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The official site of the Democratic Party of Franklin County, Missouri

Browsing Posts published in December, 2015

The Campaign for America’s Future has this look back at the year of 2015 – wingnut edition.  Remember, no-go zones, Jade Helm, Bridgegate, the Duggars, and the many statements of Trump?  How about the vaccinatioin debacle?Herd mentatlity

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) channeled Michele Bachmann, and claimed that vaccinations caused “profound mental disorders.”
  • Fox News host Andrea Tantaros claimed that the “proximity” of vaccines caused autism.
  • Fox News host Laura Ingraham defended Christie, saying that measles wasn’t “that big of a deal.”
  • As late as September, Donald Trump was telling the story of a two-year-old who developed autism two weeks after getting a vaccine. But there’s no evidence of a link between the two.

Conservatives apparently don’t understand herd immunity, but they’ve got herd mentality down. Too bad there’s no vaccine for stupid.

 

Let me state up front that I am a football fan.  I an not a fan of corruption, greed, and sociopathic behavior.  The release of ‘Concussion” starring Will Smith as the doctor that discovered CTE in football players will give viewers an up-close look at both.

You can view the official trialer for the movie here.Concussion

Regular viewers of FRONTLINE will remember this story and the real Dr. Bennett Omalu in the hard hitting look at this issue from the October, 2013 episode “League of Denial.”

The National Football League, a multibillion-dollar commercial juggernaut, presides over America’s indisputable national pastime. But the NFL is under assault: thousands of former players have claimed the league tried to cover up how football inflicted long-term brain injuries on many players. What did the NFL know, and when did it know it? In a special two-hour investigation, FRONTLINE reveals the hidden story of the NFL and brain injuries.

Putting this report and today’s movie in context with some excellent interviews with players and their parents is Katie Couric in her segment, Why The NFL Doeesn’t Want You To See “Concussioin,” that is on Yahoo right now. Warning they actually show brains being sliced apart.

In the new movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith, the NFL is put under a microscope. Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who linked football to the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

“We see this in individuals who have had repetitive head injuries, usually over a long period of time,” says Dr. Ann McKee, director of the CTE program at Boston University and chief of neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System.

“Individuals with CTE usually experience cognitive problems — memory lapses or behavioral symptoms like depression and irritability,” she says.

The film highlights the case of NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and died of a heart attack at age 50. Upon examination of his brain, Omalu discovered he suffered from the degenerative brain condition.

Dave Zirin shares his perspective in Why the Movie “Concussion” Spells Trouble For The NFL – and Moral Angst For The Rest of Us.

The film is already provoking discussion beyond the sports jockosphere. Now, as a tie-in with the film, we have NFL veterans—boyhood heroes of mine—like former New York Giant Leonard Marshall talking to Yahoo Sports about his post-playing, concussed life  and saying,“I just noticed that my behavior was starting to change. My patience, or lack of patience, was starting to diminish. I would forget things, forget financial responsibilities, take things for granted, have a short fuse with my daughter, a short fuse with my ex.”

As such, the film goes beyond the artistic success of its actors, script, and pacing to pose a moral question to critics and sports networks. It is about the pull of corporate pressure vs. the public’s right to know. Despite the efforts by the NFL and absurd sports-radio hosts trying to turn whether to play football into a “red state/blue state issue,” even rock-ribbed right-wing Republicans like Mike Ditka are saying that he wishes kids would “take up golf” instead. Science is real, and the media now have to weigh not only the quality of the film but their responsibility to not bury a film that could save lives. If it didn’t sound like a gross 1980s straight-to-Cinemax release, Concussion could be retitled Informed Consent.

We have the right to know the costs of imbibing this game. See this film, and learn who has stymied our access to this truth. You will learn something from seeing this film, but Concussion is a triumph precisely because it doesn’t beat you over the head. Instead, it goes right to your other nerve centers, as you reel from thrills to disgust to tears to anger. For many of us, some of that anger will be directed at ourselves.

The New Yorker has assembled a look back at the best Andy Borowitz pieces of 2015.  Please enjoy them all, my favorite is pasted below…

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

 

 

Sure the Volkswagen emissions scandal was bad.  Here’s what Motor Trend had to say...

