Monday, June 30, 2008

An Interesting Problem

Since the Supreme Court has found that the 2nd Amendment is an "individual right" there are a whole series of issues that arise from that decision. Of particular importance to those of us here in Montana, is the need of lower income families who derive the bulk of their protein from wild game procured through hunting. In order to clarify the point, let me set up a couple of scenarios for you.

In case #1, the defendant robs a bank at gun point, is quickly caught, confesses, and is sentenced to 10 years in prison, with no time suspended. At the end of the 10 years, he goes hunting, and is stopped by a federal fish and game warden, who runs his name and finds out that he is a felon. Is the defendant in violation of the Armed Career Criminal Act, in that he is a felon in possession of a weapon?

If you answered that he (or she, no sense being sexist) would not have a problem, you would be correct. Because in Montana, you are automatically restored to your full civil rights after you are through with your prison, or probation, or parole.

Now, let's take another case: A couple go out to the bar and have way too much to drink. Arriving home, one accuses the other of some sort of infraction, and the argument gets louder and more heated. Finally, the man (the larger one of the two) says that he is leaving. The woman gets in his way, unwilling to end the argument without total victory. The man shoves the woman to the side and leaves the house.
She calls 911, and the police arrive, and following the statute, arrest the aggressor, who will not be eligible for bail until he sees the magistrate, which if it happens on a Friday night, means Monday, or Tuesday if Monday is a holiday. At the appearance, he enters a not guilty plea to the charge of domestic violence, is released on $500 bond, and forbidden to contact his wife, or to go to his house until the matter is resolved.
Unfortunately, it is all too typical, that the wife/girlfriend will then pester the court, the prosecutor and the defense counsel to remove the restrictions, because she really loves him and she is not afraid of him. Eventually, the prosecutor realizes that he has a less than willing "victim" and offers a disorderly conduct, the lowest misdemeanor crime that we have with a punishment of no more than 10 days and $100 fine.
Now, two years later, the man is out hunting and runs into the same federal warden. When the warden runs the man's name, what do you think will happen?

If you said that he would be immediately arrested and sentenced to no less than 5 years in a federal prison, you would be correct.

So, what is the difference? Why is the felon restored his rights, but the misdemeanant is not? The answer lies in the fact that in Montana, you don't lose your rights for a misdemeanor conviction. You can vote, sit as a juror, all the full benefit of rights are available to you. But because you were never deprived of your rights, you can never have them restored.
Yes, I know that makes no sense, but the same Supreme Court that found an individual right to keep and bear arms, said that the only logical interpretation of the statute is that you have to lose your rights to have them restored.

The only solution to this problem is to either change the federal statute, (The Violence Against Women Act) or to have Montana law say that you lose your rights when you are convicted of a misdemeanor and have them restored in the same manner as a felon would. Neither of which is politically tenable right now.

Let this be a lesson - Only have a homosexual relationship because they are expressly prohibited from being classified as domestic violence. That way at least, you could still hunt.

The Answer to all the Questions

Wiley had a post showing that Republicans, as a rule are happier than their Democratic counterparts/. I was reminded of this when I read this piece in the American Thinker. The opening paragraph is too precious to miss:
Every now and again our learned scholars in the liberal university come up with a study, financed by taxpayers' money, that concludes what every liberal already knows. Conservatives are rigid and not very intelligent. In fact, as one study by two Berkeley professors claimed, the the "whiny, insecure kid in nursery school" probably grew up to be a conservative.
Now, that study was based on one classroom in Berkley. Which leads to the question - What is a "conservative" in Berkley? My guess, he's a Trotskyite.
The article goes on, but here is the nut:
Either way, Schweizer's findings make sense.

Liberals are more materialistic than conservatives, he finds. Of course they are. Believing in equality, differences in material things are very important to them. Not surprisingly, when they discover material differences in society, liberals are offended. There is a word for this feeling of offence: Envy. And so it is that liberals are more envious than conservatives.

Liberals celebrate anger. No, we are not just talking about Bush Derangement Syndrome. "Since the sixties, modern liberals have embraced anger as a sign of genuine commitment to the cause," writes Schweizer and their political rage leaks into their personal lives. The General Social Survey shows that liberals are more angry than conservatives and "three times more likely (17 percent to 6 percent) to have actually done something to get back at someone who had hurt or offended them in the past month."

