The Jury Talks Back

5/29/2009

Pravda on Obama

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 4:01 pm

It’s refreshing to know that some newspapers see the change that’s happening in America, even if it’s tongue-in-cheek.  Pravda (yes, the real Pravda, not some wannabe L.A. newspaper) has this hilarious column on the American decent into Marxism, comparing stupid Americans to the clear-headed Russians who’ve already “been there, done that.”

It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.

First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their “right” to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our “democracy”. Pride blind the foolish.

Then their faith in God was destroyed…

The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America’s short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.

These men, of course, are not an elected panel but made up of appointees picked from the very financial oligarchs and their henchmen who are now gorging themselves on trillions of American dollars, in one bailout after another. They are also usurping the rights, duties and powers of the American congress (parliament). Again, congress has put up little more then a whimper to their masters.

Again, the American public has taken this with barely a whimper…but a “freeman” whimper.

The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.

The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.

To add insult to injury, anyone who wrote this piece for a major newspaper in America could kiss his career goodbye.  Ronald Reagan is spinning in his grave.  Sideways.

5/27/2009

(Ripping off the Weekly Standard’s) Sentences We Didn’t Finish:

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 9:22 am

Tim Rutten, writing on the California Supreme Court’s upholding of Proposition 8, “Legal precedents notwithstanding…”

5/26/2009

Ted Olsen and David Boies File Federal Prop 8 Case

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 7:40 pm

And no,  not as plaintiffs.

David Boies and Ted Olsen last faced off in Bush v Gore, on opposite sides.  Olsen was Bush’s Solicitor General and Boies won the US’s antitrust case against Microsoft (later lost on appeal).  Now they are together, on behalf of two same-sex couples who wish to marry and claim that California’s Prop 8 violates their federal rights to equal protection and due process.

It’s a hard case to win, but those are two very good lawyers.  I’d rather not bet against them.

Questions for Sotomayor

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 7:43 am

President Obama has gone for the left-wing identity-politics choice.  Sonia Sotomayor is his choice to fill the idiot’s seat on the Supreme Court.  She seems more qualified than David Souter ever was, but that’s a fairly low bar.  She’s also further left.

Since her confirmation seems assured, the only contest that remains is political — can we use this to show just how far left the Democrats have gone?  They didn’t believe us last election, but maybe we can offer some proof.

Some questions for Judge Sotomayor:

  • Is there an individual right to keep and bear arms for personal defense?  If so, what limitations can be imposed?
  • What is “hate speech”?  Can merely offensive speech be prohibited or punished by government?
  • What does “free exercise” mean in the First Amendment?  Can “free exercise” ever include discriminatory behavior?
  • Do a citizen’s rights or duties differ depending on the history of some group they may identify with?
  • What did you mean when you suggested that a Latina would usually make better decisions than a white male?
  • Can any government service be denied to persons present in the country illegally?

More?

5/25/2009

Oh for God’s Sake

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 10:31 pm

Apparently, idiocy still abounds in California.

Tuesday May 26th at 10am West Coast Time (12 central for me), the State Supreme Court will announce it’s decision regarding Prop 8, and there are freaking rallies planned.

I have no idea why, mind you.  Maybe to sway to court’s opinion, I dunno.

All I know is, his High Gay Holiness, Perez Hilton (our favorite sexist idiot) is all for this, which means I’m against it almost as a default position.

Normally I would just sit back, and later enjoy the enraged and sorrowful wailing and gnashing of teeth that would follow, as I so often do when idiots rally around a cause founded in stupidity (like the PS3 groups and their reaction to the next Final Fantasy game also coming to the Xbox 360…  GOD such delicious pain from those idiots), but frankly I would rather these people just forget tomorrow.

If only so Perez would have one less thing to open his pie-hole about.

5/24/2009

My words can’t do you justice

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 12:00 am

My respect for those who serve and who have served is immense.  However, my words fail me at expressing it.

Therefore, I shall use someone else’s.

Ronald Reagan — Pointe de Hoc, Normandy, June 6, 1984 (The 40th anniversary of D-Day)

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers — at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine-guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only ninety could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your ‘lives fought for life…and left the vivid air signed with your honor’…

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

5/21/2009

Court rules female guards may strip-search male inmates

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 4:30 am

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that inmate Charles Byrd’s rights were not violated when a female guard in an Arizona jail searched inside his shorts, patting down his genitals and buttocks.  Male guards were available.

