Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Hampshire Democrat channels George Costanza

Okay, not the weightiest matter we have to talk about this, but I hope you didn't miss this story.
According to the Nashua Telegraph,   

 And get this--it was their fault!

 When a witness took a picture of Campbell's legislative license plate, his excuse was "The ducks should have moved.”

Or, as George Costanza taught us many years ago:

Don't we have a deal with the pigeons? 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

More proof that vaccines kill

Monday, December 16, 2013

What an outrage!!!!!!!!

My god, do you believe this?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has released its latest salary survey and, if you can believe it, there are forty-two presidents of private colleges and universities in the United States who get paid more than one million dollars!


Some of these schools are exactly the big-name schools you would expect to pay high salaries, like Columbia, Yale, MIT,  Stanford, or the place at the top of the list, the University of Chicago. Others, however, are kind of surprising. Roger Maris College, Johnson & Wales, or the University of Laverne ??Granted, it probably is the only institution of higher learning you've ever heard of in Laverne, California, but really? $1,184,224 (31st)?

Who knew American colleges had so much money to throw around?

I'll tell you who knew: football and basketball coaches.

That's right, while the Chronicle is surveying academic salaries, USA Today surveys what NCAA members pay their coaches, and it happens that one or two of them also haul in over a million. Like seventy--yes, seventy--head football coaches, thirty-six basketball coaches, three assistant football coaches, and nine athletic directors.

In fact, if you want to find a coach who makes less than what Robert J. Zimmer, the president of the University of Chicago and the highest-paid president in the country makes, $3,358,723, you have to go down to Steve Spurrier, who coaches football at South Carolina and is number twelve on the coaches list; or number six on the basketball coaches list. Mike Krzyzewski, known universally as "Coach K" because literally nobody can pronounce his name, makes more coaching basketball for Duke than the top two university presidents.

So if you're a fundraiser calling for contributions to Michigan State, where I got my undergraduate degree, or Michigan, where I went to law school, don't be surprised if, instead of getting out my checkbook, I ask you about the $11,725,488 you paid your head football and basketball coaches last year.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's going on in New Jersey?

I grew up in New Jersey, and because I went to school in New York I spent many hours sitting on a bus on the Jersey side of one of the Hudson River crossings, often the George Washington Bridge. It's painful sitting there, not moving, watching the time advance to the inevitable late arrival at school and the punishment, "jug" (traditionally from the Latin word "jugum", which means "yoke") that was sure to follow.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure I never got delayed for hours because the governor ordered several lanes of traffic shut down because he wanted to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not supporting his reelection bid. No, that particular instance of malfeasance had to wait for Chris Christie, who is obviously gearing up for a presidential candidacy.

At this point we don't have the facts one way or the other, but we do know two things:

First, the excuse being put forth by Christie's people, that it was done to carry out a "traffic study", seems transparently bogus, at least until they can present affirmative evidence of the planning for the study, the study design, testimony from traffic engineers, study results, and the like. Maybe evidence will be forthcoming, but I kind of doubt it.

Second, can anyone doubt Christie's capacity to carry out such a vindictive act?

The local newspaper, the (Bergen Evening) Record, is demanding answers:

While partisan politics are certainly afoot here, Democrats are right to press the issue. We still need to know why average commuters were inconvenienced when two of the three approach lanes to the bridge from Fort Lee local streets were suddenly closed for five weekday mornings.

Recent testimony in Trenton by Bill Baroni, the authority's deputy executive director and a Christie appointee, vaguely attributed the lane closings to a traffic study. That served only to confuse things and to confirm the view that the Port Authority is unresponsive to public concerns.

What the public still deserves to know is why the lanes were closed, why no one was told about the closures in advance and what closing the lanes accomplished. Answers to these questions should not be state secrets.

Even if you don't follow North Jersey news, this is worth paying attention to.

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

This is what legalization looks like.

It's started to spread across the country, especially in beer aficionado circles, but here's a news story that first started attracting chuckles here in Vermont. From the Burlington Free Press:
The Vermont Department of Liquor Control cited a Burlington woman who they say sold the popular Vermont beer Heady Topper online.
 It's pretty irresistable, right? Hipsters willing to overpay for overhopped beer, headlines for Vermont's current fave local product, juxtaposed with a little private enterprise and a government agency too concerned with prosecuting minor, if not imaginary, victimless crimes. If you're looking for a little harmless diversion on your way to some serious news, this one has it all.
Only the thing is, get used to it.
Nowadays the tide on marijuana prohibition has turned, and just about every sensible person agrees that legalization is inevitable, with the only question being "How soon?". The problem is that as a recent article in the New Yorker makes clear, legalization of marijuana is way more complicated than clearing the path for you to keep buying from your old college roommate (let's call him Dave), only without worrying about getting caught.
 No. Remember how part of the argument for legalized marijuana has always been that it's such a lucrative agricultural product that we might as well be collecting taxes on it? Maybe enough to wipe out the deficit?
Well, to be sure the taxes are being collected we have to do way more than tell the cops to stop arresting dealers, we also have to establish a whole regulated, taxed market, which is pretty complicated. They're trying to do it right now in Washington, but new questions pop up at every turn. For example, if you want people to buy their pot in the regulated market, and not keep buying it from Dave you have to give them reasons to make the switch.
As Mark Kleiman, a public policy expert, says in the New Yorker article:
 We want people to pay the taxes, which means they're going to have to stop going to their old friend Dave and start going downtown, maybe right next door to where they buy their Heady Topper. Otherwise, no taxes, no controls on safety and purity of product, chaos.
That doesn't sound terribly bad to me, and maybe not to you. After all, if marijuana is going to be a legal product, why should I care any more if the people selling it have licenses than I care about any other legal product, like flashlights or umbrellas in New York City within thirty seconds of when it starts raining?
Well, we want to collect the tax, right? And why would someone buy in a licensed retailer, where you know you're going to pay the tax on top of the price, when they can call Dave, get a bag, and pay less?
Which is where our Heady Topper entrepreneur comes in. Beer is a legal product, and just about every adult is allowed to buy it, but that doesn't mean everyone who is lucky enough to get their hands on a case of the old Topper is allowed to sell it legally.
You should read the New Yorker article. You'll see that, at a minimum, it raises questions you probably never thought about. 

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Thursday, December 05, 2013


Look at this picture. It's easy for us to get misty-eyed, and remember the man of peace, but look at him. This is a tough guy. Twenty-seven years in prison, and when twice offered his release he refused because it was based on the condition of renouncing violence as a political weapon.

Like George Washington, he could have been president for life, but unlike every other African leader who overthrew a colonial power he established stability and stepped down after one term.

We knew this day was coming. He was ninety-five and in poor health. Each new report made me feel that people were trying to hold onto him, make him struggle beyond any human endurance, simply because nobody wanted to bear the loss. 

My first political activity in Vermont, back about thirty years ago, was working on divestment of state funds from companies doing business in South Africa. While Mandela did more than any of us could do, American activists were proud to play a small part in maintaining pressure on the apartheid regime, even when Ronald Reagan was supporting it.

The mourning will be universal, and rightly so. 

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