Thursday, 13 December 2012

07:28 – Only eight days left until the end of the world, and Barbara and I haven’t even started to make preparations. Oh, well. Another year, another apocalypse. When the world ended last year, we didn’t even notice. I did move Army Wives to the top of our Netflix streaming queue. Series six releases on the 18th. Barbara enjoys that series, so we’ll have to get it watched before the world ends on the 21st.

We continue to build and ship science kits.


14:08 – Fareed Zakaria actually gets it: Should America try to be like Scandinavia?

I’ve mentioned this “free ride” problem many times before. For the last six decades or more, Americans have carried the rest of the world. For sixty years, for example, we’ve paid the vast bulk of the defense budget for all of Europe, not to mention the Pacific Rim. America out-innovates the rest of the world put together, and the rest of the world uses those innovations, most of which were paid for by US taxpayers, while paying little or nothing for them. Americans pay the overwhelming majority of costs to develop new drugs, including those developed by big pharma companies in other countries. In addition to American taxpayers heavily subsidizing research, directly and indirectly, Americans also pay much higher prices for the drugs that result from that research. Even our friends and allies, including the UK and Canada, pay little or nothing more than the production costs of those drugs, with their national health services threatening to ignore patents and produce the drugs themselves if drug companies don’t sell to them at cost. The US has contributed trillions of dollars in foreign aid, direct and indirect, with no return. There is no balance here. That’s why I’ve suggested, only half in jest, that the IRS should begin collecting income taxes from every country on earth. One percent of GDP is reasonable, and at that they’d still be getting a hell of a deal.

51 thoughts on “Thursday, 13 December 2012”

  1. “Only eight days left until the end of the world…”

    Okay, I’ll admit that I haven’t been paying attention. What is it this time? Zombies? Jerry Coyne’s Ceiling Cat come to take vengeance on dog lovers? Invaders from Alpha Centuari?

    If it’s zombies there is a simple precaution you can take. It’s well known that zombies have very poor taste in music, so just turn your stereo to maximum and put your copy (or Barbara’s, if you don’t want to admit to it) of Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits on loop. The zombies will run away screaming in terror, and find a neighborhood with easier pickings.

  2. Amen brother!

    SOS anyone? One of their best and appropriate if the world is about to end.

  3. “Only eight days left until the end of the world…”

    Okay, I’ll admit that I haven’t been paying attention.

    I haven’t been paying attention either, but I believe that the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Or so the proponents of the particularly silly idea Bob is referring to claim.

  4. Oh? I’ve heard that Chinese and/or Russians are preparing for the end of the world too…

  5. I don’t much care about the Mayans and their calendar ending on 21 December, but I note that the calendar in our kitchen ends on 31 December!

  6. For what it’s worth, Wikipedia has a short, clear description of the Mayan calendar, and the 2012 problem.

    tl;dr: The Mayan calendar defines cycles. One of those cycles is around 394 years in length, and the twelfth such cycle in the Mayan calendar ends this year on the winter solstice. As far as the Mayan calendar goes, all that means is that the thirteenth cycle begins. No big deal, it’s already happened a few times before. If the Mayan’s were still around, it would be grounds for a big new-cycle party!

  7. <And if Barry Manilow fails, move up to the bigtime and put on Abba.

    I would instead put the video “Mama Mia” on the DVD and let that play. That way you will also get zombies that are deaf. No use taking chances. As for Manilow, got him playing on my IPad as we speak with ABBA’s greatest hits to follow shortly.

  8. playing this

    I also have that on my IPad. All that did was attract my boss. Subtle message?

  9. I got a chuckle reading about union thug-in-chief Hoffas claim that a civil war is coming. I guess he thinks Obama will lend the army to him. Isn’t union membership down 40%?

  10. ” If the Mayan’s were still around…”

    They are. Lots of Mexicans have Mayan DNA and there are plenty of them here in El Norte, including El Norte Vermont, where they work on the dairy farms and in the apple orchards (also Jamaicans) and there is a Spanish mass for them at the RC church just up the road from us. And lots of them girls of Chichen Itza met their end in deep wells scattered around the Yucatan Peninsula.

