The views expressed in any article published in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Joseph Foster or Bob Lupoli.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

California v. Texas & California Budget

California v Texas
America's future
An intriguing, much more equal rivalry out West. But both California and Texas can learn from each other
ECONOMIST  Jul 9th 2009

AMERICA’S recent history has been a relentless tilt to the West—of people, ideas, commerce and even political power. California and Texas, the nation’s two biggest states, are the twin poles of the West, but very different ones. For most of the 20th century the home of Silicon Valley and Hollywood has been the brainier, sexier, trendier of the two: its suburbs and freeways, its fads and foibles, its marvellous miscegenation have spread around the world. Texas, once a part of the Confederacy, has trailed behind: its cliché has been a conservative Christian in cowboy boots, much like a certain recent president. But twins can change places. Is that happening now?

It is easy to find evidence that California is in a funk (see article below).. At the start of this month the once golden state started paying creditors, including those owed tax refunds, business suppliers and students expecting grants, in IOUs. California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, also said that the gap between projected outgoings and income for the current fiscal year has leapt to a horrible $26 billion. With no sign of a new budget to close this chasm, one credit agency has already downgraded California’s debt. As budgets are cut, universities will let in fewer students, prisoners will be released early and schemes to protect the vulnerable will be rolled back.

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They paved paradise and put up the parking taxes
Plenty of American states have budget crises; but California’s illustrate two more structural worries about the state. Back in its golden age in the 1950s and 1960s, it offered middle-class people, not just techy high-fliers, a shot at the American dream—complete with superb schools and universities, and an enviable physical infrastructure. These days California’s unemployment rate is running at 11.5%, two points ahead of the national average. In such Californian cities as Fresno, Merced and El Centro, jobless rates are higher than in Detroit. Its roads and schools are crumbling. Every year, over 100,000 more Americans leave the state than enter it.

The second worry has to do with dysfunctional government. No state has quite so many overlapping systems of accountability or such a gerrymandered legislature. Ballot initiatives, the crack cocaine of democracy, have left only around a quarter of its budget within the power of its representative politicians. (One reason budget cuts are inevitable is that voters rejected tax increases in a package of ballot measures in May.) Not that Californian government comes cheap: it has the second-highest top level of state income tax in America (after Hawaii, of all places). Indeed, high taxes, coupled with intrusive regulation of business and greenery taken to silly extremes, have gradually strangled what was once America’s most dynamic state economy. Chief Executive magazine, to take just one example, has ranked California the very worst state to do business in for each of the past four years.

By contrast, Texas was the best state in that poll. It has coped well with the recession, with an unemployment rate two points below the national average and one of the lowest rates of housing repossession. In part this is because Texan banks, hard hit in the last property bust, did not overexpand this time. But as our special report this week explains, Texas also clearly offers a different model, based on small government. It has no state capital-gains or income tax, and a business-friendly and immigrant-tolerant attitude. It is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state—64 compared with California’s 51 and New York’s 56. And as happens to fashionable places, some erstwhile weaknesses now seem strengths (flat, ugly countryside makes it easier for Dallas-Fort Worth to expand than mountain-and-sea-locked LA), while old conservative stereotypes are being questioned: two leading contenders to be Houston’s next mayor are a black man and a white lesbian. Texas also gets on better with Mexico than California does.

American conservatives have seized on this reversal of fortune: Arthur Laffer, a Reaganite economist, hails the Texan model over the Gipper’s now hopelessly leftish home. Despite all this, it still seems too early to cede America’s future to the Lone Star state. To begin with, that lean Texan model has its own problems. It has not invested enough in education, and many experts rightly worry about a “lost generation” of mostly Hispanic Texans with insufficient skills for the demands of the knowledge economy. Now immigration is likely to reconvert Texas from Republican red to Democratic blue; Latinos may justly demand a bigger, more “Californian” state to educate them and provide them with decent health care. But Texas could then end up with the same over-empowered public-sector unions who have helped wreck government in California.

