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February 22, 2013


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We, too, have a telescope that we never use. Donating it to a school doesn't seem like a good idea to me. For one thing, it is never dark enough during the school day to use it. I imagine a telescope in a school would spend a long time tripping people in the book closet before disappearing.

I don't know what to do with the telescope. Craig's List?

I will never forget the first time I looked through a reflecting telescope (8" Dobsonian "light bucket"). The landscape of the moon looked 3-dimensional. I saw the great red spot on Jupiter (not just a computer image).

If you can find a place with low light background, try taking it there -- you won't regret it.

I think donating the telescope to a school is a great idea. My brother's school had an annual camping trip to a wilderness area and a telescope would have been a wonderful addition. Alas, my school only did that for 7th graders.

Send the telescope to an Oklahoma high school science program, where a kid may now get extra credit on an exam for aiming the wrong end of the thing at the tiny dinosaurs roving through his belly button lint and thus proving Copernicus, Darwin, and Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer wrong.

After all, Aristotle and God must have been right about Ayn Rand fat a*s being the center of the solar system.

My favorite left-behind thing was a stash of elderly softcore pornography that someone thoughtfully left parked in a niche in the laundry chute in my (13-year-old me) house; a place that was only reachable after much pain and contortion.

Trying to remember the name of the magazine. Softcore porn is probably a bit strong; it was just a bit of partial nudity.

"elderly softcore pornography"

Put a telescope on that and check out the wrinkles in the time/space continuum.

"Trying to remember the name of the magazine." :

Catheter Weekly?

Help Me, I've Fallen and I Can't Get It Up?

Medicare Mommas?

The Mature Gentleman's Guide to Soothing Joint Pain?

Webelos Illustrated Handbook?

A Missionary's Position Paper Regarding The Proper Procedures For IRA Withdrawals?

Is There Sex After Death Panels, And If Not, Why Not?

Lubricants, Euthanasia, and You?

Use It Or Lose It, And Then Forget Where You Put It?

Premature Senior Moments?

Almost There With Earl .... Earl?


What were you looking for when you came across this stash, young man? Did someone lower you upside down by the ankles into the chute?

Do you mean "vintage" softcore pornography or do you mean Ernest Borgnine hitting a rough patch in his movie career late in life?

Was their some "splainin" to do after you found the magazine or did you find a more accessible hiding place for this bit of crumpet?

These open threads are starting to getting away from us.

Lubricants, Euthanasia, And You.

For those who fear slippery slopes.

i need to get a telescope, now that i live out where light pollution is low.

somebody tell me what kind to get.

Do you mean "vintage" softcore pornography

They'd been there a while, but I am not sure I'd ennoble them with "vintage".

...and just now it popped into my head; hooray that I won't waste any more idle time trying to remember that the magazine was Cavalier.

Not "softcore pornography"; apparently it's a men's magazine. Not sure if that's really any kind of distinction, though. All I know is it had pictures of women in various states of undress, and that was pretty much all my testosterone-flooded 13-year-old self cared about.

i once found a Oui mag tucked into my grandfather's closet. it was from an issue that had a mini-spread of some girl getting her naked on in front of the town's high school (where my grandfather was a guidance counselor at the time the pix were taken).

Wrenching the discussion in a totally different direction:

Briefs are being filed today before the Supreme Court on various gay marriage cases. In particular, briefs are in attacking and defending California's Prop 8 ban on gay marriages.

While there has been lots of discussion of the core point of the cases, one serious related issue has gotten very little attention. The law is being defended by the folks who wrote the original proposition and got it onto the ballot, rather than by the California Attorney General. And the Court has asked specifically for arguments on whether they even have standing to do so.

Why didn't the AG do so, since defending the laws of the state when they are challenged in court is, after all, part of his job? Well, Mr Brown decided that he personally didn't believe that Prop 8 was constitutional. Apparently, in his mind, he gets to do the same thing that the courts do: decide what laws are valid. (In fairness to him, he is not the only AG to have done so recently. I seem to recall the AG of the United States taking a similar stance on something last year....)

