Wednesday 9 September 2009

maybe it IS a blog after all ... XV

Up, Down.

"... there exist aperiodic sets of tiles for which there can be no proof of their aperiodicity." Aperiodic Tiling, Wikipedia.

Gwynne Dyer, Climate Wars - at Amazon.caGwynne Dyer, Climate WarsGwynne Dyer, Climate WarsGwynne Dyer, Climate WarsGwynne Dyer, Climate WarsGwynne Dyer, Climate Wars
1. CBC Ideas - Climate Wars, 3 part audio series.
     1a. Ideas Part 1 (separate Podcasts).
     1b. Ideas Part 2.
     1c. Ideas Part 3.
2. TVO Lecture Video.
3. Gwynne Dyer .net & .com.
4. Climate Change: Two Cheers for Two Degrees, Gwynne Dyer, 10 July 2009.

see LichtBlick: The Future of Energy below.

Brian Lee Crowley, Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values, at Key Porter BooksBrian Lee CrowleyBrian Lee CrowleyBrian Lee CrowleyBrian Lee Crowley
see Canada's downward path from nation to fiction below.

Clerical Clowns, Jesus' Jesters:
Carl KabatCarl KabatCarl KabatCarl KabatCarl KabatCarl KabatCarl KabatCarl Kabat
If you want to know about Carl Kabat, just Google him, and maybe read his statement below.
George FeenstraGeorge FeenstraGeorge FeenstraGeorge FeenstraGeorge FeenstraGeorge FeenstraGeorge FeenstraGeorge Feenstra
You can watch George Feenstra on YouTube at A clown who's banned from the New Brunswick Legislature, or listen to one of his sermons.

1st Corinthians Chapter 1 Verse 23: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. (at The Blue Letter Bible)

"I believe that in some way we are all called to be fools for Christ's sake, and that the word of the cross will not make sense apart from this willingness to take the form of a fool. We come always before the cross as fools, as disciples of that messianic fool who entered Jerusalem on an ass and died in apparent failure as an act of supreme folly. Religion goes disastrously astray when it ceases to be a sign of contradiction and becomes cement for social conformity. The foolishness of God is then replaced by capitulation to the values of the world. A Church which owes its origins to the cross cannot, if it is to be true to its nature, be the slave of worldly norms and stereotypes. Conformity to the world is the betrayal of its foundation in folly and contradiction, and of its necessary role as a community of contrast and of dissent." Kenneth Leech in We Preach Christ Crucified.

Barack Obama's Health Reform speech:
after so much confusion comes a clear message from our Barack Obama, the problem is greed, the solution is moral, Barack Obama is gracious, he is politically capable, he is smart as fuck, he tells it like it is, God bless him

... but ... it is so tantalizing to solve the (merely) solveable ... he can do the Charleston and the Big Apple too, he can do the Castle Walk and the Lindy Hop, I bet he can even do the Kenosha Kid ... but ... can he do Climate Change?

'game' as a verb: "But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees."

rhetoric & metaphor still trumps reality, or logic, or something: "As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink."

it has to do with bandwidth - how much of the landscape does the metaphor cover? not all of it that's for sure

what is very funny is that (I hear) that there will be a fall election here in k-k-Canada, announced yesterday I think and I cannot be bothered to read word 1 about it, if only we had an Obama ...

the following screen grabs of Michelle Obama tell me something which I have mentioned here before if I can find it, probably not (given such excellent informatics technology as we get from Google) ... ah, easier than I thought, here it is: cut to the chase ... platitudes - she looks more and more like an unhappy camper ... maybe she is a bred-in-the-bone bourgeois princess now faced with a husband who is treading that dangerous border-country where myths are created (?)

Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaMichelle ObamaMichelle ObamaMichelle ObamaMichelle ObamaMichelle Obama
Barack & Michelle ObamaBarack & Michelle ObamaBarack & Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaBarack & Michelle ObamaBarack & Michelle ObamaBarack & Michelle Obama
nothing to prove here that can't be immediately un-proved by some other collection of internet photographs, just that my curiosity was aroused by the Spiegel pics mentioned above, and by another that I saw recently in Jornal do Brasil (but can't reproduce here because JB has gotten tight-assed with their web site), and I guess I am worried about our Barack Obama walking that tightrope over that abyss, wondering if and how far she will back him ... 'projecting' I guess, I think that is the word for what I am doing here

and anyway, who knows? ... I discovered yesterday that Angela Merkel is a nuclear physicist, PhD level, and so probably has some opinions with 'bottom' about, say, Nuclear Energy and Climate Engineering (?)
A-and too, I have been thinking about this in the last few days: the Princess Complex, or the JAP (Jewish American Princess) syndrome, or whatever you want to call it, princesses and peas eh? princesses who would as soon step in cow shit as tread the borderline and who give a rat's ass for them as do

Naomi Kleinspeaking of princesses, we have Naomi Klein, that quintessential k-k-Canadian intellectual heavyweight, taking on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in such a way as to make sense of their acronym, over their inclusion of films about ... wait for it ... Tel Aviv! actually showing off how much she has in common with nitwits like Sid Ryan of the k-k-Canadian Union of Public Employees, CUPE (kewpie?), a-and collective nitwits like The United Church of k-k-Canada

I mean, if you want to make a case and you need an anti-semite to do it ... then it will be best if you can find yourself a Jewish anti-semite eh?

a-and I do admit to being fooled in the beginning, I bought her No Logo, but then I read it and realized ...

