Tuesday, March 22, 2011

 

Criminal of the Day: Moshe Katsav

An Israeli court sentenced Moshe Katsav, the country’s former president, to seven years in prison for rape on Tuesday. The sentencing is the latest stage in a sordid drama that Israel’s leaders point to as proof of the principle of equality before the law, but one that has also seen the prestige of Israel’s highest office brought to a historic low. —Isabel Kershner reporting in "Ex-Israeli President Sentenced to Prison for Rape"

I am always cheered at the prospect of a national leader going to jail, since justice will not have been served until George Bush and Dick Cheney have done some time.  But, alas, there are some points to be made about this "proof of the principle of equality before the law."

First is that Katsav was the head of state, not the head of government—an office held by the prime minister. As such he held no significant power. More like the Queen, really.

Second, Mr. Katsav has not gone to jail yet.  As his lawyer noted, “Regarding the sentence, I have no doubt that this was not the last word.” Neither do I.  After the appeals I will be pleasantly surprised if Mr. Katsav serves a day of his sentence.

Third, the crime was about sex. Heads of state and government should take heart that they can commit any atrocity, any fraud, any deception, any aggression, any torture—indeed, any crime whatsoever—so long as they keep their pants zipped. We should remember that only the second impeachment in American history was occasioned by a blow job (yes, I know—that he lied about it) and that the term of the current Italian Prime Minister and media tyrant Silvio Berlusconi may be brought short by his dalliance with a 16-year-old.

So much for the rule of law.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

 

Technological Advance of the Day: Laser Electrolysis in Space

A new laser device created at the University of Central Florida could make high-speed computing faster and more reliable, opening the door to a new age of the Internet. . . . 

But there is still one challenge that the team is working to resolve. The voltage necessary to make the laser diodes work more efficiently must be optimized. 

Deppe said once that problem is resolved, the uses for the laser diodes will multiply. They could be used in lasers in space to remove unwanted hair. 

—phyorg.com in "Miniature lasers could help launch new age of the Internet"

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

 

Quote of the Day: On the effect of inflation

Inflation is a redistributive mechanism in favour of the few that can protect living standards, against the large majority who cannot. —Tim Ash, emerging markets chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland, as quoted in "China's credit bubble on borrowed time as inflation bites"

Mr. Ash, of course, was applying this insight to China. But it applies to any country you like—the U.S. for instance.

I point this out so that you may better understand why Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve bank, which sets U.S. monetary policy, is so afraid of deflation.  As he said in his famous speech of 2002,

I am confident that the Fed would take whatever means necessary to prevent significant deflation in the United States and, moreover, that the U.S. central bank, in cooperation with other parts of the government as needed, has sufficient policy instruments to ensure that any deflation that might occur would be both mild and brief.

Of course in 2002 Bernanke also thought that "the chance of significant deflation in the United States in the foreseeable future is extremely small." He has revised his opinion lately. In October he opined,

... in effect, inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the [Open Market] Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve's dual mandate in the longer run. In particular, at current rates of inflation, ... the risk of deflation is higher than desirable. Given that monetary policy works with a lag, the more relevant question is whether this situation is forecast to continue. In light of the recent decline in inflation, the degree of slack in the economy, and the relative stability of inflation expectations, it is reasonable to forecast that underlying inflation ... will be less than the mandate-consistent inflation rate for some time.

I also mention the redistributing effect of inflation so that you will have a reply ready the next time you hear about "socialist redistribution schemes" from your right-wing pals. 

Incomes are constantly being redistributed in all economies, and a significant portion of that redistribution has nothing to do with "hard work" or individual merit of any sort.  So the political question is not whether redistribution should be allowed—in fact it cannot be prevented. The political question is "from whom" and "to whom."

Related posts
"First" of the Day: Fall of the CPI (12/19/08)
"First" of the Day: Fall in consumer prices (11/20/08)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

 

"Firsts" of the Day for the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration said ... that it would rescind the approval of a patch for injured knees that it granted in error in 2008 after being unduly pressured by four New Jersey congressmen and its own commissioner. The patch, known as Menaflex and manufactured by ReGen Biologics, was so different from earlier devices that it should have been tested far more thoroughly before approval, officials determined. . . .

