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What’s wrong with young people everybody now

I’ve been thinking about the failures of government recently (1, 2), and it turns out (h/t dakinikat) I’m in good company. Sachs points out that “Not only are Americans deeply divided on what to do about [everything], but government is also failing to execute settled policies effectively. Management systems linking government, business and civil society need urgent repair.”

He goes on to list examples. Failure to prevent 9/11, to prevent the human toll post-Katrina, to prevent or stop corruption in Iraq, in the US’ own military, the financial crisis, the dilapidated “health” care system, and the literally dilapidated infrastructure.

However, despite a clear view of the scope and details of the problem, he doesn’t make the obvious connections about its source. He identifies the factors as insufficiently regulated privatization, collapse of planning functions, underfunding, and the inability of separate agencies to fit their priorities into intelligent overall planning. These factors are all real and they’re all huge problems, but they don’t spring into being on their own.

The technical experts who electrified the rural US, ramped up a vast industrial juggernaut to help win the Second World War, built the interstate road system, got to the Moon, and invented Medicare did not belong to some strange species whose methods are inconceivable to us. They were, by and large (we’re talking about whole populations, so by and large is what matters) the same people as the ones now incapable of running a hamster in a cage without a kickback scheme to pay for its kibble.

So what is different?
Continue reading

Your Breakfast Read, Sunday Edition

Health Care Clusterf*@k

Two things happened here: First, instead of standing up for the successful parts of Mass Health, Romney decided to denigrate anything that had to with MA, the State that made him a Governor, in order to suck up to the extreme Right-wing; Secondly, there is unbearable mendacity present throutout the ranks of those who don’t want any type of reform and who mainain “we have the best healthcare in the world”
Romney a victim in health care debate

Three years ago, Romney was heralded for his innovative effort to institute near-universal health care in his state. But now that the issue has emerged as a partisan fault line and the Massachusetts plan has provided some guidance for Democratic reform efforts, Romney finds himself bruised and on the defensive as the GOP rallies around opposition to President Barack Obama’s plans.

When Romney came to Washington last week to speak to social conservative activists at the annual Value Voters Summit, his potential 2012 GOP rivals chewed him up in front of the same audience over his Massachusetts legacy.

Jon Kyl says he doesn’t need all this “women stuff”, so why why not flush it all down the toilet in order to achieve a “bipartisan” health care reform?
Health reform: why stakes for women are especially high

[W]omen face steeper healthcare challenges than men. Women interact with the healthcare system more often, because of female-specific health needs, and so are more vulnerable to a system with soaring costs and with restrictions that hurt women specifically.

“The current market doesn’t work very well for women,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) of Illinois, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, speaking Friday at a breakfast with reporters.

Speaking of “best healtchare in the world”
How Does the Quality of U.S. Health Care Compare Internationally?

Authors Elizabeth Docteur and Robert Berenson find that international studies of health care quality do not in and of themselves provide a definitive answer to this question.

What they do show is that the evidence for American superiority in quality of care (or lack thereof) is a mixed bag, with the nation doing relatively well in some areas—such as cancer care—and less well in others—such as mortality from treatable and preventable conditions.

And while evidence base is incomplete and suffers from other limitations, it does not provide support for the oft-repeated claim that the “U.S. health care is the best in the world.” In fact, there is no hard evidence that identifies particular areas in which U.S. health care quality is truly exceptional.

Addressing the American public’s widespread concern about the potential negative impact of health reform on the quality of care they currently receive, the authors conclude that reform should in fact be seen as an opportunity to systematically improve quality of care, rather than a threat to the existing system. It provides an opportunity to build on strengths and correct weaknesses in U.S. health care, working towards aims for improvement that the care provided is safe, effective, patient centered, timely, efficient and equitable.

More from the new must-read book.
Family Ties: The Other Bill Clinton

In acclaimed historian Taylor Branch’s new book The Clinton Tapes — woven from Branch’s recorded conversations with the President from 1993 to 2001 — the portrait of the relationship between Bill Clinton, a man who never knew his own father, and his daughter reveals a side we rarely saw on the public stage. Bill Clinton, it turns out, raised a daughter and ran the free world, sometimes in that order.

If you don’t believe it, consider the fight Branch describes between Clinton and Al Gore in November 1995. Gore told Clinton the President needed to visit Japan to heal a rift caused when Clinton failed to attend an APEC economic summit. Looking over Clinton’s calendar, Gore noticed three light days in January. No, Clinton said, he needed to be home for Chelsea, who’d be taking her junior-year midterms. Gore was dumbstruck. “Al,” Clinton said, “I am not going to Japan and leave Chelsea by herself to take these exams.”

