Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rangel reiterates his call to resume military draft as a talking point on Syria

Well, the military draft, or the idea of reviving it, has been mentioned again, this time in connection with the president’s desire to intervene by air (but not on the ground) in Syria, to punish Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Charles Rangel (D-NY) said he would vote no.  As after 9/11, he said that the US should intervene militarily only with a declaration of war.  Once there was one, all citizens should be prepared to share loss and sacrifice, including resuming the military draft, he said on CNN today.
  
Rangel had introduced a bill (HR 747) to reinstate the draft, and include women, in Feb. 2013.  The govtrack link is (websit url) here  . Rangel’s own page is here. The bill would allow civilian national service in lieu of military service, but require women, like men, to register for Selective Serivce.
  
Daniel Gallington had argued for resuming the draft in March 2013 on US News, here and he seems comfortable talking about who should get the casualties.
  

In 1981, the Supreme Court had ruled that a male-only draft was constitutional.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

Debt crisis and Stansberry's "End of Obama": Just do the math!

As I noted on my “retirement” blog, the debt ceiling “debate” is “back” again.  (I could say, “they’re back”, like bathroom drain flies.)  Ezra Klein, Zachary Goldfarb and others at the Washington Post have offered some detailed speculations on what may happen this time, for example here.  For example, here is Klein’s “I’m scared of the debt ceiling; you should be, too” Aug. 28, link

There is an organization called “Fix the Debt” with an introductory blog posting (tweeted today) here
  
The concerns specifically over Social Security may have softened, because lawyers now say that Social Security could line up as a priority bond holder, and courts will probably back them up in the inevitable litigation. 


There’s a group called Stansberry Research that has been preaching that the debt crisis will destroy our world as we know it, and eventually even lead to martial law.  Toshiba's news feed on my Windows 8 Satellite Laptop keeps flashing it, so I finally looked.  (That's not Twitter or email; it's an Internet Explorer news window that Toshiba opens by default.)  There’s a presentation called “The End of Barack Obama”.  It’s annoying in that it is one of these video speeches that keeps leading you on with imminent revelations.  The speaker draws you in with what sounds like mathematical logic, but doesn't give you a conclusion without taking a lot of time to hear the "proof".   If it could put all this onto a PDF so I could read it quickly and see the “recommendations”, fine.  Put it on Amazon as a book, fine.  I’ll order it.  But don’t take my time with this kind of presentation!
    
The link is here. Is this the same Stansberry as the financial publisher here?
  
There is some good stuff.  Stansberry says that he predicted the demise of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that the government is hiding up to $30 trillion more that it actually owes, that that the Federal Reserve’s pushing down interest rates, while printing money like Weimar, is a ruse. 
  

He does have a 90-minute YouTube lecture that I’ll “schedule” myself to see and discuss later, link.  It’s called “The End of America”.
  
I must say, extremists on both sides want to make me feel like a fool.  The extreme right wants me to learn to defend women and children in a primitive survivalist post-apocalypse “Mad Max” environment, and the far left wants me to take my turn being a peasant or a $1 per hour slave worker in the Far East (or maybe as a fast food worker in the US, or maybe a pathetic telemarketer or door-to-door salesman, turned away by gate communities that fear revolutionary home invasions).  They’re talking war.  But so they were when I was growing up.

Update, Sept. 1: I've reviewed his video on my "Films on challenges to freedom blog".  The hooker is that the rest of the world will refuse to accept the dollar as a reserve currency because the US keeps printing money to cover up its debts (like the Weimar Republic?) 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

FEMA "finally" warns public about space storms

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) sent out several mass emails Aug. 28, and one of them was titled, “Can you keep a secret?” It led to some government links on various well-known natural disasters, but this time “Space Weather” is on the list.  The link is here

As far as I know, this is the first time that the federal government has formally warned the public about the disruptions that can occur because of the coronal mass ejections that can follow solar “flare”, leading to space geomagnetic storms.  It mentions the power grid, but doesn’t quite warn that in some areas power could be out for months.  However it does note specifically that the Carrington Event in 1859 was much stronger than the Quebec Event in 1989, which knocked out much of that province's power (and some of NE US) for about a day.  It is likely that FEMA was influenced by papers published recently by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which I visited in July 2013.  ORNL works with the Department of Energy and University of Tennessee.  I reviewed the ORNL paper on the Books blog Oct. 20, 2012 and a similar (slightly less ominous) paper by the National Academy of Sciences Aug. 9, 2012.  
   
