Thursday, December 30, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
What is your reason for doing that?
We have organized ourselves together not simply to win elections, however nice that would be. No, there are some fundamental principles which I think we all share that bring us together. I want to focus on just two of them.
First and foremost is the principle of democracy.
In times past, this has been so fundamental that no one gave it much thought as an issue. But today we may at be one of those cusps of history when something as fundamental as democracy itself may hang in the balance. Major corporate interests are now using their financial power to influence voters to vote to help those corporate interests at the expense of our nation as a whole. Our courts are now controlled by people who believe that corporations have the same constitutional right to free speech as natural persons. It is perfectly legal to broadcast outright lies as if they were legitimate news items. The number of truly independent news sources has dwindled to almost nothing. How can we expect to have effective political discourse in this country when all of the reporting is controlled by corporate interests whose primary motivation is profit rather public service?
As democrats we have to believe in the value of democracy. The first principle that governs what issues and candidates we support has to be, “Does this improve or hinder effective democracy?” Right now there are many issues in the political landscape that can be rated by that standard. In today’s situation, we now have to fight to have our democracy restored.
Second, common cause. We are all in this together. For each person who has success in life, our country is better. For each person who deprived of opportunity, our country is worse. We are part of one society and we have moral obligations to one another. We have watched as the vibrant middle class is being destroyed. Wealth has become more powerful than the voice of the people. And it looks to me like the political servants of the wealthy just don’t care how many people have to suffer just as long as they get richer and richer and richer. The under classes are only there to manipulated and exploited. As long as they can get more and more stuff, no one else matters. We are on the way to having two countries, one for the rich and one for the rest of us.
So democracy and common cause. These are what we should be fighting for. And it’s from these two principles that everything else we do must follow.
Elections generate a sense of urgency and money is spent and issues are debated in advertisements. After the elections, those who have worked so hard want to do nothing more than relax. But if we are going to build a more democratic electorate here in Benton County, we must get back to work as soon as we are mentally and physically able.
We are in a fight and what are we going to do about it? My time is limited so I’m just going to mention a few things but there are more.
Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participation sport. When we elect officers next month we can’t walk away and expect those officers to do all the work. We should show up to support them and hold them accountable.
We need to define a new creature. A democrat is not seen as a true Eastern Washington citizen. Instead we are seen as west-side infiltrators. We need to define ourselves as a different type of democrat. One who is seen as a true easterner.
We need to learn to talk differently. This is the old framing game. We need to rise above tit-for-tat knee-jerk reactions. There are reasonable people out there. We have to peel them away from their fear and misconceptions without apology.
We should expose the suffering that is around us. The opposition has worked hard to channel that suffering toward forward the opposition’s agenda. We need to help the sufferers organize so that they can forward an agenda of their own. That would the democratic thing to do. We need to ask ourselves how we can connect better with the working people as well as the unemployed. Too often the party is seen as the tool of elite environmentalists. We should be showing how sound environmental policy is good for workers, their families, and their futures.
We cannot aggravate political divisions with anyone to the point where civil war becomes an option. We also have to guard against being held hostage by that idea. We have to conduct ourselves in ways that disarms those in the opposition who fight to win at all costs. This may be difficult but it isn’t impossible.
Learn to actively proselytize. Align with the truth and publicize the truth. Strictly avoid lies of convenience. They will always eventually backfire. Trust that the truth will eventually win. We must be unrelenting. It’s not because we want to win (this isn’t a sporting event). The fate of our nation hangs in the balance.
What sort of future are we headed for? Are we really all in this together? Or are the rich, powerful, and privileged a special class who is protected from the consequences of their actions?
We are not in this game for an “I told you so” at the end. Being silent and just letting things play out is not an option.
There are no guarantees except one. If enough of us do nothing all, our fears will come to pass. What follows are some things we can do.
Rocking the boat. (from Meryl Runion)
Rock the apathy boat. If someone says they don’t care about politics, rock the boat. Saying you don’t care is like saying you don’t care about how you are allowed to live, what you’re taxed and how those taxes are spent. Not caring about politics is like writing a blank check and giving it to a stranger. It’s like letting your neighbor decide who gets to have your power of attorney over your affairs.
Rock the futility boat. Nothing will ever change. That is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This thing called democracy that we have as our number one principle depends on an informed, engaged population. Despair is not an option.
Rock the unknowable boat. There’s so much spin that it’s hard to tell what is true and what isn’t. If enough people decide that the truth can’t be ferreted out, liars can take over. They don’t have to convince anyone that they are right. All they have to do is create doubt. It is a pass for those who don’t want the truth to be known.
Rock the misinformation boat. I believe it was Mark Twain that said, “A lie can get around the world before the truth can get its shoes on.” The liars are motivated. The truth-tellers need to be just as motivated. The next time you get a bogus email, try sending a correction to 30 of your friends. Speak up or the liars will have the floor.
Rock the immediate gratification boat. We need to take a longer view, longer than the next quarterly earnings like a corporation and longer than the next election. Too many citizens think that as long as the TV works and there’s beer in the fridge, everything in just dandy. Start talking about 7th generation sustainability. Is this just a short-term, feel-good fix? Or is it a permanent change that will take a while to get into place but will last forever?
