Saturday, June 25, 2011

Background on the crisis in Greece -- where dishonesty is a way of life

Comment from Britain

Even on a stiflingly hot summer's day, the Athens underground is a pleasure. It is air-conditioned, with plasma screens to entertain passengers relaxing in cool, cavernous departure halls - and the trains even run on time.

There is another bonus for users of this state-of-the-art rapid transport system: it is, in effect, free for the five million people of the Greek capital.

With no barriers to prevent free entry or exit to this impressive tube network, the good citizens of Athens are instead asked to 'validate' their tickets at honesty machines before boarding. Few bother.

This is not surprising: fiddling on a Herculean scale — from the owner of the smallest shop to the most powerful figures in business and politics — has become as much a part of Greek life as ouzo and olives.

Indeed, as well as not paying for their metro tickets, the people of Greece barely paid a penny of the underground’s £1.5 billion cost — a ‘sweetener’ from Brussels (and, therefore, the UK taxpayer) to help the country put on an impressive 2004 Olympics free of the city’s notorious traffic jams.

The transport perks are not confined to the customers. Incredibly, the average salary on Greece’s railways is £60,000, which includes cleaners and track workers - treble the earnings of the average private sector employee here.

The overground rail network is as big a racket as the EU-funded underground. While its annual income is only £80 million from ticket sales, the wage bill is more than £500m a year — prompting one Greek politician to famously remark that it would be cheaper to put all the commuters into private taxis.

‘We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension,’ says Stefans Manos, a former Greek finance minister. ‘And yet, there isn’t a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.’

Significantly, since entering Europe as part of an ill-fated dream by politicians of creating a European super-state, the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled in a decade. At the same time, perks and fiddles reminiscent of Britain in the union-controlled 1970s have flourished.

Ridiculously, Greek pastry chefs, radio announcers, hairdressers and masseurs in steam baths are among more than 600 professions allowed to retire at 50 (with a state pension of 95 per cent of their last working year’s earnings) — on account of the ‘arduous and perilous’ nature of their work.

This week, it was reported that every family in Britain could face a £14,000 bill to pay for Greece’s self-inflicted financial crisis. Such fears were denied yesterday after Brussels voted a massive new £100bn rescue package which, it insisted, would not need a contribution from Britain. Even if this is true — and many British MPs have their doubts — we will still have to stump up £1billion to the bailout through the International Monetary Fund.

In return for this loan, European leaders want the Greeks’ free-spending ways to end immediately if the country is to be prevented from ‘infecting’ the world’s financial system. Naturally, the Greek people are not happy about this.

In Constitution Square this week, opposite the parliament, I witnessed thousands gathering to campaign against government cuts designed to save the country from bankruptcy.

After running battles with riot police, who used tear gas to disperse protesters, thousands are still camped out in the square ahead of a vote by Greek politicians next week on whether to accept Europe-imposed austerity measures.

Yet these protesters should direct their anger closer to home — to those Greeks who have for many years done their damndest to deny their country the dues they owe it.

Take a short trip on the metro to the city’s cooler northern suburbs, and you will find an enclave of staggering opulence.

Here, in the suburb of Kifissia, amid clean, tree-lined streets full of designer boutiques and car showrooms selling luxury marques such as Porsche and Ferrari, live some of the richest men and women in the world.

With its streets paved with marble, and dotted with charming parks and cafes, this suburb is home to shipping tycoons such as Spiros Latsis, a billionaire and friend of Prince Charles, as well as countless other wealthy industrialists and politicians.

One of the reasons they are so rich is that rather than paying millions in tax to the Greek state, as they rightfully should, many of these residents are living entirely tax-free.

Along street after street of opulent mansions and villas, surrounded by high walls and with their own pools, most of the millionaires living here are, officially, virtually paupers.

How so? Simple: they are allowed to state their own earnings for tax purposes, figures which are rarely challenged. And rich Greeks take full advantage.

Astonishingly, only 5,000 people in a country of 12 million admit to earning more than £90,000 a year — a salary that would not be enough to buy a garden shed in Kifissia.

Yet studies have shown that more than 60,000 Greek homes each have investments worth more than £1m, let alone unknown quantities in overseas banks, prompting one economist to describe Greece as a ‘poor country full of rich people’.

Manipulating a corrupt tax system, many of the residents simply say that they earn below the basic tax threshold of around £10,000 a year, even though they own boats, second homes on Greek islands and properties overseas.

And, should the taxman rumble this common ruse, it can be dealt with using a ‘fakelaki’ — an envelope stuffed with cash. There is even a semi-official rate for bribes: passing a false tax return requires a payment of up to 10,000 euros (the average Greek family is reckoned to pay out £2,000 a year in fakelaki.)

Even more incredibly, Greek shipping magnates — the king of kings among the wealthy of Kifissia — are automatically exempt from tax, supposedly on account of the great benefits they bring the country. Yet the shipyards are empty; once employing 15,000, they now have less than 500 to service the once-mighty Greek shipping lines which, like the rest of the country, are in terminal decline.

With Greek President George Papandreou calling for a crackdown on these tax dodgers — who are believed to cost the economy as much as £40bn a year — he is now resorting to bizarre means to identify the cheats. After issuing warnings last year, government officials say he is set to deploy helicopter snoopers, along with scrutiny of Google Earth satellite pictures, to show who has a swimming pool in the northern suburbs — an indicator, officials say, of the owner’s wealth.

Officially, just over 300 Kifissia residents admitted to having a pool. The true figure is believed to be 20,000. There is even a boom in sales of tarpaulins to cover pools and make them invisible to the aerial tax inspectors.

‘The most popular and effective measure used by owners is to camouflage their pool with a khaki military mesh to make it look like natural undergrowth,’ says Vasilis Logothetis, director of a major swimming pool construction company. ‘That way, neither helicopters nor Google Earth can spot them.’

But faced with the threat of a crackdown, money is now pouring out of the country into overseas tax havens such as Liechtenstein, the Bahamas and Cyprus. ‘Other popular alternatives include setting up offshore companies in Cyprus or the British Virgin Islands, or the purchase of real estate abroad,’ says one doctor, who declares an income of less than £90,000 yet earns five times that amount.

There has also been a boom in London property purchases by Athens-based Greeks in an attempt to hide their true worth from their domestic tax authorities. ‘These anti-tax evasion measures by the government force us to resort to even more detailed tax evasion ploys,’ admits Petros Iliopoulos, a civil engineer.

‘We will spare no effort to collect what is due to the state,’ said Evangelos Venizelos, the new Greek finance minister of the socialist ruling party. ‘We promise to draft and apply a new and honest tax system, one that has been needed for decades, so that taxes are duly paid by those who should pay.’

Yet, already, it is too late. Greece is effectively bust — relying on EU cash from richer northern European countries, but this has been the case ever since the country finally joined the euro in 2001.

Two years earlier, the country was barred from entering because it did not meet the financial criteria. No matter: the Greeks simply cooked the books. Two years later, having falsely claimed to have met standards relating to manufacturing and industrial production and low inflation, the Greeks were allowed in. Funds poured into the country from across Europe and the Greeks started spending like there was no tomorrow.

Money flowed into all areas of public life. As a result, for example, the Greek school system is now an over-staffed shambles, employing four times more teachers per pupil than Finland, the country with the highest-rated education system in Europe. ‘But we still have to pay for tutors for our two children,’ says Helena, an Athens mother. ‘The teachers are hopeless — they seem to spend their time off sick.’

Although Brussels has now agreed to provide the next stage of its debt payment programme to safeguard the count ry’s immediate economic future, the Greek media still carries ominous warnings that the military may be forced to step in should the country’s foray into Europe end in ignominy, bankruptcy and rising violence.

For now, the crisis has simply been delayed. With European taxpayers facing the prospect of saving Greece from bankruptcy for the second year in a row, some say even the £100bn on offer will pay off only the interest on the country’s debts — meaning it will be broke again within two years.

Meanwhile, there are doom-laden warnings that the collapse of the Greek economy could be the catalyst for another global recession.

Perhaps if the Greeks themselves had shown more willingness to tighten their belts and pay taxes due to the state, voters across Europe might not now be feeling such anger towards them.

But having strolled the streets of Kifissia, and watched the Greek hordes stream past the honesty boxes on the underground, it does not take a degree in European economics to know when somebody is taking advantage — at our expense.

SOURCE

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The Reincarceration of Conrad Black

By Mark Steyn

I am overseas at the moment and have just caught up on the coverage of Judge Amy St Eve’s decision yesterday to send my old boss (and now NRO colleague) Conrad Black back to jail. Following the Supreme Court’s overturning of the “honest services” basis of his conviction, Conrad was released from prison in Florida, after serving two years, to await re-sentencing. Given that he was, in effect, improperly convicted on the majority of charges, a civilized and humane justice system would have concluded that it was both absurd and vindictive to return him to his cell for the one shred of the United States Government’s case that has not been tossed out along the way in Conrad’s seven year battle.

