Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Russia calls on Ukraine to become a federation of states (Like some other countries I know)

This is actually a moderate and compromising stand from Putin.  He clearly wants to avoid any war.  His ultimate aim is to reunite all the Russian speaking people of Eastern Europe under Russian rule and the Russian-speaking half of Ukraine is the big prize there.  But having Russian Ukraine substantially independent of the rest of Ukraine and free to develop closer ties with neighboring Russia would be a good compromise

Russia's foreign ministry is calling on Ukraine to become a federal state and call fresh elections.

In a statement posted on Monday the ministry urged Ukraine's parliament to call a constitutional assembly which could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions.

The foreign ministry said the proposals are part of its efforts to ease the tensions in Ukraine by diplomatic means.

Moscow insisted that Ukrainian regions should get broader autonomy and that the country should adopt a "neutral political and military status."


NOTE: The attitude of Ukrainian-speakers towards Russia is similar to the attitude of Canadians to the USA, to the attitude of New Zealanders towards Australia to the attitude of the Scots  towards England and the attitude of Koreans to Japan:  They don't like their big neighbor.  In the Ukrainian case that dislike is much multiplied by Russia's tendency  towards tyranny.  The ferocity of that dislike could be seen in the demonstrations that recently toppled their pro-Russian president.  Yet all of the pairs mentioned have a lot in common  -- a clear refutation of the Leftist "one world" dream.  Differences matter, even small ones


Ukraine's economic problems

Still too Soviet;  Still poor

The dramatic events in Ukraine the past few weeks were ignited when Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian ally, said he would suspend efforts to bring Ukraine closer to the EU and thousands took to the streets to protest. Clearly, the threat of Russian political oppression was in the minds of the protesters, but the economic stakes were enormous as well. Indeed, a look at the data suggests that Yanukovych’s act was against the economic interests of his own people.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries chose between two distinct paths. Ten Central and Eastern European nations (the so-called CEE-10) made integration with the European Union a top priority. The rest, like Ukraine, moved much more slowly toward Western standards, and some even settled under a new Russian umbrella.

Prior to the breakup, Eastern Europe was underdeveloped relative to the West, mostly because of the failure created by central planning. When a market economy is unleashed in such a setting, “convergence” of the standard of living to that of the developed world can be quite rapid. If the U.S. wants to grow sharply, it needs to push the very frontier of what is possible farther out. A former Soviet or Eastern Bloc country, on the other hand, could grow rapidly simply by copying the developed world. Some did.

A large academic literature has emerged analyzing the impact of “going west.” The literature documents that those nations that assimilated into the EU saw dramatic economic growth. A recent EU study co-authored by Ryszard Rapacki and Mariusz Prochniak of the Warsaw School of Economics, for example, concluded that full convergence of the CCE-10 is so far along that it might be complete in as little as eight years.

The countries, like Ukraine, that failed to take that path have stagnated. The nearby chart documents how radically different their experience has been. The chart plots real per capita GDP (in 2005 dollars) for former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries other than Russia. The purple and dark blue lines on the top illustrate the findings of the study just mentioned. Income per capita has grown sharply since the mid 1990s, more than doubling for the former Soviet countries, and increasing about 50 percent for the Eastern Bloc countries (such as the Czech Republic) that have joined the EU.

The three lines on the bottom of the chart depict what has happened to those nations that have not joined the EU. Each of these countries has stagnated, seeing a standard of living that has barely budged since the fall of the USSR. The experiences have been so different that the increase in welfare for citizens in former Soviet countries that have joined the EU is larger than today’s level of welfare for countries that have not.

