Number losing unemployment benefits



Paperblog

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obedience

There is a chilling paragraph in Mr. Ali Soufan's Op Ed (My Tortured Decision, New York Times, April 23, 2009: A25). He says, "My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques ... were instructed to continue."

That took me back nearly 40 years to when I first read about Stanley Milgram's experiments on obedience. In those days we believed that his findings would resonate down the ages so that no one would hesitate in doing the right thing even when pressured to do something wrong by a superior.

How wrong we were.


Sent to New York Times

Scratch that Promise

It is unconscionable that the Commonwealth is providing much of the aid to towns and cities (through the lottery) on the backs of the poor.

It is even more unconscionable that the Commonwealth through its advertising program is acting as a "pusher" to help people feed their addiction to scratch cards.

What the state needs is a progressive income tax. This could easily be achieved by amending the Constitution to say: "Massachusetts Income Tax will be a percentage of the Federal Income Tax paid; the percentage to be set by the General Court from time to time."

Then the Massachusetts tax form would be the shortest in the United States: just 3 or 4 lines indicating what you sent to the IRS, the appropriate percentage of that, the amount withheld and the amount due to be paid or refunded). Think of the energy released into productive work during March and April of each year.


Sent to the Boston Globe

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It May be Time for the Fed to Go Negative

I do not think that we should take Dr. Mankiw's advice seriously (It may be time for the Fed to go negative, New York Times, Sunday, April 19, 2009: Business Section).

If we took his advice, inflation would wipe out the only remaining strength in our 401k portfolios: the fixed income portion.

We should remember Mr. Mankiw's track record. He was President George W. Bush's Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers from 2003-2005. A period during which the Iraq war was fought "off the books;" a period during which the bases of our current economic woes were created.

Would any responsible economic adviser allow that? I think not.

Sent to New York Times

Scratch that Promise

It is unconscionable that the Commonwealth is providing much of the aid to towns and cities (through the lottery) on the backs of the poor.

It is even more unconscionable that the Commonwealth through its advertising program is acting as a "pusher" to help people feed their addiction to scratch cards.

What the state needs is a progressive income tax. This could easily be achieved by amending the Constitution to say: "Massachusetts Income Tax will be a percentage of the Federal Income Tax paid; the percentage to be set by the General Court from time to time."

Then the Massachusetts tax form would be the shortest in the United States: just 3 or 4 lines indicating what you sent to the IRS, the appropriate percentage of that, the amount withheld and the amount due to be paid or refunded). Think of the energy released into productive work during March and April of each year.

Sent to Boston Globe

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Torture

"I was just following orders" was not a defense at Nuremberg.

"I was just following the guidelines of the Office of Legal Counsel." should not be a defense in America today.


Sent to New York Times

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Answer is the Convoy

Your headline claims that there are few military options against piracy (Boston Globe, April 9, 2008: A10).

Perhaps there is only one, but it is a good one. If the shipping companies agreed to coordinate their shipping so that a dozen vessels sailed in convoy through the dangerous waters and were escorted by United Nations Naval vessels, the threat would recede.

2009 problems require 1940's solutions!

Sent to Boston Globe

Healthcare

In his final sentence, Ramesh Ponnuru states "Some people, of course, would still chose to go without it. But that would be their call, as it should be in a free country" (The Misguided Quest For Universal Coverage, New York Times, April 9, 2009: A23).

If we adopted this position we would be privatizing health and socializing sickness. Just like the Banks!

The freedom to decline insurance impinges on my freedom to avoid the 1.7% surcharge my family and its employers now pay on our health insurance premiums.


Sent to the New York Times

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Nuremberg Defense for Torture

You report (Report outlines involvement of Medical Workers in Abusive C.I.A. Interrogations, New York Times, April 7, 2009: A6) that C.I.A. Director Panetta "has stated repeatedly that no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated let alone punished."

He is invoking the Nuremberg Defense.

Such a defense in untenable in the United States. Our self respect and our desire for the good opinion of the world compels us to investigate and, if necessary, bring to account those who violated the rules of war and American law.

Sent to New York Times

Women, Mathematics, etc

Senator Marian Walsh has been deemed unsuitable for a position at the state Health and Education Facilities Authority because she has no expertise in public sector bonding.

I would have thought that made her an excellent choice. Someone on the board who can ask naive questions about complex securities like debt swaps and derivatives would force the experts to reveal the level of risk that the Authority was getting itself into.

This brings us to Dr. Iris Mack, with a Ph.D. in mathematics, who was fired from Harvard Management in 2002 for telling her boss's boss (then President Larry Summers) that the employees at Harvard Management were undertaking trades in securities whose risk they did not understand (Ex-employee says she warned Harvard of risky moves, Boston Globe, April 3, 2009). It is a pity that Dr. Summers didn't take her seriously. If he had, he would never have made the remarks that sparked the controversy about women in science and engineering a few years later.
--
Martin G. Evans & Nancy R. Evans

Sent to Boston Globe

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ersatz Capitalism

Professor Stiglitz believes that the President's bailout for ailing banks is a win-win-lose proposition with the government coming up with the short end of the stick (Obama's ersatz capitalism, New York Times, April1, 2009: A25). I agree.

There is however a solution that could be a win-win-win.

That would be for the government to focus on the real problem -- delinquent mortgages rather than on the toxic derivatives built on these mortgages.

My plan would represent a major tweaking of the present H4H plan and has the advantages of simplicity.

In H4H the mortgage is written down before the government will partner with a homeowner. My modification would be for government and homeowner to partner on the current value of the mortgage. The homeowner pays what he or she can, the government picks up the rest. Over time, both homeowner and government build up equity in the home based in proportion to the investment they have made.

What will this do?

First housing markets will be stabilized as there will be no foreclosure; people can stay in their homes and their children can continue in their current schools; neighborhoods will be stabilized and, over time, prices will rise again.

Last and not least, the banks will be made whole without the government having to buy these toxic assets and without complicated auctions that no one, least of all the financiers, can understand.

Of course there is a downside: the scoundrels and greed ones who gave and entered into unwise mortgages will be saved. But given the current downspin of the economy, that seems a small price to pay for stability.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Op ED: Open Government (with Andrew Kingsley)

OpEd: Andrew Kingsley & Martin G. Evans, Hire a Window Cleaner, Cambridge Chronicle

Op Ed: Escalating Bailouts

Op-Ed: Escalating Bailouts in Cambridge Chronicle (on line)

Page Charges

I must protest Ms. Schroeder's comments that manuscripts in scientific journals are not paid for by government (An unfair formula, Letters, Boston Globe, March 30, 2009: A14).

In many fields, especially the biological sciences, publishers charge authors an article processing fee or a page charge for their submissions and publications. Researchers when applying for research grants build submission fee costs and page charge costs into their budget proposals.

When grants are received for the research from government granting agencies, governments are indeed paying for the production of the manuscript. For these publishers the one-year delay before free public access seems very reasonable.

[Editor. See http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/authors/apccomparison/ for evidence]

Sent to Boston Globe

More on bailout

The bailout presented yesterday may help banks and investors but it does little for the homeowner.

Why do we not have a program that does help the homeowner such as the government entering into a shared appreciation mortgage (the homeowner and the government both contribute to paying down the mortgage at its original face value). This would make the mortgages whole which would trickle up to help the banks. It would keep the homeowners in their homes by preventing foreclosure, it would protect schools and neighborhoods.

Sent to the New York Times