But the Department of Justice is not civilized and humane. As I wrote here:
The federal justice system is a bit like one of those unmanned drones President Obama is so fond of using on the unfortunate villagers of Waziristan. Once it’s locked on to you and your coordinates are in the system, it’s hard to get it called off. Three years ago, during his trial in Chicago, I suggested to the defendant he’d be better off saving his gazillions in legal fees and instead climbing under the tarp in the bed of my truck and letting me drive him over the minimally enforced Pittsburg-La Patrie border crossing to Quebec and thence by fishing boat to a remote landing strip on Miquelon where a waiting plane could spirit him somewhere beyond the reach of the U.S. Attorney. Estimated cost: about a thousandth of what he’d spent on lawyers to date. P’shaw, scoffed Conrad, or ejaculations to that effect. He was not a fugitive but an innocent man, and eventually he would be vindicated by the justice system of this great republic.

But that’s not possible – because, with a system that relies on multiple charges and an ability to pressure everybody else in the case to switch sides, you can win (as Conrad did) nineteen-twentieths of the battles and still lose the war. He’s a wealthy businessman, and nobody has any sympathy for those. But it’s even worse if you’re a nobody. A New Hampshire neighbor of mine had the misfortune to attract the attention of federal prosecutors for one of those white-collar “crimes” no one can explain in English. The jury acquitted him in a couple of hours. Great news! The system worked! Not really. By then, the feds had spent a half-decade demolishing his life, exhausting his savings, wrecking his marriage, and driving him to attempt suicide. He’s not a big scary businessman like Conrad, just a small-town nobody. And he’ll never get his life back. Because, regardless of the verdict, the process is the punishment – which is the hallmark of unjust justice systems around the world.

As to white-collar crime, what about the one type of white-collar crime that goes entirely unpunished? For an accounting fraud of $567 million, Enron’s executives went to jail, and its head guy died there. For an accounting fraud ten times that size, the two Democrat hacks who headed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick, walked away with a combined taxpayer-funded payout of $116.4 million. Fannie and Freddie are two of the largest businesses in America, but they’re exempt from SEC disclosure rules and Sarbanes-Oxley “corporate governance” burdens, and so in 2008, unlike Enron, WorldCom or any of the other reviled private-sector bogeymen, they came close to taking down the entire global economy. Yes, yes, I know two wrongs don’t make a right (unless you’re Jamie Gorelick), but what then is the point of the SEC?

Judge St Eve’s decision is appalling. In my weekend column, I write about “nation-building” at home and abroad. Federal justice shares with those subjects what is the defining characteristic of US Government in the early 21st century – grotesque excess and an utter lack of proportion.

SOURCE

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Why Obama Will Likely Lose the 2012 Presidential Election

By Karl Rove

President Barack Obama is likely to be defeated in 2012. The reason is that he faces four serious threats. The economy is very weak and unlikely to experience a robust recovery by Election Day. Key voter groups have soured on him. He's defending unpopular policies. And he's made bad strategic decisions.

Let's start with the economy. Unemployment is at 9.1%, with almost 14 million Americans out of work. Nearly half the jobless have been without work for more than six months. Mr. Obama promised much better, declaring that his February 2009 stimulus would cause unemployment to peak at 8% by the end of summer 2009 and drop to roughly 6.8% today.

After boasting in June 2010 that "Our economy . . . is now growing at a good clip," he laughingly admitted last week, "Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected." The humor will be lost on most. In Wednesday's Bloomberg poll, Americans believe they are worse off than when Mr. Obama took office by a 44% to 34% margin.

The last president re-elected with unemployment over 7.2% was FDR in 1936. Ronald Reagan overcame 7.2% unemployment because the rate was dropping dramatically (it had been over 10%) as the economy grew very rapidly in 1983 and 1984. Today, in contrast, the Federal Reserve says growth will be less than 3% this year and less than 3.8% next year, with unemployment between 7.8% and 8.2% by Election Day.

Mr. Obama also has problems with his base. For example, Jewish voters are upset with his policy toward Israel, and left-wing bloggers at last week's NetRoots conference were angry over Mr. Obama's failure to deliver a leftist utopia. Weak Jewish support could significantly narrow Mr. Obama's margin in states like Florida, while a disappointed left could deprive him of the volunteers so critical to his success in 2008.

Mr. Obama's standing has declined among other, larger groups. Gallup reported his job approval rating Tuesday at 45%, down from 67% at his inaugural. Among the groups showing a larger-than-average decline since 2009 are whites (down 25 points); older voters (down 24); independents and college graduates (both down 23), those with a high-school education or less, men, and Southerners (all down 22); women (down 21 points); married couples and those making $2,000-$4,000 a month (down 20).

This all points to severe trouble in suburbs and midsized cities in states likes Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

SOURCE

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Logic deserts the Left when it comes to Wal-Mart

Opining in today’s New York Times, history professor Nelson Lichtenstein asserts that Wal-Mart uses an “authoritarian style, by which executives pressure store-level management to squeeze more and more from millions of clerks, stockers and lower-tier managers.” Then he scolds Wal-Mart for being so bigoted that it erects “obstacles to women’s advancement.”

This tale is highly improbable. A company that squeezes maximum possible profits from its workers does not refuse to promote women simply because of their sex.

Such refusals would leave money on the table by keeping many employees in lower-rank positions even though those employees would add more to the company’s bottom line by being promoted to higher-rank positions. Conversely, a company that indulges its taste for bigotry is not a company intent on squeezing as much profit as possible from its employees.

If Ms. Jones can add thousands of dollars to Wal-Mart’s annual profits by working as a manager, rather than hundreds of dollars by working as a cashier, squeezing “more and more” from her requires that Wal-Mart promote her to manager.

It’s simply unbelievable that a company with Wal-Mart’s record of consistently wringing profits from razor-thin retail margins intentionally – or even negligently – wastes the talents of large numbers of its employees by using them in ways that do not add maximum value to Wal-Mart’s bottom line.

SOURCE

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My Standard Question for Liberals/Progressives

Arnold Kling

A commenter suggested to me that Charles Sable does not fit my stereotype of liberals believing that government is the magic solution for human imperfection. But I picked out his paper on health care, and I found exactly that. He says that health care providers need to be able to improve by learning from and correcting mistakes. He then proceeds to offer legislation to force that.

My question for Sable is this: "If you know a better way to run health care organizations, why don't you start a health care organization?"

I would ask this question generically. If a liberal/progressive proposal is supposed to do X, why don't you start a private entity to do X?

There are examples where this question has a standard answer. For example, "why don't you start a private entity to discourage the use of carbon fuels?" The answer might be the standard externality argument that the private entity will not be able to overcome individual self-interest, so that government coercion is required.

But in the case of health care quality, I am not sure that there is a reasonable answer. If health care providers are doing a bad job, what stops you from implementing a better model and taking over the market? Are consumers too stupid to know the difference between providers who make lots of unnecessary mistakes and providers who don't? If they are so stupid as consumers, why do you expect them to be smart as voters?

The way I see it, the main difference between a business entrepreneurship and policy entrepreneurship is that if things do not work out as planned, the policy entrepreneur is insulated from the adverse consequences. For me, that difference does not work in favor policy entrepreneurship.

SOURCE

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How the Democrats Nearly Destroyed the Economy

There is history -- a chronicle of human events -- and then there is perceived history. So often, the two are wildly at odds.

In 1963, a popular Democratic president was assassinated by a Marxist named Oswald, who had actually defected to the Soviet Union and returned to the U.S. with a Soviet wife, was an active member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and had attempted to assassinate a right-wing general named Edwin Walker earlier in the year.

Yet those who write history found these facts inconvenient. They created a different history in which the "atmosphere of hate" in the southern city of Dallas, Texas, led to the terrible political violence. In other words, it was political conservatism that led to John F. Kennedy's assassination. This perceived history was recycled as recently as the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. ABC's Christiane Amanpour, interviewing Jean Kennedy Smith, noted that the Kennedy assassination was "eerily relevant" and asked Kennedy to evaluate the "political atmosphere" in the country today.

Starting just a few years after the Kennedy assassination, American liberals began to consider anti-communism a kind of mental disorder. Hostility to communism was akin to racism, sexism and other character flaws. Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" cemented liberal suspicions that Reagan was a dangerous buffoon. Yet starting in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, liberals began to find their anti-anti-communism embarrassing. And so they created a perceived history -- one in which the Cold War was a time of consensus, a time when, as former Sen. Bill Bradley put it, "We knew where we stood on foreign policy."

