Forget Italy - the framing of Amanda Knox
Thinking about visiting Italy? You might want to reconsider your vacation plans.
American citizen Amanda Knox has just been sentenced to 26 years for a murder that CBS News reporter Peter Van Sant has denounced as a fraud and a put-up job on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show.
This isn't a partisan issue, either. Time magazine has been caustic about the case (more accurately, the lack of a case) against Amanda Knox for the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher. Conservatives, liberals, moderates, libertarians all agree that the local prosecutor handling Knox's case (himself under indictment for abuse of power (in a case highlighted in Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi's book The Monster of Florence) is nothing but a fraud in judicial robes. He proved that in his attempts to try journalist Mario Spezi as the Monster of Florence and his abuse of Douglas Preston's rights (such as they were in Italy) during that investigation. Then he proved it again in the Meredith Kercher case.
Please visit the Web site Friends of Amanda for more details about the Amanda Knox case and (if you're so inclined and able) to help Amanda Knox and her family, who have gone bankrupt trying to get their daughter released.
Also, if you agree that Amanda Knox has been unfairly treated by prosecutor Mignini and the Italian justice system, please let Secretary of State Hillary Clinton know about it - the link on her name points to the form on the Department of State's comment page. Please ask her to help.
And until Italy lets Amanda Knox go - hopefully in the court of appeals, but however - don't go to Italy. You could be the next victim of Italian "justice." Let's consider cutting down on the number of things from Italy we buy - wine, pasta, cars (for those of us in the nice seats), luxury goods... until totally unfair trials like those of Amanda Knox are history and not current events in Italy.
Posted by V.P. Frickey
at 7:12 PM MST
Updated: Wednesday, 24 November 2010 6:53 PM MST
A Tale of Two Houses -and Snopes.com
Topic: ...Those Who Will Not See
Both statistics are likely true; another case of apples and oranges (though how many Americans live in places as cold or colder than Nashville? - the Mikkelsons don't say how close the average climate in the United States is to where Al Gore lives). But even using the less egregious-sounding estimate, that means Gore still spends 12 times as much on energy as the average resident of his area. If he didn't waste as much energy, he wouldn't pay as much for it.
The last "mitigating factor" the Mikkelsons cite in their analysis of Al Gore's Energy Use is that both Al and Tipper Gore use their home for business purposes as well as living. Hmmmm.... couldn't George and Laura Bush say the same thing? In the age of the Internet, anyone who gives speeches (as both the Gores and the Bushes do) for a living can write them, arrange bookings and travel, do their accounting and everything else on a laptop computer. Let's be charitable and throw in a desk or two for people who come in to do the donkey work with which former vice-presidents can't be bothered.
I still don't think Al Gore deserves a mulligan for that one - you don't need 16 rooms (the difference in the non-bathroom count between Gore's home and Bush's), a heated pool and a guest house to run a business from your home. When I consulted for a living, I made do with one room for my writing, graphics and programming work.
The Mikkelsons also take a cheap shot at George Bush by printing the assumption that George Bush's green home was built for "practical reasons," such as conserving energy and scarce water in the area.
Excuse me? Practical reasons?
George Bush could do as Al Gore does and just burn up energy and write big checks to pay for it, and waste water on the same basis. Instead, he spent a whole lot of money and had his house completely designed to make best use of natural resources. If George Bush came out even on the deal or even saved money - which isn't likely, given the cost of all that plumbing and the deep well - then, good for him! He still deserves credit for going to a whole lot more trouble and personal expense to save scarce natural resources - and living a much more modest lifestyle in his post-Presidential years, even so - than does Al Gore.
When Al Gore talks about saving energy, it's noble (even though he doesn't bother to do it himself). When George W. Bush spends a ton of money actually saving energy, not only doesn't he get a Nobel Peace Prize, his critics say that he's just doing it for practical reasons. Back in the day, we called that hypocrisy. Some of us still do.
This editorial assumption the Mikkelsons made reveals a troubling tendency on their part to lean left while pretending to be interested only in debunking Internet crap. In doing so, they themselves are polluting the Internet with more crap, not really helping with the problem as much as they could - and they tend to lose the trust of people who don't share their ideology.
I checked the Mikkelsons' site, snopes.com, because while they tend to defend liberals much more often than conservatives, there's also a lot of crap floating on the Internet about both Gore AND Bush, and everyone deserves to have his side told. I know from previous visits to snopes.com that the Mikkelsons would have Al Gore's back.
That being said, Gore's max-amp, big carbon footprint lifestyle is an inconvenient truth that the Norwegians - and everyone else - should perhaps have considered before anointing Al Gore as a super-environmentalist.
Posted by V.P. Frickey
at 5:04 PM MDT
Updated: Monday, 1 March 2010 6:36 PM MST
John Brunner, prophet?
I was re-reading the late John Brunner's science-fiction novel Stand on Zanzibar today and noticed that his record as a predictor is actually not bad. He wrote this novel in 1968, and apparently did a great deal of homework in the physical, biological and social sciences while writing - and it shows.
