Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scalia's Supreme Court Conundrum (A Brief Opinion On His "Opinion")

"I'm as partisan as they get!"

Updated Wednesday, June 27th, 2012!

Earlier this week the Supreme Court released their rulings on a couple court cases. To get to the point, Justice Scalia made some puzzling remarks regarding the cases.

Not to get into too much detail, there were too cases in particular - Montana's defiance against Citizens United citing historical corruption situations that led rise to the state's finance reform and the Arizona immigration case.

While Montana's nearly century-old state law was struck down by the court, with Scalia in the majority, Scalia was in the minority for the latter case.

One thing that was interesting is that Scalia argued for state sovereignty in one case but completely ignored it in the other case.

The other thing that is interesting is that in Scalia's dissenting remarks, he attacked the administration, more specifically President Obama. Scalia claimed that the federal government's argument that harsh immigration policies would be a drain on resources is null and void with the president's recent executive order that will prioritize immigration enforcement and exempt certain youths from deportation. Scalia argued that non-enforcement would cost more time and money than enforcement and so the federal government had no reason to argue their case.

"The husbanding of scarce enforcement resources can hardly be the justification for this [policy change], since those resources will be eaten up by the considerable administrative cost of conducting the nonenforcement program, which will require as many as 1.4 million background checks and biennial rulings on requests for dispensation," said Scalia, referring to the number of undocumented immigrants estimated to benefit from the secretary of homeland security's announcement on June 15.

"The President has said that the new program is 'the right thing to do' in light of Congress's failure to pass the Administration's proposed revision of the immigration laws. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so," said Scalia. "But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind."

What is interesting about Scalia's dissenting opinion?

The justices' opinions were pretty much determined in late April. Then the opinion writing gets started. More than a month later Scalia includes the above attack against the administration to prove the federal government didn't know what they were talking about. Isn't it interesting that for a case that was already determined Scalia pulls a news headline into his opinion, going beyond the scope of the questions at hand. Obama's executive order was not part of the argument as the justices heard it (being it occurred over one month from when he supposedly made up his mind) yet Scalia has decided to inject that headline into his opinion for no apparent reason than to show his partisan leanings and attack the president. He offers no facts in attacking the president - only assumptions.

Consider this fact - Scalia cites 1.4 million background checks and biennial rulings for requests for dispensation. Assuming Scalia's numbers are correct, what would happen to those individuals under active enforcement? Where would these individuals be detained, who would remove them from the country, and who would pay the final bill?

Here are some more facts:
"Since the late 1990’s, the number of people held in immigration detention has exploded. On any given day, ICE detains over 33,000 immigrants; this is more than triple the number of people detained in 1996. In the last 5 years alone, the annual number of immigrants detained and the costs of detaining them has doubled: in 2009, 383,524 immigrants were detained, costing taxpayers $1.7 billion at an average of $122 a day per bed. Nearly 2.5 million individuals have passed through immigration detention facilities since 2003."

Now remember, Scalia only cites the number of immigrants that would be affected by Obama's executive order.  Some sources list the number of illegal immigrants in this country to be over 10 million.  If every illegal immigrant were to be detained, the costs of detention alone would balloon to close to $50 billion.  By comparison, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has an annual budget of around $5.7 billion.

When only considering Scalia's 1.4 million, we are still talking about an increase in detention costs of about 400 percent, with detention exceeding the entire ICE budget by nearly double the amount.

Considering Scalia's lack of concern with campaign finance reform and the flow of unlimited amounts of money to campaigns and shadow organizations, it is no wonder that Scalia cannot understand (or chooses not to understand) the "husbanding of scarce resources."

Update! - CNN recently posted this story regarding the "impossible mandate" of SB 1070 supporting the federal government's argument that Scalia angrily dismissed in his partisan opinion.:
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding a piece of Arizona's controversial immigration law portends such a "huge" increase in policing for one department that the chief wondered Tuesday if his agency will be able to handle the workload. 

At a time when the Tucson Police Department is down 160 officers because of a weakened economy, the agency now must make up to 50,000 additional phone calls a year to federal officials to verify the immigration status of persons whom officers have stopped and have reason to believe are in the country illegally, Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said Tuesday.

Other law agencies in Arizona, however, reported "business as usual" a day after the Supreme Court ruling.

Just 70 miles from the Mexican border, the Tucson department may have to spend more than $10 million a year to book and jail up to 36,000 arrestees also suspected of being illegal immigrants -- a more than 7% increase to the agency's $130 million budget, Villaseñor said.

The police chief said he wonders if his 950-officer agency has been dealt an "impossible mandate." The state law, SB 1070, allows citizens to sue his department or others if they fail to enforce federal immigration laws, the chief said.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fox News Mischaracterizes Florida Voter Purge

"Do I look trustworthy?"

Tuesday on Fox News' Fox Report with Shepard Smith, Trace Gallagher discussed the voter purge in Florida but he failed to mention the purge at all instead claiming the federal government was suing Florida simply because Florida wanted to review voter rolls with the Homeland Security database.

