Opinionated @ CFE

When Reading Comprehension and Preconceived Notions Collide


It’s always very exciting to find an obscure historical document that backs up one of your political positions, especially when it makes an opposing group look bad. I can imagine that Salon blogger Paul J. O’Rourke experienced that same kind of schadenfreude when he stumbled across “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen”, legislation from 1798 that would appear to back up his position that a individual mandate to carry health insurance is in line with the Constitution. After all, if James Adams approved, how can you argue against original intent?

On the surface, he appears to be correct. Until, that is, you actually take on the chore of reading the entire thing. Or, heck, even just the first paragraph. Take a look for yourself:

That from and after the first day of September next, the master or owner of every ship or vessel of the United States, arriving from a foreign port into any port of the United States, shall, before such ship or vessel shall be admitted to an entry, render to the collector a true account of the number of seamen, that shall have been employed on board such vessel since she was last entered at any port in the United States,-and shall pay to the said collector, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every seaman so employed; which sum he is hereby authorized to retain out of the wages of such seamen. (emphasis mine)

Huh. So, basically, this applied to foreign trade only. And the ability to regulate foreign trade is rather expressly found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

Better luck next time, dude.

A Summation of the Health Care "Reform" Bill


Dear Congressional Democrats,

After spending years talking about how evil insurance companies are, your “solution” to ever-increasing health care costsĀ  is to mandate that we do business with this “enemy” and give them a large chunk of taxpayer dollars. Every time you spread the meme that the Republican Party is nothing but a bunch of corporate shills, I hope they pull this one up to show that you’re just as bad as they are.


A pissed-off taxpayer

P.S. Bob and I disagree on how to fix health care, but we agree that your bill sucks.

Thoughts on Kevin Garn


I had to take some time to really take in what was going on with Kevin Garn, and there’s a lot of anger that’s worth spreading around.

Kevin Garn: Really? What part of your mind thought that, as a 30-year-old married man, it would be okay with carry on a relationship with a 15-year-old girl that culminated in a round of naked hot-tubbing? (Strike one.) This was your Sunday school student and your employee to boot. That goes so far beyond “poor judgment” that I’m not even entirely sure there’s a word to describe it. At the very least, you’re a total manipulative skeeze. Then you decide it’s a good idea, 17 years later (and long after the statute of limitations, I would add) to try and buy off her silence. (Strike two.) Apparently, the $150K and a non-disclosure agreement wasn’t quite enough to keep her from blabbing the story to the entire free world in the meantime, and you ended up forced to ‘fess up a good 25 years later. That’s all fine and well, but why on earth did you choose the last night of the legislative session with a captive audience to do it? (Strike three.) Good heavens, man. Hold a press conference with your wife and kids at your side like every other guy embroiled in a sex scandal. Forcing everyone into that kind of uncomfortable situation is unseemly and unprofessional.

David Clark: Look, I can understand wanting to sit on this kind of thing. I get that. You party guys are supposed to protect your own and all, and just like a good team player you wanted to close ranks. But c’mon, enabling the circus on the floor without giving anyone else warning that it was coming? It reads like a bad joke. You’re leadership. You’re supposed to lead. What you did is not leadership. I think Holly is right about you.

Deseret News: I can understand sitting on the story back in 2002. Garn lost his bid for public office, it looked like he was going back to private life, and the accuser clammed up suddenly and stopped talking, casting the veracity of the entire thing into doubt. It was an editorial judgment call and you made it, though it sounds like you had plenty to at least put something in the paper at a later date, say like maybe when Garn wanted to hold elected office once again? And maybe when the accuser starts talking again, you should maybe run the story? But no, instead of running with that kind of scoop, you were caught with your pants down just like everyone else. You lost a lot of credibility as journalists on this one.

Every single chucklehead who clapped: I don’t even think I need to explain this one. Thank goodness for the few that were stunned enough or incensed enough not to participate.

