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3801  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: April 11, 2013, 01:44:10 PM
"Ah, but what is the title of this thread? , , , the stock market and other investment/savings strategies."

I find myself co-mingling these topics - as does Wesbury.  We now know that the market can go up dramatically during the worst recovery in history, and yes, we missed it.

The lesson from the rear view mirror is that (assuming one had money available) we should have been buying at 6500 and any other point along that path - had we known.  But looking backward does not mean we should be buying at 15,000. 

Each investor can assess for themselves when it has all gone up too far too fast, or when it is the day before a real correction.

Last evening I asked a friend who manages investments at a major institution what they are advising at this point.  He said they are emphasizing "balance" in the portfolios, and saying hold (versus buy or sell).  Beyond his words my sense was extreme caution and certainly not exuberance as this market surpasses all expectations.
----

Following link is an interesting piece addressing the question of what you should have done at DOW 6500 or even half way down from its previous peak: http://www.rbcwm-usa.com/resources/file-686836.pdf  The answer was to buy in a bear market, using a case study of 1973-1974, and now 2008-2009.  Is the corollary of that wisdom to sell in a bull market, or as we thought in 1999, is this time different?
3802  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: POTH on gold's decline; Bitcoin crashes on: April 11, 2013, 12:28:25 PM
I would love to buy and own gold today - but not at 1500 or 1700/oz.  Maybe if the price was 1/3 of that (and if I had money).  The article is mostly negative about gold but all that really happened is that it already went up way too far too fast for too long prior to the 2 year, relatively small drop that is the focus here.  In total it went up about 4 times what stocks did over the last 12 years.

"Analysts say gold is losing its allure after an astonishing 650 percent rally from August 1999 to August 2011." ... "Even after the recent decline, gold is still up 515 percent. "

The lesson I see with gold (to apply to stocks now) is that waiting to buy until after a huge, unexplainable rise and after it is all the hype in the media is the opposite of buying low or selling high.  When something is overbought and over-hyped, stay away.  What goes up too far too fast eventually goes down.  I think they call it the law of gravity.

Those who predicted that total, global financial collapse would happen by now had their timing wrong.
3803  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and animal abuse on: April 10, 2013, 03:07:26 PM
G M,  I wonder what the life expectancy is for a plow horse that works year-round, around the clock, pulls more than 2X its OSHA rated load, and replenishes only a fraction of the calories it consumes. 

Lucky for the Obama economic team the expression is only a metaphor referring to people.  Abuse far milder than this of an animal would be prosecuted.
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/hp/
---

The 5% growth prediction in 2009 is bizarre in the context of Wesbury opposing the policies of Pelosi-Reid-Obama as the opposite of what is conducive to growth.  A "V-shaped recovery", it was not.
---
Meanwhile the Dow just closed at a new record high.
3804  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Freedom of the Press, Aurora killer's notebook and a reporter's rights on: April 10, 2013, 12:00:22 PM
Imagine if we honored the other clauses of the constitution (like the second amendment) with this kind of no-exceptions consistency.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/opinion/in-the-jana-winter-case-a-debate-over-protecting-news-sources.html?_r=1&

A Killer’s Notebook, a Reporter’s Rights
By THEODORE J. BOUTROUS Jr.
Published: April 9, 2013

SHOULD a journalist be punished for revealing a murderer’s secrets?

Jana Winter, a reporter at Fox News, covered the shooting rampage that killed 12 people and injured 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012. Five days after the attack, she reported that James E. Holmes, who has been charged with committing the massacre, had sent a notebook to a psychiatrist before the attack.

On July 25, Ms. Winter quoted two unnamed law enforcement sources as saying that Mr. Holmes had “mailed a notebook ‘full of details about how he was going to kill people’ to a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the attack.” According to her reporting, the notebook contained “drawings of what he was going to do,” including sketches of “gun-wielding stick figures blowing away other stick figures.”

Mr. Holmes’s lawyers are now trying to compel Ms. Winter to disclose her sources, who spoke to her on a confidential basis and possibly violated a court-imposed order that was intended to restrict public access to materials in the case so as to ensure a fair trial. The defense lawyers say the information is relevant because it speaks to the credibility of law enforcement officers who, under oath, have denied leaking the information.

Lawyers for Ms. Winter and Fox News have moved to quash the subpoena, asserting that under the First Amendment and Colorado’s “shield law,” which protects reporters, she is not required to disclose her sources. On Monday, the judge in the Holmes case, Carlos A. Samour Jr., put off a decision on the motion, saying he needed to first decide whether the notebook was even relevant to the criminal proceeding.

But the case is clear-cut.

If Ms. Winter were compelled to reveal her sources — or found in contempt of court and fined or jailed for refusing to do so — it would have a chilling effect on journalists and their ability to gather information in the public interest. This should be an open-and-shut case, but it comes at a time when the Obama administration, despite its commitment to transparency, has pursued a record number of criminal prosecutions against whistle-blowers for leaking information to the press, even if the disclosures were done out of an honest desire to serve the public interest.

Colorado, like 39 other states and the District of Columbia, has a “shield law” specifically designed to protect journalists from having to disclose their sources. In Colorado, before requiring a reporter to testify about confidential sources, a court must be convinced that the information is “directly relevant to a substantial issue in the proceedings.” In this case, the identity of Ms. Winter’s sources has no bearing on whether Mr. Holmes is guilty or innocent in the movie-theater massacre. It seems like nothing more than a sideshow, a tactic by the defense lawyers to intimidate the leakers and divert attention from the criminal trial.

Over the last 40 years, courts around the nation have repeatedly recognized the strong First Amendment interest in protecting confidential news sources. One federal appellate court ruled that jeopardizing a journalist’s ability to protect the confidentiality of sources would “seriously erode the essential role played by the press in the dissemination of information and matters of interest and concern to the public.”

There is no question that Ms. Winter’s article was of public interest and concern: By reporting on the mental health of an alleged mass murderer and his apparent statements to a psychiatrist, she shed light on the dilemma mental health professionals often face in balancing confidentiality obligations and public safety concerns. (In this case, the notebook did not ever reach the psychiatrist to whom it was sent; its existence was only uncovered after the attack.)

Mr. Holmes’s lawyers argue that his notebook cannot be used as evidence against him because it is protected by Colorado’s psychotherapist-patient privilege, which prohibits the disclosure of “knowledge gained” from patients without their consent. (While Colorado law recognizes that a psychotherapist may have a duty to disclose a “threat of imminent physical violence against a specific person or persons,” it is not clear whether that duty would have applied in this case.)

This form of privilege is recognized nationally and the implications go well beyond Aurora; these issues are also central to the ongoing national debate over gun control since the elementary school shootings last December in Newtown, Conn.

If a litigant’s mere desire to punish a confidential source were enough to force a reporter to disclose the source’s identity, then journalism would be seriously jeopardized and laws protecting it would be gutted.

This seems to already be happening to Ms. Winter. “Because my sources have been intimidated by the specter of the Holmes subpoena,” she wrote in an affidavit, “reports have gone unwritten and I have been thwarted in my news-gathering.”

The case of Ms. Winter, a young reporter, has not gotten as much attention as battles over confidential sources that involve national security matters, but, given the increasing prominence of mass shootings in America and the complicated role that mental illness has played in many of these cases, her case is a pivotal one for journalists and for any American who cares about freedom of the press.

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. is a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, focusing on appellate and constitutional law.
3805  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media Issues: ABC, CBS and NBC Turn a Blind Eye to ObamaCare Setbacks on: April 09, 2013, 06:33:02 PM
ABC, CBS and NBC Turn a Blind Eye to ObamaCare Setbacks

By Geoffrey Dickens | April 09, 2013 | 09:56
http://newsbusters.org/blogs/geoffrey-dickens/2013/04/09/abc-cbs-and-nbc-turn-blind-eye-obamacare-setbacks#ixzz2Q0mzOeAS

For the past couple of weeks there has been a steady drip of bad news for ObamaCare, but you wouldn't know it if you only get your news from the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks. From a Society of Actuaries report that determined premium costs will shoot up thanks to a thirty-three percent average increase in claims; to thirty-three Senate Democrats joining Republicans in voting to repeal an ObamaCare tax on medical devices; to a Quinnipiac University poll showing even two-thirds of self-identified Democrats saying the law will either hurt them or have no effect, the recent news has been bad for the President's chief legislative victory. However, not one of these trouble spots for ObamaCare has been mentioned on ABC, CBS or NBC's evening or morning show broadcasts.

The following setbacks for ObamaCare haven't received a single second of air time on the Big Three networks:

■ On March 22, ObamaCare hit a major snag when even 33 Senate Democrats openly defied the President as they joined 45 Republicans in voting to repeal a 2.3 percent sales tax, crucial to paying for ObamaCare, on medical devices such as pacemakers and MRI machines. The measure was co-sponsored by liberal Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, who said in a statement that she would "continue to work to get rid of this harmful tax."
                   
Big Three coverage 0 stories.


■ On March 26, the Society of Actuaries, released a study that determined health claims will increase by an average of 32 percent with some states seeing claims rise as much as 80 percent. The study estimated that states will now have to double their health spending to cover the millions of the previously uninsured. The study went on to report that claims will be driven higher because many employers will stop covering their employees once Obamacare is instituted and those workers will be more expensive to insure than those already in the individual market.

Big Three coverage: 0 stories.


■ On March 26, Obama's own Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius admitted that premiums will rise for some people buying new insurance policies in the coming fall, because of ObamaCare requirements. As the March 26 Wall Street Journal reported: "The secretary's remarks are among the first direct statements from federal officials that people who have skimpy health plans right now could face higher premiums for plans that are more generous."

Big Three coverage: 0 stories


■ On April 3 Fox News reported that the Obama administration admitted a system of exchanges designed to make it simpler for small businesses to provide health insurance, the very core of ObamaCare's promise, will be delayed an entire year. According to Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center this is a huge setback because: "Lots of small businesses struggle with providing insurance for their workers so this was supposed to facilitate it and make it easier for small business to do this," and added: "It was a huge portion of the sale job. When they passed the law in 2010 there were many senators and members of Congress who were saying 'I am doing this because it's going to help small businesses.'"

Big Three coverage: 0 stories.


■ On April 4 Quinnipiac University released a poll showing that even two-thirds of Democrats now believe Obama's health care reforms will either hurt them personally or have no effect on their daily lives, vs. 27% of Democrats who believed they would be helped. Overall, only 15% of voters think ObamaCare will mostly help them personally, vs. 78% who expect it to hurt them or have no effect.

Big Three coverage: 0 stories.


OTOH, ABC had time for this on hairstyle:  "Michelle Obama making headlines again for her bangs."

3806  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: April 09, 2013, 06:20:26 PM
Bill Gross of PIMCO sees Ten Year US Treasuries as benefiting from the new Japanese policy.

Also the news of the Yuan hitting a record high this month should be sweet music to those who thought China's currency manipulation (Yuan too low) was our worst economic problem.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323296504578396012452964432.html
3807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: April 09, 2013, 06:08:36 PM
In his Stockman reply in particular, Wesbury has reduced his optimism argument down to just investments.  These indexes with a relatively small number of named companies that already do most of their business outside of the U.S. are not in imminent danger of total collapse - yet - in Wesbury's opinion.

Wesbury agrees at least in part with the warnings:  "Yes, there are people caught in the web of government over-spending and crippling-regulation. Yes, the Fed has created too much fiat currency. Yes, big government is creating a large class of people who think living off the government is a right."

G M's piece regarding the jobs market can not change Wesbury's mind.  Wesbury's argument that the investment outlook is good comes from a rear view mirror observation that the (stock) market has already been doing well while the labor market was doing horribly.

The unknown is this: How long and how far can these things run in opposite directions?  
3808  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Lady Margaret Thatcher on: April 08, 2013, 09:41:19 AM
I had tremendous respect for her.

Yes.  She led Britain to a miraculous comeback, was President Reagan's equal and partner in leading the world toward freedom.  She started two years ahead of him.  These were historic times, standing up to the Soviet Union at its peak of power and standing up for economic freedom at home.  She was alway the obvious answer to the question of whether a woman could be President of the United States.  We can only hope to have a leader that great.
3809  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glib White House blames lousy jobs report on the sequester! on: April 07, 2013, 12:36:04 PM
White House blames lousy jobs report on the sequester!

