Friday, August 24, 2012
Is there a drone in your neighbourhood?
A lot of Democrat voters are drones but this is different
IMF admits that Iceland got it right
It put its people first and refused to bail out its banks. America too could have let its crooked banks fail and protected its people via the FDIC
Iceland holds some key lessons for nations trying to survive bailouts after the island’s approach to its rescue led to a “surprisingly” strong recovery, the International Monetary Fund’s mission chief to the country said.
Iceland’s commitment to its program, a decision to push losses on to bondholders instead of taxpayers and the safeguarding of a welfare system that shielded the unemployed from penury helped propel the nation from collapse toward recovery, according to the Washington-based fund.
“Iceland has made significant achievements since the crisis,” Daria V. Zakharova, IMF mission chief to the island, said in an interview. “We have a very positive outlook on growth, especially for this year and next year because it appears to us that the growth is broad based.”
Iceland refused to protect creditors in its banks, which failed in 2008 after their debts bloated to 10 times the size of the economy. The island’s subsequent decision to shield itself from a capital outflow by restricting currency movements allowed the government to ward off a speculative attack, cauterizing the economy’s hemorrhaging. That helped the authorities focus on supporting households and businesses.
“The fact that Iceland managed to preserve the social welfare system in the face of a very sizeable fiscal consolidation is one of the major achievements under the program and of the Icelandic government,” Zakharova said. The program benefited from “strong implementation, reflecting ownership on the part of the authorities,” she said.
In Iceland, the krona’s 80 percent plunge against the euro offshore in 2008 helped turn a trade deficit into a surplus by the end of the same year. Unemployment, which jumped nine-fold between 2007 and 2010, eased to 4.8 percent in June from a peak of 9.3 percent two years ago. The $13 billion economy will expand 2.4 percent this year, the IMF said April 17. That compares with an estimated 0.3 percent contraction in the 17-member euro area.
Iceland’s growth “is driven by private consumption, investment has picked up strongly and even though, when you look at net exports, those have a negative contribution to growth, it is mainly because imports have been strong, reflecting strong consumption and an increase in income and the healthy expectations of households,” Zakharova said. “Still, exports have been increasing very strongly. Last year was a banner year for tourism. These are all really positive things.”
The krona has gained about 15 percent against the euro since a March 28 low and was trading little changed at 147.27 per single currency as of 12 noon in Reykjavik today.
“The lifting of the capital controls is a key challenge for Iceland and it’s not an easy task,” she said. At the same time, “the government has regained access to international capital markets; the cleaning up of the balance sheet of banks has been proceeding at good speed. So going forward it’s important that the gains are sustained and consolidated,” she said.
As the central bank prepares to ease capital controls, policy makers are also raising interest rates in part to protect the krona from any weakening that might ensue. The bank increased its benchmark rate a quarter or a percentage point on June 13, bringing it to 5.75 percent. It was the fifth interest- rate increase since August last year.
“Further monetary tightening is needed, over the next few quarters, in order for Iceland to get to the target,” Zakharova said. “But we’ve also seen that the central bank has made strong statements about a hawkish monetary policy stance, indicating that the monetary policy will be tightened over time. So we think that the stance is appropriate at this point.”
The race clownery of Obama-Biden
By Michelle Malkin
Looks like Vice President Joe Biden has been taking extracurricular Democratic jive-talking lessons. The results of condescending liberals' cynical racial pandering attempts are, as always, seismically cringe-inducing.
At a campaign event in Danville, Va., the gaffetastic veep dropped his g's and picked up a bizarre twang in front of an audience of black voters. Middle-Class Joe swapped his Home Depot apron for an A.M.E. preacher's robe and sermonized about the big, bad GOP.
Romney's "gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules," Biden shouted. "Unnnn-chain Wall Street," he exclaimed with pulpit bravado. "They're gonna put y'all back in chains," the pasty Delaware wheeler-dealer faux-drawled. Extra-emphasis on the "y'all."
Yes, Biden is rattling chains like an extra in "Roots." This is the same politician of pallor who cracked jokes about Indians who work in 7-Elevens and who referred to his now-boss as "clean" and "articulate." Yet, Biden's demagoguery was met with approving hoots and hollers. Or rather, hollas.
