Dec 31, 2008

defining "submit" in the international criminal court resolution

Several readers have asked how "submit" should be defined in the current LD resolution. Here are some thoughts on the subject.

1. Affirmatives especially should look for definitions that involve "yielding to the authority of." For example, from dictionary.com:
to give over or yield to the power or authority of another
or, perhaps
to defer to another's judgment, opinion, decision, etc.
Either of these avoids the negative connotations that involve "surrender."

2. Really, though, the best definition might involve providing an example of the entire phrase, "submit to the jurisdiction of." In layperson's terms, this means that the United States would grant the international court the authority to prosecute its citizens. What if a U.S. general were brought to trial, say, for arresting and detaining inmates held at Guantanamo who were later released without punishment? If the international court found the general guilty, even though he had not been prosecuted under U.S. law, affirming the resolution would mean deferring to the court's judgment, for good or ill. (There are many other crimes considered "crimes against humanity;" this article is extremely helpful.)

3. As always, your thoughts, comments, and questions are appreciated.

your happiness isn't (only) up to you

Social networks can influence an individual's happiness in heretofore unimagined ways.
Christakis also found that a person's happiness is dependent not only on the happiness of an immediate friend but - to a lesser degree - on the happiness of their friend's friend, and their friend's friend's friend. Furthermore, someone's chances of being happy increase the better connected they are to happy people, and for that matter the better connected their friends and family. "Most people will not be surprised that people with more friends are happier, but what really matters is whether those friends are happy," says Christakis.

They also discovered that the effect is not the same with everyone you know. How susceptible you are to someone else's happiness depends on the nature of your relationship with them. For example, if a good friend who lives within a couple of kilometres of you suddenly becomes happy, that increases the chances of you becoming happy by more than 60 per cent. In contrast, for a next-door neighbour the figure drops to about half that, and for a nearby sibling about half again. Surprisingly, a cohabiting partner makes a difference of less than 10 per cent, which coincides with another peculiar observation about some social epidemics: that they spread far more effectively via friends of the same gender.
Data came from the Framington Heart Study, ongoing since 1948. The limit of social influence seems to be three degrees--beyond a friend of a friend, influence is minimal.

Specific behaviors are also altered by social dynamics.
"Obesity appears to spread through social ties," Christakis says. Again, how likely you are to catch it depends on who you are interacting with: after controlling for factors such as difference in socioeconomic status, the researchers found that an individual's chances of becoming obese increased by 57 per cent if one of their friends became obese, 40 per cent if a sibling did and 37 per cent if their spouse did, irrespective of age (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 357, p 370).

However, neighbours have no influence, and how far away you live from a friend counts for little, which implies that obesity spreads via a different mechanism to happiness. Rather than behavioural mimicry, the key appears to be the adoption of social norms. In other words, as I see my friends gain weight, this changes my idea of what an acceptable weight is. One similarity with happiness is that friends and relatives have a far greater influence if they are of the same gender. While it is not evident why that should matter for emotional contagion, norms of body size are clearly gender-specific: "Women look at other women, men look at other men," says Christakis. This could also help explain the epidemics of eating disorders reported among groups of schoolgirls in recent decades.

The spread of a social norm appears to account for another of Christakis's findings: that when people stop smoking, they usually do so along with whole clusters of friends, relatives and social contacts. As more people quit, it becomes the socially acceptable thing to do, and those who choose to continue smoking are pushed to the periphery of the network. In this case, people are most strongly influenced by those closest to them - if your spouse quits, it is 67 per cent more likely that you will too.
The next question, then, is to what degree MySpace and Facebook amplify these phenomena.

Dec 30, 2008

Capital High School might reopen on schedule

There's still a chance that Capital High School, which recently suffered a roof collapse over its library, could reopen this coming Monday.
"The goal is still to open Monday," said Jim Crawford, Olympia assistant superintendent of fiscal and operations. "We don't yet have confirmation that can happen for sure, but we haven't ruled that out. We are doing everything we can."

Tim Byrne, supervisor of capital planning and construction, said district officials have been brainstorming options in case the building won't be ready for students by Monday.

"We were thinking about calling (The) Evergreen (State College) or one of the local colleges to see if their buildings would be available, if they start school later, but that's not going to work out," Byrne said. "Maybe if it impacts just one classroom, we could be using Jefferson (Middle School), which is under capacity. Using Olympia High School — that was one of the things that was thrown out there."
According to Crawford, those options are still in the brainstorm stage.
"We're not even close on a decision like that," Crawford said. "Until we really know what does that time line look like, we're really not there yet."
There's a bit of good news, too: 95% of the books in the library were undamaged, which is a massive relief.

Update 12/31: Last night the School Board met, declaring an emergency so work can proceed forthwith.
Crews on the site told the district they still hoped to be able to open the building in time for school to resume Monday.

"We're shooting to get kids back in the school as soon as we can. There a chance we can do that by the fifth," superintendent Bill Lahmann told the board.
The District will decide tomorrow whether that's feasible.

Dec 29, 2008

today's football links

1. Making my schadenfreude complete, the Jets fired Eric "Mangenious" Mangini.

2. Rod Marinelli got the boot, too, after the Lions ended the season 0-16. It was the perfect conclusion to an otherwise unremarkable NFL year.

3. Mike Holmgren, bless him, is done. The Seahawks lost to Arizona in his honor.

4. Remember the quiz about the NFL's obscure / obscurantist rules? Well, there are plenty more that make the game more convoluted than any other sport, except perhaps curling.

5. Vegas likes a Giants / Titans Super Bowl. Colts / Eagles. You heard it here first. (Don't bet on sports.)

Added: 6. After years of stagnation, NFL offenses are set to evolve.

Dec 28, 2008

a weekend of delights in Vancouver

My wife and I spent a weekend in Vancouver. (The real one, Mom.) Although I'm still irked by shabby treatment from a 20th-century behemoth unable to cope with a 21st century world, the trip as a whole was relaxing, weird, and fun.

Some highlights:

1. The Vancouver Giants' victory over Prince George in WHL action. Photos arriving later.

2. Bin 941. Top-notch tapas. We filled up with habanero mussels, cinnamon-rubbed flank steak with pommes frites, fry bread, and chocolate torte.

3. Joe's Grill (on Davie). Friendly, fast, cheap. Breakfast was so good, we went there twice in two days.

4. Robson Street: Lush and slush.

5. The Vancouver Art Gallery.



(Past Vancouver-blogging here and here.)

Sutton Place Hotel, Vancouver: you stink

Dear Sutton Place Hotel:

Why, why, why do you charge customers nearly $15 for 24 hours of internet connectivity?

Even Scharf's Motor Inn in Deer Lodge, Montana has free wireless.

Still steamed,

Jim

Dec 26, 2008

Seattle sports and the end of a (really bad) dream

2008 is almost behind us, and with it, the worst year in Seattle sports history.

You know a city is having a bad year when its biggest fan is forced to draw inspiration from the possibility of watching Jose Vidro, Willie Bloomquist and Richie Sexson play the last-place Washington Nationals.

The thing is, though, Seattle's sports year isn't even that bad yet as Big Lo lies in the hospital with summer approaching. The Mariners aren't even halfway to becoming the first team to lose 100 games with a payroll of more than $100 million, nor have they fired their first manager of the season, let alone their second. The Washington Huskies have yet to suffer a single one of their historic 12 losses or fire their coach or get called for delay of game on their first play from scrimmage. (Delay of game on your first offensive play of a game -- how is that possible? What, did Kenny G play the national anthem?) The preseason magazines hitting the newsstands are picking the Seahawks to win the NFC West for the fifth straight year, not lose 11 games (and counting) on the way to saying goodbye to their coach, Mike Holmgren. And most importantly, the SuperSonics trial over their lease has yet to begin, so there still is hope they will remain in Seattle rather than move to Oklahoma @$&%ing City.

So it's probably best Big Lo finds himself in the hospital in June before the year really gets bad for Seattle, before the year repeatedly reduces him to tears and before he starts routinely asking, "Did we do something wrong?"

I can't say I've shed any tears--or punched any walls, for that matter--but I've learned to appreciate the works of Marcus Aurelius.

