Subject: STATEMENT OPTIONS -- NO OTHER CANDIDATE HAS BEEN QUOTED YET, ONLY SPOKESPEOPLE
HERE ARE SOME OPTIONS. I don't think kerry should comment, unless asked at a press event?. Not other campaign has issued a statement...
Contact: Stephanie Cutter
STATEMENT OF JOHN KERRY
On Gore Endorsement of Dean
"I respect Al Gore. I worked with him in the Senate, and I endorsed him early in his hard fought campaign for the presidency four years ago. But, this election is about the future, not about the past. I have the experience and the vision to reverse George Bush's radical agenda and putting America back on track on my first day in office. This election will be decided by voters, across the country, beginning with voters in Iowa."
Yeah you should probably remove the internal positioning, "here are some options" talk before sending it out to the press. Haw Haw!
Also, Ben H, the official motto is "A glorious mosaic of public sector unions"
The U.S.'s "unilateral" stance opposing the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse emissions has gotten a little more multilateral. Russia has now passed on the treaty. Andrei Iliaronov made the announcement, which means that this post may well be premature. He's probably the sharpest, most western-thinking figure in the Russian economic team (almost unique among Putin's team, he actually has a good sense of humor), but he has a tendency to announce his own (sensible) opinions as though they are settled policy. Though he espouses broadly "western" views, he is no water-carrier for the Bush administration. I saw him at a conference skewer then-CEA chairman Glenn Hubbard on the U.S. steel tariffs. The Times sees Russia's rejection as a reaction to the less expansive emissions-credit market envisioned by the current treaty. In 1990, the treaty's benchmark year, Russia was still running wildly uneconomical industrial enteprises, which generated a huge amount of greenhouse gas. Without any particular effort, they have cut around 30% from their emissions over the past decade. The Russians would love to monetize this inframarginal windfall by selling emissions credits to the rest of the world. No doubt, this is part of their motivation. But the Times, as usual, misses the elephant in the room. What Russia could ever earn from emissions credits is dwarfed by what it stands to lose on its major export -- oil and gas -- if other countries cut their consumption of fossil fuels. The Times tries to suggest that Russia objects to a mere technical provision of the treaty. I think their opposition arises from a much more fundamental interest, one which no technical chance can possibly address.
The last day of the signature drive to call a referendum to recall Venezuela's autocratic President Hugo Chavez is wrapping up. It appears that the Reafirmazo has succeeded beyond the organizers' expectations. That hasn't stopped Chavez and his minions from resorting to the Big Lie, a favorite chavista tactic. El Comandante hit the streets this afternoon, basking in the adoration of the shoeless rabble that constitutes his dwindling base at a state-sponsored megamarket. This is basically a huge street market where the government sells subsidized staples. And amid this example of brazen bribery, Chavez had the nerve to accuse the opposition of committing a "megafraud." Mind you, the opposition already collected sufficient signatures for a referendum months ago (in the original Firmazo), but the supreme court, reduced to a miserable creature of chavismo, suddenly discovered a punctilious legalism and disqualified the effort because the government had not set out in minute detail the rules for a petition drive. Chavez has done everything he can to prevent the signature drive from succeeding: interfering with the Electoral Tribunal in order to delay the formulation of norms to govern the signature drive, using state resources to bribe voters, threatening retaliation against state employees who might sign, hijacking the state-owned media for anti-recall propaganda, and sending his goons to scare voters away from the signing stations. And yet the Venezuela people dared to defy him. The ball is now in Chavez's court. Will he try to pressure the electorial commission to use pretexts to disqualify masses of signatures? Will he resign to try to force early elections before the opposition can agree on a single standard-bearer? Or will he cross the line and drop the tattered mask of the democrat, revealing in all its squalidness his autocratic nature, thereby risking intevention on the part of the so-far quiescent military? Whatever path he chooses, it seems like his days are numbered.
