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Sporadic Posts

Postings may be a bit slower for the next few weeks, but I’ll try to post as often as possible. Get out there and enjoy spring!

Oh, and sometime next week this blog will move to a faster server. Hopefully there won’t be many bumps or hiccups.

UPDATE: New server! System response seems to be faster.

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Late Night Political Humor

“Big news out of the White House. According to a new rule, Secret Service agents can no longer drink alcohol 12 hours before reporting to duty. The rule came at the request of President Barack O-Buzzkill.” – Conan O’Brien

“Yesterday Hillary Clinton admitted she is thinking about running for president. Though it would be more shocking if she admitted to ever thinking about anything else.” – Seth Meyers

“‘Captain America’ is currently the No. 1 movie in China. The Chinese say their favorite part is when Captain America asks Captain China for a $17 trillion loan.” – Conan O’Brien

“The North Korean dictator is in the news again. He was re-elected with 100 percent of the vote. He said, ‘I haven’t been this happy since I scored 700,000 on the SAT exam.’” – Conan O’Brien

“France has passed new legislation that makes it illegal to work after 6 p.m. They’re hoping to encourage workers to spend more time with their mistresses.” – Seth Meyers

“Last week I announced that I’m retiring. Now I’m hoping I can hang on long enough so my son can take over the show. I never thought I would retire. I always assumed I would be impeached.” – David Letterman

“I’ll tell you exactly the moment I made the decision to retire. A couple of months ago my cue card boy came to me and said, ‘Mr. Letterman, I’m sorry. I just can’t print the jokes any bigger.’” – David Letterman

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Pound Foolish

There has been quite a bit of attention focused on high frequency trading recently, partially brought on by the book “Flash Boys”. But in a must-read editorial in the NY Times, Paul Krugman points out that the stunning amounts of money being spent on high frequency trading systems is really just one symptom of an even greater problem.

The real problem is that our society is wasting greater and greater amounts of its resources on “financial wheeling and dealing”, which give nothing back in return. One expert puts the waste at several hundred billions of dollars a year. Indeed, since we started dismantling financial regulations around 1980, the percentage of GDP that is skimmed off by the financial services industry has doubled.

In addition, an increasing amount of financial time and energy now goes into speculation, which provides few if any benefits to society. Krugman concludes:

In short, we’re giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing — maybe less than nothing — in return. Mr. Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I’d argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality.

Meanwhile, we aren’t spending even close to that amount of money on things that are important. In particular, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a detailed report that shows that the cost of reversing climate change is actually amazingly low. They estimate that reducing the emission of greenhouse gases will reduce the median growth of consumption by a mere 0.06%. This is especially stunning when you realize that the cost of climate change, destruction due to increasingly unpredictable weather, sea level rise, crop failures, etc. will be far greater than that. In other words, doing nothing will cost us far more than cutting back our addiction to fossil fuels. An that doesn’t even include how much we will save by not repeatedly starting wars for oil.

And as Paul Krugman points out in a separate article, the costs of moving to sustainable energy are plummeting.

Consider just one form of sustainable energy, solar:

Paul Krugman

This graph shows that the cost of solar panels has plummeted, and as of 2012 is becoming competitive with coal and natural gas.

Another study shows that wind and solar energy are now 20% cheaper than nuclear power.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If we would stop subsidizing fossil fuels and give sustainable energy the investment it needs, we could solve our energy problems rapidly. When are we going to stop making excuses?

UPDATE: Oklahoma is passing a law that that makes renewable energy more expensive. Sigh.

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Better and Better

The Congressional Budget Office has issued an updated accounting report on the Affordable Care Act, and there is good news. We already know some of the good news — more people will be covered by Obamacare than expected. But I just want to remind people how significant that is — the whole point of health care reform was to get more people access to proper health care.

But there is more good news. The cost of Obamacare was also revised down, saving the government a projected $104 billion. The reason for this savings is because insurance premiums are lower than expected. Hah! When was the last time you heard that health insurance cost less than expected? That means that the deficit will be lower. And even if you aren’t getting one of those government subsidies for your health insurance, you will also save money because your (unsubsidized) premiums will be lower.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been monitoring the results of the implementation of Obamacare:

It is good news that premiums have come in lower than expected, meaning lower costs for the federal government and for families as well. It’s a sign that the ACA may be working to hold premiums down by forcing insurers to compete over price rather than by cherry-picking healthy people.