Second, it has never paid to bet against a state with as many inventive people as California. Even if Hollywood is in the dumps, it still boasts an unequalled array of sunrise industries and the most agile venture-capital industry on the planet; there is no prospect of the likes of Google decamping from Mountain View for Austin, though many start-ups have. The state also has an awesome ability to reinvent itself—as it did when its defence industry collapsed at the end of the cold war. Perhaps the rejection of tax increases will “starve the beast” and promote structural reform. A referendum on a new primaries system could end its polarised politics. Mr Schwarzenegger’s lazy governorship could come to be seen not as the great missed opportunity, but as the spur for reform.

Fifty laboratories, one magic formula
The truth is that both states could learn from each other. Texas still lacks California’s great universities and lags in terms of culture. California could adopt not just Texas’s leaner state, but also its more bipartisan approach to politics and its more welcoming attitude towards Mexico. There is no perfect model of government: it is America’s genius to have 50 public-policy laboratories competing to find out what works best—just as it is the relentless competition of clever new firms from Portland to Pittsburgh that will pull the country out of its current gloom. But, to give Texas some credit and serve as a warning to Mr Schwarzenegger’s heir, at this moment America’s two most futuristic states look a lot more like equals than ever before.


California's budget crisis
Meltdown on the ocean
As the state’s finances disintegrate, for many so does the California Dream
Economist Jul 9th 2009
ALTHOUGH one would hardly know it from the antics of its politicians—or from its newspapers, which all this week were fixating on Michael Jackson’s funeral rites—California is in as serious a condition as an American state can be. Legally unable to declare bankruptcy as a company would, the state has begun paying many of its bills with IOUs instead of cash. One of the three big credit-rating agencies, Fitch, this week downgraded the state’s bonds, already the lowest-rated such bonds in the country, to BBB, within spitting distance of “junk”. Government offices are closed on some days, as state workers take involuntary and unpaid furloughs. Taxpayers are still waiting for refunds. Poor people are afraid of losing their state-funded health insurance. Parents, fearing ever shabbier public schools, have another reason to think about moving out of state.

Meanwhile, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the leaders of the legislature have been frantically scoring points off each other in Sacramento, the state capital. As the previous fiscal year drew to a close on June 30th, Darrell Steinberg, the Democratic leader of the Senate, and Karen Bass, the Democratic leader of the Assembly, were proposing some stopgap measures that would have saved a dollop in the new fiscal year and averted the issuing of IOUs. But the Republican governor, claiming to insist on all or nothing, said no. Overnight, the budget gap swelled to a staggering $26.3 billion and now grows by an estimated $25m each day.

Mr Schwarzenegger, affecting insouciance as he smoked his trademark stogies, got his team to prepare a mocking YouTube video with footage of a committee hearing about whether cutting cow tails for udder hygiene was inhumane. “Right now, in the midst of a budget crisis, they are debating about cow tails, and I think that this is inexcusable,” Mr Schwarzenegger sneered, even as he chucked new reform proposals into the negotiations that are entirely unrelated to the current budget crisis.

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Exasperated, Ms Bass, who had already backed off from any idea of raising taxes, muttered something about the lame-duck governor worrying more about “fixing his legacy” than the budget. On July 6th, she boycotted a meeting, demanding that Mr Schwarzenegger restrict the talks to just the budget crisis. As The Economist went to press, there was still no deal in sight.

California thus seems to be doing its level best to come to ruin and, as the nation’s largest economy, to drag the country’s hopes for a recovery down with it. The recession was the trigger but not the cause of the current malaise, which stems, as Fitch put it when explaining its downgrade, from “the state’s continued inability” to balance its budgets.
But what exactly does a crisis look like for an American state? “Falling off a cliff” is the usual metaphor but not an appropriate one, according to Ross DeVol, chief economist at the Milken Institute, a think-tank in Santa Monica. Instead of death on impact, he says, it is a matter of “who suffers in what order and how much?”

With luck the IOUs, officially called “registered warrants”, will turn out to be more symbolic than apocalyptic, provided that banks accept them and that a budget deal arrives soon. The last time California paid with IOUs, in 1992, Bank of America was dominant in the state and kept order. This time many banks must play along, and several suggested this week that they would accept the IOUs only until July 10th. If that practice becomes widespread, bearers may have to wait until October to get their money. For some suppliers this may mean bankruptcy; for students, uncertainty over their college tuition; for consumers without tax refunds, austerity.

