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November 17, 2014


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Suzzane and Ramjet left you some stuff on last blog.
And Thanks Jerry for that interview.
WKG for your reading list
Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years.

The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty

Lots of stuff on Ike including a new book.
and of course Robert Caro on LBJ
and if you can force yourself
Eleanor and Franklin
by Joseph P. Lash

Hattie I left you a little comment on last blog and
Ramjet, I repeat, do not feel sorry for Jesus as he is his father.

On your reading list: Obama trapped!

On your Film list. Kill the Messenger.

Robert Parry wrote about the Iran/Contra connection before Gary Webb came on the scene. But Webb pulled it to together only to be destroyed by the CIA (when the BNDD transformed into the DEA, CIA agents were sent to become DEA agents, insuring control of a reorganized agency about to get a lot of financing and power.)

Now a story soon to be out by Charles Bowden as Bowden pulls together the Killing of DEA agent Enrique S. "Kiki" Camarena and the Destruction of Reporter Gary Webb by the CIA.

Note: Bowden was found dead on August 30, 2014 shortly after completing this story, his last story.
Autopsy pending!

Good luck with the book.

Cal- the Caro books on LBJ are beyond epic.

Amazing reading covering so much history.

Also recommend The Power Broker by Caro; a stunning story of how a bureaucrat (Robert Moses) became the most powerful man in NY State.

Believe it or not, I was introduced to Caro's writings while getting my MBA- in a class called "Power and Politics in Organizations".

INPHX I was introduced to Caro by my late friend Charles Bowden, an author of books I think are great. Including "Some of the Dead are Still Breathing" and on his other side he purchased and sent me a copy of Peregrine by J.A Baker. As a result of our friendship I reread Sometimes a Great Notion. The world needs more writers like Bowden and Edward Abbey.

hi cal, "and if you can force yourself Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash"

Does that mean it's not an easy read? Or, something else?

I thought u expressed a rather negative view of FDR?
We're Eleanor and Lash commies. In today's world probably. But I thought good or bad, Teddy, Franklin and LBJ knew how to get chit done. Nice guys seldom win.
So maybe Soleri is a posting bad ass. At least he can get shit rolling along. Seems I recall gas being made out of pig shit in a Mad Max movie.

I just finished reading the article recommended by Jerry McKenzie on the previous thread. The article is a conversation with Rick Pearlstein about his book ‘The Invisible Bridge’. http://www.salon.com/2014/11/16/thomas_frank_on_ronald_reagans_secret_tragedy_how_70s_and_80s_cynicism_poisoned_democrats_and_america/

Very interesting. I especially like the last paragraph, and the last sentence:
Every time a politician stands before a microphone and utters this useless, pathetic cliche that America is the greatest country ever to exist, he’s basically wiping away the possibility that we can really think critically about our problems and our prospects. And to me, that’s tragic.

Bill Maher takes sanctimony to a new level of smug:

Bill Maher Criticizes Nonvoters, Calls Russell Brand 'Laughable'

The fulcrum to his argument? It has something to do with, I don't know, the other side is worse or something. Very creative, Bill.

(Yes, I know that I've just tossed something in the general direction of a fan...)

Great post Petro

I sometimes wonder what it is about this blog that attracts the self-neutering. Political power, after all, is not a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. It's about the real world, who gets screwed and, occasionally, who gets killed. There are real-world consequences here. Invading Iraq was one of those. Hundreds of thousands died in that misbegotten adventure pushed by an extremist political faction, aka, the Republican Party. Did the Pure and Virtuous Left feel any twinge of guilt enabling that? Of course, not. Once you separate yourself from reality, it's just a game. Indeed, it's a quick step to a fairy tale that can be mediated by a Druid who looks like Rasputin, or totally explained by some fringe pundit on the internet taking the False Equivalency to breathtaking new heights.

Maher is great. He lacerates instead of anesthetizes. He needles instead of coddles. Of course he's "smug". He's talking directly at you . He also speaks to the half of this country not zonked on Aryan Jesus, Ayn Rand, and Wayne LaPierre. He's on the team "getting its hands dirty" in this ongoing war with sociopaths. Petro, besides John Michael Greer, who is your guy? I want to know. Double points if I've ever heard of him.

Glad you're back. Sorry if my pushback is uncivil.

@Cal: read "sometimes a great notion" years ago. If you're intrested, Tome Wolfe wrote a great bio of the author(Ken Keesey) "The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test" that was terrific.

@INPHX: read the first volume and gave it up. LBJ just too loathsome.

My favorite history writer is Wm. Manchster. All of his are good. Throws in a lot of interesting trivia.

@Cal re “I thought u expressed a rather negative view of FDR”. Yep, sure did. He certainly talked a good game – but actuality not all that kind. Reminds me a lot of Reagan in this regard.

Actuality = 8 years of grinding depression and 4 years of bloody war.

A preemptive strike towards Emil: the flood of orders for munitions from Europe broke the depression. There was no compelling reason for us to enter the war. By the time we were actually involved it had already been won (in Europe).

If anyone has a few minutes, the Slate article on the first page of the blog (over at the left) about Conservatives and the ACA is really, really solid.

INPHX, I read it. Its author, Reihan Salam, is a familiar voice among conservative pundits. He can counted on to provide rightwing alternative reality as the need arises. In this case, he's advocating scrapping a conservative idea, the individual mandate, for something else. The problem is obvious for a movement that has had very few policy ideas and has to disown even those when it's time to obstruct absolutely everything a Democratic president might propose. Here Salam comes up with a deus ex machina justification:

Just as we can’t expect that Arizona Sen. John McCain’s support for cap and trade meant that Joseph J. McCoalburner also favored hiking oil prices to save the polar bears, it’s not exactly a shock that the Republican masses didn’t greet the idea of an individual mandate with wild enthusiasm.

Say what? The "masses"? You mean like Duck Dynasty, Sarah Palin, The White Citizens' Councils, Rush Limbaugh, Fox & Friends, et al?

Let's get real. The masses would have been perfectly fine with the individual mandate. You could tell them it was a gay dating service for conservatives and they would have signed right up. They loved Mitt Romney and his "mandate", why would they abhor Obama and his?

You know why. Because conservatives do as they're told, squawk when they're instructed, and can be counted on to behave like the tribal partisans they instinctively are. Moreover, a great number of these conservatives are on Medicare, which in their book is SOCIALISM!!! when applied as a broad health-care principle. Granted, its administrative costs are much cheaper than the "free market", and its overall costs serve as a drag on health-care inflation. But reality should never be allowed to sully rightwing ideals, particularly when it's making private insurance companies even richer than they are.

Salam doesn't bother to explain how market-based solutions can save money since there's no empirical evidence of that in the health-care field. He raises that familiar flag, salutes, and then changes the subject. You might think that a mostly deregulated health-insurance market up until Obamacare would have produced significant cost savings instead of the highest health-care costs in the entire world. What failed? Remember, this reality - 18% of total GDP - is much, much higher than any other nation's overall health-care burden. And conservatives want to return to that absent some other bullshit they can conjure in the meth labs of Cato, AEI, or Heritage.

The world is a great teacher on this subject. You look around the advanced world, see what works, compare and contrast, and then adopt what looks like the best system. What won't you find? Anything, I repeat ANYTHING, that resembles what Reihan Salam is kinda, sorta advocating. It's pure bullshit in service of low-information MBAs trolling left-wing blogs.

On that same Front Page is the much smarter Matthew Yglesias, an actual policy wonk, telling us what we always knew about Republican bipartisanship and Obamacare:



1. The often cited 18% of GDP figure when compared to other countries. Does it take into account lifestyle differences? That we drive more? Have more access to guns? Our drug problems? Our immigration problems? The demographics of our society when compared to others? The fact that like it or not, we defend the free world?

Of course not. But it makes the US look worse relative to other countries, so it's a winner for you.

2. Assume the 18% is somehow relevant. Our current system is a mess. We have private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, charity, state programs, pro bono, the whole deal. You want to move that to the left, where we'll wind up with the efficiency of the post office, the outcomes of our current closest to single payer system (the VA), the procurement zaniness of the Pentagon,the fairness of immigration policy and procedures, and complexity that would make the current US Tax Code and Regulations look like the itsy bitsy spider song. Along with more need for taking advantage of the stupid American voter.

But the good news is that the first sign up for single payer would most likely work like the first sign ups for Obamacare. Oh- never mind. Looks like they got it right this time.

No, thanks.

