Monday, October 31, 2016

Virginia considers placing "right to work" in its commonwealth constitution

The Richmond Times Dispatch has issued an editorial (Oct. 15) opposing amending the Virginia state constitution to guarantee the “right to work”.  The paper supports the law, saying it is appropriately neutral, but not placing it in a constitution.  (People said that about some of the “constitutional amendment” suggestions in Chapter 6 of my first book.)

The text of the proposed amendment, to be voted on Election Day, is here.
Libertarianism supports the idea that joining a union should not be a requirement of employment, and that non-membership could also be a requirement.

Opponents of right-to-work argue that non-members “freeload” on benefits won by members’ dues and sacrifices.  But it’s true that freeloading is a common problem in life everywhere.  It could be argued (as was the case often in information technology) that people without families to support are often willing to work for less, pulling down wages or making people with families more vulnerable to layoff by “lowballing”.  Indeed, even though “right to work” is generally favored by conservatives, it could be seen also as anti-fertility (again going against the normal goals of conservatism).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Over one quarter of all teachers in the US regularly miss class, requiring more subs

In the Washington Post, front page Thursday morning, Alejandra Matos reports that 27% of all teachers are chronically absent from class, missing two weeks or more of classes each academic year, increasing the need for subs.

Female teachers are more likely to be absent because of child care.
One problem is that inexperienced subs, often unlicensed, could be much more troubled by discipline and classroom management problems because original teachers may not have set up enough control and rapport with their own classes.  I certainly found that when I was subbing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Size of Obamacare price hike for 2017 seems to stun Clinton

HHS confirmed on Monday that individual insurance premiums under “Obamacare” would go up over 25% in 2017, as the open enrollment period approaches.  HHS also says that, with subsidies, most families will still pay less than $100 a month.  But even pro-Obama Vox doesn't think this is pretty (Vox explains).

Jonathan Chait, of New York Magazine, still says that Obamacare is a "policy success" and "political failure" in a piece here.

However this is bad news for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as suddenly Donald Trump has an easy legitimate issue to talk about in his rallies.  Trump promises that he will repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “great” but is vague on what that would be.

Most of the premium rises are associated with the withdrawal of some health insurance companies from some markets, and with the inability of plans to attract “healthy” young adults.

It’s disturbing to see “gofundme” drives for people who should have been properly insured before horrible accidents or criminal or terror events.   And rare cancers do strike the young, unpredictably, as do a few other things (like aneurysms).  

I remember when the baseball player Harry Agannis died from a bizarre blood clot in his lung back in 1955, at age 26. It can happen.  This story became a documentary movie.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Should you make a protest vote in the general election? Immigrants protected by DACA are asked to go door-to-door

I’ll start out by pointing out a recent guest post on Rick Sincere’s blog (from a former chair of the LPVa) by Will Hammer, to “vote against both evils” – and vote for Gary Johnson and the Libertarian ticket.  I think it would have been better to put Weld at the top.

And the GOP would probably have won with a reasonable candidate – John Kasich, maybe moderate Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland, had he wanted to run – as he has certainly learned the humility of needing health care the hard way.

But moderation is not what many voters want.  Indeed, they seek expropriation, or revolution, or return to a world that is meaningful for them, even if they have to blow up everything else.
But does voting for Johnson really make it more likely Trump wins?  Maybe.

This matters even today, as early voting is quite heavy already in Florida,

I noticed a story in the Washington Post Metro section today, by Antonio Olivo, “Immigrant activists canvass for Clinton.”   Online the title is more graphic “They crossed the border illegally and can’t vote. But they can knock on doors.”  Now, I won’t answer door-to-door activity of any kind anymore, because if a home invasion ever happened, my life and existence are over.  I can’t take the risk. So I become insular.  The article does discuss DACA, Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival’s Program.  The article also discusses SCOTUS’s allowing an injunction against an expanded version of DACA go forward. But the article also quotes an activist (Luis Angel Aguillar) “All DACA recipients should take this on as an added responsibility to change the power structure. But if someone knocks in violation of a “no soliciting” sign the person is technically committing a trespassing violation, at least a misdemeanor.   I know, this sounds like Trumpland talk, and I go get where Trump is coming from on this matter.  Remember the “Russian roulette” scene from “The Deer Hunter”, the movie’s “middle section”?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Donald Trump's First 100 Days could "get real" if he actually wins

Donald Trump may have more authority to implement some of his ideas during the first 100 days than a lot of people think, even though he doesn’t seem to respect the checks and balances of our system.

Here’s a WSJ article on the predictions.  The article does not mention suspending the small Syrian refugee program, but that could happen.  Evan Osnos did mention the idea to Fareed Zakaria on CNN (GPS program) today (as well as shutting down dome user generated content on the Internet, although he tweets at 3 AM himself) in a long article in the New Yorker.

Some of the items (like longer prison terms for those who return illegally) would not be controversial.

I take with a grain of salt his threat to sue women accusing him of sexual misconduct after the election, because the discovery process would be embarrassing for him, and the women would have tremendous pro bono support.

I could be concerned about the media speech issues, like the idea he could go after Section 230.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Per child grant proposals get traction among progressives

Eduardo Porter has a Business Day article in the New York Times, Wednesday, October 19, 2016, “Bold Strike Against Poverty: A Check for Every Child”, link.

