Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ben Carson (Mis)Quoting Daniel Webster

Ben Carson was on Charlie Rose last night. Rose tried to press him on some of his statements and Carson wasn't very forthcoming in details. I liked Rose pressing him on the unconstitutionality of Obamacare since it was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.

Their conversation on gun control (at the 44 minute mark) got me curious. They say:

Rose: When you talk about gun control, you're basically saying as I understand the conversation we had this morning, that the reason the second amendment is so important to you, is because you think people need to have guns in their homes because if the government gets out of control, they will have the opportunity to rebel. Is that a correct understanding of what you said?

Carson: That is one of the reasons for the second amendment. I talk extensively about it starting on page 60 in the new book. It is very clear because Daniel Webster said America will never experience tyranny because the people are armed.

This was obviously recorded on Wed after Carson's appearance on CBS This Morning where he said the same thing.

So I wondered a few things. First, why are we listening to Daniel Webster on the constitution? He wasn't a founding father. He was born in 1782 and was a senator and secretary of state in the mid 1800s. Clearly a constitutional scholar but not a primary source for the constitution.

Then I wondered in what context Webster said this? Google for Daniel Webster and this quote and the first few pages you get are Ben Carson saying this. Go a little deeper and it's hard to find where Webster said this at all. You do find quite a few lists of quotes on gun control. My favorite was the bottom of the wikiquote page on the second amendment, titled Misattributed. Looking for gun control quotes you see the Jefferson ones all over the place. has a page on gun control. Number 73 is interesting:

73 - Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.

                                                       Noah Webster, 1888
                    "An Examination into...the Federal Constitution" 1787

Ok, well that's interesting. Apparently on Thursday, Carson was on Wolf Blitzer and attributed it to Noah Webster. So it looks like he's confusing his Websters. Google fight suggests he's been using Daniel more often.

And Noah Webster died in 1843 so I don't know why that page is saying 1888 (I guess you can't always believe what you find on the Internet). It is true that in his 1787 book An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution he did say this. Here's page 43 of it in Google Books.

Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this for would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.

But Noah Webster was arguing that a US standing army couldn't be stronger than a citizen militia. Does anyone still believe this to be the case? And Article I Section 8 gives Congress the power "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions". So armed insurrections aren't allowed and before we get too far ahead of ourselves the civil war established that succession is illegal too.

Back to Webster, the page before he was arguing that

In some nations, legislators have derived much of their power from the influence of religion, or from that implicit belief which an ignorant and superstitious people entertain of the gods, and their interposition in every transaction of life. The Roman senate sometimes availed themselves of this engine to carry their decrees and maintain their authority. This was particularly the case under the aristocracy which succeeded the abolition of the monarchy. The augurs and priests were taken wholly from patrician families. They constituted a distinct order of men -- had power to negative any law of the people, by declaring that it was passed during the taking of the auspices. This influence derived from the authority of opinion, was less perceptible, but as tyrannical as a military force. The same influence constitutes, at this day, a principal support of several governments on the Eastern continent, and perhaps in South America. But in North America, by a singular concurrence of circumstances, the possibility of establishing this influence, as a pillar of government, is totally precluded.

I wish that were still true. And if I'm supposed to just take Noah's (or Daniel) Webster's word on gun control, should I just take it as well on religion? On the following pages he states as truth that "property is the basis of power", do we still believe this? Do we still argue whether we should have standing armies? Should we still pretend that a citizen militia could combat an armed state? And lets be clear, Noah Webster was no founding father. He edited the Federalist party newspaper. And the Jeffersonians that the Tea Partiers love so much, thought he was loon.

So I'm not going to believe Carson's argument because some Webster said so. I'm going to look at the statement and figure out if it's true. Does arming citizens prevent tyranny in America? I don't think so. I think the strongest military in the world will be successful in putting down any insurrection of citizens armed with handguns, rifles and semi-automatic assault-style weapons. I think a freely elected and representative government keeps us free and I think peaceful demonstrations are far more effective in our system of government.

I think gun control is a difficult issue. I'm fine with most people owning guns for self-protection and sport. I also think guns are too prevalent in our society and some laws to regulate them could reduce our gun violence rate which is an outlier among advanced nations. I'm not sure what those laws are and if they'd do much to avoid many of the recent mass shootings, but it's worth trying something. I do think we have to stop talking about outdated arguments about armed rebellion no matter which Webster or Carson bring them up.

