11 May 2010 @ 10:13 AM 

Elena Kagan – uninspiring choice or “change” you can’t detect?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Dec 2010 @ 12:23 PM

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 04 May 2010 @ 1:16 PM 

Senator McCain, a man I once thought a decent and honorable human being, has become so enmeshed in the GOP machine he decried and rebelled against in previous decades, that he now says the law should be ignored when arresting American citizens for crimes in the USA. Astonishing.

Specifically, McCain says we should not inform suspects of their Constitutional rights if we think they’re guilty of terrorism. He says nothing about other crimes. What proves he’s engaging in simple “dog whistle” politics instead of actually saying anything of substance is that “Mirandizing” a suspect does not imbue them with any rights they didn’t already have. The only thing reading that list of Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights does is immunize the police from having confessional evidence thrown out in court. McCain must know these things, or he’s lost so much of his mental capacity the people of Arizona should remove him from office.

Let me state this very plainly for those who can’t remember their social studies and civics classes. The suspected incompetent NYC bomber, Faisal Shahzad, possesses certain rights from the mere fact of his being a legal resident and naturalized citizen of this country. Not telling him of those rights does not remove the rights. And, if he’s anything like the rest of us, he’s heard a version of the “Miranda Statement” a jillion times, besides being a naturalized citizen means he probably has actually studied the Constitution more than most natural-born citizens. But, and this is an important point, if the police fail to read him his rights and he then says something which could be considered incriminating, a judge may (not must, but may) disallow that statement from testimony. It all comes down to doing things the right way, so as to be more certain that a trial will bring about justice.

Meanwhile, Representative King (R-NY) says we should carefully consider where to place Mr. Shahzad before we indict him. I suppose that means the Congressman wants to leave open the possibility of sending Shahzad to a military detention facility and face a tribunal instead of a trial. Interestingly, those tribunals are incredibly inefficient, convicting only 3 people in nearly a decade – two of those people were later released during the Bush administration. During that same period, over 300 people were tried and convicted of terrorism charges in federal civilian courts. Sure seems to me, if you want to actually lock someone up for terrorism, you should try them in a federal court and lock them up in a federal super-maximum security prison when convicted. Nobody has ever escaped from a supermax prison. Ever.

Senator McCain would like to leave open the possibility that Shahzad will be released due to a piece of legal legerdemain, and Rep. King would like to lock Shahzad up in the most bizarre excuse for a legal system ever. Could the GOP come up with someone else to speak for them, please? It’s embarrassing, really.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 04 May 2010 @ 01:16 PM

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AZ

 
 01 May 2010 @ 10:07 PM 

Say you’re a Latino living in Arizona, who has a “contact” with the police.  They think you may be an illegal alien, and ask for your identification.  Turns out, there’s no law requiring any citizen to actually possess or carry identification with them.  What’s the next step for the police?

Oh, and by the way, police have always been allowed to check the immigration status of suspects, this just allows them to check the status of other people who have “contact” with the police.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 01 May 2010 @ 10:07 PM

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 19 Apr 2010 @ 8:23 AM 

Saw this headline today, and figured that is one they can recycle for every bill so long as the GOP is in the minority:

Republicans Unanimously Against Bill Being Brought to the Senate Floor This Week

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 19 Apr 2010 @ 08:23 AM

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 18 Apr 2010 @ 12:35 PM 

No.

The annexation agreement does not include any language regarding secession. Neither does the state Constitution. There are the usual platitudes about the people being sovereign, but we saw how well that played out in 1860, didn’t we?

One of the other commonly cited “quirky facts” about Texas, that it can subdivide itself into up to 5 states at any time, is actually found in the annexation agreement. Of course, the US Constitution also states that any other state can split itself too. The difference being that the annexation agreement says Texas just needs to get permission from Texas, while any other state has to get permission from its government and the US Congress.

So, can Texas secede? Just as much as Virginia and Georgia can and no more. Good luck with that, Governor Perry.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 18 Apr 2010 @ 12:35 PM

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 16 Apr 2010 @ 6:54 AM 

The people screaming about high taxes this week are insane.  The simple truth is, taxes are low – lower than most of us have seen in our lifetimes.

