Thursday, June 30, 2011

Argument, Truth and the Social Side of Reasoning By GARY GUTTING NYTimes

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless. Arguments, Philosophy, reasoning

The Stone is featuring occasional posts by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, that apply critical thinking to information and events that have appeared in the news.

Philosophers rightly think of themselves as experts on reasoning. After all, it was a philosopher, Aristotle, who developed the science of logic. But psychologists have also had some interesting things to say about the subject. A fascinating paper by Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier has recently generated a lot of discussion.

Reasoning is most problematic when carried out by isolated individuals and most effective when carried out in social groups.

The headline of an article in The Times about the paper— echoed on blogs and other sites — was, “Reason Seen More as Weapon than Path to Truth, ” a description, that implied that reason is not, as we generally think, directed to attaining truth, but rather to winning arguments. Many readers of the Times article thought that this position amounted to a self-destructive denial of truth. The article itself (though perhaps not the abstract) suggests a more nuanced view, as the authors tried to explain in replies to criticism. In any case, we can develop an interesting view of the relation between argument and truth by starting from the popular reading and criticism of the article.

Sperber and Mercier begin from well-established facts about our deep-rooted tendencies to make mistakes in our reasoning. We have a very hard time sticking to rules of deductive logic, and we constantly make basic errors in statistical reasoning. Most importantly, we are strongly inclined to “confirmation-bias”: we systematically focus on data that support a view we hold and ignore data that count against it.

These facts suggest that our evolutionary development has not done an especially good job of making us competent reasoners. Sperber and Mercier, however, point out that this is true only if the point of reasoning is to draw true conclusions. Fallacious reasoning, especially reasoning that focuses on what supports our views and ignores what counts against them, is very effective for the purpose of winning arguments with other people. So, they suggest, it makes sense to think that the evolutionary point of human reasoning is to win arguments, not to reach the truth.

This formulation led critics to objections that echo traditional philosophical arguments against the skeptical rejection of truth. Do Sperber and Mercier think that the point of their own reasoning is not truth but winning an argument? If not, then their theory is falsified by their own reasoning. If so, they are merely trying to win an argument, and there’s no reason why scientists — who are interested in truth, not just winning arguments—should pay any attention to what they say. Sperber and Mercier seem caught in a destructive dilemma, logically damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Philosophical thinking has led to this dilemma, but a bit more philosophy shows a way out. The root of the dilemma is the distinction between seeking the truth and winning an argument. The distinction makes sense for cases where someone does not care about knowing the truth and argues only to convince other people of something, whether or not it’s true. But, suppose my goal is simply to know the truth. How do I go about achieving this knowledge? Plato long ago pointed out that it is not enough just to believe what is true. Suppose I believe that there are an odd number of galaxies in the universe and in fact there are. Still, unless I have adequate support for my belief, I cannot be said to know it. It’s just an unsupported opinion. Knowing the truth requires not just true belief but also justification for the belief.

Rational agreement, properly arrived at, is the best possible justification of a claim to truth.

But how do I justify a belief and so come to know that it’s true? There are competing philosophical answers to this question, but one fits particularly well with Sperber and Mercier’s approach. This is the view that justification is a matter of being able to convince other people that a claim is correct, a view held in various ways by the classic American pragmatists (Peirce, James and Dewey) and, in recent years, by Richard Rorty and Jürgen Habermas.

The key point is that justification — and therefore knowledge of the truth — is a social process. This need not mean that claims are true because we come to rational agreement about them. But such agreement, properly arrived at, is the best possible justification of a claim to truth. For example, our best guarantee that stars are gigantic masses of hot gas is that scientists have developed arguments for this claim that almost anyone who looks into the matter will accept.

This pragmatic view understands seeking the truth as a special case of trying to win an argument: not winning by coercing or tricking people into agreement, but by achieving agreement through honest arguments. The important practical conclusion is that finding the truth does require winning arguments, but not in the sense that my argument defeats yours. Rather, we find an argument that defeats all contrary arguments. Sperber and Mercier in fact approach this philosophical view when they argue that, on their account, reasoning is most problematic when carried out by isolated individuals and is most effective when carried out in social groups.

The pragmatic philosophy of justification makes it clear why, even if we start from the popular reading of their article, Sperber and Mercier’s psychological account of reasoning need not fall victim to the claim that it is a self-destructive skepticism. Conversely, the philosophical view gains plausibility from its convergence with the psychological account. This symbiosis is an instructive example of how philosophy and empirical psychology can fruitfully interact.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Study: Post-9/11 wars cost U.S. at least $3.7T

The final bill American taxpayers will end up paying for the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq will be much more than the total amount put forward by the Congress and the federal government, the Reuters news agency reported Wednesday.

The Reuters article focused on a Brown University research project released Wednesday titled "Costs of War." In the end, between at least $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion -- mostly in taxpayer dollars -- will have been spent on wartime expenses, mostly on the U.S. military's missions in the respective countries that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein once called home.

The report's release comes as President Obama and congressional Republicans negotiate a deal on federal spending and the national debt. The Treasury Department warns that the United States will default unless the government receives by Aug. 2 the required congressional approval to borrow more money.

The research project's publication also comes a week after Mr. Obama announced his plan to withdraw the so-called "surge" of 33,000 American troops from Afghanistan before Election Day 2012 and the majority of U.S. service members from the country by 2014.

Reuters noted that Mr. Obama told viewers of his prime-time speech in which he announced the drawdown that "over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war." The Congressional Research Service reported in March that the estimated cost of war funding since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks are $1.4 trillion through 2012, Reuters reports.

"I don't know what the president knows, but I wish it were a trillion," Boston University professor Neta Crawford, a co-director of the report, told Reuters. "It would be better if it were a trillion."

Reuters reports the Brown University research project includes in its total price tag the costs of:

Projected benefits for veterans through 2050: Between $589 billion and $934 billion
Additional Pentagon appropriations: Between $326 billion and $652 billion
Projected war-related spending between 2012 and 2020: $453 billion
Homeland security spending: $401 billion
"Social costs" paid by service members and their families: Between $295 billion and $400 billion
Interest payments for debt incurred from borrowing for war spending: $185 billion
War-related foreign aid: $74 billion

The study doesn't include what Reuters estimates to be at least $1 trillion more in interest that must be paid.

The research project also focuses on the human cost of the wars. As of this writing, The Associated Press reports that 4,466 American troops have died in Iraq, and at least 1,534 U.S. service members have died in the Afghan war. The study estimates that wartime actions directly resulted in the deaths of between 224,000 and 258,000 people, including 125,000 Iraq civilians.

However, one of the project's co-directors told Reuters that the Pentagon's tally of troops who died from the wars should include those who come home and commit suicide or die in car accidents.

"The rate of chaotic behavior is high," said Catherine Lutz, head of Brown's anthropology department.

Lutz told Reuters that the study aimed to answer whether the wars were ultimately worth it in the eyes of Americans.

"I hope that when we look back, whenever this ends," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Reuters, "something very good has come out of it."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why Is He Bi? (Sigh) By MAUREEN DOWD NYTimes

HE was born this way.


Not bisexual. Not even bipartisan. Just binary.

Our president likes to be on both sides at once.

In Afghanistan, he wants to go but he wants to stay. He’s surging and withdrawing simultaneously. He’s leaving fewer troops than are needed for a counterinsurgency strategy and more troops than are needed for a counterterrorism strategy — and he seems to want both strategies at the same time. Our work is done but we have to still be there. Our work isn’t done but we can go.

On Libya, President Obama wants to lead from behind. He’s engaging in hostilities against Qaddafi while telling Congress he’s not engaging in hostilities against Qaddafi.

On the budget, he wants to cut spending and increase spending. On the environment, he wants to increase energy production but is reluctant to drill. On health care, he wants to get everybody covered but will not press for a universal system. On Wall Street, he assails fat cats, but at cocktail parties, he wants to collect some of their fat for his campaign.

On politics, he likes to be friends with the other side but bash ’em at the same time. For others, bipartisanship means transcending their own prior political identities. For President Obama, it means that he participates in all political identities. He does not seem deeply affiliated with any side except his own.

He was elected on the idea of bold change, but now — except for the capture of Osama and his drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen — he plays it safe. He shirks politics as usual but gets all twisted up in politics.

The man who was able to beat the Clintons in 2008 because the country wanted a break from Clintonian euphemism and casuistry is now breaking creative new ground in euphemism and casuistry.

Obama is “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage, which, as any girl will tell you, is the first sign of a commitment-phobe.

Maybe, given all his economic and war woes as he heads into 2012, Obama fears the disapproval of the homophobic elements within his own party. But he has tried to explain his reluctance on gay marriage as an expression of his Christianity, even though he rarely goes to church and is the picture of a secular humanist.

While picking up more than three-quarters of a million dollars from 600 guests at a gay and lesbian fund-raising gala in Manhattan on Thursday night, the president declared, “I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” even as he held to his position that the issue should be left to the states to decide.

He’s not as bad as New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who gave another grumpy interview on Thursday, this time to The National Catholic Register, asserting: “You think it’s going to stop with this? You think now bigamists are going to want their rights to marry? You think somebody that wants to marry his sister is going to now say, ‘I have a right’? I mean, it’s the same principle, isn’t it?”

The archbishop concluded: “Next thing you know, they’re going to say there’s four outs to every inning of baseball. This is crazy.” (He’s beginning to sound like Justice Scalia.)

