Open Thread 1/12

- Does our status as a caucus state mean we’ll miss the aborted fetus ad at the Super Bowl? (Today in questions I thought I’d never ask.)

Smoking a joint from time to time won’t damage the lungs, even after years of drug use, according to a study led by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researchers that disproves one of the major concerns about marijuana — that smoking it must be just as risky as lighting up a cigarette.

– For serious, fuck James O’Keefe and crew.

– The person behind the we still hate gay people initiative.

– I’d go in a second.

Comments

  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Guns Don’t Kill People Dep’t

    A 30-year-old Philadelphia man is under arrest after walking up to a car with 7 teenagers and opening fire, killing 3 boys aged 14, 14, and 16.

    http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_n.....lly-ambush

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: Sure, the teens were going to rumble with the suspect’s stepsons, but you know, boys will be boys. And screwballs with guns will be screwballs. There might have been bruises and bloody noses, but nobody would have got killed if this loon hadn’t waltzed into the act with a gun. Sticks and stones may break kid’s bones, but those heal, whereas you can’t rescind a killing. Another case of what happens when a gun gets into a morally and intellectually deficient pair of hands.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Okay, let’s skip over the question of whether O’Keefe & Co. violated New Hampshire election laws and video recording laws, and the fact that public officials are calling for his prosecution. I want to focus on O’Keefe’s latest stunt.

    O’Keefe sent minions to New Hampshire polling places on Tuesday to impersonate dead people and request their ballots. You can see O’Keefe’s video here:

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/01.....les-names/

    The purpose of this “operation” was to demonstrate how easy it is to vote under the name of a dead person in a state that doesn’t require voter ID.

    Now let’s examine this from my lawyer’s perspective.

    This is called “entrapment.” If police go to a busy airport terminal, plant a wallet on a counter, then stake out the counter and wait for someone to come along and pick it up so they can arrest him/her — NO CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED. That’s because the police enticed the person into an act that would not have been committed without the enticement.

    The same principle applies to the New Hampshire election workers. They did not do anything wrong because they would not have handed out the ballots to O’Keefe’s minions if O’Keefe’s minions hadn’t asked for the ballots.

    Just as the police, not the airport patron, are responsible for the misappropriated wallet in the airport sting, so too are O’Keefe and his minions responsible for obtaining ballots that shouldn’t have been given to them. To the extent a crime was committed, it was committed wholly by the perpetrators of the sting.

    That’s the law, not only in Washington, but everywhere else in the United States of America. This isn’t classroom theory. A few years ago, the ever-hapless Port of Seattle police pulled off a “lost wallet” sting at SeaTac exactly as I described above. And every single charge they filed against the people they arrested was thrown out by our local quotes. The only malfeasors in that picture were the cops.

    Likewise, the only malfeasors in O’Keefe’s polling place sting are O’Keefe and his minions.

  3. 4

    Michael spews:

    Hope I didn’t quote too much stuff for the terms of use and such.

    But, do please take a look at HB 2204 and HB 2205, which would help get young people to the polls. Rep. Andy Billig’s got the right idea on this.

    Rep. Andy Billig (D – Spokane), who has introduced a bipartisan measure that would enable 16- and 17-year-old youth to preregister to vote when obtaining their first driver’s license.

    Voter Registration for 16 & 17 year olds – House Bill 2205: A bill that will allow 16 & 17 years to register to vote (they still can’t actually vote until they are 18).
    More than 40% of new voters register to vote when they get their driver’s licenses. This option is not currently available to many young potential voters who get their driver’s license at 16 or 17. So, it is no surprise that the 18-24 age group is the lowest registered age group. H.B. 2205 will create life-long voters and provide equal access to voter registration.

    Vote to the Deadline – House Bill 2204 would let citizens register to vote up to 5 p.m. on election day. Right now, state law cuts people off from registering to vote 29 days before elections if you do it online and eight days before the election when you do it live, in person, at your friendly county auditor’s office. Same day voter registration is proven to promote voter participation in states where it is allowed.
    http://spovangelist.com/doting-about-voting/

  4. 5

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    A few days ago, an Oklahoma 18-year-old woman, who recently lost her husband, shot and killed one of two intruders who targeted her home as a possible source of some pain-killer her late husband was taking for his cancer. She will not suffer prosecution for her act of self defense, but the living intruder will be charged with first degree murder in accordance with Oklahoma law.

    Politically Incorrect commentary: This is exactly the outcome deserved by the two criminals. The young woman who shot and killed one of them should be given a public service award, and the other should serve life at hard labor.

  5. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Now let’s have a grown-up discussion about voting fraud.

    I’ll start by using the federal income tax system as a loose analogy. The IRS relies on us to voluntarily calculate our taxes and file returns. Income reporting by employers and financial institutions, and random audits, help motivate us to be honest. And there’s a rather small and underfunded enforcement branch to go after a proportionate (but nowhere near all) of those who aren’t. It’s done this way because complete auditing of all taxpayers simply would cost too much, and isn’t necessary because most people are honest.

    That’s the bedrock of our tax system — most people are honest. It’s also the bedrock of our election system.

    In Washington, you have to present proof of citizenship only once — when you register to vote. For cost reasons, we now have an all-mail voting, but regardless of whether you vote at a polling place or with a mail-in ballot, our system relies primarily on the inherent honesty of most people — and most people are, in fact, inherently honest. But, like the IRS system, there are some checks to monitor how well the system is working and to catch fraud.

    At polling places, the prospective voter has to get his/her ballot from an election worker who checks to make sure the name given by the voter is listed on the voter rolls and verifies the voter’s address. Washington now requires verification of the voter’s identity with a driver’s license, utility bill, or some other documentation that tends to show the voter is who he says he is. This non-photo-ID verification isn’t bombproof; a 6-foot-3 high school basketball player could impersonate a 5-foot-4 retired guy by stealing a piece of his mail, for example. (But why would anyone go to the trouble, and risk criminal prosecution, for one vote?) Photo ID adds another layer of verification, but has the adverse side effect of keeping many legitimate voters from exercising their voting rights, so the proper question to ask here is not how do you eliminate all possibility of fraud, but how do you strike a reasonable balance between protecting the integrity of elections and protecting the voting rights of individual voters?

