Sunday, October 31, 2010

More from yesterday. A cool, damp fog made for a good workout. I am still sore.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Boethius and The Consolation Of Philosophy: Reflections on social justice.

"How often have I risked my position and influence to protect poor wretches from the false charges innumerable with which they were for ever being harassed by the greed and license of the barbarians? No one has ever drawn me aside from justice to oppression. When ruin was overtaking the fortunes of the provincials through the combined pressure of private rapine and public taxation, I grieved no less than the sufferers. When at a season of grievous scarcity a forced sale, disastrous as it was unjustifiable, was proclaimed, and threatened to overwhelm Campania with starvation, I embarked on a struggle with the prætorian prefect in the public interest, I fought the case at the king's judgment-seat, and succeeded in preventing the enforcement of the sale." - The Consolation Of Philosophy, Chapter IV.

As I gather so far, Boethius (480AD - 524?) was thrown in jail where he wrote this work. Checking the net, he was given a gruesome execution in the end. The context is that the western Roman empire had collapse a few years before Boethius was born and the foreign, Ostrogoth invaders established a new kingdom. Boethius had been an official in this kingdom, but false accusations would cause him to be thrown in prison and eventually executed.

Listening to the first bit, it is clear that he thinks the real reason for his persecution is his concern for the suffering. That is certainly an element, but he was also a politician, and we know that politicians often come to unpleasant ends for no other reason than that they were in the way.

The choice of this book was somewhat random: It was recorded on and I like reading works that have stood the test of time. This work has more than proven itself as it was an important work for a thousand years and referenced by countless others. Most of that information I found out after choosing to listen.

Regarding the Social Justice issue, I have some mixed feelers. Yes, it is good to fight for the oppressed, whether they are oppressed financially or otherwise. At the same time, what I worry about is the "fighting for the oppressed" can easily get twisted to fighting for something else. More often than not, fighting for the oppressed can increase the oppression. A bit of discernment is needed.

In the case of Boethius, forcing the sale of a house might have meant forcing the sale of a family's livelihood. Starvation could indeed be the result. Now that we are going through a horrific amount of forced sales, is there any similarity? My heart cried when I heard that a neighbor's house had a sign up saying "Bank Owned". The family moved in a few years earlier clearly with hopes and joy. I do hope and pray that they are able to get their situation together - not knowing anything about their circumstances. At the same time, I don't feel the modern situation is quite the same as families were pushed by various parties to buy houses they couldn't afford representing luxury they didn't need.
Another Boaring Day.

The Federalist Papers: #84 and #85

Another project comes to an end. Paper #84 discusses the lack of a formal Bill of Rights in the US Constitution. This was rectified with the first ten amendments. Today we have to deal with the hard-core leftists implied Bill of Wrongs, which apparently trump both Rights and the constitution.

Paper #85 is the final one with a summary of why the constitution should be adopted. A key complaint is the whims of populism together with conspiracies done behind closed doors:

"The charge of a conspiracy against the liberties of the people, which has been indiscriminately brought against the advocates of the plan, has something in it too wanton and too malignant, not to excite the indignation of every man who feels in his own bosom a refutation of the calumny. The perpetual changes which have been rung upon the wealthy, the well-born, and the great, have been such as to inspire the disgust of all sensible men. And the unwarrantable concealments and misrepresentations which have been in various ways practiced to keep the truth from the public eye, have been of a nature to demand the reprobation of all honest men."

Yes, tyranny is when you can't use the government to rob your neighbor and enjoy a lazy day!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Federalist Papers #83: International law ...

Actually this is about the limits of juries:

"I feel a deep and deliberate conviction that there are many cases in which the trial by jury is an ineligible one. I think it so particularly in cases which concern the public peace with foreign nations that is, in most cases where the question turns wholly on the laws of nations. Of this nature, among others, are all prize causes. Juries cannot be supposed competent to investigations that require a thorough knowledge of the laws and usages of nations; and they will sometimes be under the influence of impressions which will not suffer them to pay sufficient regard to those considerations of public policy which ought to guide their inquiries." - Paper 83

The notion here is that disputes against the US can be brought to US courts, although I have to wonder about their competency regarding the "laws of nations".

