Thursday, January 31, 2008
I was trying to write a witty headline
'Costco' for stolen property busted in Oakland says the headline. On the front page, the Chron describes it as "Oakland 'Costco' Busted." Oakland 'Costco'? For most cities, Cityname 'Costco' would be a Costco-like entity located in Cityname. Maybe it's a popular flea market or something. In Oakland, though, apparently a mere mention of the name of the city is sufficient to communicate that they're talking about a criminal version of 'Costco," with 'Oakland' serving as a synonym for 'criminal.'
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I would probably have chosen a different example:
"We are the defenders of democracy, the upholders of the Constitution," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink. "If it weren't for people like the people in Berkeley, standing up for what they believe, we'd be living under Hitler."Who stopped Hitler? Demonstrators? I need to get new history books.
At the debate, local activists and Code Pink members also promoted a proposed initiative for the November elections that would require the center to obtain a special use permit to remain in Berkeley.Why, yes, they are trying to silence the military recruiters, Ms. O'Malley. All of a sudden, that editorial is looking quite prescient.
Now, we do have a City of Berkeley tradition, not mentioned on the K-D site, of hoping to ignore those constitutional law decisions which say that you can't control the content of speech.Since it's the Code Pink folks doing that, though, no need to stop them. Based on the content of speech. O'Malley wanted to tie it into her whining about the Public Commons thingie, but ouch.
It is accepted legal doctrine that some restrictions on the time, place and manner of speech are allowed, of course. If the marines decided to hire a sound truck and cruise the hills in the middle of the night blasting residents out of bed with John Phillip Sousa marches and their recruiting message, they could be stopped in a hot minute.
The more interesting question is what restrictions, if any, could be placed on their current opponents, who favor, shall we say, more colorful and graphic expressions of opinion. If I were their lawyer, I'd enjoy arguing that because they don't have the same grandiose taxpayer-funded budget the marines do, they're forced to make their point in creative ways.I suppose it might be enjoyable to argue that, but I don't think I've ever seen any caselaw which suggests that poor people are exempt from restrictions on annoying speech.
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Berkeley's joyful view of the military is being discussed at The Volokh Conspiracy. My favorite comment so far:
You war mongers want to put a military recruiting office next door to the cannabis buyer's club and Good Vibrations! There goes the neighborhood!Ilya Somin makes the mistake of spelling PhoeBe as Phoebe (and sorgen as Sorgen, I suppose), as if there were normal people in Berkeley.
In other news, check out this hypocrisy:
The dedicated parking space "is showing favoritism to one side of the argument," Wozniak said, adding, "My concern is giving a parking space in front of the Marine Recruiting Center seems confrontational."Standing up for a particular position against another is called "favoritism."
"It's not favoritism," said PhoeBe Sorgen, a member of Code Pink and the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee. Rather, it's following the Berkeley "tradition to stand up for peace," she said.
It would be hypocritical of her to now respect the military because she lied to them before......
Councilmember Betty Olds, who originally intended vote against the resolution, said she changed her mind, especially listening to one of the speakers who is a 90-year-old peace activist. Olds said it would have been hypocritical of her to oppose the resolution, since she, like many others in Berkeley, "found a psychiatrist who said their kids were all crazy to get them out of the [Vietnam] war."
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The city of tolerance has passed a piece of legislation to use the authority of government to inform a group they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders." One elected official says they "ought to have better sense than to come here." They have openly agreed to use a more lenient set of rules for those who wish to oppose this group on the basis of their opinion.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
My candidate is better than yours
First of all, whoever is responsible for the images on the opinion page in today's Daily Cal (this is the only one I found online) should probably be fired. They could easily have included twice as much content, who knows how much money worth of advertising, or just left it pleasantly blank, rather than including these vacuous pictures which add absolutely nothing to the discourse and are undisguised attempts by artists and designers to make themselves feel relevant on a page where they simply aren't.
