Pic of the day

Ukie army grocery bike
Click to enlargeAP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

A Ukrainian serviceman rides a bicycle in Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine… Russia and Ukraine agreed in Berlin on Monday to call for the pullback of smaller-caliber weapons from the front lines of the conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Too many kinds of comment in my poor brain for this one. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, humorous, philosophical or otherwise.

Asia’s Multilateralism


That’s Bob Shiller’s book on Irrational Exuberance on the shelf

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are poised to hold their annual meetings, but the big news in global economic governance will not be made in Washington DC in the coming days. Indeed, that news was made last month, when the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy joined more than 30 other countries as founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The $50 billion AIIB, launched by China, will help meet Asia’s enormous infrastructure needs, which are well beyond the capacity of today’s institutional arrangements to finance.

One would have thought that the AIIB’s launch, and the decision of so many governments to support it, would be a cause for universal celebration. And for the IMF, the World Bank, and many others, it was. But, puzzlingly, wealthy European countries’ decision to join provoked the ire of American officials. Indeed, one unnamed American source accused the UK of “constant accommodation” of China. Covertly, the United States put pressure on countries around the world to stay away.

In fact, America’s opposition to the AIIB is inconsistent with its stated economic priorities in Asia. Sadly, it seems to be another case of America’s insecurity about its global influence trumping its idealistic rhetoric – this time possibly undermining an important opportunity to strengthen Asia’s developing economies.

China itself is a testament to the extent to which infrastructure investment can contribute to development. Last month, I visited formerly remote areas of the country that are now prosperous as a result of the connectivity – and thus the freer flow of people, goods, and ideas – that such investments have delivered.

The AIIB would bring similar benefits to other parts of Asia, which deepens the irony of US opposition. President Barack Obama’s administration is championing the virtues of trade; but, in developing countries, lack of infrastructure is a far more serious barrier to trade than tariffs.

A generally wholistic understanding of the workings of the global economy is just one of the reasons Joe Stiglitz was honored with the Nobel Prize in economics. It ain’t a bad start.

RTFA and understand why modern economists think our government’s hypocrisy ain’t new – just backwards for a couple new reasons.

Uninsured rate for Americans below 12%


Connecticut opened the first health insurance storefront in the nation

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015 — down one percentage point from the previous quarter and 5.2 points since the end of 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The uninsured rate is the lowest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in 2008.

…The uninsured rate has dropped sharply since the most significant change to the U.S. healthcare system in the Affordable Care Act — the provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance — took effect at the beginning of 2014. An improving economy and a falling unemployment rate may also have accelerated the steep drop in the percentage of uninsured over the past year. However, the uninsured rate is significantly lower than it was in early 2008, before the depths of the economic recession, suggesting that the recent decline is due to more than just an improving economy.

While the uninsured rate has declined across all key demographic groups since the healthcare law fully took effect in January 2014, it has dropped most among lower-income Americans and Hispanics — the groups most likely to lack insurance. The uninsured rate among Americans earning less than $36,000 in annual household income dropped 8.7 points since the end of 2013, while the rate among Hispanics fell 8.3 points. The significant drop in uninsured Hispanics is a key accomplishment for the Obama administration, which led targeted efforts to insure this group as they had the highest uninsured population of all key subgroups. However, despite the gains in insurance coverage among Hispanics and lower-income Americans, these groups still have higher uninsured rates than other key subgroups.

Americans aged 26 to 34 have also seen gains in coverage since the healthcare law went into effect — the uninsured rate among this group is down 7.4 points since the end of 2013, the largest drop among any age group. Blacks have also seen a substantial drop in their uninsured rate since the fourth quarter of 2013 — 7.3 points.

RTFA for lots of stats, predictably conservative analysis.

The most important thing we will all be forced to recognize about this successful start-up is that Republicans hate it. Today’s conservatives, their bigot allies, economics failures whose knowledge made it only a half century beyond Henry Clay – will dissect every step of growth in coverage, savings for working people and the working poor, Americans in general – to try to find the socialist plot behind the whole endeavor. Socialist ethics really frustrates folks who consider protecting greed the 11th Commandment.

