NH Supreme Court Runs Amok

Today’s NH Supreme Court ruling in Duncan v. NH  is great for low-income students who can still get scholarships to attend their  school of choice  (as they say, the rich always have school choice).

What’s not so great is how this case was decided.  On first analysis, it appears to be a huge abuse of power by the NH Supreme Court.

The Court found that Duncan did not have standing to argue the case as a taxpayer.    Because this is in contravention of NH Statute, as codified by the Republican Legislature and Democratic Governor in 2012, the Court also found that the Statute is unconstitutional.  Which part of the Constitution does the Court claim the statute violates?

[Art.] 74. [Judges to Give Opinions, When.] Each branch of the legislature as well as the governor and council shall have authority to require the opinions of the justices of the supreme court upon important questions of law and upon solemn occasions.

This article of the NH Constitution unambiguously requires the Court to render opinions to the Legislature (General Court), Governor, and Executive Council.  Today the court claims that it also prevents it from ever considering an argument from taxpayers, despite a long history of such decisions (many such examples are cited in the decision). By extension, the decision also claims that aggregate economic arguments may not be raised in NH Courts, since such arguments would create standing, which it claims does not exist. While the Obama administration has been arguing against taxpayer standing, such recognition is still accepted at the Federal level.

The court argues that any opinion it could render to a taxpayer would create “advisory opinions to private individuals” and as such exceeds its authority under Article 74. This argument does not pass the laugh test.

As the Court states in its decision:

“The simplest and most obvious interpretation of a constitution, if in itself sensible, is most likely to be that meant by the people in its adoption.”

The simple and sensible interpretation of Article 74 is that it is a requirement on the Courts, not a barring of the Courts to hear arguments from taxpayers.

This leaves the People with three distinct possibilities:

  • First, that the Framers of the Constitution meant what the Court claims but completely failed to articulate it and instead deeply hid the meaning in Article 74 to be discovered in 2014. This argument fails by the very quote they cite above.
  • Second, that the Court is simply not competent to interpret the Constitution.
  • Third, that the Court simply disliked the “restored” standing the 2012 bill returned to the taxpayers and chose to find a contrived path to find it unconstitutional.  Besides being an improper use of Court power to advance a political agenda, doing so would also be throwing Duncan under the bus.  One need not agree with the plaintiff to agree that he has been treated unfairly by the Court.

There are only two remedies left in NH to the People and the Legislature in the latter two cases. First is a Constitutional Amendment. It would be quite odd to have the Constitution describe the particulars of criteria for standing at the Supreme Court – that is a job properly left to Statute (as has been the case)

The second remedy is impeachment of the judges in this case (which was a unanimous decision). While the term ‘impeachment’ has drastic connotations in modern America, due to the popular notion of US Presidential impeachments being a high bar, it is, in reality, simply a tool that the Legislature has to “unappoint” judges that it finds are no longer suitable for the job. Either of the latter two possibilities are adequate criteria for such a finding.

The political feasibility of such an action will likely be determined this November.

Comparing Costs of Enteric Fish Oil Supplements

I needed to order some more enteric-coated fish oil capsules, and the warehouse club that had been my trusty supplier discontinued all of its useful supplements, seemingly in favor of cheese platters and bagels.  I ordered some Kirkland brand from Amazon (since I had luck with the warehouse brand before) and got terrible fish burps from them, so, of to iHerb, I went, my trusty supplier, and found that the types and costs were all over the map.  For my own sanity I made a spreadsheet so I could calculate the cost per g of EPA and figured it would be worth sharing here, since there’s such a wide disparity and access to concentration value seems hard to come by.

I knew that there is some shenanigans afoot in the enteric-coating business, since the Kirkland “enteric coated” capsules gave me the fish burps, which would be impossible if the enteric coat was real, so I figured I might need to try some different brands to try some.  Note: I’ve excluded all the enteric-coated items that are not ‘molecularly distilled’ since I have a fish allergy and am not fond of consuming mercury nor PCB’s.  Nobody should be consuming those.

