Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cult of PC silences retired US general

Oh no, the PC Police have claimed another victim!

Seriously though, this story illustrates the point I've made again and again that political correctness is no scourge of civilized free speech; in fact, it's just an amalgam of various modern social mores that tell us when somebody is acting or talking like a d**k.

The fact that "outspoken" types so quickly cave in to the Cult of PC when public attention is drawn to them only shows that they know they're being d**ks, and they are more concerned with preserving their reputations than being all "iconoclastic" or whatever.

I might actually have grudging respect for the other side if there were real anti-PC types who unapologetically espoused racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and all other varieties of political incorrectness, and willingly suffered the resulting blows from polite society. But nobody seems willing. It just goes to prove my point that d**ks feel free to speak like d**ks among other d**ks, but as soon as you put them in polite or mixed company, they prudently censor themselves.

By David Charter
March 30, 2010 | Times Online


Monday, March 29, 2010

Putin tells Earth to go on a diet, lose a few time zones

See, the Putin-Medvedev duo is so great it can even command the Sun and the Earth!

Seriously though, even the Soviets weren't this crazy-dumb. You gotta shake your head in awe.

March 28, 2010 | AP

MOSCOW – Russia's president thought the country had too much time on its hands, so on Sunday he eliminated two of its 11 time zones.

The changes mean that Chukotka — Russia's eastern extreme, just across the Bering Strait from Alaska — is now nine hours ahead of Russia's westernmost area, the Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. Formerly, there was 10 hours' difference.

As well as eliminating the time zone that previously covered the Chukotka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky regions in the Pacific Far East, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered that Samara and Udmurtia, two regions in central Russia, should be on the same time as Moscow.

The changes went into effect before dawn Sunday when most of Russia switched to daylight savings time. People in the eliminated time zones didn't move their clocks an hour ahead.

Medvedev initiated the change in his state of the nation address last November, prompting some criticism that he was addressing marginal issues at the expense of the country's array of problems.

But Medvedev said the change would help some far-flung regions have more efficient communications with the central authorities, ease travel and even improve the country's international position.

[In other words, make it easier for people in Moscow to rule over their empire. - J]

"It's possible that this could also aid the strengthening of Russia's position as a link in the global information infrastructure," he said at a meeting this month with ministers and regional leaders.

But some people in the affected regions believe Medvedev should have been doing something else with his time.

An online petition opposing the Samara region's change gathered nearly 13,000 signatures. It acidly dismissed the argument that the move would make travel easier.

"Trips take place to many regions of the country and world where time, you understand, far from always corresponds with Moscow," the text said. It also complained that moving Samara to a new time zone would make it a disorienting two hours behind its eastern neighbors and that sunset would be painfully early in the winter.

"In the winter, darkness will come almost at lunchtime, which isn't convenient and is psychologically quite hard," the petition said.

[In that respect Samara will be just like St. Petersburg, a world-renowned city! - J]

But more manipulation of time zones appears likely.

The state news agency ITAR-Tass on Sunday quoted Arkady Tishkov, a Russian Academy of Sciences geographer studying further time reforms, as saying that Kaliningrad could also be put in Moscow time — making it an hour ahead of all its neighbors — and all of the vast Yakutsk region, which now has three time zones, could have a single clock.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rich: Health bill not real cause of right-wing rage

Frank Rich says that conservatives' outrage at the health care bill isn't about health care, it's about teabaggers (many of their grassroots leaders unemployed), feeling insecure about their future place in America. That is, they're scared of ascendant non-whites.

Is that an unfair accusation? As a blanket statement, yes. Surely not all teabaggers are racists. But look at it another way: Why are there are no black Republicans in Congress; and almost all teabaggers are white? Do white people know something the rest of America doesn't?

If you're a teabagger (aka Republican) who is not racist and believes in the righteousness of your movement, let me ask you: Do you think the GOP and Tea Parties deliberately exclude non-whites? Strategically, is there something you could say or do, or stop saying or doing, that would attract non-whites to your cause without sacrificing your core principles? Because intentionally or not, you have scared them away. Because the rest of America (which is about 50%, demographically, and about 70%, ideologically), wants nothing to do with you.

If you want your movement to have staying power and lasting influence, you should be interested in this question. If you just want an excuse to repeat what you heard them yelling on FOXNews and talk radio so that everybody nods and says, "I know!", or a reason to get out of the house, carry signs and chant like you chose not to in the 60's, then forget about it. Your anger -- and your movement -- will peter out anyway. Likewise your true party -- the GOP -- will become less relevant.

By Frank Rich
March 27, 2010 | New York Times


If Obama's first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It's not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend's abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan "Take our country back!," these are the people they want to take the country back from.

They can't. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven't had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Krugman on Frum firing, Heritage Found. = Obamacare

Have a heapin' helpin' of Republican hypocrisy for Sunday breakfast!

David Frum, AEI, Heritage And Health Care
By Paul Krugman
March 25, 2010 | NY Times

David Frum* has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute; one has to assume that this is a response to his outspokenness about the Republican failure on health reform.

In discussing the Frum firing, Bruce Bartlett asserts that AEI has muzzled its health-care experts, because the truth is that they agree with a lot of what Obama is proposing. I find this quite believable; back in 2003 Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, which is supposedly harder-right than AEI, proposed a health care reform consisting of … drumroll … an individual mandate coupled with subsidies to make insurance affordable. In short, Obamacare.

I was struck, by the way, by Butler's recommendation that we

"Provide support to people to obtain health care based on their need, not where they happen to work, or their eligibility for welfare, or their military record, or their age."

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need?

Frum: Health bill was GOP's Waterloo

Apparently the "traitorous" Frum is getting a lot of hate mail from his fellow Republicans for writing this op-ed. And he says he was forced out of the right-wing corporate-funded think tank American Enterprise Institute. Gee, what a surprise.

I especially liked this part:

"When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush's listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds."

FYI, all you teabaggers and FOXNews shut-ins, you can threaten Frum and his family and question their patriotism at: , or on Twitter: @davidfrum.

By David Frum
March 21, 2010

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It's hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they'll compensate for today's expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It's a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today's disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama's Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton's in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton's 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.
This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the "doughnut hole" and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents' insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

I've been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush's listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today's defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it's mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it's Waterloo all right: ours.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Re: Why Health Care Reform Can't Work

When I read stupid and heartless articles like Tucker's (see below), it makes me feel much better about being a liberal Democrat.

Where to begin? Um, how about, like, if your car breaks down you can get a rental, or take a bus, or hitch a ride. If your body breaks down, there are no substitutes, nor can you "do without" your own body. Not unless you're Shirley McClaine.

