The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday 5 March 2012

Air Date: 
March 05, 2013


Photo, above:  A walkway on the island of Lamu, Kenya. Cast into the Indian Ocean off the coast of Kenya, the island and town of Lamu are heir to a distinctive tradition over a thousand years old.  The Swahili culture and style of Lamu are a mix of East African, Omani, Yemeni, Indian, and some Portuguese and Victorian influences.  Of all the old Swahili towns of East Africa, Lamu is one of the few remaining substantially intact. The wood of choice is Mbambakofi, a hardwood in the mahogany family found off the island of Lamu. The flower of the tree has a . . .


Hour One

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block A:  Mary Kissel, WSJ editorial board, in Australia, in re:  . . .   Chinese buying  hotel in ht warmer and sunnier climes of Australia; not initially welcomed, but not vociferously rejected as was, for example, the US reaction to the proposed CNOOC deal.  Assuies concerned that "Asian pivot" does not mean more US naval forces to the East, and were worried abt Washington's dealings with PM Abe.  Are clear-eyed - incl Labour - abt the new Chinese leadership.

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block B:   Uwe E. Reinhardt , Princeton economics professor (and has some financial interests in the health care field, in re: (astounding) "extreme billing" by nonprofit hospitals of patients.  Phrase from "extreme fighting." When middle-class uninsured people arrive at a hospital, they’re billed "charges" – a mysterious thing. Every hospital has a Chargemaster, 20,000 list prices; no one know s how they're set. Ins co's negotiate a reduced pries, sometimes more than 50%. The middle class [victim], which I call a "mark," is billed up to three of four times actual cost.    We need an annual report, in writing, of how we bill middle-class Americans.  Yale pursued a man, a Mr Whitehead, so viciously that they were sued by the Attorney-General. There exists a national recommendation, which nonprofits generally fail to follow.  The great fdns – Robt Wood Johnson an others, ever pooled resources to research into what’s going on. Of course, Congress knew, as did all readers of the Wall Street Journal., yet never did anything.   A local hospital in NJ said, "We can charge up to 115% of what Medicaid charges."  A livery driver took his three-year-old son, who had pus in his eyes, to the ER, was given a little cream and charged a thousand dollars.

     If you're uninsured and being pursued by a "nonprofit," you have recourse.

Capt. Louis Renault’s famous line in the movie “Casablanca” comes to mind as I behold the reaction to the journalist Steven Brill’s 36-page report “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,” published in a special issue of Time last week. Mr. Brill was swiftly invited to appear on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and on “Charlie Rose.”

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: Lanhee J Chen, Hoover, in re: What Obama Isn’t Telling You About Sequestration . Incentivize growth by reforming the tax code, exploring intl trade - above all, certainty for investors and getting the debt under control. This is what a Pres Romney would have focussed on; instead, we have Gene Sperling speaking [with Schadenfreude] of "pain." Our natl nongrowth is a result of both size of govt and esp of the leadership structure in Washington.

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  Mark Dradgem, Bloomberg,  in re: Natural Gas Gains With Fracking-Friendly Nominees

Hour Two

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  .Eric Trager, Washington Institute, in re:  a swarm of locust in Egypt [Exodus 12], along with a plague of dissent in Port Said. Pres Mursi was elected but has no control over the military, the police forces, or most of the country. "The police are thugs! We'll give our blood and souls for you, Port Said!" chanted the crowds. Genesis: soccer riot of a month ago (Port Said fans accused of attacking Cairene fans, then attacks on police stations.) Cash reserves from $36 bil after revolution to $13 bil today. Subsidizes gas , bread, other food.  The more money an outsider sends in without reforms, the more is wasted.  The Muslim Brotherhood expects that by just standing there they'll get checks from foreigners; Secy Kerry just gave them $250mil.

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  Greg Zuckerman, author, in re:    "Climbing  the wall of worry."  "Trees grow to Heaven." – now, after the sequester, we have a post-Apocalyptic rally. Case-Schiller index. Housing improving, energy soaring, mfrg renaissance.   Bears: it's an artificial rally, a Bernanke dollar.    Bonds aren't cratering yet.  Bill Gross, PIMCO: "On a scale of 10 to 10, irrationality is about 6." John Paulson made a billion dollars in oe day by betting on the housing mkt. Now he's had a bad several years with his bet on gold, inflation: as the Fed expands the money supply, eventually you get inflation.  Soros has Soros Fund Mgt: they’ve sold some gold as part of a much larger portfolio; have done well betting vs the Japanese yen. Eventually we'll produce too much light sweet crude for our refiners, will   have to export – controversial Kids just out of college making $100k-plus in New Orleans, the Bakken.