It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court takes the opportunity to tell AGs everywhere: "You signed up for this job. You are required to do it or quit! No other option."

Note: there is nothing in their job description that says that, having defended a law unsuccessfully, the AG has to appeal. And I observe that, if Mr Brown had just done his job, lost the case, and then declined to appeal, gay marriage would have been back in California a couple of years ago. So, in a sense, his decision not to defend the law resulted in gay marriage being kept off the books longer than it otherwise would have been. I wonder if anyone has pointed that out to him...?

wj, just to clarify, Jerry Brown is Governor of CA, not Attorney General. AG is Kamala Harris.

"It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court takes the opportunity to tell AGs everywhere: "You signed up for this job. You are required to do it or quit! No other option.""

I certainly hope they don't. Insincerely defended by an AG looking to take a dive is decidedly worse than defense by the people who proposed the law because the AG declined.

Ballot initiatives and propositions are a way to impose policies upon a government that doesn't want them. It makes no sense to pretend that government is the appropriate party to defend them when they are challenged. This law is actually being defended by the right party, for once.

The "adversary" system requires the parties to actually be adversaries, to not want the same outcome. I'm quite glad Harris didn't take your advice, and spike the law by going to court and deliberately losing. It says something for her integrity that she let the right parties defend the law.

ral, Mr Brown is governor now. But when the decision was taken not to defend the law, he was still the Attorney General of California.

Brett, if the Attorney General was to deliberately take a dive, or even just do a half-hearted job, that would be very bad, I quite agree.

But there is nothing to say that a lawyer cannot do the best job he possibly can on a position that he disagrees with. That is, after all, what every criminal defense attorney does, when he has a client that he knows is guilty: make the best defense possible. That's his job.

Similarly, the job of an Attorney General, what he was signing up for by running, is to defend the laws of the state. Regardless of whether he personally agrees with them. Regardless of whether they were passed by the legislature or by initiative. If he is not willing to do that job, he ought to find a different line of work.

wj, yes, but that was in the first federal appeal, long before it advanced to the Supreme Court.

The history is an interesting example of the interaction of politics and the slow grinding of the wheels of justice.

Both Jerry Brown and Kamala Harris ran in 2010 proclaiming their unwillingness to defend Proposition 8. It was definitely a campaign issue.

(actually, I guess the first federal case wasn't an appeal at all; just checked the WikiPedia)">">WikiPedia)

Why didn't the AG do so, since defending the laws of the state when they are challenged in court is, after all, part of his job?

Well, perhaps. A decision by the AG to not defend a court challenge to a stupid and discriminatory law doesn't strike me as all that much of a problem. What if the initiative had specifically permitted racial segregation, or voter disenfranchisement, or my favorite-undermining one person-one vote by requiring supermajorities of the legislature to pass a tax increase?

Not all initiatives are created equal.

bobbyp, it's just like the difference between a lawyer defending a client who he knows is guilty and defending one who he knows is innocent. Either way, the defendent is entitled to a defense, and it is his job to mount one.

There is nothing, that I can see, that keeps an Attorney General from saying that he thinks a law is unconstitutional. Or even just plain stupid. But he still ought to have his office mount whatever defense is possible. If he loses, and decides not to appeal the decision, that's within his discretion -- but deciding not to defend it in the first place is not.

I have no particular faith in the capacity of an AG to defend a law he personally believes should be overturned. To be sure, it's possible that an AG who opposes a law, and who thinks it's indefensible, could mount a competent defense, and ultimately, to his horror, prevail.

But why would you want to bet on that, instead of having the law defended by somebody who actually WANTS the defense to be successful?

The AG represents the state, and ballot initiatives and propositions exist to impose laws on the state that the state doesn't want. It is quite proper that the people who proposed the initiative should mount the defense.

So, no, I think it's for the best that the court NOT direct that propositions must be defended by a representative of the state that had to be forced by a vote of the people to adopt them.

