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Archive for the ‘Here be Politics!’ Category

…On Joe Bouchard.

Posted by Steve on October 18, 2009

You most likely do not know who Joe Bouchard is, especially since I’m not talking about the Blue Öyster Cult bassist, because you most likely do not live in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Well, Joe Bouchard is the incumbent delegate to the Virginia General Assembly from the 83rd District. And in his effort to defeat Chris Stolle and get reelected two weeks from Tuesday, he has released what may well be the worst attack ad I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, I saw it come on TV the other night, and I was just baffled by why the Bouchard campaign thought it would sway people against Chris Stolle. See, it doesn’t attack Stolle’s proposals, or his judgment, or his values, or his ideas, or his record from another position… ok, it does that last, but it’s a ridiculous stretch. See, Chris Stolle works at a hospital. So, of course, Bouchard’s put on tv an ad that attacks… the hospital.

WTF?

Tellingly, the ad has not been put on YouTube. As it stands, it’s just one more example of the reason I don’t like election season – which seems to be neverending here in Virginia: the damned campaigning.

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…On Honduras.

Posted by Steve on July 16, 2009

A little late, but whatever. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the U.S. Government is saying that Manuel Zelaya is still the President of Honduras and that he was ousted in a coup. There’s a self-executing provision of the Honduran Constitution that says whoever’s President automatically ceases to be so if they do something, and there’s not any dispute that Zelaya did it. Honduran law doesn’t have a Posse Comitatus Act the way the U.S. does, so there was nothing illegal under Honduran law about the Honduran military enforcing a Honduran court order for Zelaya’s arrest. The only crime was the exile of a private citizen, and that 1) doesn’t really affect the fact that under the Honduran Constitution, Roberto Micheletti is the sole legal claimant to the Honduran Presidency and 2) has been compatible with democracy since ancient times.

And yet the U.S. government – and every other government in the world – supports an usurper, since apparently it’s more important to back the former incumbent than to actually enforce the Constitution that defines the very terms of the office you’re insisting he still has.

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…On The Loo(m/n)ing Elections.

Posted by Steve on March 28, 2009

Today is Saturday, March 28, 2009. Today, I saw big signs for candidates in a major upcoming election.

Fortunately, it’s an election that will at least take place this year. There’s no excuse for campainging right now for the 2010 elections – or the 2012 elections, though that hasn’t apparently stopped some people (see “Straw Poll comma CPAC 2009”).

But I live in Virginia, and in Virginia, state elections are held in odd-numbered years. So, there’s an election for governor (where His Excellency Governor Kaine’s prohibited from running for re-election because this ass-backwards state not only calls the governor “His (or hypothetically Her) Excellency”, but prohibits reelection), and for the state House of Delegates. And while a bunch of city offices are elected in even numbered years – so last year we voted for mayor and part of the city council – the County and City Sheriffs (Yes, City Sheriffs, because in Virginia a City is the same as a County in any other state. We also have Counties here. That’s why Richmond County contains no cities and is 50 miles away from City of Richmond which is not in any county. Did I mention “ass-backwards” political structure?) and the Commonwealth’s Attorneys (DAs elsewhere).

As a result, people have begun campaigning for Governor already. I mean, the election’s only in November, so it’s only 219 days away. Of course, there’s primaries, but the big signs I saw were all for Bob McDonnell, who is… running unopposed in the Republican Party primary. I think he’d have been ok waiting a little while.

On the other hand, there’s 3 guys running in the Democratic Party’s primary (Brian Moran,Creigh Deeds, and Terry McAuliffe) and and since that’s going to be held on June 9th, the three of them really need to get their signs up – they only have 72 more days to campaign in!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, the “campaign season” takes too long and becomes farcical. If they’d wait at least until after Tax Day to start, I think there’d be a lot less mudslinging and asinine horse-race sort of “news” coverage. Maybe it wouldn’t actually improve the quality of campaigning from the crap we get right now, but it would at least cut down on the quantity of the crap.

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…On Constitutions – a Challenge and a Request.

