Thursday, June 19, 2008

So as I stood in my kitchen, in the dark, eating a can of pringles (nutritious, delicious, etc) I couldn't help but think about who pays for the street light out side my house. I mean what purpose does it really serve? Is it there for safety or security or just our continued display of dominance of nature (it'll be light whenever we goddamned please)? I won't bother to look up how much one of those bulbs consume and give estimates of the cost, as I'm sure it's not that much for a single one, but for the system as a whole it's probably quite a bit. According to the internet whoever maintains the street pays for street lights (makes sense). Thus I can only assume Berlin Twp pays for all those street lights (on all but the numbered roads). I know we had this same discussion, but it really puzzles me at what levels income goes to, and at what levels things are provided for. I found something that broke down that for New York City. Now some would claim there are a few minor differences between Berlin Twp and NYC, but in theory it would be similar. Pretty much it leads me to belief the town gets at least half it's income from property tax. But really mostly everything is provided by the town. I found something that says Berlin Twp pays $20k per kid a year, that seem crazy high. Also I discovered two members of the Berlin Twp Board of Education arrived late for a meeting on March 19th, shocking.

"This meeting has been advertised in accordance with the regulation of the New Jersey Sunshine Laws. Public notice of these meetings will be placed in the Courier Post and Record Breeze posted at the Huster Administrative Building, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School, John F. Kennedy Elementary School, and the Berlin Township Municipal Building. Unless otherwise advertised, the meetings are held in the Huster Administration Building, 225 Grove Avenue, West Berlin. They begin at 6:45 PM with an Executive Session, which is closed to the public, and reconvene at 7:30 PM, during which public input is permitted and encouraged."

I need to start going to stuff like this, it would be fun. I could probably stand up and demand a lot of random (Odin related) things, and they'd just have to put up with it (and record it in the minutes). Actually upon reading these minutes and seeing that they do in fact record what people say, I'm laughing at the thought of: "Dale Swanson asked what was being done to appease Odin, to ensure glorious victories in battle. He then went on to state that if you did not in fact like metal you were not his friend. He refused to leave when asked."

Well, Berlin Twp has a Myspace page. I can't tell if it's official, although I can't believe that it is (ok I found it says it's not).

Apparently there was one murder in 2005, and six rapes. <- Hilarious Ms. Hessel apperently made $68,740 in 2005, compared to Ms. Weinberger at $49,765. The internet is great.

This seems to say NJ gave Berlin Twp 1.6 million in 2006:

On the bright side while doing research I found this great quote right off the NJ ballot:
Shall the amendment of Article II, Section I, paragraph 6
of the Constitution, agreed to by the Legislature, revising
the current constitutional language concerning denial of the
right to vote by deleting the phrase "idiot or insane person"
and providing instead that a "person who has been adjudi-
cated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the
capacity to understand the act of voting" shall not enjoy
the right of suffrage, be adopted?,%25202008%2520Budget%2520Mtg%2520Minutes.pdf+berlin+township+revenue&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=16&gl=us&client=firefox-a <- my crazy going back in time thing

Friday, June 13, 2008

Constitutional Amendment: Sunsets

So it's been a while since I've drunkenly rambled on about some issue. This will also serve to replace the current email thread.

Today I'd like to propose a constitutional amendment that would automatically sunset all Federal laws. In case you don't know sunsetting is when a law expires if it's not renewed after a certain period of time. Here is my rough draft for what the amendment might look like:

1. All laws enacted by the Federal Government, with the exception of the Constitution and it's amendments, would be subject to a time limit, after which they would either have to be renewed or become null and void.

2. The time limit would be as follows. Any law which is passed for the first time would be a subject to a 5 year limit from the date it is enacted into law, after which it would need to be renewed. The time limit of laws which are being renewed would be determined by taking the percentage of which ever house's majority was less, and subtracting 50 from it, with a minimum of 5 years and maximum of 50 years. Any law which is currently in effect at the time of ratification of this article would have to be repassed and subject to the initial 5 year limit, after which they would need to be renewed and subject to the same provisions as any other law. Any law currently in effect at the time of ratification of this article will have to be repassed within 20 years from the date of ratification of this article.

3. The procedure for renewal and repassing of laws will be the same as laid out for their initial passing.

4. Laws may not be renewed until they are less than one year from the date they would become null and void. All limits would start from the date the law is enacted into law or date renewed in the case of laws being renewed.

5. Laws may still have limits of less than those provided by this article in addition to those provided by this article.

6. This article shall not be be construed to impose a limit of less than 5 years, or greater than 50 years.

7. Any law which fails to be properly renewed shall be considered null and void.

In summery every new law would have a 5 year limit, after which it would need to be renewed. When a law is being renewed the limit is determined by p - 50, where p is the percentage of which ever house had a lower majority. So if the senate passed it 98-2 and the house did 357 - 66, it would be 98% and 82% (house has 435, not all always vote), we'd use 82 - 50 = 32 years. Also note the percentage should be of the total, not just those present, I don't feel like wording that in. This is the part I consider the most confusing and least elegant, and would consider just setting a hard number for renewals. The problem is I'd like the ability to have a high limit for obvious laws, yet I don't want to set something like 50 for all renewals. Maybe 15 years would be good. Any current law would need to be repassed within 20 years, when it was repassed it would have a 5 year limit. I picked 5 years because almost all of government would have went through at least one reelection by then (senators are 6 years, but they are staggered by 2 years, so every 2 years 1/3 is elected, so in 5 years 2/3rds would have been through an election). Also the reason for the first limit being short is to prevent panic laws from starting with crazy limits (the example votes of 98% and 82% are from the USA PATRIOT act, which means without the initial limit they'd not sunset until 2033 (although that's probably better than now, when they'll never sunset).

