July 30, 2015 archive

Told you so.

New Zealand Prime Minister Admits Drug Prices Will Rise Under TPP — Leaves Out The Part About More People Dying

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Thu, Jul 30th 2015

As we’re in the middle of crunch time for the final TPP negotiations, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has finally admitted what many experts have been saying for years — that under the TPP, drug prices will undoubtedly rise, because it extends monopoly protections on important medicines. Key tries to play this off as no big deal, because it’s the government paying for the medicine so the public won’t notice (leaving aside the fact that it’s their tax dollars). However, folks who actually understand basic economics note that, when the price goes up, access to drugs gets more difficult even in New Zealand, where it’s noted that some key life saving drugs have not been made available because they’re too expensive.

Back in the US, even a bunch of Congresscritters who voted in favor of giving the USTR fast track authority appear to be having a bit of buyer’s remorse as they’ve asked the USTR to explain why it appears the current draft of the TPP will make drugs more expensive rather than less.

And even the AARP has stepped in to point out that it appears the TPP is going to make it more difficult for the US elderly to afford drugs.

How can the USTR and the Obama administration continue to insist that the TPP is in the public interest when it’s abundantly clear that it’s in the pharmaceutical companies’ interests instead?

Getting the Facts Straight About the Clintons

For the last twenty years the mainstream media and the Clinton’s political adversaries have tried to discredit and criminalize them. In the process it has not only failed but done a disservice to the public just to get a “scoop” or score political points. The latest fiasco at The New York Times involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server for her correspondence, has exposed the use of unreliable anonymous sources to create a story that was blatantly false. It exposed a pattern of toxic reporting on the Clinton’s, as Jonathan Allen at Vox called the “Clinton Rules

The reporter’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” – a credo that, humorously, was originally written as a smear of the self-righteous nature of journalists. And so the justification for going after a public figure increases in proportion to his or her stature. The bigger the figure, the looser the restraints.

After a quarter of a century on the national stage, there’s no more comfortable political figure to afflict than Hillary Clinton. And she’s in for a lot of affliction over the next year and half.

That’s generally a good way for reporters to go about their business. After all, the more power a person wants in our republic, the more voters should know about her or him. But it’s also an essential frame for thinking about the long-toxic relationship between the Clintons and the media, why the coverage of Hillary Clinton differs from coverage of other candidates for the presidency, and whether that difference encourages distortions that will ultimately affect the presidential race.

The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest.

As Eric Boehler at Media Matters points out, if you’re surprised by this that you haven’t been paying attention. From Whitewater to Benghazi the pattern has been very clear:

(T)he Times remains the country’s most influential news outlet and the daily has been carrying around an unmistakable Clinton grudge for nearly 20 years. And it’s a collective disdain for the Clintons that stretches from the opinion pages to the newsroom that arguably leads to spectacular blunders like the one we saw last week.

There seems to be a world view within the Times that taking cheap shots at the Clintons is not only allowed, it’s preferred; it’s a way for Times journalists to raise their profiles and generate buzz. But not only is the practice unfair and unethical, it carries with it profound political implications.

Apparently making no effort to check with the lead Democrat on the panel about the anonymous claims of a criminal referral — Rep. Elijah Cummings would have demolished the entire premise of the gotcha story — the Times essentially acted as stenographer for sources who either manufactured the claim about a criminal referral or unknowingly botched the facts.

The Times‘ oddly personal crusade against Hillary Clinton is also a crusade against the Democratic frontrunner for president, so the Republican Party benefits. The stakes really could not be higher, which makes the Times‘ behavior all the more disturbing.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow weighed in on the misreporting and clumsy handling of the story and makes note of the similar excuses the Times used about Judith Miller’s sources on her bad Iraq WMD reporting.

Kurk Eichenwald at Newsweek puts it bluntly in his analysis of the Times debacle:

Democracy is not a game. It is not a means of getting our names on the front page or setting the world abuzz about our latest scoop. It is about providing information so that an electorate can make decisions based on reality. It is about being fair and being accurate. This despicable Times story was neither.


The Breakfast Club (Reactionless Drive)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOr maybe not quite so reactionless but certainly a puzzle if true.  Conventional rockets operate on the sound Newtonian principle that every action (in a vacuum where there are no other significant factors to consider) has an equal and opposite reaction.  Essentially it’s an outgrowth of the concept that the total energy of a closed system does not change.  If your closed system is you and some mass you can separate and propel away and the intitial state is that you are motionless with respect to each other and some arbitrary fixed point, when you propel that mass it does indeed move away from you but you also move away from it and also relative to your fixed point in proportion with the ratio of the mass you have acted on to you, and the velocity with which you have propelled it away.

Up until Robert Goddard many scientists were under the misconception that you needed something to push against and that therefore flight in a space environment was impossible when it’s really not and quite conventional reactions will work provided you supply them with the chemicals needed (for instance liquid oxygen and kerosene).

However even advanced propulsion systems like Ion Drives rely on kinetic energy to create thrust.  What makes them attractive and revolutionary is that they are very fuel efficient and can, since they operate fairly continuously compared to chemical rockets which go very fast initially and then coast the rest of the time, achieve quite high velocities… eventually.