" Either way, the defendent is entitled to a defense, and it is his job to mount one."

Absolutely. The problem is that, in the case of ballot initiatives and propositions, the idea that the state is the actual defendant, is a fiction. The state will frequently want to lose, and even recruit a plaintiff to challenge the law.

But, absolutely, the defendant, the actual defendant, is entitled to a defense.

Brett, what you seem to be sayin g(forgive me if I'm reading this wrong) is that the AG should defend what he believes is the state's interest. Rather than what the law says is the state's interest. Rather than what the people of the state collectively (either thru their legislators or directly) say is their interest. I must say that Mr Brown apparently agrees with you.

But it seems to me that this leads to a situation where the AG also decides which of the state's laws he is willing to enforce at all. Which is to say, we head towards becoming a nation of men, rather than a nation of laws. In short, a tyrrany.

I would also say that I don't really see the distinction between defending a guilty individual and defending a state law that you think is bad. It's not like (most) criminal defense lawyers want crime to run rampant. Certainly they have no personal interest, in general, in murder or rape or assault or robbery being unpunished. But we still expect them to do the best they can with the evidence available. Even if they know that their client is guilty.

I will agree that, if the AG ran for office saying that he thought a law was bad, he probably shouldn't personally argue the case. (If only because it weakens his case if the other side can quote him.) But then, the AG rarely argues a case personally anyway.

Some defense attorneys advise their clients to plead guilty when it's very clear that they are guilty and have no prayer of being found acquitted, no? I mean, if we're going to use this analogy involving criminal defense lawyers, isn't the AG's decision not to defend a law analogous to a guilty plea?

strike "found" from that last comment, por favor

But while the lawyer may advise his client to plead guilty, he doesn't make the decision. (No matter how weak the case actually is.)

What I'm saying is that, while it is indeed the job of the AG to defend the state in legal cases, whether he likes the law being challenged or not, in the case of ballot proposals and initiatives, the appropriate "defendant" isn't the state, but rather the petition organizers.

Ballot propositions and initiatives are a mechanism for forcing laws on a government which doesn't want them. They should be treated differently from laws actually adopted by the government of it's own volition.

I'm saying that the actual defendant isn't the state in these cases, and the AG isn't the actual defendant's counsel.

Ah, I see where we are at odds. I think that laws, whether created by the legislature or via an initiative, are all equally the laws of the state.** Because, in my view, the "state" only exists as the collective will of its inhabitants. And it doesn't matter how they go about expressing that will -- directly or thru electing legislators to do it for them. At least as far as the legitimacy of the law, and the obligations of those who are employed to carry out those laws.

Initiatives are not a means of forcing laws on a government which doesn't want them. They are a means of forcing laws on a legislature which doesn't want them. Put another way, the legislature may want the executive to do something, or the people may -- but either way, the executive is responsible for doing it.

** Which is not to say that there are not good reasons to make laws in one way, or in the other. My experience indicates that the initiative process was intended to solve a real problem when it was created. But as things have developed (especially in the last few decades) it is now probably a net negative. And we would be well advised to think it out again.

"My experience indicates that the initiative process was intended to solve a real problem when it was created. But as things have developed (especially in the last few decades) it is now probably a net negative."

You could say the same of creating laws via legislature, too. Laws, whoever creates them, are subject to declining marginal returns, and can be counter-productive. A real pity legislatures don't think they're doing anything unless they pass laws.

And, yes, the legislature, but in cases where the AG declines to defend a legislature originated law, we generally have provisions for the legislature itself to appoint counsel in the AG's place, right? Then why not the petition organizers for laws that were created by that route?

Perhaps MacKinney can weigh in, but I don't believe we do have laws setting out provisions for the legislature to appoint counsel in the AG's place. I know that, when the nited States Attorney General declined recently to defend a law, the Congress did so. But was there a precedent (let alone a law) for them do to so? From the discussions at the time, it seemed like not.