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Federalist Papers #79: Paid staff vs. Volunteer staff

"In the general course of human nature, A POWER OVER A MAN's SUBSISTENCE AMOUNTS TO A POWER OVER HIS WILL." - Paper 79

This was given in the context of judicial salaries, but it had me pondering churches. In particular, the kind that have volunteer elders for life calling all the shots, a second layer of paid pastors and ministers, and then a large number of volunteer staff to keep things going. From the elder's perspective, the paid staff are compliant for the reasons cited in the quote. Volunteer staff, however, are considerably more difficult to manage. The easy way out for the elders is simply to exclude all the other volunteer staff from any leadership involvement and make the paid staff responsible for managing them. This puts the pastors and ministers between a rock and a hard place. If the unmanageable volunteer staff don't perform to the satisfaction of the elders, the pastors and ministers get the blame. Probably the best solution is for the paid staff to figure out how to do everything important without the permanent involvement of the volunteer staff - effectively excluding them from any significant role.
The Federalist Papers #78: On character.

"Hence it is, that there can be but few men in the society who will have sufficient skill in the laws to qualify them for the stations of judges. And making the proper deductions for the ordinary depravity of human nature, the number must be still smaller of those who unite the requisite integrity with the requisite knowledge." - Paper 78

This paper has a few other shorter comments. The notion of character among government officials is one that seems to have been dropped - or at least selectively dropped - over the course of time. The new rule is that if a politician has favorable opinions, we couldn't care less about his character. Otherwise, we go through with a fine tooth comb looking for a moral weakness. Failing to find anything of substance, we then start throwing mud anyway, sometimes deliberately making false ethics charges just to stir things up with endless investigations that might bankrupt the politician who has offended our sensibilities.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Federalist #75. Managing foreign relationships.

Rummuser sent me a link to an article about the new tendency to "manage" foreign relationships using leftover concepts from business school. Publius gives his own take on what is needed here and why this doesn't belong in the hands of the House of Representatives:

"Accurate and comprehensive knowledge of foreign politics; a steady and systematic adherence to the same views; a nice and uniform sensibility to national character; decision, SECRECY, and despatch, are incompatible with the genius of a body so variable and so numerous." - Paper 75

I wonder what Publius would have thought regarding our last few presidents regarding their "accurate and comprehensive knowledge of foreign politics".
The Federalist Papers #72: No to term limits!

Some of the reasons for a president to be able to continue seeking reelection:

"The first is necessary to give to the officer himself the inclination and the resolution to act his part well, and to the community time and leisure to observe the tendency of his measures, and thence to form an experimental estimate of their merits. The last is necessary to enable the people, when they see reason to approve of his conduct, to continue him in his station, in order to prolong the utility of his talents and virtues, and to secure to the government the advantage of permanency in a wise system of administration. " - Paper 72.

The first idea is that a president won't be as diligent if he is a lame duck. The 22 Amendment put an end to this in 1951. This was largely the consequence of the forces of intellectual dishonesty who completely changed the Hoover/Roosevelt to mislead people about the consequences of progressivism. Thus, if someone is headed for a third term, we presume that she is being praised by the intellectualoids, which means that they should be tossed out!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Java vs. Python thoughts.

[Caution: You are entering a geek zone!]

I spent the last few days doing a bit of GUI programming related to engineering data processing using both Java and Python. Since many coworkers are using Python, I decided to dive in and try to find out what the fuss was about. Checking around on the net, it seems that Python has a number of very enthusiastic fans, but is the enthusiasm warranted?