I took a few minutes to draw up lists of things John Brunner predicted would happen in his novel by 2010:
predictions made by John Brunner in Stand on Zanzibar (1968, Ballantine, New York):
predictions which have been realized:
- widespread use of genetic engineering in consumer and industrial products;
- extensive mapping of the human genome;
- use of genetic engineering techniques to confer un-natural colors to mammals (glow-in-the-dark mice in real life; in the book, it was red, purple and green dogs, among other things);
- use of commercial airliners for commuting to and from work and for one-day tourist excursions;
- widespread use of international satellite television networks for news and entertainment (CNN, Sky News, al-Jazeera in real life; Engrelay Satelserv and Reuters VideoAsia in the book);
- “designer” (illicit) drugs with chemical structure and pharmaceutical properties unknown at the time the book was written;
- reversion of Indonesia (referred to as “Yatakang” in the book) to right-wing or centrist government;
- supercomputers so densely constructed as to require cooling by liquid helium (Crays in real life, Shalmaneser in the book);
- widespread online access to reference information from home and libraries through the telephone network;
- widespread change of sexual and family relationship norms and mores in industrialized societies;
- local restaurants which accept orders through the telephone/computer network and deliver to your home;
- China eclipsing Russia as a military threat to the United States;
- widespread adoption of military weapons and tactics (“SWAT” teams) by local police forces to deal with riots and other forms of violent public disorder;
- multinational corporations with resources exceeding those of many small nations;
- widespread commission of mass murder for little or no discernible motive by irrational individuals;
- widespread dissemination of formulas for explosives, poisons, incendiaries and other means of mass destruction by pamphlet, circular, magazine and online information services;
- widespread online access to literature;
- widespread online access to pornography;
- acts of mass destruction - terrorism - committed as political or religious protest;
- presence on American soil of organized bands of terrorist saboteurs;
- economic and political integration of Europe as a "super state";
- screening potential parents for genetically transmissible diseases or defects;
- majority rule in South Africa;
- hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell technology usable in automobiles;
- military side arms which can fire very small missiles with explosive warheads (the US Army’s OICW assault rifle/dialable range 20mm grenade launcher in real life, the “kazow” in the book);
- a technology for mining some metals from the bottom of the sea which has problems with profitability;
- Territorial expansion of China into the Western Pacific (in real life, this is evidenced by the construction of military bases by China in the disputed Spratly and Paracel island chains);
- widespread use of atomic clock standards in clocks and watches;
predictions from Stand on Zanzibar which have not yet been realized (the book’s set in 2010, so Brunner still has some time):
-eugenic legislation to coercively prevent birth of children with genetically transmitted or somatic defects, including state-mandated sterilization and abortion;
- widespread legalization/”decriminaliztion” of marijuana and other psychedelic drugs;
- self-aware computer(s);
- a subculture of people who commit sabotage of public transportation, water mains, other parts of the “infrastructure” as a hobby;
- widespread use of hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell technology in automobiles;
- commercial power generation by nuclear fusion
- inhabited bases for scientific research on the Moon
- orbital weapons platforms (as far as we know);
- rapid transit by electrically accelerated trains in evacuated tunnels;
- “pocket nukes” using less stable fissile materials than do standard nuclear weapons;
- outlawing of tobacco altogether in the US and other industrialized nations;
- Puerto Rico requesting and being granted US statehood;
- Request for by and granting of US statehood to the Sulu archipelago in the Phillipine Islands;
- Outbreak of open hostilities between the US and the People’s Republic of China in the Pacific;
- covering of Manhattan Island and environs ("Greater New York") by a large, single geodesic dome;
- elimination of internal-combustion engines and most personally-owned vehicles nationwide in US.
predictions from Stand on Zanzibar unlikely to be realized in the foreseeable future:
-eugenic legislation to coercively prevent birth of children with genetically transmitted or somatic defects, including state-mandated sterilization and abortion (issue: the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution forbids interference with a citizen's person to this degree; the Roe v. Wade decision, ironically, could be interpreted as reinforcing a woman's right to bear a genetically-challenged child);
- rapid transit by electrically accelerated trains in evacuated tunnels (issue: excavating tunnels long enough to provide long-haul transportation across the United States would probably require the use of many directional noncontaminating nuclear explosives (see John McPhee's The Curve of Binding Energy). Apart from that, the metal for accellerator coils and power handling, together with the continuing power demand for vacuum pumps to keep the tunnels evacuated make it questionable that there is any cost advantage to this mode of transportation. Maglevs are still more boondoggle than practical.);
- “pocket nukes” using less stable fissile materials than do standard nuclear weapons (anything much more fissile than plutonium will have problems of radiotoxicity from either neutron flux or gamma radiation either directly or from daughter products. Californium-252, for example, was proposed for the pocket nuke fissile by Herman Kahn in On Thermonuclear War but in reality proved a non-starter - I've seen a californium-252 source (nothing even close to a bare crit for an explosion) being moved from its dedicated semi into the LSU Nuclear Science Center - the evolution involved about eight or ten people pushing the 55-gallon drum in which a source the size of a nine-millimeter pistol cartridge was contained with very long poles to where an overhead crane could be attached to it for transfer into a dedicated very large pool of water. Anything fissile enough to sustain a nuclear detonation from a projectile launched from a sidearm would have similar radiological properties);
- Puerto Rico requesting and being granted US statehood (issue: the status quo of Puerto Rico - a Commonwealth with no representation in Congress, hence no liability for Federal income tax, yet which receives a LOT of Federal funding for its government operations has been affirmed through several elections and referenda - I personally don't see any reason for either Puerto Riquennos or Congress to pursue a change in status toward statehood. We own that dirt and can legally defend it. That's all we care about.);
- Request for by and granting of US statehood to the Sulu archipelago in the Phillipine Islands (issue: absolutely no support in Congress for the inclusion of a "state" with several million welfare recipients, several million other people eligible for extensive Federal subsidies and earned income credits, and several armed insurrections, at least one of which is an Al-Qaeda affiliate. As it is, we might lose Hawaii, Texas and Alaska sometime this century. There are strong secession movements in each of those states.);
- covering of Manhattan Island and environs ("Greater New York") by a large, single geodesic dome (issue: WHY? There's no overpowering social or economic good in such a structure, and the cost would be immense, both of initial construction and upkeep. There's also the issue of ventilation.);
- elimination of internal-combustion engines and most personally-owned vehicles nationwide in US. (issue: the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution assures that citizens have the right to be secure in their property; in practice, this has resulted in several legally proscribed items such as machine guns remaining in private hands when they were owned by an individual before they were outlawed. This is called "grandfathering.")