Posted by Steve on February 23, 2009

In reading many politics, law, and policy-oriented blogs, I’ve encountered many variations on the theme of “we don’t amend our Constitution very often, and we shouldn’t amend it very often.” Personally, I disagree. Even the parts I like and agree with 100% (fewer than even my friends are aware of), I think just as a matter of routine maintenance should have been replaced with modernized language by now. As to the parts I disagree with and the parts I think are missing, well, if I were to draft a new Constitution for the United States of America, some things would be wildly different (“Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings and of the conduct of duels…”).

But then, why should I be the only one getting to specify what they think the Constitution should be? After all, many people have blogs devoted to matters of law, policy, and politics (whereas this blog is devoted to whatever can keep my attention long enough for me to finish a post), with an assortment of commenters, which to me indicates many people care about such things. So, to you people with your own blogs: your task, should you choose to accept it, is to draft a new Constitution for the United States. Write it, post it, let me know about it. I’m going to make a collection of people’s 2009 Constitutions for the United States of America. The only rules are that your Constitution be complete and that it reflect your vision of the ideal United States of America. Whether the rest of America will go along with it doesn’t matter.

I realize this could be time-consuming, but what better way to express your political values and ideals in the detail that will ensure they’re understood accurately?

I’ll be posting my own once I’m done with it. Hopefully, I’ll have many others to share.

Posted in Constitution Collection, Here be Politics!, I'm Curious | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

..On Cass Sunstein and the Elderly.

Posted by Steve on January 26, 2009

With regards to this and this: I affirmatively support the “senior death discount”, I believe it should be used in all governmental decision-making, and I consider Cass Sunstein’s support for it to be a pro, not a con, of his nomination. That approach doesn’t “artificially lower the cost” element of cost-benefit analysis, it corrects a grossly overinflated benefit element. Yes, pollution is bad, but not in any way because of any harm to the health of the elderly. The remaining lives of the elderly are worth less than the remaining lives of the young, and it’s past time we went back to living – and setting public policy – accordingly. Instead, groups like the AARP and this CRP are working to extend already too-long lives and enhance the elderly’s unjust stranglehold on American law. Like PETA, the Brady Campaign, the National Right to Life Committee, and Proposition 8 supporters, they are actively working to make our lives, our country, and our world all worse.

Face it, the most effective way to fix social security would obviously be to implement a Logan’s Run solution. Barring that, say because we choose to be generous and kind and make sure we don’t dispose of the elderly prematurely, it seems the obvious thing to do is to just set a cap on how many years a retiree can withdraw from it. There’s no need for anyone to live to 80, let alone past it. Each year you live, your life matters less. Eventually, it just doesn’t matter. Don’t waste your life fighting that fact, just accept it and be happy while you can.

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…On Craig Ferguson’s Mistake.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2008

A few Mondays ago, Jeff (look under “I Know These People” over on the right) made me aware of this monologue by Craig Ferguson, which I like and largely agree with.

Except for one thing, which I disagree with strongly enough to mention it here. Right around the 8:20 mark, when he says, “We have two patriotic candidates.”

Two? No. We have more than two. Where I live (Virginia), we have at least 6 (I don’t know if there’s any officially-recognized* write-in candidates), with 6 candidates for Vice President as well. They are, listed in their order on the sample ballot:

  1. Democratic Party electors for Barack Obama and Joe Biden
  2. Republican Party electors for John McCain and Sarah Palin
  3. Independent Green Party electors for Chuck Baldwin and Darrell L. Castle
  4. Libertarian Party electors for Bob Barr and Wayne A. Root
  5. Green Party electors for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente
  6. Independent Party electors for Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez

Those 4 you don’t hear anything about, they deserve some mention too. I know they won’t win tomorrow. I know their candidacies were futile, and I know why. I learned about Duverger’s Law in 10th grade. I know it’s a set of structural defects in the (predominant) U.S. election rules that causes it. Which is strange, since in another area, the U.S. has given the world what is, quite possibly, the single largest application of the greatest vote system yet put into place by humanity: Borda count. Also known as, “The College Football Polls.”

