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Declining Middle Class Wages and Productivity

by coldwarrior ( 37 Comments › )
Filed under Academia, Economy, Open thread, Regulation, taxation at July 6th, 2015 - 6:00 am

Good Monday Morning. The High Priests of the Dismal Science have attempted to answer a nagging a question that I have had. Why are Middle Class wages wages stagnant or receding since 1995? They get a good portion of the equation that I had not thought of…Productivity. They do miss the gorilla in the room…ever increasing government regulations that stifle innovation and gains in productivity.

Have a read and chew on it for a while.

Whatever Happened To Those Middle Class Income Gains?

By Isabel Sawhill

This year’s Economic Report of the President has an interesting analysis of the sources of the slowdown in income gains among the middle class. Given all the attention given to the issue of growing inequality, especially between those at the top and the other 90 percent you might think that was the major economic problem facing the nation. But no, it turns out that the biggest source of the slowdown is the poor performance of productivity since 1995 compared to the earlier postwar period.

The question the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) asks is what if productivity growth from 1973 to 2013 had continued at the rate of the previous 25 years from 1948-1973? The answer is that the typical household would have had an additional $30,000 in income. (CEA report, p. 33)

The CEA goes on to ask parallel “what if” questions about income inequality and female labor force participation. How much better off would the typical middle class household be if income gains had been broadly shared after 1973 and female labor force participation had not levelled off after 1995? These changes produce smaller effects on middle class incomes of $9,000 and $3,000 respectively. However, all three factors combined can explain a whopping $50,000 in income foregone by our typical family. In other words, these families would have almost twice as much income if it hadn’t been for the decline in productivity growth, the rise in income inequality, and the levelling off of female participation rates.

The very large role of slower productivity growth is surprising. After all, we have seen an explosion in technology fed by the increasing power of computers. Smart phones, driverless cars, computer-assisted design and manufacturing, robots, drones, and the innovations they have made possible should have boosted productivity smartly. But as Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Solow once quipped, ” You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” So what’s going on here?

According to the CEA, starting in 1973, labor productivity growth slowed dramatically to only 1.4 percent annually from its earlier pace of 2.8 percent from 1948-1973. (It has recovered somewhat over the last two decades but has not matched its earlier high levels.) They cite the exhaustion of pent-up innovations from World War II, reduced public investment, dislocations associated with a new international monetary system, and the oil shocks of the 1970s.

Other experts might add other factors to the list. Economist Robert Gordon believes that the technological breakthroughs of the late twentieth century cannot match earlier innovations such as those represented by electricity, cars, the telephone, and radio. It’s also possible that we have not yet seen the full effects of the computer revolution. My colleague, Barry Bosworth, has shown that a lot of productivity gains are occurring in the service sector and that it isn’t just capital deepening that is producing these gains. It is everything from better management to human capital investment and organizational innovation – all the things we cannot measure very well but which show up in the data as an unexplained residual.

In the meantime, the new technologies are contributing to growing income inequality. Because these technologies are replacing unskilled and even some medium-skilled jobs, we are left with the worst of both worlds – disappointing increases in productivity and declining opportunities for those without the education and skills to benefit from the new technologies.

The solution cannot be to slow down the pace of technology. It must be to encourage innovation, retrain workers, invest in the next generation, and help those dislocated by the changes. Yet we are not investing in research, in education, and in infrastructure in the same way we did in earlier decades. Taxes need to be reformed to provide greater simplicity, fairness, and growth. Policies such as paid leave, child care, and more flexible work places would encourage more second earners to join the labor force. Most innovation, to be sure, occurs in the private sector, but it has little incentive to invest as long as overall demand is constrained by policies that fail to mitigate financial instability or that are focused on short-term spending cuts in public investments combined with a longer-term explosion of consumption-oriented spending on the big entitlement programs. Until elected officials act to recreate these underpinnings of growth, any permanent improvements in middle class incomes are unlikely to be realized.

Isabel Sawhill is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution.  She co-directs the Budgeting for National Priorities Project as well as the Center on Children and Families.

The Latest on Greece.

by coldwarrior ( 202 Comments › )
Filed under Economy, Europe, Open thread at July 5th, 2015 - 6:00 am

Today is the big day in Greece. This article sums it up perfectly, do have a read and enjoy the show.

 

Whether Greece votes yes or no, the euro cannot survive in its current form

Best case scenario? The EU will undergo years of painful convulsions, precipitating a new treaty that imposes greater centralisation and restrictions on the fiscal independence of nation states

Whether Greece votes to back or reject austerity on Sunday, the euro in its current form is dead, and rightly so. The defective structures that underpin it have been shattered by the Greek nightmare, and trust within Europe is at a low ebb. Even a yes vote would not undo the damage, and a no vote would lead to an almost immediate Greek departure from the euro.

Germany’s best-selling newspaper, Bild, is a great barometer of opinion in the eurozone’s dominant power: it is staging its own, fake “referendum” among its readers, asking them whether they want to continue bailing out Greece or whether they should cut them off. There are no prizes for guessing which way the paper’s furious readership is inclined.

Meanwhile, in Athens, the levels of hatred towards the Euro-establishment from supporters of the “No” side are remarkable; it is hard to see how any meaningful negotiations will ever be possible if Syriza remains in power. For all of those deluded Europhiles who believed that enforcing an artificial, imperfect currency on 19 different, divergent nations was a good idea that would help bring about peace, friendship and prosperity, the events of the past few weeks have surely been devastating.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras

The Eurosceptics were right; the problem now is that in the best case scenario the region will undergo years of painful convulsions, precipitating a new treaty that imposes greater centralisation and restrictions on the fiscal independence of nation states. Such a move would outrage Eurosceptics, needless to say, and could lead to a collapse of the whole project if it is rejected by voters, but it is the only hope for the single currency’s long-term survival. Reopening treaties properly would create a major opportunity for the UK, albeit one that may come too late for David Cameron’s renegotiation.

