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3801  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: September 22, 2013, 11:57:17 AM
I can't for the life of me figure out why disability claims go up in a recession.  Wouldn't workplace injuries be going down with 5 million more out of the workforce?  It's almost as if they are doing it for the money...

“The disability program is increasingly becoming a long-term unemployment program,” said Richard Burkhauser, a Cornell University professor who co-wrote a book on disability policy and has testified before Congress about the program. “We see a lot of it now because of the effects of the recession.”
3802  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 22, 2013, 11:39:00 AM
My guess is that his stats are essentially correct, but that doesn't lead to any easy or obvious solution.  One might imply from the presentation that we could have costs like whomever if we ran our system like theirs.  Not true.  Their prices are lower because the largest healthcare market in the world has already paid the bulk of the sunken costs that developed those products and services.  For example, the cost of a drug or medical device is largely the research and development which is spent before the first unit hits the shelf.  In many cases the US is paying for that.  Then when they compete for additional sales on the margin for the contract in Canada, UK, etc. they only have to cover and profit over their variable cost, not the fixed cost that went into it.  But if the development cost is not covered by someone else, us, that drug or device would not exist. 

If the US bid out the cost of providing replacement hips to one only provider as he suggests, would there be multiple suppliers left to bid next year, operating just fine on zero revenues, ready to compete?  If not, we are right back to the price and quality that you get without competition.

The underlying problem in my view is the prevalence of third party pay and the lack of any process of driving the price down on the demand and payer side. 

At the heart of it is freer and more open competition.  There really isn't any and the solution to it isn't easy.  We limit the supply of doctors, nurses, hospital beds, approved drugs, devices and nearly everything else in the industry and by doing so remove the forces that work to lower the costs of all products in all the industries that don't do these sorts of things, such as computers and electronics where the prices are always going down while quality, performance, reliability keep getting better.
3803  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 21, 2013, 12:02:17 PM
Newt has this quite right. Why would you fund what you were elected to oppose, and how else will you stop it - if not now?!
3804  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Electoral process, vote fraud, corruption: IRS Targeting Timeline on: September 19, 2013, 08:41:31 PM
 Senior Treasury Department Officials Knew of IRS Targeting in Spring 2012, Documents Suggest
By  Eliana Johnson
September 19, 2013 1:05 PM

New documents are raising questions about when senior Treasury Department officials, including deputy treasury secretary Neal Wolin and even former treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, learned about the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea-party groups. They suggest top brass at the Treasury Department may have been aware of the scandal in spring of 2012, a year before it became public.

An e-mail uncovered in the course of the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the scandal shows that Treasury Department inspector general J. Russell George was briefed by his staff in preparation for a “Secretary’s meeting” that was to take place at the Treasury Department on June 4, 2012. The briefing notes sent to George by a member of his staff read, “We obtained documentation indicating that certain organizations’ applications for tax-exempt status were targeted by the Exempt Organizations Determination office based on the organizations’ name or political beliefs. Additional audit work is needed to determine the extent, if any, of inconsistent treatment of these organizations’ applications for 501(c)(4) status.” Another document indicates that George briefed Treasury Department general counsel Christopher Meade the same day.

It is unclear if either Geithner or Wolin were present at the June 4, 2012, meeting. It does not appear on Geithner’s public schedule for the day (see below). In May, George described the secretary’s meetings to the committee this way: “The secretary holds a monthly meeting with bureau heads and in conjunction with those meetings, I meet monthly with the general counsel of the Department of the Treasury and then on an as-needed basis with the deputy secretary, Mr. Wolin.” George said that he told Wolin about the scandal “shortly” after he briefed Meade, but could not recall the precise day. Wolin has testified that he was made aware of an audit of “the IRS’s review of tax-exempt organizations” in 2012. George’s testimony is consistent with Wolin’s statement: He told Congress he informed the deputy treasury secretary and the department’s general counsel only about “the nature of the audit,” though the notes prepared for him by his staff go into further detail.

The documents also show that former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman knew more about the scandal than he has previously disclosed. On May 30, 2012, according to a timeline from the inspector general’s office, Shulman learned that ”criteria targeting ‘tea party,’ ‘patriots,’ or ‘9/12′” as well as “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights” were being used in reviewing applications for tax-exempt status.

Shulman told Congress in March 2012 that no targeting was taking place. Asked why he did not approach lawmakers to correct the record, he said, “What I knew sometime in the spring of 2012 was that there was a list who was being used, knew that the word ‘tea party’ was on the list” but ”didn’t know what other words were on the list” or “the scope and severity” of the problem.

On the basis of the newly discovered documents, Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and subcommittee chairman Jim Jordan are demanding all Treasury Department documents and communication “referring or relating to the IRS’s misconduct.” In a letter to treasury secretary Jack Lew on Thursday, they wrote, “This information raises serious questions about the awareness of the Treasury Department in the IRS’s mistreatment of tax-exempt applications.” Issa and Jordan are reiterating a previous request to Lew with which the treasury secretary has yet to comply. The department, they said, “has produced only about 350 pages of responsive documents and did not provide any responses to several of our requests.”

UPDATE: A public schedule provided by the Treasury Department shows that former treasury secretary Timothy Geithner did not attend the June 4, 2012 meeting.
3805  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics: Sen. Jeff Sessions - 9.9 million jobs missing on: September 19, 2013, 08:36:56 PM
Just before the recession hit in December of 2007 (Year 1 of the Pelosi-Reid, Obama, Biden, HRC majority congress) about 62.7 percent of the working-age population was working. If that same percentage was working today, we would have 154.1 million jobs. But we don’t. We have 144.2 million jobs and only 58.6 percent of the population is working.  In short, we’re missing 9.9 million jobs when we compare this economy to the one in 2007.

Who cares about 9.9 million jobs when you are attacking income inequality.  Oops, that got worse too.

Se. Jeff Sessions Blasts Obamanomics

I have directed my staff on the Senate Budget Committee to conduct a detailed analysis of the economic conditions facing working Americans: their wages, their employment, their household finances. I will give a series of talks over the coming weeks looking at their financial condition and the state of our nation economically. I will also attempt to look at the causes leading to our current financial difficulties and suggest some steps to restore America’s financial future.

The sad fact is that the state of middle- and lower-income Americans is worsening on nearly every front. The slow growth of the economy (the slowest economic recovery from a recession since World War II) is restraining the normal upward movement in income that previous generations have experienced. And, if you don’t have a job, you’re twice as likely to only find part-time as full-time work—if you can find any work at all. …

Perhaps the single greatest source for economic anxiety for working Americans is the fear of losing their jobs.

It’s not just the unemployment rate, which remains too high at 7.3 percent in August 2013. It’s the number of people we all know who are working well below their potential because nothing is available that uses their job skills. It’s the number of people we know who have given up looking for work, or who are working part-time because nothing full-time is available for them.

Fewer people are working today than in 2007. That’s actual numbers—even though population has increased. Just before the recession hit in December of 2007, about 62.7 percent of the working-age population was working. If that same percentage was working today, we would have 154.1 million jobs. But we don’t. We have 144.2 million jobs and only 58.6 percent of the population is working.

In short, we’re missing 9.9 million jobs when we compare this economy to the one in 2007.

Here’s another way to look at the job problem: in 2007 we had 363,000 “discouraged workers”—people who had given up looking for work but had not yet disappeared from view by the Employment Security offices. Today we have 866,000. That an increase of 140 percent in six years.