"The Justice Department is suing Florida over the states plan of checking its states list of registered voters against an immigration database," said Gallagher.  "The feds say the plan is illegal because it uses unreliable methods and because it is happening within 90 days of the August primary."

This of course is not the case.  The Justice Department is not suing Florida because Florida simply wanted to check it's list.  They are suing because Florida decided to purge voters from their rolls.  After identifying 182,000 voters, Florida pared down the list to just 2,700 potential names.  Of those names, the state suggests they found 87 non-citizens on the voter rolls, 47 of whom had voted.  87 out of 182,000.  That is a fraction of a fraction of a percent!

While those voters should be purged from the rolls, the problem stems from the issue that Florida is also purging citizens who do not prove to the state that they are indeed citizens.  This is mainly because Florida is using outdated information in their quest to suppress voters.  Of course Florida claims the federal government denied them access to their immigration database which caused the delay in the purge, but that still doesn't erase the fact that Florida is in violation of the 90-day quiet period.  Not only that, it is unclear just how Florida went about requesting the information.

According to Rep. Jeff Miller (R - FL), Florida's Department of State has been requesting the information from  the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database since at least September 2011.  Miller insists that the federal government is wrong in delaying the release but it also brings to question just why the delay in the first place.  Why did they not respond to Florida's alleged repeated requests?  And why did Florida wait until late 2011 to verify voter rolls for 2012?  Why not start earlier to guarantee the rolls would be accurate and there would be no complications arising that would impact federal deadlines?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Florida State Senate Candidate Ron Rushing Is An Idiot!

Who is Ron Rushing?

Ron Rushing is an running for Florida State Senate District 15.  He's one of those teabaggin' idiots who don't even understand what they claim to be their most important principles and I just received a flyer from his campaign on my doorknob the other day.

Ignoring the fact that one of his selling points is that he is a "fervent Christian," Ron Rushing seems to throw around all the standard right-wing rhetoric but when you get past the surface he is nothing more than an ignorant  fundamentalist who has nothing better to do than run for office.  

First, let's take a look at the "principles" that will guide Rushing when he is up in Tallahassee pushing pencils.

I am a common sense conservative that believes in a Limited Government, Fiscal Responsibility, Individual Liberty, Free Market Capitalism, Strong National Defense, and Preserving Traditional Family values. We need to elect candidates that rely on a decision making process based on principle & not any specific issue. Issues change and we will always have a variety of issues to resolve. The common sense conservative way to solve these issues is via principle (right & wrong). I believe as a conservative there is no option to compromise when the choice is right or wrong. I have listed a few of the issues that need our immediate attention as we focus on establishing Florida as the model State that other States will respect, honor, and follow.
When I looked at Rushing's pamphlet that was at my door I took one look at it and laughed.


The main reason is because after reading some of Rushing's goals I quickly realized that he has no idea what his "principles" really mean.  For instance, on his flyer Rushing states that one of his "principled goals" is that he is for eliminating "tolls on Central FL expressways to offload traffic congestion on I-4 & eliminate spending planned for the I-4 expansion."  He also indicated on his website that he is for the end to the Sun Rail (a proposed commuter rail that would link Poinciana to DeLand, Passing through downtown Orlando and the I-4 corridor).

Rushing thinks the elimination of tolls and mass transit is the solution but he doesn't seem to realize that ending what he perceives to be a problem will only create more problems.

For instance, Rushing wants to relieve congestion on one of Central Florida's busiest highways (Interstate 4) by getting rid of tolls from other Central Florida roads in an effort to "offload" traffic from I-4.  Three toll roads in Central Florida that connect to I-4 come to mind - state roads 408(a.k.a. the Spessard L. Holland East-West Expressway), 417, and 528.

Anyone who has traveled anywhere in Orlando during rush-hour traffic would realize that I-4 isn't the only road congested.  All of these roads can get backed up for miles.  Eliminating the tolls would create mutually assured congestion.  Not only that but how does Rushing plan on funding the maintenance of these highways once tolls are gone?

And stop me if I am wrong, but wouldn't toll roads be the capitalistic free-market approach to traffic control?

What Rushing is proposing is socialism.  Under the toll booth system, commuters would have the choice to either drive on the free taxpayer-funded I-4 or take an alternate route using a toll road, where each commuter must pay their own way.

Rushing's opposition to the Sun Rail and the proposed I-4 expansion is also borderline heresy.

Just look at his comments regarding Sun Rail:
No one believes that the Sun Rail project can make a profit or even achieve a break-even financial position.
When was the last time I-4 turned a profit?

Not only that but the Sun Rail would also help achieve Rushing's "principled goal" of alleviating congestion on I-4 - the Sun Rail pretty much travels through the entire I-4 corridor and connects some of the hardest hit areas (the areas stretching between Poinciana to Maitland).

