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3851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: April 06, 2011, 02:07:15 PM
As pointed out by another radio host:

Burning the US flag in the US is freedom of speech.

Burning the Koran is moral outrage.

Just ask the MSM, soloDAD, and the rest of the crew.
3852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No time for games on: April 06, 2011, 02:04:57 PM
"Quit playing games".

I assume he means college basketball picking, golf, soccor etc...
3853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: April 06, 2011, 09:04:21 AM
I don't defend the Republicans only that they as well as Dems must have polling which shows the former will get the blame for a shutdown and it is politically too dangerous.  The Dems are frothing at the mouth to have the chance to demagoue them over this.

The Rebuplicans still do not have good answers to Democrats strategy of "your cutting spending on the backs of the poor and middle class".

The dems as alsways have a field day on this simple phrase.

The Repubs still imo not convincing the public otherwise.
3854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / consipricay theories - Jesse Ventura on: April 05, 2011, 01:49:10 PM
Well he certainly sounded like a nut job on Piers Morgan last night but I haven't read his book
3855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 04, 2011, 12:15:45 PM
thanks.  I repsect and agree with your opinions so your endorsement means a lot to me as such to keep in my front running list.

FWIW I still think that a Republican could clean up if he addresses issue of the "middle class" which I still feel like is lackluster for conservatives.

The middle class absolutely has stagnated.  The fat cats are getting richer.  The bankers salaries have gone up?!

Something is really wrong with this picture.  Republicans do need to address this to keep middle class people from turning to governemnet largesse to bail them out.

This is in my judgement the big challenge for the hearts and minds of voters who are the backbone of America.  It certainly is their pocketbooks "stupid".  A take-off on it's the economy stupid.

I figured out the answer that Republicans can express.  That is that all of us really do have equal chance to succeed.  government need only truly treat everyone equal and enforce regs already on the books.  For example: Walmart cannot get a tax break in some small town without anyone else being able to get the same break. 

Please see this article from this week's Economist which is akin to what I am saying:

*****Marx, Mervyn or Mario?
What is behind the decline in living standards?
Mar 24th 2011 | from the print edition
 ARE you better off than you were two years ago? Although the economic recovery in the developed world is almost two years old, the average Westerner would probably answer “No”.

The authorities have applied shock and awe in the form of fiscal and monetary stimulus. They have prevented the complete collapse of the financial sector—bankers’ pay has certainly held up just fine. The corporate sector is also doing well. Even if banks are excluded, the profits of S&P 500 companies were up by 18.7% last year, says Morgan Stanley.

But the benefits of recovery seem to have been distributed almost entirely to the owners of capital rather than workers. In America total real wages have risen by $168 billion since the recovery began, but that has been far outstripped by a $528 billion jump in profits. Dhaval Joshi of BCA Research reckons that this is the first time profits have outperformed wages in absolute terms in 50 years.

In Germany profits have increased by €113 billion ($159 billion) since the start of the recovery, and employee pay has risen by just €36 billion. Things look even worse for workers in Britain, where profits have risen by £14 billion ($22.7 billion) but aggregate real wages have fallen by £2 billion. A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think-tank, found that the median British household had suffered the biggest three-year fall in real living standards since the early 1980s.

Are these trends a belated vindication of Karl Marx? The bearded wonder wrote in “Das Kapital” that: “It follows therefore that in proportion as capital accumulates, the situation of the worker, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.” But Marx also predicted a decline in profit margins in capitalism’s dying throes, suggesting some confusion in his analysis.

A more positive view of this divergence between capital and wages is that developed economies had become too dependent on consumption and had to switch to an export- and investment-led model. That was the view of Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, when he said in January that “the squeeze in living standards is the inevitable price to pay for the financial crisis and subsequent rebalancing of the world and UK economies.”

That reasoning might work for Britain and America. But it is hard to apply to Germany, where unit labour costs have been held down for a decade and where, if the economy does need to be rebalanced, it is arguably in favour of consumption.

There is also a longer-term trend to explain. Wages still account for a much greater slice of income than profits, but labour’s share has been in decline across the OECD since 1980. The gap has been particularly marked in America: productivity rose by 83% between 1973 and 2007, but male median real wages rose by just 5%.

The decline in labour’s share has also been accompanied by an increased inequality of incomes, something that economists have struggled for years to explain. Mean wages, which include the earnings of chief executives and sports stars, have risen much faster than the median. This premium for “talent” may reflect globalisation as the elite are able to move to the countries where their skills are most appreciated. Or it may reflect changes in technology, which have generated outsize rewards for those people most able to take advantage of them.

An alternative explanation has been to blame the decline in trade-union membership. In the 1960s and 1970s powerful unions in manufacturing industries like cars were able to demand higher wages. But high-paying blue-collar jobs have been in decline since then. John Van Reenen, the director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, reckons that privatisation has also led to a decline in labour’s share of the cake. Managers of newly privatised industries tend to lay off workers as their focus shifts from empire-building to profit maximisation.

One factor that should perhaps get more emphasis is the role of the financial sector. Central banks have repeatedly cut or held down interest rates over the past 25 years in an attempt to boost bank profits and prop up asset prices. With this subsidy in place, is it surprising that earnings in finance have outpaced wages for other technologically skilled jobs?

Attempts to remove that subsidy are met by threats from international banks to move elsewhere. This is a little reminiscent of the protection rackets run by the gangsters in Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather”. It is as if the finance sector is saying: “Nice economy you got there. Shame if anything should happen to it.”****

3856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pawlenty? on: April 04, 2011, 09:29:43 AM
Your in Minnesota.  How come I don't see you speak much of Pawlenty?

What is your take on him?
3857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / civil war finally over on: April 04, 2011, 09:27:50 AM
Finally passing
Assessing America’s bloodiest war, 150 years later
Mar 31st 2011 | ATLANTA, MONTGOMERY AND COLUMBIA | from the print edition
 IN FEBRUARY 1961 the festivities marking the centennial of Jefferson Davis’s inauguration as president of the Confederacy drew some 50,000 revellers, including the governors of three southern states, to Montgomery, Alabama. In the run-up to the commemoration, which lasted a week, white Alabamans formed “Confederate Colonel” and “Confederate Belle” chapters. Teachers came to school in period costumes. Hundreds lined the streets to escort the actor playing Davis from the railway station to the Exchange Hotel, where he was met by the sitting chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court portraying his antebellum counterpart. The next night 5,000 people attended a centennial ball.

Compare Montgomery’s centennial with the sesquicentennial, which this February drew a ragtag few hundred enthusiasts (and no elected officials) to parade through Montgomery. The 1961 celebration took place in a South engulfed in a battle over segregation. The war’s ultimate legacy was not yet clear. But that battle is now over. Forced segregation, the Confederacy’s last death throes, lost. A black man now sits in the White House, and by most economic indicators the South has drawn nearly level with the rest of the country.

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the American civil war’s beginning. The first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, in South Carolina, on April 12th 1861. Passions can sometimes still flare—as William Faulkner, the South’s great novelist, wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Earlier this year, for instance, a group of Mississippians proposed honouring a Confederate general who later became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan with a special car licence-plate. In South Carolina more than a thousand people marched through downtown Columbia in January to protest against the flying of the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds.

Related topics
South Carolina
Such lingering echoes are hardly surprising, though they are ever rarer. The war split and nearly broke America. It killed 620,000 soldiers—more Americans than died in all the country’s wars until Vietnam, combined. And it set 4m slaves free.

In 1860 in the 11 future Confederate states, 38% of the population—including majorities in Mississippi and South Carolina, and nearly a majority in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana (the other Confederate states were Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia)—was enslaved. The South’s economy depended on them. During the 19th century the North’s economy became largely industrial and increasingly urbanised. The South remained largely agricultural, its wealth concentrated in land and slaves. The war destroyed that wealth. Income per head in the South dropped to less than 40% of that in the North, and stayed there for the rest of the century. As late as 1938 Franklin Roosevelt singled out the South as “the nation’s No. 1 economic problem.”

Yet after the huge public investments of the New Deal and the second world war, the South began to attract industry and manufacturing—in part precisely because it was poor, and its labour cheap. Today, average income per head in the 11 former Confederate states has almost caught up; it is $36,350, compared with a national average of $40,584. Admittedly, the aggregate figure masks great regional differences. Agriculture, manufacturing and mineral production remain central to the economies of the Deep South states; almost all of the former confederate states are poorer than average (with Mississippi the poorest state in the union). Virginia, by contrast, ranks 7th among states in income per head; it has a thriving tech sector, as well as a number of federal agencies and wealthy suburbs of Washington, DC. North Carolina boasts its own tech hub in the university triangle of Raleigh-Durham.

Texas and Florida both face budgetary problems, but so do many states. Economically they more closely resemble Arizona, another state that has boomed over the past decade, than they do other Southern states. Similarly, Mississippi’s companions at the low end of the per-capita income table are West Virginia and Idaho, neither of which fought for the Confederacy. Like Mississippi, they lack a big city, have relatively uneducated populations and rely heavily on mining and agriculture. The poverty of the Deep South is less southern than rural. The economic legacy of the war, in other words, has all but faded.

Strong government, hated government

Politically as well as economically, the civil war left the South broken and directionless. Jefferson Davis was captured in southern Georgia a month after his best general, Robert E. Lee, surrendered. Abraham Lincoln advocated reconciliation, but he was shot just five days after Lee’s surrender. The next election, in 1866, put Congress under the control of radical Republicans, who stationed federal troops throughout the South.

Republican Congresses also passed the 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution, which stated that everyone born in the United States had certain rights as citizens that states could not take away, and that states could not bar people from voting due to “race, colour or previous condition of servitude”. Those amendments, like the 13th, which banned slavery, came with clauses granting Congress the power to enforce them. Such grants of power were new. The Bill of Rights limited federal power. These post-civil-war amendments expanded it.

But if a more powerful and active federal government is one enduring legacy of the war, another is distrust and even hatred of that government. White southerners resented “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags”—their terms, respectively, for northerners who came south after the war to seek their fortune, and for white southerners who supported the federal government. Some of these attitudes persist. In late 1865 Confederate veterans in Tennessee formed the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organisation that used violence against former slaves. It still survives, milder on the surface but vicious underneath.

How it all beganFor most of the next hundred years, white southerners ardently subverted the promises of the civil-war amendments by enacting the segregationist policies that came to be known as Jim Crow laws. These laws gained legitimacy when the Supreme Court ruled in 1896 that laws enforcing segregation were constitutional, provided the facilities available for blacks and whites were equal. In practice they never were, but segregation remained law and custom in the South. The Supreme Court signalled an end to all that in the 1954 case Brown v Board of Education, which ruled that separate facilities were inherently unequal.

But that ruling set off huge resistance in the South. The governors of Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi all physically blocked black students from entering formerly white schools. The long dormant Ku Klux Klan rose again. This time, however, southern resistance was met both by organised civil disobedience and by some measure of federal will. John Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon Johnson, were Democrats and civil-rights advocates, willing to use federal muscle where other presidents were not.

The civil-rights movement presaged a partisan sea-change in American politics. After the war, Republicans were anathema in the South, and southerners were anathema in national politics. Before the outbreak of war southerners had dominated federal political institutions, producing most of its presidents, House speakers, Senate leaders and Supreme Court justices. After the war’s end, the next president to be elected from a former Confederate state was Johnson, a Texan, in 1964. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law with Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks in attendance. His advocacy discomfited segregationist southern Democrats such as John Stennis and Strom Thurmond. Thurmond switched parties early, in 1964. Others followed.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan’s advocacy of smaller, less intrusive government resonated nationally, but he made a particular push for southern white Democrats. During the civil-rights era, segregationists often couched their position as a defence of “states’ rights”; and Reagan’s endorsement of those rights at a Mississippi county fair, while campaigning for the presidency in 1980, sealed his success in the South. His election gave Republicans control of the Senate for the first time since 1955.

Since then the South has grown steadily more Republican, though two of the three Democrats elected after Johnson—Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton—were southerners, who could attract southern whites. Today most southern members of Congress are Republican. And southern states are growing much faster than northern ones. In the next Congress Texas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina will all add seats at the expense of the north-east and the Midwest.

The long tail

Segregation was the civil war’s long tail. In 1963, two years after the mock inauguration of Jefferson Davis, George Wallace, Alabama’s governor, stood on those same capitol steps and declared that “from this cradle of the Confederacy, this very heart of the great Anglo-Saxon Southland…I say segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation for ever.” Segregation was so unjust that it is easy to see it as inevitably doomed. It was not. It took blood and struggle to end it. But ended it was, and two decades later Wallace himself, the face of segregation, apologised for his words.

Ten years after that, the South elected its first black governor, Douglas Wilder in Virginia. In 2008 Barack Obama won Virginia, North Carolina and Florida and ran strongly in Georgia. The gap in black and white voter registration has narrowed dramatically throughout the South. And black Americans, who left the South in the early 20th century in what became known as the Great Migration, are moving back. Today Atlanta is home to more blacks than any city apart from New York, and 57% of black Americans live in the South—the highest proportion since 1960.

Jefferson Davis saw the lightVoting remains racially polarised; southern whites tend to vote Republican and southern blacks Democratic. In 2008, for instance, Mr Obama won 98% of the black vote in Alabama and Mississippi but only 10% and 11% of the white vote. But that is hardly unique to the South: Mr Obama ran 12 points behind John McCain nationally among white voters. And racially polarised voting is both a subtle problem—a far cry from the obvious injustice of segregation and slavery—and a waning one. Young white voters backed Mr Obama in much higher numbers than older ones did.

