Archive for September, 2011

In the latest issue, The Economist gives a startling look on the dire situation of courts in America. Budget cuts and, at the federal level, political obstruction have fostered delays and case backlogs. Some of the dire consequences:

  • In California, uncontested divorces now take a year to obtain.
  • One circuit court in Georgia has stopped civil adjudication (traffic offenses, etc.) altogether.
  • Courts in 14 states are closed on some work days.
  • One municipal court in Ohio stopped accepting new cases because it could not afford to buy paper.
  • New York judges’ pay has been frozen for a dozen years, even as their caseload has increased by 30%.
  • In Florida in 2009, according to the Washington Economics Group, the backlog in civil courts is costing the state some $9.8 billion in GDP a year.

And so on.

As a libertarian, I believe that the judicial function is a core function of government, and that government should fund it properly and do adjudication well. Judges should be highly paid and courthouses well staffed and efficiently run. Private arbitration is all well and good, but arbitration contracts ultimately depend on enforcement by the public courts. States should be increasing, not cutting, judicial budgets, even if they have to raise taxes or cut more severely other programs in order to do so.

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The new CNN/USA Today poll on the economy offers few surprises.

  • 90 percent of those polled characterize the economy as poor (40 percent somewhat poor + 50 percent very poor). This is the worst outcome since December of 2008 when 93 percent characterized the economy as poor.
  • The majority (52 percent) blame Bush and the Republicans. It is interesting to note that this is the best showing to date for the GOP.  In July, by comparison, 57 percent blamed Bush and the Republicans. Since then, the percentage blaming Obama and the Democrats has increased (from 29 to 32 percent) while the percentage blaming both the GOP and the Democrats equally has increased (from 10 to 13 percent).

Now for the surprise: although the administration needs to place the economic problems squarely at the feet of the GOP and keep it there until the election, it is getting little help from Vice President Joe Biden. In a radio interview yesterday, the Vice President was quite frank and accurate in his assessment:

“Even though 50-some percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the last administration, that’s not relevant,” said the vice president. “What’s relevant is we’re in charge.”

“Right now, we are the ones in charge, and it’s gotten better but it hasn’t gotten good enough,” Biden told WLRN. “…I don’t blame them for being mad. We’re in charge. So they’re angry.”

Biden said it is “totally legitimate” for the 2012 presidential election to be “a referendum on Obama and Biden and the nature and state of the economy.” He said Americans will need to make a choice between what the Obama administration is offering to address the problem and what is being offered by the eventual Republican nominee.

I can’t imagine that the administration was pleased to hear Joe Biden’s admission of responsibility.  Anyone who has read Suskind’s new book Confidence Men can get some useful insights as to the lack of clarity and the internal disarray surrounding economic policy within the Obama White House. But Republicans should not be overjoyed at the Vice President’s moment of clarity. If he is correct, the 2012 election will hinge on whether the Republican nominee has anything of substance to say on how best to promote recovery. Beyond a critique of Obamanomics and few well worn statements about taxes and regulations, has anyone heard anything rising to the level of a credible alternative?

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In particular, a victory today for the right to bear arms on college campuses in Oregon.  A three judge panel of the Oregon state Court of Appeals ruled that the Higher Education Board cannot ban students from concealed carry on campus.  Bill Graves of the Oregonian writes:

The court ruled that while the State Board of Higher Education has authority to control and manage its property and to enact administrative rules, it cannot override a state law that says only the Legislature can regulate the use, sale and possession of firearms.

Not exactly a stretch to predict that politicians and/or administrators will attempt to chisel away at this right in the near future.  The cited article notes some ways that this could happen.  Remain ever vigilant of your rights, Oregonians, since they are in peril whenever the state is awake – which is always as Thomas Hobbes noted long ago!

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John Sides has a short but interesting post on 538 today looking at surprisingly strong public support for technocratic limitations on pure democracy. A few months ago I floated the idea of multiple voting as a way of overcoming, partially, the baleful effects of voter irrationality. Technocratic management would be another way to do it. These sorts of proposals seem to be unexpectedly popular. Voters generally don’t think highly of other voters’ intelligence.

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According to Governor Perry’s wife, “he’s never had a debate class or a debate coach in his life.”  For those who have enjoyed the Governor’s debate showings, Bad Lip Reading has added him to their selection of fine videos.

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Jobs for Colombia!

The Hill is reporting that Reid and Pelosi are at odds with the White House over free trade bills that Obama wants Congress to pass.

Now, assume for the moment that Democrats really are the party of the poor and downtrodden.  How, then, does this this statement make sense?:

He even chastised Republicans for being “more concerned about what jobs are being created in Colombia or Panama or Korea than what jobs are being created here in America.”

Shouldn’t the party that is bad at economics but desirous to help the poor be saying something along the lines of this:  “This bill will send jobs to Panama and Columbia.  And that is great, because they need them more than we do!”

Even as a foreign policy measure, sending jobs oversees probably promotes better relations, and it lessens immigration pressures.

One would almost think that Democrats want to suppress the economics of poor Latin American countries so that more people have the incentive to migrate here to mow the lawns of rich leftists who live in neighborhoods where low income immigrants cannot live because of zoning restrictions and other racist urban planning.

Holy Inconsistency, Batman!

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The Atlantic Yards controversy isn’t new, but this recent Grantland article by Malcolm Gladwell on how rich men were able to use eminent domain in this case to get richer is still noteworthy.   It loses a little steam at the end when he starts to rant a bit.  But Gladwell nicely lays out what went on while highlighting the ugliness of eminent domain seizures for essentially private use.

BTW, I still don’t see why Justice O’Connor added stadia to railroads and utilities as justifiable reasons for takings that can be transferred to private entities.  Seems like apples and oranges.  The logic of including stadia would also seem to justify just about any commercial development open to the public.

When the flashy Brooklyn Nets play in their new arena, make sure to remember all of the folks whose land was essentially legally stolen to make that possible.  I will – and I will certainly never set foot in the place.  Vote with your dollars!

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