Friday, October 09, 2015

California Now Has the Nation's Best Digital Privacy Law

Wired reports California Now Has the Nation's Best Digital Privacy Law

California continued its long-standing tradition for forward-thinking privacy laws today when Governor Jerry Brown signed a sweeping law protecting digital privacy rights.

The landmark Electronic Communications Privacy Act bars any state law enforcement agency or other investigative entity from compelling a business to turn over any metadata or digital communications—including emails, texts, documents stored in the cloud—without a warrant. It also requires a warrant to track the location of electronic devices like mobile phones, or to search them.

The legislation, which easily passed the Legislature last month, is the most comprehensive in the country, says the ACLU."

Time for Massachusetts to catch up.

The Second Amendment Wouldn't Have Prevented Hitler

Here's what I hate about the far right Republicans, their arguments are just factually untrue. Ben Carson thinks Hitler came to power because Germany didn't have a second amendment. Matthew Yglesias points out his (and other's) fallacies, Ben Carson's far from the only conservative saying gun control caused the Holocaust .

Seriously, why can't a journalist call them out on this stuff at the time they say it; like Chris Matthews did with Kevin James when he said Obama was like Neville Chamberlain because he was an appeaser, even though he didn't know what Chamberlain did.

House Freedom Caucus

I was curious about the approximately 40 far-right members of the US House of Representatives that are causing so much trouble for the leadership. It's the House Freedom Caucus and most of the info I found came from a few articles. The membership (other than the founders) came from the wikipedia page.

It was founded in January of 2015 by 9 members. It's an invitation only group, and now has 36 members from 23 states. They are all white men with the exception of Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Raúl Labrador (R-ID) who is Puerto Rican. Very few of them have been in the House more than 3 terms; seven of them are new to the House since January.

The founding members are:

  • AZ-5 Matt Salmon, member since January 3, 2013 also 1995–2001
  • FL-6 Ron DeSantis, member since January 3, 2013
  • ID-1 Raúl Labrador, member since January 3, 2011
  • LA-4 John Fleming, member since January 3, 2009
  • MI-3 Justin Amash, member since January 3, 2011
  • NC-11 Mark Meadows, member since January 3, 2013
  • NJ-5 Scott Garrett, member since January 3, 2003
  • OH-4 Jim Jordan, Chair, member since January 3, 2007, Chair
  • SC-5 Mick Mulvaney, member since January 3, 2011

The other members are:

  • AL-6 Gary Palmer, member since January 3, 2015
  • AL-5 Mo Brooks, member since January 3, 2011
  • AZ-6 David Schweikert, member since January 3, 2013
  • AZ-4 Paul Gosar, member since January 3, 2013
  • AZ-8 Trent Franks, member since January 3, 2013
  • CO-4 Ken Buck, member since January 3, 2015
  • FL-8 Bill Posey, member since January 3, 2013
  • FL-19 Curt Clawson, member since June 25, 2014
  • GA-11 Barry Loudermilk, member since January 3, 2015
  • GA-10 Jody Hice, member since January 3, 2015
  • IA-1 Rod Blum, member since January 3, 2015
  • IN-3 Marlin Stutzman, member since, November 2, 2010
  • KS-1 Tim Huelskamp, member since January 3, 2011
  • MD-1 Andy Harris, member since January 3, 2011
  • NM-2 Steve Pearce, member since January 3, 2011 also 2003-2009
  • OK-1 Jim Bridenstine, member since January 3, 2013
  • PA-12 Keith Rothfus, member since January 3, 2013
  • PA-4 Scott Perry, member since January 3, 2013
  • SC-3 Jeff Duncan, member since January 3, 2011
  • SC-1 Mark Sanford, member since May 7, 2013 also 1994-2000
  • TN-4 Scott DesJarlais, member since January 3, 2011
  • TX-36 Brian Babin, member since January 3, 2015
  • TX-2 Ted Poe, member since January 3, 2005
  • VA-7 Dave Brat, member since November 4, 2014
  • VA-9 Morgan Griffith, member since January 3, 2011
  • WV-2 Alex Mooney, member since January 3, 2015
  • WY-1 Cynthia Lummis, member since January 3, 2009