I do agree that the legislature could do with being less busy. But I would like to see them spend more time repealing laws which are no longer needed/useful. Suppore they had a goal of repealing a net of 100 (better yet, 1,000) pages of the U.S. Code every year. Then we might eventually start to approach the point where an intelligent layman would have a chance of at least knowing what laws he ought to be obeying. Yeah, I know, radical concept.

I like this view

... I don't think your clients belong in jail but I don't get to make that decision! I represent the government of the United States without passion or prejudice and my client has a case...

and there is this discussion in Wikipedia which is interesting sometimes asserted that the oath bestows upon the President the power to do whatever is necessary to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution." Andrew Jackson, while vetoing an Act for the renewal of the charter of the national bank, implied that the President could refuse to execute statutes that he felt were unconstitutional. In suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, President Abraham Lincoln claimed that he acted according to the oath. His action was challenged in court and overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court in Maryland (led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney) in Ex Parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144 (C.C.D. Md. 1861). Lincoln ignored Taney's order. Finally, Andrew Johnson's counsel referred to the theory during his impeachment trial. Otherwise, few have seriously asserted that the oath augments the President's powers.

I can sort of see Brett's point here. If I worked to get an initiative passed, over the opposition of the AG, I wouldn't be too happy to have the AG defending it in court.

Still, I don't see just handing over the defense to the group who supported the law. Is there no way for the AG to recuse, possibly by appointing outside counsel to defend the law?

I don't think the analogy with criminal defense really holds, since a criminal lawyer is not required to accept all clients.

I sort of take your (and Brett's) point. But I'm not sure how it is different from any other law that the AG (and his staff) may be charged with enforcing. And yet we expect them to do their jobs and enforce the law. Even though some of them may well be working (privately and on their own time) to get some of those laws changed.

And yet we expect them to do their jobs and enforce the law.

No, we don't. There are many laws that the state refuses to enforce and we're all the better for it. The notion that the AG has a legal obligation to fully prosecute all legal violations is just absurd.

I understand that authoritarians want to reduce the law and judges and attorneys to mere automata, but this has historically been disastrous. Does anyone really think that mandatory minimum sentencing laws were a good thing?

I'm not (I don't think) arguing against prosecutorial discretion. But I am arguing that the job of deciding that some laws were a mistake (mandatory minimum sentences being only one example among many), and therefore should not be enforced at all ought properly to belong to the legislature. Always granting that the legislature, as already noted, is remiss in dealing with that -- but it seems to me that is a separate discussion.

But are we really better off if prosecutors can simply decide what laws they will enforce? Not whether to enforce them in particular circumstances, but whether to enforce them at all? That would seem to me to put an awful lot of power in their hands, at the expense of those we elect to make the decisions about what laws we should have.

"There are many laws that the state refuses to enforce and we're all the better for it."

Yes, and no. There are many laws that we are better off for having routinely left unenforced. We are absolutely NOT better off for having many laws which are better off being unenforced.

Selective enforcement is the grease on the gears of the Leviathan. Many a bad law survives because it is only enforced in exceptional situations, but because it survives, it is available to be enforced in situations less exceptional.

It is not a good thing that essentially all of us, if a prosecutor intent on our destruction were so inclined, could be found to have legitimately violated this or that wildly over-broad law.

Not whether to enforce them in particular circumstances, but whether to enforce them at all?

But this happens everyday. Prosecutors and police are always refusing to enforce some portions of criminal law because the costs far exceed any benefits. Pick any bit of criminal law outside of violent crimes. Do you really think most of those laws are getting anywhere near enough resources devoted to enforcement?

Selective enforcement is the grease on the gears of the Leviathan.

Which jurisdictions don't have an accumulation of rarely/never enforced laws on the books?

I think another way of stating Brett's point is that the AG may have a conflict of interest in defending certain laws, and initiatives are especially likely to create that kind of conflict of interest. If and when the AG faces a conflict of interest over an initiative, it makes more sense to let the people who put it on the ballot defend it than to try to manage the AG's conflict of interest. IIRC, California has a fairly well established precedent of allowing this exact approach. And while I'm not especially fond of my state's love for direct democracy- I think the initiative process is deeply flawed- I think this specific solution to this specific problem is a good and reasonable one.