Of course, the bien-pensant leftists who have been packing into Film Forum and the Angelika to watch the arrant chavista agitprop of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised will screech that they detect the hand of the villaneous George Bush behind his removal, that it is a 21st century repeat of the coup against Allende (another story they've gotten all wrong, but that's for another post). These pierced psychodramatists, so alert to the scent of gringo imperaliasm, fail to note their own stench. THe Reafirmazo is the work of a brave Venezuelan people that has, in the face of tyranny, awakened from 40 years of political torpor to take control of its own destiny. Yet, the caviar left simply can't conceive that these unsophisticated Latinos could actually accomplish anything on their own initiative. Leaving the theater, they repair to their favorite coffee-house and conjure up chimerical American conspiracies that fit better with their monomaniacal anti-Americanism. (What would they say if they knew, as those who follow Venezuela closely do, that Chavez is the one trying to buy off the United States, having approached the U.S. administration with a proposal for PDVSA to help insure U.S. "energy security", the implicit price tag for the U.S. being that it turn a blind eye to stepped-up repression in Venezuela?) Chavez's days as President of Venezuela are numbered. Unfortunately, his days as leftist icon like Allende or Che are probably just beginning.
One could easily spend the afternoon assailing the ignorance behind the story, but in the end one would merely end up rehashing stale arguments from the old D.C. "niggardly" episode. Nonetheless, please indulge me to make one observation. Isn't it the complainer to the "Affirmative Action Commission" who has shown himself up as a racist by making the implicit assumption that "slave" is derogatory to black people? After all, slavery has existed throughout history and people of all races have been relegated to the status of bondsmen. Think of Rome, Greece, or the Ottoman Empire. Why does this complainer immediately assume "slave" has something to do with black people? Are they all just "slaves" in his eyes? In any case, it's not the name that should offend him; it's the relationship. How long will we allow certain electronic components to lord it over others? Underneath it all, are they not all silicon and copper, created equal (in China)?
We spend roughly $4500 for every American, whether they have insurance or not. Switzerland spends maybe $2500 for every citizen. Canada spends maybe $2,000. Great Britain, poor little Great Britain, spends about $1,000 for every British citizen. And what do we get for it? What do we get for that $4500? Well, we certainly don't get our money's worth. We have roughly 43 million people with no insurance whatsoever, and among the rest of us, many of us are underinsured. That is, we have shrinking packages. This might be covered, but that won't be covered.
Our life expectancy is shorter. Our infant mortality is higher. Our childhood immunization rate is lower. And look at how often we get to see the doctor, how long we get to stay in the hospital. Canadians see their doctors far more often than we do.
The data are as Angell describes. The US does spend more per capita, and does not have a higher life expectancy to show for it. (you can some the data, and the discussion by Brian Wetherson that prompted this comment here.)
It’s far less clear, however, that the data support Angell’s conclusion that Americans don’t get their money’s worth. Aggregate figures provide a poor guide to the value of an unequally distributed good. Let’s stipulate that the bottom quartile or ten percent of Americans get really lousy medical care, and that this care is substantially worse than that received by the bottom 10% or 20% in the UK, or Sweden. If so, then even if all the high-cost expenditure bought by the rich provides substantial benefit, the US will still show poor aggregate health figures. Let me construct a quick example:
-------------------$ per capita----------“Health Quotient”
Group A ---------------100---------------------100
Group B ---------------50----------------------75
Group C ----------------0-----------------------0
Under these assumption a nation made up 50% from group A and 50% from group C will have worse results per $ than a nation made up 100% from group B. Putting everyone in group B is more cost-effective – it’s clear as day. But that doesn’t mean group A doesn’t get what they pay for – that depends on the value they place on an extra 25 HQ points.
This is hardly rocket science. But does it in fact explain the comparison between the US and other developed nations? The short answer is: I don’t know. And I can imagine many difficulties with assembling the data. Global measures of health seem immediately unhelpful. I would bet that infant mortality responds very quickly to fairly minor expenditure (pre-natal care is pretty cheap), and then quickly plateaus off. But the cost/result curve will look different for other situations.