Two representatives have recently resigned from the Freedom Caucus:

  • CA-4 Tom McClintock - Resigned on September 16, 2015, member since January 3, 2009
  • WI-8 Reid Ribble - Resigned on October 9, 2015, member since January 3, 2011

The only member I had heard of was Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina that disappeared in 2009 saying he was hiking the Appalachian Trail but was really in Argentina having an affair. Yeah, South Carolina elected him to the House in a special election in 2013 and then re-elected him in 2014. I didn't know the name Dave Brat (VA-7) but he's the one that primaried Eric Cantor in 2014.

Update: Here are two articles I found interesting about the Freedom Caucus.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Clinton’s TPP Opposition Unnerves Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein explains Why Clinton’s TPP opposition unnerves me .

Clinton's reputation as a policy wonk is sterling; it's common to talk to Democratic (and, in some cases, Republican) staffers who tell you that they've never briefed a politician as sharp and informed as she is.

But Clinton's reputation as a policymaker is iffier — her critics can rattle off a long list of important decisions, ranging from the Iraq War to the bankruptcy bill, where they think she was swayed by polls or interest groups.

Clinton, of course, isn't just a policymaker — she's a politician, and particularly when it comes to reading polls and managing interest groups, she's a good one. Her vulnerability in the Democratic primary comes from the left, and to keep liberal challengers from gaining support, she needs to hold union support. Coming out against the TPP and the Cadillac tax is a great way to win over unions.

But it's not a great way for Clinton to show she's willing to make some unpopular decisions if they lead to better policy — and that has political benefits that don't show up in narrow issue polls."

And this is a broader problem for Clinton. Her political weakness, fairly or not, is that the voters and the media — or maybe it's the media and, thus, the voters — have decided that she's unusually poll-tested and calculating, even for a politician. Politically convenient policy changes don't help, and they cut against what should be her greatest asset: that she's an extraordinary policy mind who understands these issues better than her challengers, and so can be trusted to make better decisions on them.

Gun Violence Research

Vox wrote, What forms of gun control work best? Congress bans federal agencies from finding out. and talks about the ban. But they don't go the origin of the ban. For that see, Gun violence research: History of the federal funding freeze

In 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an article by Arthur Kellerman and colleagues, ‘Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home,’ which presented the results of research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide. The article concluded that rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance. Kellerman was affiliated at the time with the department of internal medicine at the University of Tennessee. He went on to positions at Emory University, and he currently holds the Paul O’Neill Alcoa Chair in Policy Analysis at the RAND Corporation.

The 1993 NEJM article received considerable media attention, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded by campaigning for the elimination of the center that had funded the study, the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention. The center itself survived, but Congress included language in the 1996 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill (PDF, 2.4MB) for Fiscal Year 1997 that ‘none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.’  Referred to as the Dickey amendment after its author, former U.S. House Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), this language did not explicitly ban research on gun violence. However, Congress also took $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget — the amount the CDC had invested in firearm injury research the previous year — and earmarked the funds for prevention of traumatic brain injury. Dr. Kellerman stated in a December 2012 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, ‘Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency's funding to find out. Extramural support for firearm injury prevention research quickly dried up.’"

Yup, one paper caused funding to be cut. See also, Firearms research: The gun fighter "There are almost as many firearms in the United States as there are citizens. Garen Wintemute is one of few people studying the consequences."

Dynamic Scoring

So I guess now is the time when the candidates release their tax plans. So it's the season when Republicans say they'll cut taxes, which means you pay less to the government, but the government will get more money because of growth. As a result, the deficit will shrink. We've tried this before and it never works, but they keep selling it. The other option is the government gets less money and we cut spending as well, but they never want to describe what they'll cut, because it doesn't add up unless they cut military or entitlements.

So Vox describes Why Marco Rubio is insisting that his massive tax cuts will pay for themselves, explained. In it, they explain the term "dynamic effect".

There are two ways to calculate the cost of a given policy. One is to do a static estimate that simply looks at the policy in isolation. So if I cut your taxes by $10,000, a static estimate will say the tax cut costs $10,000.