    Given a choice between Abba, Manilow and The Zombies, I’ll take the latter every time without fail.

  11. Hoffa’s a chip off the old block and may well end up the same way. Yeah, unions are pretty much decimated in this country now, but they’re thrashing around and causing lots of damage as they go down the drain; they evidently believe they can continue to make outrageous demands of a population that is itself going down the drain and the money is just not there anymore; the high rollers got it all, with skimming by their State enablers and professional agitprop specialists. They screwed the rank-and-file on one side while the corporate fascist oligarchy screwed them from the other. And that is a whole lot of extremely pissed-off people, most of them armed.

    But they’re outnumbered by similarly well-armed people who are tired of being robbed. What would be tragic is a civil war between these two groups, while the real bastards make out like bandits, per usual, and watch the mayhem. Guys like Hoffa and certain highly irresponsible “leaders” in the cities are playing a very dangerous game.

  12. Rod Argent rejoined the 4 other surviving members of the Zombies and they tour the US every year. “Time of the Season” was my favorite.

    Am I the only one getting this “Warning…Missing argument 2 for wpdb:….php on line 990” peppered profusely all over the pages?

  13. Bob, I’m getting an odd error message preceding your posts.

    “Warning: Missing argument 2 for wpdb::prepare(), called in /home/r_b_thompson/ttgnet.com/journal/wp-content/plugins/wp-ajax-edit-comments/lib/class.core.php on line 470 and defined in /home/r_b_thompson/ttgnet.com/journal/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 990”

    I’m not worried about the end of the Mayan calendar. “Our” calendar ends every twelve months, and I just put up a new one.

  14. If the Mayan’s were still around, it would be grounds for a big new-cycle party!

    Oh yeah, they would be lopping those heads off right and left!

    My personal favorite is the Mayan version of basketball where the losers lose their heads after the game.

  15. Given a choice between Abba, Manilow and The Zombies, I’ll take the latter every time without fail.

    Dude, can I have all three? All of these are the basis for elevator music. Have you ever been in an elevator without music? Sad, sad, sad. You actually had to talk with your fellow inhabitants. I worked for 5 years in Downtown Dallas on the 23rd and 25th floors of a building. No music days were bad, especially if the bosses boss was in the cab.

  16. Srsly? The Zombies were great. I’ve always thought David Argent was under appreciated.

  17. “My personal favorite is the Mayan version of basketball where the losers lose their heads after the game.”

    I’d like to see that in the NBA. After a season or two, no more NBA. (I hate basketball.) And the way things are going in the NFL, let’s institute it there, too. Baseball is the true American sport. Or so I am told.

    The heads as part of a game thing reminded me of those scenes in “The Man Who Would Be King,” which I watch every year.

    OFD is not seeing any weird error mss. so fah.

  18. “No music days were bad, especially if the bosses boss was in the cab.”

    Then it’s time for SBD flatulence. Women are great at this.

  19. I don’t know what the error message means. I did upgrade WP yesterday. It was just a button-click upgrade, which I’ve done many times before. I’ll look into the comment editing plug-in. It may be that it’s incompatible with the new version of WP.

  20. I just wish that I could get FireFox version umpteen to remember my name and email address without using some weird addon that crashes later versions of FireFox.

  21. It’s like a couple of us have kept saying to Chuck in Tiny Town; FF creates all kinds of problems and issues, even old-ass versions that we have had at work to look at blades. Chrome is way faster and with the exception of the worldwide outage for a few minutes the other day, I have had zero problems with it. They have have a version for Linux: Chromium. Same deal. Works great.

  22. Well, whatever you did, or didn’t do, the error is gone now.

    Unless it shows up again when I hit Post Comment…

  23. I don’t care at all for Zakaria but yeah, I agree with Bob and Pat Buchanan on this; we have carried the rest of the world. I would add that as one very bad result of that, our lords temporal feel they have the right to be the world’s cop and punisher, too, using our own kids and bleeding us white in taxes and getting our kids mangled and killed.

