Monday, December 27, 2010

AT&T offers video "The Last Text" on the hazards of texting and cell phone use while driving

This morning ABC Good Morning America mentioned a new short film from AT&T: “Don’t Text While Driving” also called “The Last Text”.




The ten minute film presents several graphic histories, including a teen serving a sentence for hitting a bicyclist, and covers the concept of responsibility for those on the other end of cell phone calls made or texts sent by drivers.

Two years ago there was a similar 4 minute video from the UK. It was called “Texting While Driving” and is on my Movies Blog Aug. 25, 2009.

I have taken Oprah's "No phone zone" pledge.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website is called “Distraction”, here.

People are 23 more times likely to have an accident if texting while driving. But cell phone conversations are risky too, and some say that the hands free devices (like Jupiter Jack) don’t necessarily make it safer; it’s the brain distraction that matters. Of course, we could say that about eating, operating CD players or even radios while driving. The other side of the coin is that a little distraction keeps someone awake on an interstate. Once in 1997, someone on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, as I hauled out to Minneapolis to start a new life and had finished lunch, yelled “Stay Awake”. It startled me. And the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel was approaching. (Hobbyists and cyclists: look for this link on “abandoned PA turnpike tunnels”; I will come back to this later.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Teenage pregnancies drop, but so does fertility and population replacement

Rob Stein (and he’s not quirky columnist “Ben Stein” but maybe he could be) has an article on p A2 of the Washington Post, Dec. 22, “Birthrate among teens hits record low: poor economy, abstinence message may be swaying girls”, link here.

The article briefly connects abstinence to the reverse problem of low fertility. It says that US birthrates inched above population replacement in 2007 and 2008 and have slipped below again in 2009 and 2010.

There is a general impression that it is not a good idea to depend on a bad economy to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The longer term, however, is that a stagnating population and seriously imperil a country’s future economic growth, and that’s why some social conservatives are talking about rewriting “the social contract.”  These days, we tell young people that their future responsibilities are under their own control. (Just listen to Dr. Phil.) That might not work forever.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dr. Ox on cell phone dangers: Erin Brokovich's chromium comes back; Moon

A couple more “public health” issues came up in the past couple of days. Dr. Mehmet Oz, Oprah’s friend, has been talking ambiguously about cell phone hazards, and here is his basic article on the subject from Oprah’s Magazine from February 2010, link.

He was a little concerned about the micro radiation getting into hip bone marrow, and possibly heating the brain, particularly in children. It seems very unlikely. Doctor’s have become less concerned about microwaves and heart pacemakers and the like than in the past. One tip is that a poor signal may present more “risk” than a strong one, because it takes more power to carry it (probably from a more distant tower).

The other news concerns finding Hexavalnet Chromium in drinking water, the topic of the 2000 Fox film “Erin Brokovich”, in Hinkley, CA. Now it seems it has been found in the drinking tap water in 31 out of 35 US cities. Travis Walter Donovan has a typical story in the Huffington Post, link. Norman OK and Honolulu were the worst offenders; Washington DC was way down the pack.

Wikipedia attribution link for Lunar Eclipse at 2010 Winter Solstice today.  Sorry, I didn’t wake up for it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The VAT v. "The Single Tax"

Chrystal Freeland discussed the idea of a value added tax on Ali Velshi today. The plus of it is to reduce consumption; the minus is that it is regressive, although that could be offset with credits.

Fareed Zakaria discussed the increased fees (resulting in “demonstrations” in London) and increased VAT in Britain with George Osborne. Gordon Browne disagreed, saying

I can recall back in the early 1970s the Far Left (“People’s Party”) wanted a “Single Tax”, which it claimed must he an “income tax”, so that “life was fair” and everybody started at the same place in line (that’s what Chairman Mao wanted).  I think we studied "The Single Tax" in high school government class.

Zakaria said that US Congress was playing a shell game, risking financial instability in order to pretend it could keep tax cuts. Britain, Zakaria thought, may be facing its problems more squarely and the UK may be much more creditworthy in the future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

TSA full body scanners won't catch a lot; it could get even more personal

Fran Golden has an “AOL Original” story Friday Dec. 17, “Leading scientists say airport full body scanners easily duped”, link here. There are a lot of concerns that many objects could be hidden, well, in crevices, maybe even in hair. (Imagine what could be expected of passengers; “Aplusk” on Twitter wouldn’t like it.) Increasing the radiation dosage could reduce the risk of missing contraband, but raise even more safety issues.

The Washington Post ran a similar long story today, by Anne E. Kornblut and Ashley Halsey III, “Revamping of Airport Checkpoint System Urged”, link here. The thinking is certainly shifting toward more reliance on intelligence gathering, and passenger-based screening, not taking it to the extent that Israel does (which would be unacceptable here), and probably running further into issues about federal data collection and even online “cloud” reputation as well as false positives on no-fly lists.

It's also unlikely that the "enemy" will repeat the same "tricks" it tried before, which fortunately it has not been very competent at.  This will become a battle of imagination, the kind you see only in the movies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Fact sheet" on minimum wage stirs controversy

Here’s a nice little fact sheet on the debate over the minimum wage, at a site called “The Work Buzz”. It’s called “A few things you should know about the minimum wage.” It’s interesting that it says that Oklahoma City is the nation’s lowest rent metro area, and even there the minimum wage would barely pay a year’s rent.

The real value of this post is the extensive comments. Some of the speakers are quite explicit that most of us are just a few paychecks from living in the streets.

In some cases, companies get around minimum wage laws by hiring people as “independent contractors.”

I found a copy of the study by Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester and Michael Reich at a Berkeley site called “eScholarship” here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Should companies be taxes on accumulated cash so they will spend on employing people?

Well, the Left is indignant against inherited wealth, but also against risk-free hoarding under the mattress (really not so safe). Mihir A. Desai had an op-ed on p A25, the “Washington Forum”, in the Washington Post on December 10, “Tax U.S. companies into spending”, link here.

Imagine a tax on accumulated liquid wealth, and then shenanigans it would inspire. Imagine that being done at an individual level to redistribute wealth. But that is what far left wing groups like Dr. Spock’s People’s Party wanted back in the early 1970s. The “most effective tax”, a “single tax”, was an obsession with them.