The Obama piece from Sid Radhakrishnan has an interesting line:
While little separates the Democratic candidates, Obama stands out in planning to provide $4,000 tax credits to college students, no income tax for senior citizens making less than $50,000 per year and tax reform for the middle class. Obama's health care policy focuses on lowering costs while mandating coverage for children. He promises gradual reduction of emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Beneath the promises lies sacrifice all of us must be willing to make-sacrifices to which I am committed.So make those sacrifices, if you're committed. What does Obama have to do with them? If we're all willing to make those sacrifices, Obama becomes a non-issue. No, no, what Radhakrishnan actually means is that these sacrifices must be enforced using the government's police power, but I sort of object to the characterization of such sacrifices as "willing." Whether Radhakrishnan personally is committed makes no difference to anybody and isn't even tangentially related to a debate on government policy.
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Hard at work...
From the Senate minutes for last week...
Ms. Allbright said ASUC T-shirts were in. She asked Vice President Lee about the price, and he thought it was about $5. Mr. Lee wanted to know whether or not people wanted to pay for it out of their pocket, or have the students of UC pay for it out of the Senate Only account. So she would ask for a show of hands of people who wanted to pay for the T-shirts out of the Senate Only account. She noted that about $5,000 remained in this account, although money will continue to be spent from it for copies and things like that. If they took the money for the T-shirts out of Senate Only, it would only be about $100, and she thought they could fund it through the budget. But that would mean that money wouldn't go to carryforward for next year. Ms. Allbright asked for a show of hands of people who did and didn't want money for the T-shirts to come out of Senate Only. After a show of hands, Ms. Allbright said Senators would get free T-shirts.Hey, at least the right question was asked!
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ASUC stuff coming up
There's a bill for next week adding Executive Officers to the list of folks who have to hold the highly-demanded and frequently-used office hours that every student tries to attend.
Another bill seeks to combine the Queer Resource Center and the Queer Alliance because of drama between the two groups. It includes this odd clause:
Resolved, that the actions of the current interim leadership of Queer Alliance and Queer Resource Center be made ineligible for charges as unconstitutional according to the student groups' constitutions in the Judicial Council since constitutional function was made impossible by previous leaderships' inadequacy and unconstitutional behavior...It seems odd both in granting immunity and in somehow excusing groups from their previous actions simply because they were under different leadership. Groups have continuity in the ASUC, and it affects funding decisions and space assignments. I don't see how groups can simultaneously deny responsibility for their past when they use that past to gain ASUC benefits. Then again, maybe I'm misreading the clause.
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Monday, January 28, 2008
Eyebrow sent skyward
When we talk about the irrational hatred of all things military around the Bay Area, we refer to things like this Barry S. Eisenberg letter:
I share letter-writer Denise D'Anne's chagrin at the ludicrous spectacle of the cadets of San Francisco's JROTC, our own child soldiers, parading their militarism around on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.That seems a rather odd thing to say in the context of discussions on civil rights. I take it the opposition doesn't quite extend this far.
This organization exists to promote military recruitment. It is not some sort of benign social program, as its adherents would have you believe. It is an entrenched anachronism to be rooted out. Its "troops" are dupes.
The military does not belong in any public school system anywhere in any way, shape or form.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008
I have to admit that I'm a little bit surprised to see David Kopel, a fairly libertarian fellow, praising Barack Obama for being presidential and a potentially "outstanding Head of State" because he's so charismatic and all. (I tried to listen to the speech linked to see what everyone has been raving about, but I couldn't stand listening to what seems to me to be empty drivel. How a person could be inspired by it remains a mystery to me, but I've never heard a stump speech that didn't make me want to gouge my ears out, so maybe I'm an outlier) A charismatic person can get people to like him regardless of what he says, even if he says nothing (applicable!). In a system where the Head of State and Head of Government are different, there's nothing wrong with it, but when they're both the same person, it seems like the last thing a libertarian would want is a charismatic Head of State.
I, personally, want an extremely uncharismatic president, because then everyone would look at everything he does extremely critically. I don't want a president who is able to avoid backlash over what he's doing because people like what he says. The way people have been gushing over Obama has only confirmed my fears, so I think I'm going to have to toss my hat in with Hillary Clinton.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008
It is a point often raised about all levels of American politics: that there is no candid conversation, only bland talking points mixed with warm and fuzzy optimism. Sen. Barack Obama clearly is above such generic speaking and demonstrates the toughness and sharpness that any good president should have.Discuss. Being above "generic optimism" is not the descriptor I would've used for Obama.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008
Recall when Becky O'Malley dismissed as silly suggestions that folks were trying to chase the marine recruiter out of town?
