Apropos of Nothing, an article by me about books, survivalism, and fantasy fiction for the enjoyment of my fellow Rantburgers.
Of course there's nothing new about getting so lost in a book that you become the book. People have been doing it for as long as there have been books to get lost in. The entire Zionist movement believed themselves to be characters from a book. So did the Soviets. So did the Mormon settlers in Utah. Ayn Rand read Victor Hugo and O. Henry, fell in love, became a character from a book, and then wrote books that caused other people to become characters from her books. (In Rand's defense she was a Jew in revolutionary Russia. She was going to end up in a book no matter what she did. The Torah. Das Kapital. Mein Kampf. The Old New Land. At least this way she got to create her own book.)
Go to a training camp in Pakistan so that you can fight Russians in the Caucasus in the name of God? You're in a book. Moving to India to start a leper colony and preach the love of Jesus? You're in a book. Read Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, move to San Francisco's Castro District, and have a lover named Armando? Your ass is in a book.
Yes, well done. The Power of dreams and the power of fantasies--can't live without them. Let no one try to destroy them. America began with a dream, a fantasy. All was good, but the last paragraph hit me.
This too is the power of fantasy: the thing that makes us want to become high school wizards and questing hobbits and starship troopers and John Gaults. The books that won't let us go, no matter how we try to run from them. And this is also how you know your enemies. They're the ones trying to erase your pages so that they can fill them up with their own words.
Bullshit, no one talked about this in Portugal. And everyone maybe except the Communists - and even then they are of soviet extraction - would not agree. The other leftists don't like the Chinese.
The only change is if the Chinese drop a boatload of money here. And by boatload i man something real huge, like erasing all our debt or something...
The only change is if the Chinese drop a boatload of money here. And by boatload i man something real huge, like erasing all our debt or something
PG, the Chinese won't need to. They play a long game and Portugal is going down the gurglar.
Then they will make an offer Portugal can't refuse.
Sorry AlanC. Looks like we were in the same place this morning. I think it is healthy every now and then to just retreat from the news and ignore it completely...find some diversions. Enjoy the family or friends, go on a hike, go canoeing or kyacking, see a movie, read a book, etc.
The president is convinced Americans need to pay more in taxes. Here's what he said yesterday.
"I think everybody out there understood that was an important debate and the majority of voters agreed with me. By the way, more voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me! So we've got a clear majority of the American people who recognize if we're gonna be serious about deficit reduction we gotta do it in a balanced way."
But let me tell you, come January 1, you're probably not going to be happy with the amount of taxes you're paying. That's because it's not just Federal taxes that you pay.
A middle class taxpayer pays 25% percent of their income in Federal Income Tax. Sounds, ok?
Then there is the Federal Social Security and Medicare payroll tax of 13.3%. You pick up 5.65% while you're employer pays 7.65%. Add them up and that's 38.3% of middle class family incomes going to Uncle Sam. But we aren't done, not by a long shot.
According to the Tax Foundation, the average state's income tax rate on the middle class is 4.82%. Of course, some states have it and some don't, but we're taking an average here.
Now the total: 43.12% of middle class income to taxes.
Oh, and I almost forgot, unless congress makes a move, Federal Income taxes go to 28% for middle income folks next year as the Bush tax cuts expire.
Neither party has said they want that to happen, but in Washington, well, you never know.
Also the payroll tax for those folks will go to 15.3% from 13.3%percent.
Did I mention state, property, corporate, and excise taxes? No?
All told, next year, total taxes will go to almost 50% for the middle class; the very group that the president says he wants to protect. That means 50 cents out of every dollar earned has to go to the government. Half of everything will go to an entity that didn't earn that money, and shouldn't be entitled to all that dough.
Unbelievable. You think most Americans agree that's fair?
I sit on my ass, not by choice, there's the rub.
I'm handicapped and on medicare, again, not my choice, I'd rather be making things(Machinist) or fixing things (Master Mechanic)but instead a few Strokes will that it to you, so I sit.