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/04/05/employment-situation-march

Solution: Higher taxes and more government spending.

a) Everything is fine.  If you don't believe a), then try:  b) Everything that is wrong is attributable to Republicans.

"The Administration continues to urge Congress to replace the sequester with balanced deficit reduction (raising taxes), while working to put in place measures (more government spending) to put more Americans back to work like rebuilding our roads and bridges and promoting American manufacturing."
3810  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics - Vanishing workforce weighs on growth on: April 07, 2013, 11:44:39 AM
First, one chart and one quote from Crafty's post yesterday in this thread, "Global Failure of Keynesianism':

"the Fed’s largesse has encouraged investors to lever up existing assets with cheap credit, but not to invest in new plant and equipment"

Yes, that is exactly right, quite an honest assessment of both the economy and the market.
------

Washington Post:  Vanishing workforce weighs on growth

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/vanishing-workforce-weighs-on-growth/2013/04/06/2bc46116-9e20-11e2-9a79-eb5280c81c63_story.html

From the piece:

"Prime-aged people are working less, and we don’t know why,” said Betsey Stevenson, a labor economist and associate professor at the University of Michigan.
-----

My wish would be for the people who don't know why our economy is tanking to stop voting and for Labor Economist Professors at our greatest institutions of higher learning that don't know what ails the economy to seriously consider other work.

Helpful information for the clueless:  Capital employs labor.  Return on investment, after tax, motivates capital to build new enterprises that employ people.  Roadblocks and penalties cause capital to go elsewhere or sit idle.   Printing money does not produce additional capital any more than funny house mirrors make you fatter or thinner.  No new investment capital is generated with a zero savings rate.  Compounding interest is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, also unemployed. A rational person tucking away savings to compound at zero interest is either frustrated or extinct.  The reason interests rates are perniciously set at zero is because the Fed is trying to fix a non-monetary problem with a monetary 'solution'.  Trying to loosen a screw by hitting it with a hammer.

Reuters: U.S. business startups rate at record low
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/02/us-usa-economy-businesses-idUSBRE84113G20120502
The entrepreneurs' share of job creation also has fallen...
...entrepreneurial companies accounted for only 12 percent of U.S. employment in 2010, compared with 20 percent in the 1980s.

While you were reading this post, the Fed just created about 15 million dollars that didn't exist before and our debt burden went up by a similar amount, while real output increased 0.0000%.
3811  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / C.U. Boulder's first Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policies on: April 07, 2013, 09:54:18 AM
Click 'Listen' at the link for a brief Colorado Public Radio interview.  A bold experiment, what if kids get exposed to this stuff?  http://www.cpr.org/#load_article|University_Appoints_First_Professor_of_Conservative_Thought
3812  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - Hope, Obamanomics and Change on: April 05, 2013, 02:42:26 PM
3813  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / "discrimination": Cats and Dogs on: April 05, 2013, 02:38:08 PM
We are talking about government licenses and definitions here, not comparing humans to animals.

Cats and Dogs and Marriage Laws
by  Stephen J. Heaney   Witherspoon Institute, Princeton NJ

A fellow walks up to the dog-licensing clerk and demands a license for his cat. The clerk points out that there is no such thing as a cat license, and thus he has no need of a cat license. Noting the man’s confusion, she explains that dogs and cats are different kinds of animals. Dogs tend to wander off and get lost, dig up other people’s yards, bite people, get into garbage, and leave their droppings in inconvenient places; cats generally do not do these things. Licensing would be pointless, for the government doesn’t need the same control over cats as it does over dogs.

The customer feels unaffirmed in his choice of a cat, and demands that the government recognize that his cat is just as important as a dog. Oh, but it’s not a question of importance, the clerk insists; it’s just that cats and dogs are quite different, and there is no government interest in licensing cats. He pesters her for so long that, eventually, the clerk, in sheer frustration, grabs a form, crosses out the word “dog” and writes in the word “cat” in crayon. The customer goes away pleased.

Unexpectedly, some of the man’s cat-owning friends soon follow suit. This raises concern for the licensing administrators. They really cannot justify taking money to license cats, yet it seems many people are made quite happy by having their choices validated. Finally, it occurs to someone that, since dogs are four-legged furry mammals with tails and claws, and cats are four-legged furry mammals with tails and claws—and after all, this really is the only set of characteristics that matters—then the obvious thing to do is to redefine “dog” so that it includes cats.

This decision is not without its detractors. Some sticks-in-the-mud point out that the definition is so broad that it also includes bears, rabbits, gerbils, and ferrets, not to mention the incredibly obvious fact that cats simply are not dogs, and that redefining them does not change this fact, and that changing definitions based on policy preferences will only lead to problems. These arguments fall on deaf ears. The city council makes it official, redefining “dog” to include cats. Why cat owners feel affirmed by having their cats renamed “dogs” remains a mystery.

Several more cities take up the call to rename cats “dogs,” but most towns resist because, as they point out, it’s simply not true that cats are dogs. The state legislature is besieged with efforts to rename cats as dogs. The state has always left policy choices about cats and dogs to local deliberations, but is now in an awkward position. It runs several venues that admit dogs but not cats; it has compensation policies that are differently affected by ownership of cats rather than dogs.

No state legislator or administrator has ever thought it necessary to define “dog,” since everyone knows what a dog is, and what a dog is has not changed in the entire history of humankind or caninekind. It is also plain as the nose on everyone’s face that dogs are not cats, and vice versa.

Failure to define the term, though, will only lead to confusion about employee compensation and mischief at state-run venues. The legislators recognize a simple fact: No matter how one defines “dog,” it cannot be the case that both definitions are true. Either “dog” will be defined according to its observable operations, or it will be defined according to its nonessential outward appearance. They decide to go ahead and define “dog” in the “traditional” way, according to the reality of dogs and cats, such that cats are excluded.

More at link: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/04/9716/
3814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Governance by the Left: Toxic Government by Democrats: Minneapolis on: April 05, 2013, 02:31:10 PM
"increasing the relative size of one’s political base through distortionary, wealth-reducing policies"
----
In the heart of the nation's 4th wealthiest metro (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highest-income_metropolitan_statistical_areas_in_the_United_States) is the failing City of Minneapolis.  This article could have been written about nearly any of America's Democrat-governed major inner cities.  Minneapolis is not bankrupt (yet) because many of the social costs are picked up by the rest of Hennepin County and the State of Minnesota.  Minneapolis has zero Republicans on its 13 seat city council, the rich neighborhoods are Democrat too.  Mpls is represented in Washington DC by Dem. Rep. Keith Ellison and Dem. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.
----
http://frontpagemag.com/2013/john-perazzo/toxic-government-by-democrats-minneapolis/

Toxic Government by Democrats: Minneapolis
April 4, 2013 By John Perazzo

Editor’s note: The following is the first in a series of articles that will expose the misery of life in America’s poorest cities, all of which have one thing in common: they are controlled exclusively by Democrats. Each article presented by FrontPage will reveal how the production of mass urban poverty is much more than just a failure of leadership, but a means of political survival for the Left.

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota—whose population is composed of 63.8% whites, 10.5% Hispanics, and 18.6% African Americans—has been governed exclusively by mayors from the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, the state affiliate of the Democratic Party, since 1978.

As of 2011, the poverty rate in Minneapolis was 23.5%, more than one-and-a-half times the national figure of 15%. This differential is consistent with a longstanding, well-documented trend: Virtually all of America’s poorest cities have been led politically by Democrats for many years, even decades. In 2010, for example, not even one of the ten poorest large cities in the U.S. had elected a Republican mayor since the 1980s. In fact, 8 of the 10 cities had been led exclusively by Democrats for more than half a century.

The common thread running through each of these economically decrepit cities is a phenomenon that Harvard scholars Edward Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer famously dubbed “The Curley Effect,” after its prototype, James Michael Curley, who served four non-consecutive terms as mayor of Boston between 1914 and 1950. This phenomenon, Glaeser and Shleifer explain, is the strategy of “increasing the relative size of one’s political base through distortionary, wealth-reducing policies.” Forbes magazine puts it this way: “A politician or a political party can achieve long-term dominance by tipping the balance of votes in their direction through the implementation of policies that strangle and stifle economic growth. Counterintuitively, making a city poorer leads to political success for the engineers of that impoverishment.”

This typically occurs when Democratic administrations adopt policies that redistribute wealth from the prosperous to the poor, causing the latter to become economically dependent upon their political patrons, and thus to become a permanently pro-Democrat voting bloc. At the same time, these redistributive policies cause the people harmed by them (i.e., those from whom wealth is extracted) to emigrate to other cities and states, thereby further solidifying the political power of Curleyist practitioners.

The beneficiaries of Curleyist redistributionism invariably become unable to perceive the connection between left-wing policies and their negative consequences. Instead, they view Democrats as the noble, last line of defense that stands between them and total destitution. As a result, their loyalty to Democrats persists, undiminished, regardless of how bad conditions may get—chiefly because they interpret the failures of leftist policies as evidence that those policies simply did not go far enough, probably as a result of conservative obstructionism. Thus do residents of Democrat-controlled cesspools of poverty and crime continue, in perpetuity, to elect Democrats to political office.

Prior to the permanent Democratic takeover of Minneapolis in 1978, the city’s poverty rate had been consistently lower than the national average. Then, through most of the 1980s, the ripples of the Reagan economic boom delivered a positive effect to cities nationwide, including Minneapolis. Indeed, Minneapolis added some 3,000 new jobs to its downtown area each year from 1981-87. In 1983, only 8% of the city’s metropolitan-area population lived below the poverty level, as compared to approximately 15% nationally.
But by 1988, Minneapolis’s left-wing Democratic mayor, Donald Fraser, had grown troubled by the stark contrast between those sections of his city that were thriving economically, and a number of African-American neighborhoods where crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency were widespread. Fraser believed that the proper remedy for these pathologies would be to implement a host of taxpayer-funded, government-administered social-welfare programs. “What is needed,” said the mayor, “is a more thoughtful discussion, a rethinking of the city, of welfare support, and it should begin right here.” Specifically, Fraser held that federal and local agencies needed to focus more of their attention and financial resources on the economic and social problems confronting unwed mothers and their children. His successors as mayor, Sharon Sayles Belton and R.T.Rybak, have shared this same perspective—a mindset that has fueled the decades-long trend of ever-increasing wealth redistribution and government subsidies for the poor, not only in Minneapolis but across the United States.

By no means is financial hardship in Minneapolis limited solely to low-income residents. Indeed, the city’s homeowners pay higher property taxes than their counterparts in most other metropolitan municipalities. One study of 142 metro areas found that only 15 of them bore a heavier property-tax burden than Minneapolis as of 2010, and that was before Minneapolis raised its property taxes by 4.7% in 2011.

Just as Minneapolis residents face significant economic challenges, so must they deal with the city’s sizable crime problem. In the early 1990s, crime began trending downward in much of the U.S. for various reasons, including the decline of the crack cocaine epidemic, more aggressive policing strategies, and harsher punishments for criminal behavior. New York City, under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and police commissioner William Bratton, led the way in this regard with their CompStat crime-tracking system and their use of the so-called “broken-windows” approach to crime-prevention. In comparison to other cities, Minneapolis was slow to adopt the new law-enforcement and criminal-justice strategies and thus lagged behind the national trend for several years. But once the city changed its ways (e.g., by incorporating CompStat) in the late 1990s, it likewise experienced a noteworthy reduction in crime.

Notwithstanding this positive downward trend, however, crime rates in Minneapolis remain far higher than statewide and national figures alike. For example, in 2010 the violent crime rate for Minneapolis exceeded the corresponding Minnesota rate by 346.55%, and the overall U.S. rate by 161.03%. Similarly, the property crime rate in Minneapolis surpassed the Minnesota rate by 84.44%, and the national rate by 61.27%.