Stephan Pastis in his Pearls Before Swine comic-strip has been on this theme lately too - the Feral Ballerina:

Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, Feral Ballerina
Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, Feral Ballerina
Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, Feral Ballerina

there's more from Stephan Pastis & the BBC ... see below, her picture is down there too, I shudder at my own rank sensibility, shouldn't laugh either I guess ... not laughing at her death but at the 'motive' ... no motive at all really is there? just the ugliest kind of stupidity:
Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, Facebook
Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, Facebook

1. The Future of Energy - A Power Station in Your Basement, Frank Dohmen, 09/07/2009.
     1a. Part 1: A Power Station in Your Basement.
     1b. Part 2: 'A Real Revolution'.
     1c. LichtBlick site, Danish only.
     1d. I'm now getting Green Energy via LichtBlick.
     1e. LichtBlick electricity: clean and cost-effective!.
2-1. Canada's downward path from nation to fiction, Neil Reynolds, Wednesday Sep 09 2009.
2-2. Demographics dictate a return to traditional values, Neil Reynolds, Friday Sep 11 2009.
2-3. 'Working rich' leading us into a new Gilded Age, Neil Reynolds, Wednesday Sep 16 2009.
     2a. Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values,
          Brian Lee Crowley at Key Porter Books.
     2b. Atlantic Institute for Market Studies - AIMS, Brian Lee Crowley founder.
3. Sentencing Statement, Fr. Carl Kabat, November 16 2006.
4. Text of Obama's speech, Wednesday September 9 2009.
5. Kennedy's note to Obama, Edward M. Kennedy, May 12 2009.
6. NYT Editorial: President Obama Steps Forward, September 9 2009.
7. Obama grounded, Timothy Garton Ash, Friday Sep 11 2009.
8. Partner guilty of Facebook murder, BBC, Thursday 10 September 2009.
9. In praise of ‘another' election, Rick Salutin, Friday Sep 11 2009.
10. What readers think - Sept. 12: Letters to the editor.

The Future of Energy - A Power Station in Your Basement, Frank Dohmen, 09/07/2009.

Part 1: A Power Station in Your Basement

The mini thermal powerplant is cheaper and more flexible than its larger counterparts.

Green-energy provider Lichtblick and German automaker Volkswagen are joining forces and promising to stir up the energy market with an unusual plan. Instead of relying on massive energy facilities, the average consumer may soon have a miniature power station in their basement.

Chief executives of Germany's major energy suppliers usually don't have much time for their junior counterpart, Lichtblick. The Hamburg-based green-electricity provider's half a million customers may be "impressive," they say, but Lichtblick works in a niche market and is no competition for the larger companies in the industry.

But things may be about to change. In the next couple of days, the relatively small company is due to reveal a new business model that could shake up the energy market quite a bit -- and not only in Germany. So, despite the fact that they currently have large power plants and considerable power over the market, things may soon turn a little less comfortable for energy giants like E.on and RWE.

Lichtblick -- the name translates as "glimmer of hope" -- is no longer content with distributing eco-friendly gas and electricity. Ten years after entering the market, the group wants to take a shot at the electricity-generation business as well -- and to do so while collaborating with a unusual partner on a completely new idea.

Unlike Germany's well-established energy giants, the Hamburg-based company isn't planning to build a few colossal wind farms or solar-panel systems. Instead, it wants hundreds of thousands of buildings and private households to get their own highly efficient mini "home power stations."

Mini Power Stations

The ambitious new project could be worth billions of euros and generate enough electricity to replace up to two nuclear power stations or even coal-fired power plants in the near future. The technology required to put this plan into practice is highly complex, but -- depending on demand and the market situation -- the new setup could network 1,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 small natural-gas-powered thermal power stations and, in effect, instantly create a virtual large one.

A giant quantity of electricity could be generated by such a system. Channelled straight from the basements of individual houses, where Lichtblick plans on installing the mini power stations, it could then be fed into the public powergrid. Likewise, the mini stations could also provide a source of cheap thermal energy and warm water for each household.

It may all still sound like a fairy tale, but developers at Lichtblick have actually been testing the system as part of a field trial in Hamburg. What's more, now one renowned company has shown an interest in becoming a partner in this pilot project: the Wolfsburg-based motor- and auto-manufacturing giant, Volkswagen.

For many years, Volkswagen engineers based in the central German town of Salzgitter have been tinkering with different ways to build a highly efficient thermal power plant. And there are good reasons why VW is looking into the field. "Much of what you need to manufacture a mini powerplant" is already found in ultra-modern automobiles, says Rudolf Krebs, a director of Volkswagen's powertrain-development division.

Part 2: 'A Real Revolution'

The centerpiece of the new mini powerplant system is a natural-gas-powered engine used in some Volkswagen Golf models. Thanks to the engine's highly intelligent design -- and the fact that the heat it produces can be directly used to heat the house -- the efficiency factor of the Volkswagen mini thermal powerplant lies at around 94 percent.

To understand how that is an improvement over the current situation, you first have to know that the efficiency factor of your average nuclear power plant is only between 30 percent and 40 percent and that even modern coal- and gas-fired powerplants only reach an efficiency factor of between 40 percent and 60 percent.

Volkswagen engineers have long suspected that the mini thermal stations could prove incredibly promising. Until now, though, they just haven't had the technical know-how and familiarity with the electricity industry they needed. Nor did they have a concrete idea of how the relatively expensive (€20,000 or $29,000) mini thermal plants would be able to survive in a competitive energy market.

But now these problems are being solved by Lichtblick. As Werner Neubauer, a member of VW's executive board, told SPIEGEL, the company's proposal was so convincing that its managerial board agreed to collaborate with Lichtblick on the project almost immediately.

This week, Volkswagen and Lichtblick plan to sign a contract giving the auto manufacturer exclusive global rights to produce the mini thermal plants. If all goes according to plan, Volkswagen's auto-production facilities in Salzgitter will be able to churn out 10,000 mini powerplants every year.

"This will be a real revolution for the electricity market," says Lichtblick CEO Christian Friege. But there is still one question that remains unanswered: Will there be enough customers willing to give up space in their basement and foot the bill for their very own "home power station?"

A Breakthrough for Eco-Friendly Energy

The new concept may prove particularly appealing to homebuilder associations and homeowners who may already have toyed with the idea of replacing their aging central-heating systems. For an all-inclusive fee of around €5,000, Lichtblick technicians promise to tear out and dispose of any old system and replace it with a new Volkswagen mini thermal powerhouse. Repair and maintenance costs from then on are covered by the company, and the customer only has to pay for the energy actually used -- a sum significantly lower (or so Lichtblick claims) than the cost of heating with gas.