Rock the “they’re all the same” boat. Some people say that it doesn’t make a difference who is in power. Point out how it made a difference when Bush was in power. We need to tell our friends that if they are upset about the bad things that have happened it is their fault. It’s my fault. It’s your fault. We didn’t speak when we should have. We didn’t seek out the truth when we should have. We left a lie unchallenged. Because people are suffering, politics makes a difference.
Rock the “we can’t talk about it” boat. You’ve probably heard it said that a relationship is only as healthy as the things you can talk about. The same is true for a nation. The things you don’t want to talk about are probably exactly the things you need to be talking about. Strong ideas should be able to stand scrutiny. If someone says that a topic shouldn’t be raised it most likely is because there’s an idea there that is weak and needs to be disposed of.
There are boats that need to be rocked and if we don’t rock them, the people who want to take over the system for their own specific interest will rock them in their direction. Don’t be shy.
Martin Luther King: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
This chart should be ingrained in the mind of anybody who cares about fiscal policy. The main things to note:
•Federal taxes are the lowest in 60 years, which gives you a pretty good idea of why America’s long-term debt ratios are a big problem. If the taxes reverted to somewhere near their historical mean, the problem would be solved at a stroke.
•Income taxes, in particular, both personal and corporate, are low and falling. That trend is not sustainable.
•Employment taxes, by contrast—the regressive bit of the fiscal structure—are bearing a large and increasing share of the brunt. Any time that somebody starts complaining about how the poor don’t pay income tax, point them to this chart. Income taxes are just one part of the pie, and everybody with a job pays employment taxes.
•There aren’t any wealth taxes, but the closest thing we’ve got—estate and gift taxes—have shrunk to zero, after contributing a non-negligible amount to the public fisc in earlier decades.
If you were structuring a tax code from scratch, it would look nothing like this. But the problem is that tax hikes seem to be politically impossible no matter which party is in power. And since any revamp of the tax code would involve tax hikes somewhere, I fear we’re fiscally doomed.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
What can be done to remedy the situation? After the Great Depression and the passage of Glass-Steagall, the largest banks had to spin off certain risky activities, and this created smaller, safer banks. Taking similar actions today to reduce the scope and size of banks, combined with legislatively mandated debt-to-equity requirements, would restore the integrity of the financial system and enhance equity of access to credit for consumers and businesses. Studies show that most operational efficiencies are captured when financial firms are substantially smaller than the largest ones are today.These firms reached their present size through the subsidies they
received because they were too big to fail. Therefore, diminishing their size and scope, thereby reducing or removing this subsidy and the competitive advantage it provides, would restore competitive balance to our economic system.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
"It is pretty exciting," said Steckl. "With the right paper, the right process and the right device fabrication technique, you can get results that are as good as you would get on glass, and our results are good enough for a video-style e-reader."
Steckl imagines a future device that is rollable, feels like paper yet delivers books, news and even high-resolution color video in bright-light conditions.
Monday, November 22, 2010
According to tax records unearthed by Bloomberg News, the health insurance lobby secretly gave $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2009 to try to prevent the health care bill from becoming law. The huge contribution — 40 percent of the chamber’s spending for that year — allowed the group to run ads against the bill without tainting the insurance industry, which was negotiating with Democrats on the bill at the same time.Keeping donors secret allows corporate interests to advertise for what they want without the public being able to see their self-interest in action. Since when is it a good business model to do things which the public finds objectionable?
The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.We must keep asking our people why we give power to folks who are willing to sacrifice the good of the country for their own selfish interest?
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
gaming the system. It's ABC's error but it took Palin fans to shamelessly exploit it to an astounding degree. Sad, really.
Ezra Klein makes the case that root cause of the current debt crisis is the crashed economy. Fix the economy and you can fix the deficit.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Thursday, November 04, 2010
2. Created more private sector jobs in 2010 than Bush did in all 8 years.
3. Boosted private sector space programs with stimulus funding.
4. Financial reforms including a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
5. Law to require financial agencies to verify applicants credit history, income, and employment status.
6. Prohibited banks from proprietary trading.
7. Allowed shareholders to vote on executive pay.
8. Cut medicare prescription drug costs by 50%.
9. Provided $12.2 Billion in new funding for Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
10. Extended Benefits to same-sex partners of federal employee
11. Appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in US history
12. Reversed 'global gag rule', allowing US aid to go to organizations regardless of whether they provide abortions
13. Gave the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco for the first time
14. Signed New START Treaty - nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia
15. Increased average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg to 35.5mpg, starting in 2016
16. Restored basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers
17. Provided the VA with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America's Veterans
18. Provided health care to 11 million children, 4 million of whom were uninsured
19. Repealed restrictions on stem cell research
20. Stimulated nondefense scientific research by $18 billion.
21. Signed law to stop fraud and wasteful spending in defense procurement.
22. Issued order to close Guantanamo Bay.
23. Stopped torture by the CIA.
24. Established the Credit Card Bill of Rights
25. Prevented health insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
26. Allowed children to be on parents' health insurance until age 26.
27. Tax cuts for small business to help pay for health care for their employees.
28. Tax credits for 29 million people to help pay for health care.
29. Expanded Medicaid for those with incomes up to 133 percent of federal poverty level.
30. Required disclosure of how much of health insurance premiums actually go to claims.
and there's more.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Congress could declare all personal assets hidden in tax havens as de facto tax evasion. Forcing this money into the open and back onshore would generate tens of billions in tax revenues that would fall exclusively on the richest fraction of Americans. Meanwhile, Republicans would look foolish trying to argue that taxing funds already held offshore would hurt U.S. job creation.
