Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cut taxes for economic growth

The NPR program Morning Edition took a look at the race for governor in Kansas. There an interesting thing has happened. One hundred current and former moderate GOP state legislators endorsed – the Democratic candidate. Sam Brownback, the current GOP governor, did exactly what he campaigned on – cut taxes. He said it would boost growth and create jobs. He eventually wants to eliminate the income tax.
What it did was create a huge budget deficit and the state's economic growth is now slower than the national rate. Brownback says give the cuts time to do their work. He tells the story of meeting a small business owner who will use the tax savings to grow his business.

What is happening in Kansas demonstrates the fallacy of the GOP claims about tax cuts. They say lower tax cuts attract businesses to the state. But others (such as those 100 GOP lawmakers) are finding out what attracts business investment is a diverse and educated workforce and sound infrastructure. And massive tax cuts puts both in jeopardy.

Colorado! (again)

Just a couple weeks ago a state judge in Colorado declared the same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. Yesterday, a federal district judge did the same thing.

His ruling is rather short. He doesn't delve into the reasons behind the decision, partly because he doesn't have to – the 10th Circuit has already ruled in Utah and Oklahoma (just last week). The judge did discuss that if the ban is not lifted same-sex couples are harmed. But if the ban is left in place, the harm falls on … nobody.

The other issue is whether to issue a stay. He says harm is only perpetrated by a stay, so there shouldn't be one. But he is also aware that if he doesn't issue a stay then either the 10th Circuit or the Supremes will. So he issued a stay – until August 25th, giving the state plenty of time to secure a stay from a higher court – or decide not to appeal.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Of course, they flee

Terrence Heath takes a look at the crisis of Central American children coming to America. Warning, the pictures in his post are difficult to look at. Heath discusses how violent Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have become. Many children are given the choice of working for the drug cartels or being killed. Of course, they flee. What the morning news (and those protesting these kids) don't tell us is the role the USA has in creating the violence.

The USA has repeatedly intervened in the Honduran gov't. The most recent time was in 2009 when we sponsored a coup that ousted a left-leaning president and installed a repressive regime.

The CAFTA trade deal meant local farmers of Central America had to compete with subsidized American agribusiness. Nearly two-thirds of Hondurans live below the poverty line.

The War on Drugs pushed cartels out of Mexico (I didn't think they were gone) and into Central America. The drug trade fuels the violence.

Three-quarters of the kids in American detention are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. If we send them home they return to conditions we caused and will kill them. Are we insisting they be sent home because we can't bear to be reminded of our guilt in their plight?

Compelling interest

Yesterday law professor Ari Ezra Waldman on Towleroad contrasted Obama's Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against sexual minorities with the Hobby Lobby decision recently issued by the Supremes. Today Waldman takes another look at the issue. That Hobby Lobby decision includes the sentence:
The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race...
Great sentence, says Waldman. Most of America agrees that discrimination based on race is bad. But what about what isn't said?

Yes, that sentence (written by Justice Alito) should be taken as an example that the Hobby Lobby decision won't tolerate religious claims to discriminate based on gender or other characteristics. But an important question remains. Has the government stated a compelling interest in banning discrimination against sexual minorities? The Supremes have sidestepped that point. Many judges aren't there yet. Congress isn't there yet. So stating a compelling interest may have to wait until a company with religious owners discriminates against us and the issue is again before the Supremes.

Malice or incompetence

Mark Regnerus was the anti-gay researcher who was declared unbelievable by the judge in the Michigan marriage equality case. He can't seem to give up, though. A recent report came out of Australia saying kids of same-sex couples do just fine. Regnerus does his best to shoot it down (which isn't much). As part of his tirade he links to a research article to prove his point. One little problem. The article actually proves the opposite of what Regnerus says it does.

In exposing Regnerus Rob Tisinai of Box Turtle Bulletin mentioned a few quotes he keeps in mind when knocking holes in our adversaries' arguments:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
That is a variation of:
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
Those familiar with science fiction will recognize that as a riff on author Arthur C. Clarke's famous law:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
That prompted me to leave Regnerus and his folly behind and following the link to Clarke's other laws. Here is another one:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
And that Wikipeida page prompted me to check out the laws devised by author Larry Niven. Here is a selection:
F × S = k. The product of Freedom and Security is a constant. To gain more freedom of thought and/or action, you must give up some security, and vice versa.

Ethics change with technology. (We're finding this true with privacy laws written before the internet.)

No technique works if it isn't used.

It is a sin to waste the reader's time.
So I had better stop.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Featuring the kids

Not that long ago, certainly in 2006, when gay couples went to court to demand marriage equality any children of those couples were carefully kept out of sight. There was still lots of talk of same-sex marriage being harmful to kids. The couples didn't want to make the public relations problems worse.

Then last summer in the big equality cases Justice Kennedy wrote that treating same-sex couples differently “humiliates” their kids. In addition the big studies claiming harm to kids have been thoroughly discredited in the media.

And now the kids are featured in these cases. It is a broad statement of this is who you are harming. And our society is geared to protect the kids.

From hiding kids and talk of harm to featuring kids and talk of protection is quite the change in attitudes and perceptions.

Due to Michigan's gerrymandering both of my sisters ended up in the same state senate district. This year Garnet Lewis, a lesbian, is in the race for that district. So be sure to vote in the primary. Alas, I have my suspicions the district is rigged for the GOP so she may not have much chance of winning in November. Other gay and lesbian candidates, of which there are several, might have a better chance.

Executive order!

As has been anticipated for months – and requested for years – Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination of sexual minorities in companies with contracts with the federal government. And he did it in a good way. Obama finally signed it because ENDA isn't going anywhere.

Back in 1964 President Johnson issued an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Obama modified that order to add sexual orientation and gender identity.

President Nixon issued an EO that bans discrimination against federal employees based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age. President Clinton added sexual orientation to this list. Obama added gender identity. Some had said gender identity is already included because it is a form of sex discrimination. Perhaps. This EO removes any question.

Bush II had issued an EO saying that religious federal contractors may have a preference for those of their own religion when hiring. That is the only religious exemption in these EOs and Obama did not add to them. So the battle over generous exemptions came out decisively in our favor. Yay!

I've heard this EO covers 20% of American workers. Alas, without the cooperation of Congress (which isn't cooperating) Obama can't cover the other 80% of workers. We're in the strange legal situation in which more states permit same-sex marriage than ban discrimination of sexual minorities. So you can get married, but if your boss finds out you can be fired.

Law professor Ari Ezra Waldman on Towleroad explains what an Executive Order is and what it can and cannot do. Then he contrasts this new EO with the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supremes. It is possible a federal contractor owned by a religious family will refuse to sign the pledge saying they won't discriminate against gay people. They won't get the contract and will sue. How will courts, and eventually the Supremes, interpret the religious exemptions in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the law behind the Hobby Lobby decision)? Will the emphasis be on religion or on this ruling's declaration that it can't be used in discrimination cases?

Commenters to Waldman's post note that Clinton's protections for gay federal employees is stated policy without the force of law that the federal contract EO has. A new boss in a federal agency from Mississippi may decide to fire the gay employees under him and those former employees don't have any recourse. Obama didn't change this.