3. Once it was finally working (what's the hurry??), the good about Obamacare is that it drove folks to private market insurance and helped subsidize the cost at checkout. Provide private market service, subsidize the cost. Perfect. Must have driven you nuts, though. And wait unitl the Feds make those payments to the private health insurers for the risk corridors.

How loud can you howl??

4. I have a real eye opener for you, genius. The more you seperate the provider of a good or service from the consumer, the more pricing distortions you will get. And when someone waltzes into a clinic with no skin in the game, that service will be under provided and over used. Period.

If the VA mess didn't convince you, nothing ever will.

And that's what the smart money is betting on. No reality will skew your "view".

And let's see. Expanded regulation of a product (in this case, health insurance) and requiring all plans to have certain characterisitcs drives costs DOWN??

Oh, sure. According to soleranomics.

Really though- why bother? You're either incapable (best bet) or not willing (crummy bet) of understanding conservative objections to Obamacare. You think the double digit number of federal judges that think "State" means "State" or that the mandate is a "tax" no matter what it was sold as are nothing but racists, anyway. After all, Obama is black.

You have no chance at single payer in this country. NONE.

Better get use to it.

Yglesias is just as blind as you are. We've been through the differences between Romneycare and Obamacare.

You (and he) will only see them if your eyes are open.

INPHX is it possible to insure ALL US Citizens have good medical care? I realize when I say US citizens I open some side doors to my question. But my question remains the same.

PS I checked with my attorney to day and he assured me the world is not ending. I went right out and drank a 5 buck Americano.

What is it like buying health insurance on the individual health insurance market without the Obamacare reforms.

!) The pre-existing condition effect.

You don't get a yearly exam due to the fear of the physical exam finding a chronic illness that is not too bad yet. Once that is on your medical record, good luck getting a new policy that will cover the chronic illness and best wishes that the insurance company won't find a way to cancel your current policy.

2) No regulatory protection against denial of claims.

The health insurance business in the individual market becomes one exclusively of expense control which is largely accomplished by denying coverage on technical grounds. Good luck fighting an insurance company over a denied claim.

3) No subsidies(AKA socialism in Republican vernacular) without Obamacare.

Well for a business person making $100,000 income yearly, incorporating a business allows for a 40% reduction of the premium as a tax write-off. Sorry, low wage employees, contract workers or pre-Medicare retirees can't incorporate themselves. An uninsured person in these circumstances who buys health insurance on the pre-Obamacare individual health insurance market has his or her income redistributed to upper-income people who can incorporate and write off health insurance premiums.

And why are mortgage payments tax subsidies just fine but health insurance subsidies for individuals socialism?

Republicans will take no steps to replace a repealed ACA. All the Conservative proposals mentioned in the Salam article are smoke and mirrors.

The Republican approach will be the usual; deny, delay and forget. Now on to important Republican matters, more funds for the military to bomb and kill people.

Bravo soleri! I doubt the bloggers on this blog or the conservative pundits opining on Obamacare have had much experience at all buying health insurance for themselves on the pre-Obamacare individual health insurance market. But there are millions of us in the US. We just don't have a lobbyist.

INPHX, well, that discussion about the germane differences between Romneycare and Obamacare came down to what? Your assertion that Romney vetoed a couple of provisions in the final bill? Which you couldn't name. But that you knew had to be really important!

Aside from that, there were a few minor differences, some favoring the Romney plan and others favoring Obama's. The core structural features of both plans were the same, however: regulation of private insurance guaranteeing coverage, the indvidual mandate, and subsidies on the lower end.

The basis of your implacable opposition to Obamacare turned out to be a chimera based mostly on misinformation and partisan fervor.

18% of GDP cannot be isolated from the pertinent facts of The American Way of Life. Yes, we're an obese nation, which translates to over 9% of our total health care bill. Obesity is a permanent fact of life largely for two reasons. Our "urban form" means people have to drive just about everywhere, so we hardly walk now. And poverty is a leading risk factor for obesity (the leading states in the obesity epidemic are Mississippi and West Virginia). You have two rightwing values in play here: our suburban, drive-everywhere built environment and the greatest income inequality among advanced nations. But you know exactly what to do: make the rich even richer.

Yes, unregulated gun traffic plays a role too, with about 29,000 people dying each year from gunshots. Imagine if ISIS were doing that. We'd triple the defense budget. And would you complain? There's no real relationship between the choice to be an empire and the exorbitant amount we pay for health care except to tell people who struggle to pay their grotesquely high health care costs that "we defend the free world". It's a great mind-fuck. We can't do what every other advanced nation does - provide universal health care for its citizens - because we have to defend countries that laugh at the choices we are making. Do we really need 66,000 troops in Europe? Why? Or military bases in over 150 countries around the world? The decision to have an empire was never put up for a vote but it seems people are just browbeaten into accepting it.

The VA is a great deal for vets and if the right attempts to privatize it, you'll soon hear from those vets. You know, medical care in the military is socialist, too. Want to privatize that as well? What the right really excels at is a) underfunding VA health care, resulting in b) screaming about how the government can't do anything right. Just look at the VA!

Medicare has administrative costs of about 4%. For private insurance, it's about 14%. Medicare also saves money by setting provider compensation lower than health insurance companies. At this point, you might ask yourself why we are spending more and getting less with a bunch of skimmers in the private health insurance racket? Well, FREEDUMB!

If money and efficiency were really that important to you, why not adopt a system that would save more than half our present cost with actually better outcomes? Britain's NHS would be an ideal. But you're not interested in saving money. You never were. You're interested in making the rich richer, particularly people like Governor Rich Scott of Florida, the CEO of United Health Care who defrauded Medicare by overcharging it over $1 billion.

The problem with your private efficiencies theory is that the health care industry is a natural oligopoly. The average consumer doesn't go to a discount hospital because they don't exist. Moreover, it's difficult to get health insurance companies to behave as the regulators of health-care providers without uniform legal structures in place. The providers know this and work the margins like pros, raising their fee structures to outrageous levels and then bargaining down to prices that are still in nose-bleed territory. And if you have no insurance or merely inadequate coverage, you pay their extortionate demands.

I think the private market is fine when it comes to producing consumer products. Here competition works to drive costs lower. This does not work in health care. At 18% of GDP, you might think we were all getting gold-plated coverage when in fact only the luckiest among us (say, Republican congressmen who dine on health-care caviar and then vote to deny their poorest citizens any health care period). But it's incumbent on you to show examples, either in states or in other nations where the private market has significantly improved costs and outcomes without regulations.

You can't do it. Reihan Salam couldn't do it and he's a pro at this kind of double-talk.

Ultimately, if your side succeeds in gutting Obamacare, millions will suddenly find themselves with sharply higher premiums plus reduced or no coverage at all. All the orchestrated whining about the rollout will pale by comparison to the stark existential reality of people suddenly without a safety net. But you were perfectly fine with that prior to Obama's election. Reforming health care was the last thing on your mind. And it still is. You were never serious about this issue because you don't care if people live or die. You're a conservative after all.


You've given 1/3 lucid explanations about why you think certain things explain why the US may have lifestyle differences that effect the 18% number, but, not surprisingly, that misses the point. Blabber on all you want about the "urban form" or the lunacy of our defense "budget"- but the bottom line is that when comparing the 18% to other countries, lifestyle and demographic differences are not taken into account. And of course, it's all the GOP's fault.

Good. Then I'll assume you'll stop using it, and point out to all of the other knucklehead liberals that do that it's not really a meaningful comparison.

If you want to defend the VA, knock yourself out.

Here genius:

from that article:

For instance, the VA substantially cut the overall number of worst-case scenarios for veterans — those who had waited more than four months for an appointment. That figure dropped from 120,000 in May to 23,000 in October. Much of that improvement occurred because patients received care from private providers. (I swear I did not make that up)

Private providers. VA can't get the ball over the goalline for thousands of veterans so they hand off to private providers.

What will we do when they're aren't any private providers?

And I am just STUNNED that you suggest it's just more money that's needed. Imagine a lib needing more money for something.

How much more, genius? How high is up?


What's your objective? The best medical care for the most people or some care for everyone?

The answer to that question is not trivial.

INPHX, I would like to add that it is retarded to think that the CBO did not understand that revenues to the government, penalties and fees are a tax if they are mandated. So when the article says "Obamacare only became the law of the land because President Obama misled the public", then critics of Obamacare are lying to themselves.

the best medical care for the most people.

INPHX, I try to read your badly written comments for their content, weak as that may be. But in this case, both your form and content really lacked any halfway serious effort at coherence. Don't confuse typing with logical argumentation. This is not Redstate.com where commenters consider drool to be evidence of their depth.