Picture: from an Amtrak train, near Philadephia: through a narrow window, darkly.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Federal judge strikes down "mandatory insurance" provison of Obama's health care reform (in suit brought by Virginia)

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson has ruled, in Richmond, that a portion of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or else pay penalties if they do not get insurance through work, to be unconstitutional. Jim Nolan has a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch here.  The Commonwealth of Virginia, under Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, had sued, claiming that the Commerce Clause did not give Congress the authority to regulate the decision to purchase individual health insurance.

The Obama administration will appeal the ruling to the 4th Circuit in Richmond, generally considered conservative.

Here is the Opinion, in the case Virginia v. Sebelius, link.

Obama-GOP tax deal and China's trade could suppress tax-free bond values for many investors

The extension of the tax cuts is probably going to push up interest rates, despite the Fed’s recent stimulus plan. “What the Federal Reserve Giveth, Obama Takes Away”, so goes a Reuters-Yahoo story today.  The story casts the game as “Fed v. Obama”, but maybe it’s Fed v. “Bubba Bill Clinton” who encouraged Obama go to along with the GOP on some tax cuts, even if Clinton was probably our most responsible president fiscally in recent times. (The first Senate vote on the "deal" may occur late Monday, according to media headlines.)

China may also put upward pressure on interest rates worldwide soon, according to many media stories.

The result is lower bond prices, which is not a good thing for many retirees who have invested heavily in less “volatile” bonds, especially tax-free municipal bonds, which may see lower demand due to high income tax cuts and also due to local government pension stresses and calls for stricter pension accounting. Just put all the eggs together and make an omelet.

Here’s a CNBC video yesterday that reminds us of 70s stagflation economics.



Update: Dec. 15

Check the front page Washington Post article by Neil Irwin, "Uptick in interest rates puts Fed on alert; Rise complicates efforts to kick-start economy with big bond purchage", link here. This comports with what a financial planner at SunTrust told me recently when explaining the recent dip in prices of tax-free municpal bonds.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Unemployment insurance premiums hurt small business disproportionately

The Washington Examiner has an important op-ed by Michelle Malkin, “Unemployment insurance kills small business”, link here.  Small proprietors, like doctors or neighborhood retail businesses, are hit much harder relatively speaking by higher unemployment insurance premiums than are much larger employers who are often responsible for so many of the layoffs.

She gives an example of a rock band, Vinyl Headlights, Inc., which might have to make its members go solo.

Continuation of the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance (to up to 155 weeks) was part of President Obama’s deal with Congress, which as of just now has fallen into jeopardy (CNN Political Ticker--Breaking News -- story Dec. 9 ).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

NYC trying to give "make work" to suspended teachers; Michell Rhee founds "Students First"; American students falling behind

Sharon Otterman has a story in the New York Times today narrating NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to get rid of “rubber rooms” for defrocked public school teachers, “New York Teachers Still In Idle Limbo”, link here

Now the City is assigning teachers to make-work administrative jobs, sometimes measuring sizes of buildings, in various schools. A few work in truancy centers (that takes people skills), but some say they have been told to sit in their cubicles for the entire 6 hours and 50 minutes and not get up and walk around.

A few have genuine administrative jobs but only non-functioning work computers.

In another education matter, departing (and controversial) DC School System Chancellor Michelle Rhee has established “Students First”, with link here. You have to sign up for the email list to see the content. Under the “for everyone else” page there is an article “International study finds U.S. students far behind those in other countries” (posted by Rhee herself), especially Singapore, South Korea (which has a boot camp for Internet addiction!) and Finland, link here. Finland is especially well known for the quality of its teachers.

I still say, Michelle Rhee and Mark Zuckerberg are psychologically very much alike!  Neither cares what others think!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may be associated with a retrovirus, could be in blood supply, according to advocacy group

An organization named the (ME/CFS) Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Alliance ran a print advertisement on p A12 of The Washington Post on Dec. 6, maintaining that “chronic fatigue syndrome” is caused by a retrovirus and than 87% of CFS patients display markers for the virus in the blood. The virus is thought to be blood-borne and follow transmission patterns like HIV or maybe Hepatitis B.

The print ad claims that the novel virus is (XRMV or some similar virus) in the blood supply.

The website for the organization is here.

The Earth Times has a story about the printed commercial here.

The “culprit” seems to be a murine virus (carried in mice), possibly similar to feline leukemia. The New York Times had run a story  Aug. 23, 2010 by David Tuller on a paper .abstract from the National Academy of Sciences on murine retroviral sequences being found in people with CFS.

There is another article at Health Central here  pointing to a 2009 issue of Science.

There’s not much to say about transmission or epidemiology. It could be that, unlike HIV, this virus does not cause disease or symptoms in most people (which ironically means it is already well adapted to a human host, and probably a very old virus). Women seem to be much more affected.

There are bloodborn RNA viruses which are not, strictly speaking, retroviruses, that don’t have reverse transcriptase (like Hepatitis C) but have similar transmission as STDSs and blood contact.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Virginia legislators could not pass state's SOL's in English

I remember that 10th Grade English, back in 1958, alternated all year between grammar and literature. (Grammar was easier, at least when it came to tests; literature started right out with Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, with "The Cobbler".) But apparently some members of the Virginia Assembly might have trouble with Virginia’s SOL’s, given an acquittal of a man for reckless driving for passing a stopped school bus with red lights on.

Here is the statute:

"A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children."

Yes, “any school bus” is a direct object. The preposition “at” is missing (to make the phrase adverbial). Remember those parts of speech?

The story by Tom Jackman in the Metro Washington Post Dec. 1 is (website url) here.

Of course, English is a little bit tricky because it uses prepositions, often idiomatically, when other major languages use inflection (endings) more. Taking foreign languages nearly always helps a student understand English grammar. 

Here’s a vocabulary item, from a friend’s blog, “bathetic”, not “pathetic.” Look it up on Bing and English teachers, put it on a weekly vocabulary test.  You may need it for the SAT's, too.