Here’s still another barometer of middle class anxiety: we have 1,988,000 fewer full-time jobs today than in December of 2007. However, we have 3,627,000 more part-time jobs. People with part-time jobs are not counted as unemployed. …

Take a look at the median family’s income. The Census Bureau published new estimates of household income on Tuesday, August 17. They reported that the median income of American households, adjusted for inflation, stands at $51,017—lower than last year, lower than the year before, and, in fact, lower than any time since 1995. …

Many are concerned that the Federal Reserve is furthering the national wealth gap. Their “quantitative easing” has boosted wealth in the investor class but has not benefitted the working class. This is not the way our policies should work.

Another thing I would note is that our civil society today has certain weaknesses that we need to discuss. I will talk more about it in a separate speech, but let me share a few thoughts about why this weakness should concern us all.

Few social institutions are more important in helping us through difficult economic times than marriage. Marriage is disappearing in the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution. And, as it does, so does the presence of the father in the home. If you are in the bottom 50 percent and give birth, there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the father will not be living with you when the child comes home from the hospital. Perhaps, as many suggest, our welfare policies are exacerbating these trends.

Also worrying is the decline of charitable giving since 2007. Like the overall economy, this vital part of our social and economic system has failed to recover. Total charitable giving fell in 2008 to $303.8 billion from $326.6 billion in 2007. As of the end of 2012, total giving was only $316.2 billion… still 3 percent below its level of 6 years ago.

The road we are on today leads to the continued erosion of civil society, the continued expansion of the welfare state, and the permanent entrenchment of a political class that profits from the growth of government. It is time that we recognized both the disastrous conditions facing working Americans and the moral obligation we have to replace government dependency with the freedom and dignity that comes from work and independence.
3806  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: September 19, 2013, 12:28:58 PM
Besides opposing transportation fuels, liberals oppose 87% of current electricity sources. 
Good luck with job growth under current leadership.

...a pending regulation aimed at limiting global warming pollution from new power plants that Republicans and the coal industry say will doom the fuel source.
What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?
Fossil fuels 68% + Nuclear power 19% = 87% of current electricity sources
3807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hillsdale College offers free online course: Principles of Free Market Economics on: September 19, 2013, 12:17:46 PM

...will focus on the foundational principles of the free market. Topics will include the relationship of supply and demand, the “information problem” behind the failure of central planning, the rise of macroeconomics under the influence of John Maynard Keynes, and the 2008 financial crisis.
3808  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dr. Ben Carson: Lawmakers can prove their backbone by defunding Obamacare on: September 19, 2013, 12:13:41 PM
Lawmakers can prove their backbone by defunding Obamacare

I have been interested in the political atmosphere of our country since my preteen years. It has been particularly interesting to observe the political shenanigans adopted by many of those wishing to obtain or maintain power. Fortunately, there have also been many who were truly interested in serving the people who put them in office. Looking at one’s life, voting record and words can provide significant insight into which of the aforementioned categories a political figure fits.

In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy wrote a book titled “Profiles In Courage,” which was very inspiring, as he examined the lives of individuals who had enough daring to go against the flow and make a real difference in society. As a young, very intelligent president of our country, he was faced with many daunting problems, not the least of which was an attempt by the Russians to supply Cuba with nuclear weapons, which would have been situated just 90 miles off of our shores.

Although there have been many attempts to rewrite the history of the Cuban missile crisis, the bottom line is that Kennedy had the necessary backbone to stand up to Nikita Khrushchev and avert an enormous detrimental shift in the power structure of the world while enhancing America’s international image.

Some readers are probably already irritated that I have said something positive about someone who is not a member of their political party. It is my belief that if JFK were alive today, advocating personal responsibility and patriotism, he might find his views at odds with many in the Democratic Party.

Perhaps it is time to de-emphasize political affiliations and labels, and instead concentrate on the philosophies that define one’s beliefs and actions. The direction of our country is not good, and “we the people” — not we the Democrats or we the Republicans — are in desperate need of courageous leadership, guided by an understanding of our Constitution.

Our divided government was formed by diligent men who had studied the history of governmental structures throughout the world and wanted to design a system that would not succumb to the temptation to continuously expand its size and scope at the expense of the people.

An important concept was the separation of powers with checks and balances among the three branches of government. It was a rather ingenious idea to invest each of the three branches of government with enough power to check unwarranted power grabs by the others.

There is, however, a breakdown in this system when officeholders are more concerned about their legacy or their re-election than they are about the proper functioning of government. Our Founders were most concerned about the possibility of the executive branch seizing power and disregarding constitutional constraints.

I suspect they would have been horrified to witness the manipulative and secretive strong-armed techniques utilized by the current administration to push through Obamacare. I’m sure they would also be shocked to see an administration that picks and chooses the laws it wishes to enforce, thereby diminishing the power of the legislative branch of government.

This practice in some ways resembles that of the centralized government system that swept the Soviet Union, whose notorious founders wrote that it was sometimes necessary to force ideas on a populace that will eventually come to accept and endorse the ideas. Similarly, our current leadership is certain that Americans will eventually see the wisdom of governmental oversight in almost every aspect of their lives.

If we are to pass a free and prosperous nation on to our progeny, it is imperative that the legislative branch of government exhibit the courage to exercise the check function it possesses. Lawmakers cannot be afraid that they will be blamed for a government shutdown if they defund Obamacare.

They have the ability to separate the health care law from the rest of the federal budget and fund one without funding the other. In doing so, they need to make it abundantly clear that they are willing to fund the government and its essential functions, but they feel that Obamacare is detrimental to the future economic health of America.

If the Democrat-controlled Senate reattaches the law, or if the executive branch makes the decision to fund Obamacare at the expense of other vital national functions, the electorate must take notice and act decisively in 2014. Many say that those who want to restore constitutional restraints are fighting a useless battle, but we must remember that freedom is reserved only for those willing to fight for it.

I am confident that the people will awaken from their apathy and vigorously support whoever has the backbone to stand up for them.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.

3809  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Republican Replacement Bill on: September 19, 2013, 12:09:18 PM
The parts of Obamacare that were popular were also available in Republican alternative bills.  Now one is being put forward for your consideration:

American Health Care Reform Act

200 pages versus 2700 for Obamacare

"... letting people purchase plans across state lines and allowing small businesses to pool together to negotiate lower rates. It would also amend existing law to increase transparency in payments and pricing so patients would have a better understanding of the cost of care and ultimately become more discerning consumers.

The plan seeks to “level the playing field” between consumers who receive insurance from an employer and those who purchase insurance on the individual market. The latter group would receive significant tax breaks to offset the cost of buying insurance: Individuals would be able to claim a $7,500 deduction against their income and payroll taxes for qualifying health plans, while families would be able to deduct $20,000. The legislation would also expand access to portable health savings accounts, and increase the maximum allowable contribution to such accounts.

The bill would increase federal funding for state high-risk pools, which insure people with especially expensive and preexisting conditions, by $25 billion over ten years, and would cap premiums in those pools at 200 percent of the average premium in a given state. It would also guarantee that individuals with preexisting conditions could move between insurance plans while maintaining coverage in the interim.

Medical liability law would be reformed to cap awards on punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees, in an effort to limit the common (and increasingly expensive) practice of “defensive medicine.” Federal funding for abortion coverage would be explicitly prohibited except in cases of rape, incest, and risks to the life of the mother."
3810  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics, Economic Freedom Index, U.S. moves from 2nd to 17th! on: September 19, 2013, 11:54:53 AM

After ranking as the world’s third freest economy behind Hong Kong and Singapore for most of the two decades from 1980-2000, the United States began to lose ground as the new millennium began. The report blames the slippage on “overspending, weakening rule of law, and regulatory overkill on the part of the US government.”