So what are the options after the Greek vote? If they vote No, it’s game over for Greece’s membership of the single currency. The country’s banks don’t have enough money to last for much longer, and there is little reason why the European Central Bank would wish to extend them billions more if it is snubbed by voters. Either the banks would have to stay shut, which means that the country will run out of food and essentials as it becomes impossible to pay for imports, or depositors would have to be bailed in, wiping out a large chunk of their wealth but recapitalising financial institutions.

The only other alternative would be for the Greek state to introduce IOUs and then a new physical currency, while re-denominating all Greek bank accounts into drachmas. The national debt, which is owed in euros, would explicitly be repudiated, triggering a major crisis and inflicting vast losses on the European Central Bank, IMF and other creditors. The new drachmas would, of course, plummet in value, and it would be hard to avoid widespread chaos and hyperinflation if the government is forced to crank up the printing presses to pay for its bills.

Long-term, however, a Grexit accompanied by a sound new currency could help transform the economy – but that would require a sensible, credible economic policy, rather than more of the same left-wing rabble-rousing.

If, on the other hand, Greece votes yes, the government will collapse and new elections called. The Europeans would pump money into the Greek banking system, allowing branches to reopen. But sensible Greeks would continue their run on the banks, draining the economy.

Worse, Greece would be unlikely to get the comprehensive debt write-off it needs, and bailout negotiations would drag on, with the country eventually plunging into another crisis. The Greeks may even elect another hard-left government, guaranteeing another showdown.

Sunday’s vote may be too close to call, but we already know that there will be no winners from the referendum, only losers.

allister.heath@telegraph.co.uk

 

Is This The End for Greece? What of the EU?

by coldwarrior ( 244 Comments › )
Filed under Bailouts, Economy, Europe, Open thread, Politics at June 22nd, 2015 - 7:00 am

Last days of Pompeii, indeed! Monday morning means decision day in EUland over the Greek crisis. If Greece defaults, they are out of the Euro and the erstwhile “Ever Closer Union” will begin to unravel Interestingly, back in 2000 this was the topic of my Master’s Thesis in Econ which stated that a common currency and common central bank is inappropriate, ineffective, counter-productive and will fail where disparate and divergent  monetary policies are needed for the pursuit of national interest and where there is divergent economic behaviors and realities that make a single interest rate appropriate. The EU is not and will never be a United States of Europe regardless of what the bureaucrats in Brussels want everyone to believe. And now there is a study that proves it, wonder if i got cited in the notes or not? 😉

Keep your eye on the news, this could have an effect even here in America.

 

‘Last Days of Pompeii’ in Greece as crunch time approaches

The restaurants of Athens are full and no-one is panic-buying, but Greeks cannot be sure if their banks will last the week

Greeks do not know for certain if their banks will stay open next week, nor even whether euros or drachmas will emerge from cash machines beyond this month.

But in the graffiti-stained streets of Athens, alongside the shuttered windows of countless abandoned shops, the bars and restaurants are full of people trying to forget their troubles.

“You do get the sense that it’s like the last days of Pompeii,” said Marie-Therese Iatrou, a 49-year-old Athenian. “It’s like ‘sod it, I’m going to go out and have a drink with my friends’. Someone said they haven’t paid for their electricity or their rent, but they’re going to go out.”

As Greece moves inexorably towards the peak of its national crisis, the atmosphere in Athens says much about the ordeal of the country’s people. There are no visible signs of panic – at least not so far. No queues have formed outside banks; no crowds are panic-buying from supermarkets.

Instead, ordinary Greeks are overcome by weariness and fatalism. “There’s a level of fatigue and cynicism because this has been going on for five years now,” said Ms Iatrou. “We’re reaching the stage of resignation: that whatever is going to happen – let it happen.”


A man walks past graffiti reading “Free Greece from the European prison” written on the wall of an abandoned house in Athens

And what could happen in the coming days is the macroeconomic version of an avalanche. The worst-case scenario would begin with a run on the banks, forcing the government to impose capital controls and restrict all withdrawals.

The first boulders of this particular landslide may already have tumbled down the mountainside. Last Friday alone, Greeks withdrew €1.5 billion (£1.1 billion) from their accounts, bringing the total spirited out of the banking system last week to €5 billion (£3.6 billion).

The European Central Bank has responded with an emergency injection of €1.75 billion (£1.2 billion), which should ensure that Greek banks open their doors on Monday. What happens from Tuesday onwards is anyone’s guess.

The next stage of the avalanche would be a failure to repay €1.5 billion (£1.1 billion) to the International Monetary Fund by the due date of 30 June. If that happens, events could then unfold with inexorable power. A formal default could make Greece’s membership of the euro – and perhaps even of the European Union – impossible to sustain.

So it is that ordinary people must endure a profound sense of uncertainty. “It’s like living with lead in your stomach,” said Ms Iatrou. “You can’t plan ahead: you can’t be secure in the knowledge that you will get your pension. We simply don’t know what’s going to happen next week or next month.”

By chance, the eye of the storm in Greece happens to coincide with the beginning of the holiday season. This summer, about one million Britons are expected to visit a country where nothing is predictable from one week to the next.


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Visitors to the Greek islands this year might conceivably begin their holidays with euros in their wallets and go home with drachmas. In between might come a tumultuous period when capital controls lead the cash machines to run dry – and the government suspends all movement in and out of the country.

Travel agents have sought to play down any concerns and reassure British holidaymakers. A spokesman for Thomas Cook said that all contingency plans were in place, adding: “We’re prepared for any scenario.”

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said there was no need for anyone presently heading for Greece to rebook for another destination. “Any switch to a new currency would take time and Euros would likely be accepted in the interim,” said a statement from ABTA. “This is an unusual situation – but the industry is experienced in handling unusual situations.”

The one piece of advice is that travellers should take enough cash in euros to last for their entire holiday – just in case the banks collapse halfway through a summer break.

Meanwhile, frantic efforts are underway to secure a deal between Greece and its creditors before the IMF payment falls due in 10 days’ time. The aim of the talks is to release enough of the €7.2 billion (£5.1 billion) in Greece’s existing bailout fund to allow the country to avoid a default.


A woman walks past a graffiti called ‘Death of Euro’ by French street artist Goin in central Athens (AFP)

But the “troika” of creditors – consisting of the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank – want Greece to agree to raise tax revenues and cut spending before any of this money can be disbursed.