What makes the EmDrive different is that it doesn’t seem to rely on kinetic energy at all.

Instead you set up a resonating microwave in a sealed cavity and out comes measurable thrust.  Oh sure, you need to add energy to the system in the form of electricity, but solar panels are good for that so essentially you have a drive with an unlimited fuel supply.

How does it work?  Nobody knows and the math to tune the microwave and the cavity is really tricky, but the parts are very cheap and almost every country that has a space program is examining prototypes.

What makes it news and not just some elaborate perpetual motion scam is that Martin Tajmar, professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology who has a reputation for tracking down experimental error, has duplicated the previous results and is presenting a paper on it.

While it’s not some faster than light warp drive it does solve some fundamental problems in planetary exploration, NASA projects that even at modest output levels it could reduce the time needed for a probe to reach Pluto from 9 years to 18 months.

The ‘impossible’ EmDrive could reach Pluto in 18 months

by David Hambling, Wired

24 July 15

Last summer WIRED revealed that Nasa’s Eagleworks Lab was testing a copy of the EmDrive, a propulsion device frequently labelled as “impossible” because it appears to violate the law of conservation of momentum. Against all expectation they found it produced thrust. The response from the scientific community was dramatic, and generally sceptical — but the “anomalous thrust” stubbornly refuses to disappear as more research zeroes in on it.

(T)he subject is attracting serious examination from scientists who want to know if a sealed cavity filled with resonating microwaves can really produce net thrust. Previously the effect has been measured by British scientist Roger Shawyer, who invented the EmDrive, and a Chinese team, as well as Nasa.

(Tajmar)has investigated claims of “electrostatic torque,” a twisting force meant to occur between charged spheres, and found the supposed anomaly was due to a slight asymmetry in the experimental setup. His work on claims of gravitational shielding with spinning superconductors had led to a better understanding of sources of error in high-precision gyroscope measurements. These are cases where an apparatus apparently producing small anomalous forces needed to be examined closely.

The same applies to the EmDrive. The obvious sources of error — air currents, leaking microwaves, ionisation — have long ago been ruled out. But this is the first time that someone with a well-equipped lab and a strong background in tracking experimental error has been involved, rather than engineers who may be unconsciously influenced by a desire to see it work.

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History July 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 30 is the 211th day of the year (212th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 154 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966. In 1972, eligibility for the program was extended to Americans under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which added outpatient prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to certain low-income people, was also signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act.

Late Night Karaoke

Late Night Karaoke

The Daily/Nightly Show (Credible History)


Arby’s Enema

This week’s guests-

Doris Kearns Goodwin is my least favorite credible historian.

Let’s get least favorite part out of the way first.  She’s my least favorite because she’s a constantly sycophantic toady to power who has never met a Beltway trope or a piece of Villiager conventional wisdom that she was not willing to parrot or at least let pass unprotested.

Doris is a conservative historian, thoroughly unchallenging and well conected and thus trotted out frequently by talk shows (including Jon unfortunately) as a veneer of respectability.

Is she respectable?  Well, more than those idealogues and cretins you see trotted out by the racist and fascist right wing.  She might come to decide Barack Obama was a bad President (and he was) but she would never compare him with Hitler where I, a less credible historian, might.

Oh you want to get into it?  Torture, assassination by association, Gestapo-like Security State, undeclared wars of aggression.  Q.E.D., and don’t bother telling me he had no agency, he and his ‘Just Us’ department actively worked to thwart every effort at accountability.  That’s what we call accessory after the fact.

But she’s not totally unhinged from reality and as an example of historical reality and how it plays out over time I give you the underlying causes of the War for Slavery.

There was a time in the mid ’60s when the Civil Rights Movement was peaking and the centenials of this and that were being celebrated.  In secondary schools and some colleges the prevailing narrative is that it was the growing economic might of the North and a fear for diminishing political influence that were the prevailing causes of the War of Southern Rebellion.

Some far out historians (probably pot smoking dirty hippies) suggested that the two precipitating forces were the economic value of Black Human Beings as property and flat out racism.  Now they had plenty of contemporaneous primary sources that said just that in unmistakable black and white but no said the historical establishment, the North was as fully implicated in the Institution of Slavery as the South and it couldn’t possibly be.

Well, the elite North was (which it would do not to forget) and the average person was just as racist as those in the South, but what they also saw was an economic system that, even if they couldn’t articulate it as directly as we do today, Slave Labor would drive Free Labor out of the marketplace.  The resentment against the Fugitive Slave Act wasn’t driven entirely by altruistic sympathy for the poor downtrodden Black.

At the time (the 1960s not the 1860s) most historians denied that Slaves had any economic value at all and argued the South was trapped in a dying system.  Modern historians almost universally accept that the South was wealthier than the North and was poised to add to that disparity on the Cotton Trade and expansion of Slavery.  The South was not all picking and grinning, many Plantations sported Factories and Ironworks, all staffed by Slaves.

Doris Kearns Goodwin blows with the breeze, neither the best or worst, just another hack but at least a credible one.

Senior Black Correspondent

Tonightly we will be talking about Cecil The Lion with our panel Rory Albanese, Baratunde Thurston, and Bobcat Goldwait.

The real news below.