Same deal if the damage to the car exceeds its value: you scrap it and you get a substitute or you do without. So how much is your body/your life worth? How much is your child's life worth? Quick, give me an answer. You can't! Is a 60-year-old's life worth less than a baby's? "Yes," you say? Well, how much less? Not sure? If gov't allowed them to, I'm sure the insurance companies would be happy to give you their best estimate. --> All of this goes to show why health care really can't be a completely free-market, unregulated business. Life is truly priceless. I don't mean each life has infinite value; I mean that markets cannot and should not try to put a dollar value on anybody's life.

Also your entire family doesn't lose sleep, go into grief and suffer when your car is damaged, (not unless they're really shallow), because that car is just a thing, and it has a finite value.

Tucker also complains that health insurance covers everything, even "minor" conditions. Well, minor problems with bodies, just like with machines, can develop into major problems, which are much more expensive to fix. However, most people don't buy a car unless they're pretty sure they can pay for the minor maintenance. Then they buy insurance for the major stuff. And if the insurance won't cover major stuff, they scrap the car and all they've lost is the finite value of the car after amortization. (See the 2nd paragraph again.) But nobody asks to be born. Nobody does a cost estimate before coming out of the womb and says, "Jeez, with all these expenses, I just can't afford to live! [Croak!]" Some desperate mothers make this judgment on their unborn children's behalf and get abortions, but we call these forward-thinking, rational cost-calculators "murderers." One could argue that only
you can put a value on your life; however, the law and most Republicans would say otherwise if you are terminally ill or just tired of life and want to end it all: suicide is illegal.

Perhaps most important, cars don't suffer and feel pain and embarrassment like humans do. Cars don't cry when their back bumper falls off. They don't feel shame when their paint is stripped, or the side mirror is duct-taped on. The cost of human suffering is hard to put in dollar terms. It is much easier to know the cost of preventing or alleviating their suffering.

Yeah, right, it's those darn corporations and unions and IRS to blame for rising health costs, because they all wanted to give a tax-free benefit to workers. Mm-hm. And now that companies are reducing or cutting health coverage, I guess that means they're compensating employees more in other ways, right? Wrong. Employers have reduced their employees' real wages along with health coverage.

"Preventive care increases overall cost to the system." At best, that's an
unproven assertion. What we can be certain of is that preventive care produces better health outcomes. Don't forget the human element! We're spending all this money to help people feel better and live longer, remember?

Health savings accounts will do nothing to control or cut costs.

"Catastrophic insurance." Wow, that just has a great ring to it. I feel sorry for the health industry marketing guy who has to re-phrase that into something peppy. Anyway, this seems to make a little sense, except, again when you realize that unlike a car, your life has no price; your treatment, however,
does have a price. And if your condition is "catastrophic" enough, no insurance plan is going to cover that price, not unless it passes on those costs to others in the insurance pool. --> Which leads us to the inevitable economic conclusion that we should include as many people in the risk pool as possible, to spread the rare catastrophic costs over the largest possible base of healthy people. --> Which is exactly what the Democrats are trying to do with this bill.

Finally, about all this federal bankruptcy and "waste" talk... First, I wish these deficit hawks would be just as outraged at America's outrageous number of
personal medical bankruptcies -- even for those with health insurance! -- bankruptcies which hardly exist in other developed countries. Second, you know, the bill might cost a little more than the CBO estimated, who knows? We'll find out. But you can't seriously argue that ensuring people's health is a "waste," not unless you're the most selfish, Ayn-Randish SOB who ever lived. Besides, Republicans like to talk about "dynamic scoring" of tax cuts, which they can never manage to prove -- but what about the dynamic economic effects of healthy people who are more productive, are free to change jobs, or risk starting a new business because they're not terrified of losing their health insurance for themselves and their dependents? Forget employment-at-will, which is just euphemism for, "I can fire you for no reason," let's really unleash the free movement of productive labor!

Why Healthcare Reform Can't Work
By William Tucker
March 22, 2010 | The American Spectator

Two weeks ago we smashed the side view mirror on our car and had to take it to the shop. We paid $250 for a replacement.

This week I went to my dermatologist to see if I had developed any more skin cancers (red hair and all that). The doctor took a biopsy on one spot and sent if off to the lab. If it's malignant, I'll have to go back and have a bigger chunk of my cheek removed.

The cost of all this? Zero.

This simple comparison illustrates why healthcare "reform," as Congress has just adopted it, will probably bankrupt the country.

As far as auto insurance is concerned, we have it like almost everyone else. It covers major damage. A year ago I was in a fender-bender. The insurance paid a small portion of the repairs. Several years ago, we bought my son a car and -- typically -- he nearly totaled it within a week. The insurance company paid an astounding $8,000 in repairs but our premiums tripled and we spent several years paying the penalty. That's what "underwriting" is about. After one accident you get moved into a higher risk category. It's what you might call a "pre-existing condition."

At the auto shop, the mechanics have high school backgrounds with two or three years of on-the-job training and use basic hydraulic lifts and wrenches. I pay them $250 for parts and an hour of labor. At the doctor's office, the person who serves me has done four years of medical school plus another three or four years of hospital residency and uses sophisticated equipment. The lab that does the biopsy will have the latest technology. Yet because I have a part-time job with a major employer, I receive union "health benefits" that pay for everything. I would be happy to pay $80-100 for my visits to the dermatologist. After all, I pay a plumber $50 just to come to my house and look at my leaking sink. But because politicians like Nancy Pelosi have convinced people that even a $20 co-payment is an "insurance company rip-off," I get my medical services for free.

Not that I am unaware of the dangers of falling out of this system and going uninsured. A few years ago I didn't have coverage and was paying $500 apiece for these minor office procedures.

As John Goodman and Robert Musgrave wrote in their brilliant analysis, Patient Power (written in 1994 and still the best critique around), what we are calling "health insurance" is not insurance at all. It is prepaid medical benefits. Insurance is a way of pooling the risk for major expenses -- the kind you incur when you have an auto accident or suffer a serious illness. Prepaid benefit plans try to cover all medical expenses, no matter how small.

No insurance company could possibly provide auto insurance that paid the bills every time you changed a tire. The premiums would be impossibly expensive and people would abuse the system, running to the auto shop every time they felt they needed new windshield wipers or suffered a dent in their bumper. Likewise, no insurance company offers policies with 100 percent coverage of all medical bills. The premiums would be impossibly expensive and people would run to the doctor every time they had a sniffle or suffered a cut finger.