In a particularly ugly develoment, Minneapolis in recent times has been the scene of numerous incidents involving “flash mob” violence, usually by large groups of black assailants targeting white victims. For example, on March 17, 2012, a gang of some 20 young men inflicted serious brain injuries on one young man, just an hour after a large group of assailants had beaten an out-of-town couple in that same location. Six days later, without provocation, 15 to 20 suspects attacked and beat three cyclists, leaving one of the victims with a broken jaw. As Sergeant Steve McCarty of the Minneapolis Police Department observed: “It’s just mainly to create mayhem, assault people and just whatever they can do. It’s a weird mentality I don’t think a lot of people can fathom or understand. Just to victimize people.” And a few days after that, four Minneapolis juveniles assaulted two men in quick succession, rendering one of the victims unconscious and inflicting serious injuries (including a broken arm) on the other.

It has long been commonplace for Democrat-led cities to have much-higher-than-average crime rates. As of 2011, for instance, America’s ten most dangerous cities were all strongholds of Democratic political leadership. Minneapolis’s experience, therefore, is par for the course.
3815  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: April 05, 2013, 02:07:29 PM
Wesbury is moving from apologist to humorist.

"payrolls increased 88,000 in March, well below the consensus expected 190,000" 

  - Less than half the 'breakeven rate'.  About a third of 'expectations'.  Moving backward instead of forward.  Who knew?

"the labor market is very far from perfect"

  - Understated?!  I have an image of him saying this with his head down, paying off abet he lost to G M.

Russia has a 13% flat tax, lower unemployment and twice the growth rate.  Shame on us. 
3816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 10.9% unemployment, holding the labor participation rate constant on: April 05, 2013, 12:34:01 PM
"if labor participation was the same as in March just one year ago, the headline unemployment rate would be 8.3 percent. If it remained the same as in January 2009, the rate would be 10.9 percent."

Still, we are just comparing with an already crashed economy.  To just get back to where we were when the Pelosi-Reid-Obama nightmare began, we would need unemployment below 4% measured by today's low standards.

Which Obama policies aim to fix this?  None of them do.  The policies are all aimed at slow growth or making things worse.  Raising tax rates on employers.  Raising the bar for hiring the unskilled to their first job.  Starting a massive new entitlement.  Blocking an energy pipeline.  Hiring 16,000(?) new IRS employees?  Blocking reform of existing entitlements.  Presenting budgets 5 years into this that never balance.  Strangulating the financial sector.  And keeping up the class warfare drumbeat instead of pulling the nation together.  When did any of these awful policies ever grow an economy or reduce unemployment?
3817  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alan Reynolds - The Truth About Taxes and Spending on: April 05, 2013, 08:25:51 AM
Voters, and elected officials especially:  Please read this.  It isn't that complicated, with our policies we can move in either direction.

"What are the weakest economies doing wrong? What are the strongest doing right?"

Hint: Lower tax rates, lower spending.
------------------------------------------

The Truth About Taxes and Spending

By Alan Reynolds - April 5, 2013.

Published at Investors Business Daily, Cato Institute, Real Clear Politics, and DBMA Public Forum.

Several European countries, including Cyprus, have been mired in economic stagnation or decline for five years or more.

Yet other countries in Asia and Latin America have flourished. What are the weakest economies doing wrong? What are the strongest doing right?

Economist Jim O’Neill coined the acronym BRIC in 2001 to refer to four economies which showed great potential then and now — Brazil, Russia, India and China. More recently, he added four more promising MIST economies — Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey.

In mid-2008, The Economist magazine drew a sharp contrast between the booming BRIC economies and four feeble PIGS — Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. By 2010, after Ireland and Great Britain bailed out their banks, that unkind acronym was stretched to PIIGGS.

All PIIGGS have two things in common. First of all, government spending grew dramatically — from an average of 43.2% of GDP in 2007 to 52.6% by 2010.

Spending was modestly trimmed by 2012 in a few cases, yet the ratio of spending to GDP still remained 3 to 6 percentage points higher than it had been in 2007.

This sad story was repeated in Cyprus, where government spending soared from less than 34% of the economy in 1995 to 47% in 2010.

Despite this explosive growth of government spending among the PIIGGS, economist Paul Krugman’s End the Depression Now! somehow attributes southern Europe’s slump to “frantic, savage attempts to slash spending.”

In a recent New York Times column, Krugman suggested that Ireland suffers from grossly insufficient government spending, and contrasted Ireland’s alleged penny-pinching with “the true economic miracle that is Iceland … (which) thanks to its embrace of unorthodox policies, has almost fully recovered.”

What actually happened is that government spending in Ireland soared to 66.1% of GDP in 2010 — up from 36.8% in 2007 — when the government shocked the markets by bailing out the banks in September 2010. The budget deficit suddenly spiked to 30.9% of GDP. Irish bonds collapsed.

In Iceland, which didn’t throw taxpayer money at the banks, government spending was slashed from 57.6% of GDP in 2008 to 46.5% in 2012. The deficit fell from 12.9% of GDP to 3.4%. The economy began to recover in 2011.

Iceland’s economic boost from fiscal frugality was neither unorthodox nor unique. After all, the U.S. economy boomed in the late 1990s when federal spending was cut from 22.3% of GDP in 1991 to 18.2% in 2000. In Canada, total federal and provincial spending was deeply slashed from 53.2% of GDP in 1992 to 39.2% in 2007 with only salubrious effects.

When Krugman and others describe the recent European spending spree as “austerity,” that begs the key question: Austerity for whom? The PIIGGS imposed no austerity at all on the public sector in the past five years.

Government spending on bailouts, subsidies, grants, salaries and entitlements commands a much larger share of these economies than it did just a few years ago. European austerity has been focused on the private sector — namely, taxpayers with high incomes.

That is the second thing the PIIGGS have in common. The highest income tax rate was recently increased in every one of the troubled PIIGGS except Italy (where it was already too high at 43%). The top tax rate was hiked from 40 to 46.5% in Portugal, from 41 to 48% in Ireland, from 40 to 45% in Greece, from 40 to 50% in Great Britain, and from 48 to 52% in Spain.

Apparently envious of the PIIGGS, France even flirted with a 75% tax.

It is enlightening to compare the depressing performance of these tax-and-spend countries to the rapidly-expanding BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and MIST economies (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey).

Government spending is frugal in these countries, averaging 32.1% of GDP in the BRICs and 27.4% for the MIST group.

Rather than raising top tax rates, all but one of the BRIC and MIST countries slashed their highest individual income tax rates in half; sometimes lower. Brazil cut the top tax rate from 55 to 27.5%. Russia replaced income tax rates up to 60% with a 13% flat tax. India cut the top tax rate to 30% from 60%. Similarly, the top tax rate was cut from 55 to 30% in Mexico, from 50 to 30% in Indonesia, from 89 to 38% in South Korea, and from 75 to 35% in Turkey.

In China, statutory income tax rates can still reach 45% on paper, but that is only for high salaries and is widely evaded. Investment income is subject to a flat tax of 20%, the corporate tax is 15-25%, and China’s extremely low payroll tax adds almost nothing to labor costs.

Lower tax rates and faster economic growth in these countries didn’t mean bigger budget deficits. On the contrary, only one of of the eight MIST and BRIC countries (India) has a significant budget deficit.

In short, the world economy has become divided into two groups: (1) sickly PIIGGS with chronic fiscal crises and (2) booming BRIC and MIST economies with modest government spending, lower tax rates and vigorous growth of both the economy and tax receipts.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has lately been drifting nearer the PIIGGS camp. The highest tax rates were just increased and federal spending is nearly 23% of GDP — way up from the 19.2% average of 1997-2007.

If U.S. legislators hope for better results—for both the economy and the budget—they must shun the failed policies of the PIIGGS and instead embrace the proven policies of the rapidly-growing BRIC and MIST economies.

What works, these successful economies discovered, is (1) to prevent government spending from growing faster than the private economy that supports it, and (2) to reduce rather than increase the highest, most damaging tax rates.

Alan Reynolds, a Cato Institute senior fellow, is the author of "Income and Wealth."

This article appeared in Investor’s Business Daily on April 3, 2013. It is reprinted with permission from the Cato Institute.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/04/05/the_truth_about_taxes_and_spending_in_europe.html#ixzz2PatSArGO

3818  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: April 04, 2013, 12:56:52 PM
Well, off the top of my head, certainly food/candy containing pot should be sold in a manner that no one, including children, can be confused about what it is.  Legal standards similar to those about firearms being kept inaccessible to children seem to be a real good idea.

Yes.  They already have that.  Both the gun and the bong (now all vaporizers) are hard to use in the lockbox.  Legalization only extends to persons 21 and over, no shops have opened, and yet child poisoning incidences and child THC blood levels are increasing.

Drug legalization for adults includes the reality that use and abuse by children accelerates.
-----
"...a guy in Denver legally growing medical-marijuana in his house was charged with felony child abuse because of the dangers prosecutors said the grow posed. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and avoided jail."
http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22184944/colorado-pot-legalization-30-questions-and-answers#ixzz2PWBfUgCv

3819  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Scott Grannis: on: April 04, 2013, 12:34:34 PM
Crafty, going back to your original post here: "the following piece which deeply challenges many of our core assumptions"...  http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-fed-is-not-printing-money.html

Quantitative expansion:  We are pouring kerosene all around, giving it no spark, and then pointing out no observed increase in fire or heat - so far.

Scott and I have reversed positions on the inflation concern, if my memory is correct.  Without finding the exact exchange, I argued a few years ago that the Fed's record against inflation was not too bad, typically 2-3% per year and it was pointed out back to me what a huge loss of value that is over any extended time period, which is true.

Now Scott argues: "The idea that the Fed is "printing money" with abandon, and that this is seriously debasing the U.S. dollar, is a fiction borne of ignorance of how monetary policy actually works."

I find his hedging, second sentence far more telling:  "Fed policy may indeed pose the risk of serious debasement in the future..."  - Unfortunately, Yes.

My view is that inflation is the diluting of our currency and that general price level increases are a consequence of that, following in time and dependent on other variables as well.

What did Milton Friedman say:  MV = PQ  

(From a previous post: http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=985.msg70088#msg70088)
These four very important but difficult to measure variables are all intrinsically tied to each other, either proportionally or inversely.  The money supply times the velocity of money (MV) equals the total value of all the goods and services (PQ) in the economy.

We know the Fed is 'monetizing' at the rate of 3/4 of trillion dollars a year (M).  We are pouring in the dollars, literally in the trillions, and by measuring the result indirectly we are saying it isn't increasing the money supply any faster than usual.

We know velocity (V) as measured is way down, and I would argue is a poorly measured phenomenon currently understating the malaise.

We know Price levels (P) are all over the map, some up, some down, with a net result so far allegedly only at 2-3% price increases per year.

We know that the total amount of goods and services in the economy (Q), is virtually flat in our no-growth economy.

IF and when economic growth and vitality returns, then what?  Rejuvenated velocity will multiply with the trillions of accumulated monetary expansion (do we know how to put that toothpaste back in the tube?) and drive price levels to spiral up faster than actual output can or will increase.  MHO.  

I admit 'ignorance of how monetary policy actually works'.  I wish our dual mission Fed had the same humility.  My trust of the Fed knowing what they are doing would be much greater if they weren't working on the dual mission of pretending to help with unemployment, not a monetary problem, while working to maintain a stable value of our currency.
3820  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: April 04, 2013, 10:51:12 AM
A legitimate area of concern and regulation.

Regulate abuse outside of the law?  

Making it legal, making it acceptable and making it accessible for adults somehow leads to children stoned before their brain fully develops.  

I studied the situation on my trips to the state this winter.  The 'medical' side only is what is up and running.  No new legal licensed shops for the public have opened yet.  All pot sales to the public so far are coming from medical license abuse or just through the usual crime channels.  Everyone that wanted a medical license got one if they stuck to basic points like chronic pain in their 'doctor' interview.  What a licensee can buy is virtually unlimited and the active ingredient level in your blood is something users can dial up like a volume switch, not limited by old fashioned things like coughing or lung capacity.  Low prices serve to make it more available and more available means more children using.