I’ll tell you the socialist plot, right now. Folks who care – want a true single-payer system with the right to negotiate fixed prices on procedures and meds. Just like the the freaking military. Just like every other sensible, frugal, industrial democracy. It works and has been working for over a half-century in some cases.

I realize that’s still too modern for some folks; but, try an honest debate grounded in real numbers and real needs sometime. Walk away from the sleaze and deceit today’s Republicans have to rely upon to justify their existence on this planet – and their opposition to true socialized healthcare.

Republican supply-side economics bring doom and gloom to Kansas

Every year, right after the April 15 tax deadline, the U.S. Census releases its data on the prior year’s state tax collections. It is a fascinating document, filled with great data points for tax and policy wonks. It reveals a good deal about the state of local economies, economic trends and results of specific policies. In broad terms, the financial fortunes of the states are improving.

State government tax revenue increased 2.2 percent…according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections.

General sales and gross receipts taxes drove most of the revenue growth…

Let’s focus on Kansas, because of all the states its tax data reflects conscious policy choices as opposed to larger economic forces, such as falling oil prices.

Under the leadership of Republican Governor Sam Brownback, the state radically cut income taxes on corporations and individuals. Going on the assumption that this would generate a burst of economic growth and higher tax revenue, no alternative sources of revenue were put into place. Similarly, the state failed to lower spending.

Alas, reality trumps theory. As we have seen almost every time this thesis has been put into practice, it fails. The tax cuts don’t magically kick the economy into higher gear and the government ends up short of money…

Continue reading

I nominate the Flying Mailman Doug Hughes for an Aerial Achievement Medal

Doug Hughes
Click to enlargeJames Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times

Perhaps nobody was more surprised by Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter stunt at the Capitol on Wednesday than his neighbors in Ruskin, Florida.

“It’s weird thinking somebody like that, you know, two doors down,” the U.S. mailman’s neighbor Ian Hopkins said.

“We were so surprised about it because you know he’s a good man… he’s a good neighbor,” another person said.

Hughes is a married father of four who’s been flying gyrocopters for more than a year. According to his website, the 61-year-old grew up in California, served in the Navy and became a mailman more than a decade ago. But Wednesday, he chose to veer off his regular route to draw attention to campaign finance reform…

Hughes’ so-called “freedom flight” had been in the works for some time…In fact, Hughes alerted the Tampa Bay Times last year — after the Secret Service interviewed him about his plans.

“Terrorists don’t announce their flights before they take off. Terrorists don’t broadcast their flight path,” Hughes told the Times…

According to the Times, Hughes’ act of civil disobedience began taking shape more than two years ago after his son committed suicide…His grief prompted him to take a bigger stand on political issues he felt were important.

“We were trying to think of ways to get attention, and it looks like he did that,” Hughes’ co-worker Michael Shanahan said…

Still, Shanahan insists his friend is more patriot than terrorist.

Ahead of his landing at the Capitol, Hughes took to his website writing: “I have no violent inclinations or intent… Let’s keep the discussion focused on reform — not me — I’m just delivering the mail.”

Hughes knew what was at stake in carrying out his mission. The Tampa Bay Times said he expected to lose his job and his freedom. Hughes said he didn’t tell his wife or four children about the plan because he didn’t want them to be implicated.

You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. You don’t need to belong to the Air Force to deliver the air mail. Just maybe – you should receive commendation for courage in the face of politicians afraid to do a damned thing for folks’ civil rights.

Marijuana extract a promising treatment for severe childhood epilepsy

An extract of marijuana shows promise as a treatment for children with severe epilepsy who have been unresponsive to other treatments, after an early-phase safety study is presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual conference.

The study is an analysis of early clinical trialing, so mainly designed to be the first test of the potential medicine’s safety and tolerability for patients as well as its possible effectiveness. The extract under investigation is cannabidiol (CBD), and was taken in a liquid form once daily…

All the children had severe forms of epilepsy – including Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, which can mean lifelong disabling seizures – and their conditions had not responded to other treatments. They received the experimental treatment under the FDA’s expanded access program, which makes investigational drugs available for testing to people with serious or life-limiting conditions.

