Wednesday, April 30, 2014

WHO: We may be approaching a post-antibiotic era

Tonight, NBC News presented the World Health Education’s report on the development of antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria and the danger that we will enter a “post-antibiotic era”.

Overuse of antibiolitcs by ordinary individuals is part of the problem, as is the use of antibiotics in agriculture.

WHO’s own news release is here.
Imagine not having an antibiotic for strep throat.  I recall that at one time penicillin always worked against them, and eventually it required erythromycin.

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Live Below the Line" asks participants eat on a poor person's resources: like the 30 Hour Fast?

There’s a new challenge to “live below the line” (site), which drew attention when actor Ben Affleck announced he would eat on $1.50 a day, to walk in the shoes of others.  (If you have your own urban garden, it isn’t that hard; calculated how much tomatoes and other vegetables you grow yourself really cost.)  MSN has a story here.
This idea, of course, reminds me of the “30 Hour Fast” which youth groups in many mainstream churches do once a year.  Sometimes during the fast the teens call others to raise money, and sometimes they do other things (like make films). But the sponsor, World Vision, has at least come into question (as with this Huffington story here ).  But of course, a charity like this will have to help kids in dangerous and sometimes “anti-gay” countries like Uganda, so it’s hard to tell, perhaps. 
I recall that the Lama Foundation (rebuilt in New Mexico since a 1996 wildfire), back in the 1980s, offered a weekend called “purification through fasting”.  I did not take them up on it.  
Wikipedia attribution link  from Rio Grande Gorge, visible from Lama (my last visit, May 1984, “Spring work camp”, with plenty of mud and rain at 8500 feet).  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling stuns sports world with racist remarks, but was this a private conversation he didn't know was being recorded?

A conversation between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girl friend, in which he makes what sound like racist remarks, is creating a furor in the media Sunday.
CNN has a link here  Don Lemon is covering the issue Sunday afternoon.

The recording seems to have been made during a private conversation. Did he know that she was recording the encounter? 

However, Sterling, 80. asked his girl friend to remove pictures showing her association with African Americans from her Instagam feed, from social media.

Sterling claimed that she could love “them” privately but not announce her associations “publicly”, because of the way “the world is”.  He said she had made enemies with the posts.
Sterling also claimed he paid “them” and gave “them” cars and houses, like he saw them as a commodity.

Legal observers note that the NBA is likely to strip away the ownership of the Clippers away from Sterling. 
CNN reports that California is a 2-party state.  If she did not tell Sterling she was was recording the conversation, she could face prosecution, but the remarks still could be used in a lawsuit.  

Update: April 30

It is reported that Sterling knew about the taping and had consented to it, but then tried to keep it a secret. The woman's lawyer says that the taping was legal.

And (above) here it is, in large part.

This incident reminds me of the Don Imus scandal in 2007 (the remark about "nappy headed hos"), discussed here April 14, 2007.  This is related to what I have called "implicit content".

Update: May 2

Jeffrey Toobin weighs in on the legal questions, as does an article that says the taping was legal if Sterling knew about it, link here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Supreme Court approves Michigan voters' ban on affirmative action in admissions

The Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law approved by referendum of voters, denying the ability of universities and colleges to use affirmative action in admissions.  The CNN story by Bill Mears is here

Michigan has a long history with affirmative action, dating back over 15 years, covered here before.

Michigan had a constitutional ban on affirmative action, which had itself been struck down as posing an unreasonable burden.  But the Court said that the legislature or voters (even a voter approved constitutional amendment) could stop race-conscious selection. The opinion did not take a position on race-based admissions as its own issue this time. 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor read her dissent from the bench.

I can remember a discussion back in 1997 with a bookstore owner in Richmond, about to carry my first book, who vigorously supported it. 

The slip opinion is here.

It's likely that many other states will try constitutional amendments on race-sensitive admissions.

It will be interesting to see if the court’s ruling applies to gay marriage cases.   The history of Prop 8 in the context of this case is rather complicated. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Marriage penalty debate still rages on, and off

I would recommend visiting Catherine Rampell’s op-ed on p. A17 of the Tuesday Washington Post, “Victimized by the ‘marriage penalty’”; online, it’s “’Marriage penalty’ takes the bite out of working families”, link here. The marriage penalty was a big policy debate issue in the 1990s (when I was writing my first "Do Ask, Do Tell" book), and it has never really been resolved. 

The “marriage penalty” tends to penalize couples where both spouses earn about the same, as the next earned dollar is taxed at a higher marginal rate.  It would now apply to same-sex couples if legally married.  In fact, in the old days (from the 1970s all the way until about 2010 or so), it was widely understood by gay couples that many were better off in tax situations if they couldn’t marry because of the penalty, even though lack of equality hurt in so many other ways that are well known.  In practice, the possibility of a marriage penalty can be a deterrent to many couples tying the knot.

For couples already married, it may hinder a spouse’s returning to work and being able to earn more later, as the children’s college education approaches.  It may, as the article pointed out, hinder caregiver pay. 
It always rankled me, when I was growing up, that the world would have expected me to be “sexually attracted” to someone who would be totally economically dependent, as was my own mother.  Remember the old days of the “family wage”? 