Next it will get much worse in terms of THC levels in the children as new production comes on line, new stores, new advertising, pot tourism, adds to the new enthusiasm gone viral, and the futility of parent warnings or prohibitions.

Then it will get worse in different ways as our 'concerned' 'regulatory' authorities get ramped up to handle all the new business.  New taxes will replace what was lost in pricing, 'legal' product will get co-mingled with smuggled, organized crime based product, tax laws will replace drug laws as the new enforcement mechanism, and the powers of the all powerful state will grow and benefit from this ill-fated movement toward liberty.  MHO.
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http://www.coloradoan.com/viewart/20130401/NEWS11/304010028/Child-marijuana-poisoning-up-for-some-Colorado-hospitals  Child marijuana poisoning up for some Colorado hospitals
Apr 1, 2013

New Colo House bill passed:  drivers are too high if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/04/02/colorado-house-approves-bill-to-set-pot-limits-for-drivers/#ixzz2PVbWbYnA  ('Open containers' are already illegal.)

For Legal Pot Sellers, A Big Tax Problem
http://www.npr.org/2013/04/02/176042513/for-legal-pot-sellers-a-big-tax-problem
"I'm still treated as an illegal business," - owner of Choice Organics in Fort Collins

Next it will be Big Cannibis... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/colorado-marijuana-laws

Denver Post, 30 pot legalization questions with answers:  http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22184944/colorado-pot-legalization-30-questions-and-answers
"About the only place it is 100 percent clear you can smoke marijuana is in a free-standing home that you own."
"The amendment allows people to grow up to six plants — only three of which can be flowering, or ready for harvest, at any given time."  Selling what you grow (or procure any other way) if you aren't a legal shop (and there aren't any) is still illegal.
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It will be interesting to see how this all plays in the 2016 Presidential nomination fight between Hillary and Gov. Hickenlooper.
3821  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 02, 2013, 06:40:26 PM
"homosexuals have been discriminated against in a manner consistent with the need for heightened scrutiny"

http://money.cnn.com/2012/12/06/pf/gay-money/index.html
Gay people earn more
@CNNMoney December 6, 2012: 1:37 PM ET
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans earn more, save more and have less debt, a Prudential study shows.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are better at managing their money than the average American, new research shows.
They earn more, save more, have less debt and are better prepared for retirement...
Respondents not only reported significantly higher annual incomes -- $61,500 compared with the national median of $50,054 -- but they also carried about $4,000 less in debt than the average American and had $6,000 more in household savings. They were even slightly more likely to have jobs in the first place, with an unemployment rate of 7% versus the national rate of 7.9%.
3822  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / American Creed /Constitutional Law: One more challenge for Obamacare on: April 02, 2013, 10:25:08 AM
Lawsuit over health care tax could kill ‘Obamacare’

The Washington Times
Sunday, March 31, 2013

"...one lawsuit making its way through the court system could pull the plug on the sweeping federal health care law.

A challenge filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation contends that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the bill originated in the Senate, not the House. Under the Origination Clause of the Constitution, all bills raising revenue must begin in the House.

The Supreme Court upheld most provisions of the act in June, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. took pains in the majority opinion to define Obamacare as a federal tax, not a mandate. That was when the Sacramento, Calif.-based foundation’s attorneys had their “aha” moment.

“The court there quite explicitly says, ‘This is not a law passed under the Commerce Clause; this is just a tax,’” foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur said at a Cato Institute forum on legal challenges to the health care act. “Well, then the Origination Clause ought to apply...

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/31/obamacare-lawsuit-over-health-care-tax-will-test-c/#ixzz2PJsjWvcW
3823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scrappleface: Obama Declares April 1 ‘Fiscal Responsibility Day’ on: April 02, 2013, 10:03:41 AM
Humorist Scott Ott at Scrappleface reports:

Obama Declares April 1 ‘Fiscal Responsibility Day’

Obama signs National Fiscal Responsibility Day declarationPresident Obama declares April 1 ‘National Fiscal Responsibility Day’, as the infants and toddlers of Wall Street bankers crawl around his desk just out of the camera’s view.

In a White House ceremony this morning, surrounded by young children of Wall Street bankers, and of staffers at the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, President Barack Obama signed an executive order designating today as ‘National Fiscal Responsibility Day.’

The president said the declaration would both “recognize the Herculean efforts of members of Congress and the Executive branch in paring down the federal budget to its core essentials...

Obama noted that from now on, the first day of April each year will “remind all Americans of the kind of government we ordained and established in our Constitution — one of limited, enumerated powers, that maximizes individual liberty.”...

[Too bad this is only an April Fools joke.]
http://scrappleface.com/?p=2009
3824  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pathological Science: The declining confidence of climate sensitivity on: April 02, 2013, 09:55:21 AM
Locally I can report the lake is still frozen and that it was a high of 34 degrees for the outdoor baseball opener yesterday, sunny and 24 right now, April 2.  28 days of March were below historical averages at the high and at the low.

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/03/climate-change-endgame-in-sight.php

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

"OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar."

The question people (who didn't read the emails) are asking is - why are the climate models so wrong:



Looks like the 'deniers' had it right and the alarmists are the new deniers:
http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/denial

3825  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela, AP - Chavez was a religious figure? on: April 02, 2013, 09:32:25 AM
Looking forward to our first-hand reports.  This story is sickening.

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20130330/DA5BL3VG1.html

Chavez's legacy gains religious glow in Venezuela
 Email this Story

Mar 30, 4:58 PM (ET)

By JACK CHANG

(AP)In this March 8, 2013 file photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro stands in front of a portrait of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez...

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Holding a Bible in her arms at the start of Holy Week, seamstress Maria Munoz waited patiently to visit the tomb of the man she considers another savior of humanity.

The 64-year-old said she had already turned her humble one-bedroom house into a shrine devoted to the late President Hugo Chavez, complete with busts, photos and coffee mugs bearing his image. Now, she said, her brother-in-law was looking for a larger house to display six boxes' worth of Chavez relics that her family has collected throughout his political career.

"He saved us from so many politicians who came before him," Munoz said as tears welled in her eyes. "He saved us from everything."

Chavez's die-hard followers considered him a living legend on a par with independence-era hero Simon Bolivar well before his March 5 death from cancer. In the mere three weeks since, however, Chavez has ascended to divine status in this deeply Catholic country as the government and Chavistas build a religious mythology around him ahead of April 14 elections to pick a new leader.

(AP) In this July 4, 2011 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez kisses a crucifix as he...

Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has led the way, repeatedly calling the late president "the redeemer Christ of the Americas" and describing Chavistas, including himself, as "apostles."

Maduro went even further after Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis earlier this month. Maduro said Chavez had advised Jesus Christ in heaven that it was time for a South American pope.

That comes as Maduro's government loops ads on state TV comparing Chavez to sainted heroes such as Bolivar and puts up countless banners around the capital emblazoned with Chavez's image and the message "From his hands sprouts the rain of life."

"President Chavez is in heaven," Maduro told a March 16 rally in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Catia. "I don't have any doubt that if any man who walked this earth did what was needed so that Christ the redeemer would give him a seat at his side, it was our redeemer liberator of the 21st century, the comandante Hugo Chavez."

Chavistas such as Munoz have filled Venezuela with murals, posters and other artwork showing Chavez in holy poses surrounded by crosses, rosary beads and other religious symbolism.

(AP) In this March 5, 2013 file photo, candles, placed by mourner demonstrators, burn in front of...

One poster on sale in downtown Caracas depicts Chavez holding a shining gold cross in his hands beside a quote from the Book of Joshua: "Comrade, be not afraid. Neither be dismayed, for I Will be with you each instant." The original scripture says "Lord thy God," and not "I," will accompany humanity each instant.

The late leader had encouraged such treatment as he built an elaborate cult of personality and mythologized his own rise to power, said Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, a University of Georgia media studies scholar who hails from Venezuela.

She said Chavez's successors are clearly hoping that pumping up that mythology can boost Maduro's presidential campaign, which has been based almost entirely on promises to continue Chavez's legacy. The opposition candidate, Gov. Henrique Capriles, counters that Maduro isn't Chavez, and highlights the problems that Chavez left behind such as soaring crime and inflation.

"They're fast-tracking the mythification," Acosta-Alzuru said of the government. "Sometimes I feel that Venezuelan politics has become a big church. Sometimes I feel it has become a big mausoleum."

Teacher Geraldine Escalona said she believed Chavez had served a divine purpose during his 58 years on earth, including launching free housing and education programs and pushing the cause of Latin American unity.

(AP) In this March 8, 2013 file photo, supporters of Nicolas Maduro watch on a giant screen...

"God used him for this, for unifying our country and Latin America," the 22-year-old said. "I saw him as a kind of God."

Such rhetoric has upset some religious leaders and drawn the reproach of Venezuela's top Roman Catholic official, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, on the eve of the Easter holidays.

"One can't equate any hero or human leader or authority with Jesus Christ," Urosa warned. "We can't equate the supernatural and religious sphere with the natural, earthly and sociopolitical."

Chavez, in his days, crossed paths frequently with Venezuela's church, which sometimes accused the socialist leader of becoming increasingly authoritarian. Chavez described Christ as a socialist, and he strongly criticized Cardinal Urosa, saying he misled the Vatican with warnings that Venezuela was drifting toward dictatorship.

Emerging this week from a church on the outskirts of Caracas, Lizbeth Colmenares slammed politicians from both sides for using derogatory language in the campaign, particularly during Holy Week.

(AP) In this March 5, 2012 file photo, a mural imitating the religious painting The Last Supper covers a wall of a popular housing complex, showing from left to right, Fidel Castro, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Jesus Christ, Simon Bolivar, Venezuelan rebel fighters Alexis Gonzalez and Fabricio Ojeda and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela...

"They are not following the words of Christ," said Colmenares, a 67-year old retiree who was holding palm fronds woven into the shape of the Holy Cross. "They should be more humble and they shouldn't be attacking each other that way."

Of course, politics and religion have long mixed in Latin America, starting with the Spanish conquest of the New World, which Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes famously said was carried out "between sword and cross."

In the 20th century, Argentine first lady Eva Peron helped start a leftist Latin American pantheon after her untimely death in 1952. She's since become a veritable saint for millions in her homeland, with pictures of her angelic face still commonly displayed in homes and government offices. Like Chavez, Peron was worshipped as a protector of the poor as well as a political fighter.

Chavez tied his own legacy to Bolivar, incessantly invoking his name and delivering hundreds of speeches with Bolivar's stern portrait looming over his shoulder. Chavez renamed the whole country "The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" and ordered a giant mausoleum built to house Bolivar's bones.

A short animated spot shown repeatedly on state TV this month makes clear that Chavez has already become a political saint for millions. It shows Chavez, after death, walking the western Venezuelan plains of his childhood before coming across Peron, Bolivar, the martyred Chilean President Salvador Allende and Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, among others.

(AP) In this March 19, 2013 file photo, kiss marks left by supporters of Venezuela's former...

"We know that in Argentina we have a Peronism that is very much alive," said Acosta-Alzuru. "And there are other examples in Latin America where a leader, a caudillo, tries to be everything for the country. What Maduro and Chavez's followers are doing is trying to keep Chavez alive."

Some Chavez supporters waiting to visit his tomb on a hill overlooking Caracas said their comandante is with them in spirit - and for that reason they planned to vote for Maduro, confident that Chavez was guiding his hand.

Reaching the marble tomb means first walking through an exhibit celebrating Chavez's life and military career, with photos and text exalting a seemingly inevitable rise to immortality.

"He's still alive," said 52-year-old nurse Gisela Averdano. "He hasn't died. For me, he will always continue."
3826  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Paul proposes US leaving UN on: April 02, 2013, 09:22:58 AM

Bold move.  It shows that he has been reading the forum.  Since this is a budget matter, what we might do is agree to pay the UN whatever the average or median country pays for one seat, one vote.  Also move them out of NYC and into the heartland.
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Meanwhile, Sec. Kerry still looking L.O.S.T. 
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/032813-649779-kerry-wants-law-of-the-sea-treaty.htm

3827  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 02, 2013, 08:53:27 AM
"GM, I was answering question that Doug asked me about how my vote would go down if I were on the Court."

