Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Drill, baby drill! Obama listens to Sarah Palin, perhaps (only on SNL, though)

President Obama opened a large area off the East Coast (centered more or less alongside tidewater Virginia) out to the continental shelf open to oil drilling today. The MSNBC story, highlighting reduction of dependence on foreign oil, is here.  Included also is a small Gulf region off the West Coast of Florida.


It’s uncertain how much production will result, but conceivably the long-term economic “sustainability” benefits to the US trade deficit could be large. Of course, there is the question of carbon use.

Here’s an NBC Nightly News video, oddly in 2.35:1 movie format.




ExoonMobil has an editorial from February, written during the snowicane, “The Road to 2030”, link here

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weather men, who study computer models for about a week out, not so sure on global warming as are "climatologists"

Thomas Lin has an interesting article in the New York Times on May 30 to the effect that meteorologists are sometimes skeptical of the notion of climate change, when compared to the attitude of climatologists. The article is “Weather forecasters on global warming” with link here


Meteorologists can predict the formation and ferocity of future storms several days out, which enabled them to predict the severity of at least three major East Coast blizzards in February this year before the coastal lows had even formed. On the last storm, the “snowicane” and wind storm further south, they predicted the “loop-the-loop” path.

But some meteorologists are skeptical of the claims of global warming. WJLA meteorologist Doug Hill told an audience at Wakefield High School in Arlington VA in December 2008 that some of this was the stuff of politics, not science – despite the compelling case made by Al Gore in his film (“An Inconvenient Truth”) and books.

The Washington Times echoed this story today with an article by Jennifer Harper, “Forecasters at odd about warming threat: more than 25 percent polled say threat is a ‘scam’”, link here

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA picture of Second North American Blizzard of 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

So: the health insurers got away with it on the pre-existing condition problem after all? What's going on?

Robert Pear has a shocking article in the New York Times today, March 28, “Coverage now for sick children? Check fine print”, link (web url) here.

The problem is that, while an insurer would have to cover a nouveau “pre-existing” condition of someone it had insured, it apparently still doesn’t have to insure the customer at all in the first place (the article focuses on children). Is this real? Bemusing the whole situation is that the full set of reforms don’t take hold until 2014 (although I thought the pre-existing discrimination ban was starting soon). Michael Moore, where are you today? And Nancy Pelosi, where were you? It's time for AC360's "keeping 'em honest".

Vanity Fair Online today linked to the post in a collage titled “Insurance Companies’ Pre-Existing Condition: Heartlessness”, here.

Update: March 30

Reportedly, the president said that after Sept. 1 no child could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and a health insurance trade organization agreed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

CA, AZ consider legislation to legalize some possession of marijuana; Fed bill is HR 2943

California voters will be given the opportunity to vote on a measure to allow private possession of limited amounts of marijuana, even for non-medical purposes, this fall. The NPR story by Jacob Goldstein is (web, url) here.

That a tax on marijuana will help state and local governments much during the recession is considered dubious, however.

A similar measure is on the ballot in Arizona, including a tax on it, with a story in Arizona Family here.

The Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Use Act of 2009, introduced by Barney Frank (HR 2943), would eliminate federal penalties for possession of up to 100 grams, and leave legalization up to the states. The govtrack reference is here.

Update: March 27:

CNN has an important story by Stephanie Chen, "Medical marijuana users risk job loss", link here. The story reports that medical marijuana is legal in some states, including Michigan, where a Wal-Mart worker with cancer was fired for failing a drug test.

There is a map showing medical marijuana legal status by state at Health.com, here.

Here is a report on medical marijuana and entrepreneurialism from Colorado on CNN.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Financial regulation overhaul is the next biggie: did health care set the tone?

From Bill on major issues
Take a look at “Business Insider” article today by John Carney, “Sorry, America: The Latest Round of Financial Regulation Won’t Fix Anything”, link here.

His opening sentence is prescient: “Financial regulatory reform got a huge boost from the passage of health care reform”. So then could a lot of other regulatory reforms and mandatory insurance. Later, contrary to George Soros, he ways that regulation won’t work, that investors and counter-parties should be wary of bankers who don’t show “humility” (instead of male swagger), and that we could dispense with ratings agencies. (Let amateur bloggers do the ratings and risk the libel suits.)

Yet Tom Braitwaite in Washington writes in Financial Times, “US financial regulation set to succeed”, link (registration required).

The Treasury Department’s official paper on the topic is “Financial Regulatory Reform: A New Foundation”, pdf, link here.