This list is not exhaustive or definitive by any means, just a way of starting a discussion and honoring the memory of John Brunner; whether one agreed with his politics or not (I didn't, particularly), his contribution to futurism and science fiction is undoubted.
Posted by V.P. Frickey
at 8:06 AM MDT
Updated: Monday, 1 November 2010 6:18 PM MDT
"We'll Put That Flag Up... " - Blag's 501(c)(4): Is This How Democrat Issues Advocacy Works?
Topic: The Audacity of Obama
Reading the criminal complaint against Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and his flunky John Harris, I was struck by something.
From "CRIMINAL COMPLAINT - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, and JOHN HARRIS"http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/acrobat/2008-12/43789434.pdf
"105. Later on November 11, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor A. Advisor A indicated that he will stay “on top” of getting the Senate Candidate 5 information leaked to the particular Sun Times columnist. ROD BLAGOJEVICH again raised the idea of the 501(c)(4) organization and asked whether “they” (believed be the President-elect and his associates) can get Warren Buffett and others to put $10, $12, or $15 million into the organization. Advisor A responded that “they” should be able to find a way to fund the organization. Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH returned to the issue of the 501(c)(4) organization and noted that he is looking for “$10, $15, $20 million in an organization like that.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that when he is “no longer Governor” he could go over to the organization. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that “[Senate Candidate 6]” (Senate Candidate 6, based on other intercepted conversations, is believed to be a wealthy person from Illinois) “could raise me money like that for a Senate seat.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked, “if I get [Senate Candidate 6] to do something like that, is it worth giving him the Senate seat?” Advisor A responded that it would be hard to put Senate Candidate 6 in the Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that it would be better than putting Senate Candidate 1 in the Senate and not getting anything back. Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A again discussed the possibility of a 501(c)(4) organization, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH again noted that “[Senate Candidate 6]” could “do it.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed who might be close to Senate Candidate 6 to talk with him about the issue, because ROD BLAGOJEVICH did not “want to be the one to ask something like that.” Advisor A agreed to find out who is close to Senate Candidate 6.
106. On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with JOHN HARRIS. ROD BLAGOJEVICH noted that CNN is reporting that Senate Candidate 1 does not want the open Senate seat. HARRIS said he thought that is just a tactic. ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of the 501(c)(4) organization and that contributors and others can put “10 to 15 million in it so I can advocate health care and other issues I care about and help them, while I stay as Governor, she’s (believed to be Senate Candidate 1) a Senator.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH noted that the President-elect can ask Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and others for money for the organization. ROD BLAGOJEVICH states he will ask “[Senate Candidate 6]” to help fund it as well. HARRIS said that funding the 501(c)(4) would be a lot easier for the President-elect than appointing ROD BLAGOJEVICH to a position. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said, “They could say ‘hey, we get [Senate Candidate 1]. Let’s help this guy have a 501(c)(4) issue advocacy organization. Let’s fund it to the level that he’s asked for and then we’ll get [Senate Candidate 1].’” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that he will control the 501(c)(4) organization through a board of directors while he is Governor, and then a position in the 501(c)(4) would be waiting for him when he was no longer Governor.
107. On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor B. ROD BLAGOJEVICH discussed with Advisor B his idea for a 501(c)(4) organization. Advisor B stated that he likes the idea, but liked the Change to Win option better because, according to Advisor B, from the President-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer “fingerprints” on the President-elect’s involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, “you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that he likes the 501(c)(4) idea because he knows it will be there in two years when he is no longer Governor, whereas Change to Win might not be.
108. On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with one of his Washington D.C.-based advisors. ROD BLAGOJEVICH explained the 501(c)(4) organization idea to the advisor, and that “[the President-elect] gets these Warren Buffett types to [fund it].” The advisor asked ROD BLAGOJEVICH if the 501(c)(4) is a real effort or just a vehicle to help ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that it is a real effort but also a place for ROD BLAGOJEVICH to go when he is no longer Governor. The advisor said he likes the Change to Win idea better, and notes that it is more likely to happen because it is one step removed from the President-elect."