The F.D.A. had never before admitted that it approved a drug or device mistakenly, never rescinded such an approval without citing new information about the product, never admitted that a regulatory decision was influenced by politics, and never accused a former commissioner of questionable conduct.

—Gardiner Harris reporting in "F.D.A. Vows to Revoke Approval of Device"


Certain Democratic Congressmen appear to have acted on behalf of their generous comporate constituent—

The controversy surrounding Menaflex began last year, when a group of F.D.A. medical officers complained to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, that the ReGen decision was one of several at the agency in which politics inappropriately trumped science.

The agency responded by releasing a detailed report last year that found that the agency’s scientific reviewers had repeatedly and unanimously over many years declared Menaflex unworthy of approval, but that they had been overruled by agency managers after political pressure from four Democrats from New Jersey — Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven R. Rothman. The report also concluded that Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, then the agency’s commissioner, had become inappropriately involved in the decision, and that agency procedures had been bypassed.

All four lawmakers made their inquiries about Menaflex after receiving significant campaign contributions from ReGen, which is based in Hackensack, N.J. Dr. von Eschenbach and the four lawmakers said they acted properly.

Related posts
A ceiling as well as a floor (7/25/04)
Eliot Spitzer targets pharmaceutical industry, criticizes FDA (11/24/04)

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Monday, September 27, 2010

 

"First" of the Day: New hell in the City of Angels

The temperature in Downtown Los Angeles today reached 113 degrees at 12:15 p.m. - that was the highest temperature ever recorded in Downtown L.A. since records began in 1877.

The previous record was 112 degrees set on June 26, 1990. The previous record for the day in Downtown L.A. was 106 degrees set in 1963 - and the previous record for the month of September was 110 degrees set September 1, 1955 and equaled on September 4, 1988.

—CNS report "Los Angeles Sets New Record High Temperature"

The entire area saw records tied or broken—

The high temperature at Long Beach airport today was 111 degrees at 1:09 p.m. - that tied the highest temperature ever recorded at Long Beach airport...which was set October 15, 1961.

It also set a new record for the month of September...eclipsing the old record of 110 degrees set September 26, 1963.

The high temperature at Los Angeles airport today was 105 degrees at 11:30 a.m. - that tied the daily record which was set in 1963.

The high temperature at Burbank airport today was 110 degrees - that broke the daily record of 104 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature in Woodland Hills at Pierce College today was 111 degrees - that broke the daily record of 107 degrees set in 1993.

The high temperature in Oxnard at the national weather service office today was 100 degrees - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature at Santa Barbara Airport was 100 degrees today - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1970.

The high temperature at Santa Maria airport was 105 degrees - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1917.

The high temperature at Paso Robles airport today was 108 degrees - that broke the daily record of 105 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature at Lancaster airport today was 103 degrees - that tied the daily record which was set in 2003.

The high temperature at Palmdale airport today was 102 degrees - that tied the daily record which was set in 2003.

Related posts
"Global Warming Effect of the Day" (7/25/06)

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Friday, September 24, 2010

 

"First" of the Day: new campaign spending record

Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for California governor, has surpassed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the highest personal contribution in American campaign history.

Whitman's campaign reported another $15 million contribution late Tuesday, bringing her personal donation to $119 million.

—Juliet Williams reporting in "Meg Whitman breaks US campaign spending records"

And to think, before her run for governor Whitman seldom voted. Why bother to vote when you can just buy any office you like? She may have a point. We'll see in November.

In another story, Williams captures the irony of Whitman's campaign—

For Meg Whitman, there is at least one problem in government worth throwing money at: getting elected.

The billionaire former eBay CEO is using her personal fortune in her campaign for California governor like no other candidate in U.S. political history: $119 million so far on months of wall-to-wall advertising, private jets, dozens of six-figure consultants and other expenses to spread her message of government austerity.
...

Her open wallet is in contrast to her austerity plans for California. She is promising if elected to dramatically cut state spending, eliminate 40,000 state workers, scale back pension benefits and cut the welfare system, which she says is bloated and unaffordable.

Whitman blames her spending spree on the unions, which have spent a miserly $12 million against her $119 million. Austerity, it seems, is expensive. 