    The answer is, you can never completely eliminate the possibility of fraud without unduly hindering exercise of the right to vote (and driving the costs of election administration into the stratosphere), so we use a system that relies on citizen honesty and voluntary compliance with election laws, with built-in checks to encourage lawful behavior, provide a reasonable chance of catching fraud, and monitor how well the system is working. Same as for collecting taxes.

    Absentee and mail-in ballots are mailed to the last known address provided by the voter, which by itself creates a high presumption that the voter will be the person who receives the ballot.

    Is it possible for someone to steal a ballot from a mailbox and vote the ballot by forging the voter’s signature on the ballot return envelope? Yeah, in theory, but in theory the voter also will call the elections department to complain about not receiving his ballot and that will alert election officials to see if that ballot was received, and if so, to cross-check the signature on the envelope with the voter registration signature on file. So, there’s a way to catch stolen ballots — and to know how many ballots are being stolen from mailboxes. The available evidence indicates that ballot theft from mailboxes is nonexistent.

    Is it possible for someone else to vote a dead person’s ballot, say for example, a spouse who forges his dead wife’s name on her ballot envelope? Yeah, theoretically, it’s possible. Has it ever happened? Yes, in this state, it has happened at least once — in the 2004 governor’s election, a man was caught doing exactly that. He was a Rossi supporter, and gave Rossi a little extra help by also casting his dead wife’s ballot for Rossi. He was caught and prosecuted. But this one case doesn’t prove that people fraudulently voting their dead spouses’ ballots isn’t a widespread problem.

    I’ve been both a pollworker and election observer in our state, so I know how ballots are counted — I don’t have to speculate (like some of our trolls do, and then try to pass off their speculations as facts).

    A career civil servant (not a temporary election worker) sits at a computer terminal and compares the signature on the ballot envelope with a computer image of the voter registration signature on file. If it looks different, it’s investigated further. That usually doesn’t mean the signature is a forgery; it’s common for signatures to change over time, especially older voters with shaky hands. If someone has, in fact, voted someone else’s ballot (either through ballot theft or by impersonating a dead family member), there’s a high probability that it will be detected at this stage of the ballot counting process. Is it possible for a forged ballot to slip through? Sure, just as it’s possible for a billionaire to evade taxes by funneling money through an offshore bank account; but how many people actually do it? There’s probably a lot more tax cheating than there is voting fraud, for obvious reasons.

    The voting ID laws championed by Republicans and stunts like O’Keefe’s wouldn’t be so controversial if (a) there really was a problem and (b) their real objective wasn’t voter suppression. But we all know what’s going on here. These measures aren’t being propounded to fix actual problems in our voting system. Those problems, by and large, don’t exist. They’re just being used as an excuse or cover for the GOP’s real agenda. This isn’t about protecting the integrity of elections, and it certainly isn’t about protecting your right to vote. All these things are being done to keep people they don’t like from exercising their right to vote.

    And that’s why we call bullshit on these schemes and stunts.

  6. 7

    spews:

    This guy has always been kind of doomy/gloomy but I’ve NEVER seen him this agitated:

    Peak Money Arrives

    The End Game

    It should be obvious to any observer that a debt implosion process is already underway. It started in the banking system, and has now infested major governments around the world. We see that the major central banks will do nothing to clean up the banks they regulate, and in fact they will do everything possible to keep hidden the true extent of the problems.

    Confidence has been ebbing for three years, and distrust in the system is now building at a rapid pace. The distrust now extends to the major financial players themselves. They won’t lend to each other. They will grab any assets they can at the first hint some institution may be in trouble. They will completely ignore legal contracts if they have to, just as they will throw away 100 years of tradition and ruin the reputation of an entire market in order to protect their own institution.

    We also know how the final collapse is likely to come about. Financial crises almost always arise from a credit event – usually a surprise announcement of financial trouble facing a major bank or firm. It can also be a surprise bankruptcy. The sector most likely to be the source of such a problem this time is the hedge fund industry, because it remains as highly leveraged as it was in 2008 before the crisis hit.

    A third possibility is an exogenous shock to the system, such as a political crisis or natural catastrophe. The Straits of Hormuz conflict with Iran that is now underway is a good example of something that could get out of hand quickly, driving oil to $140/bbl, and tanking markets around the world (except possibly for gold). Yet another candidate for an exogenous shock is China, which is now at the first stages of an implosion of its housing bubble. This bubble is far and away the most dangerous of them all, dwarfing any other housing bubble in size, and in the exposure Chinese investors have through leverage that resides in a shadow banking system beyond government control.

    Whatever the shock is, there will be a frantic race by institutions and investors to protect themselves.

    Multinational corporations have been preparing for a financial collapse by stockpiling cash, which is at record high levels for companies. What is not appreciated is that many of these corporations have borrowed the cash they are stockpiling; they have not been generating much cash from their operating business.

    The equity markets are unprepared for an increase in corporate bankruptcies. Most S&P 500 companies are trading at multiples that were common in the 1990s, when the markets and the global economy were soaring. They are enjoying record earnings because they are able to continue to reduce expenses, and many companies have figured out ways to extricate themselves entirely from paying taxes. The average corporate tax burden for a large US company today is a fraction of what it was 30 years ago. All of these beneficial conditions are coming to an end. Credit in a financial implosion is going to be very scarce, and the majority of companies today are so highly leveraged they will have difficulty surviving without additional credit

    I think he back all of this up pretty well. Read it and see what you think:

    http://agonist.org/numerian/20.....ey_arrives

  7. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Now, getting back to O’Keefe, if he broke laws — and, on the surface, it appears he did — prosecute him. Just like any other lawbreaker.