“Once considered a bastion of economic freedom,” the United States now ranks 17th in the world,” says the report, which was compiled using data from 2011. The current US ranking puts it 13 places lower than its 4th-place ranking in 1994, and 15 lower than in 2000, when it ranked second overall.

Meanwhile, Russia ranked 101st out of 151 nations, up 10 places from 1995 and 12 places better than its ranking in 2000, in the “Economic Freedom of the World” report, compiled by Canada’s Fraser Institute.

Russia has climbed up the rankings to be the best-placed of the rising economies known collectively as the BRIC countries (Brazil, India, China and Russia)

Brian Wesbury sees the report as optimistic for US equities.
3811  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obamacare already failing, cover half as many, cost twice as much, unpopular on: September 19, 2013, 11:44:35 AM
The administration admits Obamacare will provide coverage next year to only half as many of America's uninsured as anticipated just last year.

During his first run for president, Barack Obama made one very specific promise to voters: He would cut health insurance premiums for families by $2,500, and do so in his first term.

But it turns out that family premiums have increased by more than $3,000 since Obama's vow, according to the latest annual Kaiser Family Foundation employee health benefits survey.

Pew Survey: 53% of Americans Disapprove of Obamacare, (42% approve), Highest Negative Since Law’s Passage

3812  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Methane emissions from fracking less than feared on: September 19, 2013, 11:35:19 AM

Will any of these positive developments slow the opponents?  No.

More on the story here:
 Investors Business Daily says: Fracking Leads To Cleaner Air

Will that deter the opponents?  No.
3813  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 19, 2013, 10:03:54 AM
This thread has as its subject matter the economy and the stock market.  The two of them are definitely different things.  We tend to talk about the economy, Wesbury tends to talk about the market.

We come at it from different directions but I believe we were directly addressing specific points that Wesbury made.

One of his central points is that stocks are not up just because of QE and artificial stimulus.  But when Bernancke announced 'tapering' the market started down and when the Fed reversed course and said massive quantitative stimulus will continue, because of the weakness in the economy, the market surged forward.  Hmmm.

David Gordon and the bulls will make massive money in the short run off of an economy propped up and distorted by a house of cards.  That does not change the fact that a day of reckoning will come and one should be ready.  So both the bulls and the bears are right with different time frames.

Wesbury has never been accused of the 'famous person caught reading the forum' charge, but I would like someone to explain how far and how long the market can run in direct opposition to the realities of the economy.  Wesbury is saying the economy is fine in the face of stagnation and turmoil.  The Fed is saying otherwise, and then applying the wrong solution to the wrong problem, creating noise and a bouncing soup pot.  Fed feeding is how we got the last bubble and crash.  But history does not repeat itself we are told.  This time things will just go up and up with no consequence.
With economy weak, Fed delays move to withdraw stimulus
Dow, S&P hit record after Fed holds off on taper
3814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics - Gilder and the knowledge economy on: September 19, 2013, 09:32:21 AM
Gilder is right about this.  It is interesting to delve deeper into how things work.  Unfortunately the way forward to take advantage of this reality is to make these concepts more simple and clear to more people rather than more deep and complicated.  Your friend is also right and much easier to follow.

The tragedy today is that the extreme noise in the system is keeping the best and brightest from bothering with making the most valuable innovations that would move us forward. 
3815  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics, the core problem for Republicans on: September 18, 2013, 11:22:44 PM
CCP,  Good stuff, you make valid points especially regarding perception and winning people over. 

"The problem as I see it as do so many other is the game is not fair.  There is incredible dishonesty, cheating, lying, stealing, bribery and misuse of mail, eavesdropping and rigging the game."

It is not just that government doesn't prosecute what is wrong, but the government causes  much of what is wrong.  Regulations heavily favor the entrenched players by keeping out competition, and our crony government is loaded with 'public-private' relationships that fail every possible test of equal protection under the law.  The examples are endless, Solyndra, Tesla, AIG, Goldman Sachs, earmarks and research grants down to sports stadiums and private takings at the local level.  If government only governed, instead of promoting, participating, redistributing, and choosing sides and determining outcomes, this wouldn't happen.

CCP, continued: "The middle struggling more then ever.  To them the American Dream certainly has slipped away.  When you have 75 % of the population living from paycheck to paycheck and the right only addresses this with abstract ideology about freedom opportunity and hard work they have far less chance of winning against a party that has sold its soul with buying votes.  Just simply disparaging bigger and bigger government (I agree with this) without taking on private crooks and scoundrels is, I believe, a persistent and crucial mistake."

You are right.  We didn't jail any wall street bankers and we didn't round up any local scheisters across the country from the housing scandal fraud.  No one investigated, no one prosecuted and no investigative journalist effectively held their feet to the fire.  We have a million laws and oversight committees but we failed to govern.  The message of economic freedom did not land and did not win.  I might add that it wasn't really attempted!

The question remains - separate from how rich people are doing - how do you improve the economic outlook for the lower 75%?  The answer is found in the Heritage Economic Freedom Index.  There are many dimensions that make up economic freedom and we can measure and compare them rather easily if we try.  It may be a platitude but nothing else has lifted more people out of poverty or economic stagnation and into prosperity throughout history and across the globe better than market capitalism based on basic economic freedom. 

The negative human emotional reaction to someone else making more money than us is what is stopping us from leaping forward into prosperity.  If one is Judeo-Christian or Muslim, God already warned you about this:

Frankly, we can stay stuck on stupid or we can choose to unleash growth -it is a simple choice.

What did Democratic Pres. John F. Kennedy say?  A rising tide lifts all boats?  What was he proposing?  Lowering tax rates, individual and corporate, easing the burden and market distortions of government on the private sector?  "An economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough jobs or enough profits." Remarks to the Economic Club of New York, December 1962

Investor profits are needed to create and grow jobs.  Who knew.
3816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: "Wesbury and gov't can't be trusted" on: September 18, 2013, 09:32:06 PM
Maybe Wesbury was too busy hawking the recoveries that never happened to read about fast and furious, Benghazi, the IRS and NSA scandals and the many others too numerous to mention.

Of course Wesbury is talking about the economic data - mostly.  "Many pessimistic, debt-focused, perma-bear investors...claim the government is lying about jobs, lying about debt, lying about everything". 

But then he gives unemployment as an example, then shows how U3, the most widely reported measure, is a deception.  Then he quotes U6 which is EIGHTY EIGHT PERCENT HIGHER, but that is a deception too, not taking at all into account FIVE MILLION PEOPLE WHO LEFT THE WORKFORCE.  Not mentioned are the poverty figures which are a deception, CPI which is a poor measure, baseline budget cuts which ARE a lie, etc. etc.

"The economy could be much better if government got out of the way, but it stopped getting worse more than four years ago."

   - Maybe yes, maybe no.  Are unfunded liabilities higher or lower now than 4 yrs ago?  Are marginal tax rates higher or lower?  Do we have more over-regulation or less over-regulation?  Is Obamacare, passed 4 years ago, a plus or a minus for the outlook for investment and hiring?  99% of the people aren't moving ahead and don't have more money in their pocket after 4 years of steady improvement.  Who is he really zooming?
3817  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 17, 2013, 01:55:50 PM
Nonetheless, David Gordon is calling a strong bull market.

I very much respect his opinion on stocks, but I don't see anyone predicting the economy move forward much better than it is without changing policies.  Even the optimist Wesbury predicts plowhorse growth and then he defines that in the 2%, sub-breakeven range.  So the contention continues between the US economy and the strategies for investing, both are part of this thread.  Corporate profits (of established companies helped by regulations blocking out competition) are high.  Real startups, hiring, workforce participation, global economic growth and nearly all other indicators are low and stuck.