There is one assertion of yours that is painfully repugnant and vile, however. If you're thinking we're spending too much on VA health care, you're really not only broadly ignorant of health-care policy, you're also an amoral chickenhawk more than willing to send young men and women to war and then not care for them afterwards. Many of us recall back in 2003-4 how troops were improvising their own body armor because the George W Bush administration was too cheap to provide them any. That's Republican patriotism in a nutshell. Use soldiers as props in their campaign ads but stiff them when it comes to their very survival and health care afterwards. Please keep harping on this subject since nothing exposes you for the sociopath you are than this naked cynicism. A properly funded VA would have had enough resources to care for its caseload. But what is more important to Republicans is sequestering money because the debt is such an overriding issue (but only when a Democrat is president). Republican hypocrisy on this point sickens me. That you bamboozle airheads in the heartland with your phony flag-waving is really beyond explanation except that people are so eager to believe fairy tales they'll fall for your evil lies as well. You would make Goebbels blush.

I like when Talton satirizes the real estate industrial complex and their desire for more profits when he uses the phrase "Please, God, give me one more boom." Do you all think that a Gov-elect Ducey administration will enact policies that will produce this boom with more championship golf? Will there be more sprawl, spec building and hustles in metro Phoenix in the next four years?


Facts are stubborn things:


And the Nazi reference is helpful. Clearly the mark of a cultured, educated mind.

I never said that we're spending too much on Veteran Health Care.

What I'm trying to show is that that system of providing "Free" health care just doesn't work (well). You have a closed system of providers, limited facilities, and consumers with no additional costs during the process.That's just not going to provide a good outcome. EVER.

Why not just give them money to buy the best private health insurance?

Well, the good news is that the "leaders" at the VA, once they were exposed, jumped on the problem "quickly" (6 months or so) and sent the vets who were scheduled to wait 4 months (!!!!) for an appointment into the private sector. So they got that right.

On Bush, if you can't pay for a war, you shouldn't start one. Period.

He should have pushed for an across the board tax increase to pay for it. ALL OF IT. The deferred medical costs, the demobilization, EVERYTHING. I think it would have made this country take the war much, much more seriously.

And BTW, I am 100% consistent on that approach. If a government can't fund it today, then don't allow it. Deferred libailities in a government budget are by there very nature bombs waiting to explode.

I want the vets to have the best medical care available. And I want it paid for by taxpayers. NOW. And I don't want them to have to wait 4 months for it in a bureaucratic maze that would make most DMV's blush.

If that makes Goebbels blush, I'm in.


My thoughts on your answer might be covered in my other posts.

If you want the best care available for the most people, I think parts of Obamacare work. I think you subsidize folks and let them get into the private system.

I once had a long conversation with a guy who helped but Arizona's ACCESS program together and he made a point with me that still rings true. The private market does a pretty good job of PROVIDING healthcare services in this country given the existing private health insurance market. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's expensive.

So- how do you fix that problem?

You subsidize the COST and let consumers and providers work out the details in a market that's already regulated more than enough.

The problem with the single payer approach is that nitwits like Soleri think it can defy economics, well, just becuase they think it's a good idea. When something is "free", (or not priced in terms of supply and demand), it will be overused and undersupplied. Period.

So, I'll admit that single payer might provide the answer to the question of what system will provide a crappier level of coverage to everyone.

But if you're looking for the best coverage for the most people, simple economic principles will drive you toward a market based solution with subsidies for the costs. Help with the financing, stay out of the providing.

Happs, the last boom has already come and gone. Ducey gets to take credit for the wreckage.

Maher believes his own hype. I like half to two-thirds of his stuff but he just grates my cheese the wrong way.

National Healthcare now and forever, just like every other modern economy.

A personal observation: I have to have a crown inserted into my mouth. My old dentist, educated and seasoned as a dental surgeon in a real communist country, Bulgaria, did the root canal and crown for $400. He was still able to own a Jag and live in Scottsdale. Unfortunately, after our last appointment, he had a heart attack on the way home, crashed his Jag and died (I was his last patient ever). My new dentist bill is going to be well over $2K (both were with insurance).


Look, If you're proud of the way Obamacre was sold to the public, shout it from the mountaintops. The arm twisting. Gruber's recent revelations. Pelosi telling us that we have to pass it to understand it.

Here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/30815.html

INPHX, I know it's useless arguing with you. You are immune to empirical evidence. In your fairy tale world, unregulated private health care is cheaper than anything the government can provide. Since there is absolutely no evidence for this (indeed, the opposite is true everywhere), you repeat it like a mantra. This works in your echo chamber because your cult - be it the Republican Party, The Club for Growth, or Koch Industries - only functions with limited information inputs. Without oversimplifications and outright deceit, the cult collapses from its own inner contradictions.

So, you argue that the VA, deliberately underfunded by Republicans, is somehow an example of a government program that doesn't work. Therefore, privatize the care and voucherize its funding. Translated, this means much more expensive care and veterans paying significantly more for it. Because you love freedom so much. That and making the rich richer.

By this point you probably gather that I have utter and complete contempt for you Amway zealots. You dazzle with your arrogance, semi-literacy, and yahoo certitude. It's why you're a Republican. You have a whole Randian tote bag of off-the-shelf solutions for everything. Your ideology is a Wal-Mart of cheap, plastic ideas. They're stupid, they don't work, and you're not in any way curious why this is case (Exhibit A: Arizona). Don't get me wrong. I'm glad you're here. Your comments are agonizingly dumb, barely more than graffiti on a restroom stall. But they teach the fence-sitter exactly how the right has to use double-speak and self-vouching assertions to make its case. Yes, you have the adolescent bravado for this dubious exercise. No, you don't have the chops to make this pig smell like anything other than a crack whore at a Quartzite truck stop.

INPHX: read 'self-insured individual' above ^^^.

Happs: I have no doubt that Ducey will do whatever he can for real estate interests. I think that the Republican legislators made it clear, when they took away municipalities ability to tax new home construction, that real estate rules.

Ducey is already on the "secure the border" bandwagon. Which is absurd when one considers how much trade Arizona does with Mexico.
And speaking of holding up bills; Republicans have held up a bi-partisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate 18 months ago. Why are they sitting on this bill? Who knows?

The USPS was and is pretty efficient, especially considering it is the only government agency specifically mentioned in the US Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 7). It only took a Republican bill to screw it all up by placing onerous pension-funding requirements on the Post Office.

Oh my gosh, Soleri, "No, you don't have the chops to make this pig smell like anything other than a crack whore at a Quartzite truck stop." That is funny.

Don't confuse typing with logical argumentation. This is not Redstate.com where commenters consider drool to be evidence of their depth. Great stuff soleri, I consider it to be a paraphrase of Kirkegaard's "Having refused to use their freedom of thought Men claimed Freedom of Speech as a compensation". The Quartzite reference a little too visual.

So- how do you fix that problem (expensive healthcare)? Government price negotiation for prescription drugs purchased thru public programs and laws to prevent abuse of the system. For example, the ACA closed a loophole where for-profit places like THE Mayo Clinic cannot shuffle their patients off to less expensive or inferior facilities because the patient's ability to pay Mayo fees has finally been depleted.

Obviously Soleri has been to the intersection of AZ 95 and I-10. Quartzite the permanent home of kooks and the temporary lodging of poor RV'ers.
And the best place to have a meth lab?
In a trailer.
Maybe Soleri should do a graphic adult comic book? I can picture Crack whores applying their trade on the rocks in the Quartzite Mineral Museum. How to get off on Quartz.

The GOP infighting.

@Cal: thanks for clearing up what "quartzite" is. I was at Wike when you were posting trying to figure out just what Soleri was saying.

Turns out (per Wiki)

Because of its hardness and angular shape, crushed quartzite is often used as railway ballast.[5] Quartzite is a decorative stone and may be used to cover walls, as roofing tiles, as flooring, and stairsteps. Its use for countertops in kitchens is expanding rapidly. It is harder and more resistant to stains than granite. Crushed quartzite is sometimes used in road construction.[3] High purity quartzite is used to produce ferrosilicon, industrial silica sand, silicon and silicon carbide.[6] During the Stone Age quartzite was used, in addition to flint, quartz, and other lithic raw materials, for making stone tools.[7]

Thanks for keeping the discussion going, and a great one it is. (I'm at 80,000 words on the novel).

So Obama grants a limited "amnesty" to some illegal immigrants.

