You searched for index.html - Page 43 of 46 | Acton PowerBlog

In a recent post, Jordan Ballor highlighted the efforts of Mr. Armen Yousoufian, who has been seeking public disclosure of records relating to the financing of the new stadium built recently for the Seattle Seahawks largely at taxpayer expense. Mr. Yousoufian has responded to Ballor’s post with the following comment:

In reply to: “They picked on the Wrong Armenian”, which is about my successful and landmark Public Disclosure Act violation lawsuit here in Washington state, thank you for the coverage. The case goes to court again on August 19 for determination of penalties and the amount of legal fees I am to be awarded for my two successful appeals of the original verdict (that will be the 4th round in over 8 years, after I won every step of the way and all the way to the state Supreme Court). If you or your readers would like more information, please visit my website: www.ArmenYousoufian.com or my blog: www.Yousoufian.blogspot.com. Lots of material, including trial briefs at all four stages of the litigation. Or email me at ayousoufian@comcast.net with something in the subect line referring to this comment left at this site.

Armen Yousoufian
Vashon Island, Washington

Those are some websites that are probably worth keeping an eye on.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, August 1, 2005
By

Here’s a view of procreation that doesn’t line up with the UN-sponsored “World Population Day”. In the midst of a discussion about a Jewish tradition mandating that each couple has at least one male and one female childe, Bryan Caplan at EconLog writes,

I’m on the record in favor of having more kids. I believe that, in most cases, both individuals and society would be better off if families had three or four. A lot of people have small families because they are mildly tired when they are young, and fail to consider that as a result they will be very lonely when they’re old. Two grown children is not enough to get a decent quantity of phone calls and grandchildren.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 28, 2005
By

Here’s a great interview from the Marketplace Morning Report with Chris Farrell, in which he argues for the lifting of trade sanctions against dictatorial and oppressive regimes. He compares the cases of Cuba and China, in which two different strategies have been used, with vastly different results.

We need to “stop the policy of broad based sanctions against nations that we don’t like,” says Farrell. This is directly opposite of the view, for example, which primarily blames economic engagement and the concern that, in the words of Kai Ryssdal, “some of these governments will be propped up.”

This is something the Acton Institute has been talking about for years. Read Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s “It’s Time to Do Unto Cuba as We Do Unto China,” from The Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2000.

Following months of Zimbabwe’s brutal “Drive Out Trash” campaign, pleasantries exchanged between Mugabe and a UN delegation may have made some headway. The UN report on the situation, according to Claudia Rosett, began “with a delicacy over-zealously inappropriate in itself to dealings with the tyrant whose regime has been responsible for wreck of Zimbabwe” by describing Mugabe’s reception of the UN officials with a “warm welcome.”

Despite the shortcomings of the UN report with respect to policy solutions (more aid!), the combination of a “stick and carrot” approach may be bearing some measure of success. ENI reports today:

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was being feted as a key African leader in China when his security forces finally declared a respite in a two-month long destruction of homes of poor people in urban areas that triggered the ire of international church groups and the United Nations. The South African Council of Churches said a container of relief supplies would be sent to Zimbabwe at the beginning of August as part of its “Operation Hope for Zimbabwe”, aimed at relieving suffering after the government’s Operation Murambatsvina which means in the Shona language, “Drive Out Trash”.

Mr. Phelps takes issue with my characterization of Stanley Fish’s position as amounting “to a philosophical denial of realism.”

Let me first digress a bit and place this comment within the larger context of my post. My identification of a position that “words and texts have no meaning in themselves” is really just an aside within the larger and more important question about what measure of authority authorial intent has in the interpretation of documents, specifically public documents like the Constitution.

This aside is essentially a further claim than I need to make to demonstrate the flaws in Fish’s analysis. All that needs to be done to expose Fish’s error is to show that authorial intent or acontextual (deconstructionist?) interpretation are not the only two options. I argued, along with Ramesh Ponnuru and Ann Althouse, that the contemporary corporate understanding of a public document is the most definitive human factor in determining the meaning of a text. One way of putting it would be to say, it isn’t the Sitz im Leben of the author of a public document that norms meaning, it’s the Sitz im Leben of the document’s ratifiers, adherents, affirmers, et alia that is normative (or should I say “more” normative).
(more…)

Blog author: dphelps
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
By

The recent blogpost by my colleague Jordan Ballor discusses an op-ed written by law professor Stanley Fish. I am more familiar with Stanley Fish from his days as a literary theorist, and perhaps a quick review of a younger Fish will contribute to the conversation.

Fish is known for, among other things, an idea of literary interpretation he called ‘interpretive communities’ that suggests meaning is not found in the author, nor in the reader, but in the community in which the text is received. His famous illustration of this theory is as follows: He once left a list of names of literary theorists on the board of his classroom, told the class it was a medieval poem, and asked them to interpret it. Of course the duped and eager students developed a wide array of convincing interpretations, thus illustrating the power of the interpretive community.

So you can image my mild suprise when I read Fish endorsing ‘authorial intent’ in opposition to what in literary circles is known best as Formalism, the idea that “the text itself” contains the meaning. Of course, the modernist and post-modernist theorists have shared a strong aversion to “the text itself” theories. But I think it is a mistake to suggest that simply because the Mods and Postmods attacked both Formalism and Realism, anyone who attacks Literary Formalism is attacking Realism. There are other theories and theorists who would not (properly speaking) align themselves with staunchly relativistic theories and yet would take issue with Formalism (a phenomonologist such as Wolfgang Iser I think would be one of them.)