And the I-4 expansion?  The idea is that the Department of Transportation would widen I-4 in areas and create toll lanes to help reduce overall congestion.  Personally I think this is a bad idea.  I think I-4 should be widened without any toll lanes but Rushing doesn't even offer that as a solution.  He is only against ideas, which is funny since his whole website talks about competition and creativity.

Rushing's views are also very reactionary.  He doesn't seem to care about the cause for all the congestion, which one of the major contributing factors is unfettered growth - especially during the housing boom.  Everyone was trying to get a piece of the pie from land speculators and developers to real estate agents to the government, which was banking on impact fees and increased tax revenues.  Even Rushing wanted to get in on the housing market - he formed a realty company in 2007 that is still active today (he probably got excited when $300k home more than doubled in value by 2006).  All that growth put a strain on the local infrastructure that could not grow as fast as the surrounding areas.

For example, look at East Orlando.  Thousands of homes sprung up in just a short period of time.  Those homes would then impact surrounding roads like Alafaya Trail, Semoran Boulevard, SR 551 (Goldenrod Road, which leads to SR 528), SR 50, and the previously mentioned State Roads 408 and 417, which all flow into I-4 and SR 528.  Little history fact - SR 408 was designed in part to relieve traffic on SR 50.  If you consider all the development in the last decade and the lack of sufficient improvements for the local transportation system, you have a recipe for disaster.  That road that was once put into place to relieve traffic is now losing its value as a resource because planning fell by the wayside.

Instead of erasing tolls and hoping traffic miraculously gets better, Rushing should instead focus on investing in the existing infrastructure and finding creative ways to solve today's problems.  I-4 west of Sand Lake Road heading to Disney used to be a nightmare but expansion projects leading up to Haines City helped alleviate a great percentage of those problems.  Orlando installed variable speed signs along I-4 through downtown to help traffic control.  In my opinion they don't appear to work because drivers ignore the signs when they lower from 60 mph to 50 or 35 mph and police hardly enforce the adjusted limit, but the idea was different and creative - something Rushing claims to be for.

One other thing that seems to put a dent into Rushing's free market credentials - his hard-line stance on immigration reform.  Rushing cites the Federation for American Immigration Reform - a designated "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center - as proof that illegal immigration costs the state of Florida an estimated $5 billion dollars annually.  Rushing seems to ignore the fact that Florida's second largest industry is agriculture, which is heavily aided by a certain demographic Rushing wants to crack down against.  Rushing wants to emulate the tough policies being implemented in other states, but as reports are beginning to show, such harsh laws are having a negative impact on the ability of farms to find willing laborers.
There are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today. However, trends are shifting dramatically. Legal and illegal immigration from Mexico, which boomed over the past 40 years, flattened in 2005 and now seems to be decreasing, according to a 2012 report released by the Pew Research Center. Decreasing migration rates coupled with tougher state immigration laws are hurting America’s farmers, who rely on the labor.

Many farmers want to hire local workers, but it is increasingly difficult to find U.S. natives with the proper skills . Few are willing or able to perform the physically taxing and low paying labor which requires them to move with the crops, even with wages of $15-$20 an hour. Georgia recently experimented with creating a program that allowed parolees to work as farm laborers, but it was unsuccessful when they wouldn’t — or couldn’t — endure the grueling days.
What else does free market economics wizard Ron Rushing have to offer?

Another one of those "principled goals" Rushing touts is the deregulation of Florida's utilities industry but again, the facts are not in Rushing's court.  A report from 2007 showed that deregulated states saw on average a larger increase in energy prices than regulated state.  Figures also show that after Florida deregulated it's natural gas industry, prices have increased in par with the national average.

Should I even address Rushing's desire to reduce state university costs, especially at a time when for the past five years the Republican-controlled state legislature have been slashing university funding?

Simple economics would tell you that cutting budgets and reducing revenue generators is a recipe for disaster.  What was it that Rushing said about negative cash flows again?

And shall we forget that the Florida legislature decided to raise tuition rates on citizens of Florida by tying residency requirements for student to their parent's citizenship status?

My guess Rushing is the kind of person who would be for reducing tuition for only some of Florida's citizens.

I could go on but that would take all night and I want to enjoy my delicious shandy before bed.

To sum up my little review of Florida State Senate candidate Ron Rushing, while he mentions some things that I support, for the most part he is full of empty promises and typical right-wing rhetoric.  While I am certain if elected many of the proposals Rushing proposes would have a  good chance of making it through the conservative chambers of Florida government, I have no doubt that Rushing does not have a firm grasp on the very issues he claims to hold near and dear to his precious "traditional family values" heart.  He promises to be a free market warrior but proposes socialist solutions.  He promises to aid businesses but advocates policies that would be detrimental.  He proposes cuts first without a clear plan on finding the necessary funds to operate important state institutions.

To put it simply, Ron Rushing is an ambitious ignorant hypocrite.