Thursday, October 31, 2019

SCOTUS is asked to consider a "herd immunity" type argument as relavent to the Second Amendment in March for our Lives brief

Joshua Feinzig and Joshua Zoffer, Yale University law students (or professors?), have offered an analysis in the Atlantic “A constitutional case for gun control: History and textual analysis aren’t the only factors that matter. Our lives do, too”, link

All of this follows from a new case before SCOTUS, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v the City of New York, regarding the prohibition of moving some personally owned firearms to new locations controlled by the owner. 

The law students discuss an amicus brief by March for our Lives

The argument maintains that the Second Amendment would consider that a collective herd self-defense would include reasonable regulation, background checks, prohibition of military assault weapons, and maybe training and licensure of gun owners.  The concept is similar to herd immunity in public health. 
I think it is also possible to tie the idea of training and licensure to the original “militia” language – that one would be able to protect others. 
But the argument emphasizes that it makes little sense in an individual rights sense to expect teachers to be able to protect themselves and students as if they were soldiers. 
Of course, some people will make another neighborbood herd argument, that a neighborhood is safer if some competent citizens are armed and are competent to use them and are personally somewhat autarkic. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hint that Trump could try to disrupt impeachment hearings with government shutdown?

For the moment, CBS News (among the mainstreamers) seems to have the best summary of what happens now in the Impeachment inquiry, link here.
It strikes me as interesting that the vote to open the impeachment happens one day after the World Series ends, giving the Nationals a chance to have one less distraction (after the ugly “Lock Him Up” at Nationals Park Sunday night before the Nats lost).  
It appears that the Federal Government is funded through Nov. 21, 2019.  But this morning CNN raised the possibility that Trump would try a government shutdown to disrupt the impeachment proceedings. Trump, last winter, was willing to displace his own workers and ask them to beg for personal charity and “gofundme” so “I can get what I want”. Narcissistic personality disorder, “in your face”.

I have not said a whole lot about this “quid pro quo” (“this for that”), or Ukrainian aid being tied to the foreign official’s willingness to help dox or ding a US political rival (Biden). I sounds like a “high crime or misdemeanor” but I am not conversant with the details of the legal arguments the way I was with, say, gays in the military or COPA with my own issues in the past.
 The Republican Party needs to make the calculation that, if legally justified, 17 or so Senators can go along with impeachment and government re-opening so that the GOP can start to recover itself and offer a "reasonable" candidate in 2020 (someone like Kasich).  Does the GOP really believe that Trump's base is that strong and that "MAGA" is an offensive buzzword for lost white supremacy? 
I remember the summer of 1974, and I changed jobs, leaving Univac and joining NBC in New York City (so I could move into the village) on Aug. 12, 1974, the Monday after Nixon’s resignation. I would work for the company again, regardless of politics.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Getty Fire in Los Angeles seems to threaten densely populated wealthy areas near the 405

The Los Angeles Times has an updated evacuation map showing much of Brentwood, immediately west of the 405, in the evacuation zone.  The article is by Hannah Fry et al. 

Arnold Schwazenegger, former governor himself, is attributing the year-round fire season to climate change, on Jimmy Kimmel.

He says firefighters don’t have the ability to fight fires at night.

I stayed in the hotel Angeleno on the 405 (south of 101) in May 2012, for four nights.  That area appears affected.

I think West Hollywood is about three miles away on Santa Monica Blvd.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Washington State's complicated battle over "equality" v. "equity" (Initiative 1000 and Referendum 88)

John Carson reports in the weekend Wall Street Journal about a “Referendum 88” in Washington State aimed at either approving or reversing a state “Democratic”  Initiative 1000, which apparently implement some reparative racial and group preferences in hiring.  That is, it would re-implement affirmative action which had been reversed in 1998 (the good old days) by state law.

Ballotopedia explains this complicated mess here.  The messy Initiative had been explained inthe Seattle papers earlier.  The explanations of this whole thing in the media seem contradictory.

The WSJ article explains the difference between “equality” (neutrality) and “equity” based on membership in a group.