Finding #1: the “Maximum Strength” capsules from 21st Century Health Care are by far the best value if you don’t mind swallowing pills.  Finding #1a: they give me fish burps.  Finding #1b: “Maximum Strength” is a meaningless label at only 200mg per capsule.

Finding #2:  Natural Factors’ “Ultra Strength” is almost twice as expensive per g of EPA, but is the least expensive with an enteric-coating that works.  So, Finding #2a: no fish burps.  The concentration is really good – few capsules are required.

In sum, I’m taking the cheaper ones before bed and the more expensive ones during the day.  I did not need to progress up the scale beyond the second attempt.  Do you know of better values?  Leave a comment.

brand product count molecularly distilled? mg EPA per serving pills per serving servings per bottle EPA per pill cost cost per pill cost per serving cost per g EPA URL
Natural Factors Ultra Strength Rx-Omega-3 Factors 150 Y 647 1 150 647 $29.64 $0.20 $0.20 $0.31 http://www.iherb.com/Natural-Factors-Ultra-Strength-Rx-Omega-3-Factors-150-Enteric-Coated-Softgels/24529
Olympian Labs Inc. Enteric Coated Omega-3 Fish Oils 120 N 360 2 60 360 $17.71 $0.15 $0.30 $0.82 http://www.iherb.com/Olympian-Labs-Inc-Enteric-Coated-Omega-3-Fish-Oils-2000-mg-120-Softgels/10076
21st Century Health Care Alaska Wild Fish Oil 90 Y 650 3 30 650 $10.64 $0.12 $0.35 $0.55 http://www.iherb.com/21st-Century-Health-Care-Alaska-Wild-Fish-Oil-90-Enteric-Coated-Softgels/15223
21st Century Health Care Fish Oil 90 Y 180 1 90 180 $8.87 $0.10 $0.10 $0.55 http://www.iherb.com/21st-Century-Health-Care-Fish-Oil-1000-mg-180-Enteric-Coated-Softgels/11329
Optimum Nutrition Enteric Coated Fish Oil 200 N 180 1 200 180 $19.31 $0.10 $0.10 $0.54 http://www.iherb.com/Optimum-Nutrition-Enteric-Coated-Fish-Oil-200-Softgels/38943
21st Century Health Care Fish Oil, Maximum Strength 90 Y 200 1 200 200 $7.09 $0.04 $0.04 $0.18 http://www.iherb.com/21st-Century-Health-Care-Fish-Oil-Maximum-Strength-1200-mg-90-Enteric-Coated-Softgels/41324

Ron Paul is Confused on RonPaul.com

Ron Paul is seeking to own the RonPaul.com domain name, which has been run by some of his supporters since 2007. Those supporters have proposed a package of the domain name and their mailing list [aside: is that in keeping with their privacy policy?] for $250,000 and in response Ron Paul has filed a complaint with the WIPO which handles domain name disputes.

The trouble with this situation is that the Ron Paul supporters are focusing on WIPO’s status as a UN organization, because Ron Paul has been vocally opposed to the UN consistently, and they see him as now being hypocritical on the matter. This is the wrong focus for two reasons: first because WIPO has a monopoly on resolution, but more importantly because the hypocrisy is about the core libertarian value of private property, not the UN.

During the primary campaign, individuals opposed to Ron Paul’s nomination uploaded a video to YouTube that was in quite poor taste and slapped Ron Paul’s name on it. Ron Paul took the stance that this was fraud (it was) and used the Trademark Law as a means to counter the fraud. This is where Ron Paul became confused – he associated use of his name with Trademark Law, which is now the basis of the WIPO claims.

The error in logic here is the assumption that any use of the Ron Paul name is justifiably actionable under Trademark Law because it’s a case of fraud. This is not the case, clearly, for RonPaul.com. The only argument against RonPaul.com is that the name “Ron Paul” is the Intellectual (aka Imaginary) Property of Ron Paul.