Related posts 
Hire your own judge; you'll help the system and save in the long run (6/15/2005)
Conservative Acknowledgment of the Day (7/19/2010)

Friday, September 17, 2010

 

Quote of the Day: Guess who said it

Tonight the ruling class knows. They have... they've seen it now. There's a people's revolution!

Select from below:

  1. Karl Marx
  2. Vladimir Lenin
  3. Leon Trotsky
  4. Carl Paladino
  5. Noam Chomsky

If you selected Carl Paladino, the newly elected Republican candidate for Governor of New York, you are ahead of your time.

Related posts
The Second American Revolution goes nuclear (5/16/05)
Truth of the Day: On social change (2/28/08)
A note on Obama (2/15/10)
A domestic suicide attack (2/18/10)

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Monday, August 30, 2010

 

"First" of the Day: Pot tried for pain relief in outpatients

The study used three different potencies of cannabis - containing 2.5%, 6% and 9.4% of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol - as well as a placebo (dummy version).

Under nurse supervision, participants inhaled a single 25mg dose through a pipe three times a day for five days followed by nine days off, for four cycles.

Those given the highest dose had significantly reduced average pain compared with the placebo as well as less anxiety and depression, and better sleep.

Study leader Dr Mark Ware said: "To our knowledge, this is the first outpatient clinical trial of smoked cannabis ever reported."

—BBC reporting in "Cannabis may relieve chronic nerve pain"

Another interesting outcome of the research was this—

Dr Peter Shortland, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: "Importantly, smoking the drug did not produce the psychoactive effects commonly associated with full strength cannabis."

I'm not sure why the the good professor considered this to be important, but the American morals police will be greatly relieved.

With the full-scale legalization of pot coming up for a vote in California's November election (opposed, sadly, by some growers) and with continuing positive research outcomes such as this, I worry about which group will be locked up next to justify current levels of police, prison guards and prisons.

Related posts
Marijuana: Better than faith-healing (1/03/05)
Quote of the Day (5/12/05)
Form Letter of the Day (12/12/05)
Pseudosocialism (qua Leninism) and the DEA (12/12/05)
Granny of the Day (3/07/07)
High Court Decision of the Day: Smoking while herding (3/29/09)

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

 

"First" of the Day: Fall in new home sales

The annualised rate of new homes sales fell 12.4% in July to a seasonally adjusted rate of 276,600 a year, the US Commerce Department said.

That makes it the slowest rate since records began in 1963.

—BBC reporting in "US new home sales in sharp fall"


Why would anyone in her right mind buy a new home when there are so many perfectly good homes selling for a fraction of their original cost?

Related posts
High of the Day (6/15/07)
"First" of the Day: Home foreclosures (12/06/08)
"First" of the Day: New housing starts (12/17/08)

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

 

First of the Day: US fatality in Iraq after combat troops pulled

An American soldier was killed by a rocket strike near Basra today, in the first US fatality since the last combat troops left Iraq. —Martin Chulov reporting in "First US soldier killed in Iraq since withdrawal of combat troops"


Chulov reports that—

General Raymond Odierno told CNN the remaining troops could move back to combat if there was "a complete failure of the security forces", or if political divisions split the Iraqi security forces. "But we don't see that happening," Odierno said.

There seems to be almost nothing the military can see happening—even as it's happening.

Odierno did move the Iraqi goal post down the road a bit—

General Odierno said today it could take years to determine if the US-led invasion was a success. "A strong, democratic Iraq will bring stability to the Middle East, and if we see an Iraq that's moving toward that, two, three, five years from now I think we can call our operations a success," he said.

—implicitly admitting that the current Iraq is neither strong and democratic nor bringing stability to the Middle East.

Various interviews and news accounts I've heard over the past few weeks indicate that we are being prepped for "future engagements." (Psst!  We can't leave Iraq because it needs protection from the threat of Iran!) This first casualty of the "non-combat" phase of the U.S. occupation sadly will aid in the preparations.

Related posts
Neocons fear the pain of premature withdrawal (1/29/07)
Training the Iraqis: A contrary view (7/19/07)
It's finally arrived: Iraq on a platter!

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