Octavo Dia

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Things I don't understand


It wouldn't have taken me 170 years to return someone's pickled head. I would have been looking for takers long before that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Your Inner Self Revealed... By Google!

Use the world's most powerful search engine to reveal your true self! And those of your friends! A technique developed today by me: In the Google search bar, type in "your name is " and see what Google thinks you are! Don't forget to put a space after is. Here's what Google thinks about me:

I would say #3 is the most accurate description, but number five would be high on most people's lists.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Book Review: Before the Next Attack

Ackerman, Bruce. Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in the Age of Terrorism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

This is a very good book.

In the opening discussion about the difference between war, crime, and terrorism, he says that the distinction is that of effective sovereignty. A war is an existential assault on sovereignty. A crime assumes that effective sovereign power is still available. Terrorism assaults sovereignty while not existentially threatening it. Terrorism, therefore, is both a crime and an act of war, but is also neither.

Ackerman argues that to deal with such a threat requires powers greater than those used to fight crime, but less than those used in war. However, he sees an inherent danger in granting emergency powers for an open-ended "war on terror".

He proposes a majoritarian escalator. Granting initial emergency powers requires a simple majority vote to respond to a terrorist attack, but to renew it after a set period of time, you need 60%, then 70%, then 80%, and so on, so unless the need remains dire, the emergency powers will automatically cease.

His other policy proposals are equally interesting. He suggests that, to replace the Supreme court after a decapitating attack, it should be replaced by placing them names of the chief justice of the courts of appeal in a hat, and promoting those chosen by lot to the supreme court for staggered terms. I think we should do one better. After every congressional election, so every two years, one supreme court justice should be replaced. If there are no volunteers on the court, through retirement or death, the longest serving justice would be replaced. Why wait to have staggered terms in office until after a terrorist attack?

For the house of representatives, he suggests that we have a position of vice-representative, elected on a ticket like the vice president, whose job is to be somewhere other than with the representative. In case of a decapitation attack, they could be called to duty. He has trouble with the fact that vice presidents get elected so routinely, and vice representatives would give a party a permanent lock on the seat. I think we should couple this with my concept of non-consecutive terms. You can serve as many terms as you want, but only one in a row. Every race would be an open race, because both the representative and his vice representative would have been out of office for two years prior to any election.

He also brought up a problem I hadn't considered before. He suggests that the secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security should be removed from succession to the presidency. In any situation in power devolves that far, the secretaries of defense and homeland security would be much more needed at their posts than in the presidency.