August 19, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


Baldness cure could be on shelves in two years (Stephen Adams, 8/19/12, The Telegraph)

...primping is the disease.

Posted by orrinj at 11:27 AM


Study shows marriage stops men drinking - as their wives hit the bottle instead (John Bingham, 18 Aug 2012, The Telegraph)

The researchers found that married women generally drink more heavily than single women, widows or divorcees.

By contrast, men who are happily married drink less than their bachelor friends and significantly less than divorced men.

The reason, the researchers conclude, is that while women can help keep their husbands' drinking habits under control, men are simply a bad influence on their wives.

Previous studies have shown that, overall, married people tend to drink less than non-married people, suggesting that a more settled home life can promote good health.

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 AM


At Florida retirement community, Paul Ryan takes aim at Democrats on Medicare (Felicia Sonmez, August 18, 2012, Washington Post)

A budget wonk known for giving PowerPoint presentations at town hall meetings, Ryan took a different tack Saturday, seeking to make his case in personal terms. He told the crowd that "like a lot of Americans, when I think about Medicare, it's not just a program. It's not just a bunch of numbers. It's what my mom relies on. It's what my grandma had."

Ryan also spoke for the first time on the trail about his grandmother, who he said had advanced Alzheimer's disease and had moved in with him and his mother while Ryan was in high school.

"You learn a lot about life" when a relative falls ill, he said.

"Medicare was there for our family, for my grandma, when we needed it then, and Medicare is there for my mom while she needs it now, and we have to keep that guarantee," he said to applause.

He also emphasized another point Republicans have made on the trail in recent weeks, citing his mother in a dig at Obama's now-infamous "you didn't build that" line.

"Mom, I am proud of you for going out and getting another degree," Ryan said. "I'm proud of you for going out and building the small business that you created, and mom, you did build that."

Posted by orrinj at 11:10 AM


Why Ryan Matters (William Kristol, 8/19/12, Weekly Standard)

The Romney 2012 campaign no longer brings to mind its Republican predecessor, the McCain campaign of 2008. Instead, Romney-Ryan could end up more closely resembling Obama 2008.

In 2008, Obama was the young forward-looking reformer, running on a big (if gauzy) message. He was able to capitalize on opposition to the Bush administration without seeming merely oppositional. He was able to enliven his campaign by his own presence and skills. Now it's the Republicans who are running on a newly bold conservative message, presenting a hopeful choice for change rather than mere opposition to the status quo, and on a ticket enlivened by Ryan's presence and skills.

Of course, Mr. Obama, like Mr. Romney, has neither presence nor skills.  Indeed, with the possible exception of Mr. Romney's putative faith--even that belied by his own political record--the two men are indistinguishable.  Mr. Ryan is, effectively, Mr. Romney's melanin.

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


OBIT: Ian Dunlop : Ian Dunlop, who has died aged 83, was a wit, charmer, chancer, fantasist and pretender to the much-claimed title of "last of the old Soho characters". (The Telegraph, 8/17/12)

His forebears were Scottish aristocrats, soldiers of the Raj and suffragettes. His own youth was spent amid the glittering haute bohème of Fifties London: the gambling set of John Bingham (later Lord Lucan); its underbelly, personified by the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman ("charming fellow, absolutely charming"); and the familiar Soho cast - Francis Bacon, John Minton, John Deakin, Daniel Farson and other frequenters of Muriel Belcher's Colony Room Club. In typical Soho style, Dunlop was to be found at one time or another claiming that he disliked or despised them all.

In conversation Dunlop's aim was to satirise and annoy the pretentious, particularly on the Left. General Pinochet was "liberal yet firm". A project of his from the Eighties was a collective of lesbian plumbers, to be called Stopcock. His interests included music; regrettably, his book Alban Berg's Debt to Offenbach never saw the light of day .

Tall and lanky, patrician in physiognomy, speech and mien (in his fifties he was dubbed "The Greying Mantis"), Dunlop saw himself as a ladies' man . Girls who had been stood up by feckless or faithless men were his speciality, and his hit ratio was high. It was explained to them that the ritual needs of his world were satisfied by the Ceremony of the Lowering of the Pants at Sunset. Even towards the end of his life the patter needed only minor adjustment: "If I give you a silver sixpence will you put your hand on my catheter?" Such lines worked only because they were backed by a powerful charm. "The real joke about Ian Dunlop," women friends would point out, "is that he isn't joking." [...]

