Monthly Archives: September 2009

Lake Los Angeles

Here in Southern California, water is a pretty precious commodity. And I’m not just talking about the pretentious restaurants where you get dirty looks if you don’t like your water “sparkling” and at $6 a bottle. No, it’s a serious outgrowth of building a major city in the middle of a desert, in which you have to pull water from supplies in other geographies to meet your needs. As we’re more sensitive to water conditions throughout the western US, we’ve been inundated with PSAs encouraging saving.

One of those PSAs has teeth, advising of watering restrictions. If you want to water your lawn, you’re only allowed to do so two days a week, and only in the morning. At least, those are the rules for us mere citizens. I’ve complained on twitter about driving past freeway medians and cloverleafs where the State of California is watering at 5 PM on a Friday, but I’ve simply assumed that this is mere government hubris.

But perhaps I was wrong. In the LA area, old decrepit infrastructure has led to a higher-than usual number of major pipe ruptures, causing significant flooding (NY Times, reg. req’d). Based on one of the potential reasons for that, I must now think that the Friday afternoon waterings weren’t about not following the same rules as mere citizens, but because they fear overloading the system (emphasis added):

Since Sept. 1, there have been 43 breaks that have flooded or damaged streets, compared with 21 in September 2008, 17 in September 2007 and 13 in September 2006.

The rash of blowouts began in June, when a new drought-induced water policy went into effect, a circumstance leading outside engineers and analysts to question whether water restrictions are contributing to the problem.

Under the policy, residents are permitted to water their lawns only on Monday and Thursday, causing a surge in water flow those days that may be taxing the system, said Richard G. Little, a policy analyst at the University of Southern California who studies public infrastructure.

So thank you, California State Government! Your inability to follow stupid* restrictions with destructive unintended consequences may have saved us from some of the negative impact of that stupid restriction! Under normal circumstances, I’d assume your inability to follow the restrictions you expect the rest of us to follow to be simple hubris, but here I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt — you were trying to save us!

Hat Tip: Brian Doherty, City of Angles
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Supreme Court To Rule On Second Amendment’s Applicability To The States

One of the issues left unresolved by the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was whether the Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment as an individual right applied to state and local governments. The last time the Court had the opportunity to rule on the issue, in 1886, in the case Presser v. Illinois, it specifically held that the Second Amendment only limited the national government, and no subsequent case has applied the doctrine of incorporation to the Second Amendment.

Today, the Supreme Court announced that it had accepted a case from Chicago that should resolve that issue once and for all:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would decide whether an individual’s right to own guns for self-defense — as articulated by the high court in 2008 when it struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns — also covers states and other cities with gun-control laws.

The question of whether the Second Amendment only applies to the federal government and federal enclaves like the District is one that was not addressed in the decision in Heller v. District of Columbia.

The case that the court accepted Wednesday concerns the city of Chicago’s law, which bans most handguns

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog provides further details on the issue now before the Court:

The Court had three cases from which to choose on the Second Amendment issue — two cases involving a Chicago gun ban, and one case on a New York ban on a martial-arts weapon. It chose one of the Chicago cases — McDonald v. Chicago (08-1521) — a case brought to it by Alan Gura, the Alexandria, VA. lawyer who won the 2008 decision for the first time recognizing a constitutional right to have a gun for personal use, at least in self-defense in the home (District of Columbia v. Heller). A second appeal on the Chicago dispute had been filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA v. Chicago, 08-1497). Presumably, the Court will hold onto that case until it decides McDonald; the same is likely for the New York case, Maloney v. Rice (08-1592) — a case in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor had participated when she was a judge on the Second Circuit Court.

Given that the makeup of the Court has not appreciably changed since Heller, it seems likely that the Court will rule that the Second Amendment does apply to the states, but that’s something we can’t really be sure of until the decision is actually issued.

The Nanny State In Action — School District Bars Kids From Riding Bikes To School

I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore because district boundaries in my hometown changed a long time ago, but when I was a kid I used to ride my bike to school nearly every day that weather permitted it.

It’s a good thing I didn’t live in Saratoga Springs, New York:

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The first day of school, already a happy and trying event for any student, saw a little additional stress for Maple Avenue Middle School student Adam Marino.

Marino and his mother, Janette Kaddo Marino, left for school by bicycle on Wednesday morning, as they often do in good weather, despite a phone call placed to students’ homes by school officials, asking parents not to allow students to walk or ride bikes to school.

(…)

One section of the school policy states: “The Board of Education forbids the riding of bicycles by students to and from Maple Avenue Middle School.” Another section also prohibits riding to elementary schools.

In an apparent contradiction, a third section states: “Secondary school pupils may ride their bicycles to school and shall park them in the racks provided.”

The policy was written when the Maple Avenue school opened in 1994, and has never before been reviewed, Superintendent of Schools Janice White said.

Remember, they’re from the government and they’re here to help you.

The Daily Show Illustrates the Shortsightedness of Government

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona State Capitol Building for Sale
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The above video clip from The Daily Show, while very humorous, illustrates a fundamental problem of government: shortsightedness.

In this example, the State of Arizona is offering to sell the state capitol for $735 million and rent it back from the new owners.

“What happens next year when you have to pay rent?” asks Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.

Sen. Lopez responds that the state government is more concerned about this year…they will deal with the next year’s budget (and subsequent budget) shortfalls when the time comes.

If this doesn’t illustrate the shortsightedness of government (at all levels), I don’t know what does. Our government officials do not look far beyond the immediate future (i.e. the next election). They don’t worry about the insolvency of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the long term financial difficulties of the bailouts etc, they will worry about those problems (which they created and will also blame on the free market, big business, or lack of regulation) when they can no longer pretend the problem doesn’t exist. If they are lucky, the other party will be in power by that time and the American public will turn its anger against that party by voting them out.

What the American public needs to understand is that whether the blue team or the red team controls the levers of power, this shortsighted mentality is standard operating procedure for both. They are not interested in solving long term problems but trying to appear as though they are.

Politicians will not be accountable for their deceitful actions until we, the people, hold them accountable.

…I won’t hold my breath.

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