Under this arrangement, Lichtblick is effectively paying the homeowner rent for being able to use their basement, while homeowners benefit from getting cheap thermal energy. As an added incentive, homeowners will also receive a bonus at the end of the year based on the revenue the system generates for the companies. After all, the system will not only generate thermal power, but also electricity, which it can sell for a tidy profit.

Thanks to a carefully devised monitoring system centrally linking the system via the Internet, the network will be set up to optimize its functioning. According to this system, water will be heated up more often in the homeowners' basements when there is more demand for electricity on the energy market. This would happen, for example, when there's a change in the weather and thousands of windmills can simply not provide enough energy to meet a sudden surge in demand. In such cases, as Lichtblick executive Gero Lücking explains, Lichtblick will be able to react very quickly and channel the missing amount of energy into the national powergrid.

Such an arrangement would be a breakthrough for eco-friendly energy as well. Owing to the fast reaction rate of the system of small powerplants, a lot more sustainable energy could be used than has been the case until now.

More-established energy suppliers, on the other hand, will not benefit from the new arrangement and might soon feel its sting. Their multi-billion-euro back-up power plants, which the energy companies currently use to compensate for fluctuations in the electricity supply, making a nice profit in the process, may soon be displaced by the cheaper and more flexible VW power stations.

And then it might just be time for the chief executives of Germany's major energy suppliers to give their little Hamburg-based competitor a bit more respect, instead of the occasional condescending glance.

Canada's downward path from nation to fiction, Neil Reynolds, Wednesday Sep 09 2009.

'Canada is no longer a community of strongly held principles. It's as simple as that'

The population of Quebec will shrink to barely one-fifth of Canada's by 2031 - implying, according to economist Brian Lee Crowley in an important new book, "a big drop in the province's relative weight in the House of Commons." In fact, he calculates, Quebec's influence will fall from 75 out of 308 MPs to 75 out of 375. The political implications would be profound.

"British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario together would have roughly 250 members," Mr. Crowley says. "Winning three-quarters of those seats would give a political party an overall majority in the Commons without a single Quebec seat, or indeed a seat in any other province." Ottawa's long bidding war with Quebec for the loyalty (and votes) of Quebeckers would end - and an historic transformation of Canada would begin.

Mr. Crowley's book - Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values - argues that Canada went disastrously off track in the 1960s and the 1970s for two reasons. The first was the rise of Quebec nationalism. The second was the population explosion following the Second World War. The need to appease Quebec separatism, Mr. Crowley says, warped federal policies and federal politics for two generations. The baby boomers, he says, provided a dubious justification for a rapid expansion of the welfare state.

Didn't governments have a responsibility to find jobs for the baby boomers - and especially for Quebec's baby boomers? Without federal jobs, wouldn't these rebellious young people opt for separatism? Separately and in combination, these self-reinforcing influences induced successive federal governments (beginning with Liberal prime ministers Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau) to abandon Canada's traditional laissez-faire governing principles and to substitute the statist assumptions favoured by intellectual elites in Ottawa and Quebec City. The federal government's obsession with finding work for the baby boomers, for example, led to the creation of vast numbers of federal and provincial "pseudo-jobs"- which inexorably corrupted the work ethic for which Canadians had, in earlier years, been famous.

The consequence was predictable, Mr. Crowley says. Canadians had prospered as a society of makers. They became a society of takers - and Canadian productivity inevitably faltered. The Canadian state became an intellectual conceit, "a great fiction through which everybody endeavoured to live at the expense of everybody else." Mr. Crowley's citation of this famous aphorism, crafted by the famous 19th century liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat, is persuasive. Bastiat's corollary is corroborative: "Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone."

Mr. Crowley's unique interpretation of Canadian history rings loudly with clarity and conviction. Perhaps intuitively, many Canadians appear to sense, with profound regret, the radical changes that have taken place in this country in the past 50 years. This sentiment is more than nostalgia; it is a growing awareness of personal loss. Canada was once a community of strongly held principles - principles shared by French-speaking Canadians as well as English-speaking Canadians. They included a profound commitment to limited government, personal responsibility and the rule of law. Canada is no longer a community of strongly held principles. It's as simple as that.

Mr. Crowley tackles the mythology that Canadians are natural statists, that the welfare state is the product of a collective preference. Before the country began to change in the 1960s, he says, Canadians were "resolutely North American." In some ways, he says, the British tradition made Canadians even more leery of the expansive state than the American tradition did south of the border - notwithstanding "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

He is absolutely correct. For much of the country's existence, governments needed less than 10 per cent of Canada's GDP to fulfill their obligations - because these obligations were narrowly defined by universal consent. Government was limited because Canadians wanted it limited, a fact attested by innumerable witnesses. In his memoirs, for example, J.A. Corry, principal of Queen's University in the 1960s, observed that Canadians were as alert historically to government aggrandizement as Americans.

"Jeffersonian democrats," he wrote, "littered the ground in Canada." Mr. Corry regarded the centralizing federal state as the biggest threat to Canadian democracy. Mr. Crowley quotes iconic Canadian essayist Stephen Leacock to illustrate the strong aversion of Canadians to intrusive government well into the 20th century: "We are in danger of over-government; we are suffering from a too-great extension of the functions of the state."

Leacock wrote this judgment in 1924, when governments spent 11 per cent of Canada's GDP - roughly one-quarter what they spend now (which is modestly less than in 1992, when government spending peaked at 50 per cent). A couple of generations later, Montreal economist William Watson concluded that Canada finished the Great Depression as "probably the most laissez-faire country going." In a word, as Mr. Crowley amply demonstrates, Canada got mugged - and never recovered its valuables.