This is true and I am appreciative of all the responses.  Knowing we disagree, the best we can do is test out the arguments in both directions and see where they lead.  No pressure, but the Justices may be checking the forum before they decide.  I have lived to regret telling Justice Roberts that Obamacare is a tax.   wink

In tax law, the progressive rate system fails the equal protection test IMO, but is justifiable to others on a concept understood as 'equal protection, different circumstances'.  We don't apply the top rate to every dollar or every person; taxpayers have different circumstances.  If you were in that situation, that rate would apply to you too.   I can't take the depletion deduction of a gold mine because I don't own one.  Is that unfair?  The blind get an extra deduction.  I would have to poke both eyes out to qualify.  Probably easier for a gay to pretend to be hetero.  A gay can't find happiness in a one man one woman marriage but he or she is free to pursue happiness elsewhere and not receive that legislated benefit.  The majority of the 4 trillion dollar budget consists of checks sent to preferred recipients for one reason or another, and not me.  If I could not serve in the military because of condition in me from birth or genetics, should I still receive veterans' benefits?  I don't see how you logically pick at the edges of a government built on preferences without bringing down the whole system.
3828  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - Basketball is his main sport? on: April 01, 2013, 08:02:36 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mVWHgMMF0cM

He golfs with Tiger (what did that cost?) but can't swing a club, hangs with NBA legends but can't make a free throw (video above is pretty amazing), and he wants to run the economy but has still never read a book on economics that isn't about dismantling our system.  Just getting to know the guy - as our nation heads down the tubes.

If his story was that he is a lousy basketball player or golfer (honesty), I would be impressed.  If his story is that he works on improving our economy so much, that is why his former sporting prowess has suffered, i would say - what a crock.
3829  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 01, 2013, 07:35:17 PM
...Doug...it ignores the equal protection and contract clauses, which requires states to recognize contracts made in other states. DOMA does violate that.

States, I agree, could be required to honor the contract between spouse 1 and spouse 2 (formerly referred to as husband and wife) as they travel freely through a different  state or move there.  How does that change the contract between state 2 and individual 1 or 2 as it applies to taxes or anything else, if the marriage preference (or penalty) in that state is defined as applying only to one-man-one-woman-marriages?

Can one state legislature, or ten of them, change the definition of a federal tax benefit when DOMA so specifically lays out what in federal law is defined as qualifying for that preference?  

If the issue truly is equal protection, I still fail to see how adding one group or two to the preferred group remedies the equal protection violation.  No one to my awareness ever answers that.  

The tax code is filled with preferences for all kinds of reasons.  Encouraging households potentially capable of natural offspring to marry is about as rational of a basis as there can be if we are to accept any preference.  [Of course rational basis is out the window here.)  Must everyone get a credit for not planting wheat in their yard if any farmer gets that deduction?  Isn't almost every page of the 8000 page Federal Tax Code loaded with preferences toward individuals from named groups and discrimination against everyone else?

I get it that at least one Justice will see 'heightened scrutiny' applying to sexual orientation and other Justices will follow, but I don't see 'heightened scrutiny for sexual orientation' in the original text or meaning of the original words in the constitution.  Why didn't the Court strike down all marriage preferences when they first came out?  Obviously marriage as it was defined then was a hetero-phenonmenon, and it didn't even reach all heteros.  Was there no challenge on equal protection in the tax code until now or were the precedents from the past wrongly decided?

I favor all income from all people in all industries, earned legally, taxed the same, which would have solved most of this.  Estates are essentially an accumulation of after tax income.  Some other clause, takings, or cruel and unusual punishment ought to stop the legislating of theft of those privately held assets.
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From GM's post:  "You cannot defend a new civil liberty, while denying it to others [the Polygamists]. I think there's a grander more magnificent trend that can see in the law and that is this right to be left alone," Turley said. "People have a right to establish their families as long as they don't harm others."

First of all, who is stopping them?

To my friends who innocently ask how gay marriage can possibly affect their marriage, resolving this contentious issue forcefully through the courts perhaps just ended their marriage in terms of every public policy recognition or preference as we knew it.  The acceptance of gay marriage coincided with the abandonment of conventional marriage.  The majority of all kids are now born out of wedlock and are thus empirically more likely to be poor and have other problems.  Meanwhile gay men and virgin lesbians are getting pregnant.  Mother and father are now federally called Parent One and Parent Two.  Equality and degradation of our greatest institutions are synonymous and within our reach.  All to achieve nothing that looks like equal protection under the law IMHO.
3830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 01, 2013, 02:58:58 PM
It isn't the right or privilege to marry that is in question, gays have always had that same right as heterosexuals (see Billie Jean King, Rock Hudson), it is the right to marry the person you love, who consents.
---------------
DOMA does not stop any state from performing or recognizing gay marriages or single out gay marriage apart from other permutations.  It is saying that the other states and the Feds don't have to recognize other unions from the states who do that as the same as a husband-wife marriage, which is defined as one of each gender.  http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c104:H.R.3396.ENR:

Prop 8 also does not single out gay marriage either any more than does it excluded larger groups:
Sec. 7.5. "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. "
---------------------

In political language, the disadvantaged group is called LGBT, meaning not just gays but all Lesbians, Gays, Bi-sexuals, trans-sexuals.  Addressing the needs of the last group alone, transgender, would mean an end to all gender distinctions, as it is a changeable state.  Interestingly (to me), an end to all gender distinctions was written in the Equal Rights Amendment -  which the nation failed to ratify.  

Somewhere between about 2.5% and 3.4%(Gallup) of adults identify as gay, a significant political minority.  Presumably Bi-sexuals and Polygamists whose needs are more than one are not helped by a gay marriage ruling.  They are much smaller groups and even more vulnerable to discrimination by the majority.  They don't have political power, but how does that change the meaning of the words of the constitution?  After DOMA or Prop 8 is struck down, it is still constitutional to prohibit recognition of these multiple partner unions?  They still cannot marry whomever they love that will consent.   Why doen't that fail the same test of logic or scrutiny, treating individuals from different groups differently?

Singling out hetero-marraige(-hyphened) for public policy preference was electorally intentional, the opposite of a sin tax, to encourage certain behaviors for the general welfare.  Singling out gay couples to add to the special treatment class is still offering special treatment to members of selected groups at the exclusion of others.  It still draws a moral line in law, damaging for example the children with polygamist upbringings, to extrapolate the plaintiffs attorneys' logic.  It also leaves in discrimination against single people in tax and estate law, which is the majority of new parents, if child rearing was the concern.  Why not strike down everything to do with marriage, family or any other recognition used for preference?  Isn't that really what is in question?
3831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: March 31, 2013, 08:30:28 AM
Ah, yes.  The meaning of the words - to marry.

In the older dictionaries, pre-2013, non-hyphenated marriage meant some kind of ceremony where a man and a woman consent to become husband and wife.  Does DOMA or Prop 8 remove that right for anyone? No (IMO).  Must change the meaning of the privilege in order to deny it.  Opting out of that union is also a right.
3832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: March 30, 2013, 12:01:55 AM
Prop 8 goes down 6-3. Heightened scrutiny. Kennedy writes. RBG concurs, but only because heightened scrutiny belongs to her.

DOMA goes down 6-3. Some combination of equal protection, contract clause. Roberts writes.

I can't disagree with your prediction.  Your vote would be with the 6?


A similar view was expressed by the NYT:

NY Times Editorial, Sunday March 23, 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/heightened-scrutiny-of-proposition-8-and-doma.html?_r=0

Heightened Scrutiny
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

One of the central questions in the two gay marriage cases to be argued before the Supreme Court this week is whether gays and lesbians are a protected class under the Constitution. Under longstanding principles, government actions that fall heavily on “discrete and insular minorities” historically subject to prejudice and stigma are to be given particular scrutiny.

The 3.4 percent of Americans who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clearly qualify as this kind of minority. Laws classifying individuals based on sexual orientation — the anti-gay-marriage initiative in California called Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act — must be given heightened scrutiny.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then the foremost advocate for gender equality, swayed the court 40 years ago to adopt that standard for gender-based distinctions. The court concluded “that classifications based upon sex” were “inherently suspect.” But it has not yet decided how to treat laws based on sexual orientation. The solicitor general and others argue persuasively that such laws require close review just as those based on gender do.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit struck down the Defense of Marriage Act for defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The appeals court convincingly found that in focusing on sexual orientation, the act warranted heightened scrutiny under the test the Supreme Court established for gender-based laws — and that the statute was unconstitutional when reviewed closely. The test considers whether members of the group have experienced invidious discrimination; whether individuals can leave the group without losing a basic part of their identities; whether the group’s defining characteristic is relevant to its ability to contribute to society; and whether members can protect themselves in the political process.

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people share a common “immutable” characteristic because their sexual orientation is fundamental to who they are and they have indisputably been discriminated against. Until a decade ago, the Supreme Court upheld state laws making “private sexual conduct” between people of the same sex a crime. In the five most recent years for which the government has data, through 2011, hate crimes in the United States fell by 19 percent. But hate crimes based on sexual orientation went up by 3 percent. The discrimination has nothing to do with the ability to contribute to society.

Finally, gays and lesbians, as a minority group, cannot protect themselves from discrimination in a political process governed by the majority. If they had power, Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act would never have passed, nor would the laws currently on the books in 39 states that specifically restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

As the brief for the United States said in the Defense of Marriage Act case, “This is the rare circumstance in which a faithful application of the court’s established criteria compels applying heightened scrutiny to an additional classification.” Neither of the laws in the two cases before the court can withstand this serious constitutional examination.
3833  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in Constitutional Law: Prop 8, DOMA and gay marriage on: March 29, 2013, 03:03:31 PM
CD, BD, others,  Are you ready to issue what your opinion would be on the two gay marriage cases, ahead of the Court's decision?  Standing, rational basis, strict scrutiny, it all seems very complicated.  If it is like the Obamacare decision, I tend to learn the most from the dissent.

Gays who aren't husband and wife, gender specific, are treated no differently under the law than all single people, an argument I haven't heard them make.  For better or worse, the movement for sameness for gays (or singles, transgenders or group arrangements), can only lead to the ending all preferential treatment aimed at the institution formerly known as marriage with no hyphen. 

I believe in an extreme passion for protecting the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all including gay.  OTOH, it is of no interest to me whether the plaintiff Windsor was in a committed relationship, until death do we part, with her sister, friend or gay partner.  God Bless her freedom to associate, for them to love and look after each other, etc.  The only logical discrimination ruling to me would be to strike down all recognition of marriage that treats any person differently than anyone else.  It would be a shame to do that, to eliminate public recognition of marriage as proposed elsewhere.
-----------------
Here is a WSJ Editorial Board member disagreeing with the Editorial Board, an interesting take:

Maybe Scalia Was Wrong      March 28, 2013
How the Supreme Court could uphold Proposition 8.
   
By JAMES TARANTO

The most telling question in two days of oral arguments on same-sex marriage came yesterday in U.S. v. Windsor, the Defense of Marriage Act case. The questioner, not surprisingly, was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who addressed Solicitor General Donald Verrilli:

    You are insisting that we get to a very fundamental question about equal protection, but we don't do that unless we assume the law is valid otherwise to begin with. And we are asking is it valid otherwise. What is the Federal interest in enacting this statute and is it a valid Federal interest assuming, before we get to the equal protection analysis?

Let's uproot some of the legal weeds so we have a clear view:

The justices are debating whether Section 3 of DOMA, the provision barring the federal government from recognizing any same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. (Section 2, which permits states to refrain from recognizing other states' same-sex marriage, is not under challenge.)

There are two arguments against Section 3: the federalism argument and the equal-protection argument. The federalism argument is that marriage and family law have traditionally been state domains, and therefore Congress lacks authority to legislate in these areas. The equal-protection argument is that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against homosexuals.

