Justice Stevens Pens Six Amendments to Tune-Up Constitution   Recently updated !

The Daily Kos has the article Justice Stevens Pens Six Amendments to Tune-Up Constitution. The author presents and comments on the amendments that Justice Stevens wrote in his book.  All the amendments are good, but I’ll quote just one.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia, shall not be infringed.

In modern parlance that may be called the “What part of well regulated militia did you dummies not get, or did the comma confuse you?” amendment.


Bernie Sanders For President   Recently updated !

I have created an image for use as a bumper sticker or as a Facebook cover photo. Click on the thumbnail to get to the full size image. I describe the restrictions on its usage below. (There are none as far as I am concerned.)

Bernie Sanders For President

The headshot comes from Bernie Sanders’ About Page on his Senate web site. I presume he wouldn’t mind my using this picture for this purpose. All the rest, I created with various tools such as Inkscape, MS Paint, and Adobe Photoshop. In other words, I have placed no copyright, nor creative commons restrictions on this image. Feel free to use it, hopefully to promote Bernie Sanders’ run for President. He hasn’t decided yet whether or not he will attempt the run, but if he sees enough of these, perhaps it will help him make the decision.


DFA [almost] Live: Bernie Sanders issues call to action   Recently updated !

Democracy For America arranged a conference call with Bernie Sanders a few days ago. I participated in DFA Live: Bernie Sanders issues call to action. Below is an excerpt from an email I just received from DFA.

“Will you run for president in 2016?”

That’s the first question that Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain asked Senator Bernie Sanders on Wednesday night’s DFA Live call — the question that everyone is wondering about. And here’s what Sen. Sanders said:

“I’m giving it very serious consideration, but for a decision of that magnitude and what it means to one’s family and friends, one has to make sure you can do it well. We are reaching out all over the country to determine if we can put together a grassroots organization.

If we do run, we will be taking on the billionaire class and all the big money interests, including the Koch brothers. We have to determine what kind of support is out there and if there is a willingness to mix it up with the big money interests.”

More than 3,200 DFA members signed up for the call and asked some very incisive and compelling questions: How will we repeal Citizens United? How can we expand Social Security and raise the minimum wage? What will it take to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal? And so on.

This is the very statement that made me realize that we might be better of spending our draft Elizabeth Warren efforts on Bernie Sanders instead.

Listen to the whole session below:


Here is a candidate who seems able to benefit from our efforts. Our efforts to draft someone who has never expressed interest in running for President seems less useful when their is an excellent alternative. If I didn’t think that Bernie Sanders was an excellent alternative, I would keep up my efforts to draft Elizabeth Warren.

If you want to contribute, here is the link to ActBlue contribution page associated with DFA and the conference call.


The Source For The 11 Out Of 12 Deflated Footballs Factoid   Recently updated !

I finally found the source for the story about the 11 out of 12 footballs being under-inflated. The Bleacher Report has the story NFL Reportedly Finds 11 of 12 Balls Used in AFC Championship Were Under-Inflated.  Oops, I just noted the word “reportedly” in the headline.

NFL Communications (full version here) released the league’s statement on the situation:

Well the full statement is actually here. The report is what The Bleacher Report posted, but it says nothing about how many balls were measured as under-inflated.

While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated.

So the operative, definitive statement is still

The NFL has launched an investigation into the amount of air in the balls provided by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. On Jan. 20, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that 11 of the 12 balls used by the Patriots were under-inflated by two-to-three pounds each.

If you follow the above link to Moretenen’s Twitter page, you will find the statement:

NFL has found that 11 of the Patriots footballs used in Sunday’s AFC title game were under-inflated by 2 lbs each, per league sources.

All roads lead back to Chris Mortensen. What if his balls get deflated?

I wish someone would publish a photocopy of the supposed letter that The Boston Globe said that it was shown. What could they possibly be hiding?


Deflate Gate   Recently updated !

