Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Never to Be Answered Question About the Universe – No It is Not ‘Is There Life on Other Planets?’

The Question is About NASA

Assume you were a rational, somewhat intelligent person.  Ok, you are.  Now assume you want to list the priorities of government.  If you are a person of importance at NASA here is what you might say.

“A human mission to Mars is a priority, and our entire exploration program is aligned to support this goal,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
                          NASA has “overcome the technical challenges of landing and operating spacecraft on Mars” robotically, Bolden said. “We’re developing today the technologies needed to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.”

Why, why, why, why?  No, not why would anyone suggest spending as much as a single dollar on sending men and women to Mars.  The why here is why would anybody this ignorant, this clueless, this lacking in fundamental common sense suggest that sending humans to Mars should even be considered.  Apparently this is not a joke

NASA says it hopes to land astronauts on the planet within the next two decades, and the agency is developing a heavy-lift rocket and a new space capsule to achieve this goal. It has even established an optimal time frame for this event — in the early 2030s, when the very different orbits of the two planets brings them closest to each other.

and apparently the U. S. government is spending actual money on this project, real money, not the money of the Klingons.

The next space exploration should be to see if there is intelligent life at NASA. Based on preliminary results, we don’t think so.

Britain’s Conservative Government Hails .3% Growth in the First Quarter

But – And It’s a Big But

Thanks to its idiotic fiscal policy Britain seemed headed into a third recession this year, but the first quarter economic results showed positive growth, and that has cheered the Conservative party that controls Britain and determines its economic policy.  The increase was only .3% over the previous quarter, or about 1.3% on an annual basis which is the way that growth is reported in the U. S.

Shoppers carry their purchases as they w
Shoppers in Oxford Street, London. Britain avoided falling into a triple-dip recession after its
 economy grew by 0.3% – thanks in large part to the service sector.
 Photograph: Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images

Politically, though, the first quarter growth numbers mattered a lot. After a sticky couple of weeks that has included a second credit downgrade, a wigging from the International Monetary Fund and a setback for the labour market, George Osborne could ill afford Britain plunging into its first triple-dip recession.

The chancellor did not really care about the size of the increase in gross domestic product between January and March just so long as there was one. Equally, the days when the Treasury fretted about which bit of the economy the growth comes from are long gone. The new mantra is better unbalanced growth than no growth at all.

So what’s the problem?

The increase was small by historical standards, still leaves the level of output well below where it was when the recession began, and offered scant evidence of the rebalancing towards manufacturing and exports that is integral to the government's plan.
In economic terms, it does not matter that much whether the economy grew a bit or shrank a bit since the big picture is of a country still bumping along the bottom after a deep and prolonged downturn.

Other countries, such as the US and Germany, have recouped all the ground lost in the slump of 2008-09 and then some. Britain's output is still 2.6% below where it was when the recession began in early 2008 – a slower recovery than in the aftermath of the Great Recession of the 1930s.

Oh, that.  In Britain the service sector (read the London financial services sector) improved, but the rest of the economy, particularly the northern section of the country is still a basket case.  But Britain will not change direction, because being a Conservative means never, ever admitting you were wrong.

An American Hero, Federal Magistrate Marianne Bowler, Emerges From the Boston Marathon Tragedy

She Deserves Recognition and Thanks

After the suspect in the Boston Marathon Massacre was brought to a hospital he was questioned without being advised of his rights or having an attorney present.  Ostensibly the purpose of this was to get information in case the public was in danger, actually the purpose was to allow law enforcement officers the chance to get information that they otherwise might not have been entitled to.

But in the first court appearance, held at the hospital bedside of the suspect U. S. Magistrate Marianne Bowler did a simple, unremarkable and absolutely courageous and proper thing.

A federal judge decided to advise Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of his Miranda rights, even though investigators apparently still wanted to question him further under a public-safety exception.

The problem, so-called conservatives think that rights do not apply to everyone.

The judge's move, made on Monday in the hospital where Mr. Tsarnaev was recovering, has prompted some Republican lawmakers to press the Justice Department as to why it didn't make a stronger bid to resist the judge's plans.

Those lawmakers say Mr. Tsarnaev's interrogation should have continued without him being advised of his right to remain silent, because they say agents should have had more time to determine if there were other undetected bombs or plotters. After being read his rights, the suspect stopped talking to investigators, officials said.

Now one might think that everyone knows they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, but this suspect appears to be so ignorant that it is possible he was unaware of his rights.

But those rights exists unconditionally, and if a person is unaware they must be made aware.  Rights which can be revoked at the whim of politicians or law enforcement officers are not rights at all.

Conservatives believe that freedom is something granted to everyone, and that government’s job is not to give freedom, but to protect it.  That’s great, but it would be even better if they actually believed what they have been saying.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tax Hikes, Cuts in Government Spending – Who Exactly Expected Robust Economic Growth

Oh, the Austerians, That’s Who – Of Course – The Economic Illiterate

The preliminary growth numbers for the first quarter of the year (actually 2nd quarter of the government’s fiscal year, but more about that another time) were kinda weak, a 2.5% annualized growth rate for the January – March 2013 period.  From the Wall Street Journal.

Economic Growth Stays Soft

Cutbacks in Federal Spending, Restraint From Businesses Keep Recovery From Gaining Momentum


Gosh, in January taxes went up and the government has been on a cut spending path.  Basic economics says this results in lower growth.  Any questions? 

The Medical Profession Tells It Like It is on the High Cost of Cancer Treatment Drugs

Finally Some Physicians Have Reached Their Limit

This Forum has commented several times on the high cost of treatment of various diseases.  And lo and behold, even doctors are now getting the message. 

Doctors Denounce Cancer Drug Prices of $100,000 a Year

Prices for cancer drugs have been part of the debate over health care costs for several years — and recently led to a public protest from doctors at a major cancer center in New York. But the decision by so many specialists, from more than 15 countries on five continents, to join the effort is a sign that doctors, who are on the front lines of caring for patients, are now taking a more active role in resisting high prices. In this case, some of the specialists even include researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
The doctors and researchers, who specialize in the potentially deadly blood cancer known as chronic myeloid leukemia, contend in a commentary published online by a medical journal Thursday that the prices of drugs used to treat that disease are astronomical, unsustainable and perhaps even immoral.

This is not totally the fault of drug companies who are doing what any other profit maximizing business does in a free economy, and they are not alone

Novartis argues that few patients actually pay the full cost of the drug and that prices reflect the high cost of research and the value of a drug to patients.
Gleevec entered the market in 2001 at a price of about $30,000 a year in the United States, the doctors wrote. Since then, the price has tripled, it said, even as Gleevec has faced competition from five newer drugs. And those drugs are even more expensive.

 but it is totally the fault of the system.

And the solution is simple. Since the Federal government pays for a large portion of pharmaceuticals in this country (Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employees, Armed Service personnel etc) the research for new drugs should be totally funded by the Feds.  Then once a drug is approved its manufacture can be made available with no patent protection needed.  And the government could recoup some of its costs by licensing the drugs to foreign countries.

What would this cost?  Well, if one factors in the savings by bringing down the cost of drugs purchased by the Feds by 70-90%,  the answer is, not very much.  Through high drug costs the Feds are already paying a large amount of the R & D costs for new drugs.

And the drug companies, who say they must charge high prices to recover research costs, well let’s call them on this.  Under this program, which is what any Econ 101 course would conclude is the answer the drug companies no longer have any risk.  But methinks they would not go along, for all their complaining they like the profits too much. 

Wall Street Journal Reviews Cass Sustein’s Book on Regulation – And Laments Regulation

And Then Consider How Lack of Regulation Was a Factor in the West, Texas Fertilizer Explosion

Because the Wall Street Journal is owned by mega Conservative and all around mean person, Rupert Murdoch, its book reviews are often non-objective rants and opinions on the topic at hand.  Such is the case in the Journal’s Review of Cass Sustein’s new book, Simpler:  The Future of Government.  The message from the review, regulation robs everyone of freedom.

In fact, regulation is the enemy of progress, freedom, initiative and everything else that is good.

There is a deeper threat posed by a paternalist state, however "libertarian" we might wish it to be, and it isn't easily accounted for by cost-benefit analysis. Friedrich Hayek highlighted it in "The Road to Serfdom" (1944): "The political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives. This means . . . that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that the new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit."

And regulation takes away basic freedoms.

But the regulatory state as envisioned by Mr. Sunstein is nevertheless deeply opposed to America's traditions of liberty and individual responsibility. Such regulation will chew away like a cancer at those traditions. If Mr. Sunstein's blueprint for regulation is indeed the future of government, we might, as a result, be well-regulated—but we won't be free.

Gosh, without regulation what would we be free to do?  Well we would be free to consume drugs that may harm or kills us; eat food that was unsafe, work in factories that were dangerous, pollute the air, water and earth in an unlimited amount etc. etc. etc.  Oh and we would be free to die in explosions like the one in Texas, where regulatory laxness was a factor.

The very picture of lack of regulation in West, Texas

The uncertainty over who was aware of the chemical at the plant and who was not, both at the site and in Washington, illustrates the patchwork regulatory world the plant operated in and the ways in which it slipped through bureaucratic cracks at the federal, state and local levels.

One week after the blast, investigators were still not sure how much ammonium nitrate was stored there, whether it had been stored properly and which agencies had been informed about it — even though a host of federal, state and local officials were responsible for regulating and monitoring the plant’s operations and products.

Many safety decisions — including moves in recent years to build homes, schools and a nursing home not far from the decades-old plant — were left to local officials who often did not have the expertise to assess the dangers.

Good regulation is essential to modern capitalism and free enterprise.  Good regulation makes everyone more free, not less, because they are free to engage in activities knowing that they will not harm themselves or others.  But the folks at the WSJ don’t understand that, because the freedom of Conservatives to exploit the weak, the old, the sick and the young would not be as great.

Anti- Marriage Equality Folks in Rhode Island Warn of a ‘Grave Risk to Society’ From Marriage Equality

Wow, That’s Sounds Serious

The state of Rhode Island is in the process of moving towards full marriage equality.  The opponents of this seemingly innocuous change have made a pretty strong statement.

Opposition to same-sex marriage in the state has been led by the Roman Catholic Church. In a statement on Monday, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Diocese of Providence warned legislators of a “grave risk” to society and urged them “to stand strong” and “defend marriage and family as traditionally defined.”

Now this Forum and others would normally be concerned here, after all if there is a ‘grave risk’ to society we certainly want to prevent that.  The problem though, this ‘grave risk’ is never identified, it is never stated, it is never explained and apparently it just exists in the minds of those who are opposed to equal treatment under the law.

Glenn Osmundson/Providence Journal, via Associated Press
Protesters at the State House in Providence, R.I.
Strange, these people don't look like a 'grave risk' to Rhode Island 

So this Forum invites those who believe in the ‘grave risk’ scenario to tell us what that grave risk is.  But if you cannot, because the grave risk does not exist, then we invite you go just go away.  Really, just go.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Once Again Paul Krugman Says It Better Than the Rest of Us

Can’t Quarrel With This

From Mr. Krugman:

Paul Krugman - New York Times Blog

One criticism I face fairly often is the assertion that I must be dishonest — I must be cherry-picking my evidence, or something — because the way I describe it, I’m always right while the people who disagree with me are always wrong. And not just wrong, they’re often knaves or fools. How likely is that?
But may I suggest, respectfully, that there’s another possibility? Maybe I actually am right, and maybe the other side actually does contain a remarkable number of knaves and fools.

Damn he’s good.

The Sunday Talk Show LIneups - From Politico

Mitt Romney Leads Call for Poor Americans to Pay More Taxes to Avoid Delays in Air Traffic

And Other News That Didn’t Happen – But Might

On the sequestration front there was this.

San Diego (AP) Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney led a bi-partisan group of wealthy people in demanding that taxes be raised on people making less than $30,000 per year to reverse the cut in air traffic controllers and eliminate the delays they caused in flights.

“We had no idea that federal spending benefited anyone other than those greedy, shiftless worthless 47% takers” said Mr. Romney standing in front of furious private jet owners whose takeoffs had been delayed by an average of 3 minutes because of the sequestration. 

On the gun legislation front

Insane Asylum – Tupelo, Ms (UPI).  The Association of Homicidal Mental Patients today announced that their test program to determine if their members could buy assault weapons was 100% successful.  “Thanks to Congress we found that even men and women who had a history of mass murder attempts and a diagnosis of complete mental incapacity were able to purchase the weapons with no problems, no questions asked.” 

When asked how the group would retrieve the weapons from the test customers the President of the group said “Uh, we didn’t think about that.  Say do you know where they sell Kevlar vests near here.”

On the health care front

Washington (Reuters) – The House today voted to make health care illegal for poor people.  “Anyone whose income is less than 130% of the poverty level will lose all access to physicians, clinics and hospitals” said a group of House Conservatives.  “Since these people cannot afford health care, or if they can they shouldn’t have it because they are not working hard enough or earning enough money we think legally they should just be denied access.  This will free up resources for the rest of us and make health care more affordable for those of us like members of Congress who have government provided health insurance.”

When asked if children would be included in the ban, a spokes person said that “Well, they would feel left out if we didn’t include them in the ban.”

On the European austerity policy front

Frankfort (CNN) – German leaders today reacted to news that the economic research that supported their program of austerity, misery, degradation and imposed poverty was bogus by saying “We really don’t care.  Our goal was to appease our voters and to re-establish Germany as a nation that brings misery to the rest of Europe.  While we don’t conquer countries anymore, we can still destroy their economies with misguided economic policy.”

                    When asked about their motivation several German ministers said “Hey we’re  Germany, it’s what we do.”

On Harvard’s reaction to the news that two of its economists produced flawed research

Cambridge (Boston Globe) – The head of the economics department at Harvard was just informed that the highly touted research of Reinhart and Rogoff that was the intellectual basis for economic policy to keep debt below 90% of GDP was riddled with errors, and in general is a total embarrassment to the economic profession.  Attempts to reach the head of the department were rebuffed and a department secretary said “This is the Harvard Economics Department, we don’t speak to mere newspeople.  Also, our professors don’t make mistakes, it’s the real world that is wrong.”

However when pressed for a comment the secretary referred the press to a first year econ major, Liv Salender who said “I came to Harvard because they are always right, and also because my dad gave the physics department $10 million to buy a small atomic weapon.”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Memo To Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley – Get Your State Prisons Under Control Before You Run for President

Because Voters Even Prefer Conservatives Over Incompetents

Other than Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic bench is pretty thin with respect to candidates for the 2016 Presidential race.  So one of the wannabes is Maryland’s Democratic Governor, Martin O’Malley, who will run on the idea that he is a competent, effective and accomplished manager of governmental actions.  But not so fast.

13 corrections officers indicted in Md., accused of aiding gang’s drug scheme

(Michael S. Williamson/ The Washington Post ) - The Baltimore City Detention Center is the site where officials allege scores of crimes were committed by a prison gang and correctional officers.


    It seems that for years in a Maryland prison the inmates have been operating a massive criminal enterprise, with the help and assistance of some of the correction officers.

    The guards allegedly helped leaders of the Black Guerilla Family run their criminal enterprise in jail by smuggling cellphones, prescription pills and other contraband in their underwear, shoes and hair. One gang leader allegedly used proceeds to buy luxury cars, including a Mercedes-Benz and a BMW, which he allowed some of the officers to drive.
    “The inmates literally took over ‘the asylum,’ and the detention centers became safe havens for BGF,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt, using shorthand for the prison gang’s name.

    Now something of this scale cannot have gone on unnoticed, at least by some folks in authority.  So the best that can be said about Gov. O’Malley was that he was clueless. 

    Not exactly a winning campaign slogan Mr. O'Malley.

    Here is Picture of the Great Success of European Economic Policy in Greece

    This is What Policy Leaders Claim to be Success

    Thanks to Tyler Cowen we have this montage of billboards in Greece.  The following picture from the collection says it all.  Nice going European leaders

    Empty billboards in Greece

    They can still be found all around Greece, along the highways and inside the city centers. Today though, many advertisement billboards have stopped carrying messages.

    As turnover in retail trade has dropped by 54.6% since 2009, the advertising companies that own the billboards have suffered greatly from the economic crisis, as those advertised, in their attempt to reduce operational costs, have slashed their advertising expenses.

    Worn by time and assaulted by bad weather, the message the billboards carry today, is the absence of message.


    Amazon To Not Only Produce TV Shows – It Will Let Viewers Decide If They Will be Green Lighted

    Incredible Concept – Means Maybe Network Execs Aren’t the Smartest People in the World

    We all get to laugh at the big shot network programmers who think they, and they alone know what the public wants to see.  These execs put on a huge number of programs that fail, and pass on a huge number of programs that are ultimately successful.  Amazon has a better idea, why not let the people who will actually watch the shows decide if they should be produced.

    Amazon is letting viewers help choose its new lineup of TV shows, scuttling a secretive, wasteful process once reserved for Hollywood taste-makers.
    The online retailing giant will let visitors from the U.S, U.K. and Germany watch, rate and critique 14 pilot episodes the company has bankrolled. Viewer comments will help the company decide which shows — if any — get the green light.
    "Why follow the guru method when you don't have to anymore?" says Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios. "The audience is out there and the audience is interested. We might as well make them a partner in the process."

    Will TV get any better?  Probably not.  As for NBC, which recently finished fifth in the rating behind even a Spanish speaking network, it could get worse.  NBC could finish behind Amazon.

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    Note to Conservatives and Others Who Hate the United States, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights




    As for the suspect in the bombing in Boston, here is the transcript of his first appearance in a court of law.  Notice that he has rights, rights granted to every individual.  This is what America is all about. 

    Love it or leave. 

    If Hospitals Cause Health Care Problems the Result Can Be a Nice Benefit to Their Bottom Line

    Proof Positive of the Idiotic Design of the U. S. Health Care System

    This Forum has ranted a lot of times about the economics of health care in the United States.  Specifically, the pay-for-procedure economics of health care means that providers make money when people are treated for problems, and don’t make money if a patient is healthy.  Keeping patients healthy is just a prescription for losing money for health care providers.

    A new study shows this problem in mind shattering detail.  If a hospital botches a surgery for example, and the patient has a severe post operative infection, the hospital makes more money.
    Brian Harkin for The Wall Street Journal
    A new study found complications
     can boost a hospital's bottom line.

    Surgical complications such as infections and procedure-related strokes were on average twice as lucrative as operations that went smoothly at one large hospital system, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston Consulting Group and Texas Health Resources, reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    That this should surprise anyone who knows basics economics would only mean they think they know basic economics.  Individual health care providers may indeed be highly motivated to preserve the health of their patients through measure designed to prevent illness and injury.  The system though makes money off illness and injury.  To expect them to reduce their income just to keep people healthy is idiotic.  And the same can be said about a system whose incentives are not to keep people healthy.

    Here’s a Great Idea Students – Spends Years and Hundreds of Thousands to Attend an Unaccredited Law School

    Then Wonder Why You Cannot Get a Job

    The idea that there are a large number of law schools in the United States that are not accredited by the American Bar Association is incomprehensible, meaning no one could believe that anyone would go to an unaccredited law school.  But it turns out there are a large number of these schools.

    A handful of schools in Alabama, Tennessee and Massachusetts aren't ABA-approved but have state approval.

    California has more than 40 law schools operating without ABA accreditation; 18 of those are state-accredited.

    And what happens to law graduates of these schools?  Why they fail the bar exam of course.

    Schools without ABA accreditation tend to have lower bar-passage rates. For instance, about 69% of students from California ABA-approved schools passed the July 2012 state bar examination, compared with 19% from state-accredited schools and 15% from unaccredited schools in the state.

    But graduates of these schools are similar to graduates of accredited law schools in one important aspect.  They leave school with a massive amount of debt.  In their case, there is just no way to pay it off since they cannot pass the bar or get employment.

    The logical thing to do here is to eliminate student loans for students attending unaccredited schools or for-profit schools.  That is really the source of the problem.  But given the lobbying power of these institutions don't expect that to happen.  So the exploitation of American college youth will continue.

    Thursday, April 25, 2013

    In Britain the Conservative Economic Policy is Having an Effect on Hunger

    The Effect – Increasing It

    At this point in the review of European economic policy which is supposed to revive the continent’s economies by a implementing policies of austerity, one would think that all the evidence exists to demonstrate that this is the wrong policy.  Actually, as Paul Krugman and others have pointed out, no real evidence is needed at all.  The policy is directly opposite what basic Econ 101 would prescribe, and has resulted in exactly the outcome that basic Econ 101 says would happen.  Disaster.

    Earlier this Forum has commented on the fact that in Greece the policy has resulted in children going to school hungry.  Now it turns out in Britain the policy has resulted in a doubling of the number of individuals who need help from food banks and other sources of food support.

    Denise Bentley, inside the store of the food bank at the Poplar Salvation Army.
    Denise Bentley“In the past few weeks, it’s been really difficult, not just for myself but for other food bank managers,” said Denise Bentley, who set up the Tower Hamlets food bank two and a half years ago. “We are being so pressured to fill the gap that is now being created by the welfare reforms – and we’re not that. We are meant to be short-term help.”

    The number of people in Britain receiving emergency food rations has more than doubled in the past year, data showed on Wednesday, as inflation eroded incomes and government spending cuts pushed hundreds of thousands into crisis.

    The Trussell Trust, which runs the largest network of food banks in the UK, saw referrals to its centres jump to almost 350,000 in the year to April 2013, up from 130,000 the previous year. The charity estimates that about half of the households it helped had at least one person in work, and a third had children.

    Now  reasonable persons who implemented the policies that resulted in this might conclude that maybe, just maybe a change is needed.  But the people who implement policy with this result are not reasonable, and so their orders to “more of the same”. 

    Economic recessions and hard times are some times unavoidable.  In the case of Europe, the current conditions are almost entirely avoidable.  All that is required is for the powers in charge to admit they were wrong.  This is expected to happen right after Donald Trump joins a monastery and takes a vow of silence.

    Harvard Austerity Economists Reinhart and Rogoff Move From Just Being Wrong to Being Laughingstock

    But Humor is Diminished By Suffering of Millions From Bad Economic Policy

    Ever since two Harvard economists produced a study claiming that serious economic problems resulted when a country’s debt rose above 90% of GDP, conservative policy makers have used the results to justify austerity programs that have seriously harmed the economies of those countries that implemented the policy.  The rational economic community puzzled over the research, since there was no basis for the results and since the logic was overwhelming that R and R had their causality reversed.

    High debt does not produce a decline in economic growth; a decline in economic growth produces high debt.  And austerity does not cure economic problems from a large recession where monetary policy is ineffective, it exacerbates them.

    So it was no surprise that upon closer examination the R and R study has been found to be seriously flawed, including an Excel coding error.  And to add insult to injury, the flaws were found out by a group headed by a graduate student, Thomas Herndon.  But it is a surprise that the study has become the subject of derision on Comedy Central.

    stephen colbert

    And now all of this has broken through to the mainstream with last night's Colbert Report, where Thomas Herndon was the guest.
    Colbert had two segments devoted to making the austerians look like total laughingstocks.
    One was the actual interview with Herndon. The other came as part of a news roundup, where he mocked Paul Ryan and "Rogaine and Braveheart."
    It's one of those cultural moments where you can see the losing side made to look like fools in mass media.

    Of course, the R and R paper only facilitated failed austerity policy, those policies would have been adopted for the most part anyway because those who believe in that policy did so on faith, which is a much stronger motivation than logic, objectivity or compassion.

    Still it is nice to see this thing playing out as it should, ridicule and derision where it is deserved. 

    Supreme Court Makes It Harder to Get Drunk Drivers Convicted

    Preserving the Right to Get Liquored Up and Kill Some People

    If a person is driving with an excessive amount of alcohol in their body they pose a terrible risk to the public in general.  And getting evidence of too much alcohol can be difficult, as drivers can fight any testing to determine how drunk they were. And if they can delay a couple of hours, the alcohol may dissipate and the evidence of their crime is lost.

    So when police in Missouri thought a driver was highly intoxicated, they forced a blood test on the driver, who did not consent to the test.

    The outcome of the test is largely irrelevant (yes he had twice the legal limit of blood alcohol).  The issue is whether or not one has a Constitutional right to refuse a blood test.  The Supreme Court said yes, you do.

    JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of the Court with respect
    to Parts I, II–A, II–B, and IV, concluding that in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant. Pp. 4–13, 20–23

    The Court’s position is that if a warrant can be obtained, it should be obtained.  Unfortunately this leaves police with a judgment call they cannot make.  While waiting for the warrant, if they can get one at all, the blood alcohol can go below the legal limit.  The fact that the evidence destroys itself is the reason why this decision is wrong. 

    Supreme Court Justices will probably never face the horror of drunk driving.  But if they do they will hopefully know that their wrong decision helped bring about tragedies.

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Conservatives, Republicans Quiet as Oklahoma Majority Leader Utters Anti-Semitic Slur

    Just Another Day at Work for These People

    Republicans often wonder why they fail to get respect in the legislative process from anyone except their die hard supporters.  The reasons are many, but one of them is certainly the lack of respect they give to anyone else.

    In Oklahoma the Republican Majority Leader in the state legislature just talked business as usual in a debate.

    Oklahoma State and Republican Majority Leader Dennis Johnson took to the floor this week to share his experience as a small business man and discussed how some people will try to “Jew down the price” of goods. In the background, legislators are seen laughing 

    But of course the man later apologized, in this wonderfully condescending manner.

    there are clearly some who object because Johnson then adds “I apologize to the Jews. They are good small businessmen as well.”

    And here is a picture of the offending legislator with two of his closest friends.

    ku klux klan photo: ku klux klan 0050_ku_klux_klan_03.jpg

    Mr. Johnson also says this,

    In his campaign for reelection, Johnson proclaims that “as a successful husband, father, businessman, civic leader and church leader, Dennis has brought and will continue to bring integrity and common sense to the House of Representatives.”

    And no, we don’t know which church he is a leader in, but we definitely know which religion he is not a leader in.  And maybe he wants to re-think that 'integrity' thing.  Last we heard religious prejudice, bigotry and the like were not really in the dictionary under 'integrity'. But maybe they are in the Conservative version.

    Could the Despicable Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford Actually Lose the Race for the Republican House Seat in a Heavy Republican District

    Probably Not – But Surely Even South Carolinians Must Have Their Limits

    When Republicans went all affirmative action on us and appointed an African American to the Senate, his House seat opened up.  The district is heavily Republican, going for Mitt Romney by 18 points.  The Democrat’s only claim to fame is that she is the sister of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.  But the nominee for the seat is former Governor Mark Sanford, not exactly a saint.

    As the astute commentator for the Washington Post Chris Cillazza notes, Mr. Sanford is charged with trespassing against his ex-wife, and tells us the reason she is his ex-wife.

    Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and his fiancee Maria Belen Chapur
    Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and his fiancee Maria Belen Chapur

    Now, watching the Superbowl with your son in your ex-wife’s beachhouse isn’t the same thing as leaving the state for five days when you are the governor, telling your staff you are the hiking the Appalachian Trail and then admitting in a press conference that you were having an extramarital affair. (We still can’t believe all of that actually happened.)

    Mr. Sanford also thrust his sons into the limelight, against their will apparently.

    The Washington Post has learned that tensions within the family flared up as recently as April 2, at the celebration of Sanford’s runoff election victory when the former governor thrust two of his sons on-stage with the Argentine woman who was at the center of the spectacular sex scandal that broke up his marriage.

    For Sanford’s teenage son Bolton, that very public moment marked the first time he had ever been in the  presence of Maria Belen Chapur.

    Sanford’s former wife Jenny confirmed in a text message: “That was indeed Bolton’s first intro and both boys were quite upset and visibly so.”

    So the Republican Party has withdrawn its support and suddenly the Democrat could win.  But we are not sure.  Voters in South Carolina do have their standards, but they are so low that someone like Mark Sanford can still be elected.

    Craft Brewers Want a Tax Cut and Think They Deserve One – Why

    Because They Want One - What More Reason Do You Need?

    Nobody likes paying taxes, and every business that is taxed argues not that they don’t like paying taxes, but that cutting their taxes will improve things for the industry and the economy.  And if those whose taxes are cut have to suffer a financial gain, well that’s the price they are willing to pay to advance their industry.

    Almost no industry has succeeded like the small craft brewers that now inhabit every major American city.  And this success has come in spite of difficult economic times, which make a $3.00 glass of beer (indistinguishable in The Dismal Political Economist’s palate from a nice frothy Pabst) a hard sell.  But prosper the industry has.

    Now alcohol has always attracted the attention of governments looking for tax revenues, for the simple economic reason that economists call price inelasticity.  Strip away the academic pretentiousness and this means that alcohol can be taxed without a large effect on consumption because people will pay the higher price.  So this means revenue for governments, and benefits for everyone when alcoholic consumption is reduced by the tax.

    Riding Wave of Popularity, Craft Brewers Ask Congress for a Tax Cut

    But the Craft Brewing industry wants a tax cut.

    The Small BREW Act would reduce the tax on the first 60,000 barrels to $3.50. For every barrel beyond 60,000 but before two million, the tax would be $16. After two million, breweries would pay the full $18 tax. Any brewery that produces fewer than six million barrels a year — which includes the bigger craft players, like the Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams, which turned out 2.7 million barrels last year — would be eligible for the tax reduction.

    And of course they say it’s not for them, it’s for the economy, for employment, for the children (ok maybe not for the children), for everybody else.  But really, it’s for them.  That why tax breaks exist, to benefit the people getting them. Give those industry folks a couple of glasses of their own product and they will readily admit it.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    New Cable TV Network PIVOT to Feature Programming Aimed and Middle Age People

    But Can a Network That Brings Us “Little Mosque on the Prairie” Really Be Serious?

    This Forum is going to assume that a story in USA Today is not something that they pirated from The Onion.  So unless someone tells us otherwise, we assume that the report that a new cable network will debut in August is real.  Here is what those putting this thing together hope to do.

    Pivot, due Aug. 1, will feature a mix of programming aimed at the "new greatest generation," the 85 million or so 15-to-34-year-olds, says Jim Berk, CEO of parent Participant Media, being created from the ashes of Documentary Channel and Halogen TV, two small cable networks that reach 40 million homes. In an apparent first, the channel's entire lineup also will be available via a mobile app to viewers who don't subscribe to cable, at a monthly cost paid to Internet providers that's "less than a cup of coffee," promises Pivot president Evan Shapiro.

    Ok, so what kind of programming to they envision?  Oh, this

    Other original shows include TakePart Live, a topical daily talk show; Raising McCain, a 10-episode series starring Sen. John McCain's 28-year-old daughter, who described it as "a cross between Meet the Press and Jackass"; Will, a scripted drama series about a young William Shakespeare, from Craig Pearce (Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge); and Jersey Strong, a docu-series profiling two connected Newark families, one comprising gang members, the other made up of criminal lawyers.

    Not the stuff that Emmy’s or high ratings are made of.  But wait, there is also this.

    Pivot also has acquired rights to reruns of Friday Night Lights, Farscape and Little Mosque on the Prairie, a series about Canadian Muslims.

    No way.  So what’s really going on here?  We think that after Al Gore and friends started a failed cable channel and were able to sell it to a bunch of foreign investors with more money than knowledge, skill or even basic common sense, the owners of this venture see big bucks in going the same route.  After all, if there was one group of deep pockets foreigners willing to pay $500 million for a failed cable network, there must be more.

    An Ugly, Bigoted Justice Scalia Doesn’t Even Bother to Hide His Bitter Prejudices

    An Unimpeachable Example of Why Conservatives Should Not Be on the Supreme Court

    The nuances of statements and opinions of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia that illustrate his overt hostility to minorities have always been present.  But now the Justice has pretty much given up all pretense of objectivity and judicial demeanor.  His openly racist views are now out there for every one to see.

    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told university students that key provisions of the Voting Rights Act had evolved from an emergency response to racial discrimination in 1965 to an "embedded" form of "racial preferment" that would likely continue indefinitely unless the court acts to end them.

    The racial preferment that the Justice is talking about of course is providing minorities with the actual right to vote, a right they have on paper but which for decades was denied to them.  This right continues to be abridged, with longer lines in minority districts, and conservative lawmakers making it harder and harder for minority voters to cast a vote.  Conservatives are at the forefront of this action for the simple reason that most minorities don’t vote the way Conservatives want them to. 

    The Justice’s blindness and ignorance is also shown in his analysis of history.

    The justice suggested it was unfair to require his formerly segregated home state, Virginia, to obtain clearance for voting changes while other states don't have to take such a step. He noted that Virginia has elected a black governor—Douglas Wilder, a Democrat who served from 1990 to 1994—while most states exempt from Section 5 haven't.

    Of course, other states did not keep African Americans from voting, or shut down a school system rather than integrate. 

    As for Mr. Scalia’s attitude towards equal rights, there is this.

    "I don't consider homosexuality a new phenomenon," Justice Scalia replied. It was known when the 14th Amendment, which provides for equal protection of the laws, was ratified in 1868, he said, and was considered a crime in most places.

    Justice Scalia long has resisted claims that the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and dissented from a 2003 decision striking down sodomy laws that criminalized gay sex.

    The concept of equal protection applies to everyone of course, but Justice Scalia would apply the concept only to people whom Justice Scalia approves of.

    Oh, and how about this wonderful thought.

    Section 5 functions as a racial entitlement because the federal government doesn't take a similar interest in protecting the voting rights of white people from racial discrimination, Justice Scalia said.

    Yep, all those poor, disenfranchised white people who have borne history’s brunt of racial discrimination in the U. S. for lo these many years.  Who is there to protect them, if not Justice Scalia.

    And yes, this is the man that Conservatives lionize. 

    Congratulations Republicans – You Have Put So Many Roadblocks on Health Care Reform That the New Exchanges Are Delayed

    And the President Gets the Blame

    One of the few good parts of the health care reform law was to make a cafeteria of plans and coverages available for small business employees.  This was to be done by setting up insurance exchanges that worked like this.

    Health insurance availability and cost are huge concerns for small businesses. They have less bargaining power than large companies and generally pay higher prices for insurance, if they can afford it at all.

    The 2010 law stipulates that each state will have a Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange, to help employers compare health plans and enroll their employees.

    One of the most important tasks of the exchange is to simplify the collection and payment of monthly premiums. An employer can pay a lump sum to the exchange, which will then distribute the money to each insurance company covering its employees.

    But Republican delays have set back the process.

    Exchanges are scheduled to start enrolling people on Oct. 1, for coverage that begins in January. However, the administration said that the government and insurers needed “additional time to prepare for an employee choice model” of the type envisioned in the law signed three years ago by President Obama.

    And the really neat thing, beside Mr. Obama getting blamed for the delay.  These exchanges, using private insurance companies and competition is exactly what Republicans wanted, supported and probably would have implemented had they been in power. 

    If Mr. Obama proposed massive tax cuts for the wealthy would Republicans block that to avoid giving Mr. Obama any success?  Don’t bet against it.

    Monday, April 22, 2013

    Professor at Naval War College Says Condemnation of Bush Presidency is the Result of Bias

    No – It’s the Result of Facts

    The George W. Bush Presidential Library is set to open, and the Washington Post found someone who actually believes that the Bush Presidency is being unfairly condemned by historian.

    There is little evidence that scholars, including the influential historians who pronounce the success or failure of an administration, are having second thoughts about their assessment of Bush as a failed chief executive.

    Unfortunately, far too many scholars revealed partisan bias and abandoned any pretense of objectivity in their rush to condemn the Bush presidency.

    Let’s see, what objectively, that is based on facts and not politics, can one say about the Bush Presidency.

    1. The Bush administration ignored warnings about an attack that ultimately result in the 9/11 horror.
    2.  Bush started wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which have been disasters.  The Iraq war in particular was based on false intelligence and a desire by Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield to go to war no matter what.
    3. Bush inherited a massive surplus and left office with the government facing trillion dollar deficits.
    4. Poverty, after decreasing during the Clinton years rose during the Bush years.
    5. Huge tax cuts mainly benefited the wealthy.
    6. Bush tried to privatize Social Security, which given the stock market collapse would have been a disaster.
    7. The U. S. engaged in the despicable practice of torture.
    8. The government was unprepared to deal effectively with Hurricane Katrina  because Bush had appointed a political flunkie to be in charge of FEMA.
    9. The VA was tragically inept at caring for wounded veterans.

    And much more.

    Well, you get the picture.  On the plus side the drug program for Medicare appears to have been a success,  but really, that’s about it.

    So yes historians can be accused of  bias, if one uses that term to mean invoking facts and data in reaching a conclusion.