Picture: Washington-Lee High School, Arlington VA, Quincy St, the day of John F Kennedy's inauguration, the day after a blizzard in January 1961.  From the Generals' Yearbook that year (my graduation).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DC voting rights have little chance in GOP-controlled House in 2011

Ben Pershing has an important article leading off the Metro section of the Washington Post on Monday, Nov. 28, “For F.C., voting rights window appears closed; Chance of passage at ‘zero’ in next Congress after GOP takeover of House,” link here. Even with Democrat control, the House could not pass a bill that would give one house seat to the District of Columbia and one more (probably GOP) to Utah. Since Utah, according to the 2010 Census, is very close to qualifying for the seat, it has little reason to remain a bedfellow or “bunkmate” of the District.

Another plan could be retrocession to the state of Maryland, which would take several years are encounter obvious obstacles in the managing of social services. But in other countries capital cities are in the states that surround them, such as Ottawa, Ontario (but not Mexico City). Do Mexico DF residents have full voting rights?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Media uncovers hidden toxic hazards for home buyers, not caught by government regulations (asbestos, meth)

AOL is reporting today that about 35 million homes are insulated with zolonite, containing asbestos-tainted vermiculite. But according to Public Health reporter Andrew Schneider maintains that the US government refuses to offer warnings about a product in use from the 1940s to the 1990s, perhaps for “political” reasons. However, the product is not harmful if the insulation is left absolutely still and not disturbed. Working in an attic with the insulation may disturb it, and only specially equipped contractors can deal with it. Even small asbestos fiber exposures may lead to long term rare lung cancer risk. Some tile materials may also contain asbestos.

The EPA has a detailed fact sheet on the issue here.

CNN has a somewhat similar story about a family that bought a home near Philadelphia and was soon told that it had been a meth lab. The family members had some nose and throat symptoms from low level second-hand exposure. The link is here.  States generally don’t require that inspectors check for meth, but the DOJ USDA has a list of “clandestine” labs here. Home purchasers or realtors could take the initiative to check this list.

In Dallas, a garden apartment building in which I had once lived (until 1984) burned a few years after I left because of a drug lab.

Lawyers start "mass litigation" over bedbugs (maybe like copyright?)

Well, while we have mass litigation for copyright infringement, maybe we’ll have frivolous litigation over bedbugs. J. Freedom DuLac has a story in the Washington Post Nov. 27, ‘Maryland lawyer bites back with bedbug lawsuits,” here.  Many of them are against apartment complexes. Elie Mystal has a “snarky” legal blog entry “There’s only one way to deal with bedbugs, release the sharks”, link (website url) here on "Above the Law". In a few cases, plaintiffs have been awarded over $100000. Will Righthaven join the bedbug litigation boom?

I wonder if tenant checks (by landlords before renting) will look for “litigiousness”?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Israel's airport security system is unrealistic for the US

Would a much more customized or targeted airport security system like Israel’s work here, and allow most “ordinary people” to pass through security with little intrusion?

Maybe not, wrote Helene Cooper in the New York Times on Nov. 22. People have actually boarded planes in Israel without shoes or wallets, and people are questioned much more for “consistency” (rather like a polygraph examiner’s test) before boarding. For example, someone who says he is a history professor might be asked questions on history. Obviously, a screening force would have to be much more educated academically than ours could ever be. The link is here.

The Washington Times had proposed an Israel-style system Monday Nov. 22, in an editorial with a humorous title, here.  The TWT writes “TSA believes an 80-year-old grandmother deserves the same level of scrutiny at an airport terminal checkpoint as a 19-year-old male exchange student from Yemen.” Yet, once we start profiling, the enemy, as the Washington Post has said, will start finding other groups of people as buffers. Ruth Marcus writes an op-ed in The Washington Post, “Grow Up America” here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA waffles regularly on new screening, pat-down rules, makes them random; John Tyner gives comedy interview


Here’s a quizzical, perhaps “Comedy Central” interview of John Tyner by ABC News. Tyner had just started to blog a month ago, getting 250 hits a day, and now gets hundreds of thousands.




Seriously, the TSA now says it will randomly pick passengers who have to go through the new machines. Pilots no longer have to, but flight attendants do. But the rules change every day.

Furthermore, AC360 now reports that the new machines can’t detect a relatively large soft mass pasted onto someone’s chest without any sharp edges. What is the TSA going to do, ask to see dirty dancing as part of the screening?

Charles Krauthammer has said we have to stop being politically correct and squeamish on profiling; other countries, even Israel, haven't made the mess of this that we have.

The public objects much more to the pat-downs than to the machine screening.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paul Volcker, others support US VAT tax (replacing income tax?) to fuel "entitement state"

I heard this morning about a proposal from Paul Volcker to implement ra national value added tax (essentially a sales tax),.  Some people say this could replace the federal income tax entirely, maybe also eliminating state income taxes too.

To eliminate the IRS and avoid the regressivity of a VAT alone, there would have to a poverty line rebate mechanism.

The CNBC story Nov. 15 about the VAT by Barbara Stcherbatcheff, “Would a national sales tax really work in the U.S.?” has link here.

Charles Krauthammer has also discussed the VAT, and also discusses the mandate that individuals buy health insurance. Charles says we’ve never had a requirement for people to enter into contracts with private companies, but we do that with auto insurance (for the privilege of driving). He says that the VAT is how the Europeans extended the “entitlement state”.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Border screening policies may treat your laptop as "your junk"

The New York Times has an editorial Wednesday regarding the risk to travelers that their personal laptops could be searched and held without probable cause at border crossings and at airports (particularly with international flights).

Even given the recent scare regarding shipped laser printer cartridges, there’s no practical reason to look at the business and personal records of “average” travelers, the newspaper argues. The link for the editorial ("Searching Your Laptop") is here.

The ACLU has filed a suit regarding the holding of materials from press photographers (not amateurs, apparently) and criminal defense attorneys. The Times supports a Traveler’s Privacy Protection Act (S 3612, 110th Congress, Russell Feingold, govtrack link here ; the 112th Congress would have to reintroduce it.

My own practice is to carry only a small lightweight laptop when traveling. However, considerable personal (an unpublished) information would have been copied to the laptop which government agents could see.

Another issue in the past used to be having to turn a laptop on to prove it functions in the Security line. You had to be sure that the battery was charged and that the laptop is undamaged, and can boot up relatively quickly (a problem with XP and Vista). Since travel computers are likely to be older and less used, this could be a problem. Air travelers (taking personal computers for blogging and social networking) might want to consider the very small notebooks out now, including one from Verizon for only about $130.

