You are browsing the archive for 2013 February 25.

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Mark Thornton Explains the Real Meaning of Austerity

February 25, 2013 in Economics

By Daniel J. Sanchez

Ryan McMaken writes:

In the February The Free Market, Mark Thornton notes that in the current media narrative, “austerity” means raising taxes to pay wealthy bankers.

Authentic austerity -the good kind-forces the government to actually get smaller:

Real austerity is not adding more difficulties on the productive sector of the economy in the form of higher taxes. The private sector produces, the public sector consumes. The IMF’s idea of raising taxes on individuals to pay off international banksters is bad economics and is not real austerity.

Read more here (PDF).

…read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Female Yahoo! CEO Kills Work from Home Option? Why Americans Need a More Flexible Workplace

February 25, 2013 in Blogs

By Irin Carmon, Salon



 

I don’t have children, although someday I hope to, but I am a big fan of efficiency and changing from pajamas into pajamas. In other words, I am a fan of working from home, which is why I was dismayed to see that Yahoo!’s new-ish CEO, Marissa Mayer, has signed off on eliminating it as an option for her employees. This is about more than lifestyle or employee cohesion (or pajama pants). It’s a deeply political move.

All Things D’s Kara Swisher, who first reported on the memo and its protest-too-much assertions that this is about “fun,” also notes that the new policy doesn’t just extend to a few hundred customer service employees, but to “any staffers who might have arrangements to work from home just one or two days a week, too.” That includes waiting for service and repair visits, and, presumably, other home responsibilities. In the name of morale and becoming “the absolute best place to work,” Yahoo! is setting back the progress and flexibility that some employees have been able to enjoy. That not only belies contemporary realities and preferences — including the fact that productivity is about a lot more than putting in hours — but its impact falls disproportionately on women.

As Nancy Folbre, an economist and editor of “For Love and Money: Care Provision in the United States,” told Salon last year, “Once upon a time, we lived in a world where men engaged in paid work and women stayed home and took care of the children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled.” That’s not the world we live in now: Even in households with more than one adult, some form of paid work is rarely a “choice,” and someone still has to do the care work, usually on top of everything else. That someone is usually a woman, which is why state and city-level policies for paid sick days and family leave — the bare minimum of flexibility — are feminist issues.

The policy change under Mayer comes just as her fellow Google alumna, and current Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg is about to publish …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Is Dr. Drew Too Dangerous for Prime Time?

February 25, 2013 in Blogs

By Maia Szalavitz, The Fix



With the news last week of country star Mindy McCready’s suicide by gun, the death toll among Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab patients now stands at five, giving the show an unusually high mortality rate of nearly 13%. But what’s even more disturbing is that most of those deaths—possibly even McCready’s—might have been prevented if the program had utilized treatment practices proven to be most effective.

Although Dr. Drew appears to truly believe in what he does, addiction experts say that the treatment philosophy and policies demonstrated in his show and public statements often do not reflect the best evidence-based practices. His rejection of maintenance treatments, use of punitive detox practices and humiliating therapy and insistence that people cannot truly recover without complete abstinence through 12-step programs reflect the conventional wisdom of the 1980s, not the data of the 21st century. Indeed, Celebrity Rehab’s treatment—leaving aside the massive confidentiality violation of being televised—diverges dramatically from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA)Principles of Drug Treatment, a guide that lays out standards for the best addiction care.

Take the harsh way McCready was treated during her detox on season three of Pinksy's show, which premiered in 2010. As the cameras rolled, the country star began shaking and making involuntary movements. Her roommate, Mackenzie Phillips, simply laughed at her, apparently buying into the stereotype that addicts who seem ill must be faking it. But as Phillips belatedly realized that the seizure was all too real, the cameras continued to roll. She raced around, screaming and searching for a nurse; nearly a minute goes by with no one stopping the production to help. Instead, the cameraperson actually zoomed in as McCready shuddered and shook. 

Prior to treatment, McCready admitted to drinking and taking benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs like Valium and Xanax)—both of which can cause withdrawal seizures if patients aren’t adequately medicated during detox. Indeed, withdrawal from benzodiazepines and alcohol—unlike methadone or heroin withdrawal—can be fatal because these seizures can progress into a condition called status epilepticus.

Charles O’Brien, MD, PhD, is the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Studies in Addiction. He has developed drugs to treat dependence to alcohol, opioid and cocaine, done pioneering research into the clinical aspects of addiction and …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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The Dizzying Ways the Sequester Will Screw Us Over

February 25, 2013 in Blogs

By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos



The potential impact of the sequester is dizzying, taken state by state or nationally. From federal workers losing as much as 20 percent of their pay to travelers facing airport delays, the sequester's effects will be felt far and wide if Republicans keep holding the economy hostage to keep tax loopholes for wealthy people and corporations wide open. But it'll be especially damaging for people who rely on government programs—people who are poor or vulnerable for other reasons. Here are some of the ways, according to the White House, services for the neediest people will be cut.