And if all this leads to more downgrades, California’s borrowing costs will increase and the budget gap will further widen. But this does not automatically threaten the owners of California’s “muni” bonds, since the state constitution dictates that schools be paid first, bondholders second and then everybody else.

It does, however, increase the pressure to balance the budget. New taxes are no longer being discussed, because California requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature to pass them, and the Republican minorities are large enough, and partisan enough, to block them altogether. This means that the budget must be balanced by cuts alone.

The largest part of the budget, and thus the biggest target for cuts, is education. Mr Schwarzenegger has proposed suspending a spending formula that voters explicitly chose at the ballot box. In response, the powerful teachers’ union sent a gesture, in the form of 10,000 protesting postcards, to one of Mr Schwarzenegger’s branch offices. But teachers and schools will suffer, which hurts children and thus parents.

The next largest part of the budget is the state’s social safety net, including its health-care programme for the poor. Mr Schwarzenegger wanted to eliminate entire programmes wholesale, but now appears ready to settle for shrinking them. The debate, such as it is, is now about how many children will lose coverage, how many elderly Alzheimer’s patients will stop receiving visits from nurses, whether to treat drug addicts and so forth.

The pain thus seems likely to flow to the bottom of the social hierarchy. But all Californians will notice. Their parks may close, their neighbourhoods may become less safe. “The Californian Dream is at least temporarily suspended,” says Mr DeVol.

Unemployment Time Bomb

Unemployment extension benefit unlikely to be extended. Political time bomb is ticking.
By Joseph Foster, Author, ‘’Destruction of America’’ (exp. pub. Jan 2011)
As America continues the process of deindustrialization the people have remained silent, they have been silenced because unemployment benefit has kept bread on the table and secured them shelter. The benefit in many states is ending and when these benefits are not extended millions of Americans will be faced with lack of shelter and food. The lack of shelter and bread caused people to revolt against their government, It has occurred in History in countries such as Russia, China, and France. As a reminder when Marie Antoinette of France was told the people have no bread her response was supposedly, let them eat cake.  The possibility is now apparent that by 2011 on a gradual trend massive demonstration will begin in America, the crime rate will escalate since hungry people in desperation will seek all means to secure bread on the table for their family. The political leaders will not be vocal about America deindustrialization but will keep blaming the recession, although a factor, the principal culprit is deindustrialization of America.
My prediction, the situation by 2012 will become worse, jobs could not be created in sufficient number to cure the recession for obvious reason, consumer spending will remain down, and there will be no expansion in manufacturing since such enterprise is more profitable when established in low wage countries such as India, China and other emerging market countries. Due to the fall in consumer spending and the destruction of millions of the American middles class the evidence is apparent in the leisure industry, hotels, restaurants, car rental, and other business are offering massive discounts to lure customers.

The question will be asked are those that were elected by the American people able to come forward with some remedy, the answered is no, most of these elected Politicians right now are finger pointing at each other. It remains to be seen out of the crisis perhaps, radical leaders will begin to pop up; these leaders tend to come out with socialist plans. 

Article by Tom Elias: Time for new blood at air board CARB

Joe: this is a fascinating article. As you may know California has been increasingly regulated and in the area of emissions and air quality  the California Air Resource Board (CARB) has been all powerful. The agency has been politicized which in my mind is okay - fine but only as long as it provides results for the people. They have had tremendous results, really improved the air quality but just like other entities they don't ever want to be downsized, it is not enough to congratulate and celebrate for the proverbial job well done. No they must do everything to totally eliminate pollution no matter what the cost and it seems they are willing to disregard inconvenient facts. This is kind of okay, understandable I suppose. If the CARB were a boxer, as a manager you want your boxer to "kill" the other guy. You want these types of boxers and this is okay but you don't want him the to kill the audience (consumers & business). Interested in your thoughts. - Bob

Tom Elias: Time for new blood at air board
E-mail: tdelias@aol.com.
For more columns by T. Elias visit www.californiafocus.net.

