Trasportino Tino Economy - 31,95 €    
thumb

Il Trasportino Tino Economy è la nuova versione del trasportino per uccelli Tino della 2GR, caratterizzato da un peso minore. Il trasportino rispetta le normative vigenti per il trasporto degli uccelli. E' venduto completo di mangiatoie (esterne), beverini e posatoi. L' interno non è estraibile ed il coperchio non è incluso, ma può essere acquistato separatamente.


          ความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างROE PBV PE    
ความสัมพันธ์ระหว่าง ROE PBV PE
กดที่ภาพเพื่อดูขนาดใหญ่

ROE PBV PE ค่าทั้งสามตัวนี้เป็นค่าที่ใช้บ่อยๆในการวิเคราะห์และประเมินค่า การรู้ความสัมพันธ์ระหว่าง สามตัวนี้จะทำให้สามารถวิเคราะห์ได้ลึกซึ้งยิ่งขึ้น

1.ความสัมพันธ์เชิงคณิตศาสตร์


จากสมการ
roe = E/bv
=E/p x p/bv
roe เท่ากับ pbv คูณส่วนกลับของ pe

2,ROE และการเติบโต


roe คือผลตอบแทนที่บริษัททำกลับมาให้ผู้ถือหุ้น คนก่อตั้งมักจะมีหุ้นที่ราคาพาร์ดังนั้นผลตอบแทนที่เขาได้ก็คือ roe นั่นเอง

น้อกจากนั้น ROE จะมีความสัมพันธ์กับ การเติบโตของกิจการ ถ้าบริษัทโตเรื่อยๆแบบรักษาสัดส่วนโครงสร้งเงินทุนไว้เท่าเดิมจะเป็นการโตแบบ Sustainable growth

g = ROE x (1-b)

จะเห็นว่าถ้าบริษัทจายเงินปันผลอัตราคงที่เมื่อเทียบกับกำไร และบริษัทรักษาอัตรา ROE ให้สม่ำเสมอได้ บริษัทก็จะโตไปเรื่อยๆเท่ากับ g นั่นเอง ดังนั้นการซื้อหุ้นจึงเป็นการสะท้อน การเติบโตที่คาดหวังไปได้ด้วยส่วนหนึ่ง

3.PBV กับค่าความนิยม


pbv บอกว่าเราจ่ายซื้อที่ราคากี่เท่าของ  ฺBook Value คือส่วนทุน ในทางบัญชีเรียกสินทรัพย์สุทธิ

ในการขายหุ้นถ้าบริษัทดี เจ้าของคงไม่ขายบริษัทที่ bv  ต้องขายที่ราคาแพงกว่า bv

มองในแง่นักลงทุน เราจ่ายเงินซื้อที่ราคาสูงกว่ามูลค่าสินทรัพย์สุทธิ จะเกิดค่าความนิยม (goodwill) ในงบของเรา

ดังนั้นถือหุ้นไปอยู่เฉยๆไม่ได้ต้องดูว่าหุ้นที่เราถือยังมีค่าความนิยมหรือไม่ถ้ามองแล้วกิจการกำลังแย่ลงก็ต้องขายออก ถ้าไม่ขายตลาดจะปรับด้อยค่าความนิยมให้เองจากราคาตลาดที่ลดลง

การที่จ่ายซื้อสินทรัพย์ แพงกว่า bv แสดงว่าต้องเห็นอะไรดีๆในสินทรัพย์ เช่นแบรนด์แข็งแกร่ง networkของผู้บริโภค economy off scale จากการผลิตที่ทำให้อำนาจต่อรองสูงๆ ต้นทุนการเปลี่ยนแบรนสูงๆ หรือกฎระเบียบที่ทำกันคู่แข่ง ทำให้ส้างใหม่แข่งก็ลำบาก ยอมจ่ายซื้อกิจการที่good willดีกว่า

4.PE กับผลตอบแทนที่คาดหวัง


e/p ส่วนกลับของpe คือผลตอบแทนจากเงินลงทุนนั่นเอง
ดังนั้นถ้ามองจากสมการ roe ก็คือผลตอบแทนที่บริษัททำให้ bv pbvก็คือ ค่าความนิยมที่เรายอมจ่ายและepคือผลตอบแทนที่เราได้ แสดงว่าราคาเหมาะสมคือราคาที่ทำให้ได้ผลตอบแทนตามที่เราคาดหวังนั่นเอง หวังน้อยก็ยอมจ่ายซื้อที่ค่าความนิยมเยอะขึ้น

จะเห็นว่าสามอัตราส่วนนี้มีความสัมพันธ์กันแนบแน่น แสดงทั้งมุมมองฝั่งกิจการและมุมมองฝังนักลงทุน ถ้ามองเป็นก็สามารถประยุกต์ได้ไมมีขีดจำกัด เจริญในการลงทุนทุกท่านครับ


ติดตามเราได้ที่ Website : http://www.investidea.in.th
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/investidea.in.th
Line ID : @investidea.in.th ใส่@นำหน้าด้วย
สัมมนาวิเคราะห์หุ้นด้วยปัจจัยพื้นฐาน ดูรายละเอียดและตารางอบรมได้ที่http://www.investidea.in.th/p/value-investor.html
หรือสอบถามราบละเอียดและลงทะเบียนได้ที่ Line; pat4310, หรือโทร 086-503-5023
          Comment on What Happened To Venezuela? by Mark   
So what happened to the economy?
          Why Kerry Lost   

BOSTON—My take on the election: Vision without details beats details without vision. President Bush put forward a powerful and compelling philosophy of what the government should do at home and abroad: Expand liberty. You can disagree with Bush's implementation of that vision, but objecting to it as a matter of principle isn't a political winner. John Kerry, on the other hand, campaigned as a technocrat, a man who would be better at "managing" the war and the economy. But for voters faced with a mediocre economy rather than a miserable one, and with a difficult war that's hopefully not a disastrous one, that message—packaged as "change"—wasn't compelling enough to persuade them to vote for Kerry.

Without reliable exit-poll data, it's hard to know exactly which voters and issues decided the election, but my guess is that the Democrats will ultimately conclude that they did what they thought was necessary on the ground to win the election. Karl Rove and the Republicans just did more. (On the exit-poll question: If the initial evening exit-poll result that 5 percent of the late deciders broke for Ralph Nader had turned out to be accurate, Nader would have received more votes from among the pool of late-breaking undecideds than he ended up receiving from the entire electorate.) The Democratic confidence during the early afternoon and evening was based on more than faulty poll data. The Kerry campaign was confident that high turnout from the party base would swing the election their way.

But this election wasn't a swing, or a pendulum. There was no fairly evenly divided group in the middle of the electorate that ultimately broke for one side and made the difference. The 2004 campaign was not a tug of war between two sides trying to yank the center toward them. Instead, it was a battle over an electorate perched on a seesaw. Each campaign furiously tried to find new voters to add so that it could outweigh the other side. Both sides performed capably: Kerry received more votes than Al Gore did four years ago, and he even received more votes than the previous all-time leader, Ronald Reagan in 1984. President Bush just did even better.

Rove's gamble that he could find more Bush supporters from among nonvoting social conservatives than from the small number of undecideds in the usual voting public worked exactly as designed. The question for Democrats is whether Rove's formula will turn out to be a one-time trick tied to Bush's personal popularity and the emotional bond the nation formed with him after the trauma of 9/11, or whether the Democratic Party has been relegated to permanent, if competitive, minority status. Are the Democrats once again a regional party, the new Eisenhower Republicans of the Northeast? For seven consecutive presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has failed to garner 50 percent of the vote. Not since Jimmy Carter in 1976 has a Democrat won a majority, and even Watergate could get Carter only 50.1 percent.

The silver lining for the minority party is that the Democrats may have a slight edge in the Electoral College. Although he lost the popular vote by more than 3.5 million (a landslide in a 50-50 nation), Kerry lost the presidency by a much smaller amount: fewer than 140,000 votes in Ohio. The 2008 battleground will likely be even smaller than 2004's: Only 19 states in this election had a vote margin that within single digits. In 2000's divided America, Bush and Gore finished within 5 points of each other in 22 states. This time, Bush and Kerry came within sniffing distance of each other in half as many, 11. Despite President Bush's remarkably successful campaign, and despite the fact that he became the first president to win a majority of the vote since his father did the same in 1988, in his second term George W. Bush will preside over a country that is even more divided than it was during his first.


          The Bush Victory Party   

George W. Bush's last victory party, which took place four years ago in Austin, Texas, never quite got underway. There was some annoying business about a withdrawn concession phone call and a steady downpour of rain. This year's party, held inside the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., was in one respect an improvement. There was no rain.

The evening began in the Reagan Building's giant, sloping atrium. The GOP herded its youngish volunteers into a mosh pit, jammed between the stage and the TV cameras. Vodka tonics were consumed, and the twentysomethings seemed poised for giddy celebration. Just after 12:30 a.m., Fox News awarded Ohio to Bush, bringing the president's electoral tally, by the network's count, to 266. Four more years! Alaska followed 20 minutes later, nudging Bush to 269. Four more years! At that point, a portly man wearing a blue suit and pin-striped shirt removed his "W Is Still President" lapel pin, held it aloft like a cigarette lighter, and began to lurch toward the stage.

But as soon as the crowd began to rock, Bush's glorious night ground to a halt. More than three hours passed without Fox awarding Bush a single electoral vote. Some of the other networks refused to give him Ohio. It wasn't that the remaining states were breaking for Kerry; they simply weren't breaking at all. The country band playing at the victory celebration exhausted its playlist and began glancing up nervously at the TV monitors. A producer with a ponytail and "W" hat waddled onstage and told them to keep playing. Reporters in the press row reached for their cell phones: The news from Boston was that John Edwards would take the stage and extend the election.

Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, dashed to the podium and, in a speech that lasted for the exact duration of Edwards', declared that Kerry couldn't possibly unearth 100,000 more votes in Ohio. The crowd whooped, but malaise was setting in. Wouldn't the president just get over here and declare victory already? Better yet, wouldn't Kerry just give up?

The heavy eyes were a marked shift from the evening's start, which was brimming with cautious optimism. As Bush swept the early states, Jeremy Bouma, a member of something called the Center for Christian Statesmanship, told me the expected surge in Democratic turnout would be offset by new evangelical voters. "My prayer going into this was that the evangelical vote was the X Factor," he said. Rosario Marin, a former U.S. treasurer, thought that Bush had succeeded in increasing his support among Hispanic voters. She was telling me why Latinos did not, in fact, oppose to the Iraq war when Gillespie announced that ABC had called Florida for Bush.

Aaaaaaaaah! she screamed, into my right ear."Oh, sorry." Then: Aaaaaaaaaah! "Oh, sorry." Aaaaaaaaaaaah! I told her she should go ahead and scream. After she caught her breath, Marin said: "I'm so happy. I'm so excited. My heart is pumping. I've got to call my husband." And then she was gone.

Bush never appeared at his 2000 victory party. Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, a question arose as to whether, in fact, he would appear at this one. CNN's John King reported that Bush had stormed into Karl Rove's office and asked the guru to let him declare victory. The reporters in the press room that weren't asleep let out a whoop. King later reported that Rove told the networks that if they would just call New Mexico for Bush, the president would make his way to the Reagan Building. The message was clear: I know you're tired. So give me the damn state.

At 5:05 a.m., an end—sort of. CNN reported that Bush wouldn't appear in person Wednesday morning; Andy Card, his chief of staff, would speak in his place. Card arrived in a room with a few dozen listless Republicans and said nothing memorable. Mario H. Lopez, one of the listless, declared, "I don't know how I cannot describe this night as historic." Then he glanced at someone's watch and said, "I think we're gonna get some breakfast and then get ready to go to work."  ... 3:17 a.m.

Party Monster: Welcome to George W. Bush's "victory" party in Washington, D.C. Sorta. Us news reporters have been herded into a giant white tent, yards away from the actual party, and contact with revelers looks unlikely. This is what the mob outside Studio 54 must have looked like, if only you upped the dweeb factor.

As the Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column notedthis morning: "Reporters wishing to cover the president's election night party will have to pay $300 for the privilege of a 3-by-2-foot work space and a padded seat in a tent nearby to watch the proceedings on television. … Small groups of media will be escorted into the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building to look around—but they won't be allowed to talk to participants." For a White House that hates the press, handcuffing reporters on Victory Night seems appropriate.

Last-minute indicators of victory: The handful of people I saw shuffling out of the White House grounds looked grim. Someone who identified himself as a Homeland Security apparatchik looked ebullient. On Fox News, Bill Kristol and Mort Kondracke are wearing prepared smiles. ... 4:05 p.m.

Recriminations Watch—Hispanic-Vote Edition: In the category of what my friend Noam Scheiber calls "possibly meaningless anecdotal evidence," my relatives in Northern New Mexico report an inordinate number of Bush signs in the poor Hispanic colonias—communities that figured to go overwhelmingly to Kerry. The same relatives report that Hispanic men profess to have a cultural affinity with Bush, who they see as a tough, macho sort of guy. Again, meaningless, but it underscores a point: That's about the only thing Bush has going for him with the Hispanic community. The Bushies, who heralded their leader's minority-outreach miracles as Texas governor, have done a shoddy job of courting Hispanics since entering the White House.

A few months back, Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute told me that Kerry staffers had whiffed at the Democratic Convention. They featured too few Hispanic speakers; and the preoccupation with Iraq drew attention away from domestic issues affecting the poor. All Karl Rove had to do, Gonzalez said, was goad his keynote speakers into mumbling a few "qué pasas" and the Hispanic vote might tilt slightly to Bush. Well, it didn't happen and it hasn't happened. Most surveys show Bush polling around 30 percent to 35 percent of the Hispanic vote, about what he did in 2000. Even GOP apparatchiks, wishing for miracles, don't put Bush much above 40 percent.

If Bush loses tight races in Florida and New Mexico (and, God forbid, Nevada and Colorado), an early recrimination theory might be that Bush spent too little time chasing Hispanic voters. Then again, perhaps he didn't have a chance. The sour economy disproportionately affects Hispanic and black communities; so does the Iraq War, which draws foot soldiers from the poorest segments of the population. Though both candidates ran Spanish-language ads in the Southwest, the campaigns seemed, at times, to forget about Hispanic voters entirely. Remember the fixation on the gringo Spanish spoken (haltingly) by Al Gore and Bush in 2000? Did Bush and Kerry ignore Hispanic voters, or has the media processed them as stable members of the electorate?

Even if Bush should lose, the GOP would be wise to thank him for ratcheting up their Hispanic numbers to Ronald Reagan levels—and up from depths plumbed by the Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush campaigns. But for a man who wonEl Paso County in his 1998 gubernatorial race, 35 percent doesn't seem like much of a miracle. ... 1:11 p.m.

Tom DeLay's Poetic Justice: Tom DeLay's push to rejigger Texas' congressional districts, an effort that caused such a kerfuffle last year, has faded under the onslaught of Swift Boat Veterans, the Osama tape, and Al Qaqaa. But DeLay's gambit has been no less effective. Five Texas Democrats face re-election Tuesday in GOP-friendly districts, and even the most optimistic Dems predict that only one or two of them (probably Martin Frost or Chet Edwards) can survive. There's a better-than-even shot that allfive Democrats will lose, giving the House GOP majority an enormous boost.

But it's not all sad news. With an influx of new Republicans comes an infusion of unwitting comic genius. Most of this can be seen in the personage of Ted Poe. Poe, a former Houston felony court judge, kicked off his national political career in August by boldly proclaiming, "Now is not the time to be a French Republican."

On the bench in Houston, Poe styled himself as a remorseless, Wild West, hangin' judge in the tradition of Roy Bean. His brainchild was something he called "Poetic Justice." With "Poetic Justice," Poe sentenced criminals to public humiliations to teach them a lesson. Shoplifters who found themselves in front of Poe, for instance, had to stand outside the stores they pinched from carrying signs identifying themselves as criminals.

When a man robbed legendary Lone Ranger star Clayton Moore, Poe made the perp shovel manure 20 hours a month at the Houston police department's horse pens. The sentence was to last for 10 years.

The Club for Growth's Stephen Moore reports that Poe made convicted car thieves hand over their own cars to their victims. Convicted murderers were forced to visit their victims' grave sites; others felons had to hang their victims' pictures in their cells and, upon release, carry them in their wallets. According to the Houston Press, Poe slapped one homicidal drunken driver with the following the rap:

… boot camp; erecting and maintaining a cross and Star of David at the accident site; carrying pictures of the victims in his wallet for ten years; observing the autopsy of a drunk-driving victim; placing flowers on the graves of the two victims on their birthdays for the next ten years; and carrying a sign outside a bar that reads, "I killed two people while driving drunk."

This article describes the ambiance of Poe's Houston office: "a poster of Alcatraz, a painting of a scene from the battle of Gettysburg and a sign proclaiming, 'I really don't care how you did it up north.' "

As the Houston Chronicle reports, victims' relatives have charged that Poe would often fail to follow through on the harsh sentences—a revelation which comes as something of a relief. Slate eagerly awaits the punishments Poe metes out on congressional Democrats. ... 11:12 a.m.

A Snowball's Chance: If the election drifts into Mountain Time Tuesday, will John Kerry regret stiffing New Mexico? That's one theory being floated on Joe Monahan's superb New Mexico political blog tonight. George W. Bush visited the state Monday, Dick Cheney over the weekend. So, New Mexicans will wake up Tuesday to read triumphant Bush headlines like this and this, while they'll see news pictures of Kerry overnighting in Wisconsin.

Bill Richardson pulls all the puppet-strings in New Mexico, but there's mounting evidence that Kerry may be in trouble. The polls have looked limp. And there's a theory that Al Gore's slim margin in 2000—366 votes, all found days after the election—may be attributable to one thing: snow.

On Election Day 2000, a freak snowstorm blanketed "Little Texas," the swath of southeastern New Mexico known for its cultural and political kinship with its neighbor. Conservative voters in three counties stayed home in droves. With Gore running strong in northern New Mexico and narrowly winning Albuquerque, the snowed-in voters may have cost Bush the state.

Tuesday's weather report: This site says "rain and snow showers will linger" near the region. Kerry may need every flake and drop.  … 12:01 a.m.

Monday, Nov. 1 2004

The ESPN Primary: "Mr. President, I am wondering how you feel about taxpayers having to have a financial burden placed on them for building new stadiums and new facilities for existing teams?" So went The Candidates: Election 2004,ESPN's special last night that valiantly tried to make Tuesday's contest into a referendum on professional sports. Jim Gray, the thinking man's Ahmad Rashad, the guy who hones his interview technique on coaches trying to sneak off the court before halftime ("So, uh, how do you prepare for the second half?"), landed interviews with both candidates. With its modus operandi inching ever closer to that of Sabado Gigante, it's groovy to see ESPN put on its serious face once in a while—for the shtick to give way to grave pronouncements about THE WORLD BEYOND SPORTS. Except that Gray never acknowledged that such a thing existed.

In response to a question about ticket prices, Bush replied, "I was always concerned when I was with the Rangers that our ticket prices would become so high that the family would be priced out of baseball." Perhaps this is why Bush helped build the Ballpark at Arlington, one of the most expensive venues in baseball and one of its most soulless. For his part, Kerry repeated his I-stand-with-the-working-man pabulum, suggesting that fathers were looting their children's college funds to sit at club level.

Asked to name his favorite athlete, Kerry, of course, straddled, ticking off a fair slice of the Boston Bruins' first line and, for swing-state mojo, a handful of Detroit Red Wings. Bush got another chance to coo about his clutch performance during the 2001 World Series. And that's about as deep as our man Gray got. There are some reasonably interesting questions to ask about sports, such as why it remains one of the viciously anti-gay segments of public life, a black mark that is ignored when it isn't celebrated.

But why get huffy when you can ask both candidates, as Gray did, what should be done about Pete Rose, who after his selfless act of contrition last winter finds himself no closer to baseball's Hall of Fame? This is the kind of spitball that will get you hooted off most respectable sports radio shows, but the candidates tried their level best. Bush said Rose had never really apologized to baseball. Kerry straddled, then agreed. You could see the nervous flicker in both men's eyes—Bush: Christian values!; Kerry: Cincinnati values!—as they tried outflank one another on Charlie Hustle's quagmire.  ... 10:02 p.m.


          Second Best   

CLEVELAND—Is John Kerry finally winning? His campaign, which only a week ago was defensive about the candidate's standing in the polls, is now more confidently asserting that he's pulled ahead. Before Friday, the Kerry campaign hadn't been willing to make that claim. Typically, the Bush campaign would argue that the president was leading in the race, and the Kerry campaign would respond by saying, no, it's a tie. But in a Friday afternoon conference call, Kerry's people finally started pointing to the scoreboard.

Here are the numbers outlined by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg on the latest Democracy Corps poll. The numbers are consistent with the latest polls from news organizations, most of which are in keeping with what the Kerry people have been saying all along, that the race is a toss-up. In Greenberg's poll, the horse race is a statistical tie, with Kerry at 49 and Bush at 47. The president's approval rating is 48 percent, "which is just at the edge of electability," Greenberg noted.

So why the confidence? Greenberg cited two internal numbers from the part of the poll that focused on "persuadable" voters. That group includes undecided voters, Bush and Kerry supporters who say their minds remain open, and a third group, Bush voters who say they want the country to go in a significantly different direction. The first number Greenberg cited was this: Fifty-seven percent of the persuadable voters in the Democracy Corps poll said they want to know how a candidate will "make the economy and health care better for people," while only 32 percent want to know "how you'll make us safe." The other number Greenberg highlighted: Given a choice between "I'm comfortable with changing to a new person if he has the right priorities" and "Bush has made us safer and I'm reluctant to change," 54 percent of persuadable voters said they were comfortable with changing, and 45 percent said they were reluctant. The responses to those two questions, Greenberg said, show that Kerry has "an audience" ready to listen to his message. He just has to "seal the deal."

With 11 days to go, that puts Kerry in the exact same place he was with more than three months to go, before the Democratic convention. He had a willing and persuadable audience then, and he proved unable to win them over. People preferred the "generic Democrat" to Bush, but they soured on the specific Democrat. Fortunately for Kerry, in the first debate, Bush reminded voters of what they don't like about him, and now we're back to square one again.

That dynamic is in keeping with the "spotlight" theory of the election being peddled by Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times. The theory goes something like this: Given that a slight majority of the electorate doesn't want Bush, and that a different but similarly slight majority doesn't want Kerry, the winning candidate will be the one who manages to keep the spotlight on his opponent's flaws, rather than his own.

Up to now, I've rejected Brownstein's theory and argued that Kerry has to do more than just watch Bush lose. He has to win the separate "referendum on the challenger" by persuading Americans that he's an acceptable replacement for the president. But if Brownstein is right, neither candidate should get too optimistic by polling data that shows him ahead. Because every time for the past few months that this race has been one man's race to lose, that man hasn't had any trouble finding a way to lose it.


          The Post-Debate Debate   

ORLANDO—Sen. John Kerry, you just walloped President Bush in the first 2004 debate. What are you going to do now? Go to Disney World, apparently: The Kerry campaign and his traveling press spent Friday night at the Swan & Dolphin Hotel at Walt Disney World, possibly the only place more unreal than the presidential campaign bubble. There couldn't be a more appropriate place for Kerry to stay the night after the debate, because right now, Democrats think they're in the happiest place on earth.

As the press bus arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday morning, a reporter jokingly pronounced a crowd of Kerry supporters to be "30 percent more excited" than they would have been before Thursday's debate. But he underestimated the enthusiasm among Democrats for Kerry's performance. In 90 minutes, Kerry erased the nagging complaints within his party about the effectiveness of his campaign, and he crushed any incipient Dean nostalgia.

On the stump, Kerry has discovered a new applause line, simply uttering the word "debate." At the University of South Florida in Tampa on Friday, Kerry walked out to the loudest and longest ovation I've seen in more than a year on the campaign. Kerry's still a 40-minute rambler at his campaign events—he should consider traveling with a podium equipped with green, yellow, and red lights that tell him when to stop—but he didn't have to do anything more than ask the crowd, "So, did you watch that debate last night?" to get the rumbling foot-stomping and cheering started again. In Orlando later that night, Kerry uses his new line—"Did you watch that little debate last night?"—as his opener, and again its gets the crowd roaring.

Kerry has even taken to ridiculing the president for his underwhelming showing. On Friday night, he mockingly impersonated Bush as a stammering Porky Pig. (Not Elmer Fudd, as the New York Times claims. Get your cartoon references right, Gray Lady!) The next day, Kerry was at it again, poking fun of Bush's repetition of the phrase "hard work" at the debate: "He confuses staying in place, just kind of saying, 'It's tough, it's hard work, you gotta make a decision,' "—laughter—"he considers that, and confuses that, with leadership."

Those Democrats who aren't already buoyed by the debate will take heart in Saturday's Newsweek poll, which shows the race in a statistical tie: Kerry at 47 percent and Bush at 45 percent, with a 4-point margin of error. Kerry adviser Joel Johnson dismissed the poll's significance during a conference call with reporters, saying, "It's probably a poll that we took issue with in the past," such as when Newsweek showed the president leading by 11 points coming out of the Republican convention.

In the wake of all these good signs for Kerry, the Bush campaign is busy trying to Gore him, to kill the Democratic buzz by turning Kerry's debate victory into a defeat. A White House pool report Saturday from the Baltimore Sun's David Greene reported that Bush communications director Nicolle Devenish said, "Nobody is going to look back on November 3 and remember that first debate for anything other than a night when Kerry made four serious strategic mistakes." Here's how Greene summarized the mistakes: "1) Kerry spoke of a 'global test.' 2) Kerry called the war in Iraq a mistake then later said Americans were not dying for a mistake. 3) Kerry spoke of the troops deserving better after saying in an interview before the debate that his vote on funding was made in protest. 4) Kerry offered what Nicolle called a 'new insult' for allies when he said the coalition is not 'genuine.' "

Thursday night after the debate, the Bush surrogates emphasized Devenish's second point, to reinforce its caricature of the Democratic nominee as a habitual flip-flopper. By Friday and Saturday, however, the Bush campaign had seized upon Kerry's mention—a virtual aside—of a "global test" for pre-emptive war as their chance to reverse the perception that Kerry won the debate. (Based on Devenish's comments, they've also dropped their initial nobody-won spin in which they sounded like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda: "We didn't lose Vietnam! It was a tie!")

On Friday afternoon, the Bush campaign e-mailed excerpts of remarks the president made in Allentown, Pa., including this quote: "Senator Kerry last night said that America has to pass some sort of global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. He wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government. Listen, I'll continue to work with our allies and the international community, but I will never submit America's national security to an international test. The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France." Scott McClellan piled on, as distilled by another White House pool report, saying that Kerry's comment "showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the war on terrorism," and that the remark "shows something that is very disturbing."

By Saturday, Bush himself had taken to calling the "global test" the "Kerry doctrine," which would "give foreign governments veto power over our own national security decisions." In the afternoon, the Kerry campaign dispatched Richard Holbrooke to rebut "Bush's misleading rhetoric on the stump" in a conference call. Nearly every question was about what Kerry meant during the debate by "global test," and about the Bush's campaign's rhetoric of a "global permission slip" and the "Kerry doctrine." Holbrooke read Kerry's debate statement in full: "No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Holbrooke said the "Bush attack" was "another flagrant misrepresentation by the administration of what Sen. Kerry said," and added, "Who in their right mind would not wish to be sure that the use of force preemptively, or for that matter, any use of force, gets support and understanding from the rest of the world and from the American people and is fully justified?" He called it "longstanding American doctrine" and "a standard position, all presidents have taken it since at least 1945." Sounding irritated about the repeated mentions of the "Kerry doctrine" by reporters, Holbrooke said, "Don't call it a Kerry doctrine. That would suggest that John Kerry has enunciated something new, and he didn't."

An hour later, at 2:30 p.m., Kerry adviser Joel Johnson and Democratic National Committee adviser Howard Wolfson held a conference call to "discuss the results" of the presidential debate. The first question, from a Knight Ridder reporter, was about "this alleged Kerry doctrine." Would the campaign make any "paid media response"? No, Johnson said, we're going to focus on the economy in our TV ads, as planned. "We don't feel like this one is one we're going to have to respond in any way" in paid media.

The Republicans are "trying to take away the medal from the Olympic gymnast after the contest is over," Wolfson said. ABC's Dan Harris asked, "Aren't you opening yourself up to the charge that you've failed to learn the lessons of August?" referring to the Swift Boat ads and the Kerry campaign's belated response. "We're focusing on the failed economy," Johnson said. But you should know, "He'll never give a veto to any other country, period." Harris replied, "But boy, it really sounds like you're letting that charge hang out there." Johnson: "Well, we'll take that under advisement."

Shortly after that conference call ended, the Bush campaign e-mailed its script for a new TV ad, called—surprise—"Global Test." The ad says in part, "The Kerry doctrine: A global test. So we must seek permission from foreign governments before protecting America? A global test? So America will be forced to wait while threats gather? President Bush believes decisions about protecting America should be made in the Oval Office, not foreign capitals." Within a couple of hours, the Kerry campaign had changed its mind about whether to release its own ad. Their script begins, "George Bush lost the debate.  Now he's lying about it." The Kerry ad also tries to change the subject, to a New York Times story that comes out Sunday. That day's conference call is billed as, "What President Bush Really Knew About Iraq's WMD Programs Before the War."

During his conference call, Joel Johnson complained, "The Bush campaign is trying to concoct arguments that the president couldn't make the other night in the debate." That's exactly right. The mystery is why Johnson didn't think his campaign would have to do the same for Kerry.


          Great Expectations   

PHILADELPHIA—On the Kerry plane Thursday, reporters asked Mike McCurry why the campaign agreed to make the foreign-policy debate first, as the Bush campaign wanted, instead of third, as the Commission on Presidential Debates had scheduled it. "You know, we have to take anything like that and turn it into an opportunity," McCurry said. So, you see it as an opportunity? Not quite: "I'm supposed to lower expectations, not raise them."

Maybe McCurry should tell the candidate. I counted six times this week that Kerry raised his debate expectations by disparaging President Bush's intelligence or knowledge, seven if you count a comment made by Sen. Joe Biden during a Friday rally here. During his Monday night appearance on David Letterman, Kerry said that during the debates, "George Bush is gonna sit on Dick Cheney's lap," an apparent reference to the widespread Democratic belief that the vice president is the ventriloquist/puppeteer and Bush is the dummy. (At least, I hope that was the reference.) On Tuesday's Live With Regis & Kelly, Kerry said of the just-concluded debate negotiations, "The big hang-up was George Bush wanted a lifeline where he could call," an allusion to Regis Philbin's Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? game show. That night in Orlando, Kerry said that President Bush says he would have gone to war "even if he knew there was no connection of al-Qaida and Sept. 11 and Iraq—which we knew, but even if he knew that." In Columbus on Thursday, Kerry mocked Bush's claim that the CIA was "just guessing" about Iraq in its National Intelligence Estimate by implying that the president didn't understand the nature of the report and hadn't looked at it: "It's called an analysis. And the president ought to read it, and he ought to study it, and he ought to respond to it." On Friday on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania *, Biden compared the two candidates for president by saying, "John Kerry understands and has actually read history." Earlier that morning, during Kerry's war-on-terror speech at Temple University, Kerry noted that the president agreed to testify before the 9/11 commission "only with Vice President Cheney at his side," and he ridiculed Republican claims that a new president wouldn't be able to get more allies involved in Iraq and the war on terror by saying, "I have news for President Bush: Just because you can't do something doesn't mean it can't be done."

Good lines all—well, except the sitting-in-Cheney's lap one. But was this the week to trot out the Bush-is-an-idiot-controlled-by-Cheney meme? I thought the campaigns were supposed to talk up their opponents before the debates, not deride them. Kerry is Cicero and Bush is Rocky Marciano, the man who has never lost.

Other than this minor misstep in the expectations game, however, Kerry set himself up well this week for Thursday's debate, which will be the most decisive event in the presidential campaign so far. The foreign-policy debate deserves to go first, because this is a foreign-policy election. At Kerry's town halls, even the ones that are supposed to be about health care or Social Security or the economy, the majority of voters ask him questions about Iraq. Here's one way to think about next week's face-off: Bush and Kerry are running for leader of the free world, not just president of the United States, and both candidates want to cast themselves as a global Abraham Lincoln while defining their opponent as an international version of John C. Calhoun.

Bush lays claim to the mantle of Lincoln the Emancipator: Like the 16th president, Bush believes that individual liberty trumps state sovereignty (the international version of states' rights). Sure, Saddam Hussein was sovereign, but he was a tyrant and a menace to his people, Bush says, so America's invasion was a just one. Kofi Annan says Bush's invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law, but Bush appeals to a higher law that says that some laws and some rulers are illegitimate. Bush laid out his Lincolnesque doctrine of liberty over sovereignty in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention: "Our nation's founding commitment is still our deepest commitment: In our world, and here at home, we will extend the frontiers of freedom." Bush wants to paint Kerry as a global Calhoun, a man who prefers French sovereignty to Iraqi freedom.

Kerry, on the other hand, casts himself as Lincoln the preserver of the Union (while at the same time questioning Bush's competence and highlighting the disparity between the president's "fantasy world" ideals and the "world of reality" on the ground). I don't want to overstate this, because the Republican caricature of Kerry as a one-worlder who would let France exert a veto over American security is inaccurate. But Kerry clearly believes in the international structures and institutions that have been created since World War II, and he sees Bush, shall we say, nullifying them. In this version of the story, it's Bush who is Calhoun, the man who would elevate the shortsighted rights of his state over the compact that every state has entered to promote the greater good.

This analogy, like all historical analogies, is flawed in many ways. It may be particularly unfair to Kerry, who on the stump talks about relying on allies out of pragmatism rather than idealism. But it gets at the factor that I think will determine the winner of next week's debate: Which candidate will be able to present himself as the internationalist and his opponent as the isolationist? Bush says Kerry would turn his back on the people of the world who suffer under tyranny. Kerry says Bush has already turned his back on the world and has replaced dictatorship in Iraq with chaos, not the freedom he claims.

It will be an uphill battle for Kerry. So far, he's been successful at pointing out the flaws in Bush's policies, but he hasn't convinced enough people that President Kerry's policies would be any better. And Bush's bounce out of the Republican convention showed how attractive the president's principles, if not his policies, are.

In July, voters seemed to have decided that they'd like to get rid of Bush. But when they turned their attention to his potential replacement, they were disappointed by what they discovered. The Republican convention exploited that disappointment, and now there are more undecided voters than ever—because voters found out they don't like either guy.

Bush lost the incumbent's referendum, then Kerry lost the one on the challenger. Now we don't know what we want. That's why Thursday will be so critical. For Kerry to win, he needs to argue successfully that liberty and the international order, like strength and wisdom, are not opposing values.

Correction, Sept. 27, 2004: This article originally said that Biden spoke at the University of Philadelphia. He spoke at the University of Pennsylvania. (Return to corrected sentence.)


          Cheney's Burden   

CORNWALL, PA.—Dick Cheney delivers a lecture, not a stump speech. He squats on a stool, buttons his too-tight jacket, and speaks for 10 minutes without drawing applause. During his entire discourse, which lasts nearly half an hour, the audience claps six times. Only once does Cheney pause ostentatiously, as politicians do, to signal to his listeners that a particular utterance merits their enthusiasm. George W. Bush, John Edwards, and John Kerry all say that this election is the most important in history, but only Cheney dares to make you believe it.

Theoretically, Monday's town hall is about manufacturing, small businesses, and the economy. That's what all the introductory speakers talk about. But Cheney doesn't say a word on the subject. He talks terrorism, he talks Afghanistan, and he talks Iraq. After World War II, Cheney says, a bipartisan consensus created the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and other institutions, and those structures served the United States well for more than 40 years, until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Now, the nation stands at "another of those moments in history," when policies and institutions will be crafted to deal with the national security issues of the next 30 to 50 years. And that, he says, is what this election is about: not four years but four decades.

He makes the most compelling case possible for continuing with a flawed policy. Before 9/11, he says, the terrorists learned two lessons from how the United States responded to their multiple strikes: "They could strike the United States with relative impunity," and, "If they hit us hard enough, they could change our policy," as happened after the 1983 attack in Beirut and again in Mogadishu. That's why, Cheney insists, the nation must stay the course in Iraq. The strategy of terrorists is to use violence to force a change in U.S. policy. If that happens, "that's a victory for the terrorists."

Kerry hasn't argued for a complete withdrawal from Iraq, of course, though Cheney certainly implies it. What really differentiates Cheney's position from Kerry's is how the two men approach the burden of proof for war: The Bush administration has shifted it from war to peace.

That's what Cheney is saying, that the administration's current Iraq policies are the proper default position. Any change in policy—not just a complete withdrawal, but any "change"—must be weighed against the fear of emboldening al-Qaida. And at its heart, that's what the debate over going to war with Iraq has been about for two years. Those, like Kerry, who wanted to give the inspectors more time, or who wanted to bring more allies aboard before invading, believed that the burden of proof was on war, that an attacking nation must provide evidence of the justness of its decision. The administration argued the opposite, that Iraq needed to prove to the world that it didn't deserve to be invaded. The job of the inspectors, in this view, wasn't to find weapons of mass destruction but to prove a virtual impossibility, that Iraq didn't possess WMD. That was the lesson of 9/11, the administration said. We couldn't wait to find out whether Iraq had WMD. If we did, it might be too late.

Based on his speech in New York on Monday, Kerry doesn't agree with that lesson. He says he voted for the war to give the president leverage in the United Nations. That way the inspectors could verify whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But Kerry misunderstands the administration's position. They didn't want to prove the case for war. The only way to dissuade them would be if someone had proven the case for peace.

Kerry did agree with one thing Cheney said: This debate isn't just about Iraq. Bush's policies are a "warning," Kerry said. If Bush is re-elected, "he will repeat, somewhere else, the same reckless mistakes."

The question in front of voters in November: Do you think, for the next 30 to 50 years, that the nation needs to prove its case when it goes to war? Or do you think the world has changed so much that we should have to prove the case for peace?


          Kerry's Deathbed Conversion   

CLEVELAND—Everything you need to know about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential run—and therefore, everything a Democrat needs to know about taking the White House from an incumbent—is supposed to have been scrawled on a wipeboard in Little Rock 12 years ago by James Carville. "It's the economy, stupid," the phrase that has become holy writ, was only one-third of Carville's message. The other two tenets of the Clinton war room were "Change vs. more of the same" and "Don't forget health care." John Kerry has been running on two of those three planks, the economy and health care. But one day after talking with President Clinton on his deathbed—Kerry's, not Clinton's—the candidate has finally embraced the third: change.

Kerry offered a taste of his new message Monday morning at one of his "front porch" campaign stops in Canonsburg, Penn., but he waited until the afternoon in Racine, W.V., to unveil his new stump speech in full. The new message: Go vote for Bush if you want four more years of falling wages, of Social Security surpluses being transferred to wealthy Americans in the form of tax cuts, of underfunded schools and lost jobs. But if you want a new direction, he said, vote for Kerry and Edwards.

It's a simple and obvious message, but Kerry hasn't used it before. There were other new, even more Clintonesque wrinkles, too. Kerry talked about the same issues—jobs, health care, Social Security, education—that he's talked about in the past, but he had a new context for them: how Bush's policies were taking money out of taxpayers' pockets. The deficit, the Medicare prescription drug plan that forbids bulk-price negotiation and the importation of drugs from Canada, and the "$200 billion and counting" Iraq war all "cost you money," Kerry said, by increasing the cost of government. Kerry even pushed his health-care plan as a selfish device to put more money in voters' wallets (rather than an altruistic plan to cover the uninsured), in the form of lower health-insurance premiums ($1,000, he says). He also talked about a Clinton favorite, putting 100,000 new cops on the street during the 1990s, and he said he wanted to cut taxes for corporations by 5 percent to lower the cost of doing business in the United States. Talking about corporate tax cuts on Labor Day—if that's not a New Democrat, I don't know what is.

In West Virginia and later Cleveland, Kerry framed most of the new message around a mantra: "W stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong judgment, wrong priorities, wrong direction for our country." If you like those wrong choices, the lost jobs, "raiding Social Security," rising health-care costs, and "a go-it-alone foreign policy that abandons America," then vote for George W. Bush, Kerry said. If not, vote for me. The cost of the Iraq war is coming out of your pocket, he said, and it's taking away from money that could be used for homeland security. "That's W.; that's wrong," he said. With each issue Kerry raised—from Iraq to rising Medicare premiums to Social Security to jobs—he concluded his criticism of the president's policy by repeating, "That's W.; that's wrong."

It's not a perfect speech, nor is it delivered all that well. Kerry will never win an oratory contest with Bush, and he is fond of bizarre extemporizing. For example, he said, after being given a shotgun by a union leader to emphasize his support for hunting, "I'm thankful for the gift, but I can't take it to the debate with me." Still, even with Kerry's shaggy delivery, the speech—and more important, the message, if he sticks with it—should be good enough to get his campaign out of its latest sinkhole.

Sometimes, Kerry even improvises well. During the event in Canonsburg, Kerry was heckled by a small but noisy group of Bush supporters. But he managed to pull something out of Clinton's bag of tricks. When Kerry began talking about how the average family's tax burden has risen during the past four years, a man shouted, "Yeah, you're average, Kerry!" In response, Kerry adopted the tactic that Clinton used at the Democratic Convention in Boston: He embraced his affluence. "Just to answer that guy, 'cause he's right," Kerry said. "I'm privileged," just like President Bush. As a result, "My tax burden went down," Kerry said. "And I don't think that's right. I think your tax burden ought to go down."

Before today, Kerry's public image was starting to resemble that of a different Democratic candidate of recent vintage: the Republican caricature of Al Gore, a self-promoting braggart with a weakness for resume-inflating exaggerations. When Kerry was so angered by a Washington Post headline last week that he decided to speak directly after Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, he appeared to be imitating Gore's unfortunate tendency to let his campaign strategy be driven by the whims of the political media. Some Democrats feared that, by shaking up his campaign over the weekend and bringing in John Sasso and Michael Whouley, Kerry was overreacting in Gore-like fashion to some bad August press. On Monday, anyway, those fears seem overstated. The revamped Kerry campaign looks more like the Democrat who beat a president named Bush than the Democrat who lost to one.


          Looking Backward   

MANKATO, Minn.—After watching President Bush speak for only a couple of hours on the 2004 stump, it's easy to see the main tenets of his re-election campaign: My opponent is un-American, or at least less American than me and you. My opponent, much like Al Gore, doesn't know who he is. My opponent is a tax-hiking, big-government liberal. Worse, he wants to ask other countries for permission for America to defend itself against its enemies. Last, and most important, my wife is better than his wife.

What you don't hear from President Bush's stump speech, or from his surrogates, is what he plans to do were he given another four years as president. The problem is particularly glaring on matters of foreign policy. There are glimmers of a domestic agenda in the president's two campaign events Wednesday: He wants to reform America's high schools, increase math and science education, and increase the use of the Internet in schools. He wants more ethanol subsidies. He wants to make health care more available and affordable. He wants less regulation. He likes community colleges. He wants workers to be able to acquire flex time and comp time in lieu of overtime pay.

Bush also gives his audiences a rehash of the greatest hits from his 2000 campaign mantras. He likes tort reform and dislikes "frivolous lawsuits." (A favorite line of Bush crowds: "You cannot be pro-patient and pro-doctor and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. You have to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket.") He wants private Social Security accounts for younger workers. He likes marriage and the family, which always gets him a big cheer, because what it really means is he's against gay marriage. He's for a "culture of life," "judges who faithfully interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench," and a "culture of responsibility." Not to mention the responsibility society and the ownership society. He's still against the soft bigotry of low expectations. And of course, he wants everyone to love their neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

Bush doesn't talk much about the future. He talks about the past. The biggest portions of Bush's speech are spent mounting a vigorous defense of his presidency. When Bush's campaign foundered in New Hampshire four years ago, he retooled his strategy in response to John McCain and began billing himself as a "reformer with results." He's not using that slogan yet, but the rhetoric is similar. "It's not enough to advocate reform," he says. "You have to be able to get it done." The closing section of his speech ends with the mantra, "Results matter." On education, health care, the economy, farms, and security, Bush concludes by saying, "Results matter." Of his Medicare prescription drug benefit, Bush says, "Leaders in both political parties had promised prescription drug coverage for years. We got the job done."

Bush spends the longest amount of time defending his policies after Sept. 11. He takes credit for the creation of the Homeland Security Department (one of those things that Bush voted against before he voted for it), and he takes pride in the Patriot Act. Afghanistan has gone from being the "home base of al-Qaida" to being a "rising democracy." Pakistan, once a "safe transit point for terrorists," is now an ally. Saudi Arabia, he says, "is taking the fight to al-Qaida." Libya has given up its quest for weapons of mass destruction.

Most of all, Bush defends the war in Iraq. He repeats the litany of reasons for going to war: Saddam was defying the will of the United Nations, he harbored terrorists, he funded suicide bombers, he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. "In other words, we saw a threat," Bush says. "Members of the United States Congress from both political parties, including my opponent, looked at the intelligence and came to the same conclusion."

What Bush doesn't acknowledge is what went wrong: The WMD were never found. We weren't welcomed as liberators. Oil revenues haven't paid for the war. It wasn't a cakewalk. What went wrong? Why? Given four more years, what does Bush plan to do about it? He hasn't told us yet, other than suggesting "more of the same."

"Every incumbent who asks for your vote has got to answer one central question, and that's 'Why?'" Bush says. "Why should the American people give me the high privilege of serving as your president for four more years?" The answer Bush gives to that question is his record. He says he deserves re-election because of what he has already done. At Wednesday's first event, in Davenport, Iowa, U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle embodies this attitude when he introduces Bush to the crowd. "There is no one I would have wanted to be at the helm of this country these last four years than you," Nussle says.

Bush and Nussle are asking the wrong question. The real question an incumbent faces is, what now? What's next? So far, Bush isn't telling. A president's record matters, but the reason it matters is because it has predictive value. Bush's defenders say he is a transformational figure, that he's willing to take on big problems and challenges. Wouldn't you like to know what Bush believes those big problems and challenges would be in foreign policy over the next four years? Are there gathering threats that, like Iraq, he thinks need to be tackled "before they materialize"? The president says that is the lesson of Sept. 11, that the nation must confront its security problems pre-emptively. Where else does he plan to apply that lesson? Does he plan to tell us?

After the 2002 midterm elections, when Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill objected to another round of tax cuts for the rich, Vice President Cheney told O'Neill to discard his worries. We won the midterm elections, Cheney said. "This is our due." As much as liberals dislike President Bush's record over the past four years, it's the prospect of another four years that terrifies them. What they want to know—what keeps them awake at night—is what President Bush hasn't answered yet: What are you going to do next? This time, what will be your due?


          The Final Days   

MILWAUKEE—We're at the point in the movie where you know how it's going to end, but you stay up late to watch anyway, no matter how painful it gets. The only reason we're here is to watch the beheading of Howard Dean, one reporter declares in the press room after Sunday night's debate. But didn't we see that part already? The end of Dean's quest for the Democratic presidential nomination is winding up with the leisurely pace of the interminable conclusion of The Return of the King. After New Hampshire, there's been nothing but denouement.

Wisconsin was supposed to be Dean's dramatic last stand. Instead, it has all the excitement of the Missouri primary, but at least Missouri had the excuse that there weren't any candidates there. Members of the Dean campaign staff used Saturday to tour the Miller brewery—some are now sporting Miller High Life lapel pins—and I mentioned that I thought that was a pretty smart use of their free day, since Dean was in Vermont that night watching his son's final high-school hockey game. "They're pretty much all free days now," a campaign staffer replied.

But Dean isn't the only candidate facing a death watch. I hear rumors before the debate that both John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich are dropping out. I don't believe either rumor, but I can't decide whether it's more shocking that people believe Edwards is leaving or that Kucinich is.

Kucinich will never drop out. He's said so several times, and he's the one candidate who I believe means everything that comes out of his mouth. He really means it when he talks about the "militarization of thought," about being a "peace president," and about wanting to "change the metaphor of our society from war to peace." He was serious when he said in the spin room after Sunday's debate that unless we pull out of Iraq, "we're going to have a draft." Irony is not the long suit of the man who extended his wingspan Saturday night in front of a few hundred Democrats and helicoptered silently for several long seconds before shouting "No strings! No strings! No strings! No strings! I'll take you to the White House with no strings attached!" (Mean joke: Sure, he's got no strings to hold him down, but he still needs to be turned into a real candidate.) I feel bad about that joke—not bad enough not to print it—because, as Christopher Hitchens wrote last week, "Dennis Kucinich is the sort of guy who we need in politics." My wife thinks Kucinich is great, except for his crazy positions. I think that's about right.

As for Edwards, what's the point of winning the battle to be the last man standing against Kerry if you're not going to follow through on your long-shot strategy? Edwards did better than expected in Iowa after being endorsed by the state's largest newspaper, followed by a superior performance in the state's final debate. Well, Edwards did pretty well Sunday night—it's fairer to say that Kerry did poorly—and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just endorsed him.

How bad was Kerry's night? It wasn't disastrous, but it's as bad as I've seen him. He sounded like the meandering, orotund Kerry of last summer. His answers to questions about diversity and gay marriage were muddled incoherence, and he claimed that it wasn't his fault that the Bush administration has abused the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the congressional Iraq war resolution. But if you vote for broadly written laws that are abused by the administration in power when you passed them, aren't you at least partly to blame for the consequences? You wouldn't let your 6-year-old drive the family car and then blame him for the accident. And you can be certain that if the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and the war were popular with Democratic voters, Kerry would be taking credit for them.

Edwards fired off the night's best line in response to Kerry's tortuous answer to a question about whether he feels "any degree of responsibility for the war and its costs and casualties": "That's the longest answer I ever heard to a yes or no question. The answer to your question is: of course; we all accept responsibility for what we did." (The Dean campaign followed up with a press release stating only, "Memo to John Edwards: You are so right.")

But I don't think that moment offsets the fact that Edwards is torching his centrist reputation with his antitrade rhetoric. Granted, it's not only him. Alleged liberal Howard Dean was the only candidate on stage willing to unabashedly defend the passage of free trade agreements such as NAFTA ("I think the free trade agreements were justified"), though he does want to change them now. Kerry seemed evasive when he defended his votes for NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China by citing side agreements that dealt with labor and environmental standards.

But Edwards goes much further than Dean and Kerry. His campaign issued a press release trumpeting his votes against "fast track" and against trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Africa, and the Caribbean. And on stage, he criticized Dean and Kerry for supporting "free trade, as they always have." The anti-NAFTA consensus was the most striking thing to me about Sunday's debate. Was it really more than 10 years ago that Al Gore handed that picture of Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley to Ross Perot on CNN?

Later in the debate, Edwards toned down his rhetoric. "The truth is, some of these jobs are gone," he said. "We're not going to get them back." And I was grateful that no candidate elected to bash Greg Mankiw, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (as Kerry did in a speech Saturday night), for suggesting that the outsourcing of some jobs is good for the American economy in the long run. Bush administration economists have told enough lies—Mankiw's predecessor asserted that there was no connection between the deficit and interest rates, despite writing about the connection in his own textbook—that they deserve some applause when they tell an unpopular truth.


          A Browser's Guide to Campaign 2004   

Here's a quick guide to the good parts of Winning Back America, Howard Dean's campaign book to be published Dec. 3 (complete with a cover picture of the candidate trying his damnedest to look sunny):

Chapter 1: "I'm a Regular Guy." Dean touches on his family's roots and his childhood in New York City, and he makes passing mention of his Rhode Island prep school, but he says he "really grew up in East Hampton on eastern Long Island." His "idyllic childhood" involved being outdoors, riding bikes, a duck pond, fishing, sailing, and baseball. His dad wouldn't buy him a uniform for his baseball team because he thought it was a waste of money. The chapter concludes, "At heart, I'm a country person."

Chapter 2: Howard Dean, Farmer. Devoted to Dean's summer jobs as a teenager. Dean writes two sentences about working as a sailing-camp counselor but an entire page about his work on a cattle ranch in Florida. There he earned "agricultural minimum wage," cleared land, dusted crops, and in a yearning-macho voice worthy of Apocalypse Now's Col. Kilgore, he remembers "feeling the cool mist of the herbicide on my bare chest as the plane went over."

Chapter 3: "Unlike George W. Bush, I Had Black Roommates at Yale." Bush went to Yale, too, but his senior year was Dean's freshman year, 1968. "The gulf between our experiences was much larger, though; it was as if we were a generation apart," Dean writes, referring to the changes wreaked both by "the phenomenon of the sixties" and the increasing diversity of the Yale student body, including more Jews, more public school students, and in 1969, women.

Chapter 4: Howard Dean, Ski Bum. Dean's post-college years before medical school. He skis in Colorado (living in a cabin "in a little place called Ashcroft"), where he pours concrete and washes dishes to pay the bills. He becomes a teacher by virtue of a strange snap judgment after missing a plane to Bogotá, Colombia: "I've taken many hundreds of flights in my life, and this is the only time that's ever happened. I realized that there was a reason I missed the plane. I cut short my intended trip, went home, and decided to get to work." After teaching for a year, he takes a job on Wall Street. He decides he's too careful with other people's money to be a good broker, and that he doesn't really like New York City.

Chapter 5: Med School and Judy. Contains one of the more intriguing sentences in the book: "I didn't really get to be a happy person until I went to medical school." Dean's explanation for this is that he didn't work hard enough at Yale, and "If I'm directionless and coasting, I'm not happy." He meets his future wife, Judy Steinberg. He doesn't get into any of his top three choices for his medical residency. The University of Vermont was choice No. 4, and he moves to Burlington in May 1978.

Chapter 6: Dean Enters Politics. Is Dean a moderate Republican in disguise? He compares himself to his Republican father, a "fiscal conservative" who was "not particularly liberal on social issues, but he wasn't particularly conservative either. Today he would be considered a moderate, business-oriented Republican; he wanted the budget run properly. In that way, I am very much my father's son." Dean on why he's a "pragmatic Democrat": "I was friendly with the younger, more liberal Democrats because they were my age, but I didn't vote with them. I didn't relate to their political sensibilities."

Chapter 7: The Vermont Statehouse. A woman tells him, "You're going to do really well here, but you've got to get over this chip on your shoulder that tells you to fix somebody's wagon if they cross you."

Chapter 8: Governor. "Our telephone number remained in the book." Dean cuts marginal tax rates to improve Vermont's economy, but he insists he didn't engage in the "outrageous tax cutting that went on in some of the states." He also cuts spending programs over the objections of liberal Democrats. On one occasion, he visits Congress to talk about health care: "Bob Michel, the House minority leader, was there. He was a wonderful person. Newt Gingrich was there. He's not a wonderful person."

Chapter 9: More of the Vermont Miracle. Here's Dean's illustration of the "striking difference" between Republicans and Democrats: "When the Democrats controlled the National Governors Association (I was chair of the NGA from 1994 to 1995), we used to fight against our own party when it passed legislation that harmed the states. When the Republicans took over, however, they took orders from the G.O.P. in Washington, with few standing up for the people they represented. … Most Republican governors caved to the right-wing Republican White House because they were fearful; the folks in the White House are more than willing to threaten them."

Chapter 10: Pre-President Dean. He defends the Bush daughters: "I know that several thousand kids every year get caught with fake IDs." And he defends his wife's decision not to participate in his presidential campaign: "The notion that the wife is going to be dragged along in the wake of her husband's career is something that should have been left behind decades ago." Six sentences on religion, including "I'm a fairly religious person though I don't regularly attend church or temple," "I pray just about every day," and "I also believe that good and evil exist in the world, and I thoroughly disapprove of people who use religion to inflict pain on others."

Dean's favorite books: All the King's Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion; also Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and David McCullough's Truman ("It is one of the books that has had the most impact on me in the last ten years").

Dean ranks the presidents: 1) Washington; 2) Lincoln; 3) FDR; 4) a four-way tie between Jefferson, Truman, TR, and LBJ, despite Vietnam. We also learn Dean's weight, about 167 pounds. And don't tell Arianna, but he drives a Ford Explorer.

Chapter 11: The Chapter Most Worth Reading. Dean on the execution of his brother Charlie by communists in Laos in 1975 and on the death of his father in 2001. His parents thought Charlie was CIA: "There was speculation that Charlie was in Laos because he was working for the CIA and I think my parents believed that to be the case. Personally, I don't think he was employed by the U.S. government in any capacity, but we'll probably never know the answer to that question." Dean admits that he has spoken to counselors about his brother's death, and the chapter ends, "I'm sure that, had he lived, he'd be the one running for president and not me."

The second half of the book is campaign boilerplate: True believers will nod in approval, but you've heard this stuff before.


          See Dick Run   

SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Dean season! Gephardt season! Dean season! Gephardt season! If any lingering debate remained over which presidential candidate is currently enjoying his media moment, my two days with Dick Gephardt settled it. The 20 national reporters who follow Gephardt for all or part of his campaign swing from Des Moines to Sioux City are the latest sign that not only have the leaves turned in late October, but so have the media.

I came along to witness firsthand the evidence for something I wrote earlier this month after the Phoenix debate, that Gephardt's hard-nosed and well-organized Iowa campaign presents, at the moment, the biggest obstacle to President Dean (or, to be fairer, Democratic Nominee Dean). But I missed the media conspiracy memo that told everyone else to show up, too. During Gephardt's weekend swing in Iowa two days before, only three national reporters trailed the candidate. But now, David Brooks is here. So are Mara Liasson of NPR and Carl Cameron of Fox News. Throw in reporters from ABC, MSNBC, Knight Ridder, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and the New York Times. (Counting Brooks, on Wednesday there are two New York Times writers following Gephardt.) Just for the sake of overkill, there are reporters from the British press and from Japanese television along for the ride. At one event in Pocahontas, Iowa—a town with an absolutely gigantic statue of the Indian princess outside her teepee welcoming visitors from the highway—the number of journalists nearly matches the number of prospective caucus-goers.

The Gephardt campaign pushes its slow-and-steady-wins-the-race angle (or is it a plea for votes from Maryland Terrapins alums?) by emblazoning "Fear the Turtle!" on the front of the press itinerary, complete with a little clip-art turtle on every page. The packet includes the latest Iowa poll results, which show Gephardt and Dean in a statistical tie for the lead, with Kerry and Edwards lagging behind. For good measure, the campaign throws in last week's favorable press clippings, including Des Moines Register wise man David Yepsen's assertion that Gephardt is the Iowa front-runner and that Dean has "plateaued" in the state. Also enclosed is a much-discussed Washington Post report—distributed, in truncated form, to voters at campaign events—that Gephardt is the candidate "many prominent Republicans fear the most." Not included is a delicious metaphor for Gephardt supporters to latch onto: While hurtling from campaign stop to campaign stop in Iowa over the past few months, the Dean van has been pulled over multiple times for speeding.

At his first stop, a senior center in Des Moines (the first of three consecutive senior centers visited by the campaign), Gephardt is supposed to deliver a "health policy address," but it turns out to be a rehash of old Howard Dean quotes about Medicare. (Later, while being ribbed by reporters about the false advertising, Gephardt's Iowa press secretary, Bill Burton, protests that he never called it a "major" policy address.) The newest wrinkle: Gephardt wants to paint the 1997 balanced budget accord—generally thought to be one of President Clinton's major accomplishments, and one supported by Dean—as a "deep, devastating cut" in Medicare.

While Gephardt speaks in front of a sign that reads "Protect Social Security" and "Protect Medicare" over and over, like computer-desktop wallpaper, I wonder: Does he really want to play this game? Dredging up old quotes and votes about Gephardt's onetime conservatism is what helped to derail his '88 campaign. He voted against the establishment of the Department of Education. He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. He voted to means-test Social Security and to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments from the program. He voted for Reagan's 1981 tax cuts. He opposed an increase in the minimum wage. Does a man with a legislative record this long and varied really want to ostentatiously declare, "There are life-and-death consequences to every position taken and every vote cast"? If that's so, how many times was Dick Gephardt on the side of death?

For now, however, it's a more recent House vote that's preventing Gephardt from running away with the Iowa race. At nearly every campaign event I attend, Gephardt is forced to deliver, in effect, two separate stump speeches. The first is the one he would like the campaign to be about: universal health care, jobs, and the immorality of rapacious multinational corporations. Gephardt's not anticapitalist: "Capitalism is the best system," he says in Pocahontas. "But capitalism has to have rules, so the capitalists don't destroy the very system" they benefit from.

He describes his visits to Mexico, China, and India, where workers live in the cardboard boxes used to ship the products they make. "I smelled where they live," he says. They live without electricity, without running water, with raw sewage running down the streets and next to "drainage ditches filled with human waste." "They live in worse conditions than farm animals in Iowa," he continues. "This is nothing short of human exploitation, that's what it is, for the profit of some special interests in the world." I'm not sure I agree with Gephardt's proposed solutions—though I'm intrigued by his notion of a variable international minimum wage—but there's no denying that he's a powerful critic of global capitalism's excesses.

Then, once Gephardt has finished and the applause has subsided, almost invariably a voter raises his hand to ask: What about Iraq? Was this war about oil? How can we recover the world's respect? How can we pay for all your programs with a war on?

At this point, Gephardt is forced to unveil stump speech No. 2. Sept. 11 changed everything, he says. Government's highest obligation is to protect American lives. In a Gephardt administration, the highest priority would be to prevent a nuclear device—"dirty or clean"—from going off in New York, Los Angeles, or Des Moines. That's why he decided Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. He supported the war because he believed the estimates of the CIA and the warnings of former Clinton administration officials, not because he listened to President Bush ("I would never do that").

Slowly, Gephardt's defense of his vote for the congressional war resolution transitions into a critique of the president. Though in an interview he insisted that the president was smart, on the stump he's not shy about insinuating that the president (whom he often refers to as "Dubya") is stupid. "He's incompetent," "He frightens me," "He's hard to help," I told him America founded the United Nations because "I wasn't sure he knew the history," and "If you'd been meeting with him every week since 9/11, you'd be running for president," too. Because Bush refused to negotiate with Kim Jong Il, North Korea is now "weeks away" from producing nuclear bombs. Bush abandoned the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, saying, "It's not our problem." He's arrogant. He doesn't play well with others. By the end, people are satisfied enough with Gephardt's explanation, and maybe even a little terrified, but you get the sense that they're not enthused by it.

But Gephardt isn't counting on enthusiasm. He has a couple edges on Dean, in addition to his obvious union support. For one, a surprising number of Iowa Democrats just don't like the former Vermont governor. The opposition to Gephardt tends to be substantive, based on his support for the war or his failure as Democratic leader to enact a more Democratic agenda. But the opposition to Dean is stylistic, or maybe even cultural. In socially conservative Iowa, sometimes you hear it whispered: Where's Dean's wife? Before Gephardt arrives at an event in the town of Ida Grove, I overhear a woman grumble about Judith Steinberg's refusal to campaign for her husband. "I can't get used to that," she tells her companion. "It's supposed to be a family thing."

By the same token, Gephardt never fails to mention the "church loans" and "church scholarships" that allowed him to attend Northwestern and then Michigan law school. He also refers to his son, Matt, who survived prostate cancer as an infant, as a "gift of God." I don't think I've ever heard Howard Dean say the word "God" in reference to anything.

Just before the last stop in Sioux City, I'm granted a 10-minute ride-along interview with Gephardt. I've got a number of questions, but the one I really want an answer to is this: If balanced budgets and free trade—two things that don't get a lot of emphasis in the Gephardt platform—weren't the secrets of the Clinton economy, what were? Higher taxes for the rich? Gephardt explains that the '97 budget accord wasn't needed to balance the budget, and then he tries to explain why Bush's steel tariffs—which Gephardt supported, and which made the United States lose manufacturing jobs—aren't analogous to the retaliatory tariffs Gephardt wants to be able to impose on foreign products or factories that don't comply with minimal labor and environmental standards. Soon enough, we're so sidetracked that I've forgotten entirely what we were talking about.

But afterward, when I'm once again following Gephardt in my rental car, I'm left with my question: Clinton balanced the budget and promoted free trade, and the economy boomed. President Bush ran up enormous deficits and put new restrictions on trade, and the economy sputtered. Isn't Dick Gephardt's plan closer to President Bush's?


          Mormons, Catholics Work Together in Semi-Annual Job Fair   
With a struggling economy, many are seeking employment these days. A little less than a month ago, I attended the semi-annual job fair sponsored by a local Mormon and Catholic church. The event took place at the Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church in Katy, which brought together 50 employers, 800 job seekers, and 24
          China: Global economy still not out of the woods, says regulator   
The financial crisis has proved the financial services sector to be dysfunctional and the current economic situation remains "tough", according to Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission.
          Guest Post: 'Getting In & Knowing Stuff'   
This could be you...

Hi all.

As part of the start of a new influx of AdGrads writers, below is an account about how to prepare for interviews by Jen Meyerson Dubbin. Take it away, Jen:


“They aren’t going to expect us to know stuff, right?”
by Jen Meyerson Dubbin

Your blood is pumping. You are hopefully not sweating through your suit. You nervously tap your foot against your leg while sitting on a modern chair that was clearly chosen for design instead of comfort. After having applied to every grad scheme and junior position under the sun, you have landed an interview.

You’re an ad grad who knows their stuff. Your lecturers and professors have prepared you. You brought your portfolio of your previous work to show, and yesterday you reviewed pertinent materials from your lectures to refresh yourself.

You start talking to and sizing up the competition whilst you all wait for a chance to break into Adland. There's someone with a BSc in Biology from Edinburgh, BA in Medieval History from Cambridge, BA in English from Sheffield, and then there's you; an ad grad. When the group finds out you are an ad grad the whole dynamic changes to you versus everyone else. The guy from Cambridge anxiously asks, “They aren’t going to expect us to know stuff, right?” While the girl from Edinburgh reassures him by saying, “They know we aren’t ad people.”

This should be obvious, but make sure you prepare for your interview. When I went on interviews, I was surprised at the number of people who didn’t seem to think they needed to do anything to prepare. Yes, ad agencies do expect you to know about advertising. You aren’t being hired as an account manager or planner for your ability to make a decent cuppa - especially in this economy. There is nothing wrong with never having taken an advertising course, but that’s not a valid excuse to not know about advertising. You wouldn’t expect a lorry driver not to know how to operate a vehicle. No-one expects you to know everything and it's okay to be wrong. However, it’s essential to have an opinion - make sure you're more knowledgeable than a general consumer. 

