Money, Speech, & Bullshit

Conservatives and Liberals can disagree, and genuinely believe that their own points of view are valid. But more and more I’m coming to believe that most conservative points of view are lies that conservatives tell themselves to justify doing what they know is wrong. It’s like telling yourself that ice cream is healthy because it is made out of milk. It’s like a bully complaining that a nerd’s face keeps hitting his fist.

The McCutcheon decision is bullshit. The idea that money is speech is bullshit. I have a right to express my opinions, but the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee every method available for doing so. The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee my right to shout my opinions louder than local noise ordinances permit, or to paint my opinions on the sides of public buildings. Megaphones are not speech. Neither is spray paint. Neither is money.

The Supreme Court has often ruled that speech can be restricted for valid reasons. When you consider all of the restrictions on speech that exist despite First Amendment protections, such as restrictions against libeling, threatening, talking about classified information, or amplifying your voice above certain volumes, it’s absurd that that something which can only be considered speech in a highly metaphoric application of the word has more protection than actual speech does.

In the National Law Journal, James Copeland compared limits on campaign spending to limits on legal defense, or to telling people that they can’t spend money on abortions (apparently referencing Eugene Volokh but I can’t find the original). Do Mr. Copeland or Mr. Volokh, both men much more knowledgeable than I am, even think such analogies make sense? I could spend all the money I have on legal defense and still not match the resources available for my prosecution. And I can’t even grasp enough of a correlation between campaign finance and abortion spending to criticize the analogy.

With patriotic language about how the government shouldn’t restrict access to the political process, the Supreme Court restricted access for millions of ordinary people. This was the same court that overturned the Voting Rights Act, telling us that our country no longer requires such protections, because it has “changed”. And it was just one large step in a march to eliminate the voice of the people completely. In the past several years, the Supreme Court has used bullshit logic to reverse over a century of progress toward making the First Amendment meaningful to ordinary citizens. And it will continue to do so until we replace at least one conservative justice with one who will start with the law and reason outward, rather than start with ideology and interpret the law accordingly.

Christian Exceptionalism

Recently, I commented on a ThinkProgress article about Hobby Lobby

If you live in this country, you indirectly support acts that are against your beliefs. Sailors are served pork for breakfast, paid for with our tax dollars. Jews, Muslims, and religious vegetarians don’t get a discount on their taxes because they don’t believe in the slaughter of pigs. Every reasonable effort has been made to separate Christian fundamentalist employers from the act of providing contraception, but they’re still not happy. Their argument is a lie. It’s not really about religious beliefs. It’s about keeping the Christian Right on a pedestal where they can have influence over U.S. law that others don’t have. Anything that threatens their special status is what they call discrimination.

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Pacifists and moral vegetarians have a better argument about being forced to pay for acts that they find reprehensible, but our government does not exempt them from paying for the slaughter of animals or the bombing of civilians. There is precedent for denying certain religious exemptions and passing others, but it’s murky. The Volokh Conspiracy has a “Guide for the Confused which basically says the court has to balance the burden that a law places on a person who feels that his religious rights are violated by it, and the compelling interest that the government has in enforcing it. And the government’s compelling interest usually wins.

To say that Hobby Lobby is burdened by the requirement to provide an insurance plan that includes contraceptive coverage is a far stretch. Unlike what someone who replied to my ThinkProgress comment wrote, this is not like forcing a Jew or a Muslim to buy pork. It would more like forcing employers of all faiths to provide meal vouchers. If such a law was passed, could you imagine a Jewish or Islamic employer being allowed to provide a special voucher that could only be used for Kosher or Halal food? Of course not. And not out of disrespect for the Jewish or Islamic faith, but simply out of reason. The employer is not being forced to break his own commandments any more than he is by providing a salary that his employees could spend on all kinds of sinful products and services.

To suggest that Hobby Lobby is unduly burdened is to suggest that the test for burdening Christians is different than the test for burdening non-Christians. It would also suggest that a corporation has religion, but that’s a whole other flaw in the argument. We have already gone too far in catering to religious organizations who feel that Christians are unduly burdened whenever other people aren’t forced to accommodate their beliefs. This is not about free exercise. This is about placing the Christian right above the law.

Republicans Mislead about Medicaid Negotiations

I got this by email from my delegate, Rick Morris:

Governor Terry McAuliffe and General Assembly Democrats are demanding that we expand ObamaCare in Virginia before they will agree to pass a budget.

This is wrong. Virginia’s budget is not a bargaining chip. Regardless of how you feel about ObamaCare, holding hostage funding for our schools, teachers, police officers, firefighters and local governments is wrong.