“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Julius Caesar, the Roman general and ruler, made that statement in 62 B.C. while divorcing his wife Pompeia when she was accused of having an affair with his colleague, Clodius Pulcher, a charge that was never proved.
If there’s one California agency that perpetually needs to be as pure as Caesar’s wife, it is the Air Resources Board, whose huge powers have made its 11 mostly anonymous members among the most nationally influential of California officials.

Until very recently, there’s been no reason to doubt the purity of the ARB. Its actions have reduced smog levels and smog alerts around the state by well over one-third since 1960 even as California gained about 15 million residents. ARB policies caused the creation of automotive catalytic converters and industrial smokestack scrubbers, two innovations now in use almost everywhere in the world. Without the board’s demands for ever-lower pollution levels, there would be no Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt or any other kind of hybrid car. This is one board that has been steadfast in its purpose for 50 years, no matter whether the sitting governor has been a Republican or a Democrat.

Reference Links: 
Travesty, tragedy ... or both?(California Air Resources Board's acceleration of federal emissions standards for outboards and personal watercrafts) February 1, 1999
Stunts, schemes, & shenanigans.(California Air Resources Board partners with Union Oil Company of California): An article from: Campaigns & Elections 2007
A fundament of the ARB’s highly respected national stature has been that it’s almost never wrong on the facts. When it said various smog-control devices could be installed on cars and trucks, its estimates of both auto prices and how much pollution would be cut proved correct despite the fact that carmakers and other industries always claimed they were inaccurate and resisted those advances at every turn.

One reason the ARB could be so steadfast is that the smoggiest areas of California also tend to be the most politically conservative. So even politicians from mostly Republican inland areas generally support smog restrictions and GOP governors have had to heed the desire of inland residents for cleaner air. That’s what makes the air board’s problems of this fall so serious. For if it is to enjoy public support in enforcing the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act just ratified by the voters as they rejected Proposition 23, and if it is to enjoy continued public support while it encourages introduction of plug-in hybrids and electric cars, the ARB must be seen as clean and utterly reliable.

But questions arise when some of its pollution estimates are off by as much as 300 percent, as with its recent estimates of how much diesel fuel is burned in California and how much pollution it produces. Those flawed estimates were used to force operators of diesel-powered trucks, off-road vehicles, seaport and airport machinery and others to retrofit engines or replace them with newer models producing far less oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter.

The errors were discovered and the board’s rules placed in abeyance only because an outside researcher found information that was also readily available to the ARB’s staff — but apparently either went unseen or was misconstrued. Then there’s the concurrent charge that the ARB was behind a UCLA decision to deny distinguished epidemiologist James Enstrom reappointment as a researcher in its School of Public Health after 34 years there. Enstrom is the author of a report finding that no evidence exists to support the idea that particulates from diesel exhaust kill anyone, contrary to an ARB finding of 18,000 premature deaths. Enstrom’s layoff notice claimed his work suddenly — after all those years — “did not align” with the mission of his department, but said nothing about his diesel finding.

These things have cast a cloud of questioning over the ARB, with many — especially climate change skeptics — claiming the agency has a predetermined, facts-be-damned agenda. All this really revolves only around a small part of the ARB’s functions, but it’s being used to tar the board’s entire body of work. That means it may be time to get some new board members for the ARB. Chances are Gov.-elect Jerry Brown will not depose current chair Mary Nichols, a UCLA professor who also served on the board the last time Brown was governor in the late 1970s and early ‘80s and was later deputy chief of the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration. Their ties are too longstanding. But that does not apply to other board members.

Nichols and her current colleagues have done little or nothing to dispel the current doubts hanging over the ARB. Since its work is so influential and so vital to the health of Californians, that means the time may be right for at least some of them to go — for the sake of keeping this board the world’s leading smog-control agency.

E-mail Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. For more columns by T. Elias visit www.californiafocus.net.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Western World War of Insanity: Afghanistan etc...

