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The Truth About the 'Marijuana Effect' in America's Elections

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Marijuana on the ballot boosts voter turnout, but that may not help many Democrats this year.


Last week, a bipartisan George Washington University Battleground poll made national headlines when the top Democratic researcher, Celinda Lake, said that ballot questions on marijuana could increase young voter turnout.

“We’re very excited about our marijuana numbers in this poll, not only for personal consumption to get through this election, but in terms of turnout,’ Lake told USA Today. “What’s really interesting and, I think, a totally unwritten story is that everyone taks about marriage equality hitting a tipping point (of acceptance). Marijuana is hitting the tipping point. It’s really astounding how fast it’s moved.”  

Lake’s findings may be good news for the legalization movement in the long run. But Democrats should not conclude that the presence of pot issues on a handful of ballots in 2014 will bring out a wider youth vote and help them stay in power nationally. That’s because there aren’t many states with marijuana initiatives on the ballot in 2014—just Alaska and Florida so far, although Oregon is expecting a measure on the fall ballot. Pot may help turn out voters in those states, but that’s not unfolding on a scale that would impact whether the Senate keeps its Democratic majority.

Democrats have been seeking an electoral silver bullet for this year’s federal elections. They keep on hearing that constituencies that twice helped elect President Obama will skip voting this year. On Monday, the Times said that Latinos were deeply frustrated with both parties; blaming the GOP for blocking immigration reform and blaming Obama for deporting millions of family members.  

That Democrats have been looking to efforts such as minimum wage increase ballot measures to bring out voters. This November, four states, including three with key Senate races—Alaska, Arkansas and Michigan—will vote on wage increases. In contrast, Alaska will vote on legalizing recreational pot in August, where it will likely lure voters in that off-season contest. Alaska’s inititiative would allow people age 21 and older to have up to an ounce and six …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Riots, Towns Gone Dry, Soaring Prices: The Food-Pocalypse Is Already Upon Us

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By Richard Schiffman, The Guardian

If this sounds like fear-mongering from scientists, talk to the farmers.


The mother of all climate reports is so scary that one of its authors resigned from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in protest. “Farmers are not stupid,” the Sussex University economist Richard Tol said this past week, as hundreds of researchers cloistered away in Yokohama, Japan, hammering out the final wording of a document that he called “alarmist” when it comes to the many threats of global warming. The people who grow our food will find ways to adapt, said the rogue climate scientist at the most important climate science meeting in seven years.

But change isn't easy – especially not tectonic changes to the Earth. The final wording arrived today, and the IPCC report's most alarming projections make clear what many other studies have warned: the future of agriculture – of global hunger, of your grocery bill – is screwed. Or as UN secretary general Ban-Ki Moon put it rather more politely when he inaugurated the first rounds of the IPCC report last September: “The heat is on. We must act.”

Glaciers will continue to shrink in the Himalayas, according to the IPCC, severely impacting the availability of water for farming in vast areas of south Asia and China. Climate change will damage heat-sensitive crops like wheat and corn, and have a smaller impact on rice and soy production. Prices for essential staples will rise on the global market. Hunger will increase in large parts of Asia and Africa. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” predicted the IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri at a morning news conference.

The new report says that all of these very bad things will happen in future decades, as climate change picks up steam. But as I found out in east Africa last month, the future is already here for too many of the world's farmers. In Tanzania, the twice yearly seasonal rains upon which so many growers depend no longer come on time – and they're sporadic, drenching downpours at that, alternating with prolonged dry spells. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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11 Things We Do That Make Us Miserable

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By Susie Moore, Huffington Post

Are you settling, holding onto a grudge or self-medicating?


Oftentimes we read about what we can do to increase our happiness through valuable tips, tricks and techniques. I love reading this stuff and noticing the impact it has on my day and my life. Sometimes equally important is identifying what habits we have that negate all of the positive mindset gearing we do.

Here are 11 things many of us are guilty of that sabotage our peace, joy and calm:

1. Hold a grudge

Forgiveness is the key to freedom. As Marianne Williamson says, “Forgiveness is actually out of self-interest.” When we hate, feel anger or resentment towards another, the intended impact, to hurt them, backfires on us. We harbor the anger and resentment within our own minds and bodies. And it's poisonous. Under Williamson's advice, try to see a situation differently. How must my enemy have felt to act the way they did? What fear did they feel? What good qualities does this person have that perhaps I have never thought about? I have four sisters, and one of them has not spoken to me in 12 years — despite lots of effort on my part. It made me confused and angry for a long time. My forgiveness way of thinking opened me up to compassion. When I think of her now I do so with love. It takes practice but this does get easier.