According to the Tax Foundation, which actually does something called research and something else called math, there’s a simple method to determining how bad taxes are – Tax Freedom Day. This is the day when you’ve worked enough to have finished paying the government share of your labor and begin to earn the remainder. This year, it’s the second-earliest day in their records (which go back to before the Johnson administration); last year was the earliest. As of April 9th, on average, Americans have worked to pay off their tax burden for the year. That’s 99 days of 365 that we work just to pay the overhead (27% of our income goes to taxes of various types). Now, some might say that’s too high. If you believe that it is, fine – but you must be intellectually honest and realize that it’s less than you’ve ever paid in your life (for my generation anyway), and if you didn’t bitch about the tax burden in 2000 when you had to work until May 1st to hit Tax Freedom Day, you’re not being consistent.

On the other hand, spending is crazy. The main reason that Tax Freedom Day is so early this year is because we aren’t paying for what we’re buying. If we actually had to pay taxes that balanced the budget, Tax Freedom Day would be … wait for it… May 17th. Democrats can’t be fairly called “Tax and Spend liberals” right now – they’re more like “Don’t Tax and Spend Anyway crypto-liberals” instead. Only 1998-2001 were we paying the debt down instead of building it up. Heck of a way to balance a budget.

These dates are all averages, and are based on federal and state combined numbers. Each state has vastly different tax structures, so Alaskans get to start earning their own money on March 26th while folks in Connecticut have to wait until April 27th.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 16 Apr 2010 @ 06:56 AM

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 08 Apr 2010 @ 6:58 AM 

How is it possible for good liberals and progressives to (at least tacitly) approve of the recently leaked plans to assassinate an American citizen by the U.S. government? (This sort of situational ethics is not new. When the current President was campaigning for office, and while he was in the Senate, he was vehemently opposed to indefinite detention for any people without charges, much less U.S. citizens. Almost a year ago, he proposed formalizing the system of indefinite detention that he claimed (most would say rightly) was unconstitutional when done by his predecessor.) I find it hard to imagine how one could think that arresting someone and locking them up without habeas corpus is an absolute travesty, but then think it’s acceptable to target someone for a bullet to the head without even a trial.

I realize that Awlaki is seemingly not a nice person and almost certainly is fomenting violent actions against us. I would like him to be stopped. But, is it not more in keeping with the Constitution that President Obama once was expert in to target Awlaki for arrest rather than just shooting him whenever it’s convenient?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Dec 2010 @ 12:26 PM

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 24 Mar 2010 @ 9:11 PM 

I know, it’s unfair and biased.  But funny!

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 24 Mar 2010 @ 09:11 PM

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 23 Mar 2010 @ 7:18 AM 

You almost have to feel sorry for the Republican party this year. Their tactics of screaming loudly, encouraging their followers to scream incoherently, and basically kicking and yelling “no!” have failed to prevent the (watered down) health care reform bill from passing. Already, they plan to introduce legislation to repeal it. Since they could never produce more than a dozen pages of counterproposal, I suppose a “make it go away” bill is about the right length for their proven abilities.

One thing that seems to be a truism in American politics is that everyone is against government spending except when it is something they want.  Also, every new entitlement becomes an entrenched permanent benefit as soon as it becomes law.  Look at the fact that we still have tobacco farming subsidies, even while we do our darnedest to make tobacco usage less popular than a vampiric leper zombie.

Now that the health care reform bill has become law, the GOP is in the unenviable position of trying to reduce benefits and remove people’s health insurance. It’s easy to rant against the evils of socialism, all while ignoring that many of our institutions are socialized (police, fire, road work, military, yada yada). It’s a lot harder to tell people that, for their own good, you’re going to make it okay for insurance companies to more easily deny coverage to their sick mother. Not to mention, the CBO came out with their estimate that this bill will reduce the deficit, which makes the “it costs too much” rhetoric feel a little hokey.