The first thing I noticed getting into Python was that there are countless tutorials online to help you get going. Thus, I started making progress very quickly. Want to put a button on the screen? No problem! Just do a search and ... whoops! I was playing with a wxpython example, but wxpython wasn't installed. The antique Tkinter graphical system is standard for Python. Anyway, I know how to restrict my Google search so I had a Tkinter button up in no time. But how to put a xy-plot on the screen + a button? Now we are in big trouble. I did get this going, thanks to another example, but no thanks to the documentation. By the way, where is the documentation? With Java I can do a quick search and get a comprehensive list of documentation. All of it is in the same general style, making searching quite easy. My first big gripe with Python is over documentation. It seems that theirs is a free for all with everything done in whatever way suits them, or not done at all. Although there was plenty out there for the initial stages of GUIs in Python, I didn't see anything that would help me get to a mature desktop with a modern GUI.

Moving on, the syntax of Python was nice and simple. This was good for coming up to speed, but then I hit my next gripe. Python works with Objects. I am an object oriented programming freak, however, and we don't just restrict ourselves to a base class of Object. We need to specify all the subclasses, superclasses and interfaces. Arrays and list of raw objects are no no's. Instead, we have arrays and list of specific classes or interfaces. In Python, it is as if someone decided to do away with all this and just have base Objects. The advantage is that it makes coding a lot quicker. Of course I can also drive a lot quicker if I ignore all the stop signs, red lights and speed limits. There is a reason for all this traffic control: It greatly diminishes the chances of crackups the longer you drive. The rebuttal to this is that this disadvantage can be overcome with 'proper' object oriented testing. The rebuttal to the rebuttal: I work with real engineers, not software engineers. They don't do anything 'proper' when it comes to software. It is much better that the program not compile if there is a typing error than it be sent to the customer to find the error at run time. This is the same reason that I prefer Java over C/C++. Clever amateur programmers can be counted on to do the most bizarre coding, so you need a strongly typed object oriented language to keep the children on the straight path ... and make the resulting coding intelligible.

The main argument by the Python advocates is that software can be developed perhaps five times faster in Python. If programming were only about typing speed, this would certainly be the end of the story. Most of the programming is in planning out what I am doing or running the software and deciding what I like or don't like that can be improved. Designing something that will run cross-platform is also critical. Then there is the debugging and reviewing, which consumes most of the time. My overall impression is that Python is a scripting language that can be used for things somewhat bigger. Java was designed and intended for big projects to enforce the discipline needed over a large scale, over the life of the project and with a widespread deployment on different platforms. I guess they both have their place.
The Federalist Papers #70: Making sure the right culprit gets the blame.

This paper is part of a long winded argument for why the US Constitution chooses only one president at a time. (Hillary, you need to pay attention.) Again, the references to history abound, particularly with the two Consuls of Rome. Publius insists that there was no benefit from the multiplicity of leaders, whereas it caused lots of problems due to rivalry. This I think is misleading, since the need to fight wars on distant fronts frequently saw the Consuls leading different armies.

Publius goes on with this:

"But one of the weightiest objections to a plurality in the Executive, and which lies as much against the last as the first plan, is, that it tends to conceal faults and destroy responsibility. ...

It often becomes impossible, amidst mutual accusations, to determine on whom the blame or the punishment of a pernicious measure, or series of pernicious measures, ought really to fall. It is shifted from one to another with so much dexterity, and under such plausible appearances, that the public opinion is left in suspense about the real author." - Paper 70

This is part of human nature, although more recently we have seen blameology develop into a full blown science.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ikebana Show.

One of my relatives was involved in this flower arrangement show down in Cupertino. I had to come in as a spectator and give some support. This was one of her creations.

Benefiting from Obamacare.

I get to put my kids back onto my health insurance plan. Yeh! The new rules are that I can include my children up until they are 26 years old as long as they are full time students. (Time to push them to continue for a Ph.D!) The fine print also says that I get to include all of my step children (gotta do some counting...), my foster children, and my grand children (What about great grand children?).

Anyone want me to adopt their child so that they can get health benefits?
The Federalist Papers #63: The limits of liberty.

"To this general answer, the general reply ought to be sufficient, that liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power; that there are numerous instances of the former as well as of the latter; and that the former, rather than the latter, are apparently most to be apprehended by the United States." - Paper 63

In our modern discourse, this kind of subtlety is lost and Liberty is treated as a purely good notion. Needless to say, I look at this kind of statement and consider our current situation as any inhibition on social and moral anarchy is ruled "unconstitutional", while in economic affairs the regulatory structures are growing exponentially.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Federalist Papers #62: When law goes berserk ...

