February 2010 Archives

One Question

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Did the Democrats give any signal, at all, that they would be willing to take out any significant provision of their health care bill?

It seems to me that if not, it's hard to make a claim they were trying to compromise or be bipartisan. slashdot.org

Buying Votes

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Many people, in both parties, think that the legislative act is one of buying votes. From beginning to end.

They make sure you vote for the bill by putting something in it you want, whether it's a Bridge to Nowhere, the "Cornhusker Kickback," the public option, individual mandates, or whatever.

They don't seem to consider that some people will vote against the bill for what is in it, rather than what is not in it.

We saw this in display all day long with Obama and the Democrats saying over and over again that they have and would put in the bill what the Republicans want, and all the Republicans need to do is accept what the Democrats want. In this way, we have compromise, and there would be peace in the land.

But if what the Democrats want is something the Republicans are philosophically opposed to, then it's not compromise: it's surrender. And the Democrats know this. They know the Republicans cannot support an individual mandate, for example.

Real compromise involves subtraction, usually moreso than addition.

If the Democrats really cared about bipartisanship they would not try to add things to the bill to buy Republican votes, but they would offer to remove things from the bill that prevent Republicans from supporting it.

I am not implying the Republicans are perfectly principled and wonderful people. You wouldn't respect me if I did. I wouldn't respect myself. But there are lines they won't cross; the Democraic proposal has some of them; the Democrats know this; and they insist on Republican agreement anyway.

Now, I do accept the idea that this all could be part of the process, and the Democrats will eventually work with the Republicans by dropping the things that the Republicans will not support. But it doesn't look like it that's going to happen. slashdot.org

Obama Thinks You're Dumb

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When a "compromise" "bipartisan" proposal includes ideas the Republicans cannot possibly support, according to their principles -- most obviously forcing everyone to buy health insurance, but also forcing people and businesses into a new "health insurance exchange," punishing people for buying services the government doesn't think they should have, and so on -- then it's not bipartisan. It's not a compromise.

The White House is going through great pains to say, "hey look at all the Republican ideas we included in our plan!" But that's not enough. They could include everything the Republicans want, but if it also includes things Republicans cannot support, then Republicans will oppose it.

For those who don't get it, try this analogy: a bill that cuts taxes, but that also forces dog owners to kill the cutest puppy of every litter, won't get support from conservatives. They like the tax cut; they don't like forcing people to kill cute puppies.

The individual mandate cannot be supported by the Republicans. Period. Adding in Republican ideas to a bill Republicans cannot support doesn't make it bipartisan: cutting out the things Republicans cannot support makes it bipartisan. And the White House has shown no willingness to do that.

Also, I'd like to point out that Obama is still making the claim, "Nothing in the proposal forces anyone to change the insurance they have. Period." But that's a lie. An individual mandate does precisely this. A mandate sets a minimum level of coverage, and forces people under that level -- through punishment of hefty fine, up into thousands of dollars per year for many people -- if they don't meet it. If you have insurance that does not meet that minimum standard, you are being forced to change it. Period. Obama is lying. slashdot.org

The Mackinac Center predicts that the cigarette tax will make half of all cigarettes illegally smuggled in to Washington State.

I don't know if that's true or not, but what I do know is that over half of Gregoire's proposed $605m tax increases are "sin taxes" (on candy, gum, bottled water, carbonated beverages, and tobacco); I know that these "sin taxes" will serve -- and are designed -- to discourage the behavior being taxed; I know Gregoire knows these things; and, therfore, I know that Gregoire's prediction of $345m in revenue from these taxes is dishonest.

I also know, by the way, that if our state hadn't abandoned Priorities of Government, they couldn't lie to the people and say they need these taxes to fund "vital services": they would have to be honest and say they can already fund "vital services" with the money they have, because PoG would require them to fund those things first. Instead, they choose to fund non-vital things first, so they can strengthen their case for tax increases for "vital services."

And while I'm at it, I also know that if Gregoire and the Democrats had kept spending to 10-15 percent in her first term, instead of the 33 percent we actually had, we would not have to raise taxes to fund anything today.

