Friday, August 12, 2016


Quote of the Day: On the conservative commentariat

The original neo-conservatives knew how wrong they had been in their youth, and re-learned their politics after forty. Unlike their forbears, today’s neo-cons never have had a self-critical moment. Today’s guardians of the sacred flame of the sacred conservative flame are to the manure born.... They are mediocre ideologues incapable of learning from past failures, clinging to their careers because they are unsuited for honest work. Trump may not know much but he is capable of learning. That can’t be said for his detractors. —David P. Goldman, writing as "Spengler" in "Trump lacks experience but his detractors lack common sense"

Goldman is one of the few members of the conservative commentariat who have not repudiated Donald Trump's grotesqueness, instead preferring to bring down his considerable wrath upon his fellow commentators.

Of all those commentators I have always found "Spengler" to be the most fun to read, not because of his perspicacity (after all, who can still contend that the Donald is capable of learning) but for his fulminating wit. Then there's the supercilious tone reminiscent of the late William Buckley, who might very well have used the word "epigonoi" as Goldman managed to do in this article.

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Thursday, August 04, 2016


Update on Moshe Katsav

In my last post some 5 years ago I expressed skepticism that Moshe Katsav, former Israeli president and convicted rapist, would serve any time on his 7-year sentence. Well, kudos to the Israeli government! Mr. Katsav not only went to prison but, thanks to an Israeli parole board, will continue to serve out his sentence.

As I noted at the time, Katsav committed a sex-related crime, which is about the only crime the Western world will not countenance in its leaders.

Memo to Donald Trump: Should you inexplicably become President of the United States, keep those trousers zipped and those little hands to yourself.

Related post
Criminal of the Day: Moshe Katsav (3/22/2011)

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Criminal of the Day: Moshe Katsav

An Israeli court sentenced Moshe Katsav, the country’s former president, to seven years in prison for rape on Tuesday. The sentencing is the latest stage in a sordid drama that Israel’s leaders point to as proof of the principle of equality before the law, but one that has also seen the prestige of Israel’s highest office brought to a historic low. —Isabel Kershner reporting in "Ex-Israeli President Sentenced to Prison for Rape"

I am always cheered at the prospect of a national leader going to jail, since justice will not have been served until George Bush and Dick Cheney have done some time.  But, alas, there are some points to be made about this "proof of the principle of equality before the law."

First is that Katsav was the head of state, not the head of government—an office held by the prime minister. As such he held no significant power. More like the Queen, really.
Second, Mr. Katsav has not gone to jail yet.  As his lawyer noted, “Regarding the sentence, I have no doubt that this was not the last word.” Neither do I.  After the appeals I will be pleasantly surprised if Mr. Katsav serves a day of his sentence.
Third, the crime was about sex. Heads of state and government should take heart that they can commit any atrocity, any fraud, any deception, any aggression, any torture—indeed, any crime whatsoever—so long as they keep their pants zipped. We should remember that only the second impeachment in American history was occasioned by a blow job (yes, I know—that he lied about it) and that the term of the current Italian Prime Minister and media tyrant Silvio Berlusconi may be brought short by his dalliance with a 16-year-old.

So much for the rule of law.

Update: Update on Moshe Katsav (8/4/2016)

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Thursday, March 17, 2011


Technological Advance of the Day: Laser Electrolysis in Space

A new laser device created at the University of Central Florida could make high-speed computing faster and more reliable, opening the door to a new age of the Internet. . . . 

But there is still one challenge that the team is working to resolve. The voltage necessary to make the laser diodes work more efficiently must be optimized. 

Deppe said once that problem is resolved, the uses for the laser diodes will multiply. They could be used in lasers in space to remove unwanted hair. 

— in "Miniature lasers could help launch new age of the Internet"

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Quote of the Day: On the effect of inflation

Inflation is a redistributive mechanism in favour of the few that can protect living standards, against the large majority who cannot. —Tim Ash, emerging markets chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland, as quoted in "China's credit bubble on borrowed time as inflation bites"

Mr. Ash, of course, was applying this insight to China. But it applies to any country you like—the U.S. for instance.