Still, Obama’s reluctance to come out for gay marriage seems hugely and willfully inconsistent with what we know about his progressive worldview. And it is odd that the first black president is letting Andrew Cuomo, who pushed through a gay-marriage bill in Albany on Friday night, go down in history as the leader on the front lines of the civil rights issue of our time.

But for the president, “the fierce urgency of now” applies only to getting checks from the gay community, not getting up to speed with all the Americans who think it’s time for gay marriage.

As with “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Obama is not leading the public, he’s following. And worse, the young, hip black president who was swept in on a gust of change, audacity and hope is lagging behind a couple of old, white conservatives — Dick Cheney and Ted Olson.

As a community organizer, Obama developed impressive empathetic gifts. But now he is misusing them. It’s not enough to understand how everybody in the room thinks. You have to decide which ones in the room are right, and stand with them. A leader is not a mediator or an umpire or a convener or a facilitator.

Sometimes, as Chris Christie put it, “the president has got to show up.”

With each equivocation, the man in the Oval Office shields his identity and cloaks who the real Barack Obama is.

He should draw inspiration from the gay community: one thing gays have to do, after all, is declare who they are at all costs.

On some of the most important issues facing this nation, it is time for the president to come out of the closet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

LIKELY more than $4 trillion!! They don't count replacement costs. medical costs, disability pay etc.....

OBAMA LAST NIGHT , in 15-minute address from East Room, "Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan":

"[T]his has been a difficult decade for our country. We've learned anew the profound cost of war -- a cost that's been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -- men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. ...
Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. ... These long wars will come to a responsible end. As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America's engagement around the world. ...
Like generations before, we must embrace America's singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bachmann’s nonsensical Medicare-‘Obamacare’ claim

By Glenn Kessler

(SEAN GARDNER/REUTERS) “While we've been seeing the liberals in the last few weeks trying to scare Americans about Medicare, and especially senior citizens, what's been ignored is President Obama's plan for senior citizens regarding Medicare. … And do you know what the president's plan is? This hasn't been talked about very much. The president's plan for senior citizens is Obamacare. We all think for our senior citizens that somehow Medicare is going to go on. And I think very likely -- and I'm speculating -- I think very likely what the president intends is that Medicare will go broke, and then ultimately that answer will be Obamacare for senior citizens.”

--Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), June 17, 2011

It’s hard to know what to make of this comment by Rep. Michele Bachmann, made during her speech last Friday to the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. She also repeated elements of this claim during an interview with CNN (there is a clip at the end of this column.) “I think the president’s plan is Obamacare for senior citizens,” Bachmann told CNN. “They don’t want Obamacare; they want Medicare, and that’s why I am committed to making Medicare solvent.”

In her speech, the presidential aspirant also made the debunked assertion that regulations are “$1.7 trillion burden on our job creators.” We had examined this several months ago and the Congressional Research Service in April also critiqued the study that is the source of this statistic. Bachmann also repeated the incorrect claim that President Obama took $500 billion “out of Medicare to give it to younger people.”

But Bachmann’s claim that the president’s plan is to replace Medicare with “Obamacare” is what most intrigued several readers. One should always be wary of a politician when he or she says they are “speculating,” since that is an apparent license to throw facts to the wind. A spokeswoman for the Bachmann presidential campaign did not respond to a request for clarification, so we will have to parse this language and her CNN interview ourselves.

The Facts

The current Medicare system, in place since the mid-1960s, is essentially a government-run health care program, with hospital and doctors’ fees paid by the government, though beneficiaries also pay premiums for some services as well as deductibles and coinsurance.

Bachmann says the Democrats are trying to scare seniors about Medicare, and we would agree with that, though Republicans are equally guilty of using scare tactics on Medicare. In fact, Bachmann’s bogus claim about the $500 billion is a good example of such fear-mongering.

But Medicare today is in effect a European-style, socialized health care program, so we are unclear what Bachmann means when she says Obama wants to take a program that is already socialized medicine and turn it into Obamacare. A single-payer option—much like Medicare—was rejected when the Democratic-led Congress drafted the health care law.

Instead, the Obama health care law sets up “health insurance exchanges” in which people can shop for policies. Depending on the income level, they may qualify for a government subsidy.

Ironically, one can make a case that the House Republican budget plan is designed to turn Medicare into a program that has some of the key features of Obama’s health care law.

For instance, seniors would be given government subsidies, which they would then use to shop for coverage from private companies in a new kind of marketplace called an “Exchange.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the chief architect, might dismiss these as superficial similarities but the fact remains that Medicare is currently a government-run program--which is one reason why Democrats so fiercely oppose efforts that they say will dismantle that feature.

That’s why it is strange for Bachmann to suggest that Obama wants to replace Medicare with Obamacare, which relies on the private insurance market. If Obama had had the votes in Congress, he would have pushed for a Medicare-like option in his health care law—but not the other way around.

To top it off, Bachmann voted for the Republican budget plan and claims she supports it to prevent Medicare from “going flat broke in 13 years.” To be clear, only the hospital trust fund will be “depleted’ and the government will still be able to cover 90 percent of the program costs. That is not the same as bankruptcy.

The Pinocchio Test

Are you confused? We’re totally befuddled.

It initially was hard to tell whether Bachmann’s rhetoric in the speech just ran amok or this was a point she wanted to make. But then she repeated the notion that Obama wanted to replace Medicare with “Obamacare” in her interview with CNN. There is no evidence for this and it is completely nonsensical. For a member of Congress, she really should know the basics of government-funded health care programs.

Four Pinocchios

Monday, June 20, 2011


With executive pay, rich pull away from rest of America
By Peter Whoriskey, Published: June 18
It was the 1970s, and the chief executive of a leading U.S. dairy company, Kenneth J. Douglas, lived the good life. He earned the equivalent of about $1 million today. He and his family moved from a three-bedroom home to a four-bedroom home, about a half-mile away, in River Forest, Ill., an upscale Chicago suburb. He joined a country club. The company gave him a Cadillac. The money was good enough, in fact, that he sometimes turned down raises. He said making too much was bad for morale.

Forty years later, the trappings at the top of Dean Foods, as at most U.S. big companies, are more lavish. The current chief executive, Gregg L. Engles, averages 10 times as much in compensation as Douglas did, or about $10 million in a typical year. He owns a $6 million home in an elite suburb of Dallas and 64 acres near Vail, Colo., an area he frequently visits. He belongs to as many as four golf clubs at a time — two in Texas and two in Colorado. While Douglas’s office sat on the second floor of a milk distribution center, Engles’s stylish new headquarters occupies the top nine floors of a 41-story Dallas office tower. When Engles leaves town, he takes the company’s $10 million Challenger 604 jet, which is largely dedicated to his needs, both business and personal.

The evolution of executive grandeur — from very comfortable to jet-setting — reflects one of the primary reasons that the gap between those with the highest incomes and everyone else is widening.

For years, statistics have depicted growing income disparity in the United States, and it has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. In 2008, the last year for which data are available, for example, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of the personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent. But economists had little idea who these people were. How many were Wall street financiers? Sports stars? Entrepreneurs? Economists could only speculate, and debates over what is fair stalled.

Now a mounting body of economic research indicates that the rise in pay for company executives is a critical feature in the widening income gap.

The largest single chunk of the highest-income earners, it turns out, are executives and other managers in firms, according to a landmark analysis of tax returns by economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley T. Heim. These are not just executives from Wall Street, either, but from companies in even relatively mundane fields such as the milk business.

The top 0.1 percent of earners make about $1.7 million or more, including capital gains. Of those, 41 percent were executives, managers and supervisors at non-financial companies, according to the analysis, with nearly half of them deriving most of their income from their ownership in privately-held firms. An additional 18 percent were managers at financial firms or financial professionals at any sort of firm. In all, nearly 60 percent fell into one of those two categories.

Other recent research, moreover, indicates that executive compensation at the nation’s largest firms has roughly quadrupled in real terms since the 1970s, even as pay for 90 percent of America has stalled.

This trend held at Dean Foods. Over the period from the ’70s until today, while pay for Dean Foods chief executives was rising 10 times over, wages for the unionized workers actually declined slightly. The hourly wage rate for the people who process, pasteurize and package the milk at the company’s dairies declined by 9 percent in real terms, according to union contract records. It is now about $23 an hour.

“Do people bitch because Engles makes so much? Yeah. But there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Bob Goad, 61, a burly former high school wrestler who is a pasteurizer at a Dean Foods plant in Harvard, Ill., and runs an auction business on the side to supplement his income. “These companies have the idea that the only people that matter to the company are those at the top.”

Through a spokesman, Engles declined to be interviewed. Company officials threatened to call the police as a reporter was interviewing workers outside one of its dairies.

Defenders of executive pay have argued that today’s chief executives are worth more because, among other things, companies are larger and more complex.

But critics question why so much of the growth in income should go to the wealthiest. Douglas, the Dean Foods chief from the ’70s, died in 2007. But his son, Andrew Douglas, said his father viewed wages in part as a moral issue.

If his father had seen how much executives were making today, Andrew Douglas said, he’d be “spinning in his grave. My dad just believed that after a while, what else would you need the money for?”

Inherent inequality

Inequality, economists have noted, is an essential part of capitalism. At least in theory, “the invisible hand,” or market system, sets compensation levels to lead workers into pursuits that are the most productive to society. This produces inequality but leads to a more efficient economy.

As a result, economists have noted, there is an inherent tension in market-oriented democracies because while society aims to endow each person with equal political rights, it allows very unequal economic outcomes.

