Friday, May 03, 2013
How I discovered the hidden side of history
1981: I was looking through some old books that somehow ended up at my parents’ house. Among them, I found a set of history books from the 1930s. With an innate interest in the topic, I began reading them, and was absolutely shocked by what I found.
The last book of the series covered what were then modern times, and to my horror, I found lavish praise for – of all people – Benito Mussolini.
These were American books, by the way, beautifully produced by a respected publisher. And there, in authoritative tones, was the story of the great Mussolini, the savior of Italy. Given that I was taught precisely the opposite, a mere 30-odd years later, you can imagine my surprise.
Just to establish my point, here are a few quotes from that time about Mussolini:
* What a man! I have lost my heart! - Winston Churchill
* The greatest genius of the modern age. - Thomas Edison
* I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy. - Franklin Roosevelt
Obviously, these quotes are no longer mentioned in ‘respectable’ circles. And that’s my point: What is inconvenient to the current ruling establishment is dropped from the books.
When I was young, the USSR was famous for horribly twisting history to make themselves look like the great and mighty ones. They even made jokes about it on the original Star Trek. But here was clear evidence that history – in America – had been altered. In this case, parts had not been added, but they most certainly had been taken away. That rather shook my view of history, as it had been taught to me at school.
A few years later I came across an even more troubling instance of history being pulled out of the books:
I had been writing a few books for a major publisher, and one of my editors asked me to meet him for dinner, which, of course, I did. We discussed projects that we might pursue and generally had a pleasant evening. At some point we left off discussing our projects and talked about history. Somehow, we ended up at the Armenian genocide. He was surprised that I knew about it (many still don’t), but I had known quite a few Armenian kids growing up, and I had heard their stories.
Then, my editor took a deep breath and said, “then I want to tell you something.” He explained that a few years before, he had been working for one of the big three textbook publishers, and happened to be editing a high school history book. One day, he got a phone call from the US State Department. He was shocked, and asked them why they would be calling him. “It’s about the history book you’re editing,” the man said.
My friend had been raised in about the same way I had, so the idea of censoring a textbook was astonishing to him. “We need you to cut back the section on the Armenian genocide,” the man from the State Department said. My friend was horrified, and complained that it was the true history. “Yes,” said the man, “but we need to keep the Turks happy.” My friend’s 2-3 pages on the Armenian genocide was reduced to 2-3 paragraphs, and it was a victory that he got that much space.
According to all I learned in school, such things did not happen in America. According to all that is self-promoted about academia, they are the sworn enemies of such things. But they do happen – a lot.
I’ve encountered the same thing on museum walls: descriptions that are clearly misleading, but which glorify the rulership of our time.
There is much more to this, but I’ll let the point stand as I’ve made it thus far: History is manipulated. You can find the truth if you dig through old books and artifact records, or from some specialists, but not from schoolbooks. The books aren’t filled with lies, they just remove the facts that don’t make their bosses look good.
And this is not a trivial thing; it affects a lot more than school children. As Adolf Hitler was starting his aggression against the Poles, the London Times quoted him as saying: "Go, kill without mercy. After all, who remembers the Armenians?"
What is deleted from history can teach us nothing, and those who have this power use it to glorify themselves. This is a very dangerous thing, and it rules the schoolbooks of America and the Western world in general.
I’ll close with a line from Paul Simon’s song, Kodachrome: "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all."
What you learned in school was a partial, cartoon version of history. You learned what made the big bosses look good, and no more.
Froggy President sees the light
Democrats prefer France to the USA so is this a signal for them? Guess not
President Francois Hollande announced on Monday a series of measures to encourage the French entrepreneurial spirit, including drastic cuts in capital gains taxes — up to 65 percent — for the sale of small companies and a plan to make France start-up friendly.
Hollande, looking to stimulate flagging growth and cut into the nation's 10.6 percent jobless rate, also ordered the Interior Ministry to introduce visas for foreign entrepreneurs, and to speed up the process to make the country more attractive to foreign professionals.
"Half of the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley are immigrants," Hollande said in a speech before some 300 entrepreneurs at the Elysee Palace. "We must waste no talent."
The Socialist president has been viewed by some as an anti-business leader, and infuriated entrepreneurs last year by proposing increased taxes on investments. In response, entrepreneurs, calling themselves "pigeons" — French slang for someone who has been duped — launched an online opposition campaign that quickly got tens of thousands of "likes" on Facebook, and trended on Twitter.
Hollande, trying to return to the good graces of entrepreneurs, said he was undoing that plan, and simplifying the system.
"There are no less than 40 formulas for dealing with capital gains ... 40 different ones. And now there will be but one," Hollande said.
He enumerated a graded scale for tax breaks on capital gains for entrepreneurs who bought start-ups: 65 percent if the company has been held at least eight years and 50 percent after two years. The tax advantage rises to 85 percent when companies are less than 10 years old, are being passed on to family members or the owner is retiring.
Experts say Hollande's initial plan would have meant an effective tax rate of 60 percent, compared with 15 percent on U.S. capital gains.
Hollande called the new system "balanced," ''just" and "durable."
"It is enterprises that create wealth and, therefore, jobs," the president said.
France has been raising taxes to fill a 30-billion-euro hole in the budget and meet a deficit target of 3 percent — set by the eurozone — of its 1.8 trillion-euro gross domestic product.
But small and medium-sized companies are the biggest creators of jobs and drivers of economic growth, and make up 99 percent of businesses in France and the European Union as a whole.
