Wednesday Evening Highlights

Good evening.

  1. In vino veritas … for the fixie fan.
  2. Two interpretations of Ms Clinton’s umbrella, here and here. Neither of course are on the charts for Mr Obama’s mythical path to a nuclear weapon free world.
  3. A “read the bill” response.
  4. Does Mr Obama has the wrong map to the Middle East (HT: Mr Lozowick)?
  5. And, on the subject of maps … an odd one.
  6. Ms Delsol in Unlearned Lessons would counter, I’d offer, that the large (failed) experiments of Fascism and Communism have similar roots, contrary to this suggestion.
  7. Mr Obama’s foreign policy as a Bush third term.
  8. Of violence and unions. I’d note that being “founded in violence” is not necessarily a bad thing … so were virtually all nation states.
  9. Speaking of violence … art?
  10. Did he really compare mandated car insurance to health coverage? Where’d the no-fault analogy come in?
  11. How to really distance yourself from a the “buck stops here” Presidency … that is to say whining.
  12. So … “doff your galoshes and into the breach one more time”, err, I think Shakespeare put it a little more fluently.
  13. I do like that phrase, coining the present as “at the edge of Tradition.”
  14. An endorsement … lost.

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9 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Did he really compare mandated car insurance to health coverage? Where’d the no-fault analogy come in?

    I guess this must be satire because none of the quotes that Obama supposedly said in your link actually appear in the Washington Post article that it links too.

    But its a good analogy because car insurance comes in two types, mandated and not. The not mandated is collision, which pays off your own car if it gets damaged, stolen, etc. either by you or someone else. The mandated portion is liability and the reason its mandated is because society doesn’t want you on the road unless it can be reasonably sure the people you may victimize with reckless behavior can get paid off.

    Now note with collision, society has decided it doesn’t care. If you drive a nice car or a klunker, if you forego collision and you end up damaging it in an accident or it gets stolen you’re on your own. You either dip into your own pocket to repair/replace the car or you start walking. Life goes on for everyone else.

    Society has NOT made that decision with healthcare. If you keel over in the mall with a heart attack 911 will be called and you’ll be off to the hospital. You’re not going to be allowed to simply die in the food court and chucked into the garbage dumpster because you decided to boycott health insurance. But society HAS made that decision with some types of healthcare….if you think you’ll be hotter with butt implants….well pay for it yourself or live with your flat can.

    So an individual mandate makes sense and is pretty fair. what’s fuzzy is where the mandate should end (yes to heart attacks, no to butt implants) and the private tab should pick up.

  2. Boonton says:

    A “read the bill” response.

    I’m not really impressed with this line of argument. A bill is roughly analgous to HTML code. I once worked with a web designer whose point of pride was that he hand coded every web page himself using MS-Notepad. No Dreamweaver or Frontpage for him. Unfortunately his pride was misplaced. By hand coding every line of HTML he was very unproductive and almost certainly ended up having to reinvent the wheel multiple times over. I’m sure today he is using some software and even then he had to make concessions. Shopping cart software, for example, renders HTML automatically and all you have to worry about is maintaining a proper database of products and prices.

    This is relevant because Mark almost certainly does not code his blog in HTML. He writes his posts and let’s software translate it into raw HTML code required of his reader’s browsers and newsreaders. The raw language of most bills is more or less incomprehensible and not useful in most situations. It involves taking a simple idea, “the fine for speeding shall be $100 for every 10 mph over the posted speed limit”, and spelling it out in sufficient detail so that administrators, lawyers and judges can properly implement it. I think legislators should review the major bills they sign but making a stink about reading them is as counter productive as saying that Mark’s posts should be disregarded unless he hand codes each new post in raw HTML.

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    On the second, I”m not impressed with your argument. The trend for increased specificity in law is counter productive. It is an attempt to replace judgement with impossible reams of Byzantine (hmm … interesting expression) law. Take an OSHA example. Where one rule, “stairways should be safe” are replaced with volumes of specific contradictory regulations specifying width steepness, railings, colouring, and so forth. This volume would be better served with a single sentence. This leads to situations were the IRS will show up, and stay until they find infractions that pay for the time they spend hunting for infractions. And they know they will find infractions because the IRS code contains enough complexity that compliance is impossible.

    You think

    I think legislators should review the major bills they sign …

    but are currently a full fledge apologist for the party that doesn’t want to make that possible.

    The additional problem is that the “compilers” of said legislation are not machines. They don’t just “spelling it out in sufficient detail so that administrators, lawyers and judges can properly implement it. ” They insert loopholes and other ephemera for their particular constituents. That is one reason that even if the lawmakers don’t read their voluminous production out loud they need to give time for the staff of those who are voting on this to check the work of the people who the compilation.

    But you don’t want that now. You’ll only want it when the Democrats are no longer in control of Congress.

  4. Boonton says:

    Take an OSHA example. Where one rule, “stairways should be safe” are replaced with volumes of specific contradictory regulations specifying width steepness, railings, colouring, and so forth.

    Well the OSHA rule is probably something like ‘stairways should be safe’. OSHA itself writes volumns of specific regulations trying to figure out what that means. Likewise there’s probably various court rulings from when people challenged OSHA’s rules as either being tougher or more loose than the legislation permitted.

    Either way, though, you’re going to get ‘volumes’ of regulations. They could be specific regulation written into code, OSHA interpretation or judge-made law where the courts essentially figure out what is intended by a fuzzy phrase in legislation.