Dec 25, 2008

roof collapses at CHS

Under the weight of Yuletide snow, 2500 square feet of roof collapsed over the library at Capital High School. No injuries--not surprisingly, no one was in the school at the time--but water damage and a broken natural gas line are presented as a lovely gift to the District.

And a very merry Christmas to you.

Oh, and I should add that staff are barred from entrance to the building until further notice, for safety and insurance reasons. Followers of this blog might also want to know that my classroom is a good distance from the library, and is in all likelihood perfectly intact. Although my roof section is also flat....

Update 12/26: The Olympian offers a little more detail concerning the extent of the damage.
There is water damage in several areas of the school, caused by sprinkler systems activated when the collapse set off the building's fire alarm, and by a waterline that was severed in the collapse, said Peter Rex, a spokesman for the Olympia School District....

Rex said Thursday afternoon that a structural engineer had examined the collapse, and determined that there are "some parts of the building that are safe to be in, and there are others that are not safe to be in."

An HVAC ventilation unit on the roof was damaged in the collapse, hanging partway down to the ceiling of the building, Rex said. That is one of the portions of the school that was deemed unsafe by the engineer, Rex said.
No one knows if we'll be able to head back to class by January 5th.

Dec 24, 2008

asking Americans questions about Canada


The following six questions provide an easy way to gauge an American's knowledge of Canada. Any American who gets more than five right is a Canadian ex-pat.

(You'll have to do your own research for the answers, eh.)

1. What's the largest state in Canada?
2. Who's the president of Canada?
3. Which is worth more: the American dollar, or the Canadian pound?
4. True or False: Canada's national anthem is "Take Off."
5. Fill in the blank: French fries, Belgian waffles, Canadian ____________.
6. How many centimeters are in a metric tonne?




[155th in a series]

the second cousin of the mother of all top ten lists

[An annual tradition. Installments from 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 also available.]


Top Ten Top Ten-ish Lists
Slate's 10 most popular articles, including a 67-post breakdown of the last (and weakest, sadly) season of the greatest drama ever dramaed. (Itself including a top-13 scenes list.)
The year's best music from Slate and The Onion AV Club.
Best films, from the latter.
Weird holiday decorations. (Best: Flying Spaghetti Monster.)
Top ten nerdy neologisms
Top ten TED talks. (A repeat, and worth it.)
Top Ten Objects That Have Flown in Space
Top Ten Scams of 2008
Top Ten Media Blunders (only ten?)
National Geographic's most-viewed galleries of 2008.


Ten Favorite Posts from 2008
yelling "shush" in a crowded theater
Sometimes I talk too much. This was not one of those times.
our long National Board nightmare is over
I have dreams.
the email address personality test
Science tells you more about yourself than you really wish to know.
the caped crusader strikes out
My mother makes an appearance.
Psalm 139:13-16, the Albert Mohler translation
A flight of literary imagination.
summer of film
Somehow it turned into a summer of Verhoeven.
color me evil
The world's most amazing paint job.
Olympia City Council adopts my "door prize democracy" scheme
My power knows no bounds.
Olympia, late summer
Photos.
Jabberin' Joe vs. Baked Alaska: the VP debate liveblog
I liveblogged so you didn't have to.


Even More Top Ten Lists That Don't Yet Exist
Do-It-Yourself Home Surgery Projects
Rejected Titles for the George W. Bush Autobiography
Dead Newspapers
Ways to Cash In on an Obama Presidency
Google-Busters
Sylvester Stallone Appearances
Cover Bands
Uses of Metonymy
Sculptures Inspired by Balloon Animals
Sarah Palins


Movies Coming Out in 2009
Frank Miller's Mary Worth
Batman Growls
The Amazing Plot Device (starring Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler)
Rocky IX
Harry Potter and the Temple of Doom
Le Silence Maladroit
The Vegetarian Murders
Adze
A Bottle Full of Quirk
Recession Movie


Words To Avoid on a First Date
Xanthous
Abecedarian
Drear
Pedagogy
Filmic
Smooch
Arrondissement
Tasty
Zounds
Blog


The Most Important News Items of 2008, Actually
Barack Obama's Martian Birth Certificate a Forgery
Texting During Mass Added to List of Venial Sins
Yankees Buy Out Elliot Spitzer's Contract
You Are Now an iPhone App
Gatsby Murdered; Deranged Husband, Falling Stocks Implicated
B-Listers Strike
Endangered Animals Hope for Short Recession
Tina Fey, Politician of the Year
Rock Band II: Disastrous Breakup Hits Shelves
Christmas Canceled Due to Lack of Interest

Dec 23, 2008

LD mailbag: consequentialism and the international criminal court resolution

Regarding the Jan/Feb LD resolution, a reader writes,
I was wondering if you could help me with my Aff case.

VP: (Morality?)
VC: (Consequentialism?)
Resolution should be looked at from both a global and US standpoint, should be adopted because it furthers the interests of both.

C1: Signing ICC would further US interests
a) Helps with war on Terror
b) Even if the US does not sign ICC, nations can still bring on cases against US.
c) Helps further US image as Human Rights leader

C2: Signing ICC would help further global interests
a) Helps efficiently prosecute crimes against humanity and bring Justice
b) Helps further international law and global cooperation etc.

This is a very policy-like impacts based case, and I'm having problems figuring out my Value Premise and Value Criterion from it. I've seen people debate LD without a Value or Criterion (and win!), but I'd rather not go that route. The problem with morality as a value is that my case is more arguing that signing the ICC better achieves the interests of both parties, not necessarily that those interests are more moral per se. The consequentialism seems to be a good criterion, but then again, I'm sure there must be something that better links to the resolution and my case. Could you please help me? Thanks!
First, make sure you organize your initial analysis as you do your contentions, since they establish the general warrant for your VC/VP.

Second, a value criterion of consequentialism (or, perhaps to be more specific, universal consequentialism) works best with an ends-based value premise such as societal welfare (or human welfare / global welfare). It's even echoed in the language of the contentions--substitute "welfare" for "interests," and it becomes quite obvious what the VP should be.

There's the potential in the case's construction that either contention could stand or fall on its own. This is good, in the sense that either might be sufficient to affirm, but bad in the sense that it seems to tease apart U.S. and global interests. (It also prompts the question, Why should the U.S. care about global interests?) There needs to be strong rhetoric--perhaps in a third contention--that shows that the U.S.'s interests not only merge with the world's, but that, because of the impact of globalization, they depend on the world's interests. And vice versa.

It's also a nice preemptive move against anyone running a realist case that tries to minimize "morality" as a decision rule for governments.

Lastly, regarding the second contention in particular, the ICC has been viewed as toothless because it has no enforcement authority, which also decreases its deterrent value (which is of great importance in a consequentialist framework). The U.S.'s participation in the process would set the stage for U.S. enforcement of ICC rulings as well.

Readers are, of course, encouraged to offer their own suggestions or questions in the comments.

Sideline Smitty cut from the team

The newspaper hits just keep coming. Craig Smith, a.k.a., Sideline Smitty, has been cut from the Seattle Times.
After 32 years at The Times and nearly eight years of writing this column, I'm voluntarily taking a buyout offer as this newspaper reduces staff. High-school sports will be around next week, but I won't.

Over the years, I've covered hundreds of games, sweated out deadlines in bad working conditions and met a lot of good people plus an occasional snake. I've seen some gifted athletes and a lot more kids who were proud just to put on their school's uniform and try their hardest.

As I exit, I believe more than ever that high-school sports are good for kids and good for schools. Yes, there are problems with interscholastic sports but there are problems with any human endeavor.

As a sports writer, I have found prep sports to be fresher, more fun, often more interesting, and, in their own way, more important, than college or professional sports.
Smitty, perhaps the state's leading expert on Washington's prep sports scene, will be greatly missed. If it weren't for the sorry state of the publishing industry, I'd recommend that he write a book on the subject.

Dec 22, 2008

I've got your schadenfreude right here

On the heels of the Jets' magnificently stupid loss to the Seahawks, sportswriters east of here are calling for the thick head of Eric Mangini. A sampling follows.