  8. 9

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    In a recent challenge, Warren Buffet agreed to match, dollar-for-dollar, any money given by members of the House and Senate to reduce the national debt. He even said he’d match Mitch McConnell’s contributions three-to-one.

    While it’s a nice gesture, intended to embarass some pretty arrogant assholes, it’s just a single drop in a ocean. If we used every dime of the current defense budget to re-pay the national debt, it would take between 45 and 50 years to pay-off the debt. That means Warren Buffett could donate his entire portfolio of wealth to pay-off the debt, and it wouldn’t make a difference.

    We could take the personal wealth of the country’s top 500 wealthiest individuals, apply it to debt repayment, and it would be the same as extracting a drop of sea water from the ocean as far as its impact on reducing the $15 trillion-plus debt.

    The only way we’re ever going to pay-off the national debt is very slowly and with a lot of personal sacrifice from everybody. I don’t think we’re willing to do that. I predict that the US will one day renege on its debt.

  9. 10

    spews:

    I’ve noticed over reading the histories of previous panics that the typical men/women in the street has no inkling of the enormity of the financial and economic problems that build to a head which then wipe out their savings and means of making a living.

    This guy Numerian in this posts quite often brings up stuff I know little about. “Re-hypothecation”? WTF is that? Something that apparently regulators used to at least pretended to control. I’ve head of “shadow banking” but until now have read little to nothing on it.

    Start growing a vegetable garden.

  10. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 I might argue that the survivor is only guilty of burglary and therefore should serve a burglary sentence, not a murder sentence, Oklahoma’s felony murder statute notwithstanding.

    Back in 2002, in a factually dissimilar case, our state supreme court grappled with the reach of our own state’s felony murder statute (and how prosecutors interpreted it), and imposed some constitutional restrictions on it.

    http://www.komonews.com/news/archive/4074066.html

    Felony murder is a complicated legal concept whose applicability and operation depend heavily on the specific facts of the case, as is usually true in legal matters. Wikipedia gives a pretty good explication of the underlying idea:

    “The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine … that broadens the crime of murder in two ways. First, when an offender kills accidentally or without specific intent to kill in the course of an applicable felony, what might have been manslaughter is escalated to murder. Second, it makes any participant in such a felony criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. While there is some debate about the original scope of the rule, modern interpretations typically require that the felony be an inherently dangerous one, or one committed in an obviously dangerous manner. For this reason, the felony murder rule is often justified by its supporters as a means of deterring dangerous felonies.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_murder_rule

    As in baseball, it’s crucial to keep your eye on the ball. The purpose is to deter and punish exceptionally dangerous felonies with enhanced penalties if they result in death. Note, I didn’t say “innocent person’s” death; the law can also extend to the commission of crimes that put co-perpetrators in danger.

    The Oklahoma case fits this factual pattern. The burglary of an occupied dwelling is inherently dangerous for both the occupant and the perpetrator (that’s why many residential burglars carry weapons). No one would argue with the idea that a burglar who intends only to steal, but who is surprised by a resident and kills the resident, not only shouldn’t be able to assert self-defense but should be held responsible for the resident’s death as if he had intended to murder the resident, because his act of committing the burglary directly caused the risk that led to the resident’s death.

    The concept becomes more controversial when applied to a burglar whose fellow burglar was killed by the homeowner. While we have less sympathy for the victim in this case, the legal application of the felony murder rule in such a case is based on the idea that even a non-innocent’s life is worthy of legal protection, and you should be held responsible for the loss of that life if you engage in a recklessly dangerous criminal act that put another person’s life at exceptional risk.

    I’m not sure what my bottom line would be in this case. Certainly, I have no smpathy for the surviving burglar if he has to serve a life sentence. He ran that risk by breaking into the residence, just as he ran the risk that he, himself, might be shot by the occupant. (He’s probably very lucky he wasn’t.) In a factual sense, it’s hard for me to think of him as a murderer, and while legal fictions have their usefulness, I think it’s healthy to maintain a suspicion of legal fictions — they should be disfavored and narrowly applied where their efficacy is clearcut. Given the facts as presented, this case is on a fence; I can go either way with it.

  11. 15

    SJ spews:

    Carl

    Are you joining the Lee pot fantasy club?

    The marijuana study you refer to DID NOT prove that MJ is safe. It was actually not even intended to do that and could not do that as it was designed.

    The study asked whether pulmonary function (NOT cancer) was impaired by the usual toking of a jonit every two weeks. The answer was that they could not detect any damage.

    Since cigarette smoking usually is many sticks/day, this is good news but not all that surprising. M

    oreover, if you knew how the statistics works, even this does not “prove” no harm. It says none was found. E.g. it is entirely possible that one cig per every two weeks would also show no harm by this measure.

    The reason for caution about SMOKING marijuana is two fold. First irritation to the airway should increase risk of cancer. the study confirmed that MJ smoke is irritating. Second, MJ smoke has HIGHER quantities fo known carcinogens than tobacco smoke. These agents, if applied directly, WILL cause cancer so it is reasonable to worry that MJ smoke does as well. There is one study that did not find this cancer effect but there are also isolated studies that failed to find Ca from cigarettes.

    The best advice any responsible physician would give is to get your THC (the MJ active ingredient) by some route other than inhalation of smoked MJ.

  12. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 I don’t think it’s quite that apocalyptic. It’s fairly straightforward that when defaults increase, banks have to set aside larger loss reserves, which may require expanding their capital. Money used for these purposes isn’t lent to customers or other banks, so increasing defaults usually imply less credit availability. Central banks try to loosen credit by lending to banks, but that money won’t necessarily get lent further down the line if those banks are worried about the creditworthiness of borrowers (including other banks).

    Europe is now going through a systemic banking crisis similar to the U.S. banking crisis of 2008. We’re coming out of our banking crisis, whereas Europe is mid-throes in theirs. Their banking crisis may be more dangerous because of the European Central Bank’s reluctance to print money and backstop Europe’s banks, as the Federal Reserve does here, but most observers think the ECB will come around and save Europe’s banks in the end, although they’ll have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the trough.