As usual, this whole thing is just long-term scheming to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger government. "Never let a crisis go to waste." slashdot.org

Mike Reitz at EFF gives a good writeup of the Supreme Court of Washington's decision in State v. Sieyes, which -- in essence -- says that our federal Constitution (through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment) guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms, but not necessarily for minors.

The court did not actually rule that minors do not have such rights, but basically asserted that they weren't convinced they did. Civil libertarian Justice Richard Sanders wrote for the majority, saying, "we keep our powder dry on this issue for another day."

The current doctrine of selective incorporation -- which I've many times discussed -- was a travesty designed to prevent the plain language, and explicitly stated intent of the authors of, the Fourteenth Amendment from taking effect. Indeed, the sponsor of the Fourteenth Amendment in the Senate said at the amendment's introduction that "[t]he great object of the first section of this amendment is, therefore, to restrain the power of the States and compel them at all times to respect these great fundamental guarantees," which include "the freedom of speech and of the press; the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances, a right appertaining to each and all the people; the right to keep and to bear arms; the right to be exempted from the quartering of soldiers in a house without the consent of the owner," and so on.

Applying the Second Amendment to the States was part of the stated purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment. And the language is clear.

Sanders didn't write about this century-old travesty, but instead applied existing federal standards for incorporation, and demonstrated quite clearly and convincingly that the Second Amendment meets those standards.

New Chief Justice Barbara Madsen agreed with the decision in "result only," while Justice Debra Stephens wrote a concurring opinion claiming that she too agreed with the result -- that minors are not found to have gun rights -- but asserted that the decision to incorporate the Second Amendment was not warranted by the case, particularly in light of this summer's pending decision in the federal Court, because "I do not believe this is an instance where there is anything to be accomplished" by doing so. This could betray biases on both sides: perhaps Sanders wishes to contribute to the discussion the federal Court will be having, and Stephens does not.

Conservative Justice James Johnson dissented with the decision, for though he agreed with the incorporation part of the decision, he -- perhaps giving weight to Stephens' complaint of lack of restraint -- disagreed with the part of the decision regarding minors.

The main point here is what level of scrutiny to apply to our right to keep and bear arms. Johnson argued for strict scrutiny, the notion that in order to override someone's Constitutional rights, there must be in order to serve a compelling state interest, the law must be narrowly tailored to serve that interest, and it must use the least restrictive means to serve that interest. Under strict scrutiny, surely the case would have been found in favor of gun rights for minors; however, the question I have is whether minors should get strict scrutiny applied to them. Johnson is right, however, that the Washington Court does apply strict scrutiny to minors, so it seems in violation of precedent to not do so here.

Sanders responded that the Supreme Court itself refused to define a level of scrutiny for Second Amendment matters. It's curious, though, that Sanders punts on scrutiny because of an explicit lack of federal Court guidance, but forges ahead with incorporation despite the same lack of guidance, especially in light of the coming decision later this year. This makes me think even more that Sanders wants to, if he can, contribute to the federal Court's decision to incorporate. slashdot.org

I've not spoken much about this, because there's many arguments to be made for or against whether Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab should be tried in criminal court or military court; whether he should have been read his rights soon after being taken into custody, or later, or not at all.

But I am struck by how terribly illogical the administration's defense of its actions has been. One official claimed they had to Mirandize him because the Constitution required it, which just isn't true, and there's precedent to prove it (and no caselaw to argue the contrary).

Joe Biden repeated the latest talking point the other day, that, well, the military tribunals have released two of the three people who were tried in them, so obviously, they don't work very well! The logical contortions behind this argument are astounding.

Biden's argument first asks us to believe that three is a reasonable statistical sampling from which to draw any conclusions, which on its face, is ridiculous. But if you look at who those three people are, it becomes even more ridiculous. All three were charged with, and covincted of, providing material support for terrorism. In addition, Salim Hamdan was charged with, and acquitted of, conspiracy. He, along with Australian David Hicks, were sentenced to 66 and 84 months in prison, respectively, because the crime is not as severe as actual terrorism.