"It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens." - Paper 62

'nuff said.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

He makes my skin crawl ...

My theory is that everyone will get queasy over at least one other person on this planet due to their appearance, manners, customs, or something. It is an innate psychological reaction. How we deal with this is what separates the mature from the immature. As a Christian, I have strict orders from above that I need to treat others with the utmost respect, no matter how much my instincts tell me to do otherwise. Unfortunately I don't always hold to that standard.

This post was motivated by the firing of Juan Williams from National Public Radio. The reason given was a quote Williams gave on NPR where he described his feeling as people in Muslim garb get on the plane with him: "I get worried. I get nervous." No doubt plenty of people would be petrified if they knew they were getting on an airplane with a fundamentalist Christian loon too. If I had to make a list of all the difficult people I had to sit next to on an airplane ... Besides this, there are plenty of people out there who look like something creepy in a horror movie, but turn out to be otherwise when you talk to them. In this particular example, however, the Muslim garb doesn't particularly bother me since I have had plenty of such friends.

As a long time listener to NPR, I have always appreciated Juan Williams and was pleasantly surprised as he got involved with Fox News. I do hope that they offer him a full time job. It will be NPR's loss and a gem for Fox News.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The California Governor election soap opera.

First, I don't have a dog in this year's California governor's race between Jerry Brown (previously known as Governor Moonbeam) and Meg Whitman (formerly CEO of EBay). With Conan the Governator on his way out after having been skinned by the Predators of the teacher's union, these two docile puppies are just not ready. Maybe Rambo is who we need next ...

This yawn worthy campaign finally perked up in the last few days due to a sudden revelation that Meg Whitman had employed an illegal alien for nine years. The Whitman campaign immediately presented documentation supplied by the maid proving she was here legally. Obviously Whitman had been given falsified documentation. Someone else magically produced letters showing that the Social Security administration had sent letters to Whitman notifying her of anomalies in the paperwork. The latest is that the maid together with some high powered lawyer is suing Whitman for unfair wages. Originally they managed to get a hearing date of October 20th, which is 13 days before the election. With the polls being quite close between the two, this could possibly be what it takes to move the election to Brown. (There is a well established pattern here.)

What is missing from all this is any attempt to send this illegal maid back home. According to the Democrats, the US federal government knew she was illegal - as well as where to find her - but had no responsibility whatsoever to take action. Over in Arizona, the government tries to take action based on reasonable suspicion against illegals, and is loudly condemned. At the current time, this maid is still here illegally but is a celebrity because she managed to become an employee both illegally and deceptively of a private citizen. In the end, the principal I see is that if you have a relationship with a criminal, then you are a criminal. On the other hand, if you really are a criminal, then you are hero - not a criminal. Did that make sense? Can anyone explain this better?

Monday, October 18, 2010

How much to retire?

With my grandmother having almost reached 100, I was wondering this. Health benefits for an elderly couple run about $2,000 per month. They are the largest expense that a couple is stuck with. If we are 60 today, and live to be 100, how much would health benefits cost? Given the past rates of inflation, we need to add in an 8% increase each year. The total I get is $6,738,745 just for the health insurance. In the year 2050, this gives a health insurance premium of $521,388 per year, which might be enough to hire a private doctor. We also need to factor in that our investments will probably go down, rather than up, so something on the order of $10 million to $20 million looks reasonable, doesn't it?!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coloma, California.

This is the place where gold was discovered in 1848, setting off the mad rush to California. 1 Timothy 6:10 says:

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Thus, this is the story of people being 'pierced' with griefs, many of which were self inflicted, but just as many were inflicted on the innocent.

Most of the activity here seemed related to rafting adventures on the American river.

On the way home we happened to see an Alpaca ranch.


