The wisdom of Ms Chanandler Bong

Last year the UK government reclassified cannabis as a class C, rather than class B, drug last year. That formally gives policemen the right to say ‘no biggie’ if they catch you in possession, or something like that. Now they’re rethinking that based on some evidence that it may be linked to mental health problems.

I can’t argue that cannabis is a good thing, though I understand that it can have some medicinal value. But compared to smoking, which causes heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, oral cancer, uterine cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer, leukaemia, and emphysema. Smoking during pregnancy stunts the physical and mental growth of the child, and smoking by parents increases the chance of SIDS, bronchitis, and probably a lesser disease called Perthes (something I’ve been blessed with).

Again, I’m not saying that cannabis is a good thing. Instead I’ll quote the great sage Chandler Bing (coincidentally also in relationship to smoking):


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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

From The Times (London, not NYC):”AMERICAN soldiers in Iraq are being given “anti-fratricide” training to reduce the number of friendly fire attacks against British and other coalition troops, The Times has learnt.

Thirty-two “blue-on-blue” attacks on British and other coalition vehicles have been logged in the past twelve months in southern Iraq, Britain’s area of responsibility.

The officials declined to spell out the injuries received or whether they were all British soldiers, but they confirmed that most of the “firing nationalities” were American.

US commanders were so worried that their men were shooting at the British because they failed to recognise the Union Jack or other distinguishing military markings that, in an unprecedented move, they asked the British Army to supply vehicles, men and flags to teach their soldiers what their allies looked like.

A British officer in Basra said: “The Americans can be pretty pumped-up. Sometimes they fire in broad daylight when we are travelling at two miles per hour, shouting that we are British out of the window and waving the Union Jack. If they shoot, our drill is to slam on the brakes and race in the opposite direction.”
(emphasis mine)

Working as I do with a bunch of Americans, I think it’s prudent to point out the following:

[[image:uk.gif:Union Flag:center:0]] [[image:iraq.jpg:Union Flag in Iraq:center:0]]
The Union Flag (or Union Jack), applies to the UK The flag of your friends, in context

Please don’t shoot me.

(via No More Mister Nice Blog)

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Minnesota has an interesting pair of senators. Mark Dayton, who recently announced that he will not run for re-election in 2006, has been a very decent, caring man, but an oddball and largely ineffectual senator (not that he hasn’t got things done, particularly on an individual level, just that to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t achieved anything of greater significance). On the other hand we have Norm Coleman, who is in many ways the opposite – progressing well within his party and the Senate, trying to do what is right (whether I’d agree with his choices or not) and yet seeming to be more about the politics than the people. I’ve also heard that he’s not the sharpest tool in the Senate shed, though I have no means to judge that.

Not surprisingly my politics tend to align with Dayton, though there are many things I can agree with Coleman on, or at least understand his reasoning. He recently voted against drilling in ANWR, which backs up something he said when campaigning and went against his party. On the downside he voted for the bankruptcy bill that is awaiting the President’s signature, which is as bad a piece of legislation for the average person as has come out of the government in years. I couldn’t disagree with that choice more, but given the political climate I can see why he would need to make that choice. But one of his most recent votes was against this resolution:

To express the sense of the Senate that Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt.

There doesn’t seem to be any trick there, no spending trying to be snuck through, just a simple statement of principle. And Coleman couldn’t support it. One is left to assume that he does favor deep benefit cuts or massive increases in debt.

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OK, so it was only 69 years

The man is a liar. I can’t think of any other way to describe it; he’s just a liar:

Bush said: “In 1983, they solved the Social Security problem and said it’s a 75-year fix. We’ll, here we are 22 years later looking at a system that’s going to go into the red in 2018. This time we ought to permanently.”

The system doesn’t go into the red in 2018 at all. In 2020, according to the CBO, it will start to draw down the surplus that was built up, which was THE POINT OF THE FIX! In 2052, on current predictions, it does go into the red, i.e. it won’t have enough money to pay out 100% of what it has promised. But that’s 69 years from 1983, so pretty close to a 75 year fix.

Incidentally, in 1996 the date when the system was predicted to go into the red was 2030. Today it’s 2052. The difference is in large part because the forecasts are, very rightly, quite pessimistic in their projections. So the 69 year fix could easily be a 75 year fix, or indeed an infinite fix (though I wouldn’t advocate assuming that).

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Stunning Political Insight for Dummies

There’s some discussion going on at the moment (here’s one example, and I heard something on a combined Al Franken/G Gordon Liddy podcast (ooh look, see the cool blogger dropping buzzwords!) I listened to recently) about the idea of a Social Security Trust Fund.

How about that for mangling an opening sentence? Anyway, the discussion centers around whether there is such a thing as a SS Trust Fund. At the moment we’re paying more in Social Security taxes than claimants are, erm, claiming. The excess is deliberate, the result of government action back in 1983 when politicians realized that the baby boomers were going to start blowing up the delicate balance between collections and claims as they approached retirement age.

The idea was simple: collect more money now (much of it from the baby boomers who were getting ready to cause the problem), stash it away somewhere, and when the rainy day arrives we would have enough built up to see us through. One of the principles behind this was that this was a one-off; the baby boomers were a temporary spike, and once they had passed by (i.e. passed on) we could go back to something like the ‘normal’ self-sustaining system. I’m biased, of course, but I don’t think anything I’ve said so far is controversial – it may not have been what some many republicans wanted, but it is the what and why of what was decided.

One of the other key principles. which sadly is a lot more problematic, was that little idea of stashing the money away. We’re talking some pretty serious coin here – about 2.6 trillion dollars at its peak – so it wasn’t something that the government could stash in its checking account. And there’s some genetic flaw in politicians of all stripes that makes a pile of cash that big just impossible to resist. So, naturally, they lent it to themselves, in the form of government bonds. At the risk of patronizing at least 50% of the two people who read this blog, these are basically IOUs with interest: You (Social Security Administration) lend me (the rest of the government) $2,600,000,000 now, and I’ll give you $2,700,000,000 in 30 years time (or something like that).

And this is where the party differences begin, but not where I at first thought they did. Republicans are very keen to point out that this money doesn’t exist – the government has spent it – so to start paying it back we’ll need to raise taxes. For various reasons they’d rather not do that, so their preferred option is not to have to pay the money back, which means cutting benefits. Essentially this means that the people who will have paid in extra between 1983 and about 2020 (when Social Security will need to start cashing those IOUs according to the Congressional Budget Office) will have financed the additional spending that has happened in that time. That’s not an unreasonable thing to require in itself (that spending was mainly for their benefit, after all), but does break the ‘sacred compact’ of Social Security.

The Democrats, on the other hand, say that with pretty minor tweaks the system can be self sustaining for as far as the eye can see, but only if the Trust Fund pays out. Clearly anything that requires 2.6 trillion dollars from the government is a problem, but the Democrats argue that it’s a problem of government funding, not one of Social Security funding (SS is just the issue that brings things to a head).

So the issue isn’t really Social Security, it’s government spending and funding. Social Security is just a handy, and desparately important, battlefield

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