The results provided so far – and to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, which starts at the end of this week in Washington, DC – give only the relative reductions in numbers of seizures suffered by the participants – there was a decrease in these during the study of around half.

Only future phases of clinical trialing could test effectiveness properly – using greater numbers of patients in randomized controlled trials, which will also help to reduce the effects of bias…

Dr. Orrin Devinsky said: “While cannabis has been used to treat epilepsy for centuries, data from double-blind randomized, controlled trials of CBD or THC in epilepsy is lacking. Randomized controlled studies of CBD in targeted epilepsy groups, such as patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, are in the planning stages.”

Overdue. Why? Because we are a nation of powerless electors – limited to TweedleDee and TweedleDumb, two wings of the same useless, bought-and-sold, political hacks.

The history of laws and regulations governing cannabis in the United States have absolutely nothing to do with science or reality 101. Religion, myth, superstition, opportunist fumbling under the money-tables of our legal temples have all played a role in codifying stupidity. With the collaboration of cowards as often self-defined as Liberal as Conservative.

For a little more background to the efforts of folks willing to challenge idjit law, wander over to this post from last June.

Dad hands 6-yr-old loaded gun. 6-yr-old shoots her sister. No charges for dad.

A New Mexico father isn’t facing any charges after his six-year-old daughter accidentally shot her sister. San Juan county chief prosecutors told the Farmington Daily Times the Flora Vista father violated basic firearms rules and was negligent but that negligence did not rise to a level of a crime.

In January, the father handed the .22-caliber rifle to his 6-year-old daughter to take to another room, but she pointed it at her 8-year-old older sister and pulled the trigger hitting her in the neck. The 8-year-old survived.

The mother of the girls says the family has since removed all firearms from their home and the father suffers from incredible guilt.

So, I guess we don’t need laws covering stupid acts which cause harm and pain. We can rely on feelings of guilt to cover everything. No, I have no interest in sending this unnamed dad to the slammer; but, he could be properly charged and judged. Even if he gets officially warned, lightly sanctioned, it tells the NM public you can’t avoid laws on the basis of screwing up.

That’s about right for New Mexico. We recently had an off-duty cop run a red light and T-bone a car, killing one of two sisters and seriously injuring the other. He got 90 days for misdemeanor careless driving.

The other day, the electric meter for all of Germany ran backwards for 8 hours!

Germany’s electricity traders may face busy weekends as sunny weather positions the nation for a season of solar power records.

After Wednesday’s all-time high of 27.7 gigawatts, Europe’s biggest electricity market is poised for new highs in the next few days or weeks, according to group meteorologist Marcus Boljahn at MeteoGroup. The previous record of 24.2 gigawatts was set on June 6, 2014, when fewer solar panels were installed, the weather forecaster said. One gigawatt is about equal to the capacity of a nuclear reactor…

Germany’s planned decade-long, 120 billion-euro ($127 billion) shift to cleaner energy from fossil fuels has made the nation the biggest economy in the world to rely so heavily on renewable power. Unpredictable solar and wind energy can flood the grid, resulting in negative power prices, when generators must pay consumers to take electricity. The risk is higher at weekends, when usage slows as offices and factories shut…

Germany got about 26 percent of its electricity from renewables in 2014, a share the country aims to increase to 45 percent in the next 10 years. Solar accounted for 22 percent, according to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries, a lobby group.

Intraday German day-ahead power prices were negative for eight hours on Sunday in continuous trading…Prices turned negative for two hours on Wednesday,,,a normal workday with industry at typical output

Read my recent post over here on renewables in Germany – and you can ignore two of the biggest lies from the fossil-fuel flunkies: It’s perfectly possible to manage the storage swings on demand using renewables with a small amount of cleaner fossil fuel like natgas – and “Germany’s not as big as the United States so it’s easier to change” – is hogwash! We’ve never made wholesale changes to any infrastructure in one nationwide sweep. Even the Interstate highway system was built-out in segments over time. Germany’s GDP is slightly larger than the sum of our two largest producers of GDP, California and Texas. Comparable advancement in either state would matter enormously to the health of the American economy.

Of course, ain’t anything like that happening in Texas with the blivets in charge functioning ideologically as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permian Basin crude oil.