Thursday, November 30, 2006

Another Silent Majority

BOSTON-Americans are strongly opposed to commercial development projects, and a majority of them favor using tax dollars to keep land undeveloped, a new survey finds. According to the Saint Index, a survey of 1,000 Americans commissioned by the Hingham, MA-based Saint Consulting Group, nearly three quarters of the respondents said they are opposed to development in their own community and twice as many Americans actively oppose development as support it.

“It’s becoming a significant issue,” Saint president Patrick Fox tells “Americans are looking for ways to stop development.”

The study found that the strongest citizen opposition surfaces around landfills, quarries and power plants, but opposition to such as Wal-Mart and biotech research facilities have gained ground since last year, when the consulting firm conducted its first national study. Americans are also supportive of state laws that curb the use of eminent domain for private development, with 71% of those polled saying they approve such measures.

Ironically, the study found that Americans are less concerned about the environment than they are about protecting property values and maintaining the character of their community. Only 11% of those polled cited environmental reasons for their opposition to development while 36% said they were concerned how new projects would affect home values and 29% were concerned how growth would impact their community. “Americans are becoming more politically sophisticated, and it’s clear they’re moving actively to protect the investment in their homes,” says Fox.

Some development sectors, like office buildings, apartments and condominiums, casinos, grocery stores, large shopping centers and single-family developments, are also not wanted but opposition to those sectors have dropped since last year. Opposition to home-improvement and department stores has remained fairly consistent over the past two years, the study shows. And, while public support for new hospitals is significant, the study found that medical facilities in many areas face strong opposition to expansion.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And so forth....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Silver Lining

It's hard for Bush to criticize the results of clean elections in South America when he's yammering all the time about "democracy" in Iraq.  A little news from on the Ecuadorean elections:
His victory follows those of President Lula Da Silva in Brazil and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, both left of center politicians who were not the preferred candidates of the US government.

Correa won with 57.9 percent of the vote, compared to the conservative banana tycoon Noboa's 42.1 per cent.

Correa ran on a platform that promised to rein in political elites, threatened to default on foreign debts and to renegotiate oil contracts. Ecuador is the second biggest oil exporter in South America after Venezuela.

He has also in the past criticized the presence of a US military base in his country and like Hugo Chávez is not afraid to stand up to the US government. The US military base contract ends in 2009. When asked whether he thought the contract should be renewed he said, “If they want we won't close the base in 2009, but the United States would have to allow us to have an Ecuadorian base in Miami in return.”

Also, asked to comment on Chávez’s description of President George W. Bush as the devil he said that, “Calling Bush the devil offends the devil. Bush is a tremendously dimwitted President who has done great damage to the World.”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Deep Thinker

In State of Denial, Woodward recounts how Michael Gerson, at the time Bush's chief speechwriter, asked Henry Kissinger why he had supported the Iraq war:

"Because Afghanistan wasn't enough," Kissinger answered. In the conflict with radical Islam, he said, they want to humiliate us. "And we need to humiliate them." The American response to 9/11 had essentially to be more than proportionate—on a larger scale than simply invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban. Something else was essential. The Iraq war was essential to send a larger message, "in order to make a point that we're not going to live in this world that they want for us."

So Kissinger, the supposed deep thinker of the bunch, thought we would really send a message to the Muslim Masses by taking out the only really secular state in the region, the only tyrant strong enough to keep his country free of al Qaeda, the only bulwark of modernity against the Immams.
The man is a moron, a senile moron. 

Friday, November 24, 2006

Toby dreams of turkey...

