Monday, March 10, 2008


Quote o' the Day

NPR's ATC interviewed Montana's Governor about Montana's refusal to play nicely with the federal mandate for REAL ID. If you have the time, listen to it instead of settling for my poor transcription. If nothing else, at least make it through the first paragraph.
Schweitzer: Well, we’re putting up with the Federal government on so many fronts, and nearly every month, they come out with another harebrained scheme, an unfunded mandate, to tell us that our life is going to be better if we’ll just buckle under on some other kind of rule or regulation. We usually just play along for a while and we ignore them for as long as we can. We try not to bring it to a head, but if it comes to1 a head, we’ve found that it’s best to just tell them to go to hell and run the state the way you wanna run your state.

Unfortunately this time around they've really got a hare-brained scheme. This is the way it works. This REAL ID that congress has come up with was supposed to help us with immigration, homeland security, and stop identify theft. Come on. These REAL IDs won't be available for another 7 or 8 years. Come on. There is no REAL ID. So they're telling the states that you're going to have to take your first step toward these IDs and the first step is to send us a letter to say that you're going to accept our provisions sometime in the future when we figure out what they're going to be.

Interviewer: Do you understand the national security concerns here? [etc.]

Schweitzer: Almost all those hijackers on 9/11 would have qualified to have a Real ID. This is the way the system works. You walk into a drivers license bureau somewhere and present them with a birth certificate. The problem is we don't have a standardized process of birth certificates across this country. You give me a half a dozen high school students and a Kinko’s, and I’ll show you a bunch of birth certificates that looks very, very real.


Schweitzer: So that everyone understands, the Montana legislature passed a bill that instructs the Governor and the Attorney General not to implement any provisions of the Real ID [Act]. And this is the only thing that I know of that has united the farthest Left to the farthest Right in Montana politics.

There was not one dissenting vote out of 150 legislators. They simply said that they were fed up with the federal government coming up with kooky IDs that do not make us any more secure. This is the federal government telling a state you must do something and you must pay for it. Well, thanks for playing. Montana's not in.


Interviewer: Well Governor Schweitzer, what happens in May [Real ID Act “deadline” for state announcing intent to comply] if somebody from your state wants to get on a commercial flight?

Schweitzer: They’re gonna show them their Montana driver’s license and they’re gonna get on that commercial flight and nothing’s gonna happen.

Interviewer: But that’s supposed to be the deadline.

Schweitzer: Blah, blah, blah, “supposed to be the deadline.” There’s nothing in the Constitution that tells Homeland Security that they’re supposed to do this or they must do this. In fact there isn't even any actions by Congress that says this is the specific letter you must have. This is another bluff by some bureaucrats in Washington DC and thank God we live a long ways from Washington DC.

Interviewer: Well, Governor Schweitzer, it's great to talk to you.

I think the governor and legislature are right to be up in arms about the REAL ID Act if for no other reason than the federal government placing a requirement on the states they the feds estimate will cost $14.6 billion and they've only offered $90 million, i.e. less than 1%, help to pay for the changes. The roughly $8 million that Montana estimates it would have to spend each year to support the REAL ID requirements is on the same order as the amount the state spent acquiring new parks and recreation lands in the most recent budget.

My hat tips to BoingBoing and Blacknell for having partial transcripts that I built on.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Quote o' the Day

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
--Winston Churchill

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Pascal's Wager for Climate Change

Reading an email thread arguing about the reality of human caused climate change I accidentally analogized the situation to Pascal's Wager. Both are premised on the probability and risk-reward ratio of unknowable situations.
If there is anthropogenic global warming but we continue in our current energy consumption patterns, we continue to enrich petro-states and lead our economy teetering toward an economic precipice of short supply, high priced oil. If there is no anthropogenic global warming but we switch to carbon neutral energy sources, then we become more economically stable and self sufficient while paying ourselves to develop new energy infrastructure.
Of course, I'm not the first to think of think of such a thing. Apparently the idea goes by the name Global Warming Wager or the Precautionary Principle.

It looks like the arguments against the idea run along the lines of:

I think my statement differs from the normal formulation because it intertwines the political aspect. Our current course has resulted in a trade imbalance and a reliance on countries with which we often find ourselves at odds.

What do you think?


Mortgage Mess Meets Montana

The Billings Gazette is carrying a story about a borrower and a mortgage broker conspiring to fraudulently obtain loans. The story's spin is that the borrower will get to keep the houses and loans that he obtained on the sly, which seems somewhat appropriate considering that he's paid consistently on them. The more interesting angle on the story, I think, is that the borrower will be spending a year in jail for his role and the broker will be spending on the order of five years in the pokey.

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