This March Haley Barbour, who has a record of racially insensitive remarks, said in an interview: “Slavery was the primary, central cause of secession…abolishing slavery was morally imperative and necessary, and it’s regrettable that it took the civil war to do it. But it did.” Mr Barbour wants to be president. His remarks not only directly refute the ancient argument that slavery was not the principal cause of the war; they showed that there is no longer political gain in pretending otherwise.

Some people have lamented the relative public indifference to the anniversary this year, compared with 50 years ago. But back then the war’s fundamental question—whether all American citizens are equal, regardless of race—was not fully answered. Today it is. This is not to say that racism no longer exists, or that white southerners will not continue to oppose Mr Obama in greater numbers than any other demographic group. But their battle with him will be at the ballot box. In his last appearance, in 1889, Jefferson Davis told the young southerners in his audience: “The past is dead; let it bury its dead …let me beseech you to lay aside all rancour, all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished—a reunited country.” His last wish now seems to stand fulfilled.

3858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Bamster" in Yiddish on: April 02, 2011, 01:20:58 PM


3859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libbyian rebels in Yiddish on: April 02, 2011, 01:19:28 PM
The Libyan rebels are "students, engineers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, professors, bankers, etc"

Let me coorect his nonsense in Yiddish:

More like shmucks, shnooks, shtummies, shtunks, shmoigers, shmoes, shmendricks, shmegegees, shlumperdiks, shlumpers, shkukhs, shlocks, shleppers, shlemiels, shikkers and shlenazls.

For a better understanding go here:

3860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Who listens to him anymore? on: April 02, 2011, 12:58:11 PM
"Gilder: That 553-fold increase in wireless broadband, nobody imagined really. I mean, it startled me with its speed and overwhelming impact.
Forbes: Well, pat yourself on the back — you called them teleputers years ago. Now we call them smartphones, tablets, iPads."

Well nobody INCLUDING Gilder imagined.  I recall he was big on fiber as being where the giant explosion will be.
He certainly did predict the world altering affects of the internet no doubt.

He is still pushing EZchip?

Cree was never (up to 2001) one of his telecom picks.
3861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 02, 2011, 10:47:22 AM
Bolton -

My take is I have been concerned about lack of political experience and not sure of his domestic skills.

From a foreign policy view I love the guy.  I really love to hear him when he gives his views on foreing affairs.  I turn up the volume and tune in every time he is on.

It is really great and refreshing to hear someone speak about the US in a global picture point of view who actually holds the interests of the US as paramount and not as just another country in a see of countries with the whole concept of "country" as seen as ancient and dark ages.

He needs to go on the road and start giving speeches and promoting himself.  Given some time we hope he will improve.  He is a first rate intellect and appears to be able to synthesize info. and learn from it quickly. 

As for resume, some can overcome that.  Look at the One.  Almost a zero resume.  Of course he had the entire progressive movement cover for him.

3862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: April 01, 2011, 04:40:43 PM
Where is the media on this?  We are being lied to.  Tax breaks too?  Bamster wants to talk about corporate fleecing?

***Kerry Picket
Published on March 31, 2011
Obama has some 'splaining to do about taxpayers' profitable "investment" in General Motors. It turns out the president is imagining things.

Though Democrats tout the auto bailout as a success, recent reports illustrate the taxpayer cost of the GM auto bailout was substantially larger than the Obama administration and a Congressional Oversight report has owned up to.

"American taxpayers are now positioned to recover more than my administration invested in GM,” President Obama said, according to a piece in USA Today last November. Steven Rattner, former head of the Treasury's auto task force agreed, telling CNN in November: “Recent progress at GM gives reason for optimism that it may be possible for taxpayers to get every penny back.”

In fact, Investor's Business Daily reported that even the White House’s Director of the National Economic Council remarked that the Treasury Department Department had a good chance in "recovering most, if not all, of its investment in" GM.

However, a March 16 Congressional Oversight report, tells a different story. It estimates taxpayers will be out of $25 billion. Additionally, the report points out that “full repayment will not be possible unless the government is able to sell its remaining shares at a far higher price.”

That's only the beginning. Both the White House and the Congressional Oversight report omit the fact that during its bankruptcy, GM got a $45 billion tax break, courtesy of the American people.

GM is driving “away from its U.S.-government-financed restructuring with a final gift in its trunk: a tax break that could be worth as much as $45 billion,” reported The Wall Street Journal last November.

Over one year after  the promises President Obama and his administration made about the auto bailout, a February piece on AutoBlog also confirms that GM will also get a $14 billion dollar domestic tax break:

GM will be able to skip its tax tab due to years of massive losses. Companies are typically forgiven a portion of future taxes due to their past losses, but that benefit is typically stripped after an organization goes through bankruptcy.
However, the Obama administration and its allies presently continue to celebrate the success of the auto bailout, regardless of the facts.  "I don’t think there’s any doubt that this was a success," said (H/T Detroit News) acting assistant secretary at the Treasury Department Tim Massad, who oversees the TARP program at Treasury, to a House panel on Wednesday.

In Obama's world, success mean taxpayers only lost as much as $84 billion.***
3863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: April 01, 2011, 03:20:09 PM
What is also disgusting watching and hearing the liberal media calling Bamster complimentary names like "genius", "cunning", "cautious".

There are no lenghths to whcih they will not go to cover for him.
3864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education/Parenting on: April 01, 2011, 11:17:27 AM
I don't know if this should be under education but it is a state university sponsored event.  Perhaps a thread on the further degradation of even the semblence or facade of common decency in our culture today is more like it. 
***Snooki Gets $32K to Dish on "Jersey Shore" Lifestyle at Rutgers
Her advice to students: "Study hard, but party harder."Friday, Apr 1, 2011 | Updated 10:04 AM EDT 57

advertisement The pouf is mightier than the pen when it comes to speaking fees at New Jersey's largest university.

The Rutgers University Programming Association paid Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi of the reality TV show "Jersey Shore" $32,000 Thursday to dish on her hairstyle, fist pumps, as well as the GTL -- gym, tanning, laundry -— lifestyle.

Money for Polizzi's appearance came from the mandatory student activity fee. She was booked by a student-run entertainment organization.

University officials booked Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison for $30,000 to deliver Rutgers' commencement address in May. This year marks the first time Rutgers has paid for a commencement speaker.

As for Snooki's speaking price, Freshman Adham Abdel-Raouf told The Star-Ledger of Newark he thought it was a bargain given the pint-sized star's popularity.***
3865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive dissonance of the American voters on: March 31, 2011, 04:52:01 PM
" Last week, 45% of all voters supported the president's decision to take military action in Libya."


"Just 21% Say U.S. Has Clearly Defined Mission in Libya"

So nearly half of likely voters support his military action in Lybia yet barely one in five have a clue as to why we are there? huh  And these are likely voters, the ones who are more likely to keep up with current events.. I think.  Can anyone imagine the confusion and ignorance of unlikely voters? cry

****Just 21% Say U.S. Has Clearly Defined Mission in Libya
Thursday, March 31, 2011 Email to a Friend ShareThisAdvertisement
Despite President Obama’s address to the nation Monday night, most voters still aren’t clear about why the U.S. military is engaged in Libya.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 21% of Likely U.S. Voters think the United States has a clearly defined military mission in Libya. Fifty-six percent (56%) disagree and say the military does not have a clearly defined mission. Nearly one-in-four voters (23%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The president apparently did not close the sale with his address explaining his decision to commit U.S. forces to Libya. The survey was taken Monday and Tuesday nights, and the findings from the first night prior to the speech and the second night after the speech showed little change.

The numbers also didn’t change over the two nights when voters were asked if Libya is a vital national security interest for the United States these days. 

While the president is hopeful that longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi will step down, it is not a stated U.S. policy aim. But 62% of voters think it is at least somewhat likely that Gadhafi will be removed from power as a result of the military action now being taken by the United States and other countries. Just 23% say it’s unlikely. These findings include 30% who say Gadhafi’s removal is Very Likely and only three percent (3%) who believe it’s Not At All Likely. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 28-29, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology. 

Prior to the president’s decision to commit U.S. forces to Libya, Americans were lukewarm to the idea of involvement in the political situations in Arab countries like Libya.  But, at the same time, 76% of voters feel it’s generally good for America when dictators in other countries are replaced with leaders selected in free and fair elections. 

Male voters feel more strongly than female voters that America does not have a clearly defined military mission in Libya. But men are more confident that Gadhafi will be removed from power because of the military action by the United States and other countries.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Republicans and 67% of voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties feel the United States does not have a clearly defined mission in Libya. A modest plurality (38%) of Democrats disagree and think the mission is clearly defined.

Democrats also feel strongest that the Libyan mission will drive Gadhafi from power, although a majority of GOP voters also think it’s likely. Unaffiliated voters are more skeptical.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of the Political Class feels the United States has a clearly defined military mission, but 67% of Mainstream voters don’t share that assessment.  Both groups are in general agreement, however, that the military action in Libya is likely to remove Gadhafi.

Last week, 45% of all voters supported the president's decision to take military action in Libya. Thirty-four percent (34%) disagreed with that decision, and another 21% were not sure about it.

In early December, just 28% of voters believed the United States has a clearly defined military mission in Afghanistan.  Forty-nine percent (49%) said the mission in the nine-year-old war is not clearly defined, and 23% more were not sure.

Thirty-one percent (31%) of Americans described Libya as an enemy of the United States in August 2009 when the British released the terminally ill terrorist convicted of blowing up a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland so he could return home to die.  Only two percent (2%) viewed the North African country as an ally. For 52%, it fell somewhere in between an ally and an enemy.

Even before America’s stepped-up involvement in Libya, 58% of Americans worried that the political unrest in Arab countries like Egypt and Libya may get America into another big war.**** 

3866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: March 31, 2011, 02:07:17 PM
It appears the Repubs are terrified of the Dems rope a dope strategy that will hold THEM accountable for "shutting down government".

MSNBC pundits are "praying" there is no deal so they can demogague the cans on this and they think they can do to Boehner what they did to Newt.  And of course the rest of the MSM is backing them.

I don't know if this strategy would work this time around, but I suspect as soon as some people fear they won't be getting their gov. checks, etc. the repubs will take a nosedive in ratings.  Remember it was said that 60% of people get more out of government than they pay in.
3867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 31, 2011, 02:00:13 PM
I don't know if you read Drudge or not but today headline includes a poll with Hillary at a 67% approval rating!!! huh cry
She certainly appears to me the most stressed and unhappy Sec of State I can recall.

I have been trying to think of a way the Republicans can figure out a better way to appeal to middle class voters or those middle voters who feel the rich keep getting richer.  The "right" has NEVER been able to address this except with some vague dubious "trickle down stuff".  Yet it is plainly obvious the middle class are working harder for less and there is as always a super rich group that just keeps getting richer no matter what.

If conservative policies makes can come up with better ideas to "level the playing field" so everyone has a more equal chance of succeeding than that would be a good strategy.  Governments job should not be :

social engineering
taxing and spending to alter society up the wazoooo.

It should be to ensure laws and regulations are followed, not gamed, not circumvented.

For example,
Simplify the tax code for all so the wealthy can't game the system.
Companies like Walmart should not get some discount on say a local tax (that no one else can get).  They could build there store in a given area and compete with competitors without this.  Yes I know they create jobs, and localities feel they need to offer them a free deal to get them to bring business to the area.

But this type of gamesmanship clearly makes for an unequal playing field and is skewed to the rich.
Isn't this what the middle class resent?   Isn't this what many see as unfair?

If government has the same rules, regs. and opportunities for everyone who takes risk, can raise the investment etc than this might be an answer the right can use to address concerns for some in the middle class who feel trapped.

Trickle down wealth is certainly better than trickle up poverty but it isn't much of an answer to a middle class that has been relatively stagnant for decades.

3868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Holocaust analogies on: March 31, 2011, 12:49:15 PM
Welcome back.
Your point is an excellent one and ultimately you are right.

Although not exactly in reference to Holocaust analogies in a somewhat parallel argument I remember seeing Elie Weisel speak in WPB in the 90s and he spoke about how a whole holocaust "industry" exists and while in some ways it functions as a means be which we remember what happened there is still something perverse about some aspects of it.  The idea of an "industry" feeding off this corner of history?

3869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck Soros anti semitism on: March 31, 2011, 12:43:40 PM
I don't know how much influence Soros had in all that is going on in the Middle East using his denial of being a "puppit master" his terminolgy.  It is interesting he used this term as a Mickey Mouse puppit was thrown at me while Katherine and I were stuck on a highway while moving from Fla. to NJ some years back by the group of people who have been stealing all her music lyrics.  I find it odd Soros himself would use this adjective if he were *not* a puppit master.   In any case it is hard to know what is going on behind scenes.  Beck is in my view doing a service trying to connect dots.  I have learned not to underestimate the power of wealthy people who certainly *can* manipulate average people easier than I ever imagined.  One thing does seem certain and that is what we see in the Middle East is exactly as Soros has been hoping for for many years.  It is as he calls it the Jewish Right that is the problem.  Isn't it interesting that this survivor of the Holocaust is himself now blaming some Jews for what it the main problem in the Middle East??

See Soros below:  "Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks"

Oh really? 