Bob:  see the BBC article below. In my forthcoming book, "Destruction of America" I have a chapter in my book titled ‘’Afghan the Lost War’’, this article confirms my prediction. NATO is training the Afghan police and the Afghan Army to eventually take control of the country, thereby allowing NATO forces to withdraw while NATO forces are training the forces, they turn their guns on American forces, these wars can go on for the next 50 years with no win in sight. I happened to mention 50 years but some British military officers that are there on the ground mention 20 years. The question is asked could the people of America ever support such a long war, A war created by the mistakes of politicians that cannot stand up and tell the American people we made a mistake. The other incident was an Afghan police officer killing British soldiers. A wise man once said politicians never admit to mistakes. –Joe

A gunman in an Afghan police uniform has killed six US service members in eastern Afghanistan, officials say. The man opened fire during a training mission in Pachir Wagam district, Nangarhar province, said NATO. He was also killed in the incident. US officials later confirmed that all six were Americans, but declined to give further details. The Taliban issued a statement saying it was responsible for the killings, AP news agency reported.
Spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said the gunman had joined the border police in order to kill foreign soldiers.
"Today he found this opportunity and he killed six invaders," he said.
NATO said the incident was being investigated. "An individual in an Afghan border police uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Forces (Isaf) during a training mission today, killing six service members in eastern Afghanistan," Monday's statement said.
"The individual who fired on the Isaf forces was also killed in the incident."
Regional police commander Gen Aminullah Amerkhail said the area was remote and telephone lines were not working, making it hard to get accurate information on the incident.
Taliban insurgents have previously dressed as police to carry out attacks.
Only at the weekend, two suicide bombers in police uniform killed 12 police officers in southeastern Paktika province.

The Afghan interior ministry says new recruits are checked to make sure they do not have a criminal record - and their village elders have to vouch for their good character. Therefore, there is a vetting procedure for recruits to the Afghan forces - but it is not extensive.
In addition, so many new recruits are being taken on, it is doubtful how thorough the checks can be. There are now some 260,000 members of the Afghan security forces - 160,000 were trained in the last year. The US alone is spending some $11bn (£7bn) a year on training the Afghan security forces.
This latest incident of a soldier or police officer in Afghan uniform apparently firing on NATO will raise fresh questions about the extent to which the Taliban may have infiltrated the Afghan forces, their loyalty and their reliability.
Five British soldiers were shot dead in November last year in Helmand province, by an Afghan police officer, possibly a militant infiltrator, who then escaped.
Isaf is training and mentoring Afghanistan's security forces, but there have also been several incidents of Afghan soldiers firing on foreign troops.
NATO said earlier this month it was investigating Taliban claims that an Afghan soldier had shot dead foreign troops in the south of the country.
In July, a renegade Afghan soldier shot and killed three British army Gurkhas at a base in Helmand province.
A week earlier, an Afghan soldier killed two American contractors inside a military base in northern Afghanistan.
NATO’s exit strategy for Afghanistan involves progressively handing over to the local security forces.
But the BBC's Paul Wood in Kabul says this latest incident will raise questions again about the loyalty and reliability of those forces and the extent to which they could have been infiltrated.

UK: 25% of workers 'fear losing jobs'

Bob:  the article below applies to the UK but the news is the same in the US or any Western countries, they always blame the recession, but no one in high government office ever blames the deindustrialization of the Western world. The reason is, when Western industries leave their home base for emerging market countries they are able to achieve low labour cost, that low labour cost means higher profit, another factor those that control Industry has more sway with the government than the average western worker. –Joe

One in four public sector workers fear they will lose their jobs as the Government's huge cuts in public spending start to take effect, according to a new study.
Two thirds of those questioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said stress levels in their workplace had increased because of the economic downturn.
The survey of over 2,000 employees in private firms as well as the public sector represented a "bleak picture" of employee attitudes throughout the UK, said the CIPD.
Almost a third said their standard of living had fallen over the past six months, although job satisfaction showed a surprise increase, suggesting that workers were displaying a "fixed grin" attitude.
Ben Willmott, the CIPD's senior public policy adviser, said: "The findings echo what happened during early spring 2009 against the backdrop of recession, when job satisfaction rose before falling as economic and employment conditions improved.
"Both then and now there was talk of job losses and bleak economic commentary, suggesting that, when faced with an uncertain outlook, employees place more value on simply having a job than they do during more benign economic times.
"They are also less likely to look enviously over the fence and think the grass may be greener with another employer, which is not surprising given that two thirds of employees think it would be difficult to get a new job if they lost their current position."
One in five workers said their organization was planning redundancies, rising to 50% among public sector staff.