Yesterday my wife and I went up to the Sierra foothills to explore around. Finishing up with the old towns, we wandered up an unfamiliar road into the Sierras before heading home. The higher elevation areas had a smoky smell.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Memory Lane.

Ah, the good old days when things were quiet and I lived with my family in the country!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Federalist Papers #47: Nostalgia for the old world.

"The oracle who is always consulted and cited on this subject is the celebrated Montesquieu. ...

The British Constitution was to Montesquieu what Homer has been to the didactic writers on epic poetry." - Paper 47

The issue under consideration is the three branches of government: judicial, legislative and executive, along with their relative powers and checks and balances. On this matter, the UK government is cited as an exemplary system. Montesquieu is also referenced several times throughout the papers as an authority on the organization of government.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I got this from Joel Watts and did a bit of editing to get Fremont into the picture.

The Federalist Papers #44: The End justifies The Means.

"No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included." - Paper 44.

Things are starting to feel a bit repetitive and/or the arguments are over issues of little urgency, while at other times many little things of interest are gone over quickly leaving me unsure what to blog about. The above quote, however, stood out. Publius maintains that it is nonsensical for a government to be required to do something, but not given every power necessary to accomplish that requirement. What if the methods chosen are wrong? You simply vote in a new government.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The summer went by with a lot of enjoyable reading, but now work is making extra demands of my time. I will keep blogging, but it will have to be at a reduced rate. Someday I will get to retire and then be able to read, exercise and blog full time like some others out there. Meanwhile, someone new moved into the neighborhood, as you can see:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Goodbye Grandmom.

She lived to be 10 days short of 100 years old before passing away on Saturday. All my other grandparents died more than 30 years ago, so she has been the primary representative of a generation for me. When she was 78 years old, my wife and I took her to Taiwan for a vacation and to witness a relative's wedding. She was so excited at everything and got lots of attention due to her seniority. There is nothing quite like a Chinese wedding. A few years later she came to California to visit us again and we took her for a visit to the Grand Canyon during winter. This was another wonderful vacation that allowed her to get to know two of her great grandchildren.

In the spring was my last time to see her. I was off on a business trip back east and took the time to visit her at the nursing home near Philadelphia. She was obviously excited, but something happened to her so that she could not clearly express herself. I wish I could have spent more time with her, perhaps taking time to read the Bible to her or pray with her. There is a price to be paid for living on the opposite side of the country.

She was a graduate of Philadelphia Bible College and had taught junior high girls when she was young. When I started teaching junior high kids and was near exasperation, I called her to see if she had any advice for me. She told me that she didn't recall anything from those years. But then she told me that she still got together with her former students who were now in their seventies. Hmmm. Although that wasn't an immediately helpful bit of information, it was a source of encouragement for me.

She left behind 11 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren. I will miss her.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Polling: Yes, I am a hypocrite.

A polling agency just called, and I told him that we don't answer polling questions. The problem is that I am a polling data junky. Are those two things reconcilable?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Snake Of The Week.

I wish I could do this with my body.
Local ballot measures:

Measure F: A $10 per vehicle fee for registering vehicles to help with transportation projects. No.

There are probably a million vehicles in Alameda County, so this would bring in about $10 million. At the same time, Alameda County's transportation needs are massive. I am generally in favor of gasoline taxes since this effect how much people actually drive. We need to de-unionize the public sector before considering any new revenues.

Measure G: Ohlone College $349 million for improvements. No.

Eventually these have to be repaid. This works out to more than $1,500 per person in Fremont. Thanks to unions, I am afraid the work costs will be wildly inflated so it will be lots of expense for limited gain. I love Ohlone College and have enjoyed classes there. Thus, I really do want to support the college.

Measure K: Fremont Unified School District $53 parcel tax to fund teachers. No.

There are perhaps 50,000 house in Fremont with a number exempt. Thus, this will bring in about $2,000,000. Then there is the overhead for processing the tax, so maybe $1,000,000 will be left over. Given salary, benefits, pensions and overhead, this probably works out to enough to fund 5 teachers for one year. Nice, but too expensive. We need to take our schools back from the public sector teachers unions first. While we are at it, we need to take our schools back from the government.

