October 15, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Yesterday My Daughter Emigrated (CARLOS M. DUARTE, 10/08/12, Huffington Post)

Yesterday I said goodbye to my daughter. She emigrated in search of a future she couldn't find in her country and that society, or her parents, didn't know how to give her.

It is extraordinarily frustrating for a father to watch his children leave -- but keeping them close is no longer an option, because it would mean trapping them in a situation with no future.

Living abroad is not new to her, nor does it intimidate her. In the past five years, she lived and worked in Canada, France, and England, though all those times it was about developing her professional credentials. Now it's about rebelling against those who refer to her generation as the "lost generation." Leaving has cost her her partner, the hushed sobbing that I heard last night from my bedroom made the situation even more bitter.

Like many young people her age, my daughter was caught by surprise upon completion of her professional training. In the spring she returned to Spain with the intention of looking for a job here -- it didn't really matter what, as long as she could "do her thing." She got a few interviews, but the conditions that were offered to her always seemed to be abusive: a mere salary, 400 € a month, for a person with a bachelor's and a master's degree, who speaks four languages, and who has worked abroad. Such salaries aren't enough to eat or rent a room in the cities where they're offered. She would have needed help from her parents -- something we were willing to do. But our daughter didn't want to keep being dependent on us -- as this support would in fact subsidize the same employers that are taking advantage of our young people.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


He hated Britain and excused Stalin's genocide. But was hero of the BBC and the Guardian, Eric Hobsbawm a TRAITOR too? (A N WILSON, 2 October 2012, DailyMail)

The tens of millions dead, the hundreds of millions enslaved, the sheer evil falsity of the ideology which bore down with such horror on the peoples of Russia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Germany, never occurred to this man. 

He went on believing that a few mistakes had been made, and that Stalinism was 'disillusioning' - but that, in general, it would have been wonderful if Stalin had succeeded.

Any barmy old fool is, thank goodness, entitled to their point of view in our country. Unlike Stalin's Soviet Union or Hitler's Germany, Britain is a country where you can more or less say or think what you like.

What is disgraceful about the life of Hobsbawm is not so much that he believed this poisonous codswallop, and propagated it in his lousy books, but that such a huge swathe of our country's intelligentsia - the supposedly respectable media and chattering classes - bowed down before him and made him their guru. Made him our 'greatest historian'.

The truth is that, far from being a great historian who sometimes made mistakes, Hobsbawm deliberately falsified history.

In his book The Age Of Extreme, published in 1994, he quite deliberately underplayed the Soviet Union's attack on Finland in 1939-40, saying it was merely an attempt to push the Russian border a little further away from Leningrad. He also omits any mention of the massacre of 20,000 Polish soldiers by Russian Secret Police at Katyn.

In the same book, he dismisses the appallingly violent suppression by the Nazis of the Polish resistance in the 1944 Warsaw uprising - when a complacent Soviet army ignored desperate pleas to come to the Poles' aid - as 'the penalty of a premature uprising'.

These are not mistakes - they are wicked lies.

In his 1997 book On History, he wrote the following: 'Fragile as the communist systems turned out to be, only a limited, even minimal, use of force was necessary to maintain them from 1957 until 1989.' 

This again is a blatant lie. A huge and ever-growing Soviet armaments industry ensured there was continued violence in most of the major trouble-spots of the world through those years before Communism collapsed.

Thanks to the provision of Soviet support, weapons and armour, there was continued violence in Africa and, closer to home, in Ireland, where the IRA used Soviet arms. 

Ask the inhabitants of Prague, where Soviet tanks rolled into the streets in 1968, if they agreed with Hobsbawm that this was 'minimal use of force'. 

Ask the millions of people who were taken from their homes by KGB thugs and forced to live, often for decades, in prison-camps throughout the Gulag, whether force had been 'minimal'.

Nor were Hobsbawm's rewards merely the sycophantic praise heaped on him by Lefty academics and silly chatterers at London dinners. Having cultivated his group of Left-wing protégés at Birkbeck College in London, where he dominated the history department and went on to become President, he was showered with accolades by academics of the Left.

...believe that Stalinism did work?  Otherwise, what were they defending?