Roger, if memory serves, allowing the folks who put Prop 8 on the ballot to defend it was not a matter of following an established precedent. I seem to recall the matter going all the way to the California Supreme Court in order to establish that they could legally do so (i.e. that they had standing).

It's precedent now, at least in state courts. As for Federal courts, the Supreme Court has asked for arguments on exactly that issue, as part of the appeal that they are hearing regarding Prop 8.

It may, as you say, be a reasonable thing to allow. But it doesn't seem to have arisen before in the century plus that we have had initiatives in California.

Laws are 'selectively enforced' all the time depending on custom, politics, and available resources. The executive is bound by oath to see that the law is upheld (as they interpret it), but I don't believe they are compelled to defend a challenge to the basic legality of a statute just because it's the law.

Our ex state AG (Rob Mckenna) joined other rogue AG's in an effort to challenge the legality of the ACA. Obamacare is the law of the land, and it is, given our federal relationship, the law of the states. So wj, how does this example fit with your argument?

Here's another example: As Lawrence v. Texas wound its way through appeals and was at the point of reaching the Supreme Court, the AG of Texas, John Cornyn, refused to have his office take the case (see the Wikki for details).

Should he have been impeached?

I think there is a categorical difference between a simply 'bad' law and an unconstitutional one*. If an AG comes to the conclusion (which would have to be justified formally and in writing) that a law is indeed unconstitutional, (s)he should be at least excluded from having to defend said law against challenges and be it just for the reason that (s)he is party him/herself in the conflict. But should the courts refute the claim of unconstitutionality, the same AG would from then on be in violation of duty for not applying it faithfully and the only legal choice would be to quit.

*a bad law can be fully within the constitution and one that is unconstitutional can still be a good one.

bobby, the difference I see is that it is not a state AG's job to defend Federal law. So if he decides that it is, perhaps, in his state's interest to challenge the Federal law, that doesn't conflict. What he cannot do is bring suit in state court to overturn state law.

the fact that something is Federal law does not require the states to enforce it. (Obey it, yes. But not enforce it.) That is why, for example, states can decide that they no longer wish to make marijuana illegal. That doesn't change the Federal law, and the DEA can still enforce that. But the individual states and their officers have no obligation to help. And the AGs could even challenge the Federal law without viiolence to their oath of office.

Comet PanSTARRS is showing up in the sky..could be a good sight for a couple of weeks Mar 8-20 ..low in the West at dusk.

Binoculars might be better, though.

one that is unconstitutional can still be a good one

I'd say that depends on to what extent the evaluation of "good" can be objective.

If the intended meaning was that the law would be held as good by more people than held it as bad, I have no argument.

Of course any law can be seen as good or bad by the individual. Laws should ideally be based on a broad consent of a well-informed public but this is clearly not always the case, even absent bad intent. What was general opinion yesterday may be seen as an abomination to-morrow (and vice versa) or a law that made sense at the time it was made can be become not just obsolete but harmful.
From my perspective for example a general and mandatory health insurance is a good idea and it would have been one, even if SCOTUS had declared the mere idea as in violation of the constitution. On the other hand the constitution would allow a lot of really nasty stuff and some states get away with quite a lot of it. E.g. the constitution would not forbid to work children to death in the coal mines and we could see in the last few years more than one GOP candidate openly calling for overturning of child labour laws (those have been fought against and called unconstitutional from the beginning by some, esp. on the Right).

"and one that is unconstitutional can still be a good one."

Good, perhaps, in a wistful sense, or maybe in the sense of, "Fine, let's amend this sucker to make this great law constitutional, and then adopt it." Good in the sense of adopting and enforcing it anyway?


The Constitution is the law that binds government, as statutes bind us. A government which does not obey it, even the parts the people running the government think are bad, is a lawless government, with no standing to demand obedience to it's own enactments. And it will be SEEN as such, by a substantial portion of the population, especially those who don't agree with the goodness of the law in question.