I am not a die-hard sports fan.  I only occasionally watch a Patriot’s football game.  So it is highly unusual for me to decide to even comment on this affair that is all the rage in the news.  I don’t claim to know who is and who isn’t telling the truth.  I could easily be convinced of either side being untruthful if any news medium decided to report all the facts.

What strikes me as particularly galling about the reports is an example of the problem in The Boston Globe article Bill Belichick and Tom Brady provide no insight on Deflategate by Christopher L. Gasper on January 23, 2015 – today’s newspaper.  On the front page of the sports section of the printed version of the paper, the headline was Belicheck to Brady: Incomplete Pass.

The Patriots were informed by the National Football League on Monday that their game balls were not properly inflated at halftime of the AFC title game. League office personnel and an alternate official inspected each ball twice, using different pressure gauges. ESPN has reported 11 of the 12 tested balls were two PSI below the specified limit.

Every story about the 11 footballs that I read refers to reports by ESPN.  I have yet to see the name or names of the people who actually did the measuring and reporting.  I don’t take ESPN’s word for anything any more than I would take Tom Brady’s or Bill Beklichick’s word.  You’d think that people giving these details would have actual names, and other media could speak directly to them to verify ESPN’s report of what they supposedly said.

Ironically, as I searched the Globe’s web site for the article that I had read in the paper as Belicheck to Brady: Incomplete Pass, I stumbled across a different article before I found the original article that was renamed on the web site as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady provide no insight on Deflategate.

This other article was named Patriots’ spying opened the gate, also by Christopher L. Gasper, and written on January 21, 2015,  two days before the article that started my investigation.

According to an NFL letter about the investigation that was shared with the Globe, the Patriots were informed that initial findings indicated the game balls New England used did not meet specifications (inflation to 12½ to 13½ pounds per square inch). The league inspected the Patriots’ game balls at halftime. It studied each ball twice using different pressure gauges. It found footballs that were not properly inflated.

Does the person sharing the letter with The Boston Globe have a name? So if the author Christopher L. Gasper had knowledge of an NFL letter when he wrote on January 21, why did he not mention this letter instead of an ESPN report when he wrote about the subject on January 23?  Did he actually see an official letter from the NFL, or did he see a report of the letter on ESPN or a copy supplied by ESPN?

Casper may think that Patriot’s spying incident opened the gate for questioning the veracity of the Patriots, but for me the past history of lazy journalism opened the gate for questioning the veracity of the press,  One example of what I call lazy journalism is for one journalist to quote as fact what was reported by another journalist without doing any investigation of her or his own. That investigation would include finding out who are the original sources, and conducting your own interview with those original sources.  Then the enterprising journalist could use names in the article written to explain who said what.

I am still open to the possibility that this story could go either way when the facts come out, if the facts ever do come out.  I am not sure that my source for reading about the facts will ever be The Boston Globe or any other corporate source for so-called news.


I understand why some news stories quote anonymous sources. Often a source is afraid of someone finding out who spilled the beans. Many important stories would never get told if a reporter could not guarantee the confidentiality of a source. However, anonymous sources open the reporter to the risk of publishing a lie.

The solution to the problem of anonymous sources is simple. Any promise of confidentiality must be predicated on the source telling the truth. The reporter should advise the source that if it turns out that source knew that the information was untrue, the sources’ name will be published as the teller of the false information. If the source cannot agree to this, then the reporter should not report anything the source has said based solely on what the source said. Anything of what the uncooperative source said should only be reported if another, more cooperative source can be found for that information.


The Medical Innovation Act   Recently updated !

I got this great email from Elizabeth Warren.


Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

Steven,

Over the past 50 years, America’s medical innovations have transformed the health of billions of people around the world.

One way we’ve done that? Blockbuster drugs. Today, about 100 different drugs are used by so many people that each brings in more than a billion dollars a year in revenue. Just 10 drug companies generate more than $100 billion in sales for drugs that treat high cholesterol, diabetes, HIV, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia. Those drugs do a huge amount of good, but they also produce huge profits; over the past 20 years, profits for S&P 500 companies have been in the 5-10% range, while profits for the blockbuster drug companies have been in the 18-24% range.