The entire majority caucus: Did it really take you two hours in a private session to come up with that completely and totally lame statement? It should have taken all of five minutes to agree that Garn is a skeeze, clapping was idiotic, and Clark totally bungled handling it from his side. Good job at throwing plenty of gasoline on the UEG fire so that they can get their terrible bill pushed through not on merit, but on the fact that they’re doing something while you appear to do nothing.

Cheryl Maher: Yeah, what happened to her is bad and it’s probably contributed to some of her issues, but I have serious doubts that it didn’t just exacerbate some mental problems that were already there. I know people who went through much worse that still ended up becoming decent human beings. If it’s about justice, why on earth didn’t you file a frakkin’ police report and press charges? Why did you continue to stay in contact with him? Why did you take the hush money and violate the non-disclosure agreement? And most importantly of all, why were you e-mail his son thinly-veiled blackmail threats? At some point, stop blaming everyone else for your poor choices in life.

Maher’s soon-to-be-ex-husband: How tasteless and classless can you get to start airing your marriage’s dirty laundry in the daily papers during your divorce proceedings? Apparently you saw your opportunity to get in another dig and just couldn’t help yourself. She may be looney tunes, but you’re not exactly giving us an image of a guy she’d want to stick with, you know?

And just because I’m sure that Ric Cantrell thought there was no way I could possibly tie this song to the session:

Yeah, it’s probably a bit harsh and maybe a little tasteless, but when the thought popped into my head, I had a hearty belly laugh. (For the record, Ric and I had that exchange weeks ago when none of us knew about Garn and he asked me not to find a way to do it. Sorry, Ric, but comedy demanded satisfaction.)

If you're concerned about privacy, you should be concerned about the Census


Every 10 years, the federal government is required to carry out a Constitutionally-required enumeration of the people for purposes of apportioning representation. As part of the census form, many additional questions are asked as well including your phone number, race, occupant names, birthdays, and a host of other personal information. This information can prove to be very useful for data geeks, but I and anyone else who values privacy should be greatly concerned about the amount of information collected by the federal government.

Very plainly on the census form, it states that federal law prohibits sharing this data in any personally identifiable fashion. I have founded doubts as to whether or not this actually happens. In World War II, census data was used to round up Japanese families to put them into internment camps. More recently, information on individuals of Middle Eastern decent was requested by and provided to the Department of Homeland Security for unspecified purposes; it was never established if that personally identifiable information was held in confidence or not. Combined with actions like the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, and Carnivore, I have little confidence that the data collected about me will actually remain in confidence, especially if a “national emergency”, real or fabricated, dictates its disclosure to law enforcement agencies.

Even if the federal government were using this data for purely innocuous purposes, I also have doubts about their ability to properly secure the information. For decades, federal agencies have received D+ or lower grades on information systems security, frequently experiencing breaches and compromises. Combine this paper-thin security with a treasure trove of personal data and you are just asking for a major theft of data that could impact every family in America. It makes the infamous TJ Maxx data theft seem like child’s play.

It’s also concerning that despite that the feds already have all of the information requested, they are asking for it again. Again, we see the ineptitude of federal IT staff as a whole at work. We have disparate data systems scattered over hundreds of agencies with no way of collecting that data together. Instead of fixing those fundamental flaws, the census bureau is instead sending out reminder letters a week before sending the actual census and dispatching tens of thousands of workers across the country to do what a couple of DBAs, with the right tools, could get done in a week with a case of Mountain Dew and a freezer full of pizza rolls. It would probably even be more efficient to pay one of those background check companies to collect the data at $40 a head; at a population of around 300M, the census would end up taking less time and 1/10 of the money with arguably better results.

I, for one, will only be filling out those fields I would feel comfortable with the feds having in a central database that I knew could be used to less-than-altruistic purposes or exposed to the criminal data theft underworld. I would encourage all of you to do the same.

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