He finally succumbed to an infection that set in after he broke an arm in a fall ("I was attacked by a gang of Jews, Freemasons and Communists"), having survived (in chronological order) bladder cancer; tuberculosis; heart disease; a broken back; emphysema; and lung cancer. During one of his many stays in the old Middlesex Hospital - in what he described as the Jeff Bernard Memorial Bed - he was presented to medical students who were told to find everything that was seriously wrong with him; none managed to tick every box. But Dunlop enjoyed the attention: "I fell in love with myself when I was 12 and I have never been unfaithful."

Posted by orrinj at 10:51 AM



In the community of economists, policymakers, and policy wonks which has studied and debated this issue, there are some Democrats and progressives who favor moving to a voucher system, although they usually avoid that phrase and use the less controversial term "premium support."

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago, Joseph Rago, a member of the paper's editorial board, pointed out that it was Alain Enthoven, a Stanford economist who informally advised the Clinton Administration about health-care reform, who in 1978 first suggested switching to a voucher system, arguing that competition among rival health-care providers would help keep down costs. In the mid-nineties, this idea was endorsed by other moderate economists, including Henry Aaron, of the Brookings Institution, and Bob Reischauer, the longtime president of the Urban Institute. It was Aaron and Reischauer who coined the term "premium support."

More recently, some Democratic policymakers have put forward specific plans that involve shifting future retirees from traditional Medicare into a system based on vouchers. In November of 2010, as part of a long-term plan to balance the budget, former Senator Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, and Alice Rivlin, who served as budget director in the Clinton Administration, suggested transforming Medicare into a voucher system starting in 2018. And in December of last year, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden--a Democrat--joined Paul Ryan in proposing a similar premium-support plan that would start in 2022. (Wyden subsequently voted against Ryan's budget for 2013, which contained the voucher idea along with some hefty cuts in Medicare funding.)

So yes, there are some progressives who have supported the basic ideas underlying Ryan's plan, even if they would criticize many of its details. to do Democrats like vouchers until Republicans use them.  But neither is actually disputing policy.

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 AM


Even After 4 Years, Obama Remains a Mystery (David Shribman, August 19, 2012, RCP)

George W. Bush was not an enigma. He had no hidden parts. His father was not mysterious. George H.W. Bush's life was dedicated to achievement and service. Even Bill Clinton wasn't unfathomable. Nothing in his presidency -- the brilliant highs, the shocking lows -- was a substantial, unpredictable departure from his past.

Barack Obama, though, is the most enigmatic president since Jimmy Carter, the most mysterious since Lyndon Johnson, the most unfathomable since Franklin Roosevelt. Political professionals sometimes say of public figures that what you see is what you get, more or less. But with Mr. Obama, what you see is both more and less than what you get. [...]

The gravest warning sign in Mr. Obama's background wasn't his spare record in the U.S. Senate (Johnson often ridiculed John F. Kennedy for having accomplished almost nothing in the Capitol), nor his limited experience in electoral office (Lincoln had but one term in the House). Instead, the most troubling aspect of Mr. Obama's past were the 129 abstentions in his Illinois Senate career. They suggested that Mr. Obama was more interested in getting elected than in doing the work he had been elected to perform.

Having elected such an empty suit, we have a great need to believe that there is more to him than we've gotten.  But our need does not create substance.  Mr. Obama is a classic social climber who believes in nothing but his own advancement.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


Crime Solving, Wyoming-Style (NANCY DEWOLF SMITH, 5/31/12, WSJ)

"Longmire" is the best of two worlds: a modern crime drama with dry wit and sometimes heart-wrenching emotion that's also got a glorious setting under the big sky of Wyoming. Based on the novels by Craig Johnson, the series revolves around Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) and a small clutch of deputies in a sprawling northern county adjacent to a Cheyenne reservation. If it weren't for a few modern conveniences, like cellphones and trucks, it might as well be 1875, so rugged and unspoiled does the scenery look.

That includes Walt Longmire. Blessed with Mr. Taylor's deep voice and a delivery not unlike Clint Eastwood's in earlier days, Walt instantly feels like the real deal. When we first meet him in the cabin where he lives alone by a meadow near a forest in the middle of nowhere, it's clear that this is the lawman of old, who doesn't say much but gets the job done. That, and more, in a rugged vein, is all part of Walt. But he's also a middle-age widower who is deep in grief a year after his wife died.

Walt is just waking up--literally and figuratively--when the story begins, and his re-entry into the world is the show's central thread. Yet this is also a detective series, and the unraveling of each week's crime is what keeps "Longmire" going. All that and great views. 

Mr. Taylor is so good as Longmire that it seemed strange not to have seen him in other stuff.  Turns out, he's a well-regarded Aussie character actor.