But the most interesting thing was this conversation between Blagejovich and the representative of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU):
109. On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with SEIU Official, who was in Washington, D.C. Prior intercepted phone conversations indicate that approximately a week before this call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH met with SEIU Official to discuss the vacant Senate seat, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH understood that SEIU Official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1’s interest in the Senate seat. During the conversation with SEIU Official on November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed SEIU Official that he had heard the President-elect wanted persons other than Senate Candidate 1 to be considered for the Senate seat. SEIU Official stated that he would find out if Senate Candidate 1 wanted SEIU Official to keep pushing her for Senator with ROD BLAGOJEVICH.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that “one thing I’d be interested in” is a 501(c)(4) organization. ROD BLAGOJEVICH explained the 501(c)(4) idea to SEIU Official and said that the 501(c)(4) could help “our new Senator [Senate Candidate 1].” SEIU Official agreed to “put that flag up and see where it goes.”
Just how did Governor Blagojevich understand that the "SEIU Official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1’s interest in the Senate seat?"
Remember, "Senate Candidate 1" was President-Elect Obama's choice for the seat he is vacating. Was the SEIU providing that vital arm's length between Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich?
How many 501(c)(4) organizations out there are run as pay-me's to guys like Rod Blagojevich who can't live on a salary of $177,000 (of course, as liberal bloggers like to say about the fine people of the UAW, "that includes pension, Medicaid, Social Security withholding.... ")?
How big a sewer is Democratic Party issues advocacy, anyway? I can't believe that a bozo like Rod Blagojevich had an original idea in his life - he has to have heard or known another guy who found a way not to actually work and still make several hundred thousand dollars a year. I think we know where he got the idea of trading political favors for lucrative employment for his wife....
People, this is not "The West Wing." Barack Obama has brought the politics of his father's homeland to us.
Posted by V.P. Frickey
at 11:51 PM MST
Updated: Wednesday, 10 December 2008 12:08 AM MST
Barack Obama Lies Again - This time about Health Care
Topic: The Audacity of Obama
In his continuing quest to insult the intelligence of the American voter (and shaking in his boots because of the way his thugs over at ACORN were caught trying to register fake voters for him) Barack Obama has told another baldfaced, stinking lie. (But that's the only way he knows... )
This time, it's about the McCain Palin health plan.
Barack Obama has said that under the McCain health plan, health care benefits will be taxed.
As a cancer patient, that pissed me right off when I saw the ad. I was even more pissed off a minute later when I went to my computer, called up the McCain Web site to tell them what I thought of what I had heard... then learned I'd just been pwn'ed.
Barack Obama Lies Again.
Let's set the Barack Obama health plan lies right NOW.
From the McCain/Palin Web site:
"The Facts about the McCain-Palin Health Care Plan Barack Obama And Joe Biden Have Consistently Lied To Americans About John McCain's Plan. Their claims have failed every fact-check – from CBS to the Washington Post. John McCain is not going to raise taxes on middle class families. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the only ones in this race that plan to raise taxes.
Transforming The Tax Code To Create Greater Equity: The McCain plan transforms the current tax code to provide all American families – including the self-employed and the uninsured – the same tax benefit, a $5,000 refundable tax credit ($2,500 for individuals) that was previously only available to those with employer coverage. Families can use this credit to purchase insurance of their choice, including keeping their current coverage. This is an approach supported by Barack Obama's own Senior Economic Advisor Jason Furman who wrote that "we could scrap the current deduction altogether and replace it with progressive tax credits that, together with other changes, would ensure that every American has affordable health insurance."
Better Than "Members of Congress": Under the McCain Plan, your employer can provide you with health insurance as good as a "Member of Congress", and you would pay no more in taxes – regardless of your tax bracket. In fact, you would have some additional money left over from the McCain tax credit to put in a health savings account.
On The Issue Of Congressional Plan – There Are Options, But All Are Under The FEHB Program: A good example is the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan, which has combined monthly premiums for family coverage of $1027.95, for an annual cost of $12,335.40.
| || |
Income Tax Liability
Total Tax Savings
|10% Bracket |
(Up to $15,000)
|$1,200 ($12,000 x 10%) ||$5,000 ||+$3,800 |
|15% Bracket ($15,650 - $63,700) |
|$1,800 ($12,000 x 15%) ||$5,000 ||+$3,200 |
|25% Bracket ($63,700 - $128,500) |
|$3,000 ($12,000 x 25%) ||$5,000 ||+$2,000 |
|28% Bracket ($128,500 - $195,850) |
|$3,360 ($12,000 x 28%) ||$5,000 ||+$1,640 |
|33% Bracket ($195,850 - $349,700) |
|$3,960 ($12,000 x 33%) ||$5,000 ||+$1,040 |
|35% Bracket ($349,700 and Over) |
|$4,200 ($12,000 x 35%) ||$5,000 ||+$800 |
Where Is The Middle-Class "Tax Increase"? If you or your family is in the 28% bracket, with an income of $180,000, you could receive employer provided health insurance even better than a Member of Congress, with a cost of almost $18,000, with no increase in taxes. Even the liberal leaning Tax Policy Center, agrees that the McCain proposals will result in a "net tax benefit" of more than $1,200 for an average tax payer.