There are several things you can do to prepare for an advertising interview. It might take a bit of work to get there, but knowledge is empowering and a confidence booster too. Obviously, I can’t cover everything in this post - those who've gotten in, please feel free to post additional recommendations in the comment section.

Knowing how an advertising concept works and having knowledge of a little bit of history is essential; especially if there is a team task involved in the interview process. Sometimes you will be lucky by being informed before the interview the type of task you will be given. Use that information to focus your preparation - for instance, I was in a team where one of members was trying to explain to the team that the target market should be as broad as possible when it should actually be narrow and specific to be optimally targeted. He obviously didn’t do his prep work and it hurt the team. In these situations, you don’t want to be the weak link in your group.

What's more, you should try to find out what the person in the position you are applying for does. There are a lot of websites and blogs that should have the information available (Linkedin, for example). If you can’t find anything, note that some agencies do have quirky job titles, so be sure to ask in the interview. Use what you learned to sell yourself by connecting your skills and experience to the position - most things you've done can be related to advertising in some way - you've just got to know what the job entails.

When it comes to research, look at the agency you are applying to online. You can learn about their agency culture, clients, current & past work, people, and history. You can also find information in trade publications and websites such as (e.g., IPA, Brand Republic).

Learn about other agencies. Agencies are brands with communication products just like Coca-Cola is a brand with soft drink products. Other agencies are the competitors of the agency you are applying for. You don’t need to do SWOT analyses for each, but basics like what they offer, who their current & past clients are, current & past work, and agency culture should have you well covered. In the end, you should be able to talk about what differentiates Agency A from Agency B.

Finally, when I set off in advertising school I thought Planners & Account Managers went to college and Creatives went to portfolio school, but the ad world isn’t like that. There are no extra points for having a communications and business background. No specific mold of what makes an ad person exists. 

Advertising is incredibly diverse. Some people have degrees while others don’t. Those who do have degrees come from a variety of disciplines. Regardless of their discipline, ad people are willing to put in the work to stay current and knowledgeable because they genuinely like what they do.

          India and the Balance of Power   

India is arriving on the world stage as the first large, economically powerful, culturally vibrant, multiethnic, multireligious democracy outside of the geographic West. As it rises, India has the potential to become a leading member of the "political West" and to play a key role in the great political struggles of the next decades. Whether it will, and how soon, depends above all on the readiness of the Western powers to engage India on its own terms.

THREE STRATEGIC CIRCLES

India's grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.

Three things have historically prevented India from realizing these grand strategic goals. First, the partition of the South Asian subcontinent along religious lines (first into India and Pakistan, in 1947, then into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, in 1971) left India with a persistent conflict with Pakistan and an internal Hindu-Muslim divide. It also physically separated India from historically linked states such as Afghanistan, Iran, and the nations of Southeast Asia. The creation of an avowedly Islamic state in Pakistan caused especially profound problems for India's engagement with the Middle East. Such tensions intertwined with regional and global great-power rivalries to severely constrict India's room for maneuver in all three concentric circles.

The second obstacle was the Indian socialist system, which caused a steady relative economic decline and a consequent loss of influence in the years after independence. The state-socialist model led India to shun commercial engagement with the outside world. As a result, India was disconnected from its natural markets and culturally akin areas in the extended neighborhood.

Finally, the Cold War, the onset of which quickly followed India's independence, pushed India into the arms of the Soviet Union in response to Washington's support for Pakistan and China -- and thus put the country on the losing side of the great political contest of the second half of the twentieth century. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, India ended up siding with the opposite camp on most global issues.

The last decade of the twentieth century liberated India from at least two of these constraints; state socialism gave way to economic liberalization and openness to globalization, and the Cold War ended. Suddenly, New Delhi was free to reinvent its foreign policy -- positioning itself to face the rise of China, shifting its strategic approach to its other neighbors, and beginning to work closely with the world's existing great powers.

VARIETIES OF INFLUENCE

India's recent embrace of openness and globalization has had an especially dramatic effect on the country's role in the region. As the nations of the subcontinent jettison their old socialist agendas, India is well positioned to promote economic integration. Although the pace has been relatively slow, the process has begun to gain traction. The planned implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement this summer signals the coming reintegration of the subcontinent's markets, which constituted a single economic space until 1947.

At the same time, optimism on the economic front must be tempered by an awareness of the problematic political developments in India's smaller neighbors. The struggle for democracy and social justice in Nepal, interminable political violence and the rise of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, and the simmering civil war in Sri Lanka underscore the potential dangers of failing states on the subcontinent. There are also the uncertain futures of Pakistan and Afghanistan: defeating religious extremism and creating modern and moderate states in both countries is of paramount importance to India. A successful Indian strategy for promoting peace and prosperity within the region would require preventing internal conflicts from undermining regional security, as well as resolving India's own conflicts with its neighbors.

In the past, great-power rivalries, as well as India's own tensions with Pakistan and China, have complicated New Delhi's effort to maintain order in the region. Today, all of the great powers, including the United States and China, support the Indian objective of promoting regional economic integration. The Bush administration has also started to defer to Indian leadership on regional security issues. Given the new convergence of U.S. and Indian interests in promoting democracy and countering extremism and terrorism, New Delhi no longer suspects Washington of trying to undercut its influence in the region. As a result, it is more prepared than ever to work with the United States and other Western powers to pursue regional goals.

Meanwhile, the external environment has never been as conducive as it is today to the resolution of the Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. The conflict has become less and less relevant to India's relations with the great powers, which has meant a corresponding willingness on New Delhi's part to work toward a solution. Of particular importance has been the steady evolution of the U.S. position on Kashmir since the late 1990s. The support extended by President Bill Clinton to India in its limited war with Pakistan in 1999 removed the perception that Washington would inevitably align with Islamabad in regional conflicts. But India remained distrustful of the Clinton administration's hyperactive, prescriptive approach to Kashmir. It has been more comfortable with the low-key methods of the Bush administration, which has avoided injecting itself directly into the conflict. The Bush administration has also publicly held Pakistan responsible for cross-border terrorism and has extracted the first-ever assurances from Pakistan to put an end to the attacks. New Delhi does not entirely believe these promises, but it has nonetheless come to trust Washington as a source of positive of influence on Islamabad.

These developments have opened the way for a peace process between the two governments. With the growing awareness that the normalization of relations with Pakistan would end a debilitating conflict and help India's regional and global standing, New Delhi has begun to negotiate seriously for the first time in decades. Although the pace of talks has not satisfied Pakistan, the two sides have agreed on a range of confidence-building measures. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rejected the idea of giving up territory, but he has often called for innovative solutions that would improve living conditions and for common institutions that would connect Kashmiris across the Line of Control. Singh has made clear that the Indian leadership is ready to risk political capital on finding a diplomatic solution to Kashmir.

India's recent effort to resolve its long-standing border dispute with China has been just as bold. New Delhi decided in 2003 to seek a settlement with Beijing on a political basis, rather than on the basis of legal or historical claims. As a result, during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in April 2005, India and China agreed on a set of principles to guide the final settlement. The two governments are now exploring the contours of mutually satisfactory territorial compromises.

India's search for practical solutions to the disputes over Kashmir and its border with China suggests that the country has finally begun to overcome the obsession with territoriality that has consumed it since its formation. Ironically, the nuclearization of India and Pakistan in 1998 may have helped in this regard: although nuclearization initially sharpened New Delhi's conflicts with both Islamabad and Beijing, it also allowed India to approach its territorial problems with greater self-assurance and pragmatism.

INDIA UNBOUND

Progress on the resolution of either of these conflicts, especially the one over Kashmir, would liberate India's political and diplomatic energies so that the country could play a larger role in the world. It would also finally release India's armed forces from the constraining mission of territorial defense, allowing them to get more involved in peace and stability operations around the Indian Ocean. Even with all the tensions on the subcontinent, the armies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been among the biggest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. The normalization of Indo-Pakistani relations would further free up some of the best armed forces in the world for the promotion of the collective good in the greater Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Even as the Kashmir and China questions have remained unsettled, India's profile in its extended neighborhood has grown considerably since the early 1990s. India's outward economic orientation has allowed it to reestablish trade and investment linkages with much of its near abroad. New Delhi is negotiating a slew of free- and preferential-trade agreements with individual countries as well as multilateral bodies including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Southern African Development Community. Just as China has become the motor of economic growth in East Asia, a rising India could become the engine of economic integration in the Indian Ocean region.

After decades of being marginalized from regional institutions in different parts of Asia, India is also now a preferred political partner for ASEAN, the East Asian Summit, the GCC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the African Union. Moreover, it has emerged as a major aid donor; having been an aid recipient for so long, India is now actively leveraging its own external assistance to promote trade as well as political objectives. For example, India has given $650 million in aid to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Meanwhile, the search for oil has encouraged Indian energy companies to tail their Western and Chinese counterparts throughout the world, from Central Asia and Siberia and to western Africa and Venezuela.

On the security side, India has been actively engaged in defense diplomacy. Thanks to the strength of its armed forces, India is well positioned to assist in stabilizing the Indian Ocean region. It helps that there has been a convergence of U.S. and Indian political interests: countering terrorism, pacifying Islamic radicalism, promoting democracy, and ensuring the security of sea-lanes, to name a few. The Indian navy in particular has been at the cutting edge of India's engagement with the region -- as was evident from its ability to deploy quickly to areas hit by the tsunami at the end of 2004. The Indian navy today is also ready to participate in multinational military operations.

AXES AND ALLIES

The end of the Cold War freed India to pursue engagement with all the great powers -- but especially the United States. At the start of the 1990s, finding that its relations with the United States, China, Japan, and Europe were all underdeveloped, India moved quickly to repair the situation. Discarding old socialist shibboleths, it began to search for markets for its products and capital to fuel its long-constrained domestic growth. Economic partnerships were easy to construct, and increasing trade flows provided a new basis for stability in India's relations with other major powers. India's emergence as an outsourcing destination and its new prowess in information technology also give it a niche in the world economy -- along with the confidence that it can benefit from economic globalization.

Barely 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India's omnidirectional engagement with the great powers has paid off handsomely. Never before has India had such expansive relations with all the major powers at the same time -- a result not only of India's increasing weight in the global economy and its growing power potential, but also of New Delhi's savvy and persistent diplomacy.

The evolution of Sino-Indian ties since the 1990s has been especially important and intriguing. Many see violent conflict between the two rising Asian powers as inevitable. But thanks to New Delhi's policy of actively engaging China since the late 1980s, the tensions that characterized relations between them from the late 1950s through the 1970s have become receding memories. Bilateral trade has boomed, growing from less than $200 million in the early 1990s to nearly $20 billion in 2005. In fact, China is set to overtake the European Union and the United States as India's largest trading partner within a few years. The 3,500-kilometer Sino-Indian border, over which the two countries fought a war in 1962, is now tranquil. And during Wen's visit to India in April 2005, India and China announced a "strategic partnership" -- even though just seven years earlier New Delhi had cited concerns over China as a reason for performing nuclear tests, prompting a vicious reaction from Beijing.

India has also cooperated with China in order to neutralize it in conflicts with Pakistan and other smaller neighbors. In the past, China tended to be a free rider on regional security issues, proclaiming noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations while opportunistically befriending regimes in pursuit of its long-term strategic interests. This allowed India's subcontinental neighbors to play the China card against New Delhi when they wanted to resist India's attempts to nudge them toward conflict resolution. But now, Beijing has increasingly avoided taking sides in India's disputes, even as its economic and security profile in the region has grown.

China is not the only Asian power that India is aiming to engage and befriend. Japan has also emerged as an important partner for India, especially since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has transformed Japanese politics in the last few years. During a visit to New Delhi just a couple of weeks after Wen's in April 2005, Koizumi announced Japan's own "strategic partnership" with India. (This came despite Japan's harsh reaction to India's nuclear test in 1998, which prompted Japanese sanctions and an effort by Tokyo to censure India in the United Nations and other multilateral forums.) Amid growing fears of a rising China and the incipient U.S.-Indian alliance, Japan has elevated India to a key player in its long-term plans for Asian security.

Recognizing the need to diversify its Asian economic portfolio, Tokyo has also, for political reasons, begun to direct some of its foreign investment to India (which has overtaken China as the largest recipient of Japanese development assistance). Since the start of the Bush administration, Japan has also shown increasing interest in expanding military cooperation with India, especially in the maritime domain. India, too, has recognized that it shares with Japan an interest in energy security and in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia. Japan actively supported India's participation in the inaugural East Asian Summit, in December 2005, despite China's reluctance to include New Delhi. Neither India nor Japan wants to base their political relationship exclusively on a potential threat from China, but both know that deepening their own security cooperation will open up new strategic options and that greater coordination between Asian democracies could limit China's impact.

India's relations with Europe have been limited by the fact that New Delhi is fairly unimpressed with Europe's role in global politics. It senses that Europe and India have traded places in terms of their attitudes toward the United States: while Europe seethes with resentment of U.S. policies, India is giving up on habitually being the first, and most trenchant, critic of Washington. As pessimism overtakes Europe, growing Indian optimism allows New Delhi to support unpopular U.S. policies. Indians consistently give both the United States and the Bush administration very favorable marks; according to a recent Pew Global Attitudes poll, for example, the percentage of Indians with a positive view of the United States rose from 54 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2005. And whereas a declining Europe has tended to be skeptical of India's rise, the Bush administration has been fully sympathetic to India's great-power aspirations.

Still, India does have growing economic and political ties with some European powers. Although many smaller European countries have been critical of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, the continent's two nuclear powers, France and the United Kingdom, have been supportive. Paris, in particular, bet long ago (well before Washington did, in fact) that a rising India would provide a good market for high-tech goods; with this in mind, it shielded New Delhi from the ire of the G-8 (the group of eight highly industrialized nations) after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998. In the last several years, the United Kingdom has also started to seize economic opportunities in India and has been generally accommodating of New Delhi's regional and global aspirations.

In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, India also worked to maintain a relationship with Russia. The two states resolved residual issues relating to their old semi-barter rupee-ruble trading arrangements, recast their 1971 peace and friendship treaty, and maintained military cooperation. When President Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin, in 2000, India's waiting game paid off. A newly assertive Moscow was determined to revive and expand its strategic cooperation with India. New Delhi's only problems with Moscow today are the weakening bilateral trade relationship and the risk of Russia's doing too much to strengthen China's military capabilities.

CHARM OFFENSIVE

At the end of the Cold War, the prospect of India's building a new political relationship with the United States seemed remote. Washington had long favored Pakistan and China in the region, India had in turn aligned itself with the Soviet Union, and a number of global issues seemed to pit the two countries against each other. Yet after the Cold War, India set about wooing the United States. For most of the Clinton administration, this sweet-talking fell on deaf ears, in part because Clinton officials were so focused on the Kashmir dispute and nonproliferation. Clinton, driven by the unshakable assumption that Kashmir was one of the world's most dangerous "nuclear flashpoints" and so needed to be defused, emphasized "preventive diplomacy" and was determined to "cap, roll back, and eventually eliminate" India's nuclear capabilities. Of course, Clinton's approach ran headlong into India's core national security concerns -- territorial integrity and preserving its nuclear option. Pressed by Washington to circumscribe its strategic capabilities, New Delhi reacted by testing nuclear weapons.

But even as it faced U.S. sanctions, New Delhi also began to proclaim that India was a natural ally of the United States. Although the Clinton administration was not interested in an alliance, the nuclear tests forced the United States to engage India seriously for the first time in five decades. That engagement did not resolve the nuclear differences, but it did bring Clinton to India in March 2000 -- the first American presidential visit to India in 22 years. Clinton's personal charm, his genuine empathy for India, and his unexpected support of India in the 1999 war with Pakistan succeeded in improving the atmospherics of the relations and in putting New Delhi on Washington's radar screen in a new way.

It took Bush, however, to transform the strategic context of U.S.-Indian relations. Convinced that India's influence will stretch far beyond its immediate neighborhood, Bush has reconceived the framework of U.S. engagement with New Delhi. He has removed many of the sanctions, opened the door for high-tech cooperation, lent political support to India's own war on terrorism, ended the historical U.S. tilt toward Pakistan on Kashmir, and repositioned the United States in the Sino-Indian equation by drawing closer to New Delhi.

India has responded to these sweeping changes by backing the Bush administration on missile defense, the International Criminal Court, and finding alternative approaches to confronting global warming. It lent active support to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by protecting U.S. assets in transit through the Strait of Malacca in 2002, agreed to work with the United States on multinational military operations outside of the UN framework, and, in 2005 and 2006, voted twice with Washington against Iran -- an erstwhile Indian ally -- at the International Atomic Energy Agency. India also came close to sending a division of troops to Iraq in the summer of 2003 before pulling back at the last moment. Every one of these actions marked a big departure in Indian foreign policy. And although disappointed by India's decision to stay out of Iraq, the Bush administration recognized that India was in the midst of a historic transformation of its foreign policy -- and kept faith that India's own strategic interests would continue to lead it toward deeper political cooperation with Washington. New Delhi's persistence in reaching out to Washington since 1991 has been driven by the belief that only by fundamentally changing its relationship with the world's sole superpower could it achieve its larger strategic objectives: improving its global position and gaining leverage in its relations with other great powers.

But India's ability to engage everyone at the same time might soon come to an end. As U.S.-Chinese tensions grow and Washington looks for ways to manage China's influence, questions about India's attitude toward the new power politics will arise: Can India choose to remain "nonaligned" between the United States and China, or does India's current grand strategy show a clear bias toward the United States?

The nuclear pact unveiled by Bush and Singh in July 2005 -- and consolidated when Bush went to New Delhi in March 2006 -- was an effort by Washington to influence the ultimate answer to that question. Bush offered to modify U.S. nonproliferation laws (subject to approval by Congress, of course) and revise the global nuclear order to facilitate full cooperation with India on civilian nuclear energy. New Delhi, in return, has promised to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs, place its civilian nuclear plants under international safeguards, and abide by a range of nonproliferation obligations. India's interest in such a deal has been apparent for a long time. Having failed to test weapons before the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was drafted, in 1968, India was trapped in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis the nuclear order: it was not willing to give up the nuclear option, but it could not be formally accommodated by the nonproliferation regime as a nuclear weapons state.

India's motives for wanting a change in the nuclear regime are thus obvious. But for the Bush administration, the deal is less about nuclear issues than it is about creating the basis for a true alliance between the United States and India -- about encouraging India to work in the United States' favor as the global balance of power shifts. Ironically, it was the lack of a history of mutual trust and cooperation -- stemming in part from past nuclear disputes -- that convinced the Bush administration that a nuclear deal was necessary.

AN IMPOSSIBLE ALLY?

Many critics argue that the Bush administration's hopes for an alliance are misplaced. They insist that the traditionally nonaligned India will never be a true ally of the United States. But such critics misunderstand India's nonalignment, as well as the nature of its realpolitik over the past 60 years. Contrary to a belief that is especially pervasive in India itself, New Delhi has not had difficulty entering into alliances when its interests so demanded. Its relationship with the Soviet Union, built around a 1971 peace and friendship treaty, had many features of an alliance (notwithstanding India's claim that such ties were consistent with nonalignment); the compact was in many ways a classic response to the alignment of Washington, Beijing, and Islamabad. India has also had treaty-based security relationships with two of its smaller neighbors, Bhutan and Nepal, that date back to 1949-50 -- protectorate arrangements that were a reaction to China's entry into Tibet.

In fact, there is no contradiction between India's alleged preference for "moralpolitik" (in opposition to pure power politics, or Machtpolitik) and the Bush administration's expectation of an alliance with India. New Delhi is increasingly replacing the idea of "autonomy," so dear to Indian traditionalists, with the notion of India's becoming a "responsible power." (Autonomy is thought appropriate for weak states trying to protect themselves from great-power competition but not for a rising force such as India.) As India starts to recognize that its political choices have global consequences, it will become less averse to choosing sides on specific issues. Alliance formation and balancing are tools in the kits of all great powers -- and so they are likely to be in India's as well.

That India is capable of forming alliances does not, however, mean that it will necessarily form a long-term one with the United States. Whether it does will depend on the extent of the countries' shared interests and their political capacity to act on them together. The Bush administration expects that such shared interests -- for example, in balancing China and countering radical Islam in the Middle East -- will provide the basis for long-term strategic cooperation. This outcome is broadly credible, but it is by no means inevitable, especially given the United States' seeming inability to build partnerships based on equality.

When it comes to facing a rising China, India's tendency to engage in regional balancing with Beijing has not come to an end with the proclamation of a strategic partnership between the two nations. Indeed, preventing China from gaining excessive influence in India's immediate neighborhood and competing with Beijing in Southeast Asia are still among the more enduring elements of India's foreign policy. Despite Western concerns about the military regime in Myanmar, New Delhi has vigorously worked to prevent Yangon from falling completely under Beijing's influence, and India's military ties with the Southeast Asian nations are expanding rapidly. In 2005, when Pakistan pushed for giving China observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India acted quickly to bring Japan, South Korea, and the United States in as well. Given India's deep-seated reluctance to play second fiddle to China in Asia and the Indian Ocean region -- and the relative comfort of working with a distant superpower -- there is a structural reason for New Delhi to favor greater security cooperation with Washington.

In the Middle East, too, India has a common interest with the United States in preventing the rise of radical Islam, which poses an existential threat to India. Given its large Muslim population -- at nearly 150 million, the third largest in the world -- and the ongoing tensions stemming from the subcontinent's partition, India has in the past acted on its own to avert the spread of radical Islam. When Washington aligned with conservative Islamic forces in the Middle East during the Cold War, India's preference was for secular nationalist forces in the region. When the United States acted ambivalently toward the Taliban in the mid-1990s, India worked with Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian states to counter the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance. Now, although some in India are concerned that alignment with the United States might make India a prime target for Islamist extremists, there is no way India can compromise with radical Islam, which threatens its very unity.

But shared interests do not automatically produce alliances. The inequality of power between the two countries, the absence of a habit of political cooperation between them, and the remaining bureaucratic resistance to deeper engagement in both capitals will continue to limit the pace and the scope of strategic cooperation between India and the United States. Still, there is no denying that India will have more in common with the United States than with the other great powers for the foreseeable future.

While New Delhi has acknowledged that U.S. support is necessary for India's rise to be successful, Washington has recognized India's potentially critical role in managing emerging challenges to global order and security. As a major beneficiary of accelerating globalization, India could play a crucial role in ensuring that other developing countries manage their transitions as successfully as it has, that is, by taking advantage of opportunities while working to reduce the pain of disruption. Given the pace of its expansion and the scale of its economy, India will also become an important force in ensuring that the unfolding global redistribution of economic power occurs in an orderly fashion. Meanwhile, India could become a key player in the effort to modernize the politics of the Middle East. If nothing else, India's success in ensuring the rights and the integration of its own Muslim minority and in reaching peace with Pakistan would have a powerful demonstration effect.

To secure a long-term partnership with India, Washington must build on the argument of "Indian exceptionalism" that it has advanced in defense of the recent nuclear pact, devising a range of India-specific policies to deepen cooperation. India is unlikely, however, to become a mere subsidiary partner of the United States, ready to sign on to every U.S. adventure and misadventure around the world. It will never become another U.S. ally in the mold of the United Kingdom or Japan. But nor will it be an Asian France, seeking tactical independence within the framework of a formal alliance.

Given the magnitude of the global security challenges today, the United States needs more than meek allies. It should instead be looking to win capable and compatible partners. A rising India may be difficult at times, but it will act broadly to defend and promote the many interests it shares with Washington. Assisting India's rise, then, is in the United States' own long-term interest.


          China may target slower economic growth: media   
This file photo shows a woman riding her tricycle, loaded with polystyrene boxes, in Shanghai. China might set an annual economic growth target below 8.0 percent for this year, state media said, as the leaders of the world's second largest economy acknowledge it is slowing.

03 March 2012
AFP News

China might set an annual economic growth target below 8.0 percent for this year, state media said, as the leaders of the world's second largest economy acknowledge it is slowing.

The report in the official Shanghai Securities News came before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivers an annual policy address to lawmakers on Monday, when he is due to announce economic goals for the year.

China's economy expanded by 9.2 percent last year, slowing from 10.4 percent in 2010, as global turbulence and efforts to tame high inflation put the brakes on growth.

"An economic growth rate adjusted down to around 7.5 percent will not have any impact on economic development," the newspaper quoted Li Guozhang, an academic at Lanzhou University and member of an advisory body to the National People's Congress, or legislature, as saying.


China typically exceeds the annual growth target unveiled every March at the parliament session, and most economists are predicting GDP growth of 8.0-8.5 percent for China this year.

The 2011 increase in gross domestic product was well above the government's 8.0 percent target.

In a bid to counter slowing exports, the government has cut reserve requirements for banks twice in the last three months to increase lending and give the economy a boost.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs has forecast China will set a lower GDP growth target of 7.5 percent at the legislative meeting, but said that implied the government was willing to accept slower growth.

"A slightly lower GDP growth target rate is sensible given the fall in the level of potential GDP growth," Goldman said Friday in a research report.

"It can also be viewed as a gesture from the central government that local governments should not focus solely on the pace of GDP growth."

China has sought to prod local governments to focus on the quality of growth instead of its speed, while also seeking to shift away from dependence on exports to other engines such as domestic consumption.

China could target containing inflation to less than 4.0 percent this year at the upcoming congress, the Shanghai Securities News said, amid worries surging prices could spark social unrest.

For all of 2011, China's consumer price inflation was 5.4 percent, official figures showed, well above the government's full-year target of 4.0 percent and higher than the 2010 rate of 3.3 percent.

          Can you beat that?   

A Cambodian woman rides on her motorbike loaded with vegetables for sale in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 01 March 2012.
A Cambodian motorized cart loaded with firewoods drives on a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 01 March 2012. Cambodia's economy is expected to grow 6.5 percent in 2012, up from 5.75 percent in the year 2011, the International Monetary Fund said in its annual review, adding that government policies to boost the investment climate were paying off. EPA/MAK REMISSA - 1 March, 2012

          Work in the digital economy in 2030   
On 20 and 21 June 2017, the ETUI Foresight Unit organised its first prospective seminar on the theme "Work in the digital economy in 2030". For two days, some twenty researchers, mainly academics but also from trade unions, from different countries of the European Union and experts in the fields of digitisation of the economy met in Brussels, at ETUI's premises, to discuss and debate possible scenarios.
          Lawmakers Prepare For Forthcoming Effects Of AI On The Economy   
Industry groups getting ready for changes that AI is set to create in job markets.
          03/24/17: Design for Government course in Design Museum's exhibition Enter and Encounter   
The optimistic exhibition focuses on the future, asking how design challenges the present and shapes things to come.

Enter and Encounter is a joint exhibition produced by Design Museum Finland and the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo, featuring contemporary design after Helsinki’s Design Capital Year of 2012. Aalto University's course Design for Government is nominated to take part in the exhibition!

The course 'Design for Government' is organised yearly at Aalto University since 2013, joining Finnish ministries together with multidisciplinary student teams to solve complex, policy-level challenges. The aim of the course is to introduce design as a strategic competence that can be applied in public sector decision-making. In the course, students apply empathic design approaches to identify stakeholder needs, systems approaches to analyze the wider context of policies, and behavioural insight to identify and design relevant solutions. Design for Government is at the frontier of design expansion into the public sector. It builds on a tradition of design ‘beyond the object’ – the design of processes, services, strategies and other immaterial products.

Design for Government has so far collaborated with 6 different ministries, and 70 alumni of the course span more than 11 disciplines and 4 universities. Ministry-commissioned projects range from addressing how building standards enable accessible and independent living and how the new national waste code should be enacted, to how agricultural production relates to the circular economy and nutrition at schools. Solutions created by students range from simplifying web services to rewriting policy documents. In the exhibition Enter and Encounter, the course and its objectives are displayed through a video documentary. The documentary depicts the various design activities in the course, student proposals and impacts from students’ and ministry perspectives.

Team: Taneli Heinonen, Seungho Lee, Hella Hernberg, Juha Kronqvist, Ramia Mazé; curatorial assistant Miina Pohjolainen and video documentary Roman Lihhavtshuk.

More info: http://www.designmuseum.fi/en/exhibitions/enter_and_encounter-2/


          Exim Summit 18th November 2015   

  We were excited to be involved in the EximSummit in Croke Park on the 18th November 2015. The continued growth of the export-import sector has been the driving force of the Irish economy’s record recovery. Now more than ever, it is vital for Irish businesses to capitalise on opportunities available to them, to consider exciting ventures and to build new relationships. EXIM Summit – the only event of its kind – provided export-import practitioners with a forum for education, innovation and thought leadership, and a platform for continued growth. We met old friends and new and got to chat to a number of new exporters and those involved in the export field. Big congrats to the Mespil Group and their fantastic team for delivering the well attended day. Looking forward to what comes next! Chris

The post Exim Summit 18th November 2015 appeared first on Irish Export Cooperative.


          Distributional aspects of the crisis in Greece   
The current policy debate on the debt crisis in Greece has so far focused mostly on macroeconomic aspects and on whether the Greek government has sufficient political capital to deliver the reforms agreed with the European Commission and the IMF for receipt of financial aid. The ETUI, at the September gathering of its Monthly Forum, will provide an alternative perspective on this issue by looking into some of the distributional implications of the fiscal austerity and deep recession currently experienced by the Greek economy.
          A New Political Economy for Europe   
ETUI senior researcher Andrew Watt participated in the conference ‘A Political Economy for the Good Society’ organised by the FES London and Compass on 18-19 November 2010. He discussed the requirements of a new political economy for Europe.
          Machine Over Mind In A New Economy46:46Download   
➡🖒⛧Well worth a listen!⛧🖒⬅. Robots moving deeper into the American workplace—how much decision-making will we turn over to machines? For all the change that has come with the digital revolution – in the ways we work and communicate and do business – the real impact still lies ahead. Computers – machines themselves – are become […]
          Dickson Despommier: Urban Agriculture and the Vertical Farm // Economy, People & Planet 2015   
Read more
          Spy vs Spy: Stuck in the Funhouse   

Funhouses are only fun when you can leave them. When the distorting mirror images become your new, day-to-day reality construct, then it's not so much fun anymore. 

I dreaded the 2016 Election because I had a very strong feeling that no matter who won we'd be plunged into a dystopian paradigm in which major power blocs would erupt into all-out warfare. And I sensed that neither Trump nor Clinton possessed the political skills or the communicative powers to keep the carnage fully out of our view. Or our path.


And I was right.


Trump's only been in office for a little over two months and I'm exhausted already. I'm certainly not alone in this. It all feels like a TV sitcom in its seventh season, well after the writers ran out of story ideas. The shark has been good and jumped. And the ratings (the approval ratings, in this case) are plunging too.


What is truly demoralizing though is the utter transparency of the secret war playing out, the seemingly endless spy vs spy thrust and counter-thrust, and the obvious deceptions. Even more so is the Animal Farm-like metamorphosis of the Democratic Party into a full-blown, funhouse mirror of McCarthy-era Republicans, but with Glenn Beck-worthy conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.


I don't know about you but all of a sudden the world seems especially cold, hard, gray, harsh. Masks are coming off, velvet gloves tossed into wastebins. It doesn't seem to matter who wins the scorpion fight, you're still stuck with a scorpion.  

We can't call out the play-by-play because it's largely being acted out behind closed doors. But we can look at the collateral damage and make certain speculations. There's no doubt that it would all be just as bad-- probably worse-- if Hillary won. Even so, this all feels especially grating.

You've probably seen this story:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington pizzeria that became the subject of a conspiracy theory about human trafficking last year. 
Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was thrust into the spotlight last year after a gunman allegedly fired a shot inside the restaurant. The suspect said he was investigating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the restaurant. 
The theory, which became known as Pizzagate, had circulated among far-right conspiracy theory websites and social media accounts. 
“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones, who runs Infowars, said in a video. James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong. 
Jones said his website relied on reporters who are no longer employed by Infowars and that video reports about Pizzagate were removed from the website. He also invited Alefantis onto the show to discuss the incident.
It was preceded by this story:
FBI’S RUSSIA PROBE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE ‘PIZZAGATE’ THREATS 
According to McClatchy News, the FBI’s Russian-influence probe agents are exploring whether far-right news operations, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart News and Infowars, “took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”  Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, a member of the Trump transition team, were among those who boosted the so-called “PizzaGate” pedophile conspiracy theory.
I doubt this will quell the fervor among the Pizzagaters on sites like 4chan and Voat. Given the suspicion many on the fringes regard Jones with it may in fact give the flagging movement a fresh jolt. Jones' apology may also have to do with the drive to purge YouTube of "extremist" content and the controversy over the use of advertising on videos corporate clients find objectionable. A World without Sin, as our Gordon might put it. 


Washington Post headline, pre-election.

So much for theories that the FBI was ready to make mass arrests of prominent Washington figures related to Pizzagate.  Has any "mass arrest" Internet story ever panned out?  

Maybe it has:
Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20. And in one short month, there were more than 1,500 arrests for sex crimes ranging from trafficking to pedophilia.  
Big deal? You bet. In all of 2014, there were fewer than 400 sex trafficking-related arrests, according to FBI crime statistics. Liz Crokin at TownHall.com has put together a great piece on the push by the Trump administration to crack down on sex crimes. And she notes that while "this should be one of the biggest stories in the national news... the mainstream media has barely, if at all, covered any of these mass pedophile arrests. This begs the question – why?
This may have nothing to do with Trump-- in fact, it's likely it doesn't-- since these kinds of actions are planned out months in advance. The arrests continue, in case you were wondering, with major busts going down on a near-weekly basis. Someone's cleaning house. 

For what it's worth, I always reckoned that Pizzagate was in fact cover/distraction for a more hidden struggle, one that would take place under the radar*. As I noted back in November:

No one is saying as much but this very much feels connected to a deeper, more covert war. 
Why would I say such a thing? Because at the same time the Pizzagate story went dark we've seen major strikes taken against international pedophilia, which actually is a global conspiracy, with its own networks, secret codes and moles within established centers of power such as schools, police departments and governments.  
With such combustible accusations-- and such potential for a scandal that could quickly spread out of control (ie., involve political figures you're not trying to destroy)-- you'd naturally expect the action to go dark and the fall guys to be placed pretty far down the foodchain. (Remember that a prior investigation bagged one of the most powerful people in Washington at one time, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert).†


"EVER WONDER WHAT IT'D BE LIKE TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH?" 



It may be sheer coincidence, but James Alefantis' former partner suffered a major heart attack this week
Media Matters for America founder David Brock was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. 
According to a press release from MMA, the founder of the liberal media watchdog and analysis website was rushed to the hospital early Tuesday afternoon and received treatment.
Sure, it may be coincidence. But I couldn't help but remember this story, published soon after the election
Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us 
Democrats know they need someone to lead them out of the wilderness. But, they say, that someone is not David Brock.

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding ademoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.
 
"Disappear." Huh. 
Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.
It's worth remembering that Breitbart.com Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack at the age of 43. A year before he'd posted a cryptic tweet that some have since linked to the Pizzagate imbroglio.  Just before his death he hyped some revelation about Barack Obama's past. 

A coroner in the office handling Breitbart's body subsequently died of arsenic poisoning. The day Breitbart's autopsy results were revealed, in fact.

COME BACK ROY COHN, ALL IS FORGIVEN


We also saw James Comey revive Russiagate, which had been flatlining after Vault 7. Any illusions among Trump fans that the FBI was secretly on their side were ground into powder, between this revelation and the Pizzagate conspiracy investigations. 

One can't help but wonder if the New Praetorians (I've noticed that the Praetorian meme has been picked up by more prominent commentators, but you heard it here first) are losing their last shred of patience with Donald Trump's shenanigans and are planning imminent regime change: 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump’s associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats. 
In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump’s claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they’ve seen no evidence to support it.
How surreal is the world in which you know live in? So much so that mainstream political site The Hill is comparing the action in Washington to a Stanley Kubrick film, one which has become notorious for the conspiracy theories that have been projected onto it (and is well familiar to Synchronauts):
On the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Shining, Stephen King must be wondering if Washington is working on its own sequel. For the last couple months, Washington has been on edge, like we are all trapped in Overlook Hotel with every day bringing a new “jump scare,” often preceded by a telltale tweet. Indeed, a Twitter whistle has replaced suspenseful music to put the entire city on the edge of their seats. 
In this Shining sequel, however, people are sharply divided on who is the deranged ax-wielding villain in this lodge, the president or the press. Ironically, with the recent disclosure that some of the Trump campaign may indeed have been subject to surveillance, the president is looking more like Danny Torrence, a character dismissed for constantly muttering “redrum, redrum” until someone finally looked in a mirror at the reverse image to see the true message.
Yeah, I'm not really feeling that metaphor there, but whatever. It's been that kind of year.

Now the Internet is burning up with theories that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has "turned" and is going to testify against the Trump Administration, or at least figures attached to it. 


It's hard to imagine a three-star general can be stupid enough to be guilty of things Flynn's been accused of but that may speak to a culture of impunity in Washington, in which your misdeeds are only punished if you get on the wrong side of the wrong people.

LIKE A BAD CYBERPUNK NOVEL


One wonders if the secret war has spread outside Washington. Car service giant Uber seems to be having a major run of rotten luck lately: 
Uber Technologies Inc. is suspending its self-driving car program after one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a high-impact crash in Tempe, Arizona, the latest incident for a company reeling from multiple crises. 
In a photo posted on Twitter, one of Uber’s Volvo self-driving SUVs is pictured on its side next to another car with dents and smashed windows. An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the incident, and the veracity of the photo, and added that the ride-hailing company is suspending its autonomous tests in Arizona until it completes its investigation and pausing its Pittsburgh operations.

The incident also comes as Uber, and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, are currently under scrutiny because of a series of scandals. The ride-hailing company has been accused of operating a sexist workplace. This month, the New York Times reported that Uber used a tool called Greyball to help drivers evade government regulators and enforcement officials. Kalanick said he needed "leadership help" after Bloomberg published a video showing him arguing with an Uber driver.
So who did Kalanick piss off? 

Coincidentally- there's that word again- the crash comes soon after Wikileaks revealed that CIA hackers had the ability to override the computer systems in automobiles. From Mashable:

WikiLeaks has published a trove of files it says are linked to the CIA's hacking operations — which apparently includes efforts to hack into cars.  
The first in a series called "Vault 7," "Year Zero" supposedly comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.  
"Year Zero" details the CIA's malware arsenal and "zero day" exploits against Apple iPhones, Google's Android operating system, Microsoft Windows and even Samsung TVs.  
 According to a document from 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. 
Oh, that's reassuring. Speaking of control systems, apparently pimps are controlling prostitutes with RFID chips:
It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money. 
 “It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It's an RFID chip. It's used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody's pet that they owned.” 
This is human trafficking. It’s a marginal issue here in the U.S. for most of us. Part of that is because the average person isn’t sure what human trafficking – or modern day slavery – actually means.
Technology is our friend, right? And now this: 
Turkish Hackers Threaten To Wipe Millions Of iPhones; Demand Ransom From Apple 
Today, courtesy of CIO, we learn that a group of hackers referring to themselves as the "Turkish Crime Family", has been in direct contact with Apple and is demanding a $150,000 ransom by April 7th or they will proceed to wipe as many as 600 million apple devices for which they allegedly have passwords. 
The group said via email that it has had a database of about 519 million iCloud credentials for some time, but did not attempt to sell it until now. The interest for such accounts on the black market has been low due to security measures Apple has put in place in recent years, it said.

Since announcing its plan to wipe devices associated with iCloud accounts, the group claimed that other hackers have stepped forward and shared additional account credentials with them, putting the current number it holds at over 627 million.

According to the hackers, over 220 million of these credentials have been verified to work and provide access to iCloud accounts that don't have security measures like two-factor authentication turned on.
 
Of course, if credible, with an ask of just $150k, this is the most modest group of hackers we've ever come across.
Given the war that's erupted between the increasingly aggressive Turkish government and the EU, money may clearly not be the object here. Turkish PM Erdogan is clearly set on reconstructing the old Ottoman Empire and shivving Apple might just be part of the march.

Besides, Turkey is taking that recent coup attempt-- which is almost universally blamed on the CIA-- very personally.


Speaking of the EU, we've seen stories that Trump advisor Steve Bannon wants to dissolve the union. Which may be why Trump-adversary John McCain announced his unalloyed support for it- and the "New World Order" (his words, not mine):
The world "cries out for American and European leadership" through the EU and Nato, US senator John McCain said on Friday (24 March). 
In a "new world order under enormous strain" and in "the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can't stand by and lament, we've got to be involved," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who is now chairman of the armed services committee in the US Senate. 
Speaking at the Brussels Forum, a conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, he said that the EU and the US needed to develop "more cooperation, more connectivity". 
"I trust the EU," he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK "was so smart in getting out" of the EU and that Nato was "obsolete". 
He said that the EU was "one of the most important alliances" for the US and that the EU and Nato were "the best two sums in history", which have maintained peace for the last 70 years. "We need to rely on Nato and have a Nato that adjusts to new challenges," he said.
Would McCain speak this way to a domestic audience? Of course not. Or maybe he would- I can't tell which way is up anymore. But either way it's good to know where he really stands.

Like McCain, China continues to sound a similar note of support for globalization, on which its very economic survival so desperately depends:
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance. 
“The river of globalization and free trade will always move forward with unstoppable momentum to the vast ocean of the global economy,” Zhang said. China will remain a strong force in the world economy and for peace and stability, he said, adding that countries must respect one another’s core interests and refrain from undermining regional stability. 
I suppose this is why China is off the target list for our new Cold (?) Warriors.

I've resisted posting on all this because it's all so depressing. I've actually written a few pieces on this chicanery that I ended up roundfiling. But I suppose I just wanted to go on the record about all this skullduggery, for posterity's sake.



UPDATE: Sex trafficking arrests and trials continue to proliferate. Most recent bust, an international ring in Minnesota. There is way too much activity going down in too short a time for this to be spontaneous.


* Which is exactly why I refrained from commenting on it here for the most part, instead noting that it had become a kind of memetic virus in much the same way that the Franklin/Boy's Town scandal had in the 90s. (Note that prior to the election-- and Pizzagate-- Trump nemesis the Washington Post was all over the issue of sex trafficking in the nation's capital). 

† The ongoing legal and police actions coinciding with the moves to shut down the Pizzagate fringes on the Web seem like the exact kind of action one would expect if there were a serious operation at work. Shutting down the Internet chatter makes perfect sense in this context because it can only complicate cases made by prosecutors. 
          Why is AirBnB Bad?   
Condos are fighting back against AirBnb

  • Wild parties
  • Never Ending Visitors
  • Over Use of Common Elements
  • Owner Apathy causes values to decrease   


Pick one!

Here's what Lash Condo Law had to say...
What do you think? 

With the growth in the “sharing economy”, many condominiums have been forced to turn their minds to the issue of short-term rentals.  While some investor owners are listing their units on short-term rental sites in order to maximize the revenue generated from their units, many resident owners do not welcome short-term rentals.From the perspective of resident owners, short-term rentals have negative ramifications:§ They detract from the sense of community that many residents desire
§ There are increased concerns about safety with so many strangers coming and going at all hours
§ There is increased wear and tear on the common elements
§ Inappropriate behavior by many short-term renters interferes with the quiet enjoyment of residents
§ The condominium is in effect an unlicensed, unregulated hotel.
Without any legislation that prohibits short-term rentals in condominiums, many condominium corporations are finding it quite challenging to put a stop to this type of activity in their building. However, there have been recent reports in the media about some condominium corporations that are winning the battle against short-term rentals.CBC News reported about a condominium where owners were able to successfully oust from the board, directors who favoured short-term rentals, even though the condominium documents prohibited rentals for a term less than a year. In this case, there were two short-term rental companies that leased units from investor owners and then in turn, advertised and rented the units on a short-term basis and had been doing so for five years.  It took two years for the resident owners to get control of the board so that the prohibition on short-term rentals in the condominium documents would be enforced.The Globe and Mail recently reported about a condominium concierge who was spending several hours a day scanning short-term rental websites looking for units being offered in his building.  He was also keeping a diligent lookout for strangers arriving with luggage and refusing to allow them entry into the building.While it may not be easy or quick to put a stop to short-term rentals, these two stories show that it can be done.Click hereto access our Practical Guide to Short-Term Stays (Hoteling), which provides practical steps to condominium boards to effectively address this issue.


 What do you think? 

David Pylyp
http://Humberbayshore.com
          One in 10 could be behind with their mortgage   
The high level of debt carried by Home Owners in Toronto is exceeding their capacity to safe for their rainy day fund.   One singular event, a car accident or if one wage earner is laid off can have serious consequences.

We may qualify at the posted rates and take a mortgage at the variable rates; additional expenses make it harder to save for retirement or that annual vacation.

Who says so?   CD Howe Institute.  December of 2015

 The portion of mortgage indebted households with a primary mortgage debt-to-disposable income ratio in excess of 500 percent has climbed from 3 percent in 1999 to 11 percent in 2012.December 9, 2015 – The federal government should pay close attention to several pockets of risk in the Canadian housing market, according to a new C.D. Howe Institute report. In “Mortgaged to the Hilt: Risks From The Distribution of Household Mortgage Debt,” authors Craig Alexander and Paul Jacobson expose pockets of vulnerability by going beyond national averages and focusing on the distribution of house mortgage debt by income, age and region, all of which matter most when assessing risk.
“Household mortgage debt has risen dramatically and traditional economy-wide averages understate the degree of financial risk for those that carried mortgages because they typically divide the value of mortgages across the income of households with and without mortgages”, remarks Alexander.
Using the data from the Survey of Financial Security, the authors find that the ratio of the value of mortgages on primary dwellings have jumped from 144 percent of after-tax income in 1999 to 204 percent in 2012.  However, this also understates the degree of financial risk for a significant minority of households.
The author’s analysis suggests that a significant minority of Canadians having taken on a high degree of financial risk. The portion of mortgage indebted households with a primary mortgage debt-to-disposable income ratio in excess of 500 percent has climbed from 3 percent in 1999 to 11 percent in 2012. Their analysis of the distribution of mortgage debt is as follows:
  1. Income: The increase in highly mortgage-indebted households has been in all income groups, but more so in lower-income quintiles.
  1. Age: The increase in financial risk is also evident across all age groups, but more so for younger Canadians who have entered the market most recently.
  1. Region: As one might expect, there has been greater concentration of mortgage debt in the provinces with the strongest housing booms.
Additionally, the authors find that roughly 1-in-5 of mortgage indebted households have less than $5,000 in financial assets to draw upon in response to a loss of income or to higher debt service costs. 1-in-10 mortgage-indebted households have less than $1,500 in financial assets to address any shock. This represents an inadequate financial buffer, as average mortgage payments are more than $1,000 a month, before taxes and operating costs.
The federal government may want to consider further policy actions to lean against the shift towards significantly higher mortgage burdens. However, such policy measures should not be unduly heavy handed and should be targeted to address the distributional nature of the risks.
For example, potential targeted measures would be to tighten underwriting requirements by lifting required credit scores, capping total debt-service ratios at lower levels, lifting qualifying interest rates when doing income testing, or varying the minimum downpayment by the size of mortgage to target higher-priced markets. Such measures would build on the regulatory tightening already done to date without posing a material threat to Canadian real estate markets. https://www.cdhowe.org/sites/default/files/attachments/research_papers/mixed/Commentary_441_0.pdf    Click here for the full report

Getting the correct Mortgage Advice; living with your means and eliminating HIGH Interest rate credit card debt all count towards securing your long term comfort.  I recommend a debt check up with http://RenewyourMortgage.ca

Because the best mortgage is NO mortgage at all.

David Pylyp

TXT 647 218 2414 or Email
          Fill 'Er Up: Gas Is Under $3 for the First Time in 4 Years   

By Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer NEW YORK -- The sight is so surprising that Americans are sharing photos of it, along with all those cute Halloween costumes, sweeping vistas and special meals: the gas station sign, with a price of $2-something a gallon. "It's stunning what's happening here," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. "I'm a little bit shocked." Must Read: 10 Stocks Carl Icahn Loves in 2014 The national average price of gasoline fell 33 cents to end October at $3 a gallon and dipped Saturday to $2.995, according to AAA. That marks the first time in four years that gas has been cheaper than $3 a gallon. When the national average crossed above $3 a gallon in December of 2010, drivers weren't sure they'd ever see $2.99 again. Global demand for oil and gasoline was rising as people in developing countries bought cars by the tens of millions and turmoil was brewing in the oil-rich Middle East. Now demand isn't rising as fast as expected, drillers have learned to tap vast new sources of oil, particularly in the U.S., and crude continues to flow out of the Middle East. Seasonal swings and other factors will likely send gas back over $3 sooner than drivers would like, but the U.S. is on track for the lowest annual average since 2010 -- and the 2015 average is expected to be lower even still. Trisha Pena of Hermitage, Tennessee, recently paid $2.57 a gallon to fill up her Honda CRV. Like many around the country these days, she was so surprised and delighted by the price she took a photo and posted it on social media for her friends to see. "I can't remember the last time it cost under $30 to put 10 or 11 gallons in my tank," she said in an interview. "A month ago it was in the $3.50 range, and that's where it had been for a very long time." Must Read: Jim Cramer: What the Fall in Oil Means Here are a few things to know about cheap gas: Crude prices came off the boil. Oil fell from $107 a barrel in June to near $81 because there's a lot of supply and weak demand. U.S. output has increased 70% since 2008, and supplies from Iraq and Canada have also increased. At the same time, demand is weaker than expected because of a sluggish global economy. In the past, a stronger economy in the U.S., the world's biggest consumer of oil and gasoline, typically meant rising fuel demand. No longer. Americans are driving more efficient vehicles and our driving habits are changing. Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute calculates that the number of miles travelled per household and gallons of fuel consumed per household peaked in 2004. The drop from last year's average of $3.51 per gallon will save the typical U.S. household about $50 a month. The drop will save the U.S. economy $187 million a day, and also boost the profits of shippers, airlines and any company that sends employees out on sales calls or for deliveries. It will take an extra 1.5 years to make purchasing a higher-priced, better-mileage Toyota Prius instead of a Toyota Corolla pay off. New York's average of $3.365 is the highest in the continental U.S. South Carolina and Tennessee are the lowest, with an average of $2.74. Politicians are either going to take the credit for lower gasoline prices or blame the other party for not helping them fall further. Don't listen. There are small things politicians can do over long time horizons, like implement fuel economy standards or ease drilling regulations, but the decline in prices is mainly due to market forces. Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon. The annual average for milk is on track to be more expensive than the annual average for gasoline for the first time since 2011. The gap is even bigger for some bottled water lovers. A case of a dozen 1.5 liter bottles of Evian on Amazon.com costs $38.99, which makes for a price per gallon of $8.20. Must Read: Oil Services Stocks Are Now Too Cheap to Ignore as Crude Oil Prices Slide

Click to view a price quote on HMC.

Click to research the Automotive industry.


          You should know the facts to Change your life in 2016   
What prices should we watch this year?   Everything is going to be more expensive!

We faced financial extinction in 2008 and bounced back. The average Toronto detached home approaches $622k. Sales continue unabated averaging 10% per year in financial gains per year since '95 breaking 100K units in the GTA. 

The key seems to be consistency.

This could be coming to an end.

**
**


Oil Prices have been falling, much to our delight at the gas pumps but now we realise that OIL and Gas related employment accounts for 25% of our economy. Increased expenses for everything we eat, as we suffer with exchange rate that is an eleven year low.

Brick-and-mortar stores still have value in the form of sales and brand experience, but if they’re not building a strong online presence in tandem, they’ll quickly find themselves out of the running.

Canadian Consumers are increasingly shopping online.

Mortgage Finance rules have changed requiring Larger downpayments and stricter lending guidelines. Those Millennials fortunate enought to have found a decent paying dependable job will some trouble qualifying for new mortgages; Those with contract work will find it a struggle. 

With so much weakness in the domestic economic picture,  uncertainty over oil prices and negativity in Canadian markets, year-end seems a good time for homeowners to focus on eliminating debt and consider finally working towards being debt free.

We All still see Canada as a safe haven for investment and immigration. People will continue to arrive and 95% want the Canadian dream of Home ownership. 


It all simply comes down to consumer confidance... 


I dont have an APP    Just call me  
Let me help you with my best pricing tools

David Pylyp
Sales Representative
Accredited Senior Agent
Toronto Canada 

RE/MAX Realty Specialists Inc., Brokerage
Mississauga, ON








          Comment on Are we still buying local? by PhyllisAlberici   
Hi Viv, It's great to hear from you and we're happy to let folks know that Summer is, in fact and despite the ornery weather, on its way and so is your festival. I love smaller fiber festivals where you can really get into conversations with the vendors and take time to see everything. Bouckville is about 2+/- hrs from Albany in some really pretty central New York scenery. When we started Fiber Arts we made a commitment to support local economy and local stores and events. Although you can't ignore the online yarn offerings, you also can't squish the yarn or appreciate color looking at a skein on a monitor. Your festival is going to have some great resources for spinners, as well as knitters, and those who love fiber animals.
          Miu Miu new autumn and winter accessories   
Miu Miu new autumn and winter accessories Despite the continuing downturn in the world economy into a quagmire, but a dazzling new handbag, no matter when and where the uniqueness of women are encouraged. Take a look at miu miu's autumn and winter accessories, artificial crystal rhinestones, shiny beads, metal chain, and the small rivet with spikes and accessories, all as all the girls so excited about this new element excited. If the alternative miu miu handbags, have not seen one show to see, too many people's first reaction is that it is used to buy food, right? Miu miu bag in the shape of this it is like basket, at first glance really like the leather, but rather rattan things, but this red is indeed very attractive, but rarely sees the big launch this type of package shall. If you are carrying such a bag to go shopping, estimated retention rates high, but to attend a solemn occasion, I am afraid have a little careful. Designers very carefully, miu miu bags; there is also a small bag, so afraid of what would fall out. Source& lt;span style="font-family: ?v??; mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri">?Fthe article post on http://www.miumiuin.com
          The Entire Trump Agenda Is Now at Risk   

Ryan Lizza: “The GOP has adopted a major—even radical—agenda: transforming a massive sector of the economy, slashing taxes and rewriting the entire tax code, passing a budget that would dramatically reduce the size of government, and, in the middle of all of that, raising the debt limit. They have a plan to accomplish almost all…

link: The Entire Trump Agenda Is Now at Risk


          The Century-Long Evolution Of Barrio Gangs In San Antonio   
A new book examining barrio gangs in San Antonio asserts that " participation in street violence, drug selling, and other parts of the informal economy are functional adaptations to the social structure." What is the history of barrio gangs in San Antonio and other large Texas cities? How have social and technological changes affected barrio networking and the street lifestyle? What effects have intergenerational shifts had on these gangs?
             
Mother of all Establishments

The ruling class, the creme de la creme, the establishment - the mother of all establishments in fact - what is it like? Its wit tends to be both dry and acerbic. Its city is New York. Its profession is attorney. Its manner cool. Its clothes black. Its heroes Kennedys. Its music is mostly jazz standards I think. Its passion is film, or maybe dating. (Though I doubt their self-conscious coupling deserves the name of passion.) Its ethnicity is mixed, but the Anglo-Saxon and Jewish elements predominate. Its politics are moderate but liberal on certain social issues like abortion.

Many minor-league establishments send their best players to the big leagues. The ultimate establishment draws from corporate CEO's; judges; college presidents; the highest ranks of the military; union bosses; partners in prestigious law firms; titans of finance; media royalty; upper echelons of the ever-spreading government bureaucracies; nabobs from the political world - governors, senators, etc.; successful entertainers of all kinds- talk show hosts, rap artists, journalists. Powers from other nations are included: prime ministers, despots, treasury secretaries, generals, top smugglers and rights activists. The distillation of all these subsidiary elites, everyone from bankers to performance artists, physicists and film stars, mayors who've clawed their way up from the streets alongside the residue of the most aristocratic families - are all blended together to create the mother of all establishments.

Don't confuse the ultimate establishment with the penultimate establishment. The penultimate establishment consists of conservative Republicans picked to play the role of the ultimate establishment. They are the designated target, the Simon Legree at whom we are directed to hiss. They, very visibly, perform the disagreeable but necessary tasks of Power. They are the millionaires who keep the economy moving, the generals who keep the armies moving. They are the father figures who can, eventually, be safely discarded.

If you think these Republicans are in fact the ultimate establishment they are supposed to be you are wrong: 1) Conservative Republicans always lose the bitter battles over social policy - the struggles over segregation, abortion, feminism, gay rights, etc. 2) The supreme establishment would never, at least visibly, ally itself with the rich or the military. The rich are wildly unpopular (They like escaping their tax obligation as much as cutting badly-needed services to working people.) The military commanders may be popular domestically, but they are hated abroad. The supreme establishment instead derives power from pretending to battle these dangerous forces. 3) Businessmen are ruled by the market, by the desires of consumers. The government, in contrast, can do whatever it wants - it can arrest you; jail you; take your house, your children, all your money.

What are the beliefs of the mother of all establishments? While hostile to the world's religions, especially those denigrated as "fundamentalist", the ultimate establishment does possess a faith. They hate any restrictions placed on individuals by churches or clan patriarchs or rural communities - any restrictions placed on individuals by Tradition.

The era of this ultimate establishment is nearly over. Soon they and their urbane vanities will disappear. Then I think people will wonder how so few ruled over so many for so long.
          BREXIT - ONE YEAR ON: County's economy 'in good shape'   
OXFORDSHIRE'S economy remains strong and is growing one year on from the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, according to one of the county's top business leaders.
          Damn Banks   
Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have become huge world financial centers in the past 40 years. With the oil export and tourism income there is plenty of cash flow that attracts international banks as well as made home grown institutions very wealthy. For the most part these banks are some of the safest and most innovative in the world. One can even instantly pay a parking meter or almost any bill from a cell phone text message.

However, the banking business must be the lowest risk enterprise in the UAE. I am sure they take care of each other and big corporate clients in the "Good Old Boy " club but the ordinary retail guys seem to get it in the neck. 35 % interest on credit cards and an unholy alliance with immigrations assures a healthy profit and jail time for anyone attempting to leave the country with debt.

You will take it and like it! (Apologies to Gunny Ermey!)


Many innocents are lured with fast and easy credit when first arriving here and get into a big bind. It is tempting with the apparent affluent lifestyle of fancy cars and designer shops.  People should pay their debts but should be able to do so from another country if they choose. That option is not available here.

But Solar Powered ATMs Are


I recently had problems with my bank, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). This firm sent out a notice a few months ago that they were upgrading their website and I would have to make some adjustments such as losing my templates I used to transfer money and pay bills. From my past experiences with the national telephone, internet and cable TV companies, I had a strong feeling this website upgrade was not going to end well. It didn't.

We Like You!!


Two days after the "upgrade" I tried to log on and got errors and denied access. I called the help desk and was assured the problem would be handled and I would be called back with the magic solution. No call back for 2 days. I called again and my password was reset....failure again. I made my 3rd call and was told I can't be helped because the technical center was now closed despite the on-hold recording proudly announcing online help was available 24/7. The same recording told me to press 4 for online support and after suffering through more minutes of raucous advertisements it told me to press 6 for the special online help desk. So I did.

Mind you, I have a lot of bills to pay back in the US and I have to refill that bucket every month ontime or suffer some very expensive consequences. That urgency was lost on my bank. I finally got the site working after another lengthy phone call only to find it takes many more levels of security, passwords, questions, token codes and I had to redo all my payment templates. Very clunky and not an improvement. I do not mind security, but this could have been made sleeker and more user friendly. I suspect I will cringe everytime I have to do online banking again. I just expect something else to go wrong.

This Big Building Didn't Just Spring Out Of The Ground By Itself


Overall, NBAD is not a bad bank but they screwed this up. Remember, the rules are different here and things are definitely tilted in the banks' favor. You will not win, ever. The vast majority of my friends and co-workers have horror stories about their dealings with UAE banks.

My recommendations:

DO NOT get a local credit card, even if it says Visa or Mastercard on it, the rules are different. Read the fine print. Keep cards and debt in your home country.

DO NOT buy a new car. Get a good used one, they are cheap and plentiful.

DO NOT go into any kind of debt here. The banks are ruthless and if things go tits-up for you, you could get prison time. Its the law. You will severely limit your "options".

DO NOT  keep more in your local UAE account than you need to live on month to month. Send the excess back home. The banks will take what is in your account on the slightest pretense such as a traffic violation. Geez, they even want ~$40USD to give you a clearance letter saying you do not owe them any money.

I am not picking on the UAE banks specifically, they just have their own rules that are bad for us consumers. The banking industry in the USA has caused far more damage to the global economy and hurt more people than a UAE bank could ever do. Shame on them and their greedy ways. They screwed up a good thing, may they rot in hell!




















          The End of an Era?   
At the end my last post, I wrote briefly about some signs I noticed that seem to signal the general decline in the American spirit. The economy is in the crapper, unemployment is high, many people have lost their life savings and the government is more unresponsive and corrupt than I have ever seen. I saw first-hand on my trip last month how these things have a negative effect on the individual citizen's and the national collective psyche. The whole country is in a blue funk.

An event happened last week that twisted the knife of despair a bit more; the last US manned space flight mission ended as the Space Shuttle touched down at Kennedy Space Center. It was a good 50 year run that I personally thought would never end.

Final Space Shuttle Landing at Cape Canaveral


I have enough years under my belt to remember most of the manned space program, it was always an interest of mine and I assumed it would always be around to innovate, explore and inspire. Mercury, Gemini and Apollo......those names were known by all and generated excitement all over the world. Obviously, the lunar landings were the pinnacle of the manned missions.

Schematic of Mercury Spacecraft


Original Mercury Astronauts
Gemini Space Capsule
Apollo Schematic
Lunar Excursion Module. Your mobile phone has more computing power than this thing did! Yet they pulled it off!
The Eagle has Landed
Us Americans just HAD to get a car up there


The moon shots would prove hard acts to follow. The Space Shuttle was already on the drawing board during the Apollo program. It was conceived as a vehicle to usher in the next phase of space exploration, sustainability.. The design was to contain many reusable parts. Compared to the sleek Saturn V rockets of the Apollo program, the Shuttle was chunky and utilitarian as befitted its mission of hauling stuff into low Earth orbit.

The Space Shuttle failed to captivate the imagination of the public.The mission was boring but ended up productive.
Saturn V used in the Apollo Program

Saturn V Liftoff, Loud and Sexy!


Predictably, as the excitement and danger of the previous far reaching missions gave way to a "space truck" taking lab rats into low orbit, public interest waned even though a lot of valuable research was done that resulted in many things we take for granted today. The Shuttle program, although productive, just wasn't sexy.

The Space Shuttle needed to be retired. It was old technology even when it was new and proved to be way more troublesome and expensive than imagined. It never achieved the goal of almost monthly launches as envisioned by its architects.We lost two of them, Challenger and Discovery.. Challenger from brittle O rings and Discovery from some bad ceramic heat tiles. Time to put the old girl back in the barn.

Challenger Explosion


What upsets me is that there is no replacement on the horizon. For the first time in 50 years, the US is incapable of sending a human into space. Now we have to hitch a very expensive ride on Russia's Soyuz capsule that was designed in the 1960's. The Soyuz is currently the only game in town.

Russian Soyuz in Orbit
Soyuz Schematic
A Not so Subtle Soyuz Landing in Kazakhstan, Hey, But It Works!!!

Soyuz Post Landing. Vodka consumption  is part of the re-entry checklist.


If they pull the plug on that relic, I hope the last astronaut leaving the multi-billion dollar International Space Station remembers to turn the lights off as it will be awhile before anyone steps foot aboard again.


International Space Station, hide the keys under the doormat when you leave..

The rocket scientists at NASA knew the Shuttle retirement was coming at least 15 years ago and just sat on their hands. Oh, they did waste $9 billion trying to develop potential replacements such as the Constellation and other programs but when things got too difficult for them, progress was not made and the money dried up, they just said "screw it" and went back to whatever rocket scientists do when they are not making rockets. There was much motion but little progress.

Once an Icon,  but has recently lost their way.


NASA has become as bloated and inefficient as the US government so I am not surprised talent and innovation do not thrive there anymore. Too bad, that wasn't the case at one time. It looks like as the NASAsaur fades into irrelevance, we have to look toward the movers and shakers in the private sector to pick up the baton to keep manned space flight alive, Profit is a strong motivator and if there is money in it for these entrepreneurs, they will make it happen. There are already some bright spots on the horizon.

Well, to make a long story short (I know, too late), America's abandonment of its manned space flight program is just another symptom of a general malaise that is lingering in the country.  For 50 years these programs were a source of pride, inspiration, and a large part of America's identity.. The manned space programs motivated people from all over the world to look up to the night sky and maybe forget for a time the dreary details of daily life. We dropped the ball.

It doesn't bother me so much that the Space Shuttle program is no more, its that there were no replacement vehicles seriously considered.  This indicates an abandonment of the pioneer and "can do" attitudes of the past that the US and Americans are known for. Lately it has seemed we are just consumers of Chinese imports, producers of dodgy financial instruments, whiny wards of the State, world policemen and contemplators of our own belly button lint. Not a good path to follow. Remember what happened to Rome when Emperor Nero was plucking his fiddle

 In general, the US has been declining in spirit and purpose for awhile now. Maybe it is the inevitable maturing of a society. We have seen this before with other countries and empires in the past. America's heyday of the 1800s -1900s are over and maybe it is time to take a breather and hopefully we will rediscover the values and drive that made the US and Americans a unique country and culture. I am intolerant of mediocrity and hope that I can see a positive change in my country soon. There is still so much potential there.
















          The Only Hope for Real Change is our Economy!   
What I have discovered is that most people (95% or more) could care less about meaningful change as long as ‘their’ personal economy is positive. The economic conditions of each person (largely) determines their perspective on issues. Human nature is selfish and personal and meaningful change only happens when the general economy suffers significantly. When […]
          High or Low: Keeping Track with National Average Credit Score   
High or Low: Keeping Track with National Average Credit Score
Credit is said to be a system of buying and selling without prompt installment or security. Credit might be as credit cards or advances.