****February 03, 2011

Soros: 'The Main Stumbling Block Is Israel'

President Obama personally and the United States as a country have much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy. This would help rebuild America's leadership and remove a lingering structural weakness in our alliances that comes from being associated with unpopular and repressive regimes. Most important, doing so would open the way to peaceful progress in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood's cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who is seeking to run for president, is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system. As regards contagion, it is more likely to endanger the enemies of the United States - Syria and Iran - than our allies, provided that they are willing to move out ahead of the avalanche.

The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality.****

As for Beck I have mixed feelings about him.  I watched his show for a few minutes yesterday when he had the 12 yr old Asperger's boy who is a mathematical genius on his show.  There is just something about Beck - he is just so goofy.  I can't watch him for more then a few minutes.

3870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 30, 2011, 11:48:05 AM
"I predicted Obama will not be the Dem. nominee."

Another Dem to watch would be Coumo from NY.

They are already touting him though 2016 looks far more likely.

He is pretending to sound like a Republican with spending cuts etc. 

Don't be fooled.  He is just as much a party hack as his father was/is.
He has the whole Dem machine in NY behind him.  He will come onto the national stage at some point probably soon.
3871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sun Tsu and China are all laughing on: March 30, 2011, 10:30:36 AM
Oh we are sooo humanitarian!

Well if true how humanitarian is it to have let Ghadday kill some people and gain back control vs what we are seeing now - a *more prolonged* back and forth war?

At this point more people will die then if we had not done the "no-fly" thing.

Yes playing coy with Momar buys time to "get to know" the opposition (Clintons now notorius "getting to know you" rant), but dithering on what to do with Ghaddaffy probably will turn out to be worse.  We should just get rid of this one guy or stop the half assed stuff altogether.  This total chirade of trying to help other kill the guy or pray he flees even though we are also saying he must stand trial for war crimes - the whole rational is confused and is dithering.  Kill him - the one guy holding this whole country at bay or don't get involved at all.

More people are now dying as we speak.
3872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 29, 2011, 02:28:51 PM
"One example of wealth gap: Black unemployment is up 25.4% under Obama.  That causes more dependency, but it is also evidence of failure."

This is clear evidence of what Michael Savage has called the strategy of the left including the great ONE:

"trickle up poverty".

""Republicans MUST...address the wealth gap and how the middle class is not going to continue falling behind and ever more government entitlements paid for by taxpayers including years of retirement, health care, is not the answer to sustain a middle class lifestyle."

Well, the Repulbicans might win without specifically addressing the middle class per se or the wealth gap.
However, if they wanted to *crush!#*+*!!! the Dems they can IMHO do so only addressing these issues.

Can you imagine if repubs can convince the middle of the roadsters how much Dems are hurting them and their lot in life with big gov and spending and taxation?
I think many of this group are unconvinced they don't need big daddy to help them with their mortgages, their kids schooling, electric bills, etc.

I have no problem opening the spiggets so the wealthier more succesful can thrive and thus help the economy as a whole but we need a real level playing field and the trust the pols are making them stay honest and not just ripping the rest of us off.  (I guess I am in dreamland on this point however)

I think the Dems clearly recognize their need to cling onto the middle class when they attempted to make the strikes in Wisconsin not a union issue but "an attack on the middle class".  They tried unsuccesfully (I think) to try to generalize the strike to the entire middle class not just *gov* employees.

3873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / National Transitional Council on: March 28, 2011, 02:27:34 PM
I wonder if it has ties to Soros,

****March 24, 2011
Notes from the Pentagon

U.S. backing Libyan council
The Obama administration is beginning to throw its support behind Libya's recently formed National Transitional Council (NTC), a combination of rebel groups that is viewed as the most likely successor to the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The issue of who succeeds Col. Gadhafi came up during a recent White House briefing by senior officials from the State Department, Pentagon and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

According to officials familiar with the briefing, the main speaker was a senior State Department official and career Foreign Service officer well-versed in Libyan affairs who said the NTC leadership appears pro-democratic, while questions remain about some of its members.

If the council's military forces lose the current war against Col. Gadhafi's military, their fate is certain to be dismal, according to the official.

The State Department regards the NTC leadership to be an “honorable group” committed to democratic principles. But the department's knowledge of the group is limited to its leadership. As for the rank-and-file, "There are probably some wild cards and independent players still to be heard from," said one official familiar with the briefing.

Some in the Pentagon are wary of the NTC based on assessments showing that the Libya's opposition forces include many Islamists who are anti-Western and are masking their views to gain Western support.

A White House spokesman had no immediate comment.

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carneysaid the administration still was assessing the NTC. France's government has extended diplomatic recognition to it.

A U.S. official familiar with intelligence reports said Wednesday: "This group is a key touchstone for engagement with the Libyan opposition -- and not just for the United States, but for other countries, too."

Outside Libya, expatriates are rallying to support the NTC, and former military officers who recently defected from Col. Gadhafi's forces are joining the fight against the Tripoli regime by supporting the NTC.

Militarily, rebel forces fighting for the NTC have extensive problems that make the likelihood of their prevailing in the fight uncertain. Problems include poor equipment, lack of organization and a shortage of troops.

Still, the U.S. intelligence assessment is that the fight is not over, and the rebel forces appear to be getting stronger, according to materials presented at the briefing.

Army vice chief hacked
Computer hackers tried to break into the bank account of Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli but were blocked by bank security detectors, according to defense officials familiar with the incident.

The hacking was discussed during a recent Pentagon briefing on threats posed by groups that conduct thousands of attempts each day to get inside Pentagon computer terminals and networks.

During the attempt against Gen. Chiarelli's bank account, the hackers were prevented from getting into the account, and the bank later alerted the four-star general of the attempt.

No other details were available, and no group has claimed responsibility.

Asked about the incident, Army spokesman Col. Thomas W. Collins said: "We acknowledge that hackers have previously attempted to access the personal information of some senior Army leaders." The goal of the bank hackers is not known, but computer security specialists say the attempt may have been focused on stealing his credit information or money, or sabotaging his account. Hackers routinely target bank computers in order to obtain financial data, specifically numbers for credit and debit cards.

Hacking against banks has been traced in the past to crime groups in Russia, Eastern Europe and China.

The Army briefer -- Maj. Gen. Mark Bowman, director of architecture, operations, networks and space for the Army's chief information officer-- also told defense officials that cybersecurity specialists recently were alerted to a group called that is behind a cybercampaign to avenge the arrest and detention of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of providing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Russians seek hit-to-kill
Russia's government plans to exploit the Obama administration's eagerness to conclude a missile defense deal as a way to obtain valuable technology from advanced U.S. missile defenses, according to U.S. national security officials.

The Russians specifically are seeking a defense technology cooperation deal with the Pentagon that will permit them to gain access to U.S. hit-to-kill missile defense know-how, the key technology for the most current strategic long-range and tactical short-range defenses that were developed at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars over the past two decades.

The reason, the officials said, is that Moscow knows it can offer very little in the way of cooperative missile defense with the U.S. The current strategic anti-missile interceptors around Moscow are armed with nuclear warheads -- tactical weapons that Moscow is not expected to use against an Iranian missile attack.

Additionally, the nuclear-tipped interceptors are supposed to be the subject of follow-on U.S.-Russian tactical nuclear arms reduction talks based on the recently ratified New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The notion that Moscow will share sensor data also is doubtful. Missile defense experts say Russia's key radar are designed and deployed to detect U.S. submarine-launched missiles and are not useful in detecting Iranian missile launches, the main goal of the administration's European-based missile defense plan.

Moscow also has problems getting U.S. technology because current law limits the transfer of technology under U.S. anti-proliferation law, specifically related to Iran, that bars Russia's government from access to U.S. high-tech exports based on its past and ongoing arms proliferation to Iran.

The Obama administration is loosening export controls as part of a major reform effort, and administration arms-control officials, including Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, are hoping the reforms will make it easier to reach her long-sought goal of concluding a missile defense or defense technology deal with Moscow.

"It's the perfect storm: loosened export controls, reset with Russia and arms control fever by the administration," said one official concerned about the pending Russian technology cooperation.

The Pentagon is said to be lukewarm at best over missile defense cooperation because of concerns the technology will be used to counter U.S. systems or sold covertly to U.S. adversaries.

Ms. Tauscher did not respond to emails seeking comment, and her spokesman, Jonathan E. Kaplan, declined to comment. Ms. Tauscher, undersecretary of state for international security, told a conference Monday that talks with Russia on missile defense cooperation were progressing but that a final agreement was not assured.

According to the U.S. officials, Russians close to the government stated in recent talks that their main interest in any U.S. deal is getting access to military technology generally and missile-defense know how specifically.

The interest in U.S. technology followed a sharp turnaround in Moscow policy several months ago, when the Russians said they were no longer opposed to U.S. missile defenses. The Russian military hopes its engagement and a missile defense agreement will lead to obtaining strategic hit-to-kill missile technology.

Hit-to-kill involves ultra-high-speed, non-explosive guided warheads that destroy targets -- such as missile warheads in flight -- by slamming into them.****

3874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 28, 2011, 12:27:49 PM
The GE-no income tax- thanks to Charles Rangel- a congressional tax cheat-yet re-elected- and GE payoff to Rangel- with Obama demogogary about corporate greed-etc.

Indeed, it is beyond infuriating.  And the 48% who still approve of Bamster are similar to the same croud that re elects a criminal - Rangel.  They are all into stealing tax payer moenies.

Everyone is bribed with government money or tax loop holes.

Did you see on Stossel how Bruce Springstein pays no property tax in NJ, the highest property tax state in the country because he has an "organic" gardener/"farm" on his huge spread?

Or Bon Jovi, another one who sings Katherine's song lyrics and claims he writes them (I allege wink) and pays no property tax because he breeds bees on his property ) actually they might pay like $200 I think Stossel said).

This is why I am so pessimistic and look at it all like a joke.

3875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 28, 2011, 09:31:17 AM
"and yet 48% approve of the job he is doing"

This is what we get when 50% pay no Federal Income Tax.

What do they care?

And an estimated get more money then they pay in.

The real middle class, that actually works AND pays taxes continues to run faster and faster on the treadmill.

Many of the wealthy continue to enjoy gaming the system.  Yes they create wealth but they also have the system gamed.

Nothing ever changes.
3876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: March 26, 2011, 01:24:15 PM
Of note most deaths were due to disease and malnutrition and not batlle deaths:

If I recall in the "Battle Cry for Freedom" it was pointed out that for every soldier killed in battle around two died of disease in the Civil War.  In Napoleon's day it was more like 90% died from exposure, disease, etc.  God knows what it was in ancient times.

3877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 26, 2011, 12:47:21 PM
"Of course, just because we can't help everywhere does not mean we can't help somewhere. President Barack Obama has steered a reasonable middle course. He was right to delay action in Libya until the Arab League, the United Nations Security Council, France and Great Britain were fully on board, and even then to restrict our military actions and objectives. He doesn't want the U.S. to own the Libyan problem, which could drag on chaotically for years. President Obama is not feeble, as some have said; he is cunning"

I agree that Obama is right to keep us out of it unlike Hillary and McCain who can't seem to wait to jump in to "prevent a humanitarian crises".
I don't agree doing anything under the guise of Nato or the UN makes any sense other than creating a huge amount of confusion.
He certainly didn't help specifying Ghaddafi must go than get cold feet realizing that whoever/whatever replaces him could be worse and back off that declaration.
I wouldn't call that cunning as much as stupid and incompetent.

And GHWBush started this whole coalition thing.  What a darn mess this has left us with now.
Kaplan is exactly right that China freeloads.  And why not?  This country is lead by a bunch of suckers and idiots. 
Even O'Reilly is talking up this "we are an exceptional nation".  Oh really?  So that means we were founded on having to be the world's Nanny???
I don't think our founders had any inclination for that.

Hey Bill.  Why don't you buy 50 million in arms and pay off some mercenaries to go fight and arm the "rebels" and you stop the "humanitarian cirses".
The rest of the US is broke.
3878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 26, 2011, 09:32:16 AM
Excellent segment on "freeloaders" by John Stossel yesterday.  I think it will likely be replayed over the weekend.  I only post here because part of it deals with "freeloaders" who get out of their mortgages without paying a cent.  They simply don't pay for several months and get to walk away. He interviews one guy whose house lost value below what his mortgage amount was and simply walked away.  He shows another lady who found some sort of loopholes to stay in her house for 20 yrs without paying any mortgage.  Businesses are making money teaching people how to screw the banks (and all of the rest of us who do pay our mortgages) over.  So what else is new?
3879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / white collar and organized crime on: March 26, 2011, 09:24:54 AM
Recall all my posts about how we are being robbed by white collar coward-like criminals who sureveillence us in multple ways with hidden cameras, listening devices, and all computers as well as any wireless electronic devices.  Remember how I said I am positive this HAS to be rampant on Wall Street.  Remember I said how every single person who comes into our house is a suspect and nearly all of them can be bribed or it is arranged that someone who works for the thieves shows up to do any kind of contractor work.  Finally, finally someone is actually caught.  Don't expect to find out who is really behind this or even to hear anything about it again.  This will be white washed.  For someone to suggest he was not trying to pick up insider tips with cameras in BR is an insult.  Of course he was.  The only other thing would be to try to get incriminating evidence on some traders to later extort information from them.  

Folks this is RAMPANT.   This kind of crime is absolutely rampant.  And no one does a thing.  Where is law enforcement on these kinds of crime?  When some of them are also not taking bribes to get in on it?

"So was he spying on the trading floor trying to pick up insider tips? Not quite. He was apparently installing the cameras in the men's restroom."