Picture: Birds do show "family values" 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Virginia GOP seems unified on a pragmatically losing cause -- blocking Medicaid expansion with Obamacare when federal grants will save business money

Virginia Republicans are finding that opposition to Medicaid expansion associated with Obamacare is the one issue that unifies their party.  Yet, most business owners feel that they would be better off if the state were pragmatic and accepted the additional federal funds that would come from the Medicaid expansion.
The front page story Monday in the Washington Post is by Laura Vozzella, here
The Virginia GOP has complicated fundraising schemes, some of which wind up in my inbox and junk mail and even calls.  Yet on this issue is seems to be hanging on to an ideological opposition to people’s supporting people with pre-existing conditions or other disadvantages but outside of their immediate families getting federal help in getting health insurance. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Banks, fearing "know your customer", warn payday loan companies to cease and desist

“Payday lenders say banks threatening their business: Regulators accused of ‘intimidation; some bankers say they’re forced to police customers”.  That’s the long title of a Washington Post story in Economy and Business on p A13 by Danielle A Douglas. Online, the title is more blunt, “Banks to payday lenders: quit the business or we’ll close your account”, link here. Would this include a personal account?
Banks say that regulators accuse them of profiting indirectly from the “loan shark” business, terminology well known from the 50s. 
But there’s something dangerous about this “know your customer,” downstream liability ideology.  What if we applied it to the Internet?  Guess what.  There would be no more Section 230.  And some politicians want to chip away at that now.

The problem reminds one of the unwillingness of banks to do business with legal marijuana retailers in Colorado. 
On P A19 of Satruday’s Post, Colbert J. King has an editorial “Let’s get specific about ‘who failed Relisha”.  She disagrees with Petula Dvorak that we’re all responsible because of the chain-letter effects of inequality.   

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Liberals" say Obama plans "Obamacare" for mortgage Fred-Fan, stiffing investors

A recent heavily touted ad concerning Democratic legislators claims that plans (from the Obama administration) to overhaul and replace Freddie Mac (in McLean VA) and Fannie Mae (in Washington) would harm ordinary investors, especially retirees who may be more likely to have them in portfolios.  This plan has been called “Obamacare for the Mortgage Industry”.

The Wall Street Journal has a blog entry and video by Nick Timiraos, here
The television ads, when played, almost seemed to suggest that Obmacare is funded by the mortgage giants.  

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Debate on equal pay regardless of gender still sputters

President Barack Obama has signed two executive orders to guarantee equal pay for the same work regardless of gender, as widely reported.

But according to a CNN editorial, Democrats tend to press the belief that women are paid less, as in this op-ed by Katie Packer Gage, here.

Complicating the debate is, of course, the idea of paternal leave or family leave, and whether it should be compensated in the US the way it is more likely to be in Europe.  Paternity leave is gaining more traction, as we saw from the recent attention given to it in Major League Baseball. 

Also complicating the debate is that time taken for motherhood will, for some women, mean they don't remain as competitive in the workplace. But that's just some. Women get credit for a lot of advances in computer programming back in the middle of the past century, including (partly while in the military) the development of major languages, a fact that is often forgotten. 
In fact, some social conservatives have spoken with regret over the loss of the “family wage” of previous 
decades, where one breadwinner could make enough to support a non-working wife, and where the division of roles accompanied a committed sexual relationship.  It is harder for people with those values to compete in today’s world.  Sometimes it is harder from people with heavy family responsibilities to compete with hose who have fewer.  I recall all this from the 90s, when Henry Hyde talked about the family wage in an article in "Policy Review" called a "Mom and Pop Manifesto".  That’s not so different from saying that it is hard for kids from underprivileged backgrounds to compete academically with their better off peers.  

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Major League Baseball in the paid paternity leave debate, as well as effort to end sexual orientation discrimination

Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets has given big league sports another opportunity to weigh in on social issues.  Major League Baseball has said that it is committed to eliminating sexual orientation discrimination (which has definitely prevented some men from playing in the past), but it also has to be pro-family. So it reportedly allows three days paternity leave for the birth of a child.
Daniel Murphy returned Thursday, and the Mets, looking thoroughly distracted, got drubbed again by the Nationals, who themselves are nursing multiple injuries but swept and own the Mets at Citi Field again, as in this story

The Nats, a couple of whom know me, got their parenting done in the off-season, it seems. 
But apparently one radio talk show host (according to ABC's Live with Kelly show) said the wife should have had a C-section so her husband wouldn't miss Opening Day!
No question, the presence of a husband in a difficult childbirth can be critical.  Morgan Spurlock documented that in one of his own films (ironically, at the end of a film about hunting for Osama bin Laden, where he depicts his own process of becoming a father). 
Employers have a line of contradictions to walk on this one.  The fact is, having and raising children is challenging in an individualistic society.  In practice, parents are more likely to need more time off.  That leads to people who don’t have sexual intercourse in a marriage subsidizing those who do.  That seems like a consequence of logic.  That doesn’t stop Facebook from offering a reported 16 days of paid paternity leave.  

Pictures: My 2012 visit to Citifield, Phillies at Mets ({Phillies won).  

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Supreme Court invalidates limit on total campaign contributions by rich donors

The Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional, by a 5-4 vote, a limit ($123000) on total campaign contributions by any person in one election cycle, although it left intact a limit ($5200) on any one candidate.  The rationale was centered on the First Amendment.
CNN’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has a commentary on the decision here

The Supreme Court website has its own link,  The case is McCutcheon v. FEC.
The decision would also have softened concerns in the past that bloggers are making de facto campaign contributions (detailed discussion here

Wealthy donors could circumvent the law by giving to PACS and other organizations.
I’ve always felt rather repelled by the idea that if I was a candidate, I would have to get people to give me money, so I would take care of them if elected.  I just don’t do things like that.  But it cuts both ways.


At a QA following a film “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek” in Washington this past weekend, there as a comment that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing states more leeway in keeping restrictions on voting rights can indeed hurt African American communities in some communities, as long the Mississippi Gulf Coast, subject to pressure from bigtime corporate developers.