Category Archives: Law

The Budget “Reform” Act

Now that they’ve started to tackle taxes, it’s time for the Republicans to fix this as well:

As any student of political behavior might have predicted, both parties have learned to game these systems. Obamacare and the tax bill provide many examples.

Democrats got the CBO to count the revenue generated by Obamacare’s Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or CLASS, Act taxes, fully aware that program’s postponed and unsustainable costs would never be incurred. Republicans likewise took some $300 billion of savings, suddenly available when CBO revised its clearly mistaken estimates of costs of repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate, to pay for tax cuts it couldn’t otherwise get.

This is not a criticism of CBO, which has remained properly nonpartisan and which was designed to estimate revenue flows, not personal choices — such as how many young people would rather pay small individual mandate penalties rather than expensive Obamacare health insurance premiums.

It’s a criticism of the notion that you can create neutral rules that will guide elected politicians to desired results. Politicians and the voters they represent have policy goals they believe important and they have their own ways — fallible, but subject to criticism and debate — to estimate the likely effects of particular policies.

My observation over the years is that systems intended to be failsafe are sure to fail. Forty years of the Budget Control Act regime and 30 years of the opaque Byrd Rule (which allows some Senate measures to pass with 50 votes while others require 60) have shown that both parties have figured out how to game the rules enough to foil those the intended purposes.

The notion that anyone, let alone the CBO, can with any accuracy predict the effects of changes in tax rates and other incentives over a decade is absurd.

Space Is Not A Global Commons

Scott Pace gave an important speech that is sure to upset many in the international space community at the Galloway Symposium a couple weeks ago. Laura Montgomery comments.

Speaking of Henry Hertzfeld, every time I see him, for over a couple decades now, we argue about the viability of reducing the cost of launch through reusability of rockets. I wonder what he’s thinking these days?

Off The Air

I’m driving out to Denver today and tomorrow, then the suborbital researchers conference on Monday through Wednesday. Play nice in comments.

[Monday-morning update]

Arrived in Denver area without incident, other than chickenpoop speeding ticket in northern NM for 82 in a 75 zone. I’ve always assumed that if you’re within 10% you’re OK. Guess this is my decadal ticket.

The Warlock Hunt

Claire Berlinski (who we almost got to have coffee with in Paris a year ago), on #MeToo and if it’s gone too far:

If you are reading this, it means I have found an outlet that has not just fired an editor for sexual harassment. This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?

But speak I must. It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

…In recent weeks, I’ve acquired new powers. I have cast my mind over the ways I could use them. I could now, on a whim, destroy the career of an Oxford don who at a drunken Christmas party danced with me, grabbed a handful of my bum, and slurred, “I’ve been dying to do this to Berlinski all term!” That is precisely what happened. I am telling the truth. I will be believed—as I should be.

But here is the thing. I did not freeze, nor was I terrified. I was amused and flattered and thought little of it. I knew full well he’d been dying to do that. Our tutorials—which took place one-on-one, with no chaperones—were livelier intellectually for that sublimated undercurrent. He was an Oxford don and so had power over me, sensu strictu. I was a 20-year-old undergraduate. But I also had power over him—power sufficient to cause a venerable don to make a perfect fool of himself at a Christmas party. Unsurprisingly, I loved having that power. But now I have too much power. I have the power to destroy someone whose tutorials were invaluable to me and shaped my entire intellectual life much for the better. This is a power I do not want and should not have.

Yup. Read the whole thing.

[Update a while later]

The wandering eye is just part of the human anatomy.

Yup. We can control our behavior and fidelity, but it’s really hard not to look.

Plus, the up side of office flirtation.

And so far, so good for Claire.

[Monday-morning update]

Are women really victims?

Feminists of my mother’s generation resisted furiously the claims that women were too timid, too fragile, too neurotic and too easily upset to function in the public sphere. They won this battle. Sisters began doing it for themselves. Women took their places alongside men in boardrooms and political arenas, on lecture hall podiums and in operating theatres, in courts of law and in armies.

This is currently under threat from a cultural shift within feminism which has shifted the aim from female empowerment to status-by-victimhood. It threatens to undo the progress made for women, valorise fragility, discourage resilience, weaponise victimhood and fatally undermine gender relations. It’s not good for women to be treated as fragile victims rather than competent actors in the public sphere. It’s not good for either sex for men to become afraid that talking to women, complimenting women, criticising women, flirting with women or touching women in friendly greeting could destroy their careers and reputations.

You don’t say. One of the women who tells their story is my friend Amy Alkon.

[Update a few minutes later]

Judith Curry relates her own experiences in the context of the climate debate:

If you see ‘misogyny’ everywhere (even from other females!), then perhaps you need to step back and reflect. What is being objected to is not your gender but your behavior: your attempt to gain fame and build a career based on ‘victim’ status, your unfounded attacks on serious and responsible scientists in your field, and your irrational statements and general intolerance of anyone who is not in your ‘club’. This negative reaction to your behavior is not sexual harassment (or any kind of harassment) or discrimination.
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Climate science has developed a perverse incentive structure that seems to reward this kind of unethical, bullying behavior — and I’m seeing more and more female scientists taking full advantage of this.

Unfortunately true. There are a lot of women in space and tech that I follow on Twitter, but I avoid getting into political discussions with them.

[Tuesday-afternoon update]

Sarah Hoyt: The sexual-harassment frenzy is madness, and must stop.

[Bumped]

[Wednesday-morning update]

Can we be honest about women?

[Bumped again]