Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
US workers have no guarantee of paid leave
WHEN it comes to paid leave, US workers don't seem to get a break.

While the French get 30 days of paid leave and most other Europeans receive at least 20, the country with the world's biggest economy does not guarantee workers a single day, researchers said overnight.

Most US businesses do give employees vacations, but the lack of government guarantees means one in four private-sector workers do not get paid leave, said researchers for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank.

"The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays," said economist John Schmitt.

"Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn't worked," he said.

"It's a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans don't get any paid vacation or paid holidays."

most expensive, least effective health care system

The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world but ranks last compared with five other developed nations on measures of quality, access, efficiency, equity, and outcomes, according to the third edition of a Commonwealth Fund report analyzing international health policy surveys.

While the US did well on some preventive care measures, the nation ranked at the bottom on measures of safe care and coordinated care.

Another new Commonwealth Fund report comparing health spending data in industrialized nations published today reveals that despite spending more than twice as much per capita on health care as other nations ($6,102 vs. $2,571 for the median of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] countries in 2004) the US spends far less on health information technology--just 43 cents per capita, compared with about $192 per capita in the UK.

"The United States stands out as the only nation in these studies that does not ensure access to health care through universal coverage and promotion of a 'medical home' for patients," said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. "Our failure to ensure health insurance for all and encourage stable, long-term ties between physicians and patients shows in our poor performance on measures of quality, access, efficiency, equity, and health outcomes. In light of the significant resources we devote to health care in this country, we should expect the best, highest performing health system."

Best and Worst Countries for Mothers and Children -- US/UK tie for 10th place.  Numero Uno?  Sweden :-)

I could go on but really... why bother.  literacy, infant mortality, academic skills by age of student, technical innovation... not a lot of golds for the US these days.  a bronze now and then.  but hey, we incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than any other country on earth, and we consume more energy per capita, so we really are Number One in some things...  by some odd statistical coincidence, the US constitutes 5 pct of the world population and 25 percent of the imprisoned world population;  and the US consumes about 25 percent of global fossil energy resources annually.  the 5/25 symmetry is eyecatching but probably meaningless.

before the accusations of America-bashing begin, lemme just say I'm not saying it's the worst hellhole on earth to live in (though I am, personally, trying to get the hell out).  what troubles me is the disconnect between actual metrics and the persistent USian illusion that the US is the gold medal winner in every conceivable category.  proof is often offered in the form of the flood of refugees and immigrants trying to get in -- even when what they are fleeing from is US bombs or US-installed warlords/dictators, but that's a whole other rant...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 07:17:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nitpick: "Best and Worst Countries for Mothers and Children -- US/UK tie for 10th place.  Numero Uno?  Sweden :-)"

That was last year. This year the UK is number 12 and the US at number 26

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 08:44:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's a bummer posting an outdated footnote -- egg on face -- but a bonus when the updated one makes one's point even more pointedly.  thanks for the correction.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 08:49:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a series of Golds for the US:

First in Oil Consumption
First in Carbon Dioxide Emissions
First in External Debt
First in Military Expenditures
First in Weapons Sales

"In this gold-medal tally of firsts, there can be no question that things that go bang in the night are our proudest products. No one makes more of them or sells them more effectively than we do."

Who's number 2 (and are they trying harder?)

Nevertheless, Russia retained its position as the second leading arms dealer behind the United States for the third consecutive year, concluding new sales valued at $5.8 billion. Moscow's rank, however, is largely attributed to deals with two countries, India and China, both of which have concluded major co-production agreements with Russia in recent years to make advanced fighter aircraft and, in India's case, tanks. The Kremlin is also working to secure major new sales with Iran and would pursue deals with Iraq if UN arms sanctions were lifted, according to the report.

As they have for the past couple of years, leading European arms suppliers trailed the United States and Russia in negotiating new deals last year. France tallied $2.9 billion in agreements, while Germany had $1 billion in sales and the United Kingdom's sum equaled $400 million. China made agreements to sell $600 million in arms.

On the other end of the trade, Israel ranked as the leading developing world arms buyer with $2.5 billion in agreements for 2001. Other top buyers were China with $2.1 billion in purchases and Egypt with $2 billion.

Over the entire eight-year period, the United Arab Emirates, which signed a contract for 80 US F-16 fighters two years ago, topped all buyers with $16 billion in weapons deals. Its neighbor and fellow US arms buyer, Saudi Arabia, had the second highest total at $14.1 billion. Yet, Saudi Arabia was unrivaled for actual imports, receiving $65 billion in arms between 1994 and 2001. (Amounts in this paragraph are in current dollars.)