    What’s primarily behind this reluctance is the institutionalized memories of German voters and politicians of the hyperinflation of the 1920s that ruined Germany’s prewar economy and gave rise to Hitler and Nazism. That history understandably makes them nervous about the idea of a central bank printing money to solve a banking crisis, and even it’s an irrational fear, they need some time to overcome it. That’s why it’s taking so long for the ECB to do what everyone knows need to be done.

    This financial crisis has created intense and widespread discomfort, but it’s not Armageddon. The world isn’t going to end this time. In the last couple of months, we’ve seen stock and bond markets react positively to investors’ growing confidence that Europeans will get their financial crisis under control, just as we did with ours. The fallout from a debt-induced balance sheet recession lingers for a long time, and it will be many years before we finally put this behind us, but we’ll eventually come out of it.

  13. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 “If we used every dime of the current defense budget to re-pay the national debt, it would take between 45 and 50 years to pay-off the debt.”

    Nope. The defense budget is (roughly) $800 billion and the debt is (roughly) $15 trillion; dividing one by the other, you get (roughly) 18 or 19 years.

  14. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 (continued) Why does the debt have to be repaid? We may want to reduce it, or keep it from growing further, to reduce future interest costs; but that’s a different issue. The federal debt actually serves a useful purpose by providing safe Treasury securities to investors and savers.

    The debt has grown rapidly in recent years because of the dual policies of tax cuts and spending increases. Don’t blame the latter solely on Obama; much of this occurred on Bush’s watch and under Republican Congresses (who were, among other things, profligate earmarkers). The only reason these policies haven’t been more inflationary is because of the recession brought about by a third policy, deregulation of the financial industry.

    Nobody claims raising taxes on the rich would eliminate the deficit or pay off the debt, so that’s a hollow argument. Raising taxes on the rich is part of the revenue piece of deficit reduction. Realistically, if we’re really serious about reducing the deficit, we’ll let raise taxes on everybody by letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire.

    Spending-side Republicans, who oppose any revenue increases whatsoever, don’t want to cut our bloated defense budget that has nearly doubled since 2001. That leaves Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to bear all the burden of deficit reduction. I won’t go along with that. It isn’t fair; it’s supremely selfish on the part of Republicans who are defending supremely greedy rich people. It’s not worth fighting a civil war over — after all, it’s only money — but you can’t get me to vote for Republican taxing and spending policies at the ballot box.

    If you want a compromise, fine. Obama offered Republicans $9 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax increases, with some of those spending cuts in defense. That wasn’t good enough for the Republicans. They wanted to take it all from entitlements. They — and you –can shove that up your asses.

  15. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 I don’t think a Dow 1000 or even a Dow 10,000 is in the cards. We might get a little below 12,000 in a February correction, but I expect us to finish 2012 a little above 13,000. Actually, the S&P 500 or Russell 2000 are better measures of the broad market. In general, I expect stocks to advance about 5% to 6% over the course of this year, with markets remaining choppy in the first half and most of the gains coming in the second half.

  16. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    One of the things that has happened is we’ve abandoned the 1950s notion of a paternalistic society and individuals now carry much more of the responsibility for managing their education, career, health care, and retirement savings. A lot of evidence suggests many people are ill-equipped for all that’s being put on them. Young workers are supposed to guess what skills will be in demand 20 or 40 years from now, and savers are supposed to be able to protect themselves from the financial predators who have been let loose on the streets by deregulators. We’re all expected to be experts in economics, finance, numerous technical specialties, and macro forecasting.

    It isn’t going to work.

  17. 21

    Michael spews:

    @5

    Agreed.

    But, did you see the part where her hubby was 58 when he died and that they’d been living together for 3 years? Creepy.

    Also, 21 minutes had expired between when the young woman place her call to 911 and when she shot the intruder. 21 minutes and no police show up? You get what you pay for, I’ll happily pay a little more in taxes and live in town where the 911 response times are sub 3 minutes.

  18. 23

    spews:

    SJ @ 15

    When it come to pot, you seem to lose most of your ability for rational comprehension.

    “Are you joining the Lee pot fantasy club?

    The marijuana study you refer to DID NOT prove that MJ is safe. It was actually not even intended to do that and could not do that as it was designed.”

    So? Carl didn’t make any commentary about the study. He block quoted the entire introductory paragraph. Rather than ranting at Carl, go after Erin Allday, who wrote the paragraph.

    Better yet, design a study intended to test the ideas you think are important and publish the results.

    Ranting about Carl making claims he didn’t, and about a study that looks at something different from what what you think is important just makes you look like a lunatic!

  19. 24

    spews:

    The only way we’re ever going to pay-off the national debt is very slowly and with a lot of personal sacrifice from everybody.

    The biggest mistake everybody makes when examining the federal debt is comparing it to household debt.

    It’s totally different.

    Japan’s debt is way higher than the U.S. per capita.. NOBODY CARES. The Japanese owe almost all of it to themselves.

    We owe more of our debt to foreigners but at the same time U.S. citizens own a lot of foreign debt.

    Government debt is some cause for concern in the rate of it’s growth in relation to the fragility of the global economy but we’re nowhere near the problem Greece has.. At the moment anyway.

    Look at how the markets are treating our debt. They’re not charging anything for it. The U.S. is still considered one of the safest places to park money.

  20. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I think I’ve done a pretty job of managing my life, if you don’t mind my saying so. Mrs. Rabbit and I both retired in our mid-fifties, we have no debts, and our income exceeds our expenses by so much that our net worth is increasing in retirement instead of being spent down.

    How we got there is pretty simple: We were savers instead of spenders. I borrowed when I had to — for education, a car needed for my job, our burrow, etc. — but was relentless about paying off my debts as quickly as possible. All my family ever heard from me in response to their spending requests was “no.” I also learned to be a thrifty shopper, taking advantage of sales, coupons, and deals; but being a smart shopper, too, by never failing to pay extra for quality whenever quality more than pays for itself. We’ve never lived high; in fact, we’ve never taken a vacation together, and we don’t own any status symbols.

