B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Regulatory Reform As A Cover for Corporations to Skirt Laws

Will Obama have to resort to veto pen finally, now that Harry Reid is no longer blocking ridiculous GOP bills from getting passed? I guess we’ll soon see. And the real test will be on the non-sexy things, like regulatory reform.

Please  Vote 

Obama Has Only Vetoed 2 Bills. That’s About to Change—Thanks to Democrats | Mother Jones: “Regulatory reform: By far the least sexy of the topics that might be forced on Obama, changes to how the government writes its rules could pose the biggest trouble for the president. Unlike finance, environmental rules, or health care reform, it’s an obscure topic unlikely to garner an outpouring of public outcry. These are changes portrayed as making government more sensible and business-friendly, always a favorite image to project by moderate Democrats who still cling to Bill Clinton’s mantra of deconstructing Big Government, yet they could stymie efforts to write rules for those specific policy areas.

Changes to how the government writes rules ‘seem both kind of technical and innocent, because they talk about things like cost-benefit analysis, or increasing judicial review, or more economic requirements to help small business’ says Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. ‘Things that don’t sound threatening and maybe even ease tensions with constituents who don’t really like the idea of red tape and have this idea that if we change it at the federal level lots would be easier at home.’ But in essence, these rules just offer cover for big business to delay the laws that they don’t want to comply with—continuing to set their own rules and skating by for years after the public thinks they’ve already been kept in check.

Last week, the House passed the Regulatory Accountability Act, a bill that would force all agencies to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for each rule. This process tends to favor business interests over consumers. The bill would also make it easier for judges to toss aside rules and force agencies to hold lengthy public hearings for each rule they consider. Past iterations of this bill have received support from Senate moderates like Florida’s Bill Nelson, Maine’s King, and West Virginia’s Manchin.

That group of 10 to 15 Democrats willing to break from the rest of the party aren’t hiding their plans. ‘If Republicans want a minimum of six or more Democrats to work with them,’ Manchin said earlier this month, ‘and they’re sincere about policy and good policy moving forward, they’re definitely going to reach out, and I’ve reached out to them.'”

(Via http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/barack-obama-veto-moderate-senate-democrats)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 20th, 2015 at 10:43 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords was uploaded to Flickr

Only knows three chords so far

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/qzwvM5

I took Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:20PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 10:50 pm

Picking the Ukulele was uploaded to Flickr

well, smelling anyway

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/qS1Bfu

I took Picking the Ukulele on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:25PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Picking the Ukulele was uploaded to Flickr

well, smelling anyway

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/qS1Bfu

I took Picking the Ukulele on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:25PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords was uploaded to Flickr

Only knows three chords so far

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/qzwvM5

I took Pip is practicing his Ukulele chords on January 19, 2015 at 12:18PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 19, 2015 at 06:20PM

Written by eggplant

January 19th, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Imagine My Surprise was uploaded to Flickr

Wells St, Chicago

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/quPs46

I took Imagine My Surprise on January 02, 2015 at 12:17PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 12, 2015 at 04:14PM

Written by eggplant

January 12th, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Is Fracking About To Burst The Economy?

The Myth of Trust
The Myth of Trust

I ran across a quite interesting discussion of the history of the Oklahoma oil boom in the 1970s and its subsequent bust in the early 1980s, which is linked with the story of Penn Square Bank. There is a book by Phillip Zweig specifically on this topic, called Belly Up: The Collapse of the Penn Square Bank, I think I’ll have to look for a copy.

If you have a moment, you should read the entire essay.1

History aside, what about the current situation with oil prices cratering? Are we in trouble?

Now of course a debacle of the Penn Square variety requires at least one other thing, which is a banking industry so fixated on this quarter’s profits that it can lose track of the minor little fact that lending money to people who can’t pay it back isn’t a business strategy with a long shelf life. I hope none of my readers are under the illusion that this is lacking just now. With interest rates stuck around zero and people and institutions that live off their investments frantically hunting for what used to count as a normal rate of return, the same culture of short-term thinking and financial idiocy that ran the global economy into the ground in the 2008 real estate crash remains firmly in place, glued there by the refusal of the Obama administration and its equivalents elsewhere to prosecute even the most egregious cases of fraud and malfeasance.

Now that the downturn in oil prices is under way, and panic selling of energy-related junk bonds and lower grades of unconventional crude oil has begun in earnest, it seems likely that we’ll learn just how profitable the fracking fad of the last few years actually was. My working guess, which is admittedly an outsider’s view based on limited data and historical parallels, is that it was a money-losing operation from the beginning, and looked prosperous—as the Oklahoma boom did—only because it attracted a flood of investment money from people and institutions who were swept up in the craze. If I’m right, the spike in domestic US oil production due to fracking was never more than an artifact of fiscal irresponsibility in the first place, and could not have been sustained no matter what. Still, we’ll see.

The more immediate question is just how much damage the turmoil now under way will do to a US and global economy that have never recovered from the body blow inflicted on them by the real estate bubble that burst in 2008. Much depends on exactly who sunk how much money into fracking-related investments, and just how catastrophically those investments come unraveled.  It’s possible that the result could be just a common or garden variety recession; it’s possible that it could be quite a bit more. When the tide goes out, as Warren Buffet has commented, you find out who’s been swimming naked, and just how far the resulting lack of coverage will extend is a question of no small importance.

At least three economic sectors outside the fossil fuel industry, as I see it, stand to suffer even if all we get is an ordinary downturn. The first, of course, is the financial sector. A vast amount of money was loaned to the fracking industry; another vast amount—I don’t propose to guess how it compares to the first one—was accounted for by issuing junk bonds, and there was also plenty of ingenious financial architecture of the sort common in the housing boom. Those are going to lose most or all of their value in the months and years ahead. No doubt the US government will bail out its pals in the really big banks again, but there’s likely to be a great deal of turmoil anyway, and midsized and smaller players may crash and burn in a big way. One way or another, it promises to be entertaining.

(click here to continue reading The Archdruid Report: Déjà Vu All Over Again.)

We’ll see, but it might be a good time to start putting a few Krugerrands under your mattress…

Gold Coins
Gold Coins

Footnotes:
  1. The bank is often cited as being partly responsible for the collapse of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, which had to write-off some US$500+ million in loans purchased from Penn Square. []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2015 at 11:15 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , ,

Keystone XL Pipeline and Carbon Keynesianism

Twists and Turns
Twists and Turns.

During the very first week of the 114th Congress, the new agenda was made clear: Bills to end the Affordable Care Act, to restrict abortion rights, to stop Obama’s immigration plan, and a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Paul Krugman laughs, and points out the absurdity of the GOP’s Carbon Keynesianism…

It should come as no surprise that the very first move of the new Republican Senate is an attempt to push President Obama into approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands. After all, debts must be paid, and the oil and gas industry — which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the G.O.P. — expects to be rewarded for its support.

Building Keystone XL could slightly increase U.S. employment. In fact, it might replace almost 5 percent of the jobs America has lost because of destructive cuts in federal spending, which were in turn the direct result of Republican blackmail over the debt ceiling.

Oh, and don’t tell me that the cases are completely different. You can’t consistently claim that pipeline spending creates jobs while government spending doesn’t.

Consider, for example, the case of military spending. When it comes to possible cuts in defense contracts, politicians who loudly proclaim that every dollar the government spends comes at the expense of the private sector suddenly begin talking about all the jobs that will be destroyed. They even begin talking about the multiplier effect, as reduced spending by defense workers leads to job losses in other industries. This is the phenomenon former Representative Barney Frank dubbed “weaponized Keynesianism.”

And the argument being made for Keystone XL is very similar; call it “carbonized Keynesianism.” Yes, approving the pipeline would mobilize some money that would otherwise have sat idle, and in so doing create some jobs — 42,000 during the construction phase, according to the most widely cited estimate. (Once completed, the pipeline would employ only a few dozen workers.) But government spending on roads, bridges and schools would do the same thing.

And the job gains from the pipeline would, as I said, be only a tiny fraction — less than 5 percent — of the job losses from sequestration, which in turn are only part of the damage done by spending cuts in general. If Mr. McConnell and company really believe that we need more spending to create jobs, why not support a push to upgrade America’s crumbling infrastructure?

So what should be done about Keystone XL? If you believe that it would be environmentally damaging — which I do — then you should be against it, and you should ignore the claims about job creation. The numbers being thrown around are tiny compared with the country’s overall work force.

(click here to continue reading For the Love of Carbon – NYTimes.com.)

The worship of Mammon.jpg
The worship of Mammon” by Evelyn De Morgan[1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Infrastructure improvement? Blasphemy! Spending money to fix bridges, roads, water supply pipes, commuter rails – that’s Socialism! But building a massive pipeline to ship oil from Canada to China via the Gulf of Mexico is God’s commandment. If you consider Mammon a God that is…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2015 at 9:27 am

The Laffer Curve has flatlined

Sketchy ATM Inside

It is almost amusing how much crazy economic policy was initiated by the expense account of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Without the Laffer Curve, there would be no Supply Side Economic Voodoo theory, and perhaps our country wouldn’t be on a downward spiral. Also, the Laffer Curve, as originally formulated, never claimed to know what the magical tax rate was, and in fact, could be interpreted as arguing that tax rates should increase! 

The Laffer Curve came about as the result of a lunch conversation in 1974 among conservative economist Arthur Laffer, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. The curve in question is the relationship between tax revenues and tax rates—at zero percent, no tax revenue will be collected because no income is taxed, while at 100 percent, no revenue will be collected because there is no incentive to work if all income is confiscated. Somewhere in the middle is a sweet spot: the perfect rate of taxation at which revenue is maximized, and where any tax increases past that point will actually result in a decrease in revenue.

The Laffer Curve has been consistently used as justification for the supply-side belief that tax cuts will pay for themselves through the increased economic activity that they will create. This belief is no longer simply a theory, but is now official federal policy: the 114th Congress changed the rules for how budget bills are evaluated from static scoring to what is called “dynamic scoring,” which will mask the actual cost of tax cuts by simply assuming that they will increase economic output.

(click here to continue reading The Laffer Curve has flatlined.)

As an aside, I’m amazed that for years, the PR slogan was that the Republican Party was the business party, despite much evidence to the contrary. 

Since World War II, there’s been a strikingly consistent pattern in American politics: The economy does much better when a Democrat is in the White House.

More specifically, since 1947, the U.S. economy has grown at an average real rate of 4.35 percent under Democratic presidents and just 2.54 percent under Republicans

(click here to continue reading The U.S. economy does better under Democratic presidents — is it just luck? – The Washington Post.)

Really though, it seems as if the GOP is better for business executives instead of businesses. The executives make more, by outsourcing jobs, enjoying reduced tax rates and increased tax loopholes for things like private jets and so on. More take-home pay, in other words, and less investing in the business itself. For non-executives, the GOP is not your party, nor are you even invited, except during election season. 

I Am A Lonely Visitor
I Am A Lonely Visitor

Reactionary conservatives like Governor Sam Brownback and Governor Scott Walker have put the Laffer Curve to work, slicing government revenue, with predictably dire results:

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback brought on Arthur Laffer as an advisor to steer his radical experiment of cutting taxes to the bone under the assumption that the cuts would simply pay for themselves through economic expansion. The results, however, have been absolutely horrific: job growth on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area is occurring at four times the rate on the Kansas side. Education is being vastly underfunded. And perhaps most tellingly, the state collected far less money in taxes than it expected in December, even after downgrading expectations. In other words, Laffer was wrong in every single way possible.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has followed a path nearly has extreme as that of Brownback, but is being forced to scale his ambitions back because the theory just isn’t working:

Earlier this year, just before enacting the half-billion-dollar tax cut, Walker said it was just the beginning — that he wanted to eliminate income taxes. Now, a representative of Walker, asked about the elimination plan said the governor “has only said that he would explore other areas of tax reform.” The state has a projected $2.2 billion deficit for the next biennium, 2015 to 2017. There’s also a transportation funding problem.

Now, not even his top allies in the House think new cuts aren’t possible.

The situation is so bad in Wisconsin that to try to balance the budget in anticipation of a possible 2016 presidential campaign, Walker is rumored to be considering selling off public assets as a stopgap measure just to make the numbers look good. The contrast with states like California, which raised taxes to help balance its budget and cover a shortfall in education, couldn’t be clearer: California’s revenue is surging, while tax-cutting states are figuring out how to mitigate the damage.

(click here to continue reading The Laffer Curve has flatlined.)

Put Money in the Parking Meter or else!
Put Money in the Machine or else!

Will this example stop the next GOP executive branch from claiming that cutting tax rates will help grow economies? Probably not. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner tries his best to lower tax rates on his own wealth during the next four years. If Rauner was such a good business man, perhaps he’d let facts and history convince him that perhaps the marginal tax rates are too low…

To maximize real economic growth in the United States, the top marginal income tax rate should be about 65%, give or take about ten percent. Preposterous, right? Well, it turns out that’s what the data tells us, or would, if we had the ears to listen.

This post will be a bit more complicated than my usual “let’s graph some data” approach, but not by much, and I think the added complexity will be worth it. So here’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to use a statistical tool called “regression analysis” to find the relationship between the growth in real GDP and the top marginal tax rate. If you’re familiar with regressions you can skip ahead a few paragraphs.

Regression analysis (or “running regressions”) is a fairly straightforward and simple technique that is used on a daily basis by economists who work with data, not to mention people in many other professions from financiers to biologists. Because it is so simple and straightforward, a popular form of regression analysis (“ordinary least squares” or “OLS”) regression is even built into popular spreadsheets like Excel.

(Click here to continue reading http://angrybearblog.com/2010/12/top-marginal-income-tax-rate-should-be.html The top marginal income tax rate should be about 65%…)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2015 at 9:01 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with ,

FBI and Justice Dept. Said to Seek Charges for Petraeus

Red and Blue
Red and Blue.

If you ever doubted that America has two sets of laws; one for the elite, and one for rest us, look no further than the case of career Republican operative and Pentagon courtier, General David Patraeus. 

Petraeus, a retired four-star general who served as commander of American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has said he never provided classified information to Ms. Broadwell, and has indicated to the Justice Department that he has no interest in a plea deal that would spare him an embarrassing trial. A lawyer for Mr. Petraeus, Robert B. Barnett, said Friday he had no comment.

The officials who said that charges had been recommended were briefed on the investigation but asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.

Mr. Holder was expected to decide by the end of last year whether to bring charges against Mr. Petraeus, but he has not indicated how he plans to proceed. The delay has frustrated some Justice Department and F.B.I. officials and investigators who have questioned whether Mr. Petraeus has received special treatment at a time Mr. Holder has led a crackdown on government officials who reveal secrets to journalists.

(click here to continue reading F.B.I. and Justice Dept. Said to Seek Charges for Petraeus – NYTimes.com.)

Let us be clear: David Petraeus broke laws that he swore to upheld, despite these being fairly mundane leaks, mostly serving to burnish his own mythology. I doubt his biographer damaged national security by allowing Petraeus into her bed, and allowing his biographer access to his classified files, but the bottom line is other, lesser officials have suffered for breaking these same laws, and Petraeus has escaped consequence. If Petraeus was a low-level leaker, or someone like Edward Snowden, he’d be in Gitmo by now. Instead, he’s escaped any consequences. Why is that fair?

I understand that Washington classifies every single document possible, and this is a problem too, but that’s not relevant. Petraeus is avoiding answering for his transgressions solely because he is well known to the public.

And as Trevor Timm write:

It doesn’t matter what Petraeus’s motive for leaking was either. While most felonies require mens rea (an intentional state of mind) for a crime to have occurred, under the Espionage Act this is not required. It doesn’t matter that Petraeus is not an actual spy. It also doesn’t matter if Petraeus leaked the information by accident, or whether he leaked it to better inform the public, or even whether he leaked it to stop a terrorist attack. It’s still technically a crime, and his motive for leaking cannot be brought up at trial as a defense.

This may seem grossly unfair (and it is!), but remember, as prosecutors themselves apparently have been arguing in private about Petraeus’s case: “lower-ranking officials had been prosecuted for far less.” Under the Obama administration, more sources of reporters have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined, and many have been sentenced to jail for leaks that should have never risen to the level of a criminal indictment.

Ultimately, no one should be charged with espionage when they didn’t commit espionage, but if prosecutors are going to use the heinous Espionage Act to charge leakers, they should at least do it fairly and across the board—no matter one’s rank in the military or position in the government. So in one sense, this development is a welcome one.

For years, the Espionage Act prosecutions have only been for low-level officials, while the heads of federal agencies leak with impunity. For example, current CIA director John Brennan, former CIA director Leon Panetta, and former CIA general counsel John Rizzo are just three of many high-ranking government officials who have gotten off with little to no punishment despite the fact we know they’ve leaked information to the media that the government considers classified.

(click here to continue reading If David Petraeus is actually charged, all of DC will finally find out how incredibly unjust the Espionage Act is | Freedom of the Press Foundation.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 10th, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with , ,

Ansel Adams Act

Photography is Not A Crime
Photography is Not A Crime.

An unexpected surprise from Tea Party stalwart, Steve Stockman of the 36th district of Texas. [edit – Rep Stockman is no longer in office]

To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Ansel Adams Act”.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds as follows: (1) In recent years, the Federal Government has enacted regulations to prohibit or restrict photography in National Parks, public spaces, and of government buildings, law enforcement officers, and other government personnel carrying out their duties. (2) In recent years, photographers on Federal lands and spaces have been threatened with seizure and forfeiture of photographic equipment and memory cards, and have been arrested or threatened with arrest for merely recording what the eye can see from public spaces. (3) Even in the absence of laws or regulations, Federal law enforcement officers, other government personnel, and private contractors have been instructed to prohibit photography from public spaces, and threatened photographers with arrest or seizure of photographic equipment. (4) Arresting photographers, seizing photographic equipment, and requirements to obtain permits, pay fees, or buy insurance policies are abridgments of freedom of speech and of the press. (5) The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”. (6) Still and motion photographs are speech. (7) The photography by Ansel Adams and other famous photographers helped bring home to Americans the beauty and fragility of our natural resources. (8) Ansel Adams’ photographs helped build public support to make Yosemite into a National Park. (9) Future “Ansel Adams” must not have their paths blocked, regulated and made more expensive with fees and fines, or be threatened with arrest and seizure of their equipment.

SEC. 3. RESTORATION OF FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO PHOTOGRAPHERS.

(a) In General.–It is contrary to the public policy of the United States to prohibit or restrict photography in public spaces, whether for private, news media, or commercial use. (b) Should a Federal agency seek to restrict photography of its installations or personnel, it shall obtain a court order that outlines the national security or other reasons for the restriction. Such court order shall allow restrictions of photography when such photography may lead to the endangerment of public safety or national security. Nothing in this Act shall restrict Federal agencies from taking lawful steps to ascertain whether or not photography may consist of reconnaissance for the purpose of endangerment of public safety or national security or for other unlawful activity. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to repeal, invalidate, or supersede section 795 of title 18, United States Code. (c) Prohibition on Fees, Permits, or Insurance.–No Federal Government agency shall require fees, permits or insurance as a condition to take still or moving images on Federal lands, National Parks and Forests, and public spaces, whether for private, media, or commercial use. (d) Prohibition on the Seizure and Forfeiture of Photographic Equipment.–Federal law enforcement officers or private contractors shall not seize any photographic equipment or their contents or memory cards or film, and shall not order a photographer to erase the contents of a camera or memory card or film.

(click here to continue reading Text – H.R.5893 – 113th Congress (2013-2014): Ansel Adams Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress.)

Since it is something proposed by Rep. Stockman, I’m suspicious of the fine print, but from a brief glance, this is a welcomed law. 

Protecting Boeing from Evil Photographers
Protecting Boeing from Evil Photographers

I wonder if it will curtail the propensity of certain security firms from blocking photography. Boeing is the most obvious culprit, but there are other buildings where a photographer is nearly always harassed from taking a photo, even when standing on the public sidewalk.

Via

In the United States, the work of photographers and photojournalists is protected under the 1st Amendment which states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. And, in a perfect world, the constitutional rights granted by the amendment would never be violated. But, perfect the world is not and it seems like photographers are being unjustly accosted on a regular basis.

Think of all the news stories you’ve read that pretty much read the same: a photographer from Any City, USA was arrested, threatened with arrest, threatened with seizure of equipment, or otherwise harassed for exercising their First Amendment right of taking photos in a public place. A quick search on DIYP alone using the “Photography Is Not A Crime” keyword yields you a dizzying amount of such stories. Not to mention the motions made by the Federal Government, which restrict and sometimes prohibit photography in National Parks.

(click here to continue reading The Ansel Adams Act Goes To Congress; Details Clear Laws Protecting 1st Amendment Rights Of Photographers – DIY Photography.)

—-

edit, and I don’t know how I missed this, but this bill was put on the floor in the 113th Congress, and Steve Stockman didn’t win election to the 114th Congress, so I’m guessing the dream is dead…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 9th, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Marijuana policy should be based on fact, not on Susan Shapiro’s self-serving narrative

High Voltage Grass
High Voltage Grass.

Susan Shapiro claims to have been a cannabis addict for decades, and has turned this former addiction into a career, including books, articles and so on. 

For instance, the Chicago Tribune published this bit of op-ed agit-prop today:

I know the dark side. I’m ambivalent about legalizing marijuana because I was addicted for 27 years. After starting to smoke weed at Bob Dylan concerts when I was 13, I saw how it can make you say and do things that are provocative and perilous. I bought pot in bad neighborhoods at 3 a.m., confronted a dealer for selling me a dime bag of oregano, let shady pushers I barely knew deliver marijuana, like pizza, to my home. I mailed weed to my vacation spots and smoked a cocaine-laced joint a bus driver offered when I was his only passenger.

(click here to continue reading So you think marijuana isn’t addictive – Chicago Tribune.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t doubt Ms. Shapiro had a problem with addiction; I don’t doubt her anecdotes, but I’m skeptical that this reefer madness essay should be the underpinning of national anti-drug policy. Especially since so many of her citations don’t hold up to even the quickest of fact-checks.

Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs
Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs

I was going to point out flaws in her argument, but in the beginning stages of researching, discovered instead a rebuttal by Paul Armentano, published in the LA Times.1

 Mr. Armentano make points such as:

Many of Shapiro’s claims regarding pot’s risk potential are unsupported by the scientific literature. For instance, she expresses concerns that some cannabis products possess greater THC content today than in the past while ignoring the reality that most consumers regulate their intake accordingly. (When consuming more potent pot, most consumers typically ingest lesser quantities.) Further, THC itself is a comparatively nontoxic substance, having been approved as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration in 1986 and descheduled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1999 (to a Class 3 drug from a Class 2) because of its stellar safety record. 

The author further asserts that cannabis “contributes” to 12% of traffic fatalities in the United States. But the purported source of this claim alleges nothing of the sort. In fact, the study in question solely assessed the prevalence of cannabis or its inert metabolites in injured drivers. (These metabolites, the authors state, may linger in the blood for up to a week following ingestion and should not be presumed to be a measurement of drug impairment.) The study’s authors make no claims in regard to whether these drivers were under the influence of pot or whether their driving behavior was responsible for an accident.

Further, studies evaluating whether marijuana-positive drivers are more likely to be culpable in traffic accidents find that the plant typically plays little role in auto fatalities. According to a 2012 review paper of 66 studies assessing drug-positive drivers and crash risk, marijuana-positive drivers possessed an odds-adjusted risk of traffic injury of 1.10 and an odds-adjusted risk of fatal accident of 1.26. This risk level was among the lowest of any drugs assessed by the study’s author and it was comparable to the odds ratio associated with penicillin (1.12), antihistamines (1.12) and antidepressants (1.35). By contrast, a 2013 study published in the journal Injury Prevention reported that drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.01% were “46% more likely to be officially blamed for a crash than are the sober drivers they collide with.”

 

(click here to continue reading Marijuana policy should be based on fact, not on an ex-pothead’s experience – LA Times.)

or on the IQ question:

Shapiro also repeats the specious claim that cannabis use lowers intelligence quotient. But a review of a highly publicized 2012 study purporting to link adolescent pot use to lower IQ later in life determined that once economic variables were factored into the assessment, cannabis’ actual effect was likely to be “zero.” The findings of a previous longitudinal study from Canada that tracked the IQs of a group of marijuana users and non-users from birth similarly concluded, “Marijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”

One other minor point: even in Shapiro’s anecdotes, one gets the sense that if our national drug laws were more sane, she wouldn’t have to go to shady neighborhoods in the wee hours of the night to score, instead she could have just bought something that wasn’t oregano at her local organic cannabis dispensary.

Footnotes:
  1. I wonder if the Chicago Tribune plans on running the rebuttal in tomorrow’s paper? Probably not []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 8th, 2015 at 10:27 am

Posted in government,health

Tagged with , ,

NYPD Going Rogue – No Justice, No Police

Compos Mentis
Compos Mentis

Rogue Chicago police officers may torture suspects, beat up female bartenders, and so on, but they haven’t gone so far as the New York City police, and actually stop working.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has been in office barely a year, and already forces of entropy are roaming the streets, turning their backs on the law, defying civil authority and trying to unravel the social fabric.

Call this what it is: a reckless, coordinated escalation of a war between the police unions and Mr. de Blasio and a hijacking of law-enforcement policy by those who do not set law-enforcement policy.

Mr. de Blasio’s critics foretold doom when he was elected a year ago. They said graffiti, muggings and other crime would rush back with a vengeance. They were dead wrong — crime rates continued to decline to historic lows in 2014 — but now it seems the cops are trying to help prove them right.

The madness has to stop. The problem is not that a two-week suspension of “broken windows” policing is going to unleash chaos in the city. The problem is that cops who refuse to do their jobs and revel in showing contempt to their civilian leaders are damaging the social order all by themselves.

Mr. de Blasio, who has been cautious since the shootings, found his voice on Monday, saying for the first time that the police officers’ protests of turning their backs at the slain officers’ funerals had been disrespectful to the families of the dead. He was right, but he needs to do more.

He should appeal directly to the public and say plainly that the police are trying to extort him and the city he leads.

If the Police Department’s current commanders cannot get the cops to do their jobs, Mr. de Blasio should consider replacing them.

He should invite the Justice Department to determine if the police are guilty of civil rights violations in withdrawing policing from minority communities.

He should remind the police that they are public employees, under oath to uphold city and state laws.

(click here to continue reading No Justice, No Police – NYTimes.com.)

These officers should be fired, the lot of them. Obviously don’t want to do their jobs anymore.

We Serve and Protect
We Serve and Protect

Somewhat coincidently, we came across Frank Serpico’s article entitled “The Police Are Still Out of Control”, which makes this point, among others, about police violence and lack of accountability:

But an even more serious problem — police violence — has probably grown worse, and it’s out of control for the same reason that graft once was: a lack of accountability.

I tried to be an honest cop in a force full of bribe-takers. But as I found out the hard way, police departments are useless at investigating themselves—and that’s exactly the problem facing ordinary people across the country —including perhaps, Ferguson, Missouri, which has been a lightning rod for discontent even though the circumstances under which an African-American youth, Michael Brown, was shot remain unclear.

Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)

It wasn’t any surprise to me that, after Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, officers instinctively lined up behind Darren Wilson, the cop who allegedly killed Brown. Officer Wilson may well have had cause to fire if Brown was attacking him, as some reports suggest, but it is also possible we will never know the full truth—whether, for example, it was really necessary for Wilson to shoot Brown at least six times, killing rather than just wounding him. As they always do, the police unions closed ranks also behind the officer in question. And the district attorney (who is often totally in bed with the police and needs their votes) and city power structure can almost always be counted on to stand behind the unions.

In some ways, matters have gotten even worse. The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider. Mind you, I don’t want to say that police shouldn’t protect themselves and have access to the best equipment. Police officers have the right to defend themselves with maximum force, in cases where, say, they are taking on a barricaded felon armed with an assault weapon. But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.

In the NYPD, it used to be you’d fire two shots and then you would assess the situation. You didn’t go off like a madman and empty your magazine and reload. Today it seems these police officers just empty their guns and automatic weapons without thinking, in acts of callousness or racism. They act like they’re in shooting galleries. Today’s uncontrolled firepower, combined with a lack of good training and adequate screening of police academy candidates,  has led to a devastating drop in standards. The infamous case of Amadou Diallo in New York—who was shot 41 times in 1999 for no obvious reason—is more typical than you might think. The shooters, of course, were absolved of any wrongdoing, as they almost always are. All a policeman has to say is that “the suspect turned toward me menacingly,” and he does not have to worry about prosecution. In a 2010 case recorded on a police camera in Seattle, John Williams, a 50-year-old traditional carver of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations (tribes), was shot four times by police as he walked across the street with a pocketknife and a piece of cedar in his hands. He died at the scene. It’s like the Keystone Kops, but without being funny at all.

(click here to continue reading The Police Are Still Out of Control – Frank Serpico – POLITICO Magazine.)

how far will our nation descend towards becoming a brutal police state before the pendulum swings back?

bonus Matt Bors cartoon on topic

NYPD

Matt Bors – via http://www.gocomics.com/matt-bors/2015/01/07

Written by Seth Anderson

January 7th, 2015 at 10:08 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with ,

Gas For Less was uploaded to Flickr

http://ift.tt/1xrTmV6

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/pJL1Kg

I took Gas For Less on January 04, 2015 at 01:41PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on January 04, 2015 at 11:02PM

Written by eggplant

January 4th, 2015 at 10:13 pm

iTunes 12 Syncing Is Broken Beyond Belief

Hello Would You Like To Restore Your iPhone Again
Hello Would You Like To Restore Your iPhone Yet Again?

Kirk McElhearn, a long-time Mac columnist, adds his voice to the chorus of iPhone owners dismayed with iTunes 12 and iOS 8.

Now, syncing an iOS device—iPhone, iPad, or iPod—is too often an ordeal. And it is because it’s become untrustworthy. Will the sync work at all or will your content disappear and be transformed into something that fills the amorphous “Other” category in iTunes’ capacity bar. Will all of your content sync or just your music, or music, or apps?

Sync problems between iTunes and iOS devices are all too common. (See the last thirty days of posts in Apple’s support forums about iTunes sync issues.) In a way, this may be a predictable side effect of Apple’s push to online services. The company wants everything to be in the cloud, and it would prefer that you buy all your music and movies from there as well. Local syncing isn’t really a part of that plan and so may be treated as an afterthought. The difficulty is that not all users are right for the cloud model. For those with large iTunes libraries, or with limited broadband bandwidth, cloud storage simply isn’t usable.

Given that, it’s time to revisit local syncing. In its current state, iTunes syncing is broken and it can only be fixed by Apple.

Apple needs to fix syncing. While users who don’t sync their iOS devices in this way aren’t affected by these issues, those people with small and large iTunes libraries alike report syncing problems. It’s frustrating, and the fact that there’s no way to find out what’s wrong makes it even more so. In an ideal world iTunes would have some kind of sync log or sync diagnostic tool, akin to the Network Diagnostics utility, that would help ferret out problems and let people get on with enjoying their media.

(click here to continue reading iTunes syncing is broken: Apple, please fix it | Macworld.)

 iPhone 6 and iOS 8 restore number 12
iPhone 6 and iOS 8 restore number 12

I’ve written at least once about my frustrations with syncing, and by my count, I’ve had to restore my iPhone 6-minus at least ten times since I got it last fall. Ten times! New Year’s Eve1 was number eleven, and for some reason2 the PIN I used yesterday would not unlock my iPhone today. Since I have Find my iPhone turned on, I was unable to restore directly via my Mac, and had to log on to https://www.icloud.com/#find, and remotely wipe the iPhone. 

Sync Music 2015-01-01 at 12.10.18 PM

Restore Number 12 finally began, and because I use my iPhone for more than just a phone, the syncing takes for freaking ever3, and I probably won’t have use of a phone for several hours. 

Sure there are much worse problems in the world, but iPhone owners want devices that we spend thousands of dollars annually4 on to actually work. Currently, the iTunes 12/iOS 8 platform is not up the usual Apple standards. Constantly having to reinstall the software is not customer-friendly.

Restoring iPhone From Backup 2015-01-01 at 11.33.01 AM

Syncing photos 2015-01-01 at 12.09.28 PM

Syncing apps 2015-01-01 at 12.24.52 PM

Footnotes:
  1. yesterday, 12/31/2014 []
  2. fat fingers, or the beginning stages of a good buzz, or Jony Ive’s sense of humor, whatever []
  3. between 4-5 hours, plus time to reset Apple ID, iCloud, the thumbprint, Apple Pay, etc. []
  4. the device itself, the monthly bill, the apps and songs and etc. []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 1st, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Apple,Music

Tagged with , , ,