant “turn on” third party cookies. Doh!

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Dennis Markuze providing entertainment! pravda.ru as evidence for anything? Made me smile. And what does “life element” even mean?

    You need help, man. Professional help.

    If someone is looking for a job or has a precarious job situation, they may not want to do anything that could be perceived as “rocking the boat.”

    Vicious circle.

    If the US Constitution was easier to change, we probably would have seen our rights rolled back rather than expanded.

    On the other hand, things like the Equal Rights Amendment are being held up by a handful of reactionary state legislators because 3/4 of the state legislatures need to agree on any amendment… and even the NRA is to the right of most of its members…

    But, yes, democracy requires a well-educated populace.

  22. Paul says:

    Dennis Markuze providing entertainment! pravda.ru as evidence for anything? Made me smile. And what does “life element” even mean?

    Went to lunch with some engineer coworkers. One uncritically brought up some whacky thing for discussion, and started talking about why anyone would even think to do it. I asked him where he read about it, and it was pravda.

    /facepalm

    Too many people lack the ability to recognize a tabloid from another country. It’s like, if it doesn’t say National Enquirer on it they assume it’s a legitimate news source.

  23. Pygmy Loris says:

    David,

    On the other hand, things like the Equal Rights Amendment are being held up by a handful of reactionary state legislators because 3/4 of the state legislatures need to agree on any amendment.

    Well, it would lead to the breakdown of society through unisex bathrooms. *clutches pearls*

    On a more serious note, I’m not sure what the answer is. The Constitution was made deliberately difficult to change so that an overwhelming majority would have to support any such changes as were desired to prevent a tyranny of the bare majority. I certainly don’t want conservatives to be able to change the Constitution just because they have a majority in a majority of state legislatures, but I do think we need a few more amendments, the ERA being number one. My number one concern is the appointment of very young individuals to the Supreme Court. The effects of a President and Congress shouldn’t still be felt 30 years later just because the President got to appoint a few judges. I also think Supreme Court justices should have a mandatory retirement age, say 75. To insulate justices from political winds in this case (where they may want to move into politics or government contracting type work) anyone appointed to the Supreme Court would be barred from ever holding high federal office or working for any business that contracts with the federal government once they leave the bench. I’m sure I could write such an amendment to be clear and free of wiggle room or legalese.

  24. Paul says:

    To insulate justices from political winds in this case (where they may want to move into politics or government contracting type work) anyone appointed to the Supreme Court would be barred from ever holding high federal office or working for any business that contracts with the federal government once they leave the bench. I’m sure I could write such an amendment to be clear and free of wiggle room or legalese.

    How are you going to prevent bribery by proxy — their husbands/wives receiving private sector money as a means of influence?

  25. David Marjanović says:

    and it was pravda

    Mind you, pravda.ru has nothing whatsoever to do with the (fairly respectable) newspaper. Either someone wanted to get some glory from the good name, or they (like kooks in general) wanted to write about “truth”, or both.

    Similarly, aljazeera.com has nothing to do with the real thing, which is at aljazeera.net.

    Well, it would lead to the breakdown of society through unisex bathrooms. *clutches pearls*

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    I certainly don’t want conservatives to be able to change the Constitution just because they have a majority in a majority of state legislatures, but I do think we need a few more amendments, the ERA being number one.

    What would happen if the “3/4 of state legislatures” requirement were reduced to 2/3?

    My number one concern is the appointment of very young individuals to the Supreme Court. The effects of a President and Congress shouldn’t still be felt 30 years later just because the President got to appoint a few judges.

    True.

  26. Jadehawk says:

    “How are you going to prevent bribery by proxy — their husbands/wives receiving private sector money as a means of influence?”

    vows of poverty and celibacy? :-p

  27. Pygmy Loris says:

    Paul,

    How are you going to prevent bribery by proxy — their husbands/wives receiving private sector money as a means of influence?

    The same way it’s done in many states, husbands and wives would be subject to the same rules. There’s really no ethical way to get around that. I’m a big believer in avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    vows of poverty and celibacy? :-p

    :-D :-D :-D Has worked so well in the past! ROTFL! Maybe that’s why Lucrezia Borgia resorted to poison ;-)

    The same way it’s done in many states, husbands and wives would be subject to the same rules. There’s really no ethical way to get around that.

    Good point.

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