Further, no government is going to violate it's constitution for 'good' reason just once. The commitment to lawful behavior on the part of government will erode with time, be over-ridden for lesser and lesser reasons, until it vanishes altogether.

It is very difficult for me to conceive of an unconstitutional law which is so 'good' that it could be justified to enact it and enforce it anyway.

Brett, I have to say that you pretty much nailed it.

My only caveat would be that a law can be seen as good in the "Let's amend this sucker" sense, and then prove in practice to be a mistake. Leading to "let's repeal that amendment" -- Prohibition comes to mind as an example.

Anyway, this pretty much nails my attitude about the "sequester" battle: Please, sequester, ten times, a hundred times over. You can't even describe the "sequester" they're screaming about as a "good start", it's nothing more than a trivial reduction in the rate by which spending increases.>Earth to New York Times: Please Show Us these “Deep Spending Cuts” You Keep Writing About

"The latest example comes from the New York Times, which just reported about “deep automatic spending cuts that will strike hard” without bothering to provide a single concrete number about spending levels in any fiscal year.

Yes, you read correctly. A story about budget cuts did not have any numbers for spending in FY2013, FY2014, or any other fiscal year.

So, for the umpteenth time, here are the actual numbers from the Congressional Budget Office showing what will happen to spending over the next 10 years if we have a sequester."

To decide if cuts are "savage," the thing to look at is not how big they are percentage-wise. It is the cost/benefit of of what is being cut.

To take an example that I came across today, look at what will be happening at the FAA. Briefly:
- long 10% of air traffic controllers off work every day. Resulting in substantial flight delays, as planes have to be kept further apart, to allow time for the reduced number of controllers to react to problems.
- dark hours or total shutdown of small and medium size airports, due to lack of staff.

Sure, if you are flying in and out of major hub airports, the cuts may be minor. But if your travel involves going elsewhere, "savage" will be exactly what you think the cuts are. Because, 10% overall ends up being more like 100% service cut for you. (Just as a side note, I observe that most of the airports looking at huge impacts are in rural or suburban areas. That is, places that tend to be represented by some of the Republicans who are, or were, demanding sweeping cuts.)

Standard budget "cut" procedure, in executive branches at all levels: You manage the 'cuts', (Even if they're just reductions in the rate of increase.) so as to maximize immediate public pain. Sure, you *could* adapt, economize, but what does that get you? A cut budget, that's what.

No, even though you don't have to, you make it hurt. So that people will actually believe that a slight reduction in your spending increase is a "savage cut".

So, yeah, it's gonna hurt. Deliberately.

Which is why, if you actually want to cut fat, you do not mandate anything like across-the-board cuts. You actually take the trouble (as Congress declines to) to go thru and cut specific programs (or line of business).

nobody in the world knows what the federal budget will be in 2021. nobody.

"Which is why, if you actually want to cut fat, you do not mandate anything like across-the-board cuts. You actually take the trouble (as Congress declines to) to go thru and cut specific programs (or line of business)."

Can't disagree with that. The problem here is "baseline" budgeting, where the spending increases are built in, and massive political capital has to be expended to prevent them, rather than starting with a baseline of zero, where political capital has to be spent to GET spending.

I doubt we'll ever approach a balanced budget for more than an accidental year or two, if we don't get rid of baseline budgeting.

"Please, sequester, ten times, a hundred times over."

Taking Brett's budgetary methodology on its face (can a self-appointed, faceless budgetary bureaucrat lose face?), given the mandated sequester amounts out to 2021 ($109 billion this year; $1.2 trillion out to 2021), at ten times, we'd be talking roughly 1.09 trillion in cuts in 2013 alone (@30% of the budget) and $12 trillion in cuts by 2021.

At one hundred times over, perchance to bullsh*t, we'd be looking at $10.9 trillion in cuts in 2013 alone (roughly, what, 300% of the 2013 budget) and $120 trillion in cuts out to 2021?