I must say that personally identity politics makes consideration of volunteering difficult.
Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. shot includes state capitol.  I remember a night spent in that city in 1978 when a lot was going in personally.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Dams and hydroelectric power, good for climate change, may endanger orcas (our most intelligent animals)

Here’s a moral dilemma.  Dams on the lower snake river do provide clean power that is appropriate for addressing climate change.

They also apparently are adding to a salmon shortage that may be causing orcas (among the most intelligent animals besides us) to starve.

Courtney Flatt has a story for northwest PBS here.
Wikipedia attribution: Public Domain, Link

Monday, October 21, 2019

Tim Wise on how white individuals should personally handle racial issues that come into their own lives

I thought I would share this Medium essay by Tim Wise, “White Folks as Collateral Damage: Exploring the irony of racial inequality.”  This is a not so hidden discussion in part of "reverse discrimination." 
He describes the young white woman’s abuse as circumstantial and based on incidental “racial isolation”.

The remedies he calls for are institutional.  Cities should plan for well-integrated affordable housing before they allow gentrification (like what is starting now bigtime in NE Washington DC) to “drive the poor people out” (to Prince Georges County, MD). 
The more personal aspects of the problem have to do with deciding one’s own actions. If one is better off, how much responsibility or initiative should one be expected to take to reach out to people who are in a different cognitive space and hard to communicate with?  This will often involve race in practice.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Children of deported parents are getting adopted by US foster families, in some states

The Associated Press, in an October 9, 2019 story by Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza, is reporting on cases where deported parents (to Central America) who are forced to leave children behind with foster parents are sometimes losing the children to adoption.
The process is said to be of questionable legality under federal law, but state courts are allowing foster parents to adopt in many cases.  
 The AP story involves a case in Michigan that had actually started in 2015 under Obama.

The Hill reported the story on Oct. 9, in a writeup by Chris Mills Rodrigo  This got an angry reaction on Twitter, some speakers who saw it as kidnapping or genocide.

Some faith-based social service organizations, like (Lutheran) LIRS, are encouraging families, regardless of direct connection to migrants in Central America or elsewhere (by relation), to become foster parents.  Generally USCIS wants to place children with US citizen or legal resident relatives when possible.
There has not been much direct discussion of how this might challenge the gay community (as with assisting trans migrants particularly). 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Wrongful convictions can result from dishonest cops

USA Today has a detailed story Friday October 18 about dishonest police and the risk of wrongful convictions, especially of minorities. Steve Reilly and Mark Nichols have the story here

The story starts out with a case in Houston where an officer with a record of padding charges testified falsely about a suspects sobriety test when pulled over.

The article goes on to discuss the Brady v. Maryland case, where the Supreme Court has held that prosecutors must tell defendants about cops with bad reputations, but there are no established standards.

The article could fit into filmmaker Andrew Jenks’s work on wrongful convictions.

It would be obvious that this problem would disproportionately affect minorities.
I was pulled over in a rental by an officer in suburban Houston in May 2018 for failure to signal when making a sudden decision to make a lane change to go into a fast food place, but not given a ticket.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Colleges use web data and questionable practices to find students who can pay tuition; does this fit into Snowden's idea that everyone needs to protect their privacy?

The Washington Post has a rather detailed front page article by Douglas MacMillan and Nick Anderson explaining how colleges and universities use browser cookie data from prospective student visits, along with apparently other social media investigation, to try to identify students who are likely to be able to pay tuition.

This article would seem to confirm concerns from Internet privacy advocates regarding the importance of user privacy when browsing and, as always, online reputation.

Admissions deans, the article notes, have “jobs” predicated on finding prospective students who can pay.

The article also discusses the role of consulting firm Russell Noel Levitz.  

A 2017 video from John Fish (from Ontario) explains how he got into Harvard. He also has another video where he urges applicants (to any college) to "just keep playing". 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Is "universal basic income" just left-wing uptopianism?

Tonight Ezra Klein of Vox, responding to a question about Universal Basic Income in the Debates, quoted a 2017 article by Dylan Matthews, “A basic income could end poverty forever”.  And there is the tagline, “But to become reality, it needs to get detailed and stop being oversold.”