Will Leitch:
Sure, the Jets still have a chance to make the playoffs, though it’s not much more of a chance than the 0–15 Detroit Lions have. They need to beat Pennington and the Dolphins in the Meadowlands, and they have to hope that the Patriots lose to the Bills AND the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is extremely unlikely. It is more likely that the Jets, facing a tumultuous off-season, are going to look even more different next year than they did after all the changes this year. This team is over. Eric Mangini is likely over. And Brett Favre is almost certainly over.
Rich Cimini:
It was one of the Jets' worst losses ever, and it is THE worst collapse in team history - assuming they don't make the playoffs. Does anybody think they'll beat Chad Pennington?

From talking to players after the game, they're demoralized, confused, angry and emotionally drained.

They're Jets. It's what they do. It's how they roll.
Mackenzie Kraemer:
I've defended to the death that "Same Old Jets" is gone. But I now understand a lot of what older fans see when they watch the Jets play. The collapse this season is high in the pantheon in great Jet disappointments.
Bob Glauber:
After yesterday's pathetic outing against the Seahawks and his old coach, Mike Holmgren, this much is certain: Favre is done after this year. Kaput. If the Jets ask him back after this late-season meltdown, they're even wackier than I thought. Barring a playoff berth and at least two postseason wins, Favre is at the end.

Mangini should be, too, especially if at this time next week, the Jets are putting their equipment in black plastic bags and explaining how it all went so horribly wrong.

If Mangini doesn't get to the playoffs, the Jets need to show him the door. No excuses. No explanations. He was on board with the Favre decision, and he must pay the price if the collapse is completed next week.
I'm a Seattle sports fan. Schadenfreude's all I've got.

Dec 21, 2008

and still I refuse to chain up





Eric Mangini's gift to Mike Holmgren

In (quite possibly) Holmgren's last game at Qwest Field, Jets coach Eric Mangini presented a neatly wrapped gift: a win, bow-tied in three simple steps.

1. Kick a field goal in the first quarter on 4th-and-short near the goal line. After an efficient first possession, where it seems there's no way the Hawks D can stop Thomas Jones on the ground, or Favre through the air, the Jets come away with only 3 points.

2. Not kick a field goal right after your (excellent) kicker has nailed a 45-yarder waved off for delay of game. Instead, with a 50-yarder in his future, Mangini calls on the punting unit, and A.J. Feely pouts from the sideline. For about five televised minutes. The Jets, instead of being down 4, are down 7.

3. Not punt from your own 20 yard line on 4th-and-2, with 2:21 left, down 10-3. Favre throws downfield, incompletion, and Olindo Mare kicks a textbook field goal on the Hawks' ensuing possession. 13-3, game over. Josh Wilson's later interception is almost superfluous.

The only possible explanation I can muster for all three calls is that Eric Mangini really, really likes Mike Holmgren.

and jam we did

Last night we--the Mike Dean Project, soon to be known as Diva and the Snow Men--played a wedding gig at the Elks Lodge in Aberdeen. The snow cut everything short, unfortunately, turning what could have been a glorious bacchanal of epic proportions into a quiet meditation on love and mortality, with dancing.

The manager of the place made our collective evening when, as we started packing up our gear, she asked if we'd like a plate of hot chicken strips. As we contemplated our ride home through sleet and snow, we immediately agreed that if we were going to perish in a blizzard, we might as well die happily.

But I exaggerate, of course. The Suburban struggled only a little through the onslaught.


Every teacher should have one.


No Elks Lodge is complete without elk antlers and dropped consonants.

Dec 20, 2008

to boldly jam

Today the Mike Dean Project heads to Aberdeen to play at a wedding, which requires me to sally forth into the Black Hills. Not too boldly, though; I'm being picked up by a band member who has 4WD in the form of a classic Suburban.

I've packed a toothbrush and a change of clothes. Word is a storm is coming.

the triumph of Ruth Bennett

Remember Ruth Bennett? She was the Libertarian who ran against Gregoire and Rossi back in 2004. She earned far more votes than the margin of victory, and probably ultimately swung the election for Gregoire, but disappeared off the political radar after that.

Turns out she had been here all along.
Gregoire told The Olympian's editorial board Friday that some proposed cuts — such as closing a youth-offender camp at Naselle and shuttering a Yakima facility for the developmentally disabled — were "an opportunity" to do the right thing that might not be politically possible in richer times.

Both facilities are under-used by departments that have too little demand to justify the operations.

"So it is a time to rethink government," Gregoire said.

The governor also said she has asked her Cabinet leaders to look again at how they do business, and she said she wants to look at the state's 400 boards and commissions with an eye toward picking out only boards that are essential.
To the eye and ear she's Chris Gregoire, but the discerning mind is not fooled by the clever disguise.

Congratulations, Ruth Bennett, on winning when it really counted.

Dec 19, 2008

the preview in review

Last December, among other things, I made ten predictions for 2008. Let's see how I did.
National Board certification: done--maybe even passed
Indeed. And, if the Governor's budget comes through, I'll still have my National Board bonus next year--provided I still have a job.
The Celtics: NBA champs.
This was an easy one. They're looking championship-worthy again, with a ridiculous 25-2 start.
Melissa's college degree: attained.
She got a job, too, which is nice, considering that degree comes with an extra added bonus of college debt.
CHS Cougar football: state-bound.
Right again. We lost in the semifinal to eventual champion Bellevue. (No one was going to stop Bellevue.)
Rubik's Cube The Movie: in development.
Not yet. Wait for it.
Late-breaking cold: conquered.
Alas, this was, as I'm sure I must have known, to be a temporary victory.
Tom Tancredo: retired.
Right again, thankfully.
The Mariners: less moribund.
Ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ahem. Ahahahahahahahaha....
The school year: awesome.
Oh, yeah.
Time: dilated.
Sure seems that way.

More prognostications forthcoming, as always, when the next installment of the world's greatest top ten list comes out. Stay tuned.

Dec 18, 2008

enjoy the break


Totally called it. Three straight days of snow = no school until January 5th.

winter break commences early FOR REALS


Olympia has canceled school for Friday the 19th.

You know what this means: blogging aplenty.

everybody hurts: the Gregoire Budget

Governor Gregoire has released her budget recommendations for the upcoming legislative session. Cue Michael Stipe, singing on a freeway:
Gov. Christine Gregoire released an austere state budget proposal this morning that slashes more than $3.5 billion in funding for public schools, higher education, social services and other areas to help close the biggest budget shortfall in state history.

Gregoire proposes filling the gap, projected at more than $5 billion, by making scores of cuts and using untapped pots of money, including $600 million from the state rainy-day fund.

In addition, the governor is banking that the federal government will send Washington at least $1 billion as part of an economic stimulus package.

Among the cuts proposed by Gregoire: $682 million in pay increases for state workers and teachers; $500 million in health care for children, the poor and the disabled; and $178 million in funding for Initiative I-728, which was approved by voters in 2000 to reduce class sizes in public schools.

The proposed budget also would change how state pensions are funded, and reduce contributions to the worker-retirement programs by $400 million over the next two years. No cut was too small to pursue. The governor proposes closing 13 state parks to save $5.2 million, shuttering the visitors center at the state Capitol to save $1.7 million and eliminating toll-free numbers to the state Department of Revenue to save $260,000.

The governor said the cuts were necessary, but that she "hates" the budget and expects legislators and lobbyists will as well. "There's something in there for everybody not to like."
I'd strongly recommend reading the entire recommendation [pdf] to get a sense of the uphill battle ahead.

I'll post analysis later this week.

(Oh, and it almost goes without saying that "advocacy groups" are upset.)

Added: And then there's Ryan's take.

justice was a long time coming

Since its inception, 36 perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity have been convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Today marks the latest:
A former Rwandan army colonel was convicted Thursday of genocide and crimes against humanity for masterminding the killings of more than half a million people in a 100-day slaughter in 1994. Survivors in Rwanda welcomed the watershed moment in a long search for justice.

The U.N. courtroom in Tanzania was packed for the culmination of the trial of Theoneste Bagosora, the highest-ranking Rwandan official to be convicted in the genocide. Onlookers were silent as the 67-year-old was sentenced to life in prison.