Founder of the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, Brian Lee Crowley has written a courageous book with absolutely unique analysis and interpretation. Part lament, part celebration, Fearful Symmetry is most of all a profoundly optimistic book. Why? Rush to read it as soon as you can.

Sentencing Statement, Fr. Carl Kabat, November 16 2006.


Brother Judge, prosecutor and others: We are too much like Pilate. We are always asking “What is truth?” and then crucifying the truth that stands before our eyes.

Our minds are deformed with a kind of contempt for reality. Instead of conforming ourselves to what is, we twist everything in our actions and thoughts to fit our own deformity.

I believe that you, brothers Hoveland and Hochhalter, know that the Minuteman III at E-9 is insane, immoral and illegal, but your actions protected that insanity, that immorality and that illegality.

You refused to let international law be considered and ruled out the testimony of experts on international law. You know that a higher law trumps a lower law. Federal law is above state law and international law is above federal law.

Brother Hoveland, you could have possibly been a Rosa Parks, but your actions said “no.” You will probably not even be a Judge Miles Lord and unless there is a real turn-around, you will certainly not be one of the Germany Judges who, in 1980, blocked the transport of U.S. nuclear-armed Pershing II missiles. By the way the U.S. missiles are no longer in Germany .

We all can openly and publicly condemn North Korea for nuclear bombs. We can openly and publicly condemn Iraq for nuclear weapons and go to war with them. We can openly and publicly condemn Iran for nuclearism, but we do not publicly condemn the United States for the same.

All of the Catholic Bishops of the world in 1965, at the Vatican II Cunsel, declared, “Nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and are to be condemned unreservedly.” Where is the open and public condemnation of nuclear weapons by our brother Bishop Zepfel here in Bismarck , ND ? Where is the open and public condemnation of nuclear weapons by you, brother prosecutor Clare Hochhalter?

As I have said, we are too much like Pilate. We are always asking, “What is truth?” and then crucifying the truth that stands before our eyes.

The Judge who sentenced Franz Jagarstatter, and Austrian peasant, to be beheaded in 1944 because he would not be part of the evil Nazi effort, cried when he sentenced Franz to be beheaded and it could be said of him what Shakespeare said of Brutus, “For he was an honorable man.”

I ask what is the use of post marking our mail with exhortations to “Pray for Peace” and then spending billions of dollars on atomic armed submarines, thermonuclear weapons and ballistic missiles? This I would say would certainly be what the N.T calls “mocking God.”

It can be said of brother Catholic Bishop Zepfel that he is an honorable man. The Catholic Church in 1965 declared, “Nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and are to be condemned unreservedly,” so Bishop Zepfel why have you not condemned unreservedly? Brother Judge Hoveland, why have you not condemned the Minuteman IIIs unreservedly? Brother prosecutor Clare, why have you not condemned unreservedly the Minuteman IIIs?

Or is it as Shakespeare said, “For are not they all honorable men?”

Our minds are deformed with a kind of contempt for reality. Instead of conforming ourselves to what is, we twist everything in our actions, words and thoughts to fit our own deformity.

Text of Obama's speech, Wednesday September 9 2009.

Text of President Barack Obama's address to Congress on health care reform Wednesday, as prepared for delivery and provided by the White House.

Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, and the American people:

When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.

I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who have taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.

But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future - and that is the issue of health care.

I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every president and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.

Our collective failure to meet this challenge - year after year, decade after decade - has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.

We are the only advanced democracy on Earth - the only wealthy nation - that allows such hardships for millions of its people. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.

But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem of the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heartbreaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.

Then there's the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It's why so many employers - especially small businesses - are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally - like our automakers - are at a huge disadvantage. And it's why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it - about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else's emergency room and charitable care.

Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.

These are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.

There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.

During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.

We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before.

Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups and even drug companies - many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about 80 percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and countercharges, confusion has reigned.

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:

It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge - not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans - and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

That's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan - more security and stability.

Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange - a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.

For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now, and we should embrace it.

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those - particularly the young and healthy - who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people's expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don't provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek - especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions - just can't be achieved.

That's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance - just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95 percent of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that's been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I'd like to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.

Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false - the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up - under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.

My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a "government takeover" of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.

So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly - by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.

Insurance executives don't do this because they are bad people. They do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations."

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I've already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don't like this idea. They argue that these private companies can't fairly compete with the government. And they'd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won't be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers. It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.

It's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated - by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end - and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.

For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another nonprofit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.

Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public - and that is how we pay for this plan.

Here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits - either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for - from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.

Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system - a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn't make us healthier. That's not my judgment - it's the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, I want to speak directly to America's seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that's been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan.

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies - subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.

These steps will ensure that you - America's seniors - get the benefits you've been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket for prescription drugs. That's what this plan will do for you. So don't pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut - especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.

Now, because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making the program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that can reduce costs for everybody. We have long known that some places, like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, offer high-quality care at costs below average. The commission can help encourage the adoption of these common sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system - everything from reducing hospital infection rates to encouraging better coordination between teams of doctors.

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. Much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money - an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.

Finally, many in this chamber - particularly on the Republican side of the aisle - have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

Add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years - less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent - but spent badly - in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle-class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.

This is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight - Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed - the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in e-mails, and in letters.

I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.

In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, and his children, who are here tonight . And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform - "that great unfinished business of our society," he called it - would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that "it concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."

I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days - the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and sometimes angry debate.

For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.

But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here - people of both parties - know that what drove him was something more. His friend, Orrin Hatch, knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient's Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick; and he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance; what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent - there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.

That large-heartedness - that concern and regard for the plight of others - is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people's shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress. In 1933, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom; and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter - that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road - to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that's not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.

Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Kennedy's note to Obama, Edward M. Kennedy, May 12 2009.

Below is the text of the letter from Senator Edward M. Kennedy referenced by the President in tonight's address to a Joint Session of Congress May 12, 2009.

