Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, October 30, 2006

For Nevada Voters: State Question 1

By request, I'm doing a series of posts on the ballot initiatives for the November 7 elections here in Nevada. If you don't live in Nevada, you probably won't find this the least bit interesting, and I recommend you go do something more intellectually stimulating.

Question 1:

Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to require the Nevada Legislature to fund the operation of the public schools for kindergarten through grade 12 before funding any other part of the state budget for the next biennium?

I've tentatively decided "NO." And not just because of my intense hatred for children.

This initiative is a reaction to the legislative gridlock in 2003 that produced one of the worst judicial decisions I've ever read, Guinn v. Legislature. For those of you who weren't around at the time, here's the story: The Nevada Constitution requires that the legislature fund the public schools. Nevadans also recently passed a ballot initiative that forbids tax increases without a super-majority -- over 66% of the legislature has to approve the tax hike. In 2003, the budget was all prepared except for the education portion. The liberals decided that they wanted to increase taxes to pay for their pet projects. A handful of conservatives resisted, insisting that if there was not enough left in the budget for education, they should re-open the finished portions of the budget rather than raising taxes. The liberals were in the majority, but not in the super-majority, so they were at a deadlock.

When the legislative session expired, they still had no education budget. Governor Guinn was forced to call a special session to give the legislators more time to break the deadlock. That special session expired, again with no budget. Guinn called another special session, and again, no budget. So he did what any responsible, conservative Republican would do: he sued the entire legislature.

The Supreme Court wrote an absolutely terrible decision. They invented a distinction between constitutional clauses that are "substantive" (e.g. funding schools) and those that are merely "procedural" (e.g. a popularly-enacted super-majority requirement for tax increases). They said that where two clauses cannot be reconciled, the substantive clauses may "temporarily" cancel out the procedural clauses. They ruled that the legislature could raise taxes with only 50% approval, which gave Nevadans the biggest tax hike in history. Thanks, Supreme Court!

Of course the distinction is moot: even if you agree that the two clauses really could not be reconciled, it is critical to note that one of the two is an amendment. When the Constitution is amended, that means certain parts of it might not apply anymore. In the U.S. Constitution, the runaway slave clause is clearly inconsistent with the equal protection clause -- but there's no need to find some fancy way of reconciling them. One of them is an amendment, which means the other one is simply void, to the extent inconsistent with the amendment. That's what amendments do. You'd think our state Supreme Court would be aware of that definition.

Anyway, Question 1 is an attempt to prevent another Guinn scenario. It's not completely unreasonable: after all, although the Supremes said the super-majority requirement was only "temporarily" suspended, the Court announced a rule that it could be suspended whenever a governor wants to illegally pressure the legislature. The precedent has been set.

My first problem is that Question 1 looks like needless micro-management. I'm not suggesting that the people have no right to dictate procedure, just that it's not necessarily a good idea. The second problem is that Guinn has already been reversed, to the extent it made the procedure/substance requirement. That's probably in part a reaction to the fact that Guinn caused such a firestorm. So much so, in fact, that Judge Nancy Becker, who is up for re-election this term and who joined the majority in Guinn, will probably lose her job. (She trails Nancy Saitta in the most recent poll I've seen). The third problem is that this kind of micromanagement can't prevent legislative obstructionism -- only shame can do that, and Nancy Becker's impending demotion suggests Nevadans know how to do that. The solution is bad press, not tinkering with the constitution. Fourth, sad experience shows that our supreme court will do anything in its power to allow the legislature to raise taxes whenever it wants, and the will of the people has very little influence on that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Testing ...

SCOTUS Season - Voter Identification in Arizona

Some people care about basketball season, others care about deer hunting season. I call those people freaks. The really exciting news is that it's SCOTUS season. The Supreme Court is in session and we got our first opinion of the term yesterday.

The case is Purcell v. Gonzalez, a challenge to Arizona's voter ID law, which the Supreme Court has upheld for the time being. Arizona, in an effort to prevent voter fraud, enacted a law that requires voters to show identification when voting. The problem is that the ACLU and the Democrats actually rely on voter fraud for a significant portion of their numbers, so they sued to overturn the law, which was enacted by Proposition (in other words, it reflects that actual will of the people, not just a group of legislators).

