Posts Tagged ‘regulation’

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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I’ve been reading through the republican platform, and its become clear that this is not a document based in the real world. This isn’t exactly surprising, but here are some of the things that jumped out at me.

First of all, Republicans propose to “simplify the tax code” which typically means eliminating deductions. They propose an across the board 20% reduction in rates, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts! They claim to be able to do this in a revenue neutral manner, but such a massive reduction in revenue would mean tremendous cuts in spending, which just aint gonna happen. We’ve been over this before. 

Then, we get this:

Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering benevolence and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation, and donations to them should continue to be tax deductible.

I actually agree with that, I just would like to point out that there, right off the bat, is a deduction that can’t be eliminated. And so the quest for revenue neutrality gets a bit harder. 

Up next:

In any restructuring of federal taxation, to guard against hypertaxation of the American people, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.

Hypertaxation! Wow, that’s one hell of a word! Its terrifying! Never mind, of course, the fact that tax rates are currently at their lowest point in 60 years. Also, good luck making the elimination of income tax revenue neutral.

Naturally, now that we’ve covered the part where we eliminate federal revenue, we get to the Very Serious part about the debt:

Over the last three and a half years, while cutting the defense budget, the current Administration has added an additional $5.3 trillion to the national debt—now approximately $16 trillion, the largest amount in U.S. history.

First off, the defense budget. It should be cut! But the Republicans certainly won’t do that. Keep that in mind, for later. The important part here, though, is the con they’re trying to pull. Notice the part I bolded. It’s important to only consider that time frame, because if you extend it back to, lets say around January 2001, then you’ll see where the real debt came from.Tax cuts and two unfunded wars! So remember kids, debt is bad, mmkay? Unless it’s Republican debt, in which case its freedom, markets, and responsibility. So what would the Republicans propose to do about debt? This:

We can preempt the debt explosion. Backed by a Republican Senate and House, our next President will propose immediate reductions in federal spending, as a down payment on the much larger task of long-range fiscal control. We suggest a tripartite test for every federal activity. First, is it within the constitutional scope of the federal government? Second, is it effective and absolutely necessary? And third, is it sufficiently important to justify borrowing, especially foreign borrowing, to fund it?

OK, that all sounds perfectly reasonable. So reasonable, in fact, that I submit to you that we already do this. First, we have an independent judiciary with the power to strike down laws that violate this part of the test. Second, we have the “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution. See part one. Third, we have a democratically elected congress that answers this question by voting on things. 

Against those standards we will measure programs from international population control to California’s federally subsidized high-speed train to nowhere, and terminate programs that don’t measure up.

Wait what? What the hell is “international population control”? Are we doing it? Are we debt financing it? Just… huh? OK, moving right along, the federal budget process:

Republican Members of Congress have repeatedly tried to reform the budget process to make it more transparent and accountable, in particular by voting for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, following the lead of 33 States which have put that restraint into their own constitutions. We call for a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions for only war and national emergencies, and imposing a cap limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP so that future Congresses cannot balance the budget by raising taxes.

Two things. First, the super majority to raise taxes idea has been tried, in California, and it has had disastrous consequences on the state’s fiscal health. Secondly, limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP is monumentally stupid, not to mention completely arbitrary. Times and situations change, and limiting our spending based on (in part) how much George Washington spent needlessly hobbles our ability to react to those changes. Although, it would probably wind up being meaningless anyway. If congress decides it wants to spend eleventy bajillion dollars to clone velociraptors to patrol the Arizona border, they would just say the spending is in response to the national emergency of a lack of Jurassic border patrol agents. All that being said, I can get behind the idea that if we’re going to fight wars, we should raise taxes to pay for them. Then we would do it less. I’m not saying that idea should be constitutionally enshrined, just that its a practice we should be following. 

Up next, Ron Paul gets his plank. Audit the Fed! I could be OK with this, provided the point of the audit would actually be increasing transparency and not just a partisan fishing expedition looking to dig up dirt. Given the actions of this party in the recent past, I find that condition unlikely to be met. 

At the beginning of this post, I said that this was a document not based in the real world. Well, now we’ve arrived at the paragraph from which I drew that conclusion:

Determined to crush the double-digit inflation that was part of the Carter Administration’s economic legacy, President Reagan, shortly after his inauguration, established a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency. The commission advised against such a move. Now, three decades later, as we face the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current Administration’s policies, we propose a similar commission to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar.

OK, so when His Majesty arrived on the scene, we had double digit inflation. This fact necessitated a commission to study a return to the gold standard. They thought it was a bad idea. But now, seeing as how we’re back to double digit inflation, we need to pick this back up!  But wait! We aren’t experiencing double digit inflation. We are experiencing 2% inflation. I suppose, if you really want to see two digits, I could type that as 2.0% inflation. Look, this is simple. Despite all the running around screaming with our hair on fire silliness we’ve been hearing for years about the horror of inflation which will be unleashed on us at any moment, it simply has not happened. Inflation is low, and it is stable.