    I favor getting out of the game of Empire totally but if we’re gonna do it, then yeah, we need to start collecting taxes from everyone and nailing enemies and rebels to miles of crosses on the roads going in and out of Mordor On the Potomac. Anything less is half-ass and we will get that half of our ass handed to us eventually.

  24. That’s why I’ve suggested, only half in jest, that the IRS should begin collecting income taxes from every country on earth. One percent of GDP is reasonable, and at that they’d still be getting a hell of a deal.

    One percent is for pikers. I think that ten percent is a much better show of subservience. And will allow the USA to balance its budget until another DemoRepub creates a new class of needy people. Should last about 5 minutes.

  25. “5 minutes.”

    What an optimist dreamer you are.

    I favor getting the hell out of the whole bloody game of Empire ASAP. Tend to our own matters here at home, of which there are a plethora. Starting with shit-canning the current State as it is constituted and clearing out the treasonous rubbish and dead wood totally.

    Bust this mutha up into six or seven or nine separate regions, a confederacy. Mutual defense and aid pacts. Or not. Frankly I don’t give a blind rat’s ass about the people in Megalopolis or the Left Coast or any of the big cities. Sink or swim. And let’s face it: folks in Wyoming and Idaho got more in common with folks in Alberta and Manitoba than they do the cretins and pirates and war criminals in Mordor or Babylon.

    People need to read history and look at what happened to the last empires.

  26. Hi OFD, I just do not know. Loose confederations of small nations tend to get eaten from the outside and the inside. Plus getting to that loose confederation of nations will cost a LOT in lives. Maybe 10% of the nation will die in the process. Maybe 20%.

    Here is my son getting ready to get on a 747 to go to Iraq in 2007:
    http://www.winsim.com/Michael_2007.jpg
    He got real jaded during that trip (his second). He was part of the bodyguard platoon for the Lt. Colonel of their Battalion. He met a lot of Iraqis and came away with this conclusion:
    1. brother against brother
    2. brothers against the father
    3. the brothers and father against the tribe
    4. the tribe against the nation

    Notice that no one is for the nation? That is why the middle east is so screwed up according to my son. And not fixable. Ever. The Bible says that and I believe it.

    My worry is that is coming here to the USA. Our melting pop appears to be malfunctioning. If so, the civil war will be horrible and then the squabbling amongst the Confederacy will be immense. Sadly, it does look to me like we are heading that way in a couple of decades.

    Jerry Pournelle says that Despair is a Sin. He is right.

  27. Hey, melting pop works for me. I remember having popsicles melt on me during hot summuh daze. I didn’t care much if it was a banana pop, though.

    The melting pot here was done away with in favor of General Dinkins’s “gorgeous mosaic,” and now it’s something else. We are probably going the way of the Balkans, either voluntarily or not. The American Experiment is ending. I would rather be with my own people and so would most of the world’s population; simple as that, though rank anathema to our elites. Ties of race, ethnicity and religion are proving far more important and long-lasting than those of governments, constitutions and quasi-national and international bodies of law and politics. This is proven at least hourly now around the world.

  28. “Notice that no one is for the nation? That is why the middle east is so screwed up according to my son. And not fixable. Ever. The Bible says that and I believe it.”

    Huh?

    I’ve said that I don’t really know my neighbours very well, and last night I proved that. I popped over to see an older (sixties, I guess) couple to ask them to clear my mailbox while I was away. A much older man I didn’t know answered the door, I asked to speak to Gary or Marian. He said that Marian had passed away three years ago.

    Geez. I hadn’t seen her in the garden (she was an avid gardener) for a while, but three years? Gary had aged quite noticeably. He was going away on the 20th so he said he couldn’t clear my mailbox. I said I’d go ask George next door. Gary said George (mid seventies) was very sick and probably wouldn’t be much help. I realised I hadn’t seen him lately. Saw his wife this morning, she said nothing about it. Forty years ago everyone knew everything about their neighbors.

  29. I notice that this is a day with mostly US viewers and view postings with Aussies and other “parasites” notably missing. I wonder how long a post can be… Here’s a non Star-Spangled Banner view.
    (Although it is not polite to tackle each sentence, the issue is too broad so with my apologies, I’ll do just that.)

