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(Reposted from a comment thread because I think it doesn't deserve to languish in obscurity)

Playing fantasy politics — as opposed to fantasy football — is a mug's game.

However, for what it's worth (not much), and speaking for those of us who aren't Americans, here's my top ten list of things I'd like see from the Obama administration in the first 100 days, and consider to be not-totally-impossible:

1. Shut down Gitmo. Try any of the inmates who face outstanding changes in front of a civilian court. Release (and if necessary, pay compensation to) those who are categorically not guilty of anything and who were swept up by mistake. Grant political asylum to the Chinese muslims and any others who are (a) not accused of anything and (b) can't return to their homes for fear of persecution.

2. The whole torture thing? You know what needs to be done, and there's a lot of it — from reverting US interrogation practices to pre-2000 norms, to identifying those who ordered harsh measures and determining whether grounds exist for prosecution, to seeking and compensating the victims of torture. Oh, and end extraordinary rendition and wiretapping without warrants.

3. Dismantle the DHS — it is an out of control bureaucratic Frankenstein's monster. Separate divisions can go back to doing what they did before they were stitched together. Leave in place communications channels between such divisions so they can share data, but destroy the unitary chain of command. You don't need a Gestapo.

4. Ratify the Kyoto Treaty, and/or put the wheels in motion to participate in international talks aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Start a public Congressional enquiry into the systematic injection of politically partisan appointees in the civil service and judiciary over the past 8 years, with specific reference to politically biased prosecutors and judges, administrators in scientific agencies (NASA, NIH, Environment, and others), and election officers.

6. Find three young, energetic, liberal supreme court justices to replace the elderly, terminally ill supreme court justices who are going to retire as soon as they can do so without handing the supreme court to Scalia on a plate.

7. Start a public Congressional enquiry into election practices, with the objective of moving towards a bill (or if necessary draft constitutional amendment) setting out acceptable standards for the conduct of elections.

8. Start a public enquiry into the misuse of intelligence agency resources in the run-up to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism since 9/11. Remit to include the allegations of collusion between Saddam's regime and Al Qaida, and the embarrassing question of why the USA has been unable to find Osama bin Laden for the past seven years.

9. Start talking to the Russians about (a) gas and oil security (this includes South Ossetia), (b) Ballistic Missile Defense (and their allergy to it), (c) NATO expansion, and (d) any other grievances that must be aired in order to stop Cold War 2.0 from escalating. One cold war was quite enough, thank you (I still remember the nightmares).

10. Start talking to the whole of the G11 — no, leaving Spain (the world's 8th largest economy) out in the cold because Dubya is having a snit at the socialist PM is not acceptable — about a global plan for rebooting the planetary economy without overheating the money markets or triggering further energy spikes. An exercise in multilateralism and soft power that will (a) achieve something useful and (b) start to convince the rest of the world that sanity has resumed.

This is just the top of the list, and reflects stuff I would hope to see in the first hundred days of a new administration. Other jobs (healthcare reform, for example) will take years, so I've left them out. Frankly, if Obama does all ten of these things I will be overjoyed. If he does just three or four of them, I'll be nodding along and satisfied. But they all need doing, and they're merely the start of an awfully big job.

PS: This is, I hope, my last posting on the topic of American politics for a long while, unless something extraordinary (good or bad) happens in the next couple of months. Just blowing off steam here after several years of bottling stuff up, nothing to see ...



I'd like to think that BHO will free the innocents and end the use of torture, but. . . let's not forget that Extraordinary Rendition wasn't invented by the Bush regime, but was in fact first used by Clinton/Gore in 1995.

Don't get me wrong; I'd have almost certainly voted for BHO if I were a full citizen of the Empire. But - alas - that empire remains an empire, even if you have an interesting and personally impressive individual at the helm.

Anyway, we'll see.


It's too late to ratify Kyoto -- we're already in the 2008-2012 target period, and there's simply no way Obama can meet the US target now. What he needs to do is play a constructive role in setting up a successor agreement.


5 and 6: Those contradict each other, and are a rather hypocritic combination.

9: Russians aren`t interested in security, as it lowers prices. They are also interested in Cold War 2.0, as it quells the opposition (yes, it will kill them again in the long run, but the government don`t care, as they don`t keep their money in Russia anyway). Will be kind of hard to talk to that crowd.


Charles, have you ever considered going into politics? We need all as many intelligent, sane politicians we can get.


Charles, have you ever considered going into politics? We need as many intelligent, sane politicians as we can get.


Anatoly @3: I see a considerable difference between supreme court appointments -- out in public, subject to confirmation hearings, and with the aim of replacing retiring members on a like-for-like basis -- and selective sub rosa sackings and replacement of civil servants with those who secretly pass an ideological litmus test.

I'm not sure you're totally right about #9; yes, keeping oil prices high is clearly desirable for oil/gas exporters, and having a big patriotic drum to bang seems to be politically useful to Putin, but the cost of getting into another expensive arms race would appear to be undesirable.


As an American I have three demands -- Universal Health care, universal health care and universal health care!!! The system we have now is an embarrassment to the civilized world.


I think Justice Souter is just sick of living in Washington and I don't blame him. Hoping that Kennedy calls it a day too, so we can get a bare majority back.

Given Obama's statements, I am not terribly optimistic on No. 9, though it is one of the most important of your points.


I agree that the DHS should go, but I can't see it happening. Any elected official is going to be very wary of coming out publicly against the existence of the DHS, since such a stance would inevitably be used against them in the event of a successful terrorist attack any time in the next decade. The only way I can see the DHS being abolished is if it was somehow publicly discredited to the extent where the majority of US voters were convinced that the organization couldn't find its own ass with both hands.


Draft Charlie Stross for Chief of Staff!



In regards to number 5, there's something very contradictory about creating a congressional investigation of partisan practices. It would inevitably itself turn into a zoo of partisan bickering. This is a place to lead by quiet example.

In regards to number 7, I think Obama has already dealt with the sorts of conduct you are talking about by beating it in the voting booth. It happens because it is seen as effective. Once it is seen as a losing strategy (which it clearly was this year) it'll stop. Trying to regulate it out of existence will be nearly impossible.


Hopefully the current administration can get an extension of the UN mandate in Iraq, as chaos is not in anyone's interest. Otherwise that is going to be job 1.

I'm not going to bet that DHS is going away, but it will be pared back. Though if the Coast Guard is pulled out the whole thing might as well go away, as my understanding is that it's the Coasties who hold that circus together.

Another thing that might keep DHS in existance is if Mexico accelerates into drug-fueled chaos, at which point the Border Patrol might start looking more like a European-style para-military organization instead of a police force.


Depending on how you read things, the US Senate might be required to ratify the Kyoto Protocol before Obama could sign.


For my own clarification on point ten, is the G11 you're referring to an expanded G8, or is it the G11 developing countries moniker?



I for one welcome our Strossian overlord...

I'd love to make my own demands/hopes list - but I honestly don't understand the intricacies of politics (Our own in the UK, never mind the US) to make a sensible addition.

No. 9 I especially agree with. I was still very young during the closing stages, but learning later in life how close we all were to a sudden and burny hot death gave me shivers for quite a while.

I'd not want to live though that again.



"2. The whole torture thing?..."

Has Britain stopped extraordinary rendition yet? But yes, I hope we dismantle this whole horrific mess. But this will be Congress' remit, and there is still likely to be a lot of vying for "I'm stronger on terrorism than thou".

"4. Ratify the Kyoto Treaty, and/or put the wheels in motion to participate in international talks aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions."

Kyoto ratification is pointless. Just do Kyoto II. I think Obama will put the US where it belongs regarding a global effort to curb GHG emissions, most likely some sort of cap-and-trade.

"7. Start a public Congressional inquiry into election practices"

I believe this is a state, not federal issue. Perhaps some standards can be enacted at the federal level that can become de facto, but not de jure, standards.

"10. Start talking to the whole of the G11"

Possibly going to be G20, as there is talk of a "Bretton Woods II" in the air.


Jonah @ 9

where the majority of US voters were convinced that the organization couldn't find its own ass with both hands.

As you imply, they can't find it, even though they're all ass; the problem is to convince enough people still in PTSD/hypervigilant state from 9/11 of that.

I think a better objective for Obama than killing DHS is putting someone competent in charge to mutate those parts that can be changed into effective organizations, and gelding those parts that can't so they don't do any damage. And turn down the volume on the security theater; the less of that, the quicker people will realize just how irrational their conception of the terrorist threat really is.

A year or so ago I wrote a short story with a character who was a veteran CIA analyst, seconded to DHS on its creation to act as cadre. At one point he explains what he intended to do at DHS, and he replies,

"I knew there were going to be epic turf battles, and that most of the people setting up the department wouldn’t have a clue about Homeland or Security. Hell, I got to meet Mother Angleton just before the CIA canned him; I know just how crazy you can get in this business even if you do know what you’re doing. But I figured that there’d be more of a chance that DHS would learn how to play nice with the rest of the intel community if someone like me was there to smooth things over and keep the phone lines open, and that if I could get some voice in the hiring decisions I could maybe bring in a few more people with clues.”
That may be the best that anyone can do.


Until Charlie mentioned it I wasn't aware of a G11. The G8 yes and the G20 as well. The G20 are the 20 biggest economies and the European Union - Spain is included via the EU but has asked for full membership. The G20 has been in the news a bit in Oz recently. One because we, Oz, are members, and two, because apparently there was a leak recently that said PM Rudd had to explain to Pres. Bush exactly what the G20 is. Embarrassing for Oz because the leak came from here and embarrassing for the US because GW is clueless.

News on the leak here.

G20 wiki here.


How to say this? I'm not sure that all of those are in America's best interest. Also, numbers 5,7, & 8 are horrible ideas. Unless you want to speed the dissolution of the US into a banana republic. I don't know how it works in the UK, but here in the US, you only hold congressional hearings if you want to beat the opposition with a stick. Actual fairness or intelligent recommendations for future change would be dumb luck, and not in keeping with past experience.

