Friday, April 29, 2016

Women would be required to register for the draft, according to recent House Armed Services Committee bill


The House Armed Services Committee has approved a proposal (part of a defense authorization bill) to require women to register for Selective Service.  The support seems to be somewhat bipartisan. Karoun Demirjian has the story in the Washington Post today, Friday, April 29, 2016. p. A16    The measure would have to survive a vote in the full House and then Senate.

Duncan Hunter (R-CA) called draft registration “sexist” but is still against the bill.  But if women can serve in combat now, there is more philosophical justification for mandatory registration. The Supreme Court case



The news story notes that in 1981, Rostker v. Goldberg, where the Supreme Court accepted the constitutionality of the male-only draft registration (although the actual draft had ended in 1973), assumes that the ineligibility of women for some combat roles at the time could justify “unequal” treatment of genders. It's still relevant that while individually, some women are capable of any comba operation, statistically they would not be so if conscripted.   Women are drafted in Israel.

Of course, another question is, why do we keep Selective Service registration at all?  In the 1990s, the Clinton administration (which had started the long political struggle to accept gays) wanted to keep the draft for access to health care expertise.

Remember the slogan when women went to work in factories in WWII, to "free the men to fight". Hardly equal sacrifice.

The Mises Institute posts an article by Ron Paul, "Drafting women means equality in slavery."

Picture: A volunteer fire department in Grottoes, VA, near the recent wildfire sites.


Update: May 13, 2016

The corresponding Senate committee has passed a similar bill, AP by Richard Lardner story on PBS New Hour here. Registration could be required by 2018.  The title of the story "Coming soon, a military draft for women?" sounds misleading.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Niskanen Center publishes history of private resettlement of refugees in the U.S., advocates setting up a private-public partnership fund


The Niskanen Center has published a new position paper on “Private Refugee Resettlement in the U.S.: History”, link here.  The paper is by David Bier and Matthew La Corte.

The paper proposes that private charities (which may be faith-based) could raise funds for resettlement, funding people when funds are available.
 
There is discussion of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWOA) of 1996  which sometimes means that entry of an alien immigrant means that a relative or other private individual(s) must promise to provide personal support.  This obviously creates moral dilemmas around the expectations that individuals should become socialized to provide “radical hospitality” -- the whole naive "spare bedrooms" idea.
   
A few states (at least South Carolina) want to force sponsors to indemnify the public against any criminal behavior by immigrants, which is a moral burden not many individuals would take.  The effectiveness of the vetting program is an issue, as it is very difficult or Homeland Security to do this in war zones like Syria. The GOP idea of helping other countries set up major safe haven spaces, with military protection, sounds wise to me.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"It takes a village": when childless people share responsibility for raising other people's children


I found, in a promoted Tweet, a blog posting by Sandra L. Richards on “Black Mom’s Blog” that echoes the idea “it takes a village” to raise a child.  The title is “When raising children becomes a family affair”.

The posting gets quite detailed on the social interaction of a child with other nuclear families within a network of relatives an "friends", getting into areas like sleepovers.



I even recall, working in census, encountering a family that expressed that view, that older siblings must learn pre-parenting skills in taking care of younger brothers and sisters, and implementing this process was one of the perks of married parenthood.

This idea has a big time implication for the potential social responsibilities of childless people for "OPC", other people's children (especially within an extended family). It also fits indirectly into the paid family leave debate.

Friday, April 22, 2016

My own visit to an Eastern (Shenandoah "Rocky Mount") wildfire area today



The “Rocky Mount Fire” in the southern portion (just south of US-33) of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, appeared to be diminishing today as I visited the area, in the midst of rain showers.

The Weather Channel's story from early today is here.

I could see the plumes of smoke S of US-33 just E of the crest of the ridge, but there was only one place where I could stop and get a picture.  I could see the smoke from one picnic area long the Drive, which was open N of US-33.

There did not appear to be a credible threat to towns in the Valley or Piedmont below.  The center of response was at the Volunteer Fire Department at Grottoes, VA on US 340, 10 miles south of US-33 (Elkton, from Harrisonburg).


However, the incident shows that wildfires can occur in the East and may in rare cases threaten property.  And the problem could get worse if drought increases with climate change.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Women's think tank proposes paying for family leave with 401k-like "personal care accounts"


The Independent Women’s Forum, a “conservative” think tank, propose paying for “paid parental leave” by allowing workers to set up 401l-like accounts, tax deferred, as Personal Care Accounts (PCA’s), from which money could be withdrawn tax free by new parents.  Some versions of these plans could cover caring for elderly parents or filial responsibility situation. It might be possible even to set up separate plans for eldercare compared to parenthood.  Plans could cover adoption of a “Wednesday’s child”

IWF has an article explaining the plan by Carrie Lucas, from Forbes . She refers to an actual report PDF here.