How high will these profits and stock prices go without real growth?  I don't know.
3818  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: September 17, 2013, 10:45:55 AM
More than 12 years ago, the Cheney task force made recommendations like: "repair and add onto the existing network of refineries, pipelines, generators and transmission lines. ...the refining and distribution of natural gas was effected by an inefficient and inadequate infrastructure, and that this issue could be remedied by 38,000 miles of new pipeline and 255,000 miles of distribution lines"

We mostly ignored that advice.  Now we pay the price, in spite of all the increased production of oil via fracking.

The policy of keeping gas prices high is now intentional.  Who does it hit worst?  The working poor and struggling lower middle class who rely on it to get to work, do their work or look for work.  Is that what we want?  Maybe not, but is the result of our elections and policies.
Gas prices set record: 1,000 days above $3 a gallon

3819  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marco Rubio: Defund Obamacare Before It's Too Late on: September 17, 2013, 09:45:59 AM
What program, no matter how bad, ever got stopped after it was up and running?  Why is congress funding the "administration...spending Americans’ tax dollars on advertisements promoting this failed policy, ...sending out celebrities and other allies to convince Americans that ObamaCare is a good thing." The American people opposed Obamacare when it passed and oppose it more now.  The one thing Chief Justice Roberts got right is that the Supreme Court was not the only place where this program could get cancelled.  The one question that Karl Rove and the go along to get along wing of the Republican party cannot answer is that is you fund it now, when will you stop it and how?  The answer is you won't, so take a stand now.  Marco Rubio has this right.

Defund Obamacare Before It's Too Late
Marco Rubio | Sep 17, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the sad spectacle that is Washington will be on full display as Congress and President Obama debate yet another short-term spending plan, also known as a continuing resolution (CR). 

Early in my Senate term, I realized these short-term CR's were a miserable way to run the federal government and decided I would not go along with this budgetary charade again. I came to the Senate to solve real problems and eliminate the biggest threats standing in the way of the 21st century being another exceptional American century. The people of Florida who I work for didn't send me here to keep postponing hard choices and leave our problems unsolved for future generations to deal with.

And that's exactly what these short-term budgets do. Rather than prioritize government's proper role in American society or fundamentally end the way Washington borrows and misspends money, CR's mostly continue the broken Washington status quo.

With all that said, the CR that Congress will soon consider to keep our dysfunctional government open past September 30 is actually a major opportunity to save our people from the job-killing disaster that is ObamaCare. Because a major piece of its implementation begins on October 1, this short-term budget represents our last chance to stop it by defunding it.

Short-term budgets are a terrible way to run a government, but if we can pass one that defunds ObamaCare, we will be doing America's workers and job creators a huge service that will be worth it.

From the imperfect CR process, defunding ObamaCare would produce a clear-cut victory for American workers and families. Settling for anything less would be devastating to them.

The evidence of ObamaCare's failures is everywhere, and it is staggering. For example, in just the past week, several employers like SeaWorld announced they will be cutting their part-time workers' hours to deal with ObamaCare's tax penalties. The unions that have been the President's staunchest allies, and who were instrumental to passing ObamaCare in the first place, are now condemning it and pleading with the White House to be exempted from it. During the August recess, I repeatedly heard from working class Floridians about how this law would result in reduced hours, reduced pay and the loss of health insurance plans and doctors they currently have.

Despite all the warning signs of failure, what is the President doing? His administration is doubling down by spending Americans’ tax dollars on advertisements promoting this failed policy, and it's sending out celebrities and other allies to convince Americans that ObamaCare is a good thing.

We need to stop this. All of it. And over the next two weeks, we have our last chance to stop ObamaCare by defunding it in the CR.

There is a better way forward to help more Americans obtain affordable and quality health insurance, without sacrificing their jobs, income, current health plans and doctors they're happy with. But stopping ObamaCare by defunding it is the first and most immediate step we need to take. 

Time is running out to do it, but not the necessity of doing so.
3820  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 17, 2013, 09:24:36 AM
"Industrial up a plow horse-like 2.7% from a year ago. "

Two problems with 2% growth:

1) Since the trajectory is below break even growth, the point where we will have outgrown the current malaise at this rate is - never.

2) With growth rounding to zero and negative growth considered catastrophic we are perhaps one more external economic shock away from disaster.

Other than that, things look okay ...
3821  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues, Wittes, Franklin, Liberty and Security on: September 16, 2013, 12:28:26 PM
"Wittes is a smart guy who surrounds himself with other smart people."  - BD on the privacy thread

A previous piece by Wittes:

What Ben Franklin Really Said

By Benjamin Wittes
Friday, July 15, 2011

Here’s an interesting historical fact I have dug up in some research for an essay I am writing about the relationship between liberty and security: That famous quote by Benjamin Franklin that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” does not mean what it seems to say. Not at all.

I started looking into this quotation because I am writing a frontal attack on the idea that liberty and security exist in some kind of “balance” with one another–and the quotation is kind of iconic to the balance thesis. Indeed, Franklin’s are perhaps the most famous words ever written about the relationship. A version of them is engraved on the Statue of Liberty. They are quoted endlessly by those who assert that these two values coexist with one another in a precarious, ever-shifting state of balance that security concerns threaten ever to upset. Every student of American history knows them. And every lover of liberty has heard them and known that they speak to that great truth about the constitution of civilized government–that we empower governments to protect us in a devil’s bargain from which we will lose in the long run.

Very few people who quote these words, however, have any idea where they come from or what Franklin was really saying when he wrote them. That’s not altogether surprising, since they are far more often quoted than explained, and the context in which they arose was a political battle of limited resonance to modern readers. Many of Franklin’s biographers don’t quote them at all, and no text I have found attempts seriously to explain them in context. The result is to get to the bottom of what they meant to Franklin, one has to dig into sources from the 1750s, with the secondary biographical literature giving only a framework guide to the dispute. I’m still nailing down the details, but I can say with certainty at this stage that Franklin was not saying anything like what we quote his words to suggest.

The words appear originally in a 1755 letter that Franklin is presumed to have written on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor during the French and Indian War. The letter was a salvo in a power struggle between the governor and the Assembly over funding for security on the frontier, one in which the Assembly wished to tax the lands of the Penn family, which ruled Pennsylvania from afar, to raise money for defense against French and Indian attacks. The governor kept vetoing the Assembly’s efforts at the behest of the family, which had appointed him. So to start matters, Franklin was writing not as a subject being asked to cede his liberty to government, but in his capacity as a legislator being asked to renounce his power to tax lands notionally under his jurisdiction. In other words, the “essential liberty” to which Franklin referred was thus not what we would think of today as civil liberties but, rather, the right of self-governance of a legislature in the interests of collective security.

What’s more the “purchase [of] a little temporary safety” of which Franklin complains was not the ceding of power to a government Leviathan in exchange for some promise of protection from external threat; for in Franklin’s letter, the word “purchase” does not appear to have been a metaphor. The governor was accusing the Assembly of stalling on appropriating money for frontier defense by insisting on including the Penn lands in its taxes–and thus triggering his intervention. And the Penn family later offered cash to fund defense of the frontier–as long as the Assembly would acknowledge that it lacked the power to tax the family’s lands. Franklin was thus complaining of the choice facing the legislature between being able to make funds available for frontier defense and maintaining its right of self-governance–and he was criticizing the governor for suggesting it should be willing to give up the latter to ensure the former.