5/19/2009

How to Save California: Four Reforms

Filed under: California Politics — Kevin M @ 8:12 am

California is a mess.  Not just the fiscal mess in Sacramento, but a local mess of overcrowded cities, stalled infrastructure, unresponsive local government and litigious interest groups.

Today’s ballot proposals don’t do anything but partially paper over the problems we face.  Win or lose, the problem is still growing and the powers-that-be are still digging.  They appear unable to address the real issues, largely because their constituency isn’t the people any longer — it’s the employee unions and the various interest groups that form their political base.

Several folks here have tried to address the issue of “What to Do?”.  Here’s my take.

I have four suggestions.  Some of these I’ve mentioned before, here or there, and some are new.  I guarantee that no one will like all of them.  While I think that the end of the gerrymander will help (assuming the new reapportionment jury system works), the government still needs to break out of its dysfunction.  Here’s how I see it:

1.  Restore the Prop 4 (Gann Initiative) spending cap.

Prop 4 passed in 1979 with 74% of the vote,  limiting state government spending to increases in population and cost of living.  Period.  It was nibbled to death by several propositions over the years (e.g. 1988′s Props 98 and 99) and largely repealed by Prop 111 in 1990, which changed the formula so that the limits were mostly imaginary (much like Prop 1A today).

Prop 4 was undone when the legislature responded by not spending money on infrastructure, and the people voted the limits out to get traffic relief.  This is the typical reaction of the blob — starve the public of services while maintaining the bureaucracy until the public caves.  They always lay off librarians and teachers, seldom the back office.

If only one thing can be done, a hard spending cap is a good first choice.

2.  Defined-contribution retirement plans.

Since about 1980, private sector retirement plans have changed markedly.  Rather than having “guaranteed” retirement payouts from a company-run fund, individuals now direct portable, tax-deferred, retirement funds largely independent of their employers.  These “defined-contribution” plans have the advantage of being inheritable should the employee die early, being (largely) independent of the employer’s success (or even existence), and a predictable annual expense to the employer.  Some industries that have resisted this change, such as the auto industry, have shown that relying on company-run defined-benefit plans can be a poor idea.

But, while the public has converted to defined contribution plans (401(k), IRA, etc), state and local government employees have not.  Instead, through sweetheart negotiations with the politicians their unions finance, employee pensions are both guaranteed and excessive.  It is not uncommon for a local government employee to retire at age 50-something and take “home” more on their first day of retirement than they did on their last day of work.

Since, unlike the auto industry, government has the ability to take money directly from their “customers”, these pensions cannot fail like private ones can.  But the impact of high pensions coupled with poor fund management can leave state and local finances in complete disarray, and taxpayers may not be willing to make up the losses.

This is long-term disaster for the state.  Even if corrected overnight (and even if we get past the current funding crisis), these pensions persist for decades.  It is not clear what to do about existing pensions except suck it up and try to grow out of it.  But we must stop adding to the problem.

State and local pension plans must be converted to the defined-contribution variety as soon as possible, preferably for all workers but certainly for new ones.

3.  Critical project exemptions from EIR requirements

Nearly every construction project in the state, public or private, requires a detailed environmental impact report.  There are some very good reasons for this.  However, the system is often gamed by project opponents who use the EIR process as a delaying tactic, and the entire process ignores the fact that often there is substantial environmental cost to doing nothing.

There needs to be a mechanism to cut through the (often endless) red tape when critical infrastructure projects are concerned.  This is particularly important for transportation projects, since transportation requires energy, energy production necessitates pollution, and poor transportation infrastructure wastes energy in bulk.  If, on any given day, 5 million cars burn gasoline for 30 minutes longer each the amount of unnecessary pollutants going into the air in an urban region is enormous.  To delay a project that would mitigate that waste, simply because an opponent is able to trump everything by challenging the EIR and enjoining construction during endless appeals, is lunacy.