****Was a Guy Arrested for Hiding Cameras Inside Deutsche Bank?
Published: Friday, 25 Mar 2011 | 3:46 PM ET Text Size By: John Carney
Senior Editor,
A man was arrested for covertly installing cameras inside of Deutsche Bank, according to a report from DealBreaker.

DealBreaker's source describes him as "the guy that delivers water bottles to the trading floor."

So was he spying on the trading floor trying to pick up insider tips?

Not quite.

He was apparently installing the cameras in the men's restroom.

DealBreaker wasn't sure which bank the arrest took place in at first. Sources have now come forth to claim it was at Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank is declining to comment.****
3880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 25, 2011, 04:04:38 PM
"Separately he discussed Baraq's trip to Brazil, the US helping fund Petrobras's deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico"

I heard that too.  I made the mistake of buying some petrobas after they had made huge undersea discoveries the last oil spike.
The government controls PBR and takes much of the profit to spend on Brazilian domestic programs thus leaving foreign suckers like me holding the bag.  The stock went from 130 to 30.  Despite the re rise of oil the price is still only around 40.  The dividend stinks.

And now I read we are sending them tax moeny too???

So who can wonder why the Brazialians love OBama as reported in the liberal MSM?

Of course they do.  Like all the countries where he is loved.  He is spreading our wealth around and buying their love.

I am ready to vote for Trump. cry
3881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / health care wavers, political gifts on: March 25, 2011, 01:22:40 PM
Health care mandates for everyone - except Bamster's friends:

****Michelle Malkin  •  March 25, 2011 10:39 AM

The Weiner Waiver Wormhole
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2011

New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner toasted the one-year anniversary of Obamacare this week — and accidentally spilled his champagne glass all over the disastrous, one-size-fits-all mandate. Ostensibly one of the federal health care law’s staunchest defenders, Weiner exposed its ultimate folly by pushing for a special cost-saving regulatory exemption for New York City.

If it’s good for the city Weiner wants to be mayor of, why not for each and every individual American and American business that wants to be free of Obamacare’s shackles?

Weiner joins a bevy of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s” loudest cheerleaders — unions, foundations and left-leaning corporations — in clamoring for more waivers for favors. (The list of federal waiver recipients now tops 1,000, covering more than 2.6 million workers.) And he follows a gaggle of health care takeover-promoting Democrats maneuvering on Capitol Hill for get-out-of-Obamacare loopholes.

At a speech before the George Soros-supported Center for American Progress, as reported by, Weiner revealed that he’s “in the process now of trying to see if we can take (President Barack Obama) up on” a favor waiver and is “taking a look at all of the money we spend in Medicaid and Medicare and maybe New York City can come up with a better plan.” Echoing all the Republican critics of Obamacare who objected to top-down rules that override local variations in health care expenditures, Weiner explained: “I’m just looking internally to whether the city can save money and have more control over its own destiny.”

More local control over taxpayers’ destiny, eh? Give that man a “Hands Off My Health Care” sign, a Gadsden flag and a tea party membership card ASAP!

I kid, of course. The ultimate agenda of many waiver-seekers is to create a wormhole path to even more radical restructuring of the health system. Weiner has brazenly called for a single-payer “public option” to replace Obamacare should it be repealed. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon has also crusaded for more Kabuki “flexibility” in the law through a bipartisan state waiver proposal.

But as The Heritage Foundation noted, the plan “simply changes a date on an existing ‘state innovation’ provision of Obamacare from 2017 to 2014 — still well after the federal Obamacare infrastructure has been cemented in place.” And it is essentially “a back-door vehicle for progressive states to enact the ‘public option’ and speed up the establishment of a single-payer system for health care.” White House health care advisers Nancy-Ann DeParle and Stephanie Cutter further reinforced in a conference call to liberal advocates that the bill would help states implement single-payer health care plans, such as those tested in Connecticut and Vermont.

Weiner argues that the waiver process dispels “this notion that the government is shoving the bill down people’s throats.” But only the politically connected, deep-pocketed, lawyered-up and Beltway-savvy can apply. And the White House refuses to shed more light on its decision-making process. Obama’s selective favor waivers simply underscore the notion that unaccountable regulatory bureaucrats are presiding over government by the cronies, for the cronies and of the cronies.

Real control over our destinies means flexibility and choice for all. Repeal is the ultimate democratic waiver.****

3882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 25, 2011, 01:09:48 PM
From what I recall about Wesbury from Gilder days was that he is alwas a bull.

If my memory is correct he was completely wrong about the tech crash.

I also recall one of the penny stocks recommended by Gilder who got the idea from Brian and then added it to his letter had in Wesbury listed as preferred stock holder of a large amount of shares.  This was not disclosed by Gilder or Wesbury.  Unethical for sure.

In some ways Webury reminds me of Larry Kudlow.  Endless jibberish, endless bull market speak, and like all advisors getting very wealthy selling advice to those that lose money listening to them.

Like Steve Forbes said on a Rush Limbaugh radio show around 1998, his father taught him you can get a lot richer selling market advise rather than following it.

3883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: March 25, 2011, 12:43:21 PM
"My question earlier, which no one seems to want to address is why are Jews hated so deeply throughout the world by non Muslims?"

Excellent question, and one which I though I have tried to address.

Perhaps it has been in part to the success of Jews throughout history, their above average numbers in banking finance, legal system, academia and certianly in politics.

It is interesting to note the inordinate number of Jews involved in "progressive" as well as socialist movements.

Many are jealous of anyone who is successful.  Many don't like other preaching to them.  I am proud of Jewish success and scientific and other major contributions to mankind.  With regards to socialism, marxism, communisim, I certianly believe the intentions are well meaning but in my view misguided.

I think their forefront in many of these areas have made Jews, us, who are different than Christians, Muslims easy to spot and apparently the objects of scapegoating.

I even hate to say it but I find my own fellow liberal Jews who get on cable and tell us it is *our responsibility* as a wealthy free strong nation to stop the bloodshed in Libya like one guy yesterday.  Oh really?  It is now our responsibility to be the world' policemen and emergency medical personel?

Who says? You?  I find it insulting annoying and condescending.  And unfortunately all liberals annoy me this way.  Yet many in the forefront are Jewish.
I say to them you want to send your children in harms way, you want to spend your hard earned money to free and save the world go ahead but do not tell the resto of America it is OUR duty to do so.

I don't know if this helps.

But sometimes I wish my fellow liberal Jews would just shut up and stop telling other people what they must do.

My personal standard is to be a law abiding honest human being.  I believe in the golden rule.  I honr those who want to be kind or charitable.  But that is their choice.
3884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 25, 2011, 12:31:28 PM
"Therefore I wonder why..."


We keep making the same mistake over and over again that if we try to do humanitarian things the world will love us.

I say enough stupidity and naivity.

The world want our money.  That is it.

We should kill Khaddafy and put the world on notice you murder our citizens (LOckerbie) than *you* are next.  Otherwise get the hell out of Libya.  Now we are in Iraq/Afghanistan we need to finish the job.

I have no doubt that most Americans have elected a President to look out for our interests not the rest of the thankless planet.
3885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / One question on: March 25, 2011, 11:52:59 AM
Has anyone EVER heard someone from any Muslim country get on a "news" network and explicitly THANK the US for investing lives, limb and money to free THEM?

I have yet to hear ONE SINGLE Muslim thank us.

Perhaps they did I just missed it.
3886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: March 24, 2011, 07:38:23 PM
"What Next?"

We simply send our young men and women to remove all the despots of the Middle East.  Then Asia, Then Africa.

Sound absurd?  It would have some years ago. 

Not now.

Throughout history countries with our power would have taken over the conquered.

Now we risk our blood and treasure to free everyone else?

I don't get it.  Have those calling for us to get involved in Libya lost their minds? 

Why we are f?)&*^%g broke!   Get out in front of what I ask Gates who lectured that comment to Israel?  Getting out of every one of these messes jump in the middle and spend the next multiple generations building their countries?

I am finding myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan more and more.
3887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: March 24, 2011, 07:23:05 PM
"It we had lost our will after the Surge worked, the whole dynamic we are looking at now would have an entirely different hue."


However I just don't know that Iraq 2 will benefit this country in the long run.  I guess no one can know at this time.

Iraq 1 did what it was supposed to, but I like George Will (who pointed out in one of his columns back than) still don't like Bush Sr.'s starting this having to seek the approval of the "international community".

Fast forward to the present.  Now we have the One placing our military under the command of other countries or in some way the UN.

To me it is all just an evolution of America's giving it all away.

At this rate OUR military will work for the UN.

3888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 24, 2011, 02:18:21 PM
"My prediction that Obama won't be the nominee"

Who else?

Hillary puts her self on the line with Lybia.  Outcome good her loyalists will tout her as the courageous one who pushed for the policy despite BO's reluctance.  Outcome bad - silence from her worshipers.

"Parroting the Bush-haters, everything is an opportunity to attack Obama."

3889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: March 24, 2011, 12:42:37 PM
I assume everyone here saw on Drudge that Egyptian airlines now no longer shows Israel on its maps.

And Obama has Gates telling Israel "they" have to get out in front of this middle east "populist wave".

It is too early but I am not liking what I am seeing here.

3890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The US: The world's NANNY now? on: March 24, 2011, 12:38:59 PM
I was for invading Iraq 1 and getting rid of Saddam (Iraq).

Bush senior started this whole deal with getting "international coalitions" and making sure we bribe enough countires to sound like they are on our side.

HE started that whole thing.  Bush junior went in to finish the job and started this freedom democracy thing in Iraq two.  I was for that too.

Prominent republicans were against at least Iraq 2 if not 1.

I look back and do not feel Iraq 2 it was worth the American investment in lives, money, time, attention.  Iraq 1 I believe was because we couldn't let Saddam control 25% of more of the World's oil supply.

I am completely against going into Egypt going into Lybia.  I don't know what has gotten into McCain.  Yet IF we are to do it we must win.  Not half hearted.

I do not want America to be the world's policeman (every hot spot) or the world's ambulance crew (every world disaster).

It is bad enough we have ever expanding NANNY domestic goverment, now we are going to have our military be the world's nanny??
3891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Seize the MOment on: March 23, 2011, 01:28:55 PM
"Seize the Moment" is the last one I wanted to post but it won't let me, 5 is the limit this week

It can be found at the website:
3892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Government on: March 23, 2011, 01:25:24 PM
I like this quote from John Stuart Mill who has one of the higest estimated IQ's in history:

" John Stuart Mill, himself a civil servant, famously defined this minimalism: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”

Also this part:

"The bolder reforms, championed by Mr Cameron’s main domestic adviser, Steve Hilton, are centred on structure. They are hidden behind a confusing slogan that the Tories adopted to make themselves sound cuddlier: “The Big Society”. It brings together three things: pluralism, localism and voluntarism.
How to get there
To promote pluralism, the Tories aim to build the “post-bureaucratic state” that Tony Blair wanted (they even use the same phrase). Haunted by the idea that Mr Blair did not move fast enough, they are rushing to hand over many more state services to outside providers."

Full article:

***Big society
Radical ideas from a fusty old island
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 FOR all its pomp and tradition, Britain has played an outsized role in promoting radical thought about the state. In the 19th century it championed modernisation, with the same liberal Victorians who campaigned for free trade (and set up this newspaper) also dismantling the courtly system under which posts in government were sold off or given to political allies. The Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1854 led to the creation of a politically neutral civil service, with appointments made on merit. Liberals prided themselves on the leanness of a state that ruled India with a few thousand bureaucrats. John Stuart Mill, himself a civil servant, famously defined this minimalism: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”

Yet as the 19th century wore on, “New Liberals”, including Mill himself, began to question the morality of the “night-watchman state”. How could liberty flourish when so many people lived in misery and ignorance? Reforming governments introduced compulsory education, laws to regulate safety at work, tax-funded libraries and welfare—all robustly condemned by Herbert Spencer in his libertarian bible, “The Man versus the State” (1884). But the intellectual traffic was mainly towards more intervention, with socialists (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were based in London) and then Fabians taking New Liberal arguments to the extreme. A more active state became the answer.

Britain continued in that vein for most of the 20th century, with the Depression only increasing anti-market sentiment. In 1938 an ambitious young right-wing MP surveyed the British economy: “The weakness of partial planning seems to me to arise from the incomplete and limited application of the principles of planning. The lesson of these errors, which I regard as errors of limitation, is not that we should retreat. On the contrary, we must advance, more rapidly and still further, upon the road of conscious regulation.” Harold Macmillan went on to become a post-war Conservative prime minister, which shows how far the centre had shifted.

Gradually, however, an anti-state right began to emerge. In 1960 Friedrich Hayek wrote “The Constitution of Liberty”, partly in response to what he saw in Britain. In 1978 another young Tory with a Macmillanish pedigree, William Waldegrave, took a very different line in “The Binding of Leviathan”: “No one knows how to run bureaucracies. Bureaucracies are increasing. No wonder the public thinks something is wrong.” In 1979 Margaret Thatcher hurled herself at these bureaucracies—and a new creed, very different from Fabianism, rippled out across the world.

Now the promise of renewed radicalism is in the air. David Cameron’s coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is pursuing the most daring course in the rich world. That judgment is based on two things: the severity of its spending cuts (many departments are being slimmed by a fifth) and the fact that it is trying to change the structure of the state.