In short, Franklin was not describing some tension between government power and individual liberty. He was describing, rather, effective self-government in the service of security as the very liberty it would be contemptible to trade. Notwithstanding the way the quotation has come down to us, Franklin saw the liberty and security interests of Pennsylvanians as aligned.
3822  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 16, 2013, 12:13:48 PM
I forget which thread on which it was I made the point, but I think fracking natural gas is a very good issue for us. We can make the point how it is bringing manufacturing back to the US (job! the American worker CAN compete! etc) but Obama and his command economy minions would rather funnel money to Solyndra.

It was in this thread.  Agree! I would add that fracking is one piece of the economic freedom in energy puzzle.  We need clean refineries, safe pipelines, secure grid, state of the art nuclear, and a healthy climate for bringing to market the innovations that come next - instead of trying to stop all these things.  On a larger view, without getting wonky we need to articulate, as you suggest with Solyndra, a clearer definition of what is the private sector role, what is the public and federal role and why we should not blur these roles as we do now with the referees being both financier and regulator of selected teams and players.

On fracking, while the government regulators looked away, busy writing other regulations, our air got cleaner, CO2 emissions dropped significantly, dropped our trade imbalance, experienced regional job booms and improved the median standard of living more than TARP, QE, HARP and ACA combined- all without their help. 

Who knew we could leap forward with one innovation in all those directions?  Certainly not the central planners who pick winners and losers in places like Moscow, Beijing and Washington.
3823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: American Exceptionalism on: September 16, 2013, 11:44:49 AM
Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: "It is because of this liberty and freedom that our country exists, because the Founders recognized it comes from God. It's part of the natural yearning of the human spirit. It is not granted by a government. It's not granted by Putin. It's not granted by Obama or any other human being. We are created with the natural yearning to be free, and it is other men and leaders throughout human history who have suppressed that and imprisoned people for seeking it. The U.S. is the first time in the history of the world where a government was organized with a Constitution laying out the rules, that the individual was supreme and dominant, and that is what led to the U.S. becoming the greatest country ever because it unleashed people to be the best they could be. Nothing like it had ever happened. That's American exceptionalism. Putin doesn't know what it is, Obama doesn't know what it is, and it just got trashed in the New York Times. It's just unacceptable."

Rush at least nailed the fact that Obama and Putin are two people who don't understand what made America great / "exceptional".

In the longer rant on the radio, he played the clip of Obama asked if he believed in American Exceptionalism.  The President said yes and then went on to express that he hoped the Greeks believed in Greek Exceptionalism as well.  Good grief.  If he had any clue as to what made America great, he wouldn't be trying to dismantle it.

Here is Matthew Spalding writing at Heritage, 2010:

In 1776, when America announced its independence as a nation, it was composed of thirteen colonies surrounded by hostile powers.

Today, the United States is a country of fifty states covering a vast continent. Its military forces are the most powerful in the world. Its economy produces almost a quarter of the world's wealth. The American people are among the most hard-working, church-going, affluent, and generous in the world.

Is America exceptional?

Every nation derives meaning and purpose from some unifying quality—an ethnic character, a common religion, a shared history. The United States is different. America was founded at a particular time, by a particular people, on the basis of particular principles about man, liberty, and constitutional government.

The American Revolution drew on old ideas. The United States is the product of Western civilization, shaped by Judeo-Christian culture and the political liberties inherited from Great Britain.

Yet the founding of the United States was also revolutionary. Not in the sense of replacing one set of rulers with another, or overthrowing the institutions of society, but in placing political authority in the hands of the people.

As the English writer G. K. Chesterton famously observed, "America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed." That creed is set forth most clearly in the Declaration of Independence, by which the American colonies announced their separation from Great Britain. The Declaration is a timeless statement of inherent rights, the proper purposes of government, and the limits on political authority.

The American Founders appealed to self-evident truths, stemming from "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," to justify their liberty. This is a universal and permanent standard. These truths are not unique to America but apply to all men and women everywhere. They are as true today as they were in 1776.

Working from the principle of equality, the American Founders asserted that men could govern themselves according to common beliefs and the rule of law. Throughout history, political power was—and still is—often held by the strongest. But if all are equal and have the same rights, then no one is fit by nature to rule or to be ruled.

As Thomas Jefferson put it, "[T]he mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God." The only source of the legitimate powers of government is the consent of the governed. This is the cornerstone principle of American government, society, and independence.

America's principles establish religious liberty as a fundamental right. It is in our nature to pursue our convictions of faith. Government must not establish an official religion, just as it must guarantee the free exercise of religion. Indeed, popular government requires a flourishing of religious faith. If a free people are to govern themselves politically, they must first govern themselves morally.

    "Being an American is more than a matter of where you or your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal." – Harry S. Truman
    October 26, 1948

These principles also mean that everyone has the right to the fruits of their own labor. This fundamental right to acquire, possess, and sell property is the backbone of opportunity and the most practical means to pursue human happiness. This right, along with the free enterprise system that stems from it, is the source of prosperity and the foundation of economic liberty.

Because people have rights, government has only the powers that the sovereign people have delegated to it. These powers are specified by a fundamental law called a constitution. Under the rule of law, all are protected by generally agreed-upon laws that apply, equally, to everyone.

The United States Constitution defines the institutions of American government: three distinct branches of government that make the law, enforce the law, and judge the law in particular cases. This framework gives the American government the powers it needs to secure our fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The ultimate purpose of securing these rights and of limiting government is to protect human freedom. That freedom allows the institutions of civil society—family, school, church, and private associations—to thrive, forming the habits and virtues required for liberty.

The same principles that define America also shape its understanding of the world. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed that the thirteen colonies were a separate and sovereign nation, like any other nation. But America is not simply another nation.

The United States is a nation founded on universal principles. It appeals to a higher standard that all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. All nations are answerable to this principle, and it is this principle that makes the United States a truly legitimate nation.

Liberty does not belong only to the United States. The Declaration of Independence holds that all men everywhere are endowed with a right to liberty. That liberty is a permanent aspect of human nature everywhere is central to understanding America's first principles.

Nevertheless, the primary responsibility of the United States is to defend the freedom and well-being of the American people. To do this, the United States must apply America's universal principles to the challenges this nation faces in the world.

    "Our founding documents proclaim to the world that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few. It is the universal right of all God's children." – Ronald Reagan
    July 15, 1991

This is not easy. America has not always been successful. But because of the principles to which it is dedicated, the United States always strives to uphold its highest ideals. More than any other nation, it has a special responsibility to defend the cause of liberty at home and abroad.

As George Washington put it in his First Inaugural Address: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." America's role in the world is to preserve and to spread, by example and by action, the "sacred fire of liberty."

America is an exceptional nation, but not because of what it has achieved or accomplished. America is exceptional because, unlike any other nation, it is dedicated to the principles of human liberty, grounded on the truths that all men are created equal and endowed with equal rights. These permanent truths are "applicable to all men and all times," as Abraham Lincoln once said.

America's principles have created a prosperous and just nation unlike any other nation in history. They explain why Americans strongly defend their country, look fondly to their nation's origins, vigilantly assert their political rights and civic responsibilities, and remain convinced of the special meaning of their country and its role of the world. It is because of its principles, not despite them, that America has achieved greatness.

To this day, so many years after the American Revolution, these principles—proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and promulgated by the United States Constitution—still define America as a nation and a people. Which is why friends of freedom the world over look to the United States not only as an ally against tyrants and despots but also as a powerful beacon to all those who strive to be free.

3824  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 16, 2013, 11:15:22 AM
"Richest 1 percent earn biggest share since '20s"

Isn't is interesting that this trend was unstoppable even by gaining control of first congress, then all three bodies, a Supreme Court backing them up and a then second term to prevent any of the new myriad of laws and taxes passed to to address this from being repealed.