Well, has anyone proposed silencing the marine recruiter who's currently working Berkeley? Not that I've noticed.She says it as if it's absurd that anyone would suggest such a thing.
Fast forward a bit, and one of our elected officials, Dona Spring, says:
In addition to making it more difficult for future military recruiting centers to be established, Spring also said she would support action that would remove the current office, which is in her district.Haha. Public standards. I wonder how she feels about speech that threatens our public standards. Or religions. Or newspapers.
"I do want to do something, whatever we can do, to shut down an agency that... offends our public standards," she said. "It's a detriment, it's a danger to the public."
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Pick the prezident!
The University of California Students Association announced yesterday afternoon that they had registered more than 12,300 new voters for the Feb. 5 election, just short of its goal of 14,000.I imagine that the wording means that there were fewer than 12,400 new voters registered. Is this really "just short" of 14,000? That's not even 90% of the way there.
"Every once in awhile, I get down or depressed about where this country is going and I have been for the last few days," Dynes said.Do we really want a depressed person running our university? Depression is a serious mental illness, and he should get it treated, rather than continuing a high-stress job like UC President. Meanwhile, someone who wasn't crazy could run things.
"It only takes two minutes. That's what I tell people when I do voter registration, and if you think about it—the power to vote, the power to voice and the power to change—it only takes two minutes to get this power. Why not do it?" said Kao Thao, an intern for the ASUC external affairs office.Because it takes two minutes? Because you don't feel like serving on a jury? Because "the power to voice and the power to change" isn't what you get when you have one vote out of thousands/millions/hundreds of millions (depending on the level of the election)?
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Becky O'Malley comes down on the side of not taking everyone's fucking money, for a change. Recently, the city was going to add a few hundred dollars in fees to those people who dare sell alcohol in the city. O'Malley's complaint isn't really about taking money, but taking money from the wrong people. Still, I felt like I was in a time warp with:
First, let's be clear that Berkeley has its share of nuisances or even crimes caused by alcohol sales, just like other urban areas. What are called "corner" liquor stores—small stores in residential areas whose main business is selling alcoholic drinks in bottles—can turn into a hangout for disreputable alcoholics if they're not aggressively well-managed to avoid selling to the wrong people. On the other hand, small grocery stores within walking distance can be a real asset to neighborhoods if proprietors do a good job of screening their clientele.Who are these "disreputable alcoholics," and what tools is the store owner to use to avoid selling to them? How should the city assess fees to deal with them?
The reason I say time warp is because this isn't all that far from what you might have seen in an op-ed defending segregation in the 60s. Perhaps I've been listening to the Berkeley race warriors too long because I can't help but smell racism with things like this. ("Crack must have more severe sentences than cocaine, because the types of problems caused by crack-users are so much worse!")
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Thursday, January 17, 2008
Who should subsidize?
Do you like budgeting anomalies? Chancellor Bob 2.0 and some Regents are looking at fee increases as the path to affordable education. Increasing fees increases financial aid, because a certain percentage of fee increases are allocated to financial aid, and so a fee increase would in fact make education more affordable for people who can't afford it.
I don't have the report, so maybe some things are being left out of these stories, but this part from the Daily Cal report leaves me scratching my head:
The report projects that, if fees increase, the amount of money each undergraduate student will be expected to contribute to their education will total $16,700 by the 2017-18 school year, down from the $18,300 students would have to pay in the same year if fees do not increase.I simply don't see how boosting financial aid through fee increases can decrease the expected contribution. To do so would require that the total amount of money being taken in from all students goes down, and moving money around after a fee increase doesn't accomplish that. (Maybe they're talking medians?)
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Like a two-year-old
This is unbelievably hilarious. "I was kidnapped while engaging in piracy!"
