This is why electing Judges is a bad idea.
Not all “reform” is good.
Feb 23 2015
“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.
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Paul Krugman: Knowledge Isn’t Power
Regular readers know that I sometimes mock “very serious people” – politicians and pundits who solemnly repeat conventional wisdom that sounds tough-minded and realistic. The trouble is that sounding serious and being serious are by no means the same thing, and some of those seemingly tough-minded positions are actually ways to dodge the truly hard issues.
The prime example of recent years was, of course, Bowles-Simpsonism – the diversion of elite discourse away from the ongoing tragedy of high unemployment and into the supposedly crucial issue of how, exactly, we will pay for social insurance programs a couple of decades from now. That particular obsession, I’m happy to say, seems to be on the wane. But my sense is that there’s a new form of issue-dodging packaged as seriousness on the rise. This time, the evasion involves trying to divert our national discourse about inequality into a discussion of alleged problems with education.
And the reason this is an evasion is that whatever serious people may want to believe, soaring inequality isn’t about education; it’s about power.
Robert Reich: Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors
Uber is estimated to be worth some $40 billion, and has 850 employees. Uber also has over 163,000 drivers (as of December — the number is expected to double by June), who average $17 an hour in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and $23 an hour in San Francisco and New York.
But Uber doesn’t count these drivers as employees. Uber says they’re “independent contractors.”
What difference does it make?
For one thing, GM workers don’t have to pay for the machines they use. But Uber drivers pay for their cars — not just buying them but also their maintenance, insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and cleaning. Subtract these costs and Uber drivers’ hourly pay drops considerably.
For another, GM’s employees get all the nation’s labor protections.
Last week the nation was treated to the sad and embarrassing spectacle of Jeb Bush, mollycoddled scion to an empire of failure, proclaiming that “‘m my own man.” Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Anyone who has to say he’s his own man, or woman, isn’t. The 62-year-old Mr. Bush has been coasting on his family’s power and privilege since he was a weed-smoking, Steppenwolf-listening prep school student in the sixties.
From prep school slacker to presidential frontrunner: Now that’s a “Magic Carpet Ride.”
Sadder still was the list of Jeb’s advisors published this week, a list which included – and was tarnished by – the genuinely execrable Paul Wolfowitz. [..]
When it comes to the Iraq War, Paul Wolfowitz was – in the words of another Steppenwolf song – “The Pusher.” His promotion of that conflict was the defining act of his career, and it leaves him a failure in every conceivable intellectual or moral application of that word.
That estimate is based on facts, not the conservative-style emotion that might deny the responsibility for any debt to the American people. Wealth redistribution to big business has occurred in a variety of ways to be explained below. And there’s some precedent for paying Americans for the use of their commonly-held resources. The Alaska Permanent Fund has been in effect, and widely popular, for over thirty years.
Over half (57 percent) of basic research is paid for by our tax dollars. Corporations don’t want to pay for this. It’s easier for them to allow public money to do the startup work, and then, when profit potential is evident, to take over with applied R&D, often with patents that take the rights away from the rest of us.
All the technology in our phones and computers started this way, and continues to the present day. Pharmaceutical companies have depended on the National Institute of Health. The quadrillion-dollar trading capacity of the financial industry was made possible by government-funded Internet technology, and the big banks survived because of a $7 trillion public bailout.
A particularly outrageous example of a company turning public research into a patent-protected private monopoly is the sordid tale (here) of the drug company Gilead Sciences.
Could this be the year that lawmakers really begin to dismantle the system of mass incarceration that they have been building for decades? It seems conceivable, thanks to a surge in interest from elected officials at the state and federal level, as well as an “unlikely” coalition of left- and right-wing groups that announced its formation on Thursday. The Coalition for Public Safety, as the group is called, includes organizations like the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union along with Tea Party-aligned FreedomWorks and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. It’s backed, in part, by Koch Industries. [..]
Where, exactly, is that wind blowing? The transpartisan alliances springing up around criminal justice reform agree on the problem: the United States locks up too many people for too long. But the allies have varying explanations for why that’s a problem, and what its origins are. For groups like Americans for Tax Reform and libertarians like Rand Paul, lowering prison populations is a means of shrinking government; they have obvious differences with those on the left who believe significant investment in social services and gun safety laws would make communities safer. So to what extent do they agree on solutions, and where is the greatest potential for progress?