Instead, prepaid benefits plans were pioneered by the major corporations and their labor unions, plus federal, state and local governments and their labor unions, which are now the majority of union members and one of the principle players in this melodrama. Taking advantage of an IRS ruling that health and retirement benefits could not be taxed as income, major corporations and governments began funneling tax-free dollars to their employees as "greater take-home pay." Instead of income, employees got first-dollar coverage of all medical bills with no co-payments and no deductibles. In other words, medical care was "free." And of course people began to treat it that way. Writing in 1994, Goodman and Musgrave argued that it was all these people flooding into the system with cost-free health benefits that was driving up medical prices.

What corporations, governments and their unions had created was a mini-welfare state. We all know what happens to welfare states. When General Motors went under this year, it was lamenting that every car that came off the line had $1,500 in employee and retiree health benefits on board. When President Clinton tried to "reform" healthcare in the 1990s, one of the central initiatives was that the bloated healthcare commitments made by major corporations would be off-loaded onto the government.

Practically every state and local government in the country has the same unfunded employee pension and health benefits threatening them with bankruptcy. Medicaid is working the same way and now consumes 25 percent of state budgets. And of course the granddaddy of all is Medicare, which now has unfunded liabilities of $90 trillion over the next seventy years and will only be payable if the dollar loses about 80 percent of its value.

So what has Congress decided to do in order to "reform" this system? Instead of getting a grip benefits and substituting a policy of health insurance, the Democrats have decided to extend the same unrealistic benefits to everybody.

Last week in the Wall Street Journal -- where the run-of-the-paper is just as much a cheerleader for the Democrats as the New York Times -- a story ran under the headline, "Consumers Would See Benefits Soon After Enactment." (This was a sidebar to the story, "Pelosi Bids for a Place in House History.") The Journal informed us that once Obamacare passed, three big changes would materialize within six months:

• Insurers wouldn't be allowed to cancel policies just because a person became sick or to place lifetime caps on care.
• New insurance plans would have to pay full cost of certain preventive care and exempt such care from deductibles.
• Children could stay on their parents' insurance policies until their 26th birthday.

The last may help the insurance companies since young people are generally healthier -- except that people probably won't sign up until their children get sick. The first two items, however, are a recipe for insurance company disaster. The first will encourage people to wait until they're sick before buying insurance. The second will encourage extraordinary overuse. No longer do you have to be sick to visit the doctor. You can just go for "preventive" reasons. Preventive care increases overall costs in the system. Once in awhile an individual may catch a disease in an early stage, but hundred others will be checked with no impact. Preventative services are not that costly and would be best paid for by individuals. Universal preventive care will send insurance company costs soaring.

So will the companies will be allowed to raise their rates? Not a chance. While one foot of Obamacare is on the gas pedal, the other is on the brake, putting federal price controls on insurance company premiums. The results will be insurance company bankruptcies. At that point we'll have to have a "public option." There will be no one left selling health insurance.

The only way to avoid this road to bankruptcy for the entire country is to restore individual responsibility in the system. Let the insurance companies go back to selling insurance instead of forcing them to provide prepaid benefits. Allow everyone $3,000 tax-free savings account to pay for their basic medical costs. Then let them buy so-called "catastrophic insurance" -- which is really just ordinary insurance - to cover serious medical expenses. Premiums will be affordable and you won't have to clog the Congressional Record with rules telling insurance companies what to do. Such a system is already at work. It's called "health savings accounts." HSA's work very well in Indiana, where the government gives its employees the $3,000 but still saves money over providing open-ended "benefits."

We've just thrown ourselves into a deep recession through an ill-advised federal effort give everyone a home. Maybe if the Republicans take over next November, we can repeal yesterday's suicide pact and create something that provides near-universal coverage without tearing the medical economy to shreds. Otherwise, be prepared to see the country reeling down the road to bankruptcy.

HC bill more important than Democrats' political fortunes

I'm not a Democratic hack: I care more about HC reform than the Dems' Congressional majority. If this bill can cover 32 million more people and control costs, then let the Dems be killed this November for saving lives. I can live with that; and they'll rise again.

If the Repugs want to run this November as the party of no health care, and they win on that, then by God America deserves these cretins. But even so, they won't be able to repeal the health care bill because Obama will veto it. Then by 2012 everyone will realize the bill isn't such a bad deal, and the GOP will still be the party of no health care.

So they'd be taking a big chance if they expected to win the Presidency on a platform of "no."

March 23, 2010 |

March 24, 2010 | Wall Street Journal

On key pieces of legislation, including a revamp of financial rules and a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law, some Republicans are either explicitly on board or could soon be so.
The Obama administration's passage of a sweeping health-care revamp has scrambled Republicans' strategic calculations on Capitol Hill, forcing the GOP to decide whether to maintain its largely unified opposition to Democratic proposals.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why not? $1 trillion to save 45,000 lives a year

Hey, anybody can make a mistake...twice.

So let's just put this in perspective: the same Republicans who didn't really mind spending $1 trillion to 'liberate' 4,385 U.S. troops and at least 30,000 Iraqis from this earth, are now locking arms in stalwart, principled opposition to a health care bill that would cost about $900 billion over 10 years and would prevent 45,000 or so American deaths per year.

Makes perfect sense, right? No? OK, lemme 'splain it to you: Republicans in Congress hate you and want you to die.

GOP congressmen: Everyone agrees Iraq war a 'horrible mistake'
By Daniel Tencer
March 19, 2010 | RawStory

Friday, March 19, 2010

The final solution to $1.4 billion border fence boondoggle?

"In 2006 the Department of Homeland Security contracted with The Boeing Company to build a string of towers along the 2,000-mile U.S. Mexican border to keep illegal aliens out. The 'virtual fence' was supposed to use current technology including radar, cameras and ground sensors. It was also supposed to be complete by now.

"So, 'we the people' have now devoted three plus years and $1,400,000,000, and all we have is a twenty-eight mile test section in the Southern Arizona desert. Boeing, the largest military contractor in the history of humankind has made lots of money, and Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security for President Obama just said that she is freezing funds for the fence, which is officially called the Secure Border Initiative Network."

OK, so maybe that didn't work, but I'm sure we can leverage Boeing's vast military-aerospace expertise in other ways to get rid of illegals... like shooting them in giant rocket ship into outer space? It would only cost a few trillion. Come on, we're good for it! Or maybe we can send unmanned aerial drones to drop bombs on them before they try to cross the border? Or robotic gun turrets that blast anything that moves? Come on, people, we gotta think outside the box here.

