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May 9, 2014

kindergarten teachers

Linking Krugman: it's something we do.  After the past five or six years, sometimes, in the corners of your mind, you start to worry if linking Krugman again is worth it.  Do we need yet another Krugman?  Isn't there maybe some other economist of relative prominence that that we could throw some hits to?

(And face it: as wearying as it is to link Krugman all the time, how much more wearying must it be to be Krugman?  Having to write basically the same column over and over again?  Having to be right all the time?)

So here it is, your link to today's Krugman.  And in lieu of a cursory description of the column and maybe a pullquote that hammers the point home, here is a factoid that Krugman tosses out there like it ain't all that:

Last year, the top twenty-five hedge fund managers made more money than all of the kindergarten teachers in America, combined.

Let's talk about how wealth is commensurate with contribution to society again, please.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

May 7, 2014

fracking still causing earthquakes

I'm not sure when this happened, but remember a year or so, when even people moderately leery of hydraulic fracturing were a bit reluctant to accept that fracking causes earthquakes?  You know, "Come now, young man! Of course all this burning tapwater is a real shame, but let's not exaggerate!"

Well, following a recent spate of tiny earthquakes in fracking-dense Oklahoma, a mild alert was issued that OK might be in for some more, better temblors.  Now, the news is careful to say that the US Geological Survey is not saying that fracking causes earthquakes (in fact, NPR had to issue a correction), but let's look at the relevant text from the news release itself:

The analysis suggests that a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes is triggering by wastewater injected into deep geologic formations. This phenomenon is known as injection-induced seismicity, which has been documented for nearly half a century, with new cases identified recently in Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado. A recent publication by the USGS suggests that a magnitude 5.0 foreshock to the 2011 Prague, Okla., earthquake was human-induced by fluid injection; that earthquake may have then triggered the mainshock and its aftershocks. OGS studies also indicate that some of the earthquakes in Oklahoma are due to fluid injection. The OGS and USGS continue to study the Prague earthquake sequence in relation to nearby injection activities.

Hi guys!  Fracking causes earthquakes.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM

May 6, 2014

how to buy a judge in north carolina

Election season is approaching, and, as you may or may not know, many of the state judges which may hear a case in which you are involved actually have to run for election every term.

What could possibly go wrong?

Judges on higher courts are elected rather than appointed in 22 states, and in 16 more they must face retention elections at some point after their selection, according to Justice at Stake, an advocacy group in Washington. Corporations and political parties -- and trial lawyers and unions -- seek ideologically compatible state judges, legal experts say, because their rulings can affect redistricting and laws on such key issues as liability, medical malpractice and workers' compensation.

The growing influx of interest group spending is transforming judicial elections and raising concerns about conflicts of interest. In 2012, $30 million was spent nationwide on television advertising for state court races, often involving attack ads, according to a report last fall by the Brennan Center, Justice at Stake and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Those two paragraphs are just-the-facts, but you get the gist.  The actual story, which you should read, is about the reelection campaign of a NC appellate judge who happens to be a Democrat, who suddenly finds herself in a run-off against two conservative candidates.  And almost by coincidence, she found herself suddenly confronted with a close to million dollar TV ad campaign depicting her as soft on child molesters.  That's the depth of cynicism of these campaigns: the moneybags couldn't care less about child molesters; all they're looking for is business-friendly judicial realignment.

It's a long-standing argument for campaign finance reform that these nearly anonymous third party expenditures — the money coming into the NC race is from national special interests to an independent PAC — amount to nothing more than thinly-veiled bribes to affect the votes of legislators.  But in this case, it's not legislators we're dealing with, but rather judges, who have a higher obligation to impartiality than other elected officials.

What this is is a compelling argument against having any judges subject to election under any circumstance.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:59 AM