Any person who wishes to prepare a credit card or advance application should maintain the standards and controls put forward by the loan specialist. An essential component for any credit application to be affirmed is your credit score.

A credit score is the determinant variable of loaning organizations regardless of whether you will be allowed credit. You exist credit status, and also your past credit standing compensates for a credit score.

Each country has a standard credit score to follow to decide the nation's financial condition. The United States has a national average credit score someplace from 580 to 650. You will in all probability be conceded with credit demands if you have a high credit score.

Since the credit score is exceedingly critical for you to get credits and also balance the national average credit score, there are things you should do.

Look for assistance from experts. 


Try not to be overpowered by deep interests or other alluring credit offers by loaning organizations. It is best to counsel an expert before you close a concurrence with a definite idea.

Financial experts will help you appropriately handle your accounts. He is mindful in demonstrating to you the status of your accounts. He may likewise be your wellspring of support on matters about getting credits. He will in all likelihood exhort you on the upsides and downsides of getting loans and the many necessities lending organizations require before they think of a choice.

Try not to neglect your due date. 


When you pay your bills on time or before its due date, you are setting up high credit standing. Another preferred standpoint when you are paying early is that you are additionally making your balances low.

Late installments of the bill won't just give loaning foundations terrible impressions of you however it can likewise be horrible to keeping up a high credit score. A strategic distance to maintain from late installments, it is best to monitor due dates. Invite yourself that it is "pay time," seven days before your credit's expected date.
In order for any event to be implemented properly, do not forget to make a shirt with a design that fits the event. Therefore, the success of an event can support either before or after the event takes place. If you want to create a t-shirt with a design in accordance with the wishes of you, please click the information here


Keep your interest low. 


Credit benefits build up how great or terrible your credit score is and also the national average credit score. With little credit benefits, you are probably going to keep up excellent credit standing.

It is prescribed that you thought on a survey among loaning organizations on the loan interest they give. After doing your survey, pick which ones can give you low interest yet will at present offer you great nature of administration.

Solidify.

To experience consolidation is typically fundamental to people who encounter inconvenience paying off unliquidated obligations to their loan specialists. Consolidation is prescribed for such individuals to unburden them of a lot of paying weight.


Assess and re-assess. 


Be your particular accountant. Try not to give financial problems a chance to heap up, rather than to sit tight for credit reports to be sent at the foot of your entryway, make your own. Like this, you are refreshed concerning your credit reports.

Self-assessment of your credit report will help you gauge how much credit scores despite everything you have. These days if you wish to have independent counsels on your credit reports, you can only go on the web and discover one.

Keeping yourself on the right credit score track won't just help you keep up a decent credit standing, it will likewise help your country keep up a decent average credit score. Having so will balance out the economy.
          Multiculturalism at work   

Charing Cross Road, a heaving mass of punters, tourists and ambling drunkards flows past Samuel's workplace at its usual frenetic, clogged pace, until one of its number dislodges himself. An ambling drunkard. He sports baggy pants, a loose striped jacket and a whiskery, unkempt beard. He shouts at Samuel to the rustle of a plastic Waterstone's bag. "Fuck… eh, you….you… what are you doing?" "What!" Samuel stays back, keeps cool. The abuse runs in thick streams, words can barely be made out. Curious shoppers stare wildly over their issues of Zoo and The Economist. The man is black; Samuel is black too. "Fou!" Is it French? Red-eyed, mouth agape, the man keeps screaming, grabs his bag and plunges back into the crowd. Punters dive back into their torrents of headlines, semi-nudes and Harry Potter blurbs at the Borders storefront. Samuel resumes his lax position at the reception, wistfully contemplating the crowds.

Charing Cross Road is the pulse of multicultural London, an artery of pleasure, strife and boredom, snaking from the imperial grandeur of Trafalgar Square to the heart of Oxford Street. Its pedestrian flow makes a garish display; multicultural, festive and sweaty. Almost half of the UK's ethnic minorities live in the capital, clustered in villages: Jews up Golders Green, Cypriots in Haringey, Arabs at Edgware Road and hip white things in Islington. Charing Cross road is where they meet, shop and scuffle: but it is also a place where cultures are put to work. If the now bitterly contested British model of multiculturalism is falling ill, Charing Cross Road is a good place to take its blood pressure.

The security guard

"We don't get too much abuse. We are trained to handle this," Samuel says laconically. No security guard clichés apply to his five foot eight inch frame: no bouncy muscles, towering torso or chiselled face, and only a small corporate insignia on his plain T-shirt indicates he might be at work. Except, that is, for one distinct marker of those guarding the shopfronts and clubs of central London's incongruous geography these days, a marker by now too clichéd to even be noticed by most Londoners: Samuel is black.

"I have been working as a security guard for three years," he says. "You get a lot of junkies in this area. Sometimes you have to be aggressive." Samuel smiles, pushing out his chest a little. "You have to know how to act depending on the person. It's like science – action and reaction." He chuckles ever so slightly.

Samuel comes from Nigeria, as do many others in his profession. His eyes flick back and forth, scanning the throng of people. "You can't stand like this for too long, talking – somebody might just go in, take a pack of CDs and leave," he says. Samuel excuses himself, adding his name and a furtive handshake as an afterthought. Less than five minutes' talk in all.

The private security sector is expanding, and guards now adorn even the humblest of supermarket checkouts and dingiest of clubs. A "visual deterrent" to crime, security companies claim. And this visual deterrence is increasingly performed by bored-looking black Britons and Africans. The good news may be that black minorities, still two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than white Britons, are now entrusted with security matters, inching a bit higher up London's pecking order. The bad news is that an ethnic furrow is drilled into London's asphalt, channelling black men into badly paid, vulnerable frontline positions.

Politicians, pundits and even the police have often praised the multicultural British model of integration, not without good reason. Nobody will launch into patriotic sing-a-longs or wave a Union Jack in the face of the hookah-smoking, Morris dancing, Qur'an-chanting and sauerkraut-eating masses. But this is all multiculturalism by night. Multiculturalism also works – works hard – up Charing Cross Road, down dingy backstreets, at the back of fusty pubs, deep in the cellars of milk-white Kensington hotels, under the sterile bulbs of NHS surgeries.

It may be insolent to heave another load of real-world grit onto multiculturalism's back at this time of trials by government, racism and terror. But dreary work is the flipside to London's multicultural project. Black bouncers, Asian shopkeepers, African parking attendants, Polish bartenders, Spanish chambermaids, Irish builders, African nurses, Indian doctors – they all come to London and find their place, as if by serendipity, from £4.85 an hour and counting. Europe's financial capital is insatiable, spongy, absorbent. But do people pick jobs according to ability and preference, or is the grid already laid out for them; colourful, deceptive and non-negotiable as a London tube map?

The parking attendant

Like security guards, parking attendants are too busy for a chat. Brisk, outsourced, undaunted, they roam the capital's grimy single yellow lines armed with just an oversized machine to crunch number-plates and a council vest against cold winds and the evil eye. And they are virtually unstoppable, furtive figures.

"I am too busy, don't have time," says my first interview target, a stern black parking attendant. He walks off briskly, escaping the lunging white hack. Luck comes in the voluminous shape of a fast-paced black woman negotiating a Camden sidestreet. Her vest is deceptively branded with a comforting council-green dye that blends with a minuscule NCP insignia – the private, nationwide parking venture that won Camden Council's lucrative enforcement contract in 2001.

Is this one of London's toughest jobs? "No, it's not that hard!" she chuckles, scanning a white van's pay-and-display ticket. She treads along briskly. "Really, it's OK," she assures me. "In the beginning it's harder, but you get used to it. The abuse comes daily, of course. It's not the job for you if you can't handle abuse. But if you know you are doing the right thing, it's OK. You just walk away when they start shouting."

She is matter-of-fact, stout and cheerful, her hair sculpted into a bun. I tag along, barely keeping up. Is she running away from her stalker? What's her name? "You can call me this!" she chuckles again, pointing to her shoulder cuff. It says 1571. "I am not allowed to say my name. Here I am a number – my name doesn't matter." 1571 looks busier and busier. The radio crackles. Where is she from? "Nigeria." Why do so many Africans do this job? "Oh, I don't know," 1571 says, curtly or just briskly. We reach the end of the block, another grey Camden thoroughfare beckons beyond, with a neat stack of pay-and-displays. She is speeding – wait … too late. 1571 chuckles, says goodbye. A colleague approaches – could be her cousin: hair neatly wrapped, fast-paced, African features. Then a male colleague – black, African traits. One, two, three, all heading down the same street, an avalanche of attendants … And my failed source, pacing briskly as ever. But now he smiles. "So, you found somebody?" His accent, too, is African.

No job evokes such hostility as parking enforcement, more so since public-private partnerships and new profit-making incentives began unleashing a ticketing bonanza on the capital's streets. But London's parking business has been doubly outsourced: to private ventures and flak-catching Africans, who have relentlessly populated the payrolls. At the public-private faultline they teeter, armed with silly hats and plastic machinery, come rain or shine or saliva-spattering owners of four-by-fours.

Enforcing London's rules and patrolling private property are tough tasks, but somebody's got to do them. Not to worry: multiculturalism assigns the posts. Please tick the ethnic monitoring form and wait in line. If you tick "black", the chance is you will soon find your place within London's hard-working, visually deterring foot soldier community.

Who's doing what – A rough guide to working Britain

4.3 per cent of Pakistanis work as shopkeepers, wholesale and retail dealers, compared to 0.5 per cent of white Britons

4.2 per cent of Indians work as medical practitioners, compared to 0.5 per cent white Britons

16 per cent of Bangladeshis work as chefs, compared to 0.7 per cent white Britons

11.3 per cent of Bangladeshis work as retail assistants, compared to 6.3 of all Asians and 4.5 of whites

2 per cent of Asians work as cashiers or checkout operators, compared to 1.1 per cent of whites

9.4 per cent of Pakistanis are chauffeurs or cab drivers, compared to 0.5 per cent whites and 0.9 per cent of blacks

8.5 per cent of black Africans are nurses, compared to 1.7 per cent whites, few South Asians and 11.2 per cent of "other Asians"

3.6 per cent of black Africans work as security guards, compared to 0.5 per cent of whites

Approximations based on data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, December 2004 – February 2005. Ethnic minority data is unreliable due to sample size.

The shopkeeper

Aftab huddles behind a desk cluttered with weekly glossies, breath mints, KP nuts and 2p sweets, the radio filling his shop with muted noise. "Violence is not the solution," he sighs, referring both to the still recent 7 July London bombs and Iraq. On a shelf by the open door, a four-year-old copy of The Economist peeks out next to a gaudy selection of lads' mags. "The day the world changed", its front page trumpets, to the dust and fumes of Manhattan. "It reminds me of when it all started," Aftab says softly.

His cornershop is set in the shadow of thronging, roaring Camden Town station. Aftab comes from Pakistan, or rather, Kashmir. "Ever since Pakistan was created out of the British Empire in 1947 by [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah, it has failed to reconcile the different nations within its borders. It's an artificial creation. Actually, there are only two countries in the world created on the basis of religion: Israel and Pakistan," he says, bemused. "Their borders are a colonial legacy."

Since coming to Britain in 1997, Aftab has become the hub of a local community made up of itinerant builders, international students, crackheads, Bangladeshi shopkeepers and working-class families. He knows everybody. "My brother was running the shop when I got here, then he fell ill. I started coming to the shop, reading four-five papers a day: that's how I got to know all the people around here." He has braved shoplifters, stinkbombs and random yobbery, and recently appeared on the BBC after launching a petition against drug-related crime.

Aftab holds a Masters in Sociology from the University of Karachi. "When I came here they told me that if you have a Third World qualification, you need to get a diploma in this country," he says. "The Job Centre is just there to give you your £52 a week in benefit, and then you're off. They don't help you find jobs. I was registered there for two years, and scanned job offers all the time. At one point I said, 'please, just give me anything!' I told them I could study for a diploma to complete my qualifications, but they weren't interested. Then I started to get more involved here." He still wants to study a Masters of Science in Human Rights.

Has he felt discriminated against? "No, it's the same for everyone." He smiles. I ask him why he thinks so many Asians have set up shop. He looks unsure, and eventually produces a bit of sociology. "When migrants first started arriving here, many were uneducated and set up shops and have continued since then. But their children often prefer to go looking for employers. With Sainsbury's and Tesco opening local stores, the cornershop is becoming a thing of the past."

In this "nation of shopkeepers", shopkeeping has been subcontracted to that old imperial safeguard of the nation's values, British Asia. Small-scale entrepreneurs of Indian or Pakistani extraction have absorbed the retail function, running cornerstores as well as staffing supermarkets, high street stores and bank counters. They are not alone, of course: Turkish Cypriots have carved a clothes-and-food niche out of north London. But Asian shopkeepers are the only group with full-spectrum dominance, from Haringey to Hampstead. However their market share is increasingly threatened by supermarkets that wedge their slick Express, Local, Metro and Central chains into minuscule urban spaces. Does that leave you, or your kids, unemployed? Please tick the "Asian" box, and be patient: the chance is you will be handling supermarket tills, sorting ballpoint pens in a stationers, or stacking crates before you know it.

The supermarket assistant

Feronda pauses from stacking tins and dons a sincere, expectant grin worthy of the glossiest of Corporate Social Responsibility reviews. He is happy with his job as a Sainsbury's customer assistant. "I'm from Sri Lanka. I'm a refugee. Only I and one more are from Sri Lanka in this shop – most of the other people here are Pakistani." Actually, all the other customer assistants seem to be Brits of Pakistani background. Even the security guard is Asian. Why does Feronda think this is so? "Oh, this I don't know," he says, tugging his grin along, keen to move on to the next question. "I like it here, I want to stay – I especially enjoy being on the shop floor. Before I worked for four years as a car mechanic up the road," – he waves past pea cans, north – "doing night shifts. That was very hard." Now he works 3-11pm, five days a week, at £6 an hour. "Let's see… about £850 a month for a 39-hour week," he says. He looks thrilled, grateful. Before coming to the UK he studied computers, but struggles to translate his education into British levels. "I didn't apply for any other jobs – just this," he says. But is there anything he doesn't like about the job? "No, no," he says, with the sparkling grin making a lingering plea for mercy. The largely white Chalk Farm clientele scavenges for breakfast bagels and tender-stem broccoli. Feronda's colleagues shuffle past, aisle-wide looks in their eyes.

Whether British supermarkets' workforces are as diverse as their stock of curries, mozzarella and stodgy German bread is hard to ascertain – their statistics slip from your hands like salmon. Fourteen percent of Sainsbury's employees and three to four percent of its managers come from ethnic minorities: more detailed figures are not available from either Sainsbury's or Tesco, despite their equal opportunities policies.

Sainsbury's prohibits discrimination and strives to "move beyond simple legal compliance," according to Cheryl Kuczynski, a spokeswoman. "We actively look to employ colleagues who reflect the diversity of our customers," she says. Tesco, the behemoth of the British food market, says targets have been set to get so-called "ethnic groups" into managerial positions. Flexible work during Ramadan and Diwali and briefings in languages like Hindi, Urdu, and Bangladeshi are two selling points. All according to its Corporate Social Responsibility review.

Katie Jenkins, Tesco's employment spokeswoman, says that diversity "creates a great atmosphere in stores" and makes everybody contribute with different skills and knowledge. "Retail is a fast-paced environment, so we look for people who can adapt well to change, people who are very customer-focused. The stores reflect the demographics of the local area. It is about recruiting local people into local jobs."

In lush white Hampstead, amid the cobblestones, blonde beer, Unitarian churches, window displays of pains au céréales and fragrant Jojoba oils, lurks an unbecoming Tesco Express. Inside, Jayvishal is morosely stacking boxes of vegetables. "I can't do an interview if it's going to take time," he warns. I try an optimistic note. What does he like most about his job?" "I don't like it at all," he says, his slightly pained face sloping down into an unlikely smile. "It's hard work, very hard work. Packing all the time."

Jayvishal is from India. "There are not many Indians here – mainly Sri Lankans and some Europeans," he says. By European he must mean British Asian: all the shop's staff look Asian. How did he find this £6-an-hour job? "Oh, through the Job Centre, and then I had some friends over here," Jayvishal answers, somewhat cryptically. "I have been in the UK since 2003, and couldn't find a job for a while. It was very hard. Legally, international students are only allowed to work 20 hours a week, but during vacations I do overtime. It is difficult economically – I have to pay rent, transport and everything, and only earn £500 a month."

Jayvishal is studying a Masters in Business and Finance at London's Metropolitan University. While not in India he lives in Queensbury, zone four, on the Jubilee line that branches through a parallel part – or galaxy, perhaps – of north London. Skills and knowledge he has: a local he is not. The manager, a short-set, trim-bearded man of South Asian features presses up against us, fingering the stack of plastic boxes. Time to retreat. "And when you're finished…" – the orders fade, giving way to wine bars and American ice cream parlours slanting down the north London hillside.

Hampstead is at the extreme end of the spectrum. But a random Monday afternoon headcount at seventeen West End supermarkets, where workers are least likely to be drawn from a residential pool, confirms the ethnic pattern, albeit with minor variations. One hundred customer assistants were of Asian background, fifty-eight were black, nineteen white, and four "other Asians". The eleven security guards on duty were all black but for one.

The bar tender

It would be a mistake to think that low-paid jobs are the reserve of the Queen's post-colonial subjects. Some minorities have fared quite well: ethnic Indians, for one, are now approaching the employment chances of white Britons. Meanwhile, London's pint-pullers earn even less than its shelf-fillers, and a terrifying ninety-seven percent of pub workers nationwide are white. Why?

Perhaps Al Murray's comedy act the Pub Landlord hinted at the answer when saying that there should be no things foreign in a proper English pub, with the natural exception of peanuts. Peanuts are more nondescript than exotic, a bit like the "white other" box on the ethnic monitoring forms. And so it is that Europeans, Australians and their fellow Antipodeans have been swallowed by the fusty land of minimum wages, ruddy-faced regulars and sticky floors.

Behind the bar, a twenty-something lad moves packets of crisps about. Covent Garden's cobbled streets unfold outside. "Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning all the time," he says, in spotless English. "There's lots of cleaning in this pub." He doesn't look glum at all saying it. The pub is one of a constellation of glinting properties on the online London map of the Spirit Group, one of the UK's biggest pub businesses with over two thousand venues to its name. Boleslaw has worked here since May, and shares the pleasure with a girl from Sweden, another from France, an Irish boss and two other Poles – a friend and the assistant manager. He got his job through the previous manager, also Irish. "That's a traditional English pub for you!" he says.

This is not the first time I come across the Ladder. The Ladder is a peculiar upstairs-downstairs way of ordering the capital's economy. The lower steps of many a London workplace are, predictably enough, dominated by the poor relatives of the world economy: Poles, Colombians and Nigerians abound. But climb one step up, and surprisingly often you will find employees from closer to home: Irish managing continental Europeans, perhaps, or Spaniards managing Colombians. On the top of the Ladder, perch the white English top managers and boardroom staff. The Commission for Racial Equality's (CRE) chairman Trevor Phillips has called it "snow-capping", or white on black: only 1.4 percent of executive management comes from ethnic minorities.

"It's a very hard job and not paid very well. The minimum: £4.85," Boleslaw continues. No big deal. This is his third bout of pub work in London. "At least this is a very nice area, with lots of theatres around." Nice areas make customer flows impressive, and it's hectic, lager-churning madness. "After a while you get used to it – even if it's packed you can listen to the music and chat up a girl. But you work till late and don't have time for yourself. You wake up at nine or ten next morning and start work at 12. It's like a full circle." He smiles. "If you get some days off, you just chill upstairs," he adds, pointing heavenward. Boleslaw and his colleagues sleep upstairs: it's a live-in pub.

Despite paying rent to his landlord-bosses, Boleslaw can save "a few hundreds" each month, he says. He is a graphic designer and photographer, a graduate of Poland's Academy of Fine Arts, and has worked for advertising agencies back home. "It's a dodgy job market in Poland, simple as that," he says, unapologetically. "The UK market is more stable. You can do bar work for a while, then start looking around for what you really want to do."

A man with entourage orders pints of Tetley and pork scratchings. A colleague shows up, and Boleslaw breaks into Polish for a few sentences, cackling until the colleague disappears into the sunshine.

What do his fellow Poles do in the capital these days? "Any job you can get," he says. "Normally, guys who are tough enough go work on building sites, but others go into these jobs. The guy who just left, for example, is a doctor." A doctor? "Yeah – it's easy to find them working in pubs. We got lawyers, we got doctors, graphic designers, actors, the lot. This country has got the most educated bar staff ever," he says cheerily, pouring pints of Guinness for a couple of Koreans. He has only applied for one graphic design job so far, and saves his pounds with determination. "I felt I had too good qualifications. They looked at my portfolio and said 'you're too good, you better go somewhere else'. When the time comes, I'll do it."

Years back, London's fleet of theme pubs, Irish pubs, local pubs and all the other concept and brand name pubs shop-fronting for Japanese investment banks were manned by cheery mates from Down Under. The Anglo-Saxon reaches of empire supplemented London's homegrown working class with much-needed building and boozing skills. Aussies and Kiwis provided the pint-pulling crowd. South Africans joined the Irish on the building sites. The Working Holiday Visa kept the children of the Commonwealth snuggled on old England's beer belly for years.

But in 2000, New Labour sowed the seeds of a revised migration strategy, which has blossomed into today's demand-based, quotas-and-points approach. Working Holiday rules for Commonwealth countries changed in 2003, and Antipodeans have moved into administration, computer work and public services with the easing of job-type restrictions. Poles are entering the pub-and-scaffolding race, quickly filling their predecessors' place. Some 98,500 Poles had applied for Britain's worker registration scheme in May 2005, over half of all new east European hopefuls arriving in the wake of 2004's EU expansion. Eighty percent of them earned up to £5 an hour.

The arrival of Poles is changing the demographic makeup of other parts of London's service economy, too. José Vigo, employment adviser, senses a growing fashion for east European employees at his West End Job Centre, which specialises in low-paid hotel and catering vacancies "that have not been taken through the domestic labour market".

Southern Europeans and Latin Americans, often over-skilled but with poor English, have peopled the lower reaches of London's job market for years, where a dank stereotype of the Latin service worker has grown. A recent Job Centre language survey confirms the lingering Mediterranean makeup of London's catering and hotel trades: Spanish clocked in as first language, followed by Portuguese, French and Italian – but with upstart Polish wedged in at third place.

Statistics are scant and unreliable and the turnover ferocious, but Vigo confirms that employers now head for eastern Europe rather than scavenging the Iberian soils for catering and hotel staff. "There they get better levels of English and people willing to do that kind of job."

The service sector is likely to continue haunting southern European visitors, however. "London is still one of the most popular places in Europe for young Spaniards," says Manuela Martínez, adviser for EU employment network Eures in southern Spain. "People want to master English and make their CVs look better. But if their level of English is low, they will work in places where they don't deal with the public, in 'backstage' jobs. They end up spending a year in London and bring back three or four words related to the hotel trade. Then, naturally, they only tell people about the good things that happened, and the process starts snowballing."

The backstage jobs of London's fickle service economy have a convenient feature: as Portuguese hotel workers, Spanish chambermaids and Latin American kitchen porters mingle in their trade, they speak Spanish instead of English. And the less English they speak, the more likely they will languish in their underpaid niches. London keeps luring job-hunters into its wide nets, its finance-fuelled economy selects and cherrypicks the candidates, and multiculturalism keeps them apart, blissful in their ghettoes.

The state's story

Government departments are blissful in their ghettoes, too, and keep chucking the ball out of their own ponds. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not target specific ethnic groups, says Ben Lloyd, a spokesman, who suggests I try the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), which deals with safeguarding employees' rights. And what does the DTI think? A spokesperson mentions Tony Blair's 2003 cross-departmental Ethnic Minorities Employment Task Force, but little more: the DWP is wrong – "we don't deal with getting people into jobs."

Academia is also suffering from a "paucity of research" on ethnic recruitment according to Dr Sophia Skyers, senior research fellow on the London labour market with the public interest company Office for Public Management (OPM). She explains ethnic niching in relation to London's expanding knowledge economy. "We are seeing a polarisation of the labour force into, on the one hand, high-paid jobs in professional and financial services and, on the other hand, retail, protective services and other personal services like healthcare," she says. "What we get is a pattern of occupational segregation – a lot of people are forced into particular employment groups, often because of discrimination in other sectors. The stereotype goes with the job, and sticks to the people who get these jobs."

Professor Michael Hardt, co-author of the watershed tome Empire about how power has been redistributed in a globalised world, agrees that multiculturalism plays an economic role in the new economy. "Britain's multicultural model can facilitate an ethnic division of labour, a model that has perhaps a longer history in the Americas," he says. "Racialized hierarchies and exploitation do not always function along the old or assumed models of exclusion. But it's worth insisting that recognizing that cultural diversity can be part of a new scheme of exploitation does not mean we should be against cultural diversity as such. What we need to strive for is equality and freedom within this multicultural society."

Trevor Phillips has criticised multiculturalism for keeping people apart, labelling it "a typically British way of dealing with difference". But now the stakes are higher. While London Mayor Ken Livingstone praised multiculturalism in the wake of the 2005 London bombings, Tony Blair announced a crackdown on Britain's permissive liberal consensus to a chorus of tabloid approval. But even multiculturalism's defenders often have little clue of what it really is, or does. Multiculturalism is not only a heap of colours, it is a machine with cogs that whirr. It not only fuses, but keeps apart. It doesn't so much discriminate as direct a choreography of cultures. Much like a latter-day, benign sort of empire, where all races and cultures play a minor part in the symphony of power.

On the ring road again

Your no-frills flight descends among thick nighttime clouds and your bags emerge from the bowels of Stansted airport. Now it's business the British way. Bearded Muslims, lavish Iberian girls and red-nosed Brits clutching Su Doku books mingle in the halls and tow their luggage into the rainy night, stared on by billboards vying for their London fare. Outside, hordes of many-accented hustlers flog £5 one-ways for cheap airbus upstarts. Beyond the Pink Elephant car park waits the National Express. A stream of people crosses the wet asphalt, oblivious to the hustlers' calls. This is how multicultural London commutes, in and out of London, twenty-four hours a day, every fifteen minutes.

Chris descends from his bus and lights a quick fag before his next drive. "The job is not as stressful as it looks," he says. "It's easy, and the pay's quite good. £22,000 a year because I do night shifts." He cuts a stoic figure, tall and bulky, his shaved head pinched by an earring. His colleagues, like him, are overwhelmingly white, bald, and big, emblems of the well-fed English working class. They ferry multiculturalism in and out of the capital. What do the people boarding his coach to the throbbing financial hub of Europe do, then? "Well," Chris puffs on his fag, thinks. "We carry a lot of students, some come over on a gap year, a small portion are on business and the bulk of them are tourists and sightseers."

What about the workers? Where are they? Who notices the shelf-stacker in the business student, the pint-puller in the graduate, the cornershop owner among the businessmen, the sandwich wrappers, cappuccino steamers and doormen among the tourists? Not Chris, not Ken, not Tony, nor Middle England or the City elite. The City: white as a scrubbed cathedral wall, home of offshore dollars and high-value bonds, generator of the service economy and its guards, attendants, retailers, cleaners, drivers. And Chris, where does he live? "I live in Haverhill, outside Cambridge," he says, stubs out his fag, and sets the motor purring towards the M25.


          Joe Rogan Podcast #940 Sam Harris and Dan Harris   

I’ve been a long time follower of Sam Harris and have read most of his books. I’ve only ever posted to this forum a few other times but I felt the need to make a new topic regarding one of the most recent Joe Rogan podcasts.

I am driven to make this topic because this podcast was the first time I’ve seen Sam Harris talk in a way that seems to be the antithesis of the way in which he reacts to, and thinks through, many other topics. What I’m talking about is around the 1:50:00 mark or so and continues on for awhile. Never before have I seen Sam talk about a topic in which he has such a limited understanding while still acting as if he is hitting the nail on the head. He seemed to be drawing conclusions which he felt were “patently obvious”, as he might put it, while not taking a minute to even think that there might be alternatives.

I’m specifically talking about his discussion regarding the people who mine coal and drive for a living. It was Sam’s comments on economics and the governments roll in the economy which I found most troubling. It was troubling because it was the first time I’ve ever seen him talk about a topic without qualifying his lack of expertise while at the same time throwing out conclusions and assumptions as if there could be no other possible alternatives.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying Sam is wrong about the core concerns he was expressing. For instance, once we have robots who can repair themselves so that basic needs like food are no longer something humans need to work to produce, then food may no longer need be a good to be paid for. I can see where this argument comes from and it may be right. Although there may be some holes in it, I think it is definitely an idea worth discussing. However, Sam didn’t seem to stick on this interesting point and instead acted as if the trucking industry will disappear overnight and the only way to fix this must be some kind of basic income through government taxes.

Just to be clear, I don’t want to debate the ideas of free markets etc. here, that’s not really my point. My point is that this is the first time I’ve ever seen Sam express his ideas in a borderline, if not completely, dogmatic way about a subject in which he has very little knowledge or understanding. Now, I do want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I hope if he was sitting down to have an in depth discussion about this specific topic for a few hours he would be able to more clearly lay out his views. And if he was talking with an experienced economist he would yield to their knowledge and expertise where his is lacking. Regardless, Sam was putting forth ideas in a way that was more emotional and blind than I’ve ever heard from him before. It wasn’t as if he was saying “Here is an interesting problem in which we need to find a solution that could be something like x, y, or z,” but rather, “Here is an interesting problem in which we need to have a solution that fits along my preconceived ideas about something I don’t know or understand.”

In essence, it’s not that he was wrong per se, but that he was expressing views in a more dogmatic way than I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe it was just this one podcast when they are shooting the shit and talking about random stuff all over the place as Joe Rogan is wont to do. But what concerns me is the hint that once Sam steps outside of the boundaries of the things he knows very well he will become the same dogmatic ideologue he constantly rails against. I know it’s tempting to do this when you’re a prominent intellectual, but I just hope he doesn’t fall into the trap that so many others do. Again, I’ve never seen him do this before, so maybe it’s just a one off and all is well in Sam Harris land.


          Limits to Growth: Where We Are and What to Do   
Recorded October 14th in Vancouver, BC Is the global economy hitting the limits to growth? In this talk, Nate Hagens will synthesize the current landscape of global energy, environment and financial risks while offering suggestions on what to do as a hominid living on a full planet. He will raise the question of whether it […]
(Visited 602 times, 1 visits today)

          Extraenvironmentalist @ CommonBound   
In June 2014, we took on our most ambitious live broadcast yet at the 2014 New Economy Coalition CommonBound conference. This was our first attempt at running a conference like a live temporary TV channel with original content and a larger broadcast team. Our setup involved three cameras on the main stage, one camera in […]
(Visited 199 times, 1 visits today)

          Why Degrowth? Dialogue on pathways towards a smaller economy   
We recently hosted an event in Vancouver, BC in partnership with Degrowth Vancouver to ask the question of ‘Why Degrowth?’ Our speakers were William Rees & Jennie Moore. You can find the full videos from the event below:
(Visited 507 times, 1 visits today)

          Brian Czech on the corruption of economics   
In our recent video interview with Brian Czech of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, we talk about the origin of the academic discipline of economics and how it may have been skewed to ignore the role of land in economic production. Our in-depth audio interview with Brian Czech is on […]
(Visited 200 times, 1 visits today)

          [ Dan O’Neill // Enough is Enough ]   
Dan O’Neill (Ecological Economist, Leeds University) covers the topics in Enough is Enough, his recent book co-authored with Rob Deitz. Dan talks about the reasons why economic growth as usual is not likely in the future and why it hasn’t been meeting our needs anyways. He outlines the first policy steps towards an economy that […]
(Visited 315 times, 1 visits today)

          Israel is wrong   

I know I'm going to catch hell for this, but it's time to say something. Israel is wrong. There aren't two sides to this anymore. I've heard all I want to hear from Israel. It's time to stop the attack on Hezbollah, withdraw back into Israel, stop firing bombs into Lebanon, and shut up for a while and let everyone else sort this out. It's not just Israel's problem. There are hundreds of millions of lives at stake in the Middle East, and this time not only has an Arab country, and that's what Hezbollah is, withstood Israel's attack, but they're also clearly justified in their response to the Israeli attack.

Hezbollah has every right to have defenses against Israel. If I'm not mistaken, Hezbollah didn't start firing rockets into Israel until they were attacked by Israel. Okay, they took two Israeli soldiers hostage. And now Israel has killed hundreds of Lebanese, destroyed large parts of the country and its infrastructure. It's enough already. Even a Jew like myself sees how wrong the Israeli position is.

Maybe there's a silver lining here, maybe Hezbollah, having won not only a military victory, but also a political victory, maybe they can see their weapons as defensive, if not now, maybe soon. Especially if the western powers help get Israel to stop attacking.

Look, I'm not a diplomat, I don't speak for a country, I'm just telling you what I think. I don't expect a thoughtful response, but enough is enough, it's time to say something.

Note: This post appeared last night, but shortly after posting it, the flames started and I decided to pull it. Then I got an email from an Israeli saying it was good I realized it was wrong and pulled it. So I put it back up. For me the turning point was listening to the Israeli ambassador to the UN blame the killing of 50 Lebanese civillians, many of them women and children, on Hezbollah, even though they were killed by an Israeli bomb. Had the tables been turned, had it been 50 Israelis, I can't imagine Israeli logic concluding that they themselves were to blame for the deaths. Israel is not just defending itself, we are defending Israel. Without our army, our arsenal, our economy, Israel would not exist. They have an impossible problem, true enough, but they're not the only ones anymore, and they're just 3 million people. I don't understand where they get their support. I'm an American Jew, first-generation, child of refugees. If anyone would support Israel, it would be me, but I don't. This war has to stop now.


          reRoute: Success Stories From The New Economy Campus Network   
Live Stream – Jul 21, 2013 9:30 AM EST Vancouver – Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 6:30:00 AM London – Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 2:30:00 PM Sydney – Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 11:30:00 PM
(Visited 88 times, 1 visits today)

          reRoute: Building Political Power for a New Economy   
Live Stream – Jul 20, 2013 – 2:30 PM Vancouver – Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 11:30:00 AM London – Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 7:30:00 PM Sydney – Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 4:30:00 AM This workshop will explore the work of organizers in Philadelphia and New York City in facilitating cross-sector organizing and building […]
(Visited 91 times, 1 visits today)

          reRoute: Financing a New Economy   
Live Stream – Jul 20, 2013 – 9:30 AM EST Vancouver – Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 6:30:00 AM London – Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 2:30:00 PM Sydney – Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 11:30:00 PM This panel seeks to highlight and examine a variety of exciting strategies that are being employed to re-imagine […]
(Visited 160 times, 1 visits today)

          reRoute: Pathways to A New Economy   
Live Stream – Jul 19, 2013 6:15 AM EST Vancouver  – Friday, July 19, 2013 at 3:15:00 London  – Friday, July 19, 2013 at 11:15:00 Sydney  – Friday, July 19, 2013 at 8:15:00 PM Can we create a space where businesses find common ground with community organizations and social movements, where a financial system puts […]
(Visited 111 times, 1 visits today)

          A New University for a New Economy Movement   
In this talk, David Korten draws on his years of experience in helping to launch a new economy to describe how our universities can use their institutional resources to build a future of cooperation. Dr. David C. Korten worked for more than thirty-five years in preeminent business, academic, and international development institutions before he turned […]
(Visited 498 times, 1 visits today)

          Continuing the Case for Health Care Reform   

Fareed Zakaria is one of the most balanced, sensible reporters and commentators on international affairs going today. Because of this, he brings a global perspective to American domestic issues that many of the pundits lack. In this week's Time Magazine, he has a commentary entitled, “Health Insurance Is for Everyone” (CNN shows about half the article, the entire piece is on Time’s website that is accessed by subscribers).  In it he writes,

The centerpiece of the case against Obamacare is the requirement that everyone buy some kind of health insurance or face stiff penalties--the so-called individual mandate. It is a way of moving toward universal coverage without a government-run or single-payer system. It might surprise Americans to learn that another advanced industrial country, one with a totally private health care system, made precisely the same choice nearly 20 years ago: Switzerland.

Switzerland is not your typical European welfare-state society. It is extremely business-friendly and has always gone its own way, shunning the euro and charting its own course on health care. The country ranks higher than the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom.

Twenty years ago, Switzerland had a system very similar to America's--private insurers, private providers--with very similar problems. People didn't buy insurance but ended up in emergency rooms, insurers screened out people with pre-existing conditions, and costs were rising fast. The country came to the conclusion that to make health care work, everyone had to buy insurance. So the Swiss passed an individual mandate and reformed their system along lines very similar to Obamacare. The reform law passed by referendum, narrowly. The result two decades later: quality of care remains very high, everyone has access, and costs have moderated. Switzerland spends 11% of its GDP on health care, compared with 17% in the U.S. Its 8 million people have health care that is not tied to their employers, they can choose among many plans, and they can switch plans every year. Overall satisfaction with the system is high.

Zakaria continues,

The most striking aspect of America's medical system remains how much of an outlier it is in the advanced industrial world. No other nation spends more than 12% of its total economy on health care. We do worse than most other countries on almost every measure of health outcomes: healthy-life expectancy, infant mortality and--crucially--patient satisfaction. Put simply, we have the most expensive, least efficient system of any rich country on the planet. Costs remain high on every level. Recently, the International Federation of Health Plans released a report comparing the prices in various countries of 23 medical services, from a routine checkup to an MRI to a dose of Lipitor. The U.S. had the highest costs in 22 of the 23 cases. An MRI costs $1,080 here; it costs $281 in France.

In 1963, Nobel Prize--winning economist Kenneth Arrow wrote an academic paper explaining why markets don't work well in health care. He argued that unlike with most goods and services, people don't know when they will need health care. And when they do need it--say, in the case of heart failure--the cost is often prohibitive. That means you need some kind of insurance or government-run system.

Now, we could decide as a society that it is O.K. for people who suddenly need health care to get it only if they can pay for it. The market would work just as it works for BMWs: anyone who can afford one can buy one. That would mean that the vast majority of Americans wouldn't be able to pay for a triple bypass or a hip replacement when they needed it. But every rich country in the world--and many not-so-rich ones--has decided that its people should have access to basic health care. Given that value, a pure free-market model simply cannot work.

In the campaigns for president, it seems that the conservatives have changed their tunes on requiring mandate for everyone to be included in health insurance. Zakaria observes,

Catastrophic insurance--covering trauma and serious illnesses--isn't a solution, because it's chronically ill patients, just 5% of the total, who account for 50% of American health care costs. That's why the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, came up with the idea of an individual mandate in the 1980s, proposing that people buy health insurance in exactly the same way that people are required to buy car insurance. That's why Mitt Romney chose this model as a market-friendly system for Massachusetts when he was governor. And that's why Newt Gingrich praised the Massachusetts model as the most important step forward in health care in years. They have all changed their minds, but that is about politics, not economics.

He concludes,

When listening to the debate about American health care, I find that many of the most fervent critics of government involvement argue almost entirely from abstract theoretical propositions about free markets. One can and should reason from principles. But one must also reason from reality, from facts on the ground. And the fact is that about 20 foreign countries provide health care for their citizens in some way or other. All of them--including free-market havens like Switzerland and Taiwan--have found that they need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal health care at much, much lower costs than we do and with better results.


          Miroslav Volf Against Libertarian Economics   

Volf - Work in the SpiritI’ve been reading Miroslav Volf’s absolutely excellent book, Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work. In the final chapter, he moves into ways a Christian theology of work can overcome the many ways we see work in our contemporary society alienating us from being fully human. His premise is this:

“Human work, properly understood theologically, is related to the goal of all human history, which will bring God, human beings, and the nonhuman creation into ‘shalomic’ harmony.” (p. 85)

Volf (Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale University Divinity School and the Founding Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture) offers a pneumatological theology of work, in which the Holy Spirit gifts human beings with the abilities to provide not only for their own sustenance, but to work for the common good.

“When God calls people to become children of God, the Spirit gives them calling, talents, and ‘enablings’ (charisms) so that they can do God’s will in the Christian fellowship and in the world in anticipation of God’s eschatological new creation. All Christians have several gifts from the Spirit. Since most of these gifts can be exercised only through work, work must be considered a central aspect of Christian living.” (p. 124)

Therefore, if a large aspect of being a human is to work for the common good, then this leads Volf to criticize the economic philosophy of libertarianism, which centers on individual freedom, placing individual liberty as the most fundamental rule in economics. According to libertarian economics, we must let the free market rule itself. As individuals work for their own self-interests, the “invisible hand” of the unfettered free market transforms the individuals’ pursuit of their own interests into the public good. The best way to care for others, according to libertarian economics, is for everyone to work for themselves. The common good is best served when people do not take economic responsibility for others, but rather by seeking their own self interests.

But such an economic system rubs against the way God has created human beings.

“Individual self-interest can be pursued validly but it must be accompanied by the pursuit of the good of others. These two pursuits are not in principle mutually exclusive but complementary (though in concrete cases they often conflict). My own good and the good of the whole human family are both included in the shalom of the new creation. Therefore, no contradiction is involved when a person ‘gives himself up’ for someone and ‘loves himself’ at the same time (see Eph. 5:25-28). (p. 192)

“Unlike libertarian philosophy, Christian faith does make demands on people to accept economic responsibility for others. And these demands are not only demands of generosity. They are demands on them to practice justice. Both in the Old and the New Testaments the concept of justice includes concern for the underprivileged (see Matt. 6:1; Ps. 112:9). Paul, for instance, calls the financial help of gentile Christians to the Jerusalem poor ‘justice’ (2 Cor. 9:9). Correspondingly, the mere refusal of the wealthy to aid the poor can be considered a criminal act (Ezek. 16:49).” (p. 194)

“Important as it is, from a Christian perspective, respect for individual liberty will not suffice as a basic rule for the market game. Respect for the right of sustenance of all individuals must be added as a rule that is even more basic than respect for individual liberty. If the market will not behave according to this rule, it is the market that has to go, not the rule. For the basic criterion of the humanness of an economic system is whether or not it secures lasting justice for the poor.” (p. 195)

The answer is not Marxism, according to Volf, but “a market economy directed by a vision of the common good.” In other words, a market economy that has parameters that ensure individual freedom while also caring for the basic needs of all people.


          Flowers for Hillary   
What's with all the metaphorical bouquets being thrown by the media at Hillary's feet as she takes her big exit curtain call? It's a little annoying. Usually, this is the winner's moment in the sun. That would be Obama.

Okay, it's an historic campaign where for the first time a woman was a serious presidential contender, she got more votes than "any previous loser," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And it's weekend coverage, so what's the harm?

One problem is that we don't know for sure that Hillary is in fact bowing out gracefully. While she made a more-or-less gracious concession speech (I think -- I couldn't stand listening to much of it), can she in fact support Obama in some suitable way without making an issue of herself? Will an ugly, self-centered wish that Obama loses so that she can then become the 2012 "candidate of inevitability" sprout up through the cracks in her artificial smile? Only time will tell.

A quick review of the facts: Hillary lost my vote for her presidential campaign when, in 2002, she voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq and when she refused forever after to admit she made a mistake. Call me superficial, but I think that a voter's disapproval of a candidate's position on the most important issue of the decade is appropriately signaled by voting for someone else.

Not only was Hillary dead wrong in this position, but she also revealed herself as Bill Clinton redux -- an image-driven, poll-driven centrist pol, who will do or say whatever it takes to get into power and then, once there, forget that the whole point was to use that power to do good.

Ironically, Hillary's desperate effort to repackage herself as a tough, hawkish chief-executive-in-waiting -- again, signaled by that 2002 vote -- probably has not won her a single vote. The public perception of her as a liberal feminista -- a perception driving both the votes for and against her -- was probably immovable all along. Her best strategy would have been to stay true to the ideals of her youth.

And now we learn that her much touted "experience" was also hogwash. Her totally botched campaign was driven repeatedly and ultimately off the rails by a motley crew of (1) foxy, unscrupulous types who were not as smart as they think they are and (2) loyal friends who are incompetent political amateurs. Apparently, there was not one authoritative person among them who could tell Hillary the bad news when she needed to hear it. Her apparently terrible executive style did not bode well for the "candidate of experience" to run the White House.

Hillary's long run also symbolized the Democratic Party's self-destructive streak. This is the "perfect storm" for Republicans, the year they cannot possibly win -- they are responsible for (1) an unpopular and ill-conceived war that (2) has sent the economy hurtling into an impending crisis engineered by (3) a president with 25-28% approval ratings.

But Hillary would have been a weak candidate, for all she tried to spin her self-absorbed refusal to quit as toughness. With her unredeemed Iraq war vote and the stinky cloud of questionable financial dealings that trail her and her husband everywhere, she wouldn't have been able to hit hard enough on McCain's two biggest Achilles heels -- the War and his own involvement in the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s (see the Keating Five), which resonates so powerfully with the current mortgage crisis.

Hillary was the one Democratic candidate that cannot win -- if her campaign mismanagement didn't kill us, her unusually high negatives would have. And we came within a hair's breadth of nominating her! I may not be right about her unelectability -- but thank goodness we'll never know for sure.
          Evoshare   
EvoShare is an innovative ecosystem of consumers and businesses working together to reduce student debt, boost retirement savings, and grow the economy for all those involved.
          How the Student Loan Industry Is Helping Trump Destroy American Democracy   
Student loan servicers are engaged in economic terrorism, and DeVos is only making it worse.

Most of the discussion about student debt in the United States has centered on its excessiveness, the negative impact it has on home-buying for the next generation, various refinancing schemes, and (for the grossly uninformed) how borrowers simply need to “pay what they owe.” However, the untold story of student loan debt in the United States is that it is being used as a form of economic terrorism designed not only to redistribute wealth from everyday Americans to the elite, but to undermine and degrade American democracy as a whole.

Up until her confirmation as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos had financial ties to a large student loan servicer in contract negotiations with the Department of Education. PRWatch reported in January that one of the firms DeVos divested from, LMF WF Portfolio, helped finance a $147 million loan to a student debt collection agency called Performant, which had more than 346 complaints brought against it with the Better Business Bureau. The student loan industry is said to be worth $1.3 trillion in total debt owed according to Forbes. While some might chalk this up to successful business management, it’s important to evaluate just exactly how the student loan industry works.

Contrary to what most students believe, many loans supposedly from the U.S. Department of Education are actually owned by big private banks. This acquisition of federal student loans by big banks was first introduced by the Federal Reserve in November of 2008, in which student loans, along with other forms of debt, are bundled and re-sold to banks as asset-backed securities (ABS). A few months later, with the blessing of former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, this program was dramatically expanded to include more than $1 trillion in collateralized debt. This means that for many borrowers, they're being jerked around by private loans deliberately dressed up in U.S. Department of Education attire.

Student Loan Servicers Are Engaging in Economic Terrorism

In a lecture delivered at Carleton University in Ottawa 2011, famed MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky argued that the American student debt system fosters fear and insecurity among people who, burdened by financial stress, anxious for their jobs or stuck in low-paying jobs, are afraid to question or challenge the system.

"When you trap people in a system of debt, they can't afford the time to think," Chomsky said.

One indebted borrower, Denise, whose fiancee, Kevin, spoke to AlterNet on condition of anonymity, is living proof of the dilemma Chomsky presented.

"I’ve wanted to marry Denise for years now," Kevin said. "But after seeing what she’s been put through with these student loan companies, I honestly don't want to risk having a bunch of crooks stealing my paycheck or my tax refund."

According to Kevin, the student debt Denise acquired for four years of higher education totaled approximately $35,000. Under the management of student loan servicer Navient (which broke off from Sallie Mae), her student loan debt quickly swelled to more than $75,000 in less than 10 years following her graduation from the University of Arizona. According to Kevin, loan fees and high interest rates quickly snowballed as a penalty for Denise not having enough money. (Multiple requests to reach Navient executives by phone or email were not returned.)

“The monthly payment they demanded was three times what Denise paid for her rent. She would send what she could afford, but it would end up being a fraction of the penalty fee they’d add to her loan balance for not having enough money to pay. They would then charge her interest on the penalty fee as though it were money she actually received for school," Kevin said.

Kevin’s account of what happened to Denise could be happening to millions of other distressed borrowers. A March 20 report from Bloomberg detailed how Secretary DeVos is now green-lighting punishing new fees on student borrowers even if they agree to make good on their outstanding debt. In a memo to the student loan industry, DeVos’ agency is allowing companies to charge struggling borrowers as much as 16 percent more of a debtor’s total loan balance in additional fees.

“It’s a con game that caused Denise so much stress that it began affecting her health and even made her fantasize about taking her own life as a means of getting out from crippling debt,” Kevin said. “These companies use the authority of the government to extort money from people who took out loans they thought were from the government and not just some crooked bank.”

In some instances, the tax refunds Denise counted on each year would be confiscated as penalty for not having enough money to pay her loans. According to Kevin, Denise earned a social sciences degree with the specific intent of pursuing a career that involved helping people and supporting positive change in society.

“Instead of doing that good work, she was forced to cling to whatever low-wage position she could find,” Kevin continued. “Even after I used my savings to help pay off the remainder of her student debt, the loan servicer, Navient, kept refusing to credit her account for the payment and continues to damage her credit.”

“It has taken such a huge toll on us,” he added. "I guess now we’ll have to gather more money to file a lawsuit to get them to acknowledge that they received payment in full. In the meantime, they can still take her tax refunds even though she doesn’t owe them money anymore.”

“This should be criminal. They’re just awful, awful human beings,” Kevin said.

Ironically, the Federal Student Loan Program was intended to make higher education affordable for students and families who lack the ability to pursue higher education without funding support. With the insertion of predatory banks and student loan shark servicer companies like Navient, Strada Education Network (formerly known as USA Funds), and others, the soul of the Federal Student Loan Program has shifted from that of opportunity and advancement to profit and subjugation.

Recently, Secretary DeVos announced that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness agreements the Department of Education made with borrowers who agreed to work in the public service field for at least 10 years might not be honored. The New York Times reported in March that students who signed up when the program began in 2007 may now be on the hook for those loans after all. A recent legal filing from the Department of Education argues that FedLoan Servicing's approval letters for the loan forgiveness program are non-binding and can be rescinded at any time.

This means borrowers, who chose professions in public service that are routinely paid less than those with jobs in other sectors, could now not only have forgone a much higher salary for over a decade, but could also find themselves on the hook for loans that the Department of Education agreed to forgive in exchange for their service.

Denise is not alone—the New York Fed reported earlier this year that 44 percent of student loan borrowers are underemployed. This means seemingly benign decisions when it comes to student loan policy ensure that a vast net of stress, fear, and insecurity is cast upon an entire generation. The lasting impact will, by default, stifle and root out any inclinations of challenge to the current political and economic system. In this way, the student loan industry is suppressing resistance to societal change by poor Americans, ensuring that whatever steps are taken in the name of neoliberalism to tighten the corporate grip on American society will be met with little to no resistance.

Who Has the Moral High Ground?

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a provision requiring already cash-strapped student loan borrowers to pay higher monthly fees on income-based repayment plans. While there is no evidence showing how an increase in payment requirements is needed for an already grossly lucrative industry, the Trump budget prioritized steep cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security and Disability Insurance, while also raising monthly payments for student loan borrowers. The combination of these two policies is a crushing blow for underemployed student debtors.

The Republican Party often campaigns on being the morally superior party based on its stance on issues like abortion and contraception. However, the student loan industry’s pillaging of the next generation of Americans has been met with deafening silence by the GOP. One would think that a majority in the House, the Senate and control of the White House would motivate the GOP to address an issue that affects 44 million Americans, but instead, Republicans choose to look the other way.

Democrats aren't entirely blameless in the student loan debacle. While a recent effort to address the greed and usurious practices of the student loan industry was championed by progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), other neoliberal Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) have joined the GOP's morality farce by teaming up with the private sector to ransack public schools and gut teacher’s unions in the name of “school choice” and “teacher accountability.”

If Republicans and Democrats alike hope to hold on to any credibility when it comes to ethics, they must take steps to address the student loan industry in favor of the hardworking Americans who put them in office, not their corporate masters.

 

Related Stories


          What Do the Grenfell Tower Fire and Hurricane Katrina Have in Common? Disaster Capitalism   
Both catastrophes are case studies in the workings of the shock doctrine.

At first glance, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the devastating blaze at Grenfell Tower in London last week may not seem too similar. But a closer inspection of the circumstances leading to the two tragedies shows a deep connection to the same capitalist theory: the shock doctrine.

The term shock doctrine, also called disaster capitalism, was coined and researched by Naomi Klein in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine. The theory describes the rampant corporatization of the public sector, whether it's schools or housing, in the aftermath of a “shock,” which could come in the form of an economic recession, a terrorist attack or even a natural disaster. Pro-corporate politicians take advantage of the shock and trauma the public experiences when a disaster hits to ram through free market-inspired ideas that strip away the safety net and public services in exchange for corporatization and privatization.

In The Shock Doctrine, Klein uses Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans as a case study in disaster capitalism. Just weeks after the hurricane hit, a group of lobbyists (including Vice President Mike Pence) joined together to formulate a package of privatization and corporate policies that would transform the city’s landscape for the worse. Some of these policies included the rise of charter schools and school vouchers for families at the expense of the city’s public school system as well as the handing off of rebuilding destroyed houses to private contractors who caused more harm than good.

This same pattern could occur following the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed at least 79 people and was the deadliest fire in Britain in a century.

In the days following the blaze, British media outlets revealed that the fire was exacerbated by external material that easily catches fire and facilitated the quick and deadly spread of the flames. A report from the New York Times shows that wrapping the flammable material around apartment buildings like the 24-story Grenfell Tower is actually banned in the U.S. and several European countries. Yet builders still applied the cladding around Grenfell because of a cost-cutting deal made with British politicians; it was determined at the time that the cost concerns outweighed the safety risks posed by the hazardous material.

But the scaffolding was not the only factor contributing to the fire. Grenfell Tower also lacked basic precautionary measures, such as fire alarms, sprinklers and fire escapes. The building contained only a single staircase for its residents. For years, residents of the tower complained and warned authorities about the potential catastrophe awaiting the public housing building. Many residents also charge that the new flammable scaffolding was installed to beautify the building for adjacent, wealthier neighbors.

This failure to care for Grenfell residents, most of whom are among the area’s poorest, resembles the U.S. government's neglect of New Orleans, which multiplied the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina was classified as a Category 3 hurricane once it hit the Gulf Coast, bringing winds up to 100-140 mph. Because New Orleans lies below sea level, it faced particular risks from the hurricane. A system of levees built over the course of the 20th century was supposed to protect the city from mass flooding. However, the levees built to protect neighborhoods from Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne and nearby swamps and marshes were less reliable and weaker than other levees along the Mississippi River. These areas also housed the city’s poorest residents, a majority of whom were black.

For many years, public officials warned about the weakness of the levees and the potential for catastrophic damage if they could not sustain a powerful storm. But the levees were never fixed. The combination of the strength of the storm and the weakened fortification ultimately caused billions of dollars in devastation and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people following the storm.

The buildup to both the Grenfell Tower and Hurricane Katrina disasters poses striking similarities. Gross government oversight and a lack of urgency for protecting poor residents and people of color resulted in devastating disasters that killed many and displaced many more. With Grenfell Tower now in charred ruins, private contractors and money-hungry lobbyists and public officials may see the tragedy the same way Pence and his team of lobbyists viewed the aftermath of Katrina: a grand opportunity for capitalist privatization for the benefit of the rich and at the expense of the poor.

 

Related Stories


           How Privatization Could Spell the End of Democracy   
Between Trump and tech, never before have so many powerful people been so intent on transforming government into a business.

It’s a hot day in New York City. You’re thirsty, but your water bottle is empty. So you walk into a store and place your bottle in a machine. You activate the machine with an app on your phone, and it fills your bottle with tap water. Now you are no longer thirsty.

This is the future envisioned by the founders of a startup called Reefill. If the premise sounds oddly familiar, that’s because it is: Reefill has reinvented the water fountain as a Bluetooth-enabled subscription service. Customers pay $1.99 a month for the privilege of using its machines, located at participating businesses around Manhattan.

Predictably, the company has already come in for its fair share of ridicule. In Slate, Henry Grabar called it “tap water in a suit”. But while Reefill is a particularly cartoonish example, its basic business model is a popular one within tech. The playbook is simple: take a public service and build a private, app-powered version of it.

he most obvious examples are Uber and Lyft, which aspire not merely to eliminate the taxi industry, but to replace public transportation. They’re slowly succeeding: municipalities around America are now subsidizing ride-hailing fares instead of running public buses. And earlier this year, Lyft began offering a fixed-route, flat-rate service called Lyft Shuttle in Chicago and San Francisco – an aggressive bid to poach more riders from public transit.

These companies wouldn’t have customers if better public alternatives existed. It can be hard to find a water fountain in Manhattan, and public transit in American cities ranges from mediocre to nonexistent. But solving these problems by ceding them to the private sector ensures that public services will continue to deteriorate until they disappear.

Decades of defunding and outsourcing have already pushed public services to the brink. Now, fortified with piles of investor cash and the smartphone, tech companies are trying to finish them off.

Proponents of privatization believe this is a good thing. For years, they have advanced the argument that business will always perform a given task better than government, whether it’s running buses or schools, supplying healthcare or housing. The public sector is sclerotic, wasteful and undisciplined by the profit motive. The private sector is dynamic, innovative and, above all, efficient.

This belief has become common sense in political life. It is widely shared by the country’s elite, and has guided much policymaking over the past several decades. But like most of our governing myths, it collapses on closer inspection.

No word is invoked more frequently or more fervently by apostles of privatization than efficiency. Yet this is a strange basis on which to build their case, given the fact that public services are often more efficient than private ones. Take healthcare. The United States has one of the least efficient systems on the planet: we spend more money on healthcare than anyone else, and in return we receive some of the worst health outcomes in the west. Not coincidentally, we also have the most privatized healthcare system in the advanced world. By contrast, the UK spends a fraction of what we do and achieves far better results. It also happens to provision healthcare as a public service. Somehow, the absence of the profit motive has not produced an epidemic of inefficiency in British healthcare. Meanwhile, we pay nearly $10,000 per capita and a staggering 17% of our GDP to achieve a life expectancy somewhere between that of Costa Rica and Cuba.

A profit-driven system doesn’t mean we get more for our money – it means someone gets to make more money off of us. The healthcare industry posts record profits and rewards its chief executives with the highest salaries in the country. It takes a peculiar frame of mind to see this arrangement as anything resembling efficient.

Attacking public services on the grounds of efficiency isn’t just incorrect, however – it’s beside the point. Decades of neoliberalism have corroded our capacity to think in non-economic terms. We’ve been taught that all fields of human life should be organized as markets, and that government should be run like a business. This ideology has found its perverse culmination in the figure of Donald Trump, a celebrity billionaire with no prior political experience who catapulted himself into the White House by invoking his expertise as an businessman. The premise of Trump’s campaign was that America didn’t need a president – it needed a CEO.

Nowhere is the neoliberal faith embodied by Trump more deeply felt than in Silicon Valley. Tech entrepreneurs work tirelessly to turn more of our lives into markets and devote enormous resources towards “disrupting” government by privatizing its functions. Perhaps this is why, despite Silicon Valley’s veneer of liberal cosmopolitanism, it has a certain affinity for the president. On Monday, Trump met with top executives from Apple, Amazon, Google and other major tech firms to explore how to “unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services”, in the words of Jared Kushner. Between Trump and tech, never before have so many powerful people been so intent on transforming government into a business.

But government isn’t a business; it’s a different kind of machine. At its worst, it can be repressive and corrupt and autocratic. At its best, it can be an invaluable tool for developing and sustaining a democratic society. Among other things, this includes ensuring that everyone receives the resources they need to exercise the freedoms on which democracy depends. When we privatize public services, we don’t just risk replacing them with less efficient alternatives – we risk damaging democracy itself.

If this seems like a stretch, that’s because pundits and politicians have spent decades defining the idea of democracy downwards. It has come to mean little more than holding elections every few years. But this is the absolute minimum of democracy’s meaning. Its Greek root translates to “rule of the people” – not rule by certain people, such as the rich (plutocracy) or the priests (theocracy), but by all people. Democracy describes a way of organizing society in which the whole of the people determine how society should be organized.

What does this have to do with buses or schools or hospitals or houses? In a democracy, everyone gets to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. But that’s impossible if people don’t have access to the goods they need to survive – if they’re hungry or homeless or sick. And the reality is that when goods are rationed by the market, fewer people have access to them. Markets are places of winners and losers. You don’t get what you need – you get what you can afford.

By contrast, public services offer a more equitable way to satisfy basic needs. By taking things off the market, government can democratize access to the resources that people rely on to lead reasonably dignified lives. Those resources can be offered cheap or free, funded by progressive taxation. They can also be managed by publicly accountable institutions led by elected officials, or subject to more direct mechanisms of popular control.

These ideas are considered wildly radical in American politics. Yet other places around the world have implemented them with great success. When Oxfam surveyed more than 100 countries, they discovered that public services significantly reduce economic inequality. They shrink the distance between rich and poor by lowering the cost of living. They empower working people by making their survival less dependent on their bosses and landlords and creditors. Perhaps most importantly, they entitle citizens to a share of society’s wealth and a say over how it’s used.

But where will the money come from? This is the perennial question, posed whenever someone suggests raising the welfare state above a whisper. Fortunately, it has a simple answer. The United States is the richest country in the history of the world. It is so rich, in fact, that its richest people can afford to pour billions of dollars into a company such as Uber, which loses billions of dollars each year, in the hopes of getting just a little bit richer. In the face of such extravagance, diverting a modest portion of the prosperity we produce in common toward services that benefit everyone shouldn’t be controversial. It’s a small price to pay for making democracy mean more than a hollow slogan, or a sick joke.

 

 

 

Related Stories


          Why It Makes No Sense to Separate the White Working Class from the Black Working Class    
The media consistently radicalizes the white working class as noble; meanwhile the money is going to the top 1%.

This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here

“After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.”  —Barack Obama, Farewell Address, Chicago, January 2017

After three losses to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, a trifecta last accomplished by Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, there was much hand-wringing among Democrats about the loss of the South and the vanishing loyalty of Southern whites. William Galston and Elaine Kamarck at the Progressive Policy Institute argued that the electoral math made the South the true presidential battleground; that Democrats could not win by being more liberal or hoping to motivate black and poor voters to increase their voter participation. Thomas Edsall and Mary Edsall similarly warned in the pages of The Atlantic that the South was key, and it was lost because the liberal orthodoxy was too tied to race, and out of touch with white working-class voters.

“Liberal” candidates like Tom Harkin, Dick Gephardt, and Michael Dukakis were out. Their message was deemed too Northern, elite, and alien to the needed Southern white voter. In was a candidate who could rebrand the Democratic Party and break liberal orthodoxy, proving the party could be tough on crime and defense, and reinvent welfare and the social state. This turned out to be Bill Clinton. Now, the defeat of Hillary Clinton has once again caused Democrats to argue about what is needed to win the white vote.

Countless articles have focused on what Democrats have done wrong. And much of the theme remains the same as in 1989—that there is a noble white worker who has been betrayed. Here is how the Edsalls portrayed one such voter back in 1989:

“You could classify me as a working-class Democrat, a card-carrying union member,” says Dan Donahue, a Chicago carpenter who became active in the campaign of a Republican state senator in 1988. “I’m not a card-carrying Republican—yet. We have four or five generations of welfare mothers. And they [Democrats] say the answer to that is we need more programs. Come on. It’s well and good we should have compassion for these people, but your compassion goes only so far. I don’t mind helping, but somebody has got to help themselves, you’ve got to pull. When you try to pick somebody up, they have to help. Unfortunately, most of the people who need help in this situation are black and most of the people who are doing the helping are white. We [white Cook County voters] are tired of paying for the Chicago Housing Authority, and for public housing and public transportation that we don’t use. They [taxpayers] hate it [the school-board tax] because they are paying for black schools that aren’t even educating kids, and the money is just going into the Board of Education and the teachers’ union.”

As President Barack Obama warned in his farewell address, this depiction of whites as hard-working, noble, and beset (compared with whom?) is nowhere to start a dialogue about an economy in which the real problem is that all economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent. The language presumes that there are not black workers who lost out to trade deals that sent thousands of auto-parts jobs from Flint, Michigan, to Mexico or shut steel mills in Baltimore, Maryland. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, echoed Obama on the risks of reinforcing Trump’s cynical manipulation of race and the white working class:

Anyone who talks about dividing people in the country as a solution is a threat to the country, to democracy, the economy, and to working people, and we take every one of those seriously.

Oddly, much of the hand-wringing comes after victories by Presidents Clinton and Obama, each of whom demonstrated both the complexity of the white vote and the fact that the black vote matters. A core challenge is that many voters misunderstand basic economics, leading them to vote against the interests of working America as a whole. Many Americans still hold the view articulated by the Edsalls’ late-1980s white voter that government is not the solution. And their misunderstanding has been reinforced by actions of recent presidents.

One of those was Bill Clinton. The pursuit of white voters by Clinton led to attacks on the Social Security Act, first on the premise that budget discipline was more important, and second on the assumption that Social Security’s aid to the poor was too generous and too much of a handout to black women. Clinton supported partial privatization of Social Security pensions. Even Obama, pursuing deficit cuts, flirted with cuts in the cost-of-living formula.

The Social Security Act, let’s recall, was intended to protect the income of working-class American families. Yes, it was an entitlement, and proudly so. Social Security was first denied to most black Americans, but then extended. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a core part of Social Security. Clinton’s view that single mothers should be written out of the act—for that is what the end of “welfare as we know it” meant—was not viewed as an attack on working people. But it was. Black women, who have historically had the largest labor force participation rate among all racial groups, and who work more hours than any racial group among women, were stigmatized as being made lazy because they finally had access to that part of the Social Security Act which had initially been denied them when it was passed.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the feeble successor to AFDC, removed a class of workers from Social Security protection. Because of the “Nannygate” scandal surrounding Clinton’s attorney general nominee, protections for domestic workers within the Social Security Act were watered down. Despite the ravaging effect of the Reagan-era downturn on unemployment insurance, the Clinton administration offered little to repair a state-based system that had gone bankrupt and then refinanced itself by cutting access to benefits and benefit levels.