Liberals are stingy with their money. Again, this is hardly surprising. Liberal political philosophy says: People Have Needs, and the government should provide. Thus liberals, when they actually spend money on anyone other than themselves, give money to the activist organizations that advocate for bigger government. Conservatives, on the other hand, give money to organizations that actually help people. Schweizer shows us that the headline liberals of recent memory-the Clintons, Gores, Kerrys, and Obamas-don't give much. But headline conservatives like Bush, Cheney, and Limbaugh do give, and give generously.

But then they would. Conservatives believe that people should help people, and governments should stick to the stuff that governments do best, defending society against enemies, foreign and domestic.

Liberals are less honest than conservatives. Peter Schweizer compares liberals and conservatives using the World Values Survey and the National Cultural Values Survey. Liberals admit that they don't value honesty as much as conservatives. They are more willing to sell "Aunt Betty a car with a bum transmission" than conservatives, and "twice as likely as conservatives to say it is okay to get welfare benefits they were not entitled to." Schweizer's poster boy for welfare cheat is billionaire George Soros, who once "tried to get a Jewish charity to give him money while also receiving public assistance."

Did you know that liberals are not just angrier but whinier than conservatives? Peter Schweizer samples liberal Whine Country using the Clintons, Bill and Hillary, as representative varietals.

But at least liberals are smarter than conservatives. Everyone knows that Calvin Coolidge was "weaned on a pickle," that Ike fumbled his syntax, that Reagan was an amiable dunce, and that President Bush is too dumb to be president. But navy veteran Sam Sewell found one liberal dumber than President Bush. Browsing presidential candidate John Kerry's website he happened upon the results of "an IQ-like qualifying test Kerry had taken in 1966." It showed that Kerry belonged in the 91st percentile on intelligence, a bit lower than President Bush in the 95th percentile.

This raises interesting questions about how a conservative should deal with a liberal (Standard disclaimer-not all liberals are as above, but there are a significant number to make the hypothesis interesting).
For instance, when claims are made about income inequality, conservatives seem to be more solution oriented, i.e. get a job, then get a better job, complete your schooling, get married and stay that way, and stay out of jail. But the real issue for the liberal is not the problem to be solved, but the envy of those who have more. But how would that explain the rich liberals? You might notice that they actually give less to others than the rich conservatives. That seems to be because they want the government to extract the good, so that whatever amount the government takes is deemed sufficient, and no more has to be brought forth as an individual, thereby exempting them.
But the biggest problem for conservatives, is that liberals value honesty less highly than do the conservatives. If you cannot have an honest discussion, what are you accomplishing?
Integrity used to mean something. A man's word was his bond. Now, a promise or a statement of fact are reneged as swiftly as the conditions warrant. Perhaps, I am too rigid in my thinking, but if I can't trust the other side, why would I want to listen to anything that they say?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama's Social Security Plan

Okay, that's not exactly fair, since he hasn't presented one yet. But he has given us hints, in that he intends to remove the Social Security tax on all of those now paying it, and transfer the entire burden to those making over $250,000 per year. This has the instant appeal of being a 6% tax cut for all those paying the FICA tax presently. Whoo Hoo. How are you going to spend that windfall?
But what is the net effect of using this proposal? Since those making $250k are in the top 1% of all earners, I would have to assume that they will be paying around 30% of their pre-tax income for this tax in order to keep it revenue neutral. Besides, what are they going to do with that approximately $75k anyway? Sure, they might not buy a new car this year causing unemployment in the auto industry, or they may not construct a new house causing further contraction in the construction industry. Or they may not invest it in a company preventing further enhancements to keep the company competitive, allowing all of that business to be speedily and orderly transferred to China. No, the rich won't miss that money.
But we will.
Another problem with this proposal: Does it change the basic social contract? For instance, at the moment everyone who works pays into the Social Security trust fund and expect to receive money back when they retire. The more you make, the more you are able to draw in retirement. But all workers would receive something more than just the equivalent of Social Security Supplemental Income, otherwise known as "federal welfare."
Under Obama's plan, what would be your claim to receive benefits? That you worked? So what, so did everyone else. How about that you deserve it because you were promised it for your entire working career? But the new system would not count for more if you worked hard and made a lot of money. It would be nothing more than welfare. And as such it could be means tested, since you didn't contribute to the plan, but instead relied solely on the contributions of others. (Admittedly, this is when the current workers have cleared out of the way, and the entire burden is financed by the over $250k crowd).
This rending of the social fabric that would turn once proud workers into welfare recipients strikes me as appalling. I can only hope that Obama's comments on his plan carry the same weight as support for Rev. Wright, or NAFTA, or clean campaigning, or campaign finance reform, or . . . well, you get the drift.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Return of Show Trials