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me - and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles - there always have been - and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will - yes, we will - fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America's behalf inspires the entire world.
So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,

NYT Editorial: President Obama Steps Forward, September 9 2009.

For a man who made health care reform his top domestic priority, President Obama stood on the sidelines throughout a long difficult spring and politically overheated summer. He left it primarily to Congress to flesh out the details of reform and waited in vain for a bipartisan compromise to emerge — a virtual impossibility from the start given the determination of top Republicans to kill his effort and cripple his administration.

On Wednesday night, reeling from the angry if ill-informed outbursts at town hall meetings and concerned about his slipping poll numbers, the president finally found his voice. His speech to a joint session of Congress was rhetorically powerful in its insistence that reform must finally happen — for the sake of Americans’ health and the economic health of the country. We hope it was only the start of a sustained campaign to get this essential legislation passed.

Mr. Obama did well to reveal his requirements for meaningful reform. He stood by the importance of requiring everyone to carry insurance and requiring businesses to provide it or pay to help cover their workers’ costs. That is critical to ensuring a big enough pool of healthy and unhealthy people to spread risks fairly.

Mr. Obama said the plan he is proposing would cost about $900 billion over 10 years, mostly to expand Medicaid coverage of the poor and provide subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans to buy policies on new health insurance exchanges.

Mr. Obama fell short when he failed to say how generous the subsidies should be and who should be eligible to receive them. His $900 billion may not be enough to cover nearly all of the uninsured. Congress should increase it.

Equally important, Mr. Obama pledged that his plan would not add to the nation’s enormous deficit now or in the future. He said any legislation must include a provision that requires additional spending cuts if reforms don’t provide the expected savings.

Mr. Obama was absolutely right when he said that the relentless rise in the cost of Medicare and Medicaid will cripple the nation’s economy. But Americans need to hear a lot more from him and from Congress about how they will address that problem. Anyone opposed to reform has to answer that same question.

Mr. Obama made a strong case for creating a new public plan to compete with private plans on the exchanges.

He is right that all Americans will benefit if the insurance companies have more competition, but he stopped short of declaring a public plan a necessity. It may not be, but it is too soon to abandon the idea. He should trade it away only in return for significant political support — and should demand a trigger to resurrect it should private plans fail to provide affordable policies.

The president was right to stress that reform is essential not just for the uninsured but for all Americans — far too many of us are just a layoff or a job switch or a divorce or an illness away from losing coverage. He said his plan would make it unlawful for insurance companies to deny coverage or refuse to renew it based on health status, and would limit how much people can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses such as co-payments.

We believe that Mr. Obama has been far too passive — for the sake of an unrequited bipartisanship — as his opponents have twisted and distorted the health care debate. It was encouraging to hear him reject those distortions — specifically the absurd charge that he was opening the door to “death panels” — as lies.

And he finally laid down a warning: “I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it.” He should stick to that commitment.

Having let his opponents frame the debate for far too long, Mr. Obama will need to do more than orate. He needs to twist arms among timid Democrats in Congress to get a strong bill passed, most likely with little support from Republicans.

Partner guilty of Facebook murder, BBC, Thursday 10 September 2009.

Hayley JonesHayley Jones's use of social networking site Facebook led to "bickering"

A man who killed his partner after she changed her status on Facebook to "single" has been jailed for life.

Mother-of-four Hayley Jones, 26, was found dead by her young children days later in March 2007. She had been stabbed and strangled. Brian Lewis, 31, of New Tredegar, Caerphilly county, had denied murder and said he did not plan to kill her. The judge at Cardiff Crown Court said Lewis had been "frustrated, angry and hurt". He must serve at least 14 years.

After the case, Hayley Jones's mother, Sally Williams, 50, said the murder had turned their lives upside down: "The murder conviction and sentence can never replace the loss of my beautiful daughter.

"She was a devoted mother to her four children. She had recently started work to provide a life for her and her family. As she lay asleep she was cowardly attacked and left for dead and left to be found by the children, Jordan, Cory, Kian and Tia. Her days of seeing her children growing up and possibly being a grandmother have been cruelly taken away from her, although Hayley is no longer with us in this life."

'No provocation'

Judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans said: "There was no provocation - this arose because you were frustrated, angry and hurt. You had been building up your anger.

"She did nothing or said nothing which could have acted as a trigger for this."

Lewis used a kitchen knife to stab his partner of 13 years through three layers of clothing and two sleeping bags. Lewis, who is known as Charlie, then fled the house while two of their children were standing at the top of the stairs listening to the row.

Son Kian gave video evidence to the trial on how he heard his mother screaming: "No Charlie, no Charlie, I love you." The jury heard that Kian heard his father call the police to say: "I have killed my girlfriend."

Kian, who was with his brother Jordan, seven, said: "Then it all went quiet." He said he called out and there was no answer so they went downstairs "and saw mam lying on the floor". "There was blood in her mouth and on her T-shirt. I was pushing her but she wouldn't wake up," he said.

Prosecutor Mark Evans said: "Hayley started to expand her social life and was spending a lot of time on internet sites in particular Facebook. "She was quite secretive about this, preventing Lewis from using the site and turning the computer off. It is quite clear this rankled with him.

Downward spiral

"On March 2, she changed her Facebook relationship status from married to single and she made it clear their relationship was over. Mr Evans said: "Lewis had lost his job and this caused a downward spiral and family finances were strained. "Hayley took up work as a care assistant - before that she was devoted to bringing up their four children."

Mr Evans said a week after she changed her profile Lewis was heard telling drinking friends he would kill her before anyone else had her.

Lewis killed his partner on 12 March, 2007. He then dialled 999 and told police to come before fleeing the scene, leaving the children to find their mother's body. He later gave himself up to police. Detective Chief Inspector Russ Tiley of Gwent Police said: "The children and family of Hayley have been very brave through this process and hopefully will now have some closure."

Demographics dictate a return to traditional values, Neil Reynolds, Friday Sep 11 2009.