I point this out so that you may better understand why Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve bank, which sets U.S. monetary policy, is so afraid of deflation.  As he said in his famous speech of 2002,

I am confident that the Fed would take whatever means necessary to prevent significant deflation in the United States and, moreover, that the U.S. central bank, in cooperation with other parts of the government as needed, has sufficient policy instruments to ensure that any deflation that might occur would be both mild and brief.

Of course in 2002 Bernanke also thought that "the chance of significant deflation in the United States in the foreseeable future is extremely small." He has revised his opinion lately. In October he opined,

... in effect, inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the [Open Market] Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve's dual mandate in the longer run. In particular, at current rates of inflation, ... the risk of deflation is higher than desirable. Given that monetary policy works with a lag, the more relevant question is whether this situation is forecast to continue. In light of the recent decline in inflation, the degree of slack in the economy, and the relative stability of inflation expectations, it is reasonable to forecast that underlying inflation ... will be less than the mandate-consistent inflation rate for some time.

I also mention the redistributing effect of inflation so that you will have a reply ready the next time you hear about "socialist redistribution schemes" from your right-wing pals. 

Incomes are constantly being redistributed in all economies, and a significant portion of that redistribution has nothing to do with "hard work" or individual merit of any sort.  So the political question is not whether redistribution should be allowed—in fact it cannot be prevented. The political question is "from whom" and "to whom."

Related posts
"First" of the Day: Fall of the CPI (12/19/08)
"First" of the Day: Fall in consumer prices (11/20/08)

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Sunday, November 07, 2010


"Firsts" of the Day for the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration said ... that it would rescind the approval of a patch for injured knees that it granted in error in 2008 after being unduly pressured by four New Jersey congressmen and its own commissioner. The patch, known as Menaflex and manufactured by ReGen Biologics, was so different from earlier devices that it should have been tested far more thoroughly before approval, officials determined. . . .

The F.D.A. had never before admitted that it approved a drug or device mistakenly, never rescinded such an approval without citing new information about the product, never admitted that a regulatory decision was influenced by politics, and never accused a former commissioner of questionable conduct.

—Gardiner Harris reporting in "F.D.A. Vows to Revoke Approval of Device"

Certain Democratic Congressmen appear to have acted on behalf of their generous comporate constituent—

The controversy surrounding Menaflex began last year, when a group of F.D.A. medical officers complained to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, that the ReGen decision was one of several at the agency in which politics inappropriately trumped science.

The agency responded by releasing a detailed report last year that found that the agency’s scientific reviewers had repeatedly and unanimously over many years declared Menaflex unworthy of approval, but that they had been overruled by agency managers after political pressure from four Democrats from New Jersey — Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven R. Rothman. The report also concluded that Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, then the agency’s commissioner, had become inappropriately involved in the decision, and that agency procedures had been bypassed.

All four lawmakers made their inquiries about Menaflex after receiving significant campaign contributions from ReGen, which is based in Hackensack, N.J. Dr. von Eschenbach and the four lawmakers said they acted properly.

Related posts
A ceiling as well as a floor (7/25/04)
Eliot Spitzer targets pharmaceutical industry, criticizes FDA (11/24/04)

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Monday, September 27, 2010


"First" of the Day: New hell in the City of Angels

The temperature in Downtown Los Angeles today reached 113 degrees at 12:15 p.m. - that was the highest temperature ever recorded in Downtown L.A. since records began in 1877.

The previous record was 112 degrees set on June 26, 1990. The previous record for the day in Downtown L.A. was 106 degrees set in 1963 - and the previous record for the month of September was 110 degrees set September 1, 1955 and equaled on September 4, 1988.

—CNS report "Los Angeles Sets New Record High Temperature"

The entire area saw records tied or broken—

The high temperature at Long Beach airport today was 111 degrees at 1:09 p.m. - that tied the highest temperature ever recorded at Long Beach airport...which was set October 15, 1961.

It also set a new record for the month of September...eclipsing the old record of 110 degrees set September 26, 1963.

The high temperature at Los Angeles airport today was 105 degrees at 11:30 a.m. - that tied the daily record which was set in 1963.