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Swing States poll: Women push Romney into lead (Susan Page, 10/15/12, USA TODAY)

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


A Prescription for Health Care? : THE SOURCE: "Growth of Consumer-Directed Health Plans to One-Half of All Employer-Sponsored Insurance Could Save $57 Billion Annually" by Amelia M. Haviland, M. Susan Marquis, Roland D. McDevitt, and Neeraj Sood, in Health Affairs, May 2012. (Wilson Quarterly)
Health care costs are sucking the country dry. One remedy gaining support is consumer-directed health insurance plans, in which individuals accept high deductibles in return for relatively low monthly premiums. Many variants offer health care savings accounts that allow plan holders to store money tax-free to help pay for the increased out-of-pocket medical expenses. Enrollment in such plans expanded from four percent of employer-sponsored enrollment in 2006 to 13 percent in 2010. Big savings could be in the offing if the trend continues, report Carnegie Mellon University public policy and statistics professor Amelia M. Haviland and her coauthors.

Consumer-directed plans could eventually constitute 50 percent of employer-sponsored enrollment, in part because the 2010 Affordable Care Act encourages their growth. Haviland and her colleagues looked at the recent experience of plan users to estimate the effect. What they found will thrill budget hawks: Such a shift would reduce health care spending $57 billion per year. That's equal to seven percent of all costs for the employer-sponsored population.

Because the insured have more "skin in the game" due to their high deductibles, they are more likely to evaluate their options closely and are less likely to seek out unnecessary care, Haviland and colleagues say. "About two-thirds of the savings would result from fewer episodes of care and about one-third from lower spending per episode," they note. 

Now just tweak the law to universalize HSAs.

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 PM


What the Islamists Get Right : It's time to admit that banning Mein Kampf while allowing anti-Islam cartoons is a double-standard (Michael Moynihan|October 15, 2012, The Tablet)

There are clear differences between denying a historical event like the Holocaust and mocking religious prophets, but the Islamists who see a free-speech double standard in Europe are correct. In Germany and Russia, for example, the printing and selling of Mein Kampf is banned (though Germany has recently considered publishing a version of the book annotated by historians). Holocaust deniers can be prosecuted in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Romanian, Poland, and Luxembourg. Other European states don't explicitly outlaw denial but often prosecute offenders on other statutes, like inciting racial hatred. In all these countries, though, the mocking of religious belief--be it Islam or Christianity--is protected speech. And perhaps more important, these laws, while well-intentioned, have had little effect on the distribution or consumption of offensive material. By forbidding it, these governments may actually be creating interest where there was previously none.

Despite a lack of evidence that such laws are effective, some feel that given the horrors of recent European history, restricting offensive speech is justified and necessary. Speaking alongside novelist Salman Rushdie in 2010, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel defended the principles of free speech against those who demanded religious exemptions, with one significant exception: "Holocaust denial today--what it does to the children of survivors--I believe [it] should be illegal."

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


U.S. families' debt loads decline to pre-recession levels (Don Lee, 10/15/12, Los Angeles Times)

Overall, households today are paying less than 16% of after-tax income to cover debt payments and lease obligations, the smallest share since 1984, Federal Reserve data show. [...]

A massive number of foreclosures and a new frugality on the part of many households have helped reduce liabilities. Now the long process of shedding debt seems about over, and that alone should benefit the economy.

With less debt weighing them down, consumers are feeling more upbeat today than they have in five years, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey of consumers this month. And that could translate into a little more spending and risk-taking.

The trivial nature of the "credit binge" is illustrated by how easily the debt was wound down.
Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Skilled factory worker shortage could multiply by 10 by 2020 (Tiffany Hsu, October 15, 2012, LA Times)

[B]y the end of the decade, the shortage could balloon to 875,000 highly skilled workers from a shortfall of 80,000 to 100,000 now, according to the study.

Today, the deficit of workers represents less than 1% of the 11.5 million total factory workers in the country, or less than 8% of the 1.4 million highly skilled employees. Employers are looking to fill positions for welders, machinists, industrial machinery mechanics and more.

Kids would start seeking that training if we stopped sending them to college.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM


Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released... and here is the chart to prove it (DAVID ROSE, 13 October 2012, Daily Mail)
The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week. 

The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.

This means that the 'plateau' or 'pause' in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.

Only the Brights believe that climate should remain absolutely static.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM


Romney Follows Obama's Foreign Policy Script (Peter Beinart Oct 15, 2012, Daily Beast)

Good for Martha Raddatz. In last Thursday's vice-presidential debate, she served up the first serious, widely watched discussion of the foreign-policy differences between this year's Democratic and Republican tickets. And in so doing, she revealed what foreign-policy wonks already know. There aren't as many differences as the two sides would have you believe.