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Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 04:25 PM PDT

Colorado Education Funding

by stealthisbook

In Colorado, we have an important ballot measure that will change how K-12 education is funded in the state. Amendment 66 is a response to budget cuts that have devastated schools. The measure amends the Colorado Constitution to increase income taxes through a new two-tiered progressive tax for a fund dedicated solely to K-12 education. The text of the changes are available as a PDF here

This is a change in that while most school funding is through property taxes, Colorado has historically provided some degree of supplemental funding from the general fund to schools that come up short in the property values department. Unfortunately, state funding to schools has varied wildly depending on other budget priorities and for the past few years has been absolutely abysmal. The new fund will guarantee that education is a priority and that their funding can't be raided for other purposes.

Below the fold, a recent letter to the editor I wrote supporting Amendment 66.

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Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 11:37 PM PDT

Being a Surveillance Target

by stealthisbook

We've been told that the US government only collects communications of or with foreign persons. Or rather people who may be foreign nationals or on foreign soil. Or rather if 51% of the available evidence seems to indicate that the person may be foreign or not in the US.

The definition of "collect" has also been revised a bit as it seems that quite a lot (possibly everything) that is transmitted digitally is then archived and the 51% rule applies to getting authorization to actually look at something from a specific person.

We don't really KNOW anything for certain since the the Director of National Intelligence has already admitted that he lied in testimony to Congress and the bar for truthfulness in talking to the public is set significantly lower. Even working with what's on the table that the administration has confirmed, there's a big chunk of WTF. I did a quick survey of my phone contacts, email, and facebook. Looks like there are a few ways that I (and most people) may be already targeted by the governmental Eye of Sauron.

check out my reasoning after the squiggle

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Because gun rights have been wedded to conservative and libertarian politics for a long time now, the arguments of gun rights activists tend to be couched in terms of personal freedom and personal responsibility. I would argue that activists don't want personal responsibility at all.

If the US had no limitations on gun ownership or use, but took gun owners at their word that they are taking personal responsibility for their actions then the NRA would be absolutely aghast.

I'll illustrate a few examples below the fold.

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Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 08:58 PM PDT

Wendy Davis Shows Up US Senators

by stealthisbook

The Texas Senate's legislative rules make filibustering a truly arduous process. If you picture Jimmy Stewart swaying, bracing himself on a desk and hoarsely declaiming about lost causes before he faints, well he had it easy. In order to keep the floor in Texas, a Senator has to completely support his or her own weight (no leaning) and has to stay on the topic of the bill under discussion.

During the fight for filibuster reform in the US Senate, even the Mr. Smith version of the filibuster was well outside the limits of discussion. Even the requirement to actually hold the floor to maintain a filibuster was considered too unreasonable, even though Rand Paul demonstrated with his leisurely tag-team effort a few months ago that Senators still had the ability to do so. No, the biggest support was behind simply limiting the number of opportunities the minority would have to signal the intention of filibustering, thus requiring a 60 vote threshold to proceed. Even that failed.

Much of the opposition to filibuster reform from the majority was from long-time senators warning about the loss of a vital tool for when the Democrats are again in the minority. The Republicans naturally didn't want to give up the ability to comfortably halt any legislation at will.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis put the entire US Senate to shame when she stood up and spoke eloquently for eleven hours solely about Texas women's right to healthcare and abortion. She wasn't able to stop, take a drink, go to the bathroom, or even lean on the podium. There was no telling jokes or reading the phone book. She wasn't able to switch off with her buddies.

Wendy Davis showed that courage and passion can fuel tremendous efforts. She managed a truly difficult legislative maneuver. Washington Democrats failure to reform the filibuster because of the specter of future inconvenience looks even more cowardly in comparison. It's as though nobody in Washington feels confident that they can muster the conviction to stand up for issues if they actually have to stand up to do so.

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Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 11:03 PM PST

Let Them Talk? Those Guys??

by stealthisbook

The talking filibuster as a component to an overall reform of the filibuster in the Senate seems to be pretty popular. Jeff Merkley has pointed out that some of the more popular recent pieces of legislation like the DISCLOSE Act and the Veteran's Jobs Bill would've passed if the Republicans had been forced to publicly air their opposition through a classic filibuster rather than procedural sleight of hand.

So, make the old blowhards talk and make the entire country aware whenever the jerks have taken an unpopular position on some much-needed legislation.

Actually, that's a terrible idea and it won't solve our filibuster problem at all.

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Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 09:50 PM PDT

Control of the Senate

by stealthisbook

Despite the historically obstructionist Republican minority, control of the Senate is still vital. This hit me when I realized that climate change denying dipstick James Inhofe is poised to regain his chairmanship of the Environment Committee and McCain is all ready to bomb Iran from the head of the Armed Services Committee.

When the Republicans were in charge of the agenda in the Senate, they weren't just obstructionists. Granted, they were mostly rubber stamps for the horrendous policies of the Bush administration, but they were thoroughly pleased to do all they could roll back environmental, labor, and consumer protections at every turn.

Here's the thing: If the Republicans gain control of the Senate now, it will be worse. While the Democrats have failed to rein in the filibuster because of respect for comity and tradition, the Republicans have already dropped comity in the crapper through their obstructive abuse. In fact, the last time the GOP were in charge they threatened to blow up the filibuster with the nuclear option and that was just for court appointments. The Democrats can count on having as much effect on a Republican majority's actions as they currently have in the House- none whatsoever.

What would a Republican majority with the brakes off look like? How about Chuck Grassley chairing the Judiciary Committee? How about Pat Roberts setting the agenda on food stamps?