Some of the provisions of the health care reform bill that become effective this year:

  • Insurance companies can’t drop your coverage if you become sick while insured
  • Parents can insure adult children up to 26 years old
  • The Medicare “donut hole” will get a rebate, eventually becoming a solid bismarck-like holeless mass
  • Children will not be barred for pre-existing conditions
  • Lifetime coverage limits will be gone
  • Small businesses will get a tax credit to help provide health insurance for their employees

Of course, John Boehner is upset that one other provision goes into effect this year: tanning beds get a 10% additional tax.  I love that taxes are seemingly randomly associated with anything they are meant to assist, but tanning salons? Weird.

So the GOP is going to be campaigning this year to repeal this law. They will be out there telling their constituents and voters that they want senior citizens to pay $250 more for their medication, that they want to deprive small businesses of a tax credit, that they want to deny coverage to little Jimmy with leukemia… yeah, that’ll work.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 23 Mar 2010 @ 07:18 AM

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 05 Feb 2010 @ 12:00 PM 

Apparently the opening speaker of the Tea Party Convention is openly courting racists. Tom Tancredo, who is cuckoo for illegal aliens, started off the proceedings by claiming that President Obama was only elected because people who can’t say “vote” in English elected him. Wow, we must have an awful lot of non-English speakers in the USA, to have over 50% of the vote like that. And then he appeals to people to take back America from “them” – whoever they might be.

I find it interesting that all of Tancredo’s grandparents were immigrants (legal presumably) and yet he’s still so unabashedly xenophobic in his rhetoric. Just for full disclosure, my father’s family immigrated to this continent before the USA was founded (by over a century), and I somehow was capable of pronouncing the word “vote” and casting it for Obama.

Oh, and real socialists most assuredly do not consider this president one of them. At this point, many liberals are saying he’s not even one of them.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 05 Feb 2010 @ 12:00 PM

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 29 Jan 2010 @ 7:11 PM 

A year after I posted the “with and without stimulus” economist projection, it’s interesting to see how things have actually panned out.

What expert economists said they expected:

What actually happened:

You can see that the projection was that we’d peak at around 8% unemployment, with the stimulus that was proposed. A much smaller stimulus was put into place, and it peaked about 10% instead. But, the projections also said we’d see see a plateau and reduction in unemployment right around the beginning of 2010, and we did. So, it’s been a bit worse than projected, but it’s turning around right on schedule. Of course, it’s still too early to see if this plateau is done and we’re actually recovering, or if we’re just going to plateau until the end of 2010, which would be what was projected to happen without any government intervention. That would suck.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 29 Jan 2010 @ 07:11 PM

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 31 Dec 2009 @ 11:59 AM 

One year ago, I made a series of 10 predictions for the new year.  Let’s see how I did.

  1. The right wing noise machine did find new and interesting ways to make themselves look silly while calling the new president a socialist, a communist, a nazi, and a racist – all at the same time. If President Obama were on fire, the GOP would call fire departments a socialist plot, as John Scalzi wrote this week.
  2. Windows 7 did not save the computer industry.
  3. Netbooks were a bit easier to find than I feared, so there’s one point against me. To be fair, the good netbooks were harder to get hold of, so maybe half a point.
  4. Yep, suck.
  5. No single sign-on system of any note, although Facebook is getting a lot of headway into “sign in with Facebook” on various sites.  Maybe we’ll count this as half and half.
  6. No crypto.
  7. DTV changeover was, although delayed yet again until June of 2009, not a crazy display of incompetence and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Got this one wrong.
  8. Politicians continued to line their pockets by picking ours, and gave as much largesse to their corporate overlords as possible. Sadly, I got this one right.
  9. Weather was much remarked upon. Denialists continued to deny reality. Climatologists turned out to sometimes be jerks, but that overshadowed that the science continues to be reinforced with evidence.
  10. Kit dropped me from her “LJ Friends” list after 9 years (no idea why), so I have no idea how amusing she is.