I think this is very significant. Because of the ACA (the oft maligned government regulation) health insurance is starting to act like a free market, causing insurance companies to compete.

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Conflicts of Interest

Politicians! Accused of pesky ethics violations? No problem!

In South Carolina, the Republican Speaker of the State House Alan Wilson is being investigated by the Republican Attorney General for ethics violations. How to solve this problem? Just introduce a bill that allows the Speaker to pick the special prosecutor to investigate ethics violations by legislators. The bill says the special prosecutor would be “deemed to stand in the place of the attorney general when appointed.” That way, you get to pick the person who investigates you!

Meanwhile in New Jersey, where governor Chris Christie is accused of illegal political shenanigans, it turns out that four years ago Christie pushed out the executive director of the ethics commission while she was investigating a member of Christie’s staff, and replaced her with with one of Christie’s own lawyers (and later gave the lawyer a judgeship).

Problems Solved!

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Oligarchy!

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

The Republican majority on the Supreme Court seems hell bent to solidify oligarchy in the US by ruling that money is free speech.

Indeed, a recent study done at Princeton and Northwestern Universities looked at 1,800 laws enacted between 1981 and 2002 and compared them to the interests of average Americans (in the 50th percentile) and the interests of the rich (90th percentile) and special interest groups. To little surprise, they found that the interests of average Americans are almost completely ignored. In the words of the study:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

The few times that average Americans do get laws passed to their benefit, it is only because the rich also win.

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Late Night Political Humor

“A man got a tattoo saying that Kentucky won the NCAA tournament this year even though they lost. The tattoo is right above his tattoo congratulating President Mitt Romney.” – Conan O’Brien

“George W. Bush and Bill Clinton sat next to each other at the big game. Clinton congratulated UConn on its big win, while Bush gave Kentucky a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.” – Jimmy Fallon

“At the NCAA men’s basketball championship, President Clinton sat with President George W. Bush. In the second half, Bush tried to catch a foul ball.” – David Letterman

“Congratulations to the Huskies, who are the NCAA champs. There were a lot of celebrities at the game last night. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush sat together. Apparently they’re becoming good friends. I smell a sitcom.” – Craig Ferguson

“Last week I mentioned to folks I was retiring and the reaction has been overwhelming, but the most impressive reaction since I made that announcement is now I’m seeing kind of a wistful tone to my hate mail.” – David Letterman

“Last month, over 200,000 jobs were created in the United States. And that doesn’t count this one.” – David Letterman

“About a year from now, I’ll be doing commercials for reverse mortgages.” – David Letterman

“In a recent survey, 84 percent of Americans were unable to locate Ukraine on a map. When he heard this, Vladimir Putin said, ‘That’s easy, it’s in Russia now.’” – Conan O’Brien

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Fair and Balanced Cosmos

Funny or Die imagines what would happen if religious right-wingers had their way with the Cosmos TV series:

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Too Stoned?

I could never understand why marijuana was classified as a dangerous drug — so dangerous that it was illegal to even do any studies on it, or to prescribe it as a pain killer (even though much more powerful drugs like morphine were routinely used for pain relief). Why? Because opponents claimed that using marijuana would increase crime.

Now that around a dozen states have legalized marijuana for medical use, multiple studies have been done to find out what effects, if any, legal marijuana use has had.

To hardly anyone’s surprise, the studies show that legal access to medical marijuana does not result in any increase in crime. In fact, there is evidence that it is related to a decrease in violent crime. The theory is that substituting marijuana for alcohol reduces the crime rate for murder and assault. Also, the legalization of medical marijuana led to a 13% decrease in alcohol related traffic fatalities.

Two studies looked at the neighborhoods were medical marijuana dispensaries are located, and found that there was no evidence of any increases in violent crimes or property crimes.

And finally, while we only have data for the one state that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, so far in the three months it has been legal there has been a slight dip in both violent and property crimes.

While it may be too early to reach a firm conclusion, the big point is that repeated studies have shown absolutely no evidence that legalizing marijuana leads to increased crime.

In a country where even presidents have admitted that they have used marijuana, isn’t it time to completely eliminate marijuana prohibition?