Just let Dubya crawl away. The surest way to make transitions of power less smooth is to hold political witch hunts at the start of a new regime. We've managed 42, with the the 43rd due in 3 months. Lets not go changing the part that works. Thanks.


#18, thanks for the links, very informative. 75 days...75 days... :)

#19, I don't see the States devolving into a "a small country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture, and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique" anytime in the Real Soon scope of things, especially as how points 5,7,& 8 are all about getting the public more involved with their government, and possibly leading to better quality of governance for the people.


Brett: over here, the purpose of a public enquiry is to clear the air, figure out What Went Wrong, and lay the groundwork to ensure that it doesn't happen again. If the American version of same is solely to "beat the opposition with a stick", then I submit that something is not working properly in your democracy.


#7 may be a problem - election law is pretty much at the state level. There are things that can be done to improve the system, though, and they should be done. (Better voting machines, with honest code, for one. I also like the idea of a nation-wide voter registration.)

#5 and 8 are good ideas. It's called cleaning house, and it really does need to be done, with the understanding that it will not be fast or complete; some of the people will be in the system for years, and we can only hope that they don't try to screw it up for the rest of us any more.


Being an American who swings pretty far to the left (as Americans go), I've been feeling unusually optimistic for the last couple of days, and so I think most of the stuff on this list is achievable. I don't believe that Obama can accomplish it all in one term, but I think we'll move in the right direction.

#5 and #6, contrary to some of the posts here, are not mutually exclusive. Appointments to the Supreme Court are, by nature and necessity, politically and ideologically motivated. The problem comes when politics and ideology play a role in choosing appointees for positions that are bureaucratic in nature, and require skills that have nothing to do with personal beliefs.

I don't think, however, that we will see a lot of investigations into the Bush administration's practices. If Obama is serious about his desire for bipartisanship he will quickly and cleanly replace the worst of the old guard and let the rest slink away into obscurity.

I can't speak for the whole country, but this particular American is more interested in making sure I have a job and health insurance, making sure my friends in the military are risking their lives for something worthwhile, making sure my gay friends have the same freedom to marry the person they choose that I do. I want to make sure that my kids are learning real science in their science classes. And if chasing down the idiots who screwed up the last several years are going to get in the way of the stuff I want to accomplish now, it isn't worth the effort.

Sorry if this went on too long. It's my first post here. Thanks, Charles! I'm a big fan.


An entertaining list, but not terribly connected with reality.
6. Find three young, energetic, liberal supreme court justices to replace the elderly, terminally ill supreme court justices who are going to retire as soon as they can do so without handing the supreme court to Scalia on a plate.
Were you aware that 4 of our supreme court justices said that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." means the National guard (created >100 years after the statement in question) may own guns, and that the National Guard is explicitly controlled by the federal government, and all current arms and armor of the National Guard are currently owned by the Federal Government?

Most of your other points are similarly, though not as clearly, wrong.

Btw, if you think Bush started, or even significantly changed the method of 5 you really need to look into your hero Bill's past a bit. 10 minutes should do your assumptions a world of good.


More worryingly: after 8 years, the military and law enforcement are stacked with Christian Dominionists, i.e., borderline-fascist theocrats of the John Ashcroft mould. Anyone who didn't participate in the prayer groups and speaking-in-tongues sessions found their career prospects severely limited under Bush. Given that Dominionists believe in making America a theocracy, and control the military, that is somewhat concerning.

ObToDo: fix America's passenger railways. Overhaul and invest in Amtrak to bring it back up to scratch, and build high-speed rail lines. (California's already planning one between LA and San Francisco, which just won a ballot.) Promote mass transit between cities and suburbs to reduce car dependency (and thus oil dependency).


Nick B: I see no contradiction between (a) the second amendment being interpreted as a statute that permits the national guard to own weapons -- not the general public -- and (b) the general public also being allowed to own guns -- just not under a constitutional right.

On the other hand, I'm British, and I think Americans are completely bugfuck where it comes to gun ownership. So I'm not going to go any deeper into that topic here and further postings about gun ownership and the second amendment under this topic will be deleted on sight. (See the moderation policy.)

Finally: Bill Clinton isn't my "hero". I'm way to the left of him politically, and to the left of Barack Obama -- and Gordon Brown, for that matter. If you hadn't already figured that out, I question your reading comprehension.



Yes, I agree that part does not work, but HUAC and McCarthy's Joint Committee were not acting beyond their powers, just immorally. I wouldn't trust any 10 of our Legislators to NOT run show trial. Until they stop gerrymandering districts, this will get worse, not better. The best we could hope for would be watching our elected gasbags make inane statements thinly disguised as questions.


People should stop telling Mr Obama what to do. He won the election. He gets to make the decisions. He doesn't need several million back seat drivers who appear to think that they've somehow gained the ability to steer the US government simply because they supported him (in many cases in spirit only, as they didn't possess a vote).

However, I'd like to see him appoint Bill Ayers as the new Secretary of Defense, or as the head of the Department of Homeland Security.


FT @28: Assuming your tongue isn't very firmly in your cheek, this is my soap-box. I refer you to the moderation policy. Hint: I read your first four sentences as telling me to shut the fuck up, and I don't like that.


Just a few nitpicky comments... on the whole, this isn't a bad list, but I hope that the numbering is merely for convenience and not an indication of the actual priority.

1 (and comment 1): Actually, both candidates had pledged to do much of this. And extraordinary rendition was not a US invention, and the US used it long before the Clinton administration. In any event, I'd prefer emphasizing "no secret evidence" over "civilian court," but that's because (as a former commanding officer myself) I'm far more aware than most of the procedural safeguards built into the US court-martial system.

2 Absolutely. Of course, that depends on coming up with an adequate definition of "torture" in the first place... and I don't think any of the definitions I've seen put forth are even close to satisfactory. The corollary is that the US law enforcement/intelligence/counterterrorism community needs to put systems and assets in place — legal ones, naturally — that make torture "unnecessary" under the rubric of those who advocate it.

3 Here I must respectfully disagree, but for pragmatic reasons. The problem is not the existence of an umbrella organization, but the way it is organized and staffed... and its visibility. Frankly, many of the same abuses that are getting publicity now occurred in the 1980s and 1990s; it's just that nobody — particularly the press — was paying enough attention to see the big picture.

4 (and 2, 13): Sign it. It's then up to Congress to ratify it... and pass appropriate enabling legislation. The Kyoto Treaty is not "self-enabling"; it only requires nations to pass their own legislation to accomplish its means. (Technical note: a proposed treaty cannot be placed in front of the Senate for ratification until the President signs it.)

5, 6 The cure is worse than the disease. The Goodling ethics report provides an excellent roadmap of what to avoid; that should be the sole goal. As much as I'd like to see a batch of "liberal" appointments to both the Supreme Court and lower US courts, in the long run we're better served by getting thoughtful judges who will listen than ideologues of any stripe... because eventually, that "liberal" position is going to create problems for liberals if followed without regard for context, and these are lifetime appointments. Keep in mind, too, that not every bureaucrat who can "pass a litmus test" cares about it, or otherwise; witch hunts are a profoundly conservative response to perceived injustice.

7 No, no, and yet again no. Instead, all that is necessary is overturning Buckley v. Valeo's idiotic (and partisan, but that's another story entirely) holding that "expending money is political speech" and following the consequences. There is no government body that could possibly do this well that would not inevitably do more harm — or at least be perceived as doing more harm.

In the best of all possible worlds, we'd get away from first-past-the-post elections in the House of Representatives and go to proportional representation; but that's not going to happen.

8 If done properly, a simple restructuring of DHS to make sense would do almost all of this. The radical necessity, though, is to eliminate the military academies; they no longer serve the educational and training purpose that made them necessary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and instead serve as politicocultural "reeducation camps" that inhibit both the officer corps itself and development of nonpartisan civil servants (as opposed to bureaucrats).

9, 10 Certainly a necessary part of any "plan" to deal with the current economic crisis.

* * *

Additions: Universal health care and universal basic education funding; reerecting the wall between church and state; and a Frenchman in every pot. Well, maybe not that last one, which is more a private than governmental role anyway.


Bravo! well put and well thought out best i have read or even heard, from any other commentators.


7. "acceptable standards for the conduct of elections."
Do you mean campaigns or elections? A federal ANSI standard, OSHA approved, method explicated in an "Illustrated Guide for the Conduct of Elections (with attached diagrams)" perhaps? I just know I want a purple thumb instead of that dumb little sticker. People seem so much more excited when their thumbs are purple.

Acceptable standards for campaigning would be a whole different kettle o' crazy, such as:
1: "Thou shalt not exaggerate, misrepresent, take out of context, or outright falsify information that is used to reduce the public trust in a person running for office, hereafter referred to as 'the Candidate'"
2: "Thou shalt not malign, poke fun at, or make disparaging comments about, a Candidate's physical features, hairstyle, accent, gait, arm movements, intelligence (or lack thereof), family (to include parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives, legitimate or otherwise), legal residence, circumstances of birth, hunting habits (to include whilst airborne in a helicopter), religious leanings, juvenile drug use, belief in UFO's and other paranormal and/or supernatural events, beings, and powers, and any other perceived defects or oddities of character, background, or the body that may cause emotional discomfort if pointed out in a manner calculated for political gain."

Or, in other words: Don't Be Mean.

Never happen.


There is no reason for Charlie to be aware of it, but I'm a bit flabbergasted that I am the first commentator here to point out that #5 has been going on for several years.

Brett@19, I would very much like to know the information upon which you base the following statement: "Here in the US, you only hold congressional hearings if you want to beat the opposition with a stick. Actual fairness or intelligent recommendations for future change would be dumb luck, and not in keeping with past experience."