2. Give up on our dreams

To me this is the saddest one. As Marie Forleo says, “The world needs that special gift that only you have.” So often we bury our gifts, follow a “safe” path or simply do not have the courage to pursue what it is that we want. This results in a lot of regret later in life and even in the present moment. I heard once that the definition of hell is when the person you are meets the person you could have been. Our inner voice knows when we are not living our truth and this voice does not go away although we do our best to tune it out. By ignoring our …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Latest New Right-Wing Malady: Jeb Bush Fever

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By Joan Walsh, Salon

Rich donors are getting ready to draft another Bush and thumb their noses at the party’s far-right base. Good luck!


Can the Republican Party base catch Jeb Bush fever? They may have no choice. According to the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, GOP donors panicked over Gov. Chris Christie’s implosion are going all out to draft the long-ago Florida governor to run for president in 2016.

Jeb Bush is certainly tanned and rested, if not ready: He left the governor’s office in 2006, and has done little since then besides work for disgraced and defunct Lehman Brothers and write a book that reversed his once progressive stance on immigration reform. Rucker and Costa quote a former Mitt Romney bundler saying the “vast majority” of Romney’s top 100 donors would like to see a Bush run.

“He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said Brian Ballard, a member of the Romney 2012 and McCain 2008 national finance committees. “Everybody that I know is excited about it.”

So to summarize: Bush hasn’t run for office in 14 years; his wife, Columba, is known to be unenthusiastic about a presidential run; his own mother doesn’t think he should do it; and ina recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 50 percent of registered voters say they “definitely would not” vote for him – but the wise men of the party want to draft him anyway. This should all work out fine.

There’s great reporting in the Costa-Rucker piece, but there’s one odd note: They claim that “conservative leaders and longtime operatives say they consider Bush the GOP’s brightest hope to win back the White House.” But they don’t quote any “conservative leaders” from the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Instead we get Henry Kissinger praising Bush’s foreign policy bona fides. “He is someone who is experienced, moderate and thoughtful,” Kissinger says, of a man who’s never held national office or made a foreign policy decision (besides kowtowing to Florida’s right-wing Cuban exile community.) It’s clear Bush is being framed as the moderate alternative to the alarming isolationism of Sen. Rand Paul and the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Steve Jobs's Shocking Response to Finding out He Just Got a Google Employee Fired? A Smiley Face

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By James Vincent, The Independent

Court documents reveal a surprising level of cold-heartedness at odds with Jobs' image.


Three years after his death, Steve Jobs is hailed as a genius of both consumer design and good old-fashioned capitalism, but no one ever said he was nice – as can be clearly seen when he found out he’d just got a Google employee fired. His response? A single :) smiley.

Jobs’s reaction comes from a cache of emails published by tech site Pando Daily, which are actually part of a landmark class action lawsuit currently in progress against the tech giants of Silicon Valley.

The prosecutors in this case are alleging that  seven tech giants including Google, Apple and Intel, all engaged in secret agreements to not poach one another’s employees, suppressing wages amongst their workforces and letting each company dominate their given sector of the market.

The emails showing Jobs’s smiley begin with a Google recruiter speculatively contacting an Apple employee about working for the search giant. Jobs is notified and then emails Google chairman Eric Schmidt, noting “I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this.”

Schmidt emails his HR department the next day, saying: “I believe we have a policy of no recruiting from Apple and this is a direct inbound request. Can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening? I will need to send a response back to Apple quickly so please let me know as soon as you can.”

The internal response from Google is then forwarded on to Jobs by Schmidt, with a senior ‘Staffing Strategist’ noting that the employee in question “will be terminated within the hour” and that the company will be “scrubbing the sourcer’s records to ensure she did not contact anyone else.”

Schmidt then adds to this his comment that “should this ever happen again please let me know immediately and we will handle. Thanks !! Eric”. This is what triggers Jobs’s reply of “:) Steve”. 

Although the context is not unequivocal (the smiley was probably just because Jobs was happy he’d got his way rather than being happy he’d got …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Is Being Thin More Deadly Than Being Obese?