Posted by: Redneck Jim ||
I'm sorry RJ. I'm also on Medicare dealing with a few problems too. There are many who are legitimately in need of help. If the system had been run right, it would have worked for people for quite some time. The money paid in has never been protected and managed well. Our federal government has not been fiscally responsible. There are people who milk the system. I know of a young lady who borrowed a couple of hundred thousand in student loans and has no intention of paying any of it back. She thinks it is OK to game the system. I heard about another guy who bought a duplex with student loans and yet another who bought a new Audi with student loans. There are healthcare providers who engage in fraud. There other forms of abuse of these systems. That does not seem right. We need some reforms in government or we are going the way of Greece.
h/t Gates of Vienna
Was David Petraeus as great a general as the write-ups of his downfall routinely claim? This is a provocative question that I will begin to answer with another question: Did America prevail in the Iraq War? I suspect few would say "yes" and believe it, which is no reflection on the valor and sacrifice of the American and allied troops who fought there. On the contrary, it was the vaunted strategy of the two-step Petraeus "surge" that was the blueprint of failure.
While U.S. troops carried out Part One successfully by fighting to establish basic security, the "trust" and "political reconciliation" that such security was supposed to trigger within Iraqi society never materialized in Part Two. Meanwhile, the "Sunni awakening" lasted only as long as the U.S. payroll for Sunni fighters did.
Today, Iraq is more an ally of Iran than the United States (while dollars keep flowing to Baghdad). This failure is one of imagination as much as strategy. But having blocked rational analysis of Islam from entering into military plans for the Islamic world, the Bush administration effectively blinded itself and undermined its own war-making capacity. In this knowledge vacuum, David Petraeus' see-no-Islam counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine would fill but not satisfy the void.
The basis of COIN is "population protection" -- Iraqi populations, Afghan populations -- over "force protection." Or, as lead author David Petraeus wrote in the 2007 Counterinsurgency Field Manual: "Ultimate success in COIN is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force." ("COIN force" families must have loved that.) Further, the Petraeus COIN manual tells us: "The more successful the counterinsurgency is, the less force can be used and the more risk can be accepted." "Less force" and "more risk" translate into highly restrictive rules of engagement.
If you were a combat soldier or Marine or a CIA operative on the ground in Afghanistan right now, or the family of a combat soldier or Marine or a CIA operative on the ground in Afghanistan right now, who do you want in command of the American intelligence agency? The man who is regarded as the better counterinsurgency expert and can't keep it in his pants? Or the moral paragon of marital fidelity who is in any way less effective at counterinsurgency. That's a real-world choice. Just as forcing John O'Neill out of the FBI in the run-up to 911 was a real-world choice.
Afghanistan isn't a counterinsurgency scenario.
In a counterinsurgency 'we' are competing with the 'insurgency.' The population is the judge and the prize is the population's good will, specifically their willingness to accept the legitimacy of our allies, the 'friendly' government.
In Afghanistan we can only gain the people's good will if the give them danegeld aid and most importantly prove that our troops are more effective executors of the will of the Afghan people than the insurgency. Then the people will support Karzai and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The problem is that the people aren't friends, they're weak and mostly passive aggressive enemies.
The 'friendly' government of Afghanistan has adopted a diplomatic posture more hostile than the Soviet Union's (post Khrushchev.)
Plus, 'moderate Taliban' are part of the government of Afghanistan even though the Taliban were originally slated to share in the terrorists' fate.
Under the COIN doctrine this disturbing state of affairs is considered a partial success.
COIN is not a viable response to an act of unlimited war like 9/11. However brilliant Petraeus' COIN theory might be its application in Afghanistan make as much sense as treating a rabies infection with a masterfully performed heart transplant.
In 2001 we jumped into Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda and to beat down the Taliban. We were smart -- air power controlled by special forces in a light footprint situation in which the 'Northern Alliance' provided the ground forces.
It worked. We destroyed most of al-Qaeda and chased the Taliban over the border. Success was ours.