THE HARD REALITY OF TODAY'S level of inequality is this: For an increasing share of the population—black and white—the market no longer works to serve basic needs like housing, health insurance, child care, or college education. As the share of income held by the middle 60 percent declines, the top 10 percent’s share continues to grow, and within that, the top 1 percent.

The effect of heavy concentrations of money in fewer hands means that market-based allocations of resources are dictated by a smaller set of decision-makers. Businesspeople react to where the money is, whether they are home-builders, college presidents, or day-care providers. In the market, price is used as the rationing device, and prices follow where the money is.

When the middle class dominated the economy, it meant that prices for key personal investments followed increases in the incomes of the middle class. The government stepped in with housing, health, and education policies to subsidize those in the bottom 20 percent whose incomes were not keeping pace, and who would be rationed out of housing, health, and education by a market outcome. Worsening income inequality meant rising demands on government programs to ensure fair access to health and education, as prices rose faster than low income. Through the 1990s, the effect of discrimination made blacks synonymous with the bottom 20 percent, as they were overrepresented in the bottom income group.

What has happened to more whites now is that the market has moved past them as well. Pricing for child care and college education, essentials for their children, are outstripping their income growth; instead, prices are tied to the growth in income for the top 1 percent in the case of college tuition. And whites in the bottom 20 percent of income, who hold considerably more wealth than blacks in any part of the income distribution, can no longer self-insure themselves against the bumps in the economy.

As it took almost 40 years to get to this point, in the near term no recipe of policy fixes will sufficiently remedy the effects. Democrats need to focus on reversing those long-term trends, but also must have something to offer workers now. But every year that Trump is in office, that goal becomes more difficult.

Union representation, a key element in reversing those trends, continues to fall. More states are likely to adopt “right to work” laws. It will be increasingly difficult to rebuild workers’ voice in deciding how corporate output will be divided between wages and profits. That is the greatest source of the rising inequality. The hollowing out of the middle is not the result of automation. Rather, it reflects the relative advantage of those workers more closely tied to management, who squeeze down the income share for the middle and below.

What Reagan achieved in the 1980s was the illusion that by letting the floor fall, the middle could be protected. Unfortunately, too many white workers still have a view of the economy fed by the Reagan framework of government’s role. The unabated concentration of income will make after-tax methods of redistribution more vital so that Americans can have access to housing, education, and health. The Affordable Care Act, a market-based approach to health access, is one example where the fix is inadequate to rising income inequality, and made worse because it naïvely assumed that states would expand public access to address the gap in affordability.

UNDER TRUMP, RACE WILL complicate the effort to devise palliatives to rising inequality until more effective remedies can take effect. His dismantling of anti--discrimination offices within the federal government will create new downward pressures on an already stressed black working class. And the decline in union membership is more dangerous to black workers, who have higher union density than white workers and who rely far more than whites on union bargaining power to get higher wages. Further, black union density is more heavily reliant on public-sector bargaining than is true for whites, and public-sector unions are a target of Trump, who will abet the attack on public-sector unions taking place at the state level.

Under Trump, the gap between the experience of black and white workers will grow. Trump has already changed the political discourse. He has revived a strain of Southern populism that allows for asserting white privilege.

For Democrats, the problem with language that emphasizes the white working class as a separate problem from rising inequality of income and wealth is that it will racialize the debate rather than emphasizing the common assault on all who are not rich. It evokes the negative part of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Hillary Clinton had a hard time convincing young black workers that welfare reform and mass incarceration weren’t key to the Clinton legacy. The lack of black enthusiasm for Clinton is as much a part of the story of 2016 as the enthusiasm of white voters for Trump.

Further, progressive forces in the Democratic Party have been too uncritical of Bernie Sanders’s inability to lay the proper foundation with the party’s African American base ahead of the primary season. It was curious during the 2016 primary season to see Republicans all hopped up about the “SEC primary” (so-called because the Southern states involved have flagship universities in the Southeastern Conference), but no mention among the Democrats of the SWAC primary (the Southwestern Athletic Conference, a complementary athletic conference of public historically black universities).

So, while in the fall of 2015 Republicans fawned over attending games between the University of Alabama and Auburn, not a peep was heard on the need for Democrats to be at a game between Alabama State and Alabama A&M. Black voters often determine the victor in the Southern Democratic primaries, but spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire would be a likely outcome of a party worried about white working voters.

Democrats need to spend more time developing a frame to combat inequality. They need to do a better job of explaining that income inequality is a threat to economic growth. They need to be spending time helping Americans take the blinders off and see that workers, of all races, are being given the shaft by a system where corporate greed has become an elite “entitlement.” They need to pull the Band-Aid off a false sense there is some white privilege that can spare some workers the wrath of America’s war on working people. They must fess up to their quiet, and sometimes vocal, support of an agenda that attacked America’s workers. They need to stop believing the problem confronting American workers is that they are uneducated or unskilled. They need to stop defining the white working class as the less-educated. Those are the perennial excuses meted out to black workers. Young black workers reacted angrily in 2016 to a perception that their pain was being ignored. They didn’t vote for Trump, but Clinton lost as much because they didn’t vote for her either as Trump won because white voters voted for him.

The Democrats won’t solve their electability issues repeating the debate about white voters that they had in the late 1980s. They need to focus on the urgency of the effect of income inequality on American democracy. They need to sound the alarm. And they need to wake up and see who they are in bed with. The power elite of the party think they have freed themselves of a dependency on union support. But the Wall Street vision of the economy is poison for workers of all races and for Democrats.

When the Republican Party of the 19th century cut its deal to end Reconstruction and concentrate on winning the white vote, it launched the Gilded Age and the unremittent growth of inequality that collapsed in the Great Depression. It was accompanied by a Southern populism that entrenched a harsh racial code. Trump’s victory puts us within reach of repeating that mistake in history. Democrats need to be wary, and shrewd. How they handle this could entrench the dystopia of more Trumps—or create a new multiracial coalition of class uplift.

 

Related Stories


          Keeping up with the Jones   
The only real economic recovery after 9.11 was due to a real estate boom. The real estate boom was due to the creation of sub-prime mortgages. The sub-prime mortgage boom was due to the creation of high yielding debt securities. The debt security boom was created and sold by investment banks. The investment bank boom was the result of our economic recovery after 9.11.

Since 9.11 America lost its air-line industry, automotive industry, banking industry (and most recently) economy. Americans lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives.

The rise and fall of the Dow Jones since 9.11 took 7 years. The war of 9.11 was lost after the first few hours.

Presidential canidates shadow an American tragedy.

          Key Politics   
Some time ago an ignition key was born. A silver key with no remote nor batteries to slow it down, even the key ring found itself an orphan.

The key fit perfectly in many situations, small cars, big cars, fast cars, slow cars. The key was responsible for igniting 2 cycle and 4 cycle motors and grew to ignite the economy. Sometimes keys lost their ways, however technology advancements made it possible to clone another.

--------

Uniting what would become a political passion play, keys are blamed for melting ice-burgs and raising sea levels, and most important, winning elections.

John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, stated Global Warming is “the greatest scam in history …and nothing more than a political platform”.

Pros/cons alike there are just too many keys that open back doors of beach homes, private jets, eight car garages, and SUV caravans.

The Global Warming pitch has stalled.

Keys rejoice.
          A New Deal   
Last week, Automotive Stock Analysts down-graded the outlook for Publicly Traded Dealer Stocks (i.e., Auto Nation, Asbury, Group 1) explaining that both the economy and auto sales were going to decline in 2008.

Wall Street analysts were indeed right about short siding Publicly Traded Dealer Stocks (“Publics”), however for the wrong reasons. Sure it’s the economy that fuels the appetite for car sales, but for Publics, sheer sales increases can’t save an overall defunct business model.

If you view Publics in similar way you view (and invest in) large “box” retailers you will find three key differences:

1. Publics can't receive discounts for large stock orders.
2. Publics are restricted to sell only one brand per facility.
3. Publics can't profit from the sale of their new products.

Think about it, Wal Mart can buy 50,000 tubes of tooth paste for one quarter of the cost to your local drug store and then profit off any brand a consumer chooses, all displayed on the same shelf.

In automotive retailing, a dealer who sells five cars a month buys products for the same price as a dealer who sells 100 cars per month. Publics become large by committing to exclusive brand offerings (especially in expensive major markets) and then report significant losses in their new car departments. Sure there are exceptions, but unless everyone drives Toyota, Honda, BMW and Lexus brands the retailing business model will remain seriously flawed.

The only "real" value Publics have is real estate. Steer clear of Publics who pay more rent than mortgage (thus funneling rents to separate LLC’s - more of this at a later time).

The future of automotive retailing does indeed belong to big investors and CEO’s with vision and leadership (common traits of most Publics today). However only those Publics strong enough to lobby changes in franchise laws and distribution policies will prevail. Imagine IKIA sized retail facilities where customers can view products and services in the same way one clicks onto the Internet.

If you must sell Publics, sell because the business model is as out of date as the leaf springs I saw today on the new Hummer H3.
          Wescom Credit Union   
In a softening economy, consumers look to save money wherever possible. Reducing monthly bank fees is a good start, which tends to bring new business to the nation's non-profit credit unions. In addition to offering accounts free of service charges, credit unions generally offer lower interest rates on credit cards and home and auto
          Credit Union Updates Capture System to Cut Costs, Improve Service   
In a softening economy, consumers look to save money wherever possible. Reducing monthly bank fees is a good start, which tends to bring new business to the nation's non-profit credit unions. Submitted by Kofax.
           Oprah abandons broadcast TV for a life in cable: Oprah, we need to talk...   

Just this Monday Sarah Palin told Oprah she was "the queen of talk shows." Which might mean there's no better time to abdicate the throne than when you're clearly on top (and when the #2 talk show, Dr. Phil is produced by you).

But Oprah didn't just announce that when she wraps her 25th season in 2011 she will wrap the show for good. No, she announced that she would also begin the next chapter in her mega-successful life: she's going to move to cable. Her cable network, titled OWN, for Oprah Winfrey Network, was actually announced some time ago, so while that's not news, the fact that Ms. Winfrey is moving away from daytime television's most-watched show to build a fledgling cable network is an eyebrow-raiser.

Because cable TV is no safe haven away from the woes of broadcasters.

Audiences are fragmenting, cable TV is having a harder and harder time maintaining viewers in the face of the DVR and Hulu one-two punch. In fact, OWN was supposed to be up and running this winter but was postponed because of the challenging advertiser climate. It's a climate that's not going to get dramatically better even if our economy continues to improve. That's because advertisers have many alternatives for their advertising dollars, including the Internet, where more and more spending is shifting every day, reaching nearly $26 billion this year (see our July 2009 Interactive Marketing Forecast report for more detail).

Read more
          RELEASE BLITZ FOR SECRETS OF THE HANGED MAN   




SECRETS OF THE HANGED MAN
Icarus Fell series, book 3
by Bruce Blake

Genre: Urban Fantasy



Icarus Fell thought the afterlife couldn't get any worse...until Hell came looking for him.

When you are the orphaned child of a disgraced nun, and you're saddled with a ridiculous name like Icarus Fell, you don't expect things can go drastically downhill.

Until death comes along and an archangel recruits you for a job you screw up so badly you nearly lose your son to a demonic priest and a fallen angel.

And then, burdened by the lives lost because of your foul ups, you travel to Hell, a detour that costs you more dearly then you could ever have imagined.

No, things couldn't get much worse in the afterlife...unless Satan sends his lap dog to bring back the one thing he thinks belongs to him.

You.

Why couldn't death be easy?


The man tottered past the door without a second look and entered my territory. I held my breath. I didn’t imagine for a second he’d hear me breathing, but it’s what you do when you don’t want people to find you, a tactic every kid learns playing hide-and-seek.

He stopped a few feet away, wobbling side to side like a man standing on the deck of a ship at sea rather than a stable patch of cement behind the fifth best Italian joint in town. I didn’t fancy the look of him: he resembled a man unable to hold his booze.

Desperate to prove me right, he jerked to the side, bent at the waist and threw up on a pile of garbage bags.

“Jesus, dude. Careful. I think you got some on my shoes.”

Startled, the man fell back, his ass squishing on a damp piece of cardboard. He surveyed my dark corner, staring right at me without seeing me, probably shocked at a trash heap that spoke English. I toyed with the idea of fucking with him, but my annoyance at his presence squashed the desire. It made more sense to get rid of him because the dinner rush would be done soon, and I didn’t want to share the bounty.

I leaned forward and his gaze found me, not exactly like looking in a mirror for him because his rumpled and creased business suit and recently-cut-but-out-of-place short hair didn’t match my look. In eight months, I’d been near a barber once to ask for change, never for a trim. And opportunities to wash oneself or one’s clothes came along infrequently when living on the street—ditto the chance to shave—so I’d done neither in weeks. My patchy teenage beard probably made me look more like a crazy man.

“S...sorry, ah, dude.” The man wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then his hands on his pants. “I didn’t see you.”

He didn’t sound as intimidated as I’d hoped. “No sweat, man. Just don’t puke on me again.”

“Sure.”

He clawed at trash bags, clambering in the manner of a turtle flipped on its back until he got his feet under him, then brushed at the grime on his overcoat, smudging it across the lapel with his grubby hands. Smearing complete, he stood watching me, arms dangling loose at his sides.

I faded into the shadows, looked at the end of my joint to make sure it was still lit, then took a deep drag, the burner’s orange glow illuminating my lips and the tip of my nose. With one eye closed to keep the smoke out, I held my breath for a few seconds, then puffed it free of my lungs in a swirling cloud. The man breathed deep, inhaling the sweet odor of marijuana, and looked at me expectantly.

“You want a hit, dude?” Maybe if I shared my weed, I wouldn’t have to share the food when it arrived.

“S...sure.”

He took a step, hand extended to accept my offer.

“Grab a seat.”

I shuffled over in a rustle of cardboard and plastic, creating space for him to sit and thinking that, if I got him high enough fast enough, he wouldn’t notice when room service showed up. The guy looked a lightweight, so it shouldn’t take much.

He slouched forward to take a seat and lost his balance; on the way down, his forehead smacked against the brick wall and he tumbled into my lap. I jerked my hand away, barely keeping him from knocking the joint out of my fingers.

“Come on, man. First you lose your cookies on me, now you sit on me? Get it together.”

“S-s-sorry.” The stuttered word bore the distinct slur of inebriation, or maybe the ding he’d taken to the noodle caused it. He shinnied himself off me, coming too-close-for-comfort to pawing my balls as he did, then scooted his butt around until he found a comfortable spot amongst the garbage. “My name is Jack.”

He held out his hand for me to shake, but instead of the usual societal formalities, I offered him the joint. Jack took it between his thumb and index finger and inhaled with the exaggerated sucking sound made by people who don’t normally smoke. He held his breath and passed the reefer back. I grinned when his lungs revolted and a held-in cough bulged his cheeks, making him resemble a poor impersonation of Dizzy Gillespie.

“Good shit, hey?”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed struggling to inhale a breath of fresh air. “Good shit.”

I took another pull of the joint. “I haven’t seen you around before. You’re not dressed like most of the guys who hang out here.”

He looked down at his suit and I followed his gaze to the streak of puke down the front of his jacket, the spots of grime on the lapel. His purple tie hung askew and the creased tails of his mauve shirt hung over his belt.

“Had a fight with my girlfriend,” he said and belched the mixed aroma of puke and ganja. I waved my hand to clear the air; he swallowed and grimaced. “She’s pregnant.”

“And this is how you celebrate?”

Jack shook his head and winced with pain. “Nothing to celebrate. Kid can’t be mine.”

“Shitty, dude. Another drag?”

He blinked, then rubbed his hand across his eyes like someone scrubbing the sleepiness away. I waited for a second, but he didn’t seem to have heard me, so I elbowed him in the ribs to get his attention.

“You all right, man?”

“Yeah, I’m good.”

He took the joint, blinking. I thought the smoke caused it but, when he turned, I saw blood flowing into his eyes from the gash he’d given himself in the forehead. A trail of dark fluid ran from his hairline, past his eye, along his cheek and down to his jaw.

“Dude, you got some blood there.”

Jack’s eyes rolled up, looking for the wound like a dog chasing its tail, then he giggled at himself for trying to see his own forehead. He transferred the joint to his left hand, touched his head and lowered his fingers in front of his eyes.

“Banged my head,” he said and took a toke. “Hurts.”

“I bet.”




To some, death is the end; to others, a beginning. To Icarus Fell, it should have been a relief from a life gone seriously awry.

But death had other plans.

Icarus doesn't believe that the man awaiting him when he wakes up in a cheap motel room is really the archangel Michael, or that God's right hand wants him to help souls on their way to Heaven. Icarus doesn't believe there's a Heaven, so why should they want his help?

But the man claiming to be the archangel tempts him with an offer he can't ignore--harvest enough souls and get back the life he wished he'd had.

It seems Icarus has nothing to lose, until he botches a harvest and the soul that went to Hell instead of Heaven comes back to make him pay by threatening to take away the life he hoped to win back.

To save the wife and son he already lost once, Icarus will have to become the man he never was. Somehow, he will have to learn to believe.


If we're good, we go to Heaven; if we're bad we go to Hell. No one wants to go to Hell.

Except one man who wishes people would just remember to call him Ric.

In the aftermath of a serial killer's murderous spree, souls who didn't deserve damnation went to Hell. The archangel Michael doesn't seem concerned, but Icarus Fell can't bear the guilt of knowing it's his fault they ended up there.

But how can he save them when the archangel forbids him from going and his guardian angel refuses to help?

The answer comes in the form of another beautiful, bewitching guardian angel who offers to be his guide. They travel to Hell to rescue the unjustly damned one by one, but salvation comes at a cost and the economy of Hell demands souls.

Is it a price Icarus is willing to pay?



Bruce Blake lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. When pressing issues like shovelling snow and building igloos don't take up his spare time, Bruce can be found taking the dog sled to the nearest coffee shop to work on his short stories and novels.

Actually, Victoria, B.C. is only a couple hours north of Seattle, Wash., where more rain is seen than snow. Since snow isn't really a pressing issue, Bruce spends more time trying to remember to leave the "u" out of words like "colour" and "neighbour" than he does shovelling (and watch out for those pesky double l's). The father of two, Bruce is also the trophy husband of a burlesque diva.

Facebook ✯ Website ✯ Twitter ✯ Goodreads ✯ Amazon ✯ PGP author page


          Machine in the Ghost   
We live in a digital age, buy and sell in a digital economy, and consume—oh do we consume—digital media. The digital lies at the heart of our contemporary, information-heavy, media-saturated lives, and although we may talk about the digital as a cultural phenomenon, the thing itself—digitality—is often hidden to us, a technology that someone else has invented and that lives buried inside our computers, tablets, and smartphones. In this book, Robin Boast follows the video streams and social media posts to their headwaters in order to ask: What, exactly, is the digital?             Boast tackles this fundamental question by exploring the origins of the digital and showing how digital technology works. He goes back to 1874, when a French telegraph engineer, Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot, invented the first means of digital communication, the Baudot code. From this simple 5-bit code, Boast takes us to the first electronic computers, to the earliest uses of graphics and information systems in the 1950s, our interactions with computers through punch cards and programming languages, and the rise of digital media in the 1970s.Via various and sometimes unanticipated historical routes, he reveals the foundations of digitality and how it has flourished in today’s explosion of technologies and the forms of communication and media they enable, making real the often intangible force that guides so much of our lives.  
          Argentina: Unresolved Debts - FT.com   
It was a sweltering evening in Manhattan last week when Axel Kicillof, Argentina’s economy minister, confronted the cameras to insist his country had not defaulted on its international bonds for the eighth time in its history, but instead had suffered a “freak occur …
          Corporate Income Tax Cuts Would Harm, Not Help State’s Economy   

North Carolina lawmakers are barking up the wrong tree when they claim that corporate tax cuts, such as those proposed in the state Senate, will spur job creation and economic growth. In reality, those tax cuts will do more harm than good, in both the short- and long-term. Every dollar that Senate Bill 677 would ...

The post Corporate Income Tax Cuts Would Harm, Not Help State’s Economy appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          Another reason slashing corporate taxes ain’t the answer   

Not that very many people with any common sense really believe that cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy would really jump-start the North Carolina economy, but here’s some additional info that places this patently absurd idea in its proper light. As reported today by Travis Waldron at Think Progress: “Even as American corporations are raking in ...

The post Another reason slashing corporate taxes ain’t the answer appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          Foreign Direct Investment, Human Rights, INGOs   
One of the major areas of underdeveloped research within political science is the interaction between non-state actors. From an international political economy perspective, the literature has largely ignored the interaction of various non-state actors that are growing in importance, and its effects on different forms of trade. In a recently published article "Avoiding the Spotlight: Human Rights Shaming and Foreign Direct Investment" by Colin Barry, Chad Clay and Michael Flynn, they lay the foundation for examining this interaction. They examine the interaction between non-state actors (INGOs) and multinational corporations (MNCs) and the extent to which private actors' choices to invest in countries are affected by the reputational costs of doing business in those countries who have been targeted by human rights activists. In particular, they analyze how INGOs "naming and shaming" actions affect the level of FDI. Their results suggest that the naming and shaming approach by INGOs tends to reduce the amount of FDI received by developing states, thus providing evidence for INGO efforts affecting the behavior of MNCs.

While this research is certainly innovative it does leave open a couple of issues regarding the type of human rights needing to be examined. First, when focusing on foreign direct investment and human rights in general, is physical integrity rights the correct "form" of human rights abuse to look at in-depth. In particular, why is there no labor rights measure incorporated into the research design? If we are trying to determine the conditions under which multinational corporations will become concerned with a country's human rights record, it would certainly make sense that labor rights is probably the most important human rights issue to MNCs. That is, these would be the types of issues that MNCs would be cited and given numerous media attention by the international community.

As a human rights researcher from a political economy perspective, I am very excited to see the direction of our field moving down this route and examining the interactions between different non-state actors. I think these interactions will certainly reveal more of the underlying mechanisms at work in determining the conditions under which MNCs and other non-state actors choose to invest abroad.


          Walmart Workers Can't Be Paid Much More    
Sorry for the quiet around here. We've been busy with real projects. But to keep the lights on I thought I'd re-post something I wrote on Facebook that got long enough to be of bloggish length. It's not normal subject matter for us, but it is related to some these we discuss from time to time. It concerns Justin Fox's claim that low wages for employees of corporations like Walmart are a "social decision" distinct from economic logic. I think he's right, but not really in the way that he means.

There's a much better way to get at this. Walmart and other low-end retailers are both producers (of goods/distribution of goods) and consumers (of labor). Their business model is to forego some of their producer surplus (hence the very low profit margin, around 3% of revenues) in order to boost volume. Per store, Walmart makes around $1.4 million/year... it's just that they have over 10,500 stores so their overall profits (~$15bn) sound impressive and their revenues (~$450bn) are astounding.

If you considered each store as its own "small business" you'd wonder what the hell they were doing, because to staff those stores they have to hire a ton of people to accommodate all that volume. That's why this model only works at scale. To maintain even a 3% profit margin they have to extract some of their workers' producer surplus to make up for the surplus they have given to consumers to capture market share. This is what a high volume/low margin business looks like. It's even more severe at Amazon. But they don't capture as much of their workers' surplus as people think.

Walmart's stores are staffed on average by about 300 people who make on average $12.67 per hour or ~$25k/year if they work full-time and take two weeks of unpaid vacation. $1.4mn profit per store /300 workers = ~$4,500. So that's how much surplus value Walmart is "extracting" from labor, if you don't factor in anything else like retaining earnings, paying shareholders, investing in new stores/products, etc. That's a lot of trouble to make a measly $1.4mn! The only way it makes sense (for shareholders) is if volume is HUGE. Which it is. Since the shareholders are relatively concentrated -- six Waltons own nearly half of the shares -- they make a killing. But it's practically all volume.

Anyway, $3k or so is the upper limit of how much more each worker could earn under the current business model. Say it's the difference between $25k and $30k. That's certainly not nothing, but it does not represent such a qualitative difference in standard of living that anyone would consider Walmart employees to be well-paid if they all got the full $4,500.

So what else could be done other to increase that $4,500/year? Walmart could claw back some of their producer surplus from consumers by raising prices and using the proceeds to raise wages, which would constitute a simple redistribution from customers to employees assuming no money taken by management/ownership and completely inelastic consumer demand. Both assumptions are pretty heroic in this case. That would basically just shuffle cash from some poor people (Walmart's customers) to other poor people (Walmart's employees). Or they could reduce margins even further, but 3% is already pretty thin. Or they could raise margins by paying their suppliers (e.g. poor Chinese workers) even less, and give the extra profits to their American workers. They could redistribute salaries from management -- their CEO makes $20 million to manage a company with $450 billion in revenues -- but Walmart employs over 2 million people... we're talking 10 bucks per worker per year if the CEO was paid nothing at all.

So any redistributionary choice that would fundamentally change the situation would seem to involve deciding which group of poor people are made worse off: Walmart's customers, its employees, or its suppliers. The political equilibrium right now is a mix of employees and suppliers. Changing policy -- say, by raising the minimum wage -- involves changing two of those variables: one goes up, one goes down. There's just not enough cash which can be taken from management to make all that much of a difference on a per worker basis, even if you reduced managements' salaries to $0 and retained no profits for future investments or any other purpose. And per-worker profit is so low that there's a pretty firm limit on how much more they can be paid.

Now, Walmart's business model of extremely high volume at very low margins does not represent the entire economy, although I see a number of trends pushing more and more of the retail economy in that direction, so this logic won't always apply. But it's about as close to the competitive equilibrium models of econ 101 as contemporary markets get. So if there was ever a case to be made that wages are social decisions rather than economic decisions -- and there is, although I'd prefer "political decisions" over who captures the producer and consumer surplus to "social decisions", which just sounds slippery -- Walmart probably isn't the best example for Fox to use.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen's column today speaks to a related issue: the politics of wealth vs income.
          Distributional Politics of the Ice Cream Parable   
Tyler Cowen is thinking out loud:
This parable assumes that [monetary] injection effects are important, namely where the new money goes first. This Austrian-like view is unfashionable, has weak theoretical foundations, and violates the Modigliani-Miller theorem, but at the moment markets seem to believe it. Should we believe it too?
Yes we should. Or at least we shouldn't let Modigliani-Miller stop us. In his 2011 Presidential Address to the American Finance Association, John Cochrane said the following:
Discount rates vary a lot more than we thought. Most of the puzzles and anomalies that we face amount to discount-rate variation we do not understand. Our theoretical controversies are about how discount rates are formed. We need to recognize and incorporate discount-rate variation in applied procedures.
If discount rates are varying a lot -- across time, space, and actors -- then a representative agent model such as Modigliani-Miller is not going to perform very well. And, as it turns out, it doesn't. I have paper, while I'll be sending out for review soon, which drills down at banks' activities (at the firm level) across countries and time. It turns out that there is all kinds of variation being driven by a whole host of variables at multiple levels of analysis. Which, you know, we all know intuitively... but it's not what our models expect. So let's ditch Modigliani-Miller. Capital structure is clearly not irrelevant in the real world.

Going back to Cowen, here's something with which we might be concerned. Central banks act by trading debt instruments for others at price. In normal times the swap is either short-term sovereign debt for cash or present dollars for future dollars plus interest. In our current environment, it's practically anything for cash. Who benefits from this situation? Those who can create debt that can be sold to the central bank for cash. In normal times this has primarily been governments, but governments are doing everything they can to stop creating debt. So who does that leave? Banks.

Because central banks want to be active they have been broadening the range of debt instruments that they will conduct business in. So here's a worrisome dynamic: governments are trying to reduce debt, while banks are being encouraged by central banks to create debt instruments which they can trade for cash. Karl Whelan may be correct that traditional solvency concerns don't apply to central banks, but that doesn't mean that there aren't knock-on effects from this.

The upshot is that expansionist central bank policy requires somebody to lever up. If governments won't do it and households can't do it then banks and large corporations pretty much have to. The more activist the central bank wants to be and the less indebted the government wants to be, the more banks have to create debt instruments however they can. Possibly that could mean loans to individuals and smaller firms, which could be stimulative, but households and firms are deleveraging. Meanwhile, bank regulators are telling banks to stop lending to risky groups. So where's the debt going to come from?

Banks and big credit-worthy firms are going to do very well. They're getting debt finance for free, so their equity can be deployed elsewhere or held in reserve. This is why stock markets are up so much. This is why Apple and other corporations are taking out loans when they don't even need the cash and have no real plans to do much of anything with it in the short run. Everyone else is not going to do very well, because the traditional mechanisms for distributing from central banks to the citizenry -- fiscal policy plus bank loans to individuals and small firms -- is being cut out of the story. In one sense that might be okay if the future costs of debt servicing are higher than the expected return folks would get from borrowing. But the distributional implications of this are clear: the economy is going to become more unequal and less efficient. Credit is not being allocated to facilitate productive investment -- there might not be many -- but to create debt instruments to sell to central banks for cash. The policy mix we have right now practically requires inequality to go up, which is a sign that the economy is seriously imbalanced.

One alternative is to let risk back into the system but I don't hear anybody calling for that right now.

At some point central banks will be pressured to tighten. It looks very likely that this will be under conditions of steady but slowish growth. This is where the Big Unknown comes in. When that day comes will banks (and corporations) start using their cash productively or keep hoarding it? Given the experience of the past decade or so, will there be many people who even want to borrow in order to build a McMansion or buy a luxury car or MBA? If they did, will regulators let banks lend to them? Will the originate-securities-and-distribute-to-surplus-countries market come back as strong as before?
          A Brief Theory of the Great Stagnation   
World War II left industrialized societies with two main features: a lot of industrial capacity, and a lot of dead men. These combined to drive up wages for workers, and for cultural and pragmatic (high wages mean no need for dual income households; high fertility was encouraged to replenish the population) reasons workers were overwhelmingly men. The marginal unit of labor was thus very valuable and labor supply was restricted since the baby boom generation needed twenty or so years to grow up.

By the end of the 1960s the baby boomers were entering the workforce but industrial capacity had not grown at the same rate as the population. Thus, new entrants into labor markets -- which increasingly included women and minorities as well as young white men -- put downward pressure on wages. The marginal unit of labor was no longer very valuable. Median wages began to stagnate at the same time that over-crowding of cities was leading to social unrest. Governments did not do a good job of managing these duel pressures. The 1970s are a period of stagflation and urban decline.

The post-baby boom economy has lots of labor, so income gains are not broadly shared. Who benefits? Those who can sell the product of their labor into the biggest markets. That means the heads of major corporations, financiers, professional atheletes. The rise of information technology increases these opportunities, but only for a minority. Think of these as the prominent nodes in a network.

This isn't so much capital-versus-labor anymore. The beneficiaries aren't the landed elite or the factory owner. Instead, the beneficiaries are those in managerial positions in large corporations, those who are able to leverage technical education to create consumer products that are popular, and those who are very good (or not so good, as the case may be) at managing peoples' money. That is... it's labor. It's labor that has put itself in a central position in the economic network of late-capitalism. Michael Jordan didn't become a multimillionaire by extracting the surplus value of anyone else's labor. He did it by selling his own labor to millions of people simultaneously, and then leveraging his celebrity to move into high positions in the corporate hierarchy. Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire by giving his product away for free. Steven Spielberg gets rich on volume, not margin, and has made more from Dreamworks than from directorial fees. And some dude at Goldman Sachs gets rich by making sure all of their money doesn't go away.

The political left and right do not understand this. This is not a dynamic that will lead to wealth trickling down, nor will increasing the strength of labor unions be able to alter it. This is a new economy, but we're treating it like it's the old economy.



          Tree Don't Care What A Little Bird Sings   


I have not read much of Robert Fogel's work, not much at all, but I may need to read more of it. A Fine Theorem, one of the more under-appreciated blogs, has a summary of Fogel's Without Consent or Contract. Here's part of it:
... the paradox rests on the widely held assumption that technological efficiency is inherently good. It is this beguiling assumption that is false and, when applied to [American] slavery, insidious.”  

Roughly, it was political change alone, not economic change, which could have led to the end of slavery in America. The plantation system was, in fact, a fairly efficient system in the economic sense, and was not in danger of petering out on its own accord.
Here's the rest.

There are multiple views of the politics of technology. (Technology is, at its core, information aggregation.) One says that technology is liberating. Another says that technology is enslaving. Another says that technology is fueled by the state for purposes of control. (Oddly, skeptics of markets often make the first point of that point without understanding that the second point is the corollary.) Technology can destabilize the political equilibrium (but does that only apply if it goes in one direction? I doubt it). It's worth googling a bit for the views of Farrell, Drezner, and Lynch on this. It's worth noting that modern authoritarian regimes try to get to the technological frontier as rapidly as possible but they tend to have a tough time managing it. Francis Spufford's Red Plenty is on sale at Amazon right now, if you don't mind probably giving some of your metadata to the NSA.

Sarah Jaffe (on Twitter) asked for a political economy of the surveillance state. (Here's a short take, not very good.) I haven't got the time or background knowledge to build a real model, but if I was going to I'd start with Tilly and Scott and Weber at the foundation and ask what purpose this really serves. Knowledge is power, is it not? Power is needed for protection (in the Tillian sense), is it not? After that I'd go to Orwell like everyone already is, but not the dystopian cliches. Remember in 1984 that Winston Smith was pretty much the only one in society bothered by Big Brother. (Probably not, if you've read your Timur Kuran, but as far as Smith could tell he nearly enough was.) Everybody else just got on with it. The proles sang their songs and read their magazines. Sure, Julia was a bit inconvenienced by the whole thing, but it's not like she really had principles.

Now think about Havel. Now think about samizdat. Is information so easily controllable? Can the state not oppress on the basis of allegation, innuendo, or missing data? Can the citizenry not resist simply by living? Does the state need all information to "keep the locals in line" or just a vague threat -- the vaguer the better? Corey Robin addresses this and gives a precis of his book on the politics of fear. Stalin didn't have Bukharin's metadata... just the ability to credibly say "we know where your kids are". That hasn't changed. Yglesias is right: the biggest thing to fear from the surveillance state isn't the state, per se. But that's a micro story, and micro stories can dictate macro policies.

The U.S. public is not concerned about this. To the extent they are it's for partisan reasons, not out of principle. Note that this is not new. Note that, so far, it appears that these programs are legal at least in broad terms. Intellectuals are more concerned that the median pollee, as they should be, since they are much more likely to be targeted than a randomly-selected person. (If I was Glenn Greenwald I'd go back to snail mail and pay phones for a good long while.) But so? Democratic politics does not guarantee puppies and roses. As we debate whether or not this is constitutional we should remember that James Buchanon's insights do not only apply to economic policy. We should also remember that politicians and celebrities have been subject to heavier levels of scrutiny than this for as long as there has been human society.

Data, even metadata, can be used for ill. (Or good, as the case may be, since the 21st century version of Paul Revere is probably someone Healy wouldn't meet for a beer at Ye Olde Tavern. Possibly this isn't what Healy's driving at.) But let's not get carried away. The U.S. government is sophisticated in many ways, but this program has only $20mn in funding. Let's say they spend $5mn of that on high-powered computers (that's probably less than what the supercomputer I ran a bunch of my dissertation on cost), and the rest on twenty-somethings making $200k/year each (as Snowden apparently did). That's 75 guys trying to make sense of the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day. Good luck with that. (No I don't believe only $20mn was funneled into this. Not for a moment do I believe that. But I'm not sure how much $20bn could really do absent some good old fashioned police work.)

So after you've read the Spufford (or even before) you might want to read some of the discussion at Crooked Timber on the book. See especially this wonderclass by Shalizi which has as much to say about social science theory and methods as it does about historical political systems or the contemporary political economy of the surveillance state or novels. The key question is Shalizi's first one: what is being optimized?

Then recall that Hayek's slippery slope is a logical fallacy to which the historical record is not kind. Should we be less concerned? Probably depends on how concerned you were in the first place... anonymity is a myth.

Remember too that the government oppresses and kills and makes terrible decisions when it doesn't have good intelligence. Given that, is the expected utility of (American or other) society better or worse with PRISM or without it? Apparently this program stopped one or more attacks at the London Olympics. What would the cost of those attacks have been? Was preventing them worth $20mn dollars plus some false positives? (The TSA spends $6.5 billion a year and probably gets almost nothing for it.) Could PRISM have stopped Nidal Hasan had it been better-implemented? If it could have, would it be worth it? We are quite literally behind the veil of ignorance at the moment (just a bit less in the wake of Snowden's leaks), but if we take engaged citzenry to be a desirable normative end in itself we need to put our Bayesian caps on now and start updating our priors.

What tail event has a greater probability: that this program is abused in such a way that it devastates liberal society, or that it prevents a significant attack the fallout from which would devastate the same society?

In the end the biggest repercussions of NSA spying might be felt in the US-EU trade negotiations.

Nevertheless, I oppose PRISM and related programs very strongly. I do so because I am not risk-averse.

I believe this is the most Cowen-esque thing I've ever written. I also believe that every link in this post is worth clicking on.
          Follow Up to Acryonym Monday - ISD and TTIP   
On Monday Will pointed to some indication that an investor-state dispute clause may be a sticking point in the much anticipated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). As Simon Lester points out, it's not quite clear from the EU TTIP negotiating mandate whether the EU wants to strengthen any ISD or weaken it (ungated version here). Civil society groups are already decrying any ISD as an "assault on democracy, human rights, and the public interest," citing a rise of "expropriation trolls" and that an ISD would prevent the eurozone from having the policy flexibility needed to effectively deal with crises. (see also similar critiques of the Trans Pacific Partnership here)

Typically, discussions of ISDs focus on the preferences and bargaining power of potential investors and potential host governments. The stereotypical case of a potential treaty with an ISD is between an advanced industrialized country and an emerging economy. Therefore most commentators focus on the extent to which host governments are able to resist pressure from rich countries to cede jurisdiction of investment matters to an international arbitral board. Developing countries that need foreign investment are typically in weak bargaining position vis-a-vie large multinationals who have great powers negotiation on their behalf.

Of course, the power asymmetries that so clearly define most ISD negotiations do not obtain in the US-EU case. What is particularly interesting about these negotiations is the relative parity of negotiation partners. Simon wonders if the EU wants a weak ISD or a strong one. I'd argue that it depends on what sorts of rules an ISD would enforce. Business interests in the EU want the TTIP to export European standards to the US, as this would provide them with an advantage. Of course, US firms want an ISD to protect American investors from European regulations. There's a bunch of political science work that examines how the US and EU compete over regulatory authority: see here, here, here, and here for examples. The bottom line, I think, is that an ISD is going to be a very, very tough sell in the context of a US-EU deal. The EU negotiating mandate still maintains its preference for the inclusion of an ISD clause, but I would not be surprised if a final deal severely restricts the ISD mandate or removes it entirely.
          Was Stalin Necessary for Russia's Economic Development?   
Some of the he-was-a-baddie-but-at-least-he-modernized-the-place say "yes"*. New research by a team of Russian economists says "no":
This paper studies structural transformation of Soviet Russia in 1928-1940 from an agrarian to an industrial economy through the lens of a two-sector neoclassical growth model. We construct a large dataset that covers Soviet Russia during 1928-1940 and Tsarist Russia during 1885-1913. We use a two-sector growth model to compute sectoral TFPs as well as distortions and wedges in the capital, labor and product markets during the two periods. We find that most wedges substantially increased in 1928-1935 and then fell in 1936-1940 relative to their 1885-1913 levels, while TFP remained generally below pre-WWI trends. Under the neoclassical growth model, projections under these estimated wedges imply that Stalin's economic policies led to welfare loss of -24 percent of consumption in 1928-1940, but a +16 percent welfare gain after 1941. A representative consumer born at the start of the Stalin's policies in 1928 experiences a reduction in welfare of -1 percent of consumption, a number that does not take into account additional costs of political repression during this time period. The projected performance under both Tsarist' and Stalin's wedges is much worse than the economic performance of Japan, which in 1885-1913 had similar levels of per capita GDP and distortions as Tsarist Russia, but experienced a rapid acceleration of non-agricultural TFP during the interwar period. Relative to this benchmark, the welfare loss of Stalin's policies are about -31 percent of consumption.
Via Cheap Talk, who notes that one of the economists -- Sergei Guriev -- has just left the country under duress from public officials.

The story that Russia's development was impossible or unlikely absent Stalin's repression always seemed unlikely to me. Other places have developed without those levels of repression (e.g. Japan, as the authers note, but not just), or have had repression without growth. The repression-growth relationship is not strictly positive and linear, in other words, so any story about Stalin and development has to be particular to Russia. And, frankly, I've yet to hear one that's had any solid theory behind it. (Perhaps someone could point one out to me in the comments.) I've heard mumblings that "Russia was a backwater hellhole" -- this was more or less Marx's view, although it's not true that Marx believed that socialism could not work there -- but every place is a backwater hellhole before they develop. Yes, Tsarism was bad, but plenty of regimes were bad in the 19th century.

I'd never really considered the possibility that all those supposed gains under Stalin didn't actually happen and in fact made things worse. It puts a new spin on the Cold War races for economic, military, and technological superiority.

I'm not sure I fully believe the two-sector growth model the authors use, which is pretty standard as these things go, but even the descriptive evidence is useful.

P.S. Here are some pictures of Soviet life in the 1950s.

*Terry Eagleton is of this sort, in his execrable recent book which manages to both misunderstand Marx and his critics at the same time. One relevant bit is quoted here.
          The 2013 Warwick/RIPE Debate   
You can find the video here. The main figures are Cornelia Woll -- one of the editors of the Review of International Political Economy -- and John Hobson -- who has two historiographical articles [1, 2] on IPE in the 20th anniversary issue of RIPE.*

It's an interesting discussion of the sort that you would never hear in most mainstream American IPE departments. Perhaps for that reason they could have done more to highlight criticisms of OEP from within the American IPE tradition (other than Cohen), especially since the stated mission of RIPE is to promote a dialogue among the various strands of IPE. Obviously the Reductionist Gamble is what I have in mind, but it's not the only one. This "debate" did basically none of that.

One of the questioners kind of got at this. If RIPE is going to be heterodox, then what does that mean? Just a constructivist alternative to the rationalist approaches published in IO? Woll said that she didn't know what the orthodox was so she couldn't be sure of what the heterodox would be, but earlier she singled out OEP particularly. Hobson drove that nail in. So then the heterodox would just be anything that isn't OEP? It's not clear.

Neither Woll nor Hobson even hinted at the possibility that a broadly positivist alternative to OEP was conceivable, or that it could be an ally for non-positivist approaches. This is (a) problematic.

On Hobson's presentation I have two thoughts: a) He is almost surely correct about the history; b) I'm not really sure how much that matters for forward-looking analyses. But I'll need to read the articles first to be sure.

*The issue has not been released yet, I don't think, but Hobson's contributions are available on early view at the links above.
          Marginalia   

Corey Robin has written a long article arguing that Austrian economic thought and marginalism in general is descended from Nietzsche. Hence, Hayek et al are a bunch of aristocrats dedicated to oppressing society. I'd be happy to be persuaded that the marginalists -- at least as Robin uses the term, which isn't the only way -- are Nietzschean, but Robin's article didn't do it. Too many strong assertions based on tenuous evidence, and Robin is not exactly an impartial observer. This follow-on John Holbo post -- while exceptional in many ways -- doesn't do it either. Partially because it rests so heavily on a peculiar (I think) reading of this quote from Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty:

To grant no more freedom than all can exercise would be to misconceive its function completely. The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million may be more important to society and more beneficial to the majority than any freedom that we all use.

This does not have to mean that "some people’s freedom is a lot more valuable than other people’s freedom", as Holbo wrote in a previous post and quotes here. In light of the rest of Hayek's work (or even the rest of the passage from which this quote is pulled: see below) it is strange to argue that this passage means anything like what Holbo thinks it means: "Ideally, we would find that one man and even make all others his slaves, if that is what it took to let him exercise his freedom to the fullest. Hayek thus affirms a freedom monster argument somehat analogous to the classic pleasure monster reductio."

The Hayek quote refers to the exercise of liberty, which may not be universal even if the liberty is extended universally. Hayek is arguing that it does not follow from the fact that the exercise may be non-universal that the liberty should be restricted. Instead, those who would exercise their liberty should be free to do so. In fact, there are a million liberties. None of us can act on all them, but all of us will act on some of them. Restricting liberties that the majority isn't exercising may be tempting, but it would be wrong to do so since the exercise of liberties leads to the improvement of society. That's the argument.

To get from Hayek to Holbo's interpretation of Hayek you have to take a few steps. First you'd have to ignore the footnote on the very passage Holbo pulls, which contains this quote (from some people I've never heard of): "If there is to be freedom for the few who will take advantage of it, freedom must be offered to the many." How does that imply enslavement of the masses for the benefit of one? Suppose I proposed universal suffrage while acknowledging that many people will stay home on election day. Would that make me anti-democratic? It's a strange argument.

Hayek believes that social progress occurs partially through experimentation, the results of which are ex ante unknowable. The "unknowable" part is extremely important for Hayek. It's how he can simultaneously support a welfare state and public provision of public goods while opposing egalitarian redistribution and social ownership of the means of production. "Knowable" advances can be socially planned, and Hayek was fine with using the power of the state to do so. ("It is the character rather than the volume of government activity that is important.") Unknowable advances cannot be planned but are nevertheless desirable, thus experimentation must be allowed through constitutionalization and encouraged by the preservation of (market) reward for experiments that succeed. Holbo is correct that this is Millian -- J.S. Mill's "utilitarianism" is dynamic, not static: society benefits at time t+1 from the exercise of individual liberty at time t. Whether this is actual utilitarianism or something else is, I suppose, the question -- but wrong when he implies that Mill, by way of Hayek, was Nietzschean.

Hayek seems to believe that the majority of society will choose not to experiment because they are risk averse -- "The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million..." emphasis added -- or because they are exercising some other liberty, but it is socially optimal to have somebody doing some experimenting. Those who are interested in doing so, those who will exercise their liberties while others do not, should be allowed to do so, since society will benefit if they succeed. The rest of the passage in The Constitution of Liberty quote above goes:

The less likely the opportunity, the more serious will it be to miss it when it arises, for the experience that it offers will be nearly unique. It is also probably true that the majority are not directly interested in most of the important things that any one person should de free to do. It is because we do not know how individuals will use their freedom that it is so important. If it were otherwise, the results of of freedom could also be achieved by the majority’s deciding what should be done by the individuals. But the majority action is, of necessity, confined to the already tried and ascertained, to issues on which agreement has already been reached in that process of discussion that must be preceded by different experiences and actions on the part of different individuals. 
The benefits I derive from freedom are thus largely the result of the uses of freedom by others, and mostly of those uses of freedom that I could never avail myself of. It is therefore not necessarily freedom that I can exercise myself that is most important for me. It is certainly more important that anything can be tried by somebody than that all can do the same things… What is important is not the freedom that I personally would like to exercise but what freedom some person may need in order to do things beneficial to society. This freedom we can assure to the unknown person only by giving it to all.

How can one (e.g. Holbo) read this and come away thinking Overman? It's more like the open source movement. Which makes sense, since Hayek's view on this goes back to his 1945 essay "The Uses of Knowledge in Society". He argues there that because much knowledge is local, and centralized planning cannot incorporate local knowledge, that centralized planning will fail. This argument is what he's drawing from to say that the exercise of liberty by some -- who are in possession of local knowledge not available to all -- is not suboptimal.

Now, possibly you could argue that Hayek's view of the masses is too dim (even though he includes himself in them) and that is where the aristocracy comes in and takes us to Nietzsche. Or possibly you could argue that the "knowable" advances are greater than the "unknowable" advances. Indeed, this is the argument against which Hayek dedicated himself to in writing The Constitution of Liberty, which was published in 1960 -- a time after Sputnik when Paul Samuelson was predicting that the USSR's GNP per capita would surpass the US's within a generation or so -- so you'd at least be meeting him where he is. The question Hayek is trying to address is whether society will benefit more from planning or from spontaneous emergence. He obviously believes it is the latter. He may be wrong, but not because he's a Nietzschean.

The better argument is the one made by Amartya Sen: it is not necessarily local knowledge which precludes some from exercising certain liberties, but rather material opportunity. It may not be that some will not exercise their ability but that they cannot do so. In this case they are not free. Hayek says almost nothing about this directly, but does say that just because some are free does not mean that all should be enslaved. Those who can exercise their freedom should do so, as this will provide benefit for society.

This is the point, I think, that Hayek goes astray. His argument about the importance of local knowledge and decentralization falls apart when those with local knowledge cannot employ it and opportunity is centralized. His claim that innovations by the few will benefit the many is empirical: sometimes they do, often they do not. His argument that order is spontaneous is contingent, in other words, not a law of nature. Complex systems can, and do, break down. To simply admit does not require giving anything else up.

But, again, this is not Nietzschean. Which is why Objectivists do not like Hayek. This is an argument that Hayek should revise his beliefs to include a role for a marginally bigger -- although not fundamentally different -- state, or some other redistributionary apparatus. This is doable using Hayekian language, even if Hayek himself and many of his supporters recommend a minimalist state. Hayek is reconcilable with somewhat-modest forms of social democracy, in other words, and social democracy is reconcilable with a deregulated-but-redistributionary political economy.

But to do that you'd have to admit that Hayek was not quite a moral monster. Corey Robin is dedicated to showing that the right wing is authoritarian in all its guises. He believes that when Hayek writes "Why I Am Not A Conservative" he simply cannot be trusted: he's a reactionary like all the rest, and all the rest are motivated first and foremost by a lust for exploitation and oppression. There is nothing inherently wrong with this intellectual project, and I've learned a lot by following it. But it is inherently limiting at the same time, and it commits one to answers before questions have even been asked.


          Economy International Shipping starts October 12, 2016   
We will be going live with Economy International shipping rates on Tuesday, October 11, and we will begin shipping International Economy on Wednesday, October 12. On top of Edge membership programs being offered to 28 countries ($29.95 – 39.95), all other international orders will be discounted up to 70% off of current rates. NOTE:  WE HAVE […]
          AN INTERWIEW WITH CLAUDIO GROTTO, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF GAS    

grotto

Jeanswear is a way of being even more than a choice of look

 

The first GAS collection was born more than 30 years ago, in 1984. What was the starting point of this new brand? Why a denim brand?

 

I grew up admiring the disruptive style of American movie stars like Marlon Brando, James Dean... In my twenties the swinging London of the Beatles and the Stones was a sort of promise land. Those were the years of the youth counter-culture and from London we started to hear the echo of a new lifestyle and a free and casual look that reflected it. In those days the Italian market lacked a range of clothing that could “dress” the changing world. This is why I started from my family’s haberdashery’s shop to sell the symbol of that epochal change: jeans. Soon after that I felt the need of producing something original and unique that reflected my taste and my vision.I started from the basement of my house but very soon my little workshop started to gradually evolve into a proper company. In 1984 my dream became true with the launch of the first collection with my brand that still today has its DNA in denim, the cornerstone that the collections revolve around.

 

What do you remember about the first GAS collection?

 

GAS was started as a menswear brand that, then and now, revolves around denim. The women’s line was born right after in a very natural and spontaneous way. In 1984 Italy was just coming out of the controversial 70s and the economy was booming. Young people were breathing wealth and hope. The “paninari” movement was exploding and, beyond the consumerism and the disengagement that don’t belong to our brand’s attitude, the style was strongly influenced by that phenomenon. Colourful down jackets and sweatshirts, big prints, denim jackets with faux fur collars and straight, over-cuffed jeans were essential, almost a uniform.

 

How was the double rainbow logo born?

 

One day I was in Cape Town, South Africa, and after a storm, right where the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean meet, two rainbows crossing over each other appeared through the sunlight. This natural phenomenon with its immense energy was the inspiration to associate to our brand the symbol that still today reflects the basic values of the brand and its collections: essentiality, sensuality, positivity, freshness and authenticity.

 

GAS at the beginning was an artisan brand. Now the brand is global. What is your vision and what is remaining of its original spirit?

 

The brand is maintaining an artisan flavour thanks to the accuracy in the making of our products. This goes hand-in-hand with our global vision. Our craftsmanship sits on the values of our product values. The know-how, the accuracy in every detail, the quality of the materials and the manufacturing, the balance of quality and style, function and style go together with our natural vocation for innovation. This urge finds its expression thanks to our artisanal room. A place where all new production processes are tried out “in vitro”. Concerning our international vision, despite the fact that it was born in a small town in the North-East of Italy, the project for GAS has always been that of making it a global brand. Since the first years of my adventure as an entrepreneur, I got some important contacts in Germany where I had worked when I was very young. Every week I took the car to hand over the jeans just packed in the laboratory under the house and gather new orders. Since then I never living out of a carry-on bag, chasing every inspiration and opportunity that moved. This experience took me gradually to the establishment of commercial subsidiaries and to the signature of distribution agreements at a global level.

 

How does your vision of fashion has changed over these three decades?

 

Style and trends have changed over these years and our collections evolved with them. Nevertheless, my vision is still the same of the early history: offer quality products that meet the needs of intelligent, aware, international and cosmopolitan consumers. Clothes that have a contemporary flavor but go beyond current fashions to express the wearer’s individuality on every occasion.

 

One last question, you are the founder and the chairman of a big company. How do you manage to reconcile work and private life?

 

I could say I work all the time or that I have never worked in my whole life. Mine is not a profession, it’s a passion. Also, there isn’t any effort that the satisfaction of having created an international company where my daughters have set their career cannot compensate. Then, when the pressure becomes too strong and the risk is that of lose the contact with my roots, I wear my trekking shoes and my backpack and at the first light of the day, I climb the mountains that surround my house.

 


          Sacrificing Atiwa Forest for ‘China Bauxite’ wrong – Inusah Fuseini   
China’s move to commit to $15 billion into Ghana’s economy could have some far reaching implications on the environment, given the deal will be anchored by Ghana’s natural resources, specifically bauxite.
          The Everest Ledger.   
Thamel district in Kathmandu.
Three days passed before our gear duffels arrived in Kathmandu from Lukla.  In that time Ty and I allowed ourselves the consumption of whatever food and drink seemed even mildly amusing. The French Open was underway so we passed many hours watching it on the television in our room. Ty is a huge tennis fan. He would wake at 3 a.m. to see a certain match broadcast live.  I watched mostly so I could entertain myself, floating fictional red herrings about each player. “I understand Federer was recently photographed kicking a dog,” I would offer casually. “Sharapova has a dwarf named Juan Pedro in her entourage,” I said as she took the court, then adding “always carries a loaded crossbow.” Unless the match was already a blowout Ty rarely rose to the bait. 

I frequented the hotel spa for massage, had my first shave with a straight razor, and caught up with my blog.  We did not go to the Monkey Temple, or the Palace. The activity board in the lobby offered everything from zip line rides to river rafting. Ty and I passed on all of them. We were done. We just wanted to go home. 

The four hour flight from Kathmandu to Dubai delivered us into a world of modern amenities that hummed with vibrance, even at one in the morning. The contrast to everything we had known for the last two months was unsettling. The ticket agent at the Emirates Airline counter took pity on our confused and bedraggled state.  “You cannot ride in economy class on this flight,” he informed us in a deadpan fashion. 
“Why is that,” Ty asked, alarmed we had somehow been bumped. 
“Because we have upgraded you both to Business Class,” the agent quipped with a smile. 

I ordered a Bloody Mary as soon as the jet lifted off. Lowering the motorized privacy screen that separated my recliner from Ty’s, I asked “Have you got any Grey Poupon?”  The flight attendant brought us warm towels and shaving kits, slippers and eye shades.  After breakfast she made each seat into a fully prone bed with sheets and pillows.  I settled in to sleep off as much of the fourteen hour flight as possible, but my mind would not quiet. It needed to make a final accounting of things before critical information was lost in the comforts of the life I would return to. 

Our team suffered the tragic loss of DaRita Sherpa.  This will be with us.  Frostbite injuries claimed a few toes and fingers. Pulmonary Edema afflicted two of us, necessitating helicopter evacuation. One hybrid climber, a woman from China, suffered some manner of mental breakdown after descending from her failed summit bid. She had to be carried to the helicopter pad, despondent and limp. In exchange, 12 of 23  IMG Climbers realized a personal dream, summiting Mt Everest. A fair bargain? Certainly not. How could it be? That said, most everyone involved would choose to do it all over again. Indeed, several will.  This is perhaps the greatest mystery of Everest. 

But the costs of an Everest expedition cannot be viewed in sum anymore than the benefits. Both reside on the personal ledgers of the individuals who chose to take part.  For all the talk of “Team”, Everest remains very much an individual endeavor with rewards differing climber by climber. Still the question remains as to what precisely those rewards are. 

I have read the opinions of those who believe it is all done for “bragging rights” or status.  This is pure none sense. There is no amount of ego large enough to get a climber to the summit of Everest. Period. I will stand by that the rest of my days. One might show up with such designs, but he will quickly be slapped to the ground. Better he should lie and save the money.  

Ironically, I found most Everest climbers, at least ostensibly, to be climbing for someone else; a cause, a charity, a fallen friend. In as much as rewards are derived from this they probably take the form of quiet satisfaction. Admirable, but still not enough to balance the costs.  

When I press Climbers to explain themselves the rewards are illusive,  often becoming sand passing through their fingers. George Mallory once put it this way;
“People ask me, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is of no use.'There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron... If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” 


For myself, I will say it this way; I stayed true to my path.

I have long told my sons it is more important in life to know when you are on your path than to know where it is going. It is as if you were blindfolded, walking a gravel path that winds through an open field. You would have to listen for the sound of the rocks beneath your shoes. Life tells us when we are on our path, if we find the peace to listen. We wander off it now and again, but can find our way back if we move with care and an alert ear. This path represents a best-case scenario for your time here. It incorporates the precise unique combination of gifts you have been given. Parts of it will not make sense at the time. You must trust they are essential and eventually will ring true. And while there is no way of seeing where it is taking you, you may rest assured you are getting there under the best possible circumstances. 

I was meant to climb Everest. It was on my path. I enjoyed many rewards along the way and I’ve tried to share them in these pages. But to me the greatest reward was being able to stay on my path, even when it stretched skyward to the highest point on earth. 

          BOST is a burden on Ghana's economy – IMANI   
President of policy think tank IMANI-Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, has described the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST) as an irrelevant entity draining Ghana's resources with no value in return.
          Yamaha YZF R1 2009   
Engine Type 998cc, liquid-cooled 4-stroke DOHC 16 valves (titanium valves) Bore x Stroke 78.0mm X 52.2mm Compression Ratio 12.7:1 Fuel Delivery Fuel Injection with YCC-T and YCC-I Ignition TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition Transmission 6-speed w/multi-plate slipper clutch Final Drive #530 O-ring chain Chassis Suspension/Front 43mm inverted fork; fully adjustable, 4.7-in travel Suspension/Rear Single shock w/piggyback reservoir; 2-way adjustable, 4.7-in travel Brakes/Front Dual 310mm disc; radial-mount forged 6-piston calipers Brakes/Rear 220mm disc; single-piston caliper Tires/Front 120/70ZR17M/C 58W Tires/Rear 190/55ZR17M/C 75W Dimensions Length 81.1 in Width 28.1 in Height 44.5 in Seat Height 32.8 in Wheelbase 55.7 in Rake (Caster Angle) 24.0° Trail 4.0 in Fuel Capacity 4.8 gal Fuel Economy** 33 mpg Wet Weight 454 lb Primary Reduction Ratio 65/43 (1.512) Secondary Reduction Ratio 47/17 (2.765) Gear Ratio - 1st Gear 38/15 (2.533) Gear Ratio - 2nd Gear 33/16 (2.063) Gear Ratio - 3rd Gear 37/21 (1.762) Gear Ratio - 4th Gear 35/23 (1.522) Gear Ratio - 5th Gear 30/22 (1.364) Gear Ratio - 6th Gear 33/26 (1.269) 1 Year Limited Factory Warranty
          EU VAT and the VATMESS   
I have sent the following email to my MP, MEPs and several Commissioners in the European Parliament. If you have a small business or are a sole trader affected by the new EU VAT and VAT-MOSS rules, you can make your voice heard by doing the same - ideally use your own language and describe your own situation in your email.

You can find who your MP and MEPs are here (google their names to find their email addresses once you've identified them): https://www.writetothem.com/
And the following Commissioners should be copied in:
David Gauke: gauked@parliament.uk

You can find more information on who to include in your email here: http://euvataction.org/
Dear Representatives, MPs, MEPs & Commissioners,
I am writing to you concerning the unconsidered impact of the new EU VAT rules on digital micro businesses and sole traders. 
I am a freelance illustrator, and part of my income is generated by distributing, advertising and selling my illustrations online. As with most self-employed people, my income has never approached the UK VAT threshold, and the scale of my activities means that registering for VAT voluntarily represents an increased administrative burden for myself, and unattractively inflated prices for my customers and clients. 
As with many other digital sole traders, I work in a field with little to no professional support, and so it is only due the website http://www.euvataction.org/ and their work on twitter that I have been made aware of these new rules, long after they have been deliberated, agreed upon, and are about to be enacted. 
Since news of these rules has reached the online community, many affected individuals have dedicated their time to researching the unconsidered impacts, and their findings include the following conclusions:
  • Most of the smallest businesses cannot comply with the legislation because they can’t collect the required 3 pieces of location evidence. 90% are using basic PayPal buttons and the most they will be able to get is the customer’s account address.
  • Most can’t display the correct price on their sales pages because they don’t know where the customer is until after they have purchased, so have no way of applying the correct VAT rate during the purchase process.
  • Even if they could code the VAT rates into their payment solution, most platforms offer just one rate of VAT per country. It is very likely that some transactions will require two rates, for different kinds of products. This is not possible for the smallest businesses to manage during the checkout.
  • These businesses don’t get any of the data until after the transaction, so it creates a massive administrative burden of manually checking each transaction and then going back to a customer if the data looks incorrect, then analysing and storing the data to complete their VAT-MOSS return.
  • Case studies show that each EU Member State’s interpretation of what is a ‘digitally-delivered service’ is different. Even if you comply with your own Member State’s interpretation, you could still be prosecuted by another Member State if the interpretations differ.
  • Whilst the rules nominally target large businesses like Amazon, in an attempt to force them into paying their fair share of VAT, they will have the corollary effect of forcing self-sufficient micro-businesses to start trading through 3rd party platforms that companies like Amazon run.
  • The office of national statistics reports that there are 4.6 million self-employed and sole traders in the UK. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_374941.pdf The proportion of these sole traders dealing in digital products has not been properly researched.
  • The ICO will be inundated with new applications from sole traders who will need to register as data processors and controllers in order to comply with international law. The results of the extra burden upon an already-stretched organisation have not been considered or researched officially. 
As a sole trader with years of experience selling online, it has been clear from the outset that my business will be profoundly affected by these rules, and that the findings of others in my situation support my personal conclusions. 
Since September this year, I have been redeveloping my website with the goal of expanding the scope of my business by including the sale of digital downloads, and opening certain pages to advertisers. However, these new rules mean that such a venture could completely cripple my ability to trade effectively, and as such I may be unable to capitalise on months of hard work. I have also heard that this rule could apply to physical products as early as 2016, which would force me to cease trading altogether. 
These rules represent a crushing barrier to the growth and diversification of small digital businesses. Micro businesses looking to expand will be forced to pass through a period of growth during which they are disproportionately affected by the unrealistic administrative burden represented by compliance with the new EU VAT rules – a situation directly at odds with the EU’s goal of innovation within the digital sector. 
On behalf of all sole traders and businesses affected by these rules, I support the following actions:
  1. In the short term, an emergency exception to allow the implementation to be suspended for micro businesses and sole traders for 1 year, whilst workable solutions are found.
  1. If this cannot be agreed before January 1st, then an emergency exemption to allow acceptance of the customer’s self-declared address as proof of place of supply for micro businesses and sole traders who don’t have access to the required 3 pieces of evidence (the 3rd being needed for the cases where the first two conflict).
  1. In the medium term, an income threshold to be applied to the rules in order to protect the growth of small digital businesses.
  1. In the long term, a complete review of the rules, and an alternative solution that effectively targets large businesses who dodge VAT, without unduly burdening micro businesses and sole traders, or forcing them to trade through platforms provided by those same large businesses.
Yours sincerely,
Paul Duffield

          Worth   
Having just finished Freakangels, I'm in a delicate position with my work; my career is still quite young (I've only been self employed for 6 years) but having published 6 volumes of Freakangels, along with The Tempest and 3 shorts (over a thousand pages of comics) I feel like I've got a reasonable amount of experience behind me.

I'm now in the process of looking for new work, taking on commissions and working on pitches. It's really exciting and really nerve-wracking all at the same time, but the one thing that is cropping up over and over as a theme in everything I'm dealing with post-Freakangels is "what am I worth?" It's a bloody hard question.

As much as art is a career to me now, it's been a hobby for much longer, and there are plenty of people around me (both at conventions and online) whose work I respect that do comics or illustration for pleasure or in their spare time. It's a tricky industry to find work in, even if you're talented, and I feel lucky to be in the position that I am - coming off the back of a long and popular series for which I was paid enough to live on, even in the middle of a recession. On the other hand, illustration (under which I include comics) is my job - it's a skill I've developed that I've devoted my life to, invested my education in, and pursued full-time. There was just as much effort involved in earning the money I have as there would have been in any career.

So how do I define my worth? If I was in a "normal" career, my income would be classed as low for my level of experience and expertise. My sister (2 years younger than me, working in marketing) has already been promoted once, and earns more than I do. Something similar goes for most of the friends I had in college who went on to find jobs in their own fields. I earn under the average (both median and mean) for my age, my gender and my level of education. Financially, I'm bringing in just enough for a comfortable day-to-day life, but I can't afford savings, investments or any financial security: my assets are limited to my personal possessions and my skills. In order to achieve this status, I've also had to work hard enough that the stress levels involved endangered my health last year, and I'm still dealing with the fallout from that.

This my sound like a litany of complaints, but it's just the truth. These are all facts I have to consider when I figure out how much to charge for my work.