Volkswagen Auto Group (Volkswagen AG) has admitted to cheating on diesel emissions regulations for the past six years. The admission comes after independent investigations showed vehicles equipped with Volkswagen AG’s outgoing 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel four-cylinder emitted far more nitrous oxide (NOx) in real-world conditions than during laboratory emissions testing.Image result for Image, Volkswagen peoples car

After more than a year of scrutiny and an ineffective voluntary recall, VW admitted to installing special cheating software, which only activated emissions controls during emissions testing, on vehicles equipped with the four-cylinder diesel motor. The U.S. government has urged the company to recall roughly 482,000 Volkswagen and Audi cars using the software. The EPA has also referred the matter to the U.S. Justice Department, which could levy a fine of up to $37,500 per vehicle, or about $18 billion, for two violations of the Clean Air Act.

Affected vehicles include the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Beetle TDI, Golf TDI, Jetta TDI, and Jetta Sportwagen TDI; the 2014-2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI; and the 2009-2015 Audi A3 TDI.

Sounds bad right?  Well, The Nation has a story about Volkswagen and their behavior that they have no intention to admit to in Volkswagen’s Nazi-Era Blood Crimes...

These were the crimes of the medical staff. But one might ask: Did Volkswagen executives know about the appalling neglect and high death rate at theKinderheim? They knew. Several managers visited the nursery. The factory’s personnel director made inspections and knew of the deaths there. One employee testified to war-crimes investigators that factory director Hans Mayr visited “once or twice”; and Mayr, in his own sworn statement, admitted that he was “responsible for all incidents which [took] place in the plant,” including the nursery. It was impossible for him not to have seen the conditions or known about the deaths.

Testimony at the war-crimes tribunal also implicated Volkswagen itself. The company’s handpicked director of the nursery, Dr. Korbel, was convicted by the British Military War Crimes Court in June 1946, sentenced to death, and executed. Head nurse Ella Schmidt was also convicted and sentenced to death, but her sentence was commuted to eight years—after which, incredibly, she returned to Volkswagen as a social worker. As for Anna Snopczyk, she returned to Poland after the war, where she was living when the class-action suit was filed—a suit for which she became the face of the class: Snopczyk v. Volkswagen. She never married and would never bear another child. When asked by CBS’s Baskin if she still thought about Józef, Snopczyk replied, “I try not to think.”

That’s how Volkswagen would prefer it: that none of us think about the company’s blood crimes, that those crimes get lost in the mists of memory—and, frankly, that they had never been discovered in the first place. And that is almost certainly the way it would have been, if a local bureaucrat named Gustav Gruenhage hadn’t disobeyed orders to burn all the Kinderheim records as the Allied troops advanced. (He burned blank sheets of paper instead.)

But even with the records and the convictions, attorneys for the victims maintain, Volkswagen’s post-Nazi rehabilitation has never included a public acceptance of responsibility for the deaths at Wolfsburg and Rühen, a proactive effort to compensate the mothers for their loss, an attempt to memorialize the dead children, or even an expression of sympathy. When Anna Snop- czyk sued the company on behalf of hundreds of mothers, Volkswagen managed to avoid a trial because theKinderheim case was folded into a larger agreement on reparations that was negotiated with and paid for by the German government—without Volkswagen’s involvement. In short, Volkswagen never expunged its guilt. It has simply allowed the clock to run, hoping that as the mothers died, no one would be left to remember the company’s horrors.

In the early 1900′s Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt split from the Republican Party to run on the Bull Moose or Progressive Party platform.  I have heard comments on talk radio comparing Teddy Roosevelt and his positions with those of Bernie Sanders.  While the term Pregressive is applied to both the context of different centuries prevents an apples to apples comparison.  That said, there are a number of similarities with the legendary TR and Bernie Sanders.  You can review the platform of the 1912 Progressive Party here and I will paste below the section related to working issues of the day.

SOCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL JUSTICEImage result for Image, Teddy Roosevelt

The supreme duty of the Nation is the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice. We pledge ourselves to work unceasingly in State and Nation for:

Effective legislation looking to the prevention of industrial accidents, occupational diseases, overwork, involuntary unemployment, and other injurous effects incident to modern industry;

The fixing of minimum safety and health standards for the various occupations, and the exercise of the public authority of State and Nation, including the Federal Control over interstate commerce, and the taxing power, to maintain such standards;

The prohibition of child labor;Bernie Sanders

Minimum wage standards for working women, to provide a “living wage” in all industrial occupations;

The general prohibition of night work for women and the establishment of an eight hour day for women and young persons;

One day’s rest in seven for all wage workers;

The eight hour day in continuous twenty-four hour industries;

The abolition of the convict contract labor system; substituting a system of prison production for governmental consumption only; and the application of prisoners’ earnings to the support of their dependent families;

Publicity as to wages, hours and conditions of labor; full reports upon industrial accidents and diseases, and the opening to public inspection of all tallies, weights, measures and check systems on labor products;

Standards of compensation for death by industrial accident and injury and trade disease which will transfer the burden of lost earnings from the families of working people to the industry, and thus to the community;

The protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use;

The development of the creative labor power of America by lifting the last load of illiteracy from American youth and establishing continuation schools for industrial education under public control and encouraging agricultural education and demonstration in rural schools;

The establishment of industrial research laboratories to put the methods and discoveries of science at the service of American producers;

We favor the organization of the workers, men and women, as a means of protecting their interests and of promoting their progress.

 DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

We pledge our party to establish a department of labor with a seat in the cabinet, and with wide jurisdiction over matters affecting the conditions of labor and living.

The Los Angeles Times has this story on a German experiment with providing folks a guaranteed income of $1,100 a month.  The question is will people lay on the couch or do something else since basic needs would already be met?

“A basic income paid out to everyone could unleash enormous amounts of creativity,” said Bohmeyer, who left his Internet start-up business, and for a while was savoring a relatively carefree life, living off those proceeds, when he came up with the basic payment experiment.

“Machines are going to be taking care of just about everything for us over time,” added Bohmeyer, who comes from formerly communist eastern Germany. “So to be able to work creatively, people need some security, they need to feel free. And they can get that with a basic income.”

So what has happened so far?

Most people who win haven’t quit their jobs, he said. But there is nevertheless often a significant change in their outlook on life, he added.

“The one thing that everyone tells us is that they’re able to sleep much better,” Bohmeyer said. “But, ostensibly, not a lot changes: The students keep studying, the workers keep working and the pensioners are still pensioners. But there is a big change that takes place in their minds. People feel liberated and they feel healthier.”

One winner opted to spend his first month’s payment partying with his friends, Bohmeyer said. “He just felt an urge to do that,” he said. “He needed to get that out of his system.”

Bohmeyer said another winner, unable to work because of chronic ailments, wound up with less stress and fear than when he had to miss work.

“For the last nine months he hasn’t had any more episodes,” said Bohmeyer. “For a meager 1,000 euros per month, a human being has got his health back. Is that unreal, or what?”

One recipient did quit a job he that he said he hated: at a call center. But the young man from the western city of Muenster didn’t just lounge around on the couch watching TV all day; instead he used the money to go back to school and is studying to become a kindergarten teacher. He has managed to make ends meet after the year was over with other odd jobs and is grateful for the help he got to change his life, Bohmeyer said.

The idea of a basic income has four core elements: it’s universal, it’s individual, it’s unconditional, and it’s at a level that is high enough for a decent standard of living.

This week’s audio netcast:   One of the past year’s biggest religious stories was the visit of Pope Francis to the United States, and lay Catholic commentator Fred Rotondaro assesses his message. Political analyst Lee Drutman tells us what’s wrong with our political On Airsystem … partly the quality of the candidates. And Bill Press interviews West Wing Reports editor Paul Brandus about President Obama’s year.

Every time I hear President Obama talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership I cringe.  Particularly when he claims that he will increase American exports by reducing tariffs in all the nations signed on to this trade agreeement.  In a typical economics textbook with this scenario operating in isolation the logic seems irrefutable. In your typical conservative world view of black and white, this means that, zero sum perspective it would make sense.