    It might be helpful to explain how I became this kind of rabbit. First, I was one of the very first Baby Boomers to be born, so my parents were shaped by the Depression and I inherited my thrift habits from them. Second, struggled with debt in my youth, so I acquired a strong aversion to debt. Third, the Army (and others) kicked the ego out of me before I acquired enough wherewithal to covet status symbols, so I was spared from the tremendous financial waste that our status-driven culture imposes on gullible people.

    Other important factors were: I started investing in stocks, and therefore began learning the investment game, back when I had only a little money; i.e., I didn’t wait, and therefore didn’t postpone my investing education, which is supremely important because in investing there is no substitute for experience. Also, it’s obviously better to learn the hard way — which is the only way you ever really learn anything — when your commitment, and therefore your losses, are still small.

    It helps that I have a college minor in economics, and enough self-teaching over the years to equate with an M.B.A., including the experience of having owned a couple of small businesses — so that I can size up a company and decide whether I want to own its stock.

    I also benefit from an IQ pushing 150 that enables me to crunch numbers in my head a lightning speed. On the side, it also enables me to rack up perfect scores on online vocabulary quizzes by training my mind to match up words in a split second by using an object-recognition technique that treats words as shapes. (I had a certain amount of this kind of experience in Vietnam, too, where you had to make instant shoot-no shoot decisions based on shape and movement.) Now let me be the first to say that a high IQ, by itself, isn’t necessarily useful and can be positively be a hindrance. There are plenty of high-IQ people who are a menace to themselves and those around them. It all depends on what you do with what you’ve got in terms of self-education and self-discipline. I figured out what I needed to know and had to do, and went from there.

    The supercomputers at the disposal of big institutional investors and professional money managers can crunch data much faster than I can, and much more of it, but my brain can do something that supercomputers can’t: Feel hunches and exercise judgment. When you get right down to it, all of my financial decisions are made by instinct. A mountain climber once told me how he stayed alive in the mountains: “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.” Computers can’t make that calculation, but I can.

    It also helps to have the right values. A lot of people struggle with keeping priorities straight, and end up concluding that owning a Corvette or Mustang convertible today is more important than having the mortgage paid off when they retire years from now. Because compound interest drastically magnifies the cost of everything bought on interest, that Corvette or Mustang is a hell of a lot more affordable if you wait until you can pay cash for it. But deferring gratification is tough for people who never taught themselves to think ahead or acquired any self-discipline.

    I haven’t had an especially comfortable life, but I have all the necessities, and my life is getting more comfortable now that every cent that comes in and isn’t needed for necessities goes to a savings account instead of creditors. I never juggle bills or lose sleep worrying about making payments, because my bills are low and I have no payments. If you’re tired of living and would like to be dead, do yourself a favor and jump off a bridge or lay down in front of a bus, instead of slowly squeezing the life out of your cardiac system by inflicting a lifetime of financial stress on yourself.

    And finally, there’s this whole business of work. A job looks like a really crummy investment to me. You have to pay for your own education, pay for your own work clothes and transportation to and from work, you have to fight commuter traffic, suffer a demanding boss and crazy co-workers, and maybe wreck your health to get the most tax-disadvantaged income there is. Yeah, I had a job for a long time, when it was the only way I could get the money I needed.

    But once I had that money, I didn’t throw it away. I used it to buy income so I wouldn’t have to work anymore, and to pay off my debts so I wouldn’t need as much income in the first place. This has worked fine. Now I sleep until 10 AM or noon or whenever I feel like crawling out of bed, commute 20 feet down the hall to my computer, and sit here staring at stock prices all morning. Every three or four months, I phone my broker and buy or sell something. The rest of the time, I cash the dividend checks. Sure as fuck beats working myself into a heart attack to make some Republican boss rich. Fuck him, I like free money as much as he does; he gets it from other people’s work, and I get it from owning his company. Oh, and did I mention that he has a boss, too, and his boss is me?

  21. 26

    Michael spews:

    @24
    The Fed is the single largest holder of US debt. But yeah, a lot of the other holders are other countries.

  22. 27

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 “Look at how the markets are treating our debt. They’re not charging anything for it. The U.S. is still considered one of the safest places to park money.”

    Bingo! You’d think the free-market types would grasp this, but they’re tone-deaf for some strange reason.

    As debt-averse as I am, why would I pay cash for something if I can borrow for free? If a store offers me “no interest for six months” on a major purchase, do you think I’m going to pay for the merchandise now, or six months from now? It’s investors, not the government or taxpayers, who are getting shafted by our zero-interest public debt. That’s why I don’t own any Treasuries and put all my savings in stocks.

  23. 28

    Michael spews:

    Public debit as % of GDP
    Japan 220%
    Greece 142%
    Singapore 96%
    United States 94%
    Canada 83%
    European Union 80%
    Finland 48%
    Denmark 43%
    Sweden 39%

    See, Mitt Romney and the Republicans keep shouting about our debt and how Obama wants us to be more like europe, but the places that the left looks too have lower rate of debt to GDP than we do.

    Just one more reason Mitt Romney is a douche nozzle.

  24. 30

    spews:

    19 – You have to read that guy’s essay over again.

    He’s seeing a replay of the 2008 freeze up in credit. Even bigger.

    Dodd Frank almost did nothing to address the shadow banking system. After Dodd-Frank passed everyone in the know said it didn’t address the root problems and another crisis was inevitable.
    Well this Numerian guy says the meltdown could happen this year. Like August unless the Central Banks put it off with some kind of QE which gets weaker every time it’s done.

    Central banks are running out of bullets. They and the governments don’t want to bring the banks to heel. The banks themselves don’t trust each other. People are crazy if they think Central Bank easing will cause inflation. The Banks are hoarding the money to buffer themselves against the impending tidal wave. If banks don’t lend, there’s no money chasing too few goods. Corporations are highly leveraged – the cash they’ve hoarded is in many cases itself borrowed.

