Still, for all the finance and economics I encountered at the conference, Wentland is the only person whose work suggested a way to actually turn a profit. Wentland presented a paper at the conference. I missed the presentation, but read the paper after the fact. It is empirical work very nicely done, and it tweaked the antennae of my inner, amoral arbitrageur. I now think of registered sex offenders as roving Groupons for home flippers. Wentland and his coauthors provide strong evidence that you could make a lot of money persuading an ex-cellmate to move near a nice, four bedroom home in rural Virginia, and then to move away after you’ve bought the home.
Maybe when the real estate market picks up again people will start doing this. Indeed, I sort of hope they do since my impression is that these sex offender databases should probably be done away with and screwing with people’s real estate value seems like the most likely way to make that happen.
“What topics should be in Obama’s State of the Union address?”
That is the question posed to well-known thought leaders by the Washington Post. Not a single one of them mention “climate change” or “global warming,” though two (Beinecke, and Townsend) do a ‘clean-energy’ pitch (in the online edition) — a strategy that is unlikely to get us much more clean energy and, as we now know, certain to fail to address the climate problem (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“)
Littering a paper with acronyms serves only to turn it into alphabet soup and guarantee readers will remember nothing substantive and only how hard that was to read. A development agency report I read recently used 23 acronyms in ONE paragraph! I know you’ve heard this before but it’s worth repeating. My editors used to make me delete an acronym at least once a week. Do you have an editor monitoring your acronym littering?
I find this at its most egregious in military circles. This may derive from the fact that in the relatively recent past minimizing the number of characters in a communication was, in fact, an important element of telegraph-era warfare. But I see that otherwise very competent writers tend to not only accept, but embrace and positively revel in the military’s acronym-happy culture. This helps marks them as “insiders” to America’s most socially validated institution. But it’s difficult to believe that all this stuff, whether in defense or development or any other field, really does much to improve communications or is even intended to do so.
If, right now, you were to offer corporations and the rich a choice between (a) passage of EFCA or (b) a return to Clinton-era tax rates on high incomes, they wouldn’t even blink. If you put a gun to their head and they had to choose between one or the other, they’d pay the higher taxes without a peep. That’s because, on the level of raw power, they know how the world works.
That’s definitely true. But in large part that’s because if you allowed more unionization in exchange for some tax cuts, the stronger unions would just turn around in the future and create a political dynamic that’s friendly to tax hikes. Which if you ask me would be great. But I think labor-friendly writers sometimes don’t do the best possible job of distinguishing between unions qua social and political institutions and collective bargaining as a labor market institution. Something like EFCA is the only way to revive collective bargaining as a major force in private sector labor markets. But I don’t think it’s correct to see EFCA –> union density as the only conceivable form of politically influential mass membership organization. Unfortunately for progressives the best example I’ve got of a non-union politically influential mass membership organization is the NRA, but that just goes to show that you can, in fact, get a lot done if you’ve actually got a bunch of people who really care deeply about something.
Today, on CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer pressed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on the spending cuts being pushed by House Republicans. Noting that both he and McCain are cancer survivors, Schieffer asked McCain if he was open to slashing cancer research funds — a proposal which is apparently “on the table” according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA):
SCHIEFFER: Let’s get back to spending cuts. You’ve never been shy about spending cuts especially when it comes to earmarks and those pet projects that members have. But the House Republicans are talking about draconian cuts, that according to some liberal groups would mean a 40 percent cut this year in such things as the National Institutes of Health and the FBI and federal prosecutors.
Eric Cantor said this morning on Meet the Press that even cancer research is on the table. Now you and I are cancer survivors. Do you think that’s something where we can cut back?
MCCAIN: I think there may be efficiencies there. And frankly I — cancer research I think is one of the last things that I would go after. But we’ve got to take on some of the sacred cows, Bob.
However, cancer research is not on the bottom the GOP’s list of things to cut. The proposal introduced by the Republican Study Committee (RSC) last week includes a provision which would reduce non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels until 2021. Pat Garofalo of ThinkProgress points out that such a cut would cost the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — which includes the National Cancer Institute (NCI) — $5 billion. Back in November, when Cantor indicated that the House would roll back funding to agencies to fiscal 2008 levels, the NIH called the reduction “very devastating.” NIH-funded research has already led to the development of drugs that include the cancer therapies Avastin, sold by Roche Holding AG, and Novartis AG’s Gleevec.
