Friday, October 17, 2008

What Would You Change?

I've got a simple discussion question for you.

If you could single-handedly amend the Constitution, what amendment would you choose as your top priority? If you could choose second and third choices, what would they be?

If you're short on ideas, here's a list to get you started.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Roe, Meet Casey

Throughout this election season, I've been following a blog called, which posts press releases from the candidates, important news items, poll results, and other information pertinent to the upcoming Presidential election. Occasionally, the blog's author will also post editorials or observations about various developments, and I've found him to be knowledgeable, even-handed, and enjoyable to read.

Earlier today, he posted one such editorial which branched off of the usual topics he covers. It's called "Enough on Roe; Let's Talk About Casey", and discusses how the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision from 1992 overruled most of the framework built in Roe v. Wade, and substituted a legal framework that allowed somewhat more restriction of abortion than was previously allowed. The legal information and opinion about the decision was interesting, and helped me understand a bit better the state of abortion law.

He closed his editorial with this paragraph, directed at opponents of abortion rights:

"And if you want fewer abortions? Change people’s minds. That will take care of the law in good time. If an overwhelming amount of people believe all abortion is murder, the law will change. The Supreme Court will not do the work for you."
I responded to him, and was pleasantly surprised when he answered my reply in short order. We've gone back and forth a few times through the day, and he has pushed me to learn more about the history of abortion law, and helped me to clarify my opinions about the issue. I won't attempt to copy any of that discussion here, or even summarize it... but if you are interested in abortion law, I think it would be worth the read.

And, I'd love to hear what you think. Is Casey a significant change from Roe? Is it enough of a change? Is it, as John from described it, "the great moderate standard of abortion law that the public has been clamoring for"?

And, getting deeper into the comments, do my comparisons and contrasts between the current abortion-law situation and previous situations with women's suffrage and civil rights make sense? Or am I way off base?


Friday, October 03, 2008

Bailout Bill Politics

Maybe a good argument can be made that the Senate should be allowed to originate a taxing bill, but as it stands Constitutionally, they cannot. So how did the Senate pass the recent "bailout bill" before the House? Enter RI-D Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy's "Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007". From The Providence Journal:

In order to get around the Constitution, the leaders turned to the time-honored stratagem of finding a live but dormant House bill -- Kennedy’s mental-health parity bill -- to use as a shell.

"They take out the entire text" of Kennedy’s old bill, "and then, by amendment, they substitute the other bill," said Don Ritchie, an assistant Senate historian. Two bills, in this instance: the emergency rescue bill and the tax provisions and the final version of Kennedy’s mental-health parity wrapped inside.

And that is how Kennedy of Rhode Island became the original lead sponsor — in name only — of one of the most hard-fought financial bills in congressional history.

Add to that the fact the bill is being pushed through and it becomes very attractive for earmarks. From "Billions in earmarks in Senate's bailout bill" (with more details at TCS):
Wooden arrows: This tax break, backed by Oregon's two senators, would benefit an Oregon manufacturer of wooden arrows for children by $2 million over 10 years.

Racetracks: Earmark would allow auto racetrack owners to depreciate their facilities over seven years, saving the industry $100 million over two years.

Rum: Offers rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands a rebate on excise taxes worth $192 million over two years.

Wool: Reduces tariffs for U.S. makers of wool fabric that use imported yarn, worth $148 million over five years. The measure was pushed by Reps. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Melissa Bean, D-Ill.

Exxon Valdez: Plaintiffs in the suit over the 1989 oil spill could spread their tax payments on punitive damages over three years, cutting their tax bill by $49 million. The measure was backed by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

American Samoa: Allows certain corporations to reduce their tax liability on income earned in American Samoa, at a cost of $33 million over two years.

Hollywood: Extends a tax break for film and TV companies that keep their production in the United States, worth $478 million over 10 years. The provision was originally pushed by Rep. Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles.

In case you're curious, here's the latest version of the bill as of 10/2/2008, and a section by section analysis.

I know this stuff happens all the time but it just seems wrong. What's more, I would imagine that the vast majority of people would agree that it is wrong, yet it continues.

My question: Is this just reflective of the nature of negotiation and compromise? Is there no better way? Should we just accept these tactics? Am I just being too persnickety in letting this annoy and frustrate me? :)

btw, I'm still struggling to understand the economics, but this looks like a decent summary: Making Sense of Our Financial Mess.


P.S. Both McCain and Obama voted for the bill. I think this reflects the difficulties that McCain will have in keeping his remarkable promise to veto any bills with earmarks as President when he believes the bulk of the bill is vital.