What do you think? Me: The GOP can't resist using this as grounds for impeachment.

wkg are U hot on rocks? Quartzite in the winter is a circus side show on wheels and the food at Soleri ' s truck stop is to die for. "Crack Kills".
So what do u think about Rand and Maher's post. Both Weed supporters? c above post.


If there's one thing that's crystal clear about your lunacy, it's your avoidance to making the rich richer. This anti corporate zealotry runs through a lot of your posts and is fairly typical of those without any real understanding of economics and a real "government first" (second, third, and fourth) agenda.

See, I don't care.

I'm not focused what a CEO makes. I'm focused on solving problems. If an insurance company makes some more money because veterans don't have to wait 4 freakin' months for an appointment, I say good for them. At least the veteran is getting what he or she needs.

Isn't that what's really important?

In either your haste or ignorance, you missed what I said about a voucher program for the vets. I said it's paid for by the taxpayers. All of it.

So. Better outcomes (as the VA just pretty much acknowledged) and the US taxpayer still takes the hit.

Who but an anti- corporate chowderhead like you would be against that?

Here. The hits just keep on coming......


Highlights (lowlights??):

--Justice Dept Criminal Invesitgation
--FBI Criminal Investigation
--Forged waiting lists
--White House found "significant and chronic failures" and a "corrosive culture"
-- In 2002, 300,000 veterans were waiting six months for an appointment
--$200M for wrongful deaths.
-- Bonuses paid even results were atrocious.

Direct quote:

"Since July 2005, OIG published 20 oversight reports on VA patient wait times and access to care yet VHA did not effectively address its access to care issues or stop the use of inappropriate scheduling procedures. When VHA concurred with our recommendations and submitted an action plan, VA medical facility directors did not take the necessary actions to comply with VHA’s program directives and policy changes."

You know, before I started posting here, I would not have been able imagine someone so twisted, so distorted, so screwy, so blinded by idealolgy, so hating of reasonable solutions, so completely and utterly cemented in old and stupid ideas that would defend the VA.

But, well, here you are.

After reading that summary, maybe we can get the guy that runs the national healthcare system for Azerbaijan to help with the VA.

Couldn't be any worse.

RC, the incoming GOP Houses were looking to impeach the President for any slight provocation (a impolite nose picking would do) and an EO on immigration gives 'em the GO AHEAD. Looking at the makeup of either House its gonna be another colossal waste of time, money, and pixels.

INPHX doesn't know the difference between there, their, and they're, but he's willing to lecture everyone on the superiority of the employer based, privately insured healthcare system that FDR inadvertently created during wartime.

One really big unnecessary space.

Another really big unnecessary space.


So, Pat

1. I don't type well.

2. Private insurance started with FDR.

Therefore, all is well at the VA and private insurance doesn't work?

Is that the crux of your, well,umm, your position?

Suzanne- hurry up and type something- Pat is catching up for 2nd in the chowderhead contest.

Pat, INPHX will take his private gain/public loss systems anywhere he can find them. A health-care system costing us an unsustainable 18% of GDP was the result of this policy artifact that enriched skimmers and white-collar criminals like Rick Scott of Florida. That system imperils our prosperity and makes us less competitive against other nations whose health-care expenses are a much more reasonable carrying cost. INPHX doesn't care since he is that kind of hip nihilist whose only public-policy goal involves making the rich richer.

Republicans have crossed over. That is, they no longer do any policy designed to make life better for citizens unless they can first convince themselves it "unleashes the free market" or some other bullshit bromide. That's why INPHX is like a parrot with Tourette's syndrome. If the policy prescription saves money - say a single-payer health care system - he'll squawk all the louder to drown out the cognitive dissonance. Rightwingers don't learn. They deny, they lie, and they scream words like SOCIALISM!!! as their defense against reality. When ideology is your only public-policy tool, every problem looks like the outline to an unpublished Ayn Rand novel.



RC, I am afraid you a saddled with an informed audience. Nothing new in those four points outside Koch/Murdock media. What I find under the radar is tribal opposition to these pipelines in Canada and the US. The tribes have a much stronger legal position in both countries and the cost to go around is prohibitive to those "free marketeers" so expect the lowly taxpayer to pony up for their profit (just as we are doing for the digging and refining of that muck).

@Cal: I was wondering if you "lived" there yourself (quarztite rv park)!


I really hate to pile on regarding an argument you've already lost (miserably), but let's hear a response for this:

Way back in 2011, former Enron Advisor Paul Krugman wrote an article praising the VA and basically outlining the perceived horrors of a Romney voucher plan.

Here it is:


Here's perhaps the best of his bleating:

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Now, many might think this is some kind of SNL skit, or something the writers for Jimmy O'Fallon came up with. And I know it's hard not giggle and think it's a goof.

But no, it's real. That's what Krugman wrote in 2011.

Boy, if it's a "huge policy success story", I'd hate to see a small one.

--$200M plus in wrongful deaths (and counting).
--Rigging wait times for bonuses.
--6 month wait times.
--At least two criminal investigations.
--Significant and Chronic failures admidst a corrosive culture.

GREAT!! Can't wait to sign up.

Now, go ahead.

Tell me how I'm missing out on reality.

Krugman ever fess up?

Krugman regularly fesses up to his errors.

INPHX, nothing is ever perfect all the time. VA, Obamacare, you and I have flaws.
When I found Soleri's comment funny, it wasn't because it was directed at you. OK? It was just, so off the wall.

wkg, no I dont live in Quartzite but I am crazy enough to fit right into the "community"

I ma enjoying all this but wold like to comment its not college debate team time or a felony football game so I think using the terms I won and you lost are egotistically unnecessary.

Jon, Canada's oil is going to make it to the global market. So I think the pipe line should remain in Canada. They can make their own port and refinery. But as Jerry points out the Natives (read Indian nations) are going to be the biggest legal obstacle. But us gringos know how to decimate the natives. Maybe you haven't seen it but there is a major environmental site now soliciting opinions and troops on active obstructionism. The site even asks if you volunteer are you willing to go to jail?
"Elijah Zarlin, CREDO Action"

WKG, U need to come to the desert soon.

And another outing of the worlds financiers.
When are we going to put someone besides Mad Dog Madoff in prison. U can screw millions of people from a bank in NY but by god u better not smoke a joint in public in NY particularly if you are a person of color, not Aryan white.

@Cal re desert: I'd have to (1) get on a plane or (2) drive across Texas - two things I just won't do.

re NYC: or just an ordinary old cigartte.

Why I will boycott NY city.



Those aren't typing errors, INPHX: you're just an imbecile.

I'm self-aware enough to realize that posting of the following "meta" information about arguing and reason is an attempt to rise above it all. It's what we do, after all.

Any emphases are mine.

...some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists...

“Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions,” said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. “It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.” Truth and accuracy were beside the point...

What is revolutionary about argumentative theory is that it presumes that since reason has a different purpose — to win over an opposing group — flawed reasoning is an adaptation in itself, useful for bolstering debating skills.

As you were.

Sorry, here's the link to the New York Times article I excerpted above:

Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth

Petro, Just what I meant to say and couldn't find the words.
and was that an irrational act on the part of Spock?
and I can't get the NY Times.

a little something for your bedtime stories.
Here, the NSA and GCHQ were spying to try to facilitate an aggressive war — the highest war crime under the Nuremberg statues.

One more note financial criminals

INPHX, There is a law that Arizona legislators passed that I think is a very good law. It is called the Charge Master Transparency law. http://www.azdhs.gov/diro/reports/pdf/hospital-charge-master-transparency.pdf

Political debates may be about particular issues or they may be something else entirely. Say, a Rorschach test where people take social reality and interpret it according to their values. The discrete issues interweave the "meta" debate and further the evolution of society for good or ill. Looking at America in this way, we see a nation that has had an inexorable journey to the humane and liberal. During the past 30 years, a kind of Great Reaction set in politically. But we've still seen remarkable progress despite that. The culture is much more open than it used to be. I see no reason why any of this will stop.

Those of us who plead for realism in the political sphere understand that no particular set of arguments is final. Rather, we see the broad streams of political thought and align ourselves with that one whose values approximate our own. Parties are much more polarized today around these "Rorschach values". We can lament this development but it's made partisan identification easier, too. Like Bill Maher, I'm with the guys who like science, weed, sex, craft beer, and kindness. The other sides' values pretty much suck but I'm happy to note they seem to love pornography. Baby steps....

I am a liberal for this reason. I cannot see the end result of my advocacy but I can trust the values of my tribe to make more rational and humane choices. That's all any of us can do. If you're on the right, and you want to impede my "progress", you'll do so politically more than culturally. Your "wins" are stopgaps, as it were. The culture itself does not suffer electoral setbacks.