Then we threw it away. George Bush's first big mistake of his presidency was to listen to Democrats, Europeans and academics (always a bad, bad combination) who told him, "you broke it (Afghanistan), you fix it."
We didn't break a thing, of course, since Afghanistan was and had been broken ever since the King had been deposed in the early 1970s. But the bleating of the 'moral' left led to the demand that we should do 'nation-building' in Afghanistan.
So we did, or at least, we've been trying. The result is a couple thousand fine young Americans are dead and tens of billions of dollars have been wasted (the correct technical term is 'pissed away') on a stupid idea that has and has had no chance whatsoever of being correct.
There is no nation to build in Afghanistan, and there won't be unless and until the Pashtuns and the Pakistanis decide to go along with building one. Which they won't do, and why should they? They're getting what they want.
I confess myself to being some blind-sided by our successes and thinking that perhaps the Middle East and Central Asia were ready for democracy. After all, naysayers declaimed the possibility of South America evolving from the thugocracies of the 1970s, yet that smart man Ronald Reagan had the foresight and perseverance to push for democracy in that continent -- now the majority of countries there indeed are democratic.
So too, the thought went, that the Middle East and Central Asia were 'ready', and we just had to push and be patient. We neo-cons would once again be proven right, as humankind, given a chance, will always choose freedom.
We're not right. At least, we're not right this moment. The Islamic world is not ready for freedom, it's ready for more religion. There is no way to establish 'trust' and 'reconciliation' in these countries for the simplest of reasons -- the people don't want those things. They want the security of religion and what that religion requires of them.
We neo-cons were wrong. Petraeus is not a martyr, he's just one of the architects of a vision that failed.
Time to bring our military home. Let the people of Afghanistan have, good and hard, that which they have demanded to have.
Posted by: Steve White ||
"The more successful the counterinsurgency is, the less force can be used and the more risk can be accepted."Maybe he gave them the pill as well.
Republicans "have yet to produce a single shred of evidence that the regulations they hate so much do the broad economic harms they claim. That's because there is none," said Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada.
In a Senate speech, Reid said the Bureau of Labor Statistics has concluded "only a tiny fraction of layoffs have anything at all to do with tighter regulation."
"Last year, only three-tenths of 1 percent of people who lost their jobs were let go principally because of government regulation or intervention," Reid said. "On the other hand, a quarter of them were laid off because of lack of business.
The Heritage Foundation's James Gattuso explains the statistic:
The numbers come from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which, in cooperation from state authorities, tracks mass layoffs, defined as layoffs of 50 or more workers for 31 days or more. In each case in which such a "mass layoff" is identified, state authorities interview the employers involved, asking them (among other things) the reason for the layoffs. For the third quarter, BLS reported that 0.3 percent of respondents listed "governmental regulations/intervention" as the reason...
It appears to be a simple process, but it's actually quite tricky. The first problem is that economic hardship does not come with labels. Employers know if their costs are rising but not necessarily whether it is due to new burdens imposed on their suppliers or other factors. They may know that they didn't get the capital they needed but not if it was because investors had better opportunities or because of government financial rules. They will know if demand has slumped, but it's not so clear whether it was because their product is valued less by the marketplace or because government rules choked off demand from customers. The actual causes are likely to be mixed.
But even if government interviewers could identify with precision the reasons for mass layoffs, that would tell us little about why unemployment is so high. Mass layoffs are only part of the job loss picture--job losses don't always come 50 or more at a time. Most small businesses don't even have 50 employees.
But where Reid and others really miss the mark, however, is in assuming that job losses are the problem, rather than a lack of job creation. As argued by my colleague James Sherk, layoffs spiked early in the recession but then they fell sharply. Since late 2009, gross job losses in the economy have actually been below their pre-recession levels. In fact, in 2010 there were fewer gross job losses than any time since the government began tracking these figures in 1992. Unemployment remains high because the economy has not been creating jobs. Last September, for instance, employers hired only 4.2 million new workers--a million fewer monthly new hires than before the recession.
