Auros (auros) wrote,

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Politics and Metaphysics

As promised:


So, several items I've only sent as emails so far, and am debating the merits of faxing later tonight... I probably will at least fax Feinstein on the Flag-Burning Amendment one, because she's sponsoring the damn thing. I am definitely voting against her in the Democratic primary next time she's up, and I'm tempted to vote Green in the general, except I wouldn't want to end up with a Republican Senator. Demmit, when are we going to get a decent electoral system? :-(

The below are based on alerts from the WWF, Working Assets, and the ACLU.

To: Senators
Subject: Provide Healthcare for Those in Need

Dear Senator,

Health care that working families depend on is at risk because our state, along with virtually every other state in the nation, is facing the worst budget crisis in decades.

The crisis is so severe that children could lose their health coverage, seniors who need nursing home care might not get it, people fighting cancer and heart disease could have to pay more for the medication they need, and anyone who needs urgent care is more likely to face overcrowded emergency rooms. We can't afford cuts like that.

You have the power to help. You can send more of our federal tax dollars home to our state to protect health care for working families. Please stop any federal Medicaid cuts and make sure this year's final Congressional Budget Resolution includes state fiscal relief to put families first.


To: IRS Commissioner Mark Everson I was unable to find any email address for him, so I just sent this one directly through the Working Assets system (clicking the link will give you the opportunity to do the same), rather than copying it into my own email client and sending a lightly customized version, like I usually do; I'm always inclined to suspect that they just filter out the stuff that comes in from servers like WA's or ACLU's.
Subject: IRS, Go After Big Fish Tax Cheats Rather Than the Working Poor

Dear Commissioner Mark Everson,

I am concerned that the new earned income tax credit certification requirements are unduly burdensome on the working poor and represent a seriously flawed ranking of priorities in reducing tax fraud.

According to IRS estimates, the amount of lost tax revenue through incorrectly claimed earned-income tax credits is between $6.5-$10 billion. That may not be small change, but it pales in comparison to the estimated amounts of lost revenues attributed to offshore accounts ($70 billion) and corporations ($46 billion).

While I understand it's the IRS's responsibility to fairly administer and enforce the tax laws of our country across all levels, a better investment of tax enforcement resources would be to go after wealthy individuals and corporate tax cheats who make more (and thus owe more) rather than place an illogically-unfair burden on the working poor.

The IRS should pick on somebody its own size.

I urge you to devote far more resources to cracking down on the large evaders of personal and corporate income taxes before turning your attention to those who work hard and earn little.


To: Rep Eshoo
Subject: Support HR 1157

Dear Representative Eshoo,

As your constituent, I urge you to support the "Freedom to Read Protection Act" (HR. 1157). This act would restore key constitutional protections removed by the USA PATRIOT Act by exempting libraries and bookstores from the laws that allow the FBI to conduct searches of personal records without a warrant or probable cause.

Resolutions against the PATRIOT Act have passed in 104 communities in 24 states -- including one state-wide resolution in Hawaii. These communities represent approximately 11.1 million people who are concerned about the USA PATRIOT Act and its impacts on civil liberties. In response to one section of the PATRIOT Act alone, many librarians across the country have decided to put up signs warning patrons that the FBI may be snooping in their records.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Freedom to Read Protection Act will uphold the key principles of privacy and limited government power.

The FBI has been aggressively using its new powers without providing Congress with explanations about its activities. A University of Illinois survey shows libraries were targeted at least 175 times in the year after 9/11 -- yet the FBI refuses to explain how or why.

Once again, I urge you to support the "Freedom to Read Protection Act" (HR. 1157).

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.


To: Senators
Subject: Oppose SJ 1

Dear Senator,

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose S.J. Res. 1, the so-called "Victims Rights Amendment."

Victims of crime should be heard and protected, but we must not unnecessarily and recklessly change the Constitution, which has worked so well and has only been amended 17 times in 209 years. Amending the Constitution should be reserved for only those occasions when no other alternative is available. And that is not the case with victims' rights. Every state has either a constitutional amendment or statute -- or both -- that protect victims' rights. We should better enforce existing laws before taking the radical step of amending the U.S. Constitution.

More importantly, the proposed amendment would jeopardize the principle of innocent until proven guilty and the right to a fair trial. Our criminal justice system is based on the principle of presumed innocence. Amending the Constitution to allow victims to voice their opinions at every step of a prosecution may undermine the foundation of our justice system and the ability of the courts to operate in an impartial and fair manner. We can ensure that victims have a say in seeing that justice is done without amending the Constitution or putting the rights of the accused at risk.

Again, I urge you to oppose S.J. Res. 1, the so-called "Victims Rights

I look forward to hearing your perspective of this important matter.


To: Senators and Rep
Subject: Oppose TSA's CAPPS II program

Dear (whoever),

As your constituent, I am writing to urge you to oppose the CAPPS II program. I am deeply concerned that this program will create a permanent blacklist of Americans who cannot travel freely, and hinder the security at our nation's airports.