So, here’s where it gets dicey – Imaginary Property is a direct affront on the principle of private ownership of property (it restricts the arrangement of private property of the People to the benefit of the one), which is the foundation of modern Libertarian thought. Now, the Constitution of the United States authorized the use of Imaginary Property monopolies through the Copyrights and Patents process, but this has proven subject to rampant abuse to the degree that it does more harm than good. And it was clear in Ron Paul’s farewell address that he had found the Constitution lacking in its ability to restrain the government’s abuses, if not in its intent. The Constitution doesn’t even authorize trademark protection – that has to be inferred through the Commerce Clause and the minarchist view of government’s role to prevent fraud.

What Ron Paul is effectively saying here, probably unconsciously, is that the RonPaul.com folks may not organize their articles (their property) in the way that they see fit (under the RonPaul.com label) when they have committed no acts of aggression towards Ron Paul (quite the opposite – they contributed to his current status in society). He’s literally saying that the RonPaul.com domain belongs to him because he wants it, and the notion of Imaginary Property gives cover to this illusion (it must be remembered that government abuses exist because each individual holds on to that one function of government that they cannot let go of). This is an assault on the private property rights of the people at RonPaul.com (stop being anonymous, guys, it does not help your image), and, yes, he is using government force to back his aggression.

It’s a zero-sum game when a Free Market solution is so painfully obvious: host a money bomb. The RonPaul.com folks have helped promote Ron Paul Moneybombs in the past, and achieving a $250K level has never been even a little bit difficult. Ron Paul can promote the money bomb himself, leading to an even greater chance of success. No Ron Paul supporter will deny that owning the RonPaul.com domain will be beneficial to Ron Paul, deny that Ron Paul still has important work to do, or deny that the RonPaul.com folks have a valuable asset that they’ve created and that the pricing mechanism is a superior method for transferring ownership of resources than government force.

Forget that the UN is even involved in this dispute – the real scandal is that government-based coercion is being used as aggression (in the absence of fraud) when a Free Market solution is plainly available and achievable. If Ron Paul persists and succeeds with a WIPO claim, his use of the domain will be forever tainted by the decidedly non-libertarian means of its acquisition. If Ron Paul can be made to see that there is no fraud involved here and that the initial aggression is in the form of the IP claim, I believe he will abandon the unjustified means and embrace a peaceful settlement. This principled action will return benefits to the movement he kindled for years to come.

Concealed Carry Control vs. Violent Crime Rates by State

Question: Does the control of concealed carrying (of handguns) have an impact on violent crime?

Hypothesis: Increased control of concealed carrying will cause an increase in violent crime.

Method: Values were assigned to the level of control in a State as follows: 0 for no control, 1 for shall-issue control; 2 for may-issue control; 3 for no-issue control.  Data was plotted on two axes: one for all violent crime, one for homicide.  Sources: control, homicide, violent crime.  Control level was coded by statute, to avoid bias in subjective interpretation of practice.  Linear regressions were run for both data series to determine the coefficient of correlation.  LibreOffice 3.5.7 was used for charting and calculations.

Results: Both data sets show a weak correlation between increased control and increased rates.  R2 for violent crime is .17, for homicide it’s .14.  In no case did the least violent State in a group have a lower crime rate in either series than the lowest State in the less restrictive groups.

Conclusion: Restrictions on concealed carry may cause an increase in crime, but other cultural factors are probably more significant in determining the overall difference in crime between States.  In no State has increased control lowered crime rates below that of all States with less control – adding control on concealed carry cannot be justified as a valid approach for improving crime rates.

On GMO Labeling

I don’t have a strong opinion as to whether GMO foods are dangerous or not.  In fact, I think the question is wrong – it seems most likely that some modifications could be harmful while others could be harmless.  I’m fairly certain that BT sprayed on an apple tree in the spring is not harmful to humans, but I’m not certain that BT-toxin expressed by the apple and present in the eaten food is harmless to humans.  For some modifications it might be that both ‘conventional’ pesticides and GMO-expressed pesticides are both harmful, one may be more harmful than the other, or that organic is the only safe way to go.  But not eating vegetables because of the price of organic may be worse.  Science should inform this, but it seems to be incomplete at this time.

The separate issue of labelling has important consequences.  In the US, a Natural Rights Republic, the issue of Free Speech is a very important one.  It’s incredibly dangerous to tread on it for some perceived short-term benefit.  For that reason I’m glad the California proposition to mandate labelling failed (whether it really did or not is a separate issue). Compelled speech is one of the worst kinds of free speech infringements.