CA GOP Convention looks like fun.
Top Republican GOP candidates joust at convention

Steve Poizner points to Meg Whitman’s apparent failure to vote until she was 46 years old. Tom Campbell mocks his rivals’ budget plans.

“Is That Any Way to Treat a Brother?” Cont’d
House ally criticizes Obama over advice he gave governor

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, in an unusual public spat involving three of the nation’s most prominent black politicians, criticized President Barack Obama for reportedly pressuring New York Gov. David Paterson not to seek a full term.

In an interview for broadcast Sunday on “Washington Watch With Roland Martin,” a new talk show, Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress and a close Obama ally, reacted sharply to published reports that Obama emissaries had advised the unpopular incumbent against running next year.

Around The Nation

Can a “Father” get a table dance? Silly me! I thought he was just praying for her sins.
The priest, the stripper, and their baby

She was an exotic dancer at a Miami strip club called Porky’s. He showed up wearing a Hawaiian shirt, eager to share a night in the VIP lounge.

They began a torrid, on-and-off love affair that ended for good in January, after she gave birth to a daughter she says is his. Now, she wants child support and has filed a restraining order against him.

It might be a routine, if tawdry, court case if not for respondent David Dueppen’s job: Catholic priest with the Miami Archdiocese.

Group marches for ‘white civil rights’ in wake of bus beating

A group waving flags adorned with swastikas traded insults with and challenged a crowd of about 250 onlookers from behind yellow wooden barricades manned by police including SWAT members during a midday protest Saturday.

The making of a horror show.
Michelle Phillips and Friends Speak Out about Mackenzie’s Incest Allegations

I applaud Mackenzie Phillips’s crushingly difficult honesty. Even in our confessional culture, there are a few taboos that never stop shaming the confessor, and incest is one of those few. It is, simply put, a life-ruiner, and it’s amazing that Mackenzie, addictions notwithstanding, survived as productively as she has. But what do the people in her family, and the Mamas and Papas family, think of her revelations? I made some inquiries.

Economy Watch

6 to 1! Yaowza! Those among us with a job should hang on very tight, it’s rough out there.
U.S. Job Seekers Exceed Openings by Record Ratio

Despite signs that the economy has resumed growing, unemployed Americans now confront a job market that is bleaker than ever in the current recession, and employment prospects are still getting worse.

Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one, the worst ratio since the government began tracking open positions in 2000. According to the Labor Department’s latest numbers, from July, only 2.4 million full-time permanent jobs were open, with 14.5 million people officially unemployed.

I’ll believe it when I see it. Washington and London don’t seem to be as serious about these reforms as Paris and Berlin are.
World Leaders Commit to Rein in Financial Bonuses

The leaders of 20 of the world’s biggest economies committed to a laundry list of executive pay reforms for financial firms, including limiting bonuses to a portion of total net revenues and linking them tightly to share prices. But don’t count on sweeping mandates from regulators just yet.

Listen to this man. He’s very smart.
Clinton’s Cure For Capitalism

Former President Bill Clinton, in an exclusive interview with Forbes this week, stated adamantly that major multinational companies must put their customers’ and employees’ interests before those of shareholders in order to promote economic development and growth, especially in the emerging markets.

Clinton also adamantly criticized Wall Street’s use of exotic securities like derivative contracts and asset-backed securities. “We created all these new securities, which have no value and create no jobs,” Clinton charged in the interview. He strongly suggested that the markets would be more stable and benign if investors would return to the practice of long-term investing.

Our useless “Watchdog”
As Subprime Lending Crisis Unfolded, Watchdog Fed Didn’t Bother Barking

Between 2004 and 2007, bank affiliates made more than 1.1 million subprime loans, around 13 percent of the national total, federal data show. Thousands ended in foreclosure, helping to spark the crisis and leaving borrowers and investors to deal with the consequences.
The Federal Reserve is best known as an economic shepherd, responsible for adjusting interest rates to keep prices steady and unemployment low. But since its creation, the Fed has held a second job as a banking regulator, one of four federal agencies responsible for keeping banks healthy and protecting their customers. Congress also authorized the Fed to write consumer protection rules enforced by all the agencies.

Hot Spots

What to do with a war that’s becoming unpopular by the day?
Plan to Boost Afghan Forces Splits Obama Advisers

As President Obama weighs sending more troops to Afghanistan, one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, he has discovered that the military is not monolithic in support of the plan and that some of the civilian advisers he respects most have deep reservations.