“American society proclaims the worth of every human being,” economist Arthur M. Okun, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote in his 1975 book on the subject, “Equality and Efficiency.’’ But the economy awards “prizes that allow the big winners to feed their pets better than the losers can feed their children.”

Americans have been uneasy about the income gap at least since the ’80s, according to polls.

Repeated surveys by the National Opinion Research Center since 1987 have found that 60 percent or more of Americans agree or strongly agree with the statement that “differences in income in America are too large.”

The uneasiness arises out of the fear that extremes of wealth can unfairly reduce the economic opportunities and political rights of everyone else, according to sociologists. The wealthy, for example, can afford better private schools for their children or acquire political might by purchasing campaign advertising or making campaign donations. Moreover, as millions struggle to find jobs in the wake of the recession, the notion that the very wealthiest are gaining ground strikes some as unfair.

“Americans think income inequality is excessive and have done so consistently for years,” said Leslie McCall, a sociology professor at Northwestern University who is writing a book on the subject. “Their concerns arise when it seems that extreme incomes for some are restricting opportunities for everyone else.”

Whatever people think of it, the gap between the very highest earners and everyone else has been widening significantly.

Income inequality has been on the rise for decades in several nations, including the United Kingdom, China and India, but it has been most pronounced in the United States, economists say.

In 1975, for example, the top 0.1 percent of earners garnered about 2.5 percent of the nation’s income, including capital gains, according to data collected by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez. By 2008, that share had quadrupled and stood at 10.4 percent.

The phenomenon is even more pronounced at even higher levels of income. The share of the income commanded by the top 0.01 percent rose from 0.85 percent to 5.03 percent over that period. For the 15,000 families in that group, average income now stands at $27 million.

In world rankings of income inequality, the United States now falls among some of the world’s less-developed economies.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, which uses the so-called “Gini coefficient,” a common economic indicator of inequality, the United States ranks as far more unequal than the European Union and the United Kingdom. The United States is in the company of developing countries — just behind Cameroon and Ivory Coast and just ahead of Uganda and Jamaica.

Democratic leaders, whose constituents have expressed more alarm over the divide, have used the phenomenon to justify their policies, such as universal health care.

“A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous,” President Obama said in his inaugural address.

Breakdown of earners

But exactly what the government ought to do about the income gap hasn’t been clear, because economists have been divided over what is causing it to grow.

They weren’t even sure, for example, who was making all that money. Sure, people like Bill Gates and LeBron James made lots. But it wasn’t at all clear who the other roughly 140,000 earners were in the top 0.1 percent — that is, people earning about $1.7 million a year, including capital gains.

Then, late last year, economists Bakija, Cole and Heim completed their massive analysis of income tax returns.

Little noticed outside academic circles, their research focused on the top 0.1 percent of earners. From those tax returns, they could glean a taxpayer’s occupation, which is self-reported. Using the employer’s tax identification number, the researchers found the industry they were employed in.

After executives, managers and financial professionals, the next largest groups in the top 0.1 percent of earners was lawyers with 6.2 percent and real estate professionals at 4.7 percent. Media and sports figures, who are often assumed to represent a large portion of very high-income earners, collectively made up only 3 percent.

“Basically, executives represent a much bigger share of the top incomes than a lot of people had thought,” said Bakija, a professor at Williams College, who with his co-authors is continuing the research. “Before, we just didn’t know who these people were.”

Acceptable greed

Defenders of executive pay argue, among other things, that the rising compensation is deserved because firms are larger today. Moreover, this group says, more packages today are based on stock and options, which pay more when the chief executive is successful.

Critics, on other hand, argue that executive salaries have jumped because corporate boards were simply too generous, or more broadly, because greed became more socially acceptable.

Again, in settling these arguments, economists were hampered by a lack of data, particularly any that might give some historical perspective.

It wasn’t until economists Carola Frydman from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Raven E. Molloy of the Federal Reserve collected and analyzed data going back to 1936 — an exhaustive task because of the lack of computerized records going that far — that the longer-term trends became clear.

What the research showed is that while executive pay at the largest U.S. companies was relatively flat in the ’50s and ’60s, it began a rapid ascent sometime in the ’70s.

As it happens, this was about the same time that income inequality began to widen in the United States, according to the Saez figures.

More importantly, however, the finding that executive pay was flat in the ’50s and ’60s, when firms were growing, appears to contradict the idea that executive pay should naturally rise when companies grow.

This is a “challenge for the market story,” Frydman said.

So what happened since the ’70s that has sent executive pay upward?

While no company over this period of time — from the 1970s to today — can be considered completely typical, Dean Foods offers a better comparison than most because fundamentally it hasn’t changed.

The dairy business is still the root of the company; it was on the Fortune 500 by the late ’70s and remains there today. It grew then and more recently through acquisition.

Moreover, both chief executives — Douglas and Engles — could boast records of growing the company and profits.

From 1970 to 1979, while Douglas was the chief executive, sales at Dean Foods tripled and profits increased tenfold, to $9.8 million, according to company records. Similarly, from 2000 to 2009, sales at what would be Dean Foods had roughly doubled, and so had profits, to $228 million. (Engles became chief executive after the company he led bought Dean Foods in 2001 and adopted its name.)

Yet there are vast differences in the way the two men were paid, even when you adjust for the effects of inflation.

In the late 70s — 1977, 1978 and 1979 — Douglas made about $1 million annually in today’s dollars. The largest part of that was a salary; some came from a long-term incentive based on the stock price that would not mature until he retired.

By contrast, in the late 2000s — 2007, 2008 and 2009 — Engles averaged $10.5 million annually, most of it in stock and options awards and other incentive pay, according to proxy statements. After ’09, which was a particularly bad year, Engles’s compensation dropped to $4 million in 2010. If profits return, so will his higher earnings.

The case of Dean Foods appears to bolster the argument that executive compensation moves with company size: The profits for Dean Foods in 2009 were roughly 10 times what they were in 1979, adjusted for constant dollars. Engles’s compensation has averaged 10 times that of Douglas.

“It’s a different company today,” company spokesman Jamaison Schuler said. He declined to comment further.

But some economists have offered an alternative, difficult-to-quantify explanation: that the social norms that once reined in executive pay have disappeared.

This new attitude, according to this view, was reflected in epigrammatic form by the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” which made famous the phrase “greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Americans were growing more comfortable with some extremes in pay. Payoffs for the stars on Wall Street, in the movies and in pro sports were rising.

But back in the ’70s, something was holding executive salaries back.

Harold Geneen, the president of ITT, then one of the nation’s largest companies, told Forbes in 1975 that while he might be worth six times as much to the company as he was making, he hadn’t sought a raise.

“No one moved up there, and I didn’t dare do it alone,” he explained.

Over at Dean Foods, Kenneth Douglas was likewise resistant to making more. Most years, board members at Dean Foods wanted to give Douglas a raise. But more than once, Douglas, a former FBI agent who literally married the girl next door, refused.

“He would object to the pay we gave him sometimes — not because he thought it was too little; he thought it was too much,” said Alexander J. Vogl, a members of the Dean Foods board at the time and the chair of its compensation committee. “He was afraid it would be bad for morale, him getting a big bump like that.”

“He believed the reward went to the shareholders, not to any one man,” said John P. Frazee, another former board member. “Today we get cults of personality around the CEO, but then there was not a cult of personality.”

Outside one of the Dean Foods dairies recently, the workers at the plant for the most part only rolled their eyes when asked about Engles’s salary. But they spoke admiringly of Douglas.

“People back then thought enough was enough,” said Ron Smith, 63, who maintains the machines at the plant.

Some were reluctant to criticize Engles to a reporter. Others defended him.

“You’re king of the hill, and you get paid for that,” said Ray Kavanaugh, 61, who operates a filler at the dairy. “He’s worth it if he keep the company making money.”

The employees said they only occasionally dwell on Engles’s riches, anyway. Their primary focus is on making ends meet, they said.

Joe Bopp, 55, said he has a second job taking care of a cemetery during the summer months, mowing the grass and digging graves.

“Twenty-three dollars an hour sounds like a lot of money,” he said. “But when you pay $4 a gallon for gas and $3.29 for a gallon of milk, it goes away real fast.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weiner's Fabulous Retirement Perks

Anthony Weiner may be resigning, but he's entitled—for the rest of his life—to a pension, quality health care, and a parking space on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Anthony Weiner may be resigning in shame, but he’ll leave Capitol Hill with the same golden parachute afforded to all members of Congress who leave public service.

Having been in Congress since 1999 and a staffer in the '80s, Weiner will be eligible for a congressional pension of up to $46,224 each year, according to the National Taxpayers Union, which calculates all congressional pensions. He’ll eventually be eligible to collect the balance of his Congressional Thrift Savings Plan, which is currently $216,011. And he’ll be able to keep his high-quality health-care package, at his own expense, until November 2012.

Congressional pensions are considered extremely generous. A member becomes fully vested after five years, and pays only 20 percent of his own benefits (the other 80 percent comes from taxpayers). At 46, Weiner is not yet eligible for his pension, but he’ll be allowed to access a portion when he turns 56, or the full amount if he waits until he’s 62.

Weiner will also be entitled to other perks and privileges even after stepping down. Former members (except those who become lobbyists) are given access to the House floor during regular business or joint sessions, meaning Weiner could attend speeches by the president or foreign heads of state who address joint sessions.

He’ll have the option to buy his office furniture ($1,000 for desks, $500 for chairs) and all of his tech equipment (phones, fax machines, refrigerators).