Let’s see, that gives me 6 of 10 completely right, 2 partly right, one completely wrong, and one I can no longer assess, so I can’t use it for any statistics. We’ll call it 7-2 or 78% accurate. I’m sure that beats all the “psychics” out there.  Now, what shall I predict for 2010? Stay tuned.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 31 Dec 2009 @ 12:08 PM

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 15 Dec 2009 @ 6:34 PM 

In order to complete the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Obama administration has proposed moving any “too dangerous to release but somehow we have no evidence of a crime” prisoners to Thomson Prison in Illinois. Because Congress forbade the Executive branch from using any funds to release prisoners in the United States, they’ll just keep them locked up forever.

Many people found it extremely distasteful that the Bush administration went through such lengths to find a location which was outside any jurisdiction in Guantanamo. Gitmo is not in the USA, so domestic laws don’t apply, but it’s not under Cuban jurisdiction either, so nobody rules there except by force of arms. Now, the great hope for change has proposed moving that extra-legal jurisdiction to the United States mainland. How can there be any justification for keeping dozens of prisoners under indefinite detention within our country? Gitmo was a stretch. Illinois is just venal political bullshit.

Change you can believe in.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Dec 2010 @ 12:24 PM

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 10 Dec 2009 @ 7:03 AM 

Apparently Congress doesn’t have anything useful to do, so a subcommittee found time to debate whether the NCAA can call someone a “National Champion” if they haven’t gone through an elimination-style playoff.  Really?  This is something which is so important that the United States Congress must intervene?  People are stupid.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 10 Dec 2009 @ 07:03 AM

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 30 Nov 2009 @ 11:41 AM 

In 1989, I enlisted in the Army, partly because the economy in California was in the dumper. In 1992, I reenlisted for much the same reasons, although the rest of the country had generally recovered from the Reagan-era recession by that time. I thought it was odd that California, a state which by many estimates could be in the top ten countries’ economic stature, would be in such doldrums. California has transportation, tourism, energy production, entertainment, manufacturing, agriculture – in short, everything you need for a robust state. Yet, it continues to be hammered harder and sooner and for a longer period than most of the rest of the country even today. So, the 1980s aerospace collapse isn’t the only reason; there must be some explanation for why California seems incapable of maintaining a healthy economy.

Over the years, as I grew older and more curious, I discovered what seems the most likely explanation: Californians hate taxes but love spending. Since states can’t spend into deficit territory like the federal government can (too bad CA can’t issue money, eh?), they must balance the budget. So, every one of those propositions people vote for has to come from somewhere. I dug around a bit more and discovered the proximate cause of this insane situation: Proposition 13. Whenever someone would talk about how crazy high the housing prices in California were, I would opine about Prop 13 and the caps on property taxes and the 2% limit on valuation increases per annum and the disincentive to selling and friction in the housing market and their eyes would glaze over. When the housing bubble burst and friends and family lost jobs, businesses, and homes, I would think back to the Proposition 13 consequences and commercial properties paying a lower percentage of the taxes every year due to shell corporations and other legal legerdemain. But, I had a hard time tying all the pieces together for my friends who have never lived in California, and I didn’t have a great summary of how far the state has fallen, from the great public schools that my older sister went to in 1974 until the much deprived public schools that my younger sister went to in 1990.

Now, I’ve come across a journalist who writes a very concise and cogent explanation of exactly what went wrong with the California economy. If you’re curious about how the Golden State has become the Gilded State in a mere 30 years, you should read it. I find it interesting that CA had a large budget surplus, and Moonbeam Brown wanted to hoard it, which caused the Governor Ronnie backlash in 1978. Talk about unintended consequences.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 30 Nov 2009 @ 11:45 AM

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 18 Nov 2009 @ 10:55 AM 

I received a generally decent email from corporate overlords today, which basically told employees that the 2010 census will be happening soon, and that census workers won’t ask for your credit card or bank information, but will have badges and handheld computers etc. Don’t be scammed, and all that jazz.

Then, there was a paragraph which stood out for its appeal to the wingnuts among us:

AND REMEMBER, THE CENSUS BUREAU HAS DECIDED NOT TO WORK WITH ACORN ON GATHERING THIS INFORMATION.. No Acorn worker should approach you saying he/she is with the Census Bureau.