At least, my older laptop is not “my junk.” You can touch it.

Update: Nov. 21

More on "junk" from the Alex Jones Channel:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Should Article V of Constitution allow states to start amending Constitution without conventions?; conservatives target 14th, 17th amendments

James Lucas has an interesting op-ed on p B4 of the Monday, Nov. 15 Washington Times, “Return the Constitution to the People: Kill the constitutional convention requirement”, link here.

Lucas is talking about “Method 2” in Article V of the Constitution. Every successful amendment so far has started with the 2/3 majority vote in both House and Senate, and then gone to the states for ratification by ¾ (the state convention method was used only for the 21st Amendment).

But the states can call a convention by the action of the legislatures of at least 2/3 of them. Lucas wants to bypass the “convention” part of it and let 2/3 of state legislatures pass an amendment directly, it seems.

He also talks about what he wants to change. He wants to eliminate Amendment 17 (direct election of Senators), and part of 14 – essentially the citizenship by birth provision (regarding children of illegal immigrants) and probably the incorporation doctrine, applying limitations of the powers of the federal government against citizens to states as well. Second amendment advocates (and that probably includes most conservatives and Tea Party types) generally don’t want states to limit their right to defend themselves, so Lucas sounds inconsistent there. But of course there are other rulings that the incorporation doctrine has supported, such as Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that he may not want.

So Lucas is proposing amending "Article V" with an "amending amendment".

John R. Vile wrote an important book, “Contemporary Questions Surrounding the Constitutional Amending Process” in 1993 (Praeger).

In the first printing of my 1997 “Do Ask Do Tell” book, one of the biggest typos was in Chapter 3, “constitutional conventional” (no “al”). I was talking about calls from the far Left (in the early 1970s, the Nixon years) to call for a constitutional convention to address its indignation. I also somehow misstated the age of the Bill of Rights on the first back cover (first sentence), as it goes back to 1791. It took 18 months for anyone (or me) to notice. (Moral: Never state the age of something on the cover of a book; the time arrow moves forward.)

Picture: The Capitol in August smog (or maybe "The Fog").

Monday, November 15, 2010

Will TSA's "advanced imaging technology" work in all those Freudian places? Probably not.

Given all the controversy over the increased screening at airports these days, I thought I’d give the link to TSA’s own presentation of its “Advanced Imaging Technology” here. It sounds appropriate for airline employees who must be screened repeatedly to wonder about exposure to radiation. It may actually benefit passengers with some kinds of surgery or implanted devices.

But the nature of some unconventional semisolid explosive material is so subtle that it may become impossible for any device to catch every conceivable hiding ploy, such as in “cavities” or maybe even in hair. One can imagine the necessity of the “body analysis” of the 1971 film “The Andromeda Strain” of Michael Crichton’s novel, or maybe even the dreaded “photoflash chamber.”

I actually went to an employment assessment for TSA screeners back in Minnesota in August 2002. I backed out over a misunderstanding on starting pay. But I think I would be concerned about being required to do extended “pat downs.” It’s a bit too intimate (like the military). And it seems to have become much more intimate recently.  (I've undergone only one, back on 2002 at San Francisco airport.)

The media is making a lot of software engineer John Tyner's challenge to the TSA (over his "junk"). Here's John's own account of the incident, apparently posted with Mobile Blogger, link. In fact, the vigor of Tyner's on air comments makes me glad someone with my background did not become a screener.  And, yes, I hope he finds this post!



Here's the link for the supposed TSA "boycott" over Thanksgiving.  Doesn't sound pretty.

Picture: Prepare your teddy bear for TSA body analysis (it's less permanent than a laser beam).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Northern VA high school (West Potomac HS) replaces most "F" grades with "incompletes"; is this "fair"? A desirable experiment? Echoes from my own past (there); also, mercy for cheaters!

A Fairfax County VA high school just outside the Alexandria, VA city limits, West Potomac High School (site), is trying an interesting experiment. The school is giving few “F’s” for quarter grades, but rather changing them to “I’s” (incomplete) showing students owe work.

Donna St. George has the story on the front page of The Washington Post on November 14, 2010, link here. The  implication is that students could retake tests that they have failed. There are implications in the area of “fairness”, certainly when compared to older paradigms for student grading, which affect college admissions and, when I was coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s and there was a military draft and student deferments.

The story has additional meaning for me because I substitute taught there in 2004 and 2005. In the spring of 2005 I had a set of Honors and AP Chemistry sections about seven times (my forte is math), and saw the exams, which were interesting in this respect: for multiple choice questions, students had to state a reason for the choice for full credit. The exams were structured in such a way that every student had to show mastery of each subtopic.

This reminds me of practices in some college courses. At George Washington University in the spring of 1962 when I took Qualitative Analysis, the professor had a rule that you had to pass lab and lecture separately to pass the course; he said that one reason was that many students “couldn’t work the problems” (on equilibrium and concentrations of solutions).

The school was interesting in having such an extreme range of student ability and work ethic. In AP Chemistry, the students had a project to make a senior documentary short film in a film lab on campus. The “kids” invented a new element for the Periodic Table, “Reltonium”. (I guess I could review it on my movies blog; it was actually more like an Andy Samberg SNL skit.)

A couple times I showed the film “Copenhagen” (see my drama blog, Nov. 12, 2006) based on Michael Frayn’s play about a hypothetical WWII meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, about the ethics of publishing (or self-publishing) scientific discoveries that could wind up in the hands of one’s enemies. (We also showed the film “Outbreak” related to novel pandemics.)

The school does have a new principal, Clifford Hardison.

There was an incident at the school in which I was involved in October 2005. I give the details on another blog posting on the “BillBoushka” blog, July 27, 2007. (To find it, navigate to my Blogger Profile [extreme bottom left], which lists all my 16 blogs.) There was a lot of “bizarre coincidence” involved in the incident (some of it involving newspaper editorials that appeared about the time concerning bloggers and campaign finance reform, and the First Amendment), and even though I am no longer subbing, I would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with school officials and sort this incident out some day. (My last assignment there was Dec. 8, 2005, just before a snowstorm; I remember overhearing a kid in one of the chemistry classes say “that’s the ‘gays in the military guy’. I guess I already had an “online reputation.”) We could all learn something.