Healtcare: "McSurance" by T. Noah

Joe: check out this article, very interesting. It seems to me healthcare reform was supposed to help this situation, i.e. low wage jobs/affordable health coverage. At $13 a week we can all afford healthcare right? -Bob  

Crap health coverage wins a regulatory victory.
By Timothy Noah  SLATE.COM
McDonald's offers shoddy health insurance plans, officially known as "mini-meds."How's this for a deal: You pay me $13.09 a week. In exchange, I will pay your medical bills, but only up to $2,000 a year. Maybe that deal makes sense if you know with absolute certainty that your medical expenses in the coming year will fall between $680.68 ($13.09 each week for 52 weeks) and $2,000. It makes no sense at all if there's the slightest chance you might end up in the hospital. True, if your hospital expenses exceed $2,000 you'll have lowered the bill by about $1,300. But $1,300 won't likely cover even the cost of an ambulance, much less anything that happens after you arrive. You'd be better off using that $13.09 to buy yourself a weekly lottery ticket.
What I'm describing is an actual health insurance policy. Its technical name is "mini-med plan," but more commonly it goes by the term "crap health insurance." The specific plan described here is what McDonald's offers unmarried new recruits, and the Health and Human Services department just granted it a temporary waiver. McDonald's also offers slightly more generous plans at slightly higher cost: $24 per week for a policy with a $5,000 ceiling and $32 per week for a policy with a $10,000 ceiling.
Health care reform is all about replacing such bait-and-switch schemes with real health insurance. That should indeed happen in 2014, when state health insurance exchanges start selling federally subsidized policies offering a minimum standard of coverage that will not permit (for example) putting a $2,000 ceiling on payouts.
But it was supposed to happen sooner. Annual limits on payouts are already being phased out under the health care law; as of Sept. 23, they aren't allowed to fall below $750,000, which is a whole lot more than McDonald's' $2,000, $5,000, or $10,000. But HHS signaled it was willing to grant waivers to mini-meds. Then the mini-meds fell afoul of another pending regulation concerning the "medical-loss ratio"; i.e., how much revenue insurers spend on health benefits as opposed to overhead or dividends to stockholders. The rule requires health insurers to spend between 80 percent and 85 percent of their revenue on medical care. No can do, McDonald's told HHS in an e-mail obtained by the Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy. The high turnover rate among McDonald's' employees, the company said, occasions lots and lots of paperwork, so we can't keep our administrative costs down relative to our payouts, which—in case you hadn't noticed—are pretty darned low to begin with. On these dubious grounds, HHS granted the mini-meds an exemption through 2011 that could easily stretch to 2014.
The Journal reported that McDonald's was threatening to drop its health care plan if it didn't get its exemption. That would seem an accurate interpretation of McDonald's' assertions that the cost of the medical-loss ratio "would be economically prohibitive for our carrier" and that "having to drop our current mini-med offering would represent a huge disruption to our 29,500 participants." But it elicited huffy denials not only from McDonald's ("Media reports stating that we plan to drop health care coverage for our employees …. are purely speculative and misleading") but also, weirdly, from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ("flat out wrong"). Why lie to protect McDonald's? Sebelius could have said, "Yes, McDonald's says it may not offer health insurance to its workers anymore. But what they call health insurance wouldn't meet the fiduciary standards of a second-rate Christmas club." Why didn't she say that?
Because McDonald's was smart enough to know where the Obama administration is vulnerable. "If you like your insurance plan, you will keep it," President Obama said right after he signed the health reform bill. "No one will be able to take that away from you." That had been Obama's mantra since the 2008 presidential campaign, because he knew people worried about losing what they had. For the most part, Obama kept his promise. But if HHS had stood up to McDonald's and said sorry, paying no more than $2,000 in medical benefits is not our idea of insurance, and if McDonald's, as a consequence, had stopped offering its preposterously stingy mini-med plan, then McDonald's would arguably have won the right to call Obama a liar. Simply because Obama never thought to add the eminently reasonable caveat, "unless, of course, your health plan is utter crap."
Not even the insurance industry considers mini-med plans to constitute real health insurance. The National Association of Health Underwriters says: Mini meds are not intended to replace comprehensive coverage." Then why do employers offer them? Because, the underwriters explain (perhaps a bit too frankly), "Not providing insurance can have a dramatic impact on employee recruiting and retention." If employees don't get health insurance they'll leave. To keep them, employers like McDonald's offer ersatz insurance.
The temporary relief afforded mini-meds may be no big deal if the industry is going to be extinguished a little more than three years from now anyway. But will it be extinguished? In Washington, one waiver often leads to another. Assuming he's still president, Obama can just as easily be called a liar when the insurance exchanges put McSurance out of business in 2014; the only difference is that employees of McDonald's (and other companies with mini-med plans; they're especially big in retail) will have someplace else to go. Will Obama in 2014 have the guts to tell the mini-med providers that the jig is up? I hope so. If the president in 2014 isn't Obama, but rather Obama's GOP opponent from 2012, will President Republican shut down a still-thriving mini-med racket? Don't bet on it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Korea: Disaster on the Brink -and Cannabalism