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Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama invited the U.S. Olympic team to the White House yesterday to congratulate them on their performance in Sochi. Of course it got awkward when Biden told the biathletes, ‘I won’t rest until all you guys can get married.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Obamacare hit its numbers. Despite all the initial problems, Healthcare.gov surpassed the enrollment goal, over 7 million. Now the Republicans are saying that they’re going to repeal the Internet.” – Bill Maher

“Hillary Clinton yesterday made some very strong remarks about the media. She said that the media treat powerful women with a double standard. Or as it got reported in most places, ‘Hillary Clinton shows off sassy new haircut.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Game of Thrones returns this weekend on HBO. I’m sure you know it as a magical fantasy where you’re never quite sure who’s going to live or die. Or maybe I’m thinking of Paul Ryan’s budget.” – Bill Maher

“Billionaire Sheldon Adelson had a little party in Vegas this weekend to audition Republican presidential candidates, and they all came to kiss his ass: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich. Chris Christie came, and while he was in Vegas he went over to the New York, New York hotel and shut down traffic on the miniature Brooklyn Bridge.” – Bill Maher

“McDonald’s announced that it has closed its three restaurants in Crimea because of the tension in the region. Then Putin said, ‘Is good to hear. Even I don’t have weapon as destructive as McRib.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“50 years ago, America’s biggest employer was General Motors, where workers made the modern equivalent of $50 dollars an hour. Today, America’s biggest employer is Walmart, where the average wage is $8 dollars an hour… And Walmart released their annual report this month, and in it was the fact that most of what Walmart sells is food. And most of their customers need food stamps to pay for it. Meanwhile, Walmart’s owners are so absurdly rich that one of them, Alice Walton, spent over a billion dollars building an art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, 500 miles away from the nearest person who ever would want to look at art. And she said about it, ‘For years I’ve been thinking about what we can do as a family that can really make a difference.’ How about giving your employees a raise, you deluded nitwit?” – Bill Maher

“Earlier today, I called the president of CBS, the guy who owns the network, Leslie Moonves, and said, ‘I’m retiring.’ There was a pause and then he said, ‘Who is this?’” – David Letterman

“A year from now I’ll be on the beach with a metal detector.” – David Letterman

“Immediately after I made that call, CBS posted a guard by the office supplies.” – David Letterman

“The big news is that yesterday David Letterman announced that he is retiring from ‘The Late Show’ in 2015. I couldn’t believe it. And neither could my parents. They said, ‘Guess we’ll have to start watching YOU now.’” – Jimmy Fallon

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Lies, Damn Lies, and the NSA

It is like an AA meeting where the first step is admitting you have a problem. Because until now our spy apparatus has been in denial. James Clapper lied to Congress about widespread spying on Americans. Former NSA head Keith Alexander denied it. Even Obama repeatedly told us that “no one is reading your emails or listening to your phone calls.”

The NSA claimed that they were only looking at metadata. Even though the documents released by Edward Snowden showed that the NSA was indeed reading our emails and listening to our phone calls.

So it is interesting that in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the NSA finally admitted what everyone already knows. That the NSA has been reading innocent Americans’ emails and text messages and listening to digital recordings of their telephone conversations that have been stored in NSA computers, without obtaining warrants required by the Constitution.

Now that we know that our government spies have been wantonly violating the constitution, and then have lied to Congress about it, what do we do now? How do we stop the madness?

Giving full amnesty to Snowden would be a good first step.

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Late Night Political Humor

“George W. Bush will open an art exhibit at his presidential library that will feature portraits he painted of various world leaders. He was going to include a painting of bin Laden, but he couldn’t find it.” – Jimmy Fallon

“House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan just released his budget proposal for 2015. Of course, a lot of people are criticizing it. For example, during a speech yesterday President Obama referred to the budget as a ‘stinkburger’ and a ‘meanwich.’ Ryan called Obama immature, while Chris Christie called to see if he had any more of those stinkburgers or meanwiches.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Chris Christie, what a guy. He allegedly closes down the George Washington Bridge. Everybody goes crazy. And he says, ‘I’ll handle this. I’m going to investigate myself.’ So he investigates himself. He finds out that he, in fact, is innocent. He came up with a classic defense, ‘If the pants don’t fit, you must acquit.’” – David Letterman

“Our good pal, Rob Ford, is at it again. Yesterday he was the only member of Toronto’s city council to vote ‘no’ on a measure to congratulate Canada’s Winter Olympians. He said, ‘If someone’s gonna be rewarded for not falling on their face, it should be me.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Ford also voted against naming a street after Nelson Mandela. But he claims that he simply hit the wrong button. Then people who voted for Rob Ford were like, ‘Been there’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Evil Russian president Vladimir Putin and his wife have divorced. They say it was amicable. It must be because she’s still alive.” – David Letterman

“The Kremlin announced yesterday that Vladimir Putin and his wife have officially divorced. Over their 30-year marriage, the couple shared two daughters, several homes and one laugh.” – Seth Meyers

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Taking the Piss out of Elections?