The spending cuts currently dominate the British media. Manchester is in turmoil because it will be reduced to only one public lavatory. The Tories are plainly taking an economic gamble by tightening fiscal policy so fast, but seem less fixated on the overall size of the state than Mrs Thatcher was. For political reasons they left health care, perhaps the most wasteful part of the British state, out of the cuts. One senior Tory thinks you cannot reduce state spending below around 40% of GDP, or the politics will turn against you.

The bolder reforms, championed by Mr Cameron’s main domestic adviser, Steve Hilton, are centred on structure. They are hidden behind a confusing slogan that the Tories adopted to make themselves sound cuddlier: “The Big Society”. It brings together three things: pluralism, localism and voluntarism.

How to get there

To promote pluralism, the Tories aim to build the “post-bureaucratic state” that Tony Blair wanted (they even use the same phrase). Haunted by the idea that Mr Blair did not move fast enough, they are rushing to hand over many more state services to outside providers. They have opened the doors to Swedish-style free schools set up by parents, and they want more parts of welfare to be delivered by outsiders, paid by results. They have also announced the biggest shake-up in the history of the health service by shifting spending power to groups of general practitioners, who will buy in services from both public and private hospitals.

Haste has caused problems. Whereas the education reforms follow on neatly from the academies that Mr Blair set up, the changes in the health service, introduced with little prior warning, come just as the system is adapting to the previous round of reforms. Oddly for a party that believes in the free market, the Tories have rejected for-profit providers for some services, notably education.

Even so, pluralism could lead to a much smaller civil service than anyone thinks. “Once you start letting people compete, it is incredible how few people you need in the centre,” says one of Britain’s most senior mandarins. And, since the change is technocratic not political (the state, after all, is still paying), it will be difficult for a future Labour government to reverse.

Handing over control of schools to parents and medicine to local doctors also fits in with localism. The Tories want more cities to have elected police chiefs and, eventually, elected mayors, like London’s Boris Johnson. They are providing reams of information to make government more transparent; a new crime map of Britain’s streets crashed on its launch day because so many people wanted to see it. Combined with pluralism, this amounts to a substantial attack on the centralised state. For instance, Suffolk County Council hopes to knock a third off its budget of £500m by becoming a “virtual” authority that outsources all but a handful of its services to social enterprises or companies.

This localism is somewhat marred by the Tories’ deep distrust of local government. Handing over schools to local associations risks creating bodies that can be taken over by teachers’ unions, as in America. Lord Adonis, a Blairite who now heads the Institute for Government, a think-tank, argues that the Tories should also have given more power to elected local mayors, especially in the 14 big cities where one in three Britons live. Apparently Tory and Liberal-Democrat local councillors took against this.

Volunteer, or else

Volunteerism, the idea of Burkean small platoons taking on the functions of the state, is the trickiest part. On paper, this is a big idea. The people around Mr Cameron argue that just reducing the supply of government won’t wean people off the state; you also have to reduce the demand for it. That persistent demand, after all, has been the main reason for sprawling government from California to Cardiff.

In practice, however, the idea has flaws. Running your local library sounds attractive, but most people lack the time and expertise required, and there is not a lot of money around to help them (thanks to the spending cuts). Britons seem to band together of their own accord only when they want to oppose something—such as the government’s plans to sell off the nation’s forests, which they halted.

To be fair to the Tories, the Big Society is not their only scheme to reduce demand for government. Their welfare reforms are based on moving poorer Britons away from dependence on the state. A lot of state spending is “avoidable”, argues one insider: if you can get people into jobs, strengthen families, stop teenagers getting pregnant and teach children early, you will save a fortune a decade hence. Just two particularly troublesome families have cost British taxpayers £37m over three generations.

The Cameroonians are also trying to do something about the tangle of regulation that costs the British economy around 10-12% of GDP. A neat scheme whereby any new rule would have to show a net decrease in regulation was shelved after civil servants gamed the system. One of Mr Cameron’s advisers, Oliver Letwin, is now working on another plan. But not all the regulation is domestic. A British Chambers of Commerce study of 144 new rules in 1998-2010 put the total cost at £88 billion, of which two-thirds was attributable to European Union legislation.

Implementation is crucial: unless reform of the state is seen to be equitable and effective, citizens will not accept it. But with that huge caveat, two things stand out. First, the government’s breadth of ambition is impressive—even set against that of Mrs Thatcher, who did far less in her first year. And second, most other rich-world governments will have to do something similar soon. That is partly because of their fiscal situation: even America will have to start reconciling its revenues and its spending in the near future. And once you start to cut, you need to decide what should go and what should remain. Mr Cameron, for all his haste, is at the front of a great wave. In that, he resembles Mrs Thatcher—and those great reformers of the 19th century.
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3893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 23, 2011, 01:18:31 PM
Patient, heal thyself
A bottom-up approach to the biggest problem in government
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 IN ANY discussion about the role of the state, one subject soon dwarfs all others: health care. McKinsey points out that American spending on this has grown at an annual lick of 4.9% over the past 40 years, whereas GDP per person has grown by just 2.1%. Pessimists are convinced nothing can be done to restrain it. A refreshingly different perspective is provided by Sir John Oldham, a British doctor who is clinical lead for productivity in the National Health Service.

His view of what he calls the coming tsunami is as pessimistic as anybody’s. Health costs, he points out, are determined by long-term conditions—things like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and lung disease, which are usually linked to lifestyle and diet. Some 15m Britons suffer from such conditions, which take up 70% of “bed days” in hospitals.

The numbers of cases in other countries are equally worrying. They explain why America, which currently spends 16% of its GDP on health care (see chart 5), is theoretically on track to spend 100% of its GDP on health care by 2065, followed soon by Japan. China too has seen a huge rise in such conditions. They are no longer diseases of the old: in America, says Sir John, the Facebook generation is picking them up so rapidly that it might be the first not to live longer than its parents. But they are still mainly diseases of the poor, who live less healthy lives, smoking more, drinking more and consuming more salt and trans fats in processed food.

A hard-hearted economist might spot potential savings (especially on pensions) from people dying younger. But even he would be disappointed: any such savings would be wiped out by the adverse effect of such diseases on the productivity of the working-age population. One obvious way to alleviate this problem is to tax the things that are causing it: when governments are having to strengthen their ambulances to cope with heavier patients, it is time for a levy on cheeseburgers. But Sir John reckons that getting patients to help manage their illnesses might be even more promising.

Technology is starting to make this vastly easier. Futurists dream of small gadgets roaming people’s bodies and reporting their findings to computers, but lower-tech versions of this already exist. In one pilot scheme in Britain’s Stoke-on-Trent patients use fairly basic methods to record their own weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and so on every week and text the result to a computer, which tells them what to do about them.

This can be economically attractive, because the most expensive things in health care tend to be unscheduled visits to hospital. But it also improves people’s health. A patient is always around to monitor himself, and he will be highly motivated. A big study by the Cochrane Institute showed that among people who managed their own anticoagulant treatment, repeat blood clots declined by half; deaths from clots also fell.

Sir John suggests that the NHS should set up an incentive scheme for its workers to lead healthier lives that would create rewards (or, as he likes to call them, “care miles”). That would set a good example. But for the biggest employer in the country it could also save a lot of money.
The Economist welcomes your views.

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3894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Big Government on: March 23, 2011, 01:08:12 PM
I like this part:

"When Bismarck introduced the world’s first state pension system in 1889, he set the retirement age at 70, some 25 years beyond the average Prussian’s life expectancy, so it did not cost much to run. When America brought in its Social Security system in 1935, average life expectancy was only 62. In the OECD countries men on average now live to 76 and women to 82. In most rich countries raising the pension age to, say, 70 by 2025, and thereafter linking it to life expectancy (which keeps on increasing), would go a long way towards reducing the government’s structural deficit."

and this one:

"Another cause for pessimism is that government does not respond to normal pressures. Most obviously, there is rarely the threat of bankruptcy. Indeed, most of the examples of efficient government involve warfare or other crises. The idea that business skills do not translate to politics would seem to be borne out by the string of businesspeople who have failed to make much of a mark in government. Silvio Berlusconi has achieved a lot less as Italy’s prime minister than he did in business. A more successful transplant from the media industry, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, says he had not realised how different running a city would be: “People are motivated by different things and you face a much more intrusive press. You cannot pay good staff a lot of money…In business you experiment and you back the projects that win. The healthy bits get the money, and the unhealthy bits wither. In government the unhealthy bits get all the attention because they have the fiercest defenders.”

Full article:

The gods that have failed—so far
Could technology and good management bring the public-sector up to scratch?
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 ASKED to talk about how technology affects productivity, Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who backed Facebook, draws a simple graph on his whiteboard: input on the Y axis, output on the X axis. He then dabs on two blobs. The private sector goes in the bottom right (you put in relatively little and get out a lot); government goes in the top left: a lot of input and very little output.

Mr Thiel, a prominent libertarian, may be unsympathetic to the public sector, but his chart is not a bad guide to the past 40 years or so. Productivity in government is difficult to measure and statisticians have generally stopped trying to come up with precise figures. But such numbers as there are all point in the same direction. With a few small exceptions, government lags behind the private sector.

Two closely related things have transformed the private sector since 1970. The more obvious one is technology: think what ATMs did for banking. But management ideas—everything from profit-related pay to lean manufacturing—have arguably done even more to raise productivity. Toyota spent less on computers and robots than General Motors did; it won by out-managing its rival.
The public sector has certainly dabbled in both these things. From Berlin to Bangkok, every big consultancy has a thriving public-sector practice. Many of the ghastliest examples of management-speak come from the public sector. And some of the biggest disasters in public spending have involved technology, such as the attempt to link up Britain’s health records nationwide. But neither has really changed government profoundly.

The pessimistic explanation is that they never will: there are good reasons why the public sector will always be resistant to change. Optimists have to make the case that “this time will be different,” which is harder. But just this once it could be true.

Government is different

Begin with the depressingly long list of reasons to be pessimistic. The most fundamental one remains the Baumol effect: labour-intensive services, such as nursing and teaching, have thus far proved as immune to productivity-enhancing technology as string quartets.

Another cause for pessimism is that government does not respond to normal pressures. Most obviously, there is rarely the threat of bankruptcy. Indeed, most of the examples of efficient government involve warfare or other crises.

The idea that business skills do not translate to politics would seem to be borne out by the string of businesspeople who have failed to make much of a mark in government. Silvio Berlusconi has achieved a lot less as Italy’s prime minister than he did in business. A more successful transplant from the media industry, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, says he had not realised how different running a city would be: “People are motivated by different things and you face a much more intrusive press. You cannot pay good staff a lot of money…In business you experiment and you back the projects that win. The healthy bits get the money, and the unhealthy bits wither. In government the unhealthy bits get all the attention because they have the fiercest defenders.”

There are even ideological reasons why liberals in particular should want to keep the state relatively inefficient. Joseph Nye, a former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School and author of a book on power, says that Americans do not really want their state to work too well: “There is something special about government. It has coercive power, so it is essential that you have a healthy scepticism of it.”

So why should this time be different? The immediate reason is that in many countries the state is now so bloated that, even without changing the basic structure of government, it could be made much more efficient.

In the short term, assuming a recovering economy, government can surely be slimmed relatively painlessly—if only because it has grown so fat. The howls across Europe about unprecedented budget crises ignore three things. First, Sweden and Canada have chopped their public sectors after financial crises and lived to tell the tale (albeit against a much more clement global economic backdrop). Second, most European countries need do no more than reduce government spending to its level of three or four years ago. And third, many of the cuts are tiny by private-sector standards. At a private dinner in Paris recently a group of French businesspeople listened politely to a politician moaning about his department having to reduce its costs by 5%, until one of the private-sector bosses pointed out that he had knocked out a fifth of his costs in a little over two years. The politician shut up.

People can argue over the respective virtues of making across-the-board cuts or targeting particular departments (they usually do a bit of both), but managerially speaking it is not a tough ask. Reforming American defence procurement does not require structural change, just making use of the Pentagon’s clout with suppliers. A recent study by the National Audit Office showed that Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) could save £500m (well over $800m) a year by bundling its buying power; there is no need for hospital trusts to buy 21 different forms of A4 file paper and 652 different kinds of surgical gloves.

In the longer term, though, two sorts of opportunities present themselves: changing what the state does; and changing its structure. The first set tends to be administratively (fairly) simple but politically hard. For instance, getting rid of industrial and agricultural subsidies makes sense, but politicians cling to them. Even bigger potential “quick wins”, though ones fraught with political difficulty, are to be found in pensions. Switching state employees from defined-benefit to defined-contribution plans and raising their retirement ages to prevailing private-sector levels would save most governments a fortune—but not as much as upping the age at which everyone starts receiving their state pension.

When Bismarck introduced the world’s first state pension system in 1889, he set the retirement age at 70, some 25 years beyond the average Prussian’s life expectancy, so it did not cost much to run. When America brought in its Social Security system in 1935, average life expectancy was only 62. In the OECD countries men on average now live to 76 and women to 82. In most rich countries raising the pension age to, say, 70 by 2025, and thereafter linking it to life expectancy (which keeps on increasing), would go a long way towards reducing the government’s structural deficit.

In America Social Security is known as the “third rail” of politics: state pensions electrocute any politician who touches them. But the case for increasing retirement ages is overwhelming. It also begins to open the door to a proper debate about social transfers, including things like means-tested benefits. That argument will be much easier to make if the second set of opportunities to do with updating the structure of the state has been grasped.