    But my HTML code analogy was a bit closer to home than that. If you read through some pages of bills it will be things like “in subparagraph A of law X the word “half” shall be striken and replaced by “all””. This is a real analogue of HTML code where it isn’t necessary or productive usually to read the code itself but to read the top level summary (i.e. This law will raise the deduction allowed from half to all etc)

    This volume would be better served with a single sentence. This leads to situations were the IRS will show up, and stay until they find infractions that pay for the time they spend hunting for infractions.

    Which is why the volume was demanded in the first place. What does it mean that ‘stairwells shall be safe’? Does that mean they must have emergancy lighting? Portable wheelchairs? How wide must they be? Were the stairwells in the Twin Towers safe or unsafe? Imagine when a builder has done the same same style stairwell in multiple buildings in a city but is confronted by different inspectors from the same department saying some are safe and some are unsafe. He will demand a consistent set of guidelines and if that takes a book or two so be it. Administrative law did not develop because either legislators or administrators wanted to write thousands of pages of regulation.

    but are currently a full fledge apologist for the party that doesn’t want to make that possible.

    The Harry Potter books were read and reviewed within hours of release. I fail to see why a staff of ten or more lawyers and legally trained individuals per Senator require more than a week to study a thousand page bill. The time frames we are talking about here are usually a month or more. In contrast I process between 200-300 requests per month in my job with requests anywhere from 5-10 pages on average. Granted a lot of that is boilerplate that can be skimmed over but that’s still one person going through 3,000 pages and I don’t have a staff of lawyers to help me.

    They don’t just “spelling it out in sufficient detail so that administrators, lawyers and judges can properly implement it. ” They insert loopholes and other ephemera for their particular constituents

    True but is this best addressed by ‘everyone reading’ the bill cover to cover or is it addressed by dividing the bill into pieces and having individual legislators and staff study each section and bring their analysis together?

  5. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    The Harry Potter books were read and reviewed within hours of release. I fail to see why a staff of ten or more lawyers and legally trained individuals per Senator require more than a week to study a thousand page bill.

    Right. So why, say on the last bill, did they not get a week but instead the final bill to which several hundred pages were added at 3am the prior night? What’s the rush?

    Either way, though, you’re going to get ‘volumes’ of regulations. They could be specific regulation written into code, OSHA interpretation or judge-made law where the courts essentially figure out what is intended by a fuzzy phrase in legislation.

    No no and no. The OHSA code should be “stairways should be safe”. That’s it. No coding no interpretations. No volumes of crap. There are inspectors. There are inspectees. Safe is a better phrasing. One can make an unsafe stairway that by the letter of the law complies. The inspector uses judgement. That’s all that is required and is all that should be in the code.

  6. Boonton says:

    Right. So why, say on the last bill, did they not get a week but instead the final bill to which several hundred pages were added at 3am the prior night? What’s the rush?

    And you think those pages were written at 1 AM? Somehow I suspect they were written days or weeks before.

    No no and no. The OHSA code should be “stairways should be safe”. That’s it.

    So let’s go back then. A builder has built a half dozen buildings all using the same stairway design. In one building the inspector says the stairway is fine. In the other the other inspector says the stairway needs more lights, another its not wide enough, yet another requires non-slip padding on the stairs and so on. The builder is going to demand, quite reasonably, a consistent set of standards, not random ‘judgements’ that vary from inspector to inspector. You clearly are not well aquainted with builders, plumbers, electricians and others who rely on uniform building codes.

  7. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Uniformity is not the issue. If the inspector ratifies a stairway as safe that (should) indemnify the inspectee from suit.

    The same design does not mean the same purpose. A stairway safe for occasional traffic in an office building is not the same as a stairway on a factor floor is not the same as a stairway in a school building. There are “quite reasonably” different demands that the same inspector could make of the same builder and his identical stairway.

    And you think those pages were written at 1 AM? Somehow I suspect they were written days or weeks before.

    Hmm. What is the point of saying “they were added at 3am”. Perhaps what that means is that the full document was not available to all parties until then.

  8. Boonton says:

    It probably does indemnify the builder from suit, although it wouldn’t protect the builder or building owner from suit for related negligence like failure to maintain the stairway, keep it clean, repair damage to it etc.

    I have no idea what stairway regulations look like so its quite possible they have different requirements depending on their context. But that’s not the problem, simply having a vague regulation ‘stairways should be safe’ and leaving it all up to inspectors leaves the builder with no real guidance. The exact same stairway may be deemed safe by one inspector in building A but unsafe by another in building B.

    Also in your quest to avoid having lots of text at any cost you ignore the fact that our collective knowledge is often superior to our expert knowledge. What does that mean? Well I’m sure some people have spent time doing studies of stairs to learn things like risers should be between 6 and 81/4 inches high (http://www.acontractorslicense.com/books/sbh-chapter.html). It is a lot easier to have an inspector measure the risers on a stairwell than to find one whose a master-stair builder to determine safety.

    This also leverages knowledge. I’m sure there’s a master stairbuilder who thinks 8 inches is too high or maybe another one who thinks 9 inches is ok. Rather than be at the mercy of an inspector’s whims, the rules are agreed upon beforehand and if an argument exists for changing them (6-9 inches) it can be presented and debated.

  9. Boonton says:

    But you haven’t shown that the document wasn’t available ‘to all parties’. Consider a web site that is debating whether to add a text verification system to its comment section. Assuming the blog is a democracy and the change is being debated, the coding for the new system probably spans hundreds of lines. If at ‘3 AM’ it’s added to the proposed change, it’s not really like ‘all parties’ don’t have access or time to read the document. Everyone knows what such a system does, adding it to the proposal is not a surprise.