So when someone asks "how much will this illustration cost?", "what do you charge for a workshop?" or "what is your page-rate?" They're loaded questions!

Lets say that I thought my work was worth an annual salary of £20,000 which is a reasonable wage for my circumstances. Let's say that in a year I would expect/aim to work 5 days a week and 40 weeks a year (to take into account moments when I either need to rest or can't find work). The maths is very simple - 5 days a week for 40 weeks comes to 200 days a year. In order to earn £20,000 a year, I would need to earn £100 a day. That's disregarding the loss from taxes or the time taken up with self-promotion and admin, but let's keep this simple!

I managed to get 6 pages of Freakangels done a week because I hired 2 colourists, so in reality a comic page from beginning to end takes me about 2 days' work. Illustrations are harder to pin down because of varying complexity, the time spent on revisions, talking to the client, and setting up the commission. Sometimes an illustration can take many days, sometimes only one day, so I charge accordingly. This means that in order to earn a reasonable salary, my page rate for comics should be £200, and my rate for commissions should be £100-£1000 depending on the time taken (I've never spent longer than ten days on a commission, or less than one day).

However, anyone who has tried to charge for their services or entered into a contract with a publisher knows that rates like those are extremely ambitious. It wouldn't be hard for clients to find other artists who can charge significantly less because their art doesn't fully support them financially, or because they work faster, or because they're brand new to the profession. Also, the chances that a client is considering anything that I've mentioned so far in this blog post will be quite low - they'll be assigning value to the art, not to my time and expertise. To many companies, comics aren't worth much money, and to many people art is a trivial part of life with little intrinsic value. So when dealing with what my livelihood is worth, I'm dealing with my personal situation, the relationship that has to the situations of other artists, plus the perceived worth of my style and my medium.

There really are no easy answers, and the actions of everybody in the industry (commissioners, publishers and artists) have an impact on how much room we all have to negotiate our worth.

Charging less could get me more work, but will increase my stress levels, and there's a practical limit to how much I could do this because I still need to support myself. One one hand, this gives publishers or those with budget a way to exploit artists, but on the other, it lets enthusiasts and fans with less budget afford what I'm producing. It also tends to produce work of a rushed quality because I'm forced to fit more work into less time.

Charging more will get me less work, but assuming I find enough, it will also give me a comfortable life with less long-term stress and perhaps the chance of saving for the future. It encourages an industry in which publishers spend good money for carefully produced art, but also one in which art becomes harder for casual fans to afford.

Ultimately, any decisions I make will be deeply mired in the economy that surrounds us and regulates our lives. The value of a life, the effort involved in skill, the usefulness of a trade, or the time invested in a livelihood are only secondary players when it comes to how much we're each worth. Those factors are ruled over by the luck of the draw, the value of markets, and most importantly by the perception of value held by the many people who invest in those markets. Sometimes that system supports us, sometimes it doesn't, but the thing that frustrates me most is the subtle way that it distorts our regard for human worth. We are naturally drawn towards bolstering our own worth in order to live more comfortably, but the more we do, the less accessible the things we produce become to people with less income.

All of the biggest assumptions we make about other people's lives, the accuracy of class clichés, the value of various livelihoods, and even our political affiliations spring from how we attempt to explain why everyone isn't financially successful. Those assumptions are in turn are the only things with which we can excuse ourselves for capitalising fully on our work, and cutting less successful people out of our immediate economic circle.

Of course, we all know that eventually the wealth "trickles down", don't we?
          ‘Ghana Will Bounce Back’   
The Metropolitan Chief Imam of Tema, Alhaji Adam Abubakar, says he's confident President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo would deliver his promises to bring relief to Ghanaians. He was optimistic the good policies of the President would help revive the country's economy to improve the lives of ordinary Ghanaians. Touching on the high level unem ...
          TIME RUNNING OUT FOR PSOE   
If an opinion poll published by El País on Sunday is correct then PSOE have a mountain to climb to win the general election whoever leads the party. The soundings indicate the Partido Popular have an over 14 per cent lead as Spaniards react with anger to the high levels of unemployment and the financial crisis.


The poll by Metroscopia says 44.7 per cent of those questioned intend to vote for Mariano Rajoy’s PP. PSOE currently led by the prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero with Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba waiting to take over, limps behind on 30.4.

These finds give the PP a 0.5 per cent increase in support over the last month. However in the real life elections – municipal and regional – on May 22 the PP’s lead was just over 10 per cent.

At the last general election in 2008 PSOE had a lead over the PP of 3.6 per cent. This gave Zapatero his second mandate and second victory over Rajoy. Rajoy may be third time lucky but Zapatero will remain undefeated as he will have left the political stage by then.

However the Spain of 2012 will be very different from that in 2008. The economy no longer has the highest growth in the Euro zone. The property bubble has truly burst and unemployment stands at a massive 21 per cent – double the European average. Hence it is no surprise that support for PSOE has tumbled by 13.3 per cent whilst the PP have seen a 4.6 per cent growth.

Perhaps the most depressing fact for PSOE is there seems to be no Rubalcaba bounce in the offing. On July 9 the current first vice president of the government and hard line minister of the interior officially is anointed as the successor to Zapatero. His likely accession has been known for two months but support for PSOE has dropped by 1.3 per cent over that period. In addition 88 per cent of Spaniards believe the PP will form the next government.

Rubalcaba is famous for his hangdog look and the poll readings are likely to add another crease to his face. The fact that he has gone unchallenged to the top job is probably because all the other heavyweights know the writing is on the wall. They don’t want to go down in history as the candidate who led PSOE to a historically heavy defeat. Mind you if Rubalcaba can pull off a miracle recovery...
          SPAIN’S CRIPPLING PERSONAL DEBT   
The European Commission has looked at the Spanish economy and suggested higher taxes and more activity to generate jobs but it totally overlooks the private debt built up by businesses and families during the euphoric years between 1996 and 2007.


The economic crisis amongst the banks has closed off the credit lines. Also the foreign investment in to the property market has ceased with the bursting of that market’s bulb.

Without internal demand Spain can only grow by exporting. However to export to Germany which is the leader of European growth this country would have to improve its competitiveness. As Spain cannot devalue its currency the pressure is on to reform structures with the cutting of workers’ rights and the real threat that there will be a regression in the standards of people’s lives.

In to this scene comes the 15-M democracy movement that insists that politics cannot be dictated by the markets. It is calling for “popular sovereignty” and “economic sovereignty” What does it serve to vote if the government is in the hands of the markets and banks, it asks?

According to Professor Emiliano Carluccio: “the debt in the private sector grew greater than in other developed countries” over this period. Now the crisis in Spain is not the public debt.

The level of debt of the central government, the autonomous regions and the town halls is more than 60 per cent of GDP, the wealth that Spain generates each year. Surprisingly this is less than the European average of 80 per cent or the rest of the major European countries.

However whilst the various arms of the State have accumulated debts of 639,767 million euros the debt level amongst Spanish families dwarfs that total. Private debt stands at 886,460 million euros, 38.6 per cent more than all the State debt. (Curiously as I posted this blog Reuters issued an article highlighting the growth in Spain’s public debt but saying nothing of the private total).

To be added to the family debts are those of businesses which come in at 1.2 billion euros more. This means that the debt in private hands is a massive 189 per cent of GDP.

Another problem faced by Spain is the size of its external debt. Japan (200 per cent), Italy (117) and Belgium (101) all have far greater levels of public debt than Spain. However that money is owed to the nation’s nationals whereas in Spain the majority of the debts are international.

In the case of Spain the exterior debt (the majority of it private) is equivalent to 170 per cent of GDP. In hard figures it means that Spain has to pay back to the rest of the world 1.87 billion euros. That is because during the good years Spain was importing two thirds of the financial resources demanded by its businesses and families.
          Kawasaki GPZ305   
KAWASAKI GPZ, 1987 (D), 306cc, 15,400 miles. GPZ 305 EX: Reliable 6-speed commuter in good working order and body clean condition despite its age; needing TLC so, for sale due to wife not wanting me to be a wee wild hog but, everything works with good brakes, tyres, smooth ride and good fuel economy. Ideal first bike. No tax or MoT hence, low price.
          Red-hot Iceland Keeps Some Investors Out in the Cold   
Iceland spent nearly a decade trying to keep foreign money in the country after a financial collapse, now it is trying to keep some of it out. The economy is booming again and hedge funds and other foreign investors want exposure to a surging tourism sector, banks, property, infrastructure and the soaring krona currency. Most capital controls from the 2008 banking crisis were lifted in March, allowing money to flow in and out of the country more freely. But with over 20 financial...
          Road legal 50cc quad   
Road legal quad 50cc THIS ITEM HAS NOW SOLD OUT FOR PRE- CHRISTMAS DELIVERY. HOWEVER WHY NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR CHRISTMAS SALE, IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR DELIVERY IN JANUARY YOU WILL ONLY PAY OUR MASSIVLEY DISCOUNTED SALE PRICES. ORIGINAL PRICE FOR THIS ITEM £550 SALE PRICE IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR JANUARY DELIVERY £499 Once again Dirtbikeandquadworld have beaten the copmpetion in introducing the amazing new RL 50cc road legal quad. Do you love the idea of being to have fun both off road and on road but dont want to spend thousands you will this quad. Fully road legal this little powerhouse can be ridden by any one 16 years or older on both a provisional or full driveing liscence. The 50cc is surpisingy powerful allowing this little quad to reach speeds of 35mph. Great suspension front an rear can cope with the ruff stuff with ease. Powerful brakes give it the stopping powers it needs for the road and it has the added practicality of a carrying rack. This multi purpose quad will be great for the weekend off roaders or the daily commuters. Motor Single Cylinder Feul type Petrol CC 49 cc Startsystem Electric Range 30 miles Max. power 4.8 hp/6000U/min Max torque 4,4 Nm/4000U/min Transmission automatic 4 speed Reverse Tank 2,9 L Reserve 0,90 L Getriebeöl Economy 1,9 L/100 Km Battery 12V/7 Ah Weight 76 Kg Net weight 90 Kg Seat height 830 mm Dimensions 1230x730x850 mm Carton size 1160 x 790 x 660 mm We accept payments via (Visa, Master card, Maestro, solo, Amex all accepted) CREDIT CARDS---DEBIT CARDS BANK TRANSFERS (via online or offline banking accepted) Our payment processor is called Moneybookers. When registering please make sure the password you choose is 8 characters long containing at least one letter and at least one number. Please also make sure you have your mobile phone with you when ordering as we may send a text message to verify it before accepting payment. If you have any problems, please open a chat window and we can talk you through it or e-mail us on info@dirtbikeandquadworld.co.uk You must select Moneybookers to pay for this item with (credit / debit) card. Please make sure you have your mobile phone with you as you will be sent a sms text message to verify your payment before completion.
          Road legal 50cc quad   
Road legal quad 50cc THIS ITEM HAS NOW SOLD OUT FOR PRE- CHRISTMAS DELIVERY. HOWEVER WHY NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR CHRISTMAS SALE, IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR DELIVERY IN JANUARY YOU WILL ONLY PAY OUR MASSIVLEY DISCOUNTED SALE PRICES. ORIGINAL PRICE FOR THIS ITEM £550 SALE PRICE IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR JANUARY DELIVERY £499 Once again Dirtbikeandquadworld have beaten the copmpetion in introducing the amazing new RL 50cc road legal quad. Do you love the idea of being to have fun both off road and on road but dont want to spend thousands you will this quad. Fully road legal this little powerhouse can be ridden by any one 16 years or older on both a provisional or full driveing liscence. The 50cc is surpisingy powerful allowing this little quad to reach speeds of 35mph. Great suspension front an rear can cope with the ruff stuff with ease. Powerful brakes give it the stopping powers it needs for the road and it has the added practicality of a carrying rack. This multi purpose quad will be great for the weekend off roaders or the daily commuters. Motor Single Cylinder Feul type Petrol CC 49 cc Startsystem Electric Range 30 miles Max. power 4.8 hp/6000U/min Max torque 4,4 Nm/4000U/min Transmission automatic 4 speed Reverse Tank 2,9 L Reserve 0,90 L Getriebeöl Economy 1,9 L/100 Km Battery 12V/7 Ah Weight 76 Kg Net weight 90 Kg Seat height 830 mm Dimensions 1230x730x850 mm Carton size 1160 x 790 x 660 mm We accept payments via (Visa, Master card, Maestro, solo, Amex all accepted) CREDIT CARDS---DEBIT CARDS BANK TRANSFERS (via online or offline banking accepted) Our payment processor is called Moneybookers. When registering please make sure the password you choose is 8 characters long containing at least one letter and at least one number. Please also make sure you have your mobile phone with you when ordering as we may send a text message to verify it before accepting payment. If you have any problems, please open a chat window and we can talk you through it or e-mail us on info@dirtbikeandquadworld.co.uk You must select Moneybookers to pay for this item with (credit / debit) card. Please make sure you have your mobile phone with you as you will be sent a sms text message to verify your payment before completion.
          Road legal 50cc quad   
Road legal quad 50cc THIS ITEM HAS NOW SOLD OUT FOR PRE- CHRISTMAS DELIVERY. HOWEVER WHY NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR CHRISTMAS SALE, IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR DELIVERY IN JANUARY YOU WILL ONLY PAY OUR MASSIVLEY DISCOUNTED SALE PRICES. ORIGINAL PRICE FOR THIS ITEM £550 SALE PRICE IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR JANUARY DELIVERY £499 Once again Dirtbikeandquadworld have beaten the copmpetion in introducing the amazing new RL 50cc road legal quad. Do you love the idea of being to have fun both off road and on road but dont want to spend thousands you will this quad. Fully road legal this little powerhouse can be ridden by any one 16 years or older on both a provisional or full driveing liscence. The 50cc is surpisingy powerful allowing this little quad to reach speeds of 35mph. Great suspension front an rear can cope with the ruff stuff with ease. Powerful brakes give it the stopping powers it needs for the road and it has the added practicality of a carrying rack. This multi purpose quad will be great for the weekend off roaders or the daily commuters. Motor Single Cylinder Feul type Petrol CC 49 cc Startsystem Electric Range 30 miles Max. power 4.8 hp/6000U/min Max torque 4,4 Nm/4000U/min Transmission automatic 4 speed Reverse Tank 2,9 L Reserve 0,90 L Getriebeöl Economy 1,9 L/100 Km Battery 12V/7 Ah Weight 76 Kg Net weight 90 Kg Seat height 830 mm Dimensions 1230x730x850 mm Carton size 1160 x 790 x 660 mm We accept payments via (Visa, Master card, Maestro, solo, Amex all accepted) CREDIT CARDS---DEBIT CARDS BANK TRANSFERS (via online or offline banking accepted) Our payment processor is called Moneybookers. When registering please make sure the password you choose is 8 characters long containing at least one letter and at least one number. Please also make sure you have your mobile phone with you when ordering as we may send a text message to verify it before accepting payment. If you have any problems, please open a chat window and we can talk you through it or e-mail us on info@dirtbikeandquadworld.co.uk You must select Moneybookers to pay for this item with (credit / debit) card. Please make sure you have your mobile phone with you as you will be sent a sms text message to verify your payment before completion.
          Road legal 50cc quad   
Road legal quad 50cc THIS ITEM HAS NOW SOLD OUT FOR PRE- CHRISTMAS DELIVERY. HOWEVER WHY NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR CHRISTMAS SALE, IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR DELIVERY IN JANUARY YOU WILL ONLY PAY OUR MASSIVLEY DISCOUNTED SALE PRICES. ORIGINAL PRICE FOR THIS ITEM £550 SALE PRICE IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR JANUARY DELIVERY £499 Once again Dirtbikeandquadworld have beaten the copmpetion in introducing the amazing new RL 50cc road legal quad. Do you love the idea of being to have fun both off road and on road but dont want to spend thousands you will this quad. Fully road legal this little powerhouse can be ridden by any one 16 years or older on both a provisional or full driveing liscence. The 50cc is surpisingy powerful allowing this little quad to reach speeds of 35mph. Great suspension front an rear can cope with the ruff stuff with ease. Powerful brakes give it the stopping powers it needs for the road and it has the added practicality of a carrying rack. This multi purpose quad will be great for the weekend off roaders or the daily commuters. Motor Single Cylinder Feul type Petrol CC 49 cc Startsystem Electric Range 30 miles Max. power 4.8 hp/6000U/min Max torque 4,4 Nm/4000U/min Transmission automatic 4 speed Reverse Tank 2,9 L Reserve 0,90 L Getriebeöl Economy 1,9 L/100 Km Battery 12V/7 Ah Weight 76 Kg Net weight 90 Kg Seat height 830 mm Dimensions 1230x730x850 mm Carton size 1160 x 790 x 660 mm We accept payments via (Visa, Master card, Maestro, solo, Amex all accepted) CREDIT CARDS---DEBIT CARDS BANK TRANSFERS (via online or offline banking accepted) Our payment processor is called Moneybookers. When registering please make sure the password you choose is 8 characters long containing at least one letter and at least one number. Please also make sure you have your mobile phone with you when ordering as we may send a text message to verify it before accepting payment. If you have any problems, please open a chat window and we can talk you through it or e-mail us on info@dirtbikeandquadworld.co.uk You must select Moneybookers to pay for this item with (credit / debit) card. Please make sure you have your mobile phone with you as you will be sent a sms text message to verify your payment before completion.
          Mobile and Sharing Economy Businesses Are the Go-To Opportunities for Entrepreneurs   
mobileIf you are interested in gaining financial freedom through entrepreneurship, most experts suggest you open…
          Road legal 50cc quad   
Road legal quad 50cc THIS ITEM HAS NOW SOLD OUT FOR PRE- CHRISTMAS DELIVERY. HOWEVER WHY NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR CHRISTMAS SALE, IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR DELIVERY IN JANUARY YOU WILL ONLY PAY OUR MASSIVLEY DISCOUNTED SALE PRICES. ORIGINAL PRICE FOR THIS ITEM £550 SALE PRICE IF YOU ORDER NOW FOR JANUARY DELIVERY £499 Once again Dirtbikeandquadworld have beaten the copmpetion in introducing the amazing new RL 50cc road legal quad. Do you love the idea of being to have fun both off road and on road but dont want to spend thousands you will this quad. Fully road legal this little powerhouse can be ridden by any one 16 years or older on both a provisional or full driveing liscence. The 50cc is surpisingy powerful allowing this little quad to reach speeds of 35mph. Great suspension front an rear can cope with the ruff stuff with ease. Powerful brakes give it the stopping powers it needs for the road and it has the added practicality of a carrying rack. This multi purpose quad will be great for the weekend off roaders or the daily commuters. Motor Single Cylinder Feul type Petrol CC 49 cc Startsystem Electric Range 30 miles Max. power 4.8 hp/6000U/min Max torque 4,4 Nm/4000U/min Transmission automatic 4 speed Reverse Tank 2,9 L Reserve 0,90 L Getriebeöl Economy 1,9 L/100 Km Battery 12V/7 Ah Weight 76 Kg Net weight 90 Kg Seat height 830 mm Dimensions 1230x730x850 mm Carton size 1160 x 790 x 660 mm
          2003 Daelim vs125 - Cruiser Style   
Basics:2003 Daelim VS 125 motorcycle in metallic silver.Alloy wheels. 4 stroke, 4 valve single cylinder engine with electric start & kick start. Forward controls and backrest. Only 2830km, (around 1800 miles).Condition:Starts even in cold mornings, good runner and cheap to maintain. In good condition no dents or bumps, slight rusting on chrome but still looks great. Spedo in KM/hr but has accurate miles overlay sticker to show speed in mph. Does 70mph quite easily.Running costs:MOT until April 2008 (Serviced & MOT when bought no issues, was a clean pass!) Will come with NEW TAX. (£15 A YEAR.) Has real good fuel economy and low insurance premiums so cheap to run aswell.Owners:I am a younger woman and find this bike easy to ride and move around, it has a great riding position and looks pretty cool. (like a mini harley!)Previous owners were female and so bike has been well looked after... never dropped!Bike would also be suitable for blokes, my dad loves to go out on it and says its alot more relaxing to ride than his sports tourer!Brilliant bike for learners over 17. (I was riding it on a CBT and training from dad, no full test as of yet.)Reason for selling:Bought it to replace my 50cc scooter in April... now I'm at uni and have no time to ride the bike, seems a shame to let her sit in driveway unused!Willing to take offers and contact me to view or for more pictures. No tyre kickers please! E-mail: gothicdougal@gmail.com
          STEM Education - The Power of the Investment   

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is getting a lot of attention from the White House and from private industry. As a non-parent, I really do have a stake STEM education. On the surface it seems like a good idea to invest $250 million dollars, since most of it is coming from Intel. Why should I care? The most basic reason? My own safety and survival.

I have seen the eradication of entry level employment. I look at industrial employment and it is a fraction of what it was 40 years ago. We can't run an economy on just service jobs or service entrepreneurs. Even contemporary vocational education is caught between providing a necessary skilled workforce and lack of resources to train those students interested in paraprofessional training.

There are increasing groups of young people who have never held a job or had access to employment. I also know that those same young people face increasing competition from middle age and older folks who have no choice but to continue working because there are no retirement funds available for their future.

I don’t want to do the doom and gloom scenario. We have had enough of that. But first, I need to tell you a memory.

Long Ago A Teacher Tried To Tell Me...

School did one of two things to me; either bored me or made me feel incompetent. On the first day of junior high I came prepared. I had comic books, magazines and a newspaper for backup. You see, after six years of public school education I was resigned in my 7th grade to the idea that school was a major waste of my time. I was better served by day dreaming and catching up on the essential information that 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat provided.

I visualized my strategy. I had competition for the back row so I had to bust a move to make sure I got my seat. The back row in a crowded class was the perfect place to study the graphic artistry of Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four.

The one thing I did not count on was my science teacher, Mr. Halverson. For one thing, he wasn’t old or crusty. No matter. I wasn’t going to let youth and good looks get between me and Dr. Doom snatching Sue Storm. I was studying page 3 when I sensed something was wrong.

The room was too quiet. People were paying attention. The class clown was silent. The Princess, whose nails must be inspected every fifteen minutes, was looking like she might be interested in something other than herself. Even the tough guys were checking him out; their Jeff caps were actually above their eyes.

This was not normal. I came up for air long enough to hear Mr. Halverson talking about expectations. What he wanted from us. What he was prepared to do to show that science was more than just a bunch of facts. That man was giving the pitch any sales man would have been proud to deliver except that he was selling access to knowledge.

I looked around. There were 34 other students in the room. I was the last skeptic. I held out for another five minutes and somehow, he made me believe.

Mr. Halverson was a good as his word. There were no new science books so he photocopied our current science reading material. He didn’t use the old-timey 1950 science slide strips or movies. We generally started class with the daily science news and how we were involved or where this was going. A lot of what he provided came out of his paycheck or his imagination.

There were no prepackaged science lab kits or a list of experiments to perform. We made our science projects with whatever we had around the house. I am proud to say that a project of mine caught on fire. Or did it blow up? Anyway it was unintentional. He made me feel good about the importance of failure.

We learned many lessons but being prepared for what life brought you, even if unexpected, that was ultimately his biggest lesson.

Did we turn into perfect students? No. There was a constant effort made to get him off track just to hear him talk about the future. He was on to us fairly quick and suckered us back to the lesson of the day. We worked it out. I can’t remember anyone voluntarily cutting his class. And yes, he did have to kick us out at the end of the period.

The Big Pay Back

I needed to tell you this memory because what Mr. Halverson brought into the classroom, besides his enthusiasm and actual regard for his students, was that he paid for what little extra we had in class. Many teachers, past and present, make this kind of investment for their students. I know many teachers do this because they don’t want to hear the crap about not in the budget or it is not going to be appreciated.

I think that Mr. Halverson would want to remind his former students that he was serious about preparing for the future. He would tell the administrator that teachers shouldn’t have to subsidize classroom education (or parents either). I think he and I would be asking with a calculator in hand where exactly did all that money go and who is spending it?

Well, he knows I’d ask. Some things and people just don’t change.

I think he would want to know that the focus would be on the needs of the students first and everything else is structured in service of the student’s education. We never talked about that, but I don’t think he would object too much. It is what I observed from him and it worked so yeah, I’ll bring that forward on his behalf.

Moving Forward, Again.

Over the next year it will be important to keep an eye on the many STEM initiatives and funding. My skeptical side feels like there is a gold rush warming up. That is not necessarily a good or bad thing.

What is important is that education will change. It has to because an educated, inventive work force is one of the means any country stays competitive in a global market. Intel, Cisco Systems and other industry contributors know this and that is part of the reason they are forking up cash money and their talent to make this happen.

Ok, it is good for their future business too. Let me put it another way. Ask India and China if their investments in education are paying off. Where are your computer or credit card customer support calls going? When you buy apple juice is it made in Oregon, Brazil or China? Last week I discovered my apple juice came from China.

It isn’t like there isn’t a world of things to create, repair and restore. Besides movies and music what else can we bring to the world? It is not impossible but we do have to get started.

Different Voices About STEM

There are dozens of stakeholders who have or are making an investment in technology education.

The Project Tomorrow - Speak Up is one of those places where students, parents and teachers have really good ideas on what a contemporary school needs. You can view a video of high school students sharing what they feel would be helpful in a school situation. Stories From School has a great post on the reality of implementing a requirement that might increase the drop out rate. The Learning Out Loud blog does have a questions about the STEM focus.

The Public Broadcasting System is working to provide a variety of STEM projects. One of the ways they are involved is through the program SciGirls. The show is targeted to girls aged 11-14. There is also the STEM Resource Center for Teachers and, I would assume, home schooling parents to show how their current programming can be adapted for additional educational resources.

On the academic side, many institutions are presenting themselves as portals to STEM education. Mary Bart of Faculty Focus takes a look at African American, Native American and Hispanic colleges and universities to see how they are implementing STEM instruction as well as honoring their chartered educational missions. Teachers.TV and Classroom 2.0 look at the ways that collaborative learning among teachers and education professional can be supported and resources obtained both within and outside of the traditional structures.

The new tools and resources don’t always cost an arm and a leg. At eLearn Tools for STEM take a look at some of the resources that could be put into place such as equation writers, videos and screen recorders.

Cisco Systems is the main supporter of GetIdeas.org a conversation with educational leaders talking about leadership, mission and global education. GetSchooled is funded by Viacom and supported by a number of other corporations. The goal is to find ways to reduce the drop out rate.

I hope that I and my classmates have paid the investment forward or at least try too. It is never too late and around here all voices are welcomed.

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer CE. Blogs:Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook


          Comment on Brian Head fire increases entering Panguitch City’s watershed by Brian   
This fire and the decisions that lead to it are such a good analogy for the ruin that comes out of many liberal policies (see Detroit, Baltimore, etc as examples). Conservative locals have known this day was coming for 15 years because its the natural, predictable consequence of shutting down all logging and not spraying for bark beetles. Yes, it's "natures way", but so are pandemics and serious disease. Should we stop medications and vaccines since they interfere with natural cycles? Similarly, its no surprise that it was during the over-regulating "capitalism is evil" obama era that more businesses went under than were created for the first time on record. Just like its no surprise that Seattle is finding that raising the minimum wage so high, so quick is killing jobs. Just like its no surprise that getting government involved in healthcare has caused premiums and deductibles to skyrocket. Just like its no surprise that the government getting involved in student loans caused a massive and continuing spike in tuition costs and debt. Just like its no surprise that the government changing to buy any and all mortgages caused a massive bubble leading to the 2007 crash. It is worth noting that some of these examples fell under "republican" "leadership" (I used that word VERY loosely), but the actions in question were done by progressives, with conservatives screaming at the top of their lungs against it (which led to the creation of the tea party). The next big fire and smoking ruin may very well be our economy... I guess we should get used to it.
          Flash Mobs as Optimism Drivers   
Book stores that were once filled with books about dreaming and achieving are now filled with books about the end being near and suicide prevention, John McCain's Twitter feed is solely devoted to tearing apart the stimulus package, and I passed a man on the side of the road today holding a sign that says 'The End is Near.' When the best news we have to cling to is Wal-Mart's impressive sales numbers for February of ‘09, is there any optimism left?

Although the optimism quotient is in decline there are still glimpses of hope if you look hard enough. One of those glimpses is the resurgence of flash mobs.

Just a few weeks ago thousands of facebook users mobbed Trafalgar Square and the Liverpool Street Station in London to spontaneously dance.

Three weeks ago Taiwan had their first flash mob where 50 people showed up to participate in an organized pillow fight



and earlier this week a theater group in Scotland organized a flash mob to dance in the town centre.


In each case the flash mob is filled with fun and optimism and manifests joy-crazy happiness is on the faces of the participants. In the case of the dancing London flash mobs they were a reenactment of a T-Mobile commercial.
As the economy continues to suck it is important to hang on to the optimism that helps define America. Any time pure joy can manifest and brighten the day of thousands of people it is a good thing, and something people will appreciate. It’s a generous idea.

          Generosity: A Product of an Innovation Economy, not an Efficiency Economy   
we've been talking a lot about Generous Brands here at fallon, and a point i've been making about why clients need to embrace Generosity is that this country is moving beyond a business climate driven by supply-side thinking focused on maximizing efficiencies, and into a business climate driven by demand-side thinking focused on innovation, ideas, and offering new forms of value to customers. supply-side brands create communications that serve their own needs, but demand-side brands create communications that serve customers' needs... in other words, they create communications that are Generous.

traditional business consultants like McKinsey are going to be less valuable in the future (a business can only get so lean), and new model innovation consultancies like IDEO are going to be more and more valuable (businesses will always need to create new value for their customers). agencies can learn a lot from the processes and the kind of work these innovation consultancies emphasize as we continue to redefine our role in the future. having worked alongside a couple of these companies, i can say that what they do is a whole lot like what we do, but they're probably packaging and merchandising themselves better than we are (for proof, check out how many times IDEO has been profiled in BusinessWeek over the past few years).

this short businessweek post by design columnist bruce nussbaum makes this point pretty well, using some of obama's initial actions to illustrate. thanks to alyson for pointing me to it.

          Eco-Metrics: Part 1   
Monitor your energy use or carbon footprint with these iPhone and/or Android apps.

iPhone

MeterRead - Reduce the amount of energy you are using by monitoring it. Keep tabs on your electric meters.



Recycler - Quick access to what kind of plastics can be included in your recycling bin.



Local Reuse - Reuse stuff you no longer want by giving it to others who need it.



GreenMeter - Designed to help you adjust your driving habits in order to reduce CO2 emissions and save you money on gas. App measure forward acceleration, computes engine power and fuel economy, fuel cost, carbon footprint, and oil consumption.



Android

SugarTrip - (coming soon) Helps you avoid traffic jams so you save carbon emissions. Using the GPS unit in the phone, it measures how quickly you’re traveling. Users can plan their trips according to where traffic is located, helping to cut back on pollution by avoiding idling.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/20/AR2008102002565.html

Ecorio - Carbon footprint calculator that track your movement. Mode of travel choices include automobile, public transit and bicycle.
- “RIO” Reduce, Inspire, and Offset.
  • “Reduce” suggests carpool options via Zimride, a service that matches up drivers and passengers who wish to use less fuel by traveling together instead of as one.
  • “Inspire” feature offers a Twitter-like social networking to communicate with other Ecorio users. Tapping a user’s profile icon displays their location and how many pounds of emissions they’re responsible for so far.
  • “Offset,” which links to a site that accepts credit cards to purchase offsets from Carbonfund.

http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/android-app-takes-aim-at-carbon-footprints/

And finally, read about how Google is planning to enter the Eco-Metrics arena.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/technology/companies/10grid.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

          For sale - 2013 freightliner cascadia Sleeper Trucks - $56,900   
Birmingham 35214, AL, United States
4 matched trucks available with factory warranty!!! corporate fleet trades!! With low miles and Remaining Factory Warranty (til Dec'18) Well maintained by a Reputable us Fleet, Great specs for economy. Carefully Inspected and Detailed with a Premium Innerspring Mattress, Current dot, fresh Reman dpf Filter already to go. Financing Available and We Welcome Trades. Call Today!!!
nexttruckonline.com

          Student Loans Are Diving Underwater   
The student loan market has a lot of factors that seem to say "Stay the heck away!": they're relatively easy to qualify for, college costs have increased far more rapidly than general consumer prices, we now seem to feel that EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A COLLEGE EDUCATION. ELEVENTY!!!, and most importantly, the job outlook for many (most?) college grads is to put it mildly, pathetic.  

This graph from the Washington Post piece points out some evidence that we might be seeing the beginning of the next "bubble pop".  Although they're a fairly small part of the overall consumer loan market, student loans are more likely to be 90+ days past due than any other loan class.  And the percentage is growing pretty rapidly. 
 












Luckily, the Unknown Daughter gets free tuition at Unknown University.   We still have a half-dozen years until we have to shell out for college, but it'll take a lot to justify her going somewhere other than to my (fairly low-cost) school. 


          How to Restore Optimism and Verve to the US Economy   

America’s entrepreneurial dynamism has been falling, and the cost of inaction grows daily. According to a recent study by the Economic Innovation Group, America “suffers... Read More

The post How to Restore Optimism and Verve to the US Economy appeared first on The Daily Signal.


          Dem Rep Moulton: People Think Democrats Are ‘Really Out of Touch With Most of America’   

Tuesday on NPR, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) said Democrats are not winning elections because he said that it was seen as “out of touch with most of America.” Partial transcript as follows: SIEGEL: What was so big about the loss in Georgia that it shows the Democrats need a new message, a new vision? MOULTON: Well, now we’re 0-4 in these congressional special elections. And we’re at the worst electoral position that the Democratic Party has been in in decades. And so when you keep losing like that, you can’t keep doing the same old thing. SIEGEL: Well, first, as to message, I went to the website of Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who lost in Georgia last week. And there’s a list of priorities. Number one, it says, our economy. John’s a small business owner, executive, entrepreneur. He knows what it means to grow a company, meet a payroll, balance budgets. And it goes on to say that he has the experience to help Georgia develop into an economic powerhouse. And he also stands for raising the minimum wage to equal pay for equal work. What’s the matter with that message? What’s wrong with the priority there? MOULTON: Well, that’s actually
          Zombie love   


You gotta hand it to zombies; they just won’t die. For years I’ve heard that zombies are out, they’re done, any projects featuring zombies are the last pathetic gasps of an unfortunate trend. Yet they shamble on in hordes, eating our brains (and our cash) with new books, movies and games. Why? They’re just so damn versatile. You can have your serious, scary zombie fetish with AMC’s The Walking Dead, or lighten up with something goofy and fun like the new #1 motion picture this week, Warm Bodies. I tend to fall with comedy rather than carnage, but the undead can do it all. 

I visited a couple of bookstores this weekend, and both were awash in zombie culture, from undead bling just in time for V-Day (necklace shown is one I spotted at Hastings) to a staggering number of books, including the Art of War for Zombies. Of course, I’m partial to the Zombie Tarot by author Stacey Graham, but even I was truly impressed by the number of books out there. If there’s an established brand or idea, you can bet your brains that a zombie version is out there. 

How did the craze happen? I’ve heard all kinds of explanations, from the country’s mental state during a post-911 world and undead economy to the fact that zombies make perfect scapegoats in today’s overly politically correct atmosphere. No one complains if you blast a zombie, unless you don’t finish the job, and then all they can say is “Unnnnhhhhh.”

Whatever the reason, it looks like zombies have turned from trend to paranormal mainstay. No matter how you prefer them, either comic, romantic or terrifying, stock up on some undead pop culture while you’re filling the basement with cans of mixed vegetables. At this rate, if the zombie apocalypse actually happens, we’re likely to be unimpressed because we’ve already seen it, read it, and bought the bling.

          After 22 Years, Is NAFTA Headed Back To The Drawing Board?   
Pull out your blue pencils, green eyeshades and rule books; it may soon be time to start rewriting NAFTA. Leaders in the United States, Canada and Mexico say they're open to giving the North American Free Trade Agreement, in place since 1994, a hard look. Here's what's been happening: In the wee hours of Wednesday, Republican Donald Trump claimed victory in the U.S. presidential election. In his action plan for his first 100 days in office, the president-elect said he would "renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw." On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is " open to talking ." He told reporters, "If the Americans want to talk about NAFTA, I'm more than happy to talk about it." Also on Thursday, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told Reuters in a phone interview that his country was "ready to talk," though not ready to rip up the agreement. At this point, "we're simply talking about dialogue," he told the news agency. NAFTA covers nearly 500 million consumers
          U.S. Wages Rising At The Fastest Pace In Years Amid Solid Hiring   
Go ahead — ask the boss for a raise. The jobs report released Friday by the Labor Department suggests the time finally may be right to demand a fatter paycheck. The October report showed employers added 161,000 jobs — and paid workers more. Average hourly earnings rose by 10 cents to $25.92 last month — and that gain followed September's increase of 8 cents an hour. In all, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.8 percent over the past year — the fastest pace since the end of the Great Recession. That's a lot considering that the consumer price index has risen only 1.5 percent in the same 12 months. So workers now have more buying power at the store. "As the job market gets tighter, firms are responding to tougher competition for workers by raising pay," PNC chief economist Stuart Hoffman said in his assessment. "This is a big positive for income growth, consumer spending, and the overall economy." The recent wage gains — after years of stagnation — reflect the steady healing of the
          Fed Leaves Rates Unchanged, But Signals Increase May Be Coming    
The Federal Reserve's policymakers ended their two-day meeting Wednesday without raising interest rates. But they did issue a statement saying the case for more expensive loans is strengthening. That's because the U.S. economy is improving enough to allow interest rates to rise soon to more normal levels. In recent weeks, "the labor market has continued to strengthen and growth of economic activity has picked up from the modest pace seen in the first half of this year," the Fed said. As evidence, the Fed noted that "job gains have been solid. Household spending has been rising moderately." Still, not everything is rosy. The officials also pointed out that "business fixed investment has remained soft." Looking at the good and the bad, the Fed concluded "near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced." That means the target range for the federal funds rate will remain at 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent for now. For you, it means interest rates that rise and fall with that
          How the Slowing Economy is Affecting College Access Loan   
US college students appear to be the latest victims as the economy slows and money for borrowing dries up. American students who need a college access loan to pay their way through college, are starting to have a tough time accessing funds. Increasing numbers of public and private lenders are pulling out of offering student loans, affected by the credit squeeze and the declining profit of federal government backed loans for education.

There are reports of a state agency that has suspended a loans program that serves college students. This will affect 100 universities and colleges and there are fears that other agencies and colleges may follow the same path. The reason given was the disruption of capital markets.

Student loans are usually supported by some of the major banks, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citibank, but they have stopped supporting the normally low-risk securities that student loans traditionally backed. Financial experts are predicting that student loans will also become more expensive, as well as being harder to access.

The major source of student loans is a federal government program in which it backs loans to means-tested students. The federal government loans are often used for tuition fees and then a further private loan is usually needed to cover general expenses. It is these private loans which will become more difficult to obtain. As yet, there is no evidence to suggest that lenders are failing to support their obligations to the federal loans.

The effect of the credit squeeze will affect those families with poor credit ratings and lower incomes. The people who have been caught up in the mortgage crisis may have children studying at college, who will no longer be able to access student loans because of their parents' credit score.

It has been estimated that about 100,000 students will not qualify for private or government loans this year due to poor credit. Add to this the decreasing number of companies providing student loans, and there will be problems for many college students. The smart parents and students will start their search for student loans early to ensure that financial aid is available for their higher education.
          The Economy of Jetblue   
none
          Predictions for 2008   
As it is the start of the year, I thought I would put down a few predictions for the year ahead. I am no Mystic Meg, and most of it is pretty much guesswork so I don't know how accurate I will be.

Football
  • Premier League winners: everyone seems to think it will be Man Utd or Arsenal. I don't know though, I can see Derby having a good run of form. Failing that and a few intimidated referees later, Chelsea do have an outside chance out of the remaining 2 in the top 4. So, let's go with Arsenal.
  • FA cup winners: I would like to see an outside team win it, but I think Chelsea may have the edge as they tend to do well in tournaments.
  • Champions League: I will say this much, it won't be an English team.
  • England team: a year of optimism for future will be brought to a stuttering halt by a few players continuing to not find form. Rooney to become a super sub, Lampard to dropped completely after a dismal performance against Switzerland.
Politics
  • UK election: not while Gordon Brown is in power. If one is called, a slim majority for the Conservative party (maybe a hung Parliament?) with Labour losing out to both Tories and Liberals.
  • US election: isn't there one due soon? Don't know if it is this year or not, but if so, expect the Republicans to retain by 1% again, after multiple recounts, suing of the balloting machine developers and within 2 months everyone complaining that they didn't vote for them. The Democrats will blame Michael Moore for losing them votes.
  • Middle East: more of the same, I'm afraid.
  • Australia: they have just had an election, so they will be happy for a bit longer.

Economy:

  • Housing: prices down, then up, then down, then up. Then everyone will realise that Halifax's economic predictor is suffering from a previously unseen Y2K bug.
  • High-street spending: more on-line spending leads to less high street spending. By the end of the year, queues at on-line checkouts match high street stores.

Technology:

  • Facebook: mass desertions as everyone gets tired of being poked, bitten by Vampires and receiving dubious "do you find me hot?" requests. That, and people read the privacy statement.
  • iPhone: new one introduced, the world goes crazy. Steve Jobs has more followers than Ghandi, is canonised by the Pope, starts managing the US Football team, forms a US cricket team, cures cancer, etc...
  • Next big thing: not sure. Last year it was Facebook and the year before that You Tube, as a guess I will go with an application that syncs all your contacts, emails, instant messages, calendars, etc across work and home, mobile phone, etc. There are a few options already available in this field, but none of them have really taken off yet.
  • This blog: sporadically updated ;)

I will try and remember to check these out at the end of the year.


          The crisis increases the number of vasectomies   

The researchers interviewed nearly 1,700 men who had consulted their doctor about vasectomy clinic in Wisconsin between 2005 and 2012 . About 1450 men conducted vasectomy.

The results showed an increase in the rate of vasectomies performed each year , coinciding with the start of the economic crisis of 2007 . The growing trend of vasectomy appeared to stabilize at the end of 2012 , according to the study presented October 15 at the meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine .

The increase in the number of vasectomies is a reflection of the decrease in revenue , which can be considered a measure of economic health , according to Dr. Anand Shridharani , urologist and member of the research team .

"I think the economy plays an important role in preventing unwanted births due to the financial burden of having a child ," said Shridharani .

Image By Rhcastilhos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


          Identified pathogenic mechanism that affects innate immunity   

The results, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, could help in the search for therapies to treat kidney disease group known as Glomeuropatía C3.

"The complement system is an important part of our innate immunity that has evolved to defend against pathogens, to remove damaged tissue debris and to amplify and modulate the responses of adaptive immunity. The alterations in the functioning of complement, by default or by excess, cause pathological conditions related to infection, autoimmunity, chronic inflammation or tissue damage, "said CSIC researcher Santiago Rodríguez de Córdoba, Biological Research Center.

Familial Mutation

The research part of the identification of a mutation in the gene CFHR1 in a Spanish family with several members affected by glomerular C3, a heterogeneous group of severe kidney disease caused by deregulation of the complement system and is characterized by inflammation and glomerular loss of renal function.

"In most cases it is not clear what causes this alteration of the complement system. This study shows how important it is to identify the mechanism for deciding which therapy to apply to the patient, "CSIC researcher adds.

The results could also help in the investigation of macular degeneration associated with age and IgA nephropathy, also frequent pathologies associated with dysregulation of the complement system.

The study, which also involved researchers from the Hospital Universitario La Paz, Hospital Virgen del Rocío, the Center for Biomedical Network Research on Rare Diseases, Cardiff University and Imperial College London, has been funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, the Community of Madrid and Fundación Renal Iñigo Alvarez de Toledo.


Agustín Tortajada, Hugo Yébenes, Cynthia Abarrategui-Garrido, Jaouad Anter, Jesús M. García-Fernández, Rubén Martínez-Barricarte, María Alba-Domínguez, Talat H. Malik, Rafael Bedoya, Rocío Cabrera Pérez, Margarita López Trascasa, Matthew C. Pickering, Claire L. Harris, Pilar Sánchez-Corral, Oscar Llorca, and Santiago Rodríguez de Córdoba. C3 glomerulopathy–associated CFHR1 mutation alters FHR oligomerization and complement regulation. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. DOI: 10.1172/JCI68280.


  Picture by  Volker Brinkmann [CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons


          CSIC Technology pilot plant Flavors & Fragrances   

Press Release
Communication CSIC


The new facility, opened today at the plant in Benicarlo (Castellon), have a new system that improves efficiency and minimizes the environmental impact of production processes in the industry.

The new facilities are focused on innovation of production processes in order to improve efficiency and minimize environmental impact. These facilities consist of laboratories and a pilot plant for industry-wide introduction of new products and processes. The new plant is based on technology developed by the CSIC research professor, Avelino Corma, who works at the Institute of Chemical Technology, Valencia, joint CSIC and Universitat Politècnica de València.

The opening ceremony was attended by the President of the Generalitat Valenciana, Alberto Fabra, President of CSIC, Emilio Lora-Tamayo, the Minister of Economy, Industry, Tourism and Employment, Maximum Buch, and the Councillor for Infrastructure, Planning and Environment , Isabel Bonig.

It has also been assisted by the Vice President of Institutional Relations Organization and CSIC, José Ramón Urquijo, institutional coordinator of the CSIC in Valencia, José Pío Beltrán, and CSIC research professor, Avelino Corma, who developed the technology.

Avelino Corma explains the advantages of the technology: "what we have done is to develop a catalyst that enables a chemical process that previously required three stages and generated many products without economic value can be performed in a single step without generating products. In this way, we can reduce production costs and generate these fine chemicals more cleanly ".


Picture By Americasroof (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Common


          International Day of the Fascination of Plants   

Under the umbrella of the European Organization for Plant Science (EPSO - www.epsoweb.org), the Second Day of the Fascination of Plants will be held simultaneously in 54 countries, 28 European, five American and 11 African , 10 from Asia and Australia.

More than 618 institutions, from botanical gardens to plant research centers, will host 847 different events dedicated to the public and media, all related to plant science, agriculture, conservation of the environment, biodiversity , education and the arts. Both the general public and media are invited to attend press conferences, laboratories, greenhouses, gardens, museums and exhibitions taking place. Attendees will have the opportunity to talk with scientists about the latest advances in applied research and plant biology.

About the EPSO

The European Plant Science Organization EPSO is an independent academic organization representing more than 223 research institutes, universities and departments in 30 countries. Together they account for more than 28,000 researchers, technical and support staff in this branch of science. Furthermore, EPSO has over 2,850 individual members. From January 1, 2012, the CSIC research professor, José Pío Beltrán Porter is part of the Management Board of EPSO.

EPSO's mission is to promote research of plants and their researchers, scientists represent their discussions on the future of the program priorities of plants across Europe, providing a source of independent information about plant science, and promote education of scientists to find new XXI century challenges in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, ecology, and other areas related to plant science.

EPSO promotes the celebration of International Day Two Fascination of Plants

Due to the success of the First International Fascination of Plants, which took place on May 18, 2012, and involving over 580 institutions in 39 countries, attracting thousands of people, EPSO promotes the celebration of the Second Day International Fascination of Plants on May 18, 2013.

The Second Day of the Fascination of Plants will be held in 54 countries around the world have already confirmed their participation. Complete information on this initiative can be found at www.plantday12.eu platform that is supported by a network of national coordinators who voluntarily help to promote and publicize the activities in each of the countries.

The Second International Day of the Fascination of Plants

Plants capture the sun's energy and convert it into sugars that are incorporated into biomass, used to feed humanity and animals. Due to the ability to make their own food, plants have been successfully colonize virtually every ecological niche on the planet, adapting to different environments and diversify. It is estimated that on Planet Earth about 250,000 plant species.

 

José Pío Beltrán, coordinator for Spain's Second Day Fascination of Plants, explains that "the objective pursued is to plant seeds that germinate in the collective mind of European citizens and Planet Earth, remind us that research plant is critical to society, the environment and the economy, both today and in the future ".


          Voices of Women with Host Kris Steinnes: Nan Akasha on The New Feminine Economy and the Women's Prosperity Movement   
GuestPoverty and Lack mentality are the 1 Dis-ease on the planet 80% of the world population lives in poverty and most are women.Whether it's Aspirin or Automobiles, Boats or Businesses, Holidays or Houses, the research is crystal clear, Women directly buy or directly influence the purchase of 80% of all consumer goods in North America. The world is moving into a major energetic, economic and spiritual shift to the feminine energy. This is a movement into conscious cooperation, compassionate conn ...
          Festival della soft economy e Seminario Estivo,il senso dell’Italia per il futuro per Symbola   
Appuntamento con Fondazione Symbola tra Macerata e Treia per il Festival della soft economy, dal 4 al 6 luglio, e il seminario estivo il 7-8 luglio.

“Possiamo influenzare il futuro se gli diamo un senso”. Dargli un senso significa contrastare il cambiamento climatico, lavorare per la pace e lo sviluppo nei luoghi di origine dei flussi migratori, rendere più equo e inclusivo il nostro sistema sociale ed economico. Così Fondazione Symbola introduce il Festival della soft economy che torna a Macerata e Treia dal 4 al 6 luglio, seguito dal seminario estivo di Treia venerdì 7 e sabato 8 luglio.

In questo percorso ambizioso, l’Italia può essere protagonista. Anzi, lo è già. Ma si trova di fronte a sfide cruciali. Alcune derivano dalla sua posizione geografica, che la pone come crocevia e partner importante del progetto della nuova Via della Seta. Altre, non meno decisive, le vive al suo interno: è il caso della ricostruzione post-sisma dell’Appennino Centrale. Questi sono alcuni dei temi di cui si parlerà nei cinque giorni di eventi e dibattiti organizzati da Symbola. LifeGate, che anche quest’anno è media partner, vi terrà aggiornati sulle novità e le testimonianze più interessanti.

Italia-Cina, un legame sempre più stretto

Sarà il convegno dedicato alla nuova Via della Seta ad aprire i lavori del Festival della soft economy, martedì 4 luglio. Da diversi punti di vista si rifletterà sul ruolo sempre più cruciale della Cina sullo scacchiere globale. Anche alla luce del fatto che, da sempre, il gigante asiatico ha un occhio di riguardo per l’Italia: pensiamo agli investimenti nel nostro Paese, alla calorosa accoglienza che è stata riservata al presidente della Repubblica Sergio Mattarella, al legame privilegiato col Centro Italia. Sarà dunque l’occasione per analizzare gli sviluppi e le prospettive della collaborazione italo-cinese, in particolare sui versanti dell’ambiente e della cultura. A differenza del presidente americano Donald Trump che ha scelto di uscire dall’Accordo di Parigi, infatti, Pechino ha voluto confermare l’impegno preso.


Appennino, obiettivo ricostruzione

Un Festival che parla di costruire il futuro, e lo fa in uno dei borghi più incantevoli del Centro Italia, non a caso dedica molto spazio alla rigenerazione territoriale e alla ricostruzione. Protagonista sarà la zona dell’Appennino, con la sua voglia di ripartire dopo il trauma del terremoto dello scorso anno. Tra le date da segnare in agenda c’è mercoledì 5 luglio, quando si esporranno le linee guida per la ricostruzione dei comuni del Cratere Sisma 2016 e le idee sulla rigenerazione urbana progettate dalla Fondazione RIUSO, in collaborazione con Officina L’Aquila. Nel pomeriggio di venerdì 7 luglio, inoltre, il Seminario Estivo di Treia prevede un’intera sessione dedicata al Centro Italia.

Un’iniziativa accolta con favore dal sindaco di Treia Franco Capponi: “Di particolare interesse anche le sessioni specifiche dedicate al ricostruire non dov’era com’era ma dov’era come sarà, approfondendo il rapporto tra ricostruzione e sicurezza, ricostruzione  e territorio, ricostruzione e sviluppo di una nuova economia proprio per un’area, quella degli Appennini, che è stata la culla della civiltà europea”.


Geografie del nuovo made in Italy

Un altro degli appuntamenti-chiave, in programma a Treia la mattina del 7 luglio, sarà la presentazione del rapporto 2017 I.T.A.L.I.A. Geografie del nuovo made in Italy di Fondazione Symbola, Unioncamere e Fondazione Edison. In chiusura, sabato 8 luglio, il seminario Il senso dell’Italia per il futuro, che vedrà confrontarsi politica, impresa, associazioni, società civile e istituzioni. Tutti alle prese con alcune domande fondamentali: come dare senso al futuro? Come rilanciare il nostro paese, in un mondo sempre più complesso e interconnesso?

La presidente nazionale di Legambiente Rossella Muroni, che sarà tra i partecipanti, un’idea ce l’ha già: “In questi anni si sta assistendo a una crescita progressiva, lenta ma inesorabile, di tutti gli indicatori economici e sociali che attestano una maturazione da parte dei cittadini di scelte e comportamenti ecosostenibili. È un’Italia forse sconosciuta ai più ma già ben radicata, che crede fortemente e opera nell’interesse generale. Questa è l’Italia che ritrova la strada per il futuro. Un futuro che già funziona. Fatto da migliaia di persone che immaginano e realizzano, dal basso, nuovi modelli di welfare, di cura del territorio, di produzione di beni e servizi, di utilizzo dei beni comuni”. A concludere i lavori, tirando le fila di questo mosaico di suggestioni e proposte, il presidente di Fondazione Symbola, Ermete Realacci.


Valentina Neri Lifegate


          Nepal Rastra Bank : Frankly my Dear, I don't give a damn!   
Disclaimer! : This isn't a sarcastic post. Just a personal frustration over the central bank behavior

First, they gave license to any business entity trying to get into Banking and Financial Sector. Their logic was that it will increase access to financial services in the nation. But, all the BFIs were urban area centric. Even their policy to make BFIs have mandatory branches in the rural areas isn't having any impact on overall access to financing. Far better are the smaller cooperatives and microfinance institutions, who are active in the grassroot level. But, impact of this sector too is corrupted by high interest rates.

After few years and few governors,  the NRB fellas found that there were too many BFIs in the nation. They brought Merger Bylaws and then Acquisition Bylaw. Their point was that the nation is too small to have so many institutions. NRB states that they have far few people to oversee so many institutions? Haven't they learnt anything from 2008 Financial crisis? Are they not creating institutions too big to fail? One Gurkha Development Bank had such big ripple effect in the economy. Imagine what would a failure of commercial bank with over 20 billion in deposits have  in the economy? Fewer institutions also means that the sector is moving towards monopolistic economy. (See for Herfindahl index). How will this further suck the consumer interests?

And, after years of downturn and consolidation, the Nepalese economy is finally coming up. The domestic and foreign investors are upbeat about the economy. Investments and investment commitments are rising. The budget has prioritized capital investments and has created favorable environment for infrastructure development. Be reminded that infrastructure projects are capital intensive. Right then NRB comes up with monetary policy to suck up the "extra- liquidity" from the market. Agreed that the market is high on liquidity, and agreed that this could lead to bubbles in stock market and real estate. But there could have been directions to avoid these bubble creations rather than just increasing the CRR, which is expected to drain the market with NPR 6 billion instantly. (This is like 60 MW hydropower project with full equity). The ripple effect of this will be swift. I don't think the government doesn't have enough expertise and resources to take on all the infrastructure projects single handed. It needs equal, if not more, participation from the public. With NRB trying to mop up " excess- liquidity", the interest rates are bound to increase, so will the costs of projects. This will further damage the investment environment.

It seems NRB is always on trial and error mode. Maybe, it is because the governors and the board changes after their tenure and are not accountable to anyone for their decisions and policies. What happens if their decisions backfires or their tests fail? Who is NRB accountable to?

Do they really care for the public or the development of Nepal or they just churn out policies and bylaws because some damn economist published these in some weird journos. I think it is time NRB is held accountable for their policies. Only, then will they see the bigger picture and analyze the impact of their policies on the overall economy. 

          Grant Marketing Group Boosts Entrepreneurship Worldwide as a Direct Lending Partner with Kiva by Funding Microfinance Loans   

As part of its commitment to building a stronger world economy, one built on individual success derived from personal accomplishments, Grant Marketing Group is an active funder with Kiva, an international nonprofit organization that connects struggling entrepreneurs with capital markets.

(PRWeb July 12, 2016)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/grantmarketinggroup/kiva/prweb13542051.htm


          TOTW, 6/23/17 -- Maysville   

Maysville.  This is simply a sweet tune, sometimes called Road to Maysville.  I didn’t realize Road to Maysville had been covered on July 8, 2011 when asked to do an emergency back-up TOTW this past Wednesday.  If it’s not okay I’ll whip out another one this weekend. More information added to the original discussion thread should be interesting.

Maysville is currently the 40th largest city in Kentucky with things to do such as visit the National Underground Railroad Museum, the Washington Opera House, and bars such as Horseshoes and The Thirsty Beaver.  It's the seat of Mason County in Northeastern Kentucky on the Ohio River and was a site for trade in the tobacco industry a hundred years ago.  In the old-time music world Maysville is associated with a tune and its story, first told by Kentucky fiddler J.P. Fraley (1923 – 2010) and later popularized by John Hartford. 

It’s amusing to hear Hartford as he fiddles the tune first quickly and then slowly. He tells the story of J.P. Fraley’s father, Richard Fraley, driving the tobacco wagon with his son on board as they happily hauled a load for delivery and sale in Maysville on a wintery day.  Slowly describes the wagon ride home, as the “normally teetotalling Richard Fraley produced a pint of whiskey: ‘Take a nip of this, son, it’ll keep you warm.’  Just before they came into Hitchins, he flung the bottle away. ‘It’s good for the cold, but don’t tell your mother’” (as told in the liner notes in the CD called Maysville).

 photo farmer-riding-a-horse-cart-in-a-tobacco-field-poster-print-18-x-24_2349039_zpsxpuuyi5e.jpg   

 photo images-1_zpsvomzeeqx.jpg

J.P. (Jesse Presley) Fraley lived to be 87 years old, retiring as a mining engineer, with his musically talented wife Annadeene.  They had eloped to Maysville, coincidentally, after J.P. returned from the army in 1946.  Together they hosted musical gatherings for nearly three decades. Learn more information about his life here.

 photo FullSizeRender_zpsmkrs9myo.jpg

 

I’m reminded by this tune’s story of the prominence of tobacco in our history and economy.  When on vacation “back east” I was surprised at how many people smoke.  Coming from California, I’ve had a different experience.  We have entire sections of cities designated as “smoke-free.”  Restaurants in the majority of states are now smoke-free, led by California in 1998.  I looked up tobacco in Kentucky and see that it’s still a piece of the overall economy. 

So it’s interesting to note that Richard Fraley was a farmer and that tobacco was an important cash crop for him.  Perhaps J.P. found the tobacco work to be drudgery, because he turned to other jobs when he grew up.  “We’d be out farming in the hot sun and I’d say, Daddy, if I could just work on that fiddle I believe I could play ‘Sally Goodin.’ And he’d reply, ‘Well, son, why don’t you go up to the house and try it?’  So I’d get out of a lot of hard work that way!”

All of their recordings, some including their daughter Danielle, appeal to me and they’re a never-ending source for “mining” to learn a good fiddle tune.  Many good anecdotes are described in the liner notes for the two CDs J.P. and Annadeene recorded, Maysville and Wild Rose of the Mountains.  A funny one in the Maysville CD tells in J.P.’s words about a fishing experience he had.  Though I won’t repeat it here, suffice it to say that the tale involves smoking cigarettes while witnessing the clever capers of a muskie fish and its squirrel victims. 

Hope you enjoy these versions of Maysville and give it a try in honor of TOTW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Hurt, Track 4:  https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/adamhurt5  (BTW, track 3 would be my second choice for TOTW)

BHO member trick420 (original poster of TOTW Road to Maysville): http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/media-player/audio_player2.asp?musicid=22197&archived

BHO member Erich Schroeder (vrteach): http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/media-player/audio_player2.asp?musicid=22212&archived

BHO member Carl Baron:  http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/media-player/audio_player2.asp?musicid=30809&archived

BHO member Janet B (me) 3-finger picking: http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/media-player/audio_player2.asp?musicid=25526&archived


          'This Changes Everything' tackles global warming   
<>"This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate" (Simon & Schuster), by Naomi Klein

Cutting the vast amounts of man-made pollution that feed global warming is an enormous challenge for societies that gobble up coal, oil and gas. But in "This Changes Everything," Naomi Klein argues that those fuels aren't the root problem — capitalism is. That message is likely to motivate fans of Klein's earlier books, such as "No Logo" and "The Shock Doctrine," but it also leads to a tough question.

Is blaming capitalism for climate change just rhetorical hot air — or a brutal and uncomfortable truth?

Whatever side you take, Klein deserves credit for not sugarcoating the problem. She writes that limiting global warming won't be quick, easy or without disruptions, yet holds out hope that the end result will be better for people, the environment and even the economy. But make no mistake: "This Changes Everything" argues that we don't just have to cut carbon pollution. We have to change society, and our own lifestyles. Klein writes: "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war."

And while Klein is predictably hard on big business and conservatives who deny climate change, she doesn't spare environmental groups or liberals. Klein pointedly shows how easy it is to ignore global warming, noting that until recently she "continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong" with the "elite" frequent flier card in her wallet.

Klein is dismissive of environmentalists who say better technology can limit climate change, yet she doesn't resolve some of the contradictions in that position. China, Germany and other countries have used capitalism and mass production to turn out vast quantities of better and cheaper solar panels and wind turbines. In the U.S., Texas has become the national leader in wind energy by treating it as another business for people to make money on.

Yet worldwide carbon emissions are rising, not falling.

And like everyone else, Klein struggles with perhaps the toughest global warming challenge: how to cope with the explosive growth of newly capitalist economies.

China is now the world's largest emitter of carbon pollution, but only 30 years ago Beijing was filled with bicycle-riding workers dressed in Chairman Mao tunics. Today there are BMWs and clouds of pollution generated by vast numbers of people who are embracing capitalism, not revolting against it. And after the recent huge climate march in New York City, India's environment minister responded by saying that developed countries such as the U.S. need to cut emissions, not developing ones. He told The New York Times that "India's first task is eradication of poverty" and that "we will grow faster, and our emissions will rise."

Klein is calling for a global social revolution to combat global warming, but many countries don't much like it when Westerners who have long benefited from cheap fossil fuels try to tell them what to do.

Yet China and India's runaway growth also makes clear that Klein's core point has merit. She writes that "we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed." The vast majority of climate scientists say global warming is here, caused by humans, and probably already dangerous, and that the world needs to start significantly reducing carbon pollution. If it doesn't, scientists predict that in a few decades, much higher temperatures and more acidic oceans will start to cause "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."

"This Changes Everything" isn't all doom and gloom. Klein notes that an aggressive new movement of climate activists has emerged in the last few years. As a mother, she writes passionately about the need to consider the impact on future generations, and she gives many examples of places where wind and solar energy is dropping in price and becoming a cleaner and more realistic alternative to fossil fuels.

"This Changes Everything" may motivate more people to think and act on climate change, and that's good. Yet capitalism isn't the only problem. The old message from a 1970 cartoon on the first Earth Day still hangs in the air: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

___

Online:

http://www.naomiklein.org/main


          Hermaphrodite economy - Financial Standard   
Hermaphrodite economyFinancial StandardMuch like news that South African 800-metre world champion Caster Semenya was found to have both male and female sexual organs. She has no ovaries, ...
          Gold Coins For Sale   
A gold coin dealer can provide detailed information to collectors and investors about the different types of coins that are valuable or collectible in today's economy.

          Comment on CNN Is Dead: Network Loses All Credibility As Producer Admits That The Entire Russia Narrative Is Fake News by SoCalBeachDude   
<b>CREDIT CRISIS: The BIS and the global debt bubble</b> The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is to be applauded for its candor about the serious debt related vulnerabilities in today’s global economy. At a time when a great sense of complacency pervades both global markets and policy making circles, the BIS has had the courage to suggest in its recently released Annual Report that the emperor might have no clothes. It has done so by pointing to the large increase in global debt levels and the large reductions in global interest rate risk premiums that have been spawned by years of ultra-unorthodox monetary policies by the world’s major central banks. It has also done so by flagging the existence of a series of asset price bubbles and poor bank practices in a number of important countries. The BIS’s principal concern is that global debt to GDP levels today are some 40 percent higher than they were on the eve of the 2008-2009 global market meltdown. Equally troubling to the BIS is that debt levels have increased by even larger amounts in a number of systemically important countries. It notes that since 2008 overall debt-to-GDP levels are up by 190 percent in China, by 70 percent in Canada and France, and by 50 percent in Japan. The BIS is also warning that credit-to-GDP gaps have reached levels signaling elevated risks in a number of important emerging market economies. The BIS does us a service by pointing out the basic choice with which the world’s central banks are now confronted. They can either get serious now about normalizing interest rates from their artificially low levels, even though this is likely to cause some immediate painful disruption in the global financial markets; or, alternately, they can delay the normalization process at the risk of creating an even greater debt bubble down the road. That course of action would lead to even greater market disruption when that bubble eventually bursts as it will inevitably in the end do. http://www.aei.org/publication/the-bis-and-the-global-debt-bubble/
          Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: The Conversation Talks Economics   
We discuss the economy a lot on The Conversation. From the effects of the recession to financial planning, money is always in the news. Today, we
          Simpson wants Idaho sheep research station to stay open despite Trump's budget    

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: DUBOIS, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson will try to keep open an Idaho sheep experiment station despite President Donald Trump's proposed budget calling for its elimination. The Post-Register reported (http://bit.ly/2t1BClE ) Tuesday that Clark County economic development officials worry closure of the station could have a major negative impact on the economy. The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station employs 14 full-time researchers. It's one of the most significant employers in the county that about 860 people live in. The station's annual budget stands at about $2.1 million for 2017, but Trump's budget would send that figure to zero and lay off all 14 researchers. It would cancel a $1.7 million project aimed at increasing the efficiency of sheep production on rangeland, as well as a $711,000 project examining technologies for rangeland management.