On this score, unlike on benefits and transfers, almost everyone agrees what needs to be done. Britain’s Tony Blair puts it this way: “The modern Western state was created in the era of mass production and command and control, where governments told you what to do and provided everything. Modern life is about choice—and the state, even if it pays for something, should not be the only choice.” He argues that creating “a post-bureaucratic state”, with a small centre and a multitude of public and private providers, should be a particular cause for the centre-left to embrace. “In every other walk of life a citizen gets services from bodies that are anxious for their business. We have to open up the state to transparency and competition, or else anyone who is rich enough will pay to opt out.”

Mr Blair has no truck with the idea that the public sector is bound to keep growing. The key, he thinks, lies in breaking the state down into innovative smaller units, like charter schools in America and academies in Britain. “As more and more choices are made by consumers, not politicians, we will shrink the state,” he predicts.

As is his wont, Mr Blair tends to be more messianic about this than most politicians. But to see how such ideas might work, consider two changes in the car industry. First, in the era of mass production Ford did not just make its own steel; it also owned the fields on which grazed the sheep whose wool went into the covers of its car seats. Now it contracts out much of this, even though its name remains on the car. Second, in the 1970s there was a big gap between the quality of the output and the efficiency of, say, Japanese carmakers and their American peers. Now competition has minimised that advantage (and no longer always in favour of the Japanese).

Don’t do it yourself

For its part, the public sector in many countries still wants to do everything itself. Surprisingly, America, the country that has preached the Washington consensus of privatisation to the world, still owns a lot of its railways, ports and water systems; it also makes less use of for-profit schools than does Sweden. And if Britain’s gargantuan NHS were to contract out as much of its business as the French and Dutch health services do, it would be a lot more efficient. The District of Columbia has shown how much can be saved by outsourcing: it has reduced its e-mail costs by 80% and its video-hosting costs by 90% by moving them to Google and YouTube respectively.

The huge variance in performance between different bits of the public sector that do the same thing is shocking. Sweden spends half as much on health care per person as America does, yet Swedes live longer. Research on degree courses at public universities shows that some Western countries spend 30% above the average on a degree whereas others remain 70% below it, says Lenny Mendonca, a public-sector expert at McKinsey. “In anything even resembling a free market, many of the best-performing public institutions would have wiped out all the others,” he adds.

Variance within countries is harder for public-sector unions and other local vested interests to ignore. Sir John Oldham, an expert in health productivity, points to two similar adjacent areas in southern England where “unscheduled admissions” to hospitals (ie, the expensive sort) vary by a factor of eight; in another there is a 13-fold difference in the number of hospital referrals from similar doctors’ practices.

By reducing these variances, quality would be improved and a huge amount of cash could be saved. Sir John has calculated that if every NHS organisation in Britain currently operating at costs one standard deviation above the mean were to improve its performance to the mean level, the NHS would save somewhere close to the £15 billion it is supposed to find over the next five years.

It is about care as well as costs. The McKinsey Global Institute points out that at some American hospitals nurses spend under 40% of their time with patients. Naming and shaming is one way of getting better results. Sweden’s health registries, a much-cited example, provide statistics on the performance of individual hospitals. The fear of coming out badly in a national league table is a powerful incentive to try harder. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that Sweden’s National Cataract Register not only reduced the severity of astigmatism resulting from eye surgery but also narrowed the variance between the best and worst hospitals by half.

Just wait till they find out

With such examples in mind, some argue that government reform will be akin to a popular revolution, driven by the spread of information. Just as American motorists, resigned to cars that broke down, rapidly ditched Detroit’s products once they found they could buy cars that worked, so American parents will no longer tolerate the excuses of the teachers’ unions when they discover that children get a much better and cheaper education elsewhere.

There is something in this. Few politicians now question the need to publish school-performance tables, despite the furious fusillades from the unions when they were introduced. One education minister argues that the most powerful force in school reform now is the OECD’s international PISA ranking (see chart 6). “Waiting for Superman”, a documentary by Davis Guggenheim, the director who made “An Inconvenient Truth”, but this time attacking America’s teachers’ unions rather than climate-change deniers, was a big hit. As charter schools and the like outperform their peers, there is pressure to break up the old fiefs and introduce competition.

Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School, perhaps the world’s most respected writer on innovation, thinks the public sector will be upset by what he calls “mutants”—new organisms spinning out of it. He points to the success of Guaranteach, an online store of teaching videos set up by two former teachers in 2008, and other similar outfits.

A new wave of frugal innovation coming from emerging markets will also make an impact on the public sector. South Korea is a leader in education testing. India is taking a dramatically different approach to health care. It has found a way to reduce the cost of heart operations by setting up huge hospitals that can reap economies of scale. It is already cheaper for Westerners to fly to India as health tourists than to have treatment at home.

Many think the web will shift the balance of power between the public sector and its clients. Worried about your child’s school? You can join a discussion group on Facebook. Furious with the American government? You can see how much it is costing you at Fed up with Britain’s lousy roads? Go to Don Tapscott, one of the cleverer cybergurus and co-author of “Macrowikinomics”, points to the rise of “prosumers”: rather than merely accepting what the government offers, citizens will shape new services as they appear. Places like the District of Columbia and Canada’s province of New Brunswick have been pioneers, spurred on by a new generation of younger, more web-savvy civil servants. Even health care—the field most resistant to change—could be turned upside down (see article).

So a bottom-up revolution is under way. But for all the obvious reasons, it is advancing more slowly than it did in the private sector. For instance, a recent survey by the New York Times of failed schools in eight American states that were bad enough to get federal turnaround money showed that 44% of the schools’ principals had kept their jobs. Resources are another problem: there are fewer computers in the public sector than in the private because many government departments still do not distinguish capital budgets from operating ones.

Mr Christensen thinks one of the main problems is the lack of a common language. As a young academic he was able to persuade Intel to change course by telling its bosses that the sort of disruptive change that had happened in steel (the arrival of cheap mini-mills) would also happen in chipmaking. Yet when he goes to health-care conferences, he says, nobody uses the same terminology. Doctors, insurers, hospitals and politicians all talk about completely different things: “The only people who could really bang heads together would be the federal government.”

Indeed, for all the evidence of mounting pressure from below, a command-and-control organisation will change only when the top wants it to do so. And here most Western countries have something in common with China: leaders are scared. Some attempts to institutionalise innovation have been made. Geoff Mulgan points out that America has committed $650m to a schools-innovation fund; Britain has allocated £200m to health. Barack Obama has appointed Vivek Kundra, the man who led the District of Columbia’s technology drive, as America’s first chief information officer. Mr Kundra has already saved $3 billion by culling programmes.

Yet the same Mr Obama has recently delivered a budget to Congress that does nothing to reform entitlements. It is not just the threats from vested interests that inhibit progress. Mr Mulgan explains that the first wave of privatising governments in the 1980s and 1990s often did badly at the ballot box. Voters could not see enough change to justify the aggravation. And sometimes restructuring was done in several phases, so it was not clear who was responsible for the good things.

The recent economic crisis has changed minds. There now seems to be far greater acceptance that government is broken, and voters are more prepared to give their leaders leeway to mend it. Even if the debate has barely begun to tackle benefits and social transfers, that still gives politicians an opportunity. In various American states governors have seized it. But on a national scale nobody has grabbed it with more gusto than an Old Etonian Tory.

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3895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unions:"Enemies of progress" on: March 23, 2011, 01:01:16 PM
Enemies of progress
The biggest barrier to public- sector reform are the unions
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 IF JIMMY HOFFA were reincarnated as a modern trade unionist, he would probably represent civil servants. When Hoffa’s Teamsters were in their prime in 1960, only one in ten American government workers belonged to a union; now 36% do. In 2009 the number of unionists in America’s public sector passed that of their brethren in the private sector. In continental Europe most civil servants belong to unions, though these generally straddle the private sector as well. In Britain more than half of public-sector workers but only about 15% of private-sector ones are unionised.

There are three reasons for the public-sector unions’ clout. First, they can shut things down without suffering much in the way of consequences. Second, they are mostly bright and well-educated. There are some Luddites left, such as Bob Crow of London’s perennially striking Tube drivers. But it is much harder to argue with Randi Weingarten, the articulate head of the American Federation of Teachers. Most workers in the public sector are women, and many of them are professional types. A quarter of America’s public-sector workers have a university degree. Officers of the British Medical Association (which represents doctors) and America’s National Education Association (the biggest teachers’ union) often appear on the news as experts on health and education rather than as representatives of interest groups.

Third, they now dominate left-of-centre politics. Some of their ties go back a long way. Britain’s Labour Party, as its name implies, has long been associated with trade unionism. Its current leader, Ed Miliband, owes his position to votes from public-sector unions. Spain’s prime minister still likes to brandish his union card. In America the links have become more explicit. Between 1989 and 2004 the biggest spender in federal elections was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and $39.4m of the $40m it shelled out over that period went to Democrats. One in ten of the delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver was a teacher.

At the state level their influence can be even more fearsome. Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California points out that much of the state’s budget is patrolled by unions. The teachers’ unions keep an eye on schools, the CCPOA on prisons and a variety of labour groups on health care. It was the big public-sector unions which squashed the 2005 reforms proposed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, then California’s governor.

In many rich countries average wages in the state sector are higher than in the private one. But the real gains come in benefits and work practices. Politicians have repeatedly “backloaded” public-sector pay deals, keeping the pay increases modest but adding to holidays and especially pensions that are already generous.

Many Germans were horrified to discover that the EU rescue package for Greece last year helped to bail out public-sector workers who could retire in their mid-50s on almost full pay. One scam in American cities has been to link pensions to employees’ earnings in their final year, rather than average earnings over a longer period. Naturally the subway drivers or policemen concerned put in heroic overtime in that final year.

Reform has been vigorously opposed, perhaps most egregiously in education, where charter schools, vouchers, academies and merit pay all faced drawn-out battles. Even though there is plenty of evidence that the quality of the teachers is the most important variable, teachers’ unions have fought against getting rid of bad ones and promoting good ones.

As the cost to everyone else (in terms of higher taxes and sloppier services) has become clearer, politicians have begun to clamp down. In Wisconsin the unions have rallied thousands of supporters against Scott Walker, the hardline Republican governor. But many within the public sector suffer under the current system too.

John Donahue at Harvard’s Kennedy School points out that the egalitarian culture in Western civil services suits those who want to stay put but is bad for high achievers. Heads of departments often get only two or three times the average pay. As Mr Donahue observes, the only American public-sector workers who earn well above $250,000 a year are university sports coaches and the president of the United States. Hank Paulson took a 99.5% pay cut when he left Goldman Sachs to become America’s treasury secretary. Bankers’ fat pay packets have attracted much criticism, but a public-sector system that does not reward high achievers may be a much bigger problem for America.

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3896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / california:example of what NOT to do on: March 23, 2011, 12:57:13 PM
California reelin'
Lessons from a place that combines most of the shortcomings of the modern Western state
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 DON NOVEY does not look like a typical Californian entrepreneur. The grandfatherly, fedora-wearing conservative began his career as a correctional officer at Folsom State prison in the 1970s. But he helped build one of the Golden State’s largest industries.

Thirty years ago, when Mr Novey became president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), only 2,600 members walked what he calls “the toughest beat in the state”, and there were only 36,000 inmates in California’s prisons. Now, as Barry Krisberg of Berkeley Law School points out, some 170,000 people are locked up there, and CCPOA has 31,000 members. From the air California can look like an archipelago of prisons.

Mr Novey made CCPOA a dominant force in state politics, and not just by dishing out political contributions in Sacramento, the state capital. He shrewdly formed an “iron triangle” with Republican lawmakers and prison-builders. And he gave it a cause: tougher sentencing for criminals. CCPOA sponsored the “three strikes” law, mandating life imprisonment for three serious felonies, and helped set up victims’ rights groups.

By the time Mr Novey gave up the CCPOA’s presidency in 2002, the state had built 21 new prisons. Some guards now earn more than $100,000 a year (with overtime). Mr Novey negotiated pensions of up to 90% of salary, with retirement starting as early as 50. To many of his members Mr Novey remains a hero—a man who provided good jobs and made them safer. And the taxpayer footed the bill.

Jerry Brown, the Democrat who was recently elected governor, faces a deficit of around $25 billion this year—bigger than the total budget in 1975. That was the year when Mr Brown in his younger “Governor Moonbeam” phase first ran the state. Back then California’s government was widely admired for its highways and its universities, and also as a font of political ideas both on the right (Reaganism) and the left (environmentalism). Now the roads and colleges are crumbling, even though total government spending in the state will reach $230 billion this year (see chart 4). Californian politicians get some of the lowest ratings in the country. Like a paranoid movie star, the state has kept on grasping at miracle cures—from Proposition 13, the tax-cutting ballot initiative, in 1978 to the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the cyborg-ex-machina, in 2003.

California is now widely studied as an example of what to avoid. Why is the home of Apple and Google so useless when it comes to running school districts or budgeting, and why have so many clever people settled for such a bad deal? Such questions are worth asking because what happens in California, which is famously like America, only more so, tends to happen elsewhere. And indeed a list of its ailments applies to a greater or lesser extent throughout the Western world.

• A messy structure of government. Look at an administrative map of California and you might assume that a child had scrawled over the design. It is a muddle of thousands of overlapping counties, cities and districts. Beverly Hills and West Hollywood sit in the middle of Los Angeles but are separate cities. The LA school district has 687,000 pupils, but there are 23 others with 20 pupils or fewer. Often voters have little idea what their officials do for their money. Last year the residents of Bell, a poor Latino city of 38,000 people, found their city manager was paid $788,000 and their police chief $457,000 a year.