More recently we've witnessed the creation of new historical narrative about the financial crisis of 2008. The perceived history, eagerly peddled by liberals and Democrats, is that the crash of 2008 was the result of Wall Street greed. It was unregulated capitalism that brought us to the brink of financial meltdown, the Democrats insisted. And they codified their manufactured history in a law, the Dodd-Frank Act, that completely avoided the true problem.

It's both surprising and gratifying, therefore, to report that a great revisionist history has just been published by none other than a New York Times reporter, Gretchen Morgenson, and a financial analyst, Joshua Rosner.

In "Reckless Endangerment," Morgenson and Rosner offer considerable censure for reckless bankers, lax rating agencies, captured regulators and unscrupulous businessmen. But the greatest responsibility for the collapse of the housing market and the near "Armageddon" of the American economy belongs to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to the politicians who created and protected them. With a couple of prominent exceptions, the politicians were Democrats claiming to do good for the poor. Along the way, they enriched themselves and their friends, stuffed their campaign coffers, and resisted all attempts to enforce market discipline. When the inevitable collapse arrived, the entire economy suffered, but no one more than the poor.

Jim Johnson, adviser to Walter Mondale and John Kerry, amassed a personal fortune estimated at $100 million during his nine years as CEO of Fannie Mae. "Under Johnson," Morgenson and Rosner write, "Fannie Mae led the way in encouraging loose lending practices among the banks whose loans the company bought. A Pied Piper of the financial sector, Johnson led both the private and public sectors down a path that led directly to the credit crisis of 2008."

Fannie Mae lied about its profits, intimidated adversaries, bought off members of Congress with lavish contributions, hired (and thereby co-opted) academics, purchased political ads (through its foundation) and stacked congressional hearings with friendly bankers, community activists and advocacy groups (including ACORN). Fannie Mae also hired the friends and relations of key members of Congress (including Rep. Barney Frank's partner).

"Reckless Endangerment" includes the Clinton administration's contribution to the home-ownership catastrophe. Clinton had claimed that dramatically increasing homeownership would boost the economy, instead "in just a few short years, all of the venerable rules governing the relationship between borrower and lender went out the window, starting with ... the requirement that a borrower put down a substantial amount of cash in a property, verify his income, and demonstrate an ability to service his debts."

"Reckless Endangerment" utterly deflates the perceived history of the 2008 crash. Yes, there was greed -- when is there not? But it was government distortions of markets -- not "unregulated capitalism" -- that led the economy to disaster.

SOURCE

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Long-form birth certificate an amateur forgery

Gary Poyssick, an early employee of software giant Adobe System Inc., continues to maintain there is something "fishy" about the Obama long-form birth certificate released by the White House.

"What the White House released is not a simple scan," Poyssick told WND. "Something digital came between the paper and the glass."

Poyssick was at the San Jose-based tech company when it counted no more than 14 employees, and he continues to advise and write on Adobe software products. Poyssick, who today devotes his energies to running The Online Fisherman in Tampa, Fla., has written more than 50 titles about Adobe software, the printing industry, coding and programming, website development and workflow management.

His initial reaction was to declare the birth certificate an outright forgery. "I could have done a much better replica myself, if the president had asked," Poyssick told The Political Sandbox blog when the birth certificate first appeared and he opened the document in Adobe Illustrator. "The guy that did this is a bimbo in that he forgot to 'flatten' his works to soften the background edges so the fake letters blended, softly into the green paper.

Observing that the birth certificate document had multiple layers when opened in Adobe Illustrator, Poyssick was amazed the White House had released an electronic PDF file that had not been "flattened" so as to remove all evidence that it had been modified.

More HERE

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ELSEWHERE

MA: New system not cutting health costs: "Early results show that putting doctors and hospitals on a budget — a payment method promoted as a way to curb health costs — has not saved money in Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley concluded in a report released yesterday. ... The yearlong review of what six large Massachusetts insurers paid providers in 2009 found that doctors working under the new 'global payment' system — which puts them on a per-patient monthly budget — generally did not cost less than doctors paid the standard way."

VT: Justices ponder limits of digital privacy: "The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution protects citizens from unwarranted searches and seizures of their 'persons, papers, houses and effects,' but it doesn’t mention computers, iPads, smartphones, and other electronic devices. Vermont’s Supreme Court was faced yesterday with the challenge of adapting the federal and state constitutions to the digital age in an electronic privacy case. The state complained that a lower court judge placed too many restrictions on a search warrant Burlington police got for a man’s computer and other devices as they investigated allegations of identity theft. It’s a case being watched closely by national groups devoted to studying how the law should be applied in cyberspace."

N.J. Slashes Public-Worker Benefits: "New Jersey's public workers will have to pay more for health-care benefits and will receive smaller pensions under a bill that won final approval in the state Legislature, with the support of nearly a third of Democratic lawmakers. Gov. Chris Christie, who is expected to sign the bill Monday, said the second round of cuts under his watch will bring sufficient change to the issue that has roiled private-sector workers who saw their jobs eliminated and salaries and benefits slashed during the recession. "We've accomplished on pensions and benefits what we needed to and wanted to accomplish," Mr. Christie said ..."

"Mainstream" churches promoting Islam: "Dozens of churches, from Park Hill Congregational in Denver to Hillview United Methodist in Boise, Idaho, and First United Lutheran in San Francisco to St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Honolulu, are planning to send "a message both here at home and to the Arab and Muslim world about our respect for Islam" with a time to read the Quran during worship this Sunday. The aim of the program, which is promoted by social activists behind the Faith Shared website, is to counter the message from Islamic activists who say opposition to their religion is the product of what they call a cottage industry of hate. So the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First is calling on Christian clergy to read portions of the Quran during their services Sunday. [I'm guessing that none of them had to go out and buy a copy of the Koran for the occasion]

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Obama gives America its second Vietnam

Vietnam was lost in Washington DC. Looks the same for Afghanistan. In Vietnam's case they talked about handing over to local forces too

US President Barack Obama used a prime-time address to the nation from the White House today to confirm the withdrawal of about 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year. Mr Obama said a further 23,000 troops would be brought back to America by mid-2012 - ending the US military "surge" in the war-torn nation.

"After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support," he said. "By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

"We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al-Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11."

The US currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, so even after all of the surge troops leave, the military will still have nearly 70,000 forces in the country.

Responding to Mr Obama's address, House Speaker John Boehner said he was pleased the president recognised that success in Afghanistan was paramount.

However, he cautioned, "It is my hope that the president will continue to listen to our commanders on the ground as we move forward. Congress will hold the administration accountable for ensuring that the pace and scope of the drawdown does not undermine the progress we've made thus far".

General David Petraeus and top Pentagon officials had asked for a slower drawdown through the (northern) summer of 2012 to allow them to solidify gains in southern Afghanistan and to mount counter-insurgency operations in eastern districts.

Senator John McCain said Mr Obama's decision, communicated to senior national security officials yesterday represented an "unnecessary risk" and said Gen Petraeus and Defence Secretary Robert Gates had recommended a "more modest withdrawal".

More HERE

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Tiny tyrannies matter too

Libertarian minds reel when considering the loss of liberty here in the United States. There is the ever-growing intrusion of the federal government into the daily lives of men and women, revealing a gross disregard for constitutional guarantees.

We’ve been inundated with examples recently. The effect of Supreme Court decisions and FBI directives can lead us to anger or bring a chilling unease as we wonder what might be next.

It’s easy to focus on what comes out of Washington. Decisions made on the national level affect everyone, the 300 million-plus U.S. citizens as well as the rest of the world. The federal government is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, at home and abroad. Not only are we being spied upon in violation of the Constitution, but the value of our money and our ability to save and invest are being destroyed by fiscal policy while the government’s foreign policy is one of destruction to people, places, and things. It makes enemies; it wages war and we are not any safer.

We also need to pay attention to what happens locally. The news out of Iowa about renters needing to provide apartment keys to the fire department in Cedar Falls is one case in point.

Another example comes from Dallas, Texas, where the city enacted an ordinance limiting window signs for retail businesses to 15 percent of the window area and no sign may be in the upper two-thirds of a window. The statute also prohibits signs that cover more than 25 percent of a building fa├žade.

The Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of a few businesses, but the city played hardball and threatened those retailers with fines of $300,000 if they didn’t drop the suit. The word extortion definitely comes to mind.

Cities such as Dallas and Cedar Falls are not unique in their intrusiveness. Even small townships in southeastern Pennsylvania have ordinances that interfere with personal rights.

Chadds Ford Township won’t allow a motorcycle dealership to park its trucks with company name in front of the shop because supervisors deem that as signage in excess of what ordinances allow.