People will need to work longer and harder, which will restore the ethic that once made Canadians an extraordinarily productive people

In his illuminating new book, economist Brian Lee Crowley anticipates a historic restoration of the principles by which the country governed itself in the past - among them, the classically liberal principles of limited government and personal responsibility. Entitled Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values, Mr. Crowley's contrarian assessment explains why, demographic step by demographic step.

The fading of Quebec nationalism will combine with an eroding population to reverse the dysfunctional trends of the past 50 years. Put simply, Canada will soon lack the workers necessary to fund Big Government. The only alternative will be less government and more personal responsibility.

The two facts that will most significantly determine Canada's economic future, Mr. Crowley says, are the fact that Canadians do not have nearly enough babies to sustain Canada's approaching peak population and the fact that immigrants can't make up the difference. The probable consequences are: (1) Canada gradually loses influence in the world as its population shrinks and (2) Canada's standard of living stagnates.

Mr. Crowley, most recently the Clifford Clark Visiting Economist with the Department of Finance, says people will need to work longer and harder, which (though difficult for people desperate to retire at 55) will restore the work ethic that once made Canadians an extraordinarily productive people. Canadians can expect less government because government won't be able to subsidize people who choose not to work harder and longer, he says. We can expect more personal responsibility because economic survival will require it.

But Canadians won't increase the country's birth rate merely by working longer and harder. Nor will government. The implications are dramatic - especially when contrasted to the United States, whose population will expand as Canada's falters. By 2050, Canada's projected population will be 44 million; the U.S. projected population will be as high as 550 million, reflecting a birth rate that The Economist magazine has described as "astonishing."

Canada and the U.S. will diverge in other ways. Canadians are already massing into three or four big cities; Americans are dispersing to outer suburbs and to the countryside, but places more distant from the U.S.-Canada border. In 2050, the median Canadian age will be 42; the median American age will be 36. The "shape" of the Canadian population will be like a vase - narrow at the bottom (reflecting the lack of children), wide at the shoulders (reflecting the higher percentage of older people); the "shape of the American population will be almost cylindrical. (By 2020, the proportion of children in the U.S. population will surpass China's.)

Canadians must anticipate that the "prosperity gap" between the two countries will grow much larger. Mr. Crowley observes: "Half a billion Americans, with the highest productivity in the world; a relatively young, flexible and highly educated work force, and a willingness to spend a significant share of GDP on defence would be a superpower perhaps even more formidable in 2050 than today - and possibly less inclined to pay attention to Canada's interests." (In these circumstances, Canada might be wise to negotiate a mobility-rights treaty with the U.S. - either to give Canadians an escape route or to give Americans easy entry to our labour force.)

Canada's falling birth rate, Mr. Crowley suggests, has many causes, but he adds a couple of his own to the usual list (the zeitgeist, the contraceptives, the two-worker family). "Overweaning government," he says, "has undermined families for the last 50 years." He attributes part of Canada's falling birth rate to the struggle to keep Quebec in Confederation and the creation of "pseudo-jobs" to absorb the surplus workers of the Baby Boom generation. Government, he says, has itself operated as a contraceptive.

All this sounds serious and sombre. Mr. Crowley's profound optimism, however, arises from the inevitable withering of the state that lies directly ahead, a withering already under way. "We are on the cusp of a tremendous renaissance," he says, "if we want to seize the moment." The disappearance of surplus workers will bring with it the disappearance of the government programs that purported to create jobs, "pulling hundreds of thousands of people out of dependency, pseudo-work and premature retirement." Real work will once more become the norm. Family will become important again, as will marriage.

Governments will increasingly revert to "the kinds of policies that underpinned our great success as a nation in our first century." The ensuing power shift will diminish the influence of Quebec and increase the influence of British Columbia and Alberta; in this way, the country will move "closer to the traditional values of our founders." Other provinces will move in the same direction: "Saskatchewan will almost certainly become more like Alberta," he writes.

"In a few short years, the values of the left-liberal welfare state will seem a quaint echo of a receding past," Mr. Crowley says. "Politically, any party that can capture the high ground of Canada's traditional values will likely become the country's dominant party. ... The low rumble that you hear is the traditionalist juggernaut gathering force across the land. ... It will leave nothing as it was."

We can only hope.

In praise of ‘another' election, Rick Salutin, Friday Sep 11 2009.

We need more political engagement, not less

Suck it up, Canada: What are we – shoppers or citizens? A portion of each, I suppose. But it's fatal to confuse the roles, as seems to be happening with all the whinging and whining over “another” election that “nobody” wants.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the first to moan in, right after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff announced his intention to pull the plug on the Conservatives' minority government. Iggy had a list of plausible enough reasons that would more likely lead you to ask him Why did you wait so long? than What for? The PM's response was that he hasn't met “a single Canadian” who wants an election, which may only reveal the limited range of his contacts.

Yet many in the news media echoed it. I think at random of Suhana Meharchand on CBC Radio's phone-in last Sunday, chortling over the silliness of another election. I may have gone humourless, but I don't really get it.

In a vital democracy, like ancient Athens or the Iroquois confederacy, people were involved in politics continually. Under our system, politics more or less equals elections, so you could call frequent elections our form of participatory democracy. It keeps citizens engaged and parties on their toes. Under a stable majority, everyone goes to sleep for four years. Do you think we'd have had even the minimal action we've seen from Mr. Harper on the economy or on withdrawal from Afghanistan if he'd had a majority?

But everything turns upside down if you treat politics as a shopping trip – I don't waaant an election – rather than the ongoing duty of each citizen. It's like newscasters saying, “Thanks for watching,” as if we tune in to do them a favour, rather than from our need as citizens to be informed. Citizenship isn't a consumer choice that you may or may not make. People can opt out of it, but then they lose the right to complain, and it's a mingy choice to make if you think of kids and others affected by actions taken in the name of us all.