In Sacramento things are no clearer. Thanks to various voters’ initiatives, as much as 75% of the budget is outside Mr Brown’s control. Proposition 13, which halved and capped property taxes, forced the state to bail out local government. A chunk of the state’s own money comes from the federal government. So cash for health, schools, welfare and much else sloshes backwards and forwards between Sacramento, Washington and various Californian cities. That makes it impossible to hold any Californian politician fully accountable for any part of government.

Some of this stems from specifically Californian afflictions, especially the ballot initiatives. But overlapping areas of responsibility are common throughout the West. In Australia, for instance, the federal government runs primary health care but the states run hospitals. In most European countries taxes are raised centrally but tend to be spent by local or regional government. The European Union increasingly plays the same role that Washington does in America, adding another layer of rules and mandates.

• Out of date. The most recent full redesign of California’s government was in 1879, when the state had only 865,000 people; now it has 37m, and a single state Senate seat represents more people than the whole Senate did then. As California’s pre-eminent historian, Kevin Starr, observes, “it is not surprising that an organisation set up to look after fewer than a million people should have a collective political nervous breakdown when it governs something almost 40 times that size.”

The same argument could be applied to the United States as a whole. Its constitution was designed for a country of 13 states and 4m people, when things like religious tolerance, the right to form militias and preventing people trying to become king mattered a lot. The Founding Fathers had no plans to bring either North Dakota or California into their union, nor could they imagine the ramifications of those two states both having the same voting weight in the Senate even though California’s population is 57 times bigger.

In Europe, thanks in part to two world wars, the state has been redesigned more recently, though many antiquated structures—such as Britain’s House of Lords—have survived. Many of these oddities work well in practice, and Americans revere their constitution. But structure matters. It is hard to think of any successful commercial outfit that has stuck to the same organisational design for 23 years, let alone 230.

• Too much power for vested interests. In “The Logic of Collective Action” (1965), Mancur Olson argued that rational individuals will work hard in a group with a selective aim reserved for its members (prison guards banding together to press for higher wages, for instance); they will expend less energy to push for public goods whose benefits are widely shared. Once entrenched, an interest group is extremely hard to shift. Its members have much to gain by fighting to retain their particular privileges, and would-be reformers have to take on disproportionately large costs to push for a vaguer public good. Californians have moaned about their prison guards’ perks for a while, yet have only recently plucked up the political will to do anything about them.

In rich countries no group has illustrated Olson’s work more clearly than farmers. In California’s Central Valley you can watch Californian tax dollars evaporating before your eyes as farmers guzzle most of the state’s precious water to cultivate crops that were never meant to grow in a desert. In the European Union two-fifths of the budget still goes to agriculture. In Poland farmers are exempt from income tax. Just as with the prison guards, the subsidies keep flowing to farmers largely because of conservative politicians. Although the greediest public-sector unions are firmly allied with the left (see article), the supposedly low-tax right also lavishes money on its own priorities. The new Republican leadership in Washington started its search for waste in the foreign-aid budget by trying to get the biggest recipient of American largesse, Israel, moved to the Pentagon’s budget.

Interest groups work especially well in systems like America’s where money needs to be raised and where party primaries matter. A Republican politician describes how the gun lobby works. If a Republican congressman signs up to the National Rifle Association’s agenda, he gets a little money and some organisational help from vocal supporters. If he does not, the NRA will put a lot of resources behind his opponent in the primary. Going with the NRA is thus a lot easier. Many Democrats would say exactly the same about the teachers’ unions and education reform. Opposing them is not worth the hassle.

Olson’s theory also helps explain why broad-based lobbying by big business has given way to narrower special interests. Fifty years ago California was run by a business elite, keen to keep taxes down and infrastructure spending up but with a broad interest in the well-being of the state. Since then Californian businesspeople have discovered that targeted lobbying can do a lot for their specific business. That has made it harder to get commercial interests to support projects of general benefit such as transport in the Bay area. It has also brought about an increase in regulation as individual businesses have lobbied for rule changes that create barriers to entry for other firms.

• Ever more rules and taxes. A study last year by the Pacific Research Institute said California had the fourth-largest government of all American states, with state and local spending equal to 18.3% of its gross state product. Texas, a state with which California is often compared, chewed up just 12.1% of GSP. It also looked at tax structures, and on that count California came 45th out of 50 states, with its steep income tax being especially damaging. Its tax system has been a mess ever since the dotcom boom when it relied too heavily on capital-gains taxes. As taxpayers have got crosser, the state has tried to tax them as sneakily as possible while adding tax breaks for favoured lobbies.

This points to two endemic problems with government throughout the West. The narrow one is that tax systems are in need of reform. America’s tax code has grown from 1.4m words in 2001 to 3.8m in 2010. Members of the European Union, too, have made their tax systems increasingly complicated—with the heroic exception of flat-tax Estonia. Most economists think taxes should be shifted towards consumption and away from income and investment. But whatever the system, it should be easy to understand.

The broader problem is the growing thicket of regulation—of which taxes are merely the most onerous part. Many of the new laws that have been passed in both Europe and America have admirable aims: better health care, cleaner air, less discrimination against minorities. But as Philip Howard of Common Good points out, they are amazingly cumbersome—Mr Obama’s health bill was over 2,000 pages long—and once on the statute book, they seldom come off again. One solution is to follow Texas’s example and let legislatures meet only occasionally. Another would be to introduce sunset clauses so that all regulations automatically expire after a while.

• The politics of gridlock. Sixty years ago California’s politics were rather cosy. In the early 1950s Pat Brown, Jerry’s father, who was then the Democratic attorney-general, used to share a car from Sacramento to San Francisco on Fridays with Earl Warren, the Republican governor. This year Jerry Brown in his inauguration speech described politics as a primordial battle between “Modocians” and “Alamedans” (Modoc being a rural, conservative Republican county and Alameda a liberal enclave east of San Francisco).

It is fashionable to blame this animosity on the internet and on partisan media channels such as Fox News. But it often has structural causes, such as gerrymandering. California has tended to choose centrists—liberal Republicans or conservative Democrats—in statewide elections, but the legislature’s electoral boundaries have been drawn to produce the biggest number of safe seats. That means primaries are the only real test for most politicians. Here reform may at last be on the way: Mr Schwarzenegger managed to force through an initiative that handed over redistricting to an independent commission.

But at a national level it will be a long time before America has a sensible debate about its budget deficit. George Lodge, a Harvard Business School professor who ran as a Republican against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in 1962, argues that many Western countries are now conducting a dialogue of the deaf. Conservatives want to talk about the “macro” vision (a smaller state) but not the “micro” specifics (the unpopular cuts to achieve that). Leftists want to talk about specific micro programmes they want to build up without ever discussing the macro bill for all of them.

• Towards the older middle. Given the fury from the left about bankers and from the right about welfare spongers, you would expect all that extra government spending to have been swallowed by either end of the income spectrum. In fact in California, as in most of the West, the cash has flowed mostly towards those with middle incomes and the old.

Both the rich and the poor do relatively badly out of government. The rich pay for most of it. In California the top 1% by income accounted for 43% of income-tax revenues in 2008 and the top 5% paid 64%. In America as a whole the top 1% paid 38% of federal income taxes and the top 5% paid 58%; their respective shares of national income were 20% and 38%. The wealthy pay the lion’s share in most European countries too. Getting the rich to cough up so much might be a desirable social goal in a time of great inequality, but it is hard to claim that they are not paying their share.

The poor pay virtually no income taxes, and many countries, especially in Europe, have a problem with entrenched welfare dependency. Britain, for instance, has a quarter of a million households in which no one has ever held a formal job. But overall it is not clear that the poor benefit from government transfers and benefits as much as you might expect. In America two-fifths of all “social payments” are made by the private sector through employers’ pension contributions and health plans—both spurred on by tax breaks that go mainly to middle-income Americans.

When you look at overall public spending, the gap widens. Middle-income Californians go to better schools than poor ones do. Their streets often have more policing. They are far more likely to go to a publicly financed university, to claim mortgage relief on their home, to own a farm that collects subsidies or to attend a ballet supported by public funds. Europe is different only in that it subsidises the middle classes less through tax breaks and more through “universal” benefits—things like free bus passes for the old—which often started out being targeted at the poorest but are now given out to all.

That points to another distortion, which is generational. A large number of welfare payments and social transfers are now aimed at the elderly. The huge baby-boom generation that is just about to retire will make these even more expensive. In Christopher Buckley’s political satire, “Boomsday”, America’s young eventually start bribing their self-indulgent parents to end their lives early. In his interesting book “The Pinch”, David Willetts eschews that solution for Britain’s baby-boom generation, but calculates that it will take out nearly 20% more from the system than it has put in. The first budget of the new Tory government, in which Mr Willetts is a minister, still directed money disproportionately towards the old.

Across the rich world, politicians keep on pushing money towards the middle class and the old because that is where elections are decided. People aged 65 and older still account for only 13% of America’s population, but they made up over a fifth of its electorate in 2010. No group is better organised: the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) has 40m members.

• The secession of the successful. Hollywood, Silicon Valley or any of the other places where successful Californians gather show a profound contempt for their government. At the most extreme, such people have walled themselves off in gated communities, with their own security, health services and even schools. Their main relationship with the state, at least as they see it, is to write a cheque for their taxes—and their only interest in it is that the cheque be as small as possible. Philanthropy continues, but remarkably little goes into beautifying their environment (Silicon Valley is the ugliest industrial cluster imaginable).

Similar complaints can be heard in other centres of elitism: Wall Street does not do much about the Bronx, and the City of London usually ignores the East End. Both globalisation and the internet have increased this sense of separation. Companies with strong local links have been swallowed up by larger groups. Wells Fargo used to be a powerful force in San Francisco and Security Pacific in Los Angeles; both are now part of bigger empires. The Indian tycoons in Palo Alto feel closer to Bangalore than they do to Bakersfield (and so do many of their American colleagues).

This secession has an effect on government. It makes capital, as well as businesses and talented people, more footloose, so it becomes harder to raise taxes overtly. Worst of all, the secession of the successful means that the most talented brains are largely left out of the mix. One leading California Democrat describes the list of businesspeople prepared to run a public commission as “painfully short”.

• You, yes you, are to blame. California is interesting for one final reason. Throughout most of the West, people are in denial about the consequences of wanting both more government and lower taxes. In California ballot initiatives have actually given voters a direct say. Generally they have made government worse, protecting bits of spending yet refusing to pay for it. Having voted for Mr Schwarzenegger in 2003, they deserted him the moment he tried to introduce structural reforms in 2005.

Interviewed shortly before his exit at the start of this year, the gubernator had two thoughts. One was that his successor would find reform easier because the system is more manifestly bust now than it was in 2003 (and Mr Brown is certainly having a go). The other is that Californians are still determined to get something for nothing. “People here are addicted to improving their lifestyle. They want more and more from their government.”

Is there a better way? Many of those who used to see the future in the Golden State now prefer to look across the Pacific—towards emerging Asia.

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3897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / controlling the growth of the "state" on: March 23, 2011, 12:53:45 PM
 A special report on the future of the state
Taming Leviathan
The state almost everywhere is big, inefficient and broke. It needn’t be, says John Micklethwait
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 THE argument sounds familiar. The disruptive reforms that have so changed the private sector should now be let loose on the public sector. The relationship between government and civil society has been that between master and servant; instead, it should be a partnership, with the state creating the right environment for companies and charities to do more of its work. The conclusion: “We are in a transition from a big state to a small state, and from a small society to a big society.”

A Republican presidential candidate in America? David Cameron rallying Britain’s Tories? Neither: the speaker is supposedly China’s most highly regarded bureaucrat. Last year Ma Hong won the country’s national award for government innovation—a great coup for her department, which is trying to get more non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to take over parts of welfare, health and education services in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.

The award partly reflects the whirl of activity that is Ms Ma. She has dismantled most of the controls on local NGOs: rather than be sponsored by some government department, all they have to do is register with her. She began in 2004 with industrial associations, but has extended the net to include independent charities. Almost 4,000 “social groups” are now registered—nearly double the number in 2002, when they were all tied to the state.

In this special report
The gods that have failed—so far
» Taming Leviathan «
California reelin'
Enemies of progress
Big society
Seize the moment
Go East, young bureaucrat
A work in progress
Patient, heal thyself
Sources and acknowledgments
Offer to readers


Related topics
Lawrence Summers
United Kingdom
United States
Over the past five years Ms Ma has paid out 400m yuan ($57m) to the NGOs for social work, mainly to do with the elderly. The groups are evaluated by third parties on things like their corporate governance: the higher their rating, the more money she trusts them with. She provides training in social work and tax advice. She would like donations to more NGOs to be tax-deductible, as in the West.

Ms Ma has studied what works elsewhere. In Hong Kong, where she trained in 2005, some 90% of social work is done by NGOs, paid for by the state. Like many Chinese bureaucrats, she also admires Singapore—especially its balance between easy registration for NGOs and stern punishment if they underperform. She wants her social groups to become the engines of Chinese society “just as private companies are in the economy”.

Even allowing for Ms Ma’s dynamism, there was, as so often in China, a message implied in her award. The country’s rulers are acutely aware that their government does not serve ordinary Chinese well. Back in 2007 the five-yearly Congress of the Communist Party embraced “scientific development” to create “a harmonious society”. Shenzhen is supposed to be the showcase for a new public sector, just as it showed the rest of the country how to embrace capitalism 30 years ago. The city has classified some 280 government functions as “social” ones, which means they can be contracted out to Ms Ma’s NGOs.