Kennedy seems to be giving serious consideration to striking down DOMA's Section 3 based on the federalism argument alone. In this column's view, that would be the correct outcome, which is to say that we respectfully dissent from The Wall Street Journal's editorial position.  "The Justices can help the Constitutional system, the country's political temper and the Court's reputation by letting the people decide how to define the core family unit of society."  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323501004578386392725153194.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet

Kennedy's evident reluctance to take up the equal-protection argument in Windsor is almost certainly a clue as to his thinking about Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case challenging California's Proposition 8.

In Hollingsworth, observers on either side could find reason for encouragement in Kennedy's questioning at oral argument. On the one hand, as we noted Tuesday, he expressed serious misgivings about the court's imposing a novel social policy on the nation. On the other, he mused about "the voice of these children"--which, as blogress Ann Althouse notes, is a slogan from the Family Equality Council, a gay-rights group that filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to strike down both Proposition 8 and DOMA.

But there is no federalism argument in Hollingsworth, which concerns a state law. It is entirely an argument about equal protection. If Kennedy is reluctant to reach the question in Windsor, how can he even form an opinion in Hollingsworth?

One answer to that question is that he may not have to. In both Hollingsworth and Windsor, the executive branch of the government--California's governor and attorney general in the former case, the Obama administration in the latter--has declined to defend the law under challenge. Other parties have been appointed to argue the case instead, and among the questions the justices considered were whether those parties even had standing to argue the defense.

The court could hold that the designated defenders in Hollingsworth have no standing and thus the case is not properly before the court. Our understanding is that in the event of such a ruling, the Ninth Circuit's opinion would be vacated and the original trial court ruling would be reinstated. That would mean California would be required to establish same-sex marriage, but the laws of no other state would change, and no court elsewhere would be obliged to follow the trial judge's precedent.

It seems to us it would be odd for the justices to hold that the defenders have standing in Windsor but not in Hollingsworth. On this question, however, we enter a rare plea of ignorance. Perhaps there is some pertinent difference, and if an expert in federal procedure would like to produce an explanatory email or blog post, we promise to read it.

At any rate, there is another possibility. Perhaps the equal-protection question in Hollingsworth is more easily resolved than the one in Windsor.

Some argue that Kennedy effectively resolved the Hollingsworth question a decade ago, and in favor of same-sex marriage. Among them are the legal journalist Jeffrey Toobin, the distinguished legal scholar Richard Epstein and . . . Justice Antonin Scalia. This columnist was an early adherent of this view--see our August 2010 column titled "Scalia Was Right," a phrase Toobin borrows in The New Yorker this week--but we've changed our mind.

In 2003 Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state laws against consensual sodomy as a violation of the right to privacy. Kennedy quoted an earlier dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens and declared that it was thenceforth the view of the court: "The fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice; neither history nor tradition could save a law prohibiting miscegenation from constitutional attack."

But the miscegenation analogy, the favorite of same-sex marriage's proponents, is misleading. Whether or not one finds the comparison morally compelling, it overlooks an important legal distinction. Laws that distinguish between individuals on the basis of race are (at least in theory) almost impossible to justify, because the Supreme Court has held that they are subject to "strict scrutiny," the most forbidding standard of review.

Neither the Obama administration nor the appellees in the marriage cases argue that the court should apply strict scrutiny in evaluating laws that make distinctions based on homosexuality. The court, led by Justice Kennedy, expressly declined to do so in Romer v. Evans (1996), which struck down a Colorado ballot initiative denying all legal protections to homosexuals. Romer was an equal-protection case while Lawrence was a privacy case, but in both of them the court applied the lowest level of scrutiny: It struck down the laws in question on the ground that disapproval of homosexuality was not even a "rational basis" for the laws under challenge.

That's where Scalia comes in. He vigorously dissented from both Romer and Lawrence, arguing for the right of a democratic majority to embody its moral views in the law. In Lawrence, Kennedy noted that the decision "does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter."

"Do not believe it," Scalia replied:

    If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is "no legitimate state interest" for purposes of proscribing that conduct; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), "when sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring," what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising "the liberty protected by the Constitution"?

It's a rhetorical question, but under rational-basis analysis it's easily answered: Providing benefits to homosexual couples costs the taxpayers money. If the lesbian widower Edith Windsor prevails in the DOMA case, for instance, the IRS will have to refund $363,053 it collected in death taxes from her late wife's estate. It doesn't get more rational than that.

That's why the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals applied "intermediate scrutiny"--the same level that applies to distinctions between the sexes--in its equal-protection analysis when it decided Windsor v. U.S. The Obama administration argues for "heightened scrutiny," which the Supreme Court has never used and which is, like intermediate scrutiny, stricter than rational basis and more relaxed than strict scrutiny.

Applying a higher level of scrutiny would be a major legal step. If Kennedy is averse to reaching the equal-protection question in Windsor, that suggests it is a step he would prefer not to take. Which leads to the question: How would one resolve Hollingsworth using a rational-basis test?

As we noted March 13, the administration's friend-of-the-court brief offers one idea. California, in common with eight other states, has a law on the books providing for "civil unions" that come with all the benefits of marriage. The administration argues that since civil unions and marriages are materially identical, those states--unlike those without civil unions, or with ones that are lesser than marriage--have surrendered the option of claiming a rational basis in protecting the public fisc.

The only plausible reason they have for denying the name marriage, the argument continues, is disapprobation of homosexuality, which the court rejected as a rational basis in both Romer and Lawrence. Thus, the administration urges, if the court won't apply heightened scrutiny it should order those nine states to abolish the distinction between civil unions and marriages.

There's no indication what Justice Kennedy made of this particular argument; he didn't ask Verrilli any questions on Tuesday. But it seems to us that it misunderstands the nature of the rational-basis test and runs counter to the logic of Romer and Lawrence. Rational basis is a test that involves both ends and means. Promoting public health, for example, would obviously be a rational basis for a statute banning smoking in bars, but it might not suffice to justify a statute banning smoking only in gay bars.

In both Romer and Lawrence, Kennedy stressed the mismatch between the (at least theoretical) onerousness of the means and the amorphous nature of the end (expressing disapprobation of homosexuality).

From Romer: "Homosexuals, by state decree, are put in a solitary class with respect to transactions and relations in both the private and governmental spheres. The amendment withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination, and it forbids reinstatement of these laws and policies. . . . [The law's] sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests."

From Lawrence: "When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the State, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres. . . . The stigma this criminal statute imposes, moreover, is not trivial. The offense, to be sure, is but a class C misdemeanor, a minor offense in the Texas legal system. Still, it remains a criminal offense with all that imports for the dignity of the persons charged."

California law, by contrast, treats homosexual couples as equal to heterosexual couples in every respect except for the official name it applies to their relationships. And "civil unions" implies no disapprobation, merely a lesser degree of approbation than "marriage." It's hard to imagine a less onerous law.

If Scalia was right, then Romer and Lawrence stand for the view that to disapprove of homosexuality, or even to view it less favorably than heterosexuality, is an irrational idea that cannot be allowed to influence public policy even in the most minimal ways. But that sounds like strict scrutiny to us.

If Scalia was wrong, the court could uphold Proposition 8 on the ground that it imposes a burden so minimal that the rational-basis test is far easier to meet than it was in Romer or Lawrence.

3834  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: ah, the post racial political climate on: March 29, 2013, 02:10:45 PM
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/290977-boehner-no-excuse-for-youngs-wetbacks-comment
From the article:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said there was "no excuse" for the comment, in which Young described Latino workers on his family farm as "wetbacks" in a radio interview Thursday.

We will not judge people by the moisture content of their skin, nor by the validity of their documents.
3835  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy - Next is the Pot Tax on: March 29, 2013, 01:17:35 PM
First this on the previous post - people are leaving failed liberal states and going to the freer, lower tax, supply side states for economic reasons.  Unfortunately they are not leaving their failed political ideas behind.  Case in point: Colorado.  Leading us to this:

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/buzzkill-cash-strapped-states-eye-pot-tax-89412.html
Cash-starved states eye pot tax     3/28/13

The legalization argument went something like this, make it legal, drive the price down and liberty will replace crime across the fruited plain.

Enter the tax man.  Pass these bills and your private transactions are no longer legal - or private.  I wonder if this is what the libertarian, just leave me alone, recreational users had in mind.

Half the states already tax it even while it is illegal:http://www.ksrevenue.org/perstaxtypesdrug.html  In 10 years under the stamp act in MN, fewer than 20 people bought the stamps and I doubt if the reasons were for tax law compliance.

3836  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chicago, L.A. and NYC ranked last in terms of federal gun law enforcement on: March 29, 2013, 12:48:26 PM
Chicago leads the nation with lowest rate of prosecution for federal gun crimes.  ?

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/03/28/chicago-los-angeles-new-york-prosecuted-fewest-federal-gun-crimes

Good news I suppose that the strict local laws have chased away gun violence. ?  Tell that to the victims:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/15/chicagos-murder-epidemic-complicates-obama-gun-ban-pitch/

If only we had more laws - to further restrict the rights of the law-abiding.
3837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Shiller= economic illiterate? on: March 29, 2013, 12:38:15 PM

Yes. Same Shiller.  The piece begins: "With much of the global economy apparently trapped in a long and painful austerity-induced slump..."  Austerity-induced slump??!!

"There is a way out of this trap...away from austerity...increasing taxes even more..."

As a Professor of Economics at Yale University, this is what we choose to teach our best and brightest.  sad   Taking from Reagan, "it is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so."

Shiller continued: "This kind of enlightened stimulus (good grief!) runs into strong prejudices. For starters, people tend to think of taxes as a loathsome infringement on their freedom, as if petty bureaucrats will inevitably squander the increased revenue on useless and ineffective government employees and programs.

Yes we do!

With Prof. Case a fellow at Harvard and Prof. Shiller teaching at Yale, living in a bubble takes on new meaning.  Thanks to PP and Crafty, I don't think I will quote a Case-Shiller index ever again except for taking any opportunity to discredit it.

For credibility(?), it is now called the S&P Case Shiller Index.  Isn't S&P the group charged by the Eric Holder Justice Department with Fraud?  http://business.financialpost.com/2013/02/12/obamas-5-billion-sp-lawsuit-a-culmination-of-four-years-of-investigation/


3838  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 28, 2013, 06:30:45 PM
"I have no idea what Mort Zuckerman is talking about that foreigners coming here for education are not staying here."

http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/lwp/people/staffPapers/vivek/Vivek_Losing_the_best_and_brightest.pdf
http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/foreign-national-students-in-united-states-plan-to-return-to-native-countries.aspx

The studies confirm both sides. Plenty are staying.  Most at the highest technology levels are planning to leave.
3839  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: March 27, 2013, 04:30:16 PM
"d) "“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve gotta (sic) have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded [as the United States military]”–Candidate Barack Obama, 2008"


"A civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded as the United States military" - it turns out the President-to-be was mocking the constitutional phrase 'well regulated militias'.  He was actually proposing to expand the government workforce or, worse yet, make government service mandatory for young people.  Unarmed but "just as powerful, just as strong" is an example of why people here came up with the phrase "cognitive dissonance - glibness'.  Meanwhile he is disarming our military and canceling missile defense sites.

Tough words like unarmed civilians did not scare off the Benghazi attackers, just like gun free zone signs don't scare off criminals.

3840  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: March 27, 2013, 12:38:40 PM
I'd love to see the data for 2011-12 as part of the graph , , ,

It would appear that both the SSDI new application rate and the unemployment rate are in a flat line pattern right now, both at unacceptably high levels:  http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/dibStat.html

What should be shocking, and isn't, is that disability is more closely tied to economic not medical condition.
3841  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues - Economic Liberty is your accesss to the pond on: March 27, 2013, 11:08:29 AM
We know about the programs, taxes and regulations here in the US that are overly burdensome.  Then we hear of stories from third world countries where regulations are even worse, much worse.  Only the richest people with the deepest pockets and highest connections can jump through the hoops that empower the powerful and hold down the masses.

While we argue the age old question of whether you help people best by giving them a fish or by teaching them to fish, one observer pointed out that what we really are doing with our policies is denying them access to the pond.

Economic liberty is your access to the pond.  You shouldn't be taxed and regulated like a mulit-national conglomerate with teams of extra employees dedicated to compliance before you have found your first customer or earned your first dollar.