I don't know, but if you were to take each of the millions of deadly commas -- (,,)x 10,000,000 carry the deuce, drop the pretense = trouble -- in the Second Amendment and distribute one each to the millions of military veteran's (leaving out the rest of the collateral damage) turned away from the shuttered doors of the Department of Veterans Affairs and sicked them on the guy who came up with such an idea, I suspect the alatle (arrows, bow, custom carrying case) and AR-15 with spare magazine wouldn't be enough to stem the personal tragedy that would ensue.

Personally, I favor Brett's oft-expressed (albeit in delicate passive voice) desire for the violent overthrow of the Federal government over budgetary suicide, mainly because then I'd get to cause some f*cking pain to people too in the ensuing chaos.

Ten times was about right to bring the budget into balance. A hundred times was hyperbole.

One time is a joke, it doesn't even keep the spending from going up.

atlatl, as always.

Federal spending....(the nutshell version):

(1.) Social Security. The program is actuarily sound and self financing. In fact, a lot of rich f*ckers need to pony up and pay more taxes in the future as was implied in the 1980's agreement between Tip O'Neil and the sainted Ronnie Reagan as hotel maids and dishwashers "put more skin in the game" to create a "fictional" Trust Fund and enable the government to borrow their hard earned money and give rich f*ckers decades of tax relief. But then, rich f*ckers have no honor. This should come as no surprise.

(2.) Medicare/Medicade. The projected increases are due to runaway costs in the PRIVATE healthcare sector. PRIVATE (yes, wingnut caps....apologies) "free market" health care is demonstrably inefficient and, under our current byzantine system, absurdly costly. It should be abolished.
(3.) National Defense. A bloat, a blot, and a disgrace. Due to its sheer size, our politics are irretrievably warped toward waste, avarice, kowtowning to the 899 kg. gorilla we have created, and empire. Significantly cutting it is seen as simply not up for discussion.
(4.) The rest: Pocket change.

The Bellmores of the world are great at railing against spending as a concept and further claim that reducing the rate of spending is "not really a cut"(unless of course it is their particular pet program). Tell that to those who will lose government services as a result. Tell that to the greater number of people populating our country 10 or 20 years from now. I should also like to bring that novel concept to his local sewer district and they can convey to him their thanks and amazement for informing them they can carry more sh*t with less pipe if they just "got more creative". Or just went out of the elimination business alltogether in order that the outhouse industry can mount its long delayed resurgence.

Alternatively Mr. Bellmore could actually produce some numbers showing how he would achieve this magical balancing act....but he won't....those numbers simply do not exist.

What he cannot do is bring suit in state court to overturn state law.

You must be addressing some other bobbyp or the goalposts have gone into the Twilight Zone.

How so, bobby? (I thought I was addressing your statement, at 2:47 PM on Feb 23) that " A decision by the AG to not defend a court challenge to a stupid and discriminatory law doesn't strike me as all that much of a problem.")

In the specific case in Federal court regarding Prop 8, the California Attoney General declined to do his job and defend the law (created by Prop 8). So someone else (the folks who had put the proposition on the ballot) stepped up. There was a decision (and, after appeals, a ruling by the California Supreme Court) that they did, in fact, have standing to do so.

And now the US Supreme Court appears to be going to revisit that ruling. If the Supreme Court decides that they do not have standing to defend the law, then we would be left with the possibility that nobody would have both standing and willingness to defend the law. (At which point, I would look for a test case regarding forcing the state Attorney General to defend the state's laws in court.)

"(1.) Social Security. The program is actuarily sound and self financing."

In roughly the same sense as Bernard Madoff's investment plan was actuarial sound: It was fine if you ignored the fact the money was spent instead of invested to produce a return.

It was fine if you ignored the fact the money was spent instead of invested to produce a return.

It was invested in treasury instruments that pay interest which is credited to the Trust Fund, aka "investing to produce a return".