Naturally, the defiant Obama campaign backed up Biden and gave a shout-out of its own. Welcome to the new tone -- and the same old slime. Prevaricating spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter (last seen defending the phony, indefensible Romney-killed-a-steelworker's-wife ad run by Obama Super PAC Priorities USA) chimed in after Biden's speech. "We have no problem with those comments," she told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. Biden "was using a metaphor" with which the president agrees.
Timing matters. Biden's race-baiting came after a weekend clogged with divisive jabs at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's announcement of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Democratic Rep. Donna Christensen, the non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. House of Representatives, tweeted: "Wait a minute! Are there black people in Va? Guess just not w Romney Ryan! At least not seeing us. We know who's got our back & we have his." Left-wing actress Mia Farrow watched the announcement and derided a "whole bunch of white people." They were joined by countless "progressive" social media users who mocked the GOP's "white guy, white guy 2012!!!" Sirius XM radio host Dave Rubin -- himself the color of discount Charmin toilet paper -- called Romney-Ryan "the whitest ticket since the KKK voted for their box social chairperson."
Gotta love post-racial America!
The poisonous slavery allusion echoed the former pastor of Biden's boss. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, you may recall, used the same "chains" imagery to justify his "God Damn America" diatribe. "America," he inveighed in Obama's old Chicago-based Trinity United Church, put blacks in "chains ... and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America'? No, no, no. Not God bless America; God damn America!"
Biden's stunt also echoes Hillary Clinton's infamous black church minstrel performances in which she unleashed a mortifying Southern-spiced-with-street accent to show her street solidarity: "For the last five years, we've had No. Power. At. All. And that makes a big difference, because when you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation. An' yew know what ah'm talkin' about." At an event with race-hustler Al Sharpton, she poured it on thicker: "I'm afraid I'm gonna lift up the rug, and I'm goin' to see so much stuff uh-nder thar. ... You know, what is it about us always havin' to clean up after people? ... But this is not just goin' to be pickin' up socks off the floor. This is goin' to be cleanin' up the government."
At least the only thing she manufactured was her patronizing dialect. Remember candidate Barack Obama's 2007 Selma, Ala., speech? To court black voters, Obama claimed that President Kennedy had sponsored the airlift in Africa responsible for bringing his family to the U.S. and asserted that Selma's 1965 Bloody Sunday demonstration brought his parents together and led to his birth. Of course, JFK didn't take office until two years after Obama's father arrived in the U.S., and the president was born four years before Bloody Sunday.
Obama-Biden 2012: Never let facts, civility or scruples get in the way of a racist racial pander.
Why Ryan might be right about Medicare
Overlooked in the furor surrounding Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal — a plan, it should be recalled, that wouldn’t start until 2023 and even then would affect only new beneficiaries — is a just-published study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggesting that, well, Ryan might be right. The study finds that a voucher-type system might noticeably reduce costs compared to “traditional” fee-for-service Medicare. Three Harvard economists did the study, including one prominent supporter of President Obama’s health-care overhaul.
The study compared the costs of traditional Medicare with Medicare Advantage, a voucher-like program that now enrolls about 25 percent of beneficiaries. Medicare Advantage has cost less for identical coverage. From 2006 to 2009, the gap averaged 11 percent between traditional Medicare and voucher plans that, under the proposal by Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), would serve as a price “benchmark.”
The central issue here is whether the runaway costs of the health sector, comprising nearly one-fifth of the economy, can be controlled without eroding medical quality. Almost everyone agrees that the delivery system — the amalgam of hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses — should be reorganized to lower costs and eliminate unneeded care. The question is how.
One group favors market-like mechanisms. Consumers would receive vouchers, either payments or tax credits, to buy coverage. The theory: as people shop for low-cost and high-quality plans, competition forces the delivery system to restructure. Hospitals, doctors, insurers create more efficient networks with more coordinated care than today’s fee-for-service system. By contrast, fee-for-service reimburses doctors and hospitals for services they perform; this encourages unneeded tests and procedures.
The JAMA study doesn’t surprise advocates of this “consumer driven” health care. “Medicare fee-for-service is an inefficient way to deliver care,” says James Capretta, associate director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004. “It’s an engine for volume-driven spending.” Cost savings under a full-fledged voucher system would be much larger, he argues, because Medicare Advantage’s modest size has created only “muted competition.”