We need to get back to a simpler system where the primary players in school issues are parents, teachers and voters. When we can honestly speak of "our schools" then they will be "our responsibility".

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Federalist Papers #35: Equitable or Fair?

There is one juicy quote:

"It might be demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always be the least burdensome." - Paper 35

This talks mostly about equitable taxation in the state/federal context. A key worry is the possibility of restricting the federal taxation sources to a limited number of commodities which then become overtaxed, killing the trade in the good, and sending the government into bankruptcy. Thus, Publius argues that the taxes should come from many sources without too much being drawn from any one source. This is the concept of "equitable". The purpose of all this taxation is, of course, to provide for the national defense, which is the sole obligation of the federal government.

Along this line, I will note that the principle obligation of the government today is not national defense, but rather continuous redistribution of wealth. Or more precisely, redistribution of taxable income. The Federalist Papers emphasis on "equitable" was to have the tax base widely distributed. The modern notion of "fairness" is an alternative concept to "equitable" that is based on ranking on the basis of populist notions of who deserves to pay more or less.

The news for today includes a federal judge's ruling that Obamacare isn't in conflict with the constitutions restrictions on federal jurisdiction. To that I will only reiterate the warning from Federalist Paper 25 - that flaunting a law for the sake of political convenience will eventually break down the "sacred reverence" for which the law should be held.
California Propositions Guide.

Time to make up my mind!

Proposition 19 - Legalization of marijuana: No!

I know the argument is that if you legalize it you can tax it. On the other hand, if it is illegal, you should be able to take everything from a drug dealer. Shouldn't that provide more revenue than taxes?

Proposition 20 - Redistricting committee: Unsure.

This relates to the politicians making their districts immune to competition by grouping democrats with democrats and republicans with republicans. In some instances, the population as a whole votes for one party but a significant majority of the representatives elected are of the opposite party. The current system is corrupt, so this measure proposes putting in a neutral committee to do the job instead. So what is to stop the politicians from stacking the committee?

Proposition 21 - $18 per vehicle surcharge for the state parks: Nah.

Disclaimer: I am a state park lover and $18 per car wouldn't be much of an ouch. Another $.25 per gallon would be more effective, but I don't like decreeing a tax and decreeing how the tax must be spent. We hire politicians to make those decisions.

Proposition 22 - Prohibition on borrowing funds from one department to give to another. Nah.

Can't imagine government without accounting gimmicks. I still prefer the politicians to be able to reallocate funds according to priorities. If things get bad enough, then we choose new politicians.

Proposition 23 - Suspension of anti-global warming bill: Yes.

The bill says that the anti-global warming bill can go back into effect if the unemployment rate goes below 5.5% for a year. This is cute because it tries to link anti-global warming legislation to capitalism. I will vote for it just to see the 'scientists' (i.e. neo-socialists) squirm.

Proposition 24 - Repeals recent business tax reductions. No.

Businesses don't pay taxes. People do. If we are to have any hope of reaching that 5.5% unemployment we have to stop thinking of businesses as a cash cow.

Proposition 25 - Budgets can pass with a majority, but taxes increases require 2/3. Uh ... no.

I hate to say it, but the threshold for everything should probably be lowered to 60%. Yes, that means that the neo-Marxists will go wild, but maybe it will teach the citizens of California a lesson. No pain, no gain?

Proposition 26 - Requires fee increases to be approved by a 2/3 vote. Nah.

California politicians have gone wild with fees since tax increases aren't possible. I can get a hotel room for the price of setting up a tent in a state park. Certainly I would like some sensible decision making in Sacramento, but I don't think we can legislate this.

Proposition 27 - Eliminate redistricting committee. Uh ... I think I need to smoke some marijuana to decide.

This proposition is essentially the opposite of Proposition 20. The underlying subtlety is that we already have a redistricting by committee which was introduced by Prop 11 in 2008. Where things get tricky is if both proposition 20 and proposition 27 pass.
Pictures from the Albuquerque balloon festival. (by my daughter.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Federalist Papers #30, #31, and #32: Taxation and The World Debt Clock.