Helping Those Without Employer Coverage: If you are a middle-class American today without employer provided health care, the McCain plan would give you a tax credit of $2,500 as an individual, or $5,000 for a family, to help you buy your own health insurance coverage, including across state lines. American families – not government bureaucrats or insurance companies – will choose the coverage that best meets their needs. Today, the government does nothing to help you. Why does Barack Obama oppose this?
McCain Health Plan Puts Families in Charge: In another desperate attack, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have said that McCain health care tax credits to help families buy coverage "will go straight to the insurance company." Here is what they fail to mention – the credit goes to the insurance company that the American family chooses to get coverage from, anywhere in the nation. The power of choice lies with the family – not government bureaucrats or insurance companies. Ridiculing this line of strange attack, The Associated Press stated, "Of course it would, because it's meant to pay for insurance. That's like saying money for a car loan will go straight to the car dealer." Furthermore, any additional money left over after purchasing coverage will be controlled by the family in a portable health savings account.
McCain Health Care Plan Protects Our Vulnerable Population: John McCain believes that no American should be denied access to quality and affordable coverage simply because of a pre-existing condition. As President, John McCain will work with governors to develop a best practice model that states can follow – a Guaranteed Access Plan or GAP – that would reflect the best experience of the states to ensure these patients have access to health coverage. There would be reasonable limits on premiums, and assistance would be available for Americans below a certain income level.
McCain Health Care Plan Gives American Families More Choices: John McCain believes that American families should be given more choices by allowing them to purchase policies across state lines. In a move derided by fact checking organizations including Fact Check, the Obama campaign used this as an opportunity to falsely accuse John McCain of deregulating health care markets akin to Wall Street. A recent study showed that simply allowing Americans to purchase across state lines would reduce the number of uninsured by almost 12 million.
McCain Health Care Plan Preserves Employer Coverage: The McCain health plan builds on the employer-based system. Employers will have the same incentive to provide health insurance as they do today since they will continue to deduct the cost of health insurance they provide to employees. Nothing will change. In addition, payroll taxes will be protected from taxes under the McCain plan. Millions of American families with employer sponsored coverage in all tax brackets with the same coverage as a "Members of Congress" will now come out ahead with additional funds going into a portable health savings account. Importantly, younger and healthier employees with the McCain health care tax credit will have a bigger incentive to stay with the employers. For example, a 25-year-old employee in the 25 percent tax bracket with a $2,500 tax credit could either purchase a policy in the individual market for the same amount or stay with his employer plan and receive a $5,000 policy with an additional $1,250 to invest in a portable health savings account. Why would people choose worse insurance and less money? Finally, the McCain plan through comprehensive cost-containment policies addresses the single biggest threat to employer coverage – rising costs.
Barack Obama's Plan Continues The Push Toward Government-Run Healthcare: The Obama plan will create a brand new government-run health plan at the cost of $243 billion a year – a financial burden of more than $3,000 a year on American families.
Barack Obama's Plan Will Harm Employer Coverage: The Obama plan includes a $179 billion a year employer mandate. The mandate requires employers to either provide "meaningful" coverage or pay a tax towards the government plan. Faced with tough economic conditions and rising health costs this creates a clear incentive for employers to drop coverage and move families into the new government plan. A Lewin Group study which examined a similar employer mandate combined with a national plan, like the Obama plan, concluded that almost 52 million individuals would lose their private employer coverage. To maintain their competitive edge, others employers will follow - spelling the demise of the employer coverage system.
Barack Obama's Plan Will Damage Private Coverage: The government-run plan will have a clear advantage over private insurance since it will be subsidized by American taxpayers. A recent analysis of both plans by the nonpartisan CATO Institute concluded that the Obama government-run plan will be able to "keep its premiums artificially low…since it can turn to the U.S. Treasury to cover any shortfalls" resulting in "undercutting the private market." According to Wall Street Journal, the goal of the Obama plan "…like HillaryCare in the 1990s, is to displace current private coverage and switch people to the default government option."
Posted by V.P. Frickey
at 7:06 PM MDT
Notes on the Military Situation Around the Totalitarian Hegemony in Shanghai.
Topic: ...Those Who Will Not See
pl -nies domination of one state, country, or class within a group of others [Greek hēgemonia]"
Notes on the potential for a war in and around Taiwan, China and the rest of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with speculations on how this new totalitarian axis around Shanghai might grow (especially if Barack Obama is elected President and takes no action to slow its growth).
The Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) is increasing the percentage of its national economic output and the absolute amount of money they spend to prepare for a military resolution of the Taiwan issue to their satisfaction.
Over the past decade, the non-Communist Republic of China (ROC) on the island of Taiwan has allowed real spending on their national defense to decline. This has created a challenge to the Taiwanese capacity to remain independent.
The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 commits the United States to help Taiwanese maintain peace, security and stability through arms sales, indirect support and direct power projection into the area. If we don't live up to that treaty, our other allies throughout the world will decide that it would be better for them to be allied with some other country. China or Russia, perhaps.
Then, our current troubles getting oil into the country will be remembered as "the good old days," just as we now reminisce about how calmer the world was when we just had to worry about one alliance dedicated to our destruction. (We now have at least two - the Islamist jihad as interpreted to mean that we and all other non-Wahhabi Muslims must be subjugated or murdered; and the new one, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.)