So far, these demands have collided with the obduracy of Greece’s hard-left government, which has promised to avoid any further austerity measures. Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has doggedly resisted the troika – while carefully holding open the possibility of a deal.

Leaders of the countries in the Eurozone will gather for an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday. A senior ally of Mr Tsipras raised hopes for these talks by sending a conciliatory signal on Saturday.

Alekos Flabouraris, the Greek Minister of State, said that his government would present a revised plan to its creditors. “We will try to supplement our proposal so that we get closer to a solution,” he told Greek television. “We are not going there with the old proposal. Some work is being done to see where we can converge, so that we achieve a mutually beneficial solution.”

Mr Flabouraris added: “I am among those who believe that we are heading towards a solution.”

If no agreement is reached and a metaphorical avalanche sweeps away Greece’s membership of the euro, then Britain could find itself paying some of the bill. In one of his first acts as Prime Minister, David Cameron persuaded the EU to exempt Britain from funding bailout programmes for Eurozone countries.

However, this provision does not protect Britain from supporting an EU “balance of payments” assistance scheme running into billions of euros. If Greece falls out of the euro and needs help to pay for essential imports, then Athens could apply for money under this scheme. If so, Greece would receive loans backed by the EU budget – to which Britain is a big contributor.

Under this scenario, Britain would be unable to block support for Greece because the decision would be taken by a qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers. In the past, the “balance of payments” support scheme has released billions of euros to help various EU members, including Latvia and Romania.

As the clock ticks down to the moment when Mr Tsipras must either accept a deal or risk an economic landslide, he is doing his best to maximise his options. The prime minister was still in Russia on Saturday after a long meeting with President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on Friday.


Alexis Tsipras speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin at an economic forum in St Petersburg (AP)

Mr Tsipras has agreed to allow Russia to build a pipeline that will carry natural gas to Greece. The Kremlin has denied any intention of providing Greece with the general financial support that would might save the country in its hour of trial. Russia has economic troubles of its own, raising questions over whether Moscow has the money to rescue Greece even if Mr Putin wanted to do so.

But the very fact that Mr Tsipras has dealt directly with Mr Putin is designed as a warning to the rest of the EU. If they spurn Greece, then the prime minister is signalling that his country might switch its loyalties away from the Western alliance and into the embrace of Russia.

These concerns clearly weigh on Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. Last week, she declared that a deal with Greece was still possible, adding: “Where there is a will, there’s a way.”

Mr Tsipras himself has repeated his insistence that an agreement will happen. “All those who are betting on crisis and terror scenarios will be proven wrong,” said a statement from his office during his visit to Russia. “There will be a solution based on respecting EU rules and democracy which would allow Greece to return to growth in the euro.”

If a deal is not struck by the Eurozone governments, then the next – and, almost certainly, final – chance will come at a summit of all EU leaders starting on Thursday. That could be the moment when Europe’s leaders will have to decide whether to open their chequebooks or cast Greece into the cold.

 

Mars Attacks: The Department of Education Must Go

by Mars ( 146 Comments › )
Filed under Academia, Barack Obama, Blogmocracy, Climate, Communism, Democratic Party, Education, Environmentalism, Fascism, Free Speech, Global Warming Hoax, government, Guest Post, Liberal Fascism, Marxism, Political Correctness, Progressives, Regulation, Science, Socialism, Technology at June 16th, 2015 - 7:00 am

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/06/09/the-government-is-helping-fund-a-minecraft-style-game-for-teaching-kids-about-the-environment/

The government is helping fund a Minecraft-style game for teaching kids about the environment

Minecraft is a cultural phenomenon. The block-based exploration and crafting game was snapped up by Microsoft for $2.5 billion last year and has helped inspire competitors from giant toy companies like Lego.

Even the government is interested in building on Minecraft’s success: The Department of Education is helping fund a project known as “Eco” that looks a lot like Minecraft, except with a few added twists: There’s a looming ecological disaster and players must band together to make a community — agreeing on laws and living in harmony with the environment.

If they fail, the world dies forever. Strange Loop Games, the company behind the game, describes it a “global survival game” and says failure results in “server-wide perma death.”

Eco is designed to help teach middle school students about environmental science and was awarded a nearly $900,000 grant from the Department of Education last month. It has completed a test phase where 60 students in five classes tried it out, according to the grant contract. The prototype for that test run also received a DOE grant of around $150,000.

Here’s what the game prototype looks like in action:

The latest grant will help build out new features, including a teacher dashboard, and let researchers figure out how effective the game is by collecting data on 150 students in 10 classrooms. Half of the classes will use the normal environmental teaching plan, while the other half will supplement the curriculum with Eco — letting the developers see if the game actually helps boost students’ understanding of ecology.

Minecraft itself is already used by some educators for things like building replicas of ancient Roman apartment buildings and teaching problem-solving.

Understand, Minecraft is a phenomena amongst the younger crowd. It is a huge sprawling creative sandbox that allows the children to experiment with construction and even computer design and programming. This atrocity is something else entirely. It is also designed for programming, programming children to become Eco-nuts. It is developed using a gameplay that the kids are familiar with and enjoy, but adds in all of the Eco nonsense that you could ever hope a future generation of children would need to become good little “citizens of the world”.

Minecraft meets ecology simulation in an open-world educational game

By Charlie Hall on Jun 09, 2015 at 3:30p @Charlie_L_Hall
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Veteran studio Strange Loop Games is embarking on an ambitious project to create a new kind of open world multiplayer game where the survival of every player on the server depends on careful management of in-game resources. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Eco hopes to become a platform for teaching middle school students about ecology in a communal, cloud-based game world.

Strange Loop calls their project a “global survival game.” In Eco’s fiction there is an impending disaster looming over humanity — an event like a meteor strike, a drought or a flood. The clock is ticking, and players must work together to prevent the onrushing apocalypse or risk “server-wide perma death.”

The tools at players disposal are familiar to anyone who’s played Minecraft. Eco’s world is a lush paradise, modeled after the Pacific Northwest, filled with plants and animals. But unlike Minecraft, real ecological forces are at play in the background.