Most things I see talking about this deal with only sunsetting agencies or programs, and setting the sunsetting up as a law, not at the constitutional level. I think that is the wrong way to do it. Everything should be subject to it (save for the constitution itself), if something is really that important it should always pass with a high majority, which means it'll seldom be renewed. Another thing I thought about was automatically pardoning anyway convicted of a law which sunsetted. The problem with that would be how to handle cases were the penalty involved the destruction of something, or fines. I think the prospect of releasing criminals plus refunding fines would tend to promote renewal to avoid that.

Well that's it, please revise this draft and then submit it to congress for approval.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fun Facts About Tractor Trailers*

Fun Facts about tractor trailers*:

The trailer is a 'semi-trailer' (semi because it doesn't have wheels in the front), and the truck is a tractor. I never knew 'semis' were the same as tractor trailers.

Max weight is 80,000lbs, about 10k -15k each for tractor and trailer, so 60k max in cargo.

About 6mpg, although newer models up to 10mpg, also highly dependent on terrain.

2 150 tanks, 300 gallon capacity $1,425 to fill at $4.75 a gallon. 1,800 mile range at 6 mpg.

This works out to $13.19 to send 1000lbs 1000 miles, or $21.53 if you add $0.50 a mile for driver costs and maintenance (probably a low estimate). Also keep in mind there are base costs, you are still pulling 20k worth of truck even if it's empty, thus this price only works on the large scale.

The flat front tractors (cab over engine) are European.

The brakes use air pressure to push the spring loaded pads off the rotors. Which prevents brake fad due to boiling fluid, prevents brake loss due to a leak (fails safe to brakes on), and is why the parking brakes always make that air rushing sound (air being released from the system).

They also have an engine brake known as a Jake Brake. They use the engine to provide constant slowing, which prevents overheating on down grades. They also make a loud chattering or machine gun noise, which is why if you remember there were signs banning their use in some places.

Weigh stations are pretty much just to make sure the trucks are with in safety regulations.

*Note: "Fun Facts" may not actually be either fun or facts.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I've long been against water conservation. Largely I just enjoy saying 'it falls from the sky', but also water is one of the cheapest things you can buy (it's less than a penny a gallon I addressed this more in the heating water thing above). If there is a need to conserve it the price should go up, and that should cause natural conservation. Anyway I've read before about how the midwest water table is being used faster than it's being replenished by rain. I decided to look into how much water we get from rain, and how much we use. I couldn't find a nation wide average, but I looked at a few averages for cities in this area and 40 inches a year seems fair. NJ has 1134 people per sq mile, or 3,540,114 sq inches per person. Each of those gets about 40 inches of rain per year, meaning each person gets about 141,604,571 cu inches or 613,007 gallons a year. I found a site that claims per capita water usage including industry is 5000 liters a day, that works out to 482,114 gallons a year. I'm still thinking about how the fact that the same water is evaporating and falling over and over through out the year effects this. At first I assumed that it'd be better to use a shorter time scale, but the numbers still scale down to the same thing. I don't think it matter that it's the same water, if you think about it as a single drop that we just use over and over, you can only use it once for every time it falls from the sky, and each time it does it's counted as rain. Then there is the problem I just thought of while typing that last sentence which is we treat and reuse water without having it go through the natural water cycle. Although certainly some of the water we treat then goes through the water cycle, so you can't just add the amount of water we treat. Whatever, my original idea still holds, which is if we are running out of something the price will rise and usage will lower.

That brings me to the real reason for this email. NJ is thinking about a new water tax to go towards parks and stuff. Now I don't understand what the bill would really do, (what the hell are open space purchases) and more taxes and more government owned land is very anti libertarian. However, I'm really only libertarian at the federal level, states can do whatever the hell they want, and as I live in NJ I suppose this is where my personal wants should matter. Plus the government already provides water, so I don't see any problem in them taxing it. So unlike most political things I discuss I don't feel this is the absolute only right way things should be done, but rather what I'd like to see, and if the majority of people agree it should be done.

I support this because it's so cheap ($0.40 per 1,000 gallons, 100 gallons/day is a high estimate for personal usage, that works out to $15 a year), and it promotes parks (Friday I drove up to and hiked in a park and noticed a green acre sign, which is the program this will apparently help). I do have some devil's advocate cons too though. First it mentions farms and I'm against helping farmers in anyway ever (I just hate them so). Next is the fact that taxes that go to one thing mean the government doesn't have to spend normal tax on that thing, and thus have more money for other crap (in other words this new tax by proxy will go towards random crap). Also there seems to be a lot of hate towards something called the highlands projects, which has something to do with this, but as I can only assume that has to do with north jersey I support anything that they don't like on principle alone.

At the end of the day I'm pretty indifferent to this, I'd have to do more research before I really supported it, and it's not like I'm voting on anything anytime soon anyway. What I really want to mention is how crazy the comments are. Out of 19 comments all of them are strongly negative. One compares NJ to Rome (and while I must admit PA does resist our rule much as Britain did Rome's, it's still probably a bit of a stretch), although the same guy starts talking about the white house and Iraq so I'll assume he's one of the many that like to lump all forms of government, from school board to Galactic Emperor Palpatine into one monolithic entity known as 'the government'. Most bitch about how they can't afford it (less than $20 a year on average). <- 2nd result, I've finally made it