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

A new study reveals the dangers of a low BMI.


This might make you reconsider whether  you really want that thigh gap after all. A new Canadian study that examined 51 studies on the relationship between body mass index and death found it’s the underweight who have the highest risk of premature death. Cancel that juice cleanse!

The data crunching found that adults with a BMI of less than 18.5 were 1.8 times at higher risk of death within five years than individuals who fall in a “normal” range. Even the severely obese only clock in at a 1.3 times higher risk rate. The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health, notes that “Poverty, malnourishment, mental problems, smoking and alcohol” are all risk factors for dangerously low BMI. The study’s lead author, Dr. Joel Ray, told the Montreal Gazette this weekend that our cultural focus on the problems of obesity have meant that “in the process we’ve neglected the influence of being underweight on mortality” – and that we risk an “epidemic” of underweight adults.He added that obesity prevention campaigns can be helpful but also run the risk “of potentially affecting people who are already sufficiently healthy in size, or who are so slightly overweight that it’s irrelevant — their risk of dying or diabetes isn’t important. It’s those individuals who become unintended victims of the campaign.”

I’m all for encouraging true health and fitness – which isn’t about numbers on a scale but recognizing the importance of nutrition and regular exercise. But I’d be hesitant to say public awareness of the ways obesity rates have skyrocketed in the past few decades are suddenly leading to a troubling trend of mass weight loss. Though headlines bleat that“Weighing Too Little More Dangerous Than Being Obese,” it’d be helpful to remember that the population the researchers were looking at also tended to be grappling with deep and severe problems of poverty, mental health issues and substance abuse. Not exactly the typical demographic that might be wondering about losing a few pounds. Unless we’re bracing for a rise in mental illness, why be …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Du Pont Heir Who Raped His Three-Year-Old Daughter Won't Get Prison

March 31, 2014 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

Robert H. Richards IV may never see a day behind bars. Prosecutors and childrens' rights advocates are shocked.


An heir to the Du Pont fortune, convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter six years ago, only faces probation and will likely never see prison time. A Delaware Superior Court judge said that Robert H. Richards IV, the great grandson of Du Pont patriarch Irene Du Pont, would benefit more from treatment than prison.

Richards is also the scion of another prominent Delaware family, the Richards (of the corporate law firm Richards Layton & Finger). His father, Robert Richards III, was a partner in the prestigious firm until 2008. Court records list the younger Richards as currently unemployed, but he owns an $1.8 million estate in the opulent North Shores area near Rehoboth Beach.

Judge Jan Jurden sentenced Richards to 8 years in prison, but the sentence was suspended in favor of Level II probation, which requires monthly visits with a case officer. Jurden justified her sentencing, saying that Richards would “not fare well in prison.” The court also ordered Richards to pay $4,395 to the Delaware Violent Crimes Compensation Board.

Richards' slap on the wrist became public after his ex-wife filed a subsequent lawsuit, which charges that he penetrated his daughter, a toddler, with his fingers while masturbating. The suit also claims that Richards abused their son. It's unclear why news of the case against Richards came only only after the lawsuit filing. However, Delaware's News Journal newspaper claims the case was never “disclosed publicly” by Delaware authorities.

Richards was originally charged with two counts of second-degree child rape and was released on bail while awaiting charges. Second-degree rape carries a 10-year mandatory sentence per count. But Richards, who hired a top law firm to defend him, was offered a plea deal of just one fourth-degree count of rape, which carries no mandatory prison sentence.

Not all members of Delaware's legal community are buying Judge Jurden's excuse that Richards would not fare well if incarcerated, noting that child molesters don't generally fare well in the prison system anyway. They further suggest that those who are targeted …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Another Bailout of Lenders, This Time in Ukraine

March 31, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

National Bank of Ukraine

National Bank of Ukraine

By Michael S. Rozeff 

The IMF is lending $18 billion to Ukraine’s government, so that it can pay one small part of its huge debts. The money will go to the lenders, which include banks, mainly in Europe, and other investors in Ukraine’s bonds. This will not stem Ukraine’s economic decline. The IMF’s price includes higher taxes, which will make it worse.

There are several possible recipes for reviving Ukraine’s economy. One of them is to mimic the German miracle. Ludwig Erhard understood how to do it. See here and here and here.

