Posts tagged ‘AB’

Our Great Political Sport: Scoring Points Off Tragedy

If one needs any skill as a politician, it is the ability -- with a straight face -- to, with no evidence whatsoever or even against countervailing evidence, blame any tragedy that occurs on your own personal bete noir.  Thus the Gabriel Giffords shooting was due to un-civil discourse by Conservatives, Benghazi was due to a YouTube video, the Boston Bombings were a results of too lenient immigration policy, the Newtown killings were due to the excess influence of the NRA, and the Gosnell murders were due to the legality of abortion.

In this same vein I received this email from California State Senator Fran Pavley

The recent Ventura County wildfires were just the latest example of the huge costs of climate change to California, serving as a reminder of the need for continued action, Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) said Thursday. Presiding over a hearing of the Select Committee on Climate Change and AB 32 Implementation, Sen. Pavley noted that the unseasonably early wildfire in Ventura County two weeks ago generated $10 million in firefighting costs. The dangers of climate change are no longer an abstraction, Sen. Pavley said.

“We can’t afford extreme climate, and so California doing its fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is incredibly important,” Sen. Pavley said.

Wildfires are one of many costs of climate change, environmental officials and experts said at the hearing. California also faces flooding, heat waves and threats to its drinking water system.

Even before atmospheric levels of CO2 rose, the US had thousands, even tens of thousands of wildfires a year.  So against a backdrop which would expect many fires in California even absent climate change (natural or man-made), it would be heroic to attribute one single fire to the effect of mankind's  CO2 production.  But it is even more astounding given that wildfires in the US are actually down so far this year -- way down.  Here is the data source, and here are two charts the Real Science blog prepared from this data.

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This is an AWESOME Idea. I Want to Propose California Do Much More of This

Via Carpe Diem and a whole string of other sites:

"How will California parents react when they find out they will be expected to provide workers' compensation benefits, rest and meal breaks, and paid vacation time for…babysitters? Dinner and a movie night may soon become much more complicated.

California Assembly Bill 889 will require these protections for all “domestic employees,” including nannies, housekeepers and caregivers. The bill has already passed the Assembly and is quickly moving through the Senate with blanket support from the Democrat members that control both houses of the Legislature – and without the support of a single Republican member. Assuming the bill will easily clear its last couple of legislative hurdles, AB 889 will soon be on its way to the Governor's desk.

Under AB 889, household “employers” (aka “parents”) who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers' compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.

Failure to abide by any of these provisions may result in a legal cause of action against the employer ("parents") including cumulative penalties, attorneys' fees, legal costs and expenses associated with hiring expert witnesses, an unprecedented measure of legal recourse provided no other class of workers – from agricultural laborers to garment manufacturers."

I know this is exactly the kind of thing you would expect me to oppose, but I have decided this is exactly the kind of thing California needs.  I am tired of average citizens passing crazy requirements on business without any concept of the costs and injustices they are proposing, and then scratch their head later wonder why job creation is stagnant.
I want to propose that California do MORE in this same vein.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Every household will have to register for a license to conduct any type of commerce, a license to occupy their house, and a license to hire any employees.  Homeowner will as a minimum have to register to withhold income taxes, pay social security taxes, pay unemployment insurance, pay disability insurance, and pay workers comp insurance.
  • Households should have to file a 1099 for every payment they make to contractors
  • All requirements of Obamacare must be followed for any household labor, including payment of penalties for even part-time labor for which the homeowner does not provide medical insurance
  • No alcohol may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state liquor license
  • No cigarettes may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state cigarette license
  • No over the counter drugs may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state over the counter drug license
  • No eggs may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state egg license
  • Any injuries of any type in the household must be reported to OSHA
  • Form EEO-1 must be filed once a year to catalog the race and gender of anyone who did any work in the home
  • Any time one has a dispute in court with another citizen or an employee, they will now be treated the same as businesses in California, which means that the presumption, irregardless of facts, will be strongly in favor of any employee and against the homeowner, and in favor of any other party in any dispute whose net worth is perceived by the jury as less than the homeowner's.
  • At least once a year the home's kitchen must be inspected and certified by both the fire marshal and the health department.  Any deficiencies must be immediately repaired before the kitchen can be used.  All code requirements for commercial kitchens will apply to household kitchens, including requirements for a three-basin washup sink, separate mop sink, and fire extinguishers
  • All homes will be inspected once per year for ADA compliance.  All parts of the home must be wheelchair accessible, even if there are currently no handicapped residents in residence.  Homes more than one-story tall will require an elevator.  All counters must be of the proper height, and all bathrooms must have ADA fixtures.
  • Each home will be required to prominently display all its required licenses as well as state and federal information posters for workers.
  • All homes will be audited at least once every three years to ensure that use taxes have been filed and paid on all out of state Internet purchases
  • Material Safety Data Sheets must be on file for all household cleaning products and other chemicals and available for inspection by the fire marshal
  • All gas tanks (car, lawnmower, portable 5-gallon) will be treated just like commercial gasoline storage tanks, and require monthly leak / loss reporting.  Annually, a complete spill prevention plan must be filed with the state.
  • A stormwater discharge plan must be filed annually with the state
  • Any dropped thermometer or CFL bulb will require homeholder to call out (and pay disposal costs) of a state hazmat team
  • Lifeguards are required at all home pools during daylight hours
  • Households should file property tax returns in the same way that businesses must, listing individually every single piece of personal property they own, from their car to their lawnmower to the pink flamingo in the front yard.
  • Homeowner must track the number of days any guests stay in their house so they can file and pay lodging taxes on a monthly basis
  • Any homeowner who hauls a boat or trailer on US highways must register with the Department of Transportation and receive a DOT number.  They must keep full driver logs and maintenance records available for DOT audit and inspection, and every driver must be drug-tested at least once per year.
  • All food on pantry shelves must meet all state labeling laws
  • At each entrance to the house, a sign warming those entering must be posted warning that certain cancer causing chemicals may be present