Opponents of ID laws argue that they discourage some people from voting, which constitutes disenfranchisement, and that the kinds of voters who are so discouraged tend (for demographic reasons) to be racial minorities. In other words, it's all a plot to keep blacks and latinos from voting. Of course, if that were the case then the same liberal groups would have had no problem with Missouri's voter ID law, pursuant to which poor people can actually get the state to pay of their IDs. Indeed, the only consistent factor in all challenges to voter ID laws is that liberal groups want to make it as easy as possible for liberals to perpetuate election fraud.

The Supreme Court's opinion acknowledges the interest in free access to the polls, referring to "plaintiffs’ strong interest in exercising the 'fundamental political right' to vote. Although the likely effects of Proposition 200 are much debated, the possibility that qualified voters might beturned away from the polls would caution any districtjudge to give careful consideration to the plaintiffs’ challenges."

The interesting thing about the opinion, however, is that while it makes lukewarm reference to the right to vote, it has glowing praise for a state's right to prevent fraud:

"A State indisputably has a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of its election process. Confidence in the integrity of our electoral processes is essential to the functioning of our participatory democracy. Voter fraud drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and breeds distrust of our government. Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised.

"The right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen’s vote just as effectivelyas by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise." (internal citations and quotes omitted).

Two points: first, honest voters don't just feel disenfranchised by voter fraud -- they are in fact disenfranchised, because their votes are negated by those of non-existent persons, or non-citizens, or dead people.

Second, and again we're going back to my theme, the only time liberals are interested in preventing disenfranchisement is when it's disenfranchisement of people with no right to vote anyway. Washington governor Christine Gregoire, for example, won her hotly contested election campaign with the help of votes in heavily democratic counties that registered more votes than there are residents, and with votes cast by dead people -- obvious proof of voter fraud, and a genuine case of disenfranchisement -- but Washington's liberal judges denied a challenge to the results. Again, disenfranchisement is only unacceptable when it hurts liberals.

The Supreme Court's ruling was only technical, and it expressly declined to pass on the constitutionality of the Arizona law. The only effect of the ruling was to vacate a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the state from enforcing its laws this time around. The Court will probably take up the case (or a similar one) after the election, when all the facts are in, and allegations of potential fraud or disenfranchisement can be proven by evidence, rather than speculation. Still, the ruling is a victory, however temporary, for common sense.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fun With Optical Illusions

No, not figuratively. Literally. I spent a couple hours on this the other night. It's a nice little time killer. I was especially impressed by this one.

The Election Map

The New York Times has a pretty cool election map on their site, that lets you look at all the races coming up in November. You can click on individual races and tinker with the outcomes to see how that affects the overall map.

I don't know how reliable the predictions are. It's calling the House race for Nevada's second district a toss-up. Please. That seat is stamped "Property of the Republican Party," and nothing's going to change that. And it doesn't tell you how individual House candidates are polling, and that's the more interesting race this time around, as it's the most likely to change hands.

Still, it's fun to look at, and anyone who's feeling depressed about Republican prospects can take comfort. It's hardly a lock, but the GOP can still pull this thing out of the fire.

Harry Reid's Ethics

Retired Geezer tips this post by Captain Ed. Here's the summary:

"Let's get this straight. Reid's failure to follow the Senate rules on disclosure in 2001, when he sat on the Ethics Committee, somehow got set up by the Republicans. Reid's connection to an attorney involved in a bribery case that directly related to zoning decisions in Clark County, where they both owned property, was a Rovian plot set in motion in 1998. And now Reid's new disclosures of property in an area where he has taken an intense legislative interest somehow relates to Republicans, when no one even mentioned the parcels in question -- because Reid failed to disclose them during his entire time as Senate Minority Leader, while he has castigated Republicans for alleged ethical lapses."

Over at his blog, Reid's defenders lamely attempted to suggest that it was a minor, technical thing, and that it was as-yet uncertain whether he had actually violated the rules. In the Review Journal the day after the story first broke, he suggested he would file an amended disclosure if the Ethics Committee asked him to -- not mentioning that at the time, he was the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee. One would expect him to have some familiarity with the ethics rules, no? So why did he have to wait for the committee's verdict before filing his amended disclosure?