Early in the piece he dispenses with Charles Murray’s desire to use a UBI do replace all social welfare benefits, including Social Security and Medicare, and even Medicaid.  He would let it replace some specific programs, like food stamps.

But then the article gets rather utopian, even trading off open borders against UBI and taking the idea that you could have unlimited immigration seriously.
He wants to emphasize “negative income taxes” (for low income people), “child benefits”, and dividends from carbon taxes.  The plan would surely penalize people who don’t have children or adopt them.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Shaker Heights, Ohio reporter offers detailed narrative on problems with academic performance when sorted by race

I spent parts of my boyhood summers in Kipton, Ohio (near Oberlin) with many trips to Cleveland (the baseball games in the old stadium on the Lake, and I remember the Herb Score injury) a rode (mother driving) with relatives through the western suburb of Shaker Heights with its stately homes often enough. So I was a little surprised at the long narrative by Shaker Heights resident Laura Meckler on the front page of the “Indigenous Peoples” Day edition of the Washington Post.  I suppose it also ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 
The story describes a complicated history of trying to achieve racial balance in the schools, which went much further than what I saw being raised in Arlington VA (ten months a year – yes, the Washington Senators then as baseball).  There seems to have been a deliberate practice of reverse engineered redlining by realtors, which is unheard of in many cities.

Nevertheless, the academic performance of students in Shaker Heights is still heavily skewed against blacks.

The news story focuses on a controversy where a white English teacher criticized a black student for being late with a term paper on Charles Dickens. Yet, in the narrative, the only fact that seemed clear was that the particular student didn’t do all the work.

The writer describes her return to her childhood home and visits with their present day neighbors.  
 But there are no clear answers. I did make a comment.

I don’t necessarily agree completely with the Ted speaker but I included her POV video.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Could Democrats' impeachment strategy lead to a "Coup"? Read Matt Taibbi's analysis

Matt Taibbi, a roving journalist who has written for Rolling Stone and played semi-pro baseball and basketball, and who has neoliberal views very suspicious of tribalism on all sides (think Tim Pool), has published a warning blog post that the United States is approaching a coup that is similar to in some ways to what happened in the Soviet Union in 1991.

There various branches of government do not have enough tools to physically enforce things when investigating each other.  So it is possible to fall into a procedural deadly embrace which is like a software database infinite loop (I had one to deal with in my career back in the early 1970s at Univac).

Tim Pool published a 40-minute video on the article Sunday morning, on his second channel rather than the usual Timcast.   I’m not sure I understand the significance of his classifying his own video this way, but I have a similar system for my own blog posts.

This is all quite alarming.  Will the securities markets take note soon?

 It sounds reasonable to suppose that the resignation of Shepard Smith from Fox News (who is reported as openly gay) has something to do with Taibbi's speculation. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Excessive regulation really hits small retail business that really "sell things" to average people

Joseph Semprevivo talks (on PragerU) about how excessive government regulation hampers his small business, Joseph’s Lite Cookies, (in Florida), which offers sugar-free cookies for diabetics.

He mentions contradictory regulations from the FDA and Department of Agriculture on whether doors to the business swing in or out.  He notes regulations to have every batch of cookies sampled for testing by a third party. He also notes regulations on the font size for the labels on his products.

It was Nassim Nikolas Taleb who, in the 2018 book “Skin in the Game”, would write, “You must start a business.”  You must sell things.  (See my main blog Oct. 9.)

About twenty years ago John Stossel, then with 20-20, told a story about a woman in Charlotte who baked cookies and was shut down because she didn’t have a “commercial kitchen.” Similar story with African-American hair styling business in Topeka, Kansas.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Parents of black college students have been particularly targeted to accumulate debt

Ariana Puzzo and Kelly Rissman (Medill News Service) have an intriguing story on the front page of USA Today on Thursday regarding parental debt for students, particularly black students attending HBCU’s (the article doesn’t define the acronym, which means “Historically Black Colleges and Universities”.

These loans tend to require parents start immediate repayment, but are relatively easy for parents to get because they consider credit scores but not the ability to repay.