Other measures aimed at boosting the entrepreneurial spirit in France include wiping out the Bank of France notes on companies that fail "so that one can have a second or a third chance"
There's nothing fair about the Marketplace Fairness Act
by Jeff Jacoby
IF TRUTH-IN-LABELING rules applied to Congress, the proposed law giving states the power to collect sales tax from out-of-state online retailers would be named the Marketplace Unfairness Act.
Sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, and fast-tracked to the Senate floor this week, the legislation would strip away protections that have been in place for decades, unleashing tax-hungry states on merchants they aren't answerable to and tilting the playing field against small Internet retailers.
Under existing law, any state can require businesses within its borders to collect sales taxes from their customers. That applies to shops on Main Street as well as to vendors doing business by mail and over the Internet. If you're a seller physically operating within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for example, part of your job is to collect the requisite Massachusetts tax each time you ring up a sale in the state. At the same time, you can't be conscripted into serving as a tax collector for states to which you have no physical connection. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that merchants must have a "substantial nexus" with a state – such as offices, a warehouse, or a sales force – before they can be compelled to collect taxes on that state's behalf.
In practice this means that a brick-and-mortar retailer only has to calculate the sales tax charged by its own state. A bookstore at the Cape Cod Mall collects the Massachusetts sales tax of 6.25 percent; it makes no difference whether the customer at the cash register lives across the street or across the country. Online and mail-order retailers play by the same rules: If they have a physical presence in Massachusetts, they're responsible for any sales tax payable to Massachusetts. Neither traditional retailers nor Internet retailers are obliged to collect taxes for states they don't operate in. Fair's fair.
But if Enzi's bill becomes law, fairness goes up in smoke. Online merchants would become revenue collectors for every sales-tax jurisdiction in America – an estimated 9,600 of them, each with its quirks and quiddities. No longer would Internet retailers based in Massachusetts be liable only for sales taxes owed to Massachusetts. They would have to calculate and remit taxes owed to Tennessee and California and Wyoming and New Jersey, charging different levies for different customers, and somehow keeping up with the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of sales-tax rates, definitions, exemptions, and deadlines.
Yet the owner of the brick-and-mortar shop around the corner would go on as before, charging only a single tax rate and remitting taxes to only a single state.
Supporters of the legislation promise that this will all be less onerous than it sounds. The bill includes simplification mandates such as free tax software, and it encourages multistate cooperation in streamlining tax rates and centralizing revenue collection. MarketplaceFairness.org, a website created to promote the Enzi plan, offers the assurance that with modern technology, Internet retailers have nothing to fear. "Keeping track of a few thousand local tax rates," it says soothingly, "is no longer an insurmountable technical, administrative, or financial burden."
For mammoth retailers like Amazon or Walmart, the prospect of juggling "a few thousand local tax rates" may not be an intolerable burden. For countless smaller online businesses, however, it could be the kiss of death. And what happens when the technology turns out not to be quite as cheap and easy as advertised? Writing in the Wall Street Journal last summer, Overstock.com's chairman/CEO, Patrick Byrne, and president, Jonathan Johnson, warned against complacency:
"It took our team of 20-30 experienced IT professionals 9,412 hours over five months to install, test and integrate the software that let us properly calculate use tax in one additional state. The annual software license fees for the first year, the internal and external development and installation costs, and the cost of collateral hardware and software came to $1.3 million. And that's just for one state."
Whatever inequities exist in the current system, the proposed legislation would be much worse. There's a crucial reason why merchants can only be required to collect taxes for states in which they are physically present: Anything else would be taxation without representation. States must not be allowed to reach beyond their borders, imposing tax obligations on retailers who had no vote or voice in creating those obligations, no political recourse, no opportunity to be heard. Against such unfairness, Americans once fought a revolution. A craving for revenue is no reason to forget that.
How Our Healthcare System Has Us Trapped
By John C. Goodman
The premise of my latest book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, is that most of our problems arise because we are trapped. We are caught up in a dysfunctional system in which perverse economic incentives cause all of us to do things that raise the cost of care, lower its quality, and make access to care more difficult. Perverse incentives are faced by everyone: patients, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, employees, employers, and so on. As we interact with the system, most of us spot ways to solve problems. We see things we could individually do to avoid waste and make care less expensive, for example. But the system generally penalizes us for doing the right things and rewards us for doing the wrong things. Anything we do as individuals to eliminate waste generally benefits someone other than ourselves.
So what's the answer? Let people out of the trap. Liberate them from the dysfunctionality that is causing us so much trouble.
This message is precisely the opposite of what you are likely to hear from other health policy experts-on the right and the left. The conventional view is that we have too much freedom, not too little. Doctors are said to have too much freedom to provide treatments that are not "best practice" or that are not "evidenced-based." Patients are said to have too much freedom to patronize doctors and facilities with inferior performance records.
Hence, the conventional solution: put even more restrictions on what doctors can do and where patients can go for their care. Ultimately, the conventional answer to the country's health policy problems is to have government tell doctors how to practice medicine and to tell patients what care they can have and where they can get it.
The biggest problem with this approach is that it would leave us even more trapped than we currently are. Incentives would be even more perverse. We would have a plan designed by folks in Washington. But 300 million potential patients, 800,000 doctors, almost 2.5 million registered nurses, and thousands of others working in the system would find it in their self-interest to undermine the plan. My answer is just the opposite. I want all those patients and all those doctors to discover it is in their self-interest to solve problems, not create them.
Under the conventional approach, every doctor, every nurse, every hospital administrator will get up every morning and ask, "How can I squeeze more money out of the payment formulas today?"
My answer is just the opposite. Under the approach detailed in my book, all these people will be encouraged to start each day by asking, "How can I make my service better, less costly, and more accessible to patients today?"
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.
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Posted by JR at 12:59 AM