It’s similar to emails that other Republican delegates have been sending to their constituents throughout Virginia.

It’s hard for me to take it seriously when Republicans complain about brinkmanship over budget impasses. They don’t have the right. The emails also say that Democrats won’t compromise. But it’s Republicans in the House of Delegates, like Rick Morris, who won’t compromise. House Republicans even rejected the Virginia Senate compromise, “Marketplace Virginia”, which had bi-partisan support. When House Republicans complain that Democrats won’t compromise, what they mean is, “Democrats won’t cave”. And Democrats should not cave on Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid expansion will help 400,000 people who are too poor to qualify for the provisions of the Affordable Care Act but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid under current limits. Those are working people, not the right wing’s exaggerated numbers of “welfare queens”. Expanding Medicaid will even help keep some of them keep working after a medical crisis. And Medicaid expansion will create jobs.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association spells out:

  • Implementing the Medicaid expansion in Virginia would provide a $3.9 billion boost to the Virginia economy annually;
  • The related federal funds could support more than 30,000 jobs; and
  • While most of the direct benefits accrue to the health care sector, significant benefits would also be enjoyed by businesses and households.

Medicaid expansion is also supported by the Chamber of Commerce, because it’s good for Virginia’s economy. The people that Medicaid expansion is bad for are the politicians who want to see the Affordable Care Act fail, and health care providers who have benefited from the skyrocketing health care costs which are finally getting under control.

If you’re in Virginia, call your State Delegate today and tell him or her that you support Medicaid expansion, and that you don’t want House Republicans to hold up the budget trying to block it.

… was the son of a preacher man

Every now and then I get a really gay song stuck in my head, like “I’ve Never Been to Me” or “Son of a Preacher Man”, and I might hum or whistle the tune. When I was younger, if I caught myself doing that, I’d be mortified.

Oh My GOD, these people might think I’m gay! Should I kill them? Should I kill myself? Oh what I do? How can I go on?

It took 30 years and civil rights movement but finally, I don’t give a fuck if someone thinks I’m gay. So I can just hum away.

… yes he was, yes he was, yes he wahuzz …

Still with the Cold Weather Jokes

As a ship capsizes, one stubborn crew member in the engine room may yell at his shipmates, “We’re not going down, you idiots! We’re going up!”.

Fully capsized ship (only hull showing).

Photo: U.S. Navy

Cold storms don’t disprove global warming any more then a rising engine room disproves the overall direction of a sinking ship. But Ted Cruz has been joking because it’s cold, and he’s not alone. Even one of my professors snorted, “Global Warming” as we discussed the possibility of yet another snow day in Norfolk.

For a while, it seemed like “Climate Change” would be a better term to help confused deniers who don’t read past the headlines understand that “Global Warming” doesn’t mean everybody’s going to be warmer today then they were a year ago. But the deniers jumped all over that phrase as if it came to being because embarrassed global warming believers were befuddled that winter had arrived once again.

The latest denier talking point is the flat average global temperature over the past fifteen to seventeen years. It’s a much better talking point than, “It’s snowing, dumbass “, but ignores the periods of steady or declining temperatures that have happened several times in the past, even though the trend continues to be upward. Climatologists never said the rise would be steady.

Chart:Nasa Earth Observatory

I’ll admit that some of the denier information is worth looking at. If you don’t even know that the average temperatures haven’t risen significantly in over a decade, then you’re just as ignorant of opposing views as they are. But from what I can tell, most of the denier arguments are based on misrepresentations of climate theories and jokes about the snow.

Has the CBO missed something?

Probably not, but I’ll ask the question and see if greater minds than mine will weigh in.

The CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook for 2014 to 2024 says that some workers, mostly very low wage workers, will reduce their hours by an amount approximating 2 million jobs. So what is going to happen with all of those lost hours?

Imagine if a guy who worked at McDonald’s and Walmart quit the McDonald’s job thanks to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. What is McD’s going to do? One of four things, would be my guess:

1) Limp along, and perhaps close a store because they can’t find anyone to work there.
2) Replace the position with technology.
3) Hire someone who is currently out of work.
4) Increase pay or benefits to attract job hunters, who are no longer as desperate as they were, to unpleasant jobs.

The third possibility seems most likely to me. As long as there are unemployed people looking for some extra cash, McDonald’s is going to have a ready supply of desperate people to humiliate in exchange for low pay and no benefits. Some of those people will be people who wouldn’t have taken a minimum wage job before, because that would mean working for less money than they need to support their families while wasting 30 hours a week that could otherwise be used for job hunting or self improvement. Now, with medical expenses covered, they might be more willing to take what they can get.