The scary thing is the number of ranking committee members that have already announced retirements or been primaried. The shakeup to replace Lugar, Hatch, Hutchison, and Snowe is not going to be pretty. If the Republicans regain the Senate, it will be because of some incoming frothing Tea Party nutters. At the very least, McConnell (assuming he isn't deposed for somebody more conservative) will be looking to guys like DeMint and Coburn for important spots on Commerce, Foreign Relations, and Finance.

Yikes!

We need to re-elect Obama. It would be nice to regain control of the House. It would be a nightmare to lose the Senate. Either enabling a Romney administration or obstructing an Obama administration, the Senate could make the viciousness since 2010 look mild.

However the election goes, I do have one unadulterated joy.
Joe Lieberman will no longer be a United States Senator

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I was reading mitumba's great diary about proposed changes to Florida's higher education system and it occurred to me to check out some numbers for my state.

The University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder is generally seen as Colorado's flagship school and makes a reasonable proxy for the financial situation at other 4 year institutions. The cost for students over the past decade have most certainly risen. At the low end, tuition and fees work out to be about $12,000 a year for a full-time undergraduate. In the 1999-2000 year, tuition and fees worked out to be about $4000 a year.

Stone the crows! Students are paying more than triple what they paid at the turn of the millennium. This fits nicely with the story about rampant inflation in higher education since students nationwide are going ever more deeply in debt to finance ever more expensive degrees.

The tricky part is that over that period of time there have been recurring state budget shortfalls and fairly constant cuts to higher education while federal financial aid has remained stagnant in terms of non-loan assistance. At one time, Colorado subsidized tuition for in-state students. They switched to a voucher system that from a student perspective was a semantic change-- rather than money going to the school directly, students theoretically were granted the funds at the time of enrollment that were then applied to the bill, for y'know freedom! competition! or some such. What it actually did was change the methodology of subsidizing tuition based on a percentage of total cost and became a flat per credit hour rate. Then the cuts happened.

The dirty secret about the high cost of a university education in Colorado is that university budgets have stayed nearly flat while federal and state funding has dropped dramatically. CU's 2011 total revenue is $1,220,300,000 and in 1999 it was 1,218,131,700. That's significantly below the increase in inflation over that time. State funding dropped by 11% from an already low 16% of the university budget. Students used to contribute 21% of the university's revenue through tuition and fees. They now account for 43%. (numbers taken from CU budget facts 2011-2012 PDF and CU Boulder economic impact, FY 1999)

Conservatives blame the inflation on increased reliance on financial aid and in mitumba's account of Florida's proposal their idea is to actually eliminate government support for universities. From Colorado's experience, I would say that further cutting government support would be counterproductive. At the very least, a state that funds its public schools sufficiently can exert some amount of control over tuition through the power of the purse. Once that leverage is gone, public schools can abandon the mission of service to the public with no meaningful accountability.

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Back in the dark ages before news became an instantly available commodity online, populist political campaigns had to struggle to get coverage. Column inches and airtime were limited, and the main criterion media outlets used to figure out what was worth covering was mainly the amount of money available for advertising. It was a tough time for a scrappy candidate with a good stance on the issues to make a enough of a dent in the public consciousness that they could hope to get elected.

but...

All of those limitations made it possible for savvy and creative campaigns to use a sort of media jujitsu to make their mark anyway. Now, with unlimited space and a lower bar for entry online, anyone can get a message out. I think that has actually made it harder to reach voters if a campaign isn't rolling in cash.

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Wed Dec 31, 2008 at 07:01 PM PST

Sometimes things just work out

by stealthisbook

The senate democratic leadership is notoriously risk averse.  When faced with the choice of taking a potentially losing stand on an issue or capitulating, they invariably capitulate.  Even the possibility of a hard fought victory on a core issue (ie FISA) leaves them running the other way rather than court controversy.

So, why take such an immediate stand on the Burris appointment?  Reid is already taking heat from the Congressional Black Caucus and others for rejecting potentially the only African American senator to serve in this upcoming congress.  I can think of one possibility...

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The Bush administration has wreaked havoc on the constitutional principle of separation of powers.  The abuses of the executive branch have undercut both the legislative branch (signing statements, stonewalling subpoenas, and outright lawbreaking) and the judicial branch (suspension of habeas corpus, weakening of other constitutional protections, etc)

With that groundwork laid, what might happen with Obama (or a Democratic successor) in control of such an enormous amount of executive power?

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Sure, oil shale exploitation, opening off-shore and ANWR to drilling, and the gas tax holiday won't do jack to solve our current high prices at the pump.  Sure, the motives behind many of the GOP proposals are suspect and rife with connections to Big Oil's deep pockets.  Sure, the blame for the high prices rests with a broad range of market fundamentals and speculative pressures that defy a simple solution.

Still, "drill here, drill now" will probably lower gas prices and it's thinly veiled extortion

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Getting college kids to vote can be a real bitch.  Just like with everything else, it takes some elbow grease to overcome the inherent obstacles involved.  With any luck, this year will be easier than most but I thought I would offer a few tips for increasing the turnout in your area.

College kids move around a lot.  Nearly every freshman moves into a residence hall, frequently from outside the area, and nearly every sophomore moves off campus.  The vagaries of roommate and housing situations take care of the rest right up to the people who have graduated and moved away.  In addition to making voter rolls near universities notoriously unreliable, actually reaching these people to get them registered and to the polls can just plain suck.

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