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Nothing to see here
Next up is Prop 93. Prop 93 is a naked power grab by some state legislators who aren't happy with their term limits but don't have the support to get rid of them. My summary:
The way things are: Folks can hold office for 8 years in the Senate and 6 years in the Assembly.
What happens if it passes: Folks can hold office for 12 years, regardless of house. This doesn't apply to current legislators, who can hold office for 12 years in their current house. In particular, folks who are termed out this year can get another term. So, let's note a couple facts in no particular order with no implication at all. Seriously.
The leaders of both houses are termed out this term.
Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would not support this proposition unless legislators also proposed redistricting reform. (He has since changed his mind)
The legislators were looking at redistricting reform before Prop 93 got on the ballot.
The legislators aren't looking at redistricting reform anymore.
Even if Prop 93 passed, it wouldn't have done termed-out legislators much good since it would pass in the state primary election in the summer where someone else would already be running for their job.
In a mysterious coincidence, this was the year that the legislature moved the presidential primary to be earlier than the state primary, which just happens to include Prop 93 and totally unrelatedly means that termed-out legislators will get to run again.
The proponents are running on the "we need these experienced legislators to stick around" platform, which means they don't really care that everyone sees it as a power grab. But since the bonus time only applies to current legislators, the argument is pretty much "we need these particular experienced legislators to stick around, not those in the future." This is further reinforced by the fact that they aren't trying to get rid of term limits, which seems like the obvious solution to the "not enough experience" problem.
I'm an opponent of term limits, largely on the "you get what you deserve" theory of corrupt governance. But I'm going to side with the term limit supporters and oppose this constitutional amendment because it doesn't do anything to get rid of term limits, it just gives a small set of folks a bonus term, and I don't much care for legislative handouts to specific individuals, even if I want those handouts available for everyone.
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Saturday, January 12, 2008
People don't exist
Today's dictator-of-the-day comment comes from Harriet Rafter, writing a letter to the Chron:
Ever since Californians passed Proposition 13 more than 30 years ago, politicians have decreed we must cut and cut and cut state spending. Clearly, this is no solution. It is time to do what any individual would if his income dropped and he had already limited his expenses - find additional sources of revenue. Fees, taxes - we citizens must pay for the services from which we all benefit. I happily will.I'm not sure what's "clear" about that clearly, but let's investigate this analogy a bit further. The State of California isn't an individual, but making the comparison isn't particularly helpful to Rafter's cause. When Cali realizes she isn't making enough money to fund everything she wants, she decides to secure additional sources of funding. She goes around to everyone's house and demands the occupants give her money. If they don't, she kidnaps them and throws them in a cell. Is that really "what any individual would" do?
But that's not fair. Because Rafter is willing and happy to comply! Now, when she says she'll "happily" raise, say, a million dollars in taxes, she doesn't mean she's willing to give a million dollars. (No one's stopping her) She's actually only willing to give one dollar and then send someone to another 999,999 people and force them each to give a dollar, too, or else.
Somehow, though, this kind of math just doesn't compute for folks. To them, all they see is "a little more of my money, and I get things I like, yay!"
To head off all you illiterates (not that you'll read this), I'm not asking folks to never tax. I'm asking folks to understand the moral implications of taxation, and not to raise taxes lightly just because you "happily" will do something. In other words, I think all taxation is theft (I don't know how to describe "give me your stuff or I'll take it and/or throw you in jail" as anything other than a bureaucratic mugging) but that not all theft is wrong. Still, the fact that it's stealing really ought to count a bit when you're making your decisions.
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I'll start with the easiest of the propositions, Prop 91. Prop 91 is one of those "Whoops, my bad" propositions which have been abandoned by its proponents because they don't want it anymore on account of some deal or event. In this case, it was the passage of Prop 1A the 2006 general election, which I guess did the same thing. As always, I strongly encourage folks to vote YES on such propositions, because passage would be really, really funny.
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Friday, January 11, 2008
Vacation = over! Yay.
The Patriot blog looks functional again, by the way.
Coming up: Discussion of the propositions that are the upcoming ballot, because nobody cares who you want to get nominated for president. For a good summary of the hilarity of Prop 93, check out this Debra Saunders column.