left stays upfront about its financing and the right chooses to hide,
the fact of that hiding might be good political fodder. Unlike the right, progressive donors are not afraid to be counted. We don't fear hypothetical attacks. We are already under assault.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
In this Business Week article the author refers to a Federal Reserve report that lists 5 causes of the crash. None of those causes were action by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As the housing bubble grew, their position in the market became smaller and smaller. Most of the market was going to private institutions. It seems that the loans being generated failed to meet Fannie and Freddie standards. They can't take subprime loans by law. As they watched their market share fall they eventually began to play follow the leader by relaxing their requirements where they could. And in the end they were forced by market pressure to take loans that never should have been taken by anyone.
Without common sense regulation it is the nature of markets to have boom and bust cycles. The root cause is the human factor in that any manager who acts responsibly while the competition appears to be making huge profits as it heads toward a cliff finds himself without a job. In our system, profits are rewarded and prudence is usually punished.
1. The high amount of mortgage fraud that led to the recession
2. The way accounting tricks were consciously used to give the appearance of higher profits leading to higher bonuses.
3. The lack of prosecutions for any of this fraud.
4. The second level of fraud caused when bad ethics made it impossible for firms with good ethics to compete.
5. The fraud in the foreclosure processes.
6. The massive coverup of losses on bad assets.
7. The absence of effective regulation even now.
8. Thue shaky positions of state and local governments and how bad the shortened stimulus is slow the recovery, employment, and vital services.
9. The acceptance of massive long-term unemployment.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
If you want to protect yourself from radiation, stop smoking. Living next to a coal plant will give you more radiation than living next to a nuclear plant.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Monday, October 04, 2010
Arguably, this shouldn't be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families.
Friday, October 01, 2010
I do not believe for a second that the GOP of Palin and Boehner and Beck and DeMint represents anything but more debt, more war, more social division and more denial about the deeply serious problems this country faces and the profound dangers that are metastasizing in the world. I have no love for the Democrats but I do fervently believe that this president's record is far better than many now fashionably claim, that his inheritance was beyond awful, and I am not giving up on this president's immense task now, and neither, in my judgment, should any of those who voted for him in 2008.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Comparing people's happiness against income, the researchers found that the more money people earned, the higher their overall life satisfaction. But people's day-to-day emotional state rose with average annual income only until about $75,000, after which additional income made no further difference
Friday, September 10, 2010
if Republicans regain power, they will surely do what they did during the Bush years: they won’t seriously try to address the economy’s troubles; they’ll just use those troubles as an excuse to push the usual agenda, including Social Security privatization. They’ll also surely try to repeal health reform, which would be another twofer, reducing economic security even as it increases long-term deficits.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Parks and Stone found that unselfish colleagues come to be resented because they "raise the bar" for what is expected of everyone. As a result, workers feel the new standard will make everyone else look bad.
Could this help explain what conservatives don't like about liberals? They set the bar just too damn high.
But it’s hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and aren’t likely to spend a windfall.
No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy. Instead, as I said, it’s about a dysfunctional and corrupt political culture, in which Congress won’t take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry-especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers' corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a "kingpin of climate science denial." The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies-from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program-that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
As reported by many news organizations in April and May of this year, current tax rates are the lowest they have been in 60 years. The idea that higher taxes are going to strangle businesses is simply not true. Any business that is so on-the-edge that a bit more in taxes is going to kill it already has a failing business model. People in the top income bracket are getting a freer ride now than they have in decades. During that time, the real earnings of middle-income have been in decline. Contrary to the Republican line, the real engine of economic growth is middle-income spending not high-income spending.
State government spending primarily represents our human obligation to one another. We must work together to provide a good education to our children, to provide the infrastructure businesses need to flourish, and to be a backstop to our most vulnerable citizens. When Republicans talk about cutting state spending, they are actually talking about shirking our moral obligations.
At the Federal level we are in an unfortunate situation in which the financial system has become paralyzed (thanks to excesses produced by ill-considered deregulation). When private sector activity dries up, the economy collapses unless some other economic activity comes in to take over. This is what happened in the Great Depression and it is what is happening now. It was the massive spending of World War II that finally ended that era. Thankfully we have avoided the worst effects of the Great Depression. And it will require the discipline of continued spending to bring us out of the Republican Recession. No one wants to waste money so we can have a discussion of what constitutes appropriate spending. If we are wise, we can direct spending to infrastructure and initiatives that prepare us for future robust growth. That growth will erase the debt we are incurring. When businesses spend to grow, it’s called investing. The same should apply to government spending now. But spend we must until the ravages of deregulation have been healed.