"Let him think about what he did for the rest of his life," said Jean Pierre Sagahutu, 46, in Rwanda, who lost his parents and seven siblings. He escaped by hiding in a septic tank for 2 1/2 months.

Former military commanders Anatole Nsengiyumva and Aloys Ntabakuze also were found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison. The former chief of military operations, Brig. Gratien Kabiligi, was cleared of all charges and released.
Debaters examining the Jan/Feb resolution would do well to consider the utility (or even necessity) of a permanent tribunal along the lines of the ICC. It could potentially speed up and streamline the process, so it wouldn't take the international community 14 years to arrest, prosecute, and convict the most heinous of criminals.

Dec 17, 2008

Olympia schools closed (again) Thursday, Dec. 18

Pre-empting the certain abysmal road conditions for tomorrow morning, the District has called off classes for tomorrow, the 18th. My prediction--that today was the start of winter break--looks more likely all the time.

Now, what to do with all this extra time?

an open letter to Wendy's


Dear Wendy's (Wendys? Wendies?),

Dave Thomas's ghost would not approve.

Love,

Me.

critical theory and the International Criminal Court resolution

A little while back, regarding the Jan/Feb resolution, I mused,
[T]he topic lends itself to critical theory, if you're into that.
This prompted a commentator to respond.
Jim, near the top you mentioned this topic lending itself to critical theory. I have a student who I feel would be very interested in this line of argumentation. Unfortunately, I come from a policy background and I am not sure how to structure or present this type of argument in LD. It might also be helpful to hear one example of what you were thinking when you mentioned it earlier.
First, those unfamiliar with critical theory would do well to investigate the SEP's article on the subject.
[Critical theorists] do not merely seek to provide the means to achieve some independent goal, but rather (as in Horkheimer's famous definition mentioned above) seek “human emancipation” in circumstances of domination and oppression....

It follows from Horkheimer's definition that a critical theory is adequate only if it meets three criteria: it must be explanatory, practical, and normative, all at the same time. That is, it must explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify the actors to change it, and provide both clear norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for social transformation.
So, to maintain a classic LD advocacy, it's important to use critical theory (or a subset, such as feminist theory) as your criterion, with a value of "human emancipation" or "freedom" or "autonomy" or "value pluralism" or somesuch.

To some degree, critical theorists support an affirmative stance:
In discussions of theories of globalization, the fact of global interdependence refers to the unprecedented extent, intensity, and speed of social interactions across borders, encompassing diverse dimensions of human conduct from trade and cultural exchange to migration (Held, et al 1999). The inference from these facts of interdependence is that existing forms of democracy within the nation-state must be transformed and that institutions ought to be established that solve problems that transcend national boundaries (Held 1995, 98-101).
However, a tension exists between cosmopolitan theorists and, say, post-colonialists or anti-hegemonists who reject globalization or multinational initiatives as tools of (predominantly Western) capitalism.

See also Wikipedia's list of critical theory topics for an introduction to many of the schools and big names within critical theory.

snow day

Today we...

1. Went to the bank, and watched John L. Scott employees build a snowperson and matching snowhome.

2. Visited the library.



3. Feasted on brats, potato salad, sauerkraut, and buttered bread at Oskar's German Deli.

4. Played in the snow.



5. Gave a guy in a Ford Taurus a push so he could escape the slope at the end of our street.

Update: More Olympia photos, by other Olympians.

winter break commences early


Today, school is canceled in the Olympia School District. The way the weather is likely to go, the snow we have now will melt a little this afternoon, then freeze over nicely. Nothing like ice-glazed roads to make a few thousand students' dreams come true.

Dec 16, 2008

close a few loopholes and balance the budget?

$53 billion in tax loopholes offer a tantalizing option for Governor Gregoire: raising taxes without technically raising taxes.
If state lawmakers wanted to raise money by closing tax exemptions, there are 567 to choose from. Taken together, the tax breaks cut $53 billion in potential revenues that the state might have received and $45 million more to local governments.

Of those exemptions, 147 of have been added to the tax rolls since the 2001 legislative session.

Of the grand total, 158 were exemptions to the retail sales and use taxes. These include exemptions on sales of food, medicines and the like, which are worth $30 billion in the 2007-09 budget cycle, according to the Department of Revenue's Tax Exemptions 2008 guide. One hundred and three others are property-tax exemptions worth $9 billion.
Of course, every loophole has a lobbyist, meaning that the legislature, until now, has closed hardly any of 'em.
Most tax-repeal recommendations from 2007 were ignored by the Legislature. Those included elimination of a $2 million break for horse racing and $2 million for club membership dues and fees. Also ignored was a recommendation to re-examine a $47 million break given to nonprofit hospitals and $17 million to nonsectarian organizations.

Lawmakers did manage to get rid of one exemption in 2007. That was a temporary tax break for beef producers enacted after the mad-cow disease scare a few years ago, and lawmakers did not extend its life.
Anyhow, The Olympian predicts a shocking budget recommendation from the Governor to match this week's Arctic Blast.
She is scheduled to announce a deep-cutting budget proposal Thursday that could lop $1 billion from K-12 schools, cut jobs or reduce the hours for many of Washington's 110,000 state employees, and shear away big parts of the social safety net.

Gregoire swore off tax increases while on the campaign trail this year, and the recently re-elected Democrat has shown no sign of relenting on that point — even with a budget shortfall she hints could hit $6 billion for the 2009-11 cycle. Even she says it will be "ugly" and that she will hate it.
How long until we're on a four-day school week?

people still use Internet Explorer?

A gaping hole in Internet Explorer 7 puts millions' data at risk.
The flaw lets criminals commandeer victims' machines merely by tricking them into visiting Web sites tainted with malicious programming code. As many as 10,000 sites have been compromised since last week to exploit the browser flaw, according to antivirus software maker Trend Micro Inc.

The sites are mostly Chinese and have been serving up programs that steal passwords for computer games, which can be sold for money on the black market. However, the hole is such that it could be "adopted by more financially motivated criminals for more serious mayhem - that's a big fear right now," Paul Ferguson, a Trend Micro security researcher, said Monday.
And, of course, Microsoft is hot on a fix. Sort of:
Microsoft said it is investigating the flaw and is considering fixing it through an emergency software patch outside of its normal monthly updates, but declined further comment. The company is telling users to employ a series of complicated workarounds to minimize the threat.
If the workarounds don't include a safe way to download Firefox or Opera, what's the point?

today's lost links

1. Lost literature.
The vast majority of students don't even want to be professors: They'd like to get something from a book they can use in their lives outside the classroom. What right have we to forget them?
2. Lost syncretism.
In presenting their faith, Christians naturally used the cultural forms that would be familiar to Asians. They told their stories in the forms of sutras, verse patterns already made famous by Buddhist missionaries and teachers. A stunning collection of Jesus Sutras was found in caves at Dunhuang, in northwest China. Some Nestorian writings draw heavily on Buddhist ideas, as they translate prayers and Christian services in ways that would make sense to Asian readers. In some texts, the Christian phrase "angels and archangels and hosts of heaven" is translated into the language of buddhas and devas.
3. Paradise lost.
[Begin Liveblog! (10:25 PM]

This is confusing.
I don't get it.
What?
Oh, screw it.

[End Liveblog! [10:27 PM]
4. Dualism lost.
investigators have used an MRI to read images off the visual cortex. They presented subjects with some simple symbols and letters, scanned their brains, and read off the image from the data — and it was even legible!
5. "Big loss."
David Stern never said "I'm sorry" to Sonics fans, but for the first time the NBA commissioner sounded apologetic about the sale of the professional basketball team that produced several lawsuits and resulted in owner Clay Bennett moving it to Oklahoma City.

"I'm not thrilled about the outcome in Seattle," he said during an espn.com podcast. "Believe me it's a big loss anytime you leave a city."
Well, duh.

Dec 15, 2008

snow in them thar hills


The prospect of driving through the Black Hills for band practice suddenly seems unappealing.

(I do have to admit, though, that today's two hour late start was rather nice. All hail the return of Schedule D!)


[photo courtesy of WSDOT]


Update: As of 3:16 p.m., things look a little clearer. I'm going to chance it.