I just don’t see all of those hours disappearing. I can see some cases where someone may quit a low wage job and the business might limp along for a while without someone to fill that position, but the CBO’s estimate of 1 to 2 percent of hours worked seems high to me. And I think they missed the reserve of unemployed people who will be hired to fill those lost hours.

Stylized image of CBO Report cover

Executive Delay

obama

In both number and significance, Obama’s use of executive orders pales against some of his predecessors. A simple search of “executive order” at history.com lists far greater exercises of executive power than President Obama has used. Even eliminating such egregious abuses as the internment of Japanese Americans, the list of executive orders includes such sweeping acts as the establishment of the Peace Corps, creation of military bases on foreign soil, integrating the armed forces, and ending discrimination in housing. Wars were entered and exited by executive order, and more recently, we have George Bush’s warrantless wiretapping and enhanced interrogation techniques.

Today, President Obama has been accused of unprecedented abuse of his executive authority, largely stemming from his order to delay implementation of the employer mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. By delaying the order, Obama is accused of violating Article Two of the United States Constitution, which commands the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.

But delays of implementation have been used frequently in the past. In the early 90’s several laws passed by Congress were delayed, with Bush (Sr.) administration officials blaming Congress for writing laws that were too complex to enforce, according to an article in the New York Times by Robert Pear dated March 31, 1991. According to that same article, the Reagan administration also used delays to “enforce its philosophy of less government and to save money”.

It might be a constitutional violation if Obama used executive orders to thwart duly passed legislation, but Obama delayed the employer mandate to ensure the Affordable Care Act could be properly enacted despite initial problems. He did so to address complaints from conservative organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – complaints about difficulty in compliance which in turn would mean difficulty in enforcement. Some of those difficulties stem from Obama’s opponents’ efforts to make the Affordable Care Act as difficult to implement as possible.

Any doubt that the delay in implementing the employer mandate was an effort to ensure the law was properly executed should be alleviated by the realization that those who are most bitterly speaking out against the delay are those who want to kill the act. Surely it is those people, not the President, who are working against the faithful execution of federal law.

Blogging Again

After a very long break due to such real-life distractions as a difficult computational mathematics class and duties as the Suffolk Democratic Committee chairman, I’m going try this again.

Anyway, to start off with, I just sent an email to my delegate Rick Morris, in response to an email from him about his recent town hall meeting and a poll he conducted prior to the meeting. In that email, he wrote

71% of those polled agreed that Obamacare should be repealed and 68% agreed that Medicaid Expansion is not for Virginia.

75% of those polled did not want to repeal the Virginia Marriage Amendment which is an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman and bans recognition of any legal status of gay marriage.

I wrote,

If most of those who took your recent poll were on your mailing list, then that fact would skew the results away from an honest sample. Also, I’m sure you know that questions phrased like …

“Do you support or oppose ObamaCare’s Medicaid Expansion in Virginia? While expansion could provide coverage for 400,000 currently uninsured Virginians, it could cost the Commonwealth of Virginia over $1 billion per year, forcing cuts to other key services like education, mental health and public safety.”

… don’t yield honest results. An honest sampling of your constituents would certainly yield different results.

As disappointed as I am with the push-poll, I do applaud you for hosting town hall meetings. I hope you will continue to increase your efforts to honestly represent your constituents.

I don’t blame Mr. Morris for conducting an email poll of those who are on his mailing list. I would only ask him to acknowledge that such a sampling is made up almost entirely of people who support him and not of the general population of his constituency. If he makes that acknowledgement, then the fault is on the part of his constituents who have chosen not to involve themselves in the political process simply because they don’t agree with the views of their representative.

I do blame Delegate Morris for his push poll questions. It is dishonest to tell people what to think and then brag about how they agree with you. This is common practice for the likes of Randy Forbes, and here Delegate Morris seems to be following Congressman Forbes’s lead.

On the other hand, Rick Morris seems to be making some effort to reach out and hear his constituents. For that Delegate Morris deserves some recognition.

Remember that your political leaders are your representatives, but it’s hard to hold them accountable for not representing views of those who don’t voice them.

Delegate Morris represents Virginia’s House District 64. His website includes not only a (somewhat confusing) contact form, but very clearly includes his email addresses and phone numbers.

Despite Negativity, Vote

I’ve been knocking on doors in support of McAuliffe, Northam and Herring. A few people who spoke with me told me they’re not voting because they’re fed up with all the negativity.