By contrast, a dynamic estimate tries to account for the way people respond to policy changes. So if I cut your taxes by $10,000, you might invest that $10,000 in a company that invents cold fusion, doubles the rate of economic growth, and creates a huge surge in future revenues.

The problem with static estimates is that they're wrong. The problem with dynamic estimates is that they're impossible.

There's also, Bobby Jindal’s plan for dealing with the 47%: tax the poor. "Jindal himself estimates that federal revenue will be cut by 22 percent, or $9 trillion, under his plan. And that's after taking into account "dynamic" growth effects."

Where he sticks out is the focus on raising taxes on the poor — on shrinking the "47 percent." By eliminating the standard deduction, the personal exemption, the dependent exemption, and the child tax credit, he intends to force millions of households that currently owe no income tax to pay up.

The biggest mystery in mathematics: Shinichi Mochizuki and the impenetrable proof

The biggest mystery in mathematics: Shinichi Mochizuki and the impenetrable proof

"Sometime on the morning of 30 August 2012, Shinichi Mochizuki quietly posted four papers on his website. The papers were huge — more than 500 pages in all — packed densely with symbols, and the culmination of more than a decade of solitary work. They also had the potential to be an academic bombshell. In them, Mochizuki claimed to have solved the abc conjecture, a 27-year-old problem in number theory that no other mathematician had even come close to solving. If his proof was correct, it would be one of the most astounding achievements of mathematics this century and would completely revolutionize the study of equations with whole numbers."

The abc conjecture refers to numerical expressions of the type a + b = c. The statement, which comes in several slightly different versions, concerns the prime numbers that divide each of the quantities a, b and c. Every whole number, or integer, can be expressed in an essentially unique way as a product of prime numbers — those that cannot be further factored out into smaller whole numbers: for example, 15 = 3 × 5 or 84 = 2 × 2 × 3 × 7. In principle, the prime factors of a and b have no connection to those of their sum, c. But the abc conjecture links them together. It presumes, roughly, that if a lot of small primes divide a and b then only a few, large ones divide c.

But so far, the few who have understood the work have struggled to explain it to anyone else. “Everybody who I'm aware of who's come close to this stuff is quite reasonable, but afterwards they become incapable of communicating it,” says one mathematician who did not want his name to be mentioned. The situation, he says, reminds him of the Monty Python skit about a writer who jots down the world's funniest joke. Anyone who reads it dies from laughing and can never relate it to anyone else.

Reminded me first of Snow Crash.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Lessons Learned from Atlas Shrugged

Adam Lee is reading and reviewing Atlas Shrugged.

NASA is putting on a colorful light show in the sky tonight

The Verge says NASA is putting on a colorful light show in the sky tonight "Tonight's sunset might look rather unusual if you live on the East Coast of the United States. NASA will be launching a rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia that will release payloads of barium and strontium into the atmosphere, turning parts of the night sky blue-green and others red."

"The rocket is scheduled to launch between 7:00PM and 9:00PM ET, and the chemical payloads will be released about six minutes after liftoff. NASA says that it should be visible as far as 235 miles north of the launch site (New York City and Long Island), 232 miles south of it (near Morehead City, North Carolina), and 165 miles west (Charlottesville, Virginia). That all depends on the weather conditions, though. If you're having trouble seeing it, or live outside that area, NASA will also be streaming the event, which we will embed above when it goes live."

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

2015 National Geographic Photo Contest

2015 National Geographic Photo Contest - The Atlantic "National Geographic Magazine has opened its annual photo contest, with the deadline for submissions coming up on November 16, 2015. The Grand Prize Winner will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters to participate in its annual photography seminar. The kind folks at National Geographic were once again kind enough to let me choose among the contest entries so far for display here."

Go look, they're all amazing.

Privacy Fight: Apple Car Play vs Android Auto

Motor Trend in describing 13 Cool Facts About the 2017 Porsche 911 writes:

"So much for 'Do No Evil.' There's no technological reason the 991/2 doesn't have Android Auto playing through its massively upgraded PCM system. But there is an ethical one. As part of the agreement an automaker would have to enter with Google, certain pieces of data must be collected and mailed back to Mountain View, California. Stuff like vehicle speed, throttle position, coolant and oil temp, engine revs—basically Google wants a complete OBD2 dump whenever someone activates Android Auto. Not kosher, says Porsche. Obviously, this is 'off the record,' but Porsche feels info like that is the secret sauce that makes its cars special. Moreover, giving such data to a multi-billion dollar corporation that's actively building a car, well, that ain't good, either. Apple, by way of stark contrast, only wants to know if the car is moving while Apple Play is in use. Makes you wonder about all the other OEMs who have agreed to Google's requests/demands, no?"