Finally, after spending the entire day complying with these rules, the homeowner must read at least 3 posts each day from progressive blogs explaining why anyone who complains about such rules as unreasonable is just a reactionary who doesn't really know how to run his business very well, and they could certainly do better.

Postscript:  Every single item on this list is something my company has been required to do.  I am sure I left a bunch out.

Sideways Protectionism

Apparently, legislators in California can't get away with just passing a law that says something like "no damn foreigners can build trains for us."  So they repackage their protectionism by finding a way to disguise it, in this case with a truly screwball piece of fiddling-while-Rome-burns legislation:

A bill authored by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D "“ San Fernando Valley) requiring companies seeking contracts to build California's High Speed Rail system to disclose their involvement in deportations to concentration camps during World War II gained final approval from the state legislature today. AB 619, the Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act, passed the Assembly on a vote of 50 "“ 7 and was sent to the governor, who will have until September 30 to act on it.AB 619 would require companies seeking to be awarded high speed rail contracts to publicly disclose whether they had a direct role in transporting persons to concentration camps, and provide a description of any remedial action or restitution they have made to survivors, or families of victims. The bill requires the High Speed Rail Authority to include a company's disclosure as part of the contract award process.

Apparently they have in mind specifically the SNCF, the French national railroad.  Its loony enough to blame current corporate management and ownership for something the entity did three generations ago, but the supposed crimes of the SNCF occurred when France was occupied by the Nazis.   Its like criticizing the actions of a hostage.  And even if there were some willing collaborationists, they almost certainly were punished by the French after liberation, and besides the US Army Air Force did its level best to bomb the SNCF's infrastructure back into the stone age, so I am certainly willing to call it quits.

Price Controls at Work

In many states like California, auto insurance rates have been subject to state price controls for years.  A recent debate over a bill called AB 2840 helps shed some light on the total idiocy of trying to have government set prices.

I have to give you a paragraph of background.  Warning -- the next paragraph is mind-numbingly dull.  Please don't give up.

Apparently, auto insurance rates are higher in California cities in part because claims rates (theft, accidents) are higher in the cities.  The cities, which have a lot of political power, argued that this was unfair that their rates were so much higher than rural folks paid.  State-approved insurance rates were discriminating against cities, they claimed.  I don't know if they made the argument, but they could also have argued that infrastructure costs (sales, claims service) was likely lower in cities per capita because of the concentrated customer base.  So the state insurance board proposed to raise rural rates and cut city rates to make prices to all Californians more even.  Rural folks then freaked, and their legislators have proposed AB 2840 to put things back the way they were before.

So who is right?  How the hell am I supposed to know?  How the hell is anyone supposed to know?  There is absolutely no objective way to settle this argument.  I read the attached article and my eyes just started to blur.  That is why in practice, for all the talk of studies and analysis, issues like this are settled in favor of whoever has more political clout or votes.  Price controls, besides wreaking havoc on supply and demand, always - yes always - result in a transfer of wealth from those without political power to groups that have the power.   That's why politicians love them -- its a great way to raise campaign donations, as groups bid to be on the receiving end of such largess rather than being the sacrificial lamb.  And it's why in a free and just society we use this thing called "markets" to determine prices in most other such complex situations.

More Consistency NOW!

The other day in my post on Politics without Philosophy, I mentioned in passing the philosophical inconsistencies on the National Organization for Women (NOW) website.  Specifically, I referred to the premise that women should control the decision-making for their own body (a premise I accept) and noted the inconsistency of some of their positions, notably opposition to breast implants, with this position.  As usual, I got several emails on "my attack on women", which is pretty normal nowadays:  People tend to associate an attack on an organization purporting to represent a certain group with an attack on the group itself. 

