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Posts Tagged ‘good government’

For some reason, the idea of minting a $1 trillion coin as a solution to our debt ceiling is being treated as something other than a huge joke. I can’t begin to conceive of a reason that this could possibly be a good idea except in the “they’re acting like silly idiots so we can too, neener neener neener” sense.

Which is mind numbingly stupid.

So here’s my guess as to what happens if we fail to find a solution and the government can’t borrow: it just shuts down. If it stops paying the EPA and the parks service and all of the other things, it can spend that money on avoiding default.

I don’t think that is a solution. It is also mind numbingly stupid. Just saying, if it comes to it, that’s how I see it playing out.

Which is all by way of saying the debt ceiling is a mind numbingly stupid thing which we ought to eliminate. No congress can bind the hands of any other congress with legislation. If they want to spend less money, they just should just spend less money.

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Jastonite attacks Keynesian economics on the grounds that a focus on jobs will lead us to do dumb things like eliminate traffic signals in order to hire crossing guards instead:

Several months ago, I drove through a significant intersection with malfunctioning traffic signals, so it was being operated by traffic guards.  Under Keynsian-style reasoning that counts jobs as very important this is great!  Let’s look at all the benefits.  Surely there are over 100,000 traffic signals at intersections in this country.  If it takes 4 guards to operate one intersection, we could create 400,000 jobs by simply turning off the traffic lights!  The benefits don’t stop there; we save electricity and reduce carbon emissions.  I also noticed that people drove more slowly and safely through an intersection with people in it than they normally do with traffic signals.  So, by eliminating traffic signals we create jobs, save energy, reduce carbon, and make our intersections safer.

What did my analysis leave out?  How about the fact that we have 400,000 people wasting their time?  Focusing on jobs is not a good thing, because it leads people to the wrong economic conclusions.   If my analysis above didn’t count 400,000 jobs positively, but instead counted them as costs to be avoided, a much more honest description of the traffic signal proposal could be generated.

I agree, those people would be wasting their time! Luckily, no one would actually do anything like this, because its a really dumb idea. However, it turns out that we have plenty of useful things for them to do instead! We could hire those people to fix our infrastructure, for example. That would have the benefit of actually being useful. So an even more honest description of the traffic signal proposal would acknowledge the economy improving benefits of efficient, automated travel through intersections while noting that our would-be crossing guards are of more use elsewhere! And while were at it, all those people involved in the manufacture and maintenance of traffic lights get to keep their jobs, too.

Keynesian economics sounds really dumb when you reduce it to the absurd level of “lets just pay people to dig holes and refill them or be crossing guards for no reason” but when you acknowledge that a true Keynesian would pay those people to do actual, valuable things instead, it looks a bit better.

This message brought to you in part by Philadelphia’s crumbling infrastructure. Philadelphia: Creating an Urban WaterPark, One Ruptured 48 Inch Water Main At A Time.

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My opinion of Mitt Romney is not exactly a secret, and I kind of figured I really couldn’t like him any less.

I was so very wrong (all emphasis is mine):

It seemed like a minor adjustment. To comply with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2003, the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics said it needed to revise its birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The box for “father” would be relabeled “father or second parent,’’ reflecting the new law.

But to then-Governor Mitt Romney, who opposed child-rearing by gay couples, the proposal symbolized unacceptable changes in traditional family structures.

He rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word “father’’ on individual birth certificates, and then write in “second parent,’’ in ink.

The practice of requiring high-level legal review continued for the rest of Romney’s term, despite a warning from a Department of Public Health lawyer who said such a system placed the children of same-sex parents at an unfair disadvantage.

The changes also would impair law enforcement and security efforts in a post-9/11 world, she said, and children with altered certificates would be likely to “encounter [difficulties] later in life . . . as they try to register for school, or apply for a passport or a driver’s license, or enlist in the military, or register to vote.”

Mitt Romney personally created a legal loophole designed to punish gay people and newborn babies because he doesn’t like gay people. Rather than complying with the spirit of the law, Mitt Romney set out a system to harass gays and their children from the moment of birth. Indeed, it seems like gay bashing is a bit of a life long pattern for Mitt. I previously wrote that one incident was not enough to label Mitt Romney a gay basher,  but what he did as Governor was a direct attack on gays because he didn’t like them. It was not a physical assault, but it was malicious nonetheless.

Unbelievable. The next time this guy talks about family values, laugh in his face.