Well I’m sorry, but sometimes you have to go negative. Sometimes, remaining aloof doesn’t make you better and doesn’t make you right. It makes you lazy.

When one of the candidates for governor is a climate change denier who improperly used his office while he was attorney general to harass a university professor who’s views are more mainstream, it would be remiss not to mention that fact. It would stupid not mention E.W. Jackson’s crazy rants about homosexuality and equal rights, and it would be a failure not to point out that Mark Obenshain will likely follow in Ken Cuccinelli’s footsteps of pursuing a right-wing social agenda at the expense of properly fulfilling his duties.

In endorsing Mark Herring for Attorney General, the Lynchburg News and Advance necessarily goes negative on Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain:

Virginia’s current attorney general, Republican Ken Cuccinelli (who’s now running for governor), is perhaps the greatest example of the twisting of the office’s constitutional mission. From his quixotic pursuits of former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann and the federal Affordable Care Act to his politicization of the regulatory process, as in drafting regulations for the state’s abortion providers, he’s injected partisan politics into the office to a degree not seen in modern Virginia history.

Obenshain, a state senator from Harrisonburg, presents a much more moderate image as opposed to Cuccinelli, but his past political stands suggest he would pursue the same issues and policies as Cuccinelli, though in a less confrontational style. From his votes on a myriad of hot-button social issues such as a legally questionable “personhood” bill to his “law-and-order” agenda, we have no reason to expect a return to the office’s original mission.

If you are choosing not to get involved this year because you’re tired of the negativity, then you are choosing to remain ignorant, and your choosing to abdicate your rights. You will be handing your responsibility over to right wing extremists who will come out this election, driven mostly by their hatred for the president and their desire to prevent his policies from helping millions of Virginians.

Polls suggest that more people support the Democrats running for Richmond this year, and while McAuliffe and Northam are polling very well, if supporters stay home then we may lose the much closer race for attorney general. And Mr. Cuccinelli has shown us the kind of damage an attorney general can do.

So please, deal with the negativity and vote Tuesday.

My Upgrade to 8.1 is Not Going Smoothly

Update 2013 October 29: And the solution is here: http://blogs.technet.com/b/dennis_schnell/archive/2013/08/31/windows-8-1-wifi-showing-quot-limitied-quot-or-quot-no-internet-access-quot.aspx?PageIndex=2.
To summarize, if you can’t get online after upgrading to 8.1, or if you can’t get online from certain access points, then this might be the solution: Click the link, search for “Kyle”. Read Kyle’s answer then read the paragraph that starts with, “Hey Kyle! You are the man”. Choosing the Broadcom driver worked for me.

Here’s what happened after the original post: As I said in the original post (below), I refreshed the laptop. That dropped me back to Windows 8.0. I waited until I was at school with some free time before trying to upgrade again, so if it failed again I would be able to use a school computer to chat with a tech. It failed again. This time, the tech said, “Unfortunately, the driver for Windows 8.1 isn’t available [from Acer]“, and suggested that I download the latest driver from Broadcom. But I couldn’t find the latest driver on Broadcom’s site. What I found was a forum reply from August

Hi,

Is there a driver that works properly for Windows version 8.1 preview 64 bit.

for BCM57780

Can you please provide me the link to the correct 64 bit driver?

I am always getting disconnects etc

Thank-you,

Shawn

Sorry, no drivers yet for Windows 8.1, they won’t be available until around the time the OS is available at retail. If you’re having problems with the in-box driver then report it to Microsoft so they’re aware of the issue.

Dave

So I used Kyle’s suggestion and seem to be up and running with 8.1.

Below is the original post.

I upgraded from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 because Windows Store offered the free upgrade in a big purple tile. Then I couldn’t get on-line as school, and I ended up refreshing Windows IAW advice from Acer’s tech support.

Update to Windows 8.1 for free

I started the upgrade while at school but it took so long that I paused it and finished it at home. Everything seemed fine until I got back to school the next day.

Although I could get online at home, I couldn’t get an IP address from either of the schools’s networks. I tried a few things on my own, asked advice from friends, and then spent an hour or so with Acer in a couple of different sessions over two days. The tech in the last of those sessions gave up and advised me to refresh the laptop. That’s not nearly as bad as wiping your hard disk and reinsalling everything, but it’s still a pain. Refreshing saves your files and re-installs the original configuration plus your Windows Store purchases, but you’re on your own for re-installing any programs you got outside of Windows Store.

The refresh took me back to Windows 8.0, and I will try to upgrade again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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