The next section is on infrastructure, but I’m not going to bother excerpting it because the massive tax cuts and ramped up defense spending mean there won’t be any money there. Also on the “not going to bother” list: China. Simply put, Republicans suggest we call them names, and fart in their general direction. We should also engage in more union busting.

This concludes part 1. Next up in part 2, the constitution.

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Modeled Behavior has an interesting post on the use of social norms and rewards as opposed to legal regulations or taxation.

I would say, it depends. There are certainly some situations that should be dealt with socially rather than legally. For example, it should be legally acceptable for the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at military funerals. It should not, however, be socially acceptable.

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Excellent news:

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky law prohibiting grocery and convenience stores from selling wine and distilled spirits is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II of Louisville said the state law “violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause in that it prohibits certain grocery stores, gas stations and others … from obtaining a license to sell package liquor and wine.”

Someone needs to cite this precedent in suit against the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board like yesterday.

Also, too, does anyone think this prevents anyone from buying alcohol:

Grocery stores, however, may get a license to sell wine and liquor if they provide a separate entrance to that part of the store, where minors are not allowed to work. A store employee of legal age is required to conduct beer sales.

The part that I’ve always thought was the most stupid about setups like that is that an underage employee can’t even work the register! If they so much as touch a bottle of wine, our families and moral values are doomed, or something. All joking aside, I would imagine that kind of policy makes a grocery store less likely to hire someone underage, since they would be less useful, but I don’t know that for sure.

Back to my original point, hopefully this development can help get rid of PA’s alcohol monopoly. The fact that we still have an institution whose sole purpose is to make purchasing alcohol prohibitively difficult as a back door attempt at prohibition after repeal is astounding.

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Two replies to my earlier post are here and here. Original post is here.

First off, Jastonite takes my examples of limitations on freedom for the sake of protecting freedom, and flips them around:

It is not that I have a right to clean water, it is that my neighbor has no right to put anything in my water.  My neighbor has no right to my property.  The general principal, which Rand Paul articulates, is that rights do not extend to infringe on the rights of others.  I cannot drive my car however I please on a road, not because people also have a right to walk on that road, but because I have no right to operate a vehicle on property that is not mine.

Two things. First, that I have no right to someone else’s property. Well, I agree. So I have no right to tell you that you aren’t allowed to dump toxic waste on your property. But you have no right to my property, upon which your waste will infringe. We can twist these around all day, I’m not certain that it really changes anything about my original point. Secondly, be careful with the statement I’ve put in bold. Can it not be extended to I cannot wear a blue shirt on a sidewalk, not because people also have a right to wear a red shirt on that sidewalk, but because I have no right to wear blue on property that is not mine. Now that’s an admittedly very stupid analogy, but the argument is ripe for slippery slopes. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the guy in the red shirt dies every damn time, so take that under advisement.


A business owner turning somebody away from his business infringes on nobody’s rights (unless we accept that people have a right to the property of others); however, preventing a business owner from turning somebody away from his business does infringe on his right to property.

For the record, I absolutely agree that the Civil Rights Act infringes upon a business owners right to run his business as he sees fit, but that does not mean we have the right to the property of others. I simply think that in some cases infringement on people’s rights is needed for society to function, as I explained initially. It’s all about tradeoffs. You may not find my argument satisfactory, but that’s OK. It remains my point. And yes, I recognize that you could use this as a precedent to ban people from wearing their blue shirt because the color blue is disruptive to society, etc, etc. We’re back to limiting principles now, and I have a feeling readers will already know where we all stand on that.


I get frustrated with statements like “Rand Paul thinks the CRA is a mistake…” because it misrepresents both him and his argument. Why say it?  Why not say “Rand Paul disagrees with one aspect of the CRA…” or “Rand Paul supports the CRA except for…”

Well, OK, but we’re arguing semantics. The point of the Civil Rights Act was to protect against discrimination, so I suppose I should have stated that Rand Paul supports the Civil Rights Act except for the parts where it protects against discrimination. Or something.

A reader reads the sentence and sees that “Paul thinks the CRA is a mistake.” They have already been biased against the part of the sentence that states Paul’s actual position. Paul thinks the CRA is a mistake?!?! How can he think that? In what way does he think the CRA is a mistake? Oh, he doesn’t think businesses should be forced to integrate. Wow, what a complete D-bag. I hate people who are so caught up in the notion of freedom that they would bring back segregation and slavery. FAIL.

That’s one hell of a logic leap, and not at all what I meant to imply. I, in fact, meant to imply nothing. But obviously you could read the sentence in that way and so for that I guess I was remiss.