Even changing the name on a sign requires approval from the Zoning Hearing Board and if the business is in the historic district, it needs approval from the Historic and Architectural Review Board. HARBs also tell homeowners in historic districts what colors they may use to paint their shutters. Any municipality with a HARB is over-regulated.

No business has asked for flashing neon signs or to light up the night sky with their names. They just want to let people know who they are, what they have to offer, and when they’re open.

The aversion to signs is ridiculous. One supervisor always looks for signs tacked to utility poles as he drives around the township. One Easter Sunday he was running around with a stepladder, climbing up and down, removing those nasty signs. Most were from small businesses trying to get their names out as cheaply as possible. It seems an odd way to spend Easter Morning.

When the economy turned upside down, township supervisors finally lightened up a little. Since 2009, some businesses may have a small, A-frame sign in front of their stores during business hours as long as the signs meet certain size specifications, they are taken in at night, and the owner pays a fee of $125.

It’s not just a matter of an anti-business climate. It’s a disregard for the Constitution.

Several years ago, Chadds Ford supervisors enacted a noise ordinance that contains a clause prohibiting congregating at the township building unless there is an authorized public event there. When the township solicitor told the supervisors’ chairman — the aforementioned sign-remover — that such a clause could be challenged as a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free assembly, the chairman said he didn’t care. The clause remains on the books.

Property rights don’t matter either. These same supervisors decided that the owner of a five-acre property. for example, doesn’t necessarily have five acres if he wants to subdivide. Steep slopes and stream areas must be removed from the calculations when determining lot sizes for subdivision. So, in a zoning district with a two-acre minimum lot size, a five-acre property with 1.1 acres of steep slopes, wetlands and other net outs can’t be subdivided because the total net out brings the lot size down to less than four acres. Landowners of larger properties lose even more value. Owners must still pay taxes on the full acreage though.

Chadds Ford isn’t alone in its intrusiveness. Neighboring Birmingham Township has an ordinance regulating the size of leaves on a tree in a residential yard, and supervisors can force a tree removed if it hasn’t grown the way it supposed to grow within its first year.

Don’t even think about putting up a fence around a flower garden without permission and if you want to erect a swing set in your own yard for your own kids you’ll probably have to go to the zoning board.

Overregulation of society comes from local government as well as state and federal. As one area resident said, it’s “the tyranny of tiny rules and regulations.”

A year later that same resident became a supervisor who, like all other supervisors, now works to uphold all township ordinances, even the tiny tyrannical ones.

One of the ironies is that the 1777 Battle of Brandywine was fought in Birmingham and Chadds Ford townships. Boards of supervisors and members of HARBs fight to keep paint colors, building design, and open space true to that time period, yet they ignore what the war was all about — freedom from government intrusion.

So, while we keep an eye on Capitol Hill, we also need to keep an eye on city and township halls — and we need to fight all of them when they intrude on our liberty.

SOURCE

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National security experts blast attorney general’s claim that lawyers are America’s ‘most effective terror-fighting weapon’

How did such a dummy get such a senior job? The color of his skin would seem the only explanation

Centrist and right-of-center national security experts reacted with contempt to Attorney General Eric Holder’s claim at a legal convention that the courts are the nation’s “most effective terror-fighting weapon.”

“That’s utter nonsense … it is simply lunatic,” said Ralph Peters, military analyst, author and former soldier. In the war against the jihadis, he said, the courts “have been totally ineffective when they’re not outright destructive.”

“He’s unconsciously shilling for his own profession,” said Michael Rubin, a Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “Holder, like many ambitious bureaucrats, wants to build a bureaucratic empire … [and] by doing so, he will get Americans killed.”

On Sunday, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell added his voice to the criticism. “The attorney general said the other night our biggest weapon in the war on terror was the U.S. civilian court system,” he said on CBS’ Face The Nation. “ I don’t know what planet he’s living on.”

Holder’s declaration came in a Thursday speech to hundreds of progressive lawyers, advocates, judges and students gathered at the American Constitution Society’s annual gala. “I know that – in distant countries, and within our own borders – there are people intent on, and actively plotting to, kill Americans,” he told his legal peers in the enthusiastic audience. “Victory and security will not come easily, and they won’t come at all if we adhere to a rigid ideology, adopt a narrow methodology, or abandon our most effective terror-fighting weapon – our Article III [civil] court system,” he declared to much applause.

Holder delivered his speech several months after Congress and public opinion defeated his two-year political campaigns to transfer five captured Al Qaeda leaders from the military’s legal commissions to the legal profession’s civilian courts, and to close the military’s Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility.

At the lawyers’ convention, Holder called for an advocacy campaign that would give civil lawyers the lead role in the struggle against the jihadis. “We cannot – and we must not – allow the public safety concerns that all Americans share to divide us … we must ensure that the rule of law … must be recognized as the foundation for our continued security,” he said.

“Achieving this goal is our collective responsibility. And it must become our common cause,” he declared to his fellow lawyers.

SOURCE

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ELSEWHERE

Welfare before the welfare state: "Many people think life without the welfare state would be chaos. In their minds, nobody would help support the less fortunate, and there would be riots in the streets. Little do they know that people found innovative ways of supporting each other before the welfare state existed. One of the most important of these ways was the mutual-aid society"

There’s no “average” cancer patient: "On June 28, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a hearing to decide the fate of Avastin, a drug taken by thousands of women fighting late-stage breast cancer. Many of these women have pleaded for continued access to the drug, which they consider a matter of life and death. But this case is really about what will guide decisions on treatment options — the best judgment of doctors and their patients, or the policy preferences of the FDA."

Medicare Part D not broke, don’t fix it: "Only in Washington could you get traction with a saying like, 'if it ain't broke, fix it anyway.' But sure enough, in his new deficit plan, President Barack Obama has proposed imposing $49 billion worth of Medicaid-style cost controls on a health care success story -- the landmark 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug program. While deficit reduction is a worthy goal, this particular idea is not only bad; it won't work. There's ample evidence that it would not only increase costs, rather than reduce them, but also reduce access to life-enhancing and life-saving drugs."

What you don’t know can hurt you: "The Soviet Union enacted an infamous law in 1922 that criminalized 'hooliganism.' The crime was in the eye of the beholder, the beholder of consequence being the Soviet secret police. Because it was impossible for dissidents to know in advance whether they were violating this prohibition, they were always subject to arrest and imprisonment, all ostensibly according to law. In the United States, we have legal safeguards against Soviet-style social controls, not least of which is the judicial branch’s ability to nullify laws so vague that they violate the right to due process. Yet far too many federal laws leave citizens unsure about the line between legal and illegal conduct, punishing incorrect guesses with imprisonment."

CBO sees government benefits swamping US economy: "The United States will find little relief from its bleak long-term fiscal outlook so long as growing federal healthcare and retirement programs gobble up more and more of the country's resources, said a new economic report issued on Wednesday."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)

****************************

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Will technology shift back towards the old?

Some interesting theories by historian Martin Hutchinson

A Wall Street Journal article last weekend suggested that discomfort with novel applications of technology such as Twitter was a function of age. By refusing to sign on to Facebook or buy the latest expensive gadget one was merely confessing to being old (the author claimed to be 33, and seemed worried about the symptoms of aging – he should get out of Manhattan more!) But it set me to wondering: has new technology always been unattractive for older people, or was there a period in which they truly benefited from it? And if there was such a period, has it disappeared forever, or will we see a return to it as the population ages?

Without going back to ancient history, we can imagine that in the early stages of the Industrial revolution technology was not kind to the old. A Newcomen or Boulton and Watt steam engine, for example, required huge amounts of coal shoveled into it to make it function and was itself an enormously heavy piece of machinery – thus those who had passed their first peak of fitness would have found it difficult either to operate or to repair. Likewise the early factories with belt-driven machinery powered by gigantic steam engines had a tendency to catch the unwary and sever their limbs – the quick reaction speeds of youth were a definite advantage in surviving such places, and older workers would frequently exhibit disfiguring industrial injuries. Then there’s the notorious Rainhill Trials railway accident of 1830, in which the unfit, overweight 60-year-old William Huskisson, standing on a railway line in discussion with the Duke of Wellington about the formation of the Duke’s new government, was unable to get out of the way of the onrushing “Rocket” engine and so was crushed to death. With heavy, awkward machinery and few safety features, the old were at a natural disadvantage in the early years of industrialization.