    “I’ve mentioned this “free ride” problem many times before.”
    I’ll tackle this at the end.

    “For the last six decades or more, Americans have carried the rest of the world.”
    Perhaps. Have lead, undoubtedly. But the rest of the world have also paid for a lot of the American dream.

    ” For sixty years, for example, we’ve paid the vast bulk of the defense budget for all of Europe, not to mention the Pacific Rim.”
    I fail to see the issue here. For the first, say, 40 years it was probably a very good investment as a deterrant. Perhaps the last 20 were a waste but this is not the fault of the world, it is just politics and power play within the US that keep it going.

    ” America out-innovates the rest of the world put together, and the rest of the world uses those innovations, most of which were paid for by US taxpayers, while paying little or nothing for them.”
    I would wager that the rest of the world also provides many a new American that actually do the innovations. How much of the innovations is being done by first generation americans? If they would have stayed outside the US with similar access to resources and income as in the US they would have done the innovations outside of the USA.

    “Americans pay the overwhelming majority of costs to develop new drugs, including those developed by big pharma companies in other countries.”
    I could agree that Americans pay the majority of costs to develop new drugs and massively subsidise the FDA(?) tests needed for drugs in America. I fail to see how they pay for the development overseas unless this is because of your perceptions on pricing.

    “In addition to American taxpayers heavily subsidizing research, directly and indirectly,…”
    I am sure this is also one of the reasons that the investigation is carried-out in America. Goverment encourages investigation via tax subsidies. But the IP is in America and charges for the product + IP is paid one way or another by all.

    “… Americans also pay much higher prices for the drugs that result from that research. Even our friends and allies, including the UK and Canada, pay little or nothing more than the production costs of those drugs, with their national health services threatening to ignore patents and produce the drugs themselves if drug companies don’t sell to them at cost.”
    In Australia we pay hefty mark-ups for branded products. Non-branded drugs -which are available for some patent-expired drugs- are much, much cheaper. I think you carry the production costs argument a bit too far. I have yet to know about a major drug company going into receivership either in the US or outside. BTW, your goverment could easily regulate this if it were considered outrageous.

    ” The US has contributed trillions of dollars in foreign aid, direct and indirect, with no return. There is no balance here.”
    Again, a considerable part was provided as part of policy to deterr further wars. It would have been cost/effective, I’m sure. Another part is directed to train others so that there is no-need, or more likely, less need for direct intervention. Cost-effective again.

    “That’s why I’ve suggested, only half in jest, that the IRS should begin collecting income taxes from every country on earth. One percent of GDP is reasonable, and at that they’d still be getting a hell of a deal.”
    Good luck with that. Specially nowadays with the PC attitude politicians have worldwide. 🙂

    Back to the intro. In my view, there is no such thing as a free-ride. Everything has a benefit and a cost. Sometimes it is not just money.

    Final note. I’ll take your comments as a knee-jerk reaction. Since a tax on the world is extremely unlikely, the simple alternative is to cut it all and wait for the repercusions. An isolated America, a likely outcome. I am sure the USA could stand alone without the rest of the world. Under those conditions, though, it would be a very different America and much diminished in many ways.

  30. The Economist survey places Australia second in the place-to-be-born list. Can’t say I disagree. Switzerland is a nice place, but it’s too near France and Italy for my liking. Perhaps next time we’ll be first.

  31. I am inclined to be less generous, or perhaps simply more direct than Marcelo.

    First, consider the British Empire. Britain profited mightily by running colonies (like India, for example). It’s politically incorrect to mention that the colonies also tended to profit from the arrangement: Look at the collapse of many African countries, after colonialism ended.

    So, to America: As Marcelo says, the US didn’t run it’s empire out of altruisim – there were very sound reasons of self-interest in what it did, at least up through the collapse of the USSR. The fact that other countries may have benefited as well is pretty much beside the point.

    However, note that much of American intervention was (and is) not wanted. For example, just who would miss the US presence, if all military activities in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Pakistan were to end? Israel, perhaps, though even that is not certain.