What you really would like is a study randomizing people with the same disease into US standard of care vs. UK standard of care. Anecdotage abounds, of course. Our physician advisors have recommended European clinical studies because of the difficulties in finding “sick enough” patients for certain diseases in the US. I’d love to do a global comparison of patients *entering clinical studies* in the US vs. Europe to see if baseline disease looks the same. I’ve been meaning to investigate this subject for my own edification, so perhaps I’ll report back after giving the pharmaco-economic literature a scan.
Will it surprise anyone to learn that what prompted me to muse on this topic? In the unlikely event that a reader of this site has not already seen Matrix Revolutions, let me strongly, strongly caution against doing so. It’s the negative sequel par excellence, not so much revising the earlier movies as contemptuously ignoring them – it could not damage the original more if the action took place entirely inside the Smurf Village. Avoid it.
Actually, the title of negative sequel par excellence must still be granted to Highlander II, wherin it was revealed that the immortal Scotsmen, Spaniards, and Steppes-dwelling barbarians whose backstories were so carefully established in the first movie (and whose battles through history comprised perhaps 50% of the plot) were in fact Space Aliens from the planet Zeist. Hard to top.
Doug, you are in for a treat with The Heritage Foundation and Peace.
Maybe now the Saudi princes will regret their coddling of lunatic violent fundamentalists among their clerical class. It was madness to think their hate could be entirely deflected on to external enemies. The Islamic appetite for blood grows with the eating. Let's make sure the INS remembers the first strategy the princes resorted to when faced with fundamentalist wrath, when the House of Saud finally falls and wave of corpulent polygamists in bedsheets seek refuge in the U.S....
Noam Emerging From His Lair
Do you happen to know if Harvard has finally decided to let Noam E. out of protective custody in Lowell House?
Also, hearing the actual Chomsky interview might be better than reading a transcript. I'd love to hear him speak that last line in the Times interview, "The U.S. is the best country in the world." Was it in the tone of voice Barry Goldwater might have used to call the USSR a workers' paradise?
A somewhat more interesting Noam of Cambridge, Noam Elkies, had his "Brandenburg Concerto #7" premiered this season by the Metamorphosen chamber orchestra, a Harvard-bred Boston-based group. I learned of his upcoming performance because Carl Voss (Ben H knows him at any rate) is also having a piece played by them. The one piece of Carl's that I've heard is great. Ben A, it might be worth checking out.
Sweeping Generality, Vindicated
The "Neos" guide to Vietnam -- Michelin's weak attempt to compete in English against Let's Go, Lonely Planet, etc. -- did make, despite its weakness, one confident pronouncement that turns out to be true. Quoting from memory (having lost the book) I think it said: "The Vietnamese consider not marrying and having children to be a tragedy." The caretaker of our building is a 48-year-old unmarried woman. She does not look very happy. The first thing she will tell you, in fact, is that she is unhappy because she is unmarried. She is nice though and sometimes comes by, even when not cleaning, to commiserate about being stuck in this building all day. Oh well. It's good to have someone to practice Vietnamese with even if most of the words I learn are of the "unlucky fate" variety. (Actually that's unfair; today she taught me the word for "gecko," as a particularly big specimen on my wall now reminds me.) Hopefully my comically stumbling Vietnamese will cheer her up at least a little.
"We Have the Strength to Further Satisfy You"
... is the motto, not of my favorite Hanoi massage parlor, but of Dongguan Qisheng Electronics Industrial Co., Ltd, makers of the DVD player Dao bought for me today. I never thought I'd own a DVD player; in France we didn't even have a TV. Then again in France I didn't face the prospect of long-term confinement to my apartment. I guess I might watch some movies. The real goal, though, is to learn Vietnamese via karaoke. Dao scored some *awesome* Vietnamese karaoke CDs. Irresistibly kitschy. While Vietnam as a whole is modernizing admirably, their pop music is stuck in 1982. Really, every single pop song here sounds like a transcription of a first-term-Reagan top-40 hit. I'm not arguing that their having missed out on subsequent pop music trends is bad -- it's just odd.