For life, Weiner will get free parking on the House side of the Capitol (on a space-available basis, the rules say). For 90 days, he’ll be able to send mail for free, so long as it relates to his congressional duties.

Not to mention that for the rest of his life, Weiner will have access, for a small fee, to the congressional gym where he took photos of himself that he sent to women online.

Of course Weiner may also leave a sizable bill for the state of New York—a bill for a special election to choose his replacement. Election costs depend on local variables, like how many polling stations are needed and whether it can piggy-back on the ballot of a previously planned election.

For the rest of his life, Weiner will have access, for a small fee, to the congressional gym where he took photos of himself that he sent to women online.

The New York special election to replace Rep. Chris Lee, the Republican lawmaker who also resigned after sending half-nude photos online, was expected to cost $1 million.
Rep. Eric Massa's 2010 resignation, also in New York, cost taxpayers about $700,000.
Replacing Rep. Jane Harman (who now sits on the board of the Newsweek/Daily Beast Company) was expected to cost California taxpayers $1.5 million for a special election, according to an estimate by the Los Angeles County Registrar.

Epistemology and the End of the World

Epistemology and the End of the World

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless.
In the coming weeks, The Stone will feature occasional posts by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, that apply critical thinking to information and events that have appeared in the news.

Apart from its entertainment value, Harold Camping’s ill-advised prediction of the rapture last month attracted me as a philosopher for its epistemological interest. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, its nature, scope and limits. Camping claimed to know, with certainty and precision, that on May 21, 2011, a series of huge earthquakes would devastate the Earth and be followed by the taking up (rapture) of the saved into heaven. No sensible person could have thought that he knew this. Knowledge requires justification; that is, some rationally persuasive account of why we know what we claim to know. Camping’s confused efforts at Biblical interpretation provided no justification for his prediction. Even if, by some astonishing fluke, he had turned out to be right, he still would not have known the rapture was coming.

The recent failed prediction of the rapture has done nothing to shake the certainty of believers.

Of particular epistemological interest was the rush of Christians who believe that the rapture will occur but specify no date for it to dissociate themselves from Camping. Quoting Jesus’s saying that “of that day and hour no one knows,” they rightly saw their view as unrefuted by Camping’s failed prediction. What they did not notice is that the reasons for rejecting Camping’s prediction also call into question their claim that the rapture will occur at some unspecified future time.

What was most disturbing about Camping was his claim to be certain that the rapture would occur on May 21. Perhaps he had a subjective feeling of certainty about his prediction, but he had no good reasons to think that this feeling was reliable. Similarly, you may feel certain that you will get the job, but this does not make it (objectively) certain that you will. For that you need reasons that justify your feeling.

There are many Christians who are as subjectively certain as Camping about the rapture, except that they do not specify a date. They have a feeling of total confidence that the rapture will someday occur. But do they, unlike Camping, have good reasons behind their feeling of certainty? Does the fact that they leave the date of the rapture unspecified somehow give them the good reason for their certainty that Camping lacked?

An entirely unspecified date has the advantage of making their prediction immune to refutation. The fact that the rapture hasn’t occurred will never prove that it won’t occur in the future. A sense that they will never be refuted may well increase the subjective certainty of those who believe in the rapture, but this does nothing to provide the good reasons needed for objective certainty. Camping, after the fact, himself moved toward making his prediction unrefutable, saying that May 21 had been an “invisible judgment day,” a spiritual rather than a physical rapture. He kept to his prediction of a final, physical end of the world on October 21, 2011, but no doubt this prediction will also be open to reinterpretation.

Believers in the rapture will likely respond that talk of good reasons and objective certainty assumes a context of empirical (scientific) truth, and ignores the fact that their beliefs are based not on science but on faith. They are certain in their belief that the rapture will occur, even though they don’t know it in the scientific sense.

But Camping too would claim that his certainty that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, was a matter of faith. He had no scientific justification for his prediction, so what could have grounded his certainty if not his faith? But the certainty of his faith, we all agree, was merely subjective. Objective certainty about a future event requires good reasons.

Given their faith in the Bible, believers in the rapture do offer what they see as good reasons for their view as opposed to Camping’s. They argue that the Bible clearly predicts a temporally unspecified rapture, whereas Camping’s specific date requires highly questionable numerological reasoning. But many Christians—including many of the best Biblical scholars—do not believe that the Bible predicts a historical rapture. Even those who accept the traditional doctrine of a Second Coming of Christ, preceding the end of the world, often reject the idea of a taking up of the saved into heaven, followed by a period of dreadful tribulations on Earth for those who are left behind. Among believers themselves, a historical rapture is at best a highly controversial interpretation, not an objectively established certainty.

The case against Camping was this: His subjective certainty about the rapture required objectively good reasons to expect its occurrence; he provided no such reasons, so his claim was not worthy of belief. Christians who believe in a temporally unspecified rapture agree with this argument. But the same argument undermines their own belief in the rapture. It’s not just that “no one knows the day and hour” of the rapture. No one knows that it is going to happen at all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Can You Guess Which City In America Has The Most Sex?

Trojan has just released the results of its annual "sex census," and good news for the people of Los Angeles -- they're having more sex than anyone else in the country, an average of 135 times per year.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the sex is any good. Philadelphians report the highest levels of sexual satisfaction, with 82% of respondents there saying they are sexually fulfilled. Just 75% of Angelenos said the same.

Regionally, the Northeast comes out on top -- people there have sex an average of 130 times per year, compared to folks in the West, where the average is 120, and the South, where the average is just 114.

Northeasterners are also the safest, with 43% saying they use a condom during sex.

The results of the census are based on two surveys conducted by a market research firm. The first was a national survey of 1,000 adults conducted online, and the second was an online survey of around 2,000 adults in 10 major U.S. cities.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


A day of awkwardness with Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney, the leading contender to become President Obama’s Republican opponent next year, had just finished working the room at Blake’s Creamery here when he paused for a photo with the restaurant’s owner, Ann Mirageas, and decided to tell her a joke.

I saw the young man over there with eggs Benedict, with hollandaise sauce,” he said. “And I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs with hollandaise sauce in hubcaps. Because there’s no plates like chrome for the hollandaise.”

The proprietor laughed weakly. “Good luck to you,” Mirageas said.

The hubcap joke must have killed in Michigan in the 1950s, when Romney was a boy. What’s odd is that he’s still making such jokes. What’s odder is that a man who makes such jokes is in a position to become president of the United States.

In formal settings — news conferences, or Monday night’s debate — Romney is confident and competent. But in casual moments, such as Tuesday morning’s retail politics in New Hampshire, his weirdness comes through — equal parts “Leave It to Beaver” corniness and social awkwardness.

He greets a man perusing shelves of a hardware store: “Shopping here today?”

He notes the lack of “guy waitresses” at a diner and says of the long skirts worn by the middle-aged wait staff: “Oh, this is the Hooters equivalent.”

He talks about the weak economy with the proprietors of a feed shop, then abruptly pivots: “Okay, so what do you do about mosquito control? . . . This has been a mosquito-infested year with all the moisture. They flew away with my dog.”

At Mary Ann’s, a retro diner in Derry, N.H., the slogan on the owner’s shirt is “A blast from the past” — and the description suits Romney, too. He admires the Texaco “Fire Chief” gas pump and a jukebox (“You guys hear this music? ‘I want a caveman, I want a caveman.’ ”). Posing for a photo with his arms around the waitresses, he suddenly jumps forward, pretending somebody pinched his bottom. “Oh my goodness gracious!” he exclaims, then, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.” He later says the gag is “kind of fun to do.”

That Romney can survive an awkward morning like this is another sign of the luck smiling on his second run for the White House. Everything seems to be coming together for him this time, though not because of any brilliant performance.

Conservatives panned his health-care speech. Rush Limbaugh proclaimed “bye-bye, nomination” after Romney said humans contribute to global warming. Yet Romney has wandered into the lead in the GOP race, and polls show he has pulled even with Obama, thanks to the grim economy. Against his Lilliputian 2012 rivals, he is a fundraising and polling giant.

This week is typical: Romney didn’t do much to distinguish himself in Monday’s debate, but he came away a winner because others did less. Then, the next morning, Romney was back to his strained common-man shtick. He wore black Gap jeans (even his pants size, 34 by 34, is perfectly square) and a checked shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

His struggle to make chitchat with the diner patrons pleaded “regular guy” almost as much as his endorsement on the “Today” show of the “Twilight” vampire series. To a man wearing a “Joe Gauci Landscaping” T-shirt: “You do some landscaping work?” To two older women who just came from the gym: “Are your knees, hips doing okay?” To an old married couple: “You know each other?” Romney seemed to be auditing one man: “What’s happened to your financials the last couple of years?”

He departed Blake’s with a final plea for support in the New Hampshire primary, scheduled for Feb. 14. “Get out and vote,” he encouraged the diners. “It’s a while, though, I think. What is it, November? . . . It’s not November. It’s January. It’s February!”

Later, at Derry Feed & Supply, Romney stood next to a display of hermit crabs and attempted regular-guy talk with the proprietors but kept inserting exotic phrases such as “we aimed our barbs, if you will, at the president” and “it’s the agonizing reappraisal.”

And yet, it’s working for Romney. “It’s a lot different from how it was” in ’08, Romney remarked as he strolled down Derry’s main street, trailed by 40 journalists. “Then, it was, ‘Who the heck are you?’ I like this a lot better.”

Except for the mosquitoes flying away with his dog. Oh, my goodness gracious! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Dana Milbank writes a regular column on politics.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ROCK BANDS - Name Origins - Just in case you didn't need to know!

