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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Op Ed: Unemployment and Massachusetts Voting Patterns.

Cambridge Chronicle Op Ed

Here is the bottom line:

Boston (Suffolk County) with its large black population and relatively low unemployment was immune to Brown's appeal. The I-495 belt was attracted to Brown even in the counties with low unemployment.

However for all counties outside the I-495 belt, there was a strong relation between unemployment and Brown's appeal. Where unemployment was less than 8.5%, Brown only got about 38% of the vote. On the other hand, when unemployment was over 8.5%, Brown's appeal was very high, gaining about 60% of the vote. Eight and a half percent unemployment seems to be a tipping point.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Drving and Texting

It would be good if our legislators focused on the science relevant to cell phone use rather than just the motor coordination required to text or dial a phone while driving (Mass. House OK's driving safety bill, Boston Globe, February 5, 2010: B1).

The science in unequivocal: a large part of the danger in cell phone use while driving is due to the concentration required while talking with a person on the other end of the phone. It is unequivocally not the same as chatting to a passenger in the car.

A passenger is also attuned to what is going on in the driver's environment so can adjust speech patterns in line with traffic flows and emergencies. A person at the other end of a telephone conversation has no such access to changes in the driver's environment.

We just do not have enough cognitive resources to attend to a conversation and to the unexpected changes that occur on the most routine of drives.

We must ban cell phones while driving. Period. Though I suppose this is a step in the right direction.

Sent to Boston Globe

No sanctions for authors of torture memos

Your article on the decision not to prosecute John Yoo said that the statute of limitations had expired for his reprehensible conduct (No sanctions for authors of torture memos, Boston Globe, February 1, 2010).

I cannot believe that there is any statute of limitations for a person who advocated war crimes (torture).

Sent to Boston Globe

Obama Centralizes

You report that following the loss of a Senate seat in Massachusetts, President Obama is moving to centralize next fall's election strategy (Obama moves to centralize Control Over Party Strategy, New York Times, January 23, 2010).

That is seem to me to be a big mistake. He has forgotten the wisdom of Tip O'Neill's "All politics is local."

The issues that candidates face in different parts of the country, and even in different parts of the same state, are unique and local. Such differences cannot be coordinated by a central office.

Decentralization is what is needed.

Sent to New York Times

Ben Schott Credit Ratings

You can believe those ratings if you like (Op-Chart, February 3, 2010: A23).

But remember these were the rating agencies that brought you AAA ratings on derivatives based on sub-prime mortgages.

Sent to New York Times

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How to Keep Scott Brown OFF Balance

I was wondering how to keep Scott Brown off balance for the next three years. Here are the results of my Monday morning fantasy all based on his advocacy of water-boarding to extract information from terror suspects.

1. Surely he cannot be allowed to take the Senate oath to uphold the constitution when he is on record as advocating actions that surely contravene the 8th amendment on cruel and unusual punishment.

2. For his statements on water-boarding, the US attorney for Massachusetts should bring a prosecution for advocating criminal activity. Water-boarding is contrary to the Geneva Convention and US anti-torture laws.[it would be sweet if Martha Coakley could have been prosecuting officer, but I think it is a federal crime that I suspect him of.]

3. The Massachusetts bar should initiate proceedings to disbar lawyer Brown for his advocacy of criminal activity.

4. As a Lt-Colonel in the National Guard, Brown is subject to military discipline. The Judge Advocate General should bring Court-Martial proceedings against Brown for advocating interrogation techniques that are well outside the military's guidelines.

I think the best chance is #4. #1 is untested and I doubt the Senate would want to create a precedent. If federal prosecutors (#2) [also this is probably protected under the first amendment as he is not advocating actions that would put someone in immediate danger] and bar associations (#3) have taken no action against the developers of the torture memomrandums, then there is little chance of disbarring Brown. However many have been Court-Martialed for engaging in torture and some have been Court-Martialed for permitting it on their watch, so that might have a small chance of success.

OK. Back to Monday morning reality. Brown will take his seat today.