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Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


People say my book sold football to the middle classes. I disagree' : 'Fever Pitch' author Nick Hornby reflects on the ways in which he, football and society itself have changed in the 20 years since his hit memoir was first published (Nick Hornby, 8/17/12, The Telegraph)

English football has changed since Fever Pitch was published in 1992. Indeed, more has happened in the last 20 years than in the previous 70 or 80. The game has got faster and better, and the players are fitter and more accomplished. Our stadiums are mostly safe, but tickets are ruinously expensive and much harder to come by, and crowds are consequently older, and quieter. Just about everyone who has ever played in the Premier League over the last decade is a multimillionaire, by definition, but in the early Nineties, England's most gifted player, Paul Gascoigne, was playing in the richer and infinitely more glamorous Italian league. Both the lira and its lure are now gone. If you subscribe to a cable sports channel, you can see two or three games a day, games taking place all over Europe. It's easier to watch a Premier League game on TV in New York City or the Canary Islands than it is in London, and you can talk to someone in any bar in the world about Arsène Wenger's apparent stubbornness in the transfer market. My previously dour and unlovable team suddenly became a byword for aesthetic perfection, and enjoyed possibly the greatest period of its history; for a few bewildering years, between 1997 and 2006, I could watch several of the best players in the world every other Saturday.

Most of these changes can be traced back to one event, the Hillsborough disaster, and to one man, Rupert Murdoch. After Hillsborough there was a general recognition that something needed to be done - that the enormous, crumbling concrete terraces weren't safe, that an afternoon's entertainment should not carry with it the threat of injury or even death. And Murdoch saw that his TV network would become indispensable to huge swathes of the population if he bought the rights to the most popular sport in the world. He flooded the game with money, foreign stars turned up in their hundreds, and the clubs jacked up their season ticket prices to pay the newly astonishing wage bills.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


An American Classic : a review of Democracy and Leadership  by Irving Babbitt.  (CLAES G. RYN, Autumn 1981, University Bookman)

Babbitt questioned the dominant intellectual currents of his own lifetime. In Democracy and Leadership, as in other works, he criticizes what he calls the naturalistic movement in modern Western society. He distinguishes between two aspects of this movement, letting Francis Bacon exemplify its mechanistic and utilitarian side and Jean-Jacques Rousseau its sentimental side. Both ignore the need to order human life with reference to a transcendent ethical principle. The utilitarian and sentimental dispositions are frequently joined in the same individual. A common modern political type is the lover of humanity, basking in self-approbation, whose benevolence expresses itself in calls for social engineering. But, according to Babbitt, no amount of sentimental "love" or sociopolitical activism can substitute for a lack of real moral character. Stressing the tension in man between higher and lower potentialities, he views genuine love and charity as the fruits of an often difficult self-discipline in the individual soul. Social reform can sometimes aid but never replace moral self-improvement and education.

[W]ith the present trend toward "social justice," the time is rapidly approaching when everybody will be minding everybody else's business. For the conscience that is felt as a still small voice and that is the basis of real justice, we have substituted a social conscience that operates rather through a megaphone. The busybody, for the first time perhaps in the history of the world, has been taken at his own estimate of himself.

Real social harmony rests ultimately on the exercise of a higher will in man. This will is Babbitt's much-debated but poorly understood "inner check." He means by this term the transcendent good reaching into the lives of individual men and drawing them toward a common center. In specifically Christian language, the inner check corresponds to grace or love. But this higher will, Babbitt argues, does not have to be taken on faith or on the authority of tradition. It is a matter of immediate experience which can be judged by its fruits.

Societies aspiring to be civilized must instill in their citizens a sense of the enduring good to which the impulse of the moment can be ordered. A rich cultural life serves this purpose. An "inner working" of this kind must not be neglected in favor of attention to a merely utilitarian "outer working," such as the economic efficiency displayed in the marketplace. All societies, but especially those wishing to maintain a popular government, need citizens educated toward appreciation of the higher values of civilized life and leaders particularly distinguished in the same respect. To inspire and sustain the higher potentialities of human society, Babbitt gives a central place to the training of what he calls "the moral imagination." This highest form of the imagination, most fully developed in the great poets and artists, penetrates to the heart of human existence, giving man a sense of the elevation and happiness of morally ordered experience. In its attempt to grasp what abides in the midst of change, it draws upon the great examples of the past. But it does so creatively and goes beyond tradition in its application of the cultural heritage to new circumstances. Babbitt contrasts this type of imagination (in the moderate traditionalism of Edmund Burke) with the radical and primitivistic dreaming of Rousseau.