Parties rather than particular interests serve as a reality check. What is achievable in the moment? What wisdom wants to assert itself? No one could have foreseen 20 years ago the triumph of gay rights, for example. It wasn't that gay rights won politically so much as it aligned itself with a strong incoming tide favoring freedom. This was a cultural triumph with legal ramifications. I think something similar will happen with marijuana legalization. People, it appears, really are starting to prefer freedom to "traditional family values". The law breathes with these cultural shifts, Antonin Scalia notwithstanding.

As this thread shows, America is having a furious debate about social democracy's last great battle in America, universal health care. I am confident the humane and rationale will win this battle. The unpopularity of Obamacare has less to do with the concept of universal health care than its complex structure. It cannot be explained on a bumper sticker. But the notion that some people should suffer and even die for want of health care is a barbarism that no longer enjoys much support outside the fever swamps of rightwing ideologues.

I'm happy to be alive and engaged in these epic struggles. I remember participating in all those marches down Washington St for an MLK holiday when Arizona appeared intransigent and reactionary. Politically, Arizona is still hamstrung. But it's interesting that the most vital people in Arizona are liberals. There are no vital conservatives because it's a rearguard movement of the old and fearful. Arizona will still be a red state politically but increasingly with blue state values. Culture itself is less and less local. Kids - sorry, Jon - grow up listening to Lorde, Bastille, Katy Perry, Drake, Macklemore, and even that android Taylor Swift. Few if any people listen to conservative artists because there aren't any good ones. Culture is a seismic force in our lives, one that favors liberalism over conservatism, cities over suburbs, diversity over homogeneity, and a vital future over the toxic past.

My argumentation is a premature victory celebration in a way. While I occasionally despair about people's overwhelming political ignorance, I trust their kids are not going to fall for the mind-fucks, wedge issues, and dog whistles the same way they did. Thank you Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Bill Maher, et al. And a special shout-out to George Carlin in atheist heaven.


Look up "ad hominem". (See how smart I am??)

When you actually have a lucid argument, come back and play.


Well, if brevity is the soul of wit, well, let's just hope it isn't.

That's an interesting point you made about culture not suffering electoral setbacks. Well, if you put 1,000 monkees in front of 1,000 typewriters....

Couple of old sayings come to mind:

a. Youth is wasted on the young.

b. Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains.

c. It's all about the Benjamins.

And as far as your thank you's, boy, I feel the same way about Dennis Miller, Michael Medved, Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, and Victor Davis Hanson.

My side will figure out the cultural issues.

You're side will NEVER figure out the economic ones.

And speaking of culture, many years ago, the bad boy Rolling Stones (how I love Exile on Main Street) left England for tax reasons. So there's that.

Above, "You're" should be "Your"

Beat Pat to it.

beat Pat to it."

INPHX, great list you have there. Ann Coulter! Now, there's a voice that speaks to best in America (circa 1878). Victor David Hanson, not to be confused with the teenage pop group, has all the requisite racist preoccupations your side loves, so kudos for that. Jonah Goldberg? A barrel of laughs and smelly underwear. I can actually remember when Dennis Miller was almost funny. Now, he specializes in right-wing victim chat on the radio stations no one listens to.

The great thing? No one under 40 has ever heard of any of them!

Your vaunted economic edge was tested during the 2008 crash and found wanting. Better wait until Alan Greenspan, Phil Gramm, Arthur Laffer, and Dick Armey are safely buried under six feet of concrete before your movement starts trumpeting its imaginary economic expertise. Or even better, just stick to selling Amway. Same white-trash economic theory but no systemic damage to the global economy.

@Soleri: there has undoubtedly been a 50 year trend towards increasing liberality. It certainly has its attractions. But consider; (this is somewhat of an unformed thought now) the explosion of illegitimate children, chronic unemployment, criminality, lack of civic participation, obesity, mental illness, coarseness of language, civility…. The breakdown of our culture; or what remains of it. I think there's a connection.

INPHX, why would you come onto this site and immediately begin insulting others and denigrating their beliefs, then complain when someone goes "ad hominem" on you? You show up here with an armful of talking points and a liberal straw man you want to flog, and reveal your insufferable smugness and self-certainty for everyone to see, as though it's something new. I'm not the grammar police, I'm a high school dropout with a marginal command (at best) of the written word. I'm just trying to make you shut your pie hole and engage in civil discourse, or at least to express an original thought, but that's clearly never going to happen. You think you're the only person on the planet who knows the truth, and you're here to rescue everyone from themselves, but you're just one of millions polluting cyber space with opinions anyone can listen to if they have cable TV. I brought up the FDR administration's role in creating our current healthcare disaster because you harp on market magic with no evident understanding of the history of private healthcare in America. Truman tried to fix it before it became more entrenched, but...socialism! (FDR made plenty of mistakes, and he was also faced with the world's worst environmental disaster during a gruesome depression.)
On a topic I find more interesting, Quartzite! In September, a 91 year-old man walked into a grocery store there and was bitten by a Western Diamondback. Tough old guy recovered, too!


I am just stunned that you would impugn the folks I listed.

You took the bait, that's for sure.

Speaking of Jon Stewart, I listened to him being interviewed by Howard Stern as Stewart is hawking a new movie. Dynamite interview; Stewart is a funny, witty guy and the King is the King. Might be up on youtube for those of you that aren't subscribers.

Pat writes:

I'm just trying to make you shut your pie hole and engage in civil discourse

Seems a little contradictory to me.

wkg, what remains of it? Aren't you gloomy.

America's story is freedom, not tradition. We were founded on it, even as we instinctively tried to limit its fruits to our kith and kin. Thomas Jefferson was as revolutionary as Malcolm X. Thomas Paine was as prophetic as Bob Dylan. America doesn't stop just because you rightwing culture warriors are having panic attacks.

At its root, however, this is more than a lofty ideal, as powerful as that ideal is. It's the economic rulebook of the game itself. Let's come out and call it what it is: capitalism.

You think culture is this nice little thing that stays put while the economy is continually dynamiting the very foundations of society, paving over the countryside, murdering in their sleep previous technologies and economies, weaving together a million new connections, exploding old arrangements and substituting new ones, and changing what it means to be human in that relentless churn. All this fighting we do over the artifacts of that change is as quaint as it is pointless. Capitalism is the enemy of tradition.If you hate it or the changes it entails that much, you should probably find some a stone-age society to move to. Because change itself is the one thing you can count on if you live in the advanced world.

When societies decide to lock themselves up out of a reaction to this kind of change, good things do not happen. Look at the Iran after its revolution or other deeply reactionary Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Yemen. By the same token, when capitalism is crippled, so is social dynamism. Look at the old East European captive nations, or a Soviet Union even less vital than Czarist Russia. You try to stop change and what happens is paralysis and despair.

At this point, you're probably saying, "well change is good but too much of it is bad. Look at Detroit!". True, Detroit is a loser (although it will become a winner again before Phoenix ever does). Change is not good or bad. It just is. But the casualties don't prove your point anymore than the winners do.

Now, you're probably saying, "you're a hypocrite! You should just let the game play itself instead of controlling it with government policy!"

And you're right. I do want policies that buffer this change, that keep people alive and in good health, and minimize the worst effects of capitalism like gross income inequality. But I'm not saying that capitalism itself is wrong anymore than I'm saying plate tectonics are sinister. Change is going to happen regardless but we can still make society humane and responsive rather than callous and cruel.

When I scream at someone like INPHX, this is what I'm getting at. Libertarians approve of economic change and its epiphenomena but they want to make sure the rich never suffer in any way at all. It's really their only idea. It's a marginal political movement for that reason. Change doesn't insist that we capitulate. We are still ethical actors in its process and that we stay alert to the needs and suffering of others. Every advanced nation on the planet does this. So can we!

America is the only advanced nation on Earth tying itself in knots about fetuses, guns, flags, Scary Black People, sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. There's a perplexing reason for this hysteria. Certain economic interests, particularly in the energy field, want to protect themselves by leveraging cultural panic for their own political benefit. It's why there are people, really little more than witless rubes, getting played by multinational corporations. Those corporations have your number. They make you think you're wise and hip to deny science, empiricism, and complexity itself. Every faux counterrevolution has its useful idiots, which as historical determinism may be the best explanation why there are Republicans.

You want to love this nation? LOVE IT THE WAY IT IS, not the way it was, not the way you should think it should be. This is realism and it keeps you sane. Insanity is denying the countless connections and interdependencies that make us both human and creatures who are in transition to something new. The new is inevitable. It's why you're alive. Don't panic because Mayberry has black people now. Just relax, enjoy the show, and marvel at the wonder of it all.

