The destruction of US cities

Posted March 19, 2009 on 2:02 am | In the category Economy, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

The Baltimore Opera went bankrupt last week and its assets are being auctioned off to pay off debts. This is not something that will be recovered, and one of America’s most historic and, well, real cities will have one more empty theatre and has suffered another serious body blow to its reeling downtown core. Rumour has it that the venerable Baltimore Sun is in trouble and perhaps one of the great American newspaper cities will soon share the fate of newspaperless Denver and online-only Seattle.

How could these bitter blows be allowed to happen in the richest country in the world? Hundreds of millions of dollars owned by the citizens of this country, who would like to read the paper and occasionally go to the theatre, are being given away to the worst corporate executives imaginable who display no shame at the exposure of their unimaginable greed in accepting that money. Was that the former president of Harvard we saw on tv claiming that contracts like this could not be broken? Is that what they teach in the Business Administration programmes at universities that charge incredible sums for students to suck up such knowledge? Maybe it’s time to send those kids to universities that teach the economics of civic pride, corporate honesty, the necessity of spending money to keep cities livable, and the fair distribution of that money.

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Impeccable Mooning

Posted March 12, 2009 on 2:13 am | In the category China, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Now that the British Vanguard and the French le triomphant have limped back to harbour after colliding in the otherwise empty blue seas – apparently because the French won’t share its navigation plans with its supposed NATO allies – it is time for the USians to have one of its splendidly named vessels join the Monty Python farce. Its state of the art surveillance (i.e. spy) ship The Impeccable was recently chased away from the Chinese coast south of Hainan after it turned its fire hoses on a rag-tag fleet of irritating Chinese fishing trawlers and coast guard boats, and was faced with rows of mooning Chinese seamen. Not since John Cleese bombarded King Arthur and his fearless knights with the garbage from his French castle has military history seen such a ragged retreat as that of the Impeccable running for cover in the open ocean, no doubt in the hope that some French or British nuclear sub wouldn’t ram them.

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The GOP: Grand Obstructionist Party: Part III – Healthcare Reform

Posted March 9, 2009 on 12:54 pm | In the category Economy, Healthcare, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

There are two things about the U.S. healthcare system that are obvious to all but the comatose: one is that it is the most expensive system in the world and the second is that it is far from the most effective.

A 2005 study by the Commonwealth Fund reported that the annual per capita cost for health care in the U.S. was $6697. The next highest, Canada’s, was $3326. Virtually all of Western Europe followed, just below Canada’s cost. The Fund’s measurements of effectiveness AND efficiency in delivering health care placed the United States behind virtually every industrialized nation in almost every meaningful measure: infant mortality, access to care, mortality amenable to health care, healthy life expectancy at age 60, etc. To see the Fund’s reports go to this link.

The Republican opposition to any and all administration suggestions for action has focused on scare tactics that are clearly not relevant and a vague threat that Obama wants to “Europeanize” us. This would presumably mean making us more like France, Germany or Italy with their programs of universal health insurance and accessibility to the best healthcare available in those countries. Since healthcare in those countries ranks as high or higher than care available in the U.S. in almost every category – at approximately half the cost in terms of per capita dollars spent annually as well as in relation to national GDP- it is hard to see the Republicans’ downside.

If indeed we were to Europeanize our health care system we would in effect cut costs in half, improve the measurable overall health of the population, reduce infant death rates, increase longevity and make health care available to all Americans. The existence of powerful private sector lobbies will most likely keep us from replicating the plans in France or Germany or Italy and that is too bad. But clearly some action is required to reduce costs, increase accessibility to health care, and improve the overall quality of life in America. And if taking on a slight French accent is part of the cost, well, c’est la vie.

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The Russians are flying, are the Russians thinking of landing?

Posted March 1, 2009 on 2:58 am | In the category Canada, Russia, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

On Feb. 18, the day before President Obama’s visit to Ottawa last week, two Russian Tupalov bombers entered a zone of international airspace over the Canadian Arctic that is in the NORAD air defence identification zone under Canadian control and penetrated to the very edge of Canadian air space itself. Canadian fighter jets were sent from Cold Lake in northern Alberta to intercept them and when they did so over Canadian Arctic islands, the Russians retreated. Prime Minister Harper denounced this incident as an encroachment on Canadian territory, a serious charge considering the visit of President Obama, and denounced “aggressive Russian actions around the globe and Russian intrusions into our air space.”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay indicated that he felt it could not be a coincidence that this happened as Obama was preparing to visit. And the question remains, just why are the Russians returning to tactics not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union? About the only thing they could really accomplish by forcing the Canadians to confront them militarily in the Arctic would be to bring the Canadian and US military commands into closer co-operation than would have been conceivable during the Bush years, something that many think is a necessity if the North American Arctic is considered to have become vulnerable to intrusions from its north.

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