Monday, October 05, 2015


Josh Blackman announces Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! The October 2015 Term of FantasySCOTUS Is Now In Session. "Oyez, oyez oyez! Happy first Monday! Today LexPredict has launched the 7th Season of FantasySCOTUS. Continuing our successes from last year, FantasySCOTUS is sponsored by Thomson Reuters. If you’ve played before, or are new to the competition, sign up and start predicting cases."

The Grand Prize is $10,000!

Movie Review: The Martian

I saw The Martian last night and loved it. I had read the book in June and think it's a great adaptation. The story is the same, but the story telling is a little different so that the things a movie can do well it does while the things a book does well it does. You can enjoy the film just as much having read the book or not, and if you want to read the book afterwards there will be more things in it that will keep it interesting. I knew what was going to happen while watching the film and was on the edge of my seat the whole time with a big smile on my face. They nailed this.

Matt Damon is an astronaut stranded alone on Mars. He has to overcome all the various ways Mars is trying to kill him using his wit and determination. Science itself is practically a character in this film. I'd avoid watching the trailer, it gives away too much. The best description of the book I've seen is from xkcd:

It's Ridley Scott's best film since Black Hawk Down. Drew Goddard did a great job on the screenplay adaptation. The scenery on Mars is gorgeous. Matt Damon is great. The movie is thrilling, emotional and funny. I found it really refreshing that everyone in this story is smart, really smart, and no one is stereotypical socially-inept genius that's in every other film. So far it's my favorite movie of the year. Go see it.

Update: Vox talks about 5 of The Martian’s boldest scientific twists, explained.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Our Favorite Images From NASA's Incredible New Apollo Gallery

io9 writes Our Favorite Images From NASA's Incredible New Apollo Gallery

"Earlier this week, NASA uploaded an incredible treasure trove of images to a new gallery on Flickr: unprocessed photographs from all of the manned Apollo missions. They represent an incredible look into what the astronauts saw on their missions to the moon.

NASA’s astronauts are known for taking some of the world’s best pictures, but this gallery is a chance to see the raw results: untouched and unprocessed pictures of space. They’re high-resolution images that are perfect for reprocessing."

The gallery is here: Project Apollo Archive’s albums

We Now Have a Justice System Just for Corporations

David Morris writes about arbitration in On the Commons We Now Have a Justice System Just for Corporations. "How the Supreme Court twisted a 1925 law to undermine the interests of citizens, employees and small business."

In 1925 Congress passed a simple 4-page law, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Businesses that preferred a simpler and faster arbitration process in business-to-business transactions to costly and protracted court battles urged Congress to act because federal courts often refused to enforce many arbitration clauses.

The FAA was a legislative attempt to satisfy businesses’ desire for speedy and affordable dispute resolution while also satisfying the judges’ desire for justice. Arbitration, a process in which both parties in a dispute agree to accept the ruling of an impartial third party, seemed an effective solution.

For the next 60 years the law worked as intended. Courts consistently upheld arbitration awards between businesses but also consistently held that the FAA was procedural not substantive. Arbitration did not trump federal and state laws, and the FAA did not apply to employment or consumer contracts.

In 1984 the Supreme Court flexed its new conservative muscles. In a case involving the right of Southland’s 7-11 franchisees to sue under the California Franchise Law the Court reinterpreted the 1925 law as a Congressional declaration of a “national policy favoring arbitration”. It further ruled that this national policy applied not only to federal courts but to state courts and was substantive as well as procedural. No matter how one-sided the balance of bargaining power once a business signed a contract with an arbitration clause it was forced to abide by the decision of arbiters even if they ignored relevant state and federal laws and even if the decision-making processed was biased against the complainant. Dissenting Justices vainly pleaded with their colleagues not to ignore the clear will of Congress and derail more than a half-century of uncontroversial implementation of the FAA. As Sandra Day O’Connor observed, “One rarely finds a legislative history as unambiguous as the FAA's.”