I returned to subbing in January 2007 and stopped after one semester for unrelated reasons. I’ve only visited one school campus since then, on December 1, 2008 when ABC’s Weather team visited Wakefield High School in Arlington for a presentation (written up on my “drama blog” that date). Perhaps Doug Hill and Adam Caskey will do the same show ad WPHS some day (and talk about solar "coronal mass ejections" predicted in 2012). It’s a small  -- and sometimes dangerous -- world.

Update:  Nov. 18: The same Washington Post reporter writes on the front page this morning, "Giving Cheaters Another Chance?", that the new West Potomac High School principal has announcted a policy allowing students caught cheating (perhaps plagiarizing) to retake the test or redo work in some cases.  The principal says that cheating is a "disciplinary" matter, not an "academic" one.  I think a lot of universities would disagree.

When I was a graduate assistant instructor in Math at the University of Kansas in 1966, I gave an "F" in the course to a student whom I had seen copying answers on an algebra test and could prove cheating by comparing free response answers. He actually came to my dorm room to ask for another chance and said he was worried about what would happeb to him if he were drafted.  Later, in the fall of 1967, the administration would mention concerns over the draft to assistant instructors in matters of grading!!

Update: Nov. 20:  Now the Post reports that the West Potomac High School principal has cancelled the "no Fs" (in both incomplete and cheating situations) policies, out of parental objections. However the school is insisting that it maintain a fine-tuned "learning by objectives" policy, very much as had been implemented before 2005 on those "notorious" Honors Chemistry multiple choice tests.  (Think about it: why does our staying alive depend on both sodium and potassium, when both have the same valence?  Imagine your next multiple choice question on electronegativity, kids!  You'll need to know this in medical school!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

AOL gives advice on home equity loans in difficult market; also homeowners insurance

AOL had an informative article today on how homeowners, especially retirees, can handle the home equity loan problems associated with decreasing home values. Of course, an upsidedown home could not get one, but lenders are increasingly worried about the uncertainty of future values of homes, especially in neighborhoods that have had other foreclosures. The link was here.

Likewise, AOL and MSN have recently reported that insurers are increasingly concerned about lowering values, not only of homes themselves but of surrounding neighborhoods. The MSN article (10 things to watch) from Friday is here.  (No, this article didn't mention social media.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

New report from urban schools coalition on underachievement of black males in urban public schools

Mara Gay has a lead story on AOL today, “Report on Black Male Achievement Gap Spurs Call for Action”, link here.  That’s a report from the Council of Great City Schools, “New Report on Black Male Achievement in America Reveals ‘National Catastrophe’: Urban Group Calls for White House Initiative”, link here. The Report singles out high unemployment or underemployment of parents in black households as a major reason. However the report also focused on poor schools and unaccountable teachers.

The Council is a coalition represent the nation’s urban public schools.

I remember that in Dallas, people would move to north Dallas (within the expanded city limits) to be in the “Richardson School District”, which, in the 80s at least, made home prices higher.

Wikipedia attribution link for North Dallas picture (jn that school district!)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tim Wise, essayist, attacks "White Right" over midterm election; is he referring to 'demographic winter"?

I think this “Open Letter to the White Right, on the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum” by “antiracist essayist, author and educator” Tim Wise, posted Nov. 3, at this link does deserve a look.

It’s funny, and it reads like a tongue-lashing to the bubbas of the world.

But seriously, he’s obviously talking about the “demographic winter” argument (sometimes articulated by the religious right) in the US. It’s true, the white population is not having as many babies (this brings back the old argument about “the right babies” discussed here (Feb. 20, 2008, second part of posting)). But that’s more among the “blue family” population, higher educated with smaller families and parents being older when they have kids at all.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Teenager runs study of SAT essay grading practices

Milo Beckman, a 14 year old student at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, put together a “science project”: a study of the correlations on grades given to essays (“free response”) on SAT exams, and the length of the essays. He found a correlation that he thought was unhealthful. He thought his second essay, though longer, was not as good as his first but it got a higher mark.

The same is likely true of AP tests, which have free response questions, although that would not be as likely with math or physics problems. For those, AP teachers travel to centers to grade responses for a week (Erica Jacobs has written about this in the Washington Examiner).

Milo’s study appeared also on ABC’s Good Morning America, and he showed almost unbelievable poise and articulation for someone the age of a high school freshman.

The Huffington Post story is here.

ABC ran the statement from the ETS College Board. (Yup, in 1971 I had a job application with ETS, near Princeton, NJ).

I'd love to see Michelle Rhee's reaction to this story.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

NASA has study warning of possibly apocalyptic solar storms (coronal mass ejections) in 2012; power grid wipeout?

Recently, I’ve come across some web speculation about a solar superstorm in 2012, a huge coronal mass ejection similar to that of around September 1, 1859, which caused electric shocks and damage even then, before society had come dependent on electricity.

I wrote a blog posting on my “disaster movies” blog (see Profile) yesterday, regarding some YouTube films, including one from Cosmic Journeys.

NASA wrote a post about the problem in 2003, here. It says that the October 2003 coronal mass ejection outburst was significant but not nearly as severe as the incident in 1859, when several solar storms occurred at the same time, producing a super CME.

In a worst case scenario, power grids could be out of commission for months.

Governments and the military can probably protect their infrastructure with Faraday cages, but can large companies, power stations, and large Internet ISP’s and server farms do the same? Can products be designed to protect home electronics? It sounds like we ought to get to work on this.

Lawrence E. Joseph has a couple of books warning about the 2012 solar storm, discussion on “over the limit” here.

Here’s an article (“2012: No Kiler Solar Flare”) from “Universe Today” questioning the doomsayers, link.

The Examiner has an August 2010 article by Brent McGardy here.  This article finally led to a reputable story from NASA itself, dated 2009, which also mentions a 1921 incident which was ten times larger that the 1989 incident that caused a one day power stop in Quebec. The important link is here.  (Yes, a really big solar flare could stop your toilet from flushing, and a lot more.) So, indeed, there seems to be something to this, although NASA, the National Academy of Sciences and NSF (in Arlington VA) seem now to be showing some public restraint on this issue. One reason for the concern is that the sunspot cycle reaches its 11 year max then; the 2003 storm was “out of cycle.”