The high temperature at Burbank airport today was 110 degrees - that broke the daily record of 104 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature in Woodland Hills at Pierce College today was 111 degrees - that broke the daily record of 107 degrees set in 1993.

The high temperature in Oxnard at the national weather service office today was 100 degrees - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature at Santa Barbara Airport was 100 degrees today - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1970.

The high temperature at Santa Maria airport was 105 degrees - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1917.

The high temperature at Paso Robles airport today was 108 degrees - that broke the daily record of 105 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature at Lancaster airport today was 103 degrees - that tied the daily record which was set in 2003.

The high temperature at Palmdale airport today was 102 degrees - that tied the daily record which was set in 2003.

Related posts
"Global Warming Effect of the Day" (7/25/06)

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Friday, September 24, 2010


"First" of the Day: new campaign spending record

Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for California governor, has surpassed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the highest personal contribution in American campaign history.

Whitman's campaign reported another $15 million contribution late Tuesday, bringing her personal donation to $119 million.

—Juliet Williams reporting in "Meg Whitman breaks US campaign spending records"

And to think, before her run for governor Whitman seldom voted. Why bother to vote when you can just buy any office you like? She may have a point. We'll see in November.

In another story, Williams captures the irony of Whitman's campaign—

For Meg Whitman, there is at least one problem in government worth throwing money at: getting elected.

The billionaire former eBay CEO is using her personal fortune in her campaign for California governor like no other candidate in U.S. political history: $119 million so far on months of wall-to-wall advertising, private jets, dozens of six-figure consultants and other expenses to spread her message of government austerity.

Her open wallet is in contrast to her austerity plans for California. She is promising if elected to dramatically cut state spending, eliminate 40,000 state workers, scale back pension benefits and cut the welfare system, which she says is bloated and unaffordable.

Whitman blames her spending spree on the unions, which have spent a miserly $12 million against her $119 million. Austerity, it seems, is expensive. 

Related posts 
Hire your own judge; you'll help the system and save in the long run (6/15/2005)
Conservative Acknowledgment of the Day (7/19/2010)

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Friday, September 17, 2010


Quote of the Day: Guess who said it

Tonight the ruling class knows. They have... they've seen it now. There's a people's revolution!

Select from below:

  1. Karl Marx
  2. Vladimir Lenin
  3. Leon Trotsky
  4. Carl Paladino
  5. Noam Chomsky

If you selected Carl Paladino, the newly elected Republican candidate for Governor of New York, you are ahead of your time.

Related posts
The Second American Revolution goes nuclear (5/16/05)
Truth of the Day: On social change (2/28/08)
A note on Obama (2/15/10)
A domestic suicide attack (2/18/10)

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Monday, August 30, 2010


"First" of the Day: Pot tried for pain relief in outpatients

The study used three different potencies of cannabis - containing 2.5%, 6% and 9.4% of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol - as well as a placebo (dummy version).

Under nurse supervision, participants inhaled a single 25mg dose through a pipe three times a day for five days followed by nine days off, for four cycles.

Those given the highest dose had significantly reduced average pain compared with the placebo as well as less anxiety and depression, and better sleep.

Study leader Dr Mark Ware said: "To our knowledge, this is the first outpatient clinical trial of smoked cannabis ever reported."

—BBC reporting in "Cannabis may relieve chronic nerve pain"

Another interesting outcome of the research was this—

Dr Peter Shortland, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: "Importantly, smoking the drug did not produce the psychoactive effects commonly associated with full strength cannabis."

I'm not sure why the the good professor considered this to be important, but the American morals police will be greatly relieved.

With the full-scale legalization of pot coming up for a vote in California's November election (opposed, sadly, by some growers) and with continuing positive research outcomes such as this, I worry about which group will be locked up next to justify current levels of police, prison guards and prisons.

Related posts
Marijuana: Better than faith-healing (1/03/05)
Quote of the Day (5/12/05)
Form Letter of the Day (12/12/05)
Pseudosocialism (qua Leninism) and the DEA (12/12/05)
Granny of the Day (3/07/07)
High Court Decision of the Day: Smoking while herding (3/29/09)

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