Contrary to Rousseauistic belief, a people throwing off all traditional restraint unleash in themselves, not some original goodness, but the arbitrary and destructive ego. Hobbes and Nietzsche are correct in regarding the will to power as a pervasive human drive. Under the influence of a perverted demagogic leadership, a democratic people lacking in moral discipline will soon exhibit a ruthless imperialism. In 1924 Democracy and Leadership predicted the catastrophes soon to befall mankind.

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Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


The Crisis of Liberalism (Charles R. Kesler, August 7, 2012, Claremont Review of Books)

Finally, we come to the fiscal embarrassments confronting contemporary liberals. Again, Obamacare is wonderfully emblematic. President Obama's solution to the problem of two health care entitlement programs quickly going bankrupt--Medicare and Medicaid--is to add a third? Perhaps it is a stratagem. More likely it is simply the reflexive liberal solution to any social problem: spend more. From Karl Marx to John Rawls, if you'll excuse the juxtaposition, left-wing critics of capitalism have often paid it the supreme compliment of presuming it so productive an economic system that it has overcome permanently the problem of scarcity in human life. Capitalism has generated a "plenty." It has distributional problems, which produce intolerable social and economic instability; but eliminate or control those inconveniences and it could produce wealth enough not only to provide for every man's necessities but also to lift him into the realm of freedom. To some liberals, that premise implied that socioeconomic rights could be paid for without severe damage to the economy, and without oppressive taxation at least of the majority. Obama is the first liberal to suggest that even capitalism cannot pay for all the benefits promised by the American welfare state, particularly regarding health care. Granted, his solution is counterintuitive in the extreme, which makes one wonder if he is sincere. To the extent that liberalism is the welfare state, and the welfare state is entitlement spending, and entitlements are mostly spent effecting the right to health care, the insolvency of the health care entitlement programs is rightly regarded as a major part of the economic, and moral, crisis of liberalism. "Simply put," Yuval Levin writes, "we cannot afford to preserve our welfare state in anything like its present form." According to the Congressional Budget Office, by 2025 Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the interest on the federal debt will consume all-all-federal revenues, leaving defense and all other expenditures to be paid for by borrowing; and the debt will be approaching twice the country's annual GDP.

If something can't go on forever, Herbert Stein noted sagely, it won't. It would be possible to increase federal revenues by raising taxes, but the kind of money that's needed could only be raised by taxing the middle class (defined, let us say, as all those families making less than $250,000 a year) very heavily. Like every Democratic candidate since Walter Mondale, who made the mistake of confessing to the American people that he was going to raise their taxes, Obama swore not to do that. Even supporters of Obamacare, like Clive Crook, a commentator for the Atlantic and the Financial Times, regretted the decision.

It is right to provide guaranteed health insurance, but wrong to claim this great prize could be had, in effect, for nothing. Broadly based tax increases and fundamental reform to health care delivery will be needed to balance the books. Denying this was a mistake. What was worse--an insult to one's intelligence, really--was to argue as Obama has...that this reform was, first and foremost, a cost-reducing initiative, and a way to drive down premiums.
If the bankruptcy of the entitlement programs were handled just the right way, with world-class cynicism and opportunism, in an emergency demanding quick, painful action lest grandma descend into an irreversible diabetic coma, then liberalism might succeed in maneuvering America into a Scandinavia-style überwelfare state, fueled by massive and regressive taxes cheerfully accepted by the citizenry. But odds are we stand, instead, at the twilight of the liberal welfare state. As it sinks, a new, more conservative system will likely rise that will feature some combination of more means-testing of benefits, a switch from defined-benefit to defined-contribution programs, greater devolution of authority to the states and localities, a new budget process that will force welfare expenditures to compete with other national priorities, and the redefinition of the welfare function away from fulfilling socioeconomic "rights" and toward charitably taking care of the truly needy as best the community can afford, when private efforts have failed or proved inadequate.

Yes, the modern conservative project is to put welfare on more stable financial footing, not to end it.
Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


China's currency under pressure as growth slows (AFP, 8/19/12)

The yuan has dropped just one percent this year, but the fall has come after years of gains amid foreign pressure by China's trading partners, especially the United States, who claimed it was undervalued.

The China Securities Journal, a state newspaper, carried a front-page commentary this month saying markets have now accepted that the currency is on a weakening track, calling that a potential boon for the economy.

A weaker yuan could spur positive effects such as boosting exports, it added.

Broader trends are also pressuring the yuan as the dollar has started to strengthen this year against other Asian currencies, said Bill Belchere, chief emerging markets economist at Mirae Asset Securities in Hong Kong.