China Joining U.S. Shale Renaissance with $40 Billion

Natural Gas Seen Gaining With Obama’s Fracking-Friendly Nominees

 Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  . Bill Whalen, Hoover, in re: GOP Looking to Answer its Candidate Question , Sacramento Bee.   Neil Kashgari (deputy Treasury secretary), Bobby Jindal ("The Republicans are the stupid party") and _____.  Jobs, housing  and schools's quality are causing a lot of middle-class Californians to leave.  Note urban/rural divide. Republicans own more land, city slickers on the coast have more votes. Economy  and education are what Republicans must focus on henceforth. Are GOP in California being punished because of the stupids in Washington. Yes, a little bit.

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re:  Oakland is unable to police itself – not enough money, men on the streets or, worst, support from City Hall.  KPIX TV cameraman was filming in front of public high school: vista goes wobbly, cameraman was attacked and his camera stolen right there.  Occupy movement riots had vehicles vandalized, and so on.  Most of the vandals are young men in their twenties, Huge increase of BART (subway) thefts of iPhones 7 electronics.

However, it’s only a matter of time until the whole sector becomes a Disney themed montage. If technological development continues at this rate, Tomorrowland may as well combine with Fantasyland as a childish delusion from the past. As displayed by the modern developments of both Disney movies and Disneyland, the once-flourishing future that Disney envisioned for the world is coming to a rapid halt."

In Oakland, Photojournalists Covering Crimes Become the Victims  In less than a year, journalists at every major television news station in the Bay Area have been robbed of expensive cameras, sometimes at gunpoint, and it is changing the way they report.

National Attention and Cash in Los Angeles School Vote

Washington State’s Pensions in Crisis Too    Add Washington to the list of blue states with grossly underfunded public pension systems. A great new investigative piece in the Seattle Times finds that the state is using fanciful figures to provide teachers and taxpayers with misleading assurances about the safety of the pension system, one of the largest in the nation:

After consulting with several economists and pension experts, The Times decided to use discount rates derived from yields on long-term state general-obligation bonds, matched to each individual plan’s duration. The rates ranged from 3.48 percent to 6.26 percent. Those rates were used to compute present-day values of each plan’s projected future payments, using data provided by the state actuary’s office. The values were compared to the market value of each plan’s assets, as disclosed in their financial statements. Looked at this way, funding levels varied widely from plan to plan. Though none was fully funded, the two plans that cover local police and firefighters came closest: They were about 83 percent funded, generally considered a reasonably healthy level. On the other hand, the gap between assets and liabilities in the original (and now closed ) state workers’ plan grew from $3.7 billion to nearly $10 billion. The gap in the original teachers’ plan, also now closed, widened from $1.8 billion to $6.8 billion.

     The investigation found that the system as a whole was underfunded to the tune of almost $31 billion. Much like we’ve already seen in California, cash-strapped local governments will be asked to make up the difference by upping their contributions to the plans. Take the time this Monday morning to read the whole thing. It’s as well-written a summary of a pension crisis story as you’re likely to get, and this is a story that’s being repeated all across the nation. Then, if you haven’t already, have a look at how much you or your loved ones are relying on generous promises made by state bureaucrats to fund your retirement—and start asking some hard questions.

     Then take a look at what’s coming, as all over America battles will erupt over whether to cut services to poor people and kids today to honor unrealistic promises made to retired workers. Will non-state workers who don’t have pension programs vote to slash the funding for their kids’ education? Will a generation that’s been systematically lied to and bilked by irresponsible Boomers tax itself to the eyeballs to give the Boomers a stress-free retirement that younger folks won’t be able to share? A world of ugly is coming in American retail politics, and the Democratic Party in particular is going to be split by conflicts among different wings of its large coalition.

Hour Three

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:   Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Hugo Chávez: the dictator is dead, laving behind a poison legacy of close Iranian relations. Hours before they announced his death, the VP and the successor blamed the US for giving Chavez cancer. The US immediately called that absurd. US has made efforts over he ears to collaborate in various ways, to no avail.  Some of Chavez's underlings didn’t share his enthusiasm for amity with Iran, which may be why Iran has turned to Argentina. Hezbollah is entrenched; have uranium deposits; Hezb has oozed into El Salvador and _.   Erdogan called Zionism a crime against humanity; Kerry called this "objectionable." Ban Ki-moon sat there and said nothing.  Erdogan also attacked Israeli president in Davos, funded the flotilla, rants vs Israel and NATO. Turkey committed genocide against Armenians, Christians and Jews.  This land is vulnerable to the charge of its practicing genocide.  Egypt asks for $1.3bil in aid. Need it to restore control in Sinai and Gaza tunnels.

Iran Says 3,000 Centrifuges Being Built   The announcement, comes after talks between Iran and world powers about its nuclear work and underlines Iran’s continued refusal to bow to Western pressure to curb its nuclear program.