Not So Hard

It's really not that hard to see a way out of Iraq with honor and dignity.  Pretty simple, really.
First, create a government people want- a socialist government that can provide jobs, education, healthcare, and basic welfare.  A government with a strong Bill of Rights to ensure everyone has equal access to the proceeds.  A government with proceeds from the sale of nationalized oil.
Of course, we can see the problem right away- none of the "higher" Western Civilisations want to see any of this come to pass.  Even the advanced EU largely sees Iraq's oil as a glistening bronzed turkey on a platter, simply waiting a quiet moment for the carving.
Be that as it may.  The problem is not that we can't see a way out, the problem is that we don't want to take it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bitter Leaves

Reading the tea leaves has become a bitter not-good-to-the-last-dregs experience.  And you know what they say- if you don't like what you're reading- read something else.
With little regret, then, I turn to medieval history.  Gingerly, like the man tasked with cleaning the tiger cage, I circle around the chef d'oevre, a modest, unassuming, and in fact, economically remaindered volume entitled Peasant Economic Development within the English manorial system, J.A. Raftis.
Like the tiger cage sweeper, I linger by other exhibits, the manorial house, the deserted medieval village, even the Norman influence, for I fear my intellect may not equal Raftis's dissertation.
Charming it is, to consider a time when social forms were more complex and advanced than technology, but hard to understand the accumulation of peasant capital in a time when almost nobody had either money or fee-simple ownership of land.
Still, it beats reading the tea-leaves of Iraq.........

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tobias Toebiter, Recumbent

Monday, November 13, 2006

This is what.... was like. In summer. Which is gone. Now, it's raining.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No Bandaids Please

If the coverage is <i>universal</i>, the people who are covered today will see little difference.  If they want additional coverage, they are certainly in a position to buy it.
The big picture is that we spend 15% of our GDP while similar countries spend 10%, but they get better results providing health care for their money.
The savings come from the <i>universal</i> aspects of their coverage, not least the ability to constrain prices by aggressive bargaining with suppliers.
The question is, how do we get the savings, that is to say, what practical steps need be taken?  It remains necessary to collect the 10% of GDP to pay for the care, but also important to distribute the 5% that is saved to the right people.  That might involve mandating increases in pay by employers relieved of the necessity of providing coverage to employees, or it might involve investment in the building of clinics or the provision of services.
Introducing a patchwork of bandaid repairs is the worst approach.  Every such 'fix' becomes a perpetual hostage of legislative fortune, administered by empire-building bureaucrats who can be trusted, in any case, to ignore the legislative intent and mandate of the legislation that funds them.  The intended recipients are harrassed by means tests and the providers by authorization demands.  The worst approach.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Enough Already

As the two-story building labelled 'Starbucks' nears completion in the Safeway parking lot, we now find that a Starbucks booth is being constructed in the QFC.
Bad cess to both of them.  The coffee-girls with their independent stand at the QFC are trim, comely, and full of life as they fetchingly fetch the water for their unplumbed booth.  I'm not buying coffee from some young guy with a Tom Dewey mustache and a stud in his ear.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Where Two or Three Gather Together...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Big Deal

Sometime in the near future Americans will be startled to learn that having a huge military, and two dollars, will get you a cup of coffee.  After all, just because the Russian state collapsed, and they set all those captive countries free, does not mean they fired all their soldiers.
In fact, the Russian military is still number two, after us, still eyeing us uneasily, because we eye them uneasily, because they have those thousands of nukes, as do we.
It's like the guy you see out in the rural area driving the two-ton Lincoln or Chrysler Town car that's 30 years old.  Over the years he's put so much in the thing that he can't discard it now, even though it is eating him out of house and home.
So we'll probably have our military, and a few other big-buck dollar wasters like the Drug Wars, long after the rest of the world has mentally put us alongside Russia- big, dumb, and clumsy.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Huh? Whuzzat?

It ain't over...

...until the Fat Lady sings.
If experience is any guide, the oil and the revenues from the oil will have a big say in the outcome.

Right now, the Iraqis are doing just what Bush wants them to do- fighting among themselves and demanding that US troops withdraw to bases in the countryside. Presumably at some point a Quisling government will make a deal with the Bushies, involving the use of US troops to protect sweetheart contracts that steal the oil.

The Sunni presumably are the group with the best memories of what national control of the oil can buy. If the Shiites were well and truely frozen out of the benefits under Saddam, the Shiite 'street' may not even miss national control of the oil, or may be more cheaply bought off than the Sunnis, but of course, there are a lot more Shiites to buy off.

The situation, in short, looks very glum for the average American, but is pretty much going according to plan for the Bushies.  If that in fact is the case, I wouldn't expect an early end to any of this.