The House link for “The Financial Services Oversight Council Act of 2009” is here.

Facing GOP objections on the Senate floor later, the Senate panel passed a bill to implement financial regulation reform March 22, with the story by Brady Dennis and David Cho in the Washington Post (web url) here.

It’s hard to find news sources that summarize the provisions, and the precedence that could be set for others. This article says “In seeking to recast the rules that have long governed the financial sector, the bill would in part establish a bureau inside the Federal Reserve to protect consumers and set up a council of regulators to survey threats to the financial system. The legislation would also bring financial derivatives under government oversight and empower officials to seize the biggest financial firms if they face collapse”.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some GOP "leaders" threaten lawsuits on constitutionality of mandatory individual health insurance


Several states will fight the new health insurance reform bill. These include Virginia, whose attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, already notorious for his gaffe on protections for gay students and employees of state colleges, promised a constitutional challenge, saying government has never required that people (citizens) purchase anything before. The "mandatory health insurance" provisions on individuals would go into effect in 2016, as it stands now.

However government has drafted men before!

Many states require auto (and truck) drivers to purchase auto insurance, but of course you can argue that driving is a privilege, not a "fundamental right."


I've speculated that eventually states or even Congress will consider laws requiring bloggers to purchase liability insurance, in order to control otherwise unpredictable risk.

I think there is an interesting analogy between the pre-existing conditions problem and what I encountered as a substitute teacher, “pre-existing conditions” in the classroom which I was supposed to be able to “insure” and manage (with phony relationship and “parenting” techniques called “classroom management”) when I walked in cold. It didn’t work.

Update: March 24

A particular shocking story about threats to Congressman who voted for the bill appears on ABC News, link here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

House sends health-care reform to president Obama, 219-212; vote is VERY partisan


The House passed its central health care reform bill Sunday night, 219-212, with just 33 Democratic nays, and no Republican “yeth’s”. So it was very partisan indeed. The basic bill goes to the president to sign. But the Senate is going to work on the fixes, which would have to come back to the house.

The MSNBC story is here, title “House sends health care bill to Obama's desk
President to sign reforms into law; 'fixes' still require Senate action”, link here. Check the Newsweek link on controlling spending.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



The president (speaking at 11:47 PM Sunday night) said that this bill was passed from “the bottom up” and thanked ordinary Americans who fought for the bill with letters and emails (how about blog posts?) The president somewhat vilified the insurance companies in the manner of Danny DeVito in the movie “The Rainmaker” (based on John Grisham’s novel).

Here is CNN’s reverse-chronology timeline, link.

Read the White House Blog issue posting on the abortion provision, available this afternoon, here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Practical tips on runaway acceleration in cars


MSN greeted us Saturday morning with an article on how to stop your car if the acceleration goes out of control – regardless of make. The article is by David Vanderwerp of Car and Driver, “How to Deal With Unintended Acceleration: Car and Driver puts unintended acceleration to the test and examines how to handle a runaway vehicle.” The link is here.
The main tips are htting the brakes, shifting to neutral or park, and turning off ignition, but there are tricks to know.

The whole Toyota thing seems like a mystery, with charges and countercharges. But it would be easy to have something wrong with the firmware in the electronics.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A bird's-eye view of the health care reform, likely to be voted on Sunday


I think it will help visitors to link to a straightforward birds-eye view of the health care bill, which may be voted on by Sunday. This comes from the Associated Press, was reprinted in the Washington Post. No, I won’t tread on copyright. I just think that the overview is helpful. The House is “deeming” the Senate’s version as essentially passed and playing with how to pay for it, which higher Medicare taxes on investments of the wealthy for example.

The link is here.

It looks like the mandates on employers, including smaller ones, could go into effect at the beginning of January 2014. That could especially agencies that hire temporary and service workers. However, hiring agencies will probably benefit from having access to better-priced plans well before then. The individual mandate takes effect in 2016. The ban on discrimination for pre-existing conditions takes place in 2014. Hopefully this helps employers as well as individuals.

A big question is whether everyone can control health care costs by getting away from “free for service” and by much better and coordinated record keeping.

CNN has a story on what takes effect immediately in 2010, "What can you and your family expect right away?", link here.



(The picture above was taken near GWU Hospital, near the health care demonstration Mar. 9, and came from Lyndon LaRouche's group. Yup, pretty extremist. The guy with the poster was serious.)