Money has been tight at the Cancer Institute for years. “We are pulling the rug out from the world’s best infrastructure for cancer research and for all biomedical research. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said one cancer researcher back when the Bush administration slashed NIH funds.
In late 2010, President Obama asked Congress for $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health. His request for the National Cancer Institute is reportedly up 10 percent from where it was in 2008.
This morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) repeatedly refused host David Gregory’s invitation to call questions about President Obama’s citizenship illegitimate, and he also declined to call such rhetoric “crazy,” saying “I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy, ok?” After several prompts from Gregory, Cantor eventually said he believes the president “is a citizen of the United States”:
GREGORY: This is a leadership moment here. There are elements of this country who question the president’s citizenship, who think that his birth certificate is inauthentic. Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?
CANTOR: [laughs] David, you know, a lot of that has been an issue sort of generated by not only the media but others in the country. Most Americans really are beyond that and they want us to focus —
GREGORY: Is somebody who brings that up engaging in crazy talk?
CANTOR: David I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?
GREGORY: Alright. Is it a legitimate or illegitimate issue?
CANTOR: I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all. I think we need to focus on trying –
GREGORY: His citizenship should never be questioned in your judgment, is that what you’re saying?
CANTOR: It’s not an issue that even needs to be on the policymaking table right now.
GREGORY: Because it’s illegitimate? Why won’t you just call it what it is? Because I feel like there are a lot of Republican leaders who don’t want to go as far as to criticize those who –
CANTOR: I think the president is a citizen of the United States.
Cantor’s first attempt to deflect blame for birther conspiracies onto the media and “others in this country” is a dishonest denial of the fact that birth certificate conspiracies have distinctly right-wing origins, as Gregory notes. The theories frequently bubble up at Tea Partyrallies and on popular conservative websites like World Net Daily. Fox News also frequently traffics in conspiracy theories about the president’s birth certificate.
In addition, there are several elected officials who have raised questions about Obama’s real birthplace, including several Republicans in the House of Representatives that Cantor leads. For example, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) has said “I really don’t know” if Obama was born in the United States. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has also said he doesn’t know if the president is a citizen. In fact, a tally kept at World Net Daily claims that the following members of Cantor’s caucus doubt the president’s citizenship: Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL), Dan Burton (R-IN), Ted Poe (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Campbell (R-CA), John R. Carter (R-TX), John Culberson (R-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Kenny Marchant (R-TX).
Gregory offered Cantor a “leadership moment” to repudiate the “crazy talk” coming from many members of Cantor’s caucus, and his reluctance to do so was unfortunate particularly in the wake of President Obama’s calls for a more civil discourse. Instead, Cantor sheepishly claimed it’s not “nice” to call people crazy. But he’s less restrained when it comes to liberals. During a June 2009 appearance on Morning Joe, he called the Democrats’ health care plan “crazy talk.”
To agree with John Quiggin, the mystery to my mind of current European Central Bank policy is why are they insisting on money that’s too tight for German interests? It’s easy to see why the ECB isn’t implementing policy that as loose as would be optimal for Spain or Ireland. And it’s true that on some level there’s simply no way to set ECB policy in a way that works for everyone. But what they’re doing is too tight even for Germany where, for all the bragging, the actual output recovery has been kind of unimpressive.
After all, if the German industrial dynamo was really firing as robustly as sometimes people say you’d expect to see factories expanding operations and hiring workers away from the German service sector. Then unemployment Spaniards and Irishmen would migrate to work German service jobs. It’s true that Europe’s labor markets are imperfectly integrated, but they’re not that unintegrated either. If there was a true boom in Germany, people would make there way over there.
In the wake of the Tucson tragedy, politicians from both sides of the aisle have called for a more civil discourse in our political debate. On CBS’s Face the Nation this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “There is a lack of respect in our dialogue. … We shouldn’t mistake passion for advocacy. In other words, passion is necessary in this debate that we’re having, but we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t spill over into personal attacks and impugning people’s character or patriotism.”