That doesn't jibe with the Congressional investigations with which I am familiar, and I fear that you may be stating what you emotionally feel to be true, rather than what is factually correct. Although I admit, the statement's truthiness shines through to me as well.


I was with you up until the "abolish the academies" comment. Valid or not, and as a former military man, I lean towards not, I'm not sure how you can blame the attitude allegedly inculcated in the academies resulting in the failure to apprehend OBL. Is this based on fact, or just an opinion?


Noel @33:

I was thinking of the aforementioned HUAC & JCUAC, as well as recent (Reagan thru present) confirmation hearings. Or the joke of an inquiry into the evidence presented to the UN & Congress in 2002 wrt Iraq. In which it was found that both sides were right and nobody culpable. Pick your poison. Anything sexier than line item accounting practices in the bureau of Indian Affairs turns into the Committee Chairperson's Private Circus with startling regularity. Frankly, there aren't enough responsible adults in either chamber to prevent such enquiries from becoming Theater of the Absurd, IMO.


Charlie: I agree with your postings and I think we will be surprised in the first hundred days. I also happen to think that energy policy should actually be the first order of business, and then some dismantling of certain economic entities *cough* health insurance *cough*.
So, I have a question for you. Does the British health care system work for you(are you satisfied, kept healthy)? Would it work for America?


Lance: I'm happy with the NHS, but I can't see it working in the US -- it took national bankruptcy and a near emergency to bring it in in the UK. If there's anything wrong with it, it's that due to heavy demand the NHS prioritizes acute conditions: if you have a heart attack or stroke they'll whisk you into an intensive care unit in seconds, but if you've got a creaky knee or something you can "live with" for a while, you may face a wait for treatment (unless you're willing to pay for private care).

What we don't have is a huge, bloated, profit-oriented insurance sector battening on the healthcare side of things. The NHS isn't government-run, its relationship to the government is much like the traditional relationship of the Post Office: it's very arms-length. The government forks over money on an ongoing basis (from the tax base), and the hospital trusts and regional health authorities hand it to hospitals and GP practices. You end up paying a bit more income tax, but you don't have to grapple with insurance forms or bills when you go see your GP: the money side of things is shielded from the patient.


Charlie.. as a citizen I've got just a smidge more influence on most of these than you do. But I wonder about #10.. I'm wondering if a top down approach is the RIGHT way to reboot the economy. Maybe there are little things each of us netizens could do that would be a whole lot more effective?
Crowdsource a new netbank or something?
Just an idea.


34: It's based on personal observation of more officers in all three services (for this purpose, the Marines are Navy, since it's the same academy) than I care to count while I was on active duty... much of it in joint assignments. I'd call that "fact," but others might call it "opinion." N.B. I got a real education as an undergraduate, not a BSME from an academy.

The original purpose of the US military academies was to provide an adequately educated professional officer corps for a nation that did not have a long military tradition or a large standing army or navy. Keep in mind, too, that at that time this nation did not have the equivalent of an aristocracy educated in the European fashion, so that educational component was more than trivial. The steadily declining educational standards at the academies since 1945, as measured not by test scores going in but test scores and success in graduate programs coming out, indicate that this educational purpose is not being met. We'd be much better off relying on ROTC and an extended OCS/OTS system (a year instead of 90 days) for putting in the "military component," and we'd get the bonus of having officers with some real-world experience as adults instead of four years in a monastery being preached to by a self-selecting set of largely antiintellectual monks.

In short, I think the US would be better off training college-educated men and women to be officers than trying to simultaneously educate and train high-school-educated men and women. Remember, trying to train for multiple purposes at one time is one of the things that military experience tells us doesn't work out in the long run...


Charlie@37: National bankruptcy and near emergency seem to be looming on the horizon, if not already present, so this might be the perfect time. (Granted my understanding of the NHS is almost nil, but if it's anything like Canada's then I'm all for it -- my parents still live in the US and I'd love to see them benefit from a system I currently enjoy.) I agree with you that it might take US consumers a while to adjust to wait times -- because they are enormously frustrating -- but it's also a quiet revelation when one realizes the freedom of entering the nearest hospital without asking an insurance company's permission, first. For a lot of Americans, this is a luxury they can't even dream of.


So let me get this straight about the NHS system. You can either wait and get free healthcare, or pay through the nose to get treated right away. As opposed to our system where the only options are to pay through the nose, or die. Hmm, which is better?


I have an honest question about Universal Healthcare. Hasn't it been around long enough at this point that we could compare similar populations in the US and UK for longevity and quality of life. One of the statistics that puts me through the roof is when people talk about overall life expectancy of heterogeneous US vs. homogeneous European countries. Within the US, ALE for men may vary by as much as 10-12 years across different populations, which is statistically HUGE.

Does anyone know if the comparison for ALE and levels of incapacitance with age have been done for similar populations between the US and UK (or Canada or any other western country with socialized medicine). Or US residents/citizens of Cuban descent against Cubans. I'd be interested to know if the quality of life metrics are as strongly in favor done this way.


The health insurance method of health care is clearly broken beyond repair: it intrudes into almost every medical decision with a potential veto based only on a highly-artificial (not to say fraudulent, though I will if asked) set of cost-benefit analyses. I'm currently siccing doctors and lawyers at my insurance provider because they've rejected a surgery as "experimental or of unclear benefit" a treatment that's been FDA-approved for 3 years, and that was recommended to me by 2 neurologists and a spine surgeon. They don't care that the purpose of this treatment is to make it possible for me to stand up for more than 20 minutes without incurring severe pain. And recently I discovered that for the 3rd quarter of this year, our group plan is running at 80% of budgeted payout; I think I know why.

The state I live in has one of the few reasonable health safety net programs in the US for unemployed and indigent patients and it uses a priority list for determining how the allocated money is distributed: if you come along at the end of the budget cycle with a bad cold and someone else has a heart attack, the money goes to treat the heart attack, and you get access to what's left. As a last-resort program, it works quite well, as a default option, not so much, because it treats public health (in respect to contagious but non-critical diseases) only indirectly.


Brett L @42: The only marker I personally am familar with is the one my grandfather used.

He was an undertaker, and his sister was a midwife. The month after the NHS was brought in his business was cut in half. For the rest of his life he would wax lyrical to anyone who would listen that the NHS was the best thing that had ever happened to the country (a rather disconcerting "In the old days..." rant to anyone who didn't know him).

The hard statistic here (from Wikipedia) UK: 4.8 deaths/1000 live births, US: 6.3 deaths/1000 live births.

Other statistics vary wildly because basically it varies on whether you can afford healthcare or not in the US. If you can afford it the healthcare is much better than the UK (cancer survival rates are much higher, although I don't have the statistics to hand). If you can't afford it though you are screwed. Slice the numbers by demographic and the gap between rich and poor is huge.

With those sort of numbers people can (and do) bend them to fit whatever position they are arguing from when comparing the two systems.

The IMR provides a base stat that's measured consistantly worldwide. (Of course it indicates other things as well as health service provision, but standard of living in the US isn't exactly in the lowest percentile!)


Charlie, there's one issue that might not be very visible to you over there, but that's fundamental to any movement of the US off dead-center of the long water-slide into the 3rd world: education. The current tenant of the White House did his damndest to put a harpoon right through our primary educational system by requiring a set of standardized tests which measure little more than how well a student does on the test, and then removing money from schools that didn't do well on the tests. That, and the economic moves on the higher education system that resulted in college being much more difficult for low- and middle-income students to afford, must change. If we don't fix the system, the next generation of Americans won't be well enough educated to fix any of the other things.


Brett #35
I guess you haven't noticed Waxman's hearings. Granted, he doesn't get publicity most of the time, but, as chairman of the Government and Oversight committee, he's been investigating the US government's activities for two years.


There are wait times in the US for non critical care even using the standard methodology which misses a lot of waiting in the US.

The common definition of waiting time in medical research is the time from scheduling treatment to treatment. This is mainly a statistic of convenience. All the information is at each treatment center so it is easily collected. It misses any waiting time between diagnosis and the scheduling of treatment and any waiting time before diagnosis. If you drill down to the actual studies that do these sorts of comparisons you will often find an explicit disclaimer by the researchers that the US wait time numbers really can't be simply compared to those from other countries.

There are several sources of wait times:

Providers schedules are sometimes full. The supply and demand both vary from time to time, that means lines form sometimes. All systems prioritize urgent care over non-urgent care and make non-urgent cases wait more. Really it would be stupid if this kind of waiting didn't happen at all. It would mean that either great overcapacity was present, or urgent care was not being prioritized. For pay treatment does have another axis for avoiding waits: money. Poorer people will wait for more-urgent care as richer people buy their way out of wait times for less-urgent care.

Chronic under supply can lead to permanent wait times. A few of the least funded universal care systems have this problem. Notably the UK and Canada both have it in some regions at some times. The US, and most other universal coverage countries seem to do better, but it still crops up now and then in most of them.

People sometimes schedule treatment in the future for convenience. I suspect this is somewhat more common in the US due to our relative lack of time off from work, but seems unlikely to be a large factor.

The US has a large source of wait times that is much smaller in universal care countries, and which is not well captured in the normal statistics. In the US many people defer diagnosis and treatment due to cost. They might wait hoping conditions will clear up on their own before seeking medical care when they would have gone had cost not been an issue. They might have to save up money for care. They might seek insurance, perhaps switching jobs for better health benefits. They might simply decide not to get treatment at all for financial reasons. This kind of waiting is mostly not captured in wait time statistics because it happens before treatment is scheduled, possibly even before diagnosis.


Charlie #37- true, we don't have a bloated insurance sector leeching off the NHS, but we do have the PFI/PPP and very strange part privatisations of NHS functions which seem only to siphon money off to private providers and their shareholders and always cost more than doing things in the NHS. I count the damage done to the NHS by New labour as one of the reasons they have not done a very good job. Heck, its so bad that my sister, not a politically minded person, seems to be getting more radicalised the longer she stays working there.