What happened under their policies is exactly what they warned would happen to the middle class if George Bush was elected to a third or fourth term (McCain, Romney, etc.), only without any economic growth.  And who holds them accountable?  No one.

Bigdog made an important point on the constitutional thread that that I will paraphrase here.  Commerce has changed whether we like it or not.  It has changed since the 1791, it has changed since I entered the export business 25 years ago and it is changing even more rapidly now.  There is more upside and payoff for real innovations now than ever before, even if the economy is stalled, because the market for your innovation is now virtually the whole world.  Meanwhile, more than at any time since women widely began working, a record number and proportion of the adult population completely out of the productive economy.  People who are standing still aren't going to keep up with people who are either creating or following these changes.  In a stagnant, rigid economy most people are standing still.

ccp:  How does the right address this vs. big gov paychecks?  Again ccp's commandment:  Whoever can address this can win any election:

You have identified the two playing fields that the right will never win on.  If the race is to see who will pay people the most to not work, or be accused of starving children and taking meds from Grannie, Republicans and free marketers won't win.  If it is a contest to see who is perceived as best at tying the hands of new wealth with new laws, taxes and redistribution methods, Republicans have no chance in that contest either, except for a few R-in-name-only Senators.

To win with prosperity and economic freedom, you have to change the framing of the questions.  For starters, trickle down is only a misnomer/caricature/pejorative of opponents' beliefs that the left puts on what they see as unrestrained freedom, not something that came out of the principles of economic freedom or supply side economics.

There is no answer to stopping income disparity while improving everyone else's outcome, and there is no valid reason to stop income disparity.  If there was no disparity in what you see in other people's income, then there would be no hope in improving your own future.

I don't know how to explain a dynamic economy but if there is enough economic freedom, resources can flow to their best use which maximizes the opportunities for everyone.  When you try to lock resources in place or direct them with central planners, the tyrants of our time, opportunities recede.  Where is there an example on the planet or in history where the central planners out-performed economic freedom?  Certainly not the US since the Pelosi-Reid-Obama-Hillary-Biden revolution of Nov 2006 that continues today.

BLS Labor force Unemployment rate not counting the 5 million people who left the workforce altogether

Thomas Sowell, 'Basic Economics':  The actual path of money in a private enterprise economy is quite the opposite of that claimed by people who refer to the trickle-down theory. Money invested in new business ventures is first paid out to employees, suppliers, and contractors. Only some time later, if the business is profitable, does money return to the business owners.  In the absence of a profit motive, this activity does not occur.
3825  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Senator Barasso of WY on: September 16, 2013, 10:11:55 AM
"The president needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a coherent, realistic Syria policy—one that does not rely on Russia's cooperation."

Sen. Barrasso does a very nice job of articulating what we all seem to know about the Russians and this non-solution to a problem that we just elevated to the level of deciding the course of human history.
3826  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Shocking, absolutley shocking developments: Chems are being scattered and hidden on: September 16, 2013, 09:57:34 AM
Shocking, yes.  Who could have seen that coming?  I suppose anyone alive and awake the last time we fought this battle.
3827  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: FERC targets natural gas on: September 16, 2013, 09:54:15 AM

"Mr. Binz said switching to gas might be a good move for the interim, but..."

Then do it for the interim.

Unless what you really want is to shut down the economy.
3828  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Job losses to Obamacare on: September 12, 2013, 07:50:42 AM
41% of 603 small business owners said they have delayed hiring because of the federal healthcare law. One in five already cut hours, while 20% have reduced payroll. Mercer, a human resources consulting company, said its own survey found that 12% of all U.S. employers reported plans to reduce workers’ hours as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act. The impact was more pronounced in the retail and hospitality industries, with 20% of employers saying they will cut part-time hours.

With Eye on ObamaCare, Companies Move to Cut Workers’ Hours

3829  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IRS' Lois Lerner's Own Words on: September 12, 2013, 07:47:28 AM
(Use RICO to prosecute these co-conspirators)

Lois Lerner's Own Words
Emails undercut the official IRS story on political targeting.

Congress's investigation into the IRS targeting of conservatives has been continuing out of the Syria headlines, and it's turning up news. Emails unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee between former Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner and her staff raise doubts about IRS claims that the targeting wasn't politically motivated and that low-level employees in Cincinnati masterminded the operation.

In a February 2011 email, Ms. Lerner advised her staff—including then Exempt Organizations Technical Manager Michael Seto and then Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz—that a Tea Party matter is "very dangerous," and is something "Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on." Ms. Lerner adds, "Cincy should probably NOT have these cases."

That's a different tune than the IRS sang in May when former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said the agency's overzealous enforcement was the work of two "rogue" employees in Cincinnati. When the story broke, Ms. Lerner suggested that her office had been unaware of the pattern of targeting until she read about it in the newspaper. "So it was pretty much we started seeing information in the press that raised questions for us, and we went back and took a look," she said in May.

Earlier this summer, IRS lawyer Carter Hull, who oversaw the review of many Tea Party cases and questionnaires, testified that his oversight began in April 2010. Tea party cases under review are "being supervised by Chip Hull at each step," Ms. Paz wrote to Ms. Lerner in a February 2011 email. "He reviews info from TPs, correspondence to TPs etc. No decisions are going out of Cincy until we go all the way through the process with the c3 and c4 cases here." TP stands for Tea Party, and she means 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups.

The emails also put the targeting in the context of the media and Congressional drumbeat over the impact of conservative campaign spending on the 2012 elections. On July 10, 2012 then Lerner-adviser Sharon Light emailed Ms. Lerner a National Public Radio story on how outside money was making it hard for Democrats to hold their Senate majority.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had complained to the Federal Election Commission that conservative groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity should be treated as political committees, rather than 501(c)(4)s, which are tax-exempt social welfare groups that do not have to disclose their donors.

"Perhaps the FEC will save the day," Ms. Lerner wrote back later that morning.

That response suggests Ms. Lerner's political leanings, and it also raises questions about Ms. Lerner's intentions in a separate email exchange she had when an FEC investigator inquired about the status of the conservative group the American Future Fund. The FEC and IRS don't have the authority to share that information under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code. But the bigger question is why did they want to? After the FEC inquiry, the American Future Fund also got a questionnaire from the IRS.

Ms. Lerner famously invoked her right against self-incrimination rather than testify under oath to Congress. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported this summer that its investigation had found Ms. Lerner had sent official IRS documents to her personal email account, and many questions remain unanswered. Democrats want to pretend the IRS scandal is over, but Ms. Lerner's role deserves much more exposure.
3830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential - Mike Pence on: September 12, 2013, 07:43:39 AM

Five reasons he might be the 2016 dark horse to watch

Current Governor of Indiana, a widely respected conservative with executive and congressional experience.
3831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 12, 2013, 07:26:50 AM
Americans for Whatever the Hell Obama Wants make their push for the war.  Send money.
3832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: September 11, 2013, 11:00:56 PM
He is right; it is neither hawk nor dove we need in such trying times.  The answer is wisdom - backed up with core principles and backbone.  I like the symbolism, but it is not another bird we are looking for.
3833  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: September 11, 2013, 10:52:14 PM
Yes. They overstepped.  If Republicans come up with a worthy opponent, Gov. Hickenlooper will fall next.  Gun control is NYC and DC politics and legislation in a (formerly) mountain west state.

The Pueblo contest was most impressive.  The Democrat incumbent lost by 12 in a district Obama carried by 20 points, a 32 point swing.  About half of Pueblo’s population is Latino.