Vladimir Putin’s desire to maintain a zone of influence has had a dramatically negative effect on the economic well-being of citizens of the affected countries. It is hard to imagine how anyone could look at such data and not conclude that Putin supporters outside Russia are traitors, if not to their nations at the very least to their compatriots’ prospects of economic security and prosperity



The Tea Party Isn't Dying – The GOP Establishment Is

If the conservative insurgency has been crushed, why was Mitch McConnell walking around onstage at CPAC with a musket? He couldn’t have sucked up to the right any harder if he wore a tri-corner hat and had the Gadsden flag tattooed on his rear.

The death of the conservative revolution, the Tea Party, or whatever you call it, has not merely been greatly exaggerated. It’s been flat-out lied about.

It isn’t dead. It just changed, from a shoestring operation to one with real clout. And it’s well on its way to doing what it set out to do – arm-twist a flabby, comfortable GOP into fighting for conservative values instead of just talking about them at election time.

We conservatives have two very different opponents, opponents who sometimes operate in concert. After all, they both want us gone.

The first opponent is the left. They still call us the “Tea Party,” though we rarely use that term anymore. It’s fun to hear the liberals say it – it’s like listening to grandparents trying to sound cool. Yeah, those hepcats are sure hip with their cool jive, daddy-o.

Every day, the lefty punditry opines about the Tea Party’s death spiral. And every day, the Tea Party refuses to crash and burn.

These clowns really believe that we are a racist movement devoted to the beliefs of the late Democrat icon and KKK kleagle Senator Robert Byrd. It’s hard to imagine a bigger misunderstanding of one’s opponent.

The left is battling not the opponent it is facing but the opponent it wants to face. It’s so much easier to fight straw men than to address the fiasco of Obamacare, the zombie economy or the endless war on women waged by their horny Democrat heroes.

They just don’t get what we are about or what we want, which they will find is a problem. Take it from someone with a little bit of military experience – you really should try to understand your enemy. It helps keep you from being, say, humiliated in a Florida special election.

And that advice isn’t coming from some dead white male – Sun Tzu was saying it 2,000 years ago. So lefties should at least listen for the sake of diversity, but they won’t. They’re too invested in their unearned smugness. And they’re obviously racist.

We conservative insurgents have another opponent, but this opponent recognizes us for exactly what we are – a dangerous, existential threat. This opponent is the GOP Establishment, and its members hate and fear us for entirely different reasons.

The problem with the GOP Establishment is not its ideology – most of its members, in the abstract, probably generally agree with our positions. What they hate is that we intend to utterly upend their world. They have spent years in the Beltway, climbing the ladder, building careers, all within the system as it exists today. They are invested in that system just like the liberals, regardless of superficial differences over mere policy preferences.

They want to gather power within Washington then redistribute it after they take their cut. We want to re-wire the system so that Washington is left off the grid to wither back down to the miserable backwater it used to be – and should be.

D.C. is awesomely wealthy, full of fine clothes, sumptuous food, gleaming restaurants, and much more attractive people than when I interned there in 1986. The recession missed Washington, a town that produces nothing except problems for the rest of America yet is better off than anywhere else in America.

We want to end that. That we want to destroy the cushy status quo is why the GOP Establishment hates us. That we can influence elections is why it fears us.

There is a lot of propaganda about how the Tea Party ruined the GOP’s chances to take the Senate. There’s never any recognition of how conservatives are solely responsible for taking back the House. No one ever talks about the Establishment candidates who failed in places like North Dakota and California.

If the Establishment had its way, we’d have Senator Crist instead of Senator Rubio. Hell, if Crist turns back Republican next week, they’ll probably start backing him for president. That is, unless surefire winner Jeb Bush decides to run.

You always hear about a few eccentric Senate candidates the Tea Party gave us, like the Delaware sorceress and the Indiana gynecology professor, but you don’t hear about how their loser GOP primary opponents supported the Democrats in the general. So we should have supported clowns who turned traitor the moment they didn’t get their way? No thanks. If the Establishment wants loyalty, let’s see it show some.