Bands often have unusual names and here are the origins of some popular bands both past and present.
One thing that you will discover if you look into this area is that RUMORS abound! Listings are alphabetical

ABBA - Abba is "father" in Hebrew but the band claims that to be unintentional - rather it is an acronym for the first names of the band members: Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid (Frida).

AC/DC - 1) It is said that one of the band member saw it on an appliance and thought it had something to do with power. (It does mean "alternating current / direct current".) The band used it not realizing it was also slang for a bisexual- the band claims NOT to be bisexual.
2) In the vogue of other anti-everything bands it stands for Against Christ/Devil's Children.

ALICE IN CHAINS - a funny rumor is that they were named after a lost episode from The Brady Bunch series!

AMBOY DUKES - Ted Nugent's original band - taken from the title of a 1940's book about street gangs by Irving Shulman.

ANTHRAX - A dangerous bacteria that used to infect many cattle in Europe & could be used for terrorism.

ASPHALT BALLET - The name came from a motorcycle accident Julius was in where the motion of the bike rolling over on the asphalt road was termed an "Asphalt Ballet."

AQUA - suggested by a Danish AQUArium poster that was hanging in their recording studio.

BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY - this neo-swing band takes its name from what legendary bluesman Albert King wrote as an autograph for the band's leader, Scotty Morris... "To the big bad voodoo daddy."

B-52's - The beehive hairstyle popular in the 1950's (worn by band members) was called a B-52 after a type of large US Air Force bomber plane with that designation.

BACKSTREET BOYS - The Backstreet Market was a store in Florida where the guys used to hang out.

BAD COMPANY - A 1972 modern cowboy movie starring Jeff Bridges.

BAD ENGLISH - One day the band members were playing pool and thinking about a name for the
band. John Waite went to take a shot and missed. Someone made a comment on how bad his "English" was - English referring to the spin you put on a ball according to where on the ball your stick hits.

BAUHAUS - an artsy name, after a style of graphic design and famous school of architecture.

BEASTIE BOYS - According to Michael Diamond, BEASTIE stands for Boys Entering Anarchistic
Stages Towards Internal Excellence.

THE BEATLES - 1) original member Stuart Sutcliffe came up with THE BEETLES , as a play on Buddy Holly's group THE CRICKETS who they loved. They were using the name THE QUARRYMEN and sometimes THE SILVER BEETLES - later it became THE BEATLES emphasizing the BEAT aspect of music (and poetry?). 2) Lennon lists the influence of the film "The Wild One", which featured a motorcycle gang called the Beetles (unconfirmed). John Lennon is generally credited with combining Beetles and Beat to come up with THE BEATLES spelling. Lennon was also fond of saying he had a vision as a child of a flaming pie in the sky that said "You are Beatles with an "A"

JOHN CAFFERTY and the BEAVER BROWN BAND - did the classic soundtrack to the movie Eddie and the Cruisers. The band from the Cranston Rhode Island area was practicing in one of
the band member's garages when they saw a Dutch Boy paint can that was called Beaver Brown.

THE BEE GEES - the 60's soft-rockers now best known for disco. "Saturday Night Fever" - some say the BG comes from "Brothers Gibb" since they were brothers named Gibb... however an article on the group suggests that they used the names of 2 friends that helped them get started: Bill Goode and a DJ named Bill Gates... I'll go with the first version.

BELLE and SEBASTIAN - was a French T.V. series in the early seventies about a little boy and his dog, a Saint Bernard named Belle. Belle was put to sleep after she injured another child.

THE BLACK CROWES - it was originally named Mr. Crowe's Garden, after a favorite children's book. They sang under that name until they signed with Def American Records in 1989. They renamed themselves at the suggestion of a producer.

BLACK SABBATH - from a 1960's cheap horror movie starring Boris Karloff , suggesting a holy day of witchcraft.

BLACK UHURU - Uhuru is Swahili for freedom, therefore "Black Freedom".

BLIND MELON - slang for an out-of-work hippie (Weren't they all?) - they were called that by Shannon H's dad - also recalls an old blues singer, Blind Lemon - Melon being an anagram for Lemon.

BLINK 182 - Blink 182 supposedly has NO meaning at all but the band fosters stories on origins. Sample: used to be just "Blink" but was threatened by a lawsuit from a little known Irish band with the same name, so they added the 182 which is the number of times the f-word was said in one of the members favorite movies.

THE BLOODHOUND GANG - was a segment on the PBS kid's show 3-2-1 Contact! in the 80's
about 3 kids who were detectives, solving mysteries and fighting crime and such.

BLOTTO - source: - "Blotto actually began as the Star Spangled Washboard Band, a bluegrass combo with plenty of country corn. With their live show, " Radar Beans " and tracks like "I Get a Charge Out of You" and the medley "The Battle of New Orleans / Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor," the Washboard Band received enough acclaim to appear twice on the televised Mike Douglas Show. Then the group folded. Four alumni from the Washboard Band continued their musical careers by performing monthly at the Saratoga club "17 Maple Avenue". They later added a bass player, a drummer and a female vocalist, and renamed their band Blotto, after the dog in the 1930's novel Nightlife of the Gods." 2) the word is also slang for being totally drunk.

BLUE CHEER - 60's nickname for high-quality LSD, and coincidentally a brand of laundry detergent (the band used the detergent idea on their album cover with "New, Improved, Blue Cheer" - surprised they didn't get sued for it.

BON JOVI - from the New Jersey bandleader Jon Bon Jovi, whose real name is John Bongiovi, Jr.

BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S - Booker T. led the band and M.G. stands for Memphis Group not the once-popular car.

DAVID BOWIE - born David Jones, he changed his name to avoid confusion with David (Davy) Jones of THE MONKEES.

BUCK CHERRY - possibly a goof on the often heard speaking disorder wherein the speaker will interchange the first letter{s} in two successive words i.e. "I have just received a Blushing Crow
{crushing blow} Metallica uses such a device in their album entitled "Cunning Stunts." Buck Cherry would then equal Chuck Berry, famous classic rocker.

CHERRY POPPIN' DADDIES - the leader of this modern big band, Steve Perry, says it comes from an old R&B record and that it "sounded sexy."

WENDY / WALTER CARLOS - Walter Carlos was a synthesizer composer who had a big hit with "Switched on Bach", after getting a sex change operation, he became she and goes under the name Wendy.

CASSANDRA COMPLEX - an allusion to Greek mythology; Cassandra had the gift of prophecy with the curse of no one ever believing her

CHEAP TRICK - they say the band members asked a Ouija Board what they should call themselves.

CHICAGO - Their first album was released as "Chicago Transit Authority", but the city of Chicago sued them because Chicago Transit Authority is the name of Chicago's public transportation department so they shortened it. Don't record companies check these things before they release them?

CHUBBY CHECKER - the host of American Bandstand (once the most popular American music TV show) Dick Clark's wife thought up the name as a take off on singer Fats Domino. Chubby "invented" the dance called "the twist"

CHUMBAWAMBA - In a band member's dream, he didn't know which door to use in a public toilet because the signs said "Chumba" and "Wamba" instead of "Men" and "Women"

COLLECTIVE SOUL - a term used in the popular novel "The Fountainhead", by Ayn Rand.

COLOR ME BADD - Sam Watters said the name was an attempt to remove racial, sexual and musical overtones - "If you want to color us as anything, color us as badd." Originally called TAKE 1 (but another group was using the name), Jon Bon Jovi asked them to open a Bon Jovi / Skid Row concert with "Daddy's Home" sung a capella. Jon said, "You guys think you're pretty bad. Let's see how bad you are in front of 15,000 people."

COUNTING CROWS - Comes from old English nursery rhyme which had to do with predicting the future from the numbers of birds seen. Originally the rhyme was about magpies, but as people came over to America, crows were used instead. From the song "A Murder of One" one of the versions of the rhyme goes "one for sorrow, two for joy, three for girls, four for boys, five for
silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told..." Adam Duritz liked the rhyme...

THE CRANBERRIES - originally called Cranberries Saw Us ( a joke on Cranberries SAUCE) they changed it to the shorter form later.

CREED - This popular Florida band was named after former bassist Brian Marshall's
earlier band Mattox Creed.

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL - unconfirmed origin: after Norvel Creedence, a friend of John Fogerty's . His favorite beer was called Clearwater, after a brief absence from the marketplace it was re-introduced by another brewery - hence Creedence Clearwater Revival.

THE CULT - Goth/Rock band 'The Cult' were once known as 'The Sudden Death Cult', then
shortened to 'Death Cult', then finally just 'The Cult'.

DEACON BLUE - took their name from a song of the same name by STEELY DAN.

DEF LEPPARD - Joe Elliot, lead singer, wanted to use the idea provided by the band Led Zeppelin's logo and transformed what he originally had as deaf leopard.

THE DEFTONES - Because when they started out, people thought they were so bad
that they called them tone deaf - transposed to def tones.

DEPECHE MODE - from the name of a fashion magazine, meaning hurry up fashion

DEVO - shortened form of "de-evolution" - the opposite of evolution - expressing the band's opinion on what the planet is going through.

DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS - named themselves after the slang term for a pep pill called DEXEDRINE even though the band themselves had a policy of no drink or drugs!

DION AND THE BELMONTS - BELMONTS after a street in their Bronx, New York neighborhood where they would hang out & sing street corner harmonies.

DMX - Dark Man X

DOOBIE BROTHERS - a doobie was 60's slang for a marijuana joint.