I’ve generally not paid a lot of attention to political arguments based on memberships in oppressed groups rather than on the individual, but this one seems to fit the concerns of social justice activists who claim US businesses have deliberately taken advantage of black families for years, with other practices like redlining, that make it hard for individuals to catch up and become personally competitive.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Utilities could risk cybersecurity with cloud computing; California's unprecedented self-enforced blackouts

Neil Chatterjie of Fortune offers a strategic article on the need for the electric power industry to get itself to a new level of cybersecurity, Oct. 6, 2019. It is particularly critical of the increase in cloud computing in operations at some utilities, which could get around air gaps.

But the biggest issue of the day is the unprecedented blackouts in many less populated areas of northern California in response to drought and high winds, much of this attributed to climate change. 

ABC7 news in San Francisco seems to have the most detailed information right now.  The report notes that high winds have not started yet.
Some of the mid-Atlantic, especially around Washington DC, has had very little rain since about September 1.  A coastal storm did not move far enough inland.  There is some moisture in the mountains to the west. There were wildfires in the Virginia Blue Ridge in the spring of 2016.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

In NYC, minimum wage hurting indie restaurants; cab medallions are still controversial and "protectionistic"

Some restaurants are disappearing and jobs are lost in NYC after the $15 minimum wage was introduced.  Tim Pool explains. It's the independent (non-franchise) businesses that get hit hardest. 

Jennifer Keil explains further in the New York Post.
The New York Times has a front page story Sunday about taxi medallions in New York City and Chicago. Uber and Lyft may have enriched to driver job market (whatever the controversy in California now) and in 2003 I actually “interviewed” to become a cab driver (in the Twin Cities) – you had to pay $450 a week to rent the cab you drove and would be self-employed.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Major witness at Amber Guyger trial in Dallas found shot dead

The Daily Mail reports that Joshua Brown, who testified at the trial of Amber Guyger in Dallas (for the “wrong apartment” shooting of Botham Jean), was shot dead in Dallas Oct. 4, story here. 

The verdict, sentence, and forgiveness are attracting attention and some outrage.

Guyger was convicted of murder but given a 5-10 year sentence.
I find the crime puzzling.  Guyger would have locked her own apartment and apparently believed that the lock had been picked and that the resident was there to steal possessions. Would she have had a security system?   The normal expectation when returning home is to find an apartment locked. A key not working would immediately tell you that you’re in the wrong place.  I’ve done this in parking lots with cars that look like mine.  Obviously that’s dangerous.  One time during a sudden thunderstorm I thought another Ford Focus that looks like mine was mine because it had the same clutter (even a NY Times) on the front seat, and I didn’t realize it was the wrong car for 15 seconds or so.

My own feeling is that the proper charge should have been manslaughter.  The basic problem is that she was too quick from habit to pull a trigger.

It is possible to be absent-minded momentarily and get off on the wrong floor of a building.

Look at the post shared by First Baptist Church youth pastor Akyssa Aldape on my Facebook page today (john.boushka) for some thoughts. 
This event could happen to anyone who carries a concealed weapon and is not careful enough in situations like these.  This is certainly a circumstance which makes some of us less safe.  
I lived in Dallas 1979-1988 and some of that time was in the Oak Lawn area apparently near these new apartments.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax on "piggish" lazy wealth

The New York Times has run a number of stories on Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax tiers, which generally don’t matter until you hit $50 million per family.  David Leonardt offers this op-ed 
Of course there are the usual ideas of divorces spurned by the tax, and of stock market crashes spurned by sudden asset sales.

But middle income people would have more spending power which is good for the economy.
The rich tend to create industries making the wealthy richer.  But when the wealthy  finance space exploration or colonies on Mars, or revolutionary nanobot treatments for cancer, or projects to absorb carbon for the atmosphere of secure power grids, that’s a good thing.
For upper middle class with assets, the moral questions (“pay your dues”) are murkier. Is my journalism project better for society than if I had become a financial products salesperson or tax preparer?

And then, think also about the possibility of negative interest rates.