america the beautiful
The Iron Cheer of Empire
"Obviously work and commerce have their problems here, just as anywhere else. The peso rises and falls. Cheap Chinese imports crowd out domestic goods. People work hard, especially tradesmen and laborers, but there is a complete lack of obsession and stress that characterizes North American jobs. Which, of course, many Canadians and Americans retired to Ajijic take for laziness.
"It may be my bias, or my imagination, or my distaste for toil, but from here America looks like one big workhouse, "under God, indivisible, with time off to shit, shower and shop." A country whose citizens have been reduced to "human assets" of a vast and relentless economic machine, moving human parts oiled by commodities and kept in motion by the edict, "produce or die." Where employment and a job dominates all other aspects of life, and the loss of which spells the loss of everything.
"Yeah, yeah, I know, them ain't jobs -- in America we don't have jobs, we have careers. I've read the national script, and am quite aware that all those human assets writing computer code and advertising copy, or staring at screen monitors in the "human services" industry are "performing meaningful and important work in a positive workplace environment." Performing? Is this brain surgery? Or a stage act? If we are performing, then for whom? Exactly who is watching?
"Proof abounds of the unending joy and importance of work and production in our wealth-based economy. Just read the job recruitment ads. Or ask any of the people clinging fearfully by their fingernails to those four remaining jobs in America. But is a job -- hopefully a good one -- and workplace strivance really everything? Most of us would say, "Well of course not." But in a nation that now sends police to break up the tent camps and car camps of homeless unemployed citizens who once belonged to the middle class, it might well be everything."
Amazing Pictures, Pollution in China
military r us
If there is any question that we are a military with a country attached...
"It is possible that the creation of an all-professional American army was the most dangerous decision ever taken by Congress. The nation now confronts a political crisis in which the issue has become an undeclared contest between Pentagon power and that of a newly elected president.
"Parack Obama has yet to declare his decision on the war in Afghanistan, and there is every reason to think that he will follow military opinion. Yet he is under immense pressure from his Republican opponents to, in effect, renounce his presidential power, and step aside from the fundamental strategic decisions of the nation.
"The officer he named to command the war in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, demands a reinforcement of 40 thousand soldiers, raising the total U.S. commitment to over 100 thousand troops (or more, in the future). He says that he cannot succeed without them, and even then may be unable to win the war within a decade. Yet the American public is generally in doubt about this war, most of all the president’s own liberal electorate.
"President Obama almost certainly will do as the the general requests, or something very close to it. He can read the wartime politics in this situation."
"Earlier this week, President Obama signed into law the $680 billion FY 2010 Defense Authorization Bill, the largest such budget since the end of World War II. If you missed that aspect of the story, you weren’t alone. Many news stories chose instead to focus on the hate crime provisions tacked onto the bill.
"I’ve often quarreled with the inclusion of superfluous legislative riders, and the hate crime provision is more superfluous than most. (Indeed, as my Cato colleague David Rittgers has pointed out, it might be worse than superfluous.)
"But I want to focus on the president’s failure to halt the inexorable growth in military spending. His capitulation on a number of spending programs — even as he complains of rampant waste and abuse within the Pentagon — signals to American taxpayers that they should expect more of the same. It sends an equally harmful message to our friends and allies around the world: stand back, we’ll take care of it.
"You see, most of the money we spend on our military is not geared to defending the United States. Rather, it encourages other countries to free-ride on the U.S. military instead of taking prudent steps to defend themselves.
"The massive defense bill represents only part of our military spending. The appropriations bill moving through Congress governing veterans affairs, military construction and other agencies totals $133 billion, while the massive Department of Homeland Security budget weighs in at $42.8 billion. This comprises the visible balance of what Americans spend on our national security, loosely defined. Then there is the approximately $16 billion tucked away in the Energy Department’s budget, money dedicated to the care and maintenance of the country’s huge nuclear arsenal.
"All told, every man, woman and child in the United States will spend more than $2,700 on these programs and agencies next year. By way of comparison, the average Japanese spends less than $330; the average German about $520; China’s per capita spending is less than $100."
20 years ago the Berlin Wall was torn down and Germany's path towards reunification was started. It's amazing what a relatively short time can erase in these then and now pictures.
Checkpoint Charlie, 1982: The famous border crossing Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstrasse in downtown Berlin. The border crossing was meant only for foreigners who wished to travel from East to West Berlin or vice versa.
Checkpoint Charlie, 2007: The former border crossing is now a popular tourist destination: Complete with vendors selling East German paraphernalia and renting out East German "Trabant" cars.
The House passed a health care bill. Just what did they pass?
"It’s time to evaluate where health care reform stands at this point.
"Guaranteed Issue: The best thing about the bill is unquestionably the fact that insurers have to issue policies to anyone who can pay. No one can be denied coverage, no matter what pre-existing conditions they have. This is a big deal. While it can help people of any age, it is most important to older people, who are more likely to have pre-existing conditions. This also helps people who are stuck with very expensive insurance because they have pre-existing conditions and if they cancel their insurance wouldn’t be able to get new insurance.
"Individual Mandates and cost sharing: An individual mandate forces people to buy insurance whether they want to or not. Insurance works better when everyone is covered and in the same risk pool. It also shares costs throughout the population. Individual mandates seem unfair, but they are generally instituted as part of changes to the system which reduce overall costs significantly. For example, relatively speaking, Canadian GDP/capita costs were reduced by one third compared to what they would have risen to otherwise during the ten years after changing from a US style system to single payer."
back from the dead
I've moved from my death bed to my sick bed. I spent most of last week sleeping the flu off. Now it's turned into bronchitis. My doctor has drugs for that. I get them this afternoon. Truly, the harder I run the behinder I get.