Besides, if these whiners really don't want an election and prefer Parliament “to work,” why did so many of them object to a coalition last winter? It was the very definition of making Parliament work in a minority situation. I don't think minority governments are inherently unstable; I'd call them inherently alert. The current one has indeed been unstable since it's so distant from the majority of members in the House and voters in the country. But, say, a Liberal minority could well find enough common ground with the Bloc and NDP to enact many things that most citizens would value.

It's the snickering and eye-rolling among media opiners that I find most offensive, as if their stance is so sophisticated. In fact, they function as dupes for a rotten status quo, helping to keep power in the hands of those who can afford to pay for it by getting others, like the party bosses, to fulfill their wishes. There is wreckage to be dealt with out there, lives are still being destroyed, although the recession is supposed to be all but over. My little strip of College Street in Toronto now has a solid row of abandoned small businesses such as we've not seen in previous crises. It's become a street of broken dreams. Add the fact that voting numbers are declining, which the pseudo-wit of the moaners tends to glamorize. The downward trend reduces the constituencies to which politicians must attend, and ratchets up the electoral clout of the resolute pressure groups, such as evangelicals and gun owners.

If there is a problem with another election, it's that voting is all we're ever offered to satisfy our political impulses, and it is a repetitive and intrinsically shallow exercise. But this implies that we should vote for those ready to expand the arena of democratic participation so that we need not shoehorn the entire human political drive into the narrowness of elections.

Obama grounded, Timothy Garton Ash, Friday Sep 11 2009.

It's unclear whether the President's health-care reforms have fallen to Earth

Change? I'd like mine back.” The badge handed out by Republicans at the Minnesota state fair captures a veering national mood in the United States. Last year, Americans voted for change; this year, they worry about their change. Shocked by the scale of government spending to prevent recession from turning into depression, gobsmacked by the prospect of more gazillions in deficits and national debt, they are now told that President Barack Obama's health-care reform will cost nearly $1-trillion over the next decade.

A summer of sometimes hysterical town-hall meetings has not left Mr. Obama winning the argument for reform. According to the polls, most of that large majority of Americans who do have health-care insurance are reasonably content with what they've got. They fear that the proposed reform would leave them worse off – as well as costing the country more. (The first fear is largely unfounded, the second less so.)

Just 71/2 months into his term, Mr. Obama has reached for the American legislative equivalent of a nuclear weapon. A special address to both houses of Congress – over and above the inaugural and State of the Union addresses – is an exceptional step, last taken by George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. According to veteran political commentator Mark Shields, Lyndon B. Johnson delivered only two such addresses, one after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the other on civil rights. Franklin D. Roosevelt gave only one, to ask Congress to declare war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

And Mr. Obama used it for this …

He delivered a fine speech Wednesday night. He made the case for reform compellingly, acknowledging the fundamental problem that the United States spends “11/2 times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it.”

It was also a quite partisan speech. Some Republicans rewarded it with heckling, and one even with a shout of “You lie!” (for which he has now apologized) – disrespect almost unheard of on such an occasion. That may not have helped the Republicans, but nor did it reinforce Mr. Obama's authority and mystique.

Altogether, the extraordinary means chosen by the President seemed ill-matched to the likely end. Even if the speech helps him garner the necessary public support and congressional votes, it will result in only a modest, compromise version of health-care reform. The bill that will probably emerge from the congressional sausage factory will address the most pressing social problem: the fact that nearly one in six Americans is without health-care insurance. It will not address the fundamental economic problem: the grotesquely soaring cost of the system.

Afghanistan, the “health care” of Mr. Obama's foreign policy, is also not going well. Under the noses of U.S. and European soldiers and election monitors, President Hamid Karzai's government has been honing its skills at election fraud. The administration is locked in a debate about whether to send even more soldiers, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy Richard Holbrooke urge, prompting grim comparisons with Johnson's buildup in Vietnam. It is almost impossible to imagine a clear-cut “victory” in Afghanistan.

And where Mr. Obama charged Mr. Bush with “doing” Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan, his critics now charge that he may be focusing on Afghanistan at the expense of what is a truly decisive theatre in the long-term struggle against Islamist terrorism: Pakistan.

Two explanations are offered for Mr. Obama's travails. Democrats say history (and, more particularly, Mr. Bush) has dealt him a very difficult hand. Republicans say he is not playing it well. Both may be true.

The economic situation he inherited could hardly have been worse. Even though there are signs of an upturn, or at least a slowing downturn, unemployment is at the brink of 10 per cent. Taxpayers will be paying for the bailout and stimulus packages for decades.

Health-care reform is one of his country's biggest and most intractable domestic issues, and it has grown bigger and more intractable with every administration that failed to tackle it.

Abroad, Mr. Obama has inherited the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Islamist breeding ground in Pakistan, the neglected challenge of climate change and the rise of China – to name just a few of his problems.

Yet it is also true that Mr. Obama has not so far proved himself adept at using the tools at his disposal to – in one of his favourite phrases – get it done. His personal style remains a delight: He is cool, civilized, articulate, humorous and humane. But he has still to show that he is as good at the prose of government as he is at the poetry of campaigning.

On health care, in particular, his administration seems to have underestimated the difficulties. His charm, articulacy and obvious decency in his summer town-hall meetings could not make up for the fact that there was no single, clear “Obama plan” for him to explain and defend.

He went some way to remedy that Wednesday, although it remains unclear how he will pay for the changes without – as he promised – adding “a dime” to the deficit.

“His wax wings having melted, he is the man who fell to Earth,” neoconservative commentator Charles Krauthammer gloats. But Mr. Obama is not Icarus yet. Many presidents have recovered from worse lows and gone on to stronger second terms. And Mr. Krauthammer may have forgotten that the other guy with wax wings flew low and made it across the sea. His name was Daedalus, and he was a consummate artificer.

That's what America needs now: not a wordsmith to get it said, but a politician to get it done. Step forward, Barack Daedalus. Your time has come.

What readers think - Sept. 12: Letters to the editor.