And Dao got me something else to pass the time, which I will encode as a cryptic clue:
Washington think-tank: "Peace ... that would be novel" (3, 3, 5)
Also, somebody needs to point out that that Kierkegaard/foreign-policy article's title begins with "Towards," so I will.
Alas, I soon found out. In the case of Kill Bill, the limp trailer under-predicts the dreadfulness of the source material. Things I learned:
1.There’s only so much you can do with foot-severing
2.You how Ovid describes Pyramis’ blood spurting skywards, like the bursting of a water main? It’s better in verse.
3. In five minutes Quentin Tarantino exhibits enough self-indulgence to stock a three volume Norman Mailer autobiography.
Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone on Monday abandoned plans to run for re-election to Japan's parliament and marked the occasion by writing a haiku," the Associated Press reports from Tokyo. The AP reproduces the verse:
With dusk yet to come
Cicada persists in song
While it still has life
Now this is a great idea. Why not haikus for the various Democratic presidential candidates as they drop, one by one, from the race. We'll start with Bob Graham:
Apply scalp medication
Drop out of the race
Who's next? We're guessing Kerry, after New Hampshire. As luck would have it, "served in Vietnam" is five syllables.
I feel the occassions may call for more exapnsive verse. Before I do Kuchinich, I need a good rhyme for "gnome."
And speaking of nurture vs. nature, what do we think: does labor in financial services actively inspire misanthropy, or do the innately heartless self-select? Either way, I hereby innagurate the first annual "Ben H Award for Amusing Atrocity-Inspired Commentary." The winner will receive a dinner of foie gras and veal medallions.
Addendum: So, of course, having glibly counciled massacre, let me add the usual modern, progressive caveats. I know that exposed to the right combination of environmental influences, I too would be one of these monsters. I know this, I do. I just don't care.
Apparently, others do share my preference , and act on it. I imagine that it has been ever thus. Yet even though people have long been able to control their fertility, the jump in those who forego children altogether is more recent. There are of course manifold reasons. I am interested in one important and perhaps underestimated way in which the decision calculus of child-bearing has shifted. In a pre-modern economy, people lack reliable vehicle for long-term savings. "Saving" is merely the act of shifting consumption inter-temporally so that it need not match production exactly. A solution to the absence of savings vehicles is the direct accumulation of the factors of production, labor and capital. A person “saves” labor by bearing a future laborer who will contribute part of his product to his parents. The parents may “save” capital by giving land or a business to the child to run.
For the individual agent, the development of long-term financial savings vehicles opens up a simpler way of providing for consumption after the end of one’s useful working life. The agent entrusts money to the savings vehicle and then withdraws money later on, effectively shifting consuming power from the working years to post-working years. There is no longer any need to provide the individual factors of production.
Most commentators attribute drops in fertility in the developed world to rising income levels. Surely the argument has a certain amount of explanatory power. For example, even in the absence of long-term savings vehicles, parents could reduce their optimal family size if they expect a higher proportion of their children to survive to maturity (as one would expect in a higher-income society). Moreover, children with higher income have a larger surplus over basic living needs to devote to caring for dependent elderly parents. But I think that a separate and perhaps more powerful explanation is financial deepening. Once a person can ensure future consumption by depositing savings in reliable financial vehicles, he or she need not factor this motive into his or decisions with respect to childbearing. Income levels and depth of financial markets are correlated, so it is easy to lose sight of the effect of the latter in the shadow of the former.
Pensions represent the most common form of long-term savings vehicles. Western European public pension systems are much more generous than those in the Unites States (to say nothing of the developing world, where they may be entirely absent). The EU countries likewise face a collapse of fertility that goes well beyond that experienced by the United States.