Oh, wait, I know! Let's invade and occupy Mexico! Then there wouldn't be a border anymore, it'd all be ours! Brilliant! I'll get our industry-funded Washington think tanks right on it to circulate their little articles to FOX, Newsmax, and talk radio, while Boeing sets up an anonymous lobbying firm to convince Congress, and Dick Armey and the Koch brothers astroturf a grassroots organization called something like "Citizens for U.S.-Mexican Reconciliation," and the CIA bankrolls a cherry-picked Mexican "dissident" group called something like "The Mexican National Congress," full of exiles who will testify that Mexican drug cartels are converting to Islam, possess WMD, and plan to kidnap and have their way with thousands of U.S. high school girls south of the border this Spring Break. Yep, that oughta do it. OK, everybody, you know your assignments, now get to work!

Do good fences make good neighbors?: US cancels Mexican virtual fence project (video)
By L. Steven Sieden
March 17, 2010 | Seattle Examiner


Just your average teabagger

Can't believe I missed this one.

Old, white, male, rural, well off, college educated, politically conservative -- that's your typical teabagger.

I think it's most interesting that 41 percent of self-identified Tea Partiers are over the age of 50. Another 40 percent are between the age of 30 and 49, but it'd be nice to know how many of them skew toward 49. Anyhow, my point is that I suspect their little angry movement is mostly about Medicare and Social Security: these greedy old folks don't want their entitlement programs cut or going bankrupt because of new federal spending. They don't hate Big Guvmint, they just want to keep it all for themselves, because they're white, honest, hard-working, and by gum they earned their entitlements, unlike those people.

CNN Poll: Who are the Tea Party activists
Paul Steinhauser, contributor
February 17, 2010 | CNN

Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday also indicates that Tea Party activists would vote overwhelmingly Republican in a two-party race for Congress. The party's GOP leanings, the poll suggests, may pose a problem for the Tea Party movement if it tries to turn itself into a third party to compete with the two major parties in this year's general election.

Full poll results [PDF]

"If the Tea Party runs its own candidates for U.S. House, virtually every vote the Tea Party candidate gets would be siphoned from the GOP candidate, potentially allowing the Democrats to win in districts that they might have otherwise lost," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "While the concept of an independent third party is extremely popular, most Americans, including most Tea Party supporters, don't favor a third party that would result in a winner who disagrees with them on most major issues."

According to the survey, roughly 11 percent of all Americans say they have actively supported the Tea Party movement, either by donating money, attending a rally, or taking some other active step to support the movement. Of this core group of Tea Party activists, 6 of 10 are male and half live in rural areas.

Nearly three quarters of Tea Party activists attended college, compared to 54 percent of all Americans, and more than three in four call themselves conservatives.

"Keep in mind that this is a pretty small sample of Tea Party activists," notes Holland. "But even taking that into account, the demographic gaps that the poll finds between those activists and the general public on gender, education, income, ideology, and voting behavior appear to be significant differences."

The poll indicates that about 24 percent of the public generally favors the Tea Party movement but has not taken any actions such as donating money or attending a rally. Adding in the 11 percent who say they are active, a total of 35 percent could be described as Tea Party supporters. That larger group is also predominantly male, higher-income, and conservative.

Some 45 percent of all Americans say they don't know enough about the Tea Party to have a view of the movement; one in five say they oppose the Tea Party.

According to the survey, most Tea Party activists describe themselves as Independents.

[Yeah, just like Bill O'Reilly is an Independent. If I hear this baloney one more time from a conservative, my head will explode. You're Republicans! Why can't you just admit it? Why must you kid yourself and everybody else? Is it really so shameful to admit that you support the GOP? Or is it some kind of American cultural thing, like you really think you're all political desperados riding the liberty range, and no political party can hold you down, because you're such a free-thinking maverick? Gimme a break. - J]

"But that's slightly misleading, because 87 percent say they would vote for the GOP candidate in their congressional district if there were no third-party candidate endorsed by the Tea Party," says Holland.

So what would happen if the Tea Party supported independent candidates for Congress?

The poll indicates that in a two-way race on the so-called "generic ballot" question, GOP candidates have a 47 percent to 45 percent edge. Throw a Tea Party candidate into the mix, and that two-point advantage becomes a 12-point deficit. That's because virtually everyone who would vote for a Tea Party candidate in a three-way contest would choose a Republican in a two-way race. The Democratic candidate gets 45 percent in both scenarios, but the GOP candidate's share of the vote drops from 47 percent in a two-way contest to just 33 percent with a Tea Party candidate on the ballot.

"Historically, that's the problem many political movements have faced if they try to become a full-fledged party. They often wind up ensuring the victory of the candidate they dislike the most," adds Holland.

Sixty-four percent of all Americans say they like the idea of a third party that would run against the Democrats and Republicans. But only 38 percent would support a third party if its presence on the ballot would mean that the winning candidate is one that disagrees with them on most major issues. According to the poll, Tea Party activists feel the same way: Only 4 in 10 favor a third party that would result in the election of candidates they don't like.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans, including 124 respondents who said they had taken active steps to support the Tea Party, such as donating money or attending a rally self. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points and plus or minus 9 percentage points for Tea Party activists only.

None of these nuns oppose HC bill

Now all we need to spice this story up is a YouTube video of teabaggers yelling at nuns to "get a job" and stop asking for "handouts."

Nuns Support Health-Care Reform, Defy Bishops
By Katie Connolly
March 17, 2010 | Newsweek


YouTube: HC protestors mock old man with Parkinsons

I think it's just swell and not at all hypocritical that most of the old folks protesting HC reform in this video benefit from Medicare (aka socialized medicine).

This video has gone viral though because of the heartless d***heads who tell an old man with Parkinson's that "there's nothing for free over here, you have to work for everything you get," and then mock him by throwing money at him, presumably to pay for his lifetime medical bills, as he sits silently, passively on the pavement. I guess trashing Michael J. Fox wasn't low-down enough for their side.

UPDATE 03.24.10: The guy who threw the dollar bills and heckled the old man has been identified as Chris Reichert, a registered Republican in the Columbus, OH area. Now Reichert is scared, apologetic, and planning never to go to another political rally again. Too bad. I really wanted this heckler to be an unapologetic, mean-spirited Republican who'd reply, "Yeah, I heckled that cripple, so what? Now get off my lawn before I shoot you in the face!" Chalk up another victim of the Cult of PC, who couldn't withstand his overwhelming desire not to be viewed as a complete a**hole by the entire world for saying what he actually believed.