We must remind voters that regulation wasn’t dreamed up out of thin air to harm business. Every regulation was enacted to mitigate a problem. Remove the regulation and you are allowing that problem to return. Perhaps regulation can be more streamlined or more effective. But the need for it is certain.
The Republican attacks even extend to Social Security. Yet they can offer no alternative that is better. Whatever they do offer is only worse and, given their track record, much worse.
As Democrats, we have a fight on our hands. But it is a good fight. It is a fight worth fighting. We have a message worth sending. We have a moral obligation to raise our voices and speak out. The facts of history are on our side. Let us not be found wanting in our energy or effort at this critical time.
Friday, August 20, 2010
The best way to make the most of these truly precious resources of land,
favorable climates and human labor is to grow lettuce, oranges, wheat,
peppers, bananas, whatever, in the places where they grow best and with
the most efficient technologies - and then pay the relatively tiny
energy cost to get them to market, as we do with every other commodity
in the economy. Sometimes that means growing vegetables in your
backyard. Sometimes that means buying vegetables grown in California or
Eating locally grown produce is a fine thing in many ways. But it is not
an end in itself, nor is it a virtue in itself. The relative pittance of
our energy budget that we spend on modern farming is one of the wisest
energy investments we can make, when we honestly look at what it returns
to our land, our economy, our environment and our well-being.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Update: It would be interesting to press those who wish to do away with Social Security on what exactly do they propose as an alternative. Not one of them will be better, most of them worse.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Monday, August 09, 2010
Saturday, August 07, 2010
Friday, August 06, 2010
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
there is no inflation the incentive to spend now is reduced. With
deflation today's money will buy more in the future so better to save
than spend. As a result an economy can contract. Is that already upon
in a single neuron can cascade everywhere.
"This rapid amplification of spikes means that the brain is extremely
'noisy' -- much, much noisier than computers. Nevertheless, the brain
can perform very complicated tasks with enormous speed and accuracy, far
faster and more accurately than the most powerful computer ever built
(and likely to be built in the foreseeable future). The UCL researchers
suggest that for the brain to perform so well in the face of high levels
of noise, it must be using a strategy called a rate code. In a rate
code, neurons consider the activity of an ensemble of many neurons, and
ignore the individual variability, or noise, produced by each of them."
Monday, July 12, 2010
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
inattentional blindness (failing to see things that are in plain sight);
the belief that our memories are more reliable than they are;
the tendency to think someone is competent if they are confident;
the illusion of knowledge (we know much less than we think);
the assumption that things that occur together must be causally related (think MMR vaccine and autism);
and the increasingly popular notion that cognitive exercises make us smarter (in fact, physical exercise has a much stronger effect).
Friday, June 25, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Tom is an attorney whose complete practice is immigration. He has clients from 122 countries but 60 to 70% are from Mexico. He does more immigration work than anyone else he knows of in Washington and Oregon. His clients include Buddhist monks and mail-order brides. Typically there are 3 new clients each day. Most Mexican clients are from the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, and Colima.
Who are the legal immigrants to the United States? Approximately 940,000 legally immigrate to the U.S. per year. Of these 400,000 are immediate relatives of American citizens (spouses, parents, and children). Another 226,000 are immigrants sponsored by families but not quite a directly related. Refugees come at the rate of 120,000 per year. Skilled, professional, and other priority workers come at the rate of 135,000 per year (think college-educated Orientals and Indian subcontinent). The quota for unskilled workers is 5,000 per year. Then there is a lottery that allows 55,000 others to come in. The key statistic is that quota for unskilled workers. There is a demand for 500,000 unskilled laborers in our country and a legal supply of only 5,000. Something has to give.
The presentation is in 3 parts: how we got here, myths, and what to do now.
So how did we get into our current situation? Historically the U.S. has had an unemployment rate of 4-5%. In real terms this can be considered full-employment. There are always seasonal workers who collect unemployment between jobs: fishing crews, construction crews, etc. There are also those who are affected by normal shifts in labor demands due to productivity improvements, etc. In 1986 there was a broad amnesty that allowed 4-5 million undocumented workers to get green cards. That didn’t affect the unemployment rate. Until the recent recession, 11 million undocumented workers had no affect on the unemployment rate. The recession brought the unemployment rate to 10%. And yet American citizen are rarely taking jobs at the low end of the food chain. It makes better economic sense for them to ride out the downturn with unemployment benefits. With the downturn, the number of undocumented workers has dropped to 7-8 million.
There are a number of myths that need to be addressed.
Myth: Illegal aliens take jobs from citizens. The statistics above disprove that.
Myth: Illegal aliens don’t pay taxes. Actually they pay more than their share of taxes. They pay sales taxes. They pay property taxes if they own real estate or through their rent if they don’t. If they are working with a falsified Social Security number, the employer pays all the proper withheld tax for them, (income tax, FICA, Medicare, etc). But because the Social Security number is invalid, they can’t file an income tax return and get a refund. Nor can they collect Social Security benefits. They can’t collect welfare or Medicare without a valid number. The Social Security Administration receives $345 billion a year on invalid numbers. That’s free money to the SSA and the rest of us. Medicare receives $1.5 billion a year of undocumented money. Since they can’t file an income tax form, they can’t receive the Earned Income Tax Credit. They pay and pay and pay but receive little benefit for it.