I have read that innocent people have already been stopped and banned from flying because their name appeared on government "no fly" lists -- and have been unable to clear their names in the federal bureaucracy. This national system would only increase the delays and blacklist even more innocent Americans -- regular people traveling for work or vacations.

Terrorists will learn how to circumvent the system. Identity thieves could easily sidestep this check by presenting a false driver's license or passport, undercutting the system's entire mission. And the constant false alarms might divert the attention of airport security officers from legitimate threats to security.

If adopted, the most intrusive and dangerous element of the program -- the construction of an infrastructure for conducting background checks and maintaining dossiers on people who fly -- would depend on shadowy intelligence/law enforcement databases. The use of these secret databases would remove meaningful public oversight and control over these un-American background checks.

Once again, I urge you to oppose this invasive and untrustworthy system.


Incidentally, it's worth noting here that I am not universally opposed to the concept of surveillance, national ID cards, and that kind of thing. I just think we need to have them come into being with the ability to watch the watchers built into the infrastructure. Put cameras on every street corner, sure. But also put cameras in the surveillance center, and broadcast streams on the web and keep a few weeks of records, so anyone can check up on the cops to make sure they're doing their job right, so if they start doing stuff like tracking people without a warrant, or using the cameras to peek down women's shirts (which I don't find terribly morally offensive, but I don't want my taxes used to pay for that sort of thing), we can prove it. With things like databases of personal and financial data, the individual needs to have total access to what's being said about hir, and an efficient way of correcting errors. And such data should never be made available to private commercial entities -- I personally feel that all advertising should be opt-in, whether by accepting payment to be on some kind of list, or by choosing to view a TV show or magazine or website that is advertising supported. No more telemarketing, junkmail, etc. (I also don't know why more sites aren't offering the chance to pay a subscription fee to turn off ads while viewing the same content -- I'd pay Slate ten bucks a month for that. Maybe more.)

To: Senators and Rep
Subject: Oppose Flag-Burning Amendment

Dear (whoever),

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose HJ Res. 4/SJ Res. 4, a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the flag. This legislation would undermine the very principles for which the American flag stands.

While flag burning is rare, it can be a powerful and important form of free speech. In fact, the proposed constitutional amendment would do irreparable harm to our right to free speech and undermine the very principles for which the American flag stands. Those who favor the proposed amendment say they do so in honor of the flag. But in proposing to unravel the First Amendment, they desecrate what the flag represents, and what millions of Americans have died to defend.

Jailing protesters is a tactic of authoritarian regimes, not vibrant democracies. I read that two young protestors in Hong Kong were arrested for burning the Chinese flag after mainland China took over control of the island nation. Cuban courts commonly jail dissidents who "dishonor" the Cuban flag. While jailing protestors might be common in totalitarian regimes, Americans expect -- and indeed have put their lives on the line -- to ensure that our right to free speech is not abridged.

Do not amend the First Amendment for the first time in history. Please oppose any effort to ban flag desecration.


To: German Gref, Russian Minister for Economic Development and Trade This is another one where I just went ahead and used the automatic system, in this case belonging to the WWF, which apparently no longer stands for World Wildlife Fund -- see here.
Subject: Release the Kyoto Protocol dossier to Russian Parliament.

Dear Mr. Gref,

I would like to express my great concern on the fate of the Kyoto Protocol and especially on the negative position of your Ministry toward Russian ratification of the Kyoto protocol.

The Protocol has been supported and ratified by more than 100 countries and rejected only by the United States of America and Australia. Only Russian ratification is now required to have the Kyoto protocol enter into force.

The Russian Prime Minister, Mr. Mikhail Kasyanov, promised speedy ratification at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg eight months ago.

I have heard that you, Minister Gref, are personally responsible for the economic assessment required for the ratification procedure in the Russian Parliament. Your assessment has been negative so far and therefore the Parliament is not ready to ratify.

Thousands of businesses and investors throughout the world are waiting for the Kyoto Protocol to come into force, in order to launch a series of new economic tools to reduce CO2 emissions. This even includes the United States.

Millions of people would like to see practical steps to prevent catastrophic events from climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only available international tool in the fight against climate change, and it should urgently enter into force and be effectively implemented.

I would like you to understand the global cost of failing to implement the Kyoto Protocol: failure will be seen as a direct consequence of mismanagement in your Ministry.

In addition, dear Minister, your personal international prestige as an economist and politician directly depends on your speedy release of the Kyoto Protocol dossier to the Russian Parliament.


and Metaphysics...

Slate has gotten all philosophical this week. First, they've got a really wonderful diary by Lee Siegel in which he discusses his imaginary cat, the passage of time, and all kinds of other neat stuff. Then, there's a dialogue between my favorite game-theory and evolutionary-biology popularizer, Robert Wright; and the author of a new book about quantum computing, George Johnson.

Oh, and Chris Hitchens has an article today, too. You might like that one, Gio...

I still want a Preview button for updates.

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