“Resources are finite,” states the game’s website. “Chop down every tree and fail to plant more? They won’t be growing back. Hunt every elk for food? They’re now extinct. Pollute a section of land with mining runoffs? Your crops are poisoned. This ecosystem is your only lifeline in a race against time.

“You’re facing two existential crises simultaneously: an external threat that you must avert, and the threat of causing your own destruction. A rock and a hard place.”

But the game doesn’t want to be preachy, it just wants to attempt to simulate the real forces at play on our planet, give players a sense of ownership and empower them with the tools the make change.

“In Eco the goal isn’t to save the environment,” said studio head John Krajewski earlier this year in the YouTube video above. “The goal is to build. The goal is to create a civilization.”

In the background the game is constantly keeping track of real complex data, which allows players to see the changes being felt by in-game populations in near real time. While players on the server will be given free choice, the entire community will also have the opportunity to vote on laws that will change how they’re allowed to interact with the environment.

“Every law in Eco needs to be backed up with scientific documentation,” said Krajewski, “that’s based on the actual data that’s coming from the game.”

The game will run on a server in the cloud, which will allow players to access the game from anywhere — including at home or in the classroom. Teachers will be given a toolset to allow them to tailor individual worlds to meet their educational needs, effectively letting them create specific scenarios and influence the game world in real time.

“The classroom time is the chance to have the council meeting. … That’s where we see the role of the teacher is very important.”

The promise of the game has even captured the interest of the U.S. Department of Education, which has given Strange Loop Games a two year, $900,000 grant to develop the game. There is also a Kickstarter expected later this year.

“Eco is possibly the first video game where your character can actually save the world,” says the website, “because the alternative is for once possible.”
http://www.polygon.com/2015/6/9/8752973/eco-minecraft-ecology-simulation-strange-loop-games

The overarching themes of “save the world” is worrying enough, it’s when you get into what the game is designed for is when things get really terrifying. They have actually set it up where you “design laws” for your enviro friendly civilization.

This is blatant programming of children, you take something kids are already enjoying, you change it around to fit an agenda and then you force feed the kids the final result in the school system. If a company tried something this blatant they would be shut down and the heads would probably be thrown in jail. Your federal government at work. Changing hearts and minds, by mandate.

Mars Attacks: Tell a Big Enough Lie: The U.S. Obesity “Epidemic”

by Mars ( 148 Comments › )
Filed under American Exceptionalism, Barack Obama, Blogmocracy, Communism, Cult of Obama, Democratic Party, Education, Environmentalism, Fascism, Food and Drink, Free Speech, Guest Post, Health Care, Healthcare, Marxism, Media, Political Correctness, Progressives, Regulation at May 18th, 2015 - 8:44 am

You’ve all heard it again and again on the news. The United States is number one in obesity worldwide. Or is it number two, with Mexico now taking the top spot? Would you believe it’s none of the above? The United States is number 18. Not a great number but not worth the outrage and panic the left puts forward. This may surprise everyone with the constant hammering by the Left and the Media about America being the fattest country on earth. This is interesting in the face of these facts. This report was released this month, but I have seen this information as far back as three years ago. Yes, they continued to lie to us even with their own WHO and the CIA Factbook both contradicting their narrative and containing the real data for the entire time that they have promoted the lie.

Why would they do this? Actually it’s pretty obvious in the face of Universal Healthcare, Moochelle Obama, and the school lunch program “reworking”. The left is determined to save your life no matter what you want. It is once again about control. As long as the myth is out there, it gives them reasons to limit what you are allowed to eat. They can place limits on what can be sold, they can place limits on what you buy and eat, they can tell your children they are not allowed to bring lunches from home and must eat their Moochelle mandated Kale and Quinoa salad. They are getting more arrogant about their lies lately, even with the true facts out there in print, they will still throw the lie forward again and again, knowing that the press will follow like obedient lapdogs.

Try finding the true statistics on Obesity online. I’ve been trying to find the reports that I originally found, and the search engines are flooded with nothing but the lie. I was lucky this story came around recently otherwise I wouldn’t have had anything to post. Especially since the WHO reports (yes, there are several going back years) and the CIA Factbook report were behind paywalls. I have no doubts there will be thousands of articles about American Obesity posted in the next few weeks in order to bury this CNN report back to where it won’t be seen.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/01/health/pacific-islands-obesity/

How paradise became the fattest place in the world

By Meera Senthilingam, for CNN

Updated 5:44 AM ET, Fri May 1, 2015

“Vital Signs is a monthly program bringing viewers health stories from around the world”

(CNN)They’re remote and beautiful. A place many long to escape to for sun, sea and serenity. But the Pacific islands have another reality for the residents living there — a life based on imported food, little exercise and remote access to healthcare.

The result? The most obese nations in the world.

‘A deadly epidemic’

“One third of the world is either overweight or obese right now,” says Emmanuela Gakidou, professor of Global Health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Gakidou’s recent paper used data from countries across the world to identify the global burden of obesity and trends seen in different populations. “The Pacific islands have a lot of countries with very high levels of obesity,” she adds.

Among the top 10 most obese countries or territories globally, nine are Pacific islands, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), making this paradise the fattest region of the world.

“Up to 95% of the adult population are overweight or obese in some countries,” says Temo Waqanivalu, program officer with the WHO’s Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases department. As a Fijian Native, Waqanivalu has worked on the issue for over a decade and seen the epidemic evolve first-hand, aided by the cultural acceptance of bigger bodies as beautiful. “In Polynesia the perception of ‘big is beautiful’ does exist,” he says. “[But] big is beautiful, fat is not. That needs to get through.”

Percentages for obesity range from 35% to 50% throughout the islands, according to the WHO. The Cook Islands top the ranks with just over 50% of its population classified as obese.

“It’s a deadly epidemic,” says Waqanivalu.

Measuring up

Obesity is measured through an individual’s body mass index (BMI) and a measurement above 30kg/m² is defined as clinically obese.

Pacific islanders tend to have a naturally big build, says Jonathan Shaw, associate director of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Australia. “With Pacific islanders, their frame is typically bigger,” he explains, “but that still doesn’t account for the obesity we see.”