PJ Evans @46:

I skimmed through about the last year's worth of hearings and documents. If that's a representative sample, it goes to my point. One release announces that GAO found $1.1T in wasteful spending, and then details about $350B in the areas of DoD (Including $67B in Iraqi government budget surplus. I assume with the idea that this could be hot-swapped for $67B in defense spending.) and Medicare Prescription Drug spending.

What conclusions can I draw about the other $750B+ not mentioned? None. I have a feeling, though, that it was in areas that were not targeted as Democratic talking points. Almost all of the other hearings before the financial crisis blew up were regarding DoD spending, Medicare Part D spending, EPA rulings, and FDA rulings. Are these important? Sure. Are there great yawning holes that aren't even being addressed? Yep.

Therein lies my problem with Congressional hearings. The Chair gets to dictate what goes into the report, and other members have virtually no recourse if they disagree. The likelihood is that any hearings will be used as a stick to beat the minority, we'll have a round of "it's all Bush's Fault" and dick-all will actually get done to remedy the underlying problems. Just like all the 9/11 Commission problems were thrown at Clinton policies. It's not an R or D thing, it's an artifact of the two party system.

Okay. Sorry, Charlie. I've taken more than enough of your forum pixels on this one. Your soapbox, not mine.


In the US whenever you mention Universal Health Care someone is going to say "But that's SOCIALISM!", often it will be a senior citizen collecting Social Security. One thing they generally don't consider is that there is a group of US citizens who do get their health care paid for by the government: the Military and their dependents.

I grew up an Army brat (single mother in the Army for 14 years until medically discharged), and had free health care until I turned 24. I've had none since. People often don't seem to realize that our Democracy is protected by a form of Socialism (at least by my limited understanding of the term. Be gentle with me if I'm way off.) The government provides Servicemen and women and dependents with work, housing, clothing, and health care, or allowances for it. Now there is Military health insurance called TRICARE, so, technically it's not free anymore, but with a $12 co-pay, it's not bad.

They'll often point to the UK system as something to be afraid of, usually mentioning wait times. My response is the waits are because people are actually using their health services. Unlike here where some people are afraid to go to a hospital unless they're desperately ill.
As for the Military Academies, their reputations have been badly damaged since Bush came to office and many military leaders felt free to proselytize. The Air Force Academy has probably been affected most. See the Miltary Religious Freedom Foundation for info about that.


Hackmaster @32: Are you aware that in most civilized nations, elections are held on a weekend? That people in those nations would consider it outrageous if they had to wait 20 minutes to vote? That voting machines that didn't work would be a national scandal, as opposed to a running joke?


Charlie@37 Thanks for answering
James @50 I well and truly hate the "But that's SOCIALISM" charge since the US practices a strange but over-arching form of Military-Industrial-Banker socialism. It's really fun to ask any of those knee-jerk anti-healthcare nuts what socialism actually is and you'll likely get a nauseating dose of circular logic.

By the way, and this is off topic, when I argue with wing-nuts I notice they not only tend to be devoid of logic, but argue long enough to forget their original premise (usually 7 sentences or so until they get an overflow in the short term memory). In fact, I would go so far as to say what characterizes a nut is that an argument with them is purely a Markov process...


Lance@52: 'the US practices a strange but over-arching form of Military-Industrial-Banker socialism'

True that. But don't forget that system also brought you things like the Internet and Apollo. Silicon Valley was founded on military R&D, man.

Sure, as (for instance) the latest mistaken bombings in Afghanistan indicate, it doesn't play out quite as prettily as the arrangement in P. K. Dick's THE ZAP GUN --

Nevertheless, it's a pretty nifty trick to have a Cold War that doesn't turn nuclear and that you then win by subsidizing mind-blowing amounts of R&D that can then be spun off into the private sector in order to dominate global trade.


Bruce @46: Alas, the conservatives -- and labour continued their policies -- did much the same to education in the UK. We're a few years behind you on the same downward curve, basically.


Back to our hosts original post though :).

I think I'd put point 9 (talk to the Russians) at the top of the list. The timing of Medvedev's address to the nation was no co-incidence nor the positioning of those missiles. Bush's mind-blowing ineptitude on the foreign policy front has very seriously pissed off the Russians.

I've seen responses to this on US boards on the lines of "so what?", which has been pretty much the attitude of the Bush administration. I find it difficult to put into words the mind-melting stupidity of this view and am certainly not going to try and articulate it here or attempt to educate the braindead.

This needs sorting now or it's going to be a damn cold winter.


Lance @ 52: I define Socialism as any service provided by the government that's publicly funded and/or without competition. :)


A lot of the controversy and confusion over the issue of health care in the US stems from a failure to distinguish between health care and health *insurance*. The insurance model is not designed to really provide for routine care or common conditions. It's to insure against the things you can't pay for, the unexpected. The more you add to what it covers the more expensive it's going to be. You add annual exams, it's going to cost more than paying for those annual exams out of pocket will, it's simple math.

There's something to be said for providing routine care while requiring people to carry insurance for emergencies & major illness. Not everyone is going to get cancer, but everyone *should* get a screening for it.


Andrew G...Clearly you've never dealt with an insurance company when you've had something "unexpected" happen. They do everything they can to get out of paying. There is a "socialist" service in the US that's publicly funded and has competition, the post office. It's cheaper than its competition (Fed EX and UPS), and generally gets the job done as well. I don't see why a Universal Health Care system can't operate the same way.


The US Postal Service has a lot of breaks that Fed Ex and UPS don't get (among other things, USPS trucks don't need license plates, a consequence of McCulloch vs. Maryland)-and without the monopolies and other advantages granted by the Private Express Statutes, USPS would almost certainly operate at a loss.

Back when a private company competed with USPS in every service USPS provides, USPS didn't do so well.


Just came across this on BoingBoing:

check out Agenda links at the bottom.


Andy W @ 55:

Was that Bush's incompetence or Darth Cheney's machiavellian plan to further his siphoning defense funds into his pocket? It's pretty clear that Medvedev and Putin want to start another Cold War to justify their imperial ambitions, and use as a Wookie Defense*, but aren't those motives exactly the ones we've come to expect from the Bush administration?

* "But there's no reason to believe that I would do anything criminal — Look! A big, hairy Wookie!"


Bruce @60:

Alas you are quite right, there are parties on both sides who would just love a cold war to further thier own agendas. Such a thing wold be totally crap for the rest of us though.

Until now I think the Russians have been opportunistic. They could have munched bits out of Georgia much sooner, but now Putin has realised he can use the situation to cement his own grip on power: "Look! US missiles threatening Rodina!"

Talking would at least reduce the number of trumps the Russians hold in a game they know and are adept at, and which the current administration barely know exists.


For US residents, re the NHS
Works wonders if you are SERIOUSLY ill - saved my life on one occasion, when I was carried into hospital leaking LARGE amounts of blood, and with a punctuired lung ...
Appalling, strangling, incompetent, self-interested bureaucracy in charge if you want important apointments and regular "servicing" so to speak.
My wife is fighting this insanity right now.

BUT - it is paid for out of taxes, and, generally speaking, it works.

Agree about education in this country - we're following the US down the crap-road. The degradation of exam results is also a scandal
One reason I'm no longer a teacher, incidentally.

Russia: All Obama has to do is to offer the Russians the opportunity to JOIN IN - send officers to said missile sites on secondment - to SHOW "we" are not threatening the Russians ....
And/or postpone/cancel one or two of the most "threatening" sites from the Russians' point-of-view.
Trouble is Putin is ex_KGB and it shows, particularly in the way civilian opposition figure wind up dead or in jail on fixed-up charges - oops.


Talk to the Russians, yes, but not about Nato expansion - to hell with giving them a veto over what their "sphere of influence" can and can't do. If we'd done that fifteen years ago, the Baltics wouldn't have been allowed into Nato, and I would expect that they would have seen a Georgian-style intervention by now.

Is the list in any particular order? If so, I wouldn't put Gitmo, torture and DHS above energy and climate change. The first three are minor issues. The latter two are vital.


Yes, but what can be done about climate change or the energy crisis in only 100 days? Read the OP.


Brett@49: you're just wrong about the impact of Congressional hearings. I understand why you're wrong, and sympathetic to it, but that doesn't change the underlying facts.

For example, your own description of the Waxman hearings undercuts your main point, which I take to be that Congressional hearings accomplish nothing in the way of bureaucratic reform.

Meanwhile, your secondary point --- which boils down to the fact that the chairman picks hearings about problems that he thinks voters care about --- is true, but it's also a good thing.

There is a streak in current American culture that clings to cynicism about politics even in the face of evidence. It's probably a healthier bias than the Brittany Spears "must trust authority" reverse, but I still find it mildly depressing.


ajay@49: The issues of Gitmo, torture, and the Dept. of Security Theater are important symbols for the rest of the world (well, and for us too). If we show willing to start immediately rolling back the most obvious signs of the Bush xenophobic imperialism, the rest of the world can see that Obama means what he says, and the great outpouring of goodwill that we've got now won't completely go away after the first 100 days. Obama has made it clear he doesn't intend to try to solve all the problems of the world alone; he's going to need as much political capital as he can find to deal with the longer-term issues like climate change, relations between the West and the Muslim world, and dealing with Imperial Russia.

Speaking of which, do you think Putin wants to get himself crowned Czar?


5. Damn near everybody can fall under those parameters in Washington. D.C.'s BLOOD is favors, and how do you propose to distinguish between friendly gestures, career-advancing ones and outright bribes? Stop right there. You can't.

6. Being young they are more likely to screw up. I would rather they screw up in lesser courts before they get to the Supreme Motherfucking Court. I say this as a man just entering adulthood, with all the implications that carries that you are trying to cook up in your head and shoot back to try and stir up my righteous indignation that I insulted myself. Don't even try.