The proceeds from the bond sales to the Trust Fund were, in turn, used to finance federal spending elsewhere.

This action masked the structural deficit in the General Fund that arose as a result of the Reagan/Bush tax cuts which were tilted generously to the rich, thus saving some of their money to invest with Bernie (he didn't fleece the poor, ya' know), engage in various shady financial speculations (gambling), and generally enable them to be more antisocial than they usually are.

How so, bobby? (I thought I was addressing your statement, at 2:47 PM on Feb 23)

Well no, frankly you did not. But let's refresh:
1.)John Cornyn's action as AG of Texas in not pursuing a defense of the statute.
2.) The Obama decision to not defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Both of these actions go directly to the situation at hand, i.e., the executive not defending a law in court.

I would argue the executive is under no obligation to defend the legality of a law in court. In the instant case of Prop 8, the state AG is obliged to charge and try those who illegally perform or participate in a gay marriage or attempt to take advantage of benefits bestowed by the state based upon the concept of 'being married'.

Successful state initiatives have been thrown out by the courts many times. It would be interesting to know who the defendant was in each instant.

Here's>just one to get you started.

The Prop 8 case in Federal court was filed as Perry v. Schwarzenegger -- Arnold Schwarzenegger being named in his capacity as Governor of California. Which is why it seems to me that Jerry Brown (now Governor), in his then capacity as state Attorney General, was responsible for defending the Governor (in his capacity as chief executive of the state). If the Governor is sued in his official capacity, who else would be responsible?

Similarly, I think that The US Department of Justice is remiss in not defending the Defense of Marriage Act. Not because I approve of DOMA (I don't; I happen to agree that it is unconstitutional), but because that is the AG's job: defending the government and its laws, regardless of personal views on those laws.

Perhaps you could read the actual U.S District Court ruling>here. where it was noted that the government conceded that Prop 8 is unconstitutional with nary a peep from the judge about their "obligation" to defend this execrable mandate. In other words, the defense plead guilty. "We the people" via their duly elected officials came to this decision. It is perfectly legal, and comports well with "republican theory" which Republicans (capital R) are so fond of throwing out there all the time (cf a certain Mr. Bellemore) know, delegated authority, curbing the untrammeled tyranny of the majority, yadda, yadda.

If an initiative had passed condemning all with red hair to premptory trial and summary execution, would you expect the AG to mount a strenuous defense? Really?

One would also think that your position would be backed up by some history of judicial opinions. Cite them. Or here's another question: If what the Obama administration is doing is so wrong....where is the lawsuit?


because that is the AG's job: defending the government and its laws...

Place United States v. Nixon in that theoretical structure. Was John Mitchell's defense of the administration a case of "doing what's right" (giving his client a vigorous defense)or "just following orders"? As you keep repeating, "who gets to decide?"

It's not so cut and dried.


United States v Nixon did not involve Nixon in his capacity as President. It involved the Department of Justice (via a special prosecutor) charging Richard Nixon, not in his capacity as President, with wrong-doing. So John Mitchell, as the Attorney General, had no responsibility to defend Nixon.

As for the Attorney General's duty, note that the question considered by the California Supreme Court was "Whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative’s validity or the authority to assert the State’s interest in the initiative’s validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so." {emphasis added) Which looks to me like it quite explicitly concedes that the officials do, in facty, have a duty to defend the constitutionality of the initiative.

To your hypothetical: "If an initiative had passed condemning all with red hair to premptory trial and summary execution, would you expect the AG to mount a strenuous defense?"

I would expect the AG to make the best defense possible -- however weak that turned out to be. Perhaps (not being a lawyer) something along the line of "the people of the state are sovereign, and entitled to pass whatever laws they feel are appropriate in governing themselves, followed by the ballot arguments for the initiative. And quoting the constitutional provisions for initiatives.

And I would expect that, having done so, he would lose the case in short order. (Just as Prop 8 was lost. The only difference being that, having left the initiative's proponents to defend it, they then had the option to drag the case thru the appeals process.)

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