On Friday, Obama spoke at George Mason University in Fairfax VA. I got a cell phone call inviting me, but was not prepared to wait in line at 2 AM.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Minnesota conservative group argues for alternative teacher certification opportunities


Mitch Pearlstein, Founder and President of the “Center of the American Experiment” in Minneapolis has an interesting paper “Alternative Teacher Certification”, PDF document here.

I visited a number of the group’s functions in the 2001-2003 period, including a luncheon with John Stossel as guest speaker.

I looked into teaching while I was still in Minneapolis, in 2003, and found the licensure procedure rather lengthy and expensive, as I recall. Virginia’s is shorter. There are bills in the Minnesota legislature to make it easier for workers with expertise in other fields to get licenses, and not surprisingly teacher’s unions oppose it.

As I recall, Minnesota did not allow unlicensed substitutes either; VA does.

I’ve discussed the alternative licensure problem twice on my “BillBoushka” blog (navigate through Profile), on Aug. 22, 2008 (in response to a Washington Times editorial then expressing similar ideas, to which I wrote an LTE which was published) and recently on March 13, 2010.

Update: Mar 19

Check out Chris Myers Asch, "ASCH: Turning students into widgets: Great teachers are no guarantee of classroom success", p B4, Opinion, "School Achievement," The Washington Times, Mar 19, link here. Asch teaches as UDC and coordinates its National Council for Urban Education. He has advocated a public service academy in the past.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Public split on health care; what would Pelosi's Trick do? What would Reconciliation do?



Mark Murray from NBC News has an interesting story on just how split the public is on the health care debate, here.

An amazing portion of the public thinks that the system should be left as it is. Perhaps that’s the portion with jobs supplying reasonable health care (perhaps including elderly satisfied with Medicare, or perhaps apathetic).

The direct link for the results of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey by Hart/McInturff is (pdf format) here.

Tuesday night, on CNN, a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota said something to the effect that as a parent she saw it as her duty to get a job with health insurance. She was asked if she had ever paid for her children’s health care without health insurance.

And Andrea Mitchell reports on an interview over whether Nancy Pelosi’s “sneaky” strategy as counting the Senate bill is already passed can work. It's called "deem and pass."

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Is this the same as passing by “budget reconciliation”? Good question for a high school civics test. Here is what the Huffington Post says about “deficit reduction bill relating to health care” posted by Rep. Jim Cooper in June 2009, link. Here is Wikipedia’s definion (link ), “a legislative process of the United States Senate intended to allow consideration of a contentious budget bill without the threat of filibuster.”


Remember, for author Clive Barker, "Reconciliation" means instant communication with extraterresrrial worlds!

The Washington Times has an editorial today "The Health Care bill can be defeated; popular pressure needs to be placed on Democrats", link here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

President proposes overhaul of "No Child Left Behind": greater flexibility, maybe easier "career-switching"


On Saturday, March 13, President Obama proposed an overhaul of the 2001 “No Child Left Behind” law, which president Bush had claimed a pride and joy (“My Pet Goat” notwithstanding). The transcript of his address is here.

States and school districts would have more flexibility, and testing in other subjects besides reading and math (such as science and social studies) would be viewed as important measures of progress. There would presumably be less pressure on teachers to drill and “teach to the test”.

There would be less emphasis on formal teacher certification, and more emphasis on results. It might get easier for people to switch into teaching from other careers. But of course school district budgets need to get healthier again to support career switching now. (See my post Saturday March 13 on the “BillBoushka” blog.)

Sam Dillon has a major front page story on Sunday’s New York Times (web url) here.

.

Note also the story by Elizabeth Landau on CNN, that March 14 is “Pi day”, link here.

In other education news, the media has been discussing the effect Texas school districts have on the content of textbooks, since Texas is such a large customer of textbook publishers, although e-publishing is somewhat mediating this effect.

Texas is one of a few states which says it will be able to resist new federal standards in education as says it is doing well now, even at lower costs.

Note: CNN says that "science" was recently added to the current NCLB measures.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

DC Taxi rules add costs for suburban passengers, and waste fuel and carbon


In the Washington DC area, apparently there is a rule that taxicabs from the District of Columbia to the Virginia suburbs (perhaps Maryland) cannot pick up passengers in the suburbs when returning to the District. A cab driver told me this last night as I returned from a “party” in DC.

What’s the point of this rule? It wastes fuel and adds to carbon emissions and pollution. If taxicab drivers could pick up passengers on return, their use of fuel would be more efficient, and their microbusiensses would be more profitable. Fares for consumers could be somewhat lower. This is particularly important late at night and on weekends, when Metro service faces cutbacks; everything that affects consumers’ transportation costs is important to note.

