Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for January 10th, 2013

Gosh, I wonder if it could be because they aren’t seeing doctors….

Posted by Charles II on January 10, 2013

What profiteth a man if he gain the world and cannot even get decent medical care? Sarah Boseley, The Guardian:

America may be one of the richest countries in the world, but its people are less healthy and more likely to die early from disease or accidents than those in any other affluent country, a damning official US report has found.

Even the best-off Americans – those who have health insurance, a college education, a high income and healthy behaviour – are sicker than their peers in comparable countries, says the report by the US National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

“We were struck by the gravity of these findings,” said Steven H Woolf, professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and chair of the panel that wrote the report. “Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health.

The US does badly in nine specific areas….highest infant mortality rate …. does poorly on other birth outcomes, such as low weight babies.

Deaths from injuries and homicides are far higher than elsewhere and a leading cause of death in children, adolescents and young adults. US adolescents have had the highest rate of pregnancies of affluent countries since the 1990s and are more likely to acquire sexually transmitted infections. The US has the second highest HIV rate and the highest incidence of Aids among the 17 countries.

Even taking out drunk driving, Americans lose more years of life to alcohol and other drugs than people in other affluent countries. The US has the highest obesity rate and, from age 20, one of the highest levels of type 2 diabetes. The death rate from heart disease is the second highest in the 17 countries. There is more lung disease and more deaths from it than in Europe and older people report more arthritis and other limitations on their activity than in Europe or Japan.

I’ll be surprised if the Republicans allow Obamacare to be fully implemented. Killing off Americans is so much more in line with what they do!


Posted in health care, health issues, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The future of Venezuela

Posted by Charles II on January 10, 2013

DemocracyNow had an excellent debate between Michael Shifter and Pomona college professor (and Venezuelan emigre) Miguel Tinker Salas.

The essential points are that:
* when Chavez took over, things were in terrible shape
* the price of oil is much higher now than before Chavez took office
* things are not great now

One interpretation (Shifter) is that Chavez got lucky over the price of oil but otherwise squandered his time in office. The other interpretation is that Chavez was lucky in the price of oil, but unlucky in having the opposition he had, that his first few years in office were a loss due to factors outside his control, but that lately he’s done much better. This view is supported by Weisbrot and Johnston (see Fig. 1).

The one interesting issue raised by Shifter is the decline in Venezuelan production of oil (and natural gas). These are issues important to social stability, since natural gas is used for electrical generation (insufficient production = blackouts), and Venezuelans expect cheap gasoline. Euan Mearns at The Oil Drum says

OPEC stalwart and heavy weight Venezuela has had flat production over the decade of between 2 and 2.5 mmbpd. The impact of the 2002/ 03 general strike upon production is clear to see. Production has been hitting near term highs over 2.5 mmbpd and spare capacity is essentially zero.

What seems to be limiting oil production is a shortage of natural gas, as well as a decline in readily-accessible reserves in favor of the Orinoco Basin heavy crude similar to the Canadian tar sands. So, it’s not clear to me that Shifter’s criticism is valid, except insofar as it rests on the endemic corruption in Venezuelan society that makes it harder to do anything. The story of why they are producing more nat gas sounds like an example of that.

Another interesting issue raised in the debate is what the factions within chavismo are. Basically it seems that there are two principal factions, a civil society movement led by Nicolas Maduro, and a military faction led by Diosdado Cabello.

Posted in Latin America, Oil, Venezuela | 1 Comment »

Add Laurence Tribe To The Pro-Coin Group

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 10, 2013

Along with Philip Diehl, former Director of the United States Mint, the most authoritative voice to speak so far on the legality and viability of the Platinum Coin Option is Laurence Tribe, nearly universally recognized to be America’s greatest living Constitutional scholar.

And, like Diehl, Tribe says that the PCO is perfectly legal and viable as a means to deal with Republican hostage-taking on the debt ceiling.

He first said so back in July of 2011, during the first Republican hostage-taking:

Here is another option: the Treasury could mint coins to cover all the nation’s spending commitments. As Jack Balkin has pointed out, 31 U.S.C. § 5112(k) authorizes the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination. Balkin suggests that the President could exercise this authority to mint a couple of trillion-dollar coins. By doing so, the President could put an end to the problem created when the Treasury’s revenues are insufficient to meet its spending commitments, without violating any existing federal law. If we accept Balkin’s interpretation of the relevant statutory provision, the central premise of Professor Buchanan’s argument—that default is guaranteed to occur under extant statutes come August 3—isn’t even true to begin with.

Of course, raising the debt ceiling might be a wiser move from a policy standpoint than simply printing more money or issuing new forms of currency. But this is not a constitutional distinction on which Professor Buchanan is entitled to rely in order to pronounce the debt ceiling unconstitutional, while leaving the ceiling on outstanding currency notes—and other elements of our revenue-raising arrangements—intact.

He has now reiterated and expanded upon his July 2011 comments:

I don’t think it makes sense to think about this as some sort of “loophole” issue. Using the statute this way doesn’t entail exploiting a loophole; it entails just reading the plain language that Congress used. The statute clearly does authorize the issuance of trillion-dollar coins. First, the statute itself doesn’t set any limit on coin value. Second, other clauses of 31 USC §5112 do set such limits, but §5112(k)—dealing with platinum coins—does not. So expressio unius strengthens the inference that there isn’t any limit here.

Of course, Congress probably didn’t have trillion-dollar coins in mind, but there’s no textual or other legal basis for importing this probable intention into the statute. What 535 people might have had in their collective “mind” just can’t control the meaning of a law this clear.

It’s also quite clear that the minting of such a coin couldn’t be challenged; I don’t see who would have standing.

Bottom line: This is a situation where the political and economic considerations, not the legal considerations, have to drive the decision-making about this option. It’s certainly a lot better from just about every perspective than having the nation stuck on either horn of the very real dilemma you outlined below, which I agree offers no plausible way out as long as enough leaders in Congress insist on playing Russian Roulette with our economy and risking our full faith and credit by using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip as they are threatening to do.

There are still some rabid dead-enders out there who are willing to discount what the former head of the Mint and the greatest living Constitutional scholar have to say on this issue, but their voices are getting ever more shrieky as they find their numbers shrinking.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

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