Those very valuable blockbuster drugs don’t just appear overnight as if by magic. They are the end result of generations of huge taxpayer investments, principally through the National Institutes of Health. Drug companies make great contributions, but so do taxpayers. Put simply, the astonishing scientific and financial successes of the pharmaceutical industry have been built on a foundation of taxpayer investment.

With revolutionary new treatments and a giant drug industry built on blockbuster drugs, this should be a moment of great triumph. But in recent years, the American engine of medical innovation has begun to sputter. Why?

  • Government funding. Congress used to work in a non-political, bipartisan way to expand NIH funding. But instead of increasing the NIH budget at the pace of potential scientific innovation, budget cuts, sequestration, and other pressures mean that the NIH budget over the last decade hasn’t even kept up with the pace of inflation.
  • Drug companies. Over the last ten years, some of our wealthiest drug companies – the ones with those blockbuster billion-dollar drugs – have found another way to boost profits. In addition to selling life-changing cures, some of these companies are increasingly making money by skirting the law. They’ve been caught defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, withholding critical safety information about their drugs, marketing their drugs for uses they aren’t approved for, and giving doctors kickbacks for writing prescriptions for their drugs.

Between these two problems – shrinking government support for research and increased rule-breaking by companies that have blockbuster drugs – lies a solution: requiring those big-time drug companies that break the law to put more money into funding medical research.

That’s why I’m introducing the Medical Innovation Act to substantially increase federal funding for the National Institutes of Health.

Here’s how it works: Just like the big banks, when blockbuster drug companies break the law, they nearly always enter settlement agreements with the government, rather than going to trial.

Under the proposed Medical Innovation Act, those blockbuster drug companies that wanted to settle legal violations would be required to reinvest a relatively small portion of the profits they have generated as a result of federal research investments right back into the NIH.

This isn’t a tax. This is simply a condition of settling to avoid a trial in a major case of wrongdoing. If a company never breaks the law, it will never pay the fee. If an accused company goes to trial instead of settling out of court, it will never pay the fee – even if it loses the case. It’s like a swear jar – break the law and pay something forward that benefits everyone.

If this policy had been in place, over the past five years, NIH would have had about six billion more dollars every year to fund thousands of new grants to scientists and universities and research centers around the country. That’s nearly a 20% increase in NIH funding.

The Medical Innovation Act would substantially increase federal support for medical research without increasing the deficit or cutting other critical programs. Sign up now to show your support.

With too many in Congress willing to sit by and watch the NIH starve – and too many in pharmaceutical industry willing to make a quick buck by breaking the law, it’s easy for cynicism to set in – and it’s easy for us to forget the commitments that we’ve all made to each other.

Today we are choking off support for projects that could lead to the next major breakthrough against cancer, heart disease, Ebola, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or other deadly conditions. We’re starving projects that could transform the lives of our children on the autism spectrum. We’re suffocating breakthrough ideas that would give new hope to those with ALS.

That’s not who we are. We are not a nation that abandons the sick. We are nation of people who invest in each other – because we know that when we work together, we all do better. We’ve done it for generations – and for generations, we have led the world in medical innovation.

It is time to renew our commitment – our commitment to our children, to our parents and to ourselves. I hope you’ll stand with me in this fight.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

All content © 2014 Elizabeth for MA, All Rights Reserved
PO Box 290568
Boston, MA 02129
Paid for by Elizabeth for MA

January 23, 2015 – 10:20 AM EST.

About half an hour ago, Elizabeth Warren made a post of her Facebook page about this. Her post has a link to the item My new bill: A swear jar for the drug companies on her web site. The post on her web site is essentially the email that I quoted above.


On Bread Bags and Castrating Pigs 1

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has the segment The Majority Retort.