Myth: They don’t learn English and don’t assimilate. This is partially true but it is not unique to Hispanic immigrants. There are 2 Catholic churches in Walla Walla just about 2 blocks from each other. One of them is there because the Italian immigrants back in the day didn’t want to learn English so they had their own Italian-speaking congregation. The language problem is common to all first-generation immigrant groups. There were areas in Texas where children could grow up speaking German or Czech and never need to learn English until they left home. But the second generation is fully assimilated AND they are bilingual.
Myth: They don’t contribute to the economy and just get welfare. See above. No valid SSN, no welfare. An employer can pay a worker with a fake SSN but that worker can not collect welfare with a fake SSN. The welfare agencies verify the number. On the other hand they provide needed labor and they buy goods and services. They are firmly embedded in our economy as contributing members.
Myth: People should just get a work permit and come here legally. With a demand of 500,000 and a legal supply of 5,000 this isn’t going to happen.
What are the possible solutions to illegal immigration?
One solution might be impenetrable border security. Remember that even the Iron Curtain had its share of escapees. Do we want to have an Iron Curtain at all our borders? It would be expensive and not completely effective. At some point there gets to be a diminishing return. What is the reasonable price to pay to keep one illegal alien out? What does that illegal alien cost us by coming in? We may actually benefit from him. We need to have reasonable border security but nothing is perfect. If we expect better security we need to address the forces that tend to push people across a border. No one leaves their home to go to where life is worse. The number of border patrol agents has double to 20,000. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has limited man-power to go into business and audit their workforce. Economic conditions have had the biggest impact on illegal immigration. It was down by 1 million people last year. A tight border has an unintended consequence of restricting a natural back flow of people to their home country. It makes it so hard to get in that they don’t dare go back even if they want to. Border security is helpful but not a complete solution.
Legalization for the people who are here could be part of the solution. But it needs to be effective, fair, and efficient. We are talking about a number equal to the entire population of the three Northwest states here. It is a massive undertaking. It also needs to be fair to the folks who are legally standing in line outside the country. We don’t want there to be an incentive to go around the normal system. It needs to honor the hard work of contributing individuals and it needs to be properly punitive to the bad actors.
Social Security verification by employers should be mandatory with due consideration of the amnesty process. It would be counter-productive to deny a job to someone who should they were willing to play by the rules even if the administrative process could not keep up. Many current illegal aliens came in legally and have over-stayed their visas. Strong verification would remove the incentive for this.
Our quotas should reflect economic realities. If we don’t allow the demand for unskilled workers to be satisfied legally, we are providing an incentive for employers and workers to circumvent the law.
Now we have some questions and comments from the floor.
A commenter noted that some short-sided economic policies by our country have exacerbated disruptive situations in Mexico. Under NAFTA cheaper American agricultural products in Mexico have depressed the market so much that Mexican farmers can no longer compete. So they have to move to U.S. to work for agricultural firms here.
The presence of a large number of Irish and Canadian illegal immigrants is not seen as a problem because they blend in to American society easier.
The drug trade through Mexico supplying American users is destroying the fabric of Mexican society in many areas.
The people are not coming here on a whim. They are willing to risk their lives out in the desert to get here.
Question: How can people get away with an invalid SSN?
Our current law doesn’t require employers to verify SSN, only record it on a form. This has evolved into a don’t-ask-don’t-tell arrangement. Because workers were needed, the 1986 law was intentionally crafted with this huge loophole. Congress was able to appease the economic interest with this. And the federal government is happy to take the extra tax revenue it brings. If we instantly required verification it would be an economic disaster. In this way we all share some of the blame. We don’t want to pay more taxes and we don’t want to have to buy $2 apples.
Comment: Amnesty is a slap in the face to the people who are legally waiting their turn.
Yes, it is. It was in the 1986 amnesty. Any solution should make a distinction between a short-term work permit and a permanent green card and the people currently in line should not lose their place.
Question: What is stopping some of this common-sense legislation?
As you can see this is an easy issue about which to get people stirred up and it is always in someone’s interest to stir the pot. The problem is political courage. These ideas are not new. Most of these ideas passed a Senate vote 62-36 in 2006. But whenever reform is being discussed legislators receive constituent messages that run 100-1 against it. That really makes it hard for them to vote for it. To get the legislation passed we really need to generate a grass-roots groundswell. They need the political coverage.
Question: What about the issue of naturalized children of illegal aliens?
This would be another massive cost of across-the-board deportations. The government does not have authority to deport citizens. The government would have to find foster homes for 5-6 million children.
One commenter recounted the case of her husband. He came to the country with his parents as a 2-year-old. He knows no other home country. In 1986, they did everything they were supposed to do to make things right. But somehow the agency or their lawyer forgot to dot an “i”. Recently after filing some claims having to do with a heart condition he popped up as deportable. Immediately he was shipped to Mexico where he knew no one and had no resources, with a heart condition, no less. This is an example of the suffering that is going on today under the current law. Tom said he had 400 cases like this in his office. One local attorney recently had his license revoked because he was taking fees for immigration cases and not doing the work. The law is written such that deportations can be done with no appeal and no recourse.
