Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson

You wonder about the stupidity of government officials in Missouri.  I mean, let's decide to have a secret proceeding.  Then let's declare a state of emergency weeks before anything happens.  Then let's call out the National Guard.  What were these people thinking?  How dumb could they be?

Well, I'm not sure they were that dumb.  What if they were trying to obscure the issues that are just as important as the shooting?  For instance, the bad behavior generally of the police in Ferguson--their bad habit of stopping African Americans for any reason, or no reason at all, their excessive fines and fees that provide most of the budget for the Police Department there, and so on.

More important, these kinds of behaviors aren't limited to Ferguson, or to Missouri, for that matter.  California is a leader in increasing fees for minor infractions to fund the government.  Fees can be increased easily, while increasing taxes requires supermajorities.  And because police patrol low-income neighborhoods much more intensively, they're much more likely to catch people making California stops, crossing against the light and the like.

In the private sector we have payday lenders, it the public sector the petty justice system, both inclined to part poor people from their meager incomes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Over, It's Done, Get Past It

The rights of gays and lesbians to marry is settled.  Those who oppose gay marriage should settle down and accept it.  Don't spend your time being like Alabama, which didn't repeal its law against interracial marriage until 2000.  It was unenforceable, as all laws against interracial marriage had been overturned by Loving v. Virginia in 1967, but Alabamans apparently wanted to wallow in their racism, and left the law on the books.

And if you look at this map, you'll find that the Supreme Court will probably have to get rid of the same-sex marriage bans in the very same states that kept their interracial marriage bans until Loving overturned them.  And it's worth noting that California is again in the middle of the pack, not the last, but certainly not the first, as its ban on interracial marriage was overturned in a court case in 1948, with the Legislature repealing the law in 1959.  (Many eastern states ended their bans in the 19th century, and a few states never banned interracial marriage.)

But it's not true that if your state didn't have a ban on interracial marriage, it's also progressive on same-sex marriage.  Kansas, for instance, which fought the Civil War for some years before the rest of the country, banned same-sex marriage in 2004.  However, 8 of the 17 states that never had interracial marriage bans also allows some form of same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Yes on Prop. 45

I'm always amazed at the willingness of the punditry to accept dumb arguments when they're made by rich people.  The arguments against Prop. 45 are right up there with the argument landlord groups made during the foreclosure crisis, which was that the tenant in a soon-to-be-foreclosed property shouldn't get a copy of the Notice of Default, since that violated the landlord's privacy rights.  Huh?  The Notice of Default is a public record ferhevensake.  What it would have done was to give tenants an early warning that the landlord was in trouble, and a tenant might decide to move, rather than deal with the inconvenience and hassle of the landlord's foreclosure.  I expect this kind of silliness in landlord-tenant battles.  There's no argument too stupid to make and there's no argument too silly for the Legislature to accept.

The arguments against Proposition 45 are just as silly.  What Proposition 45 would do is to allow our elected Insurance Commissioner to reject health insurance rate increases that the Commissioner found to be excessive.  That's what the Commissioner does now with car and property insurance, and it has saved Californian oodles of money.  But the health insurers are looking at that, and looking at Dave Jones, the present Commissioner, and throwing fits.  So is Covered California, which is, shock of all shocks, making the same arguments that the health insurance industry is making.  Wow, it's only been in existence for a year, and it's already too cozy with its industry!

So far as I can see, the arguments against it are two.  The first is that, somehow, having rate regulation will increase rates.  I don't think so.  It didn't raise rates for other insurance, and it hasn't done so in the 35 or so other states that do allow rate regulation. Their second argument is that we could get an Insurance Commissioner who is too cozy with the industry and would allow excessive increases.  Yes, you did just suffer whiplash.

What they're really afraid of is Dave Jones, who has been a very good Commissioner, and would probably scrutinize rates pretty closely.  He might also look at other bad habits of the health insurance industry like, oh for instance, classifying all drugs for a particular health condition as high-tier, requiring larger copays, in an attempt to discourage patients with particular pre-existing conditions, just like the bad old days.  One of Covered California's problems is that the Insurance Commissioner might get involved with plan benefits but, with bad behavior like this and the cozier-by-the-day relationship between CC and the insurance industry, we can only hope that would be true.

It's true that we could get a bad Commissioner--Chuck Quackenbush comes to mind--but I think the industry is more concerned that, given the direct impact on their lives, voters might elect a string of pro-consumer Commissioners.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Smart Phone

Yes, the phone is still smarter than I am, but I'm learning to use it.  I don't need to use the 4G that much because I have wifi at home and Comcast seems to have it everywhere.  In particular, I use it to do a quick check of my email when I don't feel like turning on the computer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Be Still, My Ego

Someone I don't know has actually signed up to get my blog on some kind of feed.  I guess I should be flattered that someone wants to read me. Well, I am flattered.  Welcome, Reader.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bumbling About the Internet

This morning I spent a few minutes looking at how the Arab world looks at ISIS.  After all, it's not likely that the United States will become a caliphate, but many Arabs are already looking at the rule of the Caliphate.  Not surprisingly, there's a good deal of ridicule out there.  One rather amateurish Palestinian production suggests that only Israel will benefit from ISIS.  Another much better piece notes that ISIS won't take over Lebanon, as they need a functioning government to overthrow.

I'm amazed, though, that our pundit class has failed to notice that (a) a lot of people in the Arab world are going to be seriously unwilling to take the hit for us and (b) that in the complicated politics of the Arab world, we're way out of our competence.  ISIS seems to have a lot more competence, having already cut a deal with the moderate Islamists in Syria that the US was planning to fund.  And why would the Saudis, who share much of the ISIS vision, be willing to help defeat ISIS, and help Iran in the bargain?  And Israel is already complaining that the struggle with ISIS will strengthen Iran.