7. Vote fraud is ALREADY illegal—what more gibbering on paper do you want?

8. I have a book entitled 10,000 Ways to Disappear and Live Off the Grid (and believe me, they are all workable)—you think a terrorist leader has that, at least, if a young American has that information? What the hell is "misuse"? Training insurgents to fight an enemy? Oh I am so sorry their ideological background is not to your liking, but the fact remains realpolitik is the only real way to deal with people, lacking a solid and objective moral ground. You know what I'm talking about, and I can hear you balking and sputtering through my speakers.

9. Russia is flexing its muscle to get Georgia and Ukraine back under its influence (Armenia has been for a long while, as has Kazakhstan; I'm not up on Uzbekistani and Turkmenistani politics). I trust you remember the cyber-attacks just a few years ago. Its leadership is not doing this rationally, so rational discussion will meet with a brick wall of demands that are designed to bury opposition to their expansionist policy and leave Georgia and Ukraine with only one sugar daddy—them. Believe me, it's still "us versus them" in Putin's mind, and until he stops being a brat, we can only meet him on those grounds, as, I say again, rational discussion cannot defeat irrational beliefs.


Too many things to be accomplished... I'll be happy if BHO fix US economy (that includes ending wars in Iraq and other places), close Gitmo and other "secret facilities" that brought USA dangerously close to Nazi Germany and look forward to provide USA with a sustainable and positive environment policy. All the other issues are relevant only to US citizens.


Coltrane @58 "Clearly you've never dealt with an insurance company when you've had something "unexpected" happen. They do everything they can to get out of paying."

Yeah, well. That's their business model innit? Take your premiums up front and then weasel out of paying if the shit hits the fan.

Can't blame a scorpion for stinging you in the ass y'know?

Luke (currently working for scorpions)



IMHO you missed:

11. Join the International Criminal Court. Such a move would help prevent a recurrence of the necessity for your points 1. and 2.


Noel @66:

My point was that the current structure of Congressional committees allows the Chairman to selectively disseminate (or withhold) information, and thus the findings often seem to support the Chair's viewpoint. While it is possible for the Chair to be fair-minded and on the right side of the issue, we cannot depend on it. A system that hinges on the personality of one person is - as Charlie pointed out - flawed, and a dangerous way to resolve politicized issues such as the ones Charlie wanted to hold hearings on.

There is bound to be guilt on both sides of the aisle on both the issue of campaigning and politicization -- the idea that Clinton didn't appoint his people to push his political priorities is just as ludicrous to me as the idea that Bush shouldn't have. What's the point of being head of the Executive Branch if you can't get the agencies within your remit to work towards your agenda? There were almost certainly excesses as far as firing qualified people, or hiring less qualified candidates, but I doubt the Bush admin was the first or particularly egregious in their abuses.

If we only get the parts that makes the Republicans look bad, and the parts where both parties erred is buried, we'll end up fixing the wrong problems. And that's exactly what the Waxman committee release did on wasteful spending. Not one program that the Democrats had significant political investment in made the list.


Rosco @71:

Not going to happen I'm afraid (doomed to getting killed on ratification and no sane president would even try it).

The US has always had a rather "unique" way in regard to treaties and international organisations which boil down to refusing to accept that anyone/thing can tell them what to do.

Which is why they haven't signed up to things like The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids capital punishment for juveniles under article 37(a). This has has been signed by all countries in the world and ratified, except for Somalia and the United States.

Somalia has had a few other things to worry about!

The US doesn't execute juveniles (at least since 1990) but that's because THEY decided not to, not because the UN told them not to.

That's not an attitude Obama's going to be able to change in 100 days!


Andy W: As a Jew, I'm rather sensitive to the fact that the US, for all it blusters about other peoples' genocides, has not, and likely will never, sign the UN Accord on Genocide (mind you, that Accord was being worked out even as US lawyers were trying Nazis for war crimes at Nürnberg).

The attitude seems to be, "We wouldn't do anything like that, and if we did, we'll deal with the culprits ourselves." The first statement would be disputed by the Cherokees who walked the Trail of Tears, and the wives and children of the Lakota that Custer and the 7th Cavalry killed. Considering it was the President of the US who ordered the Cherokees removed, the latter statement would seem to stand disproved as well.

The point, though, is not so much to change an attitude, as to tear the secrecy away from immoral and illegal acts committed in the name of the US, and to push them into people's faces. Some will change their attitude towards the acts when they see what was done, and who it was done by; others will continue to justify them till the cows come home. But it will force a real debate about the issue, something we haven't had as long as mention of it got nothing but a howl of idignation and shouts of "traitor!"


Charlie@54: "Alas, the conservatives -- and labour continued their policies -- did much the same to education in the UK."

In England this seems to be true, although some changes are being made at last. I'm not convinced it holds so much in the other countries of the UK. I'm very happy with my son's primary education here in Edinburgh.

Overall, I found your list interesting. I don't know enough about American politics to judge many of the suggestions, but closing Gitmo, banning torture and playing a constructive role in reducing climate change have to be top of the list from an international point of view. I agree with the comment that joining the International Criminal Court would also send a positive signal.


Here's an article form our conservative rag this morning on local evangelical (and founder of Focus on the Famiy) James Dobson's view of the election.

Here's a quote from him:
"I have to say that his win causes me enormous concern because he will be the most committed pro-abortion president in our history. He's in favor of much of the homosexual agency, and he's going to appoint the most liberal justices to the Supreme Court perhaps that we've ever had."

I hope so.


It seems plain weird to me to see "liberal" being used as though it was an insult. It makes no sense at all, logically or linguistically. I don't see any position on any of the normal axes where that would hold. Perhaps such views need a kind of imaginary axis to locate them properly?




What epithet do right-wingers call left-wingers in your country?



"The Lower Orders", "Oiks", "Servants" (j/k)

The political spectrum in the UK is still split massively along class lines and as a result there's no real UK equivalene in epithets.

This was supposed to be getting better with John Major's "classless society", but that initiative seems to have gone to the wayside with the Conservative party leadership being dominated by members of the Bullingdon Club.


Re: 46, 54:

Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Obama AND Mr. and Mrs. Biden have -- all 4 of them -- worked as professors or otherwise in schools.



"What epithet do right-wingers call left-wingers in your country? "

Not sure there is a generally used one. Mrs Thatcher once referred to "the enemy within"...



David, the issue is that for many use who use "liberal" in the negative, they see that the word has been corrupted by the party that uses it most frequently.

Case in point, the concept of tolerance. Tolerance, along with diversity, are supposed to be tenets of universal acceptance, regardless of viewpoint, ethnicity, orientation, creed, etc. At least that is my understanding of it and everytime I ask an American Liberal what it means (usually people who don't know what I am up to that point) they give the same definition.

Then you ask them, "Well, what about tolerating Republicans?"

Response: "Only when they don't get in the way of our agenda."

So, it is tolerance until it isn't tolerance. I wonder what Orwell would think of that.

Liberalism, as I understand it, means true freedom of expression. Yet one need look no further than the guidelines of a certain SF webzine to see that your ability to express yourself is sharply curtailed. In the halls of academia, one most watch what they say, how they say it, even what words they use. Failure to do so will result in sanction, job loss and so forth.

So for many who throw the term "liberal" around as an insult, and I am certainly one of them, the word has been corrupted. It no longer means what it is supposed to mean.

I, for one, like the song I always hear out of American Liberals. I used to be one believe it or not (no one does, which is besides the point) but actions speak far louder than campaign stump speeches and platitudes.

S. F. Murphy


Re: #78, #81.

I have been arguing with a Republican physicist friend of mine before and after the USA election about the question of to what extent is there a Class System in the USA, and how it compares to the Class System in Great Britain.

My friend was raised in a weird experiment, unintentionally performed by the Aerospace Industry, of a segment of Long Beach, California, where there were no obvious class markers in home size, clothing, automobile size. People were subtly conforming to not acting above or below their class in terms of such markers. So he is blind tho these, from my New York City perspective. My friends from other major east Coast U.S.A. cities (brother in Philadelphia, who as was my father was educated in Boston, etc.) mostly agree with me.

I thought that Class was more important than Race in the Obama victory. Today's Los Angeles Times ran an op ed by Norman Ornstein which says: "... Republicans have seen serious erosion in America's suburbs. Suburban voters gave 61% of their votes to the GOP in a984 and 57% in 1988, but dropped to 52% by 2004. This time they fell to 48% while Obama captured a majority. For the GOP, its base has been reduced to small town and rural voters, not exactly a growth strategy." Sarah Palin exemplified this dwindling small town and rural constituency, crossed with racists, fundamentalist theocrats, Creationists, and American Exceptionalists.

The New York times mostly agrees. The Thursday 6 Nov 2008 special section (dazzling graphics!) said [p.P11]: "Mr. Obama picked up large margins in urban areas, while Mr. McCain picked up smaller margins in large numbers of rural counties.... The electrorate moved towards the Democratic Party across nearly every demographic category. Many shifts were a few percentage points, but several categories had much higher jumps. One exception to the trend: low-income white counties moved solidly to the Republican side."

So I see Class as important because of my upbringing, not because of Marxist analysis. And I saw the Obama victory as a big win for cities, suburbs, minorities, the more educated (a class marker), and the higher-income (meaning Middle-middle Class, upper Middle Class professionals, and a surprising fraction of the Lower Upper Class millionaires and Middle Upper Class at roughly 20 megabucks through Bill Gates). The Old Rich, i.e. Upper Upper Class, don't show up much in the votes, but obviously have enormous clout behind the scenes.

Hence I realistically expect Obama's agenda to lean towards those who gave him his majority (the first Democratic Party presidential majority since LBJ).

And thus my question of how congruent that is to the Western World (Central and South America minus Venezuela and Cuba, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and the like). This overlaps Churchill's "English Speaking World" -- with India and China each having more English speakers than USA, UK, and Canada combined, of course.