Medicare Advantage reinforces another bit of real-word evidence for market-like policies. This is the Medicare drug benefit (Part D), launched in 2006 with a voucher approach. In 2012, beneficiaries could choose from at least two-dozen plans. Part D’s costs have been about 30 percent below early estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, though vouchers are not the only reason (more generic drugs is another). In 2013, average monthly premiums — the part paid by recipients — are projected to stay at $30 for a third straight year.....
Limits must be imposed on the health sector. There are no pleasing ways to do this. Still, the increasing evidence from large-scale experience is that market mechanisms offer the best chance of reconciling Americans’ desire for personal choice with cost control. If there are better ideas, let’s hear them. Otherwise, we shouldn’t reject the obvious merely because it’s unfamiliar.
Voucher plans are not right-wing, extremist ideas. They enjoy support in both parties. Ryan would permit continuation of fee-for-service; if it’s more efficient and effective, it would survive. If not, its decline would be no great loss. The Ryan plan’s greatest defect may be that it doesn’t start for a decade. We can’t wait that long.
by Jeff Jacoby
THERE ARE 366 major metropolitan areas in the United States, and a comprehensive new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranks them on the basis of generosity -- the percentage of income the median household in each city gives to charity. According to the Chronicle, the most generous city in America is Provo, Utah, where residents typically give away 13.9 percent of their discretionary income. Boston, by contrast, ranks No. 358: In New England's leading city, the median household donates just 2.9 percent of its income to charity.
Provo's generosity is typical for its region. Of the 10 most generous cities in America, according to the Chronicle's calculations, six are in Utah and Idaho. Boston's tight-fistedness is typical too: Of the 10 stingy cities at the bottom of the list, eight are in New England -- including Springfield (No. 363) and Worcester (No. 364).
What's the matter with Massachusetts? How can residents of the bluest state, whose political and cultural leaders make much of their compassion and frequently remind the affluent that we're all in this together, be so lacking in personal generosity? And why would charitable giving be so outstanding in places as conservative as Utah and Idaho?
The question is built on a fallacy.
Liberals, popular stereotypes notwithstanding, are not more generous and compassionate than conservatives. To an outsider it might seem plausible that Americans whose political rhetoric emphasizes "fairness" and "social justice" would be more charitably inclined than those who stress economic liberty and individual autonomy. But reams of evidence contradict that presumption, as Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks demonstrated in his landmark 2006 book, Who Really Cares.
However durable the myth, wrote Brooks (who now heads the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank), there is no getting around the data. For years, academic research and comprehensive national studies have confirmed that Americans who lean to the left politically tend to be much less charitable than those who tilt rightward. The Chronicle of Philanthropy's new report is only the latest in a long series of studies corroborating that fact.
In 1996, for example, the wide-ranging General Social Survey asked a large sample of Americans whether "the government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" -- a key ideological litmus test. Thirty-three percent of respondents agreed; 43 percent disagreed. The two groups differed sharply in more than their politics. The conservatives -- those who opposed government programs to reduce inequality -- were significantly more likely to donate money to charity than the liberals. And among those who did donate, conservatives gave away, on average, four times as much money per year.
Though there is a strong link between religious belief and philanthropy, it wasn't just churches the conservatives were giving to. "They gave more to every type of cause and charity: health charities, education organizations, international aid groups, and human welfare agencies," Brooks noted. They even gave more "to traditionally liberal causes, such as the environment and the arts."
None of this was what Brooks had anticipated when he began his research. "I expected to find that political liberals … would turn out to be the most privately charitable people," he says. "So when my early findings led to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error…. In the end, I had no option but to change my views."
The Chronicle's new study, which is based on IRS records from 2008 (the most recent available), accounts for regional differences in the cost of living. It calculates charitable giving only from discretionary income -- the dollars left over after paying for taxes, housing, and food. But the economic differences are not nearly as significant as cultural differences. In parts of the country where conservative values dominate, charity tends to be high. Where liberalism holds sway, charity falls. "Red states are more generous than blue states," the Chronicle concludes. The eight states that ranked the highest in charitable giving all voted for John McCain in 2008. The seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.
Of course this doesn't mean that there aren't generous philanthropists in New England. It doesn't mean selfishness is unknown on the right. What it does mean is that where people are encouraged to think that solving society's ills is primarily a job for government, charity tends to evaporate. The politics of "compassion" isn't the same as compassionate behavior. America's generosity divide separates those who understand the difference from those who don't.
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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)
Posted by JR at 12:34 AM