          Typically the fabric shall be any developer's materials    
At any time simply because pop up market trends, LV purses get lucky and end up found rapidly following with regard to great technological innovation not to mention unmatchable esthetical look for. Vuitton hand bags is the around the globe ordinary when it comes to travel luggage at this time, a luggage as well as carriers in which all the people are centric. As per a wine, Bourdeaux vintages, fromages, and the majority various other aspects that noticeably strengthen it life, Louis Vuitton bags started off around Germany. As part of your starting while in the nineteenth 100 years, this emperor of Portugal, Napoleon III, wanted you to handle the baggage connected with Empress Eugene. The guy a emperor came across was Louis Vuitton, trained that belong administrators who rich belonging to get greater software houses. Vuitton split garden soil start by Sac Louis Vuitton Pas Cher making airtight along with ripped stackable that belongs. Obtainable will begin, Vuitton created the business enterprise, making his first kind and style practices around 1854. In Louis Vuitton the earth's Shows throughout 1867 and 1889, LV earned oldest the bronze adhering to which will old watches medallion for reputation inside benefit to his / her baggage. However, it isn't appropriate together until eventually 1892 the matter that original Vuitton purses attack the industry. Following LV Businesses go assortment developed greater and greater. Almost everything commences, several relevant to be a bunch because they days or weeks, Lv designer handbags happen to grow to be trusted along with considered synonymous with more completed excellent and even quality. Effective in front current domain name, not to mention Lv bags are suffering from in becoming markers without doubt together with achievement. This specific conduces to making Lv creator luggage the industry key. the truth is, the luggage are really desired who wealthy counterfeiter???¨º?¨¨s mobility market trends using fraudulent Louis Vuitton designer handbags, to make sure of that many a smaller amount when compared to 1% from the luggage purchased not to mention marketed are true Lv built. In the make an effort to table your efforts regarding banned bags, Louis Vuitton's son Georges unveiled typically the LV Monogrammed Fabric around 1896, that has been a good economy initially.
Typically the fabric shall be any developer's materials ingredients label named into the items or expert services in the facility. Main Louis Vuitton fat delivers the LV Initialed or monogrammed Canvas. Imitators may possibly could be make an attempt to copy it; even so the experienced eye-sight would probably find out about the range! Beginning around 1888, reasonably priced LV designer handbags are attainable in your Damier Material. The 2 Main Major Louis and Georges worked well with regards to the model, which is an abbreviation for Sac Louis Vuitton marque D. Vuitton deposee, in france they way of proclaiming signature R. Vuitton. Under this particular, Georges unveiled the particular Initialed or monogrammed Fabric who is designs along with artwork are generally driven from the last by reason of Victorian have an impact on around Asian kitchenware craft. Throughout 1901, That Cleaner Pouch, a tiny bit backpack going in addition to larger LV that belongs in addition to trunks, has been advisable. nineteen thirty seen any intro within the contemporary in addition to lasting Lv handbags Keepall, that has been a type consciousness on 3rd after which you can your identify. As well as its considerably more tiny successor, a Speedy, a Keepall's leather-based is usually tooled with the trademark LV choice and design all over, as well as the feature suave curves not to mention insures advise convenience plus practicality even if enhancing that element in high-class.
          “Any violation of the Indus Waters Treaty by India would come with the risk of war and hostilities” -Sartaz Aziz- Pakistani advisor on Foreign Affairs   
Reports that India is reviewing its position on the Indus Waters Treaty have evoked a strong response in Pakistan, where river waters form a lifeline for the country’s agricultural economy.  Headlines suggested that  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was planning to “steal” Pakistan’s waters and let the country run dry in the wake of heightened...
          IMF cuts US growth outlook amid lack of policies   

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The lack of details on President Donald Trump’s plans to reform the US economy prompted the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) to cut its growth forecast for this year and next. The IMF in January raised the estimates on the expectation of fiscal stimulus from the Trump administration, but have [...]

The post IMF cuts US growth outlook amid lack of policies appeared first on The Manila Times Online.


          A broad carbon tax coalition   

For some time now, ExxonMobil has said that a uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to emissions reduction. Specifically, we have stated that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is one policy option being considered by policymakers that offers the best prospects for progress at the lowest economic cost to […]

The post A broad carbon tax coalition appeared first on Energy Factor.


          Blue Sky Services Closes 1031 Purchase with 20 Yr Leaseback of Spindale Denny's Restaurant   

Blue Sky Services has closed the 1031 exchange purchase and 20 Year Leaseback of Denny’s Restaurant in Spindale, NC.

Raleigh, NC -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/10/2014 -- Blue Sky Services Real Estate has been busy lately, representing a diverse array of Sellers and Buyers of commercial investment real estate. According to informed sources within the company, Blue Sky Services has seen a spike in commercial activity since the beginning of the year, with a total of 37 transactions closed year-to-date as compared to 24 transactions at the same time last year. The latest of these deals is the 1031 exchange purchase with a 20 year leaseback of a Denny's restaurant in Spindale, North Carolina.

Poised as an excellent investment along the US 74 Bypass, this 3,700 sq ft building on .69 acre is situated as an out-parcel in a former K-Mart shopping center. Nikita Zhitov of Blue Sky Services Real Estate facilitated the transaction, and views it as an excellent opportunity for the Investor, anticipating the full swing of the economic bounce back.

Headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Denny's was founded in 1953 and currently operates over 1,600 locations throughout the United States and overseas. They provide a stable corporate presence for the leaseback that will generate guaranteed income for the investor for a period of twenty years, in a location that is only going to get more popular as the economy recovers, thanks to its excellent location.

A spokesperson for Blue Sky Services commented on the transaction, "Although the shopping center behind the restaurant has been vacant since K-Mart left in 2007, we believe that this is still a strong investment. The market bottomed out, and it can only get better once the K-mart space is leased up. Until then, a 20-year lease from a strong national tenant such as Denny's Corporation provides the necessary security for our investors, who at the end of that lease may well see dividends on their initial outlay when economic recovery sees the location become a vibrant center of commerce."

About Blue Sky Services
Blue Sky Services has been in business since 1996, succeeding in growing their company by working with thousands of satisfied customers. The company is committed to setting the highest standards for customer service, quality and professionalism, aiming to lead the field in real estate, development, construction, remodeling and more.

For more information please visit: http://www.blueskyservices.biz/

For more information on this press release visit: http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/blue-sky-services-closes-1031-purchase-with-20-yr-leaseback-of-spindale-dennys-restaurant-552685.htm

Media Relations Contact

Ian Hart
Telephone: 919-743-0030
Email: Click to Email Ian Hart
Web: http://www.blueskyservices.biz/


          Blue Sky Services Signs Lease for New 5,700 Square Foot Creedmoor Strip Center Space   

Blue Sky Services has signed a lease for 5,700 SF space in Creedmoor Strip Center, which will be converted and subdivided into new businesses.

Raleigh, NC -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/19/2014 -- Real Estate is often the first marker of economic changes. When the economy crashed, real estate shut down instantly. As a result, people have eagerly awaited the upswing in real estate development, which is now proceeding apace. Blue Sky Services is at the forefront of the recovery, making bold investments on new developments. Their successes have gone from strength to strength, and their latest marketing efforts of this Creedmoor Strip Center have yielded an exciting new tenant for the client's property.

Nikita Zhitov of Blue Sky Services Real Estate facilitated the leasing transaction, and Blue Sky Services Commercial Construction will complete the conversion and up-fit the space. The former daycare space will be subdivided and converted into the newest location of Snap Fitness, a modern fitness and exercise facility.

Headquartered in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Snap Fitness is a privately owned and operated health and fitness club, founded in 2003 with over 1,500 locations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. This expansion of their services into Creedmoor marks an exciting development not just for Blue Sky but for the local area.

A spokesperson for Blue Sky Services explained, "We are uniquely positioned to handle not only acquisitions and leasing, but development and refurbishment. As such, our clients can expect a comprehensive service. We can manage everything from finance to buildings, with no part in between left out. The Snap Fitness franchise is an immensely popular one, because they provide outstanding services to their customers- a value we both share. By committing our values to helping promote theirs, both our businesses can find new levels of success, and that's an exciting prospect indeed, not least for the people of North Carolina, who will benefit from this new opportunity to get fit as never before."

About Blue Sky Services
Blue Sky Services has been in business since 1996, succeeding in growing their company by working with thousands of satisfied customers. The company is committed to setting the highest standards for customer service, quality and professionalism, aiming to lead the field in real estate, development, construction, remodeling and more. For more information please visit: http://www.blueskyservices.biz/

For more information on this press release visit: http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/blue-sky-services-signs-lease-for-new-5700-square-foot-creedmoor-strip-center-space-546738.htm

Media Relations Contact

Ian Hart
Telephone: 919-743-0030
Email: Click to Email Ian Hart
Web: http://www.blueskyservices.com/


          Financial Sanctions and Penalties for Cybercrime    

As cybercrime spreads in its many mutations, governments and regulators across the globe continue to develop a variety of solutions. One regulatory method that has gained in popularity and sophistication in recent years is the financial response to cybercrime. The United States in particular has explored financial sanctions at the “front end,” to deprive cybercriminals of access to financial channels, and financial penalties at the “back end,” particularly asset forfeiture, to recover the proceeds of criminal activity. 

 

Financial Sanctions

On the “front end,” the U.S. government has sought to apply to cybercrime the financial sanctions that it has employed in the areas of terrorism finance and anti-nuclear proliferation. On April 1, 2015, then-President Obama issued Executive Order 13694 to block property in (or coming into) the U.S. that belongs to anyone designated by the government as being responsible for “cyber-enabled activities.” These activities cover significant compromises of a critical infrastructure sector, disruptions of computers or computer networks, or misappropriation of funds, trade secrets, or other information for commercial advantage. 

On December 28, 2016, President Obama amended the order with Executive Order 13757, which added another category of cyber-enabled activities for tampering with, altering, or misappropriating information to interfere with electoral processes. This amendment was added in light of allegations that Russia had interfered with the U.S. presidential election. Executive Order 13757 included an annex identifying Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, Federal Security Service, and other entities and individuals. 

The next day, December 29, 2016, the Department of the Treasury designated two other Russian individuals for theft of financial information and personal identifying information. To date, these are the only entities and individuals so designated under the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) under the “CYBER” program of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. 

These designations send a strong message that large-scale cybercrime must be defeated by the same tools brought to bear on the war on terror.  This message was reiterated in the recent Senate bill amendment codifying these executive orders and imposing additional cybersecurity sanctions against Russia.  The broad scope of all these sanctions—which could apply to overseas organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction—could have a crippling effect on a target that depends on the world financial system. 

 

Application to China?

Commentators have suggested that these sanctions could be applied to actors in China that perhaps might be associated with the government. For example, as described in a Congressional Research Service report, there have been suggestions that the breaches of Office of Personnel Management data could be attributable to China state actors.

A number of factors could explain why the list isn’t longer. The nature of cybercrime lends itself to anonymity and the proliferation of unending identities and vehicles for attack.  Recent transnational malware and ransomware attacks suggest the ease with which cybercriminals are able to conceal their identity and co-opt third parties to transmit their attacks. Difficulties regarding attribution may also create some reluctance to oblige the numerous financial institutions and other actors subject to sanctions compliance to block an individual or entity that is difficult to identify. 

Even if those actors can be identified, there may be foreign policy and political considerations before a state entity or state-affiliated organization can be placed on the SDN list. There may also be concerns that financial sanctions may have little effect on certain cybercriminals who commit their crimes without any sort of financial motive but for more murky “hacktivist” principles. 

In the case of suspected cyber-enabled activities from China, however, it may be more likely that the U.S. government believes there is value in pursuing bilateral or multilateral official discussions, such as the U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues (or its future iteration as the bilateral Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue), or individual criminal prosecutions, which perhaps are believed to send an adequate statement of U.S. dissatisfaction with state-sponsored activities. 

 

Financial Penalties

These criminal prosecutions, along with individual asset forfeiture actions, provide another means of addressing cybercrime: the financial penalties designed to deprive wrongdoers of the financial benefits of their crime. In one recent case, the U.S. Department of Justice brought an in rem asset forfeiture action against bank accounts overseas that contained proceeds of a business email compromise scheme, in which the fraudsters impersonated a vendor to defraud a U.S. victim company. In another case, the U.S. sought to forfeit assets in foreign bank accounts that it claimed were the proceeds of a large-scale online website that unlawfully distributed copyrighted movie and television programming, music, and software (the individual claimants of the property are seeking Supreme Court review of this decision). 

Unlike financial sanctions, this remedy requires proof that the assets represent the proceeds of unlawful activity or at least that these assets belong to the alleged cybercriminals. Moreover, if the assets are overseas, the country in which the assets are located must be willing to cooperate with the United States to seize or otherwise restrain those assets pending a U.S. court order. For countries such as China, even though there is a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement that contemplates the freezing of assets, the use of that mechanism in this way remains for the most part untested. 

***

Even with these limits, financial sanctions and penalties have proven to be powerful tools.  The open nature of the U.S. economy and society provides the U.S. government with a unique lever to address cybercrime extraterritorially through international financial channels and its own international law enforcement-cooperative relationships. 


          Live from SMX Advanced How Much Do I Charge for SEM Search Marketing Agency Pricing Models   
With the challenges facing the economy today, pricing, needless to say, is an issue on the minds of many search marketing agencies. Today's "How Much Do I Charge for SEM, Especially Now Search Marketing Agency Pricing Models" panel was anchored by Andrew Beckman of Location3 Media, Matt Walker of Best Rank, Inc. and Marty Weintraub of AimClear.





Matt was up first and discussed how his agency, Best Rank (a full service SEM agency), perfected their pricing model. He indicated that there was a lot of trial and error in pricing and failure certainly teaches them what to change. So don"t be afraid of failure!





With the current economic client, he feels that certainly budgets are being scrutinized and cut, potential clients are shopping many more firms, and they are taking their time paying - definitely a challenge. However, there are some good things out of the recession: a) there"s good talent out there, b) while budgets are being cut, more is being shifted to more cost-effective marketing, like search, and c) clients are looking for more creative solutions.


Before the recession, Best Rank used a revenue model that:


recurring revenue model


sell the methodology (6-12 months)


limited services (mainly going after SEO)


tough sell in many cases - clients wanted more offerings together


typical pricing was $100-150/keyword


How did he change with the recession?


He wasn't a fan of lowering prices, so he added more value services, including basic social media, like article writing and promotion.


They still want recurring revenue, but he did offer a lower priced model to get the clients in the door and made the "switching costs" high. He also felt he could upsell clients once they were in the door. Another approach he tried was giving discounts by having a client paying upfront (10% discount) - which also addressed the late payment issue.





They implemented "phased pricing" by chunking up services. Again, he said upselling opportunity was very high once they were in the door. But he also made it a bit higher cost for each tactic when subdivided.


There are markets that still have demand, for instance start up businesses and medical, government, and alternative energy.





Matts advice?


If you can do SEO successfully, then many other services are easy. You can also always partner to offer more services. Some offerings to consider are video production and optimization, social media campaigns, and consulting and training.





Target complementary businesses with established sales staff to sell your services as an affiliate.


After Marty gave his colorful resume (always a hoot, that Marty), he focused on short term contracts to ease recession jitters and inspire client confidence, which they did at AimClear.





Marty wanted to accelerate growth with short term and long term mix of contracts. He required an SEO audit and plan BEFORE they can sign an SEO contract - primarily because they want to know the client well and build the long term relationship. Short term contracts CAN lead to long term ones. Short term contracts allow the client to vet the agency AS WELL AS the agency to vet the client. So they decreased their retainers to 3-6 month retainers.





Marty said that they were able to triple the year over year revenue from first quarter. Clients also perceived the agency as highly confident and holistic. It also is a competitive advantage in an increasingly crowded space. Most of all, it allows you, the agency, to get the RIGHT clients and get rid of the WRONG clients. It also builds two way trust and they part as friends. This model also allowed them a more diversified client base - which helps recession-proof their agency.





Use timecards - but make them real-time to be easier.


Segment your services in categories for timecards and billing.


One drawback can be selling hourly consulting vs. a one price model - works best for boutique agencies selling special value.


Creates a layer of administration.


Your advice better be great!!


Andrew covered some of the versions.


The management fee has often been a percentage of advertising spend - typically 15% or so. But there are pressures with that model for both the agency and the client. If spend goes down, the agency loses revenue. So Andrew"s firm decided to experiment with a hybrid model based on the greater of a flat management fee or percentage of ad spend - essentially setting some minimum fees in case the media spend decreased.





Another model they"ve tried is the flat cost per click model. The client gets one rate and the agency often saw a greater return than the standard management fee. But, the margins might be too high for the client to make a profit using this model.





The ideal campaign type is the cost per lead - a performance-based model. It involves a fixed rate with price dependent on the competitive nature of the data passed. For example, a dating sign up might be $5/lead, but an education sign up might be $65/lead. This model provides an ability to control the ad spend and margins and delivery a volume of leads.





Another option is to take the lead to another step. The lead is captured, but you are relying on the salesperson to convert the sale - so you lose some control.





A cost per sale model is ideal with ecommerce. Typically it is a percentage of the sale, with ranges from 5-10% of the sale price. No affiliates should be allowed with these deals, and tracking can be sticky with 30-day cookies.





Another option is an hourly rate model, which is ideal for social media monitoring. There"s no real ROI to quantify, so hourly works well. He"s seen some positive feedback with this model.


On the SEO side, they normally charge on a retainer basis based on number of keywords, and they charge at least $10k/month. Content development is on a per page basis with at least 350 words per page. He added that technical challenges add to the total cost of the retainer.





One type of pricing model for SEO he is interested in is an SEO CPC model - focusing on non-branded terms. Look at the average click count per month, what they would pay on a CPC model for PPC, charge that CPC fee. Certainly this is a type of "pay for performance" model for SEO.


David Link is president and CEO of ScienceLogic. He and his partners built a thriving company from the ground up by focusing on delivering "products that just work" to the underserved IT infrastructure management marketplace. He has held senior management and corporate officer positions at large public companies.

bradenton seo: bradenton search engine optimization

bradenton seo: bradenton seo

Article Source: www.articlesnatch.com


          Charges Brought Against Brazil's President   

如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:
http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2017/06/28/7531/

Brazil’s President Michel Temer calls the corruption charges against him a “soap opera” and accuses the country’s top lawyer of seeking “revenge.”

On Monday, Attorney General Rodrigo Janot charged Temer with accepting at least $150,000 dollars in payments. The payments are said to have come from the head of Brazil’s huge meat producing company JBS earlier this year.

Temer took office last year after former president Dilma Rousseff was removed from office for breaking laws related to reporting the nation’s budget.

More charges possible

Reports say there is an audio recording of Temer reportedly plotting to pay money to a former house speaker and a Temer associate who was jailed for corruption. And Janot is considering other charges against Temer including obstruction of justice.

Brazil's Attorney General Rodrigo Janot might bring additional charges. Brazil's Attorney General Rodrigo Janot might bring additional charges.

After the attorney general’s charges, a complex process involving the nation’s highest court and congress could lead to a vote by the full lower house.

The lower house of Brazil’s Congress called the Chamber of Deputies could decide whether to suspend Temer or try him on charges of bribery.

Two-thirds of the 513-member group must agree to do so.

If Temer is found guilty, he faces a $3 million fine and two to 12 years in prison. But observers think Congress will not force him out.

Sonia Fleury is a political science professor at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas University in Rio de Janeiro. She says, 'Several senators and deputies are in the same boat as he is, being accused in the same way.” Fleury adds they are protecting each other “to avoid prosecution.”

The Brazil’s president has denied the charges and says that he will not step down. Public opinion studies show Temer has a very low rate of approval of seven percent.

Charges make reforms more difficult

South America’s largest economy is recovering from a deep recession. Unemployment and inflation remain high while economic growth has not been strong.

The government has proposed unpopular reforms to the country’s finances including cutting payments to retired workers and labor reforms.

Peter Hakim is the former president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a research group based in Washington. He says the charges against Temer make it difficult for lawmakers to vote on financial reforms and cuts to public spending.

“There may have been enough votes for him to secure the economic reforms necessary but now people have to vote for unpopular reforms and for a unpopular defense of Temer.”

I’m Mario Ritter.

Kenneth Schwartz, Victor Beattie reported this story for VOA News with additional materials from AP and Reuters. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Words in This Story

soap opera –n. a kind of dramatic television or radio program of continuing stories of the daily lives of a group of people

revenge –n. the act of hurting someone because they hurt you first

bribery –n. to receive an illegal payment in return for supporting a public law or policy

obstruction –n. to block something from going forward

in the same boat –idiom in the same situation

prosecution –n. the process of facing charges in a legal court

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.


          Worst Case Possible Comes True: Louisiana Sinking Fast   

如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:
http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2017/06/27/4202/

For the last 80 years, the coast of the U.S. state of Louisiana has been losing land to water in the Gulf of Mexico. The land has been disappearing through a natural process called subsidence.

But scientists now say Louisiana is sinking faster than they thought.

Worst-case scenario

A new study shows that the Louisiana coast is sinking at an average rate of nine millimeters – almost one centimeter – per year.

Torbjörn E. Törnqvist is a geologist at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is one of the writers the study, published June 14 in the Geological Society of America’s GSA Today.

He says the new rate is higher than other recent studies have shown. And, he adds, the finding is not good news.

“That rate is about the same as what in previous studies has been cited as the worst case scenario. So the more pessimistic numbers that people have used in the past. Well, it turns out that those are the rates that are actually happening.”

And the news gets worse. Törnqvist says that, in addition to the land dropping into the water, climate change is causing sea levels to rise at a rate of about 3 millimeters a year in the area.

He says the sea level rise is “almost certain to increase in the future,” and at a faster rate by the end of the century.

The combination of the land sinking and the sea rising means the Louisiana coast “has one of the highest rates of sea level rise to the land anywhere in the world.”

“You can look at maps or satellites images of parts of the coast and see what it looked like, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago and compare that to what it looks like today and the differences are staggering in many cases. There are areas that were still solid marshland 50 years ago and now it’s entirely open water.”

Buras, Louisiana 1932 (Credit: US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS) Buras, Louisiana 1932 (Credit: US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS)

Buras, Louisiana in 2006, 74 years later. (Credit US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS) Buras, Louisiana in 2006, 74 years later. (Credit US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS)

For their study, the researchers used a new method. They combined GPS, or satellite system measurements, rods and instruments to measure both deep underwater and surface rates.

They measured 274 sites along the Louisiana coast. While they found the average loss rate was 9 millimeters a year, some areas lost more than 2 centimeters, and others almost none.

Researchers created a map showing where – and by how much – land is sinking along the coast.

Why is Louisiana so vulnerable?

Louisiana sits where one of America’s largest river, the Mississippi, empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river has been naturally dropping mud and sediment along the coast for probably thousands of years.

However, the coastline lacks strong bedrock, so the land washes away easily.

Jimmy Frederick works for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL). He explains that human activities have changed the natural process of the river adding and removing sediment.

For example, the levees built to protect New Orleans and other cities changed the flow of sediment. Now the sediment moves farther into gulf waters instead of along Louisiana’s coast.

Don Noel carries his daughter Alexis, 8, with his wife Lauren, right as they walk through a flooded roadway to check on their boat in the West End section of New Orleans, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Don Noel carries his daughter Alexis, 8, with his wife Lauren, right as they walk through a flooded roadway to check on their boat in the West End section of New Orleans, Wednesday, June 21, 2017.

The state of Louisiana is also rich in oil and gas. Half the nation’s oil refining ability is in the state. Its busy ports carry goods up and down the river. Trucks then carry them across the country.

Frederick says extracting the oil and gas has meant cutting into the marshland and harming some areas along the coast.

At the same time, losing coastline affects the oil, gas and other industries – and, therefore, the U.S. economy.

When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, oil production was shut down for three days. As a result, the price of gasoline nationwide rose an average of 46 cents.

What can be done?

Jimmy Frederick’s organization, the CRCL, worked on a state plan to stop the land loss. The $50 billion plan aims to restore Louisiana’s coast.

It also aims to protect the state from its frequent tropical storms and hurricanes. Just last week, Tropical Storm Cindy damaged the levee on Grand Isle, Louisiana, and left a highway covered in water.

The Louisiana state plan is to move sediment back into the wetlands. Frederick explains that, simply said, the engineers would cut holes in the levees.

“So that at times the river can then flow as it naturally would and replenish the wetlands, and that will help a couple of things. That will help keep up with sea level rise a little bit better because Louisiana, as you know, is sinking very, very quickly, because of our geology but also because of sea level rise.”

When the projects are completed, they will add or maintain almost 1,300 kilometers of coastal land and wetlands.

The project is delayed until the U.S. government approves the plan.

The CRCL says help cannot come soon enough because, on average, Louisiana loses 91 meters of land to the gulf every hour. Since 1932, the state has lost over 3,050 kilometers.

Geologist Torbjörn E. Törnqvist says the most important way to fix the coastline is to do something about climate change. If we do not, he warns, “then it’s going to be an unfixable problem,” and sea levels will rise at much higher rates than we see today.

I’m Anne Ball.

Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

Words in This Story

subsidence – n. the sinking or lowering of an area of land.

worst case scenario – phrase. the most serious or damaging thing that could happen in a situation

pessimistic – adj. having or showing a lack of hope for the future : expecting bad things to happen

staggering – adj. very large, shocking, or surprising

marshland – n. an area of soft and wet land

rod – n. a straight, thin stick or bar

sediment – n. material that sinks to the bottom of a liquid

bedrock – n. the solid rock that lies under the surface of the ground

levee – n. a long wall of soil built along a river to prevent flooding

extract – v. to remove (something) by pulling it out or cutting it out

replenish – v. to fill or build up (something) again


          The Next Four Years   

One of the few things we can all agree with is that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be elected President next Tuesday. Either we will have a Republican or Democratic House of Representatives and we will have either a Democratic or Republican Senate.
What exactly will happen is anyone's guess as nobody has those kinds of powers of prognostication. But prognosticate we must – not only on the outcome of the election but what it will mean if either of the two principle candidates wins.
The Republicans have invested a lot of time and money telling the American voters that if the President is re-elected expect four years of gridlock and paralysis. Their version of “gloom and doom” is not so much that Barack Obama will do irreparable harm to the country – they also say that – but that the next four years will be wasted as bickering and partisanship will continue unabated, and the important business of the American people will just not get done.
I think they are wrong.
President Barack Obama
The first Obama term was characterized by a deliberate unwillingness on the part of the Republican leadership to cooperate with the President for the express purpose, in the immortal words of Senate leader Mitch McConnell, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.” The incurably petty will argue whether Mitch said this in 2009 or 2010 (he said it in 2010) but it matters little when he said it since it perfectly illustrates the Senate leader's attitude towards the President. If you examine the record you will see this strategy in action, especially in the Senate, where Mitch McConnell led a record number of filibusters which thwarted majority votes in both Chambers even when the Democrats had the majority in the House of Representatives. This was indeed government by hostage and the intent was clear. Make the President as weak and ineffectual as possible so that come election time the case could be made that he did not deliver on key pieces of legislation, especially important ones like the Jobs Bill. [see “What's Wrong with the Jobs Bill?” October 13, 2011, on this blog] Just the Jobs Bill alone would have made a big dent in our unemployment numbers, but the Republicans were not about to help the economy because that would have practically insured an Obama second term.
The History of the Filibuster
(Graph: Todd Lindeman; Data: Senate.gov)

If the president wins a second term all of that goes out the window.
Freed from the tyranny of the “one term Presidency” strategy, the Republican Senators could once again vote their conscience and do what they do best: horse-trading and seeking solutions, rather than obstruction for the sake of denying the President a second term. Not that it would spell the end of partisanship or argumentation. That was present during the founding of America and will stay with us as long as there is a Constitutional democracy in the United States. But because the overall obsession of denying Obama a second term will be gone, the Senate will return to a more “normal” state of collegiate belligerence, where both Parties understand the people expect results and cooperation, not continuous obstruction. An Obama second term will be, therefore, full of controversy, but with bipartisan solutions hammered out in vigorous debate. The American people will get a more functional government, spirited, divided, but anxious to find solutions.
President Mitt Romney?
So what can we expect from a Romney administration? Regardless of whether the Congress ends up in the hands of the Democrats or the Republicans – it looks like the Republicans will keep a smaller majority in the House, and the Democrats will retain a slim majority in the Senate – the final composition will not matter much. Especially in the Senate where Senator Harry Reid will either stay as a majority or minority leader. Either way will be lethal to a prospective Romney agenda. Senator Reid will become the second most powerful man in the country, second only to the new President himself. Does anybody have a doubt, that after all the humiliation heaped on Senator Reid for the last four years, he will not seek to turn the tables on the Republicans? It is hard to say if the good Senator from Nevada will be more dangerous as the majority or minority leader. There is no plausible scenario that the Republicans will achieve a 60+ majority in the Senate, thereby rendering the Senate filibuster proof. Even the most partisan Republican prognosticator does not contemplate such a dream scenario for the hypothetical President Romney.
So a President Romney would have in Reid an implacable foe who would not hesitate to return the favor of filibustering Republican legislation, if in the minority or just killing it outright if in the majority. In any case, Romney would reap what his party sowed with Obama these last four years and he would have Senator McConnell principally to thank for that. Four years of partisanship and gridlock would face the new President and the merry-go-round would keep turning. This is what happens when shortsighted political expediency is chosen over consensus building governance. And blaming the President for the lack of bi-partisanship is a new height of shamelessness, a new definition for chutzpah.
Romney's potential first term has disaster written all over it, and he only has his compadres in his own party to blame. On the other hand, if it were not for the high-handed conduct of Republican Senators, making the best of their minority status by denying the President a clear path to governing, Romney would not be neck to neck with the President at this late date. He would be hopelessly behind with no chance of capturing the White House.
So the McConnell strategy did work. Whether the Republicans succeeded at making the President a one term President or not we will find out soon enough.

          The Closer Versus the Strategist    

Mitt Romney spent the better part of this presidential campaign criticizing Barack Obama's foreign policy. He characterized the President as weak, ineffective, and lacking in leadership. But when given the opportunity to debate the President on foreign policy last night he engaged in a surprising amount of “me-too-ism.” All of a sudden, with the election on the line, Romney decided to make another one of his now famous flip-flops and found, when given the occasion to show what he would do differently, he chose the more prudent course of agreeing with the President's main foreign policy initiatives. He even went so far as to agree with 2014 as a hard deadline for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan, a position for which he had previously derided the president for.

By now, nobody should be surprised with the flexible Romney who has pivoted from being a “severe conservative” in order to best his conservative rivals in the Republican primary to being a “moderate” in order to win the presidential election. In Ted Kennedy's immortal words, “I am pro-choice, and Mitt is multiple-choice.” That leaves the American public and the entire world, however, in doubt about what would a President Romney in fact do if elected. He has changed positions so many times on so many topics that voters could be excused for being somewhat confused as to what the Republican candidate stands for. For a man who makes a point that the business world needs consistency and certitude in order to conduct business, he has offered us neither.
There was one major point where Romney departed from the President on military policy, however. He made clear once again his desire to spend significantly more money on defense. He is always careful not to say exactly how much more, so as not to scare the average taxpayer already weary about our substantial debt, but the implication is clear, that a massive, Ronald Reagan style military buildup is in store if Romney gets the commander in chief job. There was a point in the debate that was almost comical when he stated that the US Navy had less ships today than before 1917 in an attempt to show that Obama had neglected his defense obligations. The President responded with:
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Judging by the laughter in the audience, the President drove home the point that Romney was hopelessly out of touch with how the modern military actually works, that sheer numbers is not what makes our military strong. It is all about capabilities, deployment, and strategy. Obama last night clearly demonstrated his command of military strategy and Romney sounded like a student who had been cramming for an exam.
Even though the President clearly won the foreign policy debate last night, the election will most likely not be won or lost based on foreign policy, which is why Romney ceded the point. He knows he won't best Obama on foreign policy so he is counting on the economy as his strong suit. And that's where it gets interesting.
As pointed out in earlier articles, Romney is a formidable closer. He has made millions convincing skeptical investors to plunk down their millions in business schemes that offered high risk and potential high profitability. He won the first debate hands down exhibiting these closing skills. He lives in the moment and knows how to maximize opportunities. This is how he has run his campaign and it has, by and large, worked if you are inclined to believe the polls. Many people see him as a credible alternative to the cooler, more deliberate Obama who can be frustratingly opaque at times.
When Obama got us involved in the murky war against Muammar Gaddafi, it was not clear what the President was up to. Was he leading? Following? Hence the celebrated phrase “leading from behind.” The phrase was not intended as a compliment, but looking back, he got the job done with a fraction of the cost and no American loss of life, unlike the plodding effort in Iraq. As an added bonus, Obama got the French to conduct airstrikes alongside our pilots. Unlike Iraq, the Libya action was a truly allied effort that led to the elimination of a dictator. Best of all, it happened without thousands of American soldiers dead and injured, not to mention another mega-increase in the deficit. This was truly smart power at work. If this is leading from behind then let’s have more of it.


if you ask any general worth his or her salt, 
they will tell you that strategy 
wins over tactics almost every time.

Mitt Romney, the consummate business tycoon, is all about quick results -- the quarterly report -- and in his profession, it is essential. A venture capitalist does not have time to waste on unnecessary items such as developing long term relationships or projecting too far in advance. The turnaround expert is quick to act, get the job done, and walk away as expeditiously as possible. As a matter of fact, expediency is a virtue in Romney's world of business closings.
Governing a complex country with a deeply divided population while dealing with responsibilities all over the world requires patience and lots of it. Romney has shown us time and again that he is not a patient man. He grew tired of governing the infinitesimally smaller territory that is Massachusetts only two years into his governorship. By the time he finished his first and only term he was fed up with governing and allowed Massachusetts to slip to 47th in job creation among our 50 states. His approval rate was in the 30's and he was deemed unelectable for a second term. This is what happens when people are convinced by a quick turnaround artist to govern their state. There is nothing quick about governing. Governing is a marathon, not a sprint. Romney, for example, would make an excellent consultant on a commercial deal with Bolivia, but as CEO of the whole enterprise that is the United States of America he would be a flop, even though he would no doubt shamelessly take advantage of the groundwork prepared by the current President.
Barack Obama, on the other hand is the consummate strategist. He showed us in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton back in 2008. Hillary had all the advantages. She was considered almost the prohibitive favorite and had a hard core of dedicated fans. She had Bill Clinton campaigning for her. Mark Penn, her campaign manager, was one of the best in the business. But unfortunately for her, she was pitted against a real strategist. Obama's supporters kept their hearts in their mouths the whole time, not knowing where Obama was going. He kept things close to the vest much to the consternation of his supporters. He kept everyone in suspense and pulled it out with forward thinking and a superior strategy. The Hillary camp had tactics, Obama had strategy. And if you ask any general worth his or her salt, they will tell you that strategy wins over tactics almost every time.
Barack Obama is one of our first truly strategic Presidents. Richard Nixon was also a strategist but was also a victim of his own self-doubts and paranoia. What is frustrating for many voters, including some of Obama’s most ardent supporters, is that there are always questions about what exactly his strategy is. That’s all part of the plan since a strategic thinker rarely conveys his strategy, because that is the nature of the master chess player. You are not sure how he does it, but he gets it done with little bombast and fanfare.
It has taken a few years for the Iranian leadership to figure this out. Which is why they are willing to negotiate, albeit in secret. I'm sure the President would love to share what he is doing behind closed doors to bring Iran, kicking and screaming, into dropping their plans for a nuclear weapon, but he can't. That is the nature of power politics. We only get to see the tip of the iceberg. We can only guess what goes on under the surface.
Americans will have a major choice this November. And the choice is not between fake issues like Socialism versus Capitalism. (Hint: both candidates are pro-capitalism.) Or Liberal versus Conservative. (Hint: both candidates are moderates.) No, the choice is more profound and personal.
We have in Mitt Romney, the classic business closer. The king of the deal. The super salesman. The guy you want to convince people to give him their hard-earned cash and sink it into something they never heard about. Those qualities come in handy at times and it would be an intriguing idea to hire Mitt as a consultant on tangible and complex deals.
We have in Barack Obama, on the other hand, the classic strategic thinker. Calm, cool, and collected. The guy with the steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state. The guy who does not get rattled easily. The guy who is not just thinking short term, but long term as well. The man who will bring this country back slowly, but steadily.
It remains to be seen which quality will prevail among a most volatile electorate.

          Joe Scores a KO   

It was Joe Biden's night. Those of us who have followed Biden's career knew he had it in him. When paired against the light-weight Palin four years ago they tied one hand behind his back and gave him strict instructions not to manhandle his opponent who had a glaring glass jaw. We have come a long way in gender relations, but there are still many who don't like the sight of a man of the caliber of Joe Biden beating up on a relatively defenseless woman. So fightin' Joe was reduced to a shadow of himself during that bout with the challenged ex-governor of Alaska. It was an awkward moment in American politics.
Last night, no such restrictions were placed on the Vice-President. His opponent this time was the darling of the conservative set -- a legitimate intellectual leader of the Republican Party. A man of bold ideas we have been told. President Obama had even said before the 90 minute session that “Joe should be Joe.” And Joe he was, warts and all.
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan
It was not all smooth sailing, however. Ryan had a few sucker punches planned much like his running mate had against the President. But unlike the CEO of Bain Capital, Ryan is no closer. In his debate with Obama, the world saw what a first class closer Romney is. You could tell why he was a successful businessman. It is not hard to imagine, that after the staff at Bain worked painstakingly to explain the intricacies of a complex deal to potential investors the seasoned Romney would appear and put it all together and forcefully close the deal. The great WC Fields summed it up many years ago with his famous quip, “Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.” Romney was not in the business of smartening up anyone. He knew that many of the deals he was promoting were risky, but he knows how to sell iffy to sophisticated investors. That is how he made his living and that is how he beat the intellectually superior Obama. Brawn, when properly applied, can sometimes best brains.
But much as he tried when it was his turn, Ryan was bested from the outset. He did find some weak spots and scored some good blows, but on the important matters he was just outmatched. The murky situation in Libya worked to Ryan’s advantage, for example. Being a Monday morning quarterback (if you pardon the mixed metaphor) was relatively easy since the tragic loss of our Ambassador was a result of much confusion on the ground. Romney, in real time, didn't even wait for Monday to commence his second-guessing. He was already pontificating at half-time when we didn't even know what the final score was. It is always unseemly when our people are in harm’s way overseas and politicians score cheap political points at their expense. When our soldiers or diplomats are victims of an operation gone wrong, that is not the time to second guess the operation. In the case of the events in Benghazi, considering the intelligence was dicey at best, the prudent (dare I say say conservative) course would have been to stay silent until all the facts were in. But Mitt, always the businessman looking for opportunities, couldn't resist taking advantage of the tragedy to score points against the President. He has been so offensive that the mother of one of the slain Navy SEALS told him to stop using her son as a prop in his campaign. But clever Ryan, with little substance to offer, took the cheap shots against Biden and scored early.


 “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? 
A man who introduced a bill that would raise it 
sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, 
and passing it, and Romney saying 
he would sign it, or me and the President?” 
- Joe Biden -

However, when the topics turned to substance and matters of concern to the American voter, Ryan was no match for the well versed Biden, who finally, after waiting four years, could deliver his jabs on substance. On weighty matters such as Medicare, Social Security, the Economy, and the war in Afghanistan, Ryan was taken to school. At one critical point, the Vice-President had to explain the military strategy in Afghanistan to the clueless Ryan, and in the process, educate the American people. Yes, there is a strategy in place, and the reason that fewer American soldiers were engaged was that the Afghan troops we trained were getting more and more involved in securing their own country. And yes, the Taliban are so desperate that they have been able to recruit a few Afghan soldiers to their cause and a few American soldiers tragically lost their lives. Biden correctly pointed out that these were the exceptions, not the rule and the overriding factor was that, imperfect as they are, the Afghans are slowing taking over the responsibility of defending their own country. Unlike the old Soviet Union, America is not out for territorial conquest, just providing a vehicle for the Afghans to create a society where terrorism will have a harder time getting organized to threaten the world.
It is not the intent of this article to go into the whole Vice-Presidential debate blow by blow and document the ups and downs of the clash of the two candidates for the job as a potential Presidential replacement. There will be plenty of commentary examining the details including the equivalent trivial points made about the Presidential debate concerning facial expressions, posture, demeanor and other matters unrelated to governance. I doubt if the American public is that interested in measuring how many seconds Joe Biden smiled, or was that a grin or a smirk on Paul Ryan's face. I leave it to others to discuss these non-issues.
Biden talks directly to the Nation
The American voter is more interested in the future of his or her country and whether the teams vying for the privilege to lead this great nation have what it takes to tackle the big issues. On that score the Vice-President showed us all that, unlike Mitt Romney, he won due to his command of the facts and better policies, not due to his superior business closing skills. But he showed us much more. We saw a man whose whole career has been dedicated to defending ordinary Americans. Biden showed us real passion when it came to defending the middle class, seniors, students, women, working people. Ryan, on the other hand was the consummate policy wonk, a cold numbers calculator.
Joe scored the knockout blow when he looked into the camera, referencing Medicare and said “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise it sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, and passing it, and Romney saying he would sign it, or me and the President?” This statement alone distilled Biden's direct appeal to the Nation. He forcefully illustrated his passion to defend the ordinary citizen. Ryan could only counter with more policy options, more numbers.
Joe Biden showed why in spite of his reputation for speaking off the cuff he has the confidence of the President. Biden did what he had to do. He forcefully defended the interests of most Americans and did it with passion and humor.
President Obama, please take note.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Romney's Military-Industrial Complex   

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower – Farewell to the nation speech, January 16, 1961

In spite of his immense military credentials – or maybe because of them – President Eisenhower warned the nation as he departed the White House of a pernicious trend that portended “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” and the need to guard against it.
While most political pundits were bemoaning the head movements of President Obama,
the body language of his challenger, and any number of inconsequential facial movements, physical posture, and general demeanor of the two candidates for the most powerful position in the world during their first debate, largely omitted from serious discussion was the President's unchallenged allegation that candidate Romney was proposing a two trillion dollar increase in military spending.
Mitt Romney
There was more hue and cry over the cutting of Big Bird and the gang at PBS, a savings of approximately $1.25 per average household per year, than the ramping up of our defense establishment to the size of the Cold War years. In those days there was the terrifying thought of nuclear annihilation at the hand of an implacable enemy whose nuclear arsenal was roughly the equivalent to ours and had the wherewithal to deliver a decisive blow that would reduce the United States to ashes in the blink of an eye. Certainly fodder for the hawkish among us.
Nothing approaching this level of Armageddon exists today. The various threats coming from assorted terrorists and potential rogue nations like North Korea and Iran are hardly in the same class of the mighty Soviet Union.
So why, if Mr. Romney is reluctant to borrow a few million from China, as he puts it, to save Big Bird and his pals on Sesame Street, would he be willing to borrow an extra two trillion dollars from presumably the same Chinese? To guard against threats he is not willing to specify? Apparently, children's programming on TV designed to encourage literacy, needs further ample justification but extra trillions for defense only require us to be “concerned.” No specifics necessary.
The folks at Foreign Policy magazine have provided us with a chart that illustrates candidate Romney's dream of ramping up defense spending with a historical context dating back to the 1950's, the peak of the Cold War. Please note the smaller spikes for the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The spikes for Iraq and Afghanistan are not on the graph because those wars were not “on the books” as it was an unprincipled trick of the Bush people not to make their reckless spending too obvious.
[source: Foreign Policy]

If most Americans don't get alarmed by this graph, the prospect of a Romney presidency will without a doubt gain the attention of the rest of the world, and not in a good way. America's current enemies will not run and hide, rather they will redouble their efforts, because this is all the proof they need that America would be on a course of world domination. Expect more violence, not less.
As in partial reassurance to our friends and foes alike overseas, let me try to convince you that this is not proof of Romney's desire for world conquest but rather proof of the influence of those who support his campaign.
The infamous Citizen’s United Supreme court decision, unleashing untold secret money to be lavished on our political candidates, has produced a nightmare scenario that even the astute Dwight Eisenhower could have never predicted. He correctly predicted that there was a kind of vicious circle quality to defense spending by the “Military-Industrial Complex” as he called it. This is a self perpetuating system whereby big defense contractors become reliant on government largesse. Kind of like the welfare queens Republicans like to warn us about. But this is dependency on a massive scale. It is nothing like a poor family relying on food stamps to feed their kids. Rather, it is a mega-empire built on taxpayer funded businesses large, small, and huge depending upon defense contracts to make them profitable. It is government stimulus gone amok.

The infamous Citizen’s United Supreme court decision, unleashing untold secret money to be lavished on our political candidates, has produced a nightmare scenario that even the astute Dwight Eisenhower could have never predicted. 


If Obama had dared spend this kind of money on his stimulus program we would not have any unemployment to speak of and we would indeed be a shining city on a hill. Think Dubai. Yes, the kind of spending proposed by Romney would indeed stimulate the economy. Much employment would be generated, many businesses large and small would thrive, but the country's infrastructure would stay essentially the same. More schools would crumble as would bridges, ports, roads, and so on. We would look fairly good on paper - many people who invested in Romney would get filthy rich - but we would be poorer as a nation because all we would have bought would be a greater capacity to blow up the world many more times over. Overkill on top of more overkill. Not to mention the massive debt we would incur.
I like Big Bird as much as the next guy, but conversation of his survival dwarfs in comparison to the idea of turning this great country of ours into a military nightmare even Eisenhower himself could never have imagined. This is the stuff of dark science fiction movies. Only we’re not talking about a movie plot. I have to laugh when I hear folks tell me it makes no difference who gets elected president.

Ralph Nader, are you listening?



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Why We're Voting for Obama   



Brenda A.

MELBOURNE, FL



I gained great inspiration from President Obama to take a chance on opening my wine shop, and hope and change have been very good to me.

We just hit the three-year mark on my business, and it's paid off! President Obama is making sure that small business owners like myself can succeed. I know the economy needs to continue improving, and he's doing everything he can for small businesses.

I remember when I saw Barack Obama speak in 2008 in Kissimmee, I knew then that he would be elected president. I've had his back ever since. I believe in Barack Obama.

Tom C.

WEST PALM BEACH, FL

I just graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Warrington School of Business. But the four years of rigorous, demanding coursework and the sacrifice I made isn't the real story here. Nor is the fact that the school is ranked 11th overall nationally for its distinguished finance program, an industry I plan to work in. Neither is the story about how I worked full-time throughout the last four years while studying, exchanging vacations and socialization, nice dinners, time with friends and family, and so much more for life as a student.

No, the real story is this: that without the combination of low cost federal loans and federal Pell grants, as well as state grants, I wouldn't have my degree today. What an abomination and stunt to American ingenuity, cultural and socio-economic progress cutting these funds for future generations would be. Although I'm through college, I care deeply, perhaps now more so than before I started on my degree, about the importance of ensuring Pell grants and low-cost loans are widely available, and stay available to any and all who seek them.

I'm confident a vote for President Obama this year is a vote towards protecting our commitment to future students that depend on these social nets. I, for one, am happy to pay my taxes throughout my lifetime to do my part. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. But my convictions simply come from my experience - nothing else.

Thank you, President Obama, and members of Congress, who champion, in the face of unadulterated and unrelenting populist pressure, that our long tradition of helping to fund higher education needs to continue to preserve opportunity for all, and investments in the next generation of ambitious innovators, thinkers, and doers are just too important to simply “give up”.

Susan R.

BONNIE DOONE, NC

My story isn't going to be about economics, or healthcare. It's not going to be about anything that catches the eyes of a news reader. My story is a simple, but my life depends on people like President Obama.

I am a military spouse. I am a proud Air Force wife. I am a mother, an advocate, a supporter, and I too take orders and try not to question those in charge. Though I don't actually own a uniform, I put one on every day.

In my lifetime, I have never witnessed and now been a part of an administration that focuses so much on the military and the military family.

I would like to thank President and Mrs. Obama, for caring about us. For putting into place initiatives like Joining Forces that really do help military families. I would like to thank the First Family for listening to us.

Not many have had to experience the military life and though this is a life that we choose, it is still one that is fraught with fear, anxiety, depression, and stress.

I truly believe that if our nation works hard and joins forces that good people like President Obama can continue making change!

Kim J.

ORANGE, CA

I wasn't a supporter of President Obama in 2008. I didn't go to any phone banks or attend any rallies, and there was one simple reason for that: I was a Republican.

Raised in Orange County in a staunchly Republican family, naturally I became very involved in GOP politics. By the end of my junior year in college, I had volunteered on a Republican campaign and interned twice for a Republican member of Congress. Those experiences were meant to be stepping stones toward my dream job: a political career in Washington, D.C., working for a GOP congressman. But after working so hard for Republicans for so long, I came to a very humbling realization – I had been fighting for the wrong side the entire time.

Last summer, it finally struck me how much this administration's policies helped me as a young woman in her college years. From student loan reform to the Affordable Care Act, I have benefited tremendously from the work of President Obama. I re-registered as a Democrat and soon after, jumped at the chance to work for Obama as an organizing fellow with the campaign. I have been volunteering ever since.

Four years ago, I never would have thought I would be a supporter of President Obama, much less a volunteer on his campaign, but I now understand how much the President has fought for me, even when I wasn't fighting for him.


Joyce B.

MC KINNEY, TX

Our adult son was born with the birth defect, Spina Bifida, 44 years ago, and in his 20's was diagnosed with leukemia. We were fortunate enough to have health insurance through an employer that covered the cost of 38 surgeries due to his birth defect, a bone marrow transplant to cure the leukemia, wheelchairs, leg braces, many doctor's vists, therapy sessions, etc. We know firsthand the tremendous expense parents have when faced with the birth of a child with birth defects. Our son was helped first by the government program, Supplemental Security Income, before he had worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Income. He has never been able to obtain a full time job because of his physical and learning disabilities, but has worked part-time for many years in minimum wage jobs. He now qualifies for Medicare which is life-saving for him, since he is uninsurable under current law due to his pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Health Care Law will now allow those with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance. Although we were fortunate to have healthcare coverage for these many surgeries, we know there are many families with children with disabilities who do not have adequate insurance. Those who oppose this law need to step into the shoes of those who aren't able to obtain health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. President Obama stood by his promise to pass the Affordable Health Care Law which will benefit many people, and we with many other families thank him. He has accomplished many things during his presidency even though he has had tremendous opposition from the Republican party membership. We believe he is leading our country in the right direction on all the major issues facing our country. We will support President Obama during this campaign by volunteering and by our financial contributions as we did in 2008.

David & Joyce B.

Jillian M.

DEER TRAIL, CO

My husband & I live in a VERY rural area in eastern Colorado. We're pretty much surrounded by people who support the republican point of view. We proudly drive our pick-up around with our Obama sticker on it, and do all we can to support "our" President. Things are tough out here...our daughter is a teacher & can't find a job. We believe in what Obama stands for...what our country needs to support for all of our futures. We donate whenever we can & you have all our support. Thanks for all you have done for us and for what you continue to do for Americans.


















Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Bopp 'til you Drop   

James Bopp, is a rather obscure lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana. I say obscure, because he is not known by the general public, but to the anti-abortion crowd he is kind of a hero. He has served as the general counsel for National Right to Life since 1978 and as the special counsel for Focus on the Family since 2004. Bopp was the editor of Restoring the Right to Life: The Human Life Amendment. (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1984)
James Bopp
This story is not, however, about Bopp's abortion bona fides. He is better known as the guy who brought us rivers of money to political campaigns as he argued successfully for Citizens's United in front of the Supreme Court.
His success had a improbable start. He was literally laughed out of court when he had the temerity to state that the hit piece on Hillary Clinton, Hillary: The Movie, was legitimate news and should be allowed to air on TV as would any news piece. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) told Citizens United that it couldn't air the film during primary season, because it amounted to a 90-minute campaign ad. In court, Bopp argued that the movie wasn't so different from what you'd see on 60 Minutes, and its creators deserved First Amendment protections. At that point, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth laughed out loud. "You can't compare this to 60 Minutes," he said. "Did you read this transcript?"
But funnier things happened on the way to the Supreme Court since the justices saw fit to overturn the FEC's decision, thereby ushering in a new age of unlimited campaign spending whereby billionaires could contribute unlimited cash – anonymously if they wish – to support the candidates of their choice, virtually annihilating the years of campaign reforms that had been painstakingly achieved on a bipartisan basis over many years. One stroke of the pen eliminated years of legislative work. President Obama famously predicted that the decision would go down in history as a terrible experiment much to the visible disapproval of justice Alito during a State of the Union address.
The assumption, of course, by both Democrats and Republicans, was that the Republicans, with their billionaire minions would have a huge advantage and that cash advantage does seem to have materialized in that candidate Mitt Romney, the self-confessed candidate of the plutocrats, has been awash in campaign cash, much of it of dubious origin and difficult to account for. He used his cash advantage to blow away his Republican primary competition which is certainly evidence of poetic justice since Republicans generally welcomed the Supreme Court decision with open arms, not to mention open wallets. The Romney rivals never had a fighting chance as they were severely outspent by the faux conservative Romney and, in an ironic twist worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, the more conservative candidates were pulverized by the very money they worshiped, allowing the moderate and more “flexible” Romney to win the nomination. Never was the saying, “Be careful what you wish for...” more true.


Never was the saying, “Be careful 
what you wish for...” more true.

Romney has demonstrated that the well-heeled are the ones in the best position to rake in the cash, not necessarily the ones with the most conservative ideas, which is why we have a Romney/Ryan ticket and not the converse. There is even loose talk among the conservative claque that Romney should step aside and allow for the ideologically more “pure” ticket of Ryan/Rubio.

But it is too late.

Romney, the poster child of unfettered capitalism, has won the money race fair and square under the new Bopp rules, and Bopp, as a modern Dr. Frankenstein, has joined his newly created monster who turns out to be exactly what the system created. He is an unfeeling money hound with no scruples or core principles aside from a strong desire to win at any cost, much like the mythical Gordon Gekko, that fictitious lizard of Wall Street fame.
The final irony is this. All that humongous horde of cash cannot hide the fact that Romney is a deeply flawed candidate and the instincts of the American people are proven correct once again. Romney is perceived as the phony he is by friend and foe alike. The only thing keeping his campaign even remotely competitive is that 1) there are people who genuinely dislike the President and would vote for Joe the Plumber before voting for Obama, and 2) the economy is in a sluggish recovery so therefore there is more pain out in the country than usual.
If it wasn't for these two factors, all the money in China wouldn't be enough to save Mitt's candidacy. What will be interesting to see is after the Bopp experiment has run its course, and the big money fails to win, what will the Congress do about campaign finance reform? To quote the great poet ee cummings,
“how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death”


Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Ryan's Medicare Problem   
In the point, counter-point world of campaigns, much is lost in the hyperbole and obsession over details. Most issues are not black and white, so to reduce them to slogans based on one esoteric point over another, doesn't give voters a chance to properly evaluate the competing claims.
Representative Paul Ryan
The Medicare debate is particularly complicated because it involves scores of factors, many of which are difficult to control. Most slogans actually say very little that is useful to the voter. “End Medicare as we know it” is a truism that says nothing just as “government takeover of healthcare” is a falsehood that doesn’t provide any information. The first slogan, used by Democrats, is true but meaningless. It tells us nothing about what the Republicans are up to. Its intention is to scare people afraid of change, nothing more. It actually begs the question as to whether the Republican changes to Medicare are an improvement or not, thereby shutting down any effective debate. “Government takeover of healthcare” is a slogan used by Republicans to denigrate “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) which not only is a falsehood, since the ACA is actually a reform of the already existing private health insurance system, but equally shuts off debate by scaring voters into believing that the President is a closest Socialist hell bent on turning America into a big gulag.
So what then happens is the commentary class then will go into excruciating detail trying to unravel a most complex issue that requires reams of documents to explain. The result is that the public is as confused as ever, not knowing who or what to believe.
The intent of this piece is not to be an exhaustive analysis of the issues but to make a few observations as to what the philosophies are behind the various reforms. It is really up to the individual voter to read as much as possible about the various plans and their critics and come to his or her own conclusion.
However, as one who leans towards the liberal side of the equation I cannot help but notice that Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants to weed seniors away from the admittedly government-run current system to a private insurance based system much like the rest of us have, has the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the President's Affordable Care Act. An interesting twist since his partner, Mitt Romney, is staking his candidacy in large measure on the repeal of ACA. I predict that if Mr. Romney is elected president, repealing ACA will be his first official flip-flop since he will find out it will not be easy to unravel such a large piece of legislation whose many individual parts are more popular than the whole. In a word, he will find out, as President Obama did, the power of the filibuster rule (in the case the Democrats should lose the Senate) or the power of the Senate (should the Democrats remain in the majority).
But the problems for Ryan don't end there. There is a real difference in philosophy between the two major parties and in particular between the Obama/Biden and the Romney/Ryan teams. The President is all about spreading the risk among all Americans. Unlike the caricature of his “spreading the wealth,” he genuinely believes that 1) all Americans should have medical insurance regardless of income level and 2) a single risk pool should be the strength of the American people as a whole. One can disagree with this philosophy, but that is what the man believes in.
The private insurance businesses, however, believe in creating risk pool groups. This is how they manage their business. Lower risk groups, therefore, pay the lowest premiums and the higher risk groups pay increasingly higher premiums because their risk is higher. It makes perfect sense as a business model which is why the business minded Romney and Ryan support this type of approach. This is what they call the free market.
The problem with this free market approach to human services is that, although great for business, it is not so great for people who end up sick and old. The free market is a wonderful mechanism to deliver most goods and services. No one has come up with a better economic system that is more innovative, nimble, and efficient. But healthcare is in a different class. One might even say it is in a unique class because as we all get old we all use healthcare disproportionately. Young, healthy people rarely need medical intervention unless they get involved in a catastrophic accident or contract an unpredictable disease. Consequently, as a group they are in a rather low risk pool.
So here's where the differences in philosophies clash. By insisting that everybody is in the same boat, the President is telling younger people that they should pay more now in insurance in order to have a guarantee that they won't pay significantly more when they get old. That is the bargain that Obama would like to see for America. The Republican alternative (when you get deep in the weeds with Ryan's reforms) is to rely on the private sector for seniors. This means, of course, they will get caught up in increasingly higher and more expensive risk pools. To his credit, Ryan left the public option open for seniors -- after howls of protest from Democrats and senior groups like AARP -- but all that will accomplish is to push the really sick into the government plan, making it even more expensive than it is now. Ironically, it is Obama's cost saving ACA that can palliate the effect somewhat. No matter what, though, the highest risk people will cost the most, because the population as whole was treated unequally to start with.


Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants 
to weed seniors away from the admittedly 
government-run current system to a 
private insurance based system 
much like the rest of us have, has 
the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the 
President's Affordable Care Act.

People who see the market as some sort of religion that has to be correct for everything will embrace the Republican philosophy until it will be too late if they find themselves out of luck. We have been living in a mixed economy for some time now. We have maintained a market economy that works well (with a few exceptions) but have also embraced government intervention in certain areas of common good. Most Republicans have accepted that the free market in its purest form cannot meet all of people's needs. Services like fire, police, public works, primary and secondary education, have been in public hands for a long time and although not without problems, are considered by most best done through a public service, not private enterprise. Nobody in his right mind would suggest we turn the fire departments into a private insurance scheme where premiums are optional and varied. And if you chose not to participate, well, your house will just burn down as the fire department would limit itself to protecting those who paid their insurance premiums.
Healthcare is not very different from protection against fire. We all need it. It is not an “option” unless you are so heartless as to think people should be allowed to die at the scene of an accident or from a curable disease. Fortunately, very few people think that.
There is much to reform in healthcare. The costs are too high. There are many inefficiencies in the system. There is too much corruption. The list is quite long. All ideas that contribute towards solving these problems should be welcomed, and it should not matter who comes up with them. But America has a choice to make. Should the private insurance companies be allowed to make up the rules that satisfy their bottom line? Or should the public sector create rules that are in everyone's interest that take into account that as we grow older our needs are greater and costs are higher? Are we all in this together? Or should each group be forced into fending for itself?



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          The Great Gas Gambit   

All those people who predicted gas prices would be over five dollars a gallon this summer must all apologize to the American people.
Now.
Senator Mitch McConnell
That includes most of the leaders of the Republican Party who were all so happy that gas prices were climbing a few months ago so they could blame the President for one more thing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went so far as saying, “This President will go to any length to drive up gas prices and pave the way for his ideological agenda.” Really, Mitch? And what agenda would that be? Ensuring his defeat in November? Making his fellow citizens as miserable as possible? Ensuring that ordinary Americans would have less money to pay for food? I wonder which ideological agenda Mitch is talking about because, of course, the good senator from Kentucky did not elaborate or fully explain the details.

It seemed, for a while, that Republicans and their boosters at Fox News and other assorted right-wing outlets couldn't stop talking about how gas prices were going to skyrocket during the summer based on their vast knowledge of economics.
We can excuse the usual fellow travelers like Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity, for their underprivileged education and little understanding of how the real world works. After all, they are entertainers, so we shouldn't expect people who are colleagues of Ozzie Osborne to have any special knowledge of the dynamics of commodities fluctuations. Nobody in his right mind would go to the Beiber for economics advice. Let the Beiber be Beiber, and the rest of us should try and get our information from people who know a little bit more about international markets.
But wait a minute! Isn't Mitt Romney an expert about markets? Or so he says. Just ask him on the campaign trail and he will tell you that he is not really a politician he is a business man. A very savvy business man with oodles and oodles of experience with capital formation, markets, and all those complicated things about which the Minority Leader is so ignorant about. At least, the clueless McConnell is not running for President, and he is barely mentioned as a choice for Vice President so we have to give ole' Mitch a pass. After all, he just has to convince the good people of Kentucky he knows what he is talking about, voters who might be brighter than he thinks.
Mitt Romney
And exactly what is Romney's excuse? I recall he too joined the Republican bandwagon and was quite critical of the President's policies which he squarely blamed for the rising gas prices. With Romney’s vast knowledge of the economy he would fix all that he alleged. He didn't quite go as far as the quasi-genius Gingrich who had a secret plan to bring gas prices down to two dollars or so. But the businessman Romney was quick to point out the President was responsible for the rise in gas prices and that under his (Romney's) capable administration such calamities were just not going to happen because of his great command of economics, the markets, capital formation, and so on and so on.
So Mitt, where is your apology?
You see, I don't believe Romney, McConnell and these other gentlemen should apologize for being wrong. I mean, we all make mistakes. My biggest mistake was believing that Ronald Reagan would not win a second term. Boy was I wrong. If it weren't for his fellow Republicans hating FDR so much and passing a law prohibiting presidents from having more than two terms, Reagan might have won a third term – that's how wrong I was. And I never apologized either because I never claimed to be an expert prognosticator. It was just an opinion. But Romney claims special knowledge of economics and especially knowledge of how markets work. Heck, his whole campaign is predicated on the principle that his special knowledge as a businessman would enable him to turn around our economy. It’s, if you pardon my French, his raison d’ être.
So yes, Mitt, when you get something as elementary as gas prices wrong, you have to apologize to the American people. Not for being wrong, but for pretending you know things that you really don't know much about. For perpetuating a hoax on the American people. For lying about your capacity to understand how markets work when in reality you are no better than Justin Beiber at economics. And maybe just a little bit better than Ozzie Osbourne. Just maybe.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          The Real Job Creators   

“It's the economy, stupid.” Those prophetic words uttered by James Carville characterized the rise of Bill Clinton and were the driving force behind his upset win over George Bush senior, considered by many a shoo-in for a second term.
Mitt Romney, hardly a fan when Clinton was President, currently praises the Clinton economy and has staked his run for the Presidency on making the case that he has what it takes to turn this economy around. He claims that Barack Obama is hopelessly in over his head. Romney boasts he is a “job creator” a phrase that no doubt has come from the laboratory of the dark Dr. Frank Luntz (see, “The Most Dangerous Man in America” on this blog). But whatever its origin, this phrase has become the mantra for the entire Republican Party with little push back from the Democrats who usually don't know when they are being played.
Romney posits his company Bain Capital as Exhibit A. Exhibit B is his successfully turnaround of the Winter Olympics. Exhibit C is his stint as Governor which he will only talk about if severely water-boarded.
The reasons Romney is loathe to speak of Exhibit C are obvious. First, he was the one who came up with “Romneycare,” the father of “Obamacare,” that he claims is an abomination and which he will repeal the first day he gets into office. Let us put aside the impossibility of eliminating “Obamacare” with a stroke of a pen because it would be violating the Constitution, a minor point to be sure, but as a newly elected President he would be wise to conform to the law for at least a day or so. Romney's problem is that his party has demonized “Obamacare” so much that he cannot take credit for his only real achievement as Governor of Massachusetts.
It gets worse. His claim to be a "job creator" flies in the face of his miserable performance as the Governor of the Bay State when it was ranked 47th out of 50 states on this topic. Very hard to explain that considering Massachusetts has some of the best universities in the world and is a high tech center with innovations only rivaled by Silicon Valley in California. His claim to fame as a great job creator while leading a state leaves something to be desired so he has decided wisely to keep quiet about it hoping nobody will notice.
His claim to fame as a great job creator 
while leading a state leaves something 
to be desired so he has decided wisely to 
keep quiet about it hoping nobody will notice.

Exhibit B is just as problematic as Exhibit C but for different reasons. Yes, Romney was the hero of the Salt Lake City Olympics. He inherited a scandal and ended in a profit. There is no question that without Mitt Romney the Salt Lake games would have been a bust. He did indeed put shoulder to the wheel – he bowed and scraped, saved here and there and raised funds from private sector companies that had never pitched in before. He lived and breathed Olympics. But there is one small detail that gets lost in all the laudatory praise heaped on Romney's white knight role. He successfully lobbied the Federal government for a cool $1.5 billion. Yes, the games generated a $100 million dollar profit which he likes to brag about, but without the $1.5 billion from the Feds he would still be paying off debts. Thus, Mitt has to tread lightly on the turnaround of the Olympics as a feat of his private sector job creating prowess. Maybe, due to the events of 9/11, the country needed a shot in the arm and the $1.5 billion was money well spent, even though many leaders of his own party were against this kind of bailout. Ultimately, however, the taxpayer was the final decider of success in that particular venture, not Romney.
Exhibit A is Mitt's strongest suit. Some might even say, his only suit. And this is where Bain Capital comes in. Here's a taste of how they see themselves:
  • “Established in 1984, Bain Capital is one of the world's leading private investment firms managing approximately $60 billion in assets under management. Our affiliated advisers make private equity, public equity, leveraged debt asset, venture capital, and absolute return investments across multiple sectors, industries, and asset classes. Since our inception, our competitive advantage has been grounded in a people-intensive, value-added investment approach that has enabled the firm to deliver industry-leading returns for our investors.”

