Archive | November, 2009

News You Can Use

20 Nov

  • But who pays taxes? – I always think it is funny that whenever people about taxes being too high for the rich in America, no one ever talks about how low-income people pay much higher rates of taxes at the state and local level.   In this report, this website decodes how sales and property taxes take a higher percentage of income out of the middle and working class than the upper class leading to most tax systems actually being regressive and anti-poor.  In “low tax Texas”, people making less than $18,000 pay 12.2% in state and local taxes while millionaires pay only 3.0%.  Shh!  It’s a secret!
  • First Ever Defeat of the Fed – Congressman Ron Paul may (R-TX) have pulled off what critics of the Federal Reserve have longed for forever: an audit of the Federal Reserve.  Today, the House Banking Committee added his audit bill to a bigger banking reform bill, a must-pass bill.  This victory is amazing when you consider the fact that Banking Chairman Wright Patman (D-TX) for decades tried to bring under democratic control the opaque and secretive institution that can veto the will of the President and Congress while refusing to divulge its activities and trillion dollar balance sheets.  In fact the institution is more secretive than the CIA which complies with the Freedom of Information Act, while the Fed simply stopped taking notes during its meetings once the law started in the 1970s (see William Greider’s magestic Secrets of the Temple for more).  Ron Paul arranged a left-right alliance of conservatives and populist Democrats to fight for the measure against the corporate centrists in both parties.  Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is supporting the bill in the Senate, which only makes it that much more interesting.
  • One more nail in the California dream – The University of California has decided to jack tuition up 32% to over $10,000 a year (three times more expensive than a decade ago) as the flagship campus, Berkeley, goes on strike.  Chancellor Mark Yudof, who fought for tuition deregulation in Texas as head of the University of Texas, has been putting workers and professors on unpaid furloughs, cut janitor services, stopped hiring, and canceled classes.  Yet somehow he managed to give bonuses and pay raises to executives in the system making over $250,000 to $1,000,000.  Funny how budget cuts work, huh?  I wonder how many janitors could have kept their jobs with that money.  Take that Wall Street!   Check out this interview quote:

What do you think of the idea that no administrator at a state university needs to earn more than the president of the United States, $400,000?
Will you throw in Air Force One and the White House?

Issue XXXIII – Dispatch from Britain: Drugs are Bad (some of the time)

2 Nov

Nutts about Drugs – Last month I learned in class that drugs in Great Britain are classified by A, B, or C depending on their perceived dangerousness to society.  Class A drugs are given the longest sentences (7 years) while B and C drugs are given less sentences (5 and 2 years respectively).  Recently, Parliament asked for a review of the harmfulness of drugs to society to see whether or not twenty drugs were placed in the appropriate class based on their danger to society.  Sounds fair, right?  Then the report came out

It turns out the ABC classification had little to do with danger and more the with perception of which drugs were dangerous.  People are going to jail for using drugs that are not really that harmful.  For example, the scientific study found that some A class drugs like heroin and cocaine were indeed in the right category (class A) but some drugs that were barely harmful like ecstasy and LSD were Class A.    Meanwhile, alcohol is the fifth most harmful drug in society but is completely legal and so is tobacco (ninth most harmful).  Clearly, the classifications need to be adjusted.

Instead, Home Minister Alan Johnson has decided to upgrade marijuana’s status to Class B after it had been moved down to Class C a few years ago.  Rather than listening to the scientists, he played war on science a la George W. Bush.  Professor David Nutt advised the government that this was going against the report and said so in a lecture in July.  So Home Minister Johnson decided to fire him for “campaigning” against the Government.

The press has been raking the minister over the coals, day in and day out, over this.  Other members of the scientific panel on drugs have resigned, and scientists are outraged and mass resignations may follow from scientific committees.  The Minister of Science is also shocked that Johnson fired him without consulting him either.  As it now stands, there is a chill in the scientific community to advising politicians on good policy.  Who thought that an allegedly “progressive” government would play the Catholic Church to Professor Nutt’s Galileo in the 21st century?  Just another lesson in the moral and political failings of the Blair-Brown New Labour Government.

Links

The Times – “How can scientists advise this or any government?”

BBC Graph of the harmfulness of twenty drugs