But the root of the problem lies not in compelled speech, but restrictions on free speech imposed by the FDA.  It forbids companies from putting “GMO Free” on their products, so voluntary labelling can’t happen. They told Polaner (All Fruit maker) that they couldn’t put “GMO Free” on their strawberry spread because a strawberry is produce, “not an organism”. They told Spectrum (oils refiner) that their No-GMO label would imply that there is something wrong with GMO’s so they couldn’t use it.

I’d like to have more information on the foods I buy at the store.  It’s clear that ‘the market’ wants to provide it.  Freedom of speech isn’t just a good idea, it’s the Supreme Law.  It’s time the FDA stopped breaking it.

Crime Rates and Police Officers by State (Data Visualization)

The previous post looked at the police to population ratio, which raises the question: how do we measure the appropriateness of those ratios? One way to look at that is to see how much crime is in a State, see how many officers there are for the population, and compare that with other States’ outcomes. If we follow the “laboratory of Democracy” model, with each State coming to independent conclusions, a common optimal solution ought to be found over time, perhaps with some States getting it wrong.

Again, using the FBI numbers, we can see such a pattern emerging in a data visualization of the numbers. Indeed, forty-five of the Fifty States are clustered in a tight cloud, and therefore seem to have arrived at very similar outcomes, if not solutions. Five states plus DC are outliers. Errors could be found in three directions – too much crime, too little staffing, or too much staffing (few would argue for ‘too little crime’). These errors can occur independently on both axes. The numbers are only as good as the reporting methodology, but the best we have.

Oregon and South Dakota deserve special praise for having the most efficient policing solutions. Oregon for the lowest crime rate at the lowest-cost end of the group, and South Dakota for achieving the lowest crime rate and being below the median staffing levels.

To figure out which of these errors is occurring in a State, if any, we can draw a bounding box on the tight cluster of States (shown here in yellow). The attributes of outliers in either of the North, South, East, or West directions can be considered normal within those bounds. Those in the NW, NE, SE, SW directions can be considered errors. Note: we’ve already declared the South direction (too little crime) to not be an error, and none of the States make the error in the West direction (too little staffing as an outlier).

Where States are making multiple errors, to discern the primary error we can draw a linear regression trendline through the data set. Those above the trend line have an error primarily in the Y-axis measure; those below the trendline have primarily an X-axis error.

Given those criteria, we can draw the following conclusions about the outliers:

South Carolina: properly staffed, crime is too high. Primary problem: crime rate.
New York, New Jersey: over staffed, respectable crime rates. Primary problem: overstaffing.
Vermont: overstaffed, too high a crime rate. Primary problem: crime rate.
Louisiana: overstaffed, much too high a crime rate. Primary problem: crime rate.
D.C.: tremendously over-staffed, too high a crime rate. Primary problem: overstaffing.


The States with a primary problem as their crime rate need to look at the factors that are causing their crime rates. Are the police operating effectively? Is there corruption within the police force? Are the police over-policing and thus creating a reporting anomaly? Are there poverty problems caused by a lack of education or a high tax rate? Vermont and Louisiana should reduce their staffing levels to at least 2.9. South Carolina may want to increase its staffing levels towards 2.9 until the crime problem is solved.

The States (New York and New Jersey) and D.C., with staffing levels as their primary problem, should work to immediately reduce the cost to taxpayers of superfluous police forces. Returning that money to the productive economy will do more to decrease poverty than it’s doing with an inordinately high level of police staffing, which should have a positive impact (decrease) on crime rates. Target 2.9 as a first step, verify the crime rates remain consistent or decrease, then move towards the median level of 2.2 per thousand.

D.C. deserves special mention because it’s such a mess on both axes.  It may face special challenges as being a city-district (future work should compare it with other cities specifically) but placing D.C’s crime rate on a straight line between South Carolina and Louisiana (which it lies between in terms of crime rate) excuses a staffing level of no more than 3.2.