What a sad day for free speech.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CBO: Reconciliation HC bill, like Senate predecessor, cuts deficit

Look, this bill is by no means what liberals wanted, but the CBO says it will cut the deficit and cover more than 30 million Americans. That can't be all bad.

This is pretty consistent with the CBO and Joint Committe on Taxation's estimation in December 2009 of the Senate bill that was passed, before the House reconciliation added some provisions. The CBO-JCT estimated that from 2010-2019 the bill would yield a net reduction of federal deficits of $119 billion.

Of course you're free to disregard all that at your discretion, if you hate Big Guvmint and all, but then, you're not really acting based upon reason, but upon your irrational fears and prejudices. The "great" thing about America is that you're free to do that. Just please do us all a favor and do it in Idaho, Montana, or some other unpopulated podunk that doesn't matter.

Dem Source: CBO Says Health Bill Cuts Deficit, Costs $940 Billion
By Brian Beutler
March 18, 2010 | TPM


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's official: Tea Party just a GOP front

The independent non-partisan teabaggers don't know how protest signs paid for by the Republican National Committee appeared at their rally: "They just showed up."

It's magic!

Tea Party activists distribute signs paid for by the RNC at 'Take The Town Halls to Washington' event
By Alex Seitz-Wald
March 15, 2010 | Think Progress


Getting a jump on revisionist Iraq war history

I wonder if in Texas they will revise the children's history textbooks to teach the truth about Iraq, you know, the version where Dubya personally uncovered the hidden stockpiles of WMD, intercepted the loose nukes being smuggled into Syria, pulled Saddam out of his spiderhole and beat him up in a fistfight, and then sent all the WMD on a giant rocket ship to the sun?

Anyway, here's a recent history lesson for all you suckers who got duped and then defended the clown who bamboozled you.

Can the 'Bush Lied' Deniers Handle the Truth?
By David Corn
March 17, 2010 | Politics Daily


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Obama better 'Deporter-in-Chief' than W?

As thanks for this Obama will get moans of "traitor" from liberals, and continued hatred and paranoia from Repugs and teabaggers who believe he's trying to destroy America.

As Abe Lincoln once said, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please anybody if your name is Barack Hussein Obama.

Immigrant groups say deportations up under Obama
March 8, 2010 | AFP

Immigration rights activists said Monday that deportations have jumped nearly 50 percent under President Barack Obama despite a pledge by the president for a more compassionate immigration policy.

A total of 387,790 people were deported from the United States in 2009, up from 264,503 under the administration of President George W. Bush, according to government figures cited by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a coalition of several organizations.

"We are asking President Obama for an immediate halt to deportations and to show leadership to advance immigration reform," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

"This is not sound economic policy or moral policy, this is not leadership nor change we can believe in," said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of One America, one of the groups participating.

"We expect more, we expect the president to order the administration to stop the deportations and demonstrate leadership on passing immigration reform."

The groups at Monday's news conference plan a march on March 21 in Washington to revive efforts for immigration reform.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

German economy: 'No respect, no respect I tell ya!'

Germany's Economic Engine

Why the German model has held up even as so many other major economies have collapsed.

By Eamonn Fingleton
February 24, 2010 |

American and British commentators have told three stories about the German economy over the past decade, all of them derogatory. Articulating a standard conservative view, Adam Posen of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in 2006 characterized Germany's performance as "lastingly poor." In a similar vein, Jude Blanchette, blogging for the libertarian Mises Institute, predicted in 2003 that nothing but "rot and indolence" lay ahead.

Another version of the indictment states that even though Germany was once an economic powerhouse, its best days are over. Thus in 2003, Larry Elliott of The Guardian reported that the German economy had "sputtered to a virtual halt" and, in the view of many, had succeeded to Britain's 1970s-era role as the "sick man of Europe."

A third story holds that, to the extent Germany is surviving at all, it is only by giving up the distinctive elements of its economic model and embracing American norms. Edmund L. Andrews, for instance, claimed in The New York Times in 2000 that "the structure and ethos underlying Fortress Germany have begun to crack like a house on a California fault line." Supposedly the Germans were taking a leaf out of Silicon Valley's book by moving to a freewheeling employment model, and many recent university graduates were forsaking a secure, carefully nurtured career with a long-established employer for a bumpier ride with an entrepreneurial start-up.

Yet, as the Chicago-based Germany-watcher Gary Herrigel points out, none of this is true. "The Germans have certainly reformed their system to make it more flexible," he says. "But they have had no intention of adopting the American model. They have not been moving in the direction of more free-market mechanisms or the individualization of the economy."

It is high time the German economy got some respect. It has been faring much better lately than either the United States or Britain, despite the scornful predictions of Anglophone economic observers. The problems attributed to the German economic model since reunification have been greatly exaggerated, if not entirely imaginary, and German corporations are now exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on recovery once global demand picks up. The rest of the world can learn vital lessons from this success through good global economic times and bad.

The case against the German model relies largely on one data point: Germany's official growth rate has often lagged in recent years. But the growth story is more nuanced than most English-speaking observers have realized. And by virtually every other measure, the German economic model stacks up well against that of the United States:

Per-capita income. Measured at ruling exchange rates as of 2008, Germany's per-capita income was $44,600. That was within hailing distance of America's $47,500 -- an impressive performance in itself and all the more so when you realize that the typical German worker put in just 1,432 hours in 2008 versus 1,792 hours for the typical American.

[That's $31.14 per hour for the typical German worker vs. $26.51 per hour for the typical American. - J]

Life expectancy. Germans now live nearly 14 months longer on average than Americans. By contrast, as recently as the early 1980s, life expectancy in the former West Germany trailed the United States by fully 17 months (and, of course, East Germany was even further behind). A nation's life expectancy is a function of several key aspects of national well-being, and as such it is a useful reality check on purely money-based economic rankings. In particular, it tests a nation's ability to provide its citizens with decent health care.

Trade. Germany's trade performance over the longer term has been nothing short of spectacular. From 1998 to 2008 the German current account went from a deficit of $5.9 billion to a surplus of $267.1 billion. The contrast with the United States could hardly be starker: The American current account deficit shot from $233.8 billion in 1998 to $568.8 billion in 2008.

Innovation. Germany is a leader in key new technologies, including renewable energy such as solar and wind power. Germany is also the political and economic driving force behind the Large Hadron Collider, the huge new European particle accelerator that is exploring some of the most fundamental questions in physics, and the resulting breakthroughs should redound disproportionately to Germany's advantage.