Final update: Seven hours later, home in one piece. Of course, that's just one practice out of two, and rumor has it, more snow's on the way....

Dec 14, 2008

wonderful and weird images from Google





A little while ago I mentioned that Popular Mechanics and Popular Science are now available through Google. (The weird images posted here come from the former, and were found by some of my students.)

Now, something equally cool: Life photos, searchable through Google. History awaits.

Dec 12, 2008

more Student Congress wisdom

On the joy of hegemony
"We are the big brother of the world."

On I don't know exactly what
"This bill forgoes the individual clockwork of any given state."

On dubious historical origins
"Because marriage comes from the Bible...."

On staying in metaphysical shape
"People can practice their beliefs and/or race."

On the variety of human languages
"They might speak Spanish, or Chinese, or... Chinese."

On the surprising benefits of illegal immigration
"...better cleansing of the areas in our nation..."

On the Great American Thought Fondue
"In our melting pot, we get so many ideas by allowing them."

On rights you didn't know you had
"Religion of the press, religion of assembly..."

On libertarianism, sort of
"This is a time when we need to stand up for ourselves and attack the agencies that are being lazy."

On clarification
"We're talking about internal safety, and by internal safety, I mean eating."

"If I were voting--which I will be..."

On neologism
"excrecate"
"neglection"

On honesty
"I have no facts."

Marnie Stern: This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That

I've listened to a decent number of artists on the Kill Rock Stars label, but never imagined it possible that, by the end of an album, an actual rock star might be lying dead in the hallway, stabbed to death by a unicorn.

Marnie Stern: not for the faint of rock.

Dec 11, 2008

Phelps and Co. join the fracas

A little while ago, I predicted more "shenanigans" in L'Affair Dome. Of course, I was right:
A Kansas-based church that has blamed deaths in Iraq on U.S. tolerance of homosexuality has asked Gov. Christine Gregoire's office to approve a "Santa Claus will take you to hell" message to display among other religious statements in the Capitol's third-floor hallway.

The Westboro Baptist Church's message would be near a Nativity set, three signs mocking atheism, and an atheists' sign that celebrates the winter solstice, while also taking a shot at religion as "myth and superstition" that enslaves minds, all in the state Capitol's third-floor hallway.

The first part of Westboro's proposed message, according to Spokesman-Review reporter Rich Roesler:

"You'd better watch out, get ready to cry, You'd better go hide, I'm telling you why 'cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell. He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet, but when you stand before your God He won't help you take the heat. So get this fact straight: you're feeling God's hate, Santa's to blame for the economy's fate, Santa Claus will take you to hell."
It's set to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Everybody sing along!

Dec 10, 2008

Popular Mechanics available online

Way, way, way cool.

You'll build your next house out of molasses!

Update: Other magazines, too, like Popular Science, are also available. The digitization of practically everything continues apace...

[via Instapundit]

a legal loophole for Blackwater in Iraq

Regarding the Jan/Feb LD resolution, reader F. Ivie asks,
Do you think the US occupation of Iraq will be an issue in this resolution?
Potentially--or, at least, in principle.

Jacob Sullum describes how five former Blackwater employees in Iraq might escape prosecution for manslaughter because of a loophole in American law.
According to Ridgeway, members of the convoy made "no attempt to provide reasonable warnings" to the Kia driver, and "turret gunners in the convoy continued to fire their machine guns at civilian vehicles that posed no threat."

Such actions do appear to qualify as voluntary manslaughter, defined by federal law as "the unlawful killing of a human being without malice...upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion." The problem is that U.S. criminal law generally does not apply in foreign countries.

The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), the 2000 statute under which the Blackwater guards are charged, covers people "employed by or accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States," including Defense Department contractors. But Blackwater was hired by the State Department....

The obvious solution is to prosecute the former Blackwater employees under Iraqi law. But an order by the provisional government created after the U.S. invasion made contractors immune from local prosecutions for work-related conduct. Largely as a result of outrage over the Nisour Square incident, that immunity will be lifted under an agreement that takes effect in January--too late for justice in this case.
Though the five employees are not on trial for a "crime against humanity," the principle is the same: when U.S. law is insufficient to carry out prosecutions, or when the U.S. places politics over clear rights violations, the ICC (or something like it) provides a clear, nonnegotiable framework for ensuring that criminals receive due punishment.

Potentially--or, at least, in principle.

Dec 9, 2008

'tis the season

Dec. 12-13: debate tournament.
Dec. 20: band gig.
Dec. 24: Christmas Eve.
Dec. 25ff: surprise.
Dec. 29-31: surprise.
Dec. 31: band gig; Christmas redux.
Jan. 9-10: debate tournament.
Jan. 16-17: debate tournament.
Jan. 24: band gig.
Jan 30-31: debate tournament.

No wonder I feel a little... rushed.

Dec 8, 2008

global warming? not for newspapers

Clay Shirky offers no eulogy for the Tribune Co., which today announced bankruptcy. Instead, he shovels up a pile of told-you-so.
So I'm calling bullshit on the Rosenbaum thesis, because no one has been "caught up in this great upheaval." Caught up? That makes it sound like a tornado. This change has been more like seeing oncoming glaciers ten miles off, and then deciding not to move.

By the turn of the century, anyone who didn't understand that the business model for newspapers was a wasting asset was caught up in nothing other than willful ignorance, so secure in their faith in the permanence of their business that they assumed that those glaciers would politely swerve at the last minute, which minute is looking increasingly like now.
Anyone want to buy the Cubs and rename them the Polar Bears?

Obama shills for Trader Joe's

Going straight to the heart of suburbia, Obama ends his most recent speech by saying "Thanks for listening."

Brian Williams wouldn't dare

Apparently a fellow English teacher keeps track of Brian Williams' ties, and writes about them on the longest-named blog in the universe.

I have a sneaking suspicion that its author, "Nance," is actually Brian Williams himself, angry and jealous of the man who wears truly revolutionary neckwear.


[link via The Times]

Dec 7, 2008

all sovereignty, all the time

For your perusal: a collection of classic posts on national sovereignty, originally created for the March/April resolution of 2007, but now appropriate for the January/February resolution of 2008.

For aff or neg. Enjoy.

I discuss how Simon Caney's conception of "cosmopolitan justice" supports giving priority to human rights over national sovereignty in the context of international law.

And then I give time to the alternate view by Margaret Moore. Sovereignty grounds autonomy and respects diversity.

Jerry Pubantz's "Constructing Reason: Human Rights and the Democratization of the United Nations" shows that the UN's mission to promote human rights isn't just a dream of western liberal elites. Useful for anyone trying to block "critical theory."

Anyone arguing for "human rights" had better define them carefully.

Stuart Elden's "Contingent Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and the Sanctity of Borders" not only describes the UN's commitment to sovereignty, but offers four potentially interactive and different definitions of the term. A must-read. Sovereignty isn't simple.

Ekaterina Kuznetsova's "Limit Sovereignty if the State Abuses It" describes a more cosmopolitan view of international law called "Humanitarian Law."

Also, William C. Gay explains why statism is "warist.", an attack on sovereigntist views.

The SEP's articles on sovereignty and world government offer good background and potential Neg objections to violations of sovereignty, respectively.

J├╝rgen Habermas makes an appearance, talking about global values and imperialism.

Is sovereignty obsolete?

Does the World Court (a body similar to the ICC) respect sovereignty?

Does respecting sovereignty save lives?

Can sovereignty and rights be balanced?

ignorance of the law is no excuse

Rick Reilly gives Donovan McNabb--who didn't know an NFL game could end in a tie--a little revenge by quizzing other (equally clueless) NFL players on some of the more obscure rules in the canon. A sample:
Q: If a punt is in the air while the game clock expires and the receiver signals and makes a fair catch, is the game over?
  • Danny Clark, LB, Giants: "Yes."
  • [Sam] Madison: "Yes."
  • Damon Huard, QB, Chiefs: "If the punter touched it, then the game is over."
  • Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: "Yes."
  • [Calvin] Pace: "Yes. It's an untimed play, isn't it?"
For the answer, read the whole thing.

the history and potential constitutionality of the International Criminal Court

An article titled "The Constitutionality of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court," [pdf]* by David Scheffer and Ashley Cox, found in the Spring 2008 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, is absolutely essential reading for any LDer considering the merits of the January / February resolution. In a sweeping analysis of the ICC's history, judicature and relation to the U.S Constitution, the authors attempt to show how, with a few minor tweaks to U.S. law and policy, ratifying the Rome Statute would be constitutionally permissible.