The default position ought to be that a person who is infringing on no one else ought to have a right to make a living.

One comprehensive set of measurements applied across the globe over time is the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom (already posted in other threads):  http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking  What we know is that with each country's policies they are choosing between being rich and poor.  If the choice is between being free and prosperous versus forcing people to either stay in poverty or be held back from improving their lives, aren't we really choosing between right and wrong?
3842  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economy: Great Recession Has Been Followed by the Grand Illusion on: March 27, 2013, 10:06:23 AM
Monday's WSJ:

Mortimer Zuckerman: The Great Recession Has Been Followed by the Grand Illusion

Don't be fooled by the latest jobs numbers. The unemployment situation in the U.S. is still dire.

The Great Recession is an apt name for America's current stagnation, but the present phase might also be called the Grand Illusion—because the happy talk and statistics that go with it, especially regarding jobs, give a rosier picture than the facts justify.

The country isn't really advancing. By comparison with earlier recessions, it is going backward. Despite the most stimulative fiscal policy in American history and a trillion-dollar expansion to the money supply, the economy over the last three years has been declining. After 2.4% annual growth rates in gross domestic product in 2010 and 2011, the economy slowed to 1.5% growth in 2012. Cumulative growth for the past 12 quarters was just 6.3%, the slowest of all 11 recessions since World War II.

And last year's anemic growth looks likely to continue. Sequestration will take $600 billion of government expenditures out of the economy over the next 10 years, including $85 billion this year alone. The 2% increase in payroll taxes will hit about 160 million workers and drain $110 billion from their disposable incomes. The Obama health-care tax will be a drag of more than $30 billion. The recent 50-cent surge in gasoline prices represents another $65 billion drag on consumer cash flow.

February's headline unemployment rate was portrayed as 7.7%, down from 7.9% in January. The dip was accompanied by huzzahs in the news media claiming the improvement to be "outstanding" and "amazing." But if you account for the people who are excluded from that number—such as "discouraged workers" no longer looking for a job, involuntary part-time workers and others who are "marginally attached" to the labor force—then the real unemployment rate is somewhere between 14% and 15%.

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Corbis

Other numbers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have deteriorated. The 236,000 net new jobs added to the economy in February is misleading—the gross number of new jobs included 340,000 in the part-time, low wage category. Many of the so-called net new jobs are second or third jobs going to people who are already working, rather than going to those who are unemployed.

The number of Americans unemployed for six months or longer went up by 89,000 in February to a total of 4.8 million. The average duration of unemployment rose to 36.9 weeks, up from 35.3 weeks in January. The labor-force participation rate, which measures the percentage of working-age people in the workforce, also dropped to 63.5%, the lowest in 30 years. The average workweek is a low 34.5 hours thanks to employers shortening workers' hours or asking employees to take unpaid leave.

Since World War II, it has typically taken 24 months to reach a new peak in employment after the onset of a recession. Yet the country is more than 60 months away from its previous high in 2007, and the economy is still down 3.2 million jobs from that year.

Just to absorb the workforce's new entrants, the U.S. economy needs to add 1.8 million to three million new jobs every year. At the current rate, it will be seven years before the jobs lost in the Great Recession are restored. Employers will need to make at least 300,000 hires every month to recover the ground that has been lost.

The job-training programs announced by the Obama administration in his State of the Union address are sensible, but they won't soon bridge the gap for workers with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Nor is there yet any reform of the patent system, which imposes long delays on innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs seeking approvals. It often takes two years to obtain the environmental health and safety permits to build a modern electronic plant, a lifetime in the tech world.

When employers can't expand or develop new lines because of the shortage of certain skills, the employment opportunities for the less skilled are also restricted. To help with this shortage, the administration's proposals for job-training programs do deserve support. The stress should be on vocational training, postsecondary education and every program that will broaden access to computer science and strengthen science, technology, engineering and math in high schools and at the university level.

But the payoffs from these programs are in the future, and it is vital today to increase the number of annual visas and grants of permanent residency status for foreigners skilled in science and technology. The current situation is preposterous: The brightest and best brains from all over the globe are attracted to American universities, but once they get their degrees America sends them packing. Keeping these foreigners out means they will compete against us in the industries that are growing here and around the world.

More at the link:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323393304578364670697613576.html?mod=opinion_newsreel

Mr. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report.
3843  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs, spending, deficit, budget: SSI Disability on: March 27, 2013, 10:01:19 AM
As the number receiving disability checks approaches 12 million and the number of new recipients growing faster than job growth, it seems to me we should either:  a) fire the surgeon general for completely ignoring the known cause of this epidemic, or b) celebrate the fact that we now have the healthiest disabled workers to ever walk this planet, helping to support our restaurants, bars and golf courses across the fruited plain.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/03/disability-insurance-americas-124-billion-secret-welfare-program/274302/
http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/
http://economics.mit.edu/files/7388

Obama's economy is empirically causing American disability, more than heart attacks or strokes, cigarettes or sodas:

3844  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Liberal fascism: James Taranto WSJ on Nanny State Advocacy on: March 26, 2013, 11:51:50 AM
First, bringing this post over from Cognitive Dissonance of the Left thread:

Continuing in our get to the know the left series. 

It’s For Your Own Good!
Cass R. Sunstein

Left thinker Sunstein reviews "Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism"
by Sarah Conly which explains with a straight face why a system of "paternalist" government-based decision making is better than individual free choices.  I kid you not.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/mar/07/its-your-own-good/

"Conly convincingly argues that behavioral findings raise significant questions about Mill’s harm principle [coersion can only be to prevent harm to others]. When people are imposing serious risks on themselves, it is not enough to celebrate freedom of choice and ignore the consequences."

Yesterday Sarah Conly argued her points in the New York Times: 
Three Cheers for the Nanny State
By SARAH CONLY
Published: March 24, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/opinion/three-cheers-for-the-nanny-state.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

In today's online WSJ and linked at Real Clear Politics Opinion Journal Editor James Taranto taking her to task, pointing out a little cognitive dissonance in the choices of liberal left nanny state advocates.  In our continuing, content sharing agreement with the WSJ I thank them for generously listing yours truly in the credits at the end of the column.  )

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324105204578382572446778866.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_MIDDLETopOpinion

Don't Nudge Me There
If government may dictate soda size, why not sexual behavior?

By JAMES TARANTO

If you want to get published on the op-ed page of a major newspaper, a good way to go about it is to make a reasonable, or at least reasonable-sounding, case for an unpopular and outlandish position. It's important that the issue be trivial, so that readers will get riled up but no one will really feel offended or threatened.

Philosopher Sarah Conly, author of a new book called "Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism," has discovered the formula. In a New York Times op-ed titled "Three Cheers for the Nanny State," she defends Mayor Michael Bloomberg's almost universally ridiculed (and judicially enjoined) ban on large sodas and other sugary beverages.

Conly's argument doesn't seem unreasonable, though it is incoherent in places. In a parenthetical aside, for example, she mocks opponents for objecting over such a trivial matter: "Large cups of soda as symbols of human dignity? Really?" (Note to the editors: That "Really?" is lazy writing. Why not let a rhetorical question stand on its own? See what we mean?) But of course she wants us to take her defense of this silly policy as a serious philosophical argument.

Then there's this priceless passage: "Do we care so much about our health that we want to be forced to go to aerobics every day and give up all meat, sugar and salt? No. But in this case, it's some extra soda. Banning a law on the grounds that it might lead to worse laws would mean we could have no laws whatsoever."

Oddly, Conly bases her reductio ad absurdum on false empirical premises. The benefits and risks of exercise, and of particular forms of exercise, vary from individual to individual. And giving up all meat and salt, unlike sugar, is likely to harm your health.

The best part is that conclusion. Essentially she's saying that if you accept one slippery-slope argument, you have to accept all slippery-slope arguments. Therefore, slippery-slope arguments are unsound.

We police the front seat. Why not the back seat?

But wait, that's a slippery-slope argument! You've heard of the liar's paradox? Its simplest form is the statement "This statement is false." Conly's greatest contribution to philosophy may be the slippery-slope argument against slippery-slope arguments. Call it the slipper's paradox.

We're less impressed with Conly's argument in favor of the soda ban and measures like it. She rebuts John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century liberal philosopher who established the "harm principle"--the idea that coercion is generally justified only to prevent individuals from harming others. Mill also allowed that there were unusual cases in which government would be justified in restricting an individual's behavior for his own good--"when we are acting out of ignorance and doing something we'll pretty definitely regret." Since it's common knowledge that large quantities of refined sugar are bad for you, that wouldn't justify the soda ban.

Conly thinks Mill didn't go far enough in justifying coercion. Science has shown "that we often don't think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends," she writes. "We make errors. . . . We are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations." Thus we should surrender a measure of autonomy and yield to rules promulgated by experts, who presumably know what's good for us: "Giving up a little liberty is something we agree to when we agree to live in a democratic society that is governed by laws."

Again she brings up the slippery slope: "What people fear is that this is just the beginning: today it's soda, tomorrow it's the guy standing behind you making you eat your broccoli, floss your teeth, and watch 'PBS NewsHour' every day."

Crazy, right? Maybe not. Conly's op-ed never mentions smoking, but in a sympathetic review in the New York Review of Books, Cass Sunstein reports that in "Against Autonomy" she argues "that because the health risks of smoking are so serious, the government should ban it." (Sunstein, a legal scholar and former Obama administration official, is coauthor of the 2008 book "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness," which makes an argument similar to Conly's.)

What's interesting about the smoking-ban proposal is that while it is culturally radical, it is not philosophically radical. Is there any doubt that if cigarettes were a new invention, lawmakers would quickly ban them? Libertarians would object, on the same ground that they argue for the legalization of other drugs. But their point of view would command little public support, at least unless and until illicit cigarette smoking became as widespread as illicit marijuana use is today.

That is to say that a moderate form of Conly's philosophy has long prevailed, even in as freedom-loving a country as America. While we may bridle at being told we can't do something we are used to doing or didn't realize we weren't supposed to do, generally we don't do so as a matter of principle. (Libertarians, you're off the hook on that observation.) Generally speaking, Americans accept a wide variety of regulations on their personal behavior that are designed to be in their own good.

So what does Conly have to say that is original? Well, her book is called "Against Autonomy" and subtitled "Justifying Coercive Paternalism." That makes it sound as if she is advocating aggressive and thoroughgoing government intrusion into individual decision-making. Her positions on the soda ban and tobacco prohibition seem to bolster that. But those take her only slightly beyond the views that today prevail among the left-liberal elite.

Similarly, according to Sunstein, she endorses Bloomberg's ban on trans fats as well as "regulations designed to reduce portion sizes"--presumably of solid food as well as dissolved sugar. But in areas in which her philosophy would seem to conflict with prevailing left-liberal views, she's less adventurous than Bloomberg:

    She is far more ambivalent about Mayor Bloomberg's effort to convince the US Department of Agriculture to authorize a ban on the use of food stamps to buy soda. She is not convinced that the health benefits would be significant, and she emphasizes that people really do enjoy drinking soda.

You'd think the logic of "coercive paternalism"--of government-imposed restrictions designed to promote individual welfare--would apply more strongly when individuals are dependent on government for financial support of their welfare. To put it another way, someone who is financially autonomous has a stronger argument that he ought to be personally autonomous. We're not sure what Conly thinks of that argument--the $95 cover price (0% off at Amazon) has nudged us away from acquiring her book--but we suspect she adheres less strongly to "coercive paternalism" than to the orthodoxies of contemporary left-liberalism.

An even better example is this observation from Sunstein's review: "Because hers is a paternalism of means rather than ends, she would not authorize government to stamp out sin (as, for example, by forbidding certain forms of sexual behavior)."

What a staggering cop-out. The past 50 years or so have seen a massive deregulation of personal behavior in the sexual sphere, a revolution of law, technology, custom and economics, all in the name of personal autonomy. Never mind "sin"--this has had bad consequences for public health (AIDS and other new sexually transmitted diseases), for children (far more of whom are born out of wedlock and reared without fathers), and even for the future of the welfare state (since declining fertility makes old-age entitlements unsustainable).