Is this featherbedding or protectionism?

During my post layoff jobhunt in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) in 2003, I looked at what becoming a cabbie would entail. From one company, you had to rent a cab for $440 a week, so you needed about 25 rides to make up the rent.

Washington DC’s FAQ’s on taxi rules is here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I get an email calling for volunteers (for Red Cross and others); my own experience in 2005


I received an email from Barbs Chandrasoma from “PR By the Book” (that is, Public Relations by the Book, link). From the context of the email, I think she wanted me to pass it along in this blog. I really can’t reword it more effectively, so here is how she presents the proposal.

“I have a timely story idea for you.

“March is American Red Cross Month, a time to support the American Red Cross for all of their selfless humanitarian work.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 26 percent of Americans are getting off the couch to help out. With the earthquakes occurring in Haiti and Chile, organizations like the American Red Cross need help now more than ever.

“This month, let’s inspire volunteerism across America. We have two experts to offer for interview. Debbie Jordan and Hoy Kersh are available to speak about how they have dedicated their lives to helping others and how others can do the same.

“Hoy Kersh wrote Suitcase Full of Dreams to chronicle the struggles and hardships she faced while growing up in the segregated South in the 1940s and early 50s. She is versed in overcoming adversity and promoting healthy living. Instead of allowing daily discrimination and the murder of her grandfather silence her, Kersh decided to speak out for the equal treatment she knew she deserved. Kersh resides in Northern California and works to inspire students at a rural Pacific Northwest school to stand up for what they believe. From teaching adults in Jamaica to read and write to promoting peace and prosperity to all, Kersh has truly dedicated her life to helping those in need of a helping hand.
Sample interview Topics:
• Why it is important to volunteer for organizations like the Red Cross today
• How difficult childhoods can inspire people to think of others in need
• How an individual can make a difference in many people’s lives even though it seems impossible.

“Debbie Jordan’s book, "The World I Imagine: A Creative Manual for Ending Poverty and Building Peace" is a collection of 47 essays originating in the column she writes for the Arizona City Independent Edition. Jordan writes about her solutions to some of the world’s most detrimental social issues. Jordan is committed to inspiring others to improve the world through community involvement and volunteerism.

“Sample discussion Topics:
• How volunteering should be an activity that is a part of everyone’s lives.
• How volunteering changed Jodan’s life and molded her into the person she is today
• How devastating events like the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti should not be the only times people get involved in their communities

“Please let me know if you are interested in scheduling an interview.

“Thank you,
Babs Chandrasoma, PR by the Book “

--



When he was campaigning for president, especially during the Democratic primaries in 200, Barack Obama did mention volunteerism. He told commencement graduates “I hope you will.”


I volunteered at the Red Cross call center near Falls Church, VA on Rt. 50 in September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes I would reach a client with severe medical problems and connect the person with a nurse. But most of the time I got calls from people who were trying to get assistance from FEMA. We passed along an 800 number for FEMA assistance, but most clients were on hold for hours getting in touch with a human being. There was very little we could do. Volunteers were well fed with buffet food.


Churches have organized bus trips of volunteers to New Orleans or other Gulf areas to do cleanup and reconstruction. In some cases, volunteers have not been allowed inside flooded houses because of mold damage. There is a good question as to whether manufactured housing can meet real needs more quickly.


Churches have also sponsored volunteer trips to construct missions or clinics in areas like Nicaragua or Belize, or water projects in Guatemala.


In time, I would expect trips to be organized to Haiti and Chile, but these would be complicated to set up.

Second picture: Bay St. Louis, MS, personal trip, Feb. 2006

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

60's style demonstration greets health insurance trade group meeting in Washington: a report from the street


I went to the “event” today in Washington: the congregation, march and demonstration in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel near George Washington University in Washington DC today, as the trade group “American Health Insurance Plans” (link -- note the group's claim to support bipartisan insurance reform!) met.


The hotel does not look that large or impressive (given its conspicuous brand name), when compared to another facility at Tysons Corner (where Digital Media usually meets); I had thought the trade group would choose a ritzier venue up on Connecticut Avenue.