Let’s be clear: I don’t exactly like that the polls exist (congratulations to reigning National Champions Appalachian State), and I really really don’t like the actual votes or the reasons the voters give for them (with the exception of Greg Archuleta, who had a moment of clarity back in January of 2007). But as far as an electoral system goes – the way the ballot’s structured, and most importantly, the way the votes are counted, there’s nothing better in practice.

We all know how it works: ranked votes, with each ranking worth a few less points than the one before it. Voter gets alloted a number of these “point bundles” to pass out, and can use as few or as many of them as they want. Then, add up the points, and whoever’s got the most wins. I don’t know of a better system that’s been put into practice in any elections – and I include Single Transferrable Vote (which I’ve voted in favor of, when it was on a referendum – it’s a very close second) in that.

But, alas, we’re stuck with the first-past-the-post system, which completely lacks any redeeming quality. It allows (really, more like ensures) wasted votes and a spoiler effect, and it’s an utter flop when it comes to the single most important criterion for judging a voting system: the Condorcet loser criterion.

Am I suggesting that Bob Barr or Cynthia McKinney would have a real shot at the Presidency of the United States if the electoral system weren’t screwed up (Set aside arguments over whether or not the Electoral College is a good system. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, are giving out their electoral votes in anything that can fairly be called a legitimate manner)? Absolutely not. I lived a long time in Georgia while both of them were in the House, and even if one believes that Barr’s conversion to libertarianism is legit (it may well be), I don’t think either of them should be trusted with high office. But I do think it would be one hell of a lot better for America if tomorrow we all got a ballot that read something like this:

Candidates for President: Assign at least a first-place vote and up to a fifth-place vote for:
Barack Obama, Progressive Democratic Party
John McCain, National Republican Party
Mike Huckabee, American Republican Party
Hillary Clinton, Democratic Liberty Party
John Edwards, Christian Democratic Party
Ron Paul, Conservative Liberty Party of America
Ralph Nader, Independent
Directional Michigan, Mid-American Conference

.

Alas, it is not to be.

On the plus side, I researched all the local school board candidates and was unable to find a single reference to creationism, so the worst-case scenario with those votes ain’t too bad.

Happy voting.

*I’m assuming the Minnesota practice of requiring people to file paperwork officially declaring their write-in candidacy (and designating the names of their electors, if being written-in for President) in order for write-in votes with their name to be counted is also the Virginia practice.

P.S.: You know, party rules may prohibit it, but there’s no Constitutional requirement and I doubt there’s a Federal Statutory requirement that a Presidential candidate have a running mate, or that a Vice-Presidential candidate be tied to a Presidential candidate, or that you vote for a joint ticket. Not that I actually expect anyone to cast a vote for, say, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin – but I’m pretty sure they could. For that matter, you could announce your candidacy for Vice President even before the first primary was held. I think.

Posted in Football, From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

…On the Redemption of Congress.

Posted by Steve on September 29, 2008

Thanks to the House of Representatives, I forgive the United States Congress for the Senate’s willingness to make a horrible decision. Although, I’m still angry about Division A, Section 129 of Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009. Only 12 Senators voted against that legislation (though 8, including Obama and McCain, didn’t vote and 1, Burr, voted “Present” ): 11 Republicans and 1 Democrat – Russ Feingold, the best of them. He’s got some flaws in his positions, primarily that he could stand to be a little stronger on support for private weapons ownership and his stance on capitol and corporal punishment is as wrong as it’s possible to be, but on a great many more issues his stance is far and away the rightest of anyone in the Senate. Had he run for president, I would have voted for him in the primary. Assuming, of course, he hadn’t dropped out by the time my state got to vote – and that’s something that really irks me, candidates dropping out before all the primaries have happened. Either impose a “no dropping out” rule on the candidates or have all the primaries and caucuses on the same day, I say.