Yet one would not want the EIRs waived for trivial reasons, either, so a high bar needs to be set.  Whether this means public votes to define critical systems, or extra-super-majority votes in governing bodies, or a mechanism for judicial exemption isn’t important.  What is important is that it doesn’t take 23 years to build 10 miles of subway.

4.  Local election dates

The problem with local elections is that few vote, and this leaves critical local decisions in the hands of the most motivated.  Voters are more likely to be people who have a vested interest in the outcome, such as public employees.  Financial support for candidates is liekly to come from similarly interested groups, such as unions or government vendors, or those highly impacted by government decisions, such as developers.

Year after year, good-government folks try to get the public interested in these local elections in odd months of odd years.  Rarely do they succeed.  Yet it is clear that elections that control the bulk of California government spending should attract more than 10% of the voters and should be as independent as possible of vested interests.

So.  Move local elections to the state and/or federal calendar.  If you cannot bring the people to the election, bring the election to the people.  Hard on politicians trying to “move up” without giving up their day job, but tough.  Just be glad the rule isn’t “resign to run.”

Conclusion

That’s more than I think will ever be done, and I have serious doubts that the current players can do anything at all except try to kick the can down the street a while longer.  But they are running out of street and the can is getting huge.  I despair.  I suspect that the “answer” will be raise taxes a bunch, and if so I will be the last of 5 generations of my family to live in California.

5/18/2009

Insert vulgar words here

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 7:54 pm

So, I’ve hit what you could charitably call “a snag” in my enlistment.

If you were trying for the “understatement of the millennium” award.

The Gunny Sgt of the local recruiting post informed me today that my criminal record is a problem.  A “stopped dead” kind of problem.  The issue is that, apparently, recruitment is darned good for the military, and as such the work involved in getting the waivers is more trouble than it is worth for those up the chain.  Why work on my stuff when there’s that 19 year old over there with a clean history?  Sure he’ll only score a 55 on the ASVAB, but they only need him to get a 50, and he’s in.  Way less work, same result.

But I’m not giving up.  Hell to the no.

What I need is a way to give incentive.  Means to show the Marines that I’m a good person to sign up, and that I’m likely to stick around for the long haul.  Letters from people with impressive letters by their name.

I need brass, and I need politicians (my God, I think I found a use for politicians!!!).

So, if any of you fine, fine folk happen to have an Admrial, or Captain, or General somewhere in your roladex (any service works, retired is ok), or if you’re in Illinois if you happen to have a way to get a few minutes ear-time with one of my two Senators or Governor, and if you have a high enough opinion of me to go to bat for me (if you have a low opinion of me, I think I’ll pass on your kind offer to help :) ), then please let me know.

Respond here using a working e-mail as your “check in” e-mail (you know, that thing what Patterico requires you to put in to post), I will be more grateful to you than I could ever express in word or deed.

I would, in fact, have a rough time even expressing my gratitude in my own mind, let alone how I would ever convey such lofty concepts to you fine people.

Thanks folks.  Whatever you can suggest, I’m more than open to.

PS – Sorry for bumping the actual informative posts, aphrael.  Mea Culpa.  :)

Now They Tell Us, Katrina Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 6:01 pm

What a difference a change of administrations makes.  After several years of non-stop hectoring about Bush and the bungled response to Katrina, the New York Times offers an op-ed about how “All Disasters are Local.”

AMERICA seems to have dodged a bullet with the swine flu epidemic — yet this was more the result of the virus being less deadly than feared rather than of any government coordination.

Despite billions spent since 9/11, we are still not well prepared to react to disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks and natural disasters — a fact Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has been frank about in her brief time on the job. She has ruffled feathers by criticizing a $25 million national-security exercise the department undertook in 2007 as being too expensive, too unrealistic and “too removed from a real-world scenario.” But her frustration is well founded and indicative of larger fundamental flaws.

The big problem is that coordination among state and local governments and Washington has been only incrementally improved in recent years. The national exercise system is broken, focusing too much on senior officials and neglecting training at the state and local levels. There is a better way.