Is this the case, "I read it on the Internet, so I believe it?"  Is this Chicken Little's "online reputation"?  It's not as bad as a brown dwarf approach, maybe. It seems like a curious thing to bring up two days after the midterm GOP rout, but it definitely transcends party lines. We ought to get to work on this, yes, really!

Monday, November 01, 2010

GOP should not be complacent about tomorrow's midterm

Liz Sidon has an AP analysis of tomorrow’s election (on MSNBC), as to why the GOP came back so strong. After all, didn’t the Bushies prevail over the financial meltdown of 2008 and the sins that led to it? National short term memories seem weak. The link is here.

It seems that it’s about jobs, stupid. But even that is structural. We’re competing with lower wages around the world and have lived beyond our means. The Republicrats won’t change that with simplistic ideology. Nor will the Tea Party.

Maybe the GOP is already complacent. Look at the turnout at Jon Stewart’s rally in Washington Saturday.

Generally, polls have shown that Republicans are more likely to turn out for the midterm exam than Democrats, a major reason why the GOP is expected to retake the House.
Fareed Zakaria wants the US to implement an “innovation” tax, rather like a European VAT.

The Washington Post has a provocative story by Ylan Q. Mui and Jia Lynn Yang, “Companies may have to make amends after midterm elections” Republicans to companies that played with Obama money, “We won’t forget”, link here.  Well, some of the Tarp money was Republican, unless you believe Henry Paulson was really a Democrat.

I get ribbed by a conservative friend for getting an Obama car loan and buying my car with Tarp – but it is a Ford Focus, and Ford took no bailout money.

I remember a math professor at the University of Kansas in 1966 who announced, “your grade will consist of a mid term and a final exam”. He even gave the final on a Sunday, for his own convenience. I got a B.

Friday, October 29, 2010

MSN Money reports on relative wealth of parents v. the childless

Here’s an MSN Money article that caught my eye, “Can you afford NOT to have a kid?” by Gina Roberts-Grey of MSN Money, link here.

The article goes over the expenses of parenting, and then takes off the deductions and credits, which themselves are considerable. Still, the price tag for a kid is maybe like $160000.

Birth rates in some parts of the country dropped significantly between 2006 and 2008. In fact, her article starts by her saying that many parents have put off plans to procreate.

The Census Bureau, however, published data showing that fathers tend to earn more at all levels than non fathers, and mothers in the mid range earn more, although childless women are more likely to become top earners. Adults who become parents may earn more because they have to.

The article says that parents may be better at wealth accumulation than non-parents, again, because they have to behave more prudently; but that’s not always consistent. Many parents with sizable families were duped into the mid-decade subprime mortgage mess and are now in debt, underwater, and in financial trouble. And some relatively introverted people, while preoccupied with their own needs, may tend to behave more conservatively than many parents and stay out of financial trouble.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PCIP's (high risk pools), stop-gap measure for pre-existing conditions until 2014, are of limited effectiveness

Michelle Andrews has a column on p E6 of the Washington Post Oct. 26, “New law broadens coverage for people with preexisting conditions”, link here. These benefits mainly help people who don't get health insurance through work.

The PCIP’s, or high risk pools, have been set up in every state to function until 2014, when people will be able to use the exchanges. But the PCIP’s are themselves rather expensive, and no one can get into one until one has been uninsured for six months. So as Andrews shows with case history, the wait can be deadly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

DC real estate site warns consumers about buying low

Here’s a great little reference on housing prices that someone told me about at a movie (“Inside Job”) last night, on a site called “Patrick” (link here). The subtitle of the site is “What realtors won’t tell you”. (Yup, the orbit of the Earth is collapsing toward the Sun and “they” just aren’t telling us! Well, there is no “they”.)

Patrick makes a point that it’s bad to buy prices are high and interest rates are low. Why? Pretty obvious. Interest rates could rise again, helping homeowners become upsidedown.

He claims that renters win right now, and owners lose.

I got burned once, in Dallas, when I bought a two bedroom condo in 1984 for $39990, from Pulte. We even had a “39990 party” in January 1985 (Dallas winters actually can be bad sometimes). But housing crashed in Texas in the late 80s because oil prices fell, and eventually it was sold for just $30000.

Picture: From Science Fair on the Mall Sunday Oct. 24.

Friday, October 22, 2010

ObamaCare may give most employers incentive to drop insurance

Philip Bredesen has an interesting thought experiment and op-ed on p A17 of the Oct. 21, 2010 Wall Street Journal, “ObamaCare’s Incentive to Drop Insurance”. He is from Tennessee (like the late Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne) and claims that his home state could reduce costs by over $146 million by “using the legislated mechanics of health care reform to transfer coverage to the federal government”.

In 2014, the rules would allow people without workplace provided health insurance to buy heavily subsidized health insurance from the exchanges. He also pretends he is a startup company and runs the numbers on not offering insurance, but paying employees more and paying the fines, and says he comes out ahead by not offering it. Likewise, employers have a real incentive to drop retiree health insurance. He puts his argument in terms of game theory, and visualizing the world through your opponent’s eyes – a kind of constructive empathy.

Personally, I've always thought that providing health insurance was a competitive burden on employers (the opposite of how it was during WWII), when compared to overseas companies, who have governments that offer heavily subsidized health insurance amount to or approaching single payer systems.

If I were to start a movie production company, I'm aftaid that Bredesen's thought experiment would hold for me. It's difficult to deal with people's issues as an employer; it's easier to outsource them.

The link for the story is here.

Ironically, Patrice Hill of the Washington Times on Thursday played devil’s advocate with the Tea Party calls for drastic spending cuts to control debt (like in Britain) admitting that one could introduce depression; after all, solving basic problems like Alzheimer’s research can put a lot of people to work. TWT link is here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Physicians access retainer fees -- are they legal?

Some physicians charge “access retainer fees” to all patients, which covers many services whether used or not, and makes the physician somewhat like an HMO, or perhaps somewhat like a health insurance company, which would mean they should be licensed by their states to sell insurance. A typical story on the practice is here (may require free reigstration). In some cases, such practice would encourage patients to have regular checkups and aggressive treatment of some situations that might otherwise be ignored.