Anyway, this post was just going to be an update, to provide the specific links on NOW's seemingly conflicting positions on abortion and breast implants, but in the process, I discovered another very interesting inconsistency, which I will get to in a few moments (its in bold at the bottom if you really can't wait).

In posting on the breast implant - abortion conundrum, I should have linked to this post, where I explained in more detail:

When it comes to defending abortion, women's groups are great
libertarians. They will point out that abortion is about the right to
choose and about protecting the "fundamental civil and human right of
women to make the most intimate decisions about their bodies and their
lives".  Its about not letting the government interfere with individual
decision-making or a "woman's right to privacy".  Its about assuming
women are grown-up enough to make difficult choices about their fetus
and their own health and safety.  Opponents of such choice are
"ultra-conservatives trying to deny women control over their own
bodies".  (all quotes from the NOW web site).

So, women's groups seem to be good libertarians concerned with the primacy of women's decision-making over their own body.  Except when they're not.
NOW has been feverishly campaigning to get the government to limit a
women's right to choose breast augmentation, despite the fact that the
science is overwhelmingly behind the safety of implants.  Sure, as in
any medical procedure, there are some risks, but I defy anyone to tell
me that the risks associated with breast implants are greater than the
risks associated with abortion.  Abortion is a much weightier and more
difficult decision, and, unlike breast implants, it is irreversible.
If women are mature enough to make abortion decisions, they certainly
are mature enough to weigh the risks of breast implants.  Or take the
birth control pill -- the impact to a woman's body of silicone sacks in
their boobs is far less than that of trashing their entire hormone
balance.  Sure, the pill makes sense for a lot of people and its great
that the option exists, but don't tell me that the the changes the pill
engenders in the body are OK but bags of silicone are not.

Note that if you accept the notion of a woman's right to choose for her own body, the risks of breast implants shouldn't matter.  A good government might make sure these risks are revealed, but would leave decision making on the risks vs. rewards to the individual.  For the sake of completeness, though, here is NOW's argument that breast implants are just too risky and here is the counter-argument, supported by most scientists and the medical profession, that there is nothing wrong with them.  Note, however, the NOW would not tolerate casting the abortion debate around safety or risk, arguing in that case that it is up to the woman to make these informed trade-offs.

Anyway, here is what I learned from grabbing a few of the links above.  Consistent with their position on breast implants (and their heavy funding from the tort bar) NOW also is criticizing the FDA for allowing the Vioxx painkiller on the market.

Whether it's Vioxx or Bextra or silicone implants, the rule now
is 'Buyer Beware, said [NOW President Kim] Gandy. The drug and device companies own
the FDA and it is the companies' profit potential that rules the
review and approval process - except when the profit motive is
overridden by the White House morality police, as with the
morning-after pill.

Yep, the FDA is apparently not doing a good job in limiting the number drugs or procedures women choose to put in their bodies (more on Vioxx on the NOW web site).  But this is still not the really funny part, just another illustration of how NOW only seems to apply "Its her body" to abortion, rather than any other decision.  What was really interesting was this (emphasis added):

An assisted suicide
bill (AB 654) passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly Judiciary
Committee on Tuesday, following two hours of debate. It now moves to
the full Assembly, where a vote may come in May.

officially supporting the bill include the pro-euthanasia group
Compassion & Choices; the American Civil Liberties Union, the
California Alliance for Consumer Protection, the California National Organization for Women; the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations; Drug Policy Alliance Network; and End-of-Life Choices.

I am OK with legal suicide as the last-ditch pain-relief strategy, though I am uncomfortable allowing doctors to help, given the inherent conflicts (maybe create a new suicide midwife profession?)  Anyway, note from this that while NOW opposes women's access to legal Vioxx, they support legal access to assisted suicide.  In case you are missing the full irony, I will restate it:  NOW supports the legality of a pain-relief strategy (assisted suicide) with a 100% chance of death but opposes the legality of a pain-relief strategy (Vioxx) with a less than 1% chance of death.

I don't really mean to pick on NOW in particular.  As I said before, nearly any organization on the right or left tends tends to espouse contradictory positions in the same manner.  NOW is just a particularly easy target since it takes positions on so many things.  Also, I must admit that they particularly piss me off some, articulating a fine libertarian point of view that women, and not the government, should control decision-making for their own body, and then abandoning this premise on nearly every non-abortion topic they address.

Anyway, you can read more on how the left really doesn't want to address the full implications of the Roe v Wade privacy right here.  If you want to understand why NOW takes the positions it does, beyond the usual we-know-better-what-is-good-for-women-than-they-do-themselves elitism, you might look at the NOW relationship to the tort bar.  NOW is usually prominently featured on the ATLA web site.