The ICC follows a tradition of international tribunals established to punish the perpetrators of war crimes, such as courts for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. But why the need for a permanent establishment?
While those tribunals were evolving, the international community embraced the idea of a permanent criminal court that in most respects would obviate the need for the timeconsuming and costly creation of specialized international or hybrid (part national, part international) courts for individual atrocity situations as they erupt anywhere in the world. Although the United Nations Security Council had created and empowered the ICTY and ICTR under the U.N. Charter's Chapter VII enforcement authority, the only way a permanent court with broad jurisdiction would be established was through the treaty process whereby sovereign nations consented to the investigation and prosecution, under certain circumstances, of their own nationals before a global court of criminal law. Because criminal prosecutions are traditionally a national prerogative, this would be no easy task to accomplish on an international platform.
One of the major Neg arguments is that by "submitting" to the jurisdiction of the ICC (or an ICC-like entity) the United States would give up its sovereignty. How the ICC respects sovereignty has to be a critical part of any affirmative case.

Consider, first of all, that the US has been involved in Court procedures, even though the U.S. is not a signatory State.
[T]he United States actively participated in further negotiations on the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and the Elements of Crime for the ICC. Both of these documents, upon which the U.S. delegation had insisted in Rome and to which the delegation had made major contributions, such as preparing the first draft of the Elements of Crimes and leading negotiations thereafter, were adopted by consensus, joined by the United States, in June 2000.
Furthermore, it's important to note that the ICC, at least as it stands, is not composed of hostile nations with an anti-American agenda.
As of October 1, 2008, there will be 108 State Parties to the Rome Statute. These include almost every major ally of the United States, many nations that are considered friends, and none that are characterized as evil, Communist, or adversarial. They consist of all but one of the European Union nations, Canada, Mexico, most of Latin America and the Caribbean, a majority of African countries, and sixteen Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.
It's also important to understand the limitations on the jurisdiction of the ICC.
The ICC is not a court of universal jurisdiction that can prosecute anyone who has committed an atrocity crime anywhere in the world. There are usually certain preconditions to personal jurisdiction: the individual charged with atrocity crimes must be a national of a State Party to the ICC, or the territory on which the crime was committed must belong to a State Party to the ICC. If the Security Council refers the situation to the ICC, however, these preconditions do not apply: a national of a nonparty State may be prosecuted, and the crimes need not be committed on the territory of a State Party. Finally, a non-party State may file a declaration with the ICC inviting it to investigate a situation in which the crimes occurred in its territory or one or more of its nationals are suspected of having perpetrated such crimes.
Thus, the ICC focuses on prosecuting crimes in nations where the extant judicial system is incapable. Since its inception,
[t]he ICC has accepted four atrocity crimes situations for investigation and prosecution and issued indictments in most of them: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, regarding which arrests have been made and pre-trial proceedings are underway, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and Darfur.
How might the United States be affected were it to join?
Provided U.S. judicial authorities act with foresight and professional objectivity, and provided federal criminal law is amended to fully cover atrocity crimes, there should be no reason for the ICC to determine that the United States is, following the language of the Rome Statute, either "unwilling or unable genuinely" to carry out an investigation or prosecution of a suspect, thus entitling the ICC to find the case admissible and to seek custody of the suspect.This feature of the Rome Statute reflects the overriding presumption in the negotiations that the ICC would focus its attention on situations where national legal systems are devastated, perhaps practically nonexistent, in the wake of conflict and atrocities or where cynical governments, perhaps implicated in the horrors, show no ability to bring their own perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice. As it happens, three of the four situations currently before the ICC are selfreferrals, made by governments that decided to refer internal atrocity situations to the ICC because of inadequate domestic legal capabilities, or for political reasons, to confront rebel movements head-on with international justice.
This cuts both ways. The affirmative can argue that there is minimal risk that the ICC will attempt to prosecute a U.S. national, since the U.S. judicial system will largely take care of things. (But see below.) Meanwhile, the Negative might use this to argue that, therefore, it's largely unnecessary for the U.S. to join.

The Affirmative response should be threefold: first, to argue that the U.S. would add further legitimacy to the Court; second, to describe the current treaties the U.S. has signed that place international considerations at the forefront; and third, to note that the ICC covers crimes outside the framework of U.S. law.
The ICC was neither conceived nor established for the purpose of "emasculating constitutional courts." The subject matter jurisdiction embodied in the Rome Statute consists exclusively of international crimes, only some of which are codified in U.S. law. These are crimes of concern to the entire international community, striking at the heart of humankind. Much of the subject matter jurisdiction in the Rome Statute, particularly crimes against humanity and some war crimes, does not exist in federal criminal law and even in U.S. military law, so there would be no transfer of jurisdiction of existing Article III power with respect to those crimes if the United States were to ratify the Rome Statute.
The authors cite the crime against humanity of "persecution," a designation for "ethnic cleansing." No such domestic classification exists; furthermore, "U.S. law may not even provide jurisdiction over the U.S. national who commits such an atrocity crime on foreign territory." Hence, the Aff may argue, the need to join the ICC, or something like it.

The authors also note, in passing, a feature of the Rome Statute that might not square with certain retributive views of justice.
The sentencing provisions of the Rome Statute do not permit the death penalty, which might have attracted troublesome scrutiny under constitutional law if it had been included as a sentencing option.
Last, if an Affirmative is concerned about Constitutionality, which, I'd argue, is another potentially powerful Negative line of attack, we have another critical question: what part of the Constitution might allow the United States to let an international court to try American citizens for crimes against humanity?
The Constitution is a document of enumerated powers, and there is a very powerful one that often goes unnoticed. Article I, Section 8, Clause 10 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to "define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations." Particularly with respect to atrocity crimes, it would be an entirely logical and warranted exercise of such constitutional power to create, in concert with other governments, an international criminal court that defines, prosecutes, and punishes such incontrovertible "Offences against the Law of Nations," namely, atrocity crimes, and to legislate that such an international court's judgments and sentences be given effect in the United States to the same extent as they are recognized by and enforced in other State Parties to the Rome Statute.
There's much more to digest in the article than I've been able to mention in this brief review. Its summary of the ICC's history is one of the most accessible I've read, and its treatment of the Constitutional matter is nuanced and provocative. Ignore it at your own peril.

Questions or thoughts? Fire away in the comments.

*Update: Krista Stone-Manista writes,
Hi Mr. Anderson,

I'm a former LD debater, now a third-year law student, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. I wanted to thank you for reviewing the Scheffer/Cox article and let you know that it's now available in PDF on our website.
Excellent. Thanks!

another Maddux appreciation

More love for the soon-to-retire Greg Maddux, from Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.
In 1996, just before Maddux and the Atlanta Braves faced the New York Yankees in the World Series, pitching coach Leo Mazzone met with his starters and relievers and read them the detailed scouting reports. Maddux raised his hand after Mazzone read the report on Yankees slugger Bernie Williams.

"That report is not correct," Maddux said. "I've been watching film of Williams for two weeks, and that report is not correct."

"Did everybody hear that?" Mazzone said.

The Braves pitchers nodded.

"Well, then the hell with this report," Mazzone said. "We go with what Mad Dog says."

Williams hit .167 in the Series.
Read the whole thing.

Dec 5, 2008

Greg Maddux to retire

Greg Maddux is leaving baseball.
The four-time Cy Young winner will announce his retirement Monday at the baseball winter meetings, near his home in Las Vegas. Maddux, who turns 43 in April, ranks eighth on the career wins list with 355. He went 8-13 with a 4.22 ERA last season with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Maddux made three relief appearances in the playoffs for the Dodgers this year - he had an 0.00 ERA over four innings - and then filed for free agency amid speculation he would retire.