Station WJLA ran an story this evening (Oct 20) hinting that some physicians may try to do this soon with Medicare patients due to cuts, but it’s not clear it would be lawful.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Judge in Richmond will rule on whether Congress can regulate "individual inactivity" (mandatory health insurance purchase)

A federal judge (Henry E. Hudson) in Richmond will rule on the constitutionality of the “mandatory purchase” provision of the new health care reform law by the end of 2011, according to a Washington Post story Tuesday by Rosalind S. Helderman, link here.


At issue is whether the explicit power given to Congress to regulate interstate commerce means that Congress can regulate an individual’s inactivity. This sounds related (to me at least) to past debates over conscription, and as to whether people can be compelled to support others when they did not cause the need. There are constitutional, legal, moral and ethical questions.

It is true that if the healthy buy insurance, the cost is spread out among everyone and providers are less likely to jack up prices to make up for everyone.

Update: Oct. 20

An LTE ("Whose health-care rights?") on p A16 of The Washington Post by Jerry Harold suggests "no pay, no play" legislation if Virginia's challenge holds. One could deny medical treatment to people who did not enroll in "affordable insurance exchanges."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

EPA may nix new large mountaintop strip mine near Charleston, W VA

On Saturday, Oct. 16, the New York Times reported, in a story on p A8 by John Broder, “E.P.A. Official Seeks to Block West Virginia Mine”, link here.


The administrator is Shawn M. Garvin, and apparently he says the proposed Spruce Mine in Logan County W Va (south of Charleston, more or less in the western part of the Alleghenies), which would involve about 4 more square miles of mountaintop removal and waste spilling, near the controversial Kayford Mountain mine (link ) .

Generally, the largest surface mines are some distance west of the Eastern Continental Divide, along what is called “Allegheny Mountain” from Pennsylvania down through West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, often in areas starting at about 2500 feet above sea level. But there are some old, largely reclaimed surface mines near Mt. Storm (not far from the Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls), some near Frostburg Md (visible from US 40 but not from I-68), and some old mines seem to be visible along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the Laurel mountains, and apparently some can be seen west of Penn State. Apparently Flight 93 crashed in an old, but shallow strip mine, about 10 miles from the Allegheny Mountain tunnel. Coal fields, as well as gas wells and even some oil, continue throughout Ohio, Indiana and into Illinois.  Some individual farm and land owners (and many retirees), even in the Great Lakes watershed areas, have depended on these for income in this part of the country. Surface recovery operations become much less destructive as “Appalachia” gradually flattens out further west. Another irony is that in all of the “Allegheny” states, wind mills are being erected along the Allegheny Front and some other higher ridges including Laurel in PA.

DC eatery shut down by law firm because fumes are a "nuisance"

A law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, on Connecticut Ave. in NW Washington DC has sued a small burger eatery “Rogue States” and had a judge shut it down because fumes from the restaurant came into the law firm’s workplace through building exhaust, making the little eatery a "nuisance". Washington Examiner writer Emily Babay describes it as a “David and Goliath” struggle with Goliath doing the bullying, story on Saturday Oct. 16 on p 4, here. Of course, one can wonder why a commercial building isn’t built well enough to handle this. Babay describes the lawyers as making up a “white shoe law firm”. That’s opinion.

Rogue States has a statement by Raynold Mendizabal online here

Here’s another example of where the “establishment” likes to squash the little guy whose low costs become a threat.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

AOL runs story about "8 deadly superbugs lurking in hospitals"

On Friday October 15, AOL ran a “daily finance” story (odd for this sit) “Eight deadly superbugs lurking in hospitals,” link here, by Nikhil Hutheesing. The list does include MRSA, and adds the newcomer gene NDM-1, which enables bacteria to destroy antibiotics. It also included resistant streptococcus, flesh-eating bacteria which can lead to limb loss. (But the same can be said of some strains of bacterial meningitis, which may circulate in college campuses; and mandatory vaccinations don't cover all the most endotoxic strains, which lead to amputations.)

On Oct. 11, Rob Stein had a “Health” insert in the Washington Post, “New ‘superbugs’ raising concerns worldwide”, link here.

Where is this heading? Maybe that photoflash scene early in the movie “The Andromeda Strain” (also in Michael Crichton’s book), followed by the “body analysis”, is oddly prescient.

In the meantime, stay out of the hospital.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is there an "outer limit" on acceptable carbon dioxide levels?

Tom Harris has a front page Commentary Section again playing denial on climate change, in The Washington Times, Friday Oct. 15, 2010. “Time to get real about climate change: 10/10/10 and 350.org based on urban legend, not science”.

The 350 site appeared to be in Portuguese the first time I tried it -- but then it went English; founder Bill McKibben seems to be saying that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere are an “outer limit” (pun to the 60s sci-fi show intended) on a sustainable climate, to keep us from becoming another Venus.  (Somehow "350" reminds me of AC360.)

He says there has never been a “reputable worldwide poll” of scientists to establish anything like this, and goes on with metaphors between climate change denial and Holocaust denial. But one cannot dispute the differential calculus of Al Gore’s “show and tell” lecture in his “An Inconvenient Truth” a few years ago.

The link is here.

Somehow it seems to me that rigid “outer limits” could not be compatible with the emergence and development of life on Earth or any planet, however.

What can make this more complicated is other gasses, like methane (bovine and himan flatulence), locked in the oceans as a hydrate now.  But it might not take too much to release it.

Picture: A park in Kipton, Ohio, Oct. 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Michelle Rhee appears on GMA , explains her resignation her future

Michelle Rhee appeared on ABC Good Morning America this morning and discussed her plans in California. She took the step of putting her resignation statement on her own website, here.  (Note: on my "BillBoushka" blog I have discussed the possible legal controversy of people with direct reports in the workplace operating their own web sites or blogs without pre-publication review.)

She says she made every decision while in the office in the best interest of kids.  “Maintaining the status quo is not going to work for this country.”

She said that the most important thing for schools to improve is for parents to get involved.  