It appears that generators would work, if natural gas or propane to operate them were still available. And unlike the situation after an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or RF for flux weapon attack (which has never happened in the US, but which our own military sometimes uses in the battlefield) consumer electronics probably would not be permanently damaged.

It’s very remarkable to see the “administration” finally take this up, however non-specifically. 
It also seems like it’s very foolish for Congress to fight these partisan battles, threatening the debt ceiling over intransigence now on Obamacare, with such dire national security threats.

In the case of EMP, a major factor is the manufacture of new transformers and transport to utility sites.  Too much of our manufacturing of such critical infrastructure has been offshored, over short term profit motives.   


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oprah Winfrey at the March today: "Not everyone can be famous"; economic and justice differences purely by race persist, even with Obama's presidency, Oprah's own success; "Let Freedom Ring!"

You can watch the coverage of events, of the "Let Freedom Ring" Ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial right now on NBC4 (NBC Washington).
    
Oprah Winfrey just spoke at about 2:10 PM.  She said, “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great, because greatness involves service, and everyone can serve.”

To watch the coverage, you have to sit through an annoying NY State vacation ad. 

After Winfrey spoke, the floor recognized former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and president Barack Obama.

The National Anthem was sung a cappella in spiritual style.

Today, it would be good to read a Washington Post article by Michael A. Fletcher, “50 Years Later, Economic Gap Persists”, link here.  In 1963, LBJ was more explicit in using the term “Negro” and did say that people of different races did have different experiences as legacies of the past, ranging from oppression to hidden guilt. 

Bill Clinton spoke of "unearned suffering".  He also criticized the Supreme Court on voting rights, disarming the "they voted anyway" argument, and said it shouldn't be easier to get a weapon than get health insurance. 
  
I can recall an African-American co-worker in the mid 1990s who said openly that he was teaching his young son to deal with racial discrimination.

The Freedom Bell (from the burned church in Birmingham, AL) rang at exactly 3 PM. 

President Obama mentioned the fact that many people hitch-hiked to Washington in 1963, an practice not well thought of today.  You're not supposed to pick up hitch-hikers, right  He often mentioned freedom fighters in South Africa, people who fought in wars but did not have equal rights at home, and people willing to go to jail to protest.  
        
Light rain is falling in the March area, and some bigger storms are approaching from the NW, now in PA, link.
  
Earlier today, there were reports on the Post of difficulties in seeing the text of the original “I Have a Dream” speech this day in 1963.  The URL is at the National Archives and has to be entered absolutely correctly, without end characters.  See my posting Aug. 24.  The URL points to a PDF photograph of the original letter, about 4 Meg.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

National Geographic warns on melting ice caps, but US carbon emissions down -- because of fracking!

The September 2013 issue of National Geographic has a special report “Rising Seas: How They Are Changing Our Coastlines”. 

There is a pullout map of the World showing each continent as it would look if all the seas melted.
    
There is also a photograph of New York City, and especially Manhattan just after the lights went out below 34th St. in Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy, and there are harrowing accounts from residents of the Rockaways.

There is a photograph of Maale in the Maldives. 

The article, by Tim Folger, with photographs by George Steinmetz, predicts that sea levels will rise by at least three feet by 2100.

In the meantime, the latest media reports say that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased by 20% since 1900.

But carbon dioxide emissions in the US had dropped to a 20 year low by early 2012, which Slate credits to fracking, link

   
It seems foolish for Congress to be threatening shut downs and defaults due to debt ceiling when there are issues like this, and especially when you consider the health of infrastructure and the power grid.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Charity forced to stop feeding homeless in city park when permit is demanded, in Raleigh NC

Monday morning, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield reported on the sudden enforcement by police in Raleigh, NC or a city ordinance requiring an $800 a permit for a church to feed the homeless in a city park.
It wasn’t clear whether the church could simply use its own property.  The group was called “Love Wins Ministries” and the events were held at Moore Park.

The church had been doing this for six years, before the city suddenly started enforcing the orinance and threatened not only a fine but to put church volunteers in jail.
  
