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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blogger DJ's Thanksgiving Musical Excesses, or Rather, Guilty Pleasures

Foster the People - Pumped up Kicks
Cheap Trick - I Want You to Want Me
The Romantics - What I Like About You
Bow Wow Wow - Do You Wanna Hold Me ?
Sheila E- Glamourous Life
Kajagoogoo - Too Shy to Shy
Rod Stewart - Do You Think I'm Sexy ?
George Michael - Careless Whisper
Tom Jones - You Can Leave Your Hat On
Buster Poindexter - Hot Hot Hot
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Relax
Haddaway -What Is Love ?

I'll take do-nothing U.S. Government over Euro-Crat Wackos any day

Why ? Check out these recent examples of Eurozone Bureaucrat nutbag-ery, cited in THE TELEGRAPH.

EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration, report Victoria Ward and Nick Collins
Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration.  
EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.
Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large.
“The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true.
“If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

NHS health guidelines state clearly that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day.
The Department for Health disputed the wisdom of the new law. A spokesman said: “Of course water hydrates. While we support the EU in preventing false claims about products, we need to exercise common sense as far as possible."

German professors Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer, who advise food manufacturers on how to advertise their products, asked the European Commission if the claim could be made on labels.

They compiled what they assumed was an uncontroversial statement in order to test new laws which allow products to claim they can reduce the risk of disease, subject to EU approval.
They applied for the right to state that “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration” as well as preventing a decrease in performance.

However, last February, the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) refused to approve the statement.

A meeting of 21 scientists in Parma, Italy, concluded that reduced water content in the body was a symptom of dehydration and not something that drinking water could subsequently control.
Now the EFSA verdict has been turned into an EU directive which was issued on Wednesday.
This bit of inspired insanity on the part of EuroCrat zanies, who clearly have too much time on their hands and not a dollop of common sense amongst them, is hardly unique, as Nick Collins points out in  his piece, EU bottled water ruling joins the ranks of bendy banana law.
The European Union has a reputation for making rulings on the minutiae of everyday life that some consider to be petty, provocative and absolutely pointless. Here are five of the most notorious.
Curved cucumbers and bendy bananas
In perhaps the most ridiculed example of Brussels bureaucracy, the EU dictated that only cucumbers which were “practically straight” and had a gradient of no more than 1/10 could be sold as Class 1.
The controversial directive, along with a host of other criteria applying to bendy bananas, knobbly carrots and several other fruit and vegetables, were eventually scrapped amid fears farmers were discarding perfectly edible produce at a time of world food shortages.
Swedes or turnips?

Having already prescribed how long, short, straight or bendy a fruit or vegetable should be, the European Commission decided last summer that a swede can be called a turnip, provided it is in a Cornish pasty.
In guidelines which stated that minced or diced beef, sliced potato, onion and swede were the only ingredients permitted in the traditional snack, officials were forced to allow the word “turnip” in ingredient lists – though not in the pasties themselves – because the Cornish confusingly use the word to refer to Swedes.
Female drivers no safer than men
Earlier this year the European Court of Justice ruled that insurance companies could no longer charge women lower premiums than men in a decision described by Tory MEPs as “utter madness”.
Judges said that to use gender as a risk factor in car and medical insurance premium calculations or pension schemes breached equality laws.
Eggs by the dozen

Last summer draft legislation published by the EU stated that all groceries should be sold under a common system based on weight.
But despite rejecting bids to include a caveat which would have allowed certain products to be sold by number – for example a dozen eggs or six bread rolls – MEPs admitted the law could not prevent manufacturers including a number on the box, as long as the weight was also listed.
Water palaver
Last week the EU ruled that bottled water manufacturers could no longer advertise their product as helping to prevent dehydration because of a lack of scientific evidence.
Although some scientists have argued the ruling is technically correct because, for example, drinking water would not help prevent the dehydration that comes with diahorrea, others accused Brussels of yet another piece of petty legislation that runs counter to common sense.

Just when you thought there was no collegiality in Congress...

David Rogers of THE POLITICO reports on promising reform measures being formulated by members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and their chairs, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), whose working relationship apparently has more than just survived the much-publicized Deficit Supercommittee's implosion.

It was always a shotgun marriage: the House and Senate agriculture committees would generate $23 billion in savings and get a ticket on the supercommittee’s fast-moving, amendment-free deficit train. But more than most of their colleagues, the agriculture leadership did at least try, and the weeks of backroom negotiations could prove valuable still as a first Washington exercise in the need for change in agriculture policy.