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Friday, January 04, 2008
Nobody I know voted for him:
What's nice about taking a midwinter break is that it provides an opportunity to poll the delegation: to inquire of the citizenry about what's on their minds. Holiday parties are great for taking informal surveys, discretely of course. The best thing about residents of the urban East Bay is that they rarely agree on much, so when they do, it’s news.Using this method, Becky O'Malley is going to draw conclusions. Here's an interesting one:
Berkeleyans are plenty mad at the University of California, as are residents of El Cerrito and Richmond, who also live near branches of the UC fiefdom. They've finally started to notice that the uglier aspects of the no-longer-lovely UC Berkeley campus are metastasizing into their pleasant urban neighborhoods. Some are threatened by the toxic legacy of years of the University of California's devil-may-care experimentation. And many of these angry citizens are UC alumni, faculty and/or employees embarrassed by Alma Mater's licentious behavior. Some are even football fans. They all pay taxes to support UC.I wonder if she realizes that everyone in the state pays taxes to support UC. As an opponent of indvidual benefit and a supporter of collective good, she really ought to understand that having Berkeley people suffer for UC is the right choice.
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Thursday, January 03, 2008
Mom, fix things and make them better!
Surprisingly, the Chron doesn't like the primary system as it works now.
For dubious historical reasons, Iowa and New Hampshire are conceded first chance to draw blood. Defenders say both states take the process seriously, and participants can quiz contenders directly on a snowy sidewalk.Not good enough? 'Enough' implies a standard we're reaching for. What standard is failed? Satisfying the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle? A tragedy.
Sorry, but that's not good enough.
But it gets better:
The candidates themselves will never complain, for fear of antagonizing voters in states at the head of the pack. It should be time for Congress to play designated driver and take control.Immediately, the solution must be federal control and regulation. There's not even the slightest nod to states' rights or parties' rights, no thought about what constitutional authority Congress has to tell states when to hold primary elections, or even a recognition that such issues may actually matter. No, instead, anytime something the Chron doesn't approve of happens, Congress needs to take control immediately. You don't get much more stereotypically big government authoritarian than this.
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Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Why Ron Paul smells like a monkey
A couple of whiny commenters seem to think that Ron Paul is Jesus or something, and want to know why I don't even recognize him as a person.
There are two approaches to Ron Paul. If you disagree with him, then it's a really easy decision not to support him. I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.
Instead, let's talk about agreement with Ron Paul. I'm a small-government type, so I find myself in agreement with him on quite a few issues. This is even more reason not to recognize his existence. Here's how it works:
1) Ron Paul won't win. This isn't necessarily a reason not to support someone (I support Fred Thompson, after all), but it does shape the decision. Supporting Ron Paul is going to be a matter of making a statement and hoping that the statement resonates with enough people so that his ideas have an impact on elections. (This one or a future one)
2) Ron Paul seems crazy. He's got the whiny voice.
3) Ron Paul supporters are crazy, and include racists, conspiracy theorists, and comment spammers. Lots of them. In fact, that's largely all most people know about Ron Paul. His fans are nuts and assholes.
So, if you like Ron Paul's ideas, you really have to ask yourself: do you want people in the future, who see the viewpoint you support, to say "Oh, that's the viewpoint held by Ron Paul and his fans"? Is your quest for ideological purity so important that you're willing to destroy any possible chance of success or progress towards your goals by doing for "small government conservativism" what the Civil Rights Movement did for "states rights"?
People want the government to do stuff for them. They may deny it, but when it comes election time, they vote for another Mom in the White House (in the same way that folks say they want a candidate who isn't just another power-hungry ambitious suit, and then dismiss Fred Thompson because he isn't acting enough like a power-hungry ambitious suit: thoughts here). To change this, it's going to be necessary to fight a cultural war, and you can't win a cultural war by siding with the losers of the last one. (I hear Ron Paul got the all-important David Duke endorsement) Those of you who say "it doesn't matter who his fans are or how charismatic he is, only his ideas matter" are quite simply wrong. A (relatively) high-profile small government candidate will shape the way others view that ideology, and Ron Paul and the Ronulans are going to do more to devastate it than Hillary Clinton possibly could.
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