It wasn’t clear if the city acted because of a complaint, and whether there are liability concerns, the possibility of spoilage, injuries, or other dangers to minors near the park.
    
A link to the story from ABC is here.

Sunday night, on my main blog, I had just posted some remarks about the “risks” of volunteering and the care that it can require.

The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC used to make sandwiches for the homeless one Sunday a month, but was later pestered about health inspectins. 

Volunteers who went down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina were often not allowed to work in homes because of mold. 
   
Wikipedia attribution link for downtown Raleigh picture.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

March on Washington 50th anniversary sneak preview on DC Mall today



I did visit the commemorative celebration today on the Mall in Washington DC.  Actually, the March for Jobs and Freedom took place on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963, and the exact anniversary will be observed next Wednesday (the 50th anniversay happens to fall on the right day of the week).
   
Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is technically copyrighted but is widely available, such as here at ABC News,link.  The Library of Congress says it is technically "unpublished" but the National Archives has a direct copy of the PDF (4 MB) here
  

I remember that week.  I think I did not go to work (at the National Bureau of Standards, then on Van Ness St.) that day.  The mood was not good.  My parents looked upon what with going on with some suspicion.  It sounded like a time of sacrifice.  The “new” Washington Senators suspended play for two days, and dropped a double-header horribly to the Minnesota Twins (the former Senators, who skipped town in a racially charged atmosphere) here Thursday, Aug. 30.
Dana Milbank has a perspective today, in the Washington Post, calling us “the weakest generation” because we don’t face sacrifice like earlier generations did, here
   

Robert Kaiser has a perspective on the underwhelming Post coverage then, here


Today, I got off at the Smithsonian Station, found all escalators stopped, and the head of the stairs packed with people trying to return (about 2:30 PM).  But the Mall was not that crowded.  The mood was radical.  I stopped for a hamburger on a 14th St. vendor.  The burger was delicious and the line was short, but it took forever to get the food.
  

As I approached the Monument and Tidal Basin, and then turned up toward the Ellipse past the WWII memorial, the mood changed.  The people were more “upper middle class”, more college students. There was a more polite, politically correct liberalism in the air, a bit safer.  It became gradually gayer, more white, more male.  This was Democratic Party mainstream, but more the privileged crowd.
   
I did see a few “revolution” signs around.  There were, particularly on the Mall itself, a lot of “single issue” posters about Trayvon Martin and Stand your ground.  T-shirts on that particular issue were being sold.  There were lots of people asking for donations.   I saw only one poster about the NSA-Wikileaks-peace issue, with the name “Chelsea Manning”.


I did not see the infrastructure set up that I recall from the gay march in April 1993.  
   
  
There were plenty of speeches today, including one by Corey Booker (Newark NJ mayor and candidate for US Senate) story here

    
A lot of businesses will take Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 off.  Will the big event happen then?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Robert Reich offers column on "Inequality for All", echoing Noam Chomsky in saying that it is getting just plain dangerous

Robert Reich, narrator of the film “Inequality for All” (Movies blog, June 24, 2013), gives upper class America a pen lashing today in a syndicated column in the Nevada Daily, “The notion of public good has faded”, link here
  
Earlier today, Toshiba’s own news feed for Internet Explorer on its machines passed a headline that “rich people think the US economy is on the way to collapse”, with Reich’s name.  But later I couldn’t find it. 
  
I’m reminded of how former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum talked about the public good in his book “It Takes a Family” (Books blog, March 5, 2012).  You can get the drift.  “Common good” does have a lot to do with how “big institutions” (like corporations, partisan governments, and organized lobbying) behave, but it also maps to how individuals set their own priorities, with (or without) respect to the needs of others in their immediate local personal neighborhoods. 
  
It’s quite striking to me, how I grew up, in the 50s, believing that some people “make it” and some people “don’t make it”, and how I internalized the idea that such outcomes track to individual moral worthiness.  Life, of course, isn’t fair.  At a certain level, people have to lean that helping one another is as important, sometimes at least, as succeeding just with their own talents.  That means stepping up to risk for others sometimes. (That sounds a lot like Rick Warren's "It's not about you.")  A lot of the idea of family – the ability to develop relationships that factor in real need, and then learning to provide for others (and maybe to “provide others”) follows from this process.   It doesn’t happen the way it used to, although in the past “family values” were often overshadowed to deep institutional differences between classes and, yes, races.   But when it doesn’t happen enough, a lot of people get left out, and society becomes unstable, dangerous, and perhaps unsustainable.  Noam Chomsky may be right (and so may be Michael Moore), that “class struggle” comes back and becomes a new kind of war, with a vengeance.
  