3834  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - talk big, wave white flag on: September 11, 2013, 09:20:00 AM
"Teddy Roosevelt based his foreign policy on this maxim: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Obama's foreign policy is based on this maxim: "Speak endlessly and carry a toothpick."

Or was it just - speak endlessly.  I didn't see a toothpick.

With danger accelerating in the world, China in a one power arms race, Russia reinvigorated and supporting enemy regimes, the entire Middle East a tinder box and other unknowns, what is the U.S. under Obama doing to prepare for or to deter war?  Defense outlays fell 7.6% this year.
3835  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Japan and the fate of Nuclear Power on: September 11, 2013, 08:51:37 AM
With radiation leak news still coming out of Japan, I wonder how many people know that nuclear power is still the cleanest, safest major source of energy in the world.  Zero CO2 emissions, manageable waste issues, better information than ever available as to how to construct safely, and as this thread began - there is no need to build on a fault line or in a tsunami zone.  Zero CO2 emissions compares with coal which accounts for nearly half of the world's fossil fuel CO2 emissions.
Oxford University physicist Wade Allison: "one could drink 12 gallons of contaminated groundwater directly from the Fukushima site right after the accident—before getting a single CT scan's worth of radiation."

Japan and the Fate of Nuclear Power
Radiation phobia prevents a rational response to Fukushima.

    By  HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.     September 10, 2013
Nuclear power might well be a competent civilization's solution to its theoretical carbon-dioxide problem. Now if only humans had a competent civilization.

Japan's government, in its latest solution for the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, will do what it likes doing anyway: spend money on extravagant public works projects. A network of supercooled pipes will freeze the ground around the plant. This presumably will stop groundwater from flowing through the partially melted-down reactors and draining into the Pacific. Water from coolant operations, which are preventing a more serious meltdown, would also remain contained on-site.

Even so, contaminated water would continue to accumulate in rickety tanks. A necessary solution will be emptying this water into the Pacific, after filtering out as many radioactive particles as possible. Unfortunately, not only does Japan's fishing lobby, which like just about any lobby in Japan is entitled to paralyze action, refuse to countenance such a step. It won't even let the plant operator use an existing system to route non-contaminated groundwater past the plant into the sea. Thereby hangs a stalemate that may doom any hope of a nuclear revival in our world.

Japanese Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi inspects storage tanks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, Aug. 26.

As long as Fukushima wastewater contains radioactive elements, particles would end up in fish, causing some number of hypothetical human malignancies according to the questionable theory that radiation is dangerous in direct proportion to dose.

In fact, a considerable body of research holds that increased cancer risk becomes statistically perceptible only at a dose level of 100 millisieverts. This is five times the standard Japan used to order local evacuations, and in many evacuated areas the practical exposure risk was far less than the standard—just a fraction above natural background radiation.

Amazingly, Japan actually cut its allowable food-exposure limits in half in response to the crisis. Oxford University physicist Wade Allison, who has written and spoken widely against exaggerating radiation risks, estimated that one could eat a ton of such slightly contaminated food—or even drink 12 gallons of contaminated groundwater directly from the Fukushima site right after the accident—before getting a single CT scan's worth of radiation.

Alas, Japan is unlikely to abandon its supercaution anytime soon. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has quietly begun restarting a handful of the country's 54 reactors shut down after Fukushima. The last thing he wants is to court public controversy by hinting the government has gone soft on radiation risks.

Now with Tokyo's victory this week to host the 2020 Olympics, expect, if anything, a doubling down on crazy cleanup priorities. Japan won't be accused of trying to give cancer to visiting athletes.

Blame or credit is typically charged to Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the country's hypersensitivity. A more relevant culprit may be the well-meaning campaigners against atmospheric bomb testing in the 1950s, who embraced what's known as the Linear, No Threshold hypothesis—the idea that radiation is unhealthy at any level.

Belatedly, an authority on such matters, the U.N.'s Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, has tried to lead a climbdown from a dubious risk formula that it once championed. Perhaps trying to rescue nuclear energy to fight global warming, the group last year warned against "multiplying low doses by large numbers of individuals to estimate numbers of radiation-induced health effects within a population."

Even more annoying to anti-nuke activists, the agency also declared that no radiation-caused illness had appeared even in Fukushima plant workers, some of whom received as much as 600 millisieverts, and none was expected. The result: a deluge of vilification upon the U.N.

The U.S., of course, has nothing to brag about in this regard. Yucca Mountain, the waste repository on which Washington has spent $12 billion, likely has been permanently blocked by Nevada politicians whose imagined heroism on behalf of local voters is the precise corollary of exaggerated radiation risk models. Hooray for Harry Reid, but is this any way to make nuclear policy?  (More at the link above)
3836  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: September 10, 2013, 11:27:36 PM
COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Senate President (Democrat) John Morse thanked and urged fellow lawmakers to continue fighting Tuesday as voters ousted him from office for his support for stricter Colorado gun laws.
The Democrat incumbent is losing in the Pueblo race too.
3837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: programs, spending, deficit, budget - The Government - Spend it or Lose it on: September 10, 2013, 10:58:57 PM
This show is a take off on 'The Office' called 'The Government', set at the U.S. Department of Every Bureaucratic Transaction (U.S. DEBT).   See the first two episodes of 'Spend it or Lose it, the continuing story of a federal agency trying desperately to spend its way to a bigger budget' at the links:
3838  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Syria - Comments on: September 10, 2013, 10:31:18 PM
"A friend with a strong military background comments..."

Yes, all very well put.  Outmaneuvered is an extreme understatement on so many levels.  We are settling in to watch a puppet show.  Putin shows the type of influence we once wished we had.  He snapped his fingers and people responded - events turned his way.  We snap ours and things turn the opposite way.

Reagan said trust but verify, but no one said we could control them.  Putin will be in control of timing and process and will be a wimpering puppy. 

The only way to deal with a power like Russia is to know they will act in their interest, and we are their rival, if not enemy.  Even Kerry and Obama must know they are not going to act in ours.  Watching them rely on Putin and get their strings pulled in not going to be pretty.
3839  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: September 10, 2013, 10:57:45 AM
Colorado recall election is today in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.,0,4800258.story
Colorado recall election is a referendum on guns
Two lawmakers linked to sweeping gun control laws are targeted in Colorado's first recall election, whose results are expected to reverberate nationwide.
3840  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Norway election: Conservative triumphs on: September 10, 2013, 10:53:23 AM
Norway election: Conservative Erna Solberg triumphs

With three-quarters of the votes counted, the bloc of four right-wing parties had won 96 of 169 seats in parliament.

Welfare issues dominated the election campaign, as well as Ms Solberg's pledge to lower taxes and diversify the economy away from its heavy reliance on oil revenue.
3841  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Second US Housing Bubble (?) on: September 10, 2013, 10:45:00 AM
I posted previously my (wrongful) belief that housing values will not rebound until incomes go up.  But this 'recovery' is happening without accompanying increase in income.  As housing again becomes unaffordable, maybe we can start some more new federal programs to help the lower 98% borrow what they can't afford, instead of growing the economy...