Receiving emergency unemployment compensation benefits? You're in for a nearly 11 percent cut to those benefits, adding up to as much as $450 during the time you're eligible for benefits.

Are you a student, parent of a student, or teacher? You might care about what's going to happen in the schools, where nearly 1.2 million disadvantaged students in more than 2,700 schools will be hit with cuts, including to individual instruction and afterschool programs. That could lead to around 10,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs. Special education cuts would also endanger the jobs of 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff. Then there are the 70,000 or so kids who'd lose Head Start services, leading to up to another 14,000 teachers and other school personnel working not just for state and local governments but for community and faith based organizations. But Head Start wouldn't be the only early childhood program affected. The sequester could boot 30,000 kids off of child care subsidies, forcing their parents to find other child care or miss work.

Are you a senior relying on Meals on Wheels? That program will be serving 4 million fewer meals to seniors. And if you're pregnant or a new mother and getting nutrition assistance forWomen, Infants, and Children, cuts are coming there, too: around 600,000 women and children could lose assistance.

If government programs help shelter you, the sequester could put you at greater risk of homelessness. More than 100,000 people could lose access to housing and emergency homeless shelter programs, putting them back on the street. At the same time, 125,000 families could lose rental assistance that helps them stay in permanent housing; they too would risk homelessness as …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Meet the Wall Street Billionaire Obsessed With Looting Social Security

February 25, 2013 in Blogs

By Lisa Graves, The Nation



The following piece first appeared in the Nation. You can subscribe here. 

Fix the Debt financier Peter G. Peterson knows a thing or two about debt: he’s an expert at creating it. Peterson founded the private equity firm Blackstone Group in 1985 with Stephen Schwarzman (who compared raising taxes to “when Hitler invaded Poland”). Private equity firms don’t contribute much to the economy; they don’t make cars or milk the cows. Too frequently, they buy firms to loot them. After a leveraged buyout, they can leave companies so loaded up with debt they are forced to immediately slash their workforce or employees’ retirement security.

In 2006, Blackstone ransacked Travelport, a travel reservation conglomerate, piling on $4.3 billion in new debt, then pocketing $1.7 billion to pay shareholders and itself. Travelport promptly fired 841 workers to meet its new debt obligations. It was a great deal for Blackstone but “a horrible one for Travelport,” according to one investment adviser, who described Blackstone as trading in “poisoned waters.”

Now Peterson wants to loot Social Security. For decades he has warned of a “Pearl Harbor scenario” in which spending on Social Security and Medicare causes an epic economic meltdown. Fix the Debt is only his latest project pushing the message that the deficit poses a “catastrophic threat,” and the media have been content to echo his warnings. But people should know better than to be frightened by this chorus of calamity. Peterson is no master of prediction when it comes to economic crises. When an actual threat to the economy—the $8 trillion housing bubble—loomed ominously overhead, Peterson said nothing, even as credit markets froze, subprime lenders filed for bankruptcy and economists like Dean Baker shouted from the rooftops.

The housing crisis provides a good window into the way Peterson operates. In 2007, Blackstone owned the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, the world’s fourth-largest insurer, which had branched out from municipal bonds into home-equity securities and subprime mortgage debt. FGIC went belly up in 2010, but by that time Peterson had sold most of his shares in a Blackstone IPO that netted $4 billion. Again, Peterson left others holding …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Deconstructing History

February 25, 2013 in History

By History.com Staff Did you know the Golden Gate Bridge contains 80,000 miles of wire, or that the Empire State Building has its own zip code? Our Deconstructed series breaks down the facts and figures behind history’s most famous places and things, brought to you in fun, entertaining videos with catchy soundtracks. It’s one of our favorite pieces [...] …read more
Source: HISTORY

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The New 'Friendlier Face' of Conservatism Is an Old-School Homophobe

February 25, 2013 in Blogs

By Elon Green, AlterNet



You may not know the name Rod Dreher, but you will. This April, Grand Central Publishing is releasing his The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life, for which he was paid a small fortune. I have not read the book, so let’s defer to the publisher for a synopsis:

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie's death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, Dreher was moved by the way the community he had left behind rallied around his dying sister, a schoolteacher. He was also struck by the grace and courage with which his sister dealt with the disease that eventually took her life. In Louisiana for Ruthie's funeral in the fall of 2011, Dreher began to wonder whether the ordinary life Ruthie led in their country town was in fact a path of hidden grandeur, even spiritual greatness, concealed within the modest life of a mother and teacher. In order to explore this revelation, Dreher and his wife decided to leave Philadelphia, move home to help with family responsibilities and have their three children grow up amidst the rituals that had defined his family for five generations….

The publicity push has already commenced and Little Way has been critically well-received. The book is going to make a mint. It will, I predict, be passed around churches and bought in bulk for book clubs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dreher ends up promoting the book on Oprah; he’s a decent writer, the story is assuredly compelling and he comes off as a reasonable sort.