The other person tried was Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who was convicted for -- in addition to providing material support -- conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder. This is obviously a more servere crime, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

So if we actually follow Biden's argument here -- that we should look at the past results of the tribunals as indicators for what will happen in the future -- then, in fact, we should expect that someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who actively planned and participated in killing thousands of civilians, will be convicted and subjected to, at least, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

How sad is it that when someone looks at your own argument, it actually disproves the point you were making?

Moreover, Biden clearly frames the administration as active in trying to prosecute and jail terrorists, but at the same time, he is framing the fact that two of the three people tried and convicted by the military tribunals as some sort of failure that he wants to avoid with civilian trials.

But if Salim Hamdan being sentenced to only 66 months in jail, and being free today, is such a failure, then shouldn't we at least ask the Obama administration why it hired Hamdan's lawyer, Neal Katyal, as the principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States?

Again, I am not saying we should not use civilian law enforcement methods for investigation and trial of these people. There's arguments for, and against. But it does make me question how strong Obama's case is when he keeps making such terrible arguments to support it. slashdot.org

Tim Kaine is Dumb

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Says DNC head Tim Kaine in a fundraising letter: "It's a breathtaking display of public hypocrisy. At least 116 Republican governors, senators, and representatives have spent the past year railing against the Recovery Act, while simultaneously requesting funds to create jobs in their districts and taking credit for projects at ribbon-cutting ceremonies."

So according to the Democrats, if you oppose certain funding, but then -- when you lose the vote to kill that funding -- want to make sure that your district -- full of taxpayers who are paying for that funding -- gets its fair share of that funding ... you're a hypocrite.

This, obviously, makes no sense. I am opposed to Social Security; but I am paying into it, and I will take what is legally mine when it comes time. I was opposed to Obama's (extremely tiny) tax credit last year, but I will take my fair share of it. Many Democrats were opposed to the Republican tax cuts for all American income tax payers, because they also cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans ... but those same wealthy Democrats took those tax breaks.

Only a moron could believe that taking your fair share of a program you didn't want, but that you're paying for, is hypocrisy. Unfortunately for Tim Kaine, I am taking him at his word, that he believes what he says, which means he's pretty dumb. slashdot.org

On Education

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Obama and College
President Obama wants more control over education, but he doesn't really understand education.

It's scary enough that Obama wants to further violate the Constitution by dictating (either with carrots or sticks) what kids should be learning, as if what Washington or Oregon schools teach -- or when they teach it -- is any of the federal government's business. (And I opposed Bush's "No Child Left Behind" so chill out.) And Obama has said all along that everyone should get some post-K-12 education for at least a year (for the "good of society" to get a "better workforce"), which again, is none of the federal government's business.

But what's really depressingly scary is that Obama either has no clue how higher ed works, or ... perhaps worse, he does, since that would mean he is intentionally manipulating the cost of college upward, probably with the intent of controlling it like he wants to control health care.

Under Obama's plan, students who get "loans" will only have to pay back a small portion of them. Not only does this create a disincentive to get a good job after college (since the more money you make, the more you have to pay back on your loan), but it dramatically increases the actual cost of education, which Obama says is the reason we need to cover the costs in the first place.

The reason why higher ed costs so much, why it's increased dramatically faster than the rate of inflation, is because of government aid, not in spite of it. Obviously, when students don't pay the costs directly, they are more likely to pay a higher price. (This well-known effect happens in health care all the time, too.) You get a government loan: why not pay whatever the school is asking? Especially since, thanks to Obama, you will only pay a fraction of the value of the loan and only over 20 years.

And the college therefore has every incentive to charge as much as they can get government to pay: it uses the extra money to build new buildings and add all sorts of programs that get even more students to want to attend at even higher prices, bringing in even more government dollars.

Many of Obama's allies say they want to end subsidies for large corporations, but that's precisely what our system of student loans is. Never mind the fact that the actual value of a college education has been steadily decreasing.