To see if the story had any legs, I suppose. If a story isn't sexy enough, delay favors you because by the time the real facts are discovered no one reads past the headline.

But every story has legs in the blogosphere, as Captain Ed is demonstrating.

Incidentally, Reid is still silent over at his blog.

Friday, October 13, 2006

More on the Harry Reid Scandal

Ace has a series of links on the what, why and how of Reid's curious-looking land deals. One important point needs clarification:

"Mr. Reid's professions of transparency and full disclosure are transparently wrong. His investment was not reported in a manner that made clear his partnership with Mr. Brown. It's true -- under the inadequate financial disclosure rules -- that even if Mr. Reid had listed the newly formed corporation, Patrick Lane LLC, that wouldn't have by itself demonstrated Mr. Brown's involvement." (emphasis mine) Via Instapundit.

That's actually note true. A very simple search on the Nevada Secretary of State web page shows that Jay Brown is the manager of Patrick Lane, LLC. So anyone who knew that Reid was involved in Patrick Lane, with the click of a few buttons, could have immediately determined that Reid was also involved with Brown -- but of course Reid did not disclose his interest.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Interesting Science Fact of the Day

Every day I get literally thousands of e-mails from people all over the world (mostly from Dave at Garfield Ridge), asking "Hey Sobek, is a taser powerful enough to stop a cow?"



If you read enough Tom Clancy, you know that diplomacy is the art of one nation screwing another. (Or words to that effect).

So, the world's response to North Korea claiming to have detonated a nuclear device?

Diplomacy, baby.

"The draft [Security Council resolution] obtained by The Associated Press would only allow non-military sanctions such as economic penalties, breaking diplomatic relations or banning air travel."

In case you're thinking that's about the most craven, useless, limp-wristed response physically possible, you're wrong:

"It also eliminates a previously proposed blanket arms embargo."

Well that's reassuring. Not only did the Security Counsel take less than 24 hours to vitiate its own (already useless) finger-waiving resolution, but it specifically protects Russia's and China's right to sell bullets to the bushy-haired freak who repeatedly defies them.

North Korea's actions are actually not terribly surprising -- after all, who can take seriously the threat of sanctions, when they haven't worked for the past fifty years? Kim Jong-Il knows the west is full of gutless cowards who don't mean what they say, and so another piece of paper doesn't make the slightest bit of difference. The real disappointment (although again, regrettably not a surprise) is that Russia and China are more concerned with their ability to make a buck off of the Norks, and to use them as a pawn to check American and Japanese influence in the region, than they are with keeping a nuclear-armed psychotic out of their backyards. That's the same mentality that kept France and Germany from allowing serious UN action against Iraq -- they were making money off of him, so who cares if he was murdering his own people?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Non-PC Pants

I don't see why this is such a big deal. All of my tags say it.

Airplane Hits Manhattan Building

Ace has a series of updates, which gives an indication of how the story broke. It looks like a New York Yankees pitcher lost control of his small plane and hit a building. Ace then did a post parodying 9/11 conspiracy theorists, unaware that real conspiracy theorists were already hard at work on today's news.

Here's one thing that caught my attention. One of my first thoughts when I saw the picture was "that's a pretty small hole, considering a friggin' airplane just hit the building":

My next thought was "hey, don't 9/11 theorists spend a lot of time pointing at how small the hole in the Pentagon was?" Yes. Yes, they do.

Harry Reid Lectures Republicans on the Importance of Giving Answers

Harry Reid's most recent blog post: "Republican Leadership Owes the American People Answers."

That's from six days ago, so it's well before what happened today, when he hung up on an AP reporter who was investigating his failure to disclose a 1.1 million dollar land sale in his financial reports. In all fairness, maybe he changed his mind on the importance of answering questions between last Friday and today.

On a side note, I really like this line from Reid's blog:

"What is needed is for Republican leaders to testify under oath about what they knew, when they knew it, and why they didn't properly act."

I like that loaded question. "Mr. Hastert, why didn't you act properly? Remember, you're under oath." I also like that Reid is demanding that Republicans testify under oath, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi refuses to testify under oath on the exact same scandal.