Today's topics: Rick Salutin and our spoiled-brat society, ...

In the name of us all

Too many elections? What a spoiled-brat society we’ve become! I share Rick Salutin’s disgust with all those who complain about the intolerable burden of having to vote again (In Praise Of ‘Another’ Election – Sept. 11). Poor things! They sound like whiny kids who’ve been asked to clean up their room. Is it really so onerous to take an interest in how our lives are governed and to cast a vote every year or so?

I can’t quite understand why we continue to send our soldiers to die for democracy in Afghanistan when so many of us don’t care very much about democracy in Canada. May we Canadians always be so fortunate as to have too many elections.

George Patrick, Oakville, Ont.


I couldn’t agree more with Rick Salutin’s assessment of the malaise in Canadian politics. The problem is not too many elections – it’s lazy voters who find it easier to be spoon-fed infotainment in five-second sound bites rather than to think about decisions, how they’re made and the direction we need to head as a country. We hear a lot of noise about freedom and rights but almost nothing about citizen responsibility.

So when Stephen Harper rolls out his cant about the dangers of instability and the need for a majority, we need to stop and think for a moment. A stable government that represents the majority of the people will not be achieved by an electorate terrified by the bogey of a coalition.

For guidance, the 1991 report of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing is a good place to start. The message, and shelves of research since then, is simple: We need to accept responsibility for how we are governed.

John Crump, Ottawa


I completely agree with the spirit of Rick Salutin’s observations, but I have an even better suggestion: Issues of national importance should be decided by popular referendums. Ideally, these hotly debated, boisterous affairs would engage people from all walks of life.

Susan Healey, Guelph, Ont.

'Working rich' leading us into a new Gilded Age, Neil Reynolds, Wednesday Sep 16 2009.

We could soon stop taxing the poor altogether
In this space last week, economist Brian Lee Crowley advanced his intriguing theory that demographic changes will compel Canada to return to the classic liberal principles of personal responsibility and limited government. A number of readers dissented. "Don't be so greedy," one of them wrote. "We have found in our character a generosity that has mandated, by the authority of democratically elected governments, the equitable distribution of wealth among most of our people."

He suggested that people who find wisdom in Mr. Crowley's newly published book, Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values, possess "hard little hearts." These hard-hearted people, he said, think that economic losers should be made to suffer.

This reader raises interesting questions. Did generous governments really achieve the equitable redistribution of wealth? Many people believe that they did. Did progressive tax rates really shift income from the greedy rich to the impoverished masses? Many people believe that they did. These assumptions are central tenets in the statist orthodoxy of our times.

Although governments have indeed proven adept at moving money from one person to another, it is highly improbable that they significantly altered the distribution of wealth. As a number of economists have argued, this achievement was primarily accomplished by a global depression and two world wars.

From this sober perspective, governments didn't so much redistribute the wealth of the rich as wipe it out. U.S. economist Emmanuel Saez, the University of California (Berkeley) professor who has exhaustively studied changes in economic inequality in the last century, notes that enormous wealth was obliterated in the First World War, in the Depression of 1920-22, in four years of the Great Depression (1930-33) and in the Second World War. From this quick succession of economic shocks, he notes, "capital incomes were severely hit ... and were never able to recover."

In partnership with McMaster University economist Michael R. Veall, Prof. Saez studied the distribution of Canadian incomes between 1920 and 2000 - and discovered a number of remarkable things. For one thing, for example, Canada has essentially the same distribution of wealth now that it had almost a century ago - before governments began to redistribute it.

Canada's considerable welfare state expenditures notwithstanding, the highest-income people in the country now get roughly the same percentage of the nation's income as stereotypical laissez-faire capitalists got before the First World War.

In 1920, people with incomes in the top 5 per cent got 33 per cent of all of the income earned in the country. In 2000, people with incomes in the top 5 per cent got 32 per cent.

In 1920, people with incomes in the top 1 per cent got 14 per cent of all the income earned in the country. In 2000, people with incomes in the top 1 per cent got 13 per cent.

In 1920, people with incomes in the top 0.1 per cent got 5.4 per cent of all the income earned in the country. In 2000, people with incomes in the top 0.1 per cent got 5.3 per cent.

Based on this analysis, you really can't argue that governments have taken much from the rich and given to the poor. Between 1920 and 1929, high-income earners (the top 5 per cent) experienced sharply fluctuating shares of the nation's income - but never fell below 32 per cent. In 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War, they earned 34 per cent of the nation's income. In 1945, at the end, they earned 25 per cent - a rate that didn't change very much until 1980 when the modern era of higher incomes began.

Midway between the captains of industry of the old days and the high-flying CEOs of the 21st century came - quite inadvertently - the greatest income equality in history, the product of the greatest destruction of wealth in history. Only in the last generation has wealth approached the fabled riches of the 19th century.

"The rentiers of the Gilded Age," Prof. Saez observes in another of his incomes studies, "have been replaced by the working rich." A rentier is a person who lives solely on the income generated by his capital - an apparently pleasant existence that George Bernard Shaw, the socialist, once highly recommended in one of his essays.

In their joint incomes study, Prof. Saez and Prof. Veall note that the return of the highest-paid people in the country to historic income shares "sets the stage" for a revival of the great personal fortunes of yesteryear - and the eventual restoration of capital to its accustomed place in society. It is worth noting that the greatest expansion of government followed the Second World War. Before the war, the number of Canadians required to file tax returns never exceeded 8 per cent of the adult population.

We could easily do this again. In Canada, the top 10 per cent of wage earners already pay 50 per cent of all federal income taxes. In the U.S., the top 1 per cent of wage earners already pay 40 per cent. (And the top 10 per cent of the top 1 per cent - in other words, the top 0.1 per cent - pay 20 per cent.) With only slightly greater accumulation of capital, we could stop taxing the poor altogether. The U.S. is almost there: The bottom 50 per cent of wage earners pay only 3.09 per cent of the country's income taxes. Now that's progressive.


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