Admittedly, it is not a great segment, but at least it taught me what the current bread bag jokes are all about.


As for castrating pigs, I don’t know if that will attract the women’s vote, but I think it might be a turnoff for the men’s vote.


Tell MoveOn to Draft Bernie Sanders to Run 3

MoveOn is also participating in the movement to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for President in 2016. On their Facebook post about the draft movement, I posted the following comment:

After participating in the DFA sponsored conference call with Bernie Sanders, I think we should shift our focus from drafting Elizabeth Warren to one of drafting Bernie Sanders. All that it would take to get him to run is knowing that he has enough support and can organize a grass-roots movement. MoveOn could show him that he has what he needs to make a run. It is not clear what it would take to get Elizabeth Warren to run. We should focus our efforts where it has the most chance to do some good.

I wonder how Elizabeth Warren would react to such a shift?  Would she breathe a sigh of relief, or would she rue the day she overplayed the coy bit?

 


The State of the Union Speech and the President’s Credibility Gap 2

New Economic Perspectives has the article The State of the Union Speech and the President’s Credibility Gap by Robert E. Prasch, Professor of Economics, Middlebury College.  There is so much of the article that I would like to excerpt here, but my concept of fair use does not permit me to show any more than what I will show below.

While we are on this subject, I am in awe that in the State of the Union address Obama had the temerity to say, “We should write those rules [on trade]…That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe.” They say that if you have to lie, go big. After all, who is the “We” in that sentence? Not working Americans, we can count on that. Not civil society organizations concerned with workplace or environmental issues, to say nothing of people concerned with the cost of excessive patent or copyright protections that have become simple giveaways to firms. No, “We” does not include them, either. The “We” of that sentence refers to the hundreds of corporate lobbyists and trade lawyers who have been working, secretively, cheek-by-jowl with the most virulently anti-labor office in the entire executive branch, the Office of the United States Trade Representative. “We.” I love it. That’s real chutzpah.
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After six years in office, even the most loyal of Democrats can no longer feign to be ignorant of the substance and consequences of President Obama’s economic policies. Remarkably, the income of the median American household declined more during Obama’s recovery than during Bush’s recession! An optimist might describe the Obama Administration’s performance as pathetic or, as is the norm, present multiple excuses for it.
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… in this world of uncertainly and change, we can all rest assured that Hillary Clinton is not, and never will be, on our side. She and her long list of friends in the banks and amongst the defense contractors are opposed – adamantly – to our values and ideals. So, what are we to do?
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…Was all the prattle about “Hope and Change” simply a joke? Was it just a marketing gimmick? I believe that we can now answer that question, definitively.
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Let us be clear, what is being proposed here not about being “revenge” or “being in a huff.” It is a strategy, one that proposes to win by playing the “long game.” As the saying goes, first they will ignore us and then they will insult us, but if can hold the line and deny the time-servers in the DNC the things that they want, they will be forced to negotiate with us. The day after the professional insiders and boot-lickers of the DNC come to learn that they cannot win without their Democratic wing, is the day that they will begin to consider what we want, and actually begin to respond to it. This level of respect will not happen one day before our resolve has been forcefully demonstrated. Not one. So, the question is, for how long do we wish to forestall that day?

I  left a comment for the author on the web site.

Excellent article. Thanks for putting all these issues together. I just got off the conference call with Bernie Sanders. I am beginning to think that I can leave Elizabeth Warren in the Senate and switch to pushing Bernie Sanders for President. He, at least, has shown some interest and some executive skills.

His appointment of Stephanie Kelton as his Senate Budget Committee Chief Economist has given me hope. The hosts of the conference call did not choose to use my question to Sanders’ about what he and Kelton were planning to do. I guess asking about the impact of MMT would have been too specific a question for the conference call. I was just a tad disappointed that Sanders didn’t go into a tirade about needing an inflation constraint instead of a budget constraint on our government plans.