He explores proposals to go beyond the per-child tax credit proposals, to simply giving a grant (maybe yearly) for every child.

This brings back ideas that we see in the debate about paid maternity leave (expanded to paid family leave):  you ask some people to pay for other people’s children – for other people’s marriages, for their sexual intercourse, to put it bluntly.  It confounds an individualist’s idea of personal “moral hazard”, which was holding away in libertarian debates in the 1990s.

But the idea can also be related to proposals concerning universal basic income, or even (for overseas) to “give direct” style charities.  Vox Media has especially promoted these proposals.

Monday, October 17, 2016

President Obama issues XO for national preparedness for extreme space weather events (Carrington-sized), after admitting 2012 near miss

The White House (President Barack Obama) has issued a rather verbose Executive Order to be prepared for extreme space weather events, link here.

I just found out about this from “The Survival Mom” on Facebook (check my main blog today for a story about litigation against the blog for a hyperlink).  The Survival Man correlated this to recent tensions with Russia and the possibility of cyberwar, exacerbated (especially on 10/13) by recent claims of Russia hacking the US election systems (sounds far-fetched because they are so decentralized). But a coronal mass ejection following a solar storm is a natural, not man-made, event.

There are about 72 hours from the time of a solar flare until the full coronal mass ejection arrives.  Would forecasts predict major power outages?  It's actually difficult to measure the CME's size until it reaches the "Lagrange point", which I believe is only a few hours before the event on Earth. Could the Storm Prediction Center of NOAA include these forecasts?
The Executive Order would seem to anticipate “Carrington Event”-sized coronal mass ejections.  The Earth may have barely missed one in July 2012.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Louisiana's take on marriage inequality -- for immigrants

Catherine Rampbell has an interesting take on marriage equality today in the Washington Post – for immigrants.  Louisiana won’t let immigrants marry without valid birth certificates, which makes marriage impossible for immigrants here legally, column here.
In some cases, they have gone to other states (like Alabama) to marry, and then returned, under Full Faith and Credit.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Zakaria on our "pay to play" politics: money as speech, and the tax code

Fareed Zakaria gave an interesting take on “pay to play” today on his CNN GPS broadcast.
The United States, he said, is the only major democracy that depends on private funding for political campaigns.  Zakaria coordinates this observation with the complexity of the tax code.

So when you buy a $5000 ticket for breakfast with a political candidate, you’re buying a break in the tax code.

And the Supreme Court, in 1976  (Buckley v. Valeo ) and more recently, said that money in political donations constitutes a form of speech.

So, Zakaria says, simplify the tax code – which is what libertarians want.


The “spoils” system, however, corrupts the idea of solidarity.  It tends to encourage partisan polarization (in conjunction with gerrymandering).  It mediates the idea of collective action and obedience to leadership with payoffs to specific special interests, and tends to encourage identity politics.

There's another way to look at the morality of speech, "play to pay".  No spectators! No gawkers!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Condo owners asked to house their neighbors after a structural failure on the property; radical hospitality?

The recent evacuation of a sizable number of homeowners from a high rise condo building, one of the River Towers near Alexandria, VA, after “quake” revealing a structural problem involving the columns under part of the building, reminds us that no building absolutely perfect.  Modern or renovated high rises are usually safer than old homes, but many more people can be affected if something happens  WJLA has a story here.

The drove near the area today and saw a major creek nearby.  It appears that all of this probably has to do with repeated flood or water issues at low elevation.

The web page for the condo homeowner’s association actually asked, on Oct. 2, “please consider offering your neighbors a place to stay tonight.

In situations like this, I wonder, did the owners have typical homeowner’s and/or renter’s insurance with loss-of -use coverage?   If so, if they have credit cards, they could check into hotels (after gathering valuables and portable electronics) and file claims.

Again, I wonder what happens with mass evacuations of coastal areas, such as are starting on the Florida Atlantic Coast tomorrow, all the way to Wilmington NC.  Do people have flood insurance?  Are they covered for loss of use?  Could hotels be even found?

I do wonder, as a public policy matter, should there be more effort to have ordinary homeowners inland be ready to house them?  I don’t hear much about this.  There was some talk of it after Katrina (and some people were apparently sheltered by hosts in Texas).  You could ask the same question after a recent apartment explosion in Silver Spring MD, but most of the residents were low income (many were immigrants)

This may sound like “radical hospitality” and “scruffy hospitality.”  Even in a “free world” we should know what is expected and what is OK.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Liability for guest behavior may (or may not) be an issue in housing refugees, asylees

It appears that in Virginia, according to a legal link that I found, people are not liable for what their guests do when they are social hosts.  The most obvious example would be if someone drinks at a party and then has a DWI wreck driving home.  The link is here.   Actually, I think I recall a case in Charlottesville where there was liability.

Where this could matter “in a positive way” is if someone houses a refugee or asylum seeker, or even a domestic person in some dire straits (homeless, domestic violence victim).  Does that mean there is no secondary liability?   I would wonder about this even with an “emergency bnb” site that has been proposed. It seems like nobody is talking about this very cleanly.

In Maryland, things go the other way with “Noah’s Law”, requiring cars for DUI convicts to be equipped with breath tests and ignition locks