Back to the 1.1 million dollars:

"Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company, according to records and interviews."

Someone on his blog is defending Reid by saying it's a simple accounting error (listing the property as a personal asset rather than one held by a dummy company), but Reid had an obligation to divulge his interest in said company (actually an LLC, for those of you who care about the specifics).

"_The deal began in 1998 when Reid bought undeveloped residential property on Las Vegas' booming outskirts for about $400,000. Reid bought one lot outright, and a second parcel jointly with Brown. One of the sellers was a developer who was benefiting from a government land swap that Reid supported. The seller never talked to Reid.

"_In 2001, Reid sold the land for the same price to a limited liability corporation created by Brown. The senator didn't disclose the sale on his annual public ethics report or tell Congress he had any stake in Brown's company. He continued to report to Congress that he personally owned the land.

"_After getting local officials to rezone the property for a shopping center, Brown's company sold the land in 2004 to other developers and Reid took $1.1 million of the proceeds, nearly tripling the senator's investment. Reid reported it to Congress as a personal land sale."

Making a false report to Congress, and failing to disclose an interest in your buddy's company? Hmm, that doesn't sound good.

"'Everything I did was transparent,' Reid said. 'I paid all the taxes. Everything is fully disclosed to the ethics committee and everyone else. As I said, if there is some technical change that the ethics committee wants, I'll be happy to do that.'"

Will you testify about it under oath? Just curious. As far as transparency goes, I wonder if the local officials who approved the zoning changes knew about Reid's interest. Just something that, say, a reporter might wonder about, assuming he didn't get hung up on before asking the question.

"They also said they have no documents proving Reid's stake in the company because it was an informal understanding between friends."

No documents reflecting an ownership interest in a piece of property initially worth $400,000.00, and later sold for $1.1 million? If that's true, it's far more damning, because it proves he's borderline mentally retarded.

"Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official who oversaw government disclosure reports for federal candidates for two decades, said Reid's failure to report the 2001 sale and his ties to Brown's company violated Senate rules.

"'This is very, very clear,' Cooper said. 'Whether you make a profit or a loss you've got to put that transaction down so the public, voters, can see exactly what kind of money is moving to or from a member of Congress.'"

Hey, no harm, no foul, right?

Jack M. has a long post at Ace's on the fact that the leaker here is a former Reid staffer, and he speculates about the implications. Interesting reading.


Clarification: I actually doubt there's very little substance to this story. I see no evidence that the land transfer to the LLC and the payout were illegal or unethical. The most that can be said is speculation about improper influence in the zoning, but as I said, that would just be speculation. The fact that Reid screwed up his disclosure statements may reflect either genuine impropiety or a simple mistake, without much evidence suggesting it's more likely to be impropriety. His violation of the ethics rules is more technical than substantive, indicating little more than a too-casual attitude towards reporting.

My real criticism of Reid is two-fold: first, he demands that Republicans give answers but feels free to hang up on reporters. Second, opportunistic gasbag that Reid has become, there is no doubt in my mind that if this were a story about a Republican, he would be making the same charges I made above.

Also, he's a nose-picker, as indicated in the photo that was in no way photoshopped.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Give A-Peace-Ment a Chance

Allah has the video of evidence of an unabashed liberal, Paul Eppinger, defending the hijacking of an Arizona memorial -- ostensibly meant to honor the victims of 9/11 -- that seems strangley ... how shall I put this?

"Middle East violence motivates attacks in US"

Not subtle enough? Let's try this one:

"You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles."

I'm feeling generous, so I'll give you one more:

"The ring contains 54 inscriptions, made up of one letter for every victim of the September 11 attacks. Some members of the Memorial Committee actually wanted to add nineteen more characters for the terrorists who crashed the planes."

Allah's conclusion:

"We’re going to lose. You know that, right?"

That wacky Allah, ever the cynic. He ignores the possibility that maybe the jihadis still hate us because we just haven't appeased hard enough yet. And in that light, I present to you Paul Eppinger's proposal for a 9/11 memorial in New York City:

Yeah, you guys think I'm joking.