Another avenue is to repudiate the debt and start over again with sound policies that basically disallow the government from borrowing anything except perhaps seasonal borrowing against that year’s tax receipts, to be cleaned up for at least one month each year so that there’d be a no-debt period.

As a general rule, no government should ever borrow anything on a permanent basis. Allowing that is to allow a government to spend now and tax future generations. Clearly it has a huge incentive to do exactly that if it can borrow in anything but seasonal debt. One state after another then gets into the situation of either excessive debt or a depreciating currency or both.

One of the more amazing things about the world at present is that the major robberies accomplished by its states are done right out in the open and celebrated. Furthermore, institutions like the IMF that fail time and again, even report their failures in great detail before repeating them anew. For example, the IMF has a 51-page report explaining its failures in its Greek loan program.

Another amazing thing is that people like Erhard are ignored. Here is a government official who has succeeded in creating an economic miracle in Germany and who has explained how he succeeded in lucid prose. Any country’s government can imitate what he did, but they do not. And the IMF is an added inducement to ignore appropriate policies that encourage economic growth.

More: LewRockwell.com, March 27, 2014

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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A Closer Look at Income Inequality

March 31, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

4

Andrew Syrios writes in today’s Mises Daily: 

There are many other factors that need to be considered when discussing wealth inequality as well. For example, while the entitlement systems in the United States are embarrassingly underwater, they should be considered. According to Bankrate.com, “A male average earner who retired at age 65 in 2010 paid out $345,000 in total Social Security and Medicare taxes, but will receive $417,000 in total lifetime benefits ($464,000 for a woman).” If the government simply mandated people to have a health savings or retirement account (or better yet, let people keep their own money), that would smooth out the curve. Since payroll taxes are capped at $113,000, most of the increase would go to the lower and middle classes.

Furthermore, Norton and Ariely’s study compares households instead of individuals — a tried and true way of distorting income and wealth data. Households vary in shape and size and cannot be directly compared. As Thomas Sowell has said, “… there are 39 million people in the bottom 20 percent of households, and 64 million in the top 20 percent. So you’re saying, yes, 24 million additional people do tend to have more money.” When we further take into account that many in the bottom 20 percent are recent immigrants from poor countries, in prison, single parents, on welfare, disabled, drug addicts, etc., it becomes clear that dividing the country into such groups is simplistic at best.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Greece Shows Far an Economy Can Fall

March 31, 2014 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

ATHENS — How far can a modern economy sink?

The Greek economy is entering its fifth year of decline. Nominal gross domestic product is about 28 percent lower than it was four years ago. The official unemployment rat is 27.5 percent (as though the decimal point matters, given the poor quality of the data). The unemployment rate for young people is about 60 percent. Nonperforming loans continue to rise. The privatization program continues to fail, in part because of an absence of bidders.

Athens demonstrates how overspending can ruin an economy.”

In a paper posted earlier this month, leading Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis of the University of Athens and the University of Texas at Austin argues Greece is “a failed social economy.” The following are several of his examples:

There are 10 million Greeks living in Greece (and falling fast owing to migration), “organized” in around 2.8 million households that have a “relationship” with the Tax Office. Of those 2.8 million households, 2.3 million have a debt to the Tax Office they cannot service.

One-million households cannot pay their electricity bill in full, forcing the electricity company to “extend and pretend,” thus ensuring that 1 million homes live in fear of darkness at night while the electricity company is insolvent.

Of the 3 million people constituting Greece’s labor force, 1.3 million are jobless.

Contractors who work for the public sector are paid up to 24 months after they provided the service and prepaid sales tax to the Tax Office.

Half of the businesses still in operation throughout the country are seriously in arrears vis-a-vis their compulsory contributions to their employees’ pension and social security fund.

Eventually, the decline will stop. Some argue that Greece is near bottom, while others say no, but no one knows for sure.

Even with gross mismanagement and policy incompetence, no country’s GDP goes to zero, because some food and other essentials are produced no matter what. During the Great Depression, GDP dropped by about a third between 1929 and 1933, which was the worst decline in U.S. history. The other EU members, and particularly the Germans, are providing a partial bailout to the Greeks, to both limit and stretch out their debt payments and provide a very limited social safety net.

Yet knowledgeable observers also realize that despite the previous debt restructuring, the failure to meet targets means another bailout is almost certain for this year. Too many Greeks, including many politicians, blame the EU for …read more

Source: OP-EDS