The 2007 Taiwan government's defense budget was US $8.9 billion. (Compare that to the PRC defense budget (estimated) of between US $97 billion and US $139 billion.) With that money, in 2007 Taiwan bought 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft for locating and dropping torpedoes on Communist Chinese attack and missile submarines, six upgrades for their Patriot system, 3 TP-3A airframes (spare parts), 144 SM-2 naval Surface to Air Missiles, and a feasibility study for 8 diesel-electric submarines.
Over next three years (2007-2010) Taiwan is buying 218 AMRAAM Air to Air missiles, 235 Maverick Air to Ground Missiles, and 60 Harpoon Block II Air to Surface Cruise Missiles.
Taiwan's 2008 defense budget is US$10.5 billion - a 12% increase over 2007. This is puny compared to business as usual across the Formosa Straits in Red China. Fortunately, Taiwan has natural defensive advantages that help offset mainland China's higher levels of spending on military hardware - mountains and caves which lend themselves to conversion into fortifications. If it weren't for those, China might have already invaded Taiwan.
From the US Department of Defense "China Military Report 2008":
"The circumstances in which the mainland has historically warned it would use force against the island are not fixed and have evolved over time in response to Taiwan’s declarations and actions relating to its political status, changes in PLA capabilities, and Beijing’s view of other countries’ relations with Taiwan.
These circumstances, or “red lines,” have included: a formal declaration of Taiwan independence; undefined moves “toward independence”; foreign intervention in Taiwan’s internal affairs; indefinite delays in the resumption of cross-Strait dialogue on unification; Taiwan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons; and, internal unrest on Taiwan.
Article 8 of Communist China's March 2005 “Anti-Secession Law” states that Beijing would resort to “non-peaceful means” if:
-“secessionist forces . . . cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China”;
- if “major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession” occur;-or if “possibilities for peaceful reunification” are exhausted.
The ambiguity of these “red-lines” appears deliberate, allowing Beijing the flexibility to determine the nature, timing, and form of its response. Added to this atmosphere of ambiguity are political factors internal to the regime in Beijing that might affect its decision-making but are opaque to outsiders."
Deterrence Factors (from the DoD's "China Military Report")
"China is deterred on multiple levels from taking military action against Taiwan. First, China does not yet possess the military capability to accomplish with confidence its political objectives on the island, particularly when confronted with the prospect of U.S. intervention.
Moreover, an insurgency directed against the PRC presence could tie up PLA forces for years. A military conflict in the Taiwan Strait would also affect the interests of Japan and other nations in the region in ensuring a peaceful resolution of the cross-Strait dispute.
Beijing’s calculus would also have to factor in the potential political and economic repercussions of military conflict with Taiwan. China’s leaders recognize that a war could severely retard economic development. Taiwan is China’s single largest source of foreign direct investment, and an extended campaign would wreck Taiwan’s economic infrastructure, leading to high reconstruction costs. International sanctions could further damage Beijing’s economic development.
A conflict would also severely damage the image that Beijing has sought to project in the post-Tiananmen years and would taint Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics. A conflict could also trigger domestic unrest on the mainland, a contingency that Beijing appears to have factored into its planning.
Finally, China’s leaders recognize that a conflict over Taiwan involving the United States would give rise to a long-term hostile relationship between the two nations – a result that would not be in China’s interests."
Most of the 70 billion dollars a year Beijing clears from its trade with the United States would evaporate in the event of a war between the PRC and Taiwan.
(Unless a Democratic Party president is influenced by the Chinese - perhaps by old friends who are also Maoists, or perhaps by cash, as the Clintons were - to smooth over little bumps in the road like Chinese espionage in our nuclear weapons program or their slaughter of their own people and helps the Communist tyranny in Beijing overcome their own blunders.)
The Chinese hard currency balance could dwindle to nothing overnight - given a collapse in the Chinese banking industry like our own recent troubles - they have a similar bad loan problem to ours which enriches the favored few of the Chinese government and their cronies in big business - and their dependence on imported oil for any transportation not fueled directly or indirectly by coal. In China, if it doesn't travel by rail, transport depends on oil that must be purchased from Russia or the Middle East.
It's possible that the PRC economy might not survive a protracted shooting war, or even economic sanctions involving the US and one or more other Western nations that go on for any length of time. Sanctions might cause the Chinese to default on contracts, and causing worse economic damage to the mainland in a cascading pattern.
In short, if we stop buying their merchandise, the Communist Chinese could go broke in relatively little time.
Whether this would destroy or cement the Chinese Communist Party's hold on the people of the mainland is unclear; it's highly doubtful that following their "24-character strategy," any Chinese government would invade Taiwan or pursue similar aggressive actions without having cast itself as the injured party to the Chinese people. Any economic damage to the Chinese might then be usable as justification for hardening of the government's stance toward both Taiwan and any of her supporters.
Much would depend on the degree of credibility the Beijing regime enjoys with its people going into such an adventure - and the resolve of the United States to punish China for attacking its neighbors.
If elected President, Barack Obama would send a letter to the United Nations (over whose military actions China enjoys a veto in the Security Council, thanks to his predecessor Jimmy Carter) if the Chinese invaded Taiwan. That would not even slow the Chinese down, any more than Obama's tut-tutting or George Bush's impotent bleating slowed Russia down in Georgia.