    Foreign aid is also a mixed bag – indeed, a very mixed bag. Foreign aid from the US tends to come with a multitude of strings attached. Moreover, it tends to help those in power, rather than the population at large. The widespread anti-American attitudes in South and Central America stem from such “aid” that kept unpleasant regimes in power for far too long. Today, I hardly think the population in Mexico or Columbia is terribly fond of the “aid” being sent their way to combat America’s internal drug schizophrenia.

    America could just stop. Stop all foreign military adventures. Stop foreign aid. Stop trying to enforce American laws on foreign countries. Really, I think this would be a tremendous improvement in the world situation.

  32. An isolationist America would be ideal from my perspective. The US should behave like Switzerland. Far from being diminished, it would be greatly enhanced.

    Some good first steps would be for the US to withdraw from the UN and expel the UN from American soil, to close all US military facilities outside the US, to cease all transfers of American funds to other countries, and to sever our Internet connections to all but English-speaking countries.

  33. The Krauts and the Frogs might not like that, and they do have something to contribute, occasionally.

  34. I definitely agree (except for cutting off connectivity), and that should be a model for all countries. Each country should mind it’s own store. There’s nothing wrong (and everything right) with talking to your neighbors and trading with them. However, there is currently far too much time and effort spend on minding other people’s business.

    The only legitimate purpose of the UN, imho, is – possibly – the peacekeeping function. When one country wants to mind another country’s business with force, putting a neutral set of troops between them – coming from many different countries that you don’t want to piss off – is sometimes a good way to calm things down. However, this is one tiny activity of the whole monstrosity. So disband the UN, and put together a multinational peacekeeping force, if this is deemed to be worthwhile.

  35. I don’t want to be involved in so-called peacekeeping. If other countries want to fight, that’s their business, not ours. As long as they don’t mess with us.

  36. If it had been up to me, I would not have intervened in WWI or WWII, either.

  37. “I would not have intervened in WWI or WWII, either.”

    The winners write the history books, and that normally means the people who made the decisions for the winners get to justify their decisions based on the outcome.

    I can’t claim to be a historical expert, but it seems to me that WWI was mainly lost – by all sides – to sheer exhaustion. It is at least possible that the outcome would have been the same without American intervention.

    WWII is a more difficult call, not least because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s kind of hard not to respond, when you suffer a humiliating attack of that order. Lacking Pearl Harbor, it is likely that the US would have sat on the sidelines for quite a while longer. That was a really stupid move by the Japanese, which, of course, gives rise to the many conspiracy theories that revolve around it.

  38. “Notice that no one is for the nation? That is why the middle east is so screwed up according to my son. And not fixable. Ever. The Bible says that and I believe it.”

    Huh?

    Abraham had two children, Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac was the first leader of Israel. Things got ugly when Ishmael and his mother were cast out of Abraham’s home after Isaac was born. Muhammad is a descendent of Ishmael (or claims to be).

    The middle east is a total mess. The current countries were laid out by Winston Churchill back in early 20th century. He did not do a great job.

  39. I am pretty much solid with Bob on this topic; Isolate, baby, all the way! Well, keep ties with ‘friends’ and ‘allies’ who will trade with us on a level playing field. I also like the Swiss or San Marino models, but fear that they would be of limited value in our so wonderfully diverse nation-state-empire. The empire model has to go.

    Expanding just a tad on Bob’s non-interventionist war policy for the world wars, I would not have intervened in any of the wars since then, either. Furthermore, the only two remotely legitimate and just wars we have fought in our entire history were the War of 1812, which no one really won and was a wasteful and tragic mess like wars generally are, and King Philip’s (Metacomet’s) War in New England in the late 17th-C, which, again, could probably have been avoided, but once begun, was truly brutal; still the highest per-capita KIA in our history. And you can still see musket-ball holes and arrowheads down there in several of the original garrison houses and one of Metacomet’s war tomahawks at the Harvard Museum. His head was left above the gate to Plimoth Plantation (now a chic tourista attraction, the Plantation, not his head) for twenty years and seen by Reverend Cotton Mather, who wiggled the jawbone.

    Like the very late Winston Churchill once said, it is better to jaw-jaw than war-war. We need to mind our own biz and take care of things here.

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