Even though she has a fiancee about her age, I'm struck by how much her personality reminds me of Facebok founder Mark Zuckerberg.  Neither cares about what people think of them!  They are two of a kind and of te same ilk. And note that "Waiting for Superman" and "The Social Network" are in schools at the same time!

Picture: My own Washington-Lee, Arlington VA. Inauguration Day 1961.  Then it was one of the top ten public schools in the nation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Washington Post columnist argues that lower wages offset layoffs; wind power farms; Michelle Rhee resigns

Steven Pearlstein has a sobering column in the Oc. 13 Washington Post, “Wage cuts hurt, but they may be the only way to get Americans back to work”, link here.

Pearlstein offers, toward the end, the comment that market economies offer efficiency (and therefore a higher standard of living), not fairness. Otherwise, Wall Street would take even more hits (or executives would give up more unearned bonuses). Donald Trump always says “Life isn’t fair.” You could say this about a lot of things, like inheritance. (The far Left makes a lot of this.) We could think like Chairman Mao in the 60s and make everyone (except the Chairman) take turns being peasants. Welcome to North Korea. (It’s interesting how this comes down to defining morality in terms of individual obligations rather than those of countries, companies, or even unions.) Seriously, people like Robert Reich have a point. If the middle class does better, the economy grows with much more stability.

Back in the early 90s, after the “first Bush recession” of 1991-1992, some companies like Lincoln Electric in Ohio had experimented with piecework pay to avoid layoffs, with some success.

In other news, it’s great to see the announcement of Google’s Atlantic wind project, for sustainable energy (as well as the driverless car).

Also, Michelle Rhee will resign as the head of the Washington DC school system. Watch her “burn ‘em again” with another school district in California. Governor Schwarzenegger can hardly wait.

Update:  Oct 14:  Frank Koller's book on Lincoln Electric (see comment) has Amazon link here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

People, Time mags cover bullying big time

The October 18, 2010 issue of People Magazine is largely dedicated to bullying, with seven stories of teens who were bullied and at least one of a bully who reformed. A link on the Tyler Clementi story is (website url) here. People was one of the sponsors of CNN-AC360's town hall last week on bullying.

The overall impression is that teens sometimes believe (generally incorrectly, but because of tribal upbringing) that difference is dangerous to the ‘group”, and teens don’t understand the consequences of behavior. Many times people bully when they have been bullied. I actually did that a couple times, once in seventh grade and again in ninth grade, late in the year, over a purely medical disability.

And John Cloud has an article on p 60 of the Oct 18 issue of Time Magazine, which the mag TOC calls “Bullying 2.0” and asks whether we need new laws to prevent cyberbullying, because digital marks never go away. I’ve talked about “online reputation defense” on my main blog a lot, and with kids its often caused by others. An earlier Time story (more optimistic than now) is here.

Why don’t teachers and administrators intervene, at least on campus? As a sub, I had to call security once, as I was incapable of physical intervention. I wound up getting banned from the school anyway. Should schools have rules for off-campus Internet use to prevent cyberbullying?

Libertarian writer Rick Sincere offers this blog posting perspective on the issue, especially for gay teens, here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A few countries really have the best academics go into teaching

“Why aren’t our teachers the best and brightest?” ask Paul Kihn and Matt Miller in the Outlook section of the Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010 Washington Post.

In at least three countries (Finland, South Korea, and Singapore) they are. Only the best students are selected to education, and the number of slots is keyed to the demand. In our country, the gradual decline in teaching quality is somewhat a reverse artifact of discrimination. The link for the story is here.

Also, Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee (and others) have a Manifesto on the same page in the Outlook section: “How to fix our schools.” The problem, they say, is tenure unrelated to performance. In no other profession are people allowed to keep their jobs on seniority alone, without regard to success.

I recall a moment in the spring semester during my senior year of high school (Washington-Lee in Arlington VA) when I solved a trigonometry problem (probably just solving a triangle; I don’t think it involved those notorious identities, with which I once helped a ROTC student when subbing), when “Miss Shreeves” (they called her “Ruby” but this was 1961, and she rabidly rooted for the new Washington Senators) suggested that I would have a knack for teaching. Good students, yes. In graduate school, math professors teach by proving theorems about homomorphisms on the board. Reach teaching involves connecting to kids, who are often immature, unmotivated, disadvantages, or not intact, almost like parenting skills (or “in loco parentis”).

It's not easy to be the best in academics and have the people skills it takes to teach simultaneously. It's easier to be good in academics and invent Facebook.

In an offhand conversation, a college professor today told me that female students were far outperforming male students (that wasn’t true when I went to college), and even kids from good homes are used to having things done for them. They don’t know what adulthood is yet. That was pretty much true in 1961, though. At least some kids go on to do things like develop iPhone or Facebook applications for income even before they get to college. The granularity of maturity has gotten much finer.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Obama administration will issue insurance waivers, gutting reform

According to a Business Day article in the New York Times today (Oct. 7) by Reed Abelson, the Obama administration is issuing waivers to companies, especially those employing and insuring low-paid workers, from having to comply with minimum coverage requirements under the new health care reform law.

The administration fears that some insurers will disappear or drop out of certain markets or that some companies might drop insurance altogether. Conservatives may be able to argue that this marks the beginning of the unraveling of “Obamacare.”

Barbara Ehrenreich ("Nickeled and Dimed") is probably right. Low wage workers aren't necessarily faring better now than under Bush. But we have a world where not everyone pays his dues.

The link is here.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Economic inequality does lead to bubbles that burst

Steven Pearlstein, Business columnist in the Washington Post, points out that from the end of WWII to 1976, the top 10% of earners in the U.S. took in about 1/3 of the income in the country. In 2007, it was 50%.

This is all outlined in a column “The Costs of Rising Inequality” today (Oct. 6) in The Washington Post, link here.

Pearlstein mentions the moral indignation arguments familiar as far back as the 1960s. But he also adds a converse: too much inequality adds to bubbles that burst. It happened in 1929, and it happened again in 2008.

This time around, the middle class was encouraged to take on debt. He does suppose that individual borrowers, who might have seen subprime loans a few years ago as “getting a lot of house for nothing,” may have not been completely without fault on their own. But still, many people with families saw no other way to proceed than to do what others do. Herd mentality still takes over.