Cast Your Vote

If you're fed up with having to wash your hands more than once every time you read the NY Times, tell Sulzberger by clicking this website and signing a petition.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The TPP and ISDS

The people behind the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) don't like to use the courts to settle disputes; the courts have appeals procedures and build up case law via precedent. They would rather use ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms), which allow companies to take governments to arbitration, where neither precedent nor appeals exist.

You should also know that the TPP would be incorporated as a U.S. law rather than as a treaty. As a law, it only needs a majority in both Houses of Congress. If it were to be offered for approval as a treaty, it would need a 2/3 majority in the Senate, with no House vote.

Marketing Food 101

I'm not drinking that

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The DEA and Prostitutes

In the early years of the 21st century, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assigned some of its agents to Colombia to fight the war on drugs. This week a report about some of these activities was issued by the IG for DOJ. Here's a quote from that report, "The foreign officer allegedly arranged 'sex parties' with prostitutes funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents at their government-leased quarters, over a period of several years".

At these parties, the cartel also provided protection for the DEA agents' weapons and property during the parties. Furthermore, the report goes on, "The foreign officers further alleged that in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA SSAs [special agents] in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Diagnosing climate change

A visit to purgatory

I had the misfortune to watch morning television today, as my car service took over three hours. The least offensive and weird was something called "Live! with Kelly and Michael". I think Kelly has been on tv for quite a while, Michael is a former professional football player. The focus here seemed to be on interviewing currently hot celebrities between bantering between the two hosts. It was hard to hear much of what went on but it seemed to be innocuous.

The two other shows I watched were unreal. Let's Make a Deal featured weirdly dressed people from the audience. Some of costumes: police officer, clog dance, honey bee, pirate; there were hundreds more. A great deal of yelling and clapping at almost every word. The Price is Right also had a ton of yelling and clapping. But the dress was more formal - people wore different colored t-shirts. It was sad to see Drew Carey as the primary host; his show many moons ago was pretty funny.

I suspect that there are a number of people who watch these shows every day. I would question their sanity.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dancing Grannies

Over the past few years middle-aged and elderly Chinese women have taken to dancing in streets and in public squares, usually at night. Apparently, the dancing has become too popular as the government is cracking down. The government's points are that the participants are over enthusiastic and too noisy. Therefore, the government will soon introduce 12 authorized routines and also permissible times and music volume.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2 charts say a lot about America today

Corporate Profits (after Tax) as a percent of GDP

Wages as a percent of GDP

Courtesy of Business Insider

Making executives pay

In all the settlements the banks have made with legal authorities, the money being put out for the fines comes from the company itself, i.e., the shareholders. It costs the executives nothing.

Today's NY Times writes of two attempts to make executives pay. The first is a shareholders proposal at Citibank, which has paid billions in fines. This proposal would require that top executives at the company contribute a substantial portion of their compensation each year to a pool of money that would be available to pay penalties if legal violations were uncovered at the bank. To ensure that the money would be available for a long enough period — investigations into wrongdoing take years to develop — the proposal would require that the executives keep their pay in the pool for 10 years. The proposal would also require that Citigroup advise shareholders of forfeitures that resulted under the program. And the money could be tapped even if the executives contributing to it were not responsible for the wrongdoing.

The second is a proposal from Gregory Zipes, a trial lawyer for the Office of the United States Trustee, the nation’s watchdog over the bankruptcy system. Mr. Zipes calls for the creation of a contract to be signed by a company’s top executives that could be enforced after a significant corporate governance failure. Executives would agree to pay back 25 percent of their gross compensation for the three years before the beginning of improprieties. The agreement would be in effect whether or not the executives knew about the misdeeds inside their companies.

The chances of anything happening soon are slim, but it is a beginning.

Warming up

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Problems with the F-35 summarized

I've been writing about the F-35 boondoggle for almost ten years.The Center for Defense Information has a good summary of the major issues. The summary is in the form of an article's table of contents:
  • Cooking the Numbers 
  • Testing Being Deferred, Not Completed 
  • Significant Safety Risks Are Still Unresolved 
  • Wing Drop Concerns 
  • Engine Problems Continue to Hold the F-35 Program Back 
  • Dangerous Helmet Failures 
  • Initial Combat Capabilities for the Marien Corps Variant Will Be Even More Limited Than Planned 
  • ALIS Software Failures 
  • Software Snarls Jeopardize Combat Suitability 
  • Hiding Today's Failings While Building a Huge Future Cost "Bow Wave" 
  • A Maintenance Nightmare 
  • Conclusion: Exquisitely Limited Capability

Maybe you shouldn't try Alcoholics Anonymous

AA is the name that comes readily to mind when you think of help for an alcoholic. But there are other sources and they may be better for a particular alcoholic, says Gabrielle Glaser in The Atlantic. The fact that there are alternatives - such as prescription drugs and therapies that aim to help patients learn to drink in moderation - may be news to you and me. But, as Glaser points out, Alcoholics Anonymous came into being in 1935 and the scientific world has changed. Now, there are methods based on modern science and proven, in randomized, controlled studies, to work. There is hardly any scientific evidence validating AA's reputation. AA's 12-step approach does not rely on modern science: not the character building, not the tough love, not even the standard 28-day rehab stay.

Part of the problem is an extension of AA's program from its original 'market' - chronic, severe drinkers who may be powerless over alcohol - to a much broader market. Today's scientific world knows that there are different types of people with alcohol problems. At least one comprehensive analysis of treatments for alcoholism ranked AA 38th out of 48 methods. The analysis concluded that the best approach consisted of: brief interventions by a medical professional; motivational enhancement, a form of counseling that aims to help people see the need to change; and acamprosate or a similar drug, a drug that eases cravings.

Do you believe Mr. Kenny?

Some charts he uses to back himself up can be found here.