Let's lay aside the fact that it is job creation that's most of our problem and that all the layoffs we've been hearing about lately seem to be Obamacare regulation-related.
Sen. Harry Reid, meet the people you think don't exist. A boutique, local, organic, artisan maker of cured meats is closing in Denver thanks to a USDA regulation that would require him to taint his all-natural, Old World methods for making his product in order to comply:
"In August, the USDA imposed additional requirements on Il Mondo Vecchio's production methods. After two months of sharing information and collaboration back and forth between Il Mondo Vecchio and the USDA as well as various attempts to modify the production methods," the owners announced, "Il Mondo Vecchio has determined that the impact of the regulatory requirements on dry cured sausage products was detrimental to the quality of the product and therefore, Mark and Gennaro are forced to close the[ir] doors."
This conflict between modern regulations and traditional methods is something DeNittis thought for a time he could navigate.
"We adhere to Old World techniques of natural process while following New World regulations," Il Mondo Vecchio's website states.
When it comes to Old World methods, I think it would be hard to find a better example of a traditional, conscientious, sustainable, and local producer than Il Mondo Vecchio.
The product has, of course, never sickened anyone or faced any complaint, and Denver foodies will count it a loss to their community. This is, literally, the war on bacon.
And, one man's dream, his livelihood, his community, and his employees are poorer for it. But by all means, keep piling them on, Harry
The good news for Democrats is that Obamacare will now be implemented. But the bad news for Democrats is also that Obamacare will now be implemented.
President Obama's re-election ensures that his signature health care law will not be repealed before its major provisions go into effect. But that also means, to borrow a phrase from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Americans will begin to find out what's in the law.
Starting Jan. 1, several key provisions of the health care law will kick in. Americans will only be allowed to contribute $2,500 to flexible spending accounts, which allow participants to pay for medical expenses on a pretax basis. Also, from then on, the accounts can only be used to pay for drugs with a prescription, excluding over-the-counter drugs, which still may be legitimate medical expenses and were previously allowed.
The new year will also ring in a wave of new tax increases. One is the Medicare tax hike on individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples earning more than $250,000. Another is the 3.8 percent tax on interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents. On top of that, there will be a 2.3 percent tax increase on medical devices. These will be on top of any tax hike that comes out of current end-of-the-year negotiations between Republicans and Democrats to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
Most of the major provisions of the health care law go into effect in 2014. During that year, individuals will be forced to purchase government-approved insurance policies or pay a tax. The tax will hit 6 million uninsured Americans, most of them middle-class, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Employers who have at least 50 workers could have to pay a $2,000-per-employee fine for not providing health insurance. As Zane Tankel, who owns 40 Applebee's locations in the New York area, recently explained on Fox Business, this provision will force him to hold off on expanding or hiring, and even to re-evaluate his current workforce. Business owners throughout the nation have echoed his thinking.
In addition, 2014 will usher in the expansion of Medicaid and the creation of new exchanges. On these exchanges, eligible individuals will receive government subsidies to purchase government-designed insurance plans administered by private companies. These two components are projected to cost $1.7 trillion over a decade.
Governors, right now, are trying to decide whether to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, a program that is already crushing state budgets, and to implement the exchanges themselves or back out and let the federal government set up the exchanges for them.
The establishment of an exchange involves a massive data compilation process in which the federal government will have to figure out Americans' income levels to determine their eligibility to receive benefits. The exchanges are supposed to be up by the fall of 2013 so that individuals can begin enrolling in them.
Each state faces its own challenges in setting up the exchanges. In Washington, D.C., officials determined that the uninsured population was too small for the exchange to function. So they have taken the step of conscripting individuals and businesses with between two and 50 employees to purchase health insurance through the exchange, making it the sole marketplace in D.C. for plans that aren't "grandfathered in.
Maybe the donk voters may stop smoking weed long enough to realize they been had--there is no free lunch or healthcare or even low-cost healthcare unless you are in prison (Well, maybe not so low cost if in prison).