In looking at the current trend, since July 2012, the median sales price of a newly constructed home in the United States has gone up by just over $25 for every $1 that median household income in the United States has increased.  That's almost 20% faster than the $21-to-$1 rate that the first U.S. housing bubble inflated on average from November 2001 through September 2005.
Since 1967, median new home sale prices in the U.S. have typically increased by anywhere from $3.37 to $4.09 for every $1 increase in median household income in the absence of any periods of bubble inflation or deflation in U.S. housing markets.
3842  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: September 10, 2013, 10:32:24 AM
Re: Energy Politics - More evidence that 'Fracking' got Obama reelected
« Reply #490 on: September 05, 2013, 11:21:52 AM »

" it increased US disposable income by an average of $1,200 per US household in 2012 thanks to smaller energy bills as well as lower embedded energy costs in all other goods and services"

I am always pleased to see the nation's leading newspaper pick up and run with the themes (previously) discussed here.   wink

WSJ. REVIEW & OUTLOOK,  September 9, 2013, 8:08 p.m. ET

More on Fracking and the Poor
The U.S. oil and gas boom added $1,200 to disposable income in 2012.

"The irony Washington will never appreciate is that fracking has done more for the less fortunate in the Obama years that all of its ministrations combined."

More at link:
3843  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Syria on: September 10, 2013, 10:25:30 AM
"Assad gets to stay in power... Putin-Assad will stall and dither forever."

Bret Stephens, WSJ, has a similar view:

"All Americans are reduced when Mr. Kerry, attempting to distinguish an attack on Syria with the war in Iraq, described the former as "unbelievably small." Does the secretary propose to stigmatize the use of chemical weapons by bombarding Bashar Assad, evil tyrant, with popcorn? When did the American way of war go from shock-and-awe to forewarn-and-irritate?

Americans are reduced, also, when an off-the-cuff remark by Mr. Kerry becomes the basis of a Russian diplomatic initiative—immediately seized by an Assad regime that knows a sucker's game when it sees one—to hand over Syria's stocks of chemical weapons to international control. So now we're supposed to embark on months of negotiation, mediated by our friends the Russians, to get Assad to relinquish a chemical arsenal he used to deny having, now denies using, and will soon deny secretly maintaining?"
3844  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Weak Recovery Explains Rising Inequality, Not Vice Versa on: September 10, 2013, 10:18:02 AM
It is good to see that prominent WSJ contributors, including my current favorite economist, reading the forum.

"The policies favored by those with a middle-out view—higher tax rates, more intrusive regulations, more targeted fiscal policies—will not revive the economy. More likely they will perpetuate the weak economy we have and cause real incomes—including for those in the middle—to continue to stagnate."
(More at the link, read it all)

The Weak Recovery Explains Rising Inequality, Not Vice Versa
Obama blames tax cuts that began under Reagan for today's slow growth. The data don't back him up.

By JOHN B. TAYLOR, professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Last year at this time a debate raged about whether economic growth and job creation has been abnormally slow compared with previous recoveries from recessions in the United States. Now that the growth rate has declined to 1.6% over the past year from 2.8%, the debate is no longer about whether. It's about why.

The poor economic policies of the past few years is a reasonable explanation for today's weak economy. Fiscal policy has at best provided temporary stimulus before fading away with no sustainable impact on growth. More costly and confusing regulations—including the many mandates in the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Act—have reduced the willingness of firms to invest and hire. The Federal Reserve has employed a variety of unconventional and unpredictable monetary policies with not very successful results.

The administration and its supporters are not about to blame the slow recovery on its own policies, or those of the Fed. Instead, President Obama and his supporters have been talking about "an economy that grows from the middle out," as he put it in Galesburg, Ill., in July. The fashionable middle-out view blames today's troubles on policies that took root in Ronald Reagan's administration.

The 1980s and '90s experienced a declining trend in unemployment rates, milder and less frequent recessions, and a lower inflation rate—all of which disproportionately benefited people with middle and lower incomes, especially compared with the 1970s. These decades were also characterized by widening inequality. The reason? "Washington," as Mr. Obama asserted in Galesburg, "doled out bigger tax cuts to the very wealthy and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor."

Weak economic growth today, according to the middle-out view, is the consequence of a wider distribution, or dispersion, of income (more at the upper end). This growth in inequality, the argument goes, is the consequence of tax cuts since the 1980s, a trend toward deregulation (that actually began under the Carter administration), and fewer targeted federal programs.

The key causal factor of the middle-out view is that a wider income distribution slows economic growth by lowering consumption demand. Saving rates rise and consumption falls if the share of income shifts toward the top, according to middle-out reasoning, because people with higher incomes tend to save more than those with lower incomes.

The data for the recovery since mid-2009 do not support this view. The 5.4% overall savings rate during this recovery is not high compared with the 8.4% average since 1960. It is relatively low compared to past recoveries, such as the 9.3% savings rate during a comparable period during the recovery in the early 1980s.

Moreover, data do not support the view that tax cuts in the past 30 years are responsible for the widening income distribution. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the distribution of market income before taxes widened in the 1980s and '90s by about as much as the distribution of income after taxes.

The middle-out view fails to explain the weak economy and high unemployment today. It also fails to explain the strong economy and low unemployment in the 1980s and '90s.

Widening income distribution can be a concern, however, especially if it signals reduced income mobility and a growing inequality of opportunity. Consider data collected by Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez for the upper 10% and the lower 90% of the income scale. From the end of World War II until the mid-1960s, real income growth was strong for both groups and there was relatively little change in the distribution of income.

In the late 1960s and 1970s the growth of real income slowed dramatically for both groups, coinciding with the terrible economic policy of that period. Income growth sped up in the 1980s and '90s but was faster in the upper-income group than in the lower-income group. This is the period of the widening of the distribution. According to the latest data collected by Mr. Saez, real income of both groups has recently stagnated.

What caused the differential income growth in the 1980s and 1990s? Research shows that the returns to education started increasing in the 1980s. For example, the wage premium for going to college compared to high school increased. But the supply of educated students did not respond to the increase in returns. High-school graduation rates were declining in the 1980s and '90s and have moved very little since then. Test scores of American students fell in international rankings. With little supply response, the returns to those with the education rose more quickly, causing the income distribution to widen.
3845  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WSJ: Fannie & Freddie on: September 10, 2013, 10:06:48 AM
"Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, is moving forward a bill to wind down Fannie and Freddie over five years and cede their roles to the private sector."

Good to hear there is such a proposal.  Too bad that the do nothing alternative has all the momentum.

A Taxpayer-Friendly Alternative to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

By: Rep. Jeb Hensarling,  Dallas Morning News,  August 28, 2013

Soon we will mark the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis that wrecked our economy, left millions of Americans unemployed and from which we have yet to recover.
From a public policy perspective, the great tragedy of the financial crisis was not that Washington failed to prevent it, but that Washington helped lead us into it. The crisis largely started with a noble intention: Every American should own a home. The result was that well-meaning but misguided policies — principally the “Affordable Housing Goals” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — either strong-armed or enticed financial institutions into loaning money to people to buy homes they sadly couldn’t afford. In fact, over 70 percent of the nontraditional mortgages that led to the crisis were backed by Fannie, Freddie and other taxpayer-subsidized programs.
In typical fashion, Washington responded to the crisis by passing a 2,000-page bill that did more to exploit the crisis than solve it.
Today, because it did not solve the problem, taxpayers have been forced to pay for the mother of all bailouts — nearly $200 billion for Fannie and Freddie. That’s unimaginable.
Today, taxpayers remain on the hook for more than $5 trillion in mortgage guarantees, roughly $45,000 per American family. That’s unconscionable.
Today, the federal government has a virtual monopoly on the housing finance system, enabling Washington elites — similar to those at the IRS — to control who can qualify for a mortgage. That’s unfair.
Americans deserve better.
We deserve a system that protects current and future homeowners so every American who works hard and plays by the rules can have opportunities and choices to buy homes they can actually afford to keep.
We deserve a system that protects hardworking taxpayers so they never again have