Presumptive GOP Candidate Mitt Romney
Nowhere in this description is there even a hint at job creation. Not even company creation. The emphasis is on the delivery of “industry-leading returns for our investors.” That is the bottom line for Bain and for Romney himself. And their track record speaks for itself: What ever it takes to make a buck. Sometimes companies thrived and Romney is quick to point out his successes which are not trivial. Companies like Steel Dynamics, Staples and Sports Authority were indeed rescued by Bain. In these cases there was more money to be made keeping the companies alive. But that was almost incidental, because in other cases, piling on debt and liquidating was the better way to turn a profit. Companies, for Romney and the folks at Bain, are just instruments to generate profits for themselves. It matters little if the company thrives, goes under, or is shipped overseas. Romney and his gang always walk away with a huge chunk of change. There is no down side for them. So when GM and Chrysler were on the ropes Romney famously wrote in the New York Times “Let Detroit go Bankrupt.” By that he meant a restructuring à la Bain, that is, figure out the maximum profit potential for the equity stakeholders. Except that in this case there were no takers. Not even Bain was willing to risk a dime on the industry that made America the powerhouse of the world. Nothing, nada, zilch. So very much against his Republican instincts, President Bush initiated a restructuring using public funds, an effort President Obama saw to its final (and successful) conclusion. Not only was the Romney formula doomed to failure, but now the Republican presumptive candidate has the audacity to claim credit for both Bush's and Obama's successful rescue of the auto industry. That is a new definition of the word chutzpah.
Lest people think that all equity capitalists are the same, lets look at another firm: Second Avenue Partners. First, their public statement:

  • “Second Avenue Partners is a Seattle-based provider of management, strategy, and capital for early stage companies. The partners invest their own money, typically directed at emerging Internet businesses in the high-tech field. Second Avenue Partners' investment approach is to make early-stage investments in promising ventures and build long-term relationships, actively assisting its portfolio companies in becoming market leaders.”



OK, to be fair, their goal does not explicitly say anything about job creation either, but it does have a different tone altogether. Gone are references that the business is all about maximizing profit potential. Rather, it seems that helping companies succeed is the main objective. A real treat is to listen to the CEO himself, Nick Hanauer. See if you can distinguish the difference between this equity capitalist and Mitt Romney. This guy is as far from Romney as you can get and yet he is in the same business and also a member of the almost mythical 1%. So the problem is not with equity capitalists in general, but as Governor Rick Perry told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, “There’s a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism...Venture capitalism we like. Vulture capitalism, no. And the fact of the matter is that he’s going to have to face up to this at some time or another, and South Carolina is as good a place to draw that line in the sand as any.”
In a rare act of candor, Mr. Perry explained the difference between the venture capitalism that Mr. Hanauer and others like him practice and the “vulture” capitalism that Mitt Romney practices. The real dark secret Romney is hiding from all of us is that rich folks are not job creators. The job creators are the rest of us. Just ask a real venture capitalist.

          The Paul Ryan Paradox   

Many people say that radio commentator Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Nothing could be so absurd. The college dropout Limbaugh – his own mother went so far as saying, “he flunked everything” – is at best a cheerleader for the Republicans, but not in the conventional sense of the word. After all, cheerleaders are a cheery lot, full of positive thoughts and attempt to encourage their team to excel with shouts like, “go team, go!” Rush is the kind of cheerleader that would stand on the sidelines and egg the crowd to chant, “You suck! You suck!” Rush is one in a long line of frustrated individuals if it were not for radio and millions of other frustrated individuals out there he would be a stock boy at his local Wal-Mart. There is very little leadership in him. He has no genuine ideas, offers no solutions and the thought of his being an inspiration for a great traditional political party is just nuts.
Paul Ryan presents his budget
Not so for Paul Ryan. Ryan is a graduate from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a BA in economics and political science in 1992. And as a good Republican he made his money the old-fashioned way, he inherited it. Well, maybe inheriting is too strong a word – he got a job as a marketing consultant with Ryan Incorporated Central, which is run by a branch of his family. Not exactly the silver spoon treatment à la Bush and Romney, but he did not have to exert a huge effort either, which partly explains his disdain for underprivileged people. I mean, everybody should have the opportunity to work for the family business. Life would be so less complicated that way.
Ryan is a much better candidate than Rush to be the de facto leader of the Republicans. At least Ryan has ideas, bold ideas. And he is not shy about committing them to paper. He shows leadership by getting his colleagues, even presumptive nominee for President Mitt Romney to follow his lead. That is the stuff of leadership. Present bold ideas and not limit yourself to the sidelines with perennial posturing.
Here is where it starts getting a bit weird, though. Ryan's budget, the blueprint for Republican public policy has been endorsed by all the bigwigs in the Party, including the “anything goes” Mitt Romney. Ryan tells us that his Catholic faith was his inspiration.

[the budget] appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, 
Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Not quite from Jesus Himself but almost. He wants us to feel the Christian compassion in his choices for America. But the Catholic Bishops – remember the guys who accused President Obama of being anti-religious – those Catholic Bishops? They said that Ryan's budget wasn't so Christian after all. As a matter of fact, they said, "A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons." The good Bishops even said that his budget "fails to meet" the moral criteria of the Church. That is some strong stuff coming from the group that not too long ago complained that the President was forcing them to provide contraception to non-Catholic workers at Catholic institutions.

Ayn Rand




This time the Bishops sound really steamed. It is one thing to foist contraception on women who want it and need it, it is quite another to complain that Ryan's bill is immoral. Not to pile on but a group of Jesuit scholars at Georgetown University went so far as to say, "[the budget] appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love."

Ouch.
And the good Jesuits have a point. In 2005 Ryan admitted, "The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand." Not to be content with his personal preferences, New York magazine has claimed that Ryan “requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged.” Atlas Shrugged is probably Ayn Rand's best novel and it is a scathing attack on Christian values that she claims are antithetical to Capitalism. The Church leaders and Rand seem to agree on this point. That Ayn Rand's atheistic philosophy regards the Christian message as a major impediment to a true Capitalist based economy. And it seems like the young Ryan, himself a benefactor of the Capitalist system was keen on jettisoning his Catholic faith for the more prosperity oriented Ayn Rand who is happy to assert (since she didn't have to run for anything) that the markets are a better moral compass than the teachings of Jesus. No wonder Mitt Romney is on board. This is right up his alley. I can almost picture a young 10 year old Romney convincing a school mate that he would be better off if he took his bike apart and sold the parts. Of course, the youngster Mitt would take a sizable chunk of the profit because, after all, it was his idea. But I digress...
Saint Thomas Aquinas - painting by Botticelli
The de facto leader of the Republicans (watch your back, John Boehner!) is not undaunted. He claims that although his budget might be more in tune with Rand than with Jesus, he is definitely not a subscriber to Rand's philosophy. The fact that he got interested in public service due to Rand's teachings and not the gospels is irrelevant. Also irrelevant is that he goes so far as suggesting to his staff that they read Ayn Rand. He went even further and said quite recently, "It’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist... I reject her philosophy. It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don't give me Ayn Rand."
I think the Bishops would be quite pleased if Ryan had based his budget on Aquinas. The Catholic Saint famously said that things that pertain to all men are reduced to seven headings: Faith, Hope, and Charity; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. If only Ryan's budget were based on these principles I think the Bishops would have few problems with him. But unfortunately for Ryan, these precepts are hardly present in his budget which gives to the rich and takes away from the poor. Not exactly what Jesus would do. The saintly Aquinas would be disappointed.
Whatever happened to Compassionate Conservatism? It almost makes one yearn for George W.

          The Good Wife   

One has to admit that Mitt Romney married well. Ann Lois Davies was born into privilege as was her husband. Her father, Edward R. Davies is a classic American self-made man. Originally from Wales, Great Britain he became president of Jered Industries, a maker of heavy machinery for marine use. He dabbled in politics as he was once mayor of Bloomfiled Hills, Michigan, a tiny ultra-wealthy town of almost 4,000 whose medium income is a staggering $200,000. In 2009 half of residential property in Bloomfield Hills had a value of over $1,000,000 which is incredibly high for a Midwest small town. Bloomfield Hills consistently ranks as one of the top five wealthiest municipalities in the United States with population between 2,500 to 9,999.
Ann Romney
Ann attended the private Kingswood School, the sister school of the private all-boys Cranbrook School that Mitt Romney attended. Their romance began at an early age and was the stuff of story books.
Whereas Mitt can come across as stiff and unsympathetic, Ann comes across as genuine and sympathetic. She has an easy-going demeanor about her which is why when Hilary Rosen attacked her famously for not having “worked a day in her life” people instinctively came to her defense. Also, she has had her share of challenges, contracting multiple sclerosis in 1998 and also endured a brief bout with a fairly benign form of breast cancer in 2008. Fortunately, Ann underwent successful treatment and has since lived a generally disease free life. After her bout with multiple sclerosis, she became an equestrian, excelling at horse dressage where she won a number of prizes. She credits her involvement with horses as having “saved her life” giving her the uplift she needed after her ordeal.
Ann became a stay at home wife and raised five boys and lived the life of relative privilege combining her equestrian activities and her charity work with mom duties such as a member of the PTA . She was also active in the League of Women Voters and taught some cooking classes. None of these activities were particularly unusual for a woman of her social standing, making the Hilary Rosen critique sound unnecessarily strident.
But if you examine Rosen's comments in context, she was talking about how Mitt Romney was not connecting well with women. Romney has said that he talks to his wife about what woman are saying, as if he needs a special ambassador to inform him about the arcane land of women. Apparently his ambassador, who happens to be his wife, is telling him women care about the economy as much as men do. The conversation on CNN hosted by Anderson Cooper was about how women's jobs were not coming back as fast as men's jobs. Rosen simply stated that Ann was not the best person to represent working women because she “never worked a day in her life.” Admittedly, that was an awkward way to put it, but since the statement was directed at adults, it was assumed that she was talking about women working outside the home at a paying job. If Republicans didn't routinely decry the culture of “Political Correctness” they could have been forgiven for making such a mountain out of a statement that was obviously political shorthand.
Hilary Rosen
One can fault Rosen, a professional, for not being sufficiently on her toes to recognize her insensitive remark was going to be used as political football during the silly season. However, there is a more sinister side to the Rosen flap. Pundits were quick to point out that Romney needs to repair whatever damage has been done by his party with women voters, but forcing Rosen to apologize to stay-at-home-moms everywhere really misses the point Rosen was making. First, she clearly was not talking about all stay-at-home-moms. She was talking about Ann Romney, a woman of privilege who has many more choices in life than the average woman. Not every woman is married to a multimillionaire, and when Anne had previously said, “I don’t even consider myself wealthy...” that didn't fire up the outrage machine for very long.
It is absolutely true that being a mom is hard work. Whether you are a stay at home mom or a “working mom” it is not a cakewalk. We all know that. But women's issues, although many based on being mothers, are not just confined to motherhood. The Republican Party has recently been guilty of many assaults on women, mostly poor women. So for a rich woman who doesn't want people to think of her as rich to be a spokesperson for women, especially poor women, is only going to work if she acknowledges what average women go through on a daily basis and addresses their issues directly, not hiding behind “Motherhood.” That she didn't even begin to do.
Ann Romney is a far better spokesperson than her husband. But she cannot rely on politically incorrect statements from the likes of Hilary Rosen to make her husband seem more palatable to women. There are real issues to talk about and it is high time that both Romneys learn what they are. They need to offer new solutions than the ones being proposed by their party or else they will lose the female vote even more dramatically than Republicans usually do.

          Vigilante Justice   
Still from the Oxbow Incident
This is the first time in the history of this blog that I present an entire movie for people to watch. But the Oxbow Incident is not just another movie. Nor is it just another western. This movie does the best single job of explaining where America's dark history with vigilantism comes from. It is rooted in the “wild” West and is a product of an immature nation which in those days had a less than effective system of justice. Policemen were rare if existent at all and in small towns in the West, the law, or what passed itself for law, was typically in the hands of a sheriff who was either corrupt or hopelessly out gunned. Sheriffs had precious few resources at their disposal, and the itinerant judges that meted out justice led to the phrase “kangaroo court” which referred to judges hopping from case to case in an effort to dispense quick justice so they could make as much money as possible.
The law, if you want to call it that was basically in the hands of the public, and usually the loudest and most aggressive segment of the populace. The Oxbow Incident illustrates that in glorious detail. This 1943 classic is all you need to know about the sad history of vigilantism in America. That is the power of great art. The Oxbow Incident illustrates the issue of citizen policing in the same effective manner as the Grapes of Wrath did the plight of the Depression era families. And it is no coincidence that the great Henry Fonda was the lead actor in both of these films. This is American film at its best – unafraid to expose the shortcomings of our great nation. Only great nations have the self-confidence for self-examination and self-criticism.
That is why examining the Florida law that permitted George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” to gun down Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, is important. We need as a culture to take a very hard look at the “stand your ground” law that permits people to auto-define when murder is an appropriate course of action. This incident, instead of being a “teachable moment” where we should be examining our culture, has turned into another shouting match between liberals and conservatives. There is really nothing inherently liberal or conservative about the killing of a teenage boy, but we as a country have been stuck in this paradigm too long and now we have a hard time getting out of it.
Only great nations have the self-confidence for 
self-examination and self-criticism.
Trayvon Martin
Nobody has a full command of the facts in this case, as in the very relevant and still timely story of the Oxbow Incident. We all project our fears and hopes into what should be exclusively a law enforcement matter and not a political free-for-all. In this case, we have all become vigilantes. The Martin supporters and the Zimmerman supporters are engaged in a battle royale which sheds more heat than light. The police chief whose duty it is to investigate the case steps aside, unwilling or unable to conduct a credible investigation. All manner of celebrities go on TV pontificating as if they had any clue what happened. So this sad affair has become about a wannabe vigilante who is now the object of other vigilantes.
George Zimmerman
Justice? Hardly. Just another circus in town and the 24/7 media is eating this up. Opinion upon opinion and opinions about opinions, And yes, I guess I'm piling on as well.
My opinion, however, deals with how are we going to continue self government when everything becomes a shouting match and facts be damned? The Oxbow Incident is a stark reminder about where our sense of “popular justice” comes from. Justice by acclamation. Justice for those who shout the loudest.
This is what our public square has turned into. Who cares about facts anymore? We just want to be “heard.” The Tea Party folks want to be “heard.” Minorities want to be “heard.” Everyone wants to be heard so much that facts are relegated to minor props in this soap opera.
Remember when the Clinton campaign postulated it was all about the “economy, stupid?” Perhaps we should all be ready to say, “It's about the facts, stupid.”

Post Script: I take on the taboo subject of the Second Amendment on Salon




          Miracle needed   

"We want to launch a process that is open and does not predetermine or preclude options."

This innocuous phrase represents the key fault line here in Bali - symbolising an ongoing tussle between the Europeans and North Americans.

It represents US willingness to talk about a deal, but only if concrete numbers are stripped out of the Bali declaration.

At their press conference a few minutes ago, the Americans again made it clear that their bottom line hasn't changed. Start negotiating and hope to finish by 2009, sure, but keep the agenda for those negotiations as open as possible.

And the US team was also unambiguous about what it would, and would not, be prepared to offer in those forthcoming negotiations. A global goal for 2050 would be fine, but anything specific for the short term should be left to countries to negotiate at a national level.

The US is proud of its record on combating climate change. Its emissions may be well above 1990 levels (the benchmark for the Kyoto protocol which it signed, but didn't ratify), but they fell last year.

That was largely down to mild weather and high oil prices, of course, but it is helping the US meet its primary target - not to cut emissions, but to have them grow more slowly than its economy (its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by 2012).

We reported yesterday Harlan Watson's criticism of the target of cutting emissions 25-40% from 1990 levels by 2020. The IPCC findings were based on too few studies, he suggested (more discussion of this here).

This is clearly becoming a United States talking point. Paula Dobriansky tried it out today, but seemed not to have grasped the detail. Her attempts to question the IPCC findings on mitigation pathways thus ran into the sand.

(Let's be clear, the US is only criticising this one part of the of the IPCC report - not the rest of its findings on the likely consequence of manmade climate change.)

Here's a verbatim transcript:

[quote]One of the issues here is...If you look at what came out of the IPCC report, I believe there were some six sectors and some 177...actually... [Dobriansky is prompted] Sorry? Scenarios thank you. On this, there needs to be some discussion here. In that sense, different countries are looking at: how does this have ramifications for them.[/quote]

Usually, as is conventional, I clean up recorded speech, but this is one of those quotes that cannot really be edited. Here, though, is what she meant to say. Harlan Watson's words from earlier in the week:

[quote]I want to remind you that 25-40% figure came out of the IPCC third assessment report, working group 3.

That analysis involved six scenarios out of 177 that were examined. It is a small subset. Many uncertainties are surrounding that and, obviously, there's going to need to be a lot of analysis done over the course of the negotiations.

To start with a predetermined answer is not an appropriate thing to do.[/quote]

Speaking soon after, Ban Ki-Moon defended the robust nature of scientific guidance on pathways for reducing greenhouse gases. The IPCC's guidance should be listened to, he insisted.

But his position on the Bali roadmap was hard to read. Take this comment:

[quote]It may be too ambitious if delegations expect to be able to agree on a target of greenhouse gas emissions reduction [in Bali] - but some way down the road, we have to agree on that.[/quote]

I expect some journalists will get an eye-catching headline out of this: Ban-Ki Moon says forget 25-40% at Bali. I'm not convinced that's what the SG meant to imply. I think he was probably saying that binding targets for countries weren't on the table; not that the broad 25-40% goal for 2020 should be dumped. The ambiguity was definitely there, however.

From Ban, it would have been interesting to hear some specifics about whether he plans to involve heads of state in tackling climate change on an ongoing basis. He convened a high level meeting for leaders last September, but I wonder what comes next.

I would be gob smacked if we don't get some kind of agreement to launch negotiations coming out of the Bali. But whether or not the 25-40% target is included in the Bali text, the fight over this ‘guideline' figure is instructive.

Let's simplify dramatically. Post-Bali, the negotiations on emissions need to go through two stages, before the 2009 deadline. First, what should total emissions be on a global basis? Second, who gets what share of the available (emissions) cake.

The first of these negotiations will be extraordinarily difficult. The second one will trend towards the impossible the smaller the cake that is on offer. Bali's bitter rows make that abundantly clear.

That's where the SG and his access to leaders comes in. Environment ministers are never going to be able to do this deal on their own. The G8 brings the big guns in, but only covers a few countries.

Ban can reach out much more widely. How exactly does he plan to continue doing that, I wonder, as he pursues a miracle between now and 2009?
          Google Plans New Solar Mirror Technology   
Ethanol Fuel

Google’s Bill Weihl expresses his opinion, “We see a chance to make a difference in the field of renewable energy and energy information that can help bring the world to a lower carbon and more efficient economy.” Google is known for its Internet search engine. Now they want to make inroads into green technology too. […]


          Keith Fitz-Gerald: The Perils of Underestimating Complexity & Mispricing Risk | Peak Prosperity   
"If you’re rich you get a bailout. If you’re poor you get a handout. And if you’re middle class you get left out. " That's not a sustainable way to run the system, exclaims investment strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald.A cancer at the core of our current economy is the magical thinking, "no pain, all gain" http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/79525/keith-fitz-gerald-perils-underestimating-complexity-mispricing-risk
          David Finegold: A greener Pittsburgh, a better planet   
Creating a healthy planet and economy is possible. Here’s how.
          Susan Lute's Holiday Story The Marine's Christmas Proposal   
http://windtreepress.com/portfolio/gift-christmas/
Back to the holiday anthology, The Gift of Christmas, author interviews.  As a reminder, I am continuing my posts for individual authors on what inspired them to write their particular story.  Susan Lute's story, "The Marine's Christmas Proposal," follows her themes of finding a way home and making home wherever you find it.  One thing I personally always love about Su's writing is that she adroitly manages a mainstream romance plot along with a character-driven emotional impact. Her heroes and heroines are never cookie-cutter. That means I love them all the more because of their blemishes, misfortunes, and often messy relationships.

What inspired you to write "A Marine's Christmas Proposal?"

Raised in a military family, and by a career Marine, some of my earliest memories are of living in that close knit community – Long Island, San Diego, Parris Island. It didn't matter where we lived, there was always a sense of being part of something bigger that sheltered my “real” family. It makes sense to me that I would eventually get around to writing about these sometimes flawed heroes, and the journeys they make to find their way home.

When a story starts bugging me to be written, as this one did, it always comes to me first by way of the characters, and because I write romance, that means a hero and heroine who stumble over each other. In the case of David Randal, a career Marine who leaves the Corps to take care of his orphaned nephew, and Charlee Banks, daughter of the hugely successful CEO of Banks Sportswear, I also wanted to write a boss and secretary story.

The politically correct label these days for secretary is administrative assistant, so how could I keep alive the old fashioned notion of a personal secretary, and at the same time turn this story on it's ear? Trying it in reverse did the trick. The roll of “boss” had to be played by Charlee, and David, forced to take whatever job he could in a depressed economy, took a job as her “secretary”. And because Christmas is my favorite holiday, when the sparks started fly, the story took on a life of it's own. It was anyone's guess how it would end.

Learn more about Susan and her other Windtree Press books.
          How Changes in Rainfall Impact the World Economy   
An afternoon rainstorm might seem like an inconvenience at times, but rainfall is an essential part of the world ecosystem. Most of us know this.
          State of Otumfuo's Lease Documentation Project   
In Kumasi, the custom is that when caretaker chiefs allocate land a paper which has come to be known as an allocation paper is issued to landowners as evidence of the sale. However, land allocation papers are considered incomplete unless endorsed by the Asantehene. To receive such endorsement one must start the process to convert the allocation paper into a lease. This is called the lease documentation or land registration process.

Conversion of allocation papers into leases is very important because in a recent Supreme Court of Ghana judgment in Boateng (No. 2) v Manu (No. 2) SCGLR [2008] it was held that allocation papers represent the initial process to evidence that land has been acquired by an individual or corporate body. However, an allocation paper by itself cannot represent the fact of land acquisition. Justice William Annam Atuguba has said that he knows of no law which mandatorily requires an allocation paper in the sale of land.

The position of the Supreme Court on allocation paper is premised on three main reasons. Firstly, an allocation paper does not state the nature of the acquisition, i.e. whether it is a lease, a sale, a pledge, mortgage, a gift, etc. Secondly, the duration of the acquisition is not specified on the face of the allocation paper, and lastly, allocation papers do not give details of the extent of the land acquired. For these, the Court has held that allocation papers can only show that some transaction had taken place to in which the owners had purported to give some land to an individual or corporate body but allocation papers per se cannot pass title. The landowner will thereafter proceed to have it converted in a lease which will have to be registered at the Lands Commission.

For these reasons, allocation papers are often not accepted by banks and financial houses as security for loans. The value of the building on the land though may be substantial but it remains unacceptable as security if title to that property is derived from an allocation paper. Lease documents are desired. However, to procure a lease on a piece of land, landowners must first submit their land allocation paper to the Asantehene’s Lands Secretariat for endorsement by the Asantehene. Thereafter a lease is prepared, executed and registered at the Lands Commission.

I do not advocate this line of thinking. I think allocation papers are valid land documents properly procured under customary law provides by article 11 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. Since I am here not arguing about these points, I will not dwell much on this issue. However, it is the failure of public land administrators to recognize land allocation papers as valid land documents that why it has become important that every landowner convert his or her allocation paper procured under customary into a lease.

Due to the cost involved, the time it takes and the complex and cumbersome nature of the land registration process, most land owners are not motivated to register their land. Several efforts by government such the Land Administration Project (LAP) over the years to reduce the cost, time and complexity of land registration in Ghana have to date achieved little success. Today, it is common to find corruption at the lowest and the highest echelons of the land agencies. From desk to desk, one must pay the way to get a piece of land registered. What is even shocking is that, after such bribes, the process of land registration still moves like an injured-tortoise.

In September 2012 the Asantehene’s Lands Secretariat (ALS) went on Radio and TV inviting landowners to come and register their land. One these media platforms, land owners were assured that that the cost of registering would be cut by 70%. The period it took to register a piece of land would be reduced to three months. And the physical presence of landowners in the entire process would also be a thing of the past.

The landowning public greeted the news with a great sigh of relief. One by one, day by day, they thronged to the Forecourt of the Manhyia Palace to convert their allocation papers into leases. What happened during the last three weeks to the end of the project was unprecedented. Thousands of landowners besieged the project. They were more eager to register their title to land before the project expired. But it was expected. Ghanaians are last-minute people. They literally begged to submit land documents for registration.  As a result, the project period was extended for another three months. Despite this, the ALS became choked with several landowners craving to process their land documents for lease. At the end of the day, over 15,000 applications had been received. Pressure mounted on land officials working there. And this slowed the process further. People tried to bribe their way through the process. And it worked.

From September 2012 to March 2013, the ALS reduced drink money charges by at least 70%. Land owners were not required to go through the normal complex, cumbersome process of land registration. Over one hundred young university graduates were employed to do that. Over 15,000 applications for lease were received.

The promise to produce leases in three months could not be fulfilled. Most people then began to complain of the same old problems about delays in land registration process. What the public did not know was that behind the media dressing was a considerable number challenges the Lease Documentation Projectfaced. On 2 April 2013 I met a young land economy graduate at the Manhyia Palace. I had first met him when he was doing his National Service at Lands Commission. He had been recruited to assist in the project. I asked him about some of the difficulties that the project was facing and he did not hide the truth from me.

There was too much media window dressing. The public was deceived. They were made to believe that leases could be acquired in three months. Yes it could be done. But the number of applications that was received and the problems the project faced, six months is even too short a time to complete all the lease applications. As we talk now, the three months has expired. The three months extension that was given is now left with two weeks to expire. Yet not a single lease document prepared under the project has come out of the registration tunnel. Over fifteen thousand people have submitted their allocation notes and site plans for processing. Out of this, less than twenty is receiving positive attention.

There are planning, technical and human resources problems facing the project. Let us start with planning problems. There are certain areas in Kumasi where there no existing planning layouts. Article 267 (3) of the 1992 Constitution, provides that no stool land is to be sold, developed or registered unless the Lands Commission has certified that the sale or  development conforms to layout drawn up and approved by the planning authority for the area. Thus, the ALS, by law, requires the LC give such certification on individual plots to begin preparation of lease. Once Lands Commission does not grant such approval, any effort to acquire lease will hit a dead end. Unfortunately, the LC cannot certify any plot which lies in area which does not have an approved layout. This has caused the processing of many applications under the project. My investigations shows more than thirty per cent of lease applications made under the project are beset with layout problems. Leases for such plots cannot be processed.

Secondly, some land allocation papers presented by landowners were found not to be genuine. Such allocation papers had been issued by illegitimate persons. One would think that since this matter involves chiefs the chief for the areas must be made to issue a fresh and genuine one for the landowner. But the question arises at to whether the landowner is to pay the price of the land to the chief since it was not the chief who took the initial purchase price.

Thirdly, there were some landowners whose title to their land could not be traced sequentially in relation to the documents they possessed. That is there were gaps in their root of title. In such cases, the land might have changed hangs several times but there were no documents to back such transactions. This made it difficult to process such applications. Last but not the least, there were instances where there were existing transactions affecting some of the land. This meant that the land had already been sold and registered in favour of a person other than the one who sought to register land anew. These problems continue to face the project.

Despite these challenges, I think project has established one thing. Landowners would be eager to register their land if land registration would be made cheap, simple and less cumbersome. However, the current situation does not encourage people to register their land. 

To be continued....


          The History of Land Prices in Kumasi   
Many are those who continue to ask me, 'is it good to invest in land in Kumasi?' I have several times tried to let such people see what i see in the land market. But most often i fail. I therefore took time to research into the history of land price in Kumasi. I hope you will get the answers you want in the land market in terms of land prices.
         In 1960, 100 feet by 100 feet land at Asaago, a town near Kumasi was worth less than ¢10. In 1974, the same land meant for residential building sold for GH¢3 at Asenua. At Esereso, at the time when land was first subdivided for residential purposes in 1985, whiles strangers paid around GH¢4, subjects of the village presented bottles of Schnapps. An acre of land at Adum, now the Central Business District and the most expensive location in Kumasi, in 1960 was worth around GH¢50. But by 1973, land prices in Adum had risen to over GH¢164. Probably, this was the highest price achieved in Kumasi during this time.
However, the period between 1990 and 1999 saw land prices rise far beyond expectations. This is due to several factors. During this period, constitutional rule had been regained. Rawlings’ military rule in Ghana had ended. The 1992 Constitution, firmly establishing the 2nd Republic of Ghana, had been promulgated and guaranteed private ownership of property (Article 18; 1). A democratic election had been successfully held. Most Ghanaians had begun to build confidence in the economy and had started investing in land to accumulate wealth. In January 1995, with inflation hovering around 59%, land prices, like all other commodities in Ghana, was rising fast. The young generation realised that capital gains made from land could be a quick path to wealth due to the rapid increases in land prices. These, among other factors, tickled demand for land. Suddenly, everybody was buying. Land speculation became a rewarding part-time business for many. With so many people looking for land to buy, estate agency gained ascendancy without control.
The price of land sold in just a few years quadrupled in value. By 1997, Alhaji Ibrahim Baryeh reported that a 100 by 100 feet building plot at Asenua exchanged for GH¢130, far higher than the GH¢3 in 1974. Within a space of 23 years, land at Asenua had gained capital value by 4,233%. At Kyerekrom, prices range from GH¢220 to GH¢350 depending on whether the buyer was a subject of the town or a stranger. In the case of Emena, land exchanged between GH¢85 and GH¢120. At Apire, prices were between GH¢120 and GH¢350. By February 1997, the same land which sold for ¢10 in 1960 at Asaago fetched between GH¢150 and GH¢200. At Santasi, prices started from GH¢300. The decade just before the year 2011 did not see land prices fall. In fact, they rose rapidly. With the year 2000 beginning another decade in the land market, political power had been peacefully transferred from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) through a fair, transparent, and democratic election. John Agyekum Kuffour had been sworn in as the President of Ghana and had declared a ‘golden age of business’.
Like several other markets, the land market responded positively. Confidence in the Ghanaian economy had deepened. Demand for land rose, and in tandem with prices. By 2004, land prices in Kumasi had risen from previous highs to higher levels. Prices ranged from GH¢3,000 to as high as GH¢50,000 for a standard 100 feet by 100 feet plot. A standard plot at neighbourhoods such as Asokwa, in 2003, was sold around GH¢60,000. By 2006, land prices in the city ranged from GH¢200,000 to GH¢300,000 per acre which were mainly leasehold interest A 100 feet by 100 feet land which exchanged at Asaago for GH¢150 in 1997, was now priced over GH¢5,500, representing about 3,567% capital gains over 13 years. Half of an acre building plot at Atasomanso which sold for GH¢3,000 per plot in 1997 rose to over GH¢90,000 by the end of 2010 (i.e. 2,233% in capital gains in 13 years). Between 2000 and 2010, like the decade before it, land prices seldom dropped. At Apire, a standard building plot from 1990 to 1993 was sold between GH¢300 and GH¢400. By 2003, prices had risen to nearly GH¢3,000. Land prices in the neighbourhood did not stop rising. It skyrocketed to over GH¢7,000 in 2010.
In recent times, price of undeveloped land has been rising fast. The picture below charts prices of selected locations in Kumasi. Analysis of land prices collected from the field presents interesting statistical results. The maximum land price per acre of GH¢1,869,200 was achieved at Adum, the Central Business District of Kumasi. This means that Adum is the most expensive location in Kumasi. The minimum price of Gh8,000 per acre was recorded at Zongo Extension. However, the most frequent price (mode) at which an acre of land was bought was Gh40,000. This translates into GH¢10,000 for a standard plot. And yet the mean price of land per acre recorded was around GH¢141,300. What this means is that with GH¢35,300, a standard plot at a good location can be acquired. In all, prices ranged from as low as GH8,000 to as high as GH¢1,869,200 per acre. 
            What the history and current land prices in Kumasi tell us is that an investment in land is by far the best option. Investment in land is seldom affected by inflation. Land prices seldom fall. Capital gains from land are astonishing. Even capital gains realised on the Ghana Stock market in a year on all the stocks listed on the GSE do not often come close. In other regions of Ghana where pressure of land is relatively low, one is still better of investing in land. for example, between 2008 and 2009, land prices increased by 66.7% in the Wa Municipality in the Upper West Region of Ghana. In the Eastern Region of Ghana, between 1992 and 2003, land prices recorded over 235% increase. 


          Comment on Analysis sees 21 percent premium hike with Obamacare repeal by Robert Lehmert   
Jamie, if health insurance had continued to inflate the way it did under George W. Bush's administration, the health care system would have collapsed, and the economy would have tanked for that reason. The problem that makes universal health care systems expensive is pre-existing conditions. In order to get insurance carriers to cover all applicants without conditions, the ACA guaranteed payments to cover the excess losses arising from pre-existing conditions. When these payments began to be withheld due to a 2015 tax bill, insurers began to lose money and -- as a direct consequence --stopped participating. This is a political problem that was inflicted by politicians. It will exist with any plan that covers people with pre-existing conditions.
          Oracle - The NOW Economy   
none
          Oracle Now Economy Video   
none
          Interest Rebate upto 5%: Modified Interest Rate Scheme: Goa   
Government of Goa to boost Goan economy by encouraging industrial investments basically for central and coastal areas of the state has announced for the Modified interest rate scheme to make investments more attractive through its undertaking EDC Limited. Objective To boost entrepreneurship, women empowerment and industrialization  in these areas. Period of operation 5 years (From ...
          Scheme For Assistance to Start UPs/Innovations in Gujarat   
Objective: Innovation is the process of introducing new or making changes with updated technology, large and small, radical and incremental, processes and services that results in employment and improvement of country economy. So Industries Commissionerate under Gujarat government has brought new initiatives in order to provide financial assistance to individuals for their startups and innovations. ...
          Nearly Halfway to Meeting Spectrum Target   

This blog is a repost from the National Telecommunications Information Administration titled, "Nearly Halfway to Meeting Spectrum Target" by Paige R. Atkins, Associate Administrator of the Office of Spectrum Management, posted July 08, 2015.
Recognizing the growing importance of wireless broadband to the U.S. economy, President Obama five years ago last week set a bold new goal aimed at ensuring that enough spectrum is available to meet the surging demand for wireless connectivity. As the President noted in a June 28, 2010 memorandum, “The world is going wireless, and we must not fall behind.”


          Lee Kuan Yew ~ The way he held Singapore together ~ Now that he's gone, will Singapore unravel?   

Malaysians can learn much from this video. The mindset of the late Minister Mentor of Singapore, their iconic Founding Father Harry Lee Kuan Yew.

Why he did what he had to do and what steps he recommends the current Government of Singapore to do or continue?

If we look back at History, we can only shake our heads at the covert manner by which Sir Stamford Raffles acting as the agent of the British East India Company took possession of Singapore by entering into a treaty with Tengku Hussein Mu'azzam Shah, the Raja Muda of Johor -Lingga- Riau, due to the fact that the Dutch who were in control of Malacca during that period in time had not established any presence on the island.

The Malay Sultanates through the ages have constantly been at war against each other and historical evidences such as these remain as a stark reminder to the current 9 remaining Sultanates of Peninsular Malaysia what they stand to lose if they get careless and let in those who have dreams to rule over the last remaining bastion of Malay power and authorities here on Earth.

Back to the current times, Singapore which was under the British Colonial rule since 1819, underwent a series of changes of those who took power over it. 


Today, Lee Kuan Yew's son, Lee Hsien Loong is facing a rebellion from within his own family! His siblings Lee Hsien Yang, and Lee Wei Ling are protesting against PM Lee Hsien Loong saying they no longer have any confidence in him and that Lee Hsien Loong is committing gross abuse of power. 

They are accusing PM Lee Hsien Loong of creating his own dynasty and trashing their late father's values and neglecting  Lee Kuan Yew's will to have his successor's demolish his home at Oxley Road [below] after his passing.







But his grandson Li Shengwu wants to join in the dispute as well. 

Tch..tch..tch..

Just like the run of the mill Chinese Drama being churned out by Mediacorp, Singapore's main broadcasting channel, the latest storm in a teacup taking place in the family of the late Mr.Lee Kuan Yew is sort of adding some new fodder for the island republic's media corporations.

Read below :



I can only wish PM Lee Hsien Loong well for he has been doing all that he can to maintain Singapore's economy and position here in South East Asia amidst a region that is facing all kinds of threats and turmoil what with the menacing China flexing its muscles and imposing its grip on quite a widening part of the South China Sea and disputed islands which have rich mineral plus abundant oil and gas reserves which the world's growing superpower this side of the planet seems to have set its eyes upon!

Lee Hsien Loong may not be as tough as his late father was but he needs to firm up and lay down the law as his father did as shown in the video above!

Here is Mr.Nice Guy's response :
Sorry for you Hsien Loong! All this because of a house?
Seems that the infamous Kiasu Syndrome have infected them severely. Hard to get antidote for that, isn't it?





          A Dream Come True   

Between my being a carpenter in today’s Michigan economy (lots of idle time) and my desire to learn more about finishing, I stopped by a local furniture refinishing/restoration shop a couple of weeks ago to see if I could pick up a non-paying apprenticeship just to pick up some knowledge and get some hands on experience. Of course I didn’t just walk in and say “are you guys looking for an apprentice?”. I asked if they were hiring and an employee told me “no”. Then I asked if the shop was willing to take on an apprentice. Again, I was rejected.

Well, on Monday, my girlfriend saw an ad on craigslist posted by the same shop, saying that they were looking for a helper. She called me and told me that I should call them and see if I could get the job. I called and the guy told me to come in and fill out an application, so I did. Well, on paper, I’d reject me. I’ve been working for myself under the table for the past six+ years, I don’t have a drivers license, I didn’t finish high school and when it comes to refinishing/restoration, I’m a dud. So, on paper, I had nothing to offer the guy.

I mentioned that I was a woodworker/carpenter and that I worked for myself and that I had a shop just up the road. That turned out to be a turn off. He didn’t like hiring people that worked for themselves because their work usually got in the way of his shop’s work. Then a friend of mine called during the interview and the ring tone on my cell phone is the song Scotland the Brave or as some know it, Cadence to Arms on bagpipes. And it turns out that the owner/operator/now only employee is a piper. He also has a few rental houses that need work and that work is also part of the job description. Which sounded great to me, because that is what I’m used to.A couple of other things clicked and the interview went well and lasted about an hour. I felt pretty good but I didn’t want to get my hopes up since I had so many things working against me.

The shop owner called me Wednesday night and asked if I could come in Thursday morning for a second interview. UGH!!!! The morning after St. Patrick’s Day!!!!! But…. Of coarse I’ll be there, thanks for the call. When I showed up, I noticed that he had a stack of applications. He asked me a few more questions about myself…. Interest and so on. Woodworking, music and hockey (is there anything else?). Well, he’s not only a woodworker in his own way and a player of the bagpipes, but he’s also a Red Wings season ticket holder. And I have the red Wings’ logo as a screen saver on my cell phone. One of the other things that he really liked was the fact that I came in and tried before he posted the ad. Near the end of the second interview (which lasted another hour), there was a weird silence, and then he said… “You know, in life, if you pay attention, there are signs and….” It was kind of left at that. Again, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Well, He called me Friday morning and said that he wanted to give me a shot. He asked if I could start the same day and my arse was there! He showed me around the shop, we stripped a table top, sanded a chair, sanded the table top, took lunch and we worked on a rental for the rest of the day. He asked me to come back on Monday and I don’t think that I could be much happier. Well, I’m taking a 40 to 50 percent pay cut to what I am used to making, but if what I am used to isn’t there at all, I guess I got a raise. Not to mention, he’s paying me to do what I offered to do for free and I’ll be learning a lot. He’s a smart, genuine cat that has a LOT in common with me, I hope everything works out.


Sorry this was so long, but I still left a little out for the readers sake.


          Why Are More New Yorkers Moving to Israel?   

According to Ido Aharoni, Israel's Consul General in New York, Israel's economy has a lot to offer Americans.

The post Why Are More New Yorkers Moving to Israel? appeared first on MetroFocus.


          ‘MetroFocus: The Tech Economy’ Full Episode   

This half-hour program hosted by Rafael Pi Roman features a look inside Google's New York office, an interview with NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky and considers the past, present and future of the city's tech economy.

The post ‘MetroFocus: The Tech Economy’ Full Episode appeared first on MetroFocus.


          No reason for ECB to accelerate policy unwinding: S&P Global Ratings   
Jean-Michel Six, chief economist for Europe, Middle East and Africa at S&P Global Ratings, discusses the euro zone economy.
          Retail job skills are transferable: Chase   
Anthony Chan, chief economist at Chase, discusses the displacement of retail jobs and its impact on the rest of the economy.
          Initial jobless claims up 3K to 241,000   
CNBC's Rick Santelli breaks down the latest numbers on unemployment and the U.S. economy. And CNBC's Steve Liesman provides insight.
          The jobs market may be past 'full employment.' Here's what that means   
The current unemployment rate of 4.3 percent indicates the economy has exceeded "full employment."
          We have a goldilocks style economy, not too hot, not too cold: Kostin   
David Kostin, Goldman Sachs Chief U.S. Equity Strategist, discusses the current state of the markets including tech.
          FOREX -Dollar sinks to 7-month low after soft U.S. jobs report   
*U.S. economy creates 138,000 jobs in May, jobless rate dips. *Dollar sells off across the board. NEW YORK, June 2- The dollar dropped to seven-month lows on Friday after data showed the U.S. economy created fewer jobs than expected last month, which could derail a possible interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve in the second half of this year.
          The economy is a little over lukewarm: Expert   
John Augustine, Huntington Bank chief investment officer and Michael Cuggino, Permanent Portfolio Funds president, weigh in on the markets today and jobs report.
          Double-talk   
A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.

A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.

AT CITY HALL: A proposal to require energy efficiency testing for new homes built in Little Rock was withdrawn from Little Rock City Board consideration.

City Manager Bruce Moore said more discussion was needed. Do tell. The measure had been delayed several times.

It's pretty simple. These tests are being required in many places, including Fayetteville, because homes without leaky windows, doors and ductwork are more energy efficient. They save money over time. They reduce demand on energy generation (in Arkansas, we are still dependent on polluting coal).

But, the testing and tightening work could add $800 to $2,000 to the cost of a home. The powerful real estate lobby made it clear it doesn't like this. This is the same lobby that has resisted impact fees on new development in Little Rock, thus leaving the city short of the revenue necessary for new services — police, fire, street and other expensive investments — that new sprawl demands.

Mayor Mark Stodola, a beneficiary of the business community in his runs for mayor, is nothing if not sensitive to the real estate lobby. He wouldn't endorse this ordinance.

But, note that the proposal came from the Mayor's Sustainability Council. Yes, it was his own agency's effort to make this a greener city. The news of the backsliding came while Stodola was in Miami for a meeting of the nation's mayors, where many vowed to pick up the ball dropped by Donald Trump when he repudiated U.S. participation in the Paris climate accord.

Was it only three weeks ago that Stodola trumpeted his joining a "mayors climate agreement"? It said, in part:

"We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice."

That is, unless, Little Rock realtors object.

LITTLE ROCK SCHOOLS: State Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who functions as the Little Rock School Board under state takeover, held an unannounced, unattended "school board" meeting Thursday afternoon to approve $92 million in borrowing through second-lien bonds (not supported by pledged taxes) to raise money for a new Southwest Little Rock high school and some other roofing and HVAC repair.

News leaked out Friday night. I don't object to the idea. I echoed Baker Kurrus during the recently defeated $600 million construction millage extension election in saying that second-lien bonds and budget cuts could sustain the high school and other important work while waiting to see if the charter school explosion supported by Key was going to further decimate enrollment and perhaps even change the geographic shape of the district during the 14-year tax extension. Superintendent Mike Poore, Key and even Governor Hutchinson made it sound like the tax extension vote was the district's only viable lifeline.

That was then. Poore told a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week (apparently before even the state Board of Education knew of the plan) that not only could this get the first important work done, the city might have enough excess revenue from construction millage that it could pay for these bonds without cutting operating expenses.

This suggests to me that somebody was crying wolf before the election. Poore also tried hard to pre-spin this story with the friendly D-G before it got in skeptical hands. In Little Rock's current undemocratic state, a "school board" can meet in secret and sign off on $92 million in borrowing without any public discussion about how the money is to be spent and how the budget will accommodate it.

This is no way to run a school district supported by tax dollars. It's past time for the state Board of Education to give Little Rock its school district back.


          Look to Kansas   
The grand austerity experiment of the once great state of Kansas has finally collapsed.

Look to Kansas

The grand austerity experiment of the once great state of Kansas has finally collapsed. The Republican dominated state legislature of Kansas passed a bill to reinstate some previous taxes in an effort to raise $1.2 billion in two years, but Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the bill, which forced the legislature to override the veto. The Kansas state budget already faced a whopping $900 million shortfall over the next two years, according to CNN reports. Can this kind of Republican madness occur in Arkansas?

The mainstream media may not have caught on yet, but there are two factors driving the Kansas fiscal calamity. The first factor is the Republican lack of will to cut Republican spending. Austerity cannot work until everybody cuts spending. The second is the Koch factor. The infamous king makers, the Koch brothers, are headquartered on 37th Street in Wichita, Kan., which makes Kansas the veritable ground zero for austere Republican directives. A better analogy is that the Kochs have created a black hole in Wichita, which is destroying all common sense in the surrounding red states and swallowing up Arkansas. For instance, just five months ago, President Obama left our nation and Arkansas with low unemployment and a booming economy. Governor Hutchinson and his General Assembly of Koch zombies cannot even fund a highway bill.

Hey, Toto! We're in Kansas!

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

From the web in response to Ernest Dumas' June 22 column, "Obamascare":

As H.L. Mencken once observed, in somewhat different terms, one should never rely on the intelligence of American voters, Ernie. One of his supporters once enthusiastically told Adlai Stevenson, in the 1956 campaign against Ike Eisenhower, "Mr. Stevenson you have the support of every thinking American." To which, he calmly replied, "That's not enough, ma'am. I need a majority."

plainjim

From the web in response to the June 26 Arkansas Blog post "Supreme Court orders Arkansas to stop birth certificate discrimination":

Another big win for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, heh heh.

HillcrestArky

Is there anything in the Obergefell decision that would treat same sex married couples any different than the protected classes of the Civil Rights Act? If not, an overturning of the Colorado baker decision would relegate all protected classes equally vulnerable to discrimination on the grounds of sincerely held beliefs. Not just LGBT people, but also blacks and Jews and women. Woolworth's could then say that blacks at their lunch counters offends their religious beliefs, and the entire Civil Rights Act would be moot.

Rutrow

While, of course, celebrating this and all other decisions favoring gay rights, I do wonder if we may need a parallel system to track strictly genetic origins. Otherwise aren't sperm and egg donation going to make true ancestry tracking problematic? When the doc asks if there's a history of heart disease in your family, you kinda need to know where your genes came from.

JB

We're reaching the point that DNA can identify medical conditions better than personal/family history. Especially when, and it's true, ancestral history may not be what it seems. Just saying.

Vanessa

From the web in response to the June 23 Arkansas Blog post, "Little Rock to sell $90 million in bonds to build Southwest High School, do other work":

Excellent explainer on the difference between the failed bond extension and this method of financing the school construction, but coming on the heels of the vote, it's hard not to see this as a calculated FU by Key to the voters of the district.

tsallernarng


          National Nurse Act of 2017 Introduced in Senate   

DURING NATIONAL NURSES WEEK, MERKLEY STANDS UP FOR NURSES WITH BIPARTISAN LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE

Bills would update nursing workforce programs and create a National Nurse for Public Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This National Nurses Week, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley [merkley.senate.gov] is standing with nurses in Oregon and across America by introducing bipartisan legislation to support nurses and strengthen the nursing profession.

Merkley on Thursday introduced the National Nurse Act of 2017 and the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017, both with bipartisan support. The National Nurse Act is co-led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act is co-led by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

Merkley, whose wife works in Oregon as a registered nurse, also introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), officially honoring May 6-12 as National Nurses Week.

“As the husband of a nurse, I hear firsthand about the challenges and successes that come with working on the frontlines of our health care system,” Merkley said. “Every day, nurses take on difficult, essential, and often thankless tasks that keep our health care system running and that have a huge impact on the patient experience. Each of us has a story about the nurse who made all the difference at a frightening or difficult time for our families. I’ll keep fighting to improve federal policy to fully recognize and support the essential role of nurses in our health care system, and I invite all Oregonians to join me in recognizing the tremendous work of our Oregon nurses this National Nurses Week.”

The National Nurse Act of 2017 (S. 1106) The bipartisan National Nurse Act of 2017 would elevate the role of nurses in America’s public health by designating a National Nurse for Public Health.

The National Nurse position would be created by transforming and elevating an existing position within the U.S. Public Health Service, the Chief Nurse Officer. Similarly to the Surgeon General, the National Nurse for Public Health would help raise awareness among the American public about disease prevention and healthy living. The position would provide leadership by a publicly visible nurse who would collaborate with other health care leaders to address health disparities and set goals for improved public health. Nurses represent the largest single component of the health care profession with more than 3.3 million registered nurses. With a National Nurse for Public Health providing a uniting voice and national leadership, American nurses’ power to transform their patients’ lives and to improve public health outcomes would be even greater.

Chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and obesity pose the single greatest threat to the health of Americans and a serious threat to our nation's economy. Nurses provide key services for the prevention and management of these conditions. The National Nurse for Public Health will promote prevention; help improve outcomes; and guide national, state and local efforts in addressing the nation's health.

The National Nurse Act of 2017 is supported by the American Nurses Association, AFT Nurses and Healthcare Professionals, the Case Management Society of America and 105 other national and state nursing organizations and key stakeholders.


          Ten Co-Sponsors Join in Support of H.R. 379    

Thank you to the following members of the U.S. House of Representatives for joining the now 95 co sponsors for H.R. 379 The National Nurse Act of 2016. It's exciting to see the progress being made for this bill.

Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-4-D) is now the longest serving House member in Oregon’s history. Rep. DeFazio is committed to reining in the escalating costs of health care and ensuring access to quality health care for all Americans. He is a member of the House Nursing Caucus.

In June 2008, Representative Donna Edwards (MD-4-D) became the first African American woman elected to Congress. Rep. Edwards has enjoyed a diverse career as a nonprofit public interest advocate and in the private sector on NASA’s Spacelab project. In 1994, as co-founder and executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, she led the effort to pass the Violence Against Women Act that was signed into law by President Clinton.

Representative Scott Garrett (NJ-5-R) serves as a senior member of the House Budget Committee. Rep. Garrett believes we need meaningful health care reform that decreases costs, increases accessibility and improves on what is already the best health care system in the world.

In the House of Representatives, Representative Gregg Harper (MS-3-R) serves on the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Mississippi’s senior House Republican also sits on the select Committee on House Administration, a special appointment made by former House Speaker John Boehner.

On April 29th, 2016 upon the urging of her constituents, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1-D) signed on as a co sponsor to H.R. 379. Representative Kirkpatrick serves on many health-related caucuses including the Healthcare Innovation Task Force, Youth Drug Prevention Caucus, the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, and the Mental Health Caucus.

The family of Representative Rick Larsen (WA-2-D) has been building a legacy in the Second Congressional District for more than a century. Throughout Representative Larsen’s tenure in Congress he has advocated for health care that fits Northwest Washington’s specific needs, including funding for critical access hospitals, better health services for veterans and Medicare beneficiaries, and health care that fits families’ budgets.

Representative David McKinley (WV-1-R)has represented the First District of West Virginia since January 3, 2011. As one of two professional engineers in Congress, he has a seat on the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Representative McKinley’s wife is a nurse and he is a member of the House Nursing Caucus.

Representative Martha McSally (AZ-2-R) proudly represents the people of Arizona’s Second Congressional District. Prior to serving in Congress, Representative McSally served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 2010 as a full Colonel. She is the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat and first to command a fighter squadron in combat in United States history.

Currently serving his third term in Congress, Representative Patrick Meehan (PA-7-R) serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, as well as the Committee on Ethics. Representative Meehan is the husband of a nurse practitioner and is well aware of the need for quality care and access to our health care system.

According to The Lowell Sun, Representative Niki Tsongas (MA-3-D) has convinced constituents of a core common goal: “As long as she is in Congress, the best interests of constituents will always come ahead of party politics. Since 2010, Tsongas has proven she is one of the more independent lawmakers in Massachusetts’ 9-member House delegation. She has shown a willingness to work with Republicans to advance the cause of a stronger economy and military defense system.”


          The End of the Free Market   
A week ago, I was ready to give up the Daily Shill. I had started to compose a post listing reasons, which basically summed up to "I WANT TO READ WHAT I WANT TO READ!" But I had already watched Nanny McPhee Returns and I sure wasn't going to have watched it for nothing. So I decided I'd write that one more review, and then wait to make a decision about the Shill until this week. After writing the review, I decided to give the Daily Shill another push and keep going. Because I'm not a quitter.

What brought me to the brink of quitting? Well, sure, it's a buildup over time, but the book that pushed me over the edge was Ian Bremmer's The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations? It was just incredibly boring, especially compared to the many other (non-Shill) books I am now allowing myself to read. But I finally finished it yesterday, and am ready to move onto Christopher Hitchens' Hitch 22 which, though longer, should be more interesting.

As you may have already picked up on, this review of The End of the Free Market is not going to be a fair one (or a long one). I'm not an economist. I never will be an economist. And I only sort of get the economy. So, reading a book that basically lists out multiple countries' laws and regulations regarding the free market is a confusing, boring mess of words. Multiple times, I realized my eyes were going over the pages, but my mind was elsewhere. I really can't provide an accurate summary.

The reason I found The End of the Free Market so boring? I figured it out: there are no people in the book. Rather than talk about how people are affected by countries' takes on the free market, rather than talk about the lawmakers and rulers, Bremmer chooses to talk about policy instead. And that's where he lost me. The few pages on Russia (where, yes, people made a cameo appearance) were relatively interesting, but the rest of the book lost me. It's certainly not pleasure reading, and I don't recommend it (unless, of course, you're an economist or interested in the economy. You're probably the intended audience for this book.) 1/5.

Watch Jon Stewart's interview with Ian Bremmer

Buy the book



          Obama Has Been a Divider, Not a Uniter   

The Pew report notes that this is the extension of a long-term trend. Decades ago, a majority of Democrats approved of Richard Nixon's job performance early in his first term. A majority of Republicans did the same for Jimmy Carter. But that has not been true for any president since.

Ron Brownstein, the author of "The Second Civil War," cites a variety of structural reasons for intensified division. There has been a "sorting-out" of the political parties, making each more ideologically uniform. Long, nasty presidential campaigns stoke our differences. Media outlets have become more partisan. Ideological interest groups have proliferated. Congressional leaders have changed the rules, making it easier to impose party discipline.

But Obama was supposed to be the antidote to the poison of partisanship. During the presidential campaign, chief strategist David Axelrod told Brownstein, "If there's an enhanced Democratic majority, I think that he's going ... to urge a special sense of responsibility to try and forge coalitions around these answers, not because we won't be able to force our will in many cases, but because, ultimately, effective governance requires it in the long term."

That makes last week's votes on the budget resolutions a landmark of ineffective governance. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate supported the bill, largely because the Democratic majority forced its will. Republicans were flattened, not consulted. Democratic leaders talk of enacting controversial elements of the budget through the reconciliation process -- which would require 51 Senate votes, not the normal 60, for passage. Only in Washington would the word "reconciliation" refer to a form of partisan warfare.

Without Republican input or influence, the budget is a tax-and-spend caricature. Obama has complained of inheriting a $1.3 trillion debt. According to economist Michael Boskin, Obama's proposals would add $6.5 trillion in debt over the next decade -- about $163,000 for every American taxpaying family.

I am not generally a deficit hawk. A government can run a responsible deficit in a growing economy -- and may have to run one to counteract an economic downturn. But Obama's proposed level of debt is irresponsible. It makes broad tax increases nearly inevitable. It expands our dependence on China, America's loan officer. And it creates pressure for the government to purchase or monetize debt, leading to inflation. No Republican, even of the moderate variety, could accept a budget that spends America into unsustainable debt by completely avoiding the setting of realistic priorities. And none in Congress did.

There is an argument in favor of political polarization. Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan, in their time, were polarizing presidents precisely because they were ambitious presidents. They believed that some national goals were worth the sacrifice of amity. A decisive leader is sometimes a divisive leader.

But Obama's polarizing approach challenges and changes the core of his political identity. His moderate manner and message appealed to a country weary of division and ambition -- a nation now asked to endure another round of both. But Obama's domestic agenda is also resoundingly typical -- as though he were some conventionally liberal backbench senator suddenly thrust into immense influence. Which, of course, he is.

It would have been relatively easy for President Obama to divide the Republican coalition, peeling off less-partisan Republicans with genuine outreach. Many Republicans were prepared to accept short-term deficits to stimulate the economy in exchange for long-term fiscal responsibility. Obama could have focused more narrowly on resolving the financial crisis -- the key to all economic recovery -- and delayed his ambitions on other issues to a more realistic time. In the process, he might have gotten some Republicans to share his political risks, instead of nursing grievances on the sidelines.

Polarization in American politics has its own disturbing momentum, aided by some strident Republican voices. But that does not require a president to make it worse. And it is a sad, unnecessary shame that Barack Obama, the candidate of unity, has so quickly become another source of division.


          What the Teleprompter Teaches   

Coverage by Ron Fournier of The Associated Press began: "What kind of politician brings a teleprompter to a news conference?" A recent Politico story asserted, "President Barack Obama doesn't go anywhere without his teleprompter," calling it a "crutch." And in a popular new blog, Obama's teleprompter playfully chronicles its day.

If anyone is to blame for this technological dependence, it is probably Fred Barton, an actor from the 1950s. As author Laurie Brown tells the story, Barton was having trouble memorizing the vast number of lines required for live television. So he conceived of a scrolling screen of typed text -- an idea he shared with Irving Berlin Kahn (the composer's nephew) and Hub Schlafly at 20th Century Fox. Soon the device was used by Milton Berle and actors in various soap operas. In 1952, Schlafly got a call from a man identified simply as the "Chief" who wanted a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria. It turned out to be former President Herbert Hoover, who ended up using a teleprompter for his remarks at that year's Republican convention.

For politicians, the teleprompter has always been something of an embarrassing vice -- the political equivalent of purchasing cigarettes, Haagen-Dazs and a Playboy at the convenience store.

This derision is based on the belief that the teleprompter exaggerates the gap between image and reality -- that it involves a kind of deception. It is true that there is often a distinction between a president on and off his script. With a teleprompter, Obama can be ambitiously eloquent; without it, he tends to be soberly professorial. Ronald Reagan with a script was masterful; during news conferences he caused much wincing and cringing. It is the rare politician, such as Tony Blair, who speaks off the cuff in beautifully crafted paragraphs.

But it is a mistake to argue that the uncrafted is somehow more authentic. Those writers and commentators who prefer the unscripted, who use "rhetoric" as an epithet, who see the teleprompter as a linguistic push-up bra, do not understand the nature of presidential leadership or the importance of writing to the process of thought.

Governing is a craft, not merely a talent. It involves the careful sorting of ideas and priorities. And the discipline of writing -- expressing ideas clearly and putting them in proper order -- is essential to governing. For this reason, the greatest leaders have taken great pains with rhetoric. Lincoln continually edited and revised his speeches. Churchill practiced to the point of memorization. Such leaders would not haven been improved by being "unplugged." When it comes to rhetoric, winging it is often shoddy and self-indulgent -- practiced by politicians who hear Mozart in their own voices while others perceive random cymbals and kazoos. Leaders who prefer to speak from the top of their heads are not more authentic, they are often more shallow -- not more "real," but more undisciplined.

This is the lasting contribution of Fred Barton and his teleprompter. The speechwriting process that puts glowing words on the teleprompter screen serves a number of purposes. Struggling over the precise formulations of a text clarifies a president's own thinking. It allows others on his staff to have input -- to make their case as a speech is edited. The final wording of a teleprompter speech often brings internal policy debates to a conclusion. And good teamwork between a president and his speechwriters can produce memorable rhetoric -- the kind of words that both summarize a historical moment and transform it.

Obama's goal at his recent news conference was less elevated -- to express his thoughts on the economy with precision, as he faces a crisis in which a stray word could have a tremendous cost.

During a wobbly first two months, Obama has had many problems. But using an autocue isn't one of them. A teleprompter speech represents the elevation of writing in politics. And good writing has an authenticity of its own.


          Government Versus Confidence   

AIG executives were foolish to use this loophole to "retain" employees, some of whom nearly destroyed the American financial system. But the company did not act with deception or secrecy.

AIG's November SEC filing set out its intention to provide more than $469 million in "retention payments" to employees, eliciting a smattering of congressional protest. Concerns on the broader compensation issue were serious enough to ensure unanimous Senate passage of an amendment to the stimulus bill sponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe and Ron Wyden that penalized bailout bonuses in excess of $100,000.

But the Snowe-Wyden amendment disappeared into the misty bog of a House-Senate conference committee, only to be trumped by language that grandfathered AIG's retention bonuses. At first, this seemed to be an example of immaculate legislation -- miraculously fatherless. After explicitly denying responsibility, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd eventually admitted including the exception under pressure from the administration. But it doesn't sound like there was much of a fight. Administration input came from unnamed staffers at the Treasury Department, not high-level officials. Dodd said he viewed these as "innocent modifications."

The lack of focus, judgment and competence on the part of Congress and the administration has explanations -- for those dealing in trillions, millions must seem like dirty pennies on the street. But the hollow outrage and blame-shifting from Congress and the administration are inexcusable.

President Obama vowed to "pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses," when the proper "legal" avenue was to write a responsible law -- a process his own administration apparently undermined. "I'll take responsibility," says the president -- before, in the next few breaths, explaining, "We didn't grant these contracts." And, "We've got a lot on our plate." And, "It's my job to make sure that we fix these messes, even if I don't make them." So Obama seems to be saying: I'll take credit for taking the blame for something that is entirely the fault of others. Positively Clintonian.

"This is an example," thunders Rep. Barney Frank, "of people at the commanding heights of the economy misbehaving, abusing the system" -- which is completely true ... of the conference committee that reshaped the stimulus bill in secret. Sen. Charles Grassley urged AIG executives to contemplate suicide.

This combination of viciousness, shamelessness and cluelessness has consequences. It drains what little political will remains to confront the credit crisis -- an effort that may eventually require spending a trillion dollars or more to help purchase toxic debt. Thanks to AIG, Congress and the administration, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may find his next round of necessary bailouts greeted by a revolt of left and right.

And congressional demagoguery is compromising Geithner's own approach to resolving the credit crisis. Since the direct government purchase of toxic debt would be massively expensive, Geithner has floated the idea of enticing private investors to help buy that debt. The government would give loans or subsidies to mutual funds and hedge funds if they will buy toxic securities. But few would make such a risky investment without the hope of large returns.

If those returns are realized, it is easy to imagine how hedge fund managers would be treated when hauled before Congress. "Perhaps the witness can explain to us how he justifies such windfall profits with the people's money? Have you no shame? Give us the names, addresses and phone numbers of every millionaire you enriched at public expense so we can leak them to the press."

What sane money manager would want to partner with a government that blames others for its mistakes, urges the violation of inconvenient contracts and threatens to tax benefits retroactively? One Wall Street expert told me, "Even if people trust the president, they don't trust Congress." This kind of trust and confidence is essential to the next stage of our economic recovery. It is also being actively undermined by the incompetence and hypocrisy of the government itself.


          GOP at the Abyss   

First, it is conceivable that conservatives are hyperventilating, as they did in 1993. President Clinton's budget, which included tax hikes, was attacked by Republicans as "grossly, totally, completely irresponsible." Conservatives warned of large job losses. But whatever Clinton's eventual problems, they were not economic. When monetary policy is responsible and federal spending restraint is credible, a continental economy can roll through many obstacles, including a moderate rise in tax rates.

"It's not smart to say this economy can't recover," says economist and author David Smick. If the pipe of credit is somehow unclogged, the Federal Reserve has provided plenty of money for a quick recovery. Americans will eventually need to buy houses or cars again.

Clearly this is what President Obama hopes and expects. It would probably solidify eight years of political dominance. But there is one problem. The markets do not appear to find his economic approach remotely credible. "What we are seeing," says Smick, "is $3 trillion in revenues for $4 trillion in spending. An honest budget? Give me a break." Even more importantly, the markets have little confidence in the administration's sketchy bank bailout plan. It has been the largest, early mistake of the Obama presidency to focus on expensive reforms of health and energy before convincing markets that the financial sector will be fixed -- the achievement on which all else depends.

The second conservative future might be vindication. Even if the banking system returns quickly to solvency, President Obama is proposing an unprecedented accumulation of debt -- just as other countries, to stimulate their economies, are doing the same. Given this glut of global debt, America will have to beg China, Japan and others to buy American bonds. There will also be a strong temptation to print money to buy the debt ourselves, leading to inflation.

Obama can, for a while, blame the financial crisis on the policies of the past. But a stagflation scenario -- combining slow growth with higher prices -- would be an achievement all his own, putting him more in the political category of Jimmy Carter than Clinton. Already the prospect of immense debt is spooking Democratic centrists. It has also begun reuniting the coalition of libertarians and social conservatives that Obama nearly sundered during the last election. As a compassionate conservative, I support focused, effective spending to help the poor at home and abroad. But as a conservative, I cannot support an explosion of debt and the reorganization of large sectors of the economy by federal planners.