The inventors of early industrial machinery were themselves towards the youthful side of middle age, even though they had to establish themselves financially before making their leaps forward. Newcomen was 46 when he developed his engine; Watt developed his first working model at 30, Arkwright patented his water frame at 36, Trevithick invented the locomotive at 32 and while Stephenson was 49 when he built “Rocket” his first successful engine was developed at 33. Thus early industrial machinery was developed by men in full physical vigor, and was poorly adapted to the older and more sedentary such as the unfortunate Huskisson.

As the industrial revolution developed, its products became less age-unfriendly as they became lighter. Furthermore, the age of their inventors tended to increase. Joseph Swan was 50 when he patented the electric light bulb, after which even the feeble and elderly with poor eyesight were able to live full lives in the evenings. Karl Benz was only 41 when he developed the automobile, and the early models remained age-hostile, since they had to be cranked by hand to start them, an operation impossible for the elderly, feeble and arthritic. The 35-year old Charles Kettering invented the self-starter, a major advance, but changing gears still required a level of coordination and strength that old people generally lacked. The two great breakthroughs were made by the General Motors engineer Earl Thompson, who brought out the synchromesh gearbox in 1928, when he was 36 years old and the first full automatic transmission in 1939, when he was 47 – but the inventions were paid for within a huge corporate structure under the direction of GM’s legendary CEO Alfred P. Sloan, 55 in 1928 and 66 in 1939; hence easily old enough to reap the benefit of both inventions (though doubtless his chauffeurs were younger!)

By 1960, the world was well designed for the elderly. Cars were large, easy to get in and out of, and equipped with soft suspensions, fully automatic transmissions and air conditioning. Homes were fully electric, with labor saving devices that not only reduced the work of women but also made them easy to live in for the elderly, who no longer had to stoke coal fires but could simply turn on the heating, while cookery had equally become a matter of twiddling a few dials. On the other hand, almost all machinery was electromechanical, thus easily comprehensible to its users and repairable by the millions of handymen and repair shops who found active blue-collar employment without the need for specialized training or expensive electronic machinery. Shopping no longer needed to be carried home each day; instead the supermarkets had car parks, and if necessary attendants who would help you load the car with the weekly groceries.

While diabetes, heart attacks and cancer still carried off many people in middle age, antibiotics at least prevented truly healthy individuals from succumbing to infections after an accident, or to pneumonia. At the same time, youth culture was confined to the young, while popular entertainment and marketing was geared to the late middle aged, who had accumulated seniority in their workplaces and hence had most of the money. Nobody harassed the aging and overweight with gymnasia, or with any unwanted exercise beyond the occasional round of golf. Finally, mild inflation, buoyant stock markets and high dividends rewarded well-established savers and homeowners, while final-salary pensions rewarded those who had become middle-aged early in life, and remained for several decades with the same employer.

Needless to say, this geriatric Nirvana has not lasted. Modern gadgets, so unlike the comforting electric cooker or room air conditioner, have minute control systems that are impossible for aged arthritic digits to manipulate. Modern televisions’ hundreds of channels become useless once the remote control (itself incomprehensible) has been lost. The replacement of the PC first by the notebook and now by the tablet and the cellphone is a retrograde step as far as the old are concerned – on a BlackBerry they can neither read the screen nor manipulate the keys accurately. Modern gadgets are also subject to incomprehensible but devastating failures at unexpected times, and need to be replaced more or less yearly -- far, far from the standards of a 1950s Maytag washing machine, which if bought in middle age would generally see you out.

The Internet itself took some getting used to for the old, but Facebook and Twitter require entirely new means of communication, involving new social norms with which the old are necessarily unfamiliar. Even though scientific progress has if anything slowed in the last fifty years, it has been made more difficult and unpleasant for the old to adapt to. Yes, medical advances have been superb, and one must always be grateful for them, but even in this field old people may perhaps be less than fully grateful to the inventor of colonoscopy, Dr. Bergein Overholt, a 28-year-old sadist when he did his most critical work. .

One huge difference between modern technological advances and those of the mid-20th century is the age of the inventors. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and the other computer geeks were in their 20s when they revolutionized the world, as were Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin and now Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Naturally, such people had no experience of being old, or understanding of the condition, and indeed having grown up in the nexus of youth-oriented culture they had very little contact with older people in their daily lives. It is thus unsurprising that new technology was designed without regard to the limitations that age brings. Whereas when the youngish Thompson invented the automatic transmission he operated under the direction of the elderly Alfred P. Sloan, the inventors of 2011’s advances have little or no adult supervision.

There are a number of factors that suggest technology’s youth-orientation may be about to reverse. First, the returns to investors on the innumerable venture capital investments of the late 1990s were abysmal, and there is every reason to believe that the results from the current crop will be no better. At some point, investors will get fed up with pouring their money down rat-holes; the prolonged period of tight money and high interest rates that will be necessary to combat rising inflation will intensify this pullback. This will again make it much more difficult for the under-30s to get funding and force most technological innovation back within large corporations, where it resided in the 1950s.

A second factor will be the continuing aging of the population in general and the refusal of the baby boomers to retire (largely because their overspending will have left them destitute in old age.) Within the corporations that increasingly become the principal nexus of innovation, decision making cadres will age in place, so that even if the new gadget producers are young, operational and funding decisions will be taken by the old. This is already happening; Steve Jobs, guiding force of the leading gadget innovator, is now 56.

A third factor will be the redistribution of purchasing power towards the old. With the baby boomers continuing longer in the workforce, and the young increasingly burdened by massive student debt at escalating interest rates, companies will be forced to go where the money is. Products designed by 25 year olds for 25 year olds will no longer find a sufficient market to be viable.

The redistribution of wealth towards emerging markets will alleviate this tendency, but not much. Most emerging markets have relatively low consumption as a percentage of GDP so the youthful gadget-oriented middle class are a small fraction of the total population. Then the emerging markets themselves are aging. China in particular is aging rapidly and will revert to the elder-orientation that is traditional to its culture. Currently the Chinese old are impoverished, having lost their prime earning years to the Cultural Revolution, but the next generation, young in the years when “to be rich is glorious” will have much higher purchasing power and will use it to pull producers towards their own needs. In any case, even with the emerging of new markets, much of the world’s purchasing power will remain concentrated in Europe and Japan, where the old are increasingly dominant.

If I were young, I would mourn the rapid passing of the years when innovations were designed by my contemporaries with my desires primarily in mind. Since I’m not, I will welcome the arrival of 2030’s equivalents of the 1957 Chrysler Imperial – self-driving, so that I no longer need to test my aging reflexes against those of insane youthful hot-rodders. I will also welcome the demise of the youth-oriented arrogance of the WSJ article – no more 33-year-olds lecturing me about my inadequacies!

Above all, I will welcome the arrival of that 1950s dream, sidetracked by the IT industry and society’s foolish orientation towards rootless, hyperactive youth: the fully functional household robot, built to withstand a generation of use with simple, easy to operate controls– the ultimate in making life easier and pleasanter for us old folk.

SOURCE

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Ayn Rand Was Right: Wealthy Are on Strike Against Obama

I think Wayne Allyn Root is partly right below but that the effect he describes is just beginning so far. I think a lot of business people are waiting to see what Nov. 2012 brings forth

The U.S. economy is crumbling. Businesses are collapsing in record numbers. Jobs have disappeared. Tax revenues are down dramatically. Coincidence?

Everything happening today under Obama resembles the storyline of Ayn Rand’s famous book, Atlas Shrugged, one of the most popular books of all time, selling over 7 million copies. Now, under President Obama, Atlas Shrugged has come to life. Rand prophesized a country dominated by socialists, Marxists and statists, where looters, free loaders and poverty promoters live off the productive class. To rationalize the fleecing of innovative business owners and job creators, the looter class demonized the wealthy, just as Obama and his socialist cabal are doing in real life today.

The central plot of Atlas Shrugged is that in response to being demonized, over-taxed, over-regulated, and punished for success, America’s business owners were disappearing — dropping off the grid, and refusing to work 16-hour days to support those unwilling to put in the same blood, sweat and tears. They were going on strike. Because of that the original proposed title of “Atlas Shrugged” was “The Strike.”

They were going on strike to teach that civilization cannot survive when people are slaves to government. That without a productive class of innovative business owners willing to risk their own money and work 16-hour days, weekends and holidays, there are no jobs and no taxes to pay for government. If you punish the wealthy, the risk-takers, the innovators, you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. In Obama’s America, fiction is becoming fact.

The lesson of Atlas Shrugged is that without the $100,000+ earners paying into Social Security, there are no pensions for the poor and lower middle class. Without the wealthy owners of million-dollar mansions paying $25,000 and $50,000 annual property tax bills, there is no funding for public schools. Without the wealthy paying into Medicare, there is no “free” healthcare for the elderly. Without capitalists motivated by profit, there are no discoveries to eradicate polio or create miraculous cancer and AIDS drugs. Without capitalists motivated by profit, there are no jobs, period! That is what happens when the producers of society go on strike to protect themselves from the looters.