Washington State and "Ample Provision"

What is the value of a year of college? For my money, a lot less than the $30,000 it costs for many schools. It's a complete ripoff. You can learn as much -- more, really -- for a small fraction of that price, and end up a better (and wealthier) person for it.

Of course, education cannot be measured in dollars. That doesn't stop some people from trying, though: a recent ruling in a court in Washington State claimed that the state had to spend more money on education because it was not fulfilling its constitutional "paramount duty" to make "ample provision" for education.

It should be obvious to everyone who understands any math concepts more advanced than "two dimes and a nickel equal a quarter" that because education cannot be measured in dollars, therefore "ample provision" for that education also cannot be measured in dollars. In other words, you can increase the quality of education without increasing the dollars being spent.

There's no evidence that there is not enough money being spent on education: there's only evidence that the quality of education being provided is insufficient. It is an incredible leap of logic to then say "since the quality of education is bad, therefore we need to spend more money." It assumes something we know, for a fact, is false: that money and education are directly correlated; that more money equals better education, less money worse education, and same money same education. It's nonsense.

And even if more money needed to be spent, one thing that should be pointed out -- and therefore I point it out -- is that anyone who says that Washington State taxes need to be increased to pay for education is lying. Period.

For it to be true, the state must not be funding anything else. The state's "paramount duty" -- the thing it must do first, above all else -- is to make "ample provision" for education. As long as the government is spending money on other programs, it therefore must not need to raise taxes for education: it can (and constitutionally, must) take money from other programs if it needs more for education. It's the other stuff that might "need" more money justifying increased taxes.

Of course, if the voters were told that their taxes were being raised for the state's "Say WA?" ad campaign and art in new buildings, they'd never get the support they needed to raise taxes.

Which is why they lie. slashdot.org

LCE072 Curl

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From: pudgenet
Views: 32
1 ratings
Time: 02:57 More in Music

There's nothing new under the sun. Five years ago, the Republicans were using recess appointments to avoid (then unprecedented) Democratic filibusters. Now we're looking at a reversal. Then, Democrats lambasted Bush for undermining democracy with his use of the recess appointment; now, surely, Republicans will do the same to Obama.

I do love Harry Reid's completely incredible claim that while recess appointments under Bush were an "an end run around the Senate and the Constitution," now he supports them because, well, "what alternative do we have?"

How about ... not doing what you believe is an "end run around the Senate and the Constitution?" No one is forcing Obama to do what you believe is an "end run around the Senate and the Constitution."

Unless of course, you never actually believed that. Which is, of course, true.

Please, Senator Reid, realize that no one, of any political stripe, believes you when you pretend that this is not pure partisanship. And let's be further clear here that never before in our history had judicial nominees been blocked from a vote by filibuster until the Democrats, led in part by Reid, did it under Bush. So not only is Reid being a hypocrite, but let's face facts here: in this war over nominees, he started it.

Not that the Republicans are blameless, of course. There's more than enough blame to go around.

For those who want to end filibusters, my plan has been -- for many years -- and remains this: end the ability of Senators to block a vote on anything, using the filibuster. There's various ways to do this, but the key point is this: change the rule now, but don't have it take effect for two more legislative sessions. So if you do it now, it would take effect in 2014. That way no one knows who would be in the majority or minority by the time the rule change takes effect. slashdot.org

There's ten questions on the 2010 census questionnaire. I believe several of them cannot legally be required, and I won't be answering them.

The Constitution says on the subject:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

The point here is twofold: a. that the federal government gets to count us, and b. that they can do it in such manner the law directs. Implied in the latter part, of course, implies "that doesn't violate the Constitution." Otherwise, they could just make pass a law that says "no one may criticize the Census," and it would not violate the First Amendment.

That's obviously silly, but it's the argument they actually make when they say they can require us to provide any information they choose to force us to provide, despite the fact that the Constitution says they cannot.

There's four types of questions on the form. The first is the explicitly constitutional one: the number of people living there; the second is about whether those people sometimes live elsewhere; the third type is individual identification: name, phone number; the fourth is demographic information for the purposes of tailoring government programs: age, sex, gender, and home ownership.