Poor diets and reduced exercise have become a major public health concern for the region as they are not only a cause of obesity — associated diseases are also rife, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, the latter of which has a known genetic basis among locals.

“This is a population with a genetic predisposition and when exposed to Western lifestyles results in high rates of diabetes,” says Shaw. “[This is] undoubtedly caused by high rates of obesity.”

The epidemic began through the tropical region turning its back on traditional diets of fresh fish and vegetables and replacing them with highly processed and energy-dense food such as white rice, flour, canned foods, processed meats and soft drinks imported from other countries. One of the root causes of the change is the price tag.

“All over the world, poor quality and highly energy-dense food is the cheapest,” says Shaw. As demand for healthier alternatives remain low, their market is small.

This is exemplified by fishermen often selling the fish they catch to in turn purchase canned tuna. “[You] can buy a few meals with what you get selling fish,” says Waqanivalu.

The new food environment locals find themselves living in has accelerated the trend towards consuming processed food. “It’s significantly cheaper,” adds Waqanivalu. “It’s cheaper to buy a bottle of coke than a bottle of water.”

As with other regions of the world, increased urbanization and sedentary office cultures have further aided the rise in obesity among Pacific islanders.

“A lot of physical activity was in the domain of work,” says Waqanivalu, referring to fisherman heading out to sea and others working their land on plantations. “The concept of leisure-time activity is new,” he says.

The tropical climate desired by sun seekers is less attractive to those needing to keep fit. “In tropical countries there is a desire to avoid physical work and even walk,” says Shaw. “We’re all driven to conserve energy.”

All in the genes?

Some scientists believe that Pacific island populations have evolved to maintain their larger build — a concept known as the “Thrifty Gene” hypothesis. For this region of the world, the concept is based on the fact Pacific islanders once endured long journeys at sea and those who fared best stored enough energy in the form of fat to survive their journey.

“We have the remnants of those people … and their metabolism as well,” says Waqanivalu. The increased risk of obesity among native Pacific islanders is shown on the islands of Fiji, where the population has a more mixed ethnicity. The country stands at the lower end of the region’s spectrum with 36.4% of the adult population classed as obese. Just more than half of the Fijian population are native iTaukei, with the remainder mostly of Indian origin, according to the CIA World Factbook. “That explains the lower rates,” says Waqanivalu.

The naturally higher BMI of the people in the region has, however, prompted calls to increase the cut-off for the level of BMI denoting obesity in the Pacific region from 30 to 32 kg/m². A lower cut-off has been suggested for Asian populations based on the same premise, as Asian countries — including Korea, Myanmar and Cambodia — make up the majority of the lowest 10 countries globally in terms of obesity..

Childhood consequences

After the global trends in obesity seen in her study, Gakidou’s real concern is the rates her team saw in children in the Pacific. “The rate for children is high … about one in five children [are obese],” she says. “This has repercussions in the long term.”

Repercussions include diabetes, which is already a burden on health services in the region. “The concern in children would be early onset of diabetes,” says Gakidou.

The WHO has made a series of recommendations to improve the situation and is implementing them through policy changes in the countries. “Type II diabetes is emerging in young children 10-11 years old,” says Waqanivalu, who has also heard reports of a child as young as seven years old being affected. “[It’s the] tip of the iceberg in children.”

But Waqanilu is confident his department is making some progress through recommendations such as increased taxation on soft drinks, improving trade in the region, controlled marketing of products targeting children through schools, and policies to promote healthier diets and exercise.

“The whole food environment needs to be changed,” he says. This has been the ambition of the Healthy Islands Vision — initiated by the ministers of health for the Pacific island countries in 1995 — which aims to combat obesity and diabetes among its health priorities.

Health systems also need strengthening to better handle the consequences of obesity. “We have definitely made steps but need to make strides for this to be sorted in our time,” says Waqanivalu.

Is there an obesity epidemic in the US? Yes, definitely. Does it help to lie about the statistics? No, not unless you have an agenda to promote.

Currency Wars

by coldwarrior ( 252 Comments › )
Filed under Academia, Economy, Open thread at May 5th, 2015 - 8:13 am

Dr Doom’, Professor Roubini, explains the latest in the Central Bank Wars, this time it’s about currency:

 

The Dollar Joins the Currency Wars

 

NEW YORK – In a world of weak domestic demand in many advanced economies and emerging markets, policymakers have been tempted to boost economic growth and employment by going for export led-growth. This requires a weak currency and conventional and unconventional monetary policies to bring about the required depreciation.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 20 central banks around the world have eased monetary policy, following the lead of the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan. In the eurozone, countries on the periphery needed currency weakness to reduce their external deficits and jump-start growth. But the euro weakness triggered by quantitative easing has further boosted Germany’s current-account surplus, which was already‎ a whopping 8% of GDP last year. With external surpluses also rising in other countries of the eurozone core, the monetary union’s overall imbalance is large and growing.

In Japan, quantitative easing was the first “arrow” of “Abenomics,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reform program. Its launch has sharply weakened the yen and is now leading to rising trade surpluses.

The upward pressure on the US dollar from the embrace of quantitative easing by the ECB and the BOJ has been sharp. The dollar has also strengthened against the currencies of advanced-country commodity exporters, like Australia and Canada, and those of many emerging markets. For these countries, falling oil and commodity prices have triggered currency depreciations that are helping to shield growth and jobs from the effects of lower exports.

The dollar has also risen relative to currencies of emerging markets with economic and financial fragilities: twin fiscal and current-account deficits, rising inflation and slowing growth, large stocks of domestic and foreign debt, and political instability. Even China briefly allowed its currency to weaken against the dollar last year, and slowing output growth may tempt the government to let the renminbi weaken even more. Meanwhile, the trade surplus is rising again, in part because China is dumping its excess supply of goods – such as steel – in global markets.

Until recently, US policymakers were not overly concerned about the dollar’s strength, because America’s growth prospects were stronger than in Europe and Japan. Indeed, at the beginning of the year, there was hope that US domestic demand would be strong enough this year to support GDP growth of close to 3%, despite the stronger dollar. Lower oil prices and job creation, it was thought, would boost disposable income and consumption. Capital spending (outside the energy sector) and residential investment would strengthen as growth accelerated.