What emerged was a broad consensus that the current system of direct cash payments to producers — costing $5 billion a year — can no longer be defended. Government support for farmers should be a function of real planted acres, not outdated data measuring a producer’s “base” acreage from years ago. And payment limits of $105,000 are proposed for new safety net programs.

But instead of one overarching replacement for direct payments, the draft bill proposes at least three options, one tailored specifically for a single crop, cotton. Indeed, the old farm coalition may never be quite the same, as cotton’s decision to go it alone isolated rice and peanuts, making the South less of a player. Instead, the biggest tension matched the Corn Belt — flush with ethanol-driven prices — vs. the Great Plains wheat country represented by powerful Senate Democrats.

No plans have been announced to release the bill itself, but within the all-important commodity title, the latest scoring from the Congressional Budget Office is said to credit the committees with $16.7 billion in outlay savings — a 27 percent reduction.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is Mitt Gumby--I mean Romney--Inevitable ?

I say, no way.

Mitt's mascot ?
At some point, Romney will commit a colossal blunder--like Governor Perry not being able to remember exactly which 3 Federal agencies he would shutter--and Republicans will have to find someone else.

That person is not Cain, Perry, Huntsman, Gingrich, Santorum, Bachman, or Paul, none of those political Lilliputians whose limitations and weaknesses have already become only too apparent.

It must be someone who has actually governed--as opposed to keeping a seat warm in the State House corner office for two years--and, unlike Mitt Gumby, stands for something. The party must turn to Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush, or better still both.      

Blogger DJ's Eclectic Friday Night Mix

Jermaine Jackson - Do What You Do
Michael Jackson - Rock With You, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Bill Withers - Just the Two of Us,  Use Me
KC & The Sunshine Band - That's The Way (I Like It)
Isley Brothers - Work to Do
Morris Day and The Time - Jungle Love
The Gap Band - You Dropped a Bomb on Me
The Brothers Johnson - Stomp !
The Commodores - Brick House
Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music
Earth Wind and Fire - Let's Groove, Evil,  Fantasy, September
Kool and the Gang - Too hot
Average White Band - Work to Do , Pick Up The Pieces

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beyond the Euro-Crisis II : Reboot or Collapse, Niall Ferguson Tells U.S.

...in THE DAILY BEAST.  Some excerpts follow.

***

But if we are headed toward collapse, what would an American “Oh sh*t!” moment look like? An upsurge in civil unrest and crime, as happened in the 1970s? A loss of faith on the part of investors and a sudden Greek-style leap in government borrowing costs? How about a spike of violence in the Middle East, from Iraq to Afghanistan, as insurgents capitalize on our troop withdrawals? Or a paralyzing cyberattack from the rising Asian superpower we complacently underrate?

Is there anything we can do to prevent such disasters? Social scientist Charles Murray calls for a “civic great awakening”—a return to the original values of the American republic. He’s got a point. Far more than in Europe, most Americans remain instinctively loyal to the killer applications of Western ascendancy, from competition all the way through to the work ethic. They know the country has the right software. They just can’t understand why it’s running so damn slowly.

What we need to do is to delete the viruses that have crept into our system: the anticompetitive quasi monopolies that blight everything from banking to public education; the politically correct pseudosciences and soft subjects that deflect good students away from hard science; the lobbyists who subvert the rule of law for the sake of the special interests they represent—to say nothing of our crazily dysfunctional system of health care, our overleveraged personal finances, and our newfound unemployment ethic.

Then we need to download the updates that are running more successfully in other countries, from Finland to New Zealand, from Denmark to Hong Kong, from Singapore to Sweden.

And finally we need to reboot our whole system.

I refuse to accept that Western civilization is like some hopeless old version of Microsoft DOS, doomed to freeze, then crash. I still cling to the hope that the United States is the Mac to Europe’s PC, and that if one part of the West can successfully update and reboot itself, it’s America.

But the lesson of history is clear. Voters and politicians alike dare not postpone the big reboot. Decline is not so gradual that our biggest problems can simply be left to the next administration, or the one after that.

If what we are risking is not decline but downright collapse, then the time frame maybe even tighter than one election cycle.

Beyond the Euro-Crisis I : Asia's Water-Stressed, Turkey's Woofing

Brahma Chellaney comments on Water Stress in Asia, and various risks therefrom

Water, the most vital of all resources, has emerged as a key issue that would determine if Asia is headed toward cooperation or competition. After all, the driest continent in the world is not Africa but Asia, where availability of freshwater is not even half the global annual average of 6,380 cubic metres per inhabitant.