There is a third possible future that conservatives do not want to consider. We could be seeing a much more fundamental ideological trauma -- something that enters the realm of psychology, not economics. Franklin Roosevelt used the shocks of the 1930s to discredit the capitalism of the 1920s -- even though the real causes for the Great Depression had more to do with tariffs, monetary policy and bank failures. Conservative economics fell into disrepute, even as many New Deal policies proved ineffective. Republican elected leaders became less-ambitious reflections of the Roosevelt consensus. Intellectual dissent was captured by extremists, from Ayn Rand to the John Birch Society. It took 40 years for the development of an intellectually serious and politically respectable conservative movement.

Are conservatives, once again, heading into the ideological wilderness? I strongly doubt it. The historical analogy to the Great Depression (so far) is strained. In that crisis, unemployment rose to 25 percent, a third of banks failed, GDP contracted by more than 30 percent and the social safety net did not exist. America is a much wealthier nation than it was in 1929, bank deposits are safe, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, an expert on the 1930s, is expanding the money supply, not contracting it.

Obama is not likely to be a Roosevelt. But conservatives remain in a difficult position. Since they favor economic success, they must root for Obama to be a Clinton -- even as they suspect and predict he will be a Carter.


          A Week of Revelation   

On domestic policy, the revelation was different. Candidate Obama was a tonal moderate -- a pragmatist determined to muddle the old divisions of blue and red into a pleasing, post-partisan purple. His mainstream economic appointments seemed to confirm this intention. His stimulus package and bank bailout proposals were expansive and expensive, but not ideologically radical.

And then the budget came -- ideologically ambitious, politically ruthless and radical to its core.

Obama chose a time of recession to propose a massive increase in progressivity -- a 10-year, trillion-dollar haul from the rich, already being punished by the stock market collapse and the housing market decline. This does not just involve undoing the Bush tax reductions but capping tax deductions to collect about $30 billion a year. Despite all the rhetoric of "responsibility" and shared sacrifice, the message of the Obama budget is clear: The wealthy are responsible for the economic mess and they will bear the entire sacrifice so that government can "invest" in the people.

But governments do not "invest," they spend. Such spending can be justified or unjustified. It is wealthy individuals, however, who actually invest their capital in job creation. Most have much less capital than they used to. Under the Obama budget, they would have less still. This does not seem to matter in the economic worldview of the Obama budget. Equality is the goal instead of opportunity or economic mobility. And government, in this approach, is more capable of investing national wealth than America's discredited plutocrats -- meaning successful two-income families, entrepreneurs and professionals.

This is not merely the rejection of "trickle-down economics," it is a weakening of the theoretical basis for capitalism -- that free individuals are generally more rational and efficient in making investment decisions than are government planners.

This ideological shift is also evident in Obama's treatment of charitable giving. The new budget seeks to raise billions for health reform by limiting the charitable deduction for the wealthy. This is a direct claim that the good done by government spending will be more important than the good done by the wealthy. But it is often wealthy people who make the large donations that sustain colleges, universities and teaching hospitals. If government is inherently superior at making such charitable choices in the public good, why not make our entire education and medical systems public? Which seems to be the goal.

As a practical matter, the promise of expensive, shared public goods entirely at the expense of the rich is a transparent deception. A good portion of the budget's spending reduction is illusory -- based on the phony assumption that Iraq and Afghanistan war outlays would have continued at similar levels in perpetuity. The budget's growth assumptions are not remotely realistic. It does little to address the crisis of unsustainable Social Security and Medicare obligations. And its $634 billion health care reform "fund" is merely a down payment -- perhaps a third of the future cost.

So who is going to eventually pay for this accelerating debt, temporarily held by the Chinese and others? As the national debt's percentage of GDP moves from about 40 percent to perhaps 70 percent, there will not be enough wealthy people left to bleed. Once the economy recovers, broad tax increases will be unavoidable. Or Obama's "once-in-a-generation chance" will actually involve the imposition of massive burdens on the next generation.

Conservatives hope Obama's overreach and Harry Reid's and Nancy Pelosi's arrogance will provoke a backlash -- leading markets to revolt, uniting the Republican base and causing doubts among fiscally conservative Democrats. But as an academic at Princeton recently reminded me, "It is only overreach if you fail."

In the meantime, we have learned some important things. On defense policy, the peace candidate is not a radical. On economic policy, the post-partisan could hardly be more partisan. Obama does not want to cultivate conservatives; he wants to crush them. And that is a revelation.


          A Limited Dose of Reassurance   

But national morale was not economically decisive in defeating the Great Depression (though it came in handy defeating Hitler). Economic historian Amity Shlaes reminds us, "Roosevelt did famously well by one measure, the political poll. He flunked by two other meters that we today know are critically important: the unemployment rate and the Dow Jones industrial average."

And the incantation of confidence is not likely to be decisive in the current economy. Markets, investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs are generally immune to tone and charm. They seek reassurance on three issues of substance: the credibility of the credit system, the eventual return of economic growth and a serious approach to debt.

Obama was strongest when it came to rescuing the banking system, promising to "act with the full force of the federal government" and to do "whatever proves necessary" to assure the flow of lending. This was an assertion of executive power in a time of crisis that Roosevelt would have understood and appreciated. The bank bailout is radical, involving the socialization of private-sector losses and a government plan to "force the necessary adjustments," "clean up their balance sheets" and ensure "continuity." But the alternatives to executive power in this case seem dismal. As an economic pragmatist, I was reassured.

On the issue of economic growth, Obama was less compelling. He talked of the need to "jump-start job creation" through public spending, admitting that "there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work." He answered those concerns by saying that "wasteful spending" would be met with "unprecedented oversight." But this is the old debater's trick of responding to an opponent's weakest objection.

The source of skepticism for many Americans is not the prospect of government waste but Obama's theory of job creation. It sounds somehow passe to assert it, but most jobs are created by private capital in the private sector, often by small businesses. And they got little policy attention in Obama's speech. An example Obama used -- retaining police officers -- is a worthy cause, but hardly typical of American job-creation. A small-business owner heard nothing about his daily struggles with litigation or regulation.

There is an element of psychology -- of confidence -- in taking the risks of entrepreneurship and small-business expansion. It is difficult to imagine how that confidence is built by being ignored.

Obama was even less credible on the issue of debt. Most Americans seem to accept the need for the temporary deficit spike to provide a jolt to the economy. But Obama's pledges to go "line by line through the federal budget" and to remove "waste, fraud and abuse" were the most tired portions of his energetic speech -- and simply not credible with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in vivid green over his left shoulder.

On long-term debt -- the crisis of unsustainable entitlements in an aging society -- Obama was timid. These massive, future obligations raise the prospect of higher interest rates and inflation, and threaten to crowd out spending on a variety of national and humanitarian goals. Many would eagerly accept large short-term deficits in exchange for a grand bargain to get entitlement spending under control. There are innovative ideas being floated on Capitol Hill, such as the SAFE Commission, which would recommend entitlement reforms and present those proposals to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Obama did not choose to spend his political capital on confronting the entitlement crisis -- which is understandable, but hardly courageous.

Obama's rhetoric this week was reassuring. But on the economy, many of us are only partially reassured.


          Neither Obama nor Mc Cain! The United States needs a revolutionary government. It is necessary to destroy capitalism like a furious animal and ...   

by Yanick Toutain
MONSYTE oct 30, 2008
REVACTU oct 14 2016





Obama is a puppet with a program of Wall Street

To drive out the capitalists and their puppets is needed a revocable govt
(written  oct 30, 2008)





US CITIZENS NEED IN 2016 AS IN 2008

3) A HUMANOCRATIC REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT

The current joke is a modern form of dictatorship.

The cranium stuffing of Obama and the million and the million dollars of the bank are the response to the stuffing of the ballot boxes and fakings of the Bush gang of 2004.

All that to make more than 700 billion dollars gifts to the friends Obama: a capitalist socialism!

All that is a carnival in front of the tanks and the guns of the traders.

OBAMA EAST A PUPPET WITH A PROGRAM OF WALL STREET

TO DRIVE OUT THE CAPITALISTS AND THEIR PUPPETS

IS NEEDED A REVOCABLE GOVERNMENT!

The citizens must meet by 25 to choose a revocable delegate among them.

They can also choose an intermediary which will represent 5 people, 5 délégateurs, then 5 intermediaries will choose a delegate (who will represent the 25 délégateurs)


These delegates are revocable at any moment.


With 5 stages of delegates, a delegate represents 9.76 million délégateurs.

25 delegated 5° stage thus represent more than 240 million délégateurs


These delegates are revocable constantly.

There is no list system. There is no time of mandate.

It is not possible any more to corrupt a delegate: he would be ejected at once.

These delegates are it by all the citizens knowing to read. Youth, as from 7 years will be able to choose its delegates.



JEUDI 30 OCTOBRE 2008


Neither Obama nor Mc Cain! The United States needs a revolutionary government. It is necessary to destroy capitalism like a furious animal and ...


automatic translation with Babelfish Systran Yahooo
(if you find some mistakes, you can give your help ! thanks !)



Neither Obama nor Mc Cain! The United States needs a revolutionary government. It is necessary to destroy capitalism like a furious animal and to found an egalitarian liberal system.

IT IS NECESSARY TO CLOSE THE TRADE MARKETS! IT IS NECESSARY TO CLOSE THE BANKS !


What would make an egalitarian government in the USA?

EMERGENCY

As of the first day, the government will take 5 simple measurements.

1) 1000 DOLLARS for consumption

The urgency is to pour 1000 dollars per month for each citizen of more than 14 years, 500 dollars per young person of less than 14 years.

An egalitarian government will give a Web page to each unemployed, with each person in looking for a job, each person having a project, each student, each person leaving her employment to be made, truly, useful, with each person wanting to leave her employment.


STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS

Each recipient of these 1000 dollars per month will return account to its fellow-citizens of the social activity which it will have decided to implement.

The disappearance of wage-earning, it will be the single wages.

The trade unions formois with their “always more! ” lie you.

A revolutionary government will ensure each citizen a decent life


A dream formois, a middle-class dream: to be owner of a house, to be owner of a ground.

Each house will be rented a moderate price: 5 dollars the square meter.

All houses.

In the event of competition, free biddings between the new citizens (paid 1000 euros) will decide between the concurrents*.


Egalitarianism does not accept the property of the grounds, the property of the buildings.

The 70% of States-Uniens owners are the superones, robbers of the Third world, robbers the Land ones.

The revolution will be done for the benefit those which America crushed, for the benefit of the 30% of poorest of the States-Uniens and those which are crushed by the iron Heel to be precipitated towards poverty.


Perhaps to conclude their projects, their social proposals, the new citizens will need investments.

2) 300 DOLLARS FOR the INVESTMENT

In a world without banks, without capitalists, credit, the construction of the future is not made the democratic investment.

Each manufacturer of project, the new Bill Gates, new Walt Disney, the new pupil of Google will need investments, of buildings to be rented, machines to be bought, working capital.

The world to come will be a true liberal world.

But not a world of asses which advance for carrots!

To work will not bring back anything except the pleasure of being useful: Here is the key of the New World, the New Border!



DEMOCRATIC CONTROL OF THE INVESTMENT

They will be the citizens who will hold the investment: they will pour 300 dollars with their preferred projects.

More taxes to be paid for the new citizens. The reverse. The exact opposite one.

IN FINISHING WITH the POLITICIANS WHO CONTROL the INVESTMENT.

NEITHER CAPITALISM NOR STALINISM!

A company which functions needs investments. They are the citizens, who, by Internet, will pour their investments citizens.

For the car, for space research, the biological research, research in physics, the armed forces, the assistance with the cousins of the colonized countries, for education, health, the construction of shopping malls, of various factories, for the financing of films, video games, of software, for the implementation of ecological projects, of natural parks, it is the citizen who will decide.

A TRUE LIBERALISM

Will each citizen be the Master of his 300 dollars?

The only condition will be its satisfying.

Each financing will be public: each citizen invests his 300 dollars on his site of citizen, each one can consult the financings of each one.

It is out of the question that somebody can fake his investment by transforming it into disguised consumption.

Not question of financing the restaurant of your cousin or a friend in exchange of free meal, not question of financing the recording of the group which sings your own songs, not question of financing a project in exchange of the financing of another project.

THE REPUTATION, THE FUTURE CAPITAL MORE DEVELOPS

In the event of faking, the citizens corrupt officials will quickly be sanctioned: the reputation which is theirs will go down in freefall.

Consequently, their capacity to assemble their own projects will take a severe blow.

As well as the reputation of their accomplices.

The companies will be companies with nonlucrative goal.

Free associations of contractors.

But nobody has anything.

3) A DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT

The current joke is a modern form of dictatorship.

The cranium stuffing of Obama and the million and the million dollars of the bank are the response to the stuffing of the ballot boxes and fakings of the Bush gang of 2004.

All that to make more than 700 billion dollars gifts to the friends Obama: a capitalist socialism!

All that is a carnival in front of the tanks and the guns of the traders.

OBAMA EAST A PUPPET WITH A PROGRAM OF WALL STREET

TO DRIVE OUT THE CAPITALISTS AND THEIR PUPPETS

IS NEEDED A REVOCABLE GOVERNMENT!

The citizens must meet by 25 to choose a revocable delegate among them.

They can also choose an intermediary which will represent 5 people, 5 délégateurs, then 5 intermediaries will choose a delegate (who will represent the 25 délégateurs)


These delegates are revocable at any moment.


With 5 stages of delegates, a delegate represents 9.76 million délégateurs.

25 delegated 5° stage thus represent more than 240 million délégateurs


These delegates are revocable constantly.

There is no list system. There is no time of mandate.

It is not possible any more to corrupt a delegate: he would be ejected at once.

These delegates are it by all the citizens knowing to read. Youth, as from 7 years will be able to choose its delegates.


4) DISSOLUTION OF FORCES IMPÉRIALISTES


The totality of the soldiers imperialists, abroad, will be called, as of the first day to remain in their barracks and to prepare their immediate return in the USA.

The generals and with graded fascistic will be delivered to justices of the occupied countries. Whatever the shapes of governments!

In order to be there judged according to the laws of the countries that the fascistic government of Wall Street will have decided to occupy.



5) AGAINST THE LID CARBON: TAX CARBON and RATION COUPONS



All the taxes and excise duties will be removed and replaced by a single tax.

The tax carbon.

This tax will be based on the purchase of ration coupons carbon bought to the poor Mexicans and in all the South American who emit less than 1,8 kilos of carbon per day.





SUCH ARE THE SPOTS THAT SE WOULD FIX, THE FIRST DAY, A REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT IN THE USA.



These tasks will be, well, obviously, the complement of defensive measurements that such a government would be obliged to take against the plotters and other counter-revolutionaries who put the country at his boot since the time when the writer visionary Jack London denounced the Iron Heel.






*Only the citizens without fortune, having only 1000 dollars per month of incomes, will be able to profit from such biddings.

The owners will pour them-also to them rent of 5 dollars: the revolution does not recognize the real estate.

With wages of 1000 dollars, the biddings will not go up very high.

As for great fortunes, lawsuits in criminal monopolization will reduce the number of gangster in the country.

A Michael Jackson will quickly find in one 2 room appartment and her properties transformed into universities for all the ages.





          Fundamentals in place for Gold with Fed Tightening amid Unjustified Stock Market Valuations   
The S&P 500 Index has reached new, all-time highs. While the current stock market does not have the same feeling of mania seen before the tech bust, in the context of an economy that struggles to achieve 2% growth, we struggle to justify current stock market valuations – and remember, the Fed is tightening. Gold should also benefit if the US dollar trend seen so far in 2017 continues.
          Terms of Endearment   
This nation is badly split.  The presidential election this cycle accurately reflects the acrimony and small-ness that pervades our political perceptions.  As we perseverate over minutiae, our country languishes in self-imposed malaise and our economy teeters on the brink of disaster.   What makes the hyperpartisanship worse is the fact that the country is split almost […]
          Data Science Economy: Kako izvući najbolje iz podataka i razumjeti što nam govore?   

Jeste li već prihvatili tehnologiju kao nužnost? Pametni telefoni i nisu toliko pametni ako nemaju pristup podacima i servisima koji se nalaze u "oblaku". Probajte na trenutak isključiti svoju mobilnu ili WiFI vezu na telefonu - vrlo je vjerojatno da vam većina aplikacija neće raditi - naime, te aplikacije su samo veza s inteligencijom koja se nalazi negdje daleko od vas, na poslužiteljima velikih organizacija.

Post Data Science Economy: Kako izvući najbolje iz podataka i razumjeti što nam govore? je prvi puta viđen na Netokracija.


          Kako The Economist koristi ‘big data’, saznaj na konferenciji u Zagrebu   

Kako monetizirati podatke, stvarati poslovnu vrijednost iz nestrukturiranih podataka i razumjeti sadržaj kroz podatke, tema je konferencije Data Science Economy koja će se održati u srijedu, 28. lipnja. Među govornicima koji dolaze u Zagreb su Steve Lok iz The Economista te Dmitry Turchyn iz Microsofta.

Post Kako The Economist koristi ‘big data’, saznaj na konferenciji u Zagrebu je prvi puta viđen na Netokracija.


          Bring back the Harrier - and save us millions!   
More evidence millions of pounds of taxpayers money wasted through government incompetence and the wrong cuts exposed today.

I've always thought that the Conservatives decision to scrap the versatile Harrier jump jet was a false economy - and not just because of the Harrier's close association with our part of the world - with RAF Wittering near Stamford long known as 'The Home of the Harrier'. RAF Cottesmore - also close to Stamford - provided what turned out to be last UK base for the Harrier.

Years ago, as a TA soldier on exercise, I recall being enormously impressed with seeing the Harrier close-up, and with the RAF ground-crew who kept them air-worthy, replacing engines in the middle of a forest in a couple of hours.

I bet you can't do that with your new fangled Typhoon jets!

But even I was shocked at reports today's Sun newspaper that 60 Harriers had just been given a £750 million revamp before they were decommissioned and stored in hangers at RAF Cottesmore near Stamford.

What a waste of our cash!

Even worse, as I have always believed, scrapping the Harrier would prove to be at best to be a false economy - and at worst a down-right incompetent decision.

It seems that experts believe that instead of sending RAF Harriers to help enforce the NATO no-fly zone over Libya, what are described as 'inappropriate' Typhoons have been sent.

Typhoons are operational as air defence assets - and can't be converted to an air-to-ground role until 2016.

Even worse, the RAF is forced to operate long-range at huge expense from bases in Italy as UK has no carrier to use as a platform to launch operations over Libya.

When Cameron committed UK in support of the NATO role in Libya, Tory politicians lined up to say we didn't need a carrier off Libya - even if we had the option of sending one, which we don't).

So why has France sent a carrier - and twice as many aircraft as UK.

Sadly, the most galling (forgive the pun) aspect of the whole debacle is the Sun's estimate that - despite massive cuts to public services across UK - we're shelling out £30 MILLION A WEEK to do the business in Libya against an estimated cost of 'only' £40 million a YEAR if we sent in the Harriers!
          Deal Website Purchase.org Introduces a Unique Business Model, Allowing Customers to Save on Purchases and Support Charities at the Same Time   

Purchase.org shows that by supporting the local economy through deal purchases, consumers can, not only feel good, but also enjoy discounts on products and services while also contributing to local charities.

(PRWeb September 24, 2012)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/9/prweb9934876.htm


          Trading Progress for Equality in the Global Economy   
If the history of multilateralism is any indication, it often takes hierarchy to get things done.
          How Job Applicants Can Really Stand Out   

A common complaint shared by many job applicants is that they never receive a response to their application. In fact, according to the 2015 CareerBuilder Candidate Behavior Study only 14% of job applicants feel that companies are responsive. On the flip side, 29% of employers feel there are simply too many candidates to respond to. So what can an applicant do to increase their chances of getting noticed?


          Andrei Anikin, Science in Its Youth: Pre-Marxian Political Economy   
Andrei Anikin, Science in Its Youth: Pre-Marxian Political Economy

Formats Available
.PDF
This book traces the link of major modern trends and ideas in political economy to economic doctrines 'of the past. With high scholarship warmed by humor, the reader is introduced to a host of earlier economic thinkers-Boisguillebert, Petty, Quesnay, Turgot, Smith, Ricardo, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, and many others.

Their ideas are revealed against the background o( the age in which they. lived and wrote. The author Andrei Vladimirovich Anikin (Born Sep. 9, 1927 in Tomsk. Died August 29, 2001) was a professor at Moscow University.

          A. Leontiev, Political Economy: A Beginner's Course   
A. Leontiev, Political Economy: A Beginner's Course

Formats Available
.DJVU
Originally published in the Soviet Union in 1935, this was a popular Stalinist textbook on Marxism and how it related to the problems of the day. The book was used in Communist Party study classes for years.

          LASER 2017: photonics now worth £12.9BN to UK economy   
Updated analysis by Photonics Leadership Group also indicates significantly higher productivity of the export-led sector. - Source: optics.org
          UK City of Culture status gives Hull boost in economy and local morale, study finds   
Six months into the year, the results are in and they are looking positive.
          Change May Be Coming   

Today on the 5: This article on the increasing sophistication of ad-blocking software makes me think we're coming to a tipping point in the way the web works.


          Toronto's Condo King declares Canadian economy solely dependent on foreign buyers   

Meet Brad Lamb. Faithful readers will recognize Lamb as Toronto's version of the Rainforest's Bob Rennie - aka 'the Condo King' of their respective cities.

If you haven't been keeping up, the centre of the universe has been awash in Lotusland Asian money overflow since the imposition of Krusty's 15% foreign buyers tax last September. Panic buying has gripped Toronto and suddenly there are calls from all corners for the Big Smoke to take BC style action and implement their own foreign buyers tax.

Of course all of this is curious since, just like Vancouver pre-tax, the local real estate industry has been adamant that Toronto house prices are not fuelled by foreign funds. In fact as recently as Jan 31, 2017 the Toronto Star newspaper noted the following denial by the Toronto Real Estate Board:
Don’t blame overseas investors for the high price of housing in the Toronto area, says the city’s real estate board. 
The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) released new research Tuesday showing only 4.9 per cent of the 113,133 residential real estate transactions in the Toronto region last year involved foreign buyers.
Now you would think that if only 4.9% of the market is impacted by foreign money, any discussion of a foreign buyers tax would be inconsequential to the industry.

But as political momentum gathers to implement just such a tax, the Condo King of Toronto comes out with a claim that utterly shreds the 4.9% narrative.

Today BNN reported that Lamb is publicly warning that "taxing foreign home buyers in the skyrocketing Toronto real estate market could trigger a national recession."
In an email sent to unit owners in his 17 buildings late Tuesday, Brad Lamb railed against the long-debated idea of a 15 per cent surcharge on buyers of Toronto properties who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents; similar to the one imposed in Vancouver in August 2016. Boasting of having “eaten, drank, and slept the Toronto real estate marketplace for 30 years,” the CEO of Lamb Developments argues such a tax would be “an egregious error in policy.” 
“In Toronto… it could also precipitate a Canada-wide recession,” Lamb wrote near the start of his roughly 1,300-word note. 
“Kill the new condo market, kill the Ontario economy. Kill the Ontario economy and Canada falls too,” Lamb wrote.
The Toronto Real Estate Industry now joins their Vancouver counter parts in trying to move heaven and earth to politically intervene in public policy dealing with the massive malinvestment created by the worldwide excess credit epidemic.

In the process we get another glimpse at how the Real Estate Board's claims about the impact of foreign money is completely detached from what their members on the ground know all too well.

==================

Photobucket
Email: village_whisperer@live.ca
Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.

          Asian Cash Losing Its Cachet? A Vancouver Realtor offers comfort to Reuters American readers   


On a day when all the local attention is focused on the release of the BC Provincial Budget, let's turn our attention to a small news item that probably slipped under your radar today.

NASDAQ.com posted an article by Reuters news service titled "Chinese investors find their cash is losing its cachet".

Apparently China's tightening capital controls are beginning to be felt in North America as Chinese firms struggle to close deals owing to lack of FX. As a result,  overseas direct investment is dropping sharply.  North American sellers want Chinese buyers to provide proof of funds and such deal scrutiny is hurting investor confidence.

According to Reuters:
"Chinese investors have been highly sought after the world over. Now, their cash is losing its cachet. China's increasing efforts to prevent capital from leaving the country are eroding the confidence of domestic and foreign investors about getting deals done inside and outside of the world's second-biggest economy. Chinese bidders had become ubiquitous in deals in the past two years and were welcomed, said Severin Brizay, head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa mergers and acquisitions for the investment bank UBS. 'Clients were asking if it would be possible to make sure they are involved. Now, we are seeing the reverse: some clients are asking if we can do it without Chinese bidders because of the domestic challenges they face,' he said.
Those at the heart of brokering investment deals with Chinese investors say that many Chinese firms are unable to close deals because they can not secure official permission to transfer yuan into foreign exchange.

This, of course, follows a series of capital control measures China implemented late last year to tighten restrictions on capital outflows and rein in what officials have called "irrational" outbound investment.

The Institute of International Finance estimated capital outflows surged to a record $725 billion last year and it expects even higher outflows this year. The yuan fell more than 6.5% last year against the US dollar, its steepest decline since 1994, prompting the central bank to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in reserves to prevent the slide from turning into a slump.

The most interesting of the facts presented are that Overseas Direct Investment (ODI) by Chinese in December fell almost 40% from a year earlier to $8.41 billion, the lowest monthly level in 2016.

In January, overseas property purchases by Chinese corporations plunged. In one case, a Chinese investor was unable to get permission from authorities to exchange yuan into $30 million to close a U.S. deal, a consultant involved in the project said. The planned $100 million investment in a U.S. residential property portfolio fell through.
"Sellers nowadays will request certain proof," said Jeffrey Sun, a Shanghai-based partner at the legal practice of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe. "From the sellers' side, the worry is justified."
Reuters goes on to outline how fund managers that help Chinese investment abroad are "freaking out" and are searching for creative ways to circumvent capital control regulations.

But perhaps the best part of the article is the ending, which turns to the Village on the Edge of the Rainforest for reassurance and I'm sure will warm the hearts of all local real estate agents... and infuriate many frustrated with government complacency:
"Chinese conglomerate HNA Group announced about $20 billion in outbound deals last year. Thomson Reuters data shows it raised at least $17.05 billion in loans abroad in 2016. Overall, China's outbound investment hit a record last year but could have been much higher, said the Rhodium Group, a consultancy that tracks direct investment from China. It said a record 30 deals worth $74 billion and involving Chinese companies were cancelled in the United States and Europe in 2016.
"Right now everybody is thoroughly freaked out by capital controls," Daniel Rosen, a Rhodium partner and adjunct professor at Columbia University, said. Still, on Vancouver's upscale West Side, a neighborhood popular with foreign buyers where the price of homes runs in the millions of dollars, realtor Tom Gradecak was less worried about Chinese demand. In the past, Chinese investors have tended to find ways around capital controls, he said. "It won't take them long," he said. "The people that really want to come here, I don't think it's going to stop them."
Of course Gradecak would say that. Krusty just gutted the Foreign Buyers Tax to help make that happen, didn't she?

==================


Photobucket
Email: village_whisperer@live.ca
Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.

          Wed Post #1: Is Horgan as incompetent as Adrian Dix?   


A few years back we criticized the BCNDP: before the election for choosing a Dix - a candidate the electorate would have difficulty voting for; and after the election for choosing Horgan - a candidate who we've suggested wasn't the right person for the job if the BCNDP wants to form the next government.

We see little today to alter that impression.

As you will recall our current Premier, Krusty, adeptly remade the BC Liberals after the resignation of Gordon Campbell and leveraged the built in weaknesses that Dix brought to the table as the BCNDP candidate in the last election (his inherent ties to the corrupt Glen Clark government) and swept to a victory almost no one saw coming on election night. A victory on par for shock value that Donald Trump recently executed over Hillary Clinton.

Four years later, Krusty had seemly failed to heed the lessons of the Gordon Campbell implosion and - until last summer - looked destined for a loss in the upcoming May Provincial elections.

In early 2016 the BC Liberals were being hammered by the BCNDP's David Eby.

Eby is a relative newcomer and a bit of a rising star. He first shot to prominence when he was elected the BCNDP MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey in the 2013 provincial election shocker. In an upset victory for the ages, victory was tempered for Krusty by the fact Eby actually defeated her in Clark's own affluent west side Vancouver riding by 1,063 votes.

Krusty was forced to get into the house through an Okanagan by-election months later.

Since then, as housing critic, Eby has masterfully leveraged the havoc that massive worldwide excess credit is wreaking on the Lower Mainland.

This is no small accomplishment considering it's the policies of the Bank of Canada, CMHC and federal government that are to blame, not the BC Provincial Government.

But inaction by Krusty to do what she could to mitigate the damage was creating a rising tide of public resentment. Eby acurrately painted the BC Liberals as being in bed with their Real Estate Development cronies and tied that connection into exacerbating the Vancouver situation.

It struck a chord with the public and Eby was making massive inroads into the BC Libs political support.

Some even wondered if Eby's performance was Leader worthy.

Krusty responded - big time. In a move that astonished even this humble scribe, the BC Liberals imposed a 15% Foreign Buyers tax. Krusty read the mood of the people and moved with lightening speed to enact a significant policy change.

It was roundly cheered by many - both as significant and potentially effective.

By mid September, 2016 the BC Liberals were able to ride the benefits of both a runaway housing market and their attempts to contain it. They announced that, "the B.C. government had raked in $2.2 billion in revenue from the property transfer tax and the new 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver homes."

That’s a billion dollars more than the government had projected.

As the National Post noted, "That enormous windfall caused Liberal MLAs to break out into a spontaneous conga line through the legislature. Finance Minister Mike de Jong was forecasting a surplus of $1.94 billion, up from an earlier projection of $264 million. He then announced that $500 million from the property tax would fund a housing affordability program and another $400 million would go into the B.C. prosperity fund “as a legacy for future generations,” he said. And this, for the cherry on top: The surplus allowed the government to scrap a planned four-per-cent increase in medical service plan premiums. It wasn’t as tasty a treat as an announcement to revamp or scrap the loathsome MSP entirely would have been. But it did make the medicine go down more easily."

Krusty had neutered the BCNDP criticisms and turned the tide heading into the May 2017 Provincial election.

But in the last three weeks there has been an astonishing about face in the BC Liberal position. Faced with a total collapse in real estate sales (luxury sales down 91% and Vancouver home sales plunged 40%) Krusty has been under enormous pressure to undo the steps she took last September.

Finally she cracked, backtracked and bowed to the pressures of the Real Estate Developers - to the major donors to BC Lib political coffers.

So where is David Eby as this happens? He has been all but invisible.

And now as Toronto housing market starts replicating the excesses seen in Vancouver, the Bank of Montreal publicly declares that Toronto's housing market in a bubble.

And what is a bubble as per BMO economist Douglas Porter?;
“It’s when prices become dangerously detached from economic fundamentals and start rising strongly simply because people believe they will keep rising strongly, encouraging more buying."
That's a definition that describes Vancouver to a tee.

So here you have Canada's major banks finally calling the situation for what it is. And in the midst of it all, Krusty and the BC Liberals are throwing gasoline on a raging fire by gutting the 15% Foreign Buyers tax and introducing the new 'first time homebuyers' giveaway. And it appears to be directly linked to threats by BC Real Estate Developers to yank political donations.

Why isn't David Eby front and center holding the BC Liberal's feet to the fire over this?

You have to wonder if there is a backstory within the BCNDP here.

==================

Photobucket
Email: village_whisperer@live.ca
Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.

          Wed Feb 1st Post #2: Did you know the Housing Bubble in North America was deliberately created by the Feds?   

Since we are returning, we thought we'd throw up a few posts reviewing how we got to where we are with our Canadian Housing Bubble.

With all the intense press attention on our housing bubble over the last year or so, China has become the scapegoat for all our housing woes.  And while the world is awash in Chinese money today, it's important to acknowledge the home grown roots of our problem.

And to understand that... it's crucial to recall how the CMHC was specifically instructed by the Harper Conservatives to create our housing bubble.

"Say what?", you exclaim!

It's true.  What is even more astonishing is that the United States also deliberately created their housing bubble too.

Both nation's predicaments were deliberately crafted.

After the dot com crash of 1999 and the 2001 terrorist attacks, America had a choice of entering a painful recession (which critics say was desperately needed to correct the imbalance of excessive monetary stimulus in the 1990s) or politicians could kick the can down the road and artificially inflate the economy.

Economist Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times on August 2, 2002,  identified the problem:
The basic point is that the recession of 2001 wasn't a typical postwar slump, brought on when an inflation-fighting Fed raises interest rates and easily ended by a snapback in housing and consumer spending when the Fed brings rates back down again. 
This was a prewar-style recession, a morning after brought on by irrational exuberance. 
To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.
Yes... you read that correctly. To offset a morbid economy, leading economists were recommending that the US Government and the US Federal Reserve create a housing bubble so that consumers could use that 'sense of wealth' to drive the economy with consumer spending.

The creation of a housing bubble was a deliberate economic stimulus move.

And Canada followed America's lead on this.

In America, from 2002-2008, President George W. Bush almost singlehandedly, through cheap rates, lax regulation, government housing subsidies, presidential boosterism and financial engineering, managed to get the home ownership rate to 70%.

Following the lead of Republicans in the US, the Canadian Government saw the success of this plan and began pumping the Ownership Society as well. Gifts, incentives and inducements were showered on home buyers and the result was demand swelled, prices popped and a bubble was born.

The main vehicle for these inducements was the CMHC, or the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Founded after World War II to provide housing for returning soldiers, the CMHC's role has grown dramatically in the following 70 years.  A Crown corporation owned by the Government of Canada, it's main function today is  providing insurance for residential mortgage loans to Canadian home buyers. (Note: This insurance isn't for the Canadian who buys a home, rather it protects mortgage lenders against mortgage defaults by home buyers on mortgages with less than 20% down)

Here's how CMHC and mortgages in Canada evolved in the 2000s:
  • Prior to 1999 you needed 10% for a mortgage and that mortgage had a maximum amortization of 25 years.  CMHC also had limits on how much you could buy with their insurance.
  • Just after 1999 CMHC lowered the down payment to 5% with price limits on how much they would insure depending on the area. Amortizations were still 25 years. There would be no price limit on what they would insure if 10% or more was put down.
  • By Sept. 2003 CMHC allowed 5% down on 25 yr amortizations but they removed all price ceiling limitations. Now any mortgage would be insured regardless of the value of home purchased. 
  • In March 2004 CMHC began allowing Flex-Down products which permitted the 5% down to be borrowed and 1.5% closing costs to be borrowed (essentially zero down, but 95% insured).
  • In March 2006 you had  0% down, 30 yr amortizations. This became 0% down, 35 yr amortizations later in the year.  Interest only payments were allowed for 10 years.
  • In November 2006 CMHC began allowing 0% down, 40 yr amortizations along with interest only payments for 10 years. 
  • Canadian banks ramped this up by allowing up to 7% cash back offers is you would take on a mortgage with them.  You could basically get paid if you bought a house.
  • Not only were the rules surrounding the granting of money loosened, but CMHC's cap for granting mortgages grew from $100 Billion in 2006 to almost $600 Billion by 2014.
Right there, in all those details, is where all the money originated to fund our housing bubble.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government altered mortgage and tax rules to the point we had the zero down, forty year mortgage. They allowed Canadians to raid RRSP's for down payments. They created the Home Reno Tax Credit. They gave us the first-time buyer's closing cost gift and they instituted the infamous 'emergency interest rate' which has kept interest rates artificially low since 2009 - an astonishing 8 years! 

Harper's Conservatives gave us more pro-real estate initiatives than Canadians had seen in the last quarter-century.

But wait... there's more!

The most astonishing element, in addition to of all this, was something that has been effectively buried. Something that, now that the mainstream Canadian media have finally turned their attention to the chaos being created by all this malinvestment in Real Estate, are completely unaware of.

Back in 2009 we profiled series of excellent articles put out by Murray Dobbin. One of them, Dobbin's 2009 article titled 'Why Canada's Housing Bubble Will Burst', garnered significant interest in the blogosphere. In that article he stated:
  • In an effort to prop up the real estate market in 2008 (when affordability nosedived), the Harper government directed the CMHC to approve as many high-risk borrowers as possible and to keep credit flowing. CMHC described these risky loans as "high ratio homeowner units approved to address less-served markets and/or to serve specific government priorities." The approval rate for these risky loans went from 33 per cent in 2007 to 42 per cent in 2008. By mid-2007, average equity as a share of home value was down to six per cent -- from 48 per cent in 2003. At the peak of the U.S. housing bubble, just before it burst, house prices were five times the average American income; in Canada today that ratio is 7.4:1 -- almost 50 per cent higher.
That's a stunning statement. He's saying the Harper Government specifically directed the CMHC to approve risky loans in an attempt to keep the economy afloat and blow the Housing Bubble even bigger.

Shortly after the article was written, this blog contacted Dobbin and asked him about the source for this comment.

Dobbin stated he got the reference from a CMHC report which was freely available on the CMHC website.  

Your dutiful scribes from this blog checked out the document and read it personally.  Unfortunately we did not download a copy (and if anyone out there did, we would love to know).

Dobbin's statement was confirmed, CMHC stated in that document that they had been directed by the government to approve as many high-risk borrowers as possible.

A few months later, when a curious reader asked us about the source for this quote, we went to the CMHC site to forward the link to the report.  It was then we noticed the report had been removed.   When we asked Dobbin about it, he also noted (with surprise) that the report was gone from the CMHC website.  Dobbin also had failed to download a copy.

Dobbin columns had obviously struck a nerve and CMHC were directed to remove the document from their website.

Curiously Wikipedia incorporated Dobbin's information into it's database about the CMHC.

Don't bother to look for it now, tho. Curiously, when we went to reference the site for our original post on this several years ago we discovered that the Wiki CMHC page had undergone a significant sanitization.

Gone was the notation about CMHC being directed by the Conservative Government to change policy to approve more high risk borrowers.  Also removed were all the statistics about the ballooning level of CMHC backed mortgages.

In it's place are bland descriptions of CMHC functions. 

At the top of the page is this warning bar (click on image to enlarge):


If anyone is interested what the Wiki page used to say, you can still find it at a website called 'the full wiki'. It contains the old information that the Wiki page used to hold. 

In Slide #7 it states: "In 2008, Canadian home prices started to dip as affordability become the worst on record in many cities. CMHC publicly admitted that it was ordered to approve as many high risk borrowers as possible to prop up the housing marked and keep credit flowing."

That is a stunning acknowledgement.

When the American housing bubble popped in 2008, the Conservatives bet heavily they could shield our boom from the 2008 financial crisis. What they did to add fuel to a powder keg which has now grown insanely large as other Central Banks (US Fed and Peoples Bank of China) have flooded the world with Quantitative Easing and excess credit.

But make no mistake. The foundation of this massive bubble started at home - with the manipulation of CMHC policies.

(Below are the screen shots of the original Wiki site on CMHC before it was sanitized)











==================

Email: village_whisperer@live.ca
Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.

          How bad could it be?   

he numbers are becoming increasingly clear; the bloom is off of the Canadian real estate bubble and boom.

Among a variety of indicators, sales of condos in the second quarter of this year in Toronto have fallen by half and a record number of units were left unsold. In Vancouver July residential sales were the lowest for any July in ten years and fell 11.2% from the month of June.

While prices are not dropping yet, the fact that commentators from the business and real estate communities themselves believe a 15% downward adjustment in prices is imminent means that we can likely expect a greater decrease. These are, after all, people whose best interests are served by minimizing any potential housing market panic.

The increasingly interventionist actions being taken by the Conservative government and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to dampen the market, counter-intuitively if one does not really understand what is behind the real estate market boom of the past few years in the first place, also shows that the powers that be are worried. Very worried.

And they are worried for good reason. It was the government itself that facilitated the creation of the overheated market and it is the government that is ultimately on the hook for the tab should an American style meltdown occur. Which means that, in the end, you are on the hook.

Many of us have, from grade school on, been inculcated with the notion that we live in a "free market" society where prices reflect the interplays between supply and demand that fluctuate due to the rational economic decisions of buyers and sellers. For those who truly enjoy simplistic fantasies our own publicly owned broadcaster, the CBC, has programs with imbecilic "commentators" like Kevin O'Leary or that are cheerleaders for a world that exists only in the demented dreams of libertarians, such as the hilariously summer school economic "thinking" that the radio show "The Invisible Hand" soothes those who might doubt neo-conservative ideas with. Both on, ironically, a "tax-payer" funded network.

But the actual economy is much more of a planned Pyramid Scheme where the greater a company or sector's economic clout and the higher up they are in the pyramid in terms of importance to the fundamental soundness of the country's economy in the eyes of the government, the less they face the vagaries of actual market forces. The nearer to the pinnacle, the more the government intervenes, directly and indirectly. This has been true for decades, but was made most obvious during the 2008-2009 bailouts.

In the case of housing, Canadian society has raised the concept of personal home ownership to near fetishistic levels. It is part of the "Canadian Dream" that you will own your own little plot of land (or sky, in the case of condos). It is a logical extension of what originally brought many to the so-called "New World" in the first place a hundred or more years ago; only now the land is far from free for those who wish to settle it. A staggering number of citizens buy into the notion that owning a home represents some kind of freedom, despite the reality that "their" home is actually usually owned, for at least the first twenty-five years, by whoever provided them with a mortgage. Missing a few mortgage payments will make this abundantly clear.

Given the centrality that personal home ownership holds to the sense of self-actualization of much of the electorate, it is hardly surprising that, especially if it felt that the economy might be stalling, a government might chose to make sure that the "free market" worked in such a way that it would continue to facilitate this dream as a highly dangerous form of "stimulus".

And this is precisely what the Canadian government did in the period after 2008.

Under the auspices of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) the Canadian government has insured the mortgages that Canada's banks have provided to Canadians to the tune of a projected $558 billion this year. This figure, one might note, represents over one-third of Canada's total GDP! This is up dramatically since 2007-2008, directly due to the fact that the government raised the limit on mortgages that CMHC could insure from $450 billion to $600 billion and loosened the rules on what types of mortgage would qualify.

Insured means exactly what you think it does. In the event that Canadians begin to default on their mortgages, and in the event that this default level were to reach the point where the CMHC could no longer cover defaults, the government of Canada, and, therefore, you will be on the hook for the bank's "losses". As Chris Horlacher of the free market, right-wing think-tank, the Ludwig-von-Mises Instistute of Canada shows, the inability of the CMHC to cover defaults in the event of a real bubble burst is highly likely. This is due to the fact that the CMHC's "assets" are largely identical to what it is insuring, namely mortgages! "In the event of a severe downturn in the mortgage market, claims will start pouring in. The CMHC (nor any kind of insurance company) never possesses enough cash to cover all of these potential liabilities, they invest it. The problem here is that the CMHC has bought the very same assets they are insuring against. If the mortgage market collapses, so too will the value of the assets of the CMHC, making them extraordinarily difficult to liquidate in order to raise the cash necessary to pay out their claimants. It’s a catch-22 that spells potential disaster and deeply impairs their ability to actually insure against this particular type of credit risk."

Given this, Horlacher goes on to conclude that "The CMHC remains highly susceptible to even a slight increase in the rate of mortgage defaults, or a rise in interest rates. With the federal government, and ultimately the Canadian taxpayer, on the hook for all of the CMHC’s liabilities we could soon find ourselves in an extremely difficult financial position."

In other words, to facilitate the accessibility of easy credit the federal government took the risk to the banks out of potentially risky mortgages and laid them at our doorsteps.

In addition, for several years, in response to the economic crisis that began in 2008, the government allowed the CMHC to insure mortgages with amortization periods above 25 years, with lower down-payment requirements and with unsustainable, artificially low interest rates courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

This had a direct and intended consequence. It allowed the banks to offer mortgages to people who, in reality, could not really afford to enter the market and this, in turn, allowed those people to, in fact, enter the market. The reality of how this plays out can be seen from the fact that housing prices have risen far more rapidly than income. (These figures also lay to the rest the myth that the Canadian housing market is only experiencing a bubble in two of its major centres. The bubble is far more widespread than that.)

Taking these steps did stimulate growth in the construction industry and helped to dig the banks out of their recently uncovered, and previously denied, liquidity crisis. But it also had the effect of creating what amounts to artificial "demand" for houses and condos in many urban markets, most notably, but far from exclusively, in Vancouver and Toronto. This, in turn, drove prices up in dramatic ways, leading the banks to extend riskier credit to citizens desperate to get in on the action who, in turn were encouraged by the government created environment to buy properties that, by any objective standards, are out of their price range.

The CMHC, an organization that was originally formed, in part, to help to put home ownership within the reach of the average Canadian has recently done so by placing them into dangerous debt situations in an artificially created price bubble where even relatively minor downturns in the economy or drops in housing prices can create an economic disturbance whose ripple effects could lead to economic consequences akin to what is happening in Spain.

The basic facts of this situation have been acknowledged by Flaherty himself who has clearly and repeatedly stated that household debt in Canada has reached levels that threaten economic stability. He has made these cautionary comments in ways that make it seem that he is warning citizens for their own benefit and against their own behaviour.

But there is more to it than that.

The real worry, enough to keep finance ministers awake at night and to get them to try to manage the burst of a bubble, is what will occur should the markets in Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere experience a rapid downward market adjustment in both prices and demand, especially if people who bought residential units for speculative purposes (and there are more of these than is commonly understood) or at the height of their value suddenly find themselves holding on to mortgages that face higher interest rates down the road and making payments on properties whose values have declined by 15-20% or more (should a runaway effect occur). Given that, in many cases, these people may actually have far less equity invested in their properties than one might suppose, there is a point where default makes a lot more "rational" economic sense then the decision to buy in the first place did.

The worry of financial analysts, and our finance minister no doubt, is compounded, as Finn Poschmann a vice-president at the C.D. Howe Institute noted, by the fact that "Since 2007, Canadian banks have increasingly come to the covered bond market with bonds backed, in whole or in part, by mortgages individually insured by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This insurance cover boosts the surety of the bond pool, and marginally lowers the banks’ cost of capital and, arguably, perhaps lowers the cost of homebuyers’ mortgages. But an otherwise functioning financial market also gains government and taxpayer participation, and risk exposure, to uncertain net benefit."

While he, of course, is looking at it from the perspective of the bankers, as he makes clear there are dangerous historical antecedents for this situation, and the government and taxpayers are, as Poshmann puts it "exposed".

This is an understatement.

In the end, this is a direct lesson in how governments help to create the conditions in which the present European style austerity regime becomes "necessary". The Canadian government, to aid with bank liquidity in 2008, to generate a kind of short-term, politically popular, but relatively high risk form of stimulus by loosening the reigns on personal credit accessibility and aiding very directly in the rise of the highly overheated Canadian housing market, and to help to sustain a middle-class fantasy that everyone should be able to afford a home even when we live in a system where this is not possible unless and until the government gets into the business of building and regulating housing as opposed to being the agent that props up the riskiest end of the entire housing sector, that of credit, has put us all at risk by underwriting the "exposure" of the banks themselves.

The government has chosen the most bank friendly model of "intervention" in the housing market; they don't build affordable housing for all, rather they allow the banks, at no risk to themselves, to put citizens into unsustainable levels of personal debt to own what is completely unaffordable housing.

If a real housing correction occurs, and if it results in an entirely predictable and at least somewhat likely wave of foreclosures and defaults, and if the government is forced to cover even a relatively small proportion of the near $600 billion in insured mortgages, the cuts of recent federal budgets will look like happy times with hindsight. The economic "side-effects" will also be devastating.

Even if this is a bullet that we do manage to dodge, Canadians need to ask themselves if the role of their government and their taxes is to fund social programs, health care, direct housing and infrastructure expenditures, or if it is to put all of these necessities at risk by removing actual market and risk factors from the mortgage business for the big banks by insuring and taking on liability for their loans and the lifestyle of a certain segment of the population, potentially on the backs of all Canadians.

==================

Email: village_whisperer@live.ca
Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.




          Nikon Coolpix Ogłoszenia (lehdistötiedote)   
Nikon Coolpix P300, P500, S9100, L120, S6100, S3100, S4100, L24 and devices are now official. If it is boring, full of press releases are as follows:
Nikon Coolpix P300

Melville, NY (February 8, 2011)% u2013 Today, Nikon Inc. has announced its new Coolpix P300, Nikon% u2019s first compact digital camera offers high-speed wide-angle 4.2x zoom-Nikkor glass (24mm-100mm, the 35 mm) corresponds to maximum aperture of f/1.8 to capture the entire image, good adhesion and the Full HD (1080p) in different light conditions. In addition, Visa NIKKOR Nikon Coolpix P300 with a 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and the lighting is equipped to assess other important Nikon technologies to complement the most difficult lighting conditions.

Designed for photo enthusiasts looking for creative, but not compromised quality for portability, versatile functionality to P300 manual, Vibration Reduction (VR) technology and sensitivity up to ISO 3200 These properties make still images and the shutter speed, which image blur in low light conditions reduced portraits at night, although the hand.

% U201CThe COOLPIX P300 reflects years of experience and prosperity, Nikkor highlight of this compact, offers users more creative freedom thirst,% u201D says Bo Kajiwara, marketing, Nikon Inc. u201CThe% P300 is the perfect choice for photographers seeking a compact full manual control and advanced features in order to encourage them to use their creativity a whole new level.% u201D

Excellent image quality in low light conditions

Applications in low light and barriers, the creation of new games COOLPIX P300. Excellent image quality has been achieved in low light conditions, because the% u2019s powerful combination of P300 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor with high ISO sensitivity and speed of a wide F / 1 Goal 8 P300-CMOS sensor is designed so that each pixel receives light the most efficient operation. Performance of up to ISO 3200 ensures that the low noise level and sharpness while the growth of transparency in the amount of light sensor. C2% u2019s Nikon's EXPEED image processing system is also in this phenomenal speed and performance images explode in brilliant colors and sharp involved.

When a new level of creativity

The purpose, compact users more freedom in creativity, P300 has many of the characteristics of digital SLR cameras, such as aperture priority (A), Shutter priority (S) and the full manual (full) Top Mounted easily control bike, you can take pictures from other cameras left, but the look they want and create images, shutter speed, depth of field, white balance and other parameters. Users can also apply color effects, effects and filters, how to search such as displaying a cross or a fisheye. P300 and Nikon% u2019s easy new way on-line, simply create a horizontal or vertical panoramas in the camera. Users can quickly and easily they can apply, and the review and release of images of P300% u2019s a high-resolution 921 000 pixels, 3-inch LCD screen.

New Nikon Coolpix P300 is also a scene modes including Night Scene Advanced best, night landscape, light, and a wide dynamic range (HDR) mode. If the Advanced Night Portrait mode is activated, the camera takes the essence of the night scenes by combining multiple images in the background problem in a sudden flash. Retro-Dynamic Range lighting, P300 combines several images with different exposure, night shot mode combines several images shutter speed and noise, the tonal range of the picture taken.

Although the image quality even in low light conditions pictures of the main features of the COOLPIX P300, the device also has an incredible video. Videos P300 Full HD 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) with auto focus, stereo sound and the ability to use optical zoom. If the P300 users can easily control the camcorder% u2019s work by pressing a button. In addition, special effects and creative Slider creative freedom always the videos and photos will be. Users can also adjust to slow down the write speed for special effects very quickly.

More COOLPIX the fight against low-level lighting

In addition, the COOLPIX P300, Nikon has also published several other Coolpix dim all the stars today, such as the COOLPIX P500 and S9100. Like the P300, P500 and S9100 captured sharp images in low light is poor and the information necessary to VR technology and CMOS backlight. P500, the Nikon% u2019s first major 36x optical Zoom-Nikkor ED Glass zoom lens on the right side and is flexible enough to take pictures that other cameras miss. S9100 is a camera a powerful 18x optical Zoom-Nikkor ED glass with wide-angle lens with powerful, compact and sophisticated, greater portability, a full stylish and useful.

Price and Availability

COOLPIX P300 is March 2011 and retail MSRP of $ 329.95 and is available in black. COOLPIX P500 will be available March 2011, retail $ 399.95 MSRP and is available in black and red. Coolpix S9100 will be available March 2011, retail $ 329.95 MSRP and is available in black, red and silver. For more information about the cameras and other COOLPIX cameras, please visit www.nikonusa.com .



Nikon Coolpix P500, S9100, L120

Melville, NY (February 8, 2011)% u2013, citing a tradition of innovation unmatched Nikkor Nikon Inc. introduced three new super-high-power zoom lens for Nikon Coolpix digital cameras, including a new 36x zoom, the COOLPIX P500 optical longest ever recorded in COOLPIX cameras zoom. Consumers, the telecommunications or low-cost thin Nikon Coolpix L120, the new S9100 and to increase the demand for a versatile and want to use compact, powerful, easy.

If you have photos or videos in HD from near and far, the Nikon is% u2019s a new super-COOLPIX cameras ideal for smaller rooms or outdoors. The new Coolpix P500 is a versatile compact 36x zoom lens for photo enthusiasts looking for the next adventure and new packages for Coolpix S9100 18x optical zoom stylish body ideal for light travel. To carry out this impressive new COOLPIX L120 combines a powerful 21x optical zoom, user-friendly functions of the family camera.

U201CToday% u2019s% of consumers would like to add a zoom, a camera that is small enough to jet-set is never in real life. Nikon listened to, and offers the best of both worlds of these three new PowerShot models, says% u201D Bo Kajiwara, marketing, Nikon Inc. u201CThese% of new offers three models of the Coolpix versatility of a star-Nikkor lens, while the portability of digital cameras.% u201D

COOLPIX technology

The focus of the new Nikon Coolpix% u2019s the world-famous Nikkor lenses, which provides more detail, vivid colors and incredible quality. Besides improving the color and sharpness, Nikon's EXPEED u2019s% u2122% C2 to implement an effective digital image processor optimized and adapted to each model of the COOLPIX high quality photos. Many useful features such as Scene Auto, Best Shot Selector and a portrait of an intelligent system COOLPIX assembly is designed to help the most novice photographer to take beautiful images easily.

New Nikon Coolpix P500: Beyond Super Tele

COOLPIX P500 is a 36x wide optical zoom-Nikkor ED glass, the barrier to solve a classic Tele%% u201D create u201Cultra compact premium. Shooting 22.5 mm super-wide angle to a staggering 810 mm (35 mm equivalent), the COOLPIX P500 save the best for the user% u2019s for excellent image quality even in difficult low light thanks to a 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor designed lights.

The first time, the COOLPIX P500 EXPEED image processor, dual-C2 performance, reduce noise and distortion corrected, and as films and photographs. With a 36x zoom, image stabilizer is exceptionally strong grip is necessary objects, such as focal lengths required. Sharp images, the COOLPIX P500 phone with hybrid stabilization Vibration Reduction (VR) VR VR includes both electronic sensors. To counteract this effect of camera shake, the new amendment has the zoom lens barrel components in order to increase the stability when photos and videos on the hand at a time.

The results allow continuous shooting speed (up to five images in full resolution of about one second) record CMOS sensor, the Coolpix P500 backlight unit of the fashion High Dynamic Range (HDR) to combine the images on the same subject with different exposures in a single image, a number of sonic detail. To improve performance in low light, night shot mode combines several successive images at a rate of recovery, image noise reduction when shooting night in his hand. In addition to portrait progressive series of images combined in the background when the subject is made in a flash, a beautiful night and indoor shooting.

To help users stay ahead of the function key, such as photography allows you to a new guide to the photographic image are constantly adding to the cache before the filming to take the pictures until you press service starts to dial. In addition to Coolpix P500 has many advanced features for advanced users, so a regular review of places as a new, intuitive mode dial that allows for easy control of frequently used functions on the fly. "

Other interesting features: Full HD (1080p), video recording with stereo sound and the ability to store and take photos and a wide range of optical zoom while recording with Auto Focus. The camera can also record speed is a slow motion special effects or fast. P500 offers an easy way to create new images automatically panoramic scene dynamic range and angles. Facilitate the composition and viewing and playing of photos and movies in high definition, the COOLPIX P500 is a high-resolution 3-inch (921 000 points), monitors the variable angle.

The new Coolpix S9100: Pocket Power Zoom

Wanderer, which is called the portability and flexibility, the new Coolpix S9100 an impressive 18x Wide-angle Zoom-Nikkor ED glass in a small body style% u2013 the most compact of the three. Wide-angle (25mm) is a super-telephoto (450 mm), all S9100 COOLPIX vast landscapes to capture distant objects with confidence. Provide excellent image quality even in low light is a CMOS sensor S9100 COOLPIX 12.1-megapixel sensor and ISO sensitivity up to 3200 back. S9100 also features an integrated backlit scene, HDR, Night Scene, Landscape, Night Portrait, and Nikon's VR% u2019s a hybrid.

To start the test, storage and distribution, the Coolpix S9100 is a high-resolution 3-inch, 921 000 pixel LCD, an improved user interface that lets you view and composition, and I chose to change frequently used functions more flexible. Coolpix S9100 is also a video recording Full HD (1080p) button, optical zoom, stereo sound and ability to images of the recordings here. Location of tourist attractions, the Coolpix S9100 is a new and easy way to overview and a series of special effects, film and art images.

The new COOLPIX L120: Great Performance Zoom

What is an easy and convenient way, unforgettable moments of the COOLPIX family recorded, the new L120 features a 21x wide-angle side of the glass fourteenth Zoom-Nikkor zoom Resolution 1 megapixels, image stabilization and high sensitivity ISO 6400 hybrid (low resolution) of beautiful images in various lighting conditions. Coolpix L120 is also an easy way, cars will automatically select the most appropriate description of the program, only the problem that allows users to take pictures and remember the moments of trust allows the frame.

Schools to play football, you can capture all the time in High Definition (720p) command economy button. Create and share your photos and videos are also easier Coolpix L120% u2019s high-resolution 3-inch LCD with 921 000 points. For family Coolpix L120 is a portrait of the company to the expressions and activities for dogs and cats to detect automatically. Attractive appearance and convenient AA battery is designed for busy families Coolpix L120 ideal.

Price and Availability

Nikon Coolpix P500 will be available in March 2011 suggested retail price $ 399.95 * black and red. Nikon Coolpix S9100 is March 2011 * MSRP $ 329.95 is available to choose colors: black, red and silver. Nikon Coolpix L120 is from end of February 2011 suggested retail price $ 279.95 bronze, black, red y

* Estimated selling price, only an estimate. Actual dealer price is fixed and can change at any time .

Nikon Coolpix S6100, S3100, S4100

Melville, NY (February 8, 2011)% u2013Today, Nikon Imaging a leader in the field of innovation models is as varied as the needs of users with the announcement of four new COOLPIX compact cameras to create. Where% u2019s weekend Coolpix S6100, pictures and videos from social networks, S3100 or S4100 or COOLPIX% u2019s life by shooting the Nikon Coolpix L24 offers a better user experience "a wonderful image, and point-and-shoot simplicity.

More Nikon Coolpix u201CThe% change in the digital photography, in which types of consumers more quickly share content with the office% u201D says Bo Kajiwara, marketing, Nikon Inc. u201CWith% new, easy-to-use features such as capacity and high-definition Video zoom function, the middle class, the COOLPIX consumers to shoot, burn and share the same work, the words personal style. % U201D

Large photos and videos simple technology COOLPIX

Characteristic of the Nikon Coolpix brand in the fashion-compact, bright colors, the inspiration for every style and budget. The new Coolpix Coolpix S6100 S4100, S3100 Nikon Coolpix L24 and Coolpix NIKKOR% u2019s are world class, with fine detail and colors, and Nikon's EXPEED% u2122% u2019s C2 Engine picture processing digital images of high quality with beautiful colors and sharpness. In addition, the COOLPIX contains four an automatic description of the program, or a single AF, which are automatically shooting conditions and camera settings tailored to the larger images.

If you want to do portraits, united Smart Picture Control system, a number of automated features such as color correction,% u2122 Camera Red-Eye, Face-priority AF, Face-AE mode, smile, eyes closed, and notice your skin smooth, flattering camera is the best way. The new Coolpix S6100, S3100 and S4100 offer a new COOLPIX COOLPIX pet portrait, which allows the automatic recognition of user% u2019s a cat or dog% u2019s face identification for pets.

Coolpix S6100: Power and Performance Package Pocket

If you are a fan of gourmet fashion or fun in the sun, the Nikon Coolpix S6100 on performance, style, weekend is committed, and in developing countries photographic versatility of a compact 7x optical zoom. Coolpix S6100 is the largest ever in the COOLPIX, 16 megapixels to enlarge and crop images, users store and seen all the details allowed. 7x optical zoom wide-angle Zoom-Nikkor ED glass embodies S6100, the camera user's needs, which is a common feature.

Coolpix S6100 also has an advanced touch screen that the cards used to screen space, making it easier than ever, the exotic architecture from a distance, or the beautiful island of grasp, left home. Users can share photos, and form a touch-screen, high resolution 3-inch (460 000 pixels) and the landscape or the people and places to admire the confidence.

S4100 and S3100 COOLPIX: Shooting the best way to share
Nikon Coolpix S4100 and S3100 is a compact and stylish, the cry of self-expression through a modern appearance and ease of use. Nikon Coolpix S4100 has an intuitive touch-screen continuous, easy to use, making it easy to write and share photos. % U2019s S4100 bright, high-resolution 3-inch (460 000 pixels) touch screen is suitable for viewing high-resolution images and video. Then users can upload photos online% u2019s my Nikon Picture Town Web hosting or other computer.

Both the S4100 and S3100 are stylish and colorful COOLPIX compact 14 Megapixel Resolution Wide Angle Lens 5x Zoom-Nikkor glass. These modern devices are going into a compact COOLPIX all packed and is a great way for young users to create content. For those who have to move and feel, monitor S3100 Ultra-Slim space-saving 2.7-inch LCD Sharp and complements all styles of seven colors.

The COOLPIX L24 Digital Camera Compact and easy to use and affordable
The COOLPIX L24 offers a lifestyle of high-end series of COOLPIX cameras to class. The COOLPIX L24 is to new users more features and an amazing 14 megapixels and an optical glass 3.6x Zoom-Nikkor link to a very low price.

A player who wants to take the pictures at an affordable price, the Nikon Coolpix L24 is an ideal compact camera birthday of your situation in school. The COOLPIX L24 also allows the possibility of video with sound to share memories to record over the years.

Price and Availability

S6100 will be available March 2011 and pay the $ 199.95 MSRP * silver, black, red and purple. S4100 will be available late February at a price of $ 179.95 MSRP plum, black, red and black. S3100 is the end of February 2011 and will cost $ 139.95 MSRP * Available in different colors, including silver, red, blue, purple, pink, yellow and black. L24 is the end of February 2011, available for $ 119.95 MSRP * red, white and black trade.

* Estimated selling price, only an estimate. Actual dealer price is fixed and can change at any time .

          Food Stamps and Incentives to Work   

Earlier in 2017, the state of Georgia ran a social welfare experiment, which resulted in the state decreasing the number of welfare recipients enrolled in the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by over 200,000 individuals in a single month.

Georgia's secret? Back in January 2016, the state launched a pilot program in three of the state's counties requiring all able-bodied food stamp recipients without children to find work or lose their SNAP benefits. In August 2016, the state expanded the program to 24 counties, and also set a hard deadline of 1 April 2017 where all childless, able-bodied SNAP beneficiaries in these counties would become ineligible for the state's food stamp program unless they were employed.

The following chart uses available data from the U.S. Census (Excel spreadsheet) and the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service shows the number of individuals enrolled in Georgia's SNAP (or Food Stamp) program from January 1981 through March 2017 to show the impact of Georgia's welfare-to-work initiative:

Georgia Number of People Enrolled in SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps), January 1981 through March 2017

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the data is the sheer drop in enrollment levels in the month before the hard deadline came and went, where if jobs were truly hard to obtain for the affected SNAP benefit recipients, we should have seen the enrollment levels stay elevated through March 2017 before seeing such a sharp decline resulting from their loss of eligibility. It also far outstrips the state's previous experience in enforcing work requirements in its food stamp welfare program to reduce its welfare rolls, which came as part of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

That's the positive power of incentives. Faced with the hard deadline to get a job before their food stamps ran out, over 200,000 people preemptively entered into the job market in the month before they would lose their welfare benefit.

Better still, there are greater benefits for the state and nation as a whole from Georgia's success (the excerpt from the 24 May 2017 article below references Georgia's SNAP enrollment data through February 2017):

Georgia is seeing a significant decrease in the number of people receiving food stamps as the improving economy lifts many recipients into new jobs and frees them from the fear of going hungry.

The number of Georgians getting food stamps has dropped by 300,000 from 1.9 million in April 2013 to 1.6 million. That decrease of 16 percent in the federally funded program saves taxpayers tens of millions of dollars monthly.

Georgia will expand the state's SNAP work requirements initiative to an additional 60 counties in 2018. Georgia has 159 counties in total, but appears to be prioritizing its more highly populated ones in rolling out its SNAP benefit work requirements, so we would anticipate that future benefit cutoff deadlines won't prompt the same scale of preemptive enrollment declines.

Data Bleg

If anyone can point us to where the FNS archives its monthly data for the number individuals covered by SNAP benefits, so we can fill in the missing months of data for 2016 in our chart, we would greatly appreciate it! (Otherwise, we'll have to wait for the U.S. Census Bureau to get around to updating its records.) We do plan to revisit the topic again several months from now so we can see how things evolved in the months following the deadline.


          The Most Surprising Finding of the Seattle Minimum Wage Study   
Seattle Mayor Ed Murry Signs Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, 3 June 2014 - Source: http://murray.seattle.gov/seattle-mayor-ed-murray-signs-minimum-wage-bill/

On April Fool's day in 2015, the minimum wage in the City of Seattle was increased by city ordinance from $9.47 per hour (130% of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour) to $11.00 per hour (152% of the federal minimum wage), which would be followed by two additional minimum wage hikes within the next two years.

The second minimum wage hike mandated by Seattle's 2014 city ordinance took place on New Year's Day in 2016, when the same city ordinance mandated that the minimum wage at businesses with more than 500 employees in the city rise to $13.00 per hour (179% of the federal minimum wage), while small employers were required to increase the minimum wages that they pay to $12.00 per hour (166% of the federal minimum wage). On New Year's Day 2017, Seattle's minimum wage was hiked once more for the city's largest employers to $15 per hour (207% of the