Jobs. Even in the case of unemployment -- a yardstick that for most of the two decades since reunification had been a major embarrassment for Berlin officials -- Germany is now doing better than many other nations. As of December 2009, the jobless rate, at 8.1 percent, was well below America's 10 percent.


The idiosyncrasies of the German economic model are striking and in many ways, make it seem behind the times. Few Germans own credit cards, and cash is still king. Then there is the somber German Sabbath. Thanks to a powerful alliance of labor unions and religious conservatives, most stores remain closed on Sunday.

Even when the stores are open, their pricing is not always a case study in efficient markets. The other day in Berlin, for instance, I noticed that a 100-tablet pack of aspirin cost 15.95 euros. For this sort of money -- about $23 -- you can buy more than 20 times as many tablets in the States. American expatriates in Germany complain of a long list of similarly inflated prices for everything from guitar strings to Ziploc bags.

Such divergences from American expectations are merely the surface manifestations of a radically different economic culture. The German economy has succeeded because it remains decidedly German. That begins with the close relationship -- too close, in many American eyes -- between German banks and German industry. In the so-called hausbank ("house bank") system, most corporations have a long-standing, largely exclusive arrangement with one main bank. The hausbank owns significant stakes in many of its corporate customers and thereby exercises considerable behind-the-scenes influence.

Admittedly, the hausbank system is not as all-encompassing as it once was. In an effort to minimize conflicts of interest in its investment-banking operations, Deutsche Bank in particular divested key shareholdings some years ago. But as the Göttingen-based scholar Andreas Busch has pointed out, the significance of Deutsche Bank's policy change has been exaggerated in the English-language press. "One swallow does not make a summer," he says. "Deutsche Bank does not figure as large in the German economy as many foreign observers imagine. The burden of proof here lies with those who argue that the core of the system has been hit." He adds that the hausbank system is still central to the financing of many small and medium-sized enterprises (what in German are known collectively as the mittelstand). On Busch's figures, the mittelstand accounts for 70 percent of employment and about half of the total output of the enterprise sector.

Then there is Germany's notably labor-friendly employment system. Despite some regulatory relaxation in recent years, German workers enjoy much greater job security than do their American counterparts. As Herrigel points out, even in the midst of the current downturn, which has proved temporarily devastating for many manufacturing companies, there have been remarkably few layoffs. Instead, Germans have moved toward work-sharing via the kurzarbeit (literally, "short work") system.

Labor also enjoys a powerful voice in Germany's two-tier boardrooms. In the case of the largest corporations, half of all seats on the supervisory board are reserved for employee representatives. In most cases one of these employees is a management nominee, but the others are genuine employee representatives. Labor enjoys considerable veto power, and on key issues, its wishes can be overridden only if management and shareholders forge a completely united front. The board oversees and appoints a management board that runs day-to-day affairs.

As viewed by orthodox American economists, the patients are running the asylum. But few aspects of the German model seem more secure than this system of co-determination in corporate governance. German corporations have consistently increased their global market share over the years. In the steel industry, for instance, ThyssenKrupp now outproduces United States Steel 3 to 1. In the electrical industry, Siemens is a bigger exporter than ever, while General Electric long ago shuttered most of its American factories in a controlled retreat into outsourcing and diversification.

Then there is Germany's performance in the automobile industry. Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and BMW remain at the top of their game, even as Detroit has been brought to its knees. In the last year, a German government "cash for clunkers" program -- the model for the U.S. program introduced last summer -- proved highly effective in supporting domestic demand. In export markets the German carmakers really show their mettle. In a normal year, BMW, for instance, sells three times as many cars abroad as at home. Overall, the German industry accounts for a global market share of about 17 percent -- not bad for a nation with just 1.2 percent of the world's population. Admittedly, about half of German-brand cars are produced in foreign assembly plants, but such plants rely heavily on German-made components.

Even in services, where the American model is supposedly indisputably superior, German corporations don't seem at a serious disadvantage. In the airline industry, for instance, Lufthansa is still airborne after more than 80 years, while its once much larger and more powerful American rivals on the Atlantic route, Pan Am and TWA, have long been grounded. Lufthansa ranks sixth in the world in passenger miles and has been expanding by acquisition in Austria, Switzerland, Britain, Belgium, and the U.S. (where it has bought a 15.6 percent stake in JetBlue).


To be sure, not everything has been going swimmingly for the German economy. In particular, the German banking system has hardly emerged unscathed from the recent global financial earthquake. But how could it? After all, Germany now ranks second only to China among the world's capital-exporting nations. In that capacity it has had to recycle vast funds into capital-importing nations, including the two largest and most profligate, the United States and Britain. Given that both nations are suffering their worst financial strains since the Great Depression, Germany could not realistically have walled itself off from the world financial crisis. But the German banking system's domestic operations have remained relatively healthy. The two notable bank meltdowns -- Bayerische Landesbank and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg -- were caused by problems largely incurred abroad, in the American sub-prime mortgage market in the former case and in the derivatives market in the latter.

Of course, for all Germany's success by other measures, it has lagged in growth of gross domestic product. Between 1998 and 2008, it grew in real terms by an average of just 1.5 percent a year. By comparison, the United States grew by fully 2.6 percent. But these numbers are not meaningful without considerable adjustment. GDP growth is a function not only of rising output per capita but of population growth. Much of America's growth between 1998 and 2008 came from a cumulative population increase of 13 percent. By contrast, Germany's population rose by less than 0.3 percent. (Though American conservatives like to lambaste Germany for its super-low population growth, many Germans take the view that, in a world of scarce resources, slow population growth is less a curse than a blessing.)

Clearly we have to adjust for the population effect. When we do, we discover -- confoundingly, for American orthodoxy -- that on a per-capita basis Germany actually very slightly outperformed the United States between 1998 and 2008 (with growth averaging just less than 1.5 percent versus America's less than 1.4 percent).

For close observers like Herrigel of the University of Chicago, Germany's performance over the last decade has always seemed more solid than that of the United States. "The task of calculating U.S. growth in recent years has been greatly distorted by the financial bubble," he says. "Germany's growth has been a lot more healthy, and the wealth created has been much more sustainable."

For two decades now, German policy-makers have been wrestling with one of the most perplexing challenges in economic history: how to integrate the backward states of the old East Germany into a highly advanced First World economy. Along the way the authorities consciously chose to let economic growth take a backseat as they battled pressing political concerns. Most obviously they opted at the outset in 1990 to value the old East German mark at a 1-to-1 parity with the West German mark, fully aware that the consequence would be long-term unemployment in the East. But the decision achieved a crucial immediate political objective in forestalling a sudden, potentially highly destabilizing population lurch from East to West. The skills that older East German workers were equipped with, however, were useless in an advanced First World market economy and, with no case for paying such workers anything like West German wages, unemployment remained high for years. If any advanced nation has had an excuse for a subpar eonomic performance, it has been Germany.