Reich, of course, is right to point to big problems at the policy level, leading to economic macro cycles that drive the middle class down, as he explained so well in his film.  But there is even more to the story. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GOP hardliners persist in threatening government shutdown over Obamacare funding, while other dangerous fights loom

Hardliners are still trying to mount a scene to defund Obamacare, according to a Politico report about Heritage Action, which held  a kickoff party this week in Fayatteville, AR, story here. Bills to defund Obamacare will be introduced in September, trying to force a government shutdown.
  
But mainstream Republicans seem less inclined to go along, as they face the real possibility that real constituents who have trouble getting health care with the older pre-ACA word.  On the other hand, a few companies seem to be forcing more people to go part time to avoid eventual mandatory health are benefits (in 2015). 
  

The possibility of a Congressional Sandy-like “superstorm” this fall exists, though, as concerns over health care merge with battles over the debt ceiling, social security, and even Internet censorship.   In July, while journalists were sleeping, a group of state attorneys general circulated a proposal to Congress removing Section 230 downstream liability protections for Internet service providers with respect to enforcing state criminal laws.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

College students in dorms: Yes, you should get vaccinated for meningitis, or else

With “The Kids” leaving the nest for college (in my day that didn’t happen in August), there’s one public health issue that needs raising again.  That’s bacterial meningitis Wiki link, particularly when caused by meningococcus, or Neisseria meningtidis, biologically a distant relative of gonorrhea.  This form does get spread in repeated close contact in dense housing, especially dormitories and barracks.  In some young adults (possibly more frequently in females), it can lead to the secondary complication of disseminated intravascular coagulation, resulting in sudden limb gangrene and amputations, sometimes of all the limbs.  The clotting seems to be related to unusual toxins released by these bacteria. The idea of this happening to an "attractive" person is gruesome and impossible to take.  

The safest thing is vaccination, which works against most strains.  It is said not to work too well against strain B, but event that immunity should be attempted. 
  
I can remember, as a draftee recruit in Army Basic Combat Training in 1968 at Fort Jackson, SC, that windows in barracks at night were left open because of “meningitis regulations”.   And it could be cold in South Carolina in February, even that far south. 
  
The CDC has a page on meningococcal vaccination here. The CDC recommends a vacation before puberty, and then at least one booster before leaving for college in a dorm environment.  Many colleges require it.  The vaccination of most people creates “herd immunity” (perhaps “nerd herd”) and prevents outbreaks from starting. 
  
  

There are some videos on YouTube that claim dangers from vaccination, including one with Jesse Ventura acting. 
Update: Dec, 4, 2013

There have been major developments in recent months, with a reported outbreak of up to eight cases at Princeton (maybe more) and the approval by the CDC and the university of a new vaccine for type B meningitis just for Princeton students, as the vaccine, used in Europe, does not yet have FDA approval.

The Washington Post this morning reported on an outbreak at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where there are more students and a smaller percentage of cases so the CDC has not yet authorized the vaccine.  But one lacrosse player lost both feet to the infection and says that his arms and legs were rotting off, in a first person account that sounds gruesome.  The link is here.

I would say, the FDA should get off its butt and approve this type B vaccine right now,  It is needed on all campuses now.

Wikipedia picture of University of Santa Barbara campus below.  I visited it in 2002.  Wikipedia link.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Do boys learn differently from girls? Should boys start school later?

The print version of Arlington Magazine (for Arlington VA) has a long story by Kim O’Connell in the September-October 2013 issue, p. 41, “Learning the Hard Way: Is our educational system biased against boys?”  The issue isn’t online yet; you can watch for it (or subscribe) here

The article does discuss the different wiring and neurochemistry of boys’ brains, which may explain why a large number of boys are way behind girls in school, at least with conventional teaching methods. 