It looks like Obama is reviewing all of Bush's Executive Orders. Reversing or replacing those could have a big immediate impact as soon as he goes into office - no need for Congress to get involved.


Charklie: This link to a WaPo article on Obama reversing executive orders on taking office may be of interest and welcome news.


S.F. Murphy @82, on Meet the Press today, one of Obama's transition co-coordinators said they're planning to make the cabinet diverse in gender, color, and beliefs. I believe they'll hire civil servants without regard to political beliefs, too.


#83, The brutal irony about poorly educated, lower income whites allegiance to the Republican party is that they are the ones who have been most negatively impacted by the conservatives economic policies of union busting and de-regulation. They've baited them with one hand using cultural issues (abortion, gay marriage) while they robbed them with the other. If democrats could get these people to realize they're being taken for a ride they would sweep up the floor.


[Comment spam deleted]


Marilee, I'll believe it when pigs fly or I see it happen first. Even if Mister Obama operates that way, there is no reason to suppose that his ideological peers in the rest of the United States will follow suit. In fact, given my previous personal experience, I sorely doubt they'll follow his lead at all.

I'll be lucky if I still have my teaching job at the end of the term (and I have that job because I seem to have run into the rare anamoly of an academic that actually values skill over ideology). I already know what effect it will have on my science fiction writing career.


S. F. Murphy


#79 83
"Class" in Britain is largely used as a smokescreen by the politicians to manipulate people, rather as religious issues are used in the USA (see #87).

Mind you, I have a very cynical view on the subject, haviong been deliberately "classed" (by people with an axe to grind) as both the lower orders, and as "much too patrician".
However, I have some very interesting ancestors.

Some came into England as penniless religious refugees, in October 1685, most of whom made it, unlike some of Charlie's relatives, and along with the other vast numbers - most of whom had a lot more money - the Huguenots. Others were Kentish "yeomen", one of whom was a servant at the British Embassy during the siege of Paris - so a very superior lower order, if you like. Another two, father-and-son held the highest office of state possible under two monarchs - Liz I and James I/VI, and I even look like them. Others were Lincolnshire yellowbellies, and further back, Viking.
With the result that I treat the whole issue as completely irrelevant - which I'm pleased to say, does confuse a lot of people.


I've a short note on class in America over here. Tough problem for you hominids. Caw!


I'm resubmitting this; I think that the trollish attack on illegal immigrants by Raven has been removed by Mr. Stross.

#90, the removed 91.

Interesting. The USA's Founding Fathers intended to eliminate a hereditary Aristocracy, and succeeded only in decoupling that class (which I call the Upper-Upper subclass of the Upper Class) from Royalty.

See, for instance, Old Money: The Mythology of Wealth in America (Paperback) by Nelson Aldrich (Author) "I have spent more hours thinking about this book than I want to count..."

or - 212k -

Or the classic The Theory of the Leisure Class, a book, first published in 1899, by the Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen while he was a professor at the University of Chicago.

As stated on wikipedia, "Veblen claimed he wrote the book as a perceptive personal essay criticizing contemporary culture, rather than as an economics textbook. Critics claim this was an excuse for his failure to cite sources. Nonetheless, Theory of the Leisure Class is considered one of the great works of economics as well as the first detailed critique of consumerism."

Raven gives a take on Illegal Immigrants. They form part of what I call the Lower-Lower Class, a subclass of the Lower Class which also includes those who have been on Welfare (USA's Dole) for 2 or 3 generations).

The poor immigrants, legal and illegal alike, aspire first to be Middle-Lower Class, i.e. employed and better housed (fewer to a room, or in a rented apartment or house outside of the worst slums). By hard work, and learning English, many of these rise in a few years to
the Upper-Lower Class. In places of low real estate prices (I'm talking traditionally, not on a tangent about the burst bubble) the Upper-Lower Class is the Homeowning Poor.

Those in turn aspire to Lower-Middle Class, and those to Middle-Middle Class (white collar), and those to the Upper Middle Class -- professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, managers. The income for the latter includes almost all millionaires,
and cuts off at about (depending on location) $10,000,000 to $20,000,000. Above that is nouveau riche -- the Middle-Upper Class, with no wealth cap (I'd mentioned Bill Gates). And above that, Upper-Upper Class, the Old Money, which in the USA means an American
Aristocracy of Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Rockefellers and the like.

old money

NOUN: 1. The inherited wealth of established upper-class families. 2. A person, family, or lineage possessing inherited wealth: married old money.

[The American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright (c) 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company]

Our literature and films and TV are deeply class conscious, albeit skewed and mythologized.

The Great Gatsby is a novel that illustrates the society in the 1920's and the associated beliefs, values and dreams of the American population at that time. These beliefs, values and dreams can be summed up be what is termed the "American Dream"; a dream of money, wealth, prosperity and the happiness that supposedly came with the booming economy and get-rich-quick schemes that formed the essential underworld of American upper-class society. This underworld infiltrated the upper echelons and created such a moral decay within general society that paved the way for the ruining of dreams and
dashing of hopes as they were placed confidently in the chance for opportunities that could be seized by one and all. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates the American Dream and the "foul dust" or the carelessness of a society that floats in the wake of this dream. By looking at each
character and their situation and ambition it can be seen that the American Dream was not limited to one social class or type of person, that it was nation wide and was found within everyone.

See also:

Money and the American Family
Research Report

Belden Russonello & Stewart


May 2000

The AARP/Modern Maturity national survey of adult attitudes toward money paints a picture of an optimistic, practical, even prudent nation when it comes to family and finances. Americans say they want to be millionaires because they value the ways that money can benefit their families and others they care about. However, they also believe that wealth is likely to make people insensitive, greedy and feeling superior to others.

Most Americans also report that money - or lack of it - has had an impact on their lives, such as making it necessary for them to work outside the home instead of staying with their children, to postpone college, or to stay in a marriage due to a lack of financial resources.

The national survey of 2,366 adults over age 18 was conducted by phone during January and February 2000. (pdf, 95 pages)

Household income in the United States
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For information on the income of individuals, see Personal income in
the United States.

Household income is a measure of current private income commonly used
by the United States government and private institutions. To measure
the income of a household, the pre-tax money receipts of all residents
over the age of 15 over a single year are combined. Most of these
receipts are in the form of wages and salaries, but many other forms
of income, such as unemployment insurance, disability, child support,
etc., are included as well. The residents of the household do not have
to be related to the householder for their earnings to be considered
part of the household's income.[1] As households tend to share a
common economic fate, the use of household income remains among the
most widely accepted measures of income. However, the size of a
household, which is commonly not considered, creates significant
distortions which offset gains or decreases in household income and
makes direct comparisons between quintiles impossible.[2]

In 2007, the median annual household income rose 1.3% to $50,233.00
according to the Census Bureau.[3]The real median earnings of men who
worked full time, year-round climbed between 2006 and 2007, from
$43,460 to $45,113. For women, the corresponding increase was from
$33,437 to $35,102. The median income per household member (including
all working and non-working members above the age of 14) was $26,036
in 2006.[4] In 2006, there were approximately 116,011,000 households
in the United States. 1.93% of all households had annual incomes
exceeding $250,000 ,[5] 12.3% fell below the federal poverty
threshold[6] and the bottom 20% earned less than $19,178.[7] The
aggregate income distribution is highly concentrated towards the top,
with the top 6.37% earning roughly one third of all income, and those
with upper-middle incomes control a large, though declining, share of
the total earned income.[8][2] Income inequality in the United States,
which had decreased slowly after World War II until 1970, began to
increase in the 1970s until reaching a peak in 2006. It declined a
little in 2007.[9] Households in the top quintile, 77% of which had
two or more income earners, had incomes exceeding $91,705. Households
in the mid quintile, with a mean of approximately one income earner
per household had incomes between $36,000 and $57,657. Households in
the lowest quintile had incomes less than $19,178 and the majority had
no income earner.[10]

The 2006 economic survey also found that households in the top two
income quintiles, those with an annual household income exceeding
$60,000, had a median of two income earners while those in the lower
quintiles (2nd and middle quintile) had median of only one income
earner per household. Due to high unemployment among those in the
lowest quintile the median number of income earners for this
particular group was zero.[5] Overall, the United States followed the
trend of other developed nations with a relatively large population of
relatively affluent households outnumbering the poor. Among those in
between the extremes of the income strata are a large number of
households with moderately high middle class incomes[8] and an even
larger number of households with moderately low incomes.[5] While the
median household income has increased 30% since 1990, it has increased
only slightly when considering inflation. In 1990, the median
household income was $30,056 or $44,603 in 2003 dollars. While
personal income has remained relatively stagnant over the past few
decades, household income has risen due to the rising percentage of
households with two or more income earners. Between 1999 and 2004
household income stagnated showing a slight increase since
2004.[11][12] According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita
income has increased every year for the past 10 years, with an annual
average of 5.2% gains for the past 4 years. The recently released US
Income Mobility Study showed economic growth resulted in rising
incomes for most taxpayers over the period from 1996 to 2005. Median
incomes of all taxpayers increased by 24 percent after adjusting for
inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased
over this period. Income mobility of individuals was considerable in
the U.S. economy during the 1996 through 2005 period with roughly half
of taxpayers who began in the bottom quintile moving up to a higher
income group within 10 years. In addition, the median incomes of those
initially in the lower income groups increased more than the median
incomes of those initially in the higher income groups.[13]


Brett @ 49
I guess you missed the other hearings, but that's understandable: the Oversight Committee only has 55 pages of hearing news.


92 (possibly unintentionally) illuminates the main difference between class in the US and class in the UK - in the US class seems to be much more about money. A British plumber may earn more than a senior schoolteacher, and a schoolteacher more than a cornet in the Guards - but that has nothing to do with which class they are in.


Sounds like Obama says he's going to shutter Gitmo and push all the detainees there through the US legal system. That's one for the list.