More problems with Tibet or the Uighurs could cost Beijing hard-won public relations capital and weaken support for action against Taiwan; conversely, an adventure against Taiwan might be used precisely to distract popular attention from economic or political misadventure at home, as well as to justify repressive measures against dissident elements at home.
As the DoD "China Military Report" shows, Beijing understates its defense expenditures officially (as opposed to estimated actual expenditures) by from fifty to two hundred percent. It would be unreasonable in the regional context to assume that Taiwan was transparent in all of its defense expenditures.
Rumors persist about at least an embryonic Taiwanese nuclear weapons program from which it was dissuaded by the US, and which might have provoked an invasion from the mainland if pursued publicly. A previous administration probably explained the facts of life to the Taiwanese - the US could not be held to the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act if Taiwan did anything as provocative as acquiring nuclear weapons (even though the mainland Chinese had over 700 nuclear-armed missiles aimed at Taiwan a few years ago - the total's probably over 1,000 now).
Taiwan , numerically inferior in troop strength and faced with several thousand intermediate-range ballistic missiles aimed at it by the mainland, and outspent between ten and fifteen to one on defense by the PRC, could be expected to have developed a covert nuclear weapons program.
Taiwan could afford nuclear weapons; if the Taiwanese want to remain politically independent rather than negotiating a largely meaningless Hong Kong-like quasi-autonomy from the mainland, they would have to hold Beijing at risk in order to deter either an invasion or a bombardment. Nuclear weapons would seem to be the only deterrent worth considering in this context (unless other weapons of mass destruction such as biologicals are in their arsenal).
An unusually clever (and effective) approach to a nuclear defense might be for Taiwan to hide a nuclear device somewhere in the maze of tunnels under Beijing, close enough to actually endanger the PRC's national command center if its location were known to the Taiwanese. This tactic has drawbacks - a working nuclear weapon emits neutrons constantly, and relatively cheap handheld neutron detectors about the size of a large flashlight are available. China has plenty of policemen and soldiers who could sweep the capital on a regular basis with these detectors.
Of course, the opposite is true as well - it might make sense to the Communists to simply cut their Gordian knot and take the obloquy of having slaughtered several million people as the price for consolidating their "first island chain" defensive perimeter and becoming the hegemon of Asia in fact as well as geography.
Since the Chinese already support the dictator Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in exchange for a new colonialism in which most Zimbabweans are oppressed in a terroristic regime supported by armed Chinese in uniform, it's hard to believe the Chinese worry about how the nuclear devastation of Taiwan might look on CNN.
Given CNN's propensity to manage the news to make Barack Obama look good right now, it's entirely possible they'd bury any bad news coming out of the Formosa Straits - with or without "suggestions" from an Obama White House. CNN is certainly covering-up Obama's deep and abiding debt to the radical left.
Whether the rape of Taiwan would be worth the isolation the West would impose on China as a result depends partly on whether the Shanghai Cooperation Organization could replace the revenue which Beijing would lose after committing mass murder in order to settle the Taiwan matter - and whether the West did much of anything.
It wouldn't be the first time a Chinese government in Beijing has chosen to murder millions of innocent people rather than risk losing its control over the rest of the country.
There is a very real chance, given the current make-up of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and its candidate nations, that the foundation for a forcible hegemony including the entire Western Pacific may be in the making.
Decisive amputation of the Taiwanese leadership would signal resolve in a way that might destroy or cripple the Western Pacific and South Asian democracies and re-align the transCaucasus away from reformism and democracy and toward an curving Eastern axis reaching through Beijing from Moscow down to Karachi.
This, of course, would be only the beginning of a course culminating in threats to India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Phillipines, and Sri Lanka - each of which is now experiencing instability that poses a real threat to its national existence. The candidacy of Pakistan, North Korea and Iran for membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an ominous development because these three countries stand to benefit directly from instability in the states outside the Shanghai axis.
In Pakistan and China's case, territorial claims which have stood for centuries might be settled in a swift strike at India. Kashmir and the Indian borderland with China in the Himalayas could be ripped away from India in a series of strokes along the entire Shanghai Cooperation Organization axis.
A resurgent Pakistan might allow the Taliban to operate even more freely from its sanctuaries than it now does, taking Qandahar from the east of Afghanistan, while Iran creates mischief and perhaps even grabs some land from Afghanistan's western borders.
Russia and China would scarcely have to act in this case, except to make adventitious additions to their own borders in the Caucausus and Central Asia; the cozy relations between Russia and Iran may finally give the Russians the warm water port they have coveted, replacing the access they lost when the Ukraine seceded
(Even if the unrest that Putin and his Communist retreads are fomenting causes the Ukraine to fission, their supporters probably could not recover access to the Black Sea for Russia from Ukrainian soil, because the reunionists live over to the East and North. The Russians' bid to kill Kuznetsov and abort the Orange Revolution aborning has failed, so far).
Russian activity in Georgia, meanwhile, continues. There has been no real justification for their invasion or continued presence in Georgia beyond the borders of Abkhazia or Ossetia; none that doesn't involve laying the foundations for an eventual Russian takeover of all of Georgia, gaining the Russians a foothold on the Black Sea to replace the one they'll eventually lose when the Ukrainians boot them out of their naval base there.