Feb 23 2015
Of course this is waste of time. What did you expect?
NYPD officers call re-training in wake of Eric Garner death a ‘waste of time’
by Lauren Gambino, The Guardian
Monday 23 February 2015 09.27 EST
A majority of New York police officers called the re-training program they were ordered to undergo after the death of Eric Garner a “waste of time”, according to the New York Post.
But during the training, officers fell asleep in their seats and eight out of 10 gave the $35m program a negative review when they finished, the Post reported, citing a high-ranking NYPD official.
Relations between the NYPD and the mayor deteriorated in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of two officers in Brooklyn in December, with many officers angry with De Blasio for supposedly siding with protesters against perceived police brutality.
The entire encounter – from Garner resisting arrest nonviolently to the officer locking his arm around Garner’s neck to Garner’s final words: “I can’t breathe” – were captured on video. Despite this, no indictment was returned. His family is supporting a legal push by civil liberties groups to release the grand jury proceedings.
The three day re-training program was touted by the mayor and his police commissioner, Bill Bratton, who said it would be both cognitive and tactical. The officers were meant to learn new techniques to use on resisting arrestees rather than the forbidden chokehold.
“I think you’re going to see a very different reality after this training has been achieved,” De Blasio said in December. “This will protect our officers, it will protect live citizens. I have no doubt some tragedy will be avoided because of this training.” The official, however, told the Post the program included eight-hour lectures rather than hands-on training.
“Officers thought they were going to get some real hands-on, quality training on how to deal with a hostile prisoner or arrestee,” the source said. “They didn’t get that.”
The three sessions included a cultural sensitivity workshop, followed by a course on the “legitimacy of policing” and, on the last day, training on the “high-low takedown”, a tactic to be used on suspects.
“It’s more of a self-reflection kind of course – reflecting on how they can improve as police officers,” the official told the Post.
It’s actually much worse than this footage makes it. Not just this incident. It’s everywhere, all the time.
Feb 23 2015
Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher
By JUSTIN GILLIS and JOHN SCHWARTZ, The New York Times
FEB. 21, 2015
For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.
One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.
But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.
He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.
The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.
Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.
Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.
“What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, a group funded by foundations seeking to limit the risks of climate change.
Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.
Dr. Soon is employed by the Smithsonian Institution, which jointly sponsors the astrophysics center with Harvard.
Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard. He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. He has received little federal research money over the past decade and is thus responsible for bringing in his own funds, including his salary.
Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.
Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.
Feb 23 2015
I’m going mostly light this Monday morning cuz, let’s be honest, who wants to think too hard on a Monday morning?
First, now you can find out whether you’ve been spied on:
Because of the ruling, there is an opportunity for people to try to find out if their communications were among those shared by NSA with GCHQ. Intelligence agencies use information like ip addresses and email addresses as “selectors” when sifting through the massive quantities of data they collect. GCHQ will comply with the IPT’s ruling by searching “selectors” it received from the NSA prior to December 2014.
But this won’t happen automatically. People need to actually file requests with the IPT. To help people do so, PI is collecting people’s names, numbers, and emails in order to assist them in asserting their rights and finding out whether those selectors were subject to unlawful sharing. If they were, PI will help individuals seek a declaration that that person’s privacy rights have been violated under Article 8 and Article 10 of the UK Human Rights Act, the law that codified the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Once the IPT issues a declaration for an individual, that individual can also request that their records be deleted. There’s no need to be a UK citizen-anyone can participate.
Feb 23 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
February 23 is the 54th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 311 days remaining until the end of the year (312 in leap years).
On this day in 1954, a group of children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.
Though not as devastating as the plague or influenza, poliomyelitis was a highly contagious disease that emerged in terrifying outbreaks and seemed impossible to stop. Attacking the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, polio caused muscle deterioration, paralysis and even death. Even as medicine vastly improved in the first half of the 20th century in the Western world, polio still struck, affecting mostly children but sometimes adults as well. The most famous victim of a 1921 outbreak in America was future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then a young politician. The disease spread quickly, leaving his legs permanently paralyzed.