Danielle Paquette covers the proposal on p A14 of the Washington Post on Thursday.

It’s obvious that many working mothers aren’t making a lot of money, and are at early points in their work lives (same for fathers, OK – not everyone has Mark Zuckerberg’s resources – with a pediatrician as a wife). Without imposing, say, a $15 minimum wage everywhere in lower cost areas, local governments or states could experiment with slight increases in the wage to cover the cost of the 401k “premiums”.

Another question would be whether single or childless (or sometimes LGBT) people would take the deduction if was not mandatory (because they’re paying for someone else’s benefit that they can neve use).  It would be more likely they would get it if eldercare were included in one bundled product, but that would make the premiums higher for everyone.
 
The plans could be privately administered, by life and health insurance companies.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sandtown upheaval in Baltimore a year ago reminds us of tremendous gap in opportunity for minority youths


The Wonkblog of the Washington Post offers are rather scathing, morally speaking, posting by Emily Badger, p. A14, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, “A look at people who can’t afford to ease into adulthood”, or, online, “Why becoming an adult means something very different when you’re poor”.

She compares “privileged” millennials who live with their parents, maybe respecting house rules, with youth who grow up in Baltimore’s Sandtown, site of the riots a year ago.  Teens often have to raise younger siblings and deal with absent parents.  Future expectations as to legitimate vocations are sharply reduced (she gives an example with health care).

The gap in opportunity for young adults plays big into moral debates over what we should expect of everyone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Supreme Court appears split 4-4 on limiting Obama's power to hold deportations on undocumented immigrants who have kids born in the US, the "14th Amendment problem"


On Monday, April 18, 2016 (yes, this year’s 1040 Income Tax day), the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Texas.  The state has challenged President Obama’s executive order that would allow non-criminal undocumented people who have children born in the US to remain in the US without deportation.

One member of the court asked if Congress had appropriated enough money to deport all illegals even if the president did not try to protect those with kids.

Last fall, some presidential candidates wanted to revoke a 14th Amendment interpretation which makes children of undocumented aliens born in the IS citizens of the US.

Most observers think the court will stay 4-4 on the issue, leaving standing a Fifth Circuit ruling that would nullify Obama’s order.



There is a problem with the idea that if you come to the country and deliberately have children, you can stay.  (That “cheats” the childless.)

CNN’s story by Ariane de Vogue is here and includes a PDF embed of the oral arguments.
 
In another development, Canada won’t allow US citizens to visit for “legal” suicide.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tragedy in a Maryland home "health check" adds new wrinkle to the gun debate


A recent death of a firefighter and wounding of another (one was a volunteer) forcibly entering a home in Temple Hills, MD (Prince Georges County) to do a “health check” recently, when getting a call from a concerned neighbor or relative, raises questions about self-defense at home, weapons policy, and how authorities should respond when they have reason to believe someone who lives alone is in trouble.  News reports indicate that the shooter's brother feared he was having a diabetic emergency (possibly like a "diabetic coma").

Police have filed no charges yet against the homeowner, according to a local televisions news story (with video)  because the homeowner may have been acting in self-defense within Maryland law.  He apparently believed a home invasion was occurring.  But a grand jury could hear the case. A civil suit "wrongful death" might be possible, as there is a different standard of evidence.

Active seniors, especially, often live alone in older homes that may be well secured, particularly with deadbolt Medeco locks that make entry difficult, as well as security systems. Falls down stairs could leave someone to die slowly of injuries if not found in time, if the person doesn’t have a medical alert button. This sort of situation is becoming more problematic as families are smaller and more people live alone, “hunkered down”. That’s one reason why some churches have joined “lotsa helping hands”.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

So, can the fibbies (or James Grant) really garnish my $42,998.12?


I got a bill got $42,998.12 from Time magazine today, addressed to me personally.  That’s as if a Chavez-like president were going to garnish my bank account.  The best link seems to be here.  (paywall, but I get it in the mail, like a bill).

So goes bow-tied Jim Grant’s Time Magazine article on the National Debt, which seems to advocate a gold standard, flat tax, stopping social security for those who don’t need it, and maybe outright garnishment. On the other hand, he wants to get rid of payroll withholding, and garnish the debt all at once. (He forgets that today's seniors paid for their "entitlements" with FICA and Medicare taxes.) Oh, yes, he talks about the debt ceiling the way Michelle Bachmann did.

Slate (Jordan Weissman) called Grant’s work as one lifelong continuous anti-process piece to continuously gets “more bad” and could use a dose of “parlor timorcracy”.



Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times calls it an economic train wreck.