But things look different today, and US officials’ exchange-rate jitters are becoming increasingly pronounced. The dollar appreciated much faster than anyone expected; and, as data for the first quarter of 2015 suggest, the impact on net exports, inflation, and growth has been larger and more rapid than that implied by policymakers’ statistical models. Moreover, strong domestic demand has failed to materialize; consumption growth was weak in the first quarter, and capital spending and residential investment were even weaker.

As a result, the US has effectively joined the “currency war” to prevent further dollar appreciation. Fed officials have started to speak explicitly about the dollar as a factor that affects net exports, inflation, and growth.‎ And the US authorities have become increasingly critical of Germany and the eurozone for adopting policies that weaken the euro while avoiding those – for example, temporary fiscal stimulus and faster wage growth – that boost domestic demand.

Moreover, verbal intervention will be followed by policy action, because slower growth and low inflation – partly triggered by a strong dollar – will induce the Fed to exit zero policy rates later and more slowly than expected. That will reverse some of the dollar’s recent gains and shield growth and inflation from downside risks.

Currency frictions can lead eventually to trade frictions, and currency wars can lead to trade wars. And that could spell trouble for the US as it tries to conclude the mega-regional Trans-Pacific Partnership. Uncertainty about whether the Obama administration can marshal enough votes in Congress to ratify the TPP has now been compounded by proposed legislation that would impose tariff duties on countries that engage in “currency manipulation.” If such a link between trade and currency policy were forced into the TPP, the Asian participants would refuse to join.

The world would be better off if most governments pursued policies that boosted growth through domestic demand, rather than beggar-thy-neighbor export measures. But that would require them to rely less on monetary policy and more on appropriate fiscal policies (such as higher spending on productive infrastructure). Even income policies that lift wages, and hence labor income and consumption, are a better source of domestic growth than currency depreciations (which depress real wages).

The sum of all trade balances in the world is equal to zero, which means that not all countries can be net exporters – and that currency wars end up being zero-sum games. That is why America’s entry into the fray was only a matter of time.

Saturday Lecture: Warp Drive, Scotty!

by coldwarrior ( 13 Comments › )
Filed under Academia, Open thread, Space Exploration, Transportation at May 2nd, 2015 - 8:27 am

Good morning all and welcome to The Blogmocracy Physics Lab and Mushroom Farm. Our boys at NASA are actually working at something to get us off of this rock and on to our destiny in the stars. As you know, our remaining days here is numbered. We are in a terminal position and will die here. So we MUST leave this rock if we are to survive. What they are working on shouldn’t work. It violates the Law of Conservation of Momentum.

Granted, these are small steps. but man took small; steps to leave Africa, then to populate Europe and Asia, then to cross the Land Bridge into the Americas. Sailors and explorers have taken the small steps to colonize new lands and discover what was unknown. We have no choice, we are wired that way.

Evaluating NASA’s Futuristic EM Drive
April 29, 2015 by José Rodal, Ph.D, Jeremiah Mullikin and Noel Munson – subedited by Chris Gebhardt
no alt

A group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center has successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum – a major breakthrough for a multi-year international effort comprising several competing research teams. Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics’ expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum.

EM Drive:

Last summer, NASA Eagleworks – an advanced propulsion research group led by Dr. Harold “Sonny” White at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) – made waves throughout the scientific and technical communities when the group presented their test results on July 28-30, 2014, at the 50th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio.

Those results related to experimental testing of an EM Drive – a concept that originated around 2001 when a small UK company, Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd (SPR), under Roger J. Shawyer, started a Research and Development (R&D) program.

The concept of an EM Drive as put forth by SPR was that electromagnetic microwave cavities might provide for the direct conversion of electrical energy to thrust without the need to expel any propellant.

2015-04-19-005958This lack of expulsion of propellant from the drive was met with initial skepticism within the scientific community because this lack of propellant expulsion would leave nothing to balance the change in the spacecraft’s momentum if it were able to accelerate.

However, in 2010, Prof. Juan Yang in China began publishing about her research into EM Drive technology, culminating in her 2012 paper reporting higher input power (2.5kW) and tested thrust (720mN) levels of an EM Drive.

In 2014, Prof. Yang’s papers reported extensive tests involving internal temperature measurements with embedded thermocouples.

It was reported (in SPR Ltd.’s website) that if the Chinese EM Drive were to be installed in the International Space Station (ISS) and work as reported, it could provide the necessary delta-V (change in velocity needed to perform an on-orbit maneuver) to compensate for the Station’s orbital decay and thus eliminate the requirement of re-boosts from visiting vehicles. Despite these reports, Prof. Yang offered no scientifically-accepted explanation as to how the EM Drive can produce propulsion in space.

2015-04-19-010043Dr. White proposed that the EM Drive’s thrust was due to the Quantum Vacuum (the quantum state with the lowest possible energy) behaving like propellant ions behave in a MagnetoHydroDynamics drive (a method electrifying propellant and then directing it with magnetic fields to push a spacecraft in the opposite direction) for spacecraft propulsion.

In Dr. White’s model, the propellant ions of the MagnetoHydroDynamics drive are replaced as the fuel source by the virtual particles of the Quantum Vacuum, eliminating the need to carry propellant.

This model was also met with criticism in the scientific community because the Quantum Vacuum cannot be ionized and is understood to be “frame-less” – meaning you cannot “push” against it, as required for momentum.

The tests reported by Dr. White’s team in July 2014 were not conducted in a vacuum, and none of the tests reported by Prof. Yang in China or Mr. Shawyer in the UK were conducted in a vacuum either.

The scientific community met these NASA tests with skepticism and a number of physicists proposed that the measured thrust force in the US, UK, and China tests was more likely due to (external to the EM Drive cavity) natural thermal convection currents arising from microwave heating (internal to the EM Drive cavity).

However, Paul March, an engineer at NASA Eagleworks, recently reported in NASASpaceFlight.com’s forum (on a thread now over 500,000 views) that NASA has successfully tested their EM Drive in a hard vacuum – the first time any organization has reported such a successful test.