How does this relate to the larger question of Constitutional Interpretation? To deny ‘textualism’ is not necessarily to suggest that meaning is subjective in the author, the reader, or the interpretive community. Denying texutalism is not necessarily to deny objective reality. One can question textualism and maintain absolutism. What allows for this is the fact that all language, especially in a publicly crafted document like our Constitution, is in some sense ‘corporate’ (the etymological connection between ‘communication’ and ‘communion’ speaks volumes on this point, I think).

As far as we humans are concerned, there is always an element of mystery in language, in the Word. To my knowledge, there is only one who can express an icon of meaning so perfectly as to unite the Utterance with its Reality. All (human) language is at best an attempt at meaning, a part of meaning, and never the last word.

“a magnificent desolation”

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke these words in a speech at Rice University:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain. Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

36 years ago today, Kennedy’s vision became a reality when Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon. That event remains arguably the greatest technological achievement in history, and represents the high-water mark for the American space program.

At the time it was believed by many that that Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” would represent the first step into a much broader realm of space exploration. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Rand Simberg notes:

The goal had never really been to open up space, so much as to win a race against the Soviets, to demonstrate our technological superiority, as a proxy battle in the Cold War between democracy and totalitarianism (sadly, it wasn’t viewed as a war between capitalism and socialism, else we might have taken a more promising approach). But with the knowledge that we were winning that race, and the budget pressures of Johnson’s Great Society and the Vietnam war, the decision had been made years before to end procurement of long lead items necessary to advance much beyond a few trips to the lunar surface.

The excitement and momentum that once surrounded manned spaceflight programs has now subsided into the stagnant Space Shuttle program, which literally can’t get off the launch pad.

But there is hope. Private companies run by people who envision market-oriented approaches to space exploration are beginning to take up the slack where governments are leaving off. Simberg notes:

Fortunately, though, unlike the 1960s, we can now see a means by which we can do so without having to hope for bureaucrats to make the right decisions as to how to spend taxpayer money. Before too many more Apollo XI anniversaries roll by, I suspect that there will be many non-NASA personnel on the moon, visiting it with their own money, for their own purposes.

I have always found NASA’s photographic archives of the Apollo program to be fascinating and inspiring (Be sure to take a look for yourself if you haven’t done so before.) And I look forward to the day when I will no longer have to wonder what it was like bear witness to a human being setting foot on some other celestial body.

For now, this will have to suffice.

Update: A personal remembrance from Scott Warmka:

Dad was carrying my brother and told me to follow him outside. The night was warm. Above shined clear the moon. Men were there, but we couldn’t see them. We waved anyway. (I think we did that for my brother’s sake.) Barely I caught the look in Dad’s eyes. Not a question, more a simple command, “See what we can do.”

Blog author: jballor
Monday, July 18, 2005
By

Cigar Jack passes along this story about “faith leaders” soliciting the government to place tobacco regulation under the auspices of the FDA. The proposed legislation, which has twice been left languishing in the U.S. House of Representatives, “would give the FDA authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products.”

These faith leaders, like Rev. T. Randall Smith, pastor of Deer Park United Methodist Church and president of Texas Conference of Churches, represent a faction of Christianity that is radically different than that is historically ensconced in European culture. I have remarked on this before, specifically with reference to the “the Dutch-American culture of West Michigan.”

Moments like these seem to show that public opinion is generally in favor of the government restriction and prohibition of smoking. Even something as traditionally suspect as poker has succumbed to the cultural sanitization, as at the 2005 World Series of Poker completed last week, “There’s no cursing, no smoking and no mercy at the tables in a windowless hangar-like room,” though there is “a choking haze of cigarette and cigar smoke in the hallway.”

And to think that government is an impartial arbiter of justice in cases like this, as the aforementioned “faith leaders” seem to think, is to be more than a bit naive. A case in point: Despite bitter and contentious debate about the state’s budget woes, Republicans and Democrats in Michigan can at least agree on one thing–there’s a consensus to “sell off part of the state’s future tobacco settlement for a $3 billion upfront payment.”

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 14, 2005
By

“We don’t want you to give your money. We’ll just take it instead.”

That commercial, the one where all the celebrities and guys in collars and habits are talking about raising your “voice” for the world’s poor, has been nominated for an Emmy award for best TV commercial.

It’s the one that ends with the voice of Tom Hanks saying, “We’re not asking for your money. We’re asking for your voice.”

In one sense, that is totally true. If those behind the ONE Campaign had their way, they wouldn’t “ask” for your money. They would just have the government take it. It really is all a bit duplicitous.

So they aren’t up front about it…they really do want your money: “If the USA agreed to commit an additional ONE percent of it’s budget, or 25 billion dollars per year, it would cost every American 23 cents a day. I’m ready to do that if it saves lives…are you?” There’s more than one hypothetical in that statement.

But even so, it doesn’t matter what you might answer to that rhetorical question. Even if you aren’t willing, if the ONE Campaign has its way, your money will be taken and used anyway.

Maybe the slogan should be: “We don’t want you to give your money. We’ll just take it instead.” This adds a whole new dimension to the idea of charity.

Apparently Europe is buying in to the concept. Here are two key paragraphs from today’s Washington Post, in this article from Robert J. Samuelson, “The End of Europe”:

It’s hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe’s birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It’s 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century — if these rates continue — there won’t be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy. Even assuming some increase in birthrates and continued immigration, Western Europe’s population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one-sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030 that would be one-fourth, and by 2050 almost one-third.

No one knows how well modern economies will perform with so many elderly people, heavily dependent on government benefits (read: higher taxes). But Europe’s economy is already faltering. In the 1970s annual growth for the 12 countries now using the euro averaged almost 3 percent; from 2001 to 2004 the annual average was 1.2 percent. In 1974 those countries had unemployment of 2.4 percent; in 2004 the rate was 8.9 percent.