On Friday, confirmation came from the office of Maddux's agent, Scott Boras. Maddux, his family and Boras will hold a news conference at the hotel where the meetings are being held to announce one of baseball's greatest pitchers is finished.
A man of integrity, class, and unparalleled studiousness, Maddux will retire with a 355-227 record over 23 seasons, a remarkable run for a control pitcher with a lean physique and a mediocre fastball.

His intense focus, determination, and dedication to his craft--matched only, perhaps, by the dedication of his greatest nemesis, Tony Gwynn--will one day take him to the Hall.

If Greg Maddux taught us anything, it's that nerds can be jocks, too.

Dec 4, 2008

free speech begets free speech

...by delivering a bouncing controversy in the middle of the marketplace of ideas.
A protest, several counter-signs and a news conference are the latest in a flurry of activity spurred by a sign put up Monday by an atheist group in the Capitol building in Olympia.

Members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of atheists and agnostics, put up the sign that says, in part: "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." It was partly a response to a Nativity scene put up nearby by a private citizen.
Congratulations to the parents, Thesis and Antithesis, whose daughter, Dialectic, weighs a healthy 7 pounds 2 ounces.

Update: Of course, in the marketplace of ideas, there are bound to be a few thieves:
The sign was reported missing Friday morning. The sign's sponsors said they didn't take it down.

State Patrol Sgt. Ted DeHart said the billboard was still on display Thursday evening when the Capitol rotunda building was shut down.

He said there would be no way someone not authorized to be inside could get in the building after it's closed at 6 p.m.

DeHart later said the State Patrol is working to confirm the reports that the sign was turned in to Seattle radio station KMPS on Friday morning.
More shenanigans are almost guaranteed to ensue.

Update II: And now we're going to have a protest. "Thousands" are expected to picket. Whee!

standards-based grading: more popular by the minute

Blog-neighbor TRP's school is starting to have the same conversation we are: how to get smarter about grading. The TRP's initial take on one principle--no zeroes--isn't too favorable.
My colleague also said that if a student understands the material, than he or she is "an A student" and should get an A. She cited a positively brilliant kid--one of the best writers I've ever had in 12 years on the job--who got a C for me last year and is getting a C for her this year in AP. Why? She skips assignments. "But you've seen her writing," my colleague says. "She's an A student."

My response: "No. She has an A brain...but A students do the work. Therefore, she's not an A student."

We kicked around some possible alternatives: A 4-point system, where an A is worth four, a B three, a C two, a D 1, and an F zero. It penalizes kids less for screw-ups. (The aforementioned kid with 3 75s and a skip would get a C- under this system.)

I wouldn't buy into that either...it means that the kid who tried and struggled gets the same grade on a paper as the kid who played video games instead. That's unjust.
But then, that's because SBG requires something that most schools aren't doing: meaningful grades. As I explain in a comment over there,
The problem is that one grade (A, B, C) means too much and too little at the same time. I like some of the theory behind standards-based grading--but it requires a smarter report card. If "A" represents only learning, then we need separate categories (on the transcript, natch) for things like behavior, effort, and timeliness.
And it can be done.

We just need to be more--how do I say this gently?--Canadian.

See here for an example [pdf].

Dec 3, 2008

value and criterion pairs for the international criminal court resolution

Here are several value/criterion structures to consider for the January/February resolution, "The United States ought to submit to the jurisdiction of an international court designed to prosecute crimes against humanity."

I'll try to group them by relative "fit" to either side, Aff or Neg, but in some cases they'll work for either.

This is a first draft; as I go along, I'll add analysis.

Feel free to suggest your own--which I'll tack on at the bottom--or critique the various offerings in the comments.

Affirmative V/C Combinations

V: Justice (or morality)
C: Protecting Human Rights
Thesis: If protecting human rights is essential to justice (or morality), then prosecuting "crimes against humanity" is an obligation for all nations.

V: Justice
C: International Law
Thesis: International law offers the most universal criterion for justice possible in the "real world."

V: Justice (or Human Rights)
C: Cosmopolitanism
Thesis: if justice (rights) claims are universal, we cannot let provincialism dictate policy, and thus global citizenship is a moral imperative.

V: Human Dignity
C: Protecting Human Rights
Thesis: If protecting human rights respects human dignity, then the U.S. should take a crucial step to protecting rights globally.

V: Peace
C: International Law
Thesis: International Law offers the surest possible route to peace. (A variant might involve "democratic peace theory.")



Negative V/C Combinations

V: Governmental Legitimacy
C: Constitutionality
Thesis: Violating the Constitution by submitting to the jurisdiction of the ICC (Or something like it) would make the US government illegitimate.

V: Governmental Legitimacy
C: National Sovereignty
Thesis: a government that cedes its sovereignty to an international body is no longer legitimate.

V: Democracy
C: National Sovereignty
Thesis: Democracy requires citizenship and constituencies that are only achievable in a sovereign state. (Furthermore, many nations do not have jury trials, an anti-democratic feature made part of the framework of the ICC.)

V: Prudence (defined as carefully weighing political options; see Morgenthau)
C: Political realism
Thesis: The US must act in its best interests, which does not include ceding sovereignty to the ICC or limiting its actions due to the threat of prosecution. (Use against any cases based on universal moral principles.)

V: Pluralism / Diversity
C: National Sovereignty / Critical Theory
Thesis: The ICC is an instrument of globalization, which not only threatens global tyranny, but to continue to wipe out indigenous cultures or language groups, and continue the homogenization of the globe.

Obama gets you right in your vagus nerve

Emily Yoffe reports that neuroscience is catching on to something students of oratory have known for, oh, millennia: rhetoric sends people.
Elevation has always existed but has just moved out of the realm of philosophy and religion and been recognized as a distinct emotional state and a subject for psychological study. Psychology has long focused on what goes wrong, but in the past decade there has been an explosion of interest in "positive psychology"—what makes us feel good and why. University of Virginia moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who coined the term elevation, writes, "Powerful moments of elevation sometimes seem to push a mental 'reset button,' wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with feelings of hope, love, and optimism, and a sense of moral inspiration."...

We come to elevation, Haidt writes, through observing others—their strength of character, virtue, or "moral beauty." Elevation evokes in us "a desire to become a better person, or to lead a better life." The 58 million McCain voters might say that the virtue and moral beauty displayed by Obama at his rallies was an airy promise of future virtue and moral beauty. And that the soaring feeling his voters had of having made the world a better place consisted of the act of placing their index fingers on a touch screen next to the words Barack Obama. They might be on to something. Haidt's research shows that elevation is good at provoking a desire to make a difference but not so good at motivating real action. But he says the elevation effect is powerful nonetheless. "It does appear to change people cognitively; it opens hearts and minds to new possibilities. This will be crucial for Obama."
And how does it work, neurologically speaking?
Keltner believes certain people are "vagal superstars"—in the lab he has measured people who have high vagus nerve activity. "They respond to stress with calmness and resilience, they build networks, break up conflicts, they're more cooperative, they handle bereavement better." He says being around these people makes other people feel good. "I would guarantee Barack Obama is off the charts. Just bring him to my lab."
"Vagal superstars": brilliant, or completely batty. Or both.

Dec 2, 2008

should the real ICC be the focus of the debate?

The Jan/Feb LD resolution reads,
The United States ought to submit to the jurisdiction of an international court designed to prosecute crimes against humanity.
Debaters might wish to use the International Criminal Court in their rhetoric and argumentation, both for the affirmative and the negative.

Since the resolution doesn't specify the ICC, though, if you take your case in this direction, you'd better offer several reasons for the step. Here are several. Note that they might overlap; use the ones you think are best. (Have better ideas or counterarguments? Throw 'em in the comments.)

1. Although some LDers like to say that the word "ought" places the debate in the ethereal realm of ideals, the resolution is already contextualized in the "real world," by referring to the United States rather than to "nations" or "all nations."

2. The U.S. is already (in)famous for refusing to sign on to the ICC, making this topic particularly relevant, timely, and educational, provided that the ICC is the focus of the debate.

3. The phrase "crimes against humanity" is well established in international law; the ICC is expressly designed to prosecute such crimes, and thus offers clear definitions for the key terms in the debate.