To this end, NASA Eagleworks has now nullified the prevailing hypothesis that thrust measurements were due to thermal convection.

2015-04-26-182409A community of enthusiasts, engineers, and scientists on several continents joined forces on the NASASpaceflight.com EM Drive forum to thoroughly examine the experiments and discuss theories of operation of the EM Drive.

The quality of forum discussions attracted the attention of EagleWorks team member Paul March at NASA, who has shared testing and background information with the group in order to fill in information gaps and further the dialogue.

This synergy between NASASpaceflight.com contributors and NASA has resulted in several contributions to the body of knowledge about the EM Drive.

The NASASpaceflight.com group has given consideration to whether the experimental measurements of thrust force were the result of an artifact. Despite considerable effort within the NASASpaceflight.com forum to dismiss the reported thrust as an artifact, the EM Drive results have yet to be falsified.

After consistent reports of thrust measurements from EM Drive experiments in the US, UK, and China – at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions – the question of where the thrust is coming from deserves serious inquiry.

PLEASE READ THE REST. The article is too long to post here

Economy soars to historic heights in the 1st quarter!

by Husky Lover ( 195 Comments › )
Filed under Barack Obama, Cult of Obama, Democratic Party, Economy, Humor, Satire at April 29th, 2015 - 9:47 am

The greatest economic boom since the foundation of the Ramanaya Empire in India circa 20,000 BC continues to be unstoppable. The great prosperity unleashed by the policies of the Obama regime and the money printing of the Federal Reserve is unparalleled in human history. Americans across the land are grateful for the good times they are enjoying economically. The 1st quarter numbers were historic and shows the great strength of our economy!

U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than expected in the first quarter as harsh weather dampened consumer spending and energy companies struggling with low prices slashed spending, but there are signs activity is picking up.

Gross domestic product expanded at an only 0.2 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. That was a big step down from the fourth quarter’s 2.2 percent pace and marked the weakest reading in a year.

A strong dollar and a now-resolved labor dispute at normally busy West Coast ports also slammed growth, the government said.

The economy is doing great and the stock market is just awesome. Things are looking up thanks to the great Obama, our glorious leader leading us to prosperity and eternal Hipness!

H-1b: US workers being fired AND forced to train foreign replacements

by 1389AD ( 47 Comments › )
Filed under Economy, unemployment at April 12th, 2015 - 9:00 pm

1389 Blog has been following this story since 2007.

Are you an American citizen in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields? Do you ask why nothing happens when you reply to a job advertisement? Check this out:

PERM: Fake Job Ads defraud Americans to secure H-1b green cards for foreigners

Uploaded on Jun 16, 2007 by programmersguild
Immigration attorneys from Cohen & Grigsby explains how they assist employers in running classified ads with the goal of NOT finding any qualified applicants, and the steps they go through to disqualify even the most qualified Americans in order to secure green cards for H-1b workers. See what Bush and Congress really mean by a “shortage of skilled U.S. workers.” Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, and thousands of other companies are running fake ads in Sunday newspapers across the country each week.

Fox: Senators seek probe of claims US workers fired, forced to train foreign replacements

(h/t: Weasel Zippers)

A popular visa program allegedly is being misused by U.S. companies to lay off thousands of American workers and replace them with foreign labor.

And, adding insult to injury, many of the laid-off workers allegedly have been forced to train their replacements, in what one anonymous whistleblower called a “humiliating” experience.

The allegations have caught the attention of a bipartisan group of senators — including immigration hawk Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Illinois’ Dick Durbin — who are calling for a federal probe. A letter sent by 10 senators urging an investigation specifically cited reports of the firing and hiring practices at Southern California Edison, California’s second-largest utility. The incidents are concentrated in the IT field, and involve American workers being replaced by H-1B visa holders.

“A number of U.S. employers, including some large, well-known, publicly-traded corporations, have reportedly laid off thousands of American workers and replaced them with H-1B visa holders,” the senators wrote.

In the letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, the senators urged the departments to “investigate the unacceptable replacement of American workers” to see whether laws were broken.

The H-1B program is supposed to be used to bring in, on a temporary basis, skilled workers with highly specialized skills not readily available in the U.S. They are often used in the technology sector to bring in engineers and computer programmers.

Further, U.S. employers can hire foreign workers for up to six years and must pay them the same rate they would pay other workers with similar qualifications, or the prevailing wage for that job and location, whichever is higher. This is done to prevent foreign workers from depressing U.S. wages and from being exploited.

But reports have surfaced that the replacements are happening at an alarming rate. And former Southern California Edison workers have complained to lawmakers that they were replaced by less-skilled workers at lower costs.

Anonymous workers who were displaced by the visa holders also submitted written testimonials to lawmakers detailing their firings. Several claimed they were forced to train their replacements, and threatened with losing their severance if they did not.

“We had no choice in this,” one anonymous worker who claimed to have been one of those let go from Southern California Edison, said in a letter. The worker described how when the two vendors were picked – Infosys and TCS, both major Indian companies – SCE employees were told to “sit with, video chat or do whatever was needed to teach them our systems.”

If they did not cooperate, according to the testimonial, “we would be fired and not receive a severance package.”

Another worker described this process as “humiliating.”

“DHS will respond directly to members of Congress,” an agency spokesperson told FoxNews.com on Saturday. “Still, it is important to note that U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.”

In a statement, Southern California Edison said it abides by the law and will cooperate with any investigation that concerns the issues mentioned in the senators’ letter.

The company explained that it’s reducing its information technology department from 1,400 to 860. Of those left, 97 percent are permanent California residents and 3 percent are on H-1B visas.

Southern California Edison said it’s contracting with IT vendors to fulfill certain contracts and that most of those workers are permanent U.S. residents and aren’t working under H-1B visas.

“By transitioning some IT operations to external vendors, along with SCE eliminating some customized functions it will no longer provide, the company will focus on making significant, strategic changes that can benefit our customers,” Southern California Edison’s emailed statement read.

But the senators, in their letter, raised several questions about how the replacements were being done. They said it appears the workers are often not employees of the U.S. company laying off workers – but are contractors working for foreign-owned IT consultants.