Ayn Rand was warning the looters that there are consequences to their overzealous actions. She was warning that if the productive classes felt used, demonized, ripped off, and taken for granted, they would go on strike — stop working, retire early, go underground, or move to places where achievement is celebrated and they feel appreciated.

The latest U.S. Census proves Ayn Rand right. Under Obama the wealthy are striking, voting with their feet. They are moving to low-tax red states in droves, escaping from high-tax blue states where they are being demonized and punished by the millions.

The Census proves that Obama’s tax and spend philosophy is a dismal failure, an economic disaster killing jobs. It is no coincidence that 1.9 million FEWER Americans are working than before Obama’s stimulus. It is no coincidence that jobs are not returning to the private sector. It is no coincidence that tax revenues have dropped dramatically and cannot support Obama’s bloated Big Brother government. The innovators, risk-takers, and wealthy he demonized and punished are on strike.

The high tech revolution has killed the progressive-liberal tax-and-spend dream. Because of the Internet, email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Satellite TV, I-phones, I-pads, and cell phones, business owners are no longer prisoners of Big Brother. Take a look at states where the latest Census shows Americans moved during the past decade: Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alaska, Virginia — all low- or no-tax red states, states that lead the USA in economic freedom.

Now look at states they escaped from: New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan. Taxpayers, business owners, jobs creators, retirees with assets are fleeing the high tax, big spending, Big Brother states — the states being run like Obama is running the nation.

Progressives be afraid, be very afraid. If Obama is re-elected, these valuable producers will pick up and leave America altogether. There is a big world out there begging them to come. Places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Monte Carlo, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Bahamas, and Cayman Islands are low-tax havens that appreciate business owners and their sacrifices. They welcome wealthy ex-patriots. They celebrate individual achievement. They reward instead of punish business owners and financial risk-takers. They are wonderful places to live and are aggressively pursuing Americans.

I am just one small businessman, a third-party Libertarian political leader. Yet I personally have heard from thousands of fans, friends and supporters who have left America, are thinking of leaving America, are visiting other countries right now to decide where to go, or making preparations to leave in case Obama is re-elected. Just as Ayn Rand predicted, business owners are going on strike. Permanently.

The high tech revolution has freed them to run their businesses from anywhere in the world. The same high tech tools and toys that toppled a powerful and invincible 30-year dictator in Egypt and now threaten to topple powerful leaders throughout the Arab world, also offer mobility and freedom to U.S. taxpayers. Obama better learn the lesson of Mubarek before millions more business people decide they do not need to put up with looters, free loaders, and politicians who despise them.

Atlas is shrugging. Ayn Rand is saying “I told you so.”

SOURCE

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ELSEWHERE

The medical marketplace, free and unfree: "Prior to the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, individuals paid for the majority of medical goods and services out of their own pocket and utilized health insurance as a rational tool for mitigating financial risk posed by catastrophic events. During this time a real market existed for the vast majority of medical goods, and services and prices were reasonable. However, after the advent of these programs, third-party spending on routine medical services increased, and out-of-pocket spending fell dramatically."

Genetic determinism versus parental irrelevantism: "I think that parents affect their kids in lots of ways. Parents have big effects on religious affiliation and political party, small effects on many other traits, and a clear effect on the quality of the parent-child relationship. And those are just long-run effects within vaguely normal, First World families. In the short-run, and outside the vaguely normal First World range, parents matter far more. Still, if someone were to caricature my position as 'parental irrelevantism,' I would take no offense. It's an inaccurate summary of my position, but not wildly inaccurate."

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)

****************************

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Missing Money

Thomas Sowell

One of my earliest memories of revulsion against war came from seeing a photograph from the First World War when I was a teenager. It was nothing gory. Just a picture of a military officer, in an impressive uniform, talking to a puzzled and forlorn-looking old peasant woman with a cloth wrapped around her head. He said simply: "Don't you understand, madam? The village is not there any more."

To many such people of that era, the village was the only world they knew. And to say that it had been destroyed in the carnage of war was to say that there was no way for them to go back home, that their whole world was gone.

Recently that image came back, in a wholly different context, while seeing pictures of American seniors carrying signs that read "Hands off my Social Security" and "Hands off my Medicare."

They want their Social Security and their Medicare to stay the way they are -- and their anger is directed against those who want to change the financial arrangements that pay for these benefits.

Their anger should be directed instead against those politicians who were irresponsible enough to set up these costly programs without putting aside enough money to pay for the promises that were made -- promises that now cannot be kept, regardless of which political party controls the government.

Someone needs to say to those who want Social Security and Medicare to continue on unchanged: "Don't you understand? The money is not there any more."

Many retired people remember the money that was taken out of their paychecks for years and feel that they are now entitled to receive Social Security benefits as a right. But the way Social Security was set up was so financially shaky that anyone who set up a similar retirement scheme in the private sector could be sent to federal prison for fraud.

But you can't send a whole Congress to prison, however much they may deserve it.

This is not some newly discovered problem. Innumerable economists and others pointed out decades ago that Social Security was unsustainable in the long run, including yours truly on "Meet the Press" in 1981.

But the long run doesn't count for most politicians, since elections are held in the short run. Politicians' election prospects are enhanced, the more goodies they can promise and the less taxes they collect to pay for them.

That is why welfare states in Europe as well as here are facing bitter public protests as the chickens come home to roost.

It has been said innumerable times that nobody already on Social Security will lose their benefits. But it needs to be spelled out emphatically, so that political demagogues will not be able to scare retired seniors that they are going to have the rug pulled out from under them.

Retired seniors have the least to fear from a reform of Social Security, since neither political party is about to take away what these retirees already have and are relying on.

Despite irresponsible political ads showing an old lady in a wheel chair being dumped over a cliff, the people who are really in danger of being dumped over a cliff are the younger generation, who are paying into Social Security but are unlikely to get back anything like what they are paying in.

The money that young workers are paying into Social Security today is not being put aside to pay for their retirement. It is being spent today, paying the pensions of the retired generation -- and it can't even cover that in the years ahead.

What needs to be done is to allow younger workers a choice of staying out of a system that is simply running out of money. Nor can the system be saved by simply jacking up taxes on "the rich."

Generations of experience have shown that high tax rates that "the rich" can easily avoid -- through tax shelters at home or by investing their money abroad -- do not bring in as much revenue as lower tax rates that keep the money here and the jobs here.

Since the law does not allow private pension plans to be set up in the financially irresponsible way Social Security is, that is where young people's money should be put, if they ever want to see that money again when they reach retirement age.

SOURCE

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Here Come the Extremists!

It isn't quite panic yet, but the sounds emanating from Obamaland are certainly nervous. If you are David Axelrod, chief strategist for President Obama's re-election campaign, you are well aware of your idol's fall and doubtless less than thrilled to get this question from CNN's Candy Crowley:

"Something that the president said this week struck me ... he said it's not as cool to be an Obama supporter as it was in 2008... I think he's right. I think it's not as cool to be an Obama supporter now. How do you get cool back into this?"

Gee, how do you compare a campaign that was based entirely on vapid promises and vaporous sentiment with a referendum on actual job performance? Axelrod denied (unconvincingly) that the 2008 campaign had been a "cult of personality" and assured Crowley that once the campaign gets "fully engaged and the choices become clear, you are going to see a great deal of activity out there on his behalf." In a signal of just how feeble the case for Obama's re-election is, Axelrod fell back on the bogeyman:

"I think one of the things that's going to inform that campaign is whether that Republican candidate is going to yield to some of the forces within his own party or her own party that is driving their -- their party further to the right."

For the record, there has never been a time in the past 50 years that the Democrats have not claimed to detect a frightening rightward tilt in the GOP -- even as the party has nominated such wild-eyed radicals as George H.W. Bush, John McCain and George W. ("compassionate conservative") Bush.

Crowley pointed out that support for the president among independents has declined from 52 percent in the 2008 election to 42 percent today, and that even among staunch liberals, 89 percent of whom voted for Obama in 2008, support has dipped to 64 percent. How does the Obama team re-create a victory in light of these numbers?

She might have added so much more to that question. She might have asked how an incumbent requests re-election when the unemployment is at 9.1 percent. Even more worrisome, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fully half of the jobless are now long-term unemployed, meaning they have been without jobs for 27 weeks or longer. That is the highest percentage of long-term unemployed since the Labor Department starting keeping such records in 1948.