INPHX: point taken. I overreact when you string together rightwing banalities that I can hear anywhere if I so choose, and that's why I don't read the Drudge Report or watch Fox. This isn't, as you seem to believe, a liberal website, and the ACA isn't particularly progressive. It exists solely for the same reason Wall Street, AIG, and the Auto industry bailouts did: to try to contain damage. What conservatives call socialism is historically the only tool in the box for saving capitalism from itself. Of course, if you aren't personally affected by the high cost of healthcare, you see any action on it as a freebie for the masses. I don't have a 401 K or a pension plan, (and the bailouts were very distasteful to me) but I don't see why I'd want others to lose theirs.

I have to laugh every time I hear liberals don't understand economics, when really its the other way around. I have yet to hear a conservative that 'gets' macroeconomics (sorry Cantor, fail) and that the gold standard is as dead as the Dodo bird. Keynes laid out how modern economies function with fiat currency. It is simply Economics, not Keynesianism (even Milton Friedman and Greenspan know this, but for philosophical ends they perverted the model). Is it perfect? No. But Keynes changed and tweaked the his work and thought as facts changed and this work continues. Keynes is on par with Smith, Ricardo and Malthus and will be studied as a great economist, while Mises, Hayek and Freidman will be relegated to footnotes and the trash bin.

Many of the commenters here were/are former conservatives, but we wised up when the fundamentalist dogmatists hijacked the Republican Party.

Thank you Jerry, good comment. As U know I am a Malthus guy, since 58. (and oh yes, Still a Republican) may the Tea Party Gods forgive me for my liberal transgressions.

Why I like Elizabeth Warren and more on Obama and the financiers.

I don't read Drudge nor watch Fox, either.

I have openly endorsed on these blogs a freebie (maybe a partial freebie) for the masses in the form of subsidies to help them procure private market health insurance. That concept has been endorsed by Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and John McCain. I have also outlined parts of the ACA I did not like. I would not favor a complete Congressional repeal, but if SCOTUS decides that State means State, I would understand (and endorse) that position. Then it's back to Congress.

Almost no one in this country is not personally affected by the cost of healthcare. I am against government trying to reign those costs in with expanded regulation. Let the private insurance companies and the health care providers work that out; there is the perfect amount of market based tension and expertise in that relationship to provide solid outcomes.

The bailouts were a disaster. Top to bottom, A to Z. I have no interest in bailing out automakers, unions, imprudent borrowers, foolish lenders, and all the Wall Street geniuses who greased the wheels and moved all that crap around. You want to dance, you gotta pay the fiddler. And if crimes were actually committed, hang 'em all.

BTW, I am 100% in favor of immigration relief for the parents of Anchor children. You cannot take the parent(s) of a US Citizen out of this country and away from their US citizen children. It it horrible. It is heartless.

I wish it were agreed to as part of comprehensive reform, but that's just not going to happen.

That being said, I know all hell will break lose if that's what Obama does. And I understand that. But I hope that position stands.

You’ve gone all Soleri on me. But I’m catching on to your tricks. If you’ll reread my post it had nothing directly of an economic nature.

Mayberry! Where did that come from? From RC’s “history 101” posts it seems like Phoenix was Mayberry on steroids in the 50’s. I lived in suburban Washington DC and it was to. Essentially the whole country was Mayberry.

You, more or less state, change is inevitable and good. No doubt some are inevitable. But change can as easily be bad as good. Like economics, reading history is good guide for evaluating such things. History is full of catastrophic societal change. I’m all for consensual societal change – not the kind invented by a Federal judge somewhere.

I don’t want to get into the economic aspects of the issue. No doubt there is an intersection of economics and societal values. But the economic system is as much a human invention as our societal system.

Go full Soleri on this one: “have all of the economic changes in the last 50 years been good ones?”

Private Insurance?

Obama is about to do pretty much what past presidents have done, routinely including Reagan and Bush. And while some will go nuts, I gotta think that companies that depend on cheap labor will be (secretly) happy with Obama's move.

Let the private insurance companies and the health care providers work that out; there is the perfect amount of market based tension and expertise in that relationship to provide solid outcomes.

Wow. You really are insane.

First, if there is some "perfect amount of market based tension", where the fuck has it been for the last 50 years? 18% of GDP dude! 18%. That's a perfect statistic to think about if you were so inclined to think.

If you want to make health insurance affordable without, at the same time, demanding insurance companies cover adult children living at home, and pre-existing conditions, while not removing lifetime coverage caps, or making their products portable, what the hell have you achieved? You're still paying for shit except it's now taxpayer-subsidized. This is also called "free-market socialism" where the rich and powerful extort ever greater amounts of public treasure in return for doing absolutely nothing to deserve any of it.

No other advanced nation on Earth does it like this. And they all have significantly lower rates of health-care costs along with universal coverage.

Your loony-tunes economic "prowess" strikes again.

I may be wrong and maybe the bail outs saved the nation and maybe even more would have been better. However in my gut ( I know nothing about economics except the elasticity of coffee) The first time I heard about the bailout (Bush) I was opposed to it, as I was to the second (Obama). I think we got conned by the financial gurus, that still populate the Administrations policy making decisions. I agree with Elizabeth Warren on her current views, that Obama is in bed with the financiers.
Maybe a fantasy novel on how Obama is not a illegal alien commie but a Black Mason and a Bilderberg member.

From the previous thread:

INPHX wrote:

"Emil, we didn't elect a private company to implement Obamacare. YOu can't pass the buck to the company that was hired; they're not the ones in charge. They're suppose to be managed. That's what managers do."

The government officials in charge functioned as executive managers. Executive managers aren't system analysts: they don't write code or troubleshoot software packages. Their job was to make sure that the company they hired to perform the technical functions was qualified, that the company under contract understood the parameters and features required, as well as the time constraints, and that high level administrative and budgetary problems were properly supervised.

If you hired a company of good repute to do electrical work for your house, and the house subsequently burned down because of faulty wiring, the fault would not be yours.

INPHX wrote:

"The real ineptitude was that NO ONE KNEW THE DAY BEFORE THE WEBISTE WENT LIVE THAT IT WOULD TAKE MONTHS TO GET IT RIGHT. That's a stunning lack of communication, a lack of management, and a de facto supporting position that despite all of the resources and money available, government doesn't work (well)."

How would they know? They had to take the word of their technical contractor, who provided the software. There was certainly no way for some bureaucrat to personally arrange a simulated test of tens of millions of simultaneous users performing a variety of tasks under a variety of conditions. That was the job of the software company. Either they knew what they were doing, and their assurances were worth something, or they didn't. All of the communication in the world, including repeated assurances, make no difference when a product requiring technical expertise to produce and evaluate is fundamentally flawed.

What's really amazing is that despite a budget that was for all intents and purposes unlimited, and loads of time, this gigantic, tremendously experienced software company failed so miserably. That sort of incompetence is almost suspicious. In any case, if it's a commentary, it's a commentary on the failures of private business, not of government.

INPHX wrote:

"The bailouts were a disaster. Top to bottom, A to Z. I have no interest in bailing out automakers, unions, imprudent borrowers, foolish lenders, and all the Wall Street geniuses who greased the wheels and moved all that crap around."

On the contrary. The entire U.S. banking system (which interlocks with the world banking system) was saved. The bailout of financial institutions has already been repaid. That's one hell of a return for loan lasting only a few years.

The housing "bailout" was a bit anemic, but that was because initial efforts set the bar too high. The housing sector typically drives economic recoveries post-recession. This time it didn't, because it took a major hit.

A few words about the recession, which really was a perfect storm of simultaneous failures (real estate, stocks, banking, credit, and high unemployment):

(1) In addition to loss of income from unemployment, the housing crash eliminated household income which had come from the sale, refinancing, and remortgaging of houses in (what seemed to be) an ever rising boom market.

The credit crisis made the continuation of e-z credit financed consumerism (which was also supplementing stagnant or declining real wages through the 2000s) impractical or impossible for many.

In some markets, depressed housing prices and/or reduced or more expensive access to consumer credit and small business lending continue to this day.

Unemployment, foreclosures, the loss of credit ratings, the tightening of lending standards, and the increased costs of borrowing, all interacted and reinforced one another, which in turn decreased consumer spending and increased all of these problems in a vicious cycle. The diversion of disposable income from consumption into debt repayment further decreased consumer demand and slowed economic recovery.