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Matt Birk, of the Baltimore Ravens, seems to be having an ongoing debate with a team-mate on the issue of gay marriage. He’s against it, and he wants to make sure you know that, and also make sure you know that not all football players support same sex marriage. Admittedly, his argument against gay marriage (primarily: think of the children!) is less hateful and bigoted than most, and for that he deserves credit.

But, I have yet to see anything which supports the notion that children raised by two loving mothers or two loving fathers are in any way disadvantaged over those raised by two opposite sex parents. Nor is there any reason to believe (and indeed plenty of reasons to disbelieve) that a child will be better off raised by a single parent rather than two, if those two happen to be of the same sex. The “think of the children” argument just falls flat. There is nothing there. Birk writes:

Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically, but it will affect my children — the next generation. Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture. Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both.

Though I disagree, this is perfectly fair, and I do give him quite a bit of credit for the part I’ve bolded. That seems to be a point that most who oppose same sex marriage can’t quite grasp.

I am speaking out on this issue because it is far too important to remain silent. People who are simply acknowledging the basic reality of marriage between one man and one woman are being labeled as “bigots” and “homophobic.” Aren’t we past that as a society?

In Birk’s case, no, it does not seem that his argument as much as I disagree with it is based in bigotry or (to a much lesser extent) homophobia. But many, I would think most in fact, are. Very much so. Until we are past that as a society, we won’t be past pointing it out. Freedom of speech comes with consequences, and making a bigoted argument can and should result in your being labelled a bigot.

I don’t think Birk makes anything remotely close to a compelling case in his editorial, but in the last two paragraphs he completely gives up the game. First:

A defense of marriage is not meant as an offense to any person or group. All people should be afforded their inalienable American freedoms. There is no opposition between providing basic human rights to everyone and preserving marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman.

This necessarily implies that marriage is not a basic human right. Otherwise, how could there be “no opposition between providing basic human rights to everyone and preserving marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman”. But if that is so, and marriage is not a basic right, then it is a right granted by whom? The church? That’s fine, but it has no bearing on public policy (I know, I know, but it shouldn’t). The government? Legally that’s the case. But what then could possibly be the basis for granting it to one group over another? I see none. Birk presumably sees the protection of children as a legitimate basis for that discrimination, but the burden of proof lies on him, and he has failed it. I certainly agree with Birk (and Thomas Jefferson) that all people have inalienable rights. Birk would do well to finish reading that sentence! I’ll remind him:

they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men

As Birk himself argues, all people should be afforded their basic American rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom to marry whomever you like, in my opinion, would fall under liberty, and it would most certainly fall under pursuing happiness. But by citing the declaration, not only does Birk inadvertently argue in favor of allowing same sex couples to marry, he argues that government should ensure that right! We have instituted government not to deny these rights, as Birk supports via a traditional marriage amendment, but to secure them.

Birk closes:

I hope that in voicing my beliefs I encourage people on both sides to use reason and charity as they enter this debate. I encourage all Americans to stand up to preserve and promote a healthy, authentic promarriage culture in this upcoming election.

I agree, wholeheartedly, with the entirety of this paragraph. I can’t imagine what could possibly be more pro-marriage than allowing people to get married.

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As I approached a TSA security checkpoint in the airport this weekend, a very helpful airport employee informed me that the line to her right was for first class passengers, and to her left was for those flying coach. Predictably, the coach line was long and the first class line had no one in it. The TSA screeners at the coach checkpoint were hard at work while those at the first class checkpoint were doing nothing, waiting for the next passenger to show up.

Having a security line dedicated to first class is a nice perk. No more waiting at the checkpoint. It’s a great selling point for the airlines, and I’m sure they get some added business out of it. But for taxpayers, its a raw deal. We are paying screeners to do nothing so that USAir can offer a sweet perk to people willing to pay. In the grand scheme of the federal budget,or even homeland security’s budget, this probably isn’t even a rounding error. But on principle, why are we subsidizing first class perks?

I’m totally fine with airlines offering this perk. But they should have to cover the cost of added screeners, equipment, etc.

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Here’s Mitt Romney at a fundraiser, unaware that he was being recorded:

He describes how 47% of Americans are Obama supporters that cannot be swayed, and that those folks are all welfare queens who pay no taxes and feel they are entitled to food and medical care. Much will be written about all of that in the coming days, and it should be, those are just plain asshole-ish statements. And false. But no matter. The really important line is here:

And so my job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

As the President of the United States of America, yes, your job absolutely 100% is to fucking worry about those people. And the other 53% too. If you don’t believe that, you are not qualified to be President. End of fucking story.