Analysts say that the decline so far in the yuan, also known as the renminbi, would be far larger if authorities were not providing a floor by selling some of China's trove of $3 trillion in foreign reserves.

"If it were freely traded today the RMB would be 10 percent below where it is," said Shanghai-based independent economist Andy Xie. "That's what the real economy is trying to get."

Xie added, however, that authorities cannot let that happen as they are dealing with a serious property slump which, if mishandled, could lead to a loss of confidence.

"If the currency drops significantly, the property market will collapse," he said. "They are trying to achieve some sort of soft landing."

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Obamacare's unpopularity blunts Obama's attacks on Romney-Ryan Medicare plans (MARC CAPUTO, 8/18/12, MIAMIHERALD.COM)

Obamacare was supposed to be President Barack Obama's legacy. But it's looking like a political millstone.

The mammoth and unpopular health insurance overhaul weighed down Democrats in 2010 when Republicans helped turn seniors to their side.

And now Democrats have unexpectedly had to play defense over Obamacare's Medicare cuts even as Mitt Romney picked Congressman Paul Ryan as a vice-presidential running mate and drew attention to unpopular Republican plans that cap future Medicare spending.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Be More Productive. Take Time Off. (JASON FRIED, August 18, 2012, )

[A]t 37signals, the software company I've run for the past 13 years, we take inspiration from the seasons and build change into our work schedule.

For example, from May through October, we switch to a four-day workweek. And not 40 hours crammed into four days, but 32 hours comfortably fit into four days. We don't work the same amount of time, we work less.

Most staff workers take Fridays off, but some choose a different day. Nearly all of us enjoy three-day weekends. Work ends Thursday, the weekend starts Friday, and work starts back up on Monday.

The benefits of a six-month schedule with three-day weekends are obvious. But there's one surprising effect of the changed schedule: better work gets done in four days than in five.

...he wouldn't have them working 8 hour days, six hours of which are wasted.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM




Social Security is financed by a 12.4 percent tax on wages. Workers pay half and their employers pay the other half. The tax is applied to the first $110,100 of a worker's wages, a level that increases each year with inflation. For 2011 and 2012, the tax rate for employees was reduced to 4.2 percent, but is scheduled to return to 6.2 percent in January.


--Apply the Social Security tax to all wages, including those above $110,100. Workers making $200,000 in wages would get a tax increase of $5,574, an amount their employers would have to match. Their future benefits would increase, too. This option would eliminate 72 percent of the shortfall. Two years ago, it would have wiped out 99 percent.

--Increase the payroll tax by 0.1 percentage point a year, until it reaches 14.4 percent in 20 years. At that point, workers making $50,000 a year would get a tax increase of $500 and employers would have to match it. This option would eliminate 53 percent of the shortfall. Two years ago, it would have wiped out 73 percent.


Retirement age

Workers qualify for full retirement benefits at age 66, a threshold that gradually rises to 67 for people born in 1960 or later. Workers are eligible for early retirement at 62, though monthly benefits are reduced by about 25 percent. The reductions shrink the longer you wait to apply.


--Gradually raise the full retirement age to 68 in 2033. This option would eliminate 15 percent of the shortfall. Two years ago, it would have eliminated a little more than 20 percent.

--Gradually raise the full retirement age to 69 in 2039 and 70 in 2063. This option would eliminate 37 percent of the shortfall. Two years ago, it would have eliminated about half.


Cost-of-living adjustments

Each year, if consumer prices increase, Social Security benefits go up as well. By law, the increases are pegged to an inflation index. This year, benefits went up by 3.6 percent, the first increase since 2009.

Option: Adopt a new inflation index called the Chained CPI, which assumes that people change their buying habits when prices increase to reduce the impact on their pocketbooks. The new index would reduce the annual COLA by 0.3 percentage point, on average. This option would eliminate 19 percent of the shortfall. Two years ago, it would have eliminated 26 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM

Raising the Ri***n Generation (BRONWEN HRUSKA, August 18, 2012, NY Times)

I REMEMBER the moment my son's teacher told us, "Just a little medication could really turn things around for Will." We stared at her as if she were speaking Greek.

"Are you talking about Ri****n?" my husband asked.

Will was in third grade, and his school wanted him to settle down in order to focus on math worksheets and geography lessons and social studies. The children were expected to line up quietly and "transition" between classes without goofing around. This posed a challenge -- hence the medication.

"We've seen it work wonders," his teacher said. "Will's teachers are reprimanding him. If his behavior improves, his teachers will start to praise him. He'll feel better about himself and about school as a whole."