A lot gets written that girls, early in life, mature more rapidly than boys, who don’t catch up until puberty, at about age 13 or 14. 

My own personal observation, having worked as a substitute teacher and from meeting people in places like suburban protestant churches in high income areas, is that generally the gender effect is much less important with “upper middle class kids”.  Boys raised around articulate and well-educated parents often seem to have done super well in school and demonstrated various talents (like in music, drama, and the like) which are well developed even by middle teen years.  And some boys have become prodigies in technology, learning to code java or various programming languages and devices by 13 or so.   So environment seems to have a major interaction with hardwired neurology.  It may be also true that boys who are less “competitive” physically or borderline autistic (or who show mild Asperger’s) have better than average verbal skills, and show a learning pattern more like that of many girls.
But whether boys should be educated co-educationally (or girls for that matter) is a good question, and even the proper school starting age is a good question.

 


Some authorities say that parents should consider holding back kids born in later summer.  My birth date is July 10, and I did start first grade in public school at age 6.  But I may have been younger than average, possibly by several months.  At low ages, that can make a real difference, especially for boys.
    

 On the other hand, “backyard baseball” play activities in the middle school years had me competitive with boys three years younger, so most of my physical non-competitiveness was intrinsic in some way.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New US48 Highway project in highland areas of WVa simulates "mountaintop removal"

Today, I made a pilgrimage to Dolly Sods, the “little Mount Washington” in NE West Virginia, precariously near some older strip mining along W VA 93 which I had “trespassed” on (almost getting arrested in July 1971, mentioned early in Chapter 3 of my first DADT book). 


The SE approach from Jordan Run road was in pretty good shape, but the FR 75 on the north side seems heavily damaged from torrential rains or from Sandy, and isn’t very passable without a 4-wheel drive.

You probably don't want to do that stretch alone if you aren't very good at practical mechanics and roadside car repairs. The area is remote.

Dolly Sods (elevation 2850 to 4700) is not as high as some other areas and is as far south as Washington DC but has a severe climate because or Bernoulli effect and wind exposure.


But what caught my attention was the heavy construction of the new US 48 along old Route 93 between the Dominion Power Plant at Mt. Storm and Davis-Thomas.   Some of the old strip mining is pretty well reclaimed, but there are new cuts, one about 70 feet deep, with an accumulation of coal slag.Picture taking from the car was not possible; there were no pulloff areas. 

I’m not sure if this is due to mining or just the highway.   Wikipedia describes the effort here
  
There are still plenty of coal company signs along Rt 93 (to become 48), and I don’t know if there are plans for more radical mining in the area.
  


There’s a landfill near Thomas that is rather startling.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Obamacare: A tale of three states, with a touch of Dickens, sometimes (Pip would have been covered)

USA Today, on p. A5, has a detailed study of three people who approach the opportunities offered with “Obamacare”.  Julie Schmit discusses the issues with the Covered California exchange, in getting young healthy people to take the insurance, which is still a little bit more expensive than the financial penalty or “tax”.   Young adults, however, should consider the dangers that still can occur:  accidents (especially those cause by other people), or unusual cancers (testicular in men, for example).  The “Days of our Lives” soap opera on NBC is about to confront us with the character  Chad having a brain tumor at about age 25. But it is true, as a group, healthy young adults will pay for more care than they consume.  But the tables should turn as they get older, as everyone will. Follow the link here
   
Texas has opted not to set up its own exchange, as a kind of protest.  Texas will have to use the federal exchanges and block grants.  But as a result, middle income workers will probably pay higher premiums, even in group plans. Rick Jervis reports.
  
West Virginia is one of the most “generous” states, allowing people who don’t qualify for Medicaid to buy insurance on a sliding scale.  The report (Greg Toppo) discusses a young female waitress with diabetes.
  
Politicians and pundits who resist health care reform still must deal with the question, who will cover the truly “unlucky”?  Friends and family?  The conservatives seem to want to see sacrifice happen.  Life is never supposed to be fair, they say.  Even Donald Trump says that, but then turns around and says our health insurance system was a disgrace; we can afford to care for our sick. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Whitehouse issues report on electric grid stability, but doesn't talk about space weather or terror

Today, the Obama White House released a blog entry “Protecting the electric grid from increasingly severe weather due to climate change,” main link here.  The report was mentioned briefly on NBC local news in Washington around 11 AM this morning but not on the national broadcasts.
  