Further work should look at factors such as population density and tax rates to see what impact they have on the crime rates and see if the outliers would be brought back into the ‘normal cloud’ if their numbers were adjusted for the Fifty-States trend for those two factors.

Police to Population Ratios by State (Officers per Thousand)

The standard measure for the number of police in a region is expressed as “officers per thousand”, or a police to population ratio. Surprisingly, a table comparing the States wasn’t easy to find, so here is the data from the FBI’s Crime in the United States report, calculated, and ranked (lowest to highest). The median ratio among the States is 2.2.

Rank State Total Officers 2009
officers per thousand
1 OREGON 6035 3790072 1.6
2 WASHINGTON 10593 6642851 1.6
3 MAINE 2251 1317341 1.7
4 MINNESOTA 8882 5180883 1.7
5 UTAH 4785 2783798 1.7
6 IDAHO 2690 1543324 1.7
7 IOWA 5281 2988922 1.8
8 ALASKA 1262 696273 1.8
9 MONTANA 1780 972240 1.8
10 SOUTH DAKOTA 1484 809838 1.8
11 INDIANA 11233 5995956 1.9
12 MICHIGAN 18800 9845506 1.9
13 WEST VIRGINIA 3476 1810824 1.9
14 KENTUCKY 8248 4239650 1.9
15 NORTH DAKOTA 1260 646844 1.9
16 ARIZONA 12971 6482281 2.0
17 NEBRASKA 3518 1750280 2.0
18 MISSISSIPPI 5417 2675080 2.0
19 ARKANSAS 6200 2888639 2.1
20 OKLAHOMA 7948 3681857 2.2
21 OHIO 22110 10223161 2.2
22 NEW HAMPSHIRE 2541 1166104 2.2
23 MASSACHUSETTS 13955 6396251 2.2
24 TEXAS 54857 24590665 2.2
25 NEVADA 5984 2643085 2.3
26 NEW MEXICO 4475 1958665 2.3
27 HAWAII 2990 1295178 2.3
28 WISCONSIN 13120 5648330 2.3
29 VIRGINIA 18323 7880881 2.3
30 COLORADO 11785 5018161 2.3
31 NORTH CAROLINA 22306 9260266 2.4
32 RHODE ISLAND 2554 1053209 2.4
33 CONNECTICUT 8622 3518288 2.5
34 ALABAMA 11245 4587633 2.5
35 MISSOURI 14638 5874396 2.5
36 FLORIDA 44118 17648382 2.5
37 CALIFORNIA 80321 31832381 2.5
38 TENNESSEE 15890 6293243 2.5
39 SOUTH CAROLINA 9561 3779301 2.5
40 DELAWARE 2296 884765 2.6
41 PENNSYLVANIA 25010 9523147 2.6
42 WYOMING 1446 540376 2.7
43 KANSAS 6761 2498126 2.7
44 GEORGIA 25028 9154201 2.7
45 MARYLAND 15664 5519662 2.8
46 ILLINOIS 36237 12675815 2.9
47 NEW YORK 62160 19120958 3.3
48 VERMONT 1072 303744 3.5
49 NEW JERSEY 32090 8415289 3.8
50 LOUISIANA 11140 2771692 4.0
51 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 4473 599657 7.5

Lynch Vetos Medical Marijuana Bill

As expected, Gov. Lynch vetoed the medical marijuana bill which has a veto-proof margin in the House, but not the Senate. Logic and reason were never going to convince Lynch – he’s angling for a FedGov job after next January, and he doesn’t want to rock the boat.  This was about him, not the People of NH.

With such overwhelming popular support for the compassionate stance here, the more interesting question is whether the Republican Senators who are on the fence are willing to give the November election and control of the Legislature to the Democrats over this. Fairly or not, they’ve already earned a reputation this session as anti-Union, anti-Woman, and now they have a chance to be anti-Patient. This vote can either sew up the matter of how (un)compassionate the Republicans are in the public’s eye, or give voters an issue to say, “hrm, these are reasonable people I can work with.”

I’d be very surprised if Republican leadership isn’t talking to these Senators and trying to persuade them to save the election for them.