I remember the idea of garnishment being tossed around when New York City almost defaulted in the 1970s (“Ford to City: drop dead.”)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bernie Sanders, Vermont, gun shop downstream liability, negligent entrustment, and the PLCAA


Here’s an interpretation in Reason (Jacob Sullum, April 15) of Bernie Sanders’s surprising (to some people) support of gunowners (he represents a largely rural state) and willingness to defend gun shops from gratuitous downstream liability. Sanders’s position may surprise many given his quasi-socialism on economic issues and liberal positions on all other social issues.
 
On the surface, it seems that a gun shop should not be liable for a weapon sold legally to someone able to buy the gun lawfully, after a background check.  The theory at issue seems to be “negligent entrustment.”  A gun shop should not sell a weapon to someone it knows intends to commit a crime from other circumstances, or should not sell assault weapons that seem to have no legitimate use. On the second point, the problem would seem to be holding the shop responsible for selling a lawful object.  If the gun shop is to be responsible, then possession of the assault weapon by a civilian should be illegal (which the current GOP-controlled Congress won’t go along with).

Does the gun shop owner in Connecticut owe a Sandy Hook’s victim an apology?  Sanders may have waffled on this point in the debate.  But as I recall, the weapon had been sold legally to the perpetrator’s mother.  It was the mother’s carelessness with respect to weapons in her house with an emotionally unstable young adult living there that led to the tragedy, not the gun shop owner.
 
It’s very dangerous to hold sellers of items to downstream liability for what consumers do when the items are sold legally.  That is a very slippery slope that can spread to the speech area.

There is a typical opposing view in the Los Angeles Times March 7, 2016 by Michael Hiltzik, criticizing the PLCAA, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act    But it is always a threat to freedom to hold sellers or providers of lawful items under lawful circumstances responsible for what others do, out of sympathy for victims.



The term “negligent entrustment” also comes into play when a vehicle owner allows someone else to drive his car.

The film "Bill's Gun Shop" (2001), by Dean Hyers in Minnesota, may be relevant. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Zakaria: Donald Trump doesn't respect a legitimate need for partisan politics


Fareed Zakaria has a nice op-ed about the changes in our primary system, since 1988, turning ordinary political operations into a preview “plebiscite”. When the GOP wants to go back to an older way of doing things to get an electable candidate, Trump whines, that the “people” are neglected, almost as if Trump had been sitting by me in a drafty Newark NJ rowhouse spying on Benjamin Spock’s People’s Party in December 1972, just before my own fun started.

The more recent systems have tended to encourage the loudest voices and the most indignant (and narrow-minded) to claim attention.  This may provide some insight into how orderly, advanced societies have fallen for extremism in the past, sometimes with catastrophic results.

As Zakaria points out, we need democracy, which means we need politics, and we need parties.  We do need people to work together and sometimes sacrifice some of their own agendas to help get things done.  In old fashioned politics, that sounds too much like “good-old-boy” networks.  Or like fund raising and getting out the vote, and approaching people.
 
Perhaps the rise of Trump has been aided by a social change where people don’t like to be approached, to work together and compromise on things as much as they would have had to in the lower tech past.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New mothers used crowdfunding for maternity leave


The NBC Today show reported today that more new mothers are crowdfunding their own maternity leave from work, with considerable success on sites like GoFundMe, story with video

It seems to be done more for just maternity leave than by fathers.



Is this a “libertarian” solution?  Well, yes.  I personally don’t warm up to pleas for money online over strictly personal situations, over something that wouldn’t happen with me.  I’m a little more open to it when I know the people, or would have some kind of contact before (church, social group).
 
On April 7, I discussed San Francisco’s new ordinance requiring most private employers to offer paid parental leave. I’ve said that laws like this should probably be accompanied by a payroll deduction (which could be waived for lowest income employees or be progressive on salary or wage) to help pay for the benefit and make people aware that they are sharing a community issue.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Zika virus more troubling than first thought, but person-person transmission in large numbers (even through insects) looks unlikely


CDC is indicating that Zika in the US could become more widespread than previously thought.

CDC has a fact sheet on what is known about sexual transmission

It is not known if men can get it from women, for example (with HIV, it was usually much more transmissible from men than women, but HIV was never shown to be transmitted by insects).  It is not known if it lasts much longer in semen. In theory, if a different mosquito could pick up the virus from an infected person (even asymptomatic) before biting another person (especially a pregnant woman) this would have major "ethical" consequences since it could sustain much longer chains of transmission, but this doesn't (yet) appear to happen very much (or at all in the US).

Republicans are still squawking on appropriating more money, wanting to use Ebola money.  Research is needed to develop and test a vaccine and perhaps anti-viral therapies.

But the damage to unborn children may be more extensive than thought, and the entire pregnancy period may be at risk.  Milder learning and development disorders, not appearing until well into childhood or adolescence, may result, as well as microcephaly.

Adults usually don’t get very sick, but Guillain- Barre could turn out to be more common than expected, as well as other possible auto-immune disorders like multiple schlerosis. .