The blog posting links to two important position papers: One from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, “Economic benefits to increasing electric grid resistance to weather outages”, and one from the President’s office, “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid”. 
  
Both papers emphasize hardiness in view of severe storms like hurricanes and tornadoes.  The first report notes that many of the nation’s transformers are old.  It doesn’t go into the issue of being able to replace them quickly with manufacturing capacity at home.  The papers don’t go into space weather, which is not a function of climate change but which is capable of throwing out catastrophic coronal mass ejections from the Sun every hundred years or so. It also doesn’t mention terrorism and possibly EMP, or the idea of beefing up Faraday cage technology, which may be easier and more promising strategically than many observers think.
    
Last week I watched an old Discovery Channel film (described on my “cf” blog) which explained how a solar storm sends out several pulses, the last of which is the coronal mass ejection, whose size and speed is still difficult to predict (it usually takes two days or so to reach Earth). 


Friday, August 09, 2013

Washington Post columnist talks about America's "Bubble of Complacency"; it can get personal

Michael Gerson has a valuable op-ed on p. A13 of the Washington Post, Friday, August 9, 2013, “America’s bubble of complacency”, link here

Remember TARP at the end of 2008?   Gerson argues that the Fed used “electronically printed money” to loosen credit and bolster investment principal values.  (He didn’t mine bitcoins, where are gradually coming under more regulation.)  The result five years later is apparently an inflated stock market, and bond values that are now sinking as interest rates must inevitably rise and as the Fed must eventually remove its artificial props for the bond market.

In the meantime, Gerson argues, underemployment continues.  Working people can’t afford to have children and raise families. 

And in certain sectors of society, crime grows more brazen as some people find the “rules” totally meaningless in their own social context.


This could be interpreted in a personal way.  It could be taken to mean that people should experience service (and “the lives of others”) before they seek recognition for their own gifts.  Oh, that sounds a little bit like Maoism.  But I used to hear this kind of thing when I was coming of age, both in the Army and then started my own career in the early 1970’s, and learned how the “Left” then really thought.  

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Event data recorders in cars may prove intrusive on personal privacy, but will clear and fix responsibility for accidents

The auto industry has been introducing EDR’s, or event data recorders (or “black boxes”, as similar devices in airliners are called), into new cars for some time, and the Obama administration would like to see the mandatory.
  
On the other hand, privacy advocates say that car owners should be able to turn them off.
   
Insurance companies and law enforcement can use them to fix blame (or clear drivers) after accidents. 
  
Furthermore, more advanced devices would allow insurance companies to monitor drivers, and offer lower rates to drivers with better habits.  Car rental companies sometimes use these devices now and fine drivers who violate agreements or who speed.  This can be a problem with some rentals that restrict the states in which a rental car may be driven.
  
NPR has a thorough story on the EDR issue here. The privacy rights of drivers is still a legal gray area in most areas of the country.
  

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
  

Insurance company monitoring could become a problem for people who drive alone a lot (to work, because of variable work times or being on call, or for any personal reasons).  

Monday, August 05, 2013

Bus driver in FL follows the rules, waits for police and doesn't intervene in violent incident on school bus; when do we expect people to "step up" with their own lives (to "protect" children)?

There are a lot of opinions floating about the reaction of a 64-year-old school bus driver in Pinellas, FL in July.  

When several fifteen year old boys attacked a 13 year old, the driver radioed for police help, as instructed by school district policy, but did not intervene physically. 

Some school districts do not allow school bus drivers to intervene at all physically without police, but this school district does. 

Police actually referred the case to a county attorney on the theory that the bus driver could be prosecuted for child neglect for not defending the kids physically, but the county attorney said that such charges were not appropriate. 

Attorneys have pointed out that there would be considerable legal and physical risk in intervening.
    
On the other hand, some people see not intervening to protect children as “cowardly” and think that all citizens are morally obliged to step up in such circumstances, even at the risk of their own lives, to protect children.  But the law usually doesn’t require it. 