On ABC’s This Week, new Tea Party-backed Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) struck a different tone. He argued that restraining violent rhetoric — such as invoking “job-killing” during the health care repeal effort — would be unwise because it means “the shooter wins”:
The shooter wins if we, who’ve been elected, change what we do just because of what he did.
Lee’s argument is disingenuous because it suggests that lawmakers shouldn’t reflect on whether the shooting incident highlights any real need for political change. In fact, lawmakers should consider whether to curtail the ability of gun owners to purchase high-capacity magazine clips.
The Washington Post reported this weekend that the expiration of the ban on high-capacity magazine clips since 2004 has led to a proliferation of those weapons being seized by police in the course of investigations. “Last year in Virginia, guns with high-capacity magazines amounted to 22 percent of the weapons recovered and reported by police. In 2004, when the ban expired, the rate had reached a low of 10 percent. In each year since then, the rate has gone up.”
Who “wins” when there’s more weapons of mass casualty on the streets?
ThinkProgress has been documenting that cutting the Defense Department’s bloated budget has been gaining momentum over the past year as part of the solution to reduce the deficit and debt. Tea Party-backed Republicans, other conservatives, and progressives are coming together in calling for defense cuts. Ultra-conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) even said recently that “taking defense spending off the table is indefensible.” Today on CNN’s State of the Union, ret. General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell joined the growing chorus in calling for a reduction in defense spending:
CANDY CROWLEY: Where would you with specificity say, “Look we don’t need a bigger military?” Can we cut there?
POWELL: Yeah. I think we have to look at everything, domestic and our international accounts. As we draw down from Iraq and as over the next several years we draw down from Afghanistan, I see no reason why the military shouldn’t be looked at.
When the Cold War ended twenty years ago when I was chairman and Mr. Cheney was Secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent and we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers. So it can be done. Now how fast you can do it and what you have to cut out remains to be seen. But I don’t think the defense budget can be made sacrosanct and it can’t be touched.
Also on NBC’s Meet the Press today, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said “no one can defend the expenditure of every dollar and cent at the Pentagon and we’ve got to be very serious that they’re doing more with less as well.”
Physical pain is a fairly common occurrence in life, so I suppose everyone walks around figuring it’s a sensation they’re familiar with. But something I learned over this past week is that there was a whole new level of pain far beyond anything I’d previously experienced. In my case, it was caused by a small cyst growing beneath one of my wisdom teeth that was pressing on a nerve in my jaw. And, fortunately, it was easy for an oral surgeon to remove. But it hurt a lot while it lasted, and the experience was terrible.
It made me think back to complaints I’d read and briefly acknowledged over the years about how the “war on drugs” has interfered with medical efforts to treat pain. As Mark Kleiman put it:
Physicians and their regulators are naturally concerned about the risk of iatrogenic (treatment-induced) drug dependency. Consequently, they have tended to be sparing in their use of opiate and opioid pain relievers, even when the pain involved is extreme and the patient’s short life expectancy, as in the case of terminal cancer patients, makes addiction a largely notional problem. Better professional education has made more recent cohorts of physicians less afraid of over-prescribing painkillers than their older colleagues, but the upsurge of prescription-analgesic abuse (especially of hydrocodone [Vicodin] and oxycodone [Percodan, Oxycontin]) has generated a backlash. [...]
Current policies are scaring physicians away from treating pain aggressively. Many doctors and medical groups now simply refuse to write prescriptions for any substance in Schedule II, the most tightly regulated group of prescription drugs, including the most potent opiate and opioid pain-relievers and the potent amphetamine stimulants. The opiate-and-stimulant combination the textbooks recommend for treating chronic pain is almost never given in practice for fear (a fear well in excess of the actual risk) of disciplinary action and criminal investigation for a physician prescribing “uppers and downers” together. It’s time to loosen up.
This is terrible. One of the most interesting findings from the happiness research literature is that human beings are remarkably good at adapting to all kinds of misfortunes. Chronic pain, however, is an exception. People either get effective treatment for their pain, or else they’re miserable. Adaptation is fairly minimum. The upshot is that from a real human welfare perspective, we ought to put a lot of weight on making sure that people with chronic pain get the best treatment possible. Minimizing addiction is a fine public policy goal, but the priority should be on making sure that people with legitimate needs can get medicine.