The Pill's 50th Birthday, The Cold War in Context, Volcanic Lessons, VAT Thinking, Beijing-London Train, Cleggmania, Taxi Driver
In May 1960 the birth control pill became available in the United States. Again the genius of science had a defining impact on society. The science of birth control put the choice of pregnancy in the hands of women.
Yet half a century later in the United States it is estimated that there are over 3 million unplanned pregnancies a year, 50% of all women have an unplanned pregnancy, and in a survey of sexually active unmarried people between the ages of 18 and 29 while 80% said that avoiding pregnancy was important only 57% regularly used birth control.
Time to close the gap.
Excerpts from a new book on the Cold War reminding us that a lot of history was going on between 1947-1989. The volcano in Iceland illustrates how vulnerable we are in our modern world, really? Compared to what?
When New Zealand's finances blew up in 1984 they initiated a serious of monetary (independence central bank - inflation targeting) and fiscal (balanced budgets) reforms that spread to the rest of the world. News that the country's right-of-centre political government is considering using a higher VAT to reduce income taxes sheds interesting light on a similar debate in the US Senate.
China proposes a high speed Beijing-London train, why not Toronto-New York, Calgary-Houston, Montreal-Miami? An excellent Canadian future should include a network of high speed trains between the United States and Canada.
Cleggmania raises the possibility that the Labour Party could get the most seats with the least votes, time for a change? Surviving in Japan.
The Pill. Happy Birthday to you!
Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the birth-control pill in the U.S. The dawn of dependable contraception not only ended the post-war baby boom, it also ignited the sexual revolution and helped millions of women to enter the work force. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703757504575194191495081682.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLEFifthNews
The Cold War was about much more than a rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. There was whole lot of other history going on.
The magisterial Cambridge History of the Cold War views the Cold War as an undifferentiated chunk of history. But the conflict between the superpowers was just one strand of history in the middle and late twentieth century, not the whole story. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66033/lawrence-d-freedman/frostbitten
A few years ago I took my cousin's daughter to Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto. The village is a faithful recreation of life in Ontario in the mid-19th century http://www.blackcreek.ca/.
Of course what was missing was that the average age of the people dressed up in the Village was closer to 50 when life expectancy at that time was 38 years http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005140.html, most had their teeth which was not the case then, and it was highly unlikely that any of the women had lost a child (infant mortality in 1850 ran at about 25%) at birth not to mention a sister giving birth.
I asked a women posing as a villager what she liked about the job. She said that she wished she had lived at that time. Yeah right.
A rambling way to introduce this article that bemoans how vulnerable our modern society is to natural events. Rubbish. My twelve year old guest got the point. When Juliet is found dead on the morning of her wedding to Paris it is so natural that this could happen to an otherwise healthy 14-year old no one is surprised. Stay modern.
How fragile our modern society has become. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/hamish-mcrae/the-tuesday-essay-brought-down-to-earth-1948713.html
Tax reform in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s centre-right government is considering cutting income tax rates and increasing the goods and services tax when it releases its budget next month as part of its efforts to rebalance the economy and make the country more internationally competitive. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f94ceef6-4b84-11df-9db6-00144feab49a.html
Meanwhile in the United States' Senate.
Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that "It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America's economic recovery." The resolution passed 85 to 13. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704508904575192530583895238.html?mod=rss_opinion_main
Even an economist as smart as Robert Samuelson can't get the words out of his mouth that a consumption tax makes sense for the United States.
The value-added tax has become the designated panacea for massive federal budget deficits. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/18/AR2010041802723.html?wprss=rss_opinions
In the opening of the new Sherlock Holmes movie there is scene of great energy with the construction of London Bridge and generally epochal public works in London. China has proposed a Beijing-London super train. How about super trains north/south between Canada and the United States, and east/west across Canada? Montreal to Miami anybody?
When China’s rail authorities recently announced plans to build a high-speed rail link connecting Beijing with London I had to pause and wonder who would be booking passage on this Eurasian super express? http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/2831584c-4be4-11df-a217-00144feab49a.html
For Barack Obama, the crucial moment came one cold night in January 2008, when the one-term senator's unexpectedly decisive triumph in the Iowa caucuses set him on the path to an epoch-making victory. For Nick Clegg, it happened last week, when he stepped back from his debate podium to address a retired toxicologist from Cheshire. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/19/nick-clegg-obama
The impact on the election so far.
Having stolen the show from the leaders of Britain’s two largest parties during a televised debate last Thursday, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has seen his party surge in the polls to such an extent that he is suddenly at the center of what one British reporter is calling “the hysterical condition known as Cleggmania. http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/cleggmania-shakes-up-british-election/
Yet the first past the post system raises the possibility that Labour can get the most seats with the fewest votes. The people will be cross.
Labour could come third by popular vote yet have the most seats - such a result would plunge British democracy into crisis. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/20/general-election-2010-poll-editorial
Happy to have a job in Japan.
Shahidul Islam Khan, 40, is a cab driver at Royal Limousine in Tokyo. Born in Bangladesh, Khan moved to Japan in 1994 and ran a successful import business until 2008 when the economic downturn forced him to close shop and start driving instead. In the notoriously difficult Japanese cab system, Khan is special: Alongside a few Chinese and Koreans, he is one of very few foreigners driving cabs in Japan. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100408jk.html
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