We conservatives are forcing the GOP Establishment to at least start pretending to act conservative. Mitch McConnell didn’t shake his blunderbuss at CPAC because he loves mixing with peasants; he did it because he’s scared, and he should be. The surrender caucus didn’t retreat on guns and amnesty because they wanted to get slammed by the mainstream media. They did it because we’ll primary them at the drop of a hat.

And some of them – not all, but some – should be primaried. If Pat Roberts can’t deal with the fact that he’s not in Kansas anymore in the primary, he might lose in the general. If Thad Cochran can’t hold his Mississippi seat against an upstart after being a senator for a zillion years, then he doesn’t deserve six more.

Time is on our side. The old GOP is passing away into history. The energy, intellect and grit is all with us conservatives – anyone out there ever see a passionate squish? We’re pushing the party, kicking and screaming, to the right.

And, surprise, surprise, it looks like we conservatives are going to clean their pinko clocks in November, just like we conservatives did in 2010. Not too bad for a movement that’s been crushed.



Government rail at work again

The multiple folds of irony are all most too much to handle. The nation’s government-run passenger rail service – which has never once in more than four decades turned a profit and relies on perpetual taxpayer handouts - plans to start offering free rides to writers. The idea, which stemmed from a New York-based writer’s tweet, will launch an official residency program for writers on its long-distance routes, coincidentally the least cost-efficient and most heavily subsidized in the Amtrak system. Amtrak is a perpetual loser, and it’s unlikely that this writers-ride-free gimmick will have a happy ending.

Perhaps no government program has embodied bureaucratic waste and inefficiency quite like passenger rail travel in the United States – a taxpayer-funded gravy train that has received $40 billion in federal subsidies, has never once made it out of the red, and entered last year well over a billion dollars in debt. Worse, the service asked for another $2.6 billion in federal funding for fiscal year 2014, and yet has the audacity to offer “free” rides to writers.

“I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” A simple tweet at the agency’s social media account is all it took for the service to offer the writer a free trip from New York to Chicago and back. According to CNN, up to 24 writers will be chosen, and all will be offered trips on “undersold long-distance routes.” The Northeast Corridor is only profitable portion of Amtrak in the entire country – leaving many options for the writers in which to get the creative juices flowing.

The service has resorted to offering free tickets, a bed, desk, outlets, “and a window to watch the American countryside roll by” to a lucky few, perhaps hoping to drum up a little positive copy for the increasingly unpopular and expensive rail service. Each writers package has an estimated at a retail value of about $900 – not exactly chump change. Needless to say, the prospect for return on investment is slim – and that shouldn’t be a surprise to most taxpayers. After all, this is an agency that managed to lose $834 million on food sales alone in the past decade.

Thankfully, some in Congress have taken notice. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) penned an open letter to Amtrak President Joseph Boardman, questioning the logic behind the move.

“We are certain that there is considerable demand for free Amtrak tickets in any number of venues,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, given Amtrak’s prodigious annual taxpayer subsidies, this plan raises multiple red flags…revenue from ticket sales was insufficient to even cover Amtrak’s operating expenses.” Hoping for return on investment on thousands of dollars-worth of free trips to help bridge this gap seems like a dubious plan, to say the least.

Amtrak offering free rides, with no metric by which to judge the success of the program, embodies perfectly the systemic problems with this government-run railroad.

Taxpayer-funded projects like Amtrak have no profit motive, no inclination to increase efficiency, and every incentive to continue shoveling taxpayer money into the proverbial firebox. That’s because for more than 40 years, Amtrak’s funding has been all but guaranteed regardless of performance.

Instead of expanding taxpayer subsidies even further and driving Amtrak even further off the rails of solvency, policymakers should be looking for ways to put a stop to what has become a Handout Express to the tune of $15 billion a year.

Not only should Amtrak begin to live up to its promise of getting back on stable financial footing by cancelling the free ride program, Congress should consider not re-authorizing the service at all – ending Amtrak’s free ride at our expense.


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


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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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