Yet today, Herrigel says, "I have traveled very extensively in the country and it is everywhere very, very prosperous. There are no pockets of extreme poverty such as we have on Chicago's West Side. Many parts of America have conditions more like those in developing rather than developed economies."


The secret of the German system's success is, in large part, a strong national commitment to advanced manufacturing. At last count the industry still made up about 20 percent of Germany's total output, compared with little more than 11 percent in the United States. The pivotal significance of a strong manufacturing sector is understood by virtually all thoughtful Germans even if it is scorned by many of America's most influential economists.

Pat Choate, a Washington-based author and longtime advocate of a strong American manufacturing base, points out that manufacturing can be -- and often is -- both far more capital intensive and far more know-how intensive than the advanced services such as software and financial engineering on which the United States has staked its future. "The Germans, like the Japanese, have a structural advantage," Choate says. "They have concerned themselves with the structure of their economy, while we have been indifferent. It would be unthinkable for the German government to facilitate the outsourcing of industry as the Clinton and Bush administrations did."

Choate adds that German manufacturers enjoy a key advantage in research and development thanks to close links with universities. "The German system of research institutes goes back to the Kaiser Wilhelm institutes of the 19th century and continues today," he says. "Germany is a major source of basic research and then practical development. We got a boost before and after World War II when so many of their scientists came here, but we have failed to link our research universities with industry as ... the Germans [have]."

Meanwhile, on examination, many of Germany's economic failings turn out to be strengths in disguise. Take, for instance, the almost complete absence of credit cards. This is generally taken by American observers to be merely a reflection of an antiquated German economic culture. But Luigi Guiso, a Florence-based expert on economic culture, points out that there is probably more to it than this. As a matter of policy, the German banking system has hindered the rise of credit cards and has instead promoted debit cards. Credit cards reduce the savings rate whereas debit cards boost it, providing German banks an abundant source of funding to support their corporate clients.

All this makes more sense when you realize that in many areas of advanced manufacturing, the global economic cycle is particularly severe. Thus, even the most capably managed companies sometimes need considerable financial support to ride out downturns. This is where Germany's continuing high savings rate comes into its own. The savings are disproportionately channeled -- via Germany's bank-dominated system of patient capital -- into supporting advanced manufacturers. These then typically come back stronger than ever in the next up-cycle. By contrast, their competitors in nations like the United States and Britain have too often had to fend for themselves. Over the last half century, each succeeding recession has left American and British manufacturers more financially exposed. As a result, Germans have consistently increased their market share in advanced manufacturing. There is a long list of specialty items in which even remarkably small German makers now dominate world markets. Examples run the gamut. Windmoeller & Hoelscher, for instance, enjoys a 90 percent share of the world market for machines that make heavy-duty paper bags. Achenbach Buschhütten has a similar share of the world market for aluminum-rolling mills. Herbert Kannegiesser dominates the world market for hotel laundry equipment.

Although most economists of the Anglo-American tradition regard Germany's job-protection arrangements as a major competitive disadvantage, these represent yet another way in which the German model is focused on the economy as a whole. From the point of view of a shareholder interested merely in short-term profits, it may be inconvenient that a corporation cannot readily lay off workers in a downturn, but for the whole economy, the result is clearly to dampen the negative effects of the economic cycle.

More important, because workers enjoy considerable job security, it is much easier for management to introduce new, more efficient production technologies. Workers tend to embrace new technologies as the best way to ensure their job's long-term viability. Moreover, the infrequent worker turnover at German companies is a key reason why German employers are willing to invest heavily in employee training. As Herrigel points out, there is far less risk than in the United States that workers will take their skills to a rival employer. "Germany has constructed a whole system to prevent poaching by rival employers," he says. "There is no such thing as free riding, whereby an employer can poach away workers by offering them a few pennies more per hour. The whole German economy depends on skilled labor, and there is a robust program of vocational training in which every employer participates."

Even the co-determination system works well. Although in theory workers might be tempted to use their boardroom power to award themselves unrealistically large wage hikes, in practice this rarely happens. Instead, workers take a moderate approach in the interests of their employer's long-term health. The result is that German corporate executives generally regard co-determination as an aid and not a hindrance as it helps ensure worker flexibility when work procedures need to be changed or tasks reassigned.

One of the more consequential effects of co-determination is on corporations' outsourcing policies. Where the most sophisticated production technologies are concerned, workers have a strong interest in preventing technology transfers abroad, which are rightly seen as undermining the viability of jobs at home. In opposing such transfers, workers are acting precisely in the national interest. By contrast, the American model, in which companies like IBM, Boeing, and Hewlett-Packard readily transfer even many of their most advanced production technologies to foreign subsidiaries, clearly hastens the demise of American economic leadership.

German labor tends to respond resourcefully in the face of outsourcing threats. Herrigel cites the example of one engineering company he studied, which cancelled an outsourcing plan after consultation with workers. "This was a company that made huge ball bearings for the shipbuilding industry, and the task of polishing and assembling the bearings was considered too labor intensive for German workers," he recalls. "As a result of works-level consultation, however, the trade union suggested new, more efficient work procedures that made it preferable to retain the entire production in Germany."

Perhaps the ultimate proof that all this adds up to an extraordinary engine of economic success is in Germany's export performance. In 2008, for instance, German exports reached fully $1.49 trillion, which comfortably topped America's $1.27 trillion. Put another way, on a per-capita basis Germany out-exported the United States by more than 4 to 1 ($18,200 per capita versus $4,160). Wolfgang Lutterbach of the German Confederation of Trade Unions puts it succinctly: "How can we be champions in so many international markets and not be efficient?"

As of 2010 the Germans are evidently more efficient than ever. David Marsh, a London-based consultant and author of The Bundesbank: The Bank That Rules Europe, sums up the story: "After the reforms of the last decade -- but also after the setbacks of the credit crisis and ensuing recession -- the German model has emerged in better shape than before, to face the exigencies of global competition. About 90 percent of the German model -- crucially, the web of understandings between different sections of business, employees and government -- has survived intact."

Eamonn Fingleton is a Tokyo-based author whose most recent book is In Praise of Hard Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity.

Krugman: Bunning, Kyl show Repubs live in another universe

Yeah, right, Jim Bunning's a real fighter of principle. In fact he's just a grumpy, mean old Republican not up for re-election who has no reason to hide his true feelings anymore out of fear of offending common standards of human decency. Voila. The real GOP for all to see.