Another commenter noted than the normal legal process can be expensive. Yes, it can be around 1/8 of a person’s annual income. In defense of the cost he noted that people are willing to much, much more than that just to be transported into the country by a coyote.
Tom had some comments about the Arizona law. He noted that under that law even a Native American to whom we are the immigrants could be jailed. He also noted that the language of the law is so vague that it is unenforceable in practice. Any officer who used it ran a real risk of having his case thrown out costing taxpayers money and exposing his employer to punitive lawsuits.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
What this really says is that there is plenty of room to increase tax revenue to pay off the large national debts that are the rightie's latest cause celebre. So people, just stop being a waste of good oxygen.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Sunday, May 02, 2010
When given a chance to communicate, however, participants improve their joint outcomes greatly -- and the effect is lasting even when communication is no longer possible, she says, adding, that being able to use costly fines against each other did not improve harvest output.It was also found that the whole sustainable system broke down when only one or two players ignored the rules.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
"Samples taken from the deep seabed have revealed an astonishing variety of life. 'Far from being a lifeless desert, the deep sea rivals such highly diverse ecosystems as tropical rainforests and coral reefs,' said Pedro Marinez Arbizu, one of the scientists working on the Census.
'Given these new insights, we cannot possibly use the deep-sea floor as a waste dump or subject it to unlimited resource extraction without massively impacting the marine communities living there,' Dr Arbizu added."
Friday, April 16, 2010
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
That said, we do learn something important from Holtz-Eakin’s article. If this is the best critique a conservative budget wonk can come up with – if deliberately misrepresenting how the legislation works is the only way to make it seem irresponsible – then the bill must be pretty sound in fiscal terms.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison made crystals of zinc oxide that, when immersed in water, absorb vibrations and develop areas of strong negative and positive charge. These charges rip apart nearby water molecules, releasing hydrogen and oxygen gas.
The new materials could be used to develop systems that generate hydrogen from the noise of anything from machinery to crashing waves
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Faith and perserverance can be good things but this is a case where the dark side of faith comes into play. A basic attribute of a strong faith is that it, almost by definition, defies reason. It's the belief that's important and the facts just don't matter.
People who are unaffected by reason are as difficult to counter as a suicide bomber. There is no consequence that will dissuade them. Not their own self interest. Not even the prospect of a health care system that does a poor job for the most vulnerable and cost too much for us all. Nothing. Nada.
So what do we do? There may be other strategies but the one that comes to mind is to vigorously challenge any candidate or public official who professes an unreasoning faith. Make it clear that anyone who professes a level of faith on this issue or any other that is impervious to reason is unfit for public office. Real facts and real consequences just don't matter to these people and the coming disaster is certain.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Lie: Democrats are jamming through a government takeover of healthcare that would slash Medicare benefits.
Truth: Health insurance reform as proposed takes over nothing. Savings in Medicare will make it stronger without cutting benefits.
Lie: Health care legislation is stuffed with sweetheart deals for lawmakers.
Truth: The President's plan has removed any special deals from the legislation.
Lie: The Republican health care plan is good.
Truth: Republican alternative allows insurers to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and to drop coverage for people who get sick. More people would be left uninsured by 2019. Democratic plan reduces more deficit than Republican plan.
Lie: Reconciliation is controversial.
Truth: Virtually all past health care legislation in the past 30 years has been passed by reconciliation, SCHIP, Medicare, etc. Republicans have used reconciliation 3 times as much as Democrats. Of the 22 times it has been used, Republicans used it 16 times. Reconciliation votes have almost alway been highly partisan. Republican reconciliation wins include $1.8 trillion in Bush tax cuts. (Health care reform will cost $950 billion over 10 years.) McConnell, Craig, Grassley, McCain, and Cornyn praised reconciliation when it was used for Republican legislation.
If we don't do everything in our power to challenge the lies we can share the blame for what we get. So keep spreading the word.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
'The basic strategy is measuring and punishing,' Ravitch says of No Child Left Behind. 'And it turns out as a result of putting so much emphasis on the test scores, there's a lot of cheating going on, there's a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards it's actually lowered standards because many states have 'dumbed down' their tests or changed the scoring of their tests to say that more kids are passing than actually are.'The program isn't working and something better is needed.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Jacques is a personable fellow with a good sense of humor. He tries to convince us that his accent isn't really French but rather a strong Joisey accent since he first lived there when he came to the States.
Reviving the nuclear power industry is key to true energy security. When France faced the problem of energy security they decided to go nuclear as fast as they could. Rather than developing their own unique designs they decided to adopt the best available existing technology. That was the Westinghouse PWR design. Now France has the opportunity to return that gift to the US. (Jacques then goes into a short commercial for AREVA.)
AREVA intends to be the full-service nuclear provider from mining, through power generation, to recycling and decommissioning. Nuclear energy is not renewable but it is recyclable and sustainable. The once-through system just doesn't make sense. AREVA has been recycling nuclear fuel for 20 years. Recycling isn't new. France built almost 60 power plants based on the Westinghouse design. Now they are building their own EPR design in Europe and expect to be building them soon in the US. When construction starts on the US plants AREVA will have benefited from lessons learned from EPR projects in 3 other countries. They expect the US plants to be on-time and on-budget. They have invested $200 million in the first EPR plant in the US at Calvert Cliffs. Construction is expected to begin in 2012.