In 2001 the Court, by a 5-4 vote, extended the FAA to cover employment contracts.

He then discusses the many problems of arbitration. One telling thing:

Corporations realize the disadvantages of arbitration from the complainant’s perspective. Which is why most arbitration clauses require only the weaker party (the consumer, employee, or franchisee) to arbitrate its claims, while allowing the dominant party (the corporation) to sue in court.

And arbiters hired by the arbitration firm know that those who rule in favor of the company will be rehired and those who don’t won’t. As arbitrator Richard Hodge maintains, “You would have to be unconscious not to be aware that if you rule a certain way, you can compromise your future business.”

Gun Stuff

ThinkProgress points out the fallacies of a popular pro-gun theory, 'Good Guy With A Gun' Was On UCC Campus At Time of Massacre

The issue of whether UCC was a ‘gun free zone’ has become a source of controversy. Gun advocates argue that ‘gun free zones’ encourage gun violence by creating a space where people are unable to defend themselves.

This is not supported by the facts. According to a study of 62 mass shootings over 30 years conducted by Mother Jones, ‘not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns.’ Many of those mass shootings took place in areas were guns where permitted, but not a single one was stopped by armed civilians.

Parker’s interview revealed the practical difficulties of armed civilians trying to stop a mass shooting. By the time he became aware of the shooting, a SWAT team had already responded. He was concerned that police would view him as a ‘bad guy’ and target him, so he quickly retreated into the classroom."

They also write, The Sheriff Investigating The Oregon Shooting Believes Some Seriously Fringe Things About Guns. Seems he's an Oath Keeper and probably thinks Obama is trying to take everybody's guns.

Hanlin’s letter also blurs the line between a matter that is lawfully within state officials’ discretion and something much more akin to insurrection. Under the Supreme Court’s “anti-commandeering doctrine,” states may refuse to enforce federal laws that they do not wish to devote their resources to enforcing. For this reason, provided that state law gives him the discretion to do so, Hanlin is permitted to deny his department’s resources to federal officials seeking to enforce federal gun laws.

What Hanlin may not do, however, is unilaterally assign himself the power to decide what is or is not constitutional and then refuse to “permit the enforcement” of federal laws by “federal officers within the borders of Douglas County Oregon.” This rule stretches back at least as far as the late nineteenth century, when California charged a United States Marshal with murder after the marshal shot and killed a man who threatened the life of a sitting supreme court justice. In ordering the charges dropped, the Supreme Court explained that a federal official who “is held in custody in violation of the Constitution or a law of the United States, or for an act done or omitted in pursuance of a law of the United States. . . must be discharged.”

If Hanlin believes that the federal government is acting unconstitutionally, he can file a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s action. But local sheriffs are not permitted to use the powers of their office to thwart federal officials trying to carry out their own duties.

Vox of course had a nice all inclusive piece, America's gun problem, explained.

US Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

The NY Times reports Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan.

A United States airstrike appeared to have badly damaged a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the Afghan city of Kunduz early Saturday, killing at least 16 people, including patients and staff members, and wounding dozens.

The United States military, in a statement, confirmed the 2:15 a.m. airstrike, saying that it had been targeting individuals ‘who were threatening the force’ and that ‘there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.’

Accounts differed as to whether there had been fighting around the hospital that might have precipitated the strike. Two hospital employees, an aide who was wounded in the bombing and a nurse who emerged unscathed, said that there had been no active fighting nearby and no Taliban fighters inside the hospital.

For a more harshly worded version of the story, see Glenn Greenwald's One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the U.S. Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan.

Good thing the war is over.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

33 Million Americans Still Don’t Have Health Insurance

FiveThirtyEights break down the fact that 33 Million Americans Still Don’t Have Health Insurance "It isn’t a surprise that some Americans still don’t have health insurance. Despite aiming to insure ‘everybody’ in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act (ACA) left significant gaps in coverage, and decisions made by the law’s opponents have denied benefits to millions of people it was designed to help. But the new numbers reveal that most of the uninsured last year were people who should have been able to access insurance under the law. That presents a major challenge for President Obama in the final years of his term, but also an opportunity: Millions of Americans qualify for coverage but, for whatever combination of reasons, haven’t yet signed up."