The unfunded European old-age pension regimes point up the “Kantian problem” of the disincentives to fertility imposed by deep financial systems. Unfunded pension systems are little more than a collectivized version of savings-through-childbearing. Future payments come directly from the future paychecks of today’s children. It’s only that the family link has been broken in favor of one big society-wide pool. Those who do not relish the prospect of diapers, tantrums, sullen adolescence and all the rest can stay childless and later on live off the filial piety of the national family. And if everybody decides to dodge the parent trap, you get… Italy. Dropping population, an insolvent social security system and, one day, a nation of penurious codgers.
The problem is most acute in these systems, but in the limit it afflicts even voluntary, funded systems. Production requires capital and labor. If fertility falls far enough, savers will be in trouble. Capital-labor ratios can’t increase fast enough to keep up. All the stock you own, representing the capital stock that you were hoping would produce your consumption needs later on won’t do you much good if there is absolutely no one to man the companies. For an example of the force of demographic headwinds, look at what’s happened to high-saving, low-breeding Japan. The decision to happily shirk the diaper-changing is not universalizable. (Question: does that mean also that it is also unethical?)
The United States, while still more fecund than Old Europe, faces a fertility rate below replacement ratio. We have managed to plug the gap through immigration. Many of my contemporaries here in New York only go ahead with having children because they know they can fob off the most unpleasant parts of child-rearing to nannies or other para-parental staff. Most of these, it so happens, are immigrants paid a comparatively low wage (in the context of U.S. wage levels). The reliance on immigrants to fill out the a population thinned by growing childlessness in a sense cuts out the para-parental middlewomen. We leave the unpleasant business of childbirth and childrearing to poor foreigners. The children, once full-grown, come here to work. Let’s face it: child-rearing is a low-tech, low-productivity activity, like the manufacture of footwear or textiles. Neither of those industries represents a profitable use of American factors of production. Sure, there are Americans who like to weave or make shoes as some kind of hobby, and more power to them. But we don’t depend on the hobbyists for our shoes and fabrics. We leave that to the Chinese or Salvadorans or whoever. Why not baby-making, too?
(Now, Doug, it’s up to you to figure out whether I am ¼, ½, or fully serious!)
[[The stat comes from a lecture on "arthritis and obesity" at the American College of Rheumatolgy, and has the ring of poorly sourced Harper's Index factoid. But a doctor said it, so it must be true]]
Many Christians (at least, one assumes) decorate their cars with a little fish logo. Although a more harmless or tasteful expression of religious faith can hardly be imagined, the car fish has generated ironic tribute – now one sees car fish that say ‘gefilte,’ and little footed fish that say ‘Darwin.’
This last presents a bit of a puzzle. Christianity, a life-encompassing belief system, provides moral, spiritual, and practical guidance. Darwinism, a highly substantiated scientific theory, yields many verifiable hypotheses about speciation. Pretty neat, I admit, but not the usual material of public proclamation. One doubts even the most enthusiastic evolutionary biologist turns to Darwin during the dark night of the soul. So what gives?
Sociology first. All will recognize the great delight that stems from constructing a permanent foil. This person or more usually, scarecrow, serves as a punching bag, the butt of all jokes, the loser of every argument. As Homer says: ‘Ah the Luftwaffe, the Washington Generals of the History Channel.’ In certain communities, Christians play this role. Take a look at the portrayal of Frank Burns in the original M*A*S*H movie, if you want a classic treatment. In this context, the Darwin fish is a pretty ingenious in-group marker. Not quite on par with “Jesus saves, Esposito scores on the rebound,” but good nonetheless.
It is possible, however, that the Darwin fish does represent a proclamation of faith. And that, contrary to the jibe above, some men confronted with existential angst seek solace in the predictive powers of natural science. To put it kindly, this is not a promising strategy. If you want a hobby, it’s not enough to hate stamp collecting.