She might have asked how an incumbent achieves a vote of confidence when commodity prices on food and fuel are rising and, relatedly, the value of the dollar is plunging; when the housing market has yet to recover from the crash despite (or, more likely, because of) the president's Home Affordable Modification Program, which has prevented markets from clearing; when a record one in seven Americans now receives Food Stamps; when one out of six Americans is on Medicaid; and when a whopping 62.5 percent of respondents say the nation is on the wrong track.

When the economy is strong, elections can turn on a variety of issues. But when the economy is poor, elections are seldom about anything else. The 1980 race was illustrative.

Though the Carter/Reagan race is remembered now as a landslide for Ronald Reagan, the contours of the victory were not apparent during the campaign. As late as October 29, Gallup had the race as a dead heat, with Reagan at 44 percent and President Carter at 43 (it was a three-man race). Other polling showed larger margins for Reagan but nothing like the 10-point margin of victory he achieved. At the time, the contest was perceived as close.

It was after the first and only debate, a week before Election Day, that voters definitively moved into Reagan's column. At the time, inflation was running at 13.5 percent, unemployment was 7 percent and interest rates were 21 percent. American hostages remained in Tehran. Carter's approval ratings hovered in the 30s during the final year of his tenure.

Why wasn't Carter perceived as hopelessly weak? Perhaps because as bad as things were, voters needed to be confident about the challenger's fitness. Carter had succeeded to some degree in frightening voters about Reagan's (you guessed it) right-wing extremism. Reagan's reassuring debate performance allayed those fears. And Reagan's summation drilled to the heart of voters' concerns. Ask yourself, Reagan advised, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

The economy today is in some respects worse than it was in 1980. Barring a catastrophe, little else will matter in 2012. Any credible Republican can defeat Obama -- which is why Axelrod is already smearing as "extremist" a person whose name he does not know.

SOURCE

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A Big Win For Common Sense

The Unconscious Prejudice Industry -- the boo-hoo-we're-all-guilty-stop-us-before-we-discriminate-again lobby -- took it deservedly on the chin Monday from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Genial enough was the court's unanimous decision not to allow advancement of a sexual discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, inasmuch as the plaintiffs were using the wrong part of the right law. Better still was the conservative bloc's rejection of a claim to the effect that Wal-Mart managers might have been allowing stereotypes to influence their personnel decisions, thus engaging in "gender bias" against 200 actual claimants who wished judicial permission to speak for a million and a half female employees.

A University of Illinois-Chicago professor, William Bielby, had cooked up this fragrant theory by using something called "social framework analysis." The reference is to "scientific evidence about gender bias, stereotypes, and the structures and dynamics of gender inequality in organizations."

The inventors of the concept, also academicians, had already accused Bielby of neglecting to research Wal-Mart's actual performance, but it was left to the justices to pour this malodorous broth down the kitchen sink. Where was the proof of anything that Wal-Mart had done wrong? The 5-4 majority wished to know. There wasn't any, apart from a small collection of anecdotes. Everything else was inferential. It had to be so, because it had to be so, because ...

The Unconscious Prejudice Industry, which imputes bias to people on the basis of sex or race, has no notion of closing down and going away. For one thing, class action suits employ too many plaintiff's lawyers shopping for the next judicial bonanza. These folks get no discouragement from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote in the Wal-Mart case that "Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware."

Well, yes, as a matter of fact. You might even say the same of Supreme Court justices. Does this mean we should bar Justice Ginsburg from sitting on cases with plaintiffs or defendants against whom she might nurture some bias kept carefully on her person? For that matter, what about the rest of the courts? What about you? What about me?

Federal and state law make certain assumptions that they are well entitled to make when it comes to stated obvious bias; for instance, the job advertisements in 19th-century Massachusetts: "No Irish need apply." What happens, nevertheless, in a case the Wal-Mart allegations could have turned into? Wal-Mart officially prohibits personnel discrimination. It accords its local managers the latitude that alone keeps decision processes flexible. What that means, to the Unconscious Prejudice Industry, is that things work the opposite way. Yes, they say they don't discriminate. But, of course, they must and do. "Framework analysis" tell us so: one more sign of the general loopiness of modern life.

Evidence? What need has the liberal mind for evidence -- the mind in which the idea of unconscious prejudice was hatched to begin with? The burden of these cases on society grows cumbersome.

First to notice is the cost of litigation. Millions spent on lawyers isn't doing much besides strengthening the second-home industry. Then watch as we become a culture of bleaters into whose heads the alien thought couldn't possibly penetrate: Gee, maybe I just didn't do the job very well!

The whole matter of fairness in hiring and promotion suffers from any public perception that the government alone can save us from the hateful little minds of managers and personnel employees who don't even know how biased they are.

In the Wal-Mart case, the Supreme Court kept things from getting worse -- economically, intellectually, constitutionally than they are at present, but the problem persists and will re-emerge. It's just too easy, and maybe too profitable, to take for granted that mean old white male power brokers did somebody in due to unconscious white male biases (which deserve to cost them big time).

There's another factor. The court majority on "unconscious bias" was 5-4: too narrow for comfort, as the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office has surely noticed.

SOURCE

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Culture of death silences opposition in New York

The culture of death is relentless. And certain of its adherents—Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, for example—are not only committed to the promotion, provision, and performance of abortions, but to removing every obstacle that might deter a woman from having one.

In this they prove that the argument isn’t really between pro-choice and anti-choice, as they wish to cast it, but between defenders of life and those consumed with the money-making opportunities which await doctors willing to kill hundreds of thousands of children each year at a rate of about one child every 95 seconds. (If we consider all abortion providers, rather than Planned Parenthood alone, there are about 1.2 million abortions each year at a rate of about one child every 27 seconds.)

Just consider the full frontal assault NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and others have been carrying out against pregnancy centers in places like New York City throughout this year. With the help of all-too willing accomplices like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city council, these profiteers of death have secured passage of a law which forces such pregnancy centers to post signs in English and Spanish telling women a long list of “disclosures” mandated by the city, including whether they perform abortions, whether a licensed medical provider is on staff (even though New York state law does not require medical providers at non-medical centers), and that the city health department encourages women to consult with one.

The law requires the signs to be posted in various locations throughout the pregnancy centers and replicated in any advertisements issued by the centers. Moreover, counselors working at the pregnancy centers must provide the same message “in person or over the phone when a client requests or inquires” about certain services.

Clearly, the purpose of the signs is to dissuade women from going to pregnancy centers instead of abortion mills. In effect, the signs are part of larger push to regulate pro-life help providers in order to deny choice to women who want to pursue solutions other than abortion when a need arises.

More HERE

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My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Russia inching away from the greenback

After Obama's money printing binge has suddenly devalued it

THE Russian Central Bank will pour up to $US5 billion ($4.7bn) into the Australian dollar in a fresh wave of support for the currency, in a move to diversify its reserves and shift away from the US dollar.

The first deputy chairman of the Russian central bank, Alexei Ulyukayev, said that starting from September, the bank would hold Australian dollars for up to 1 per cent of its $US528bn in reserves.

He said at a conference at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum that the last meeting of the central bank's monetary policy committee had approved a list of banks that would buy Australian dollars. "They will place funds on deposit and buy securities (in Australian dollars)," he said. 'I expect (the start of operations) in (the northern) autumn. I cannot say more -- maybe in September, maybe in October."

A top economic aide to President Dmitry Medvedev, Arkady Dvorkovich, said Russia would continue to lower its US debt holdings. Its stock of US Treasuries has already gone down from $US176bn last October to $US125bn in April.

The comments by Russian officials come as Australian economists report increasing interest in the Australian currency by other central banks and sovereign wealth funds, amid uncertainty about the economic outlook in the US and Europe. Increasing foreign interest has powered the Australian dollar's rise from parity with the US dollar earlier this year to around $US1.06 today.

"The Australian dollar is the fifth largest traded currency in the world now. It has been backed, for some considerable time, by sound monetary policy and, because of the structure of the Australian economy, real interest rates here are high.

"If you hold the Australian dollar, you can be confident that inflation will remain reasonably controlled and real interest rates are high, which means you are going to get a good return."

Mr Murray said the dollar was also seen as a proxy for the emerging Asian nations, including China. "If you can't buy (the Chinese currency), you can buy the Australian dollar. This is one factor putting some upward pressure on the Australian dollar."

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens warned Australians last week to get used to living with a strong dollar. He indicated the bank was considering raising interest rates at its August board meeting unless data showed inflation was under control.

Rob Henderson, chief economist, markets, with National Australia Bank, said he expected foreign central banks and fund managers to keep buying into Australian government bonds. "Australia is one of the world's true AAA-rated government debts at the moment," he said.