Remember, one person's spending on goods and services is someone else's income. Reduced sales incentivize layoffs as a cost-cutting measure; the resulting increased unemployment incentivized decreased household spending, thus reducing demand and further increasing unemployment in a vicious cycle.

(2) In a new development, state and local governments, which had historically met recessions with increased spending, instead substantially decreased spending and persisted in budget tightening for years. Consider the fact that in most cities the public school system is the largest employer, and you'll have some concept of the scope and gravity of this.

(3) Employers continued and accelerated such practices as outsourcing, relocating or expanding abroad, automation, and requiring existing staff to fulfill additional functions instead of hiring new staff for this purpose.

(4) The housing and other real estate glut resulting from large numbers of foreclosures meant that the housing and construction sector, traditionally the vanguard of post-recession economic recovery, had to sell a huge amount of preexisting, unoccupied buildings before demand for new building would occur.

@Emil: excellent summary.

@Others: Kenisian (spelling?) economics could be a good tool for dealing with downturns. Trouble is we've neve tried it - all least the whole plan. We've used large deficits to combat recessions - but in good times you're supposed to run big surpluses.

WW2 was Keynesian spending completely as was the tax policy of the 1950s (pay down the debt during the good times -- this is the perversion of Friedman and Greenspan: they continued to drive public debt while cutting taxes).


Passing the buck isn't that easy.

If I hire an IT company (and I have) and it fails, it's my butt. My boss has no recourse or relationship with the IT company. He's trusting me to manage the project.

If there are problems, it's up to me to identify and communicate them upstream. That takes communication and management with the IT company.

I can tell you that if I hired an IT company and I had no idea that the launch would be delayed by months the day before the launch, I'd get whacked and most likely, so would my boss.

That's how the real world works. Government, not so much.

On the bailouts. The sky wasn't falling. Those who told you it was were only trying to reinforce their stance to butt in. I don't care if it was profitable or not, and that is an inherently difficult position in any case.

Solid analysis on the 2008 forward crisis. Couple of points:

1. Many saw the storm coming and made millions. Many saw the storm coming and just avoided losses.

2. It helped people to pay more attention to state budgets; without the debacle, I don't think we'd have the calls for union and pension reform that we have today. The costs were exposed as state budgets got thinner and thinner.

3. BTW, if you think Dodd Frank or any of the other goofy "reforms" will help to avoid another crisis like that one, you need your head examined. Back of the envelope, anytime 50% of the collteral a bank has assigned to it falls by 30% to 50% in value, they're done. The ONLY way to do that would be to increase SIGNIFICANTLY the banks' capital requirements, which would drive up costs and make US banks less competitive in the global marketplace

One other thing- the agency problem. Guy finances 103% of a house in a market that's up 60% in the last 18 months. Realtor gets paid, loan originator get paid, title company gets paid. Mortgage gets sold from here to there to here to there and the final owner is distanced from the original transaction. But they're the one holding the bag when the loan implodes.

I thin the market is trying to do a better job at that.

Re National Debt

Have been unable to find numbers for the 50’s

1945 -53.9 (deficit)
1946 -20.7
1947 +0.7 (surplus)
1948 + 8.4
1949 -1.8
1950 -3.1

Per wiki: The U.S. has only run surpluses in four of the past 40 years (1998-2001) but had several periods where the debt to GDP ratio was lowered. This was accomplished by growing GDP (in real terms and via inflation) relatively faster than the increase in debt.

The point is: while there have brief periods of surpluses, they are rare and small.

There was a time I didn't see how the war in Afghanistan could have anything to do with oil. Recently I read Taliban (Yale University Press, 2001) by Ahmed Rashid, a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and for the Daily Telegraph reporting on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. He covered Afghanistan for 21 years as a reporter before writing the book.

My conclusions are my own, but in arriving at them I'm largely indebted to his excellent, well sourced and well documented reportage. I'm going to cobble together an argument, threading a lot of quotations and close paraphrases together with my own observations. Rather than sort this out with countless quotation marks and qualifiers, I'm saying up front, what follows makes extensive use of text from the book. So don't accuse me of plagiarism.

(1) In the 1990s, before fracking took off, the Caspian Sea region of the Central Asian Republics represented possibly the last large underexploited gas and oil-bearing region in the world, and its opening up after the collapse of the Soviet Union generated huge excitement amongst international oil companies. (Reserve estimates for the region were subsequently revised downward, but late in the day.)

(2) U.S. oil companies and the U.S. foreign policy establishment had a shared interest in a strategy that would allow them to exploit the resources of the Caspian region (Central Asia), help these Caspian states to assert their independence from Russia and avoid turning to Iran, and enlist them in the Western camp.

In early 1995 major U.S. oil companies formed a private Foreign Oil Companies group in Washington to further their interests in the Caspian. The group included the U.S. energy company Unocal, and they set about hiring former government officials to lobby Washington. These included Zbigniew Brzezinski (ex National Security Council advisor), Richard Armitrage (former Assistant Defense Secretary), John Sununu (former White House Chief of Staff), Howard Baker (former Senate majority leader), Lawrence Eagleburger (former Secretary of State), and Henry Kissinger.

(3) Meanwhile, acting National Security Council advisor Samuel Berger had set up an inter-agency government committee on formulating policy toward the oil rich Caspian states, which include the Departments of State, Energy, and Commerce, as well as the CIA and the National Security Council (NSC). The oil company lobby group met with Berger's interagency government group (including energy experts at the NSC) in early and mid 1995.

(4) Unocal and its Saudi partner Delta Oil signed an agreement in late October 1995 to build a gas pipeline from the Caspian region of Central Asia to Pakistan and (an even bigger and growing market) India. Unocal also signs an agreement to develop a Central Asian Oil Pipeline Project (CAOPP) from Central Asia to an oil terminal in Pakistan on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Existing Soviet era pipelines could feed into this new pipeline, thus delivering oil from all of Central Asia. "The strategy is to take advantage of the extensive, existing pipeline network to extend the entire regional system to the coast" (for export to the growth markets of Asia).

Both the oil and gas pipeline would travel through Afghanistan.

(5) In March 1996 the Clinton administration's U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan pressures Prime Minister Bhutto to support the Unocal deal (she supported a rival Argentine company). She refuses vehemently. Regime change is just around the corner. In April and August the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia publicly touted the Unocal projects while touring Pakistan and elsewhere in the region.

(6) Within hours of the capture of the Afghanistan capital city of Kabul by the Taliban in September 1996, the U.S. State Department announced it would establish diplomatic relations with the Taliban by sending an official to Kabul. Chris Taggert, a Unocal executive, told the newswire services that the project would be easier to implement now that the Taliban had captured Kabul. Both announcements (State Department and Unocal) were quickly withdrawn in the face of public controversy. Senator Hank Brown, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia, and also a supporter of the Unocal project, told the Washington Post: "...One of the factions at last seems capable of developing a government in Afghanistan". One U.S. diplomat told reporter Rashid: "The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did. There will be Aramco, oil pipelines, an emir, no parliament, and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that."

(7) Reuters news service in early October 1996 observed: "Certainly the Taliban appear to serve the U.S. policy of isolating Iran by creating a firmly Sunni buffer on Iran's border and potentially providing security for trade routes and pipelines that would break Iran's monopoly on Central Asia's southern trade routes." At the time, a secret budget had been authorized to destabilize Iran by covert means, so this was an important U.S. policy goal.

(8) Note that the pipeline projects could not go forward without financing, and that the World Bank and others required a recognized government in Afghanistan before they would lend money for the projects: no western bank would finance pipeline projects in a country fighting a civil war. At the time, the Taliban looked like the best bet for stability.

(9) In November 1996, after failing the previous year with an army coup, the same forces engineered the dismissal of Pakistan Prime Minister Bhutto (who had opposed the Unocal project and supported a rival Argentinian company). The new PM, his oil minister, the army, and the ISI (Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA), in contrast to Bhutto, fully backed Unocal. Apart from wanting U.S. recognition for the Taliban, Pakistan desperately needed new sources of gas supply and assured supplies of cheaper oil. The Unocal projects would not only supply Pakistan but also turn the country into a major hub for Central Asian oil exports to other Asian markets.

(10) A major United Nations official in January 1997 told reporter Rashid that "The outside interference in Afghanistan is now all related to the battle for oil and gas pipelines. The fear is that these companies and regional powers are just renting the Taliban for their purposes."

(11) In May 1997 Unocal signed an agreement committing itself to raising the project finances by December and starting construction in early 1998. The CIA had been told by the Pakistani ISI that the Taliban were on the verge of capturing the stronghold and capital of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance during their summer offensive; and Unocal was privy to this information.