These three begin with the premise that the federal government will periodically be compelled to take on debt to finance a war. Since no creditor would give a loan to a government with no revenues, it is thus necessary for the federal government to levy taxes. Doing this through the states was known to cause all kinds of problems, hence, the need to tax directly.

The discussion then goes on to whether or not there would be a conflict between the federal and state needs for tax revenues so that the states would be deprived of their ability to function. Moving on to our era, the situation is quite unexpected as the federal government is routinely called upon to prop up the finances of profligate states. Another thing not foreseen is that the debts would multiply according to the ability to tax, and places like Europe, Japan, Canada and Singapore would pile on debt even when there was neither war nor a threat of war. The Economist has posted a nice summary of the national debts.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Federalist Papers #28 and #29. The Militia

These two papers provide an extended discussion of the rationale behind the US Constitution's original intent regarding the military. There was a fear of standing armies held in the power of the Federal government that could be used to abuse the people. This tended to argue for a state militia dependent armed forces. At the same time, however, world history was full of examples of federations that turned on one another with terrible consequences. Thus, the compromise was to have a militia under the control of the federal government, while the officers would be appointed by the states along with the organization being on a state basis.

A Federal army was permissible, but limited to two year funding. This was to provide for emergencies, while at the same time precluding a permanent standing army at the federal level.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Federalist Papers #25 - #27: Regarding Arizona.

These continue with ideas on the balance of power between the states and the federal government. One delightful consequence of the constitutional system is proclaimed here:

"The plan reported by the convention, by extending the authority of the federal head to the individual citizens of the several States, will enable the government to employ the ordinary magistracy of each, in the execution of its laws. It is easy to perceive that this will tend to destroy, in the common apprehension, all distinction between the sources from which they might proceed; and will give the federal government the same advantage for securing a due obedience to its authority which is enjoyed by the government of each State, ..." - Paper 27

Of course Arizona wasn't even thought of then, but the current situation there came immediately to mind. Faced with a flood of criminal activity and strains on the state budget, they sensibly decided to start aiding the US government in enforcing federal laws. This was immediately followed up by a hyper-moralizing condemnation from the intellectual classes and a ruling that it is unconstitutional for states to assist in enforcement of federal laws.

Given Publius' constant fear of states undermining the federal confederacy, and the above quote, we have certainly reached a situation in state-federal relations that were inconceivable in 1787. A quote from Paper 25 is good to consider as the number of laws grows exponentially and the writing of them is delegated to various special interest groups:

"Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed, because they know that every breach of the fundamental laws, though dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country, and forms a precedent for other breaches where the same plea of necessity does not exist at all, or is less urgent and palpable. " - Paper 25

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Federalist Papers #21 - #24: The VAT.

This set of papers mostly continues the discussion of failures of other federations. The cause is identified as the fact that the federal always operated through the states so that the states were always in a position to undermine. The proposed solution was to have the federal work directly with the people, bypassing the states. One of those direct items was the raising of taxes:

"There is no method of steering clear of this inconvenience, but by authorizing the national government to raise its own revenues in its own way. Imposts, excises, and, in general, all duties upon articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will, in time, find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal; and private oppression may always be avoided by a judicious selection of objects proper for such impositions." - Paper 21

A number of arguments are provided that this is the fairest way to proceed. There is also a note regarding the import of strong drink from England along with the benefits of import duties to both raise money for the government and provide an improvement to the virtues of society.
The US has decided that consumption taxes are the least fair and preferred income taxes instead. Then there are the taxes on domestic production - corporate income taxes - which are famously the second highest in the world after Japan.
Bicycling to the gap at the top of Tesla Road east of Livermore. These are my first iPhone pictures. They look good overall but are a bit grainy as you zoom in.

California news: $19 billion budget deficit fixed with $7.5 billion in adjustments.

The nice thing about legalized marijuana is that math becomes so much easier.

Friday, October 01, 2010