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route The term derives from the Greek polios, meaning “grey”, myelos, referring to the “spinal cord”, and the suffix -itis, which denotes inflammation.
Although around 90% of polio infections cause no symptoms at all, affected individuals can exhibit a range of symptoms if the virus enters the blood stream. In about 1% of cases the virus enters the central nervous system, preferentially infecting and destroying motor neurons, leading to muscle weakness and acute flaccid paralysis. Different types of paralysis may occur, depending on the nerves involved. Spinal polio is the most common form, characterized by asymmetric paralysis that most often involves the legs. Bulbar polio leads to weakness of muscles innervated by cranial nerves. Bulbospinal polio is a combination of bulbar and spinal paralysis.
Poliomyelitis was first recognized as a distinct condition by Jakob Heine in 1840. Its causative agent, poliovirus, was identified in 1908 by Karl Landsteiner. Although major polio epidemics were unknown before the late 19th century, polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century. Polio epidemics have crippled thousands of people, mostly young children; the disease has caused paralysis and death for much of human history. Polio had existed for thousands of years quietly as an endemic pathogen until the 1880s, when major epidemics began to occur in Europe; soon after, widespread epidemics appeared in the United States.
By 1910, much of the world experienced a dramatic increase in polio cases and frequent epidemics became regular events, primarily in cities during the summer months. These epidemics-which left thousands of children and adults paralyzed-provided the impetus for a “Great Race” towards the development of a vaccine. Developed in the 1950s, polio vaccines are credited with reducing the global number of polio cases per year from many hundreds of thousands to around a thousand. Enhanced vaccination efforts led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Rotary International could result in global eradication of the disease.
While now rare in the Western world, polio is still endemic to South Asia and Nigeria. Following the widespread use of poliovirus vaccine in the mid-1950s, the incidence of poliomyelitis declined dramatically in many industrialized countries. A global effort to eradicate polio began in 1988, led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation. These efforts have reduced the number of annual diagnosed cases by 99%; from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to a low of 483 cases in 2001, after which it has remained at a level of about 1,000 cases per year (1,606 in 2009). Polio is one of only two diseases currently the subject of a global eradication program, the other being Guinea worm disease. If the global Polio Eradication initiative is successful before that for Guinea worm or any other disease, it would be only the third time humankind has ever completely eradicated a disease, after smallpox in 1979 and rinderpest in 2010. A number of eradication milestones have already been reached, and several regions of the world have been certified polio-free. The Americas were declared polio-free in 1994. In 2000 polio was officially eliminated in 36 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia. Europe was declared polio-free in 2002. As of 2006, polio remains endemic in only four countries: Nigeria, India (specifically Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), Pakistan, and Afghanistan, although it continues to cause epidemics in other nearby countries born of hidden or reestablished transmission.
Feb 23 2015
Tonight the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature to “Citizenfour” directed by Laura Poitras.
Congratulations to Ms. Poitras. Thanks to Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian who went to Hong Kong with her. But most of all, thank you to Edward Snowden for his sacrifice that we might know what our government is doing in our name.
The Intercept’s Laura Poitras Wins Academy Award for ‘Citizenfour’
By Peter Maas, The Intercept
Laura Poitras, a founding editor of The Intercept, won an Academy Award tonight for her documentary “Citizenfour,” an inside look at Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower.
“The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” Poitras said in her acceptance speech. “Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and for the many other whistleblowers.” Snowden, in a statement released after the award was announced, said, “My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”
The film, which has been hailed as a real-life thriller, chronicles Snowden’s effort to securely contact Poitras and Glenn Greenwald in 2013 and meet them in Hong Kong, where Poitras filmed Snowden discussing the thousands of classified NSA documents he was leaking to them, and his motives for doing so. The film takes its title from the pseudonym Snowden used when he contacted Poitras in encrypted emails that were revealed in her documentary.
“Citizenfour” will air on HBO Monday, Feb 23, 9 PM EST. As soon as it’s available, it will be featured here and at our other site, Docudharma