Again, we can go in circles with all of this all day, but this gives me an opportunity to bring up a complaint I have with libertarianism. Perhaps less of a complaint than a vague idea in the back of my brain. I am probably (definitely) not articulating this nearly as well as I would like but here goes. Libertarianism seeks to strongly protect personal freedom. But many of the views libertarians hold lead to policies with the outcome of less freedom. Those views may be internally consistent, but the freedom is theoretical whereas the policy outcomes are real. Take the example Amused (whose blog you should read) mentioned in her comment on my original post about restricting a woman’s medical rights. The problem, I think, lies in the fact that libertarian arguments about policy are rarely about the actual policy, but rather based on some ideological first principle. A policy discussion thus quickly evolves (devolves?) into a lofty discussion of political philosophy. I enjoy a discussion about political philosophy (why else am I writing this?) but it tends to abstract away the actual impact and details of policy. Missing the trees for the forest, you could say. The result is often that libertarianism is against some detailed policy because it violates their principles. But how would libertarians address the policy problem? We don’t know, because they seem content to point out that others’ solutions are wrong without articulating solutions of their own. Or when they are articulated, they tend to be in the abstract realm of political philosophy. I’m well aware that this is not unique to libertarians, but that’s where I notice it the most.

Simply put, libertarians spend a lot of time on philosophy, but little on actual governance. Ron Paul may be known as Dr. No on capital hill, but we don’t need someone to just point out why we’re wrong. We need someone to propose policy to deal with real problems that impact real people’s every day lives.

Philosophy is of course important, but it isn’t the whole of governance.


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The Gravel Kraken yesterday called out Rachel Maddow for trying to force Rand Paul into a gotcha quote, and defended his controversial views. Rand Paul seems to believe that the civil rights act was a mistake because it infringes upon business owners’ right to be racist assholes. Thats fine, and no I don’t think this proves Rand Paul is himself a racist asshole, but I strongly disagree with him. So I should explain why.

It is simply not the case that everyone can exercise their freedom all the time, because your freedom may infringe upon mine. My freedom to walk safely to work would be infringed upon by your freedom to drive your car in any way you see fit, and so we’ve limited your freedom with traffic lights and speed limits, and mine with crosswalks. Your freedom to dispose of toxic waste in your back yard infringes upon my freedom to have clean water from my well, and so neither of us are allowed to dispose of toxic waste in our back yards, even though this infringes upon our property rights. Similarly, the fine particulate emissions from your car will drift onto my property and pollute it, and so you are violating my property rights. But we recognize the importance of both my property rights and yours (the operation of your car) so we limit pollution to an amount above zero by enforcing emissions standards, thus protecting your right to drive while limiting to an acceptable level the impact on me.

If we want to live in an equal society, then everyone’s rights ought to be protected. That will involve tradeoffs. In some cases, yes, my freedom will by necessity be reduced in order for yours to be preserved. It just isn’t the case that we can both exercise all our rights and freedoms all of the time, because we will infringe upon one another (this is especially true in cities, hence you often see stronger regulations than in rural areas). But both of our rights and freedoms are equally important, and so it becomes neccesary for us, as a society, to decide where the line between our rights ought to be drawn. We do that through government with things like traffic laws, environmental regulations, and the civil rights act.

Now to be fair, I suppose its possible that Rand Paul may agree with that (though I would be surprised), and simply believes that in the case of the CRA we drew the line too far to one side. That’s a reasonable disagreement, and an important discussion to have. If we are going to draw these lines (and I believe we must if we want to have an equal society) we need to be able to discuss them honestly and in good faith.

But there’s precious little of that these days.

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The lovely folks over at the PA Liquor Control Board have cracked down on Iron Hill Brewery’s customer loyalty program, the Mug Club. In a letter to Mug Club members announcing the state demanded changes:

Whether we agree with these decisions or not, or why after 10 years the Mug Club has become an issue, is not up to us to decide. What is important is finding a solution quickly and doing what’s best for our most loyal customers. We want to comply with all the laws and regulations in the states we operate but our primary focus is providing guests handcrafted beer, creative food and attentive service.

We are currently revising the club to meet the regulator’s demands. During the transition from one club to another, the Mug Club will continue to function but with some important changes, including:

Members can continue to drink from the Mug Club mug, but must pay the same price as non-club members, an additional 50 cents over the current price of a pint. The free eight ounces of beer that Mug Club members received was another major issue for the state….

For too long, the dirty hippy brewers at Iron Hill have been destroying our Great State’s morals, eroding our families, and killing our children by evilly rewarding their loyal customers with a very small discount. But no longer! The citizens of Pennsylvania may now rest easier, secure in the knowledge that no damn fool brewer can visit upon them the great moral outrage of giving away eight ounces of beer once in awhile. In related news, Miller Lite’s new “punch top” can, designed to make chugging your beer quicker and easier than ever, remains un-regulated by the state.

Can we please just fucking stop with this idiocy?

…don’t answer that.

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