The arms trade functions as quite a money laundry:  a lot of e.g. US "aid to Israel" comes right back home to US weapons manufacturers.  Aid to Bomb Builders is more like it.  When I think seriously for a moment about the colossal amounts of ingenuity and resources being invested in more and more  "efficient" ways to kill or incapacitate large numbers of people, it is mind boggling... maladaptive hypertrophy in real time.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 07:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh hell, I can't resist just one excerpt from the initial URL above...
Maybe the only way to break through this paralysis of analysis would be to stop talking about weapons exports as a trade at all. Maybe we shouldn't be using economic language to describe it. Yes, the weapons industry has associations, lobby groups, and trade shows. They have the same tri-fold exhibits, scale models, and picked-over buffets as any other industry; still, maybe we have to stop thinking about the export of fighter planes and precision-guided missiles as if they were so many widgets and start thinking about them in another language entirely - the language of drugs.

     After all, what does a drug dealer do? He creates a need and then fills it. He encourages an appetite or (even more lucratively) an addiction and then feeds it.

     Arms dealers do the same thing. They suggest to foreign officials that their military just might need a slight upgrade. After all, they'll point out, haven't you noticed that your neighbor just upgraded in jets, submarines, and tanks? And didn't you guys fight a war a few years back? Doesn't that make you feel insecure? And why feel insecure for another moment when, for just a few billion bucks, we'll get you suited up with the latest model military... even better than what we sold them - or you the last time around.

     Why does Turkey, which already has 215 fighter planes, need 100 extras in an even higher-tech version? It doesn't... but Lockheed Martin, working the Pentagon, made them think they did.

     We don't need stronger arms control laws, we need a global sobriety coach - and some kind of 12-step program for the dealer-nation as well.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 08:37:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
British arms export trade:
Three months before his election in 1997, Tony Blair wrote in BAE Systems' newsletter that his government would champion arms exports and a "strong defence industry". That, despite the hoopla surrounding the idea of an "ethical" foreign policy, was always the prime minister's ambition. A decade on, a new set of figures reveals the devastating extent to which he has succeeded.

Yesterday's report by the NGO Saferworld documents the £45bn worth of arms delivered by Britain in the past 10 years, making us the world's second-largest arms exporter. In the past three years, arms have been exported to 19 of the 20 countries identified in the Foreign Office's annual human rights report as "countries of concern". The Colombian military and its paramilitary allies have killed thousands of people in the country's civil war. Yet last year Britain exported armoured all-wheel-drive vehicles, military communications equipment and heavy machine guns, alongside a military aid programme. Indonesia has received more than £400m worth of military equipment since 1997, while using British military equipment for internal repression on a dozen known occasions.

Britain has exported more than £110m worth of military equipment to Israel during its occupation of Palestinian territories and war with Lebanon. Exports doubled in 2001, as Israeli offensive military operations were stepped up on the West Bank. Another growth market is China. Despite an EU arms embargo, Britain has managed to export £500m worth of military and dual-use equipment - nominally "non-lethal" items. These include components for tanks, components for combat aircraft, and military communications equipment.

Over the past four years, 199 export licences have been approved to the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Channel Islands - territories without armies. The equipment includes small arms and ammunition, anti-riot shields, CS hand grenades, crowd-control ammunition and even nuclear, biological, chemical filters and respirators (for the Cayman Islands). It is anybody's guess where this equipment is destined. And this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Government statistics show the destination of only a quarter of all arms exports - the public are not told where the rest goes.

The Channel Islands???

Who knew there was a major insurgency in the Channel Islands?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 01:49:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Arms exports are thriving not because of any domestic economic benefits. Academic research shows that the public subsidises arms sales by between half a billion and a billion pounds annually - far outweighing any economic stimulus they provide. What drives the growth is that arms sales support foreign policy by strengthening relations with key allies, who are often repressive elites. But there is also a huge influence wielded by big arms corporations, as reflected in the "revolving door" between them and the Ministry of Defence. At least 19 senior MoD officials have taken jobs with arms companies since 1997, while 38 out of 79 personnel secondees to the MoD between 1997 and 2003 came from arms companies.

A truly ethical foreign policy would see the shutdown of Britain's arms export industry. But, at the very least, it must be held up to public scrutiny and forced to halt exports to states abusing human rights.

that's from the same article cited above.  never believe the porkbarrel PR.  the arms industry is a way for the aristos to levy taxes on the domestic peasantry for the purpose of arming their comprador and merc forces to protect their investments overseas...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 02:31:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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