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This is part 2 of my thoughts on the GOP platform. Part 1 is here

The second part of the GOP platform is entitled We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government. It opens:

In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation, however, is fair game. In fact, the rest of this particular plank makes clear that the GOP doesn’t actually believe a word of that. They start out early, appealing to racist fears that Barack Obama is going to impose Sharia Law, or the black people equivalent of it, or something like that. I don’t the hell know, they wrote this, not me:
As a matter of principle, we oppose the creation of any new race-based governments within the United States.
So there you go. Now let’s start the fun:
A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
Wow! Hear that, gay people? Your marriages constitute an existential threat to our society. Pretty impressive. Do I need to point out that the definition of marriage has changed many, many times? That it has not existed in its present form “for thousands of years in virtually every civilization”?
We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
 Of course you do.
The Republican Party, born in opposition to the denial of liberty, stands for the rights of individuals, families, faith communities, institutions – and of the States which are their instruments of self government.
…how do you square this with the above? You just can’t.
I’m going to skip the bit about the preserving the electoral college and preventing voter fraud because really it just boils down to “Voter ID is KICKASS!”
Now, on to the first amendment! This section makes me want to scream and throw things, its truly astounding. They open by quoting Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, citing it as evidence that religious belief should be used as the foundation of public policy! But in that document, Jefferson acknowledges:
that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry
Jefferson further acknowledges:
that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous falacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own
Jefferson is concerned here that “the civil magistrate” (ie the government) will extend his religious opinions into policy, thus forcing them on others. He argued for precisely the opposite of this platform! He would later write, in a letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
And so originates the phrase. After using Jefferson as an excuse to talk about how awesome the Boy Scouts are for their gay bashing, the GOP gives us this:

We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights.

In what way does allowing a gay couple to marry violate the rights of “advocates of traditional marriage”? They would still be allowed to marry traditionally. They would remain married. Nothing at all would change! Thomas Jefferson, who I will continue to quote as this plank seems entirely based on an absurd twisting of his views, stated:

But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

This is directly applicable. A gay marriage has exactly zero impact on any other marriage! Not allowing the gay couple to marry, however, does actively deny them their rights. This is just purely an alternate reality. It is the most asshole-ish statement I have yet seen in a prepared document so far during this election. It reeks of bigotry, fear, resentment, and hatred. It has no place in this country, and certainly not in it’s government.

Moving right along, the GOP mentions briefly the fourth ammendment:

Affirming “the right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” we support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders. All security measures and police actions should be viewed through the lens of the Fourth Amendment; for if we trade liberty for security, we shall have neither.

This I very much agree with. I truly hope they actually believe it! If so, they could show that by proposing repeal of the PATRIOT act. I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath. I also agree with the proposal, in the section on the fifth amendment, that seeks to ensure adequate compensation in the case that private property is taken “for a compelling public use”. I should state that I know very little about this issue, but I can foresee the devil being in the details as to what constitutes “compelling”.

Next, while discussing a constitutional amendment to define life as beginning at conception (and hence banning all abortions), they state:

We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

But recall just a few pages earlier, and quoted above:

A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary

So keep this in mind. An “activist judiciary” only refers to judges with whom you disagree. Speaking of activist judges:

The symbol of our constitutional unity, to which we all pledge allegiance, is the flag of the United States of America. By whatever legislative method is most feasible, Old Glory should be given legal protection against desecration. We condemn decisions by activist judges to deny children the opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety, including “Under God,” in public schools and encourage States to promote the pledge.

So flag burning, which I would argue constitutes free speech, should be outlawed. How does that square with the section on freedom of speech?

we oppose governmental censorship of speech through the so-called Fairness Doctrine or by government enforcement of speech codes, free speech zones, or other forms of “political correctness” on campus.

How can you simultaneously oppose the “enforcement of political correctness” and support the banning of flag burning? This is just yet another example, much like the activist judges, of a principle applied only to those things with which the GOP agrees.

The GOP professes a reverence for the constitution and for the founding fathers. And yet, when it comes time to demonstrate those things, they fail utterly. They apply the constitution only in situations where it supports their views, and freely disregard it when it is no longer convenient. To show their reverence for the founders, they twist their words into the polar opposite of their originally intended meaning.

This platform isn’t a responsible set of governing philosophies and policy proposals, its a Christianist manifesto.

That’s all for Part 2. Energy, Agriculture, and The Environment is up next. Maybe tomorrow.

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