THE DOORS - Jim Morrison read poet William Blake who said "if the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite. "He was also influenced by author Aldous Huxley who referred to the same line when he titled his book on drug experimentation The Doors of Perception. "There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors" Official Doors web site is at

DURAN DURAN - named after a character in the Jane Fonda movie Barbarella.

BOB DYLAN - His real name is Robert Zimmerman - he liked the poet Dylan Thomas.

DYNAMITE HACK- A line in the movie Caddyshack describing marijuana.

THE EAGLES - originally called TEEN KING AND THE EMERGENCIES , they liked the American sound of Eagles and the way it was aligned with THE BYRDS who had a great influence on them.

ELTON JOHN - Real name: Reginald Dwight. Created from two other British musicians: Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.

EMINEM - from his real name Marshall Mathers he took M&M and rewrote it phonetically as Eminem.

EVERCLEAR - Named after the "Everclear" brand of 190 proof grain alcohol used to make dangerous alcoholic drinks.

EURYTHMICS - a method of music instruction from the 1890's that emphasizes physical response to the music..

EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL - from an ad for a British clothing store that would sell you "Everything but the Girl" that you saw in the ad.

EVE 6 - a phrase they heard in an X FILES episode.

FASTBALL - from a porno film the band saw - Mike Zuniga says it was "a typical porno movie but about baseball. It's like a really raunchy Bull Durham."

FOO FIGHTERS - a term used by World War II pilots to describe strange flying fireballs they sometimes saw.

FLEETWOOD MAC - a simple one. They just took the last name of drummer Mick Fleetwood and a form of bassist John McVie's last name.

FAITH NO MORE - named after a race horse they saw listed on a racing form.

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE - the name of a garden center on Route 46 in Wayne, New Jersey.

GARBAGE - Either lead singer Shirley Manson's father yelled down to the band at one of their basement practice sessions, "Play more quietly - you sound like garbage." or from a friend of Butch Vig (the drummer of Garbage), who said "This stuff sounds like garbage!" check their site at

GENESIS - The first book in the Bible - their first album's title was "From Genesis to Revelation"

GIN BLOSSOMS - slang for the "blossoms" (burst blood capillaries) on the face particularly the nose from drinking too much alcohol - in the late 1800's gin was a popular cheap alcoholic drink.

GODSMACK - The metal band "Godsmack" was much thought to be named after the Alice in
Chains song of the same name. But according to the band they arrived at the name after one band member made a particularly inappropriate comment and another remarked "God will smack you for that one". Hence forth one would receive a "Godsmack" for bad behavior.

GO BETWEENS - from a film directed by Joseph Losey.

GOO GOO DOLLS - used to be called the Sex Maggots, and when they were told that local newspapers wouldn't print that name, Jonny Rzeznik picked up a magazine from the early 60's with an ad for a doll that cried Goo Goo when you turned it upside down.

GOLDFINGER - after the James Bond movie.

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD - a version of "The Grand Trunk Railroad" ; a Michigan landmark.

THE GRATEFUL DEAD - originally called The Warlocks, Jerry Garcia found out that another band had the same name. Supposedly, he looked in a reference book at random and found a folk tale about a troubled soul who is put to rest by a traveler. The spirit then helps the traveler with his own quest.

GREEN DAY - 1) It may have come from the sci-fi movie Soylent Green when they said "Tuesday is soylent green day." Soylent green was a food produced by a corporation to feed the way overpopulated masses; turns out they were also making it from the masses! 2) Another story is that when they dropped out of school to be musicians, their principal said "It'll be a green day in hell before you make anything of yourselves". 3) Some say that in drug slang - if you smoked pot and goofed off all day, it was a "Green Day."

GUNS 'N' ROSES - originally two bands L.A. GUNNS and HOLLYWOOD ROSES. Hollywood Roses was headed by Axl Rose, Tracii Guns headed the other band which also featured Slash. The two frequented clubs and played there and were friends.

HEAVEN 17 - took their name from a group mentioned in the novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess that was made into a popular film by Stanley Kubrick. In a scene in Kubrick's film Alex is browsing in a futuristic record shop and checks out an album by the 'Heavenly 17'.

HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH - from the nicknames of two friends of singer/guitarist Darius Rucker - one with owl-like eyes (Hootie), another with the puffy "Blowfish" cheeks.

JANE"S ADDICTION - The band got it's name from a girl (Jane) that Perry Farrell knew back in L.A who was a prostitute and called it her addiction.

JETHRO TULL - popular 70's band that is named after the rather obscure inventor of the farmer's seed drill.

JUDAS PRIEST - originally a mild curse said to avoid saying "Jesus Christ" - also from the Bob Dylan song "The ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest".

KMFDM - KEIN MEHRHEIT FÜR DIE MITLEID, loosely translates as "no sympathy for the majority." Founded by SASCHA KONIETZKO from Germany. When Englishman RAYMOND "PIG" WATTS joined the band he never pronounce the name so he just started calling it by the initials.

KING CRIMSON - from the official website The band's original lyricist, Peter Sinfield, created it as a synonym for Beelzebub, which is derived from the Arabic phrase "B'il Sabab", meaning "the man with an aim." (Another, more common etymology of "Beelzebub" is that it is Hebrew for "Lord of the Flies.") In John Milton's 'Paradise Lost', Beelzebub was Satan's chief lieutenant among the fallen angels. Often seen as a red (crimson) figure, he is King of the underworld.

KING MISSILE - is a popular Japanese comic book character.

KISS - According to Paul Stanley, Kiss just sounded dangerous (kiss of death) and sexy at the same time. Kiss denies the rumors that the name stands for "Kids In Service of Satan" or the saying "Keep It Simple Stupid."

KORN - There are many stories as to how the name originated, however the most believable is that Korn starts with Kern County which is where Jonathan worked as a Coroner. From that came "KoRn". It was then decided that it would be written like a child would write it, hence the K
instead of a C, and the backwards R.

LED ZEPPELIN - Jimmy Page was drinking with Moon and Entwhistle, who were bitching about their band mates Daltrey and Townshend. They joked about the two of them starting a band with Jimmy, and one of them said "Yeah, that will go over like a lead balloon". When Jimmy formed his own band, he remembered this and thought "Lead Zeppelin" would be good, both from that conversation and the heavy/light contradiction similar to the band named IRON BUTTERFLY. They decided to drop the "a" so Americans wouldn't mispronounce it.

LEMONHEADS - a type of candy.

LEVEL 42 - 1) From the supercomputer in the great & hilarious novel The Restaurant at the end of the Universe, (part of the "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" series) computed the meaning of life to be 42 2) Also a possible reference to a sign in the strange film Brazil that says "Level 41".

LIMP BIZKIT - Got the idea from Fred Durst's dog Biscuit who has a limp.

LL COOL J - for "Ladies Love Cool James".

LOVE AND ROCKETS - a popular comic book title.

LOVIN' SPOONFUL - 1) from the lyrics of the old song "Coffee Blues". Possibly a drug reference to the spoon used to heat & melt drugs such as heroin for use. 2) Also that the amount of the sperm ejaculated by the average male is about a spoonful (see also the band 10cc

LOS LOBOS - Spanish for "The Wolves"

LYNYRD SKYNYRD - Named after Leonard Skinner, an annoying gym teacher/coach some of the members had in high school. Leonard is said to have moved on to sell real estate in Jacksonville, Florida.

MARCY PLAYGROUND - frontman John Wozniak would look out the window of his third grade classroom and see that playground and wish he could play there - but he didn't because there were bullies there that would beat him up... must have been traumatic.

MEGADETH - Dave Mustane was inspired by a government pamphlet he saw after leaving METALLICA. A Megadeath is a military term for one million dead (making World War II an 80 Megadeath)

MELVINS - You give someone a melvin by approaching from behind, and yanking up on the waistband of their underwear as hard as you can (also popularized on SEINFELD as a "wedgie" A "Melvin" was also a nerd synonym.

METALLICA - Lars Ulrich was helping a friend think of a name for a metal fanzine. The choices were Metal Mania and Metallica. Metal Mania was chosen for the magazine & he used Metallica for his band.

THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES - This ska/punk band from Boston originally called themselves the BOSSTONES in tribute to their hometown. An ad for one of their gigs called them "The Mighty Mighty Bosstones" and it stuck.

MIND BENDERS - This 60's band that appeared as themselves in the film "To Sir, With Love" was named after a 1962 British horror movie.

MISFITS - A 1961 movie starring Clarke Gable and Marilyn Monroe.

MONSTER MAGNET - 1) Dave Wyndorf, lead man in Monster Magnet, collects sci-fi/Horror collectibles, one is a model called "The Monster Magnet" 2) The Mothers of Invention's first LP Freak Out has that title as its first track.

MOTHERS OF INVENTION - Frank Zappa's highly experimental band was originally just called the Mothers, their record label asked them to change it (because it could be taken as an obscenity) and out of necessity they added "of Invention" since "Necessity is the mother of invention."

MÖTLEY CRÜE - A friend said "What a Motley looking Crew" - motley meaning "of great variety" and once describing the appearance of a court jester. The re-spelling was their own invention using the umlauts (those funny dots over letters) came to them while they were partying & drinking Lowenbrau beer.

MOTORHEAD - British slang for a drug user who uses a lot of speed

NIRVANA - In Buddhism it means the state of perfect blessedness attained through the annihilation of the self.