Posted in From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

On an All-Bad Decision by Congress

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

The “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” appears likely to pass, and that is a very, very, bad thing. The people of America are being put close to $700 billion further in debt in order to bail out elements of the financial sector that should instead have been hung out to die. Mark my words: there is nothing good about any bailout, including this one. “If you fuck up, you die,” is supposed to be the one iron-clad rule of life: that there is never a second chance, that there is never a margin for error, and if you can’t live your life flawlessly you suffer because any and every mistake you make can mean your ruin. Apparently, that’s not the case if you’re part of Wall Street. Thing is too, there’s no benefit from this. Catastrophic collapse of the financial sector (which isn’t happening – regional banks and financial institutions, which made sound lending decisions, are going gangbusters) is a good thing. The markets are friction loss in the engine of the economy: they drain a resource (money) without doing any productive work. Look at commodities markets: you’ve got oil well people and oil refinery people involved, who have a tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of the oil and thus a legitimate reason for being involved, and then you’ve got commodities investors who have no tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of oil, and thus no legitimate reason for being involved in the market. But they are, anyway, investing in oil futures. They’re nothing but middle-men, driving up the price without producing value. Cut them out of the process and they’re ruined, yes, but things improve for everyone else.

Hell, the touted “limits on executive compensation” don’t actually strip away golden parachutes or institute a salary cap on executives. They’re a sham, a facade of meaningful legislation. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

There is nothing good about this legislation. It is all costs and no benefits, and it is likely going to pass.

Posted in Economic Activities, From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

…On Experience and The Presidency.

Posted by Steve on August 28, 2008

I pay attention to the world around me, and thus I have become aware that once again, the unnecessarily long process of a U.S. Presidential Campaign is ongoing. And, it seems, much has been made of some candidate’s “experience”, and what that signifies regarding their ability to be “Commander-in-Chief”. I just plain don’t understand why anyone would bring that up. Way I see it, “experience” is only ever relevant when it reveals incompetence, dipshittery, or some other strong disqualification. In other words, having lots of experience can reveal negatives, or it can be irrelevant, but it can’t ever be a positive. Likewise, not having any experience is irrelevant, since that experience either wouldn’t matter or would reveal something bad.

Now, here’s why I think that:
The U.S. President has exactly 14 powers/duties/authorities, all but one of which are defined in Article II of the U.S. Constitution. They are:

  1. “The executive power.” This is a very vague, open-ended power, but I take it to mean that Congress and the Courts are Patrick Stewart and the President is the guy who has to make it so when they tell him, “Make it so.” As I see it, this makes the President the Henchman in Chief, or perhaps the Assistant Manager in Chief. Administrative experience is indeed relevant – except that millions of people have experience in receiving a set of instructions from one person and directing a group of people to carry out those instructions. Like, say, the assistant manager at every fast food restaurant in America, or every department manager at every department store in America, or… yeah. While it’s possible someone actually doesn’t have any experience at this, it doesn’t strike me as a likely-to-be-valid criticism of a candidate for President of the United States.
  2. The authority of being “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.” This is, of course, the origin of the “Commander-in-Chief” term used to designate the President. But please note: it’s a very limited Commander-in-Chiefship, as it’s scope is over only one thing, the armed forces, and there constrained by the fact that under Article I, the entire armed forces are subject to Congress’s rules. Thus, you can call the President the Commander-in-Chief, but that’s misleading since he’s only the Military Commander-in-Chief and still subordinate to Congress in that role. Of course, “Ex Officio Highest Ranking General and Admiral” is too much of a mouthful. And no President’s actually exercised their authority as Commander-in-Chief since Madison took control of Barney’s battery at Bladensburg in 1814. So… this strikes me as mostly a ceremonial, almost trivial, aspect of the President’s job. You know, like throwing the first pitch at the World Series and having tea and crumpets with foreign royalty. For a slightly different take on this power, I highly recommend this.
  3. The authority to “require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices.” The President can make cabinet members and agency chiefs answer his questions in writing. Even granting for the sake of argument that there exists such a thing as meaningful experience at making people answer questions related to their job, what would that experience impart that its lack wouldn’t?
  4. The power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. Now, that’s some combination of the powers of forgiveness and of something akin to jury nullification. I actually have very little experience with giving people forgiveness because I don’t believe in it, but really… Experience has nothing to do with being Pardoner-in-Chief, unless it’s lots of experience at forgiving people too readily.
  5. The power to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur. Experience at negotiation could be relevant – if the actual negotiations and treaty-draftings weren’t delegated to professional staff. Telling the staff what to negotiate for and what to write in the treaties, that’s the aforementioned administrative experience – and a matter of ideas, as in, “What will this candidate try to get put into treaties.” That’s a matter of ideology and goals, not of experience.
  6. The power to nominate and appoint, by and with the advice of the Senate, a whole heap of people unless they’re being appointed to a job that Congress said someone else would do the appointing to when it created the job. Named jobs consist of Ambassadors and “judges of the Supreme Court.” Makes me wonder if Congress could have vested appointments for Circuit and District Court judges in the Supreme Court. After all, Article III does specifically call those “inferior courts”, and it’s “inferior officers” where Congress gets to choose who does the appointing. I can speculate about that, of course, because it’s something where “experience” isn’t pertinent.
  7. The power to temporarily appoint the people described above without the Senate’s approval because the Senate isn’t in session. Experience still just isn’t pertinent.
  8. The duty to tell Congress about the state of the union “from time to time.” I love how that’s turned into a yearly thing rather than an “as often as I feel like it” thing, and while experience with public speaking may make him more comfortable, I don’t see where it’s really necessary.
  9. The duty to recommend to Congress such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. This is the second most important part of the President’s job, and… EVERYONE IN POLITICS HAS EXPERIENCE AT IT. So what if someone has more experience at it? It just means they’re that much older. That much more out-of-touch with what’s pertinent, that much more stuck in the past, and that much closer to the inevitability of Alzheimer’s and death. Not to mention, this is somewhere that ideology and ideas count for everything. That someone with a decades-spanning track record of writing and voting for mediocre or even pernicious legislation is an inferior candidate to a 35-year-old with good ideas, worthwhile values, and desirable goals should be self-evident to everyone who isn’t part of why we have wolves and other large predators.
  10. The right to call Congress to emergency session and to tell them how long their break’s going to be if they can’t agree on their own. Experience matters why? Oh, it doesn’t.
  11. The duty “to receive ambassadors and other public ministers.” He has to stand on protocol and attend black-tie galas with foreign dignitaries. Etiquette could be relevant. Patience could be relevant too, having to put up with all that silly fooferah. Experience? Meh.
  12. The duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Most important part of the job, and that’s a matter of integrity. Other than that, see above about being the guy who makes it so.
  13. The power to commission all the officers of the United States. I’m pretty sure this has something to do with promoting military officers, but honestly don’t know for sure what it means. Don’t think anybody’s got experience at it, either.
  14. The power to veto legislation. Third-most important part of the job (well, maybe second), and the sole part that comes from Article I. It’s about judgment, and judgment doesn’t come from experience. Judgment comes from intelligence, thoughtfulness, inquisitiveness, and proper values. An idiot with a lot of experience is still an idiot and will still make execrable decisions, while a smart rookie can kick ass and take names.

Posted in From the News, Here be Politics!, The Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

…On Doing it Twice in a Row.

Posted by Steve on August 21, 2008

Read these and weep, Ames. I’ve now scooped you twice. The topic from before has now been released for 30 days of public comment, as announced in a third post on the Secretary’s blog.

A quick scan reveals the following:

  1. The words “contraception” and “contraceptive” do not appear.
  2. The rule applies to “sterilization procedures” and abortions.
  3. It states “This regulation does not limit patient access to health care, but rather protects any individual health care provider or institution from being compelled to participate in, or from being punished for refusal to participate in, a service that, for example, violates their conscience” but does not provide analysis as to how not compelling providers to participate in the service does not limit patient access. I assume this is because of the flaws fundamental to U.S. law that actions are not judged solely by their effects and that any intermediation, however tenuous, between an action and its effects severs culpability.
  4. I’d say more but it’s a quarter to 7 and I have to be somewhere at a quarter after.

I encourage you, if you have an opinion on the matter, to submit a public comment. Instructions are contained at the beginning of the proposed rule. After all, active participation in government is a good thing.

Posted in From the News, Here be Politics!, Other people's blogging, The Law | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »