Archive for the ‘government’ Category
Our government in action, for good, and mostly for worse
LSD and the heartbeat of a city
Another victim of Nixon’s ill-guided War on Drugs…
One dose of the hallucinogenic drug LSD could help alcoholics give up drinking, according to an analysis of studies performed in the 1960s. A study, presented in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, looked at data from six trials and more than 500 patients. It said there was a “significant beneficial effect” on alcohol abuse, which lasted several months after the drug was taken. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology analysed earlier studies on the drug between 1966 and 1970.
Patients were all taking part in alcohol treatment programmes, but some were given a single dose of LSD of between 210 and 800 micrograms. For the group of patients taking LSD, 59% showed reduced levels of alcohol misuse compared with 38% in the other group.
This effect was maintained six months after taking the hallucinogen, but it disappeared after a year. Those taking LSD also reported higher levels of abstinence.
The report’s authors, Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen, said: “A single dose of LSD has a significant beneficial effect on alcohol misuse.”
They suggested that more regular doses might lead to a sustained benefit.
“Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked,” they added.
(click here to continue reading BBC News – LSD ‘helps alcoholics to give up drinking’.)
Puzzling, until you recall that the United States government is adamantly opposed to scientists being able to even research drugs like psilocybin, LSD and marijuana, no matter how many promising studies occur.
Tellingly, the US media has not, to my knowledge, published this story.
Update, just took a while. So far, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, and a few other not-quite mainstream players have seen fit to run a story.
The study is available here, as PDF, if you are interested in the details…
Alcohol is said to cause more overall harm than any other drug (Nutt et al., 2010). Alcohol contributes to about 4% of total mortality and about 5% of disability adjusted life-years to the global burden of disease (Rehm et al., 2009). Despite the often extreme individual and social consequences of alcohol misuse, many users find it challenging to stop drinking. Alcoholism, also called alcohol dependence, continues to be difficult to treat, and many patients do not achieve recovery from existing treatments (Schuckit, 2009).
Numerous clinical investigators have claimed that treating alcoholics with individual doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), in combination with psychosocial interventions, can help to prevent a relapse of alcohol misuse, for example, by eliciting insights into behavioural patterns and generating motivation to build a meaningful sober lifestyle (Dyck, 2008). LSD is well- known for inducing spectacular and profound effects on the mind (Henderson and Glass, 1994; Passie et al., 2008). It has previously been used in standard treatment programs for alcoholism at many clinics, but, unfortunately, assessments of the clinical value of LSD have not been based on formal systematic review and meta- analysis (Mangini, 1998). Hence, we have performed a quantita- tive evaluation of the effectiveness of LSD for alcoholism, based on data from randomized controlled clinical trials.
Methods Search strategy and selection criteria
We searched the PubMed and PsycINFO databases (1943–2010), without language restrictions, using the following terms: LSD, lysergic, lysergide, psychedelic*, or hallucinogen*; and alcohol*, addict*, or dependence. We independently inspected the searchresults by reading the titles and abstracts. We retrieved each potentially relevant publication located in the search and assessed it for inclusion, subsequently examining the reference lists of eligible studies and relevant review articles. We supplemented our search for trials by contacting experts. If publications lacked important information, we attempted to contact study investigators and institutions.
We specified inclusion and exclusion criteria and defined primary and secondary outcomes in the meta-analysis study protocol. We included randomized controlled trials of LSD for alcoholism, in which control condition involved any type of treatment, including doses of up to 50 mcg LSD as an active control. If a trial included multiple randomized treatment arms, all participants in the eligible LSD arms and all participants in the eligible control arms were pooled for analysis. We excluded participants with schizophrenia or psychosis from analysis, as psychosis is recognized as a contraindication for treatment with LSD (Johnson et al., 2008; Passie et al., 2008).
Cory Franklin thinks the reason that Hull House shut down was that it became dependent upon government money to stay afloat, and Illinois is not flush with cash these days, nor is helping poor people top priority of most politicians…
In 1889, future Nobel Prize winner Jane Addams and her associate Ellen Starr founded Hull House after visiting London’s Toynbee Hall, the oldest settlement house in the world. In England’s class-ridden society, Toynbee’s philosophy was to bring the wealthy and poor together — “to learn as much as to teach, to receive as much as to give” — and create a sense of community between the classes. As Addams expressed it, “to accentuate the likenesses and ignore the differences which are found among the people whom the settlement constantly brings into juxtaposition.”
Hull House provided social and educational support to Chicago’s immigrant poor and dispossessed at a time when class struggle threatened to tear Chicago apart. The 1886 Haymarket riot and the 1894 Pullman strike created social turmoil and class resentment in the city. In that environment, Addams and Starr fostered personal interaction at Hull House between the rich, middle class and the poor.
Tradesmen taught skills. College graduates and the wealthy led artistic and music programs. Social clubs showed immigrants how to assimilate. Hull House was renowned for lively discussions of religion, politics and the arts. People of widely different backgrounds and outlooks learned about each other and worked together for the goals of the progressive movement: child labor laws, unemployment compensation, women’s suffrage and protection of immigrants and minorities.
Hull House was originally financed by private money but then, as now, private money was limited. As Addams wrote in “Twenty Years At Hull House,” “we were often bitterly pressed for money and worried by the prospect of unpaid bills, and we gave up one golden scheme after another because we could not afford it; we cooked the meals and kept the books and washed the windows without a thought of hardship if we thereby saved money for the consummation of some ardently desired undertaking.”
She harbored no illusions about government or politicians. She admired the latter for their ability to gain the trust of the poor. She understood this was often through patronage, which she loathed. However, she would confront politicians when she believed their venality undermined her constituents. She worked with government since she understood it was able to do many things Hull House could not, and she willingly ceded those responsibilities. However, she avoided having Hull House become too reliant on government.
(click here to continue reading Commentary: Why Hull House had to shut down – chicagotribune.com.)
Let’s hope by this summer, or even autumn, the House Corrupt of Rupert Murdoch begins to fall. Just in time for the 2012 election, and Fox News’ ramp up of lies, damn lies, and false statistics…
Nick Davies reports:
On Saturday morning, the police arrested four journalists who have worked for Rupert Murdoch. For a while, it looked as though these were yet more arrests of people related to the News of the World but then it became clear that this was something much more significant.
This may be the moment when the scandal that closed the NoW finally started to pose a potential threat to at least one of Murdoch’s three other UK newspaper titles: the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
The four men arrested on Saturday are not linked to the NoW. They come from the Sun, from the top of the tree – the current head of news and his crime editor, the former managing editor and deputy editor.
Nothing is certain. No one has been convicted of anything. The four who were arrested on Saturday – like the 25 others before them – have not even been charged with any offence. But behind the scenes, something very significant has changed at News International.
Under enormous legal and political pressure, Murdoch has ordered that the police be given everything they need. Whereas Scotland Yard began their inquiry a year ago with nothing much more than the heap of scruffy paperwork seized from the NoW’s private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, Murdoch’s Management and Standards Committee has now handed them what may be the largest cache of evidence ever gathered by a police operation in this country, including the material that led to Saturday’s arrests.
They have access to a mass of internal paperwork – invoices, reporters’ expense claims, accounts, bank records, phone records. And technicians have retrieved an enormous reservoir of material from News International’s central computer servers, including one particularly vast collection that may yet prove to be the stick that breaks the media mogul’s back. It is known as Data Pool 3.
(click here to continue reading Mysteries of Data Pool 3 give Rupert Murdoch a whole new headache | Media | The Guardian.)
and D.D. Guttenplan adds:
The US Department of Justice, on its website, helpfully offers links to the text of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in fifteen languages, from Arabic to Urdu. The English version is sixteen pages long, and probably ought to be in Rupert Murdoch’s iPad so he can skim through it during his flight this week from New York to London, where the British branch of his media empire made more headlines on Saturday.
…But as the Guardian’s Nick Davies, the reporter who broke the hacking scandal this summer, explained last week, what makes this handover particularly dangerous for the Murdochs is that this data, “which was apparently deliberately deleted from News International’s servers,” might also “yield evidence of attempts to destroy evidence the high court and police were seeking.” Destroying such evidence, or perverting the course of justice, as it’s known here, is a felony in Britain. But it is also a crime under the FCPA—§ 78m (b) 5, which states: “No person shall knowingly circumvent or knowingly fail to implement a system of internal accounting controls or knowingly falsify any book, record, or account.”
Although Davies’s reporting exploded the “rogue reporter” defense, until now the Murdochs have just about managed to maintain plausible deniability for themselves. But the traditional prosecution strategy of picking off the guilty underlings and then flipping them up the corporate ladder has gotten uncomfortably close to James Murdoch—and that was before the company started throwing employees off the train, which is how even longtime Murdoch minions like Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s former political editor, see this weekend’s arrests.
As the evidence mounts that much of Murdoch’s journalism was built on illegal invasions of privacy and corrupt relationships with police, three questions remain in urgent need of answers: Why should British authorities permit an in-house News Corporation committee, regardless of how fragrant its members may be, to serve as gatekeepers of the company’s records—especially when there is abundant evidence of efforts to destroy or delete incriminating evidence? In light of the latest arrests relating to corrupt payment to government officials, and bearing in mind actor Jude Law’s claim that his phone was hacked on his arrival at JFK airport, when will the Justice Department get serious about its own investigations? (There is also the lesser question of whether we are really to believe that methods which consistently delivered tabloid gold for editors and reporters in Britain would be too sleazy to tempt the high-minded hacks at the New York Post?)
And finally, what did the Murdochs know and when did they know it? Unlikely as it might have seemed in July, we may be about to find out. As more News Corp. executives come to believe they are being sacrificed to protect Rupert’s succession plan, the probability increases that someone who knows the answer will decide to cooperate with authorities. This gives the Justice Department, in particular, enormous leverage. In 2009 Siemens paid $800 million in fines for violating the FCPA—which also provides for possible prison sentences of up to five years. Amid the steady drumbeat of revelations from London it is important to keep an eye—and ear—on Washington. That’s where you’ll hear the sound of the other shoe dropping.
(click here to continue reading When Will the Justice Department Get Serious About Murdoch? | The Nation.)
A nice stiff fine would be nice, or even better, take away their FCC license…
Lois Beckett reports:
This weekend, five more journalists from a Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid were arrested as part of an ongoing bribery investigation.
The arrested journalists, all from the The Sun, were later released, and have yet to be charged with any crimes. (As the Wall Street Journal explained this summer, arrests in the U.K. are often made early in a criminal investigation, and may not be followed by any charges.)
But the arrests have once again raised questions about whether Murdoch’s News Corporation might face prosecution for bribery in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Reuters reported last week that U.S. authorities are “stepping up investigations” into the potential bribery by Murdoch employees. An FBI spokeswoman told ProPublica, “We’re aware of the allegations and we’re looking into it.”
As we noted during the unfolding of the phone hacking scandal this summer, the U.S. has stepped up prosecutions of companies for bribery of foreign officials in recent years, and the fines for these violations can be steep. Companies can face prosecution by the Justice Department if they record bribery payments, or be pursued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for fake record-keeping if they falsify documents to conceal the bribes.
The statute of limitations on civil Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges is five years. The New York Times reported Saturday that it was not clear when the allegations that led to the Sun arrests had taken place, “though some of those arrested have told friends that they were questioned on events from almost a decade ago.”
(click here to continue reading New Arrests in Murdoch Bribery Scandal Raise Question of U.S. Charges – ProPublica.)
The anti-American Republicans in the House are trying to gut public transit.
Add this to the list of Things I’m Pissed Off About…
The list of outrages coming out of the House is long, but the way the Republicans are trying to hijack the $260 billion transportation bill defies belief. This bill is so uniquely terrible that it might not command a majority when it comes to a floor vote, possibly next week, despite Speaker John Boehner’s imprimatur. But betting on rationality with this crew is always a long shot.
Here is a brief and by no means exhaustive list of the bill’s many defects:
¶It would make financing for mass transit much less certain, and more vulnerable, by ending a 30-year agreement that guaranteed mass transit a one-fifth share of the fuel taxes and other user fees in the highway trust fund. Instead it would compete annually with other programs.
¶It would open nearly all of America’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling, including environmentally fragile areas that have long been off limits. The ostensible purpose is to raise revenue to help make up what has become an annual shortfall for transportation financing. But it is really just one more attempt to promote the Republicans’ drill-now-drill-everywhere agenda and the interests of their industry patrons.
¶It would demolish significant environmental protections by imposing arbitrary deadlines on legally mandated environmental reviews of proposed road and highway projects, and by ceding to state highway agencies the authority to decide whether such reviews should occur.
Where that $40 billion will come from is also unclear. The idea that oil revenues from increased drilling will provide it is delusional. Even if new leases are rushed through, oil will not begin to flow for years, and neither will the royalties.
In any case, none of this is good news for urban transit systems, including New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which, in 2010 alone, received about $1 billion from the trust fund.
Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, rightly calls this the “worst transportation bill” he has seen in 35 years of public service. Mr. Boehner is even beginning to hear from budget-conscious conservatives who believe that relying on user fees is the most fiscally responsible way to pay for all transportation programs.
(click here to continue reading A Terrible Transportation Bill – NYTimes.com.)
Interesting essay by Steven Nadler, arguing that freedom of expression, without restraint, benefits the state as well as its citizens
Baruch Spinoza, the 17th-century Dutch thinker, may be among the more enigmatic (and mythologized) philosophers in Western thought, but he also remains one of the most relevant, to his time and to ours. He was an eloquent proponent of a secular, democratic society, and was the strongest advocate for freedom and tolerance in the early modern period. The ultimate goal of his “Theological-Political Treatise” — published anonymously to great alarm in 1670, when it was called by one of its many critics “a book forged in hell by the devil himself”— is enshrined both in the book’s subtitle and in the argument of its final chapter: to show that the “freedom of philosophizing” not only can be granted “without detriment to public peace, to piety, and to the right of the sovereign, but also that it must be granted if these are to be preserved.”
Spinoza was incited to write the “Treatise” when he recognized that the Dutch Republic, and his own province of Holland in particular, was wavering from its uncommonly liberal and relatively tolerant traditions. He feared that with the rising political influence in the 1660s of the more orthodox and narrow-minded elements in the Dutch Reformed Church, and the willingness of civil authorities to placate the preachers by acting against works they deemed “irreligious,” “licentious” and “subversive,” the nearly two decades-long period of the “True Freedom” was coming to an end. The “Treatise” is both a personally angry book — a friend of Spinoza’s, the author of a radical treatise, had recently been thrown in prison, where he soon died — and a very public plea to the Dutch republic not to betray the political, legal and religious principles that made its flourishing possible.
…Well before John Stuart Mill, Spinoza had the acuity to recognize that the unfettered freedom of expression is in the state’s own best interest. In this post-9/11 world, there is a temptation to believe that “homeland security” is better secured by the suppression of certain liberties than their free exercise. This includes a tendency by justices to interpret existing laws in restrictive ways and efforts by lawmakers to create new limitations, as well as a willingness among the populace, “for the sake of peace and security,” to acquiesce in this. We seem ready not only to engage in a higher degree of self-censorship, but also to accept a loosening of legal protections against prior restraint (whether in print publications or the dissemination of information via the Internet), unwarranted surveillance, unreasonable search and seizure, and other intrusive measures.  Spinoza, long ago, recognized the danger in such thinking, both for individuals and for the polity at large. He saw that there was no need to make a trade-off between political and social well-being and the freedom of expression; on the contrary, the former depends on the latter.
(click here to continue reading Spinoza and The First Amendment – NYTimes.com.)
Speaking of Congressional corruption, why is gutting public transit even a consideration? Public transit over C-17’s that the Pentagon admits it doesn’t need? What kind of crazy budget priority is that? Especially when highway funding is sacrosanct.
The House leadership of the Ways and Means committee introduced a proposal yesterday that would exclude public transit from receiving federal motor fuels tax funding. The proposal is a part of a bill that will establish funding for a new five-year transportation bill now before Congress. The move would eliminate guaranteed funding in the Mass Transit Account – established in 1982 under President Reagan – potentially eliminating public transportation nationwide.
“The House Ways and Means Bill stops just short of defunding America’s public transit system. Instead it says that the real money with a funding source will all go to highways, while the tooth fairy will pay for transit. For Big Oil and the highway lobby, this is a dream, but it’s a nightmare for America’s transportation future,” said Dan Smith of U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups.
“Over the past several weeks, many of us were surprised to hear that House and Senate transportation leaders were unified in their desire to pass a surface and transit-funding bill in the near term,” said Richard Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. “This development raised the rare possibly of bi-partisan action on an important piece of domestic policy. Well, all of that ended yesterday afternoon. Unlike the responsible and consensus-driven Senate version, House Chairman John Mica released a political document that surely elicited high-fives among his party’s most ideological stalwarts. The bill slashes Amtrak funding, zeroes out high-speed rail funding and maintains the “pave at all cost” mentality that is pervasive in American transportation policy.”
“We are deeply concerned that if this measure passes, Americans who use public transportation, or who would like that option in the future, will be thrown under the bus,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “This couldnʼt come at a worse time for people who need an affordable, reliable way to get to work, or for employers who need workers.” Corless noted the demand for transit has been rising as the economy slowly recovers and people are using public transportation to get to jobs and to avoid volatile gas prices.
“This bill is vastly outside the mainstream and does nothing for American commuters who are desperate for a comprehensive transportation system that actually improves their quality of life,” said Harnish. “Additionally, instead of tackling the foundational funding structure that is bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund, House leaders decided it would be best to garner new revenues through increased domestic oil drilling.
(click here to continue reading High-Speed Rail and Transit on Chopping Block | Midwest High Speed Rail Association.)
If you are so inclined, there is an email-your-representative form here
I thought the Tea Bagger bible celebrated railroads?
Speaking of corporate welfare, who will be the first state to start demanding corporate welfare recipients pass drug tests? Or at least do what the taxpayer funded subsidy was supposed to accomplish?
For example: Many states compete for new jobs by offering taxpayer-funded subsidies to companies to entice them to open in their state. In many ways, these states are just like consumers: those willing to pay the most (in this case, offer the most generous subsidy) ultimately get the product they demand (the jobs a company promises to provide in exchange).
So if these companies ultimately fail to produce the jobs they promised, shouldn’t the taxpayers get their money back? Seems right, but according to a new report from Good Jobs First, this is hardly ever the case. Their analysis of “clawback” efforts for 238 different state-based business subsidies reveals just how tough it is to demand fairness and accountability when it comes to public handouts to private companies.
At first glance, many of these subsidies do appear to have return policies in place: fully 90 percent of these programs actually require companies to deliver regular reports to state agencies estimating how many jobs they have successfully created thanks to public subsidies; furthermore, 75 percent of the programs they studied contain some type of penalty measure in the event that job creation fails to meet the agreed upon standards.
But here’s the bad news: 31 percent of the programs that require proof of job creation do not require any independent third-party reviewer to ensure that the data these companies submit is actually accurate. And those penalty provisions? Forty-seven percent of them are only enforced voluntarily, meaning that they are basically never enforced at all — in fact, only 21 of the 178 programs with penalty provisions actually publish any documentation of enforcement efforts.
(click here to continue reading No Subsidies For You: Taking Back Wasted Tax Breaks – The Demos Blog – PolicyShop.)
What about your state? What is its ranking on this list of Clawbacks and Other Enforcement Safeguards in State Economic Development Subsidy Programs? Illinois scored 52/100 on the Monitoring, Enforcement & Penalty Score, covering 5 projects totaling nearly $150,000,000 of state budget.
Illinois’ worst score was for IDOT Economic Development Program ‐ a funding stream for road infrastructure built primarily to benefit specific companies, primarily big‐box retailers, for these reasons:
- Agency awarding subsidy does not verify performance outcomes reported by recipient
- No penalty
- No recalibration of award
- No online publication of statistics regarding award
- No online publication of names of companies penalized and dollar amounts
Good for Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the few Senators who actually cares about the average citizen, and our planet…
Bernie Sanders used to be Congressman-at-large from Vermont. Now he’s Vermont’s junior Senator. In so many ways, however, he’s the nation’s Senator-at-large, showing the way when so many others in Congress have lost theirs.
While a good chunk of Congress, including a majority of the freshman class in the House, are climate-change deniers, Sanders has no illusions about where we need to be headed. That’s why he introduced the 10 Million Solar Rooftops bill last June. That bill, now with seven co-sponsors, was approved for a vote by the full Senate in December. It’s also why he introduced legislation to end oil and coal subsidies last year. That bill got just 35 votes in the Senate. But he vowed Tuesday not to give up.
“We’ve got to end all of the tax breaks for the oil companies and coal companies and I’m going to introduce legislation to do just that,” Sanders told demonstrators clad in black-and-white striped referee shirts who rallied to “blow the whistle” on members of Congress and Big Oil. Ending tax breaks and subsidies for oil and gas companies would reduce the deficit by more than $40 billion over the next 10 years. Sanders’ legislation will end those tax breaks and tens of billions of dollars in other special subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
Besides ignoring Sen. Sanders’s bill last year, and Obama’s budget proposal, Congress refused to go along with the proposal of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who wanted to cut some $2 billion in subsidies solely from the five big dogs in the oil business: BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips.
Together over the past decade, those five have together put $1 trillion on their bottom lines. And yet some of them have had years in which they not only paid zero income taxes, they actually got rebates. Exxon Mobil paid $39 million in taxes on the $9.9 billion in U.S. profits it made for 2009-2010. Its effective tax rate? 0.4 percent. Outrageous, but perfectly legal.
Sanders told the 350.org crowd, “One of the absurdities that goes on right here in Washington, D.C., is that Congress keeps voting not for the interest of our children, not in the interest of our future, but for the profits of the huge oil and coal companies.”
There’s a good reason for this outcome. In 2011 alone, oil and gas companies spent more than $100 million lobbying Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics reports. Since 1990, they have collectively passed out $238.7 million to candidates and parties, three-fourths of it to Republicans. Exxon Mobil alone contributed $872,694 to candidates in 2010-2011. Sitting members of Congress received $12 million in contributions from oil and gas interests from July 2009 through July 2011, according to the non-partisan research group Maplight.
(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Bernie Sanders proposes to ax fossil-fuel subsidies and add 10 million sun-powered rooftops.)
Outrageous, really, that our tax dollars go to line the pockets of oil industry executives…
This would be the best solution to the ongoing saga of billionaire sports owners ripping off their local communities, right? Too bad it isn’t a national bill…
According to a 23-year-old Florida law that has been mostly ignored, professional sports facilities built with the help of government funds are required to house the homeless on nights when no official events are taking place.
Two lawmakers have dug up that old statute, and are pushing bills that would make stadium owners return millions of taxpayer dollars if they can’t prove they’ve been operating as a haven for the homeless in the years since they began receiving checks from the government. The bill passed its first committee in the Senate on Monday with a unanimous vote.
“We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7, $8, $10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium,” said Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, who is pushing the bills along with Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. “I cannot believe that we’re going to cut money out of Medicaid and take it away from homeless and take it away from the poor and impoverished, and we’re continuing to support people who are billionaires.”
Bennett’s bill would force owners of sports facilities like the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg to refund millions of dollars and begin operating homeless shelters on off-nights. So far, the state has spent more than $270 million on constructing stadiums, with the former Dolphin Stadium receiving $37 million and AAA taking $27.5 million. It is unclear whether any of the stadiums, which receive monthly subsidies of about $166,000 each, is operating an active homeless shelter program.
(click here to continue reading Bill would enforce law turning stadiums into homeless shelters on off days – Florida – MiamiHerald.com.)
I hesitate to give Rick Perry any credit for this idea, as I doubt he could even spell Supreme Court, much less suggest changes to it. I do like the idea itself though, as reported by The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg:
A Constitutional Amendment creating 18-year terms staggered every 2 years, so that each of the nine Justices would be replaced in order of seniority every other year. This would be a prospective proposal, and would be applied to future judges only. Doing this would move the court closer to the people by ensuring that every President would have the opportunity to replace two Justices per term, and that no court could stretch its ideology over multiple generations. Further, this reform would maintain judicial independence, but instill regularity to the nominations process, discourage Justices from choosing a retirement date based on politics, and will stop the ever-increasing tenure of Justices.
This ingenious idea has been kicking around in legal circles for decades. It tiptoed into wider view (PDF) in 2002, via a Washington Post op-ed piece by two prominent law professors of opposite ideological and political leanings: Yale’s Akhil Reed Amar, a Democrat, a former clerk for Stephen Breyer, and a stalwart of the liberal American Constitution Society; and Northwestern’s Steven G. Calabresi, a Republican, a former clerk for Antonin Scalia, and a co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society. In 2006, Calabresi and his colleague James Lindgren fleshed the idea out in a long article in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. Justices would still get lifetime appointments. After their eighteen years with the Supremes, they could choose to serve on other federal courts, bringing their experience and, in some cases, their wisdom to the appellate bench. Even if they didn’t exercise that option, though, their salaries would continue for life. If a Justice died or retired before his or her eighteen years were up, a substitute would be appointed via the usual process—Presidential nomination, Senate confirmation—to serve out the remainder. The interim Justice would not be eligible for reappointment to the Supreme Court, but he or she would have the same sweet post-Court deal. And what lawyer wouldn’t jump at the chance to be a Justice of the highest of high courts, if only for a year?
The Amendment—call it the Perry Plan—would solve any number of problems. From 1789 through 1970, the average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice was about fifteen years. For Justices who have retired or died since then, the average tenure has been twenty-six years. This isn’t just an artifact of longer life spans. As the Court’s importance has grown—Marbury v. Madison made it the only one of the three federal command posts that is functionally sovereign, and the polarized gridlock of the elected branches has only made it more powerful—and as it has become more “political,” aging Justices have tended to hang on well into senescence, especially when the sitting President is of a different ideological persuasion. Presidents, for their part, seek to extend their influence into the far-distant future, by finding the youngest nominee they can get away with. (Another incentive: while younger is not always wiser, it does make for a shorter paper trail.) The prospect that a Justice will be handing down decisions for close to half a century turns confirmation fights into political Armageddons. The randomness of openings abets the now-or-never mentality. Richard Nixon named four Justices during his five years in the White House; Jimmy Carter, during his four years, named zero. The Perry Plan would change all that. Voters would know that every President, every two years, would get to nominate someone for the Court.
(click here to continue reading Rick Perry’s Supreme Court Idea : The New Yorker.)
If only governments listened to reason…
Former government drugs adviser Prof David Nutt has said that regulations should be relaxed to enable researchers to experiment on mind-altering drugs.
Prof Nutt told BBC News that magic mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cannabis and mephedrone all have potential therapeutic applications.
However, he said they were not being studied because of the restrictions placed on researching illegal drugs.
He said the regulations were “overwhelming”.
His comments followed the publication of new research by his group in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which suggests that the active ingredient in magic mushrooms could be used to treat depression.
“I feel quite passionately that these drugs are profound drugs; they change the brain in a way that no other drugs do. And I find it bizarre that no-one has studied them before and they haven’t because it’s hard and illegal,” he said.
Prof Nutt was sacked by the home secretary from his government advisory role three years ago for saying that ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol.
We need to have a more scientific rational approach to drugs and vilifying drugs like psilocybin whilst at the same time actively promoting much more dangerous drugs like alcohol is totally stupid scientifically” Prof David NuttHe says his new research indicated that there were no “untoward effects” from taking magic mushrooms and that it should not be illegal to possess them.
Prof Nutt and his team scanned the brains of volunteers who had been injected with a moderate dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms.
They had expected higher activity in areas of the brain associated with visual imagery. But in fact they found that the drug switched off a network of interconnected regions of the brain which regulated an individual’s sense of being and integration with their environment.
The researchers say that this alters consciousness because individuals are less in touch with their sensations and normal way of thinking.
(click here to continue reading BBC News – Mind-altering drugs research call from Prof David Nutt.)
LSD Partners – Bob Dylan
I still do not understand how or why the GOP mouth-breathers have decided that incremental improvements in light bulb efficiency is a threat to civilized society. Such an odd thing to freak out about.
Few things exemplify the ongoing right-wing, media-fueled campaign against reality as well as the hysteria surrounding implementation of light bulb efficiency standards, which gather the low-hanging fruit of energy conservation by inciting manufacturers to improve their technology. Following in a long line of federal efficiency standards created by Republican presidents, the light bulb requirements were signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush with bipartisan support.
Reporting on what it called “a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation,” the New York Times noted back in 2009 that Philips Lighting had already developed a more efficient incandescent light bulb using halogen gas to comply with the new requirements. Philips executive Randall Moorhead has said that “the new incandescent lights were not being made because there was not an economic incentive to make them.” The other major lighting companies have followed suit, and today halogen incandescent bulbs are widely available for purchase at hardware stores, department stores and online. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that “more efficient incandescent lights” will continue to make up a large portion of general service light bulb purchases for decades to come.
And yet the efficiency standards — the first phase of which took effect on January 1 despite legislation blocking funding for enforcement — have been met with outrage from conservative media who spent the last year claiming that they infringe on consumer “freedom of choice.” Led by Fox News, right-wing media outlets have repeatedly told consumers that the standards would “ban” incandescent bulbs and force us all to purchase “mercury-laden, ugly and smelly compact fluorescent light bulbs,” to the chagrin of electrical manufacturers. Fox has even gone so far as to encourage consumers to “hoard” the old, inefficient bulbs.
(click here to continue reading Media Matters Goes Light Bulb Shopping | Media Matters for America.)
The lighbulb manufacturers must regret being Republican sponsors…
The NYT reported last May:
Late in his second term, George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires light bulb makers to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs by 25 percent. The details of the law dictated a phase-out of the manufacture of certain bulbs in their current incarnation, starting with 100-watt bulbs next January.
The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent ones. It simply requires that companies make some of their incandescent bulbs work a bit better, meeting a series of rolling deadlines between 2012 and 2014.
Furthermore, all sorts of exemptions are written into the law, which means that all sorts of bulbs are getting a free pass and can keep their energy-guzzling ways indefinitely, including “specialty bulbs” like the Edison bulbs favored by Mr. Henault, as well as three-way bulbs, silver-bottomed bulbs, chandelier bulbs, refrigerator bulbs, plant lights and many, many others.
Nonetheless, as the deadline for the first phase of the legislation looms, light bulb confusion — even profound light bulb anxiety — is roiling the minds of many. The other day, Ken Henderlong, a sales associate at Oriental Lamp Shade Company on Lexington Avenue, said that his customers “say they want to stockpile incandescent bulbs, but they are not sure when to start. No one knows when the rules go into effect or what the rules are.”
Probably this is because articles about light bulb legislation are incredibly boring, and articles about the end of the light bulb as we know it are less so. Certainly they stick in the mind longer.
For years, Glenn Beck, among other conservative pundits and personalities, has proclaimed the death of the incandescent light bulb as a casualty of the “nanny state” (never mind that the light bulb legislation is a Bush-era act), and he has been exhorting his listeners to hoard 100-watt light bulbs (along with gold and canned food). This year, conservative politicians took a leaf from his playbook, introducing bills like the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, courtesy of Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, that would repeal the 2007 legislation.
The hubbub has been deeply irritating to light bulb manufacturers and retailers, which have been explaining the law, over and over again, to whomever will listen. At a Congressional hearing in March, Kyle Pitsor, a representative from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group that represents makers of light bulbs, among others, patiently but clearly disputed claims that the law banned incandescent bulbs. He restated the law’s points and averred light bulb makers’ support for the law. As usual, it seemed as if no one was paying attention.
(click here to continue reading Fearing the Phase-Out of Incandescent Bulbs – NYTimes.com.)
Charles Pierce and Mark Warren interview Bill Clinton, well worth a read. I had many disagreements with President Clinton, but I admire his political savvy and intelligence.
I like this idea:
ESQUIRE: Where’s the demand from outside, though? Where are the people insisting, “Hey, my bridge is falling down, and ‘We can’t afford to fix it’ is not a good enough answer for me. And if you can’t come up with a better one, then you’re back in the private sector”?
CLINTON: One of the things that I think should be done is the infrastructure bill that Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Kerry proposed, which sets up an infrastructure bank which would be seeded with U. S. taxpayers’ money, but it would be open to investors. Like, you and I could buy a $1,000 infrastructure bond, or the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, Saudi sovereign wealth fund, anybody could invest in it, and the returns on infrastructure are significant enough that in an uncertain stock market, I think you could get a lot of private capital.
And then it would be really interesting, it’d be a great opportunity — all this dispute about the one tenth of 1 percent of America that Paul Krugman’s always talking about. I believe that people of my income group should pay more, and I explained why, but that won’t necessarily lift overall wage levels. To do that, you’ve gotta have more jobs, a tighter labor market, different job mix. This is one way that wealthy Americans could really contribute. They could put hundreds of millions of dollars into the infrastructure bank, be a good investment for them, for their children, for their grandchildren, and they would directly contribute to revitalizing a big sector of middle-class wages in America and making our country more productive, so that we could create more opportunity. But I think that we could get a lot of grassroots support from, like, local chambers of commerce and other things if they understood exactly how this infrastructure bank would work. I hope that the president will make more of this, and I wouldn’t be as sure as everyone is now that nothing will be done next year. If we get this done, then I think he ought to challenge them to make a deal on corporate taxes and establishing the infrastructure bank that can take private capital, and you can make some slice of that deal repatriating a bunch of that money that’s overseas now at a lower tax rate, and put that money directly in the infrastructure bank. That’s the federal government’s contribution, and then open it up for other investment. And I think, you know, you might have $100 billion by the time you get done — that could put people to work right away.
(click here to continue reading Print – Bill Clinton: Someone We Can All Agree On – Esquire.)
Is this privatization? or just investment. If it is the latter, I’m for it. Our national infrastructure is crumbling, and the Republicans, for the most part, seem to be pleased about this. Repairing bridges, water mains and the like is also an employment boon – you can’t outsource that kind of work so easily.
I had never heard of this concept, turns out Senators John Kerry and Kay Bailey Hutchison proposed it back in March 2011, but I guess it went nowhere.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference today, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, announced legislation to create an infrastructure bank that would help close America’s widening infrastructure funding gap, create millions of American jobs in the next decade, and make the United States more competitive in the 21st century.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who also attended the event, underscored the unique coalition of business and labor uniting around this initiative.
“This is a bi-partisan moment to make a once bi-partisan issue bi-partisan once again,” said Sen. Kerry. “Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, are now united to create an American infrastructure bank to leverage private investment, make America the world’s builders once again, and close the deficit in our infrastructure investments. The BUILD Act will create good jobs, strengthen our competitiveness, and do more with less. Most of all, this bill breaks a partisan stalemate to get America back in the game. When you’ve got a Massachusetts Democrat, a Texas Republican, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO preaching from the same hymnal, you’ll find a sweet spot that can translate into a major legislative step forward.”
“I have been working to overhaul our nation’s aging infrastructure for nearly 20 years. This national infrastructure bank is an innovative way to leverage private-public partnerships and maximize private funding to address our water, transportation, and energy infrastructure needs. It is essential to think outside the box as we work to solve national challenges, particularly in this fiscal crisis. We must be creative to meet the needs of our country and to spur economic development and job growth while protecting taxpayers from new federal spending as much as possible,” said Sen. Hutchison, who served on the Commission to Promote Investment in America’s Infrastructure in 1993 as State Treasurer of Texas and is the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
“The United States is spending less than two-percent of its GDP on infrastructure, while India spends five-percent and China spends nine-percent,” said Sen. Warner. “As a matter of global competitiveness, we need to find additional ways to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, and this bank will help us strike the right balance between near-term discipline and investment in future growth.”
“A national infrastructure bank is a great place to start securing the funding we need to increase our mobility, create jobs, and enhance our global competitiveness,” said Donohue. “With a modest initial investment of $10 billion, a national infrastructure bank could leverage up to $600 billion in private investments to repair, modernize, and expand our ailing infrastructure system. While private capital is badly needed, we must also recognize our public financing mechanism is broken. Receipts to the Highway Trust Fund have fallen dramatically, funds are being diverted to non-infrastructure projects, and the gas tax has not been increased in 17 years. We need a multiyear highway bill to meet immediate needs, but we have to figure out a way to ensure we have adequate public investments for years to come.”
The Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development (BUILD) Act would establish an American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA) – a kind of infrastructure bank – to complement our existing infrastructure funding. This institution, which would provide loans and loan guarantees, would be both fiscally responsible and robust enough to address America’s needs.
AIFA is independent of the political process. It would fund the most important and most economically viable projects across the country, our states, and our communities.
AIFA is also fiscally responsible. While AIFA will receive initial funding from the government, after that it must become self-sustaining.
Finally, AIFA relies on the private sector. It can never provide more than 50 percent of a project’s costs, and in many cases would provide much less, just enough to bring in private investment.
(click here to continue reading John Kerry – United States Senator for Massachusetts: Press Room.)