AREVA is also investing in renewables with biomass, wind, and solar business units. The 5MW M5000 wind turbine is the largest yet built. It is planned for offshore wind farms.
There are 543 nuclear plants worldwide. Both India and China are building them as fast as they can. In India they are using the power for desalination of water as well as electricity because of the need for fresh water there. The issue of nuclear waste has a solution.
Since it takes 10 years to build a nuclear plant things must be done in such a way that it garners bipartisan support. One can't risk a change in the White House that shuts down the construction.
The nuclear industry needs to be transparent. Our past relationship with the defense industry as tended to generate a closed culture. Those days are gone. Anne Lauvergeon has turned a medieval fortress into a mansion full of windows. In the interest of transparency they installed streaming webcams in the La Hague recycling plant so the world could watch what went on there. Pretty soon no one ever used the cameras because it was boring. In public relations and politics you don't get to choose your opposition. You have to deal with whomever comes along. The nuclear industry needs to be ready to constructively engage with the opposition so both sides can learn. Many in the environmental movement have changed their mind about nuclear power. AREVA now maintains a weblog in which criticisms can be openly discussed. Nuclear energy is cool now.
Nuclear energy jobs are real domestic jobs over the long term. You can outsource a power plant. By the same token, nuclear expertise can provide jobs for Americans around the world.
AREVA is making major investments in the US nuclear industry. They are building a fabrication facility for large steel components at Newport News. They are building an enrichment facility in Idaho. And they are building a Mixed-Oxide fuel plant in South Carolina. When they started doing these things they found that the pool of nuclear-qualified suppliers has dried up over the years. Now they are having vendor fairs in order to attract new vendors into the nuclear industry supply chain.
Nuclear power is CO2-free, power secure, and creates jobs, jobs, and more jobs.
The ANS needs to be the ambassadors for nuclear power. We need your knowledge to be shared. The public needs to hear the facts. Nuclear advocates need to be open to questions and readily engage in the public debate. Relationships need to be built with all the stakeholders.
John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.” The facts are on the side of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is carbon-free. 75% of the carbon-free energy now produced in the US is nuclear. Nuclear energy is domestic energy security. You don't have to fight wars in foreign countries for it. We can't talk about energy-independence without including nuclear. Nuclear energy is competitive. Once a plant has been built it becomes a cash machine. The costs of nuclear power do not fluctuate like volatile fossil fuel markets. France is making money because it has the energy to sell. Nuclear power supports growth because it creates jobs. Unions understand this and support nuclear power. Investments in nuclear power create investments in the supply chain economy. The nuclear safety record is impeccable. Nuclear safety is not theoretical. It has been demonstrated. Nuclear power is available 24/7.
If we want a future for our children we need to develop nuclear power. The US can regain its lead in this industry but we can't wait on the sidelines too long.
And now some questions from the audience.
What is the future of French recycling? Is it just MOX or will there be a full plutonium cycle?
France is saving its recycled plutonium as a resource to be used in a coming generation of fast reactors. France is currently working on a fast reactor design jointly with the US and Japan. It will be about a 1200 MW plant.
Will this policy carry over to the US?
The US needs to make its own decision. The mood is improving on Capitol Hill. The light-water reactors of today can be a bridge to the future fast reactors.
How does France handle its own nuclear opposition?
There isn't much. France really has no alternative but nuclear. But safety is paramount.
AREVA mines around the world. Will it ever open mines in the US?
The old ways of mining produced some problems with the tailings. Modern methods do not have that problem. If demand is strong enough AREVA might mine in the States but they currently have plenty of uranium sources elsewhere.
What is the future like in Europe?
When Russia stopped natural gas deliveries a while back many countries sat up and took notice. UK authorities were in contact with AREVA right away. EDF is now the major electrical utility in southeastern England. Italy shut down all their plants after Chernobyl. Now they are planning new ones. Sweden has decided that they are going to need 20 nuclear power plants. Finland has decided it needs more, too. When Germany wanted to close out it's nuclear power it found that it was impossible. At 30-40% of the supply there was no alternatives available. They are extending the licenses of the existing plants. The US has done a similar thing. Because new plants could not be built, licenses of existing plants have been reviewed and extended. Europe is coming back to nuclear.
What is the trend for smaller plants?
AREVA is developing a 1000 MW model and a smaller BWR model. The market demands robustly safe plants today.
What is the new facility in Virginia?
The Newport News plant will produce heavy components. It takes top-flight welding techniques to build these things and the work force there have them. The plant will open in 2014.
Are reactors planned for large commercial shipping vessels?
Not right now. If oil prices looked like they were going to permanently go up, shipping vessel reactors might be feasible.
What is the French waste experience?
Recycling reduces the high level waste by a factor of 5. The LLW at La Hague is really small. All sample results from stations around the plant are posted on the web for all to see. Recycling is not expensive. Less than 2% of the cost is due to recycling expense. AREVA is ready to build a recycling plant in the US under proper conditions. It would be a really large plant. The vitrification experience gained at Hanford will be helpful. Vitrification optimizes the final storage space. France is building a geologic repository east of Paris in a clay formation. It will open in 2020. It is designed such that waste can be retrieved for 50 years if it turns out there is a better way to handle it.