Today, the fastest-growing Asian economies are all at or near water-stressed conditions, including China, India, South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. But just three or four decades ago, these economies were relatively free of water stress. Now if we look three or four decades ahead, it is clear that the water situation will only exacerbate, carrying major implications for rapid economic growth and inter-riparian relations.

Yet Asia continues to draw on tomorrow's water to meet today's needs. Worse still, Asia has one of the lowest levels of water efficiency and productivity in the world. Against this background, it is no exaggeration to say that the water crisis threatens Asia's economic and political rise and its environmental sustainability. For investors, it carries risks that potentially are as damaging as non-performing loans, real estate bubbles, and political corruption. Water has also emerged as a source of increasing competition and discord within and between nations, spurring new tensions over shared basin resources and local resistance to governmental or corporate decisions to set up water-intensive industries.

These developments raise the question whether the risks of water conflict are higher in Asia than elsewhere in the world. With Asia becoming the scene of increasingly fierce intrastate and interstate water competition, the answer clearly is yes. Water is a new arena in the Asian Great Game.

In fact, water wars — in a political, diplomatic, or economic sense — are already being waged between riparian neighbours in several Asian regions, fuelling a cycle of bitter recrimination and fostering mistrust that impedes broader regional cooperation and integration. Without any shots being fired, rising costs continue to be exacted. The resources of transnational rivers, aquifers, and lakes have become the target of rival appropriation plans.

Turkey's showing a more aggressive and dangerous side these days, on the one hand, occupying part of Kurdistan, on the other, threatening naval action if Cyprus chooses to exploit its own oil reserves.  In 'Neighbors warily eye a more muscular Turkey', Shlomo Avineri observes :

The recent surge in Turkey's military actions against the Kurds in northern Iraq is an indication that, somewhat surprisingly — but not entirely unpredictably — Turkish foreign policy has undergone a 180-degree turn in less than two years. The Turkish offensive is also an indication that these changes go beyond the current tensions between Turkey and Israel, which are just one facet of much deeper trends.

Turkey has an enormously important role to play in the region. It could be a bridge between the West and the East, between Islam and modernity, and between Israel and the Arabs. But it runs the danger of succumbing to the arrogance of power, which has corrupted and sidelined many strong states in the past.
That new Turkish aggressiveness prompts Michael Rubin to ask, 'Is It Time for an Anti-Turkey Coalition?' :

Kurds and Kurdistan have never felt so much promise. Federalism in Iraq is secure. Iraqi Kurdistan attracts billions of dollars in investment, Masud Barzani no longer needs a borrowed Turkish passport to travel abroad, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has offices which act as virtual embassies in Washington, London, and other major capitals. It is ironic, therefore, that against this progress, Kurds wield so little influence over the issues about which Kurds inside and outside Iraqi Kurdistan most care.

After Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] members attacked Turkish military outposts in the early morning hours of October 19, Nechirvan Barzani, a former prime minister who retains the power of that post, rushed to Ankara to try to defuse any retaliation. He failed. So too did regional president Masud Barzani, who placed an emergency phone call to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish President Abdullah Gül vowed revenge and dispensed with the notion for proportionality that Turkey demands from others. "No one should forget that those who are inflicting this pain upon us will suffer in multitudes," Gül declared. Thereafter, Turkish jets bombed targets in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkish tanks reportedly crossed the border. While Turkish officials say they have killed several hundred PKK members, such declarations cannot be taken at face value. Turkish authorities label any Kurd killed in such bombardment as a terrorist, regardless of reality. Civilians often pay the price. Turkey has yet to apologize or pay compensation, for example, to the families of the seven Kurdish civilians killed in an August strike. Nor has the Kurdish government forced Turkey to provide proof the any recent attacks inside Turkey had a cross-border component.

The failure of Kurdish leaders to fulfill their diplomatic agenda extends beyond the latest Turkish incursion. After all, even before the Hakari attacks, the Turkish Army stationed more than 1,000 troops stationed on mountains and around villages several kilometers across the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish border. Indeed, as much as Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu frames his country's foreign policy as seeking good relations with all its neighbors, the fact remains that Turkey is the only aspirant to the European Union that unabashedly occupies other countries. Turkish occupation in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as in Cyprus suggests the true meaning of neo-Ottomanism.

Turkey's occupations, however, provide the Kurdistan Regional Government with an opportunity. On September 2, 2011, Egemen Bagis, Turkey's Minister for European Union Affairs, threatened Cyprus with military action. Should that European Union member not stop oil exploration in international waters off its coast, Bagis said, that Turkey might respond militarily. "That's what a navy is for," he quipped.