The Miami-Dade County elections department received an inquiry earlier this year about whether the bathrooms in their polling places were accessible to disabled voters.

Their response? They are closing all restrooms at polling places “to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly.”

That’s an interesting way to ensure fairness. Screw everyone!

So that means that if you are stuck in a line waiting to vote, you won’t be able to go to the bathroom. And remember that in the last presidential election, people waited as long as six hours to vote. Not to mention that people with a disability like diabetes, which makes you need to urinate more frequently, are going to have a real problem.

Then there are the elderly, who make up a large percentage of the Florida population. Luckily, not all counties in Florida are doing something this stupid.

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Late Night Political Humor

“The Kremlin announced today that Vladimir Putin and his wife have officially divorced. She’ll get the house and the car and he’ll get Crimea, Ukraine, Belarus…” – Seth Meyers

“Vladimir Putin’s divorce became final today. So ladies, he’s officially single. Run!” – Seth Meyers

“A new poll has found that 75 percent of Americans believe marijuana legalization is inevitable. The same 75 percent also said inevitable is a funny word because you never hear ‘evitable’. What does evitable mean?” – Seth Meyers

“That’s right, 75 percent of Americans think marijuana eventually will be legal, while the other 25 percent said, ‘What, it’s illegal?’” – Seth Meyers

“Toronto’s city council voted on whether to name a street after Nelson Mandela and whether to congratulate Canada’s Olympic athletes. Both votes passed 40-1. Can you guess who that one vote against was? Rob Ford. He now says he got the buttons confused. Come on, Toronto, how could you not re-elect this guy? He’s the best. And it’s Wednesday. This is the first mistake he’s made all week.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“President Clinton is here tonight to remind us about how happy we used to be.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“In mere minutes, President Clinton will be sitting in the same spot once occupied by both Honey Boo Boo and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. That chair is going to be so confused.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“The White House finally met their enrollment goal for Obamacare. President Obama held a press conference and said this means that Obamacare is ‘here to stay’. He added, ‘because if you think getting INTO the program was hard, just try getting OUT.’” – Jimmy Fallon

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Colbert Unplugged

CBS has announced that Stephen Colbert will be replacing David Letterman on the Late Show.

What makes this interesting is that Colbert will drop his faux-conservative persona and will be himself. Or as Colbert put it “I won’t be doing the new show in character, so we’ll all get to find out how much of him was me. I’m looking forward to it.”

UPDATE: Good article about the switch.

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Late Night Political Humor

“The White House says it’s surpassed its goal for people enrolled in Obamacare. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you make something mandatory and fine people if they don’t do it, and keep extending the deadline for months.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The Secret Service arrested a man today after he tried to scale a fence at the White House. They reportedly said to the man, ‘Sorry, but you still have two more years, Mr. President.’” – Seth Meyers

“Connecticut beat Michigan State, the team that President Obama had picked to win the whole tournament. It completely busted his bracket. Which explains why today Connecticut got a fruit basket from Vladimir Putin.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Officials in Finland say the Russian army is now conducting drills on its border. Or as Vladimir Putin calls that, ‘window shopping’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The official presidential candidate for the Ukrainian Internet Party is a man in a Darth Vader costume. Not to be confused with the president of Russia, who is Darth Vader in a man costume.” – Seth Meyers

“U.N. experts are saying that climate change could start threatening the world’s supply of fruits and vegetables. Then Americans said, ‘OK, let us know when it starts affecting Twinkies and Hot Pockets.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“The Department of Agriculture is encouraging grandparents to read their grandchildren bedtime stories about nutrition. Stories like ‘Goodnight Kale’, ‘James and the Giant Organic Peach’, and ‘The Little Engine That Could, Thanks to His High-Fiber Diet’.” – Seth Meyers

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