What does France do about proliferation possibilities?
France has not had any proliferation problems. If it can be done there it can be done here. When he was working with recycling his biggest worry was the transportation of material from the recycling plant to the MOX fabrication plant. It would have been better to have the plants next to each other.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
"Prof Ferguson is trying to frighten US policymakers out of sustaining or, better still, increasing fiscal stimulus, even though the true issue is longer-term sustainability. He also accuses opponents of believing in a “Keynesian free lunch”. Not so. The argument is, rather, that the benefits of the higher output today exceed the costs of debt service tomorrow.We need to keep the stimulus tools at hand while keeping an eye on the future. We need to give the private sector the time it needs to heal. A key part of that healing process is to put appropriate financial regulation in place. We need to make sure that the banking shenanigans that got us into this mess are only history.
Prof Ferguson believes instead in a conservative free lunch. This is the view that fiscal tightening today would have little effect on activity. Normally, when monetary policy has room for manoeuvre and the private sector’s borrowing is unconstrained, that is right. But, as Olivier Blanchard, chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, and colleagues note in a recent report: “To the extent that monetary policy, including credit and quantitative easing, had largely reached its limits, policymakers had little choice but to rely on fiscal policy.”"
Here's some additional facts countering the idea that Obama caused the deficit.
(from the Center for American Progress)
The budget deficit in FY 2009 was a whopping 9.9 percent of GDP, the highest it has been since World War II. And that enormous deficit was caused as much by a dramatic decline in tax revenues as it was by an increase in spending. In fact, the size of the revenue decline was four times larger than all of the new spending initiatives started since President Obama took office. Tax revenues in 2009 were at their lowest levels since 1950. When revenues decline by 17 percent, as they did last year, deficits skyrocket.
President Bush inherited a record budget surplus when he took office. Yet he managed to turn that surplus into a massive deficit after repeatedly cutting taxes while prosecuting two wars and enacting billions of dollars worth of new spending programs without paying for any of them. By the time President Obama took office in January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting a budget deficit of $1.2 trillion for the year. The dramatic decline from record surplus to record deficit under President Bush resulted in a nearly $3 trillion increase in publicly held debt, the largest debt expansion in American history.
In fact, the incredible budgetary decline that took place under President Bush is responsible for far more of our current deficit troubles than any new initiative taken under President Obama. More than 50 percent of 2009’s huge deficit can be directly attributed to policies enacted by the previous administration, and that is not counting the 20 percent that was due to the economic disaster that began and gathered its momentum on President Bush’s watch. President Obama’s efforts to rescue the economy, on the other hand, are responsible for only 16 percent. Much more importantly, the long-term fiscal damage done by the Bush administration absolutely dwarfs any lasting effects of the temporary economic recovery measures taken under President Obama. The Bush-era tax cuts alone will add more than $5 trillion to the budget deficit over the next 10 years.
A deficit peacock is someone is more interested in scoring political points than actually decreasing the deficit. Do they only focus only on spending cuts, with nary a word about revenues? Do they offer easy answers and simple solutions? Are they in favor of actions that would actually exacerbate the problem? Do they blame all our woes on President Obama and neglect to even mention the previous eight years? If any of the answers are “yes,” then you’ve identified a deficit peacock.
Monday, February 15, 2010
After all, there is no reason to accept that these biblical-literalists have the final word on either religion or history. To let them establish the standard is to give our education over to an American Taliban of religious fanatics.
But let's set the argument about the past aside. What is the appropriate place of religion in our society for the future? It's a common thought that the fundamental basis of morality is found in religion. But the fact of the matter is that the morality has been brought into religion from the outside. It's we humans who have built up moral codes in various places and times and then attributed them to God or the gods as the case may be. The moral pronouncements of God would not be the least bit appealing if they didn't resonate with our own internal sense of justice and fairness. The reason there have been and continue to be such struggles over such things as gender equality or the place of homosexuals in society is because our sense of justice is in conflict with traditional religious morality. Eventually human-centered justice will prevail because tradition by it's very nature is, over the long run, malleable.
If we are all going to be able to live together as a united society there has to be a common moral code that serves as a check on our diverse religious codes. We don't allow murder in the name of religion. The boundaries between the jurisdiction of the common code and the religious will always be under constructive tension. A patient can refuse a life-saving blood transfusion if he has a religious objection against it but is it proper to refuse the transfusion to a child who has yet to develop a particular religious viewpoint of her own? Who should be the subject of prosecution in such a case?
Regardless of what was in the mind of the founding fathers we should be asking what makes moral sense today and tomorrow? Do we want to have a society in which women are second-class citizens as they were in Old Testament times? Do we want to have a society in which our beloved children who happen to be homosexual are prohibited from experiencing society's approval and support of their long-term loving relationships? Do we want to have a society in which there are different rules for the rich and powerful than there are for the disadvantaged? These are more important questions than whatever it was Thomas Jefferson or John Adams thought.