Re: 94: "92 (possibly unintentionally) illuminates the main difference between class in the US and class in the UK - in the US class seems to be much more about money."

Intentionally. My wife being a Carmichael, hereditary Aristocracy for 31 generations, gives me a clue. My father's father worked his way up from penniless immigrant with poor English to owing a stock brokerage and a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, at whose table dined the Mayor of New York City, and the Governor of New York State.

In the USA, class is much more about money than is the case in Europe, but Education runs a close second place. My ather cemented class membership "bought" by his father, by officership in World War II and degree Cum Laude from Harvard.

A poor child abandoned by Kenyan father can become President -- if he was first in his class at Harvard Law School, and orates beyond the norm of his professorship.

Snippets with which I mostly agree, from The New York Tims follow, as illustration (one is interactive, if you follow the hotlinks).

Shadowy Lines That Still Divide
Published: May 15, 2005

"There was a time when Americans thought they understood class. The upper crust vacationed in Europe and worshiped an Episcopal God. The middle class drove Ford Fairlanes, settled the San Fernando Valley and enlisted as company men. The working class belonged to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., voted Democratic and did not take cruises to the Caribbean."

"Today, the country has gone a long way toward an appearance of classlessness. Americans of all sorts are awash in luxuries that would have dazzled their grandparents. Social diversity has erased many of the old markers. It has become harder to read people's status in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the votes they cast, the god they worship, the color of their skin. The contours of class have blurred; some say they have disappeared."

"But class is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more. At a time of extraordinary advances in medicine, class differences in health and lifespan are wide and appear to be widening. And new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe...."

This series explores how class influences destiny in America.
• Day 1: Overview
• Day 2: Health
• Day 3: Marriage
• Day 4: Religion
• Day 5: Education
• Day 6: Immigration
• Day 7: New Status Markers
• Day 8: The 'Relo' Class
• Day 9: The Hyper-Rich
• Day 10: Class and Culture
• Day 11: Up From the Projects

Interactive Graphic

Where Do You Fit In?

Class Matters: The College Dropout Boom Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

"... despite one of the great education explosions in modern history, economic mobility - moving from one income group to another over the course of a lifetime - has stopped rising, researchers say. Some recent studies suggest that it has declined over the last generation. Put another way, children seem to be following the paths of their parents more than they once did. Grades and test scores, rather than privilege, determine success today, but that success is largely being passed down from one generation to the next. A nation that believes that everyone should have a fair shake finds itself with a kind of inherited meritocracy...."

Class Matters:
When Richer Weds Poorer, Money Isn't the Only Difference
Published: May 19, 2005

"... They had a lot in common. Each had two failed marriages and two children. Both love dancing, motorcycles, Bob Dylan, bad puns, liberal politics and National Public Radio. But when they began dating, they found differences, too. The religious difference - he is Roman Catholic, she is Jewish - posed no problem. The real gap between them, both say, is more subtle: Mr. Croteau comes from the working class, and Ms. Woolner from money...."

I've directly experienced the range from Middle Upper Class to Lower Middle Class, by USA terms. Hence I speak from personal and family experience (but omit the details of maternal descent as bastard line from European royalty, i.e. Prince of Baden), in-law-experience (save the King of Scotland on the battlefield, get hereditary title and met the responsibility to keep the English from invading again), research, and more.

Still, compared to some people I've known, I'm stupid and ignorant. So my question stands.


I took a stab at trying to pencil out what in hell happened in Georgia this summer. If any of you who actually knows what happened would be willing to check my work, I'd appreciate it.


Re: 95.

A expert whose identity I must keep confidential forwards the following.

Let me give you a little intelligent perspective from the IC [Inteligence Community] on some of the issues which Mr. Stross raised.

1. Shut down Gitmo. Try any of the inmates who face outstanding changes in front of a civilian court. Release (and if necessary, pay compensation to) those who are categorically not guilty of anything and who were swept up by mistake. Grant political asylum to the Chinese Muslims and any others who are (a) not accused of anything and (b) can't return to their homes for fear of persecution.

I don't know which moron's idea this was, but among other things, it appears to have accomplished approximately nothing good and a lot of waste. If you read David C. Martin's book "Wilderness of Mirrors", CIA did this with one guy in the 1960's (Nosenko) and it caused a decade of headaches. It is known by the surviving "old hands" as a disastrous policy, my guess is that this idea came from someone with no clue.

2. The whole torture thing? You know what needs to be done, and there's a lot of it — from reverting US interrogation practices to pre-2000 norms, to identifying those who ordered harsh measures and determining whether grounds exist for prosecution, to seeking and compensating the victims of torture. Oh, and end extraordinary rendition and wiretapping without warrants.

Ditto for number two. Effective interrogation, which requires an educated and culturally clued-in interrogator (a big No-No under the Bush Administration) is the art of elicitation which is a way to engage the voluntary cooperation of the persons being interrogated. We saw every possible kind of failure of "hard" interrogation in Vietnam. What idiot decided to revive this???

3. Dismantle the DHS — it is an out of control bureaucratic Frankenstein's monster. Separate divisions can go back to doing what they did before they were stitched together. Leave in place communications channels between such divisions so they can share data, but destroy the unitary chain of command. You don't need a Gestapo.

DHS - largely a waste of time and resources. Their most effective programs have been to train policement to guard infrastructure in case of another terrorist attack and a few electronic counter-measures efforts led largely by the electronic crimes task force in the U.S. Secret Service. Integrate this back into FEMA. Their central bureaucracy is ineffective, and unless you want a Gestapo, yes, you would rather abolish it than make it more effective. Coupled with the Patriot Act, it's a nightmare of short circuited civil liberties which are then invariably used for other purposes.

8. Start a public enquiry into the misuse of intelligence agency resources in the run-up to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism since 9/11. Remit to include the allegations of collusion between Saddam's regime and Al Qaida, and the embarrassing question of why the USA has been unable to find Osama bin Laden for the past seven years.

Bin Laden? He's dead. We haven't had reliable evidence of his being alive since around Tora Bora. He either died there or shortly thereafter. All the recent stuff attributed to him has come from his "stunt doubles" run by Ayman al Zwaheiri (the Al Qaeda number two) and his Egypt based Muslim Brotherhood. Also a total waste of time to have another enquiry into 9-11 or the Intelligence Community. Lots of people knew about Bin Laden, just ask George Tenet, Clinton's last CIA Director. He was screaming about Bin Laden for two years, nobody cared. If you want to investigate someone, investigate Congress, which nobody wants to do because they control EVERYBODY's purse strings. Half the IC knows about the connections between Bin Laden and the Saudi's, it's Congress and Congressional lobbyists who block any investigation or publicity about this. The CIA is the straw man they kick in the balls whenever someone needs to be hung out to dry. CIA can only do what the President and the Congress task them to do. They can only report what the President and Congress want to hear.

9. Start talking to the Russians about (a) gas and oil security (this includes South Ossetia), (b) Ballistic Missile Defense (and their allergy to it), (c) NATO expansion, and (d) any other grievances that must be aired in order to stop Cold War 2.0 from escalating. One cold war was quite enough, thank you (I still remember the nightmares).

Somebody needs to get the facts straight on a lot of this, and I don't mean the foreign physicist. All evidence (you can watch it on BBC) points to the South Ossetia conflict being started by the Georgians, with a grizzly array of indictable war crimes. Yes, by the time the Russians got there they went nuts, justifiably. Mikhail Shaakashvili, who Washington and Whitehall seem to be so comfortable with, is running a traditionally corrupt government, as does pretty much everybody else in the Caucusus. Just because everybody does it doesn't make it right, or acceptable. This guy is a terrible straw man to use in maneuvering against Putin. American diplomacy is not going to begin to get a handle on dealing with Putin until someone starts understanding why the Russians love this guy. The situation with Russia is very complex and no simplistic or fundamentalist approach (including the majority of the old Cold War reflexes) is going to make it easier to deal with Russia. Long run, it is tremendously in the interest of the entire West to integrate Russia into the world economic and cultural system. Virtually all of today's diplomacy is aimed at isolating Putin and the Russians which is exactly the opposite of what we ought to be doing. There was a time when the Germans and the Japanese were the greatest thread to freedom and the American way this planet had ever seen. We need to get over the Soviet Union more than the Russians do.

Don't quote me by name if you post this.


Good grief, JVP. I believe you've used your pixels for the month, at least.


Given the state of the economy here in the US, Mr. Obama's plate is going to be rather full. The problem is there's not much he can do about it. So welcome to the recession. So one can play "fantasy" politics all one wants, but the reality is the economy and jobs. 1.2 million jobs lost so far this year with nearly a quarter million in October alone. Unemployment now stands at 6.5%, up from 6.1% in September.

$10 billion a month spent on Iraq/Afghanistan "police action", (General observation: It's been a really long time since the U.S. actually declared "war") could be better spent on job creation here in the States. Unfortunately, there is a side effect here, namely job losses in the defense industries. But why stop there?
Why not end U.S. foreign aid altogether? That's another $240 to $360 billion a year more that could be put into the U.S. job creation coffers here. Illegal immigration and H1-B visa holders do contribute to the figure above.
Ending H1-B visas and terminating their right to work in the U.S. does free up 85,000 jobs. (Quota already filled for 2009 just so you know).

As far as Obama's campaign promise of investing in "green" tech that will create 500,000 jobs a year over the next ten years is going to take a true miracle, and one neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will be able to pull off, unless they are going to open a second and third shift at the treasury department to keep the printing presses open 24/7.


Interesting statistic I heard on Radio 4 - due to population increases the US needs to create 100,000 new jobs every month just to keep unemployment static (and they gave the 240,000 jobs lost in October figure as well).

The worrying thing is that the US looks on the brink of a major recession with no way out - the money markets just being an early indicator and the unemployment figures represent the next killing blow.