It is not hard to poke holes in China’s version of the Big Society, as we shall see later in this special report. But there is plainly a drive to make government work a little more like the private sector. “Just as a human has two legs, China has a very long economic one and a very short social one,” observes Ms Ma. “They should be of equal length.”

Many Western politicians feel the same way about their own bloated and inefficient governments. The immediate problem is the financial crisis: governments have had to spend furiously, both to prop up their banks and ward off a depression. With the average gross debt burden in OECD countries just over 100% of GDP and sovereign-debt markets fearful of another Greece or Ireland, every government, even America’s, is under pressure to produce a credible plan to shrink its deficit.

What is government for?

Costly though it has been, the financial crisis has merely brought forward a fiscal reckoning. In most of the rich world ageing populations have been driving up the cost of public health care and state pensions. Emerging countries that are becoming richer, such as China and India, are now wondering what sort of state they need to meet their citizens’ demands for better schools, health care and infrastructure.

Indeed, the fiery argument about capitalism prompted by the credit crunch has obscured a nascent, and much broader, debate about the nature of government. The future of the state is likely to dominate politics for the next decade at least. How can government be made more efficient? What should it do and not do? To whom should it answer? Ms Ma is one voice in this, but so are the anti-tax tea-party activists in America, French workers protesting against later retirement and British parents trying to set up independent schools with state money.

This special report’s central argument is that Leviathan can be made far more efficient. The state has woefully lagged behind the private sector. Catching up is not just a case of nuts-and-bolts productivity improvements but of liberal principle: too often an institution that, at least in a democracy, was supposed to be the people’s servant has become their master.

But nobody should expect that to be easy. The vested interests opposing change are huge: the state’s growth has been encouraged by the right as well as the left, by favour-seeking companies as well as public-sector unions, by voters as well as bureaucrats. Indeed, given the pressures for ever larger government, many reformers feel they will have to work hard just to keep it at its present size.

Government has always tended to expand (see table 1), and people have always fretted about it. In 1888 a French economist, Pierre Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, calculated that a share of 12-13% of GDP (just above the Western average then) was the sustainable limit for a modern state. By 1960 sprawling welfare states had pushed the average in the rich world to 28% (see chart 2), enough to convince Friedrich Hayek that “the deliberately organised forces of society [ie, government regulation]” might “destroy those spontaneous forces which have made advance possible.” Yet the next quarter-century saw another surge, pushed mainly by transfer payments and subsidies ostensibly aimed at the poor but often of most benefit to the middle classes.

This sparked a counterblast to halt Leviathan, led by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. By the 1990s many people thought that global capitalism would stop the state’s advance. This was the decade, after all, when Bill Clinton and other leaders declared the end of big government; when left-wingers claimed (inaccurately) that half the world’s biggest economies were multinational firms; when the emerging world was embracing the Washington consensus of deregulation: and when industrial policy mainly meant hanging on to golden shares in privatised companies. A special report in this newspaper, published in 1997, examined the then fashionable idea that the state was withering away. Its author, Clive Crook, now at the Financial Times, argued that it was not.

He has been proved right several times over. In continental Europe, where the state’s share of the economy was already pretty big, it has not risen that much. However, in America a Republican, George Bush, pushed up spending more than any president since Lyndon Johnson. In Britain New Labour became even less parsimonious: the state’s share of GDP rose from under 37% in 2000 to 44% in 2007; with the British economy struggling, it then jumped to 51% in 2010.

Share of GDP is not the only way to measure state power. “Big governance” can be just as costly to an economy as big government. Some 1,000 pages of federal regulations were added each year Mr Bush was in office. A quarter of a million Americans have jobs devising and implementing federal rules. The European Union has also produced a thicket of red tape. Some are prompted by the left (diversity, health and safety), others by the right (closed-circuit cameras, the war on drugs).

Or look at the state’s role in business. In the 1990s privatisation seemed to have settled that argument. Now state capitalism has returned, sometimes accidentally (several banks have become government-controlled) but often intentionally. Many of the new industrial champions of the emerging world are state-owned, and industrial policy is no longer a rude expression even in Anglo-Saxon countries.

There is a belief in boardrooms and among America’s tax-cutting right that a monstrous, ever-growing state is the creature of make-work bureaucrats and leftist politicians, and sometimes that is true. But often the beast is responding to popular demand. Globalisation, for instance, has increased many people’s reliance on the state: greater job insecurity among the middle classes has increased the calls for bigger safety nets, and the greater inequality that comes with bigger markets has made voters keener on redistribution. Or look at the threat of terrorism, to which the knee-jerk response on America’s right was to build up the government in Washington. As Stephen Walt, a professor at Harvard, puts it, “when September 11th happened, nobody rang Bill Gates or the Open Society Institute.”

The next battle

The recent advance of government is once again prompting a fightback. The Republicans’ victory in the 2010 mid-term elections was hailed as a return to small-government conservatism. Bruised rather than reinforced by his huge health-care reform, Mr Obama is limping back to the centre, suddenly promising businesspeople that he will rein in regulation. In Britain Mr Cameron’s government is pushing ahead with reforms that will slim some departments by a fifth. And even in big government’s continental European core, private-sector workers are reacting with fury to the perks their public-sector cousins enjoy at their expense. The German Language Society’s word of the year for 2010 was Wutbürger (irate citizen).

But will this fury stop Leviathan’s advance? Some scepticism is in order. None of the continental European government-slashers is really trying to change the structure of the state. Mr Cameron’s attempt offers a better chance of genuine radicalism, though even his savagery will take back the size of Britain’s state only to its level in 2008. The tea-party Republicans seem to be all milk and no caffeine: their first budget proposal did not touch defence or the three great entitlement programmes, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Like the apocryphal sign at a tea-party rally last year, warning government to keep its “hands off my Medicare”, they are refusing to confront reality.

Nor is it just spineless politicians who are at fault. A lot of economic theorists have predicted an ever larger state since Adolph Wagner linked its growth to industrialisation in the 19th century. The Baumol cost effect is often cited. In the 1960s William Baumol and William Bowen used the example of classical music to show that some activities are not susceptible to improvements in labour productivity. You still need the same number of musicians to play a Beethoven symphony as you did in the 19th century, even though real wages for musicians have risen since then. Larry Summers, Mr Obama’s main economic adviser till the end of 2010, argues that the goods governments buy, especially health care and education, have proved much more resistant to productivity enhancements than the rest of the economy. Since the 1970s real wages in America have risen tenfold if you measure them against the cost of televisions; set against the cost of health care, they have gone down.

Mr Summers expects that trend to continue. An ageing population will need ever more health services provided by the state. Better education means longer school years, smaller classes and more after-school activities, all of which cost more. Greater inequality will mean greater redistribution. In Italy and France cash social transfers alone take up 19% of GDP. The pressure to spend more is continuous, Mr Summers points out, whereas things that reduce the size of government tend to produce one-off savings: the end of the cold war, for instance, took a slice out of defence spending, but that was it.

Mr Summers has a lot of history on his side. This special report takes a more optimistic view. To start with, it is not inevitable that spending will keep on going up. Countries such as Canada and Sweden have reduced public spending when they had to. Moreover, some governments are massively more efficient than others, and there are huge gains to be achieved merely by bad governments copying what good governments do—such as planning ahead, backing winners and rewarding people for doing the right thing. With a smaller central core and much more competition for the provision of services, most governments could do the same for much less.

Most of this special report will focus on that overdue reorganisation. A second set of reforms, for which there is still less political appetite at the moment, would retarget government spending—especially adjusting social transfers (a category that in America’s national accounts rose from 8% of GDP in 1970 to 16% in 2009). Benefits that have become middle-class boondoggles should be redirected at the poor.

Not all of history is on the pessimists’ side. Fifty years ago companies seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. Business has since changed shape dramatically. The state can catch up by doing many of the same things business did to transform itself, not least bringing in competition and rethinking what it should do itself and what it should contract out to others. And the state, too, has changed shape in the past. In 19th century Britain, for instance, liberal reformers dismantled the patronage state of rotten boroughs and bought offices, building up a professional civil service. Government got leaner and much more efficient. It can surely do so again.

Second, even if Mr Summers is right that the state is unlikely to shrink, there is still a vast amount of work to be done to make it deliver more for the same money and become much more accountable. The ramifications are huge—for people, the economy and society.

Reasons to change

On a personal level, the state matters because it has a big impact on people’s lives. As Geoff Mulgan observes in his excellent book on the state, “Good and Bad Power”, the quality of the state you live in will do more to determine your well-being than natural resources, culture or religion. In the surveys that measure people’s happiness, decent government is as important as education, income and health (all of which are themselves dependent on government).

To business, government can make an enormous difference. Most obviously, if the state accounts for half the economy then improving any part of that will create better conditions for growth. Even if government were to cost the same but produce more (better-educated workers, decent health care, roads without holes, simpler regulation), the effect on private-sector productivity would be electric.

For society, the debate about the state matters because liberalism is on trial. “The challenge of Western democracy is always presented as one to do with transparency and accountability,” reflects Tony Blair, who served as Britain’s prime minister for ten years. “In fact it is really a challenge of efficacy. Our politicians on the whole are not corrupt. But they are not delivering the services people want. The emerging world is deciding what sort of government it wants. It looks at us and sees a system that costs a lot and does not deliver enough.” Another prominent Western politician goes further, seeing government as an increasing problem for the West too. “If it carries on as it is, eventually our own voters may also be more tempted by ‘something that makes the trains run on time’.”

A host of books have recently been singing the praises of China’s authoritarian approach. This special report will look at that model, but it will focus on the rich world, where most of the problems and solutions are to be found. No place better illustrates the troubles of the public sector than California, the American state that has become synonymous with private-sector ingenuity.

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3898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 22, 2011, 10:48:05 AM
Maybe we should forget "doctrines".  Every situation is unique and to tie us down with doctrines doesn't really make sense.
Maybe we simply do what is best for the US period in each given situation.

I am of the opinion we should either go arrest the Colonel for war crimes (using new evidence he ordered Lockerbie), or simply assasinate him.

To go about these military/political rituals for this ONE guy is nuts.

That said I don't see how he can survive long unless we let him.  And letting him do that for political reasons just doesn't seem worth it.  Either kill the guy or attempt to arrest him.  IF necessary to appease the libs arrest the guy and have the mock war crimes trial drag on for years while the ACLU gives him all the lawyers he needs and go through the silly spectacle of giving him them the motions of a justice system and then hang him anyway.

3899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 21, 2011, 06:32:08 PM
Numerous articles in this week's Economist mag. delving into the issue of how much government is good and bad.  The world wide trend is for less government at least in the West.  All over Europe are movements that are akin to the Tea Party here in the US.  The Economist also seems seems to come down on the side that too much gov. is bad, is like a tsunami that is impossible to stop from growing and is leading the West to financial ruin.

Great Britain is actually leading the way to reign in on the costs of an out of control state.

GB is also going the opposite way on health care that the lobs here in the US are praising them for.

After reading several articles one can only conclude as we here on this board have already believed that Bamster, to the contrary of what he and his liberal cronies allege are not on the right side of history, but instead are on the WRONG side of history.

And this leads me to believe that this is the fundamental issue to take him on for '12. 

The two problems in convincing a majority that he is the one who is wrong and pushing us the wrong way are:

50 % pay no taxes.  So this groups has to be convinced despite the bribes, that this situation is not sustainable.

The other is Republicans MUST in my small time opinion address the wealth gap and how the middle class is not going to continue falling behind and ever more government entitlements paid for by taxpayers including years of retirement, health care, is not the answer to sustain a middle class lifestyle.

3900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: March 21, 2011, 12:50:13 PM
As a lover of animals:

BERLIN (AP) -- Veterinary experts performed a necropsy Monday on Berlin zoo's celebrity polar bear Knut to try to determine why he died suddenly over the weekend.

The four-year-old polar bear died Saturday afternoon in front of visitors, turning around several times and then dropping to the ground, and falling into the water in his enclosure.

Polar bears usually live 15 to 20 years in the wild, and even longer in captivity, and the zoo is hoping the investigation may help clarify what happened.

Results were expected later Monday or on Tuesday, the zoo said.

In the meantime, people continued to flock to the zoo to sign their name in a condolence book in tribute to Knut.

"Every visit to the Zoo brought happiness, because he was such a warmhearted animal and he brought us all so much fun," visitor Eveline Plat told AP Television News.

Knut was rejected by his mother at birth, along with his twin brother, who only survived a couple of days. He attracted attention when his main caregiver, Thomas Doerflein, camped out at the zoo to give the button-eyed cub his bottle every two hours. The bear went on to appear on magazine covers, in a film and on mountains of merchandise.

Doerflein, the zookeeper who raised him, died in 2008 of a heart attack.

Soon after Knut and Doerflein's first public appearance in early 2007, fan clubs sprang up across the globe. "Knutmania" led to a 2007 Vanity Fair cover with actor Leonardo DiCaprio shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz, a film and plush Knut toys.

Zoo spokeswoman Claudia Beinek said that they had to set up another condolence book online to accommodate the outpouring of sympathy from around the world for the polar bear.

In addition, the zoo said it was starting a special account to accept donations on Knut's behalf, which will be used for polar bear research and the preservation of their habitat.

"He has brought joy to us, the Berliners and many others around the world," the zoo said in a statement. "Knut also was an icon for the endangerment of his species and natural habitats of all wild animals."

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