No Deadline Set for Decision on Troops

President Obama has not set a deadline for determining a new strategy or for committing more troops to the war in Afghanistan, despite an urgent request from his top commander, his national security adviser said Saturday.

In a lengthy telephone interview, retired Gen. James L. Jones outlined Obama’s plans for reassessing the war effort. Jones noted that although the administration has seen some progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it remains uncertain about the outcome of President Hamid Karzai’s contentious bid for reelection.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran thinks Obama should either go for it, or fold. No “bipartisan” solution is warranted.
In Afghanistan, Splitting the Difference May Be Obama’s Most Dangerous Choice

As Obama and senior members of his national security team plot the way forward in Afghanistan following Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s assessment, and in anticipation of the general’s expected request for as many as 40,000 additional troops for the war, the starkest choices may be the president’s best options. The most dangerous course, according to some military strategists and diplomats in Afghanistan, is what Obama often gravitates toward: the middle ground.

Meanwhile, on the Iran front…
U.S. to Demand Inspection of New Iran Plant ‘Within Weeks’

The Obama administration plans to tell Iran this week that it must open a newly revealed nuclear enrichment site to international inspectors “within weeks,” according to senior administration officials. The administration will also tell Tehran that inspectors must have full access to the key personnel who put together the clandestine plant and to the documents surrounding its construction

I think Iran has already responded.
Iran missile tests stoke tensions

Iran has tested two short-range missiles and announced plans for a controversial long-range missile test, state TV reports.

Just in case you forgot, there’s also Pakistan.
US threatens airstrikes in Pakistan

The United States is threatening to launch airstrikes on Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership in the Pakistani city of Quetta as frustration mounts about the ease with which they find sanctuary across the border from Afghanistan.

The threat comes amid growing divisions in Washington about whether to deal with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan by sending more troops or by reducing them and targeting the terrorists.

Frank Rich puts it all together. This is a very critical phase for the Obama presidency.
Obama at the Precipice

THE most intriguing, and possibly most fateful, news of last week could not be found in the health care horse-trading in Congress, or in the international zoo at the United Nations, or in the Iran slapdown in Pittsburgh. It was an item tucked into a blog at ABCNews.com. George Stephanopoulos reported that the new “must-read book” for President Obama’s war team is “Lessons in Disaster” by Gordon M. Goldstein, a foreign-policy scholar who had collaborated with McGeorge Bundy, the Kennedy-Johnson national security adviser, on writing a Robert McNamara-style mea culpa about his role as an architect of the Vietnam War.

Gelnn Greenwald has some questions.
Should any Iraq lessons be applied to Iran?

Around The World

Fidel Castro’s Cuba full of his offspring after years of womanising by El Commandante

When journalist Ann Louise Bardach asked Castro how many children he had during an interview with Vanity Fair in 1993, he smiled and answered “almost a tribe”.

During the research for Without Fidel, her new book chronicling the lives of Castro and his brother, Raul, to be published by Scribner, she discovered how true that observation was.

It’s election day today here in Germany. Angela Merkel’s party (CDU) will certainly keep the majority. The main opposition and coalition partner, the center-left SPD may be in for some shellacking, and I don’t understand why. The only thing interesting question is how many votes are the extreme left parties going to gather and how well is the liberal party FDP going to do (I don’t understand why anyone in his right mind would vote for those guys).
All thing considered, this has been the most boring election with the most boring personalities I’ve ever witnessed.
The Enemy Within: Angela Merkel’s Fight to Hold on to Power

German Chancellor Angela Merkel may look set for another term in office, but her political future hinges on the election result. If her CDU party ends up having to form another grand coalition with the center-left SPD, it will spell the beginning of the end of her political career.

Diverse Sources Fund Insurgency In Afghanistan Poses Challenge

The Taliban-led insurgency has built a fundraising juggernaut that generates cash from such an array of criminal rackets, donations, taxes, shakedowns and other schemes that U.S. and Afghan officials say it may be impossible to choke off the movement’s money supply.

Odds & Ends

Ever heard of resurrection?
“Dead” baby wakes up for his funeral wake

A baby boy born 16 weeks prematurely was declared dead by doctors at a hospital in Paraguay only to wake up in time for his funeral wake hours later.

How ’bout them bad girls?
The ten most notorious female criminals

[T]here is no shortage of women in history who have been anything but law-abiding. From ‘the Queen of London whoredom’ who charged £250,000 for a single night of her services, notorious drug baron ‘The Godmother’, or ‘Hell-Cat Maggie’ with her specially sharpened teeth, there’s a criminal here to satisfy every warped taste.


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