'NSYNC- Justin's mother came up with the name. N is the last letter in Justin, S is the last letter in Chris, Y is the last letter in Joey. N is actually from James Lance Bass because Chris gave him the nickname 'Lansten'. Since Lance doesn't end with a N, they used his nick name,
Lansten. C is from J.C. That's how they came up with 'NSYNC. (info from T.J. Gernon, Illinois & Andrea in San Diego) The whole thing is, of course, a play on In Sync - a term which comes from the movie industry - meaning when the picture & soundtrack are properly aligned or synchronized.

NO DOUBT - a favorite phrase of John Spence, it became the name of the band prior to his suicide.

NOBODY'S ANGELS - inspired by the U.S, TV series and later film Charlie's Angels.

OASIS - local British origins: a Manchester cab company, a chain of women's clothing stores, a local Indian restaurant and more likely a local club that The Beatles played in during their early years (the band are avowed Beatles fans)

OUR LADY PEACE - The band took their unusual name from a 1943 poem by American poet Mark Van Doren. link to information

PANTERA - Spanish for Panther and also a pretty cool car.

PEARL JAM - 1) Eddie's grandma supposedly made a peyote (hallucinogenic drug) jelly/jam , which as kids they called pearl jam. 2) I've heard a couple of times that "Pearl Jam" comes from NBA player Mookie Blaylock -- it's his nickname. Band members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament
were huge fans of Blaylock, loved his peculiar name and wished to just call their band "Mookie Blaylock" but Blaylock protested, so they used his nickname "Pearl Jam" instead.

PHISH - A play on drummer John Fishman's last name... altered spelling as in THE BEATLES.

PINK FLOYD - taken from the names of two Georgia bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council - from the early days when the band saw itself as a blues band.

PORNO FOR PYROS - 1) Perry Farrell was reading a fireworks catalog on tour when a friend said the magazine looked like "porno for a pyro(maniac)" - a pyromaniac being one who loves fire. 2) Perry Farrel was up one night late watching the TV coverage of the LA riots and the fires and
couldn't take his eyes off the screen. He said it was like "porno for pyros".

PORTISHEAD - The name of their home town in England.

PROCOL HARUM - terrific art rock band was named by lyricist Keith Reid - a term he thought to be Arabic for "beyond that which is" - also the name of his cat.

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE - Some of the band members were into astrology,
and noted that one or more of them were born under the House of Mercury. As Mercury
is the name for both the messenger of the gods and the liquid metal, the latter of which is also called quicksilver, Quicksilver Messenger Service was born.

RADIOHEAD - Named after a Talking Heads' song called "Radio Head."

RAMONES - Paul McCartney used to call himself Paul Ramone. The Ramones all use the last name Ramone even though it's not their given name.

REO SPEEDWAGON - the name of a fire engine made by Oldsmobile in the 1930's. "R.E.O." was the initials of Ransom Elliot Olds, the founder of the Oldsmobile Car Company.

THE REPLACEMENTS - Legend has it that they were given a gig after another band failed to show - when asked who they were they replied "We're the Replacements".

R.E.M. - in the study of dreams, the abbreviation refers to rapid eye movement or that time during sleep when an observable movement of the eyeball occurs indicating that the person is in a dream state. Band member Michael Stipe has said that this is not why the band picked the name.

THE RIGHEOUS BROTHERS - The Righteous Brothers supposedly changed their name when a fan at one of their appearances yelled "That's righteous, brothers." I don't know what they called themselves before. Righteous being a late 1950's slang for great, cool etc.

THE ROLLING STONES - from the Howlin' Wolf blues song "Rolling Stone" - Keith Richards was a fan of the version recorded by Muddy Waters.

SAMHAIN - The Celtic New Year, which has evolved into Halloween - the spirit of Halloween sometimes Americanized to Sam Haines.

SAVAGE GARDEN - a phrase from an Anne Rice novel "Interview With The Vampire"

SAVE FERRIS - a sign you'll see if you watch the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

SEPULTURA - the Brazilian death metal band Sepultura name is the Portugese/Spanish word for a grave or burial tomb.

SEVEN MARY THREE - a police radio code for 7M3, it was also one of the motorcycle cops radio name on the old TV show C.H.I.P.S. (California Highway Patrol ) mid-70's.

SILVERCHAIR - 1) The Silver Chair is one of the titles in C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" in which Prince Rilian of Narnia is held captive under the spell of the witch who killed his mother.
During brief moments of returning sanity he is restrained in a silver chair. He is rescued when two children magically transported from earth, and a dour resident of Narnia find him and destroy the chair thereby lifting the curse. 2) A combination of "Sliver" by Nirvana and "Berlin Chair" by You Am I. They were requesting the songs from a radio station and the name was inspired by notes a band member made to himself to remember the song titles while he was calling the station. * Original name of band: Innocent Criminals.

SIMPLE MINDS - taken from a line in the David Bowie song "Jean Genie".

SISTERS OF MERCY - A tribute to the Leonard Cohen song of same name; also an order of nuns.

SKID ROW - Slang for a rundown inner city neighborhoods where alcoholics, junkies, street people can afford to live.

THE SMITHEREENS - Inspired by the cartoon character Yosemite Sam's classic line, "I'll blow you varmints to smithereens".

SOFT MACHINE - The name of a William Burroughs novel.

SOUNDGARDEN - A garden of kinetic sculptures that makes music when wind blows through them... a sculpture in Seattle called "Sound Garden".

SPEEDBALL - A deadly drug cocktail mix of heroin and cocaine.

SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS - an oddly titled type of candy.

SMASH MOUTH - football players use this slang term in any game with a lot of blocking or tackling.

STEELY DAN - taken from William Burrough's book Naked Lunch. In it Steely Dan is the nickname given to a giant steam-powered dildo (see cover photo on their first album)

STEPPENWOLF - in the words of band leader John Kay "Steppenwolf was originally a book written by Herman Hesse, (a German author) and it was a book I was totally unfamiliar with when the band that became Steppenwolf was in its infancy. The young man who lived next door to where Steppenwolf started to rehearse (by the name of Gabriel Mekler, born and raised in Israel) he had read the book. When it came time to put a name on the demo box that was going to go to the first label, he said "Well, what is the band called?" and aside from the obvious joke names and other obscene suggestions which were not marketable, he finally said, "Well look, how about Steppenwolf'? I think it's a word that looks good in print, and it denotes a certain degree of mystery and power and you guys are kind of rough and ready types." Everybody said that sounds pretty interesting and if we don't get a deal we can always scrawl another name on the box and send it to somebody else, so let's go with that for now. Well, that's what it's been now for many years and, to be honest, it's been a very good name." source John Kay & Steppenwolf

STYX - named after the river of death found in Greek mythology and in Dante's Inferno.

10,000 MANIACS - extension of an old horror movie called "2000 Maniacs".

10 CC - the average amount of ejaculate from a healthy male.

TALKING HEADS - probably from the video jargon for a camera shot showing only the head & shoulders of a person. Newscasters are usually shown this way and it makes for boring TV. Another story says they were inspired by a military experiment involving talking mannequin heads.

TESLA - from the largely unknown but important inventor Nikola Tesla who did important research in alternating current, radio, fluorescent lights, X-rays, microwaves...

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - named after the cult film favorite starring George C. Scott about "loonies." The film is also referencing Don Quixote, by Miguel Cervantes. In the book, the title character says "they might be giants" when referring to the windmills he attempts to fight.

THIRD EYE BLIND - Our third eye is the imagined one that gives us a kind of sixth sense (telepathy, ESP, etc.) and the band felt that most of us are blind in that sense. There is also a symbolic third eye (all knowing eye) that appears on the back of a U.S. dollar bill.

THOMSON TWINS - two characters in the Tintin comics by the late Belgium artist Herge.

THREE DOG NIGHT - Inspired by an Australian Aboriginal custom of sleeping with a dog for warmth on a cold night - a three dog night would be very cold, plus the band had 3 lead singers.

TLC - nicknames of band members: Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez and Rozonda is "Chilli" Actually Crystal was going to be the C of TLC, but when they auditioned for Laface, an exec didn't like Crystal's voice, so they replaced her with "Chilli". TLC was going to originally stand for Tionne, Left Eye and Crystal. The idea of "Tender Loving Care" must have worked for them too.

TOAD THE WET SPROCKET - A skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus which is about a weird rock band.

311 - "One of P-Nut's friends (Jim Watson) was arrested, cuffed (naked) and taken home to his parents. He was issued a citation for a code 311 (indecent exposure). We thought this was funny, so we took it as our band name. After the humor of the name wore off - we still kept it because we liked that it was just abstract and that it did not define us in anyway. The name did not describe our sound or our politics, it just let the music speak for itself. Since most interviewers always ask us "What does 311 mean?", we have come up with lots of different answers over the years. Some include.... Nick - "five friends making music", Tim - "a number dictated to me by a higher intelligence", P-Nut - "knowing a little numerology and studying a little magic, which I do; in some factions, three is man and 11 is magic. So 311 is like male magic." from their official site

T PAU - after a high priestess from the planet VULCAN in the American TV series STAR TREK

U2 - Three possibilities: 1) A type of spy plane used by the United States in the 1960's - made famous when Gary Powers' U2 plane was shot down over Russia and he was taken as a
prisoner during the Cold War. 2) U2 as in "you too" referring to the audience and its role in the musical experience 3) a U2 is an unemployment form in Ireland (see UB40)

UB40 - Code number of a form people in Britain have to fill out to receive public assistance or welfare. Known in the UK as a signing-off form when you get a job. Hence the title of their first album Signing Off.