James Hansen, who originally thought we were going into another ice age, is now using the 20th anniversary of his pronouncement that he was wrong, to call for the prosecution of the heads of EXXON/Mobil and other companies for crimes against humanity. And what are those crimes, you ask? Knowingly disregarding his advice that global warming is real. Or, at least, real in his mind. He is also going to campaign against anyone who denies global warming. Him and Cindy whatshername, would have a dramatic effect no doubt.
I suppose part of the proof may be that as Andy Hammond noted, the Brits are just not afraid of global warming, nor do they believe that it is man caused. Maybe, because they have learned that Mars is getting warmer at about the same rate as the Earth. Or maybe, they are just not willing to be stampeded into surrendering all that they have worked for, for a questionable theory based on flawed computer models.
Either way, his announcement shows that he is in the death throes of his 15 minutes of fame, and will soon be as irrelevant as old what's her name.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Investment Opportunity?

My friend Dave in his new role as a Registered Financial Adviser has provided plenty of interesting tidbits to consider for investing your money. A little more tongue in cheek, I would recommend that you invest in bus manufacturers should Mr. Obama be elected in November. Starting with his white grandmother, then his pastor, then his opposition to NAFTA and possibly an Iraq pullout, he now has thrown campaign finance reform under said bus.
With all these people and ideas being tossed under the bus, there are going to be a lot of buses high centered on formerly lofty rhetoric and principles, and as such, we will need more buses.

May be part of his economic plan, I guess.


Pardon the language, but I just learned that the Dodd payback bill for being a friend of the head of Countrywide has included a provision that all credit card transactions are going to be reported to the IRS. The infringement of our privacy by the one governmental organization that has the least amount of accountability or supervision should frighten everyone who isn't living in a shack in Lincoln.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Dicta is the term that lawyers use to explain excess verbiage in an opinion from a court that provides guidance to understanding the opinion, but is itself not considered to be the law of the case. In a case that just came down from the SCOTUS that I agree with the majority, I do have to appreciate the dicta of Justice Scalia, even if he is in the dissent:
Rather, the dignity at issue [in this case] is the supreme human dignity of being master of one’s fate rather than a ward of the State — the dignity of individual choice.

"Master of one's fate." What a concept!

But I doubt that it will catch on.

Harsh Sentencings

Much as I complain about outrageous sentences given out by judges here, I don't think that even they can top this. Death and life imprisonment? Seems to me that one would negate the other, but it is Sharia law, and I am not admitted to that bar.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Questions about Obama

Wiley has an amusing post about Obama's flip flop being considered as an asset by someone at LITW. Obama's shift was only common sense, since on the whole, NAFTA has been beneficial to this country, although maybe not as much in Ohio, where he made his original statement.
Overlooked, however, is the potential problem for Obama. During the primary campaign, he was able to get to the left of Hillary, because her perceived inevitability caused her to take a more moderate stance in anticipation of the general election in November. Because he was able to stake the ground, many in the Democratic Party went to him over Hillary, and he was able to hang on to secure the nomination. The problem for Obama is that the general electorate is not as left as the Democrats are. As a result, he now has to tack right for the general election.
But looming on the horizon, is the "suspended" campaign of Hillary Clinton. Remember, that Obama has only clinched the nomination based on the pledges of the superdelegates. Those superdelegates however, can switch their vote at any time. So, suppose Obama goes too far right, can Hillary go to the convention in Denver, and say that it is time to elect a real Democrat, not someone who's views are, shall we say, flexible?
You have to hand it to the Democrats, they can provide hours of entertainment when they are sure that they are going to win.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The End of Democracy?