Um…yah. ACORN was not going to send “Acorn workers” to do the census anyway. Never a plan, never an intention, never an agreement. ACORN was going to help direct people looking for temporary employment to the Census Bureau and assist them in applying for those jobs. The end. So, you’d no more get an “Acorn worker” approaching you than you would a “USA Jobs worker” or an “Employment assistance office worker” approaching you. Such an insane appeal to continue to demonize a rather innocuous and minor organization, sadly, is not too surprising in the defense contractor world.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 18 Nov 2009 @ 10:55 AM

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 28 Sep 2009 @ 6:20 AM 

Why are the same people who claimed two years ago that any disrespect toward the President was treasonous are now the loudest ones claiming the President is not even American himself? Intellectual consistency must be very difficult.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 28 Sep 2009 @ 06:20 AM

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 17 Sep 2009 @ 3:33 PM 

Bob Bennett (R-Mars) is currently harping about how awful Czars are in the U.S. government – they undermine the Constitution. From Senator Bennett’s website, this is one of his proud accomplishments during his tenure:

Bennett_CzarI don’t think I can add anything to that.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 17 Sep 2009 @ 03:33 PM

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 09 Sep 2009 @ 8:00 AM 

While there was originally some controversy about the feasability of the “liquid explosive” concept, the case has been decided this week. Three of the eight men linked to the plot have been convicted of plotting to bomb airliners; a fourth was convicted of conspiracy to murder.

These men were detected using intercepted communications under a FISA warrant. They were kept in a normal jail until they went to normal court to be sentenced by a normal judge in the UK. They will soon be placed into a regular prison, where they will expect to spend many years with their fellow British prisoners, whom they plotted to kill.  I don’t expect them to have a good time there.

Somehow, there are commentators who claim this is in some way a vindication of warrantless wiretaps, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, or military tribunals. Um…no.  Every single step of this case followed existing laws, and once the men were in custody the case was in the public view. It seems this proves that our (and British) law enforcement and intelligence professionals are quite capable of catching bad guys within the law as it stands today. Good for us, bad for bad guys.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 09 Sep 2009 @ 11:42 AM

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 18 Aug 2009 @ 10:18 AM 

I’m not sure why so many people on the Right seem to confuse issues and conflate things which are separate and completely unrelated to one another. For instance, during our local Tea Party II this July (Tea Party II, Electric Boogaloo?), instead of sticking to the point of the group (Taxed Enough Already), and only discussing tax-related issues, they wandered off into the fringe areas of Birthers and illegal aliens and any number of other things. The birthers are insane, and the other issues, even if legitimate points to discuss, are just clouding the waters of their own rally. Want to protest high taxes, ignoring the lower taxes on all but the very rich?  Go for it. Bring up birth certificates and migrant workers and NAFTA and every other John Birch Society conspiracy theory?  Not helping your case, buddy.

Now, we have the 2nd Amendment folks coming to protest health care reform. Huh? I’m a great fan of the Constitution, with all its amendments. It is the supreme law of the land, and is able to be modified through force of great will by the citizenry, so reflects the ideals of the country to a great degree. Those ideals include the government not infringing on our rights in the areas of speech, religion, gathering, trials, and yes even bearing arms. I spent 12 years defending the Constitution; good for anyone who follows its guidelines. When a photographer gets treated as a terrorist for taking a picture of a public structure from a public place, I am thrilled to see people rise up and proclaim that photographer’s rights – defending others keeps our own rights intact as well.

But, why are these people bringing weapons to a health care reform protest (leaving aside why anyone not employed by insurance companies or already on government-subsidized health care would protest the minor and remarkably toothless reforms that will likely get passed)? Are these just normal citizens, who normally take their weapons wherever they go? That seems unlikely. I doubt the fellow in the tie with an AR-15 slung over his shoulder will be taking that rifle to work with him. He deliberately brought it to this event. If it’s not an implicit threat of violence, what is it? I may be looking at things rather simplistically, but this sure looks like someone saying, “if you don’t do what I say, I’ll shoot someone.”

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 18 Aug 2009 @ 10:18 AM

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