It may be that the sexual revolution is irreversible and the concomitant problems are intractable. If Conly lacks the imagination to come up with policy solutions, so do we. But if she dismisses this enormous question as a matter of "sin" and focuses instead on trivia like soda-size regulations, why should we take her philosophy seriously?
3845  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Congressional races 2014, Sen Tim Johnson (D-SD) out on: March 26, 2013, 11:11:35 AM
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/26/tim-johnson-retirement_n_2954549.html

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson was expected to announce his retirement Tuesday, making the state the fifth where Democrats will have to defend a seat without an incumbent seeking re-election. The decision opens up a 2014 race that Republicans had already labeled as a top target to grab a seat.
...
Johnson joins Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey as seasoned and influential Democrats departing the chamber, where Republicans need to gain six seats to take control.
-----

Former Gov. Mike Rounds and current Rep Kristi Noem would be possible replacements.  )
3846  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Hillary's emails hacked on: March 20, 2013, 01:22:03 PM

I hope they prosecute the hacker but also learn from the info about what was going on / not going on relating to this attack and scandal, since no one else will tell us.  My understanding is that Valerie Jarrett was the director of the coverup.

"My good friend Chris" couldn't get his security requests answered to save his life.   If we are so far into this administration that they didn't even think to blame the disaster on George Bush, then this administration has almost nothing left.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE NOW - that we let al Qaida win this round.  Hillary has moved on to gay marriage.  If she is out of public life, who cares what she thinks about social issues.
3847  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: March 18, 2013, 02:39:10 PM
MHO, because they went up way too far, too fast previously, up 4 times more than the Dow since 2000.
3848  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: America's Inner City; WRM - Detroit's governing decadence on: March 16, 2013, 09:51:04 AM
http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/03/15/detroit-dems-enrich-wall-street-as-city-goes-bust/

March 15, 2013
Detroit Dems Enrich Wall Street As City Goes Bust
Walter Russell Mead

Michigan made it official this week: Detroit can no longer survive without adult supervision. Michigan’s governor named Kevyn Orr, a DC bankruptcy lawyer, to handle the city’s affairs on an emergency basis as the deep blue city makes a last ditch effort to avoid the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

During the long grim slide, much of Detroit’s population fled the implosion; those who remained suffered through declining city services. Schools, police, fire, infrastructure: all the vital services cities are supposed to provide have gone into steep decline.

But while the city’s mostly low-income and mostly African-American residents struggled to survive civic decline, the ill wind from Detroit blew somebody good: well connected Wall Street firms have feasted on the Motor City’s carcass.

Ever since the long death spiral began, Detroit has relied on periodic bond sales to keep its bills paid. The thinking was clear: borrow now, pay it back later when the city’s finances recover. Of course, Detroit’s finances never recovered, and now it’s on the hook for much of this borrowing, in addition to the fees that these banks charged.

And these are serious fees. Bloomberg reports that since 2005, Wall Street banks have charged the city a whopping $474 million. As a comparison, that’s about as much as the city’s current entire police and fire budget for this year:

    “The banks promise to get you the money and say you can pay later,” said Greg Bowens, spokesman for Stand Up For Democracy, a Lansing group that campaigned last year to repeal the law allowing appointment of a financial manager. “They get their fees off the top, and you trust that they’re doing what’s in your taxpayers’ best interest.”

As Detroit is learning now, in many cases they weren’t. And Detroit is not alone: In city after city, struggling pension funds have turned to exotic Wall Street investments claiming high returns and minimal risks. In some cases this is working out, in many more it isn’t, but either way, Wall Street is collecting its fees and leaving taxpayers and pensioners to pick up the pieces when it falls apart.

Democrats are shocked, shocked by the news that there is gambling going on in America’s blue cities. They do their best to avert their eyes from the close political ties between corrupt urban political machines and exploitative Wall Street banks. In the lame progressive mindset that characterizes these decadent times, Wall Street is bad, and urban politicians are good. There can’t possibly be some sort of symbiotic relationship between them. How could something so good, so honest, so dedicated to serving the poor as the Detroit Democratic machine be engaged in a vicious conspiracy with Wall Street to bleed the poor and suck the city dry?

Some Democrats don’t like this kind of talk because they are cynical and others don’t like it because they are naive. The cynics are either in the game themselves or knowingly agree to look the other way because they value the support of political allies and don’t care how much those allies bleed the poor. The naive ones, and there are lots of starry eyed intellectuals in this country who don’t know a hawk from a handsaw, think that because many of these urban thugs are African-American, and because they advocate for more government programs to help the poor, they must obviously be sincere and be part of a general wave of good progressive people fighting to make this world a better place. Surely nobody is so cynical as to lobby for government programs because they plan to cream off the money?

Others have an uneasy sense that something is amiss, but a combination of historical ignorance and race sensitivity strikes them dumb. They look around America and see a number of urban areas with predominantly African-American populations. They see that many (not all) of these cities are run by incompetent, race-baiting hacks and criminals who use identity politics to bond themselves to the voters they exploit.

Because they don’t understand that corruption and identity politics have been the hallmark of American municipal government since the 1830s and 184os, they think the ghastly spectacle of demagogic corruption ruining our cities today is somehow a racial phenomenon. The racists among us see that picture and want to draw racist conclusions about African-American capacity for self governance; most of the rest of us are made so uncomfortable by the whole topic that we let the subject slide.

But thieves like the despicable Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit are anything but a racial phenomenon. There were Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish and Greek Kilpatricks in their day. We can confidently expect a wave of Latino Kilpatricks as Latino voting power pushes African-American machines aside in more urban areas.

And there’s another thing American history teaches: unscrupulous politicians will find unscrupulous bankers who will float them abusive loans in exchange for fat fees.

If our so-called ‘progressives’ today weren’t so intellectually decadent and, well, historically challenged, they would be leading the charge to clean up American cities. Instead they are mostly silent — and sometimes even defend the machines.

It’s a terrible shame because reformers and progressives really can fight the rot and help the poor — if they can get past their messed up ‘political correctness’ illusions long enough to recognize the basic facts of the case. Some people are trying. Politicians like (one hopes) Cory Booker are part of the wave of renewal and change that slowly and bit by bit can make a change. Courageous prosecutors, crusading attorneys-general, fiercely determined governors are part of the solution. And so are presidents who believe that their oath of office obliges them to attack with special force and determination the organized political machines that use a whole series of corrupt and collusive procedures to deprive American citizens of their right to a republican form of government.

Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Governor Snyder’s choice of Kevyn Orr to take the reins in Detroit is looking good. For one thing, Orr has a history of turning around failing organizations in Michigan. He was partially responsible for guiding Chrysler through bankruptcy in 2009. Given that many expect Detroit to enter bankruptcy as well, Orr’s skill set in this area is likely to come in handy. But perhaps most importantly, Orr, along with 82 percent of Detroit’s population, is black.

The mix of political machines, unscrupulous bosses and low income voters is not inherently a racial issue, but Detroit’s problems can’t be separated from racial concerns. Ever since the state of emergency was announced, many in Detroit have been concerned that the emergency manager law is effectively taking control away from the city’s black population and putting it in the hands of a manager appointed by a white Republican governor.

Michigan has a real mess on its hands. As Bloomberg notes, Detroit now joins Flint, Benton Harbor, Pontiac and a few other, smaller cities under emergency management. These cities account for nearly 50 percent of the state’s black population, so that almost half the black people in Michigan now live in places where local government has effectively lost power. In Benton Harbor in particular, the current situation has sparked racial concern:

    “If I’m a young, African-American person growing up in Detroit or Benton Harbor or one of these mostly black areas, what is the message that sends?” Pilgrim said. “It certainly looks like the message is that people that look like you can’t govern.” [...]

    “I don’t see how it couldn’t be racially motivated,” Williams, 30, said of the law. “We will stop this because of folks who stood before us, like Medgar Evers, who fought for voting rights.”

It’s true that the emergency manager law is taking power away from Detroiters and other Michigan urbanites, and we certainly hope that the state can return control to the people as soon as possible. But despite the fears of a hostile outside takeover, most of Detroit’s problems come from the corrupt political machine that has been looting the city for decades — and from the indifferent state and national prosecutors and politicians who failed to address the lawless state of city government and left the city’s poor to the mercies of heartless thugs.

Following in the footsteps of cheap foreign demagogues like Robert Mugabe, Kwame Kilpatrick and others of his ilk have played relentlessly on identity politics to earn support from poor, minority communities while using the power of their office to funnel money out of these same communities and into their own pockets. And while Kilpatrick—who was just indicted on 24 charges of corruption—may be the worst of the lot, he was far from alone.

What they have left behind is a city where taxes are among the highest in the nation, yet which can’t afford to pay its pensions, provide adequate police service, or keep the lights on.

The best way to stop future tragedies like this is to enforce the law. From voting fraud to corrupt relations with contractors and financiers to fraudulent accounting on pensions, many American cities are being run more like criminal conspiracies than anything else. And the cost isn’t just the money the politicians steal, or the inflated profits that those doing business with a crooked city can earn or even the sweetheart deals with public sector unions who function as part of the machine. It is the shambolic education offered to generations of poor kids, the lack of protection for person and property, the burden of a government that is both costly and ineffective and the enterprises and jobs such a government kills or drives away: corrupt big city machines may be the most important single civil rights issue in America today.

This is not, repeat not, a black thing. Historically, most of America’s worst urban machines have been white criminal enterprises. Often in American history, a combination of identity politics, fear and hopes of getting scraps from the machine have prevented poor people in the cities from organizing against their criminal masters. In the past it was often progressives and middle class reformers, some of the same ethnicity as most of the victims, others from different groups, who banded together to drive out the crooks. The criminals did their best to smear the reformers and identity politics was part of their shtick. Tammany Hall accused its critics of being anti-Catholic or anti-Irish bigots. Prosecutors who attacked the mafia were called anti-Italian. And so it goes.

Urban machines have a legitimate place in American politics. New waves of immigrants into urban America — whether from Europe, Asia, Latin America or the rural South — benefit from organizing to protect their economic and political issues. The machines allow them to assert themselves, claim a share of city patronage and business, and direct city resources to communities that might otherwise be overlooked.

But unchecked and uncontrolled, these machines have a tendency to go over the line. Graft proliferates; crony appointments degrade the quality of governance to the point that city administration is no longer able to function. This is where the reformers come in, pushing back against the tendency of political machines to jump the shark, imposing some limits and discipline on what goes on. Partly because today’s progressives are moral cowards who have allowed themselves to be shamed by the race card, this process of balance and reform didn’t really get underway in Detroit (and perhaps elsewhere) until enormous damage had already been done.

By overlooking the corruption and a mafia thinly disguised as a political party for so long, the authorities of the United States deprived the citizens of Detroit of the equal protection of the law. That must not happen in our other cities; municipal government in this country needs to be much more transparent, and law enforcement really needs to crack down.

Without this, all the federal block grants or social programs in the world will help those trapped in the inner cities escape poverty and get the education and skills they need to build the kind of future all Americans want.

This is the pre-eminent civil rights problem of our day and is devastating minority communities throughout the country. Our political establishment, our university faculties and fashionable intellectuals, our newspaper editorialists, our legal profession and our clergy stand essentially silent; it is the silence of shame.
3849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: March 15, 2013, 11:34:04 AM
When does Woodward wake up to find a horse's head in his bed?

In the first term maybe it would have been a dead fish. "one pollster who notoriously ticked off Rahm Emmanuel received a 2 1/2 foot decomposing fish in the mail -- ripe, stinky, and to the point."  http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2008/11/06/the_five_most_infamous_rahm_emanuel_moments

What is amazing in the Woodward smear is that all these attack pieces start by admitting the context and motive.

I never really liked Woodward.  But if it is not him, who is the gold standard of Washington reporting?
3850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: European matters, tax policy, climate? EU to suspend aviation carbon tax on: March 15, 2013, 11:26:26 AM
EU to suspend aviation carbon tax

http://www.iol.co.za/business/international/eu-to-suspend-aviation-carbon-tax-1.1485577#.UUNIdFLNvTq
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