    If credit stops flowing – the whole house of cards collapses.

  25. 31

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @28 Mittster has a bad habit of playing fast and loose with facts. I suppose he thinks he can get away with it because today’s press corps is so (choose one) [ ] meek [ ] ignorant [ ] incompetent [ ] illiterate. And maybe he can, because the press is lousy nowadays, not at all like when Pop Rabbit was working in the newspaper trade. He’s also helped by the fact a significant portion of our electorate is reaching for unprecedented heights of self-induced gullibility — people who only listen to what they want to believe. The Republicans have been pretty successful at selling their meme that our public debt is our biggest problem, thanks to our country’s ineffectual political journalism industry. But I don’t think he’s going to get away with the “I created 100,000 jobs” bullshit. If he pulls that line out in the debates, Obama will rip him apart. Unliked Mittster’s GOP rivals, Obama knows how to debate.

  26. 32

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @30 Numerous commentators argue we’re heading for an even bigger bubble, and everyone pretty much agrees the Fed doesn’t have a lot of tools left.

    The ability to print unlimited amounts of money, though, does give the Fed a way to keep another financial crash from spinning out of control into a deflationary death spiral.

  27. 34

    Blue John spews:

    I skimmed the agonist article. That’s depressing. I live in an apartment, I don’t have space for a garden.
    Seriously, unless one is rich, I don’t see how one avoids this

  28. 35

    rhp6033 spews:

    Newt’s decided that he had to conduct some revisionist history on his career (and character) if he has any chance of becoming President. It’s a little late for that.

    But that hasn’t stopped his lawyer from sending a letter to Florida TV stations threatening them with a libel lawsuit if they air the pro-Romney SuperPac ads which refer to Gingrich getting fined $300,000 for eithics violations in Congress. The Gingrich campaign argues that this was not a “fine”, but a reimbusement of costs for the ethics investigation.

    Of course, Gingrich’s lawyer must know that he hasn’t got a prayer of winning any such libel suit. He’s the definition of a public figure, and absent a showing of “malice” (virtually improvable), he can’t win the lawsuite. It would be laughed out of court.

    Maybe he hopes that a few pro-Gingrich media outlets will use the letter as an excuse not to air the ads. But with Clear Channel being owned by Bain Capital, that excludes a lot of radio stations. More likely, he just wants to try to shut down the discussion in his usual manner – by shouting over the discussion and hoping to drown it out by claiming that a minor detail is inaccurate (it isn’t), so nobody is allowed to bring it up at all.

    He’s trying to do the same thing with his first divorce. He’s now got his daughter out telling the story that it was a “mutual” decision, and Puddy, et al, are arguing that him discussing divorce at the hospital while his wife was recovering from surgery doesn’t apply because the tumor was determined to be “benign”. I’ve got no idea how old his daughter was at the time, but now she’s part of his publishing/self protion empire, so she’s probably only going to say what he tells her to say – and her only “memory” is probably pulled from what he’s told her in the past.

  29. 38

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @36 Romney won’t be president. Even the pro-business editors of Barron’s think Obama will be re-elected. It’ll be interesting to see whether the GOP’s financial backers invest in Romney’s campaign or spend their money on holding the House and taking the Senate. Watch where the money goes.

  30. 39

    SJ spews:

    . Darryl spews:

    When it come to pot, you seem to lose most of your ability for rational comprehension.

    Seems like you have a problem, not I.

    Bull pucky. What I said was entirely factual. Smoked marijuana has never, to my knowledge, been claimed to produce pulmonary function damage and this study showed that expected result.

    So what useful information does this study offer for the major issue most physicians worry about … the content of benzpyrene?

    So? Carl didn’t make any commentary about the study. He block quoted the entire introductory paragraph. Rather than ranting at Carl, go after Erin Allday, who wrote the paragraph.

    I assume she reads HA. OTOH, the tim4es does noty fill its columns with rants about MJ being a miracle medicine.

    Better yet, design a study intended to test the ideas you think are important and publish the results.

    There is nothing to test here, the study is off the point. As for my going on a campaign to prove that benzpyrene causes Ca .. That is a proven fact. If someone wants to inhale BP, from cigarettes or MJ, that is their business. That is why I support legalization.

    Ranting about Carl making claims he didn’t, and about a study that looks at something different from what what you think is important just makes you look like a lunatic!

    I did not rant. I simply pointed pout that saying a study did not show that MJ causes lung damage should be irrelevant to anyone’s stand on the issue.

    If such a simple statement is lunacy, then I must confess to also believing in in f=ma, the curvature of the Earth, and the axiom that 100%=p=the sum of 50% plus 50%.

    01/12/2012 at 1:28 pm

  31. 40

    spews:

    SJ,

    “What I said was entirely factual.”

    I wasn’t challenging the factual content of your statements. I was pointing out the irrationality of (1) attacking Carl for presenting, without comment, nothing more than the first paragraph of a ST article about a study, and (2) launching off on a stark-raving mad diatribe (okay…I exaggerate…just sort-of crazy) about what the study should have investigated (about which, more to follow).

    “Smoked marijuana has never, to my knowledge, been claimed to produce pulmonary function damage and this study showed that expected result.”

    I have two responses to that: (1) I suspect you well know, basic science doesn’t have to address a question of clinical or practical significance. The research investigated what it investigated. (2) Since smoking does have a fairly well-characterized effect of reducing pulmonary function function, and since pot shares with tobacco stuff that is believed to reduce pulmonary function, it seems worthwhile to investigate the relationship between frequency of pot-smoking and pulmonary function decline. The study found effects for heavy users, and no effects for light usage. That seems like pretty fucking useful information to me. (Although as someone who has never ingested pot—excluding, of course, as second-hand smoke—the findings aren’t personally useful).

    “So what useful information does this study offer for the major issue most physicians worry about … the content of benzpyrene?”

    This particular study was about pulmonary function, not benzpyrene content. It’s lunacy to criticize a study for not addressing your personal hot-button issue.