However, weeks later the Taliban were driven off, with major casualties, by Northern Alliance forces. By July the U.S. understood that it had made a mistake in relying on faulty and biased ISI analysis, and skepticism grows to the extent that Washington doubts the Taliban's ability to deliver. Meanwhile, under the influence of Osama Bin Laden (friends with Taliban leader Mullah Omar), the Taliban's rhetoric becomes increasingly anti-Western and the country hosts a variety of militant training camps for foreign jihadist groups.

(12) The first official U.S. criticism of the Taliban comes on November 18 when Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calls the Taliban's gender policy "despicable" while on an official visit to Pakistan.

(13) The coffin nails in the Taliban's hope for U.S. and international recognition come quickly in 1998. Still hoping that if the Taliban can't achieve stability by conquest, it might yet be possible to broker a peace agreement, U.S. envoy Bill Richardson is sent to meet with Taliban and Northern Alliance governments in their respective capitals and persuades both sides to convene a meeting of religious leaders (ulema). Mullah Omar rejects their compromise agreement just hours after Richardson leaves. Ulema agreement to nominate a peace commission for talks comes to nothing as the Taliban refuse to nominate their delegation.

Mullah Omar issues an edict ordering the deportation of all Christians. The U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania result in cruise-missile strikes on militant training camps in Afghanistan run by Bin Laden. The Taliban loses the support of the Saudis when he personally insults the Saudi royal family. An umbrella group, Feminist Majority Foundation in USA calls for increased economic and social pressure on the Taliban: 300 women's groups, trade unions, and human rights groups sign on. The Clintons and Al Gore, who need the political and financial support of these groups, listen, and after Hollywood signs on, Hilary begins publicly criticizing the Taliban's gender policy.

The highest ranking U.S. diplomat dealing with Afghanistan tells reporter Rashid that "The U.S. acquiesced in supporting the Taliban because of our links to the Pakistan and Saudi governments who backed them. But we no longer do so and we have told them categorically that we need a settlement" (amongst warring factions in Afghanistan).

(14) No settlement, no stability, no financing, no pipelines, no isolating Iran (which has its own alternative pipeline routes through its own territory), no breaking Russia's monopoly control over the transportation of oil from the region, no Western energy security through diversification of supply from what was then believed to be quite possibly the last known major underexploited oil and gas reserves in the world.

(15) Washington had proposed an alternative "transport corridor" from the Caspian region to Turkey (avoiding Russia and Iran) and in 1999 a consortium made up of Bechtel Group and U.S. General Electric signed a contract for a pipeline from the Central Asian area to Turkey via a tunnel dug under the Caspian Sea; but the proposed route went through Georgia and the volatile Kurdish region of Turkey (where the Kurdish marxist PKK movement was trying to establish a Kurdish homeland); this made Washington's alternative route proposal dangerous, unpredictable, and subject to interference and covert sabotage by Russia and Iran. Pipelines through Afghanistan were preferable, but could not proceed while a stalemate existed between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

By May 1999 the USA had issued its first warning to Pakistan not to support the Taliban, saying it favored the return of Afghanistan's ex-king Zahir Shah. (But how could Shah's return to power be effectuated?)

With all of these ducks lined up in a row it's clear that the Taliban's days were numbered. But Washington still needed a good excuse to invade, until 9/11, when it had one.

(16) Incidentally, the Saudis preferred Bin Laden to be killed or to remain in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, rather than be turned over to the Americans, where his intimate knowledge of Saudi royal family support of the Taliban and other militant Sunni groups would prove deeply embarrassing.

My personal theory is that Bin Laden, through talks with Mullah Omar, and from his own generally intimate knowledge of Islamic militant movements, knew a lot about CIA and U.S. State Department support of the Taliban and other groups, and could have used a public trial as a forum to publicize this information. I believe this is the real reason why he was assassinated by the Seal team rather than taken out alive.

wkg wrote:

"Re National Debt...Have been unable to find numbers for the 50’s"

Try Googling "Historical Tables" with "OMB" for either PDF (best) or Excel versions; see Section 1 (Overview), pp. 23-24 (FY 2015 edition) for every year from 1901 to the present (and estimates beyond); and for much other data.

INPHX, how do you know that the healthcare software delay wasn't presented as a last-minute revision to the government?

Do you suppose that the software company knew months in advance that the product wouldn't be ready in time, and made regular progress reports to that effect, while somehow the government remained unaware of the slowly creeping doom?

INPHX wrote:

"On the bailouts. The sky wasn't falling. Those who told you it was were only trying to reinforce their stance to butt in."

If that is the case, there would be a general consensus among the banking and finance industry and among private sector economists with expertise in finance, that supports your claim. In fact, the contrary seems clear: the banking industry (not just USA's) begged the government to intervene, before a cascading network of interrelational effects caused a systemic banking collapse.

That is not to say that the government handled it without favor or properly at all steps. It is to say that you have no documentary basis for the claim that the whole banking bailout was engineered by government bureaucrats because they just felt like butting in. And remember we're talking about actions by the Federal Reserve System, by and large, not some congressman's pet project.

From a three day old Washington Post story:

"The United States didn’t do better (than Germany and Great Britain) because its policymakers are smarter, but because American regulators have greater power vis-à-vis their banks. U.S., British and German policymakers all wanted the same thing – a collective bailout policy that would stabilize the financial system by recapitalizing systemically important banks with government money.

"...Many political scientists have observed that the state is structurally dependent on capital. It has been much less remarked in recent work that capital is sometimes dependent on the state. During the 2008 bailout, U.S. government officials were able to deploy this structural power against their own banks to push through a policy design that both saved the banks and made money for the taxpayers."


More good news for you ACA cheerleaders:


Let's see. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, .........

INPHX wrote:

"Many saw the storm coming and made millions. Many saw the storm coming and just avoided losses."

Very few saw the storm coming. If many had, there would have been ample advance publicity. Fewer still made millions, and of those who did, many did so because of fortuitous hedge positions, or by buying after the crash at the bottom of the market, rather than foresight.

I agree that securitization of mortgages made for a big problem. Canada's more conservative banks took a traditional approach, and the country largely avoided the real estate crash.

I agree also that the federal regulatory response has been inadequate. Too big to fail still obtains.

Emil, good post. Its always been about Oil since its discovery.
Two of my favorite movies about Oil and the CIA are Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Syriana (2005).

A nation angrily divided:


will this help the weak part of the stimulus.

It's funny how the press reports on Obamacare sometimes. American views are dependent both on the way the question is asked and on the period when the question is asked. CNN exit polls at the midterm elections showed that most voters thought Obamacare either didn't go far enough or else was just about right; yet the following story reports it as "Nearly half of voters on Tuesday said Obamacare went too far, according to exit polls".


Unless you add the figures up, you might not realize that approval is 48 percent versus 47 percent who say it went "too far".

I think Gruber-gate has definitely brought poll approval ratings down over the past week, also.

The West has had their eyes on Caspian Oil since WW1:


Rousing little colonial adventure (for the Brits).

INPHX, so far as I can tell, private industry has every bit as much egregious failure as government. The big difference is that there is a well-funded conservative lobby publicizing (and often exaggerating) government failures, while there is no well-funded lobby publicizing the numerous failures, incompetencies, and gross negligences of private industry. Every once in awhile you hear about a recall or a lawsuit, but not a constant drumbeat which jumps at every such instance and ties them all together under the banner of "private market incompetence". There are a few books but you have to seek them out; they have low publishing runs and there doesn't exist a nationwide network of conservative talk-radio, etc., to push them.

How many credit card numbers and how much personal data have been stolen from private companies? How much cybertheft and white collar theft goes unreported and the costs passed on to the consumer? How many automobiles and automotive components cause unnecessary death and injury and/or cause their company owners staggering sums of money because of eventual recalls and lawsuits? How many infections result from medical care at private hospitals? How many foreign objects left inside surgery patients? How many drugs prescribed without considering dangerous cross-reactions, or dangerous drugs prescribed because doctors have been lobbied by Big Pharma? How many fertilizer plant explosions? How many fiery, rear-end collisions? How many executives lose money for companies then get big bonuses anyway, or else take golden parachutes?

Just barely scratching the surface. Consider your interactions with numerous private sector retail outlets, insurance companies, service providers, plumbers, roofers, car salesmen, etc., etc.; then compare this to your local DMV, Obamacare, or financial regulation. Is stupidity, incompetence, and dishonesty really a government monopoly?

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