At Least Reid Brings the Comic Relief

Much as I consider Harry Reid an ineffectual dink, at least he's good for the occasional chuckle. He recently wrote (or, at least, someone at his office wrote) a blog post entitled "Exceeding the 'Do-Nothing Congress.'"

First of all, I think most Americans feel a lot more comfortable when they know Congress isn't doing anything, because it means they aren't screwing things up. It means they aren't granting amnesty to illegal aliens; it means they aren't grandstanding in front of television cameras trying to undermine national security just so they can hear the sound of their own voice; it means they aren't spending our money on pork. Maybe that's why Nevada only allows its legislature to meet once every other year -- they can only do so much damage in that time.

But what really struck me as funny is this:

"I spent the recess traveling Nevada. I visited cities and towns with names like Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Searchlight, Pahrump, Reno, Fernley, Fallon, Yerington, and Hawthorne."

That sounds like a lot of travel, doesn't it?

Well, sort of. Let's consult the map:

"...traveling Nevada."

On the North Korea Nuke Test

In case you haven't heard (i.e. you don't read blogs, or newspapers, or watch television or listen to the radio, in which case you're certainly not reading this), North Korea test-detonated a nuclear device today.


It appears that some are questioning whether the explosion was actually a nuke, or whether it was just a lot of dynamite, intended to fake a nuclear detonation.

Dave thinks a nuclear detonation in North Korea means bad news for Iran. He reasons that no one will want to attack the NorKs now, but that we've learned our lesson about the price of not taking out nuclear ambitions early on, so we'll be more aggressive against the Mullahs than we were against Lil' Kim. I think Dave got hit with the naive stick -- politicians are reliable for two things: they will say anything to get your vote, and no problem is so dire that it can't be solved about twenty years from now. No one wants to be the guy who ordered the deaths of a few hundred thousand Asians, so we have to wait until the body count gets into the millions before anyone will do anything.

Oh, and speaking of the reliability of politicians ... the Dems think that if N. Korea detonates a nuke, it's all Bush's fault. (Actually, Dems are in a bit of a tight spot, because they have two conflicting talking points: (1) there is no real threat but Bush, and any evidence to the contrary is just fear-mongering, and (2) Bush is criminally negligent for allowing the NorKs to become a threat. I'm surprised their heads haven't popped yet, under pressure from the contradiction).

"Democrats seized on North Korea's brazen act to criticize President Bush's record in confronting the communist regime, contending the administration's focus on Iraq ignored legitimate threats."

So ... if Bush had used military force to stop the Norks, the Dems would have been cool with that? Somehow I doubt that.

"Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, accused Democrats of playing partisan politics with a nuclear weapons threat. 'Listening to some Democrats, you'd think the enemy was George Bush, not Kim Jong Il,' he said."

Well duh. I hope McConnell isn't just now figuring this out.

"'We had the opportunity to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear power, but George Bush went to sleep at the switch while he pursued his narrow agenda in Iraq,' added Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat in a tough campaign in New Jersey."

And what was the nature of that opportunity? Because reporters don't know how to ask follow-up questions, we'll never know. Too bad, because I'd love to get a Dem fighting a hotly-contested Senate seat to pin himself down on the issue, and explain precisely what he would have done. I'd even give him the benefit of hindsight.

Incidentally, anyone remember who gave Kim Jong-Il the nuclear material in the first place? I do.

In any case, the most recent polls look increasingly dismal for the Republicans, who (as far as I can tell) have spent this election cycle trying to see how many seats they can lose. In all of this, I can take two small bits of solace: first, I don't live in a strategically important city, so I doubt a bomb will hit here. Second, this November I have the sacred privilege of voting against Jimmy Carter's son for Senate. It's the little things in life you treasure.

Update: Liberal Larry provides perspective from the other side of the aisle.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Note: People Who Don't Want to Shoot Lightning Out of their Rectums Should Not Brush Their Teeth

At least, that's the conclusion I reach after reading this:

"A WOMAN has suffered severe burning to her anus after being struck by lightning which hit her in the mouth and passed right through her body."

Of course, it goes without saying that if you do want to shoot lighting out of your rectum, this appears to be a pretty good way of going about it.