    “There is nothing to test here, the study is off the point.”

    See…this is total madness. The study is “off point” because you want something else studied…and, I might add, something you proclaim is not in dispute?!? What the fuck is up with that? The fact is, the authors conducted a study about the adverse effect of tobacco and marijuana on pulmonary function, and submitted it to JAMA. Some deputy editor felt the research merited a full review, the reviewers who specialize in the topic felt the paper made a contribution to the scientific literature. Publication happened. Apparently, all up and down the gatekeepers-of-science chain there was agreement that this paper contributed to the body of science. And then it got to YOU! You disagree—but your disagreement doesn’t seem to be about the quality of the science, but about the relevance to medical practice, although I am not really sure I fully understand your objection to this study.

  32. 41

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @39 & @40 – Man, watching two academics go at each other is almost 10% as much fun as watching a half dozen Republicans go at each other … well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but arguably 8.75% as much fun …

  33. 42

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Speaking of “fun,” this Iran thing is starting to look kinda serious. MSNBC says Obama has gone through backdoor channels to warn Khameini that interfering with shipping through Hormuz would cross a “red line,” and this article lays out what Iran’s military capabilities are:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45.....ork_times/

    We just might have a pretty big war sneaking up on us, getting ready to burst sometime this spring. I’ll leave to your imagination what losing 20% of the world’s oil supply would do to pump prices … if you can find a station that has gas …

  34. 43

    rhp6033 spews:

    # RR @ 42: As crazy as the Iranians are (president and mullahs), I’ve noticed a big uptick in the sabre-rattling among some prominant Republicans lately. It may just be part of their posturizing so they can criticize the President no matter what action he takes, short of nuclear war.

    But I’m wondering if a good share of it isn’t being caused by the military venders. They were already seeing significantly less revenue due to the withdrawal from Iraq. But last week’s announcement of big defense cuts has threatened their bottom line considerably, and executive bonuses especially. I’m sure they figure that what they need is a short war followed by a long committment of U.S. military forces to the Middle East.

    I haven’t read the link to the article yet, but I know that if we DO go to war, Iran is going to cause us a lot more problems than Iraq did. Iran has three times the population, considerably more territory, a strong para-military force (Revolutionary Guards) in addition to the regular army, and lots of crazy guys who are willing to blow themselves up if it means they can take one American with them.

    The point is, they don’t have to “close” the Straits of Hormuz physically against all shipping. All they have to do is drop a few mines in the straights, which can be done by small boat, a diesel submarine, or an airplane. The mere fact that there are mines in the straight would cause most Marine insurers to tell shipowners that their insurance won’t cover sailing anywhere in the Persian Gulf any more. That will effectively close off all traffic. How are we going to counter that – by occupation with “boots on the ground” and “regime change” in Iran?

  35. 44

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    The blogosphere is alive this morning with the story of Willard Romney’s use of tax payer funds to line his pockets with corporate welfare while running Bain.


    Bain Capital began looking at investing in the steel start-up in late 1993. At the time, Steel Dynamics was weighing where to locate its first plant, based in part on which region offered the best tax incentives. In June 1994, Bain put $18.2 million into Steel Dynamics, making it the largest domestic equity holder. It sold its stake five years later for $104 million, a return of more than $85 million.

    As Bain made its investment, the state and county pledged $37 million in subsidies and grants for the $385-million plant project. The county also levied a new income tax to finance infrastructure improvements to benefit the steel mill over the heated objections of some county residents.

  36. 45

    SJ spews:

    Darryl

    How would YOU react if the Wall Street Journal extolled a similar JAMA study showing that expensive Cuban cigars .. say twice a year to celebrate Rush Limbaugh’s birthday and Reagan;s Ascension … had no measurable effect n pulmonary function?

    As for JAMA, you misstate a number of things about that journal. First it is not a basic science j0ournal, it is a clinical journal and this was a clinical study. Second, there is no reason that JAMA should not publish this study. Third, I said nothing about JAMA.

    The only issue is whether the study, when hyped in the media or blogdom, is falsely reassuring to to anyone worried about marijuana.

  37. 46

    The Goldy Standard spews:

    For a goldy star on your forehead, who said that FDR took us off the Grover Cleveland Republican gold standard and put us on “a gold standard on the booze?” Was it …

    [A] Hapless Herbert Hoover
    [B] Johnny & Clyde, neo-Nazi J. Edgar Hoover & Clyde Tolson
    [C] Hapless Herman Cain
    [D] Roosevelt revisionist & neo-Nazi Amity Shlaes
    [E] Neo-Nazi Glenn Beck
    [F] Neo-Nazi Ann Coulter
    [G] Fecal moron Glenn Beck
    [H] Defunct economist Roger Rabbit, who has a 150 I(diot) Q(uotient). That’s because they reamed a rubber hose up his little weewee to tap his precious bodily fluids, and all his brains dribbled out. That was no problem because his 2-litre cath bag still had two litres left over. Then they ran a rubber hose up his ass and his little weewee fell off. That was no problem because his days of being a fanatically exuberant breeder are way over. Now he’s just a fanatic.

  38. 47

    spews:

    SJ,

    “How would YOU react if the Wall Street Journal extolled a similar JAMA study showing that expensive Cuban cigars .. say twice a year to celebrate Rush Limbaugh’s birthday and Reagan;s Ascension … had no measurable effect n pulmonary function?”

    I wouldn’t have any reaction. Why would I?

    But this isn’t the right analogy. The JAMA study at issue looked at pot smoking and cigarette smoking, and looked at exposure levels (and lifetime exposure levels) of both tobacco and marijuana and how they affect pulmonary function. It DID find a exposure-relationship for both products. That is much more nuanced, and has more interesting findings, than your silly WSJ hypothetical.

    “As for JAMA, you misstate a number of things about that journal. First it is not a basic science j0ournal, it is a clinical journal”

    I never said JAMA was a basic science journal.

    (FWIW, JAMA is a general medical journal that publishes the full spectrum of medical science including basic research through applied clinical research, and review papers.)