ULTRAVOX - Latin for "the greatest amount of voice"

URGE OVERKILL - The name of a Parliaments' funk song.

VAN HALEN - after Alex and Eddie Van Halen - suggested by David Lee Roth as being better than their original name "Mammoth." They might have been called 'Daddy Longlegs' if Gene Simmons of KISS had gotten his way - he partially financed and produced one of their original demo records and suggested names and artwork.

VERUCA SALT - from a female character in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ( AKA Willy Wonka) played by Julie Dawn Cole (who is not in the band)

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND - 60's experimental band associated with pop artist Andy Warhol, they took their name from a paperback book they found on the street - the book was about sex in America.

WEEZER - Band member Rivers Cuomo had the nickname Weezer in school because of a breathing problem.

WHITE SNAKE - from a white albino ball python snake owned by David Coverdale while in DEEP PURPLE.

WHITE ZOMBIE - An old horror "B" movie.

WINGS - Paul McCartney's band - 1) in the Paul/Beatles song "Blackbird" you'll hear "Take these broken wings and learn to fly" which is what he did in his next album - a solo effort. 2) When Linda McCartney was giving birth to their daughter Stella, Paul was pacing around hoping everything was going well and he was praying and started thinking of angels and wings. Wings just stuck in his mind.

YO LA TENGO -translates to "I have it" from Spanish - said to be the phrase called out by Hispanic baseball players when fielding a pop fly ball. Singer/guitar player Ira Kaplan got the expression from a book he was reading about baseball called The Five Seasons.

ZZ TOP - taken from the name of a Texas Blues man ZZ Hill. Though a rumor is that they got their name by combining Zig Zag and Top, two well known brands of "cigarette" rolling papers.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What's Wrong With Adult Sexting? Weiner weird or just stupid? I'm starting a new Website "WEINER's WEINER!"

Experts on adult sexting were in demand all week, as details continued to emerge about Representative Anthony Weiner's online sexual communications with at least six women. While research into teenagers' exchange of sexually explicit messages or photographs of themselves has gained a lot of attention, there is less information on sexting among adults.

A Pew Research Center poll found that 6 percent of Americans over 18 reported having sent a nude or near-nude image of themselves to someone else and 15 percent said they had received one. In Mr. Weiner's 30- to 49-year-old demographic, 17 percent reported receiving such a message.

Can adult sexting simply be considered a new form of pornography? When is it harmless and when is it damaging and even dangerous? Is it different for people in their 20's as opposed to older adults?
Gates: Prospects for U.S.-NATO alliance "dim"

BRUSSELS - America's military alliance with Europe — the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades — faces a "dim, if not dismal" future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in a blunt valedictory address.

In his final policy speech as Pentagon chief, Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members' penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.

"Future U.S. political leaders — those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me — may not consider the return on America's investment in NATO worth the cost," he told a European think tank on the final day of an 11-day overseas journey.

Gates has made no secret of his frustration with NATO bureaucracy and the huge restrictions many European governments placed on their military participation in the Afghanistan war. He ruffled NATO feathers early in his tenure with a direct challenge to contribute more front-line troops that yielded few contributions.

Even so, Gates' assessment Friday that NATO is falling down on its obligations and foisting too much of the hard work on the U.S. was unusually harsh and unvarnished. He said both of NATO's main military operations now — Afghanistan and Libya — point up weaknesses and failures within the alliance.

NATO pounds Tripoli, ponders post-Qaddafi Libya
Gates: U.S. won't "rush to the exits" in Afghanistan
Video: Where is the Afghan war headed?

"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense," he said.

Without naming names, he blasted allies who are "willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets."

"He's spent the last four and a half years begging NATO to contribute their fair share," says CBS News chief national security correspondent David Martin. "Now, with just three weeks left... he's just speaking his mind."

Gates, a career CIA officer who rose to become the spy agency's director from 1991 to 1993, is retiring on June 30 after 4½ years as Pentagon chief. His designated successor, Leon Panetta, is expected to take over July 1.

Panetta to inherit Afghan dilemma

Martin stressed the point Gates made about dwindling Cold War memories in the minds of America's body politic, noting that, already, most American politicians - including the president - aren't old enough to remember the "glory days of NATO", and they're likely to wonder increasingly, "what's in it for us?"

The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops based in Europe, not to stand guard against invasion but to train with European forces and promote what for decades has been lacking: the ability of the Europeans to go to war alongside the U.S. in a coherent way.

Hacker group "Anonymous" threatens NATO

The war in Afghanistan, which is being conducted under NATO auspices, is a prime example of U.S. frustration at European inability to provide the required resources.

"Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform, not counting the U.S. military, NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more," Gates said.

For many Americans, NATO is a vague concept tied to a bygone era, a time when the world feared a Soviet land invasion of Europe that could have escalated to nuclear war. But with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO's reason for being came into question. It has remained intact — and even expanded from 16 members at the conclusion of the Cold War to 28 today.

But reluctance of some European nations to expand defense budgets and take on direct combat has created what amounts to a two-tier alliance: the U.S. military at one level and the rest of NATO on a lower, almost irrelevant plane.

Gates said this could spell the demise of NATO.

"What I've sketched out is the real possibility for a dim, if not dismal future for the trans-Atlantic alliance," he said. "Such a future is possible, but not inevitable. The good news is that the members of NATO — individually and collectively — have it well within their means to halt and reverse these trends and instead produce a very different future."

Gates has said he believes NATO will endure despite its flaws and failings. But his remarks Friday point to a degree of American impatience with traditional and newer European allies that in coming years could lead to a reordering of U.S. defense priorities in favor of Asia and the Pacific, where the rise of China is becoming a predominant concern.

To illustrate his concerns about Europe's lack of appetite for defense, Gates noted the difficulty NATO has encountered in carrying out an air campaign in Libya.

"The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference," he said.

His comment reflected U.S. frustration with the allies' limited defense budgets.

"To avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance, member nations must examine new approaches to boosting combat capabilities," he said.

He applauded Norway and Denmark for providing a disproportionate share of the combat power in the Libya operation, given the size of their militaries. And he credited Belgium and Canada for making "major contributions" to the effort to degrade the military strength of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

"These countries have, with their constrained resources, found ways to do the training, buy the equipment and field the platforms necessary to make a credible military contribution," he said.

But they are exceptions, in Gates' view.

A NATO air operations center designed to handle more than 300 flights a day is struggling to launch about 150 a day against Libya, Gates said.

On a political level, the problem of alliance purpose in Libya is even more troubling, he said.

"While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission," he said. "Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can't. The military capabilities simply aren't there."

Afghanistan is another example of NATO falling short despite a determined effort, Gates said.

He recalled the history of NATO's involvement in the Afghan war — and the mistaken impression some allied governments held of what it would require of them.

"I suspect many allies assumed that the mission would be primarily peacekeeping, reconstruction and development assistance — more akin to the Balkans," he said, referring to NATO peacekeeping efforts there since the late 1990s. "Instead, NATO found itself in a tough fight against a determined and resurgent Taliban returning in force from its sanctuaries in Pakistan."

He also offered praise and sympathy, noting that more than 850 troops from non-U.S. NATO members have died in Afghanistan. For many allied nations these were their first military casualties since World War II.

He seemed to rehearse his position in the coming debate within the Obama administration on how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this year.

"Far too much has been accomplished, at far too great a cost, to let the momentum slip away just as the enemy is on his back foot," he said.

He said the "vast majority" of the 30,000 extra troops Obama sent to Afghanistan last year will remain through the summer fighting season. He was not more specific.

In a question-and-answer session with his audience after the speech, Gates, 67, said his generation's "emotional and historical attachment" to NATO is "aging out."

He said he is not sure what this means in practical terms. But if Europeans want to keep a security link to the U.S. in the future, he said, "the drift of the past 20 years can't continue."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Our Wasteful Health Care System PAUL KRUGMAN NYTimes

The Economist’s “Democracy in America” blog has a very good illustration of the reasons our privatized, market-based system is so much more expensive, for no better results, than everyone else’s:

A medical technology company is going public to generate the money it needs to advertise its products to hospital directors and insurance-company reimbursement officers. This entails significant extra expenditures for marketing, the new stocks issued to fund the marketing will ultimately have to pay dividends, banks will have to be paid to supervise the IPO that was needed to generate the funds to finance the marketing campaign (presumably charging the industry-cartel standard 7%)…and all this will have to be paid for by driving up the price the company charges to deliver its technologies. But beyond the added expense, why would anyone think that a system in which marketing plays such a large role is likely to be more effective, to lead to better treatment, than the kind of process of expert review that governs grant awards at NIH or publishing decisions at peer-reviewed journals? Why do we think that a system in which ads for Claritin are all over the subways will generate better overall health results than one where a national review board determines whether Claritin delivers treatment outcomes for some populations sufficiently superior to justify its added expense over similar generics? What do we expect from a system in which, as ProPublica reports today, body imaging companies hire telemarketers to sell random people CT scans over the phone?

The other key thing to pay attention to is who this marketing campaign was targeted at: key decisionmakers at providers and insurance companies. Those are the people who decide whether medical procedures get ordered. It’s not patients. Patients aren’t going to experience a loss of freedom or satisfaction because an expert reviewer at the Independant Payment Advisory Board makes the call as to whether a procedure is medically beneficial, rather than the corresponding bureaucrat at their insurance provider or at the for-profit clinic they’re attending.

None of this is particularly new — but it needs to be repeated, over and over again; maybe some of it will leak through the ideological armor of Very Serious People.