More here

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Open Letter to Paul Krugman

From Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

Interviewed recently in “The Browser,” you said that
if you ask a liberal or a saltwater economist, “What would somebody on the other side of this divide say here? What would their version of it be?” A liberal can do that. A liberal can talk coherently about what the conservative view is because people like me actually do listen. We don’t think it’s right, but we pay enough attention to see what the other person is trying to get at.

The reverse is not true. You try to get someone who is fiercely anti-Keynesian to even explain what a Keynesian economic argument is, they can’t do it. They can’t get it remotely right. Or if you ask a conservative,”What do liberals want?” You get this bizarre stuff – for example, that liberals want everybody to ride trains, because it makes people more susceptible to collectivism.

You just have to look at the realities of the way each side talks and what they know. One side of the picture is open-minded and sceptical. We have views that are different, but they’re arrived at through paying attention. The other side has dogmatic views.


Let’s overlook your failure to distinguish conservatives from libertarians – a failure that, for the point I’m about to make, is unimportant.

You’re able to conclude that “liberals” are open-minded thinkers while “conservatives” are dumb-as-dung dogmatists only because you compare the works of “liberal” scholars to the pronouncements of conservative popular pundits. However valid or invalid is the artistic license used by conservative celebrities such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh (and, for that matter, by “liberal” celebrities such as Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann) to entertain large popular audiences, you’re wrong to equate the pronouncements of conservative media stars with the knowledge and works of conservative (and libertarian) scholars.

Because, as you claim, you study carefully the works of non-”liberal” scholars, you surely know that the late Frank Knight, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman – influential economists whom you would classify as “conservative” – were all steeped in and treated seriously the writings of Keynes, Marx, Veblen, Galbraith, and other “liberal” thinkers.

The same is true for still-living influential non-”liberal” scholars.

I’d be obliged to conclude that you in fact, contrary your claim, do not carefully engage the works of non-”liberal” scholars if you insist that “liberal” scholarship is ignored by conservative and libertarian thinkers such as James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Ronald Coase, Armen Alchian, Harold Demsetz, Anna Schwartz, Gary Becker, Vernon Smith, Leland Yeager, Henry Manne, Deirdre McCloskey, Allan Meltzer, Richard Epstein, Tyler Cowen, Arnold Kling, George Selgin, Lawrence H. White, and James Q. Wilson, to name only a few.

You do a disservice to scholars such as these, as well as to scholarship generally, to assert that serious thinking is done only by you and your ideological cohorts.

SOURCE

Prof. Boudreaux's reply exposes the dishonesty of the Jug Man's writing. He could also have mentioned that the Jug Man's claim about closed and open-mindedness is a hoary one. Psychologists have been making the same claim since at least 1950. The research they quote in support of the claim is deeply flawed however, mostly based on what students say. More careful research using general population samples has shown the claim to be wrong

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The German health insurance system

In summary: Mandatory but competitive insurance for all -- paid for by BOTH employer and employee -- with a range of private but government-approved non-profit insurers

As one would expect of the richest country in Europe, Germany offers high quality healthcare, from primary care through to high-tech hospitals and good provision for chronic disease and old age.

It all dates back to Otto von Bismarck, the “Iron Chancellor” who established Germany’s social welfare system in the 1870s. He was reported to have said it was immoral to benefit from sickness, and that “insurance should be on the mutual principle (so that the healthy pay as much as the sick) and no dividends or profits should be derived by private persons”.

One could argue that these high-minded principles exist more in the imagination than reality. But Bismarck’s broad idea of a range of statutory health insurers, independent of providers, competing against each other, holds good. Insurers (also known as sick funds or mutuals) are financed by contributions from employers and employees.

COMPARISONS WITH BRITAIN'S NHS

The “Bismarck system” operates across most of Europe, including Austria, Netherlands, France and Switzerland, all with well-rated healthcare. The NHS’s “Beveridge system,” free at point of use and taxpayer funded, may be much loved by the British people, but arguably does not match the Bismarck system in medical outcomes and aspects of patient satisfaction.

In Germany, you don’t wait 18 weeks from referral for joint replacement. Equally, “Bismarck” countries largely avoided the high hospital infection rates in NHS units in the Noughties.

Waits in Germany remain close to nonexistent – even if economic pressures apply, as with all Western countries with ageing populations. And care for the chronic sick and elderly is regarded as far better than in Britain. If you suffer cancer or need certain operations, your insurer may have to pay for a lengthy stay at a salubrious “rehab centre” in the Black Forest. That is not in the NHS book.

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

With Germany spending 11 per cent of its (considerable) GDP on healthcare, one would expect good health outcomes. They are respectable, with life expectancy at 77 for men and 83 for women. The yardstick of a nation’s healthcare efficiency, infant mortality, is four per 1,000 live births, a satisfactory figure for a country with high numbers of less well-off immigrants.

GERMANY FEELS THE SQUEEZE

The German state is as vulnerable as the UK, America or other European states to the problems of mounting healthcare bills. Indeed, it is particularly exposed because of a shrinking and ageing workforce, and falling birth rates.

That is why Chancellor Angela Merkel defied heavy opposition to push through wide-ranging changes to the state health system in 2010. One aim was to limit ever-rising taxes on employers (who to that point jointly funded the system through equal contributions). That represented a barrier to taking on staff, in turn aggravating unemployment.

Another aim was to throw the onus of meeting rising healthcare bills on insurers, and ultimately, policyholders.

WHAT THE CHANGES MEAN

From January 2011, employers have to pay 15.5 per cent of their income towards healthcare. (The previous rate was 14.9 per cent). This is a huge proportion of income by comparison with other countries, but it should be remembered that the cover is for cradle-to-grave service.

But the 15.5 per cent employers’ rate is fixed in law and frozen long term. The sums raised are ultimately distributed among scores of state registered health insurers, many quite small and trade-union based. The idea is that by freezing the employers’ income-related contribution rate, the onus falls on insurers to cope with future cost rises. Insurers will either increase premiums – arguably the most likely scenario – or slash overheads and tighten efficiency.

SHOP AROUND

As with all insurance-based health schemes, the individual needs to weigh up premium against benefits. As a German government spokesman puts it: “The premium, which has to be paid by all members of a health insurance fund, is a transparent price signal. It allows the insured to compare the price and the benefit package and choose the fund with the best price-performance ratio.”

Some relief exists for people trapped in an insurance fund that hikes premiums unreasonably. If the average additional premium exceeds two per cent of a policyholder’s income, the individual is reimbursed by the state. To avoid bureaucracy, compensation is paid indirectly, by lowering the income-related contribution rate of the person in question. To cover these costs, €2 billion has been made available until 2014.

If a health fund has to levy an additional premium, or increase its premium, it must notify its members of their right to cancel their membership. Members are allowed to leave their old fund and join a new one within two months of an additional premium coming into force.

PROOF OF THE PUDDING?

If the Merkel reforms work, the chancellor can thank her 19th century predecessor for bequeathing a system that makes competition possible.

Mrs Merkel needs success because the reforms prompted a steep fall in her poll ratings. She was roundly attacked by opposition parties, trade unions and insurers. They claimed the reforms were aimed more at raising money than cutting costs.

But Germany has at least made a serious attempt to tackle a problem that is afflicting every Western nation. Each is trying a different approach. That’s a sure sign that no one nation has the answer to the spiralling health costs of an increasingly greying and demanding populace.

SOURCE

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ELSEWHERE

White House criticized over cuts in pediatrician training: "The Obama administration’s bid to slash funding for training pediatricians at children’s hospitals is provoking intense protests from medical educators and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. This year, the administration, as part of its 2012 budget, proposed terminating a program that provides more than $300 million a year to the 56 free-standing children’s hospitals around the country, which train 40 percent of the nation’s pediatricians and 43 percent of pediatric subspecialists. In addition, it cut $48 million from the program this month as part of the overall spending reductions for the current year that were in the budget agreement reached with Congress."

Israel will block flotilla: "Israel Navy commander Adm. Eliezer Marom issued a stark warning on Sunday for the organizers of the Gaza flotilla intended to set sail at the end of the month. 'The Navy has prevented and will continue to prevent the arrival of the 'hate flotilla' whose only goals are to clash with IDF soldiers, create media provocation and to delegitimize the State of Israel,' Marom cautioned during a graduation ceremony of the Israel Navy's submarine fighters."

Railroad resists $400 million drug war fines: "A border security program to X-ray every train rolling into the country has prompted as much as $400 million in fines against U.S. railroads, which are held responsible for the pungent bales of marijuana, tight bundles of cocaine and anything else criminals cram into the boxcars and tankers as they roll through Mexico. Union Pacific, the largest rail shipper on the U.S.-Mexico border and the largest recipient of fines, refuses to pay ... the railroad argues that it's being punished for something it cannot control: criminals stashing illegal drugs in rail cars in Mexico."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

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