Crucially, Dreher has  (to employ a theologically inappropriate term from Law & Order) a rabbi in David Brooks. In late 2011, Brooks declared Dreher “one of the country’s most interesting bloggers” and “part of a communitarian conservative tradition that goes back to thinkers like Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet.” And last year, Brooks placed Dreher among the conservatives of the …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Taking Calendar Reform Viral

February 25, 2013 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

image

Steve H. Hanke

Santa Claus must not have received my Christmas wish list last year. Indeed, he failed to deliver the new calendar — but not just any calendar — that was at the top of my list.

No, last year I requested that the New Year be rung in with the adoption of the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar (HHPC), which my colleague, Johns Hopkins Astrophysics Prof. Richard Conn Henry, and I developed. This calendar would, among other things, create a system in which each day, each year, falls on the exact same date.

The Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar provides a comprehensive template for revising the contemporary Gregorian calendar. It adheres to the most basic tenet of a fixed (read: permanent) calendar — each year, each date falls on the same day of the week; in our case, every year begins on Sunday, January 1.

The year is then divided into four three-month quarters. Each month begins on the same day (and date) each year. The first two months of each quarter are made up of 30 days; the third is made up of 31 days.

So, each quarter contains 91 days, resulting in a 364 day year that is comprised of 52 seven-day weeks. This is a vital feature of the HHPC, because, by preserving the seven-day Sabbath cycle, the HHPC avoids the major complaints from ecclesiastical quarters that have doomed all other attempts at calendar reform.

The Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar provides a comprehensive template for revising the contemporary Gregorian calendar.”

Moreover, the HHPC accounts for the disparity between the necessary length of our calendar (364 days) and the astronomical calendar (roughly 365.24 days, the duration of one full orbit of the Earth around the Sun) by simply tacking one additional full week to the end of every fifth or sixth year (specifically, 2015, 2020, 2026, 2032, 2037, 2043, 2048, and so on). This keeps the calendar in line with the seasons — serving the same function as the leap year in the present system.

While my last Christmas wish may not have come true, 2012 did bring us a few other calendar-related events. For starters, the world did not come to an end on December 21, 2012, as the Mayan calendar had predicted. Earlier in the year, news of Iran’s hyperinflation brought the solar Hijri calendar — used throughout Iran and Afghanistan — back into the news. And, shortly before this …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Don't Fear Sequester "Cuts"

February 25, 2013 in Economics

On March 1, we are told, the world will end. That’s the date on which the spending sequester goes into effect, after being postponed for two months as part of the fiscal-cliff deal. But Cato scholar Michael D. Tanner argues that, while sequestration isn’t the ideal way to cut spending, most of what we are being told about the sequester is just a fairy tale. “Most of the numbers cited about the numbers of jobs at risk,” says Tanner, “come from industry groups with a vested interest in making the cuts look as bad as possible.”

…read more
Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Endangered Wartime Interpreters: The U.S. Should Protect Those Who Protect Us

February 25, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

War is hell, said Union Gen. William Sherman. The most obvious casualties are the formal combatants, those seeking to kill each other on the battlefield. But others also are at risk, especially in today’s unconventional wars.

In Iraq and Afghanistan the U.S. relied heavily on interpreters, most recruited from the local population. In Iraq a disproportionate number were Christians, semi-outcasts in the Islamic society. Those aiding American forces share combat dangers but also are targeted off of the battlefield for their work. By one estimate roughly 1000 interpreters so far have been killed in Iraq. Some 80 interpreters have died in battle in Afghanistan since 2007. To return home would be a death sentence for others.

Yet the U.S. government has refused to welcome those who have done so much to help America. For years the Bush administration refused to admit many Iraqis, including those who had worked for U.S. forces, apparently because doing so would demonstrate that the war had been less than a glorious success.

The Obama administration appears to be taking a similar approach to Afghanistan. Of 58,000 political refugees admitted in 2011, 9,388 were Iraqi. Just 428 were Afghan. Complained Zaid Hydari of the Istanbul-based Refugee Advocacy and Support Program: “Is there anything more than the apparent brutal truth: among the already unwanted, you are the least favored.”

The U.S. government has refused to welcome those who have done so much to help America.”

The problem is not new. In Southeast Asia the U.S. spent roughly a decade at war, allied with the Cambodian and South Vietnamese governments. After Washington left the regimes in Phnom Penh and Saigon collapsed. Unfortunately, those who worked for America were targeted for revenge. The U.S. government brought out those thought to be most vulnerable, and later accepted thousands of Vietnamese who fled as “boat people.” But many friends of America were left behind.

In Iraq, at least, Washington’s withdrawal did not lead to a state collapse. Nevertheless, those who worked for the U.S. remain at risk.

America only slowly opened the door. Starting in 2007 5000 visas were made available annually for Iraqi interpreters. However, the State Department approved few applications until after U.S. forces pulled out at the end of 2011. Becca Heller of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project criticized Washington’s handling of asylum claims, but cited the recent improvement: “the U.S. government has really gotten its act together on Iraq.”

Not on Afghanistan, …read more
Source: OP-EDS