Archive for March, 2012

Why ‘drill here, drill now’ is an economic dry hole

Can the price of gasoline be affected by the amount of oil produced here in the United States? Experts say no; logic says no; free market economics say no.

Now, thanks to some work by the Associated Press, we can now say that the historical data also say no.

The AP went back and looked at domestic oil production numbers and the cost of unleaded gasoline since 1976, which is as far back as records go documenting the cost of unleaded gasoline. It then asked several top statisticians whether they could find any correlation between the two.

In other words, is there any evidence whatsoever that domestic oil production affects the price of gasoline?

Its conclusion:

A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.

For example, beginning in 1986, oil production in this country began a long, …

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Trayvon Martin: Guilty of being 17 and black

When George Zimmerman saw 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walking in his central Florida neighborhood, he saw a young black male who in his mind must be up to no good. He called 911 to report Martin, as he had done repeatedly when he had seen young black males in the neighborhood. In all, he had called 911 46 times since January 2011.

Then, despite instructions from authorities to the contrary, Zimmerman tracked Martin in his vehicle and finally confronted the young man.

Trayvon Martin in an undated family photo

Trayvon Martin in an undated family photo

We don’t know for sure what happened next. Maybe Zimmerman, a civilian with no arrest powers, got out of his truck and tried to restrain Martin — a few minutes earlier he had expressed frustration to the 911 operator that “they always get away.” Maybe Martin grew argumentative, challenging Zimmerman’s right to follow and harass him.

We do know that in the physical struggle that ensued, someone began screaming for help, and the much larger Zimmerman pulled his pistol and …

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‘I’ll take ‘budget fantasy’ for a thousand, Alex’

Let’s play Jeopardy!

OK, does everybody have their buzzers ready? Here’s the answer:


The correct question is:

“Who are authors of great works of fantasy, Alex?”

I’ve been reading through Paul Ryan’s latest “budget” document, and I have to say that I’m impressed. The world down the Ryan rabbit hole rivals anything created by the other three fantasy authors listed above. It is a place where the impossible is made real, and where obstacles such as the Great Abyss of Illogic and the Chasm of Implausibility are reduced to mere cracks in the sidewalk by prodigious leaps of imagination and acts of “let’s pretend”.

For example, just as Rowling’s work requires us to believe in witches, and Tolkien’s work in the existence of dwarves and elves, the creator of RyanWorld instructs us to pretend that by 2050, spending on all federal programs other than Social Security and the major health care programs will amount to no more than 3.75 percent of the nation’s GDP. That belief is a …

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For Romney, winning ugly is still winning

Mitt Romney had a good night in Illinois, defeating Rick Santorum as expected, 47 percent to 35 percent. He still failed to win a majority of Republican votes, but the showing adds to evidence that eventually, some day, Romney will become the GOP nominee.

Ron Paul was third with 9 percent; Newt Gingrich came in last with 8 percent, confirming in his mind that the people of Illinois are frankly, fundamentally too stupid to recognize transformational genius when they see it.

The next vote comes Saturday in Louisiana, where Santorum is expected to do well. Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., vote April 3, and five states, including delegate-rich New York and Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania, vote April 24.

Looking at the schedule, it is now quite conceivable that Romney can have it all wrapped up, in reality if not in quite in delegate count, by the end of April.

– Jay Bookman

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Obama: Frugal or spendthrift?

If you wanted to know which recent president has spent most freely, and which most frugally, the most fair and accurate number to compare would probably be federal spending growth per capita, adjusted for inflation.

So economist Mark Thoma ran those numbers for every president since the Nixon-Ford administration, from the first quarter in which a president took office through his last, or in the case of Barack Obama, through his most recent.

Put in chart form, it looks like this:


– Jay Bookman

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The fanaticism behind Ga.’s pending abortion law

Imagine yourself as a parent who discovers in the 21st week of a pregnancy that your potential child is doomed to die an excruciating death within hours of birth.

Under the time frame laid out under Roe v. Wade, that family would at least have the option to terminate the pregnancy. But under a bill soon to become Georgia law, a woman will be condemned to carry that child in her belly and “allow nature to take its course,” however cruel that course may be.

Again, imagine that situation: the congratulatory smiles that greet the once-hopeful mother and her still-swelling belly in the grocery store, at church and at the daycare center; the well-meaning inquiries as to the baby’s gender and due date. What are intended as friendly gestures turn into repeated cruel reminders of what never will be.

And at birth?

In testimony to a Senate committee Monday evening, Dr. Andrew Dott, an obstetrician specializing in bringing high-risk pregnancies to happy endings, described tragedies in …

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Republicans relaunch class warfare

From The Washington Post:

House Republicans on Tuesday will propose a dramatic reshuffling of the tax code that would collapse the range of individual tax brackets into just two, with lower rates, and slash the top tax rate for corporations.

Under a budget plan that will be unveiled by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Republicans will propose replacing the current structure of six brackets for individuals with just two tax levels, with a 10 percent marginal tax rate for lower income earners and 25 percent for upper income earners.

That would be a reduction from a top marginal rate of 35 percent currently.

The plan would also lower the top corporate income tax rate to 25 percent and virtually eliminate taxes on corporate profits brought back from overseas….

This is class warfare. Cutting federal revenue long-term by reducing taxes on the rich and on corporations is guaranteed to increase the deficit and the debt. And while blithely pretending on the revenue side …

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Time to set realistic course in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, has been accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children. He is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the military's high-security prison.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, has been accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children. He is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the military’s high-security prison.

Two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Robert Bales volunteered to join the U.S. Army. In the 11 years since then, he has served four overseas combat assignments, three in Iraq and the most recent in Afghanistan.

By last year, when orders came for that final deployment to Afghanistan, Bales did not want to go. The initial rush of patriotism after 9/11 had faded. He faced serious financial pressures, including the possible loss of his family’s home. His domestic life was apparently strained, in large part by his repeated deployments. But of course he went anyway, because what were his alternatives?

We all know how the story ends. For whatever reason, a “good soldier” whom others have described as calm, decent and level-headed apparently walked off his post in the middle of the night, …

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MARTA targeted for petty bullying by state

Under state law, MARTA has been forced to operate under restrictions and handicaps faced by no other major transit agency in the country.

To review:

– MARTA is the only major transit agency in the country that gets no state financial assistance. The state does help finance express bus service between downtown and the suburbs, but it provides no financial support to MARTA, the transit agency serving its capital city and chief economic engine.

– Despite the lack of state investment or involvement in MARTA, a special legislative committee has long been empowered to provide “oversight” over the transit agency. The MARTA Oversight Committee, or MARTOC, is the only such oversight committee of a non-state agency in the Legislature.

– MARTA operates under an odd state requirement that it spend at least 50 percent of its budget on capital projects, a rule that cripples its flexibility and ability to govern its own affairs. While the restriction is temporarily suspended, legislators …

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Faith and begorra, American style

Given their affinity for music and fighting, not to mention their nation’s troubled history, it’s no surprise that the Irish have a long and honored history of protest songs.

Also, in seemingly unrelated note, Bruce Springsteen comes to town Sunday to tour his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” which just became the No. 1-selling album in the country, displacing Adele.

So given that it’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, I thought that this might be an appropriate way to roll our way into the weekend, with Springsteen singing “Death to My Hometown,” in which he borrows heavily from the Irish tradition:

– Jay Bookman

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