The protest group had assembled at Dupont Circle, and made the short march to 22nd and M Streets around 11 AM. There was plenty of “Hey .. Ho…” from demonstrations back in the 1970s. The overall tone of the demonstrations was an emphasis on “need” rather than “responsibility”. I wondered about this when I saw demonstrators with cigarettes! Yet many of the individual posters were compelling, as were some stories told to the crowd, such as one teacher who lost his signt for inability to come up with $3000. Two actors dresses as billionaires, claiming that health insurance reform wasn’t for them (just then I ran out of memory on my camera). There were plenty of signs calling for single payer, and for public option. There was a sign objecting to the recent Supreme Court decision turning corporations loose with lobbyists. (Note the tone and the belief in a zero-sum game: If "they" (the lobbyists) win, "we" lose.) There were plenty of mock “wanted” signs for health insurance company executives (look at "Citizens' Posse" here). At one point, some people at the march deputized themselves. There was horse dung on the street! The major media outlets, particularly CNN, were present in force, but not easily identifiable. Well, we’ll keep ‘em honest.


The crowd was composed of teams identified by rainbow color: purple, green, orange, yellow, blue and red.

The outrage of the crowd seems particularly directed at recent attempts by health insurance companies to announce enormous increases in individual premiums. Another practice that deserves outrage is the practice from hospitals and providers of charging about five times as much for procedures without insurance as to patients covered by a corporate insurance contract or Medicare.

Remember, in the series “V”, Anna promises the whole world free health care. That seems to sell the whole show for ABC.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Texas v. California: conservative paper column pits the two states in competition ("A Tale of 2 States")


I lived in Dallas from 1979 to 1988 (owned two condos), have never lived in the Golden State; today’s “politics” column in The Washington Examiner “Low-tax Texas beats big-government California”, p 12 in the Sunday Examiner, link here.

True, Texas was the “family friendly” side of the Gulf-to-Pacific part of the country. In fact, my move to Dallas started with a job interview in Los Angeles in December 1978 that led to another interview the next day in Dallas. Yes, they paid to break the fare.

It’s true that today Texas schools do seem to have better test scores; and since I lived there, Dallas has gotten its light rail and gotten the notorious North Central Expressway widened (and the intersection with I-635 is spectacular). Last time I was there, the gay bar J-R’s had doubled in size; Cedar Springs was still fun.

Barone says that Texas is doing well in jobs compared to the rest of thecountry, and the same relatively speaking on home values in the subprime mess. But when I lived there, the real estate recession of the late 80s and savings and loan crisis started in Texas, after oil production increased overseas in the mid 1980s (ironically as a result of Reagan’s successful policies) and demand locally went down. And Texas companies then did not fare that well in the hostile takeover wars.

There were other anomalies then, too. The FHA assumption rules were more lenient, resulting in upside down home assumptions and deficiency liability for original owners (the rules have changed since).

But politics there could be mean. The AIDS epidemic hit Dallas and Houston hard, but about two years later than New York and California. The Oak Lawn Counseling Center was a beehive. But the Texas legislature in 1983 considered very draconian legislation, strengthening the Sodomy law (the 2106) and trying to ban gays from food handling and teaching (think about that in comparison to the military “don’t ask don’t tell” today). Fortunately it died, but it was a scare that it was even considered. But that history (the Ceverha bill 2138) may have helped set the stage for Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.

They say, don’t mess with Texas. Maybe the show Dallas will come back. Who knows, maybe I’ll wind up back there, maybe Austin this time, or the studios of Las Colinas. I do have a movie to make.

Friday, March 05, 2010

$7 a gallon gasoline, anyone? Is this for reduction of oil imports, or for climate change?


Since Science posted a scary story today about the release of methane gas in the arctic (see my International Issue blog, navigating from Blogger Profile), more attention goes back to climate change and the correlated problem of oil dependence. Today the Washington Post has an editorial “Raising the gas tax might be the only way to wean Americans off oil”. The print title (p 18) is “$7 a gallon gasoline; it might be the only way to get America off foreign oil”. The link is here. Welcome to the 1970s! The suggestion is based on a report from Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, link here; the report is called “"Reducing the U.S. Transportation Sector's Oil Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions"”. Even if the price of carbon dioxide goes up from $30 a ton to $60, the price of gasoline goes up “only” less than 50 cents a gallon.

The Post says that an extreme gas tax can be made less regressive by other means to redistribute wealth. Welcome again to the far interventionist, moralistic Left of the 1970s! Remember the talk of gasoline rationing? We actually did wind up with even-odd rationing in many parts of the country for a while in 1974 and again in 1979.