4. The ICC is bound to enter the debate anyhow. Anytime an affirmative gushes about universally protecting human rights, or a negative hypothesizes ridiculous risks inherent to an international judicial system, opponents are going to say, "Well, that's an interesting possibility, but not exactly how it's playing out in the real world." Again, if the resolution presumes the existence of the United States, doesn't it also presume an extant global political and legal framework?

Some might cry "Policy!" and complain that this somehow dilutes the purity of Lincoln-Douglas debate. Maybe so. But it's the resolution we have, and we should make the best of it.

connect the dots



[ties found here]

Bellevue ends Capital's run

Grit met the machine, and the machine won, as Bellevue's efficient Wing-T attack brought down the Cougars last night, 28-6.
A crowd estimated at 3,500 watched an overmatched Capital team fight it out to the end, saving its best drive for last against a polished program that has won five state titles in the past seven seasons.

The semifinal victory will move Bellevue (13-0) into a state championship date with Union of Vancouver (13-0) at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Tacoma Dome, while Capital finished the season 9-4 in coach J.D. Johnson's second year with the Cougars.

It was Capital's first trip to the state semifinals since 2002.

"I'm not going to fault your heart, and I'm not going to fault your effort," Johnson told his team in the locker room after the game. "That's what got you this far."
Congratulations to Capital, a team that's improved every year under coach Johnson, and that looks to be fearsome again next season. You have to hand it to Bellevue, though; they run perhaps the most disciplined motion offense on the West Coast, if not in the country. Good luck to Union.

Dec 1, 2008

"crimes against humanity" and sovereignty

Regarding the Jan/Feb NFL resolution, the relationship between the International Criminal Court and sovereignty, at first, seems straightforward. "Crimes against humanity," as M. Cherif Bassiouni explains, are the unique province of international law.
Crimes against humanity have existed in customary international law for over half a century and are also evidenced in prosecutions before some national courts. The most notable of these trials include those of Paul Touvier, Klaus Barbie, and Maurice Papon in France, and Imre Finta in Canada. But crimes against humanity are also deemed to be part of jus cogens—the highest standing in international legal norms. Thus, they constitute a non-derogable rule of international law. The implication of this standing is that they are subject to universal jurisdiction, meaning that all States can exercise their jurisdiction in prosecuting a perpetrator irrespective of where the crime was committed. It also means that all States have the duty to prosecute or extradite, that no person charged with that crime can claim the “political offense exception” to extradition, and that States have the duty to assist each other in securing evidence needed to prosecute. But of greater importance is the fact that no perpetrator can claim the “defense of obedience to superior orders” and that no statute of limitation contained in the laws of any State can apply. Lastly, no one is immune from prosecution for such crimes, even a head of State.
It would thus seem that prosecution of "crimes against humanity" requires a view of international law that, to say the least, places sovereignty concerns beneath those of human rights. In other words, it is essentially cosmopolitan, valuing humans as humans rather than as citizens.

As Adrian L. Jones writes in "Continental Divide and the Politics of Complex Sovereignty: Canada, The United States and the International Criminal Court," found in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, June 2006,
Though without territorial jurisdiction as such, its legal jurisdiction is potentially universal, and without regard to state borders (Rome Statute, 1998: art. 4(2)). In this crucial respect, the Rome Statute establishes a direct nexus between the ICC and individual persons. Individuals are both its primary subjects, pursuant to the principle of individual criminal responsibility (art. 25), and its ultimate objects, given the transnational values of human security that it embodies (Preamble, paras. 1-2). Though the ICC is in practical terms mediated by states under the complementary jurisdictional framework of the Rome Statute (arts. 1 and 17), the legal and normative significance of this relationship is fundamentally supranational in nature.
However, there is one critical point that both sides must recognize: the ICC allows for States to prosecute their own criminals; it is only when they fail to do so that the ICC takes over jurisdiction. In other words, the cosmopolitan aim of the Court operates within certain sovereigntist constraints. Jones, again:
[A] case is inadmissible where it is being investigated or prosecuted by a State that has jurisdiction over it, unless the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution (art. 17(1)(a)).
Now, all this is to say that the LD resolution does not literally prescribe defending or attacking the ICC; however, you can make a strong case that the perfect "test case" for the resolution, since it already exists, and since the U.S. has (quite famously) refused to join, is the ICC.

Regardless, nothing in the resolution requires that sovereignty be eliminated and violated willy-nilly in the service of prosecuting "crimes against humanity" in an international court, real or imagined. Then again, nothing requires that it can't. It's something the Affirmative and Negative may have to settle in the debate.

future = now

Today's Olympian article outlining the successes of regional online education...
Full-online public schools have become a draw for about 1 percent of South Sound students and their families. The schools, run by private companies, allow students to take on subjects at their own pace and provide instructors to teach subjects to students who previously were home-schooled.

The programs are free to families with a computer and Internet access. Some programs even provide the computer — because the online schools have been funded at the same per-student rate as traditional brick-and-mortar schools since 2005....

In Olympia, 43 students transferred to other districts for online schools — about one-half of 1 percent. The district's own online school, iConnect, enrolled 70 students from Olympia and elsewhere, said district spokesman Peter Rex.

The North Thurston and Tumwater districts both have online classes at their high schools, but neither operates a full-time online school.

Two years ago, Olympia started a fully online school program, called iConnect Academy, out of the Olympia Regional Learning Academy.
...only underscores a point I made a year and half ago.
Traditional brick-and-mortar schooling isn't yet out of style, but it's getting pushed further and further into the back of the closet.
As the state gets ready to cut billions from its budget, look for online education to get another boost.

Resolved: The United States ought to submit to the jurisdiction of an international court designed to prosecute crimes against humanity.

The NFL has released the January / February resolution:
The United States ought to submit to the jurisdiction of an international court designed to prosecute crimes against humanity.
Obviously, one of the most popular values--for good reason--will be justice. National sovereignty, whether as a value or a criterion, will be huge for the Neg.

Oh, and by the way, the current body "designed to prosecute crimes against humanity," implied by the resolution, is the International Criminal Court. That should help facilitate your research.

Though many of the recent resolutions have taken a US-centric stance, at least this one places the US in a global context. I'm going to dig through my archives and see how this relates to the UN resolution from a couple years ago.

More analysis, links, and commentary to follow. As always, post your questions, case ideas, and comments. More dialogue = better debate.

Initial Analysis
Ought the United States cede aspects of its sovereignty and let an international court try American citizens who are charged with "crimes against humanity?" That is the fundamental question for this resolution. It pits notions of universal human rights, international law, and cosmopolitan justice against those of sovereignty and independence. This raises several questions: what constitutes a "crime against humanity?" What is the proper balance between sovereignty and the rule of international law? Why, if at all, should we have an international legal framework? Are human rights universal? Is the United States' refusal to join the ICC a dodge?

Links
1. In late 2002, John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., laid out the reasons the U.S. has not signed on to the ICC.
2. Here's a typical article supporting the ICC [pdf], in hopes that it would foster greater protection for human rights and respect for the rule of law.
3. The ICC's website.
4. The SEP on Cosmopolitanism in its various forms.
5. Ilya Somin on world government and its critics. The SEP on the same.
6. Is a temporary tribunal sufficient? Consider the ICTR.

Definitions
1. A thoroughgoing analysis of the phrase "crimes against humanity," specifically, how they are defined in international law, and how they are partially distinct from genocide or war crimes.
2. Should we use the real ICC as the focus of the debate?
3. "Submit."

Deeper Analysis
1. I take a look at the cosmopolitan foundations (and supranational reach) of the International Criminal Court, and the implications for the debate.
2. Value and criterion pairs: an initial list.
3. I discuss a thoroughgoing analysis of the history and constitutionality of the ICC.
4. Sovereignty, sovereignty, sovereignty.
5. Critical theory as an approach to the resolution.
6. Consequentialism as an affirmative criterion is considered.
7. Some considerations of debate strategy.
8. Furthering a human rights agenda is actually a part of US law.
9. What about retribution?
10. Does the U.S. lack the political will to prosecute its own?
11. Some interesting cases I've seen recently. Post your own!

For Beginners
Along with specific analysis, check out these resources: how to construct cases, use a criterion, major philosophers to know, etc.

[The Nov./Dec. felon resolution is available here.]