Dave has a good post on truth in campaigning that details yet another example of how we are being lied to everyday. So, why do we let ourselves be manipulated in this manner? Partly, I blame it on the perceived complexity of life in general. Thirty years ago, I would spend many an afternoon tuning up my car. I could change the points, plugs and rotor and change my own oil. And I could do it by climbing into the cavernous space that held the engine. Today, my Passat is computerized, and even has the engine compartment effectively sealed to prevent me from accessing anything beyond the oil dipstick and the washer fluid reservoir. Now, I have to take it to a mechanic who has the proper computer testing equipment to read what the fault codes are saying. I have surrendered to the experts, which is not a bad thing in this case.
But politics is different. We seem to have forgotten that we the people are the sovereigns, not the government. All power flows from us, and is used to our benefit by the tools that we have chosen: Our federal, state and local governments. The fact that we have forgotten how this relationship is supposed to work is leading to the downfall of participatory government. We simply hand off responsibility for our lives to our elected representatives, who declare themselves to be our "leaders" when they are really just our representatives.
So, what caused our abandonment of our responsibilities? One thought, is that the use of the Internet has resulted in widespread ADD in the general populace. Because we no longer have to actually stop and think, we search for that which confirms our views, and disregard anything which contradicts us. One example is the large number of people who believe that Obama is really a secret Muslim, another would be Mark T.'s assertion that somehow, McCain was not really tortured, and that it is all made up. Both are demonstrably false, yet they are spread about with the same sense of urgency as any truth could be.
And somehow the people who vote are just as likely to succumb to the glib falsehood, as to any considered argument. I see it all the time when I campaign that many people agree with my positions, but will simply refuse to vote for me, because I am running as a Republican. This sort of thinking is just laziness, in that they have identified with some group or organization, and ceased to think beyond what they are told to believe. It allows them to swiftly change their deeply held convictions and to in effect, drink the Kool-Aid. It certainly saves time and effort. If you know that this or that group is inherently evil, there is no need to consider their positions on the issues and ask the question of why someone who seems rational would have a completely different view of a situation. This results in our Internet conversations becoming teaching sessions where no discussion is actually held, but instead, in a chiding manner, we expect any opponent to see the value of our logic and facts, and if they disagree with us, we consign them to the hopelessly inept, bereft of common sense or intellect. While childish, it does have its adherents.
The question now is, what are we to do about this shortfall in critical thinking? We could rely on professional journalists to keep us fully informed, but that presumes that they actually can honestly and dispassionately tell us the necessary facts without manipulation, and who won't actively campaign for someone who sends a shiver up their leg. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen.
What is to be the future of our democracy then? My prediction is that we will withdraw further and further into our isolated perceptions as delivered by our chosen advocates. Substantive issues are going to be reduced to nothing but sound bites. And both sides are guilty of this. From the "tax cuts only for the wealthy", to "tax and spend liberals" we are going to be segregated farther from any real truth.
And the real truth, is that it will be our own fault.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sitting Shiva

Candace Elizabeth Hummel

June 2, 1936 - June 7, 2008.

The source of my mitochondrial DNA.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Suppose you could live in a state that had no income tax, no sales tax, yet fully funded just about every scheme of government, and in addition, provided every household in the state an annual check of up to $10,000. Oh, and lower gas prices to around $2 per gallon. Sounds too good to be true? Except that it could happen right here in Montana, thanks to the generous gift of the Bakken oil reserves.
With possible production of over 400 Billion barrels (Yes, that's a Billion times 400) of oil that can be extracted with existing technology, the potential for revenues from the royalties are huge. Just look at what Alaska did with the North Slope oil field royalties, and you can imagine the amount of wealth that could be used to help improve the lives of Montanans.
Now, if we just don't blow it. Looking at the map, it's obvious that the majority of the formation is located under North Dakota and Eastern Montana. Because the oil does not respect artificial boundaries, it would be entirely possible for North Dakota to completely sop up the entire field, including that under Montana, while we dither.
North Dakota already has an advantage, in that there is no business equipment tax on any of their oil production equipment. Montana on the other hand, does tax oil rigs, drills, pipelines, or, just about anything that it can. If you are a business, where would you rather operate?
The next legislature needs to remove the tax on oil production equipment and do everything that we can to help promote domestic energy production that is reliable. The benefits are too large to ignore, but there are those that will attempt to prevent the exploitation of this benefit for their own ideological reasons.
Those people need to be ignored for right now.