The author then goes on to talk about the need for low-level training, rather than just showpiece enactments to make the bigwigs look good.  And as for Katrina?  Way down past the jump, we have just this:

The degree of personal trust at the tactical level, not money or machines, is the single most important determinant of how well communities will deal with threats and disasters. But these relationships must be established in training so that first responders are not handing out business cards to one another on the way to the disaster. In addition, preparation can sort out any questions as to what the military’s proper role will be in a disaster and spare us the sort of legal haggling that helped hamstring the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Now, that would be an interesting story to hear.  Legal haggling stymied the federal response?  That’s actual news.  When, where, by whom and why?  Since we didn’t hear about it, I’ll bet it wasn’t Bush’s folks doing the haggling.

But I guess that would spoil the narrative.

Campbell’s budget proposal

Filed under: California Politics — aphrael @ 6:19 am

Former Congressman Tom Campbell, in anticipation of today’s debate among likely Republican gubernatorial candidates, has released a counter-proposal to the governor’s May Revise. It’s an interesting proposal.

I particularly like the observation that it’s unwise to budget on the assumption that a certain amount of fraud will be rooted out, and the observation that we can propose all the cuts we want to the Department of Corrections but can’t actually implement them unless the court receiver agrees. In addition, his point that one-time fixes aren’t helpful is very well taken. On the other hand, I think the notion is absurd that public employees can successfully be talked into a 15% pay cut.

5/14/2009

California special election endorsements

Filed under: Blogging Matters — aphrael @ 5:51 pm

California is having a special election next week on a set of budget-related propositions. Turnout is expected to be low, but I will (of course) be voting. :)

I’m voting yes on 1A, 1D, and 1E; and no on 1B, 1C, and 1F.

Here’s why.

Proposition 1A

The underlying premise behind Proposition 1A is that California’s recurrent budget problems are, in part, caused by the Legislature’s tendency to react to short-term, temporary upsurges in revenue by committing the revenue to long-term continuous spending, which then must be cut when revenue inevitably falters. In order to solve that problem, it proposes diverting “unexpected revnue” – which is to say, revenue that is (a) not the result of a newly imposed tax and (b) above the amount predicted by a ten-year trendline – into a rainy day fund and, once that has filled up, using it to either pay down debt or pay for short-term infrastructure projects that don’t constitute long-term commitments. In addition, it suggests enlarging the rainy day fund and making it harder to divert money out of it.

All of these are eminently reasonable ideas. They’re all eminently reasonable ideas even if you don’t believe in the underlying premise; if the underlying premise is wrong, this is harmless at best, and saving more money for a rainy day seems like a wise move.

Yet, amazingly, conservatives and liberals have banded together to oppose it. Liberals are opposing it because they think it will result in severe cuts to existing programs. If you listen to their rhetoric, they’ve become convinced that the measure embodies a draconian spending cap … but it actually does no such thing; as far as I can tell, the activists are just deluded.

Conservatives seem to be opposing it because the legislature passed a measure which would extend certain taxes for several years if proposition 1A passes. This measure is nothing more than a tax increase in disguise, the reasoning goes, so it should be voted down. But … the tax increases aren’t actually in the measure. And even if they were: they’re a short-term continuation of taxes already enacted … in exchange for a long-term change in the way the state does business which conservatives have been agitating for for years. It doesn’t go as far as conservatives would like (it doesn’t apply to newly enacted taxes, and it doesn’t enact a spending cap), but surely half a loaf is better than none; as far as I can tell, conservative activist opposition to this measure is firmly in “cut off your nose to spite your face” territory.

Proposition 1A isn’t a cure-all; but it’s a rare good idea and deserves our support.

Proposition 1B

The underlying premise behind Proposition 1B is that an ambiguous provision of Proposition 98 was obviously intended to guarantee money to the schools.

Proposition 98 set up three ways to calculate the amount of money the public schools are required to get. One of them – heretofore only used in the first year after adoption – is a flat percentage of the state budget. The one normally used is the base year’s school funding adjusted for inflation and population growth. The ‘normal exception’, used when revenue is less than expected, is the base year’s funding adjusted for revenue growth and population growth … and the provision allowing that requires that the difference between the two be considered, in effect, a loan from the schools, payable in some future year.