A Tampa Bay newspaper has a detailed news story Aug. 1, here
  
The bus driver is John Moody, and he was interviewed on CNN Monday night, with a preliminary story (by Pamela Brown) here.  The Gulfport police chief did say that the bus driver did have an opportunity to intervene  
    
When I was substitute teaching a few years ago, there were lots of jobs in northern Virginia for school bus drivers.  I thought I would never be able to deal with disciplinary emergencies like this. 

The only YouTube videos right now were “right wing” style videos emphasizing the horror of the crime and blaming the bus driver for not taking more risks himself to stop it.  

Moody retired from the job.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Health care plans must take into account adverse selection, regardless of "libertarian" motives

The basic reason for an individual mandate as part of “Obamacare” is to prevent adverse selection, or antiselection. Robert H. Frank explains this very clearly on p. 3 of the Sunday New York Times, Economic View, “For Obamacare to Work, Everyone Must Be In”, link here
  
Sounds like the moral paradigm of the old military draft, doesn’t it?
  
New York has tried to prevent insurance companies from imposing pre-existing limits on individual policies with the result that individual premiums have been among the highest in the nation.
Frank explains how we used to depend on employer-paid group insurance to soften the blow of pre-existing conditions, and in today’s world it is much less practical to depend on it.  Frank advocates a model a bit like what Switzerland uses, which is still “private” but more affordable than in the US.
  
Conservatives do have some good ideas: competition across state lines, portability, pre-tax parity for individuals with employers.  But these ideas would not take care of the pre-existing condition problem.
  
So, as a moral argument, conservatives seem left with the gruesome idea of turning to “family and friends” for catastrophic health problems, in other words, filial responsibility, which is not exactly commensurate with libertarian ideas of personal responsibility.
  

By the way, when mentioning libertarianism, check out the Washington Post today, by Nick Gillespie, Reason story here
  
Note also, recent New York Times stories on “medical tourism” and an explanation on why hip replacement is so much cheaper in Belgium than in the U.S.
   

Would the same apply to dental work?  My computerized guide for my recent dental implants cae from Belgium.  

Friday, August 02, 2013

"Phasor" technology can make power grid(s) more stable, but will they work against solar geomagnetic storms?

The power grids of the IS could become more resilient with new technology using “Phasor measurements”, according to a front page story in the New York Times August 1 by Matthew L. Wald, “New tools for keeping the lights on”, link here

Wald reports that the United States is divided into three grids: the eastern two-thirds of the nation, Texas, and western states.  (That is, Texas could still become a separate country if it wanted to?)

The massive power failure in the northeast in 2003 occurred after equipment failure and mismanagement in a circuit in northern Ohio.  The new equipment would prevent such a failure from spreading. 

The obvious question is whether phasor technology would protect transformers during massive solar storms (geomagnetic disturbances from coronal mass ejections) or even terror EMP attacks. 
   

The Department of Energy says that about 1000 phasor units should be deployed around the country by the end of 2014.  But that’s probably after the anticipated maximum in solar storm activity this cycle.  

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Libertarianism poses a real quandary within the GOP

The Washington Post “Debrief” column by Karen Tumulty, reports “Libertarians’ rise has the GOP boiling”, link

It’s not clear that a lot of the supposed libertarian wing is as much so as it claim.  In his book, Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia argues that the federal government doesn’t have the right to order citizens to engage in commerce or do things (like buy  health care), but is OK if states do it.  (Cuccinelli wants to bring back the Virginia sodomy law – only for “predators” – and wants to stop all abortions.)
  
But Rand Paul’s isolationism has more traditional Republicans mad, as have some of his past proposals to break promises on “entitlements”.  Ron Paul was much closer to the mold in the 2012 debates.
  
Times have changed a lot since I grew up.  There is much more that can be done for the disabled and to keep many elderly people living longer (as was the case with my own mother).  It sounds troubling to use public funds to do this through taxes or through government-coerced behavior.
   
Yet, the possibility of helping the less well-off or even less capable also creates a lot of tension with hyper-indivduaism and “personal autonomy”.  People can be helped only when others will bond with them (a point Dr. Oz has sometimes talked about).  That may prove challenging in a world where family ties as weaker, as is the willingness of many people to enter into them.  When one considers questions about sustainability and reverence for human life, pre-existing need for “altruism”  rises to a moral issue, raising fundamental questions about personal responsibility and social institutions like marriage.