We're looking at an axis extending from Shanghai to Moscow, with ambitions to expand all along that line into other people's territory.
Look at it. Look at the size of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a military alliance which exists... why does it exist?
Consider when World War II started in 1939, it was begun by Germany, Italy and Japan, with the Soviet Union promising to stay out of Germany's way as they conquered Europe - until they themselves were invaded by Germany in 1941. Three relatively small countries could only be defeated an alliance of nearly the entire rest of the world which had not already been conquered.
Russia and Germany split Poland between them in the years between the beginning of World War II and the invasion of the Soviet Union. And, as we've seen in Georgia, Russia has their walking shoes on nowadays. They might elect to either stand aside and split Chinese conquests on their border with the Chinese - or strike out on a campaign of conquest of their own. History supports either outcome.
Barack Obama doesn't think we need to maintain or expand our military. He has pledged to draw it down. Apparently they don't teach map skills in Harvard - or European history, a subject that seems to bore Obama, since he failed to show up for even one meeting of the subcommittee he chairs on European Affairs in the Senate.
History shows us that in 1939 plenty of people who went to Harvard didn't think Hitler and Tojo were a threat, either. Then as now, people here in the United States screamed about how the axis threatening the world just wanted peace, and how we were provoking them by daring to defend ourselves.
FDR had to weave a tortuous path between isolationists in both political wings and Stalin's "community organizers" simply to rebuild the United States' military and supply Great Britain with what she needed to resist a German invasion.
We never really recovered from Clinton's destruction of the US military - and Obama wants to throw away even that degree of recovery. He's promised to do exactly that. We'll be many years and spend billions rebuilding our military if Obama wins this election - and WE WILL NEED A MILITARY.
Obama has an incredible set of endorsements - every dictator and would-be dictator on Earth hopes Barack Obama will be elected President of the United States. Professional courtesy, I guess.
Posted by V.P. Frickey
at 8:34 AM MDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 November 2010 7:16 PM MST
KNOW YOUR ENEMY - The Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Topic: WORLD WAR III
This is the seal of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is a 'mutual security organization' which includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Iran is an observer and expected to gain full status soon.
The map above shows SCO's current geographic reach in dark green and states with observer status in the organization in light green. Anyone noticing an eerie resemblance to the mapboard in RISK is not being paranoid - this may well be a campaign map for World War III. We'd be fools to ignore the possibility.
Those of us old enough remember that the old Warsaw Pact was a 'mutual security organization,' too. THAT 'mutual security organization' invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, murdered thousands of people for not being sufficiently Communist, held regular rehearsals to invade Western Europe, aimed thousands of nuclear missiles at the US, UK, Canada and Europe, and posed a threat to European and American security which has not abated yet - as recent events in Georgia show.
The Stalinist mentality which caused the Russians to mass hundreds of thousands of troops on the West German-East German border for thirty years despite any remote possibility that outnumbered NATO forces posed any threat to their Warsaw Pact alliance at all is alive and well.
The new Stalin, Vladimir Putin, has lost no time reviving Russia's old xenophobic distrust of the same West that spent freely to help Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin says that democracy and the West are responsible for the chaos following the dissolution of European Communism. That's one way of looking at it, I guess.
Another way would be to rid ourselves of the illusions so many of us, including me, harbored that there was any dealing with the nomenklatura, the "fortunate sons" of the Russian Empire. Communism wasn't the problem - Russia can't abide a world it doesn't run. That's the problem, and apparently it always WAS the problem. They are the Free World's malignant, manipulative mother-in-law. And as long as the financial security of the handful of men who wield true power in Russia is imperiled by the possibility that the seed of democracy will spread from the West to their own country and send them to jail, or simply packing from their plush lives, they will continue to stir up trouble and kill as many people as they think they have to.
There is no co-existing with them. Much of the money we paid them through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program supposedly to reduce their stocks of weapons of mass destruction have actually gone to rebuild the Russian nuclear arsenal so that we cannot target it nearly as effectively as we were able to before it was largely moved to "Topaz" mobile missile launchers, and to make new varieties of nerve gas which our current antidotes won't be effective against.
Not to mention the Russians' ongoing work with diseases such as monkeypox and recombinant versions of Legionella designed to cause incurable, severe sclerosing damage to the human nervous system - research specifically prohibited by the Biological Weapons Convention. Oops, I mentioned it, which may make me one of the few journalists to do so recently.
(I was one of the first bloggers to mention the scarcity of typewriters which could type superscripts in 1972-73 when a Democratic Party operative gave forged Texas Air National Guard memos to CBS and Dan Rather uttered them as factual in an attempt to smear the President's name during the 2004 election, so I don't think that I should be too modest with that description.)
We shouldn't fool ourselves about the good intentions of the people running this alliance, and we should be strongly aware that the concentration of political power in those countries means that the good intentions of most of their citizens means absolutely nothing. Most of their citizens cannot order invasions of other countries or call them back - their leaders have that power and guard it jealously. It's as though the members of the US Senate and House of Representatives were appointed by the President and none of them had to stand for re-election by the people.
World War III has never been closer.
Only a fool wouldn't prepare for it.
Posted by V.P. Frickey
at 3:17 PM MDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 November 2010 7:19 PM MST