26 June 2008

Supremes Overturn Death Penalty But Miss The Real Point

It's reasonable to debate what crimes should qualify for the death penalty. Personally, I don't have any more sympathy for a child-rapist than I do for a murderer. My opposition to the death penalty, though, is not based on sympathy for the defendant.

My opposition to the death penalty is based on two principles: human fallibility and limitations on state power. I don't want any possibility that we could execute an innocent person. I don't want my government to be in the business of execution.

These principles get sorely tested in almost every capital case.

In the overwhelming majority of capital cases, it seems rarely if ever argued that the defendant "didn't do it". Of course, we do have plenty of examples of overturned cases where DNA or other evidence has proven just that.

One example should be enough. I recognize that many disagree with this principle. Fine; that's at least something we should be able to debate intelligently and rationally, even passionately.

Legal appeals in death penalty cases almost never consider the innocence or guilt of the defendant. Those appeals tend to test my second principle: the idea that our government shouldn't be in the position of executing the guilty.

Neither of my principles is based on sympathy for the defendant. I reserve that for the rare cases where the defendant has been proven innocent, which are quite rare.

The Supremes missed both principles by focusing on whether child rape is sufficiently heinous to merit the same penalty as murder. That's not going to help the debate, because we cannot in good conscience have sympathy for a child-rapist.

If the death penalty is ok, I have a hard time understanding why it's not ok for a child-rapist. Of course, I don't think it's ok. But, this is still disturbing logic, or lack thereof.

20 June 2008

James Fallows Might Have Just Refuted My China Argument

According to Fallows, who lives in China and writes for The Atlantic, "China’s environmental situation is disastrous. And it is improving." And it is improving through private enterprise. So much for showing the incompetence of the Chinese government.

Still, exposure might be as good a weapon as diplomatic pressure, which seems to have done nothing positive for China over 30 years of "constructive engagement".

18 June 2008

Rethinking American Olympic Politics

We tried a boycott in 1980 to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Didn't have a huge impact, other than to dash the hopes and dreams of many athletes and "send a message" that most of the world already understood. I'm not saying we didn't have reasons, just that the boycott didn't seem to advance American interests or change Soviet behavior.

With the Beijing Olympics just a few months away, I've been thinking about what U.S. participation might mean in a similar political context. Most of us abhor Chinese totalitarianism.

But, maybe American participation -- and especially our pervasive media coverage -- will have an impact that serves our long-term interests. Sure, China will try to control media coverage as tightly as possible and limit journalists' access to anything the government doesn't want exposed. But, as the headline story indicates, it's going to be difficult for the Chinese government to contain everything. The inadequate preparedness for the recent earthquakes and the massive environmental cost of China's rapid industrialization should be evident for all to see. Hopefully, the ineffectiveness of China's two neighbors -- North Korea and Myanmar -- in meeting even the most basic needs of their peoples will also come to light.

Shine the light. Totalitarianism's results speak for themselves.

16 June 2008

Beer should be this easy

I picked up brewing as a hobby for two very important reasons.

  1. I love beer.
  2. I'm very lazy.

I cannot imagine brewing beer the way many home brewers do it -- a pretty lengthy process of extracting sugars from grain and mixing individual ingredients, usually with a 5-gallon carboy as the fermentation vessel, and sometimes even with a secondary carboy for settling, and then a hand-capping bottling process.

Not for me! I bought a Mr. Beer kit for $30, which included my first mix and everything but the bottles that I'd need for brewing two gallons. For bottles, I started hoarding Grolsch with the swing-top bottles, taking my empties home from bars and restaurants. With Mr. Beer, it takes maybe an hour to prepare the wort for fermentation and to bottle the batch coming out of the fermentation "keg" (a kitschy plastic barrel-shaped 2-gallon container with an lid that allows air to escape but not seep in and has its own tap for bottling).

See? Easy? It's like the Easy Bake Oven for Beer. Perfect hobby to satisfy both my laziness and my love of beer. Maybe not the most creative process, but I can add fruits or other ingredients to vary the flavor, etc. I don't feel limited by fact that the main ingredients are pre-mixed and canned for my convenience. For the first 3-4 years I was happy to have my own brew, slightly cheaper than even the cheap domestic brands and much more potent. (If you haven't figured out that I'm too lazy to measure alcohol content, you haven't been paying attention.)

Since we've moved to Colorado, the fun has been ... not so much. Batch after batch seemed to have no or very low alcohol content. That's pretty important to me in a beer. I thought my fermentation "keg" might be defective, so I bought a new one. Same results. I thought the yeast might be ineffective, so I tried fresh yeast, both powdered and liquid, from a local store. Same results. I thought the temperature in my basement might be too cold, so I moved it upstairs. The recipes and yeast information indicate successful fermentations at temperatures as low as 50 degrees F. Same results.

I missed my lazy hobby. An hour a week is just great if you get decent beer at a decent price. It's bullshit if you get malt juice or worse.

Well, this week, I left the fermentation "keg" in an insulated tote on my kitchen counter, instead of the cupboard.

Bubbles up the wazoo! So, I'm guessing alcohol content will be just fine in this next batch, due for bottling next weekend. I'll know with acceptable certainty the weekend after that.

Film at 11.

11 June 2008

Wait, I need to be more feminine *and* more gay?

Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage
Published: June 10, 2008

A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that!"

I hope I don't need to explain the Seinfeld reference. But now, the New York Times seems to think that I need to be more gay. Pop culture has told me for most of my adult life that I need to be more feminine. Women are smarter about relationships, and I need to listen without judging blah blah blah. Now, sociology is telling me that gay couples have higher relationship satisfaction.

Yes, I'm a throwback. I get that listening is good, but at the end of the day, I still have testicles. Sometimes, I just feel like using them without a lengthy explanation. But the NYT says that the gender inequality in my relationship might be the cause of a lot of anger for my wife. I guess I'm insensitive, because I spend all day having fun and then just want to hang out with my wife and have sex.

Seriously, are there any sociology researchers who have ever had a boner? I just hope, when they come to take my testicles away, that I can keep them in a jar or maybe have a picture.

Did I say any of this in my "out loud" voice?

05 June 2008

What is the Carpe Web Blog?

Not much so far. Just an extension of my original Carpe Web vision, which was -- and remains -- simply to "seize the web" for whatever purposes feel right to me. Right now, I'm preoccupied with creating an open-source book about the Iraq War and how to resolve it and the larger "global war on terror". So, you can probably expect some posts soon about related issues. I also hope to expand my global content empire. Yeah, empire is a bit ambitious for something that is so far piecemeal and very minimal. In other words, we'll see.