It will be interesting to see what actually happens. The isolationist approach described by Thorne would mainly drag the rest of the world into the quagmire.

That foreign aid goes to places like Egypt to keep friendly governments in power (who'll do those "favours" in regard to extraordinary rendition) - if that went then you are looking at governments falling in areas where the Western democracies really rather they wouldn't. (And just for grins a chunk of that cash goes to Israel as well - a weakened Israel AND a bunch of unstable Islamic states would not be good for anyone!)

Add to that resurgent Tiger economies, an embittered Russia and we have a real nightmare scenario.

Fortunately, I think Obama's smarter than that!


>The isolationist approach described by Thorne would mainly drag the rest of the world into the quagmire.

You do read the news occasionally, don't you? Yes, it is America's fault, always has and always will be...(And you wonder why most Americans simply don't give a damn what the rest of the world thinks about us)

See, I do appreciate the fine effort and great lengths you have gone to to flourish your "It's all America's Fault" membership card. However, I would recommend you take time off from your Obama worshipping to read "The Glory and the Dream" by William Manchester. I'm normally not in the habit of giving away free clues, but you caught me in a generous mood to give you a chance to educate yourself. Which, by the way, saves me the time and effort to have to spoon-feed it to you in easily digestible bite-size chunks of reality.


Thorne @ 102

You really shouldn't go off your meds like that. It's much easier to convince people by being nice to them and explaining where they're wrong, then to kick them in the balls and scream insults. It's also more likely to convince other people that you actually know what you're talking about.


Thorne: $240-360Bn a year in overseas aid?

Don't be ridiculous. Back that up with a respectable source (say, the 2008 budget) or piss off.


My friend was raised in a weird experiment, unintentionally performed by the Aerospace Industry, of a segment of Long Beach, California, where there were no obvious class markers in home size, clothing, automobile size.

My mother is the product of something similar, quite intentionally performed by the Labour Party and the Royal Institute of Town Planning and unintentionally by Ford/New Holland and what was then the British Marconi Company.


104: according to the OECD (reprinted at US net overseas aid in 2007 was around $21 billion.

In FY2009, according to the State Department, the US international affairs budget - which includes the entire State Department, all the embassies, some funding for the War on Terror, $4.8 billion in military aid for Israel, Egypt and other places, as well as the actual aid budget - totalled $39.5 billion. So Thorne is out by an order of magnitude.

An interesting if slightly irrelevant observation, by the way:

Why does unemployment increase in a recession?

You'd think it's because companies do badly and have to lay people off, or collapse and throw all their employees out of work, wouldn't you? Actually, it's not. You only think it is because that's the image that goes along with "recession" - factories closing, companies going bankrupt, people being made redundant.

In fact, private sector jobs are destroyed at roughly the same rate (14% per annum) whatever the economy's doing. What makes the dole queues longer in a recession is that new jobs aren't being created.



@102 Good grief - I shudder to imagine you reaction were I actually trying to be rude!

I was merely trying to point out that an isolationist agenda, attractive as it might be, would not be a viable response to the GLOBAL economic problems, and it is unlikely an Obama-led USA would go down that route.

I could actually be VERY rude about an isolationist agenda, but then I could be rude about a lot of things that aren't going to happen!


For Charles:
Correction 1: 20+ billion is just Federal foreign aid. And while the $240 billion is high, American off-shore investment does top 100+ billion a year. I'm still trying to put a reasonable figure on the amount of money that flows overseas from our gluttonous demand for oil.

For Andy W:
Observation 1: Again, are GLOBAL economic problems the USofA's problems? It's like I said, generally speaking,
it's all so much more comfortable to blame America.

Observation 2: History has shown repeatedly that whether or not the USofA adopts an isolationist policy, a good portion of the world remains in a quagmire or rapidly devolves into one.

Observation 3: Politicians promise many things before an election. Perhaps some time in the near future, the latest catch-phrase will be "What would Obama do?"

Observation 4: No where in my original post (#100) do you find the words "isolationist", which perhaps explains my over-the-top reaction to your first response.
If curtailing foreign aid and H1-B visas somehow qualifies as pursuing an "isolationist agenda", then you need to read the definition of what isolationism is which I'll provide for you:

Isolationism is a foreign policy which combines a non-interventionist military policy and a political policy of economic nationalism (protectionism). In other words, it asserts both of the following:

1. Non-interventionism – Political rulers should avoid entangling alliances with other nations and avoid all wars not related to direct territorial self-defense.
2. Protectionism – There should be legal barriers to control trade and cultural exchange with people in other states.

Generally speaking, America has normally followed rule #1, yet has gone to great lengths to avoid #2. Obama, based on campaign promises will go back to pursuing #1.



Firstly my apologies for my mis-interpretation of your initial post and use of the use of the term "Isolationism" (which pretty much covers 2,3,4). The concepts put forward are so regularly linked to an isolationist agenda elsewhere that I did a mental jump in completely the wrong direction. Again, my apologies.

OTOH where the feck did you get the idea I was "blaming" the USA for anything? I was alluding to the hopelessly self serving and incompetant policies of the Bush administration (and I make no apologies for that), but I'd not tar an entire sub-continent or system because of one group of corrupt politicians.

Finally back to observation 1 - which does touch on the crux of the isssue for many outside the US (including me).

Global economic problems are most definitely the USofA's problems, along with everyone elses! The world economy is now so massively interlinked that an upset in any of the major economys will have an impact elsewhere. The US is buffered somewhat due to sheer size but is certainly not immune.

Similarly that "mass" will pull the world economy around the US economic orbit (now there's pushing a simile) no matter how much we would wish it otherwise, consequently we've been a tad interested in the outcome of the election!

As for "fault" - there is no "fault". The global economy has become such a large monster it has a life of its own beyond the control of any one government. Some governmental policies are the equivalent of poking it with a stick, others will make it belch a bit but it takes a bit more than some dodgey sub-primes to get the beast rolling in it's own vomit. (I'm sorry, today is a day for dodgey similies).

Enough already - here's hoping things improve for everyone.


Correction 1: 20+ billion is just Federal foreign aid. And while the $240 billion is high, American off-shore investment does top 100+ billion a year.

a) Nice try; but there is a huge difference between overseas aid and overseas investment, so you won't get away with trying to conflate them; and anyway

b) as anyone who has been paying any attention to the financial markets over the last few years should know, the US is a net importer of investment, by over $2 trillion a year.

Again, are GLOBAL economic problems the USofA's problems? It's like I said, generally speaking,
it's all so much more comfortable to blame America.

In this case: yes, to a large extent, they are. The subprime mortgage crisis resulted from, among other things, US fraud, US incompetence, and poor US regulation. The Asian debt crisis wasn't so much the US' fault.
And, of course, whether or not a global economic problem is the US' fault, it's certainly the US' problem...

History has shown repeatedly that whether or not the USofA adopts an isolationist policy, a good portion of the world remains in a quagmire or rapidly devolves into one

...doesn't address the issue of whether an isolationist approach would be a good idea or not.

1. Non-interventionism – Political rulers should avoid entangling alliances with other nations and avoid all wars not related to direct territorial self-defense.
2. Protectionism – There should be legal barriers to control trade and cultural exchange with people in other states.

Generally speaking, America has normally followed rule #1, yet has gone to great lengths to avoid #2.

"America has normally avoided entangling alliances with other nations, and has avoided all wars not related to direct territorial self defense".

Thorne, that's an... interesting take on US history. You might care to check that a bit more thoroughly in the history books of which you are so fond, with particular reference to US relations with Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Germany, France, Algeria, El Salvador, Vietnam, Korea, Russia, China, Colombia, Grenada, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Laos, Cambodia, Italy, Congo, the Philippines, Canada, China, Panama, and Nicaragua.


territorial self defense

Er, Operation Ajax, 1953?

British and US intelligence agents overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government and install the Shah to power. He rules for thirty years and his human rights abuses of Iranians creates the backlash of 1979 that is the Iranian Revolution. Iranian students take American hostages at the embassy and the Ayatollah comes to power.


I'm more excited by the things I hear about taking Obama's flash-mob campaign approach into government. Not the "get your senator to vote this way" stuff, but the "transform the grassroots into the government" stuff.

There are a whole lot of "jobs" that aren't getting done because we can't afford to pay for them. Well, if we didn't pay labor, we might be able to afford to get them done. Land reclamation. Cleanups. Industry regulation. Energy conservation. Give the people the tools, and give them a context to use them in, like say, the internet, and more can be done with less. This would require a radical retooling of both government expectations and public free time. The big media stuff you're talking about, Charlie, is great but it only in my opinion throws good money after bad. Throw some money at real innovation too, why don'tcha, Mr. Obama.



ajay, I am always willing to engage in debate as long as the terms of engagement as well as a clear definition of the terminology is invoked.

>In this case: yes, to a large extent, they are. The subprime mortgage crisis resulted from, among other things, US fraud, US incompetence, and poor US regulation. The Asian debt crisis wasn't so much the US' fault.

And yet the rest of the world marched lockstep right along with us...LOL! Where was the UK putting the pension funds in search of that ever elusive interest return? Iceland, right?

>And, of course, whether or not a global economic problem is the US' fault, it's certainly the US' problem...

ROTFLMAO. And who exactly is going to solve this in the US? The Congress? (No, their solution is to throw more money at the problem) Obama? (Doubtful, as the Congress controls the budget) Perhaps it really is time for the US to simply sit this "problem" and stew in it's own juices for a while. My suggestion to the rest of the world...Put some distance between yourselves
and the US and find a way to stabilize your own economies without any direct US involvement.

With regards to the numerous examples of countries you gave, remember only the American Congress can declare war. I realize in your view, and that of many others, that one can be easily swayed to call these wars. However, I prefer the term "police action" which is more apropro.


"apropro" sounds silly -- like some kind of fruity mixed drink. Maybe "aprop" if you can't spell it out.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 6, 2008 12:48 PM.

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