Then reality happens.  Why America Needs a VAT (ValueAdded TaImage result for Image, brickx) destroys the tariff argument by describing what every other nation except America is doing to game this simplistic policy of tariff reduction.

A Value Added Tax (VAT) is a tax on value added all throughout the supply chain as products are brought to market. In practice it is used as a tariff on imports.

[ by Frank Shannon | December 16, 2015 | Mesquite Local News ]

The U.S. has pursued trade agreements that multilaterally reduce tariffs.  However, as foreign nations removed their tariffs they have replaced them with VATs which is another form of a tax or tariff on imports.  The U.S. hasn’t enacted a VAT and the results have been predictable:  The U.S. loses jobs and production capability to foreign nations and we finance our government via debt.

The VAT acting as a tariff on imports is the result of WTO rules allowing nations to rebate consumption taxes, such as a VAT, making the product essentially tax free.  So a nation can rebate taxes on products for export and still collect taxes on imports.  Of the 150 trading partners in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development every nation has a VAT and uses this method to reduce the price of their exports and increase the price of imports.  Everyone except the U.S.

Milton Freidman famously stated in his book “Free to Choose,” that, “if you tax something you will have less of it and if you subsidize something you will have more of it.”  This rule has put the U.S at a distinct disadvantage for decades since we tax production and all our trading partners tax consumption.  The net result is that the U.S. gets more consumption relative to production, and our trading partners get more production (jobs).  This explains our decades of job losses and part of our intractable trade deficits as well as the U.S. sliding from the world’s largest creditor nation to the world’s largest debtor nation.  Our accumulated national debt is only slightly larger than our accumulated trade deficit.

So the need to get in step with the rest of the world on taxation should be clear – we need to shift some of the tax burden for government from production to consumption.  In other words, we need a VAT or similar taxation methodology.

Without getting into the weeds with details, here is a brief example of how the lack of a VAT-like tax (averaging 17% world—wide) puts America at a huge disadvantage:

  • If a product (say a cell phone) costs (say $300) the same to produce in America and a foreign nation, currently the foreign nation would sell this product in America for $300 and the foreign producer would receive a $51 rebate. The American cell phone would sell for $351 in the foreign nation with $51 going to their treasury.  This gives the foreign producer a $102 (34%) advantage over the American producer.
  • Implementing a U.S. VAT would neutralize some or all of this disadvantage.

The author goes on to compare the tax plans of some of the GOP contenders as if they were real plans while generalizing about the plans of Democrats.  He also refuses to acknowledge the many measures to balance trade that passed the Nancy Pelosi led House of Representatives when Democrats were in charge only to die in the Republican Senate.  Nonetheless, the economic case for a VAT instead of the TPP is solid as a brick.

Huffington Post tells how the Minimum Wage is Going Up in 14 States at Start of 2016.

  • Alaska: $8.75 to $9.75Arrow up
  • Arkansas: $7.50 to $8.00
  • California: $9.00 to $10.00
  • Colorado: $8.23 to $8.31
  • Connecticut: $9.15 to $9.60
  • Hawaii: $7.75 to $8.50
  • Massachusetts: $9.00 to $10.00
  • Michigan: $8.15 to $8.50
  • Nebraska: $8.00 to $9.00
  • New York: $8.75 to $9.00*
  • Rhode Island: $9.00 to $9.60
  • South Dakota: $8.50 to $8.55
  • Vermont: $9.15 to $9.60
  • West Virginia: $8.00 to $8.75*

*New York and West Virginia will raise their minimum wages on New Year’s Eve, rather than New Year’s Day.

I couldn’t help but notice Missouri wasn’t one of these states even though our minimum wage is incexed to inflation.  They’ve got it covered…

Many states automatically adjust their wage floors each year according to a consumer price index. There would have been more raises set for 2016 if not for the slow rate of inflation. Eight states that index their minimum wages — Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Washington — won’t be raising them at all this coming year. (Several other states that index will still be raising them; it all depends on how a particular state measures the rising cost of living.)

 

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