Meanwhile, Rep. Sen Jon Kyl does plan to run for re-election, presumably, so he did not join Bunning's filibuster, although he did praise it. Further to this writes Paul Krugman:

"Now, the House has already passed a bill that, by exempting the assets of couples up to $7 million, would leave 99.75 percent of estates tax-free. But that doesn't seem to be enough for Mr. Kyl; he's willing to hold up desperately needed aid to the unemployed on behalf of the remaining 0.25 percent. That's a very clear statement of priorities.

"So, as I said, the parties now live in different universes, both intellectually and morally."

Senator Bunning's Universe
By Paul Krugman
March 4, 2010 | New York Times


Saturday, March 6, 2010

'Sovereign citizens,' my a**!

Yet more evidence that Hoosiers are a little "off."

Seriously though, these "sovereign" crybabies need a harsh dose of reality in the form of fines (in U.S. currency, not their own printed money) and jail time.

Conservatives think they own the phrase "love it or leave it," but I'm taking it back for liberals: love our big-government, socialistic, tax-and-spend, godless, gun-confiscating America or leave it. But if instead you want to take the coward's way out and declare your backyard "The Embassy of Backyardistan," then you're asking for Big Gubument to open a well deserved can of whupass on you.

Oh, and I'm sure this has nothing to do with Obama or a black president or anything. I'm sure it's just coincidence.

Indiana faces wave of 'sovereign citizens' who declare independence
By Brett Perry
March 5, 2010 | Indianapolis Libertarian Examiner


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Psychologist: To defeat teabaggers, we must empathize

Here's a predictably mamby-pampy lib'rul response from a San Francisco psychologist who treats paranoid patients: We normal people must seek to empathize with the teabaggers. We must understand them, learn their "backstory." Give them a hug, maybe. No, on second thought, scratch the hugs: they're armed and ornery. Anyway, here's what makes a paranoiac:

"People can't tolerate feeling helpless and self-hating for very long. It's too painful, too demoralizing and too frightening. They have to find an antidote. They have to make sense of it all in a way that restores their sense of meaning, their feeling of agency, their self-esteem, and their belief in the possibility of redemption. They have to. They have no choice. That's just the way the mind works.

"The paranoid strategy is to generate a narrative that finally 'explains it all.' A narrative -- a set of beliefs about the way the world is and is supposed to be -- helps make sense of chaos. It reduces guilt and self-blame by projecting it onto someone else. And it restores a sense of agency by offering up an enemy to fight. Finally, it offers hope that if 'they' -- the enemy, the conspirators -- can be avoided or destroyed, the paranoid person's core feelings of helplessness and devaluation will go away."

Contrary to my theory that teabaggers are simply Republicans looking for an excuse to play dress-up and get out of the house, Dr. Bader says teabaggers could come from anywhere. (That sounds like a public health advisory: "Anyone could become a teabagger, even you. At the first signs of rabid anti-government paranoia, please consult a physician."):

"In the Times story about the Tea Party movement, the writer describes how most Tea Party activists are not loyal Republicans. 'They are frequently political neophytes,' he writes, 'who prize independence and tell strikingly similar stories of having been awakened by the recession. Their families upended by lost jobs, foreclosed homes and depleted retirement funds, they said they wanted to know why it happened and whom to blame.'

"They began listening to Glenn Beck, reading the Federalist Papers, books by Ayn Rand and George Orwell, and started visiting radical right-wing Web sites.

"The Times writer then makes a crucial observation: 'Many describe emerging from their research as if reborn to a new reality.'"

Even if fellow lib'ruls don't agree with his prescription, we should take note that, therapeutically speaking, teabaggers can't be reasoned with. I'm no shrink, but I coulda told ya that, for I have tried and tried to no avail:

"The 'problem' is that Tea Party activists move from legitimate feelings and normal longings to paranoid political positions that are dangerous and cruel. But because these positions serve an important psychological function, because they resolve an emotional dilemma, they can't be changed by rational argument. I have never been able to help a paranoid patient even a little bit by arguing with his or her view of reality. Not one bit."

If we don't understand how decent, god-fearing, victimized people can come to espouse such dangerous ideologies, we won't be able to fight them effectively.

By Michael Bader
March 2, 2010 | AlterNet

Monday, March 1, 2010

Changes in credit card regulations, payments

We can thank Obama and Congress for finally ending some of the more obvious ways in which the big banks screwed us. Below is the proof, in a reply sent to me from my bank regarding interest charges that I didn't think should be there. So, if you're making more than the minimal monthly payment and you had a big zero-APR balance transfer like I did, now those payments will go toward paying off purchases at the usual, higher purchase APR, and not toward paying off your zero-interest balance transfer amount, so that high interest charges don't accumulate.

In anticipation of this and other regulatory changes, however, in 2009 and early 2010, the big banks jacked up their fees and standard purchase APRs, and not just on the people with bad credit, but specifically on the cardholders who pay off their balances regularly. In response, you should have cancelled your card, like I did for one, or declined the increased APR, which I did before I cancelled the card. Taking your business to a local or regional bank is the best way to go.

By the way, under the new CARD Act, as of February 2010, credit card issuers can't increase your interest rate unless your payments are over 60 days late, and if you then pay on time for 6 months, the original rate must go back into effect.

Check it out:

Date: 02-24-2010 08:31:08
From: Credit Card Support
Subject: Re: Fees/Interest Charges
Dear Mr :

Before the government regulation changes went into effect 2/22/10, any payments received, applied to the lowest rate on the account each month. Your payments received before 2/22/10 paid down the 0% promotion before the purchase balance. The $ on your statement ending 2/17/10 is the interest charged to the purchases on your account.

After 2/22/10, the payment application method changed. When the minimum payment is received, it will be applied to your account in the following manner:

1. Deferred interest promotion (if expiring within 2 months)
2. Blueprint payment
3. Lowest to Highest Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

Any payment amount received that is over your minimum payment will be applied to your account in the following manner:

1. Deferred interest promotion (if expiring within 2
2. Blueprint Payment [I don't even know what this is - J]
3. Highest to Lowest APR

If you have two promotions at the same rate, the one with the longest duration will be paid first. If you have two promotions at the same rate and the same duration, then the highest amount will be paid first. If you are enrolled in Blueprint and you have more than one APR on your account, your payment will be applied to the highest APR first. You will not be penalized if your Blueprint payment is not met, however, this means your Blueprint goal may be extended or recalculated. Thank you,

Cynthia R
Email Customer Service Representative