The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Counting Americans

The first official 2010 Census results are out today. As of April 1st there were 308,745,538 residents of the United States. California, the most populous, had 37,253,956; Wyoming, the least, had 563,626.

We have a decennial census in the U.S. because our Constitution mandates it. Every 10 years, we reapportion representation. This time, very much like the last time, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are losing a seat; New York and Ohio are losing two; Washington, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina gain one; Florida gains two; and in a sign of the Apocalypse, Texas gains four. Louisiana also lost a seat, most likely as a result of people fleeing after Katrina in 2005 (though the state did have a net gain of around 70,000 people). With these results, each member of the House represents about 711,000 people.

Oddly, only Michigan and Puerto Rico lost population since 2000. Nevada had the biggest proportional gain, its population increasing 35%. Texas had the largest numeric gain, of about 4.5 million. Other big gains include North Carolina (about 1½ m), Arizona (25%), Utah (23%), and Idaho (21%).

The Census has an interactive tool that has data back to 1910 for more information.

Why we have juries

The good citizens of Missoula, Montana, exercised their 6th Amemendment rights to tell the state they believe minor marijuana possession is not a crime:

No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.

In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul.

District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree. Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections.

In the U.S., the right of every citizen to have a jury trial in criminal cases means American juries have the power of nullification. This means juries can refuse to convict someone for a crime on principle, regardless of the law. In this case the Missoula jury pool thought 1.7 g of marijuana shouldn't be criminal.

Excellent. Maybe a few dozen more juries like this will encourage Congress to end the destructive and wasteful war on drugs and allocate resources instead to treatment and prevention.

And maybe the Cubs will win the World Series.

Someday.

I oppose it even though I benefit

The mortgage-interest tax deduction may go away early next year:

Scholars have long argued that the mortgage deduction and other tax subsidies supporting housing, including a deduction for property taxes and tax exemptions for profits on home sales, are neither equitable nor economically efficient. Some say they've helped skew the economy's reliance on an industry that has little export potential and often encourages over-consumption.

More important, despite the deduction's grip on the public and politicians, changing it as part of a package of other revisions offers Washington a chance to do something meaningful about the surging federal deficit: generate billions of dollars more in federal revenue that could be used to cut the deficit while inflicting surprisingly little pain on most middle-class homeowners.

About half of all homeowners in the U.S. — and just a quarter of all taxpayers — benefit from the mortgage interest deduction at all. That's because most people don't have home loans or don't pay enough in mortgage interest to take advantage of the benefit.

Also left out are many homeowners in cheaper housing markets, though people with pricier homes and larger mortgages — many of them affluent younger Americans in coastal cities in California and on the East Coast — reap a disproportionately large share of the tax savings.

I do enjoy deducting my mortgage interest, but like the article said, I won't miss it all that much.

Ask if you want, tell if you want: it's none of the Army's business anymore

President Obama this afternoon:

Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.

I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.

Good work, Senators.

The President may sign the repeal as early as tomorrow.

The Party of No hates children

Forty one Republican senators just now voted not to let the Senate vote on the DREAM act, which would have (among other things) let immigrants become citizens by serving in the armed forces. Think about that: a majority of the Senate and a majority of the House, and not for nothing but a majority of Americans, seem to believe that smart, dedicated people coming here to earn college degrees or fight and die in our wars deserve to become Americans, but the GOP doesn't.

On the other hand, as I wrote the previous paragraph, some of those Republican senators voted to allow the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to move to a floor vote. This means, very soon, the U.S. will join most other advanced countries and not care who its soldiers want as partners and get back to caring about who they want to fight against.

I really hope, though it's irrational to do so, that the Senate changes its rules in the next Congress to end these virtual filibusters. If you want to block a bill, get up on the floor and hold it until the other side gives up the fight or until you pass out. It shouldn't require a supermajority just to have a vote. That's not what the Constitution says.

The weirdness of the Assange circus

Sullivan calls it out:

Does Assange want to be forced back to Sweden, where he is freer from possible US intervention? Or is this all a massive, unplanned clusterfuck?

I guess if you live in a country where the government stakes out an interest in whether a condom breaks or not in consensual sex, you may never find out.

In other news, the Senate just passed the tax compromise by a wide margin. Among other things, like some rejiggering that should add about $6 to my take-home pay, it reinstates the estate tax for estates over $10m. Watch out for news stories between Christmas and New Year's Day of very rich people dying under mysterious circumstances...

The right man for the job

Via TPM, the Republicans have made Ralph Hall (R-TX) House Science and Technology Committee chair. He's got an impressive record:

The Texas representative is a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry and has voiced his support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. The League of Conservation Voters has given him a zero-percent rating every year since 2004 due to his positions and votes on environmental issues.

He's also the guy who killed a House bill which would have increased funding for scientific research and math and science education by forcing Democrats to vote in favor of federal employees viewing pornography. As ranking member, Hall introduced a motion to recommit which would have changed the bill by sending it back to the committee with mandatory instructions, in this case barring the federal government from paying the salaries of employees who had been disciplined for viewing pornography at work.

Some of you will have seen the story in The Atlantic this month outlining how American kids rank below-average on international math and science tests. Texas, were it a country (and why, oh why, didn't we just let them leave?), would be almost identical in the rankings as the U.S. as a whole in math, between Latvia and the Russian Federation. (Illinois is about the same, sadly.) The only state that breaks into the top 20 is Massachusetts, slightly ahead of Solvenia and slightly behind Austria.

It's an astute policy choice for the GOP. The 87-year-old Hall—he's the oldest member of Congress in either house—has strong ties to the oil industry and voted against NAFTA in 1996. I'd go on about his science and technology credentials but, sadly, I couldn't find any.

Yes, the GOP is all about policy these days. Chairman Hall will fit right in.