Widespread epidemics and birth defects in low income communities in the Gulf Coast areas, as well as Florida, and the Caribbean are feared.

The breakdown of transmission in the US and territories is shown in this CDC link.

The Guardian has a detailed store here. The public health measures later could get interesting, but I don't think the numbers are that alarming yet.

But novel viruses are always possible (as in my own novel draft).  But a pandemic is more likely to come from an avian influenza or possibly a SARS-like disease than anything else.  (Viruses very much like the SARS corona virus are rather common and most of them cause only minor infections, like around the larynx.) 

Friday, April 08, 2016

How to help poor people: do the libertarians get this right?


Jeff Madrick writes in the New York Times, “Handouts are often better than a hand up”, April 7.  This comports with articles on Vox recently, that what poor people need, especially overseas, is just more emergency purchasing power, or emergency housing – which simpler charities like “Give Direct” support.

The recent film showing of “Poverty, Inc.” at the Cato Institute (April 4) might challenge this view.  Sometimes giving people goods and money interferes with systems where they learn how to take care of themselves, by providing “it’s free” stuff competing with small businesses that could provide the services all the time and that could employ otherwise poor people.  Kindness and compassion is often more about a persona touch than giving money. Where I would disagree with Vox, though, is that infrastructure overseas is very important.  Projects to provide water and fight disease should be supported.

Nicholas Kristof talks about housing people in a NYT column, “So little to ask for: a home”. I could add, that in places like Washington DC, a height limit on buildings actually increases prices for what could become moderate income housing. Kristof answers the libertarian ideas about encouraging personal responsibility in the series “A Path Appears” (TV blog, Sept. 15, 2016), where he notes that the lack of parental attention to children, and environmental pollutants (like lead) means they don’t grow up able to make choices in a free market.

Mary Ruwart's latest edition of "Healing our World" focuses on the libertarian view of compassion -- pretty much the same as in the film "Poverty, Inc."

Monday, April 04, 2016

Supreme Court rejects GOP challenge to "one person one vote", but ruling could benefit families with more children


The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states may use total populations in drawing districts. The slip opinion Evenwel v. Texas is here. The Washington Post has a story by Robert Barnes here.

Conservatives have generally wanted to count only voting age people, and have objected to “one person one vote”.  Democrats have favored allowing more people to count because they tend to be larger families who may be more likely to support Democratic (especially Bernie Sanders-like) policies.  But there is also a philosophical question: should families with more children actually have more votes or more representation?  (The inverse of this was the slavery-era 3/5 rule.)



In the late 1990s, proportional representation as a topic of debate among libertarians, and is covered in my 1998 “Our Fundamental Rights” booklet.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Donald Trump predicts massive recession, debt crisis looming, yet claims he can negotiate national debt down in eight years


Donald Trump is reported to have said that the US faces a massive recession and stock market crash soon. He also claims that if he is elected president he can retire the debt in eight years (two terms).  Reuters has a typical story Sunday afternoon here.

Bob Woodward (from Watergate days) and Robert Costa have a detailed report in the Washington Post, with video (link).  Economists say Trump’s math on paying off the national debt is off, that it would take over 50% of revenues to do this in two terms.  But Trump claims he could negotiate down the debt agreements.

Woodward describes Trump as having said we were in stock market bubble and he would not advise people to buy stocks now.



Trump’s statement was viewed as unusual from a Republican candidate, to give such a bleak view of the economy.  Trump has also suggested he would not want an “outsider” for Vice President.
 
Trump’s reasoning seems to have more to do with increasing debt than anything else (it doesn’t sound rooted in Porter Stansberry’s ideas about reserve currencies). But Ted Cruz has, in the past, suggested the US could let some debts slide and not raise the debt ceiling.  It sounds like Trump thinks we’re headed back to another debt ceiling crisis.

Trump was accompanied by his son. The interview was conducted at his new hotel site in Wahington. \
Steven Ginsberg discussed Trump’s interview on CNN Sunday afternoon.


Friday, April 01, 2016

DC Metro has "insulted" riders


It may look a bit crude, but a model train-set can show how Metro could get around a line closure for some months.  Simply, get the local government (probably Arlington or DC) to reserve a lane only for buses, at least during business hours, and run enough double-buses continuously for the load, and cycle the traffic lights.  Have the express buses stop only at Metro stations.  Run 24x7 for people who work non-normal hours or reverse commute, and to help businesses.

I would think that the above-ground portions of the system are less in need of maintenance, but Stadium-Armory goes outside, and seems to have a disproportionate share of outages.
 


We still haven’t been told specifically what maintenance needs to be done, but it seems a lot of it has to do with the power distribution itself.

A Washington Post editorial Friday calls Metro’s “threat” an “insult to riders.”