But reports of the gradual release of methane could up-end all these discussions.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Local MD newspaper makes good points on campaign contributions, health care


Wednesday, on my day trip to northeastern Maryland and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, I stopped in the town of Havre de Grace, a visible hamlet on the Sesquehanna where it meets the Chesapeake Bay, visible from Amtrak. In a bar, I picked up a “Cecil Guardian” newspaper (link) and found a couple of interesting perspectives on national things.

An article by Wyatt Wallace (no connection to Atlas Shrugged and “Wyatt’s Torch”) “Unlimited political spending by big corporations is BAD for working class Americans” talks about the recent Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. FEC, allowing essentially unlimited campaign spending by corporations. He makes the suggestion that shareholders should have to agree individually with contributions or spending on political blogs. I couldn’t find the article online, which seems dedicated to local news.

The editorial says “Health care needs to be fixed, but maybe not in the direction we are going?” (I couldn’t find it online either). The editorial says that Americans pay ten times as much for some prescription drugs as do people overseas, and says we should not be subsidizing pharmaceutical company research for profits overseas. Good point.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Digital billboards add to the "distracted driving" debate


The latest kudo in the saga of distracted driving now comes with the “billboard wars”, in states like Michigan and Minnesota, according to a New York Times story Tuesday March 2 by Matt Rcihtel, “Digital Billboards, Diversions Drivers Can’t Escape”, link (web url) here.

There is even controversy over the amber alert billboards, as the story shows.

Yet it’s a huge business for public and private property owners.

We still keep wondering how far the battle of distracted driving will go. Some distractions – like music – might just help keep drivers from falling asleep on boring Interstates – an idea that escapes the debate. Oprah’s pledges could get expanded. (For boredom, I-95 is getting to be the worst.)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Second amendment case now moves to the states and tests the incorporation doctrine (Chicago law case)


The New York Times has a mixed but important editorial today (March 2) , “The Second Amendment’s Reach”, based on the case McDonald v. Chicago. This case challenges a Chicago ordinance that makes it very hard to own a handgun legally within the city, even for defending one’s own home, property or family against burglars. The link is here.

The Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 against a slightly less restrictive DC law, but based on the fact that the District of Columbia is a federal enclave (a notion getting less acceptable all the time to DC residents, as there have been blog postings here about DC home rule and statehood). The new issue is the way to apply the “incorporation doctrine” of the 14th Amendment, which sometimes applies the restrictions on federal government (including enclaves) to state governments when applied to “Bill of Rights” provisions. As the Times says, the overall practice as been called “selective incorporation” (a good item for US government high school teachers to ask about on tests).

As the Times writes, an 1873 Supreme Court decision has blocked the use of the “privileges or immunities clause” to extend the incorporation doctrine, but this case could cause the 1873 case to be reviewed. However, the Court could rewrite the guidance on the reach of the incorporation doctrine and then send the Chicago case back to lower courts for a trial on the merits.

The Times feels that there is still a difficult question to resolve: whether the right of an individual to protect his or her own home overrides community concerns about the availability of guns. But libertarians have correctly pointed out that gun laws tend to result in only the bad guys being armed. I wish the Times had taken that into account. I remember all these points well from a Libertarian Party convention in Richmond back in 1995.

Picture: from the DC case.

Monday, March 01, 2010

GOP Kentucky Senator blocks federal highway funding, leading to furloughs, also ending extended unemployment benefits for millions


Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) is being “blamed” for the fact that 2000 federal transportation workers are on unpaid furlough today, while at the same time 400,000 unemployed workers around the nation find their extended unemployment benefits run out. Apparently Bunning made a decision last week to block this legislation ($10 billion), which he says will add to the federal deficit. It's not clear if the gap in unemployment benefits would be filled if the funding eventually passes.

The CBS News story this morning is here. The White House itself is blaming Bunning.

Media outlets have lately been referring to GOP callousness on the needs of unemployed and uninsured Americans.

Here is Bunning’s website. He says “I have offered the same COBRA, flood insurance, unemployment insurance, Satellite Home Viewing Act, highway funding, SBA loans, small business provisions--I have offered to do the same thing for the same amount of time. The only difference I have, and some of my good friends from the other side of the aisle, is that I believe we should pay for it.”

Locally, in the DC area, work on replacing the Humpback Bridge on the George Washington Parkway in norther VA comes to a halt. Also the 9th Street Bridge repair is on hold (source: WJLA).

Update: March 2 (evening):

Senators reached an agreement to end Jim Bunning's filibuster. CNN story "Jobless benefits deal reached" here.