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Assad and British Official Trade Verbal Blows Over Syrian Conflict   President Bashar al-Assad criticized British aid for rebels in Syria, but Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, called Mr. Assad’s view of the conflict “delusional.”

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block C:   Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal, in re: Leftist’s Demise at 58 Deepens Crisis in a Divided Country  President Hugo Chávez leaves behind a nation in the grip of growing turmoil.                                   

Polarizing Figure Who Led Movement  Mr. Chávez led a nationalist movement that lashed out at the United States, moneyed Venezuelans and some of his own disaffected followers.

HUGO CHÁVEZ | 1954-2013

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Robert Zimmerman,, in re: Dragon has successfully berthed with ISS.  The naysayers will focus on the thruster problems on Friday. The yaysayers will focus on the fix and berthing today. The bottom line, however, is that this mission once again proves that SpaceX is a real player in the space business. Every other company has to match its achievements, most especially in price. The result will be the eventually lowering in the cost to low Earth orbit, which will then make all things possible.  And in fact, we are already seeing this, with the appearance of many new private companies or organizations, proposing all sorts of new space efforts, such as mining asteroids or sending people to Mars. The lower cost allows dreamers to consider their wild new ideas more doable. And they then go ahead and try to do it.

We don't need no solar maximum It's that time again! Today, March 4, NOAA released its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, covering the period of February 2013. As I do every month, this latest graph is posted, with annotations to give it context, below the fold. Once again, the Sun has shown a complete inability to produce sunspots at the very moment it had been predicted to be rising towards its maximum in the sunspot cycle. The numbers in February plunged from the tepid rise we saw in January to below the crash we saw in December. Right now, when the Sun is supposed to peaking, it is instead producing sunspots in numbers as low as seen in 2011, at the very end of the last solar minimum.  
Read more

Hour Four

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:   Margot Kiser, in re:  Kenyan Accused by Rights Court Is Leading Vote  Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been charged with crimes against humanity, was leading by a wide margin with nearly half the votes counted. But confusion rose when officials announced a late-night change in tabulating votes.   SECURE, a USAID-funded project, is a nationwide programme for identifying and registering community lands. Lamu is its pilot site and focuses on areas specific to indigenous tribes near Kiwayu and Kiunga and the Boni hunter-gatherer tribe near the port site. “The government does not recognise these tribes as land-owners”, says a spokesman for SECURE.  Robertson Kabucho, a spokesman for INUKA Trust, a human rights non-profit founded by Kenyan "anti-corruption tsar" and whistle-blower John Githongo, hopes that land reforms under Kenya’s new constitution will curb further land-grabs.  To help bridge the gap between locals and government, the Ministry of Transport appointed former Lamu county councillor Abdullah Fadhil chairman of the port project steering committee. This body’s job is to collect information from various sectors of the community, for relay to the government. “Our main mandate is to get views from environmentalists and religious leaders to government leaders,” Fadhil explained.  The Lamu port project has been in the pipeline since the 1970s and residents wonder why launch the port now. Fadhil attributes the timing to “regional pressures from South Sudan and Ethiopia, as the Kibaki government is coming to an end.”

    A member of Save Lamu, however, suggested: "It's an election year. If the new constitution of the port is implemented under county government, then Harambee House heavies won't have money in the coffer for their campaigns." Another likely pressure comes from the north and Somalia. Raids by Somali marine bandits, and a rash of kidnappings they’ve carried out within Kenyan territory, make the prospect of the massive security required by a port of this scale attractive to many. This may produce another visible aspect of project’s multi-national cooperation; as Fadhil put it: “The South Sudanese will not tolerate their oil being pirated every now and then."

    There’s one issue, however, on which all parties to the debate agree: the region around Lamu is in desperate need of infrastructure. Not all residents want a global-scale port, but just about everyone wants ground transportation and logistics. Fadhil notes that even if the port doesn’t pan out, north and central Kenya will at last have highways, more schools and a railroad. Save Lamu doesn’t disagree, but adds, ”If the grand vision doesn’t succeed, the natural and cultural wonders, like Humpty Dumpty, will be all but impossible to put back together again.”

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  Margot Kiser,  in re: Kenyan Accused by Rights Court Is Leading Vote  Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been charged with crimes against humanity, was leading by a wide margin with nearly half the votes counted. But confusion rose when officials announced a late-night change in tabulating votes.

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Jim Snyder, Bloomberg, in re: Keystone Oil Pipeline Assessment Signals U.S. Approval

Tuesday  5 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   John Burns, NYT, in re:  Top British Cardinal Acknowledges His Sexual Misconduct  Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the church in Scotland, is the highest-ranking figure in the Roman Catholic Church’s recent history to make such an admission.

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