Earlier this year, Sen. John Kerry introduced the BUILD Act as new legislation to tackle the problems of jobs, economic growth and our declining infrastructure simultaneously. The centerpiece of the legislation calls for the creation of an American Infrastructure Financing Authority, or what is coming to be known as an “infrastructure bank.” This essay will touch on the fundamentals of the bill and the problem it attempts to solve, explain ways it could be improved, argue that it is a good idea, and advocate political support for it. The BUILD Act creates a financial institution modeled after the Export-Import Bank, which was created by FDR during the Great Depression. The bill would require a small amount of start-up capital financed by the federal government, but it would conduct its business as an independent agency. A CEO and a seven-member board of directors would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Although the initial start-up capital ($10B) would be provided by the federal government, the bank would be required to become self-sufficient in five years.
(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Building on the BUILD Act.)
So, we’ll see. Apparently John Boehner’s House minions don’t like the idea of country first over party victory, so have refused to move the bill forward.
I’ve been following the Chris Drew travesty fairly closely. Why should police be treated differently than other citizens? If Illinois law was on the books in California, for instance, would Scott Olsen be a household name? Or other Occupy incidents, like the various pepper spraying videos? If police are doing their job, they shouldn’t be worried about a spectator videoing their actions, and if they are doing something questionable, citizens should be able to collect evidence of police wrongdoing.
Anyway, there are rumblings that the law could be thrown out as vague, or unconstitutional.
When a Cook County jury in August acquitted a woman of violating Illinois’ strict eavesdropping law, an unassuming man with wire-rimmed glasses and wispy white hair sat in the gallery, quietly taking notes.
Chris Drew had good reason to keep an eye on the case — he’s facing trial on the same felony charge of eavesdropping on a public official, which carries up to 15 years in prison.
An artist whose ’60s upbringing instilled a deep respect for questioning authority, Drew, 61, is accused of making an illegal audio recording of Chicago police during a 2009 arrest for selling art on a downtown street without a permit.
Drew intended the incident to be a test of the city’s permit laws. But now his case has wound up at the forefront of a much bigger effort to challenge the constitutionality of Illinois’ eavesdropping law, which makes it illegal to audio-record police without their consent, even when they’re performing their public duties.
“He’s become the accidental eavesdropping activist,” Drew’s lawyer, Joshua Kutnick, joked in a recent interview.
Illinois is one of a handful of states in which it is illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved and has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country.
Opposition to Illinois’ law has been gaining traction for months as several cases have been tossed out of court.
In August, while Drew watched, Tiawanda Moore, 21, was acquitted of illegally recording two Chicago police internal affairs investigators whom she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. One juror later told the Tribune that he and his fellow panelists considered the case “a waste of time.”
The next month, a Crawford County judge ruled the law unconstitutional and dismissed eavesdropping charges against a man accused of recording police and court officials without their consent.
(click here to continue reading Illinois’ eavesdropping law under attack – chicagotribune.com.)
For instance, Ralph Braseth, a Loyola University journalism professor had a run-in with the Chicago Police while filming a documentary. The officers arrested him, and erased his footage.
Braseth has since filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority, which forwarded the case to Chicago police internal affairs investigators.
While Braseth said he understands why some police officers don’t like to be recorded, he said Illinois’ eavesdropping law “should have been done away with a long time ago.”
“The citizens of Chicago employ the police officers, and they are acting as agents for our government,” Braseth said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s my job to police the police, but I think it’s a good idea for them to know that that can happen at any time. It’s one of the checks and balances that we have. It’s so fundamental.”
Meanwhile, the court has ruled it is ok for corporations to spy on you:
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has ruled as constitutional a law giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government with its email and telephone eavesdropping program.
Thursday’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision regarding the 2008 law.
The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies’ customers.
The court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity’s role in helping the government gather intelligence.
“It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies … and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, ‘the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,'” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.
The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers through collaboration with National Security Agency on intelligence gathering.
(click here to continue reading Court OKs immunity for telecoms in wiretap case – CBS News.)
Following up on the recent discussion of where germs reside in airplanes and airports, especially this part:
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.
A National Academy of Sciences panel is six months into a two-year study that is taking samples at airport areas to try to pinpoint opportunities for infection.
With limited resources, airports and airlines have asked researchers to help figure out where best to target prevention, said Dr. Mark Gendreau of Boston’s Lahey Clinic Medical Center who is on the panel.
Check-in kiosks and baggage areas are other prime suspects in addition to security lines, he said.
what about a film plot that basically works off of this fact? Imagine – Christian evangelicals develop some deadly bacteria or virus, some variant of Ebola, for example, and these Christian End-of-Worlders smear their shoes, coats, and computers with it. When they take their shoes off and place them through the security line, the deadly toxins spread, and infect the next 200 people who go through this same security line. Can you just imagine if a whole plane full of people died mid-flight?
The hero could of course track the source back, but what then?
Tangentially related, Charles Mann and Bruce Schneier think the TSA is a joke:
To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest. Since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed just 17 people on American soil, all but four of them victims of an army major turned fanatic who shot fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood. (The other four were killed by lone-wolf assassins.) During that same period, 200 times as many Americans drowned in their bathtubs. Still more were killed by driving their cars into deer. The best memorial to the victims of 9/11, in Schneier’s view, would be to forget most of the “lessons” of 9/11. “It’s infuriating,” he said, waving my fraudulent boarding pass to indicate the mass of waiting passengers, the humming X-ray machines, the piles of unloaded computers and cell phones on the conveyor belts, the uniformed T.S.A. officers instructing people to remove their shoes and take loose change from their pockets. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this—and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”
(click here to continue reading Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer? | Culture | Vanity Fair.)