The first type of question is obviously legitimate, speaking directly to the point of the census as explained in the Constitution. The second is arguably legitimate, as it can aid in preventing double-counting.

The third type -- personal identifying information -- is arguably legitimate as well, for the same basic reason: helping to get an accurate count. Naming each person can aid the respondent in listing all the people properly, and the phone number might be used for clarification if necessary.

The fourth type, though ... it's pure nonsense. In fact, the federal government explicitly states the purpose is all about government programs, instead of enumeration. The constitutional purpose of the census is not served. This questions can, arguably, still be allowed and required, however, if any other part of the constitution is not violated in the process.

Unfortunately for the government, however, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments do protect my right to privacy. Government cannot compel this extra-constitutional information from me without following due process, and "passing a law" is not due process.

So in the end, I'll only be answering the questions about how many people live here. I am undecided whether I will provide any names of the people living here. The justification is shaky, and it's arguable either way. I'll give them my phone number, though. The Census Bureau will be free to call me and ask for clarification, which will include recitations of relevant portions of the Constitution and legal precedents like Griswold v. Connecticut. slashdot.org

I upgraded the firmware on my Netgear router today and it wouldn't let me use the LAN IP I usually use for it,, because it thinks my ISP uses that subnet, because I set the router to read from my own internal DNS. Took me awhile to figure out why it thought what it did, because it didn't occur to me that it would care what DNS addresses I gave it. use.perl.orgslashdot.org

CNN dutifully reports that "The government's monthly job report on Friday showed that the disastrous labor situation plaguing the nation's economy is moderating."

The facts: "The unemployment rate fell unexpectedly in January to 9.7%. And businesses shed 20,000 jobs for the month, far fewer than the 150,000 jobs that were lost in December."

So when CNN says the "unemployment rate fell unexpectedly," they mean "more people stopped looking for jobs than expected," obviously, because that's the only way you can lose jobs and still increase the percentage of the workforce that is employed.

And when CNN says that the situation is "moderating," they mean "still getting worse, but not getting worse as badly as before," obviously, because we're still losing jobs.

And when it says we lost far fewer jobs than in December, it also means we lost far more jobs than in November.

I hope that helps.

I'm actually not pessmistic about all this. I don't believe this is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression (I still remember the 70s and 80s); I see a lot of fundamentally good things in the economy (which Obama also says ... now, even though he dishonestly attacked McCain for saying so in the campaign); and so on.

The thing that makes me most pessimistic is not where we are, but what we are doing: sowing the seeds for future crises by manipulating the market and drastically increasing debt and deficit, instead of letting the market actually work.

I guess this would be a good time to post this awesome rap video about Keynes and Hayek.


Your Leaders Dislike You

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One thing I dislike about many politicians is that they genuinely dislike many of their constituents.

Take Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, for example. When presented with a petition of 14,000 signatures -- mostly from corporate special interests who get government subsidies -- calling for tax increases, she met with them, happy to be asked to raise taxes.

But when 20,000 signatures -- mostly from the people who pay for those subsidies -- were provided in a petition against tax increases, none of our leaders -- not Gregoire, not Speaker Chopp, not Majority Leader Brown -- would meet with them.

Even if they disagree, shouldn't they at least meet with the representatives of 20,000 citizens? Let's face it: they just don't like you. Sorry.

Gregoire was the one who said in her first term, multiple times, that we should not spend a lot during good times, so we would not have to make drastic cuts and tax increases in the bad times. But the 33 percent spending increase in her first term, signing bills passed by Chopp and Brown, is precisely why we are faced with drastic cuts and tax increases today: we could have had the modest increases she dishonestly preached about, and we wouldn't be facing large deficits (if any at all).

So now she and Chopp and Brown want to raise taxes to fix the problem they created, supposedly on your behalf.

Last year, a massive rally on their doorstep successfully diuscouraged them from raising taxes. This year, we can do it again. On President's Day, February 15, there will be another rally on the steps of the Capitol, at 10 a.m. slashdot.org

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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