    ” and this was a clinical study.”

    I made no claims about whether the research constitutes basic or clinical/applied science.

    The thread of my argument was that even if the paper has no relevance whatsoever for medical practice (it doesn’t address a “major issue most physicians worry about”), it still has relevance as basic science.

    I then went on to argue that the study may well be useful and informative for people who smoke pot (i.e. I am suggesting it falls more to the applied side than the basic side).

    ” Second, there is no reason that JAMA should not publish this study. Third, I said nothing about JAMA.”

    I agree that you said nothing about JAMA. However you did say:

    Smoked marijuana has never, to my knowledge, been claimed to produce pulmonary function damage and this study showed that expected result.

    So what useful information does this study offer for the major issue most physicians worry about … the content of benzpyrene?

    I read that as a criticism of the study, and by implication, a criticism of JAMA for publishing it. Apparently that isn’t your point.

  39. 48

    spews:

    SJ,

    In re-reading your earlier comments in light of your last comment, it seems you are criticizing the ST for writing about one particular study without contextualizing in within the larger body of evidence on the health hazards and benefits of smoking pot.

    The media does this constantly. Hardly a day goes by without some media report about a new study finding increased risk or risk reductions of coffee/meat/fat/alcohol/kool-aid/exercise/FAUX News, etc. on specific cancers/blood pressure/cholesterol/erectile dysfunction/the heartbreak of psoriasis, etc.

    Rarely is the study properly contextualized in the larger body of scientific evidence.

    Compared to most such media reports, the ST write-up looks to me to be pretty damn good, and informative.

  40. 49

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Guns Don’t Kill People Dep’t

    A disgruntled worker at a N. Carolina lumber company killed three co-workers this morning, then shot himself … he’s in critical condition.

    http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_n.....er-company

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: This isn’t the gun’s fault. Those who let disturbed people like this guy have guns are to blame.

  41. 50

    rhp6033 spews:

    It’s time for an open thread for Friday. Some suggested topics:

    1. Romney getting big money from fellow vulture capitalsts.

    Looks like the Koch brothers are involved.

    2. Older Americans can’t identify with more racially diverse young people, so they don’t invest in their future.

    (but the good news is that a more diverse population will soon be the majority).

    3. Russian billionaires invading U.S. to buy “cheap” high-end properties ($80 million +) as their fifth or sixth “trophy home”.

    In addition to the “trophy wife” aspect, they seem to think it’s Russia might be headed for another revolution of the workers, and want a place in the U.S. to make a “soft landing”.

  42. 52

    Blue John spews:

    2. Older Americans can’t identify with more racially diverse young people, so they don’t invest in their future.

    “Increasingly, elderly Americans do not identify with young Americans who are far more racially and ethnically diverse, leading to reductions in future-oriented public investments,” the report says. “It is alarming that in states where the racial generation gap is widest, such as California where public investments in education, social programs, and transportation made in the 1950s helped to catapult the state into one of the richest in the country, public investments have dwindled, as the elderly do not see themselves reflected in youth of color.”

    I wonder how the writer figures it comes down to race? How does he determine that race is the critical factor?

    If all these kids were white (I assume) older people would be willing funding future-oriented public investments? It’s harder to pass school budgets now because more of the kids are Mexican?

    I don’t agree with his assumption. That would mean that places like Southern Oregon that are still pretty white, should have no problem passing school budgets. Which is not true, they are so cheap there, they shut down the public library system.

  43. 53

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 52: Well, the racial diversity disparity gap between generations is pretty well documented, so I don’t have much doubt that exists. If you think about it, it’s not that surprising – once one “minority” race appears in a family tree, the entire descendent tree becomes “mixed” in terms of race.

    There have been articles discussing how this factor is accounting for the diminishing numbers of blue-eyed people, since the blue-eyed gene (they said) is rescessive.

    How a more diverse society reflects political and spending decisions is another matter. Grandparents usually form an attachment regardless of the “mixed race” nature of the grandchild, and it’s hard to see why they would vote against that grand-child’s interest.

    But for some reason, there is a powerful factor of “they” which reflects voter sentiments. A person might personally know blacks, hispanics, etc. and consider them fine fellows and friends, but still lump everbody else into the amorphous “they” which is straw-man grouping of minorities into welfare mothers, drug-dealing fathers, and illegal immigrants with whom they could never identify or support.

    I’ve always thought their ability to do this was rather wierd, I’ve got an uncle who’s lived his whole life believing in this scenario.

  44. 54

    Michael spews:

    Just in case you missed it.

    $6 billion-a-year ethanol subsidy dies, but wait there’s more.
    America’s corn farmers have been benefiting from annual federal subsidies of around $6 billion in recent years, all in the name of ethanol used as an additive for the nation’s vehicles.
    That ends on Jan. 1, when the companies making ethanol will lose a tax credit of 46 cents per gallon, and even the ethanol industry is OK with it — thanks in part to high oil prices that make ethanol competitive.
    http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_n.....heres-more

    There’s still plenty of other subsidies that need to be gotten rid of, but this is a big step in the right direction.

  45. 55

    rhp6033 spews:

    Of course, the whole campaign for tuition vouchers, some charter schools, and private schools generally tends to get capitalize on this “us” vs. “them” approach. “To hell with the rest of them, we will just take care of our own” (with some government assistance, of course).

  46. 56

    Michael spews:

    Spank!

    (CNN) — A federal judge on Friday ruled against four Republican presidential candidates seeking a spot on Virginia’s March 6 primary ballot, saying they waited too long to file their claims.
    Left off the ballot are Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.S Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
    http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/13/.....index.html

  47. 57

    SJ spews:

    @48 Darryl

    We know that the media is incompetent. On that we agree.

    The reason I responded here is that I neither read nor care much about the ST.

    Also, HA has a … shall we say … focus on this issue?

    I wish we would just legalize the damn stuff and then allow anyone who gets lung cancer to sue every commercial source for a trillion bucks.