The H-1B program stipulates that applicants must have a valid “employer-employee relationship” – and the senators questioned whether that was the case here.

They also asked whether the companies “engaged in prohibited citizenship status discrimination” (against American citizens); and whether the visa petitions showed “any evidence of misrepresentation or fraud.”

Continue reading…

One of the few good things – albeit far more than a day late and a dollar short – that Dick Durbin has done thus far was to sign on to this investigation. May that good deed account to the salvation of his immortal soul.

I was forced out of IT work when the market dried up in 2008 on account of the economic collapse precipitated by the Democrat takeover of Congress, compounded by outsourcing, offshoring, and the H-1b visa. I retrained myself in newer IT skills, but as a female over 50 years of age without current business experience using those skills, I was unable to find employment in the IT field. I have taken an entirely different career path since then, and would be uninterested in returning to IT even if H-1b were to be repealed tomorrow.

Can We Add Agency Law To Our Growing List Of Grievances?

by Flyovercountry ( 94 Comments › )
Filed under Economy, Fascism, Progressives, Regulation, Tranzis at March 5th, 2015 - 8:58 am

Tip of the hat to The Daily Caller whose video I did not embed here due to their insistence upon the usage of autoplay, something I view as evil. Please click here, for their story, complete with a recorded phone conversation in which an apologetic banker gets to tell a business owner who had held an account at said bank for over a decade, that the government had forced his account to be frozen for no other reason than the fact that the government no longer appreciates his industry’s contribution to our economy.

Yes, Operation Choke Point is an evil perpetrated by Barack Obama and Eric Holder. The fault dear Brutus however does not lie in our stars that we are underlings, but in ourselves. There are many who would point to the 60’s as the beginning of the Progressive’s gaining their stranglehold on our nation. Some point to FDR and the, “New Deal,” as that beginning point. I’ve heard that our troubles with the progressive movement date back to Woodrow Wilson and his Presidency. However, I would like to point out that the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments did far greater damage, even before Wilson took his position as our Chief Executive. (I realize that the Seventeenth Amendment became part of our Constitution about a month after Wilson’s Inauguration, but it was ratified before Wilson actually took office.) Many experts in our nation’s history will state that Teddy Roosevelt was the first Progressive to affect our national agenda, and granted he gave us a big push in that disastrous direction, and redefined the Executive Branch, but he was not where it all began. This all started with the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. This was the first victory of the Progressive Movement, and it has grown into the behemoth that allows Barack Obama to act as a man elected to be our emperor, rather than our President.

For those who are not familiar with it, the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 established our very first Federal Agency. This agency was vested with the ability to create its own rules, its own authority to enforce those rules, and its own system to adjudicate the process for any who wished to push back against the decisions of the agency. Quite literally, we had managed to create an entity that had contained within its scope of operation, a body that was vested with all of the powers of governance, thus doing away with the separation of powers. Since that date in our history, any and all legislation has been written purposefully vague, only ever including a desired outcome, with the specific rules to be determined later by either an existing federal agency, or through the creation of a new federal agency. It is With this wonderful exercise of genius that the destruction of our Constitutional Protections began. Agency Law was created with the establishment of the ICC in 1887. It should also be noted here, that it took almost exactly five years for the agency purportedly designed to keep the railroad men from becoming too powerful for the liking of those who lobbied for this legislation, to be peopled entirely with those, “robber barons,” so feared and vilified that the agency was thought necessary. Funny how that works out.

Once that happened, what we see today, even though it has taken 128 years to get here, became inevitable. Give Barack Obama credit for this at least. He saw the potential to simply ignore the U.S. Constitution afforded to him by this set of circumstances, and has taken full advantage of it. All he needs to do is suggest or ask that one of the agencies situated under the federal umbrella, write some additional rules to add to the scope under which they operate, and he pretty much can enact unilaterally anything he wishes to codify as law. Yes, technically such efforts can be overturned by our Judicial Branch, and indeed many of these actions have been thus far. However, our Judicial Branch moves too slowly to monitor or even address every such indiscretion. Even if it were capable of keeping up, Agency Law itself has become so ingrained in our society, such Judicial oversight and pushback has itself become all too rare.

In our history, there have been two Presidents who’ve tried earnestly to do something to put an end to, or at least reign in this system run amok. The first was Richard Nixon, and I’m sure you all remember what happened to him for his efforts. The second was Ronald Reagan, who also failed, and in fact discussed that failure as being his lasting regret.

So far, 26 states throughout the fruited plains have formally adopted ballot initiatives in favor of an Article V Convention for the purpose of proposing and debating Constitutional Amendments. I am most definitely in favor of this. By the way, many of the Liberals in our nation are as well, since they’re convinced that they would be able to alter the First Amendment to, “correct,” the Citizens United Decision.

One amendment that I’d like to see come to fruition would be something to put an end to Agency Law. Consider for one moment what this system has allowed for a President with dictatorial ambitions to do in only the short amount of time from early November until now. Barack Obama has rewritten our Immigration law, repealed the Second Amendment, pledged to unilaterally raise our taxes, promised to confiscate our 401k’s, threatened to fire the entirety of the retail financial services industry, instituted cap and trade, inflicted net neutrality, signed some very questionable treaties without the requisite Senatorial Consent, changed existing law, and all of this done with the statement that he gave Congress the chance to do what he wanted before he did it alone.

Don’t blame the Bamster however. While his actions are bad enough, it was we the people who didn’t realize that gridlock was itself a perk, gifted to us by the founding fathers, rather than a problem as proclaimed by the low information voting crowd. Barack Obama is merely the messenger, who has alerted us to a huge problem, and one that hopefully we can figure out how to correct.

Ronald Reagan campaigned on a platform that included ending the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. If the single most popular President in the modern era could not rid us of the two most unpopular facets of the federal behemoth, as he’d promised to do while campaigning, then what chance would anyone have to actually do something about reducing the size and scope of government? We keep talking about the symptoms, meanwhile, the cancer grows free. Something must be done to reign this monster in, and unless Agency Law itself is addressed, nothing will be successful.

Cross Posted from Musings of a Mad Conservative.