Everything You Need To Know About The Big Supreme Court Cases This Term

Ian Millhiser writes in ThinkProgress Everything You Need To Know About The Big Supreme Court Cases The Justices Will Hear This Term. I thought it was a nice summary of the issues.

Gun violence in America, in 17 maps and charts

Vox provides some statistics on Gun violence in America, in 17 maps and charts "America is an exceptional country when it comes to guns. It's one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected, and presidential candidates in other nations don't cook bacon with guns. But America's relationship with guns is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms. These charts and maps show what that violence looks like compared with the rest of the world, why it happens, and why it's such a tough problem to fix."

Pluto’s Big Moon Charon Reveals a Colorful and Violent History

NASA writes Pluto’s Big Moon Charon Reveals a Colorful and Violent History "NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has returned the best color and the highest resolution images yet of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon – and these pictures show a surprisingly complex and violent history."


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Investigation: Secret Service tried to discredit US lawmaker

Investigation: Secret Service tried to discredit US lawmaker

"Scores of U.S. Secret Service employees improperly accessed the decade-old, unsuccessful job application of a congressman who was investigating scandals inside the agency, a new government report said Wednesday. An assistant director suggested leaking embarrassing information to retaliate against Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House oversight committee.

The actions by the employees could represent criminal violations under the U.S. Privacy Act, said the report by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general, John Roth. 'It doesn't take a lawyer explaining the nuances of the Privacy Act to know that the conduct that occurred here — by dozens of agents in every part of the agency — was wrong,' the report said."

South Miami Mayor on Climate Change

I'm surprised I haven't seen anything about this today. Last night Chris Hayes interviewed South Miami mayor Philip Stoddard and it was amazing. "Chris Hayes talks to the mayor of South Miami, Philip Stoddard, who is also a biology professor, about what it's like when most of your senior politicians are climate change deniers."

Hayes pointed out that two prominent presidential candidates, Bush and Rubio are from Florida and while they don't deny climate change is happening, they don't think we can or should do anything about it. He asked Stoddard about the effects they're seeing in Miami and what he would say to these candidates. Here are my favorite quotes:

Well, my first reaction is disappointment. We expect our elected leaders to be the adults int he room, take responsibility to look after everybody's best actions. They're not doing it, frankly. It's a puzzle coming from Jeb Bush because he has such strong connections to the real estate community. They're the ones with the most to lose. So why isn't he engaging this issue like all the big banks are and the big financial houses and now like the underwriters. I mean that's a mystery.

Thomas Edison was the one that predicted that the industrial revolution was going to put enough carbon in the atmosphere to affect the climate. This is not a new idea.

We've seen our summer season extending by a month over the past few decades. We see salt water coming up out of the storm drains when it didn't used to...So particularly along the coastal regions the tides come in, especially when there's a full moon, the all the drains become the suppliers of salt water into the streets and that's what we call sunny day flooding. You can have a beautiful sunny day and the streets fill up with water and people wonder where is the water coming from. You stick your finger down there and you taste it and you go that's salt water. That's not rain water.

The sea level has risen 5 inches in the last 5 years. An inch a year. That's not global sea level rise, that's local sea level rise.

I'd say your [Bush and Rubio's] arguments are complete bullshit. The idea that you don't want to harm the economy by engaging the problems with sea level rise... What do you think sea level rise is going to do to our economy? It's going to destroy it! We're gonna be underwater for heavens sake. How can you give these specious arguments about wanting to protect the economy when the biggest threat to the economy we've ever seen is coming on us like a truck.

Watch the whole interview here:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The (Real) Unemployment Rate

Wonkblog says Donald Trump is more than right: Most Americans don’t work. (But …).

"Whatever chart that was, Trump was reading it wrong. And he’s been called on his error repeatedly. My colleague Glenn Kessler wrote a thorough takedown at the time, pointing out that Trump was lumping together retirees, students, stay-at-home moms, and all kinds of people who aren’t figured into the unemployment rate because they aren’t available to work. It doesn’t seem that Trump was paying attention, so we’re going to try again — with charts."