Archive for July, 2012

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Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result.

Eugene Volokh

Not supporting the speech of Chic-fil-A’s president, but this is absolutely right. The company itself has done nothing to indicate its policies are breaking the law.

Oddly Constructed Argument

I’ll make an attempt to refrain from political commentary; I’m more interested in the oddity of the argument presented, but I won’t say much.

If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

I get that argument, but it’s kind of odd. For example, your parents may have had you, spawned a new life, and raised you, but they weren’t the first to conceive of such plans. Their parents had to do the same for them, and so on. Each generation relied on the one before it, but at what point is this no longer the case? We are constantly relying on the foundation others have built. It’s absurd to conclude otherwise, yet, this is given as a justification for the coercion of increased taxation?

I don’t buy it.

From “NASA Image of the Day” posted July 23.

Another Numbers Revamp

A couple of years ago I put together a little program to generate random numbers for the Mega Millions lottery and produce some analysis on the numbers most often drawn. Most recently I wrote about a revamp I had done to the tool to simplify its functionality.

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve completely redesigned the interface, and let me tell you, it’s quite nice looking. The functionality is largely the same, though slightly modified, and everything is done asynchronously, so it’s nothing flashy, but I like it just the same.

My primary reasoning for redevelopment was that I wanted to use this on my phone, but the older interface was just a little clunky. This works perfectly for this purpose–though, some more modifications need to be made to make it more of a ‘mobile web app.’ It’s also a little buggy in spots, but oh well. Explore the tool, use it, and enjoy!

By the way, I make no guarantees about the results, but if you happen to pick the winning numbers, would you ?

‘Font Awesome’ Icon Font

Icon fonts are apparently all the rage these days–and for a very good reason. They’re infinitely scalable, adjustable, and customizable. Anything you can do with text in css, you can do with icon fonts. Plus, they’re a light weight option when compared to icons from images. Their downside is minimal, but it exists; you’re not always going to get great results from older browsers.

I’m personally using Font Awesome, “The iconic font designed for use with Twitter Bootstrap,”1 as my icon font of choice even though I’m not using bootstrap as my theme’s base. These icons are peppered throughout the site, and to be honest this setup has kept me from using images in cases I would have in the past.

Implementation is pretty simple, but not necessarily contextually relevant. The code is not semantically correct mostly because you’re using an element containing no content, though I don’t find it to be a particularly expensive solution:

<div style="font-size: 1.125em; padding: 10px; background: #f3f3f3;">
    <i class="icon-hand-right"></i> icon-hand-right

Pretty darn simple, if I don’t say so myself. I highly recommend Font Awesome if you’re looking for an icon font on your website, and obviously doubly so if you’re using Twitter Bootstrap, as it’s built to work with it from the ground up. And hey, I use it.

Update: I forgot to mention that the reason this might not work is that it relies on the :before pseudo selector, which does not work in some older browsers.

  1. Font Awesome on Github. This project is quite useful.

How Does a Mandate Become a Tax?

We’ve been instructed to be deliberate in the communication of our ideas; be clear, concise, and say what you mean without newfangled, colorful language. I’d been given this lesson consistently during the course of my education. But words don’t appear to have very much meaning in the legal world–and they probably have very little meaning in the world beyond that. For the legal world, the more you communicate the better you’re able to cover your ass when something inevitably goes wrong, even if that language is designed to confuse the average person.

Since the ruling last week [concerning the PPACA1] I’ve been utterly perplexed by the result as far as the constitutionality of the mandate is concerned. According to my layman’s understanding, the mandate to purchase insurance goes too far in relation to the commerce clause,2 and thus is not constitutional under that reading; however, according to Chief Justice Roberts if it is read a certain way the mandate is a tax rather than a penalty as specified in the text and so can be considered constitutional under the taxing power.

The mandate was never labeled a tax and that language was particularly derided by the original drafters and supporters of the PPACA, so where does this reading come from? How does something neither labeled nor described as a tax suddenly become a tax for purposes of allowing said provision to stand? The opinion discusses the mechanism of enforcement as one that for all intents and purposes is a tax because it isn’t particularly punitive, so I get the reasoning. But I always assumed that the meaning of the words used in the drafting of the law was just as important as intent, in that both typically coincide with one another. And in this case, the mandate was designed as a mandate to pay for insurance or pay the penalty–unless your income was under a certain threshold.

This is not descriptive of a tax,3 but seems more like a parking violation. And reports of Chief Justice Roberts switching his opinion are enough to make me even more skeptical of this whole process. There is no giant conspiracy, but what is the endgame here?

A constitution of enumerated powers is designed to put limits on those powers, not grant broad authority under an exceedingly broad interpretation of a power that was designed to reduce trade barriers amongst the states. I will never understand the academic desire to make this so. If you’re looking to change the operation of our government, and the balance of power the constitution was designed to create, then amend it.

  1. This is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act–the constitutionality of some parts of the act were being deliberated by the Supreme Court. I’m really only going to discuss the mandate, as other portions are a little less controversial.
  2. The commerce clause reads: “[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” These few words have been used to justify a number of powers that are convenient, but not specified in the constitution, as an effort to regulate interstate commerce. Under the increasingly broad interpretation of the Supreme Court, just about anything can effect interstate commerce, even personally manufactured or grown goods. Go read more about it. This reasoning was thankfully rejected.
  3. “To impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law.” <>. Accessed 7/3/2012.

From “NASA Image of the Day” posted July 11. Yeah, this post was back dated. Sorry.