Proposition 98 was silent on whether, in years when the flat percentage is used, the difference between the flat percentage and the normal amount is to be considered a loan from the schools (there’s a lawsuit pending which might answer the question in a year or five). I don’t understand the rules for determining which amount is required to go to the schools in any year; but I know that the flat percentage is the amount required for both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

Proposition 1B simply declares that the difference between the amount the schools received in those fiscal years and the amount they would have received under the normal calculations is owed to the schools, and sets up a mechanism for repaying the money using the enlarged rainy day fund established by Proposition 1A. It does not answer the question about whether the schools are owed money if the flat percentage method of calculating school funding is used in the future, and it does <em>not</em> provide a mechanism for paying the owed money if Proposition 1A fails.

This is badly written law. It’s badly written because it can theoretically create a debt that cannot be repaid (if Proposition 1A fails); it’s badly written, also, because it answers a serious legal question just for this instance of the problem without even seeking to resolve the problem in general.

As badly written law, it deserves to be defeated.

Proposition 1C

The underlying premise behind proposition 1C is that it would be a great thing if we could securitize the lottery revenue stream, and sell it off for some large chunk of money which we could spend this year. I think this is crazy; it’s effectively borrowing against future revenue, spending it on ongoing recurring expenses today. Once the influx of money we expect to come today is spent, how do we pay for those recurring expenses? Worse, since the measure is set up to have a neutral effect on the current recipients of lottery revenue, it increases long-term expenditures out of the general fund without providing any long-term revenue source to pay for them.

It might be reasonable if we were borrowing against future revenue to pay for recovery from a natural disaster, or to invest in something which would increase revenue in the future. But we’re not. This is exactly the kind of borrowing which a wise steward of the public funds does not do.

The problem, of course, is that the legislature is not a wise steward of the public funds, and the 2009-2010 budget assumes that this will pass and depends on it to generate $5 billion which can be spent in that fiscal year. If this fails, the budget deficit automatically increases. Still … that’s not enough of a reason to vote for this bad idea; borrowing to pay for continuing expenses is almost always a dumb move.

Propositions 1D and 1E

The underlying premise behind propositions 1D and 1E is that special tax revenue should be confiscated and directed towards similar programs paid for out of the general fund.

California voters have adopted a plethora of special taxes, the revenue from which goes to programs specified in the initiatives which created the taxes and is excluded from the general fund. Some of these special funds have surpluses of unspent money. Some of them are funding programs which are similar to, but not quite the same as, programs which are paid for out of the general fund. Proposition 1D deals with a tobacco tax that pays for health care programs for children under the age of 5; it confiscates the surplus in the special fund and redirects roughly 1/3 of the tax revenue towards other health care programs for children under the age of 5 which are funded out of the general fund, thereby freeing up general fund revenue to do other things. Proposition 1E deals with a tax on incomes greater than $1 million that pays for mental health programs; it confiscates roughly 1/3 of that tax and directs it towards a different set of mental health programs which are paid for out of the general fund, thereby freeing money from the general fund to go towards other things.

I have a bias here: I think that special taxes are almost always a bad idea; they constrain the legislature and make it impossible for the legislature to make policy choices about what the state should pay for … and thereby make the process of producing a budget much more difficult than it ought to be. So I’m greatly in favor of <em>anything</em> which redirects special tax money into the general fund.

That said, I can understand why people would vote against these if (a) they think the particular programs protected by them are really, really important or (b) they have a philosophical objection to passing a special tax and then converting it to a general tax (as an end-run around the voters); my husband is in the latter category.

Proposition 1F

The underlying premise behind Proposition 1F is that the legislature are a bunch of venial jerks whose incompetence is the primary cause of the budget crisis. Since their failure caused the problem, and self-interest might cause them to perform better, we should prohibit them from getting pay raises whenever there is a deficit.

This seems silly to me. *I* think the underlying cause of the state’s budget problems is that the voters want both lower taxes and higher services (something which is borne out by poll after poll that show that the majority of voters want the budget problem solved without tax increases *and* object to any specific cuts that anyone proposes); the legislature is simply representing its constituents. The problem is aggravated by the state’s direct democracy system, which encourages the voters to write into the state constitution things which, aggregated together, make the system unworkable. Punishing the legislators might make the voters feel good, but it doesn’t solve the problem; it’s an angry gesture that, at the end of the day, doesn’t help at all.

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