Dear Bob & Readers:
Comments by Joseph Foster ''Author of a book not yet published, ''Destruction of America'' the book does not relate to the Korean conflict.
The Article below titled, “11 Reasons Why North Korea is The Most Bizarre Nation on Earth,” it depicts a frightening scenario if War is trigged. The best option for the US and South Korea is to use the role of appeasement, this word to some non-level heads is offensive, it reminds them of Chamberlain’s appeasement with Hitler, but that appeasement cannot be compared in the context of North Korea.
The military exercise by the US and South Korea does not diminish the danger of War, it increases the possibility that North Korea headed by a tyrant somewhat mad, with his nuclear capability may gamble the lives of his people in a horrific death scenario, moreover he may also unleash his Nuke on the population of South Korea when it all ends there will be no winner in such a war. The winning formula is the utmost restraint by the US and South Korea to allow time for the tyrant to die, and his successor may begin to see that the world of communism has been diminished. We still have some politicians and members of our military leadership that believes since our firepower exceeds that of North Korea, we shall not appease anyone but be ready to use it, but one must remember that cool heads always prevail, our outrage of 9/11 and the action we took remains haunting us to this day. As to the concept of heroes the cemetery is full of such persons, my concept of hero is buy time and allow the heroes to continue to live. –Joe

Joe: while at first seeing this list you think- North Korea of course "you so crazy" but look a little deeper at my comments. North Korea is not "crazy" it is a desperate leadership that is just as tyranical as the European monarchies of the past and just as crazy as modern commuinst nations. A much better list could be written. On the whole this list is just not persuasive. -Bob

Is the United States about to go to war with the most bizarre nation on earth? A lot of Americans would actually welcome “the Korean War Part 2″, but before people get too excited it is important to keep in mind that we have never been at war with a nation that actually possesses nuclear weapons. At this point it is unclear exactly how powerful North Korea’s nuclear weapons are, but nearly everyone does agree that they are crazy enough to use them. North Korea reportedly has thousands of missile batteries that are capable to hitting the 10 million people that live in Seoul. The death and devastation that an all-out strike on Seoul could potentially cause is almost unimaginable. In fact, the 24.5 million people living either in or around Seoul make it the second largest metropolitan area in the world. The next conflict on the Korean peninsula will be extremely bloody. Nobody should be wishing for that.
Unfortunately, the next Korean war seems closer than ever. Tensions on the peninsula are at a record high. Today, North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world. Some reports claim that they have over 1 million soldiers on active duty. But South Korea is highly militarized as well, and there are 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea that the North Koreans would have to contend with.
Right now the rest of the world is getting quite nervous, because a war between nuclear powers could get out of hand very quickly. If North Korea hits South Korea with nuclear weapons, it seems almost certain that the U.S. would hit North Korea with nukes. The death and destruction that would result would be unprecedented.
So what does China think about all of this? Well, North Korea would not be acting so belligerent right now if they did not have permission from China. Perhaps China is trying to send a message to the West.
On the other hand, there are others that believe that it could go a lot deeper than that. The regime in North Korea is on the verge of collapsing in on itself. Even the Chinese are getting tired of propping up their government and dealing with their nonsense. The truth is that a new Korean war could benefit the Chinese in several ways.
First of all, South Korea (the biggest U.S. ally in the region) would be absolutely devastated even if they “won” the war. That would cripple an incredibly important geopolitical chess piece.
Secondly, the U.S. would be embroiled in yet another costly conflict and would undoubtedly suffer some costly losses as well. The opinion of the rest of the world toward the United States would darken even more – especially if nuclear weapons were used.
Thirdly, China could gain a ton of “leverage” by stabbing North Korea in the back after the conflict had started. In return for supporting the U.S./South Korean coalition, China could ask for all kinds of things that they wouldn't even dream of getting right now. In fact, it is not unthinkable to imagine China walking away with a significant chunk of North Korea in the aftermath of the war. The Chinese government is regularly involved in “border disputes” (just Google it), and China would never pass up a chance to pick up a big slice of new territory.
In the end, the “winner” of any new war on the Korean peninsula would probably be China. The U.S. would get rid of the “North Korean problem”, but it would come at a great cost. It is hard to imagine any scenario that would end up greatly benefiting the United States.
Let us hope that a new all-out Korean war does not erupt. North Korea is ruled by delusional leaders who are insane enough to actually use nuclear weapons. If you doubt this, just consider the following 11 facts….

Bob's Notes: see my comments in parenthesis, I tried to verify these "facts" via internet. -Bob
#1 The first “Great Leader” of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, is deeply revered in North Korea. In fact, there are over 500 statues of Kim Il-sung scattered throughout the country. (easily found all over the internet: Wikipedia, etc.)
#1A Many Koreans apparently believe that Kim Il-Sung actually created the world. (this may be an exageration:  see Wikipedia Discussion)
#2 It is said that hanging up pictures of Kim Il-Sung is compulsory for every household in North Korea. (Yes, according to: North Korean Christians.com)
#3 Millions of North Korean citizens have literally starved to death over the past 10 years. (2.8M according to BBC article)
#4 The North Korean constitution actually guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Yes, see UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
#5 North Korea resorts to cannibalism, "quite common". (Yes, see Defectors Haunted by Guilt Over the Loved Ones Left Behind, Doug Struck Oct. 2003)#6 In 1987, North Korea began construction on the Ryugyong Hotel, which would have been the tallest hotel in the world if it had been finished on schedule in 1989.  (this is not "Bizarre" there are plenty of stupid unfinished & finished projects in the U.S., Europe, Asia, see Hotel of Doom website)
#7 One of North Korea’s greatest “tourist attractions” is the Pueblo – a U.S. naval vessel that the North Koreans captured from “the imperialist Americans” back in 1968. (this is true but it is not "bizzare" as promised - displaying a captured enemy... not bizarre, see the Don Parish website)
#8 According to North Korean media, Kim Jong-il is a phenom at just about everything. It is claimed that he shot 38 under par (including 11 holes-in-one) the first time he ever played golf. (Yes - see World Tribune article Jun. 2004)
#9 Christians are slaughtered in some of the most brutal ways imaginable in North Korea.  (likely see United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.)#10 A few years ago when China was sending humanitarian aid into North Korea the North Koreans decided that they would just start keeping the trains as well. The Chinese crews were sent back over the border on foot. (maybe, see Strategypage.com)
#11 A song entitled “No Motherland Without You” was written specifically for Kim Jong-il and is one of the most popular songs in North Korea. It is regularly sung by the North Korean military. (Yes, this is true but is it bizzare? Kowing the personality cult in place (#2 above) -yes however all nations have wacky nationalistic songs, see YouTube, a Facebook Page & Songun Blog

Are you convinced yet? The truth is that North Korea is very, very dangerous and they should not be underestimated. Let us hope that the United States never has to fight another war with them.

Bob's comments: while at first seeing this list you think- North Korea of course "you so crazy" but look a little deeper at my comments. North Korea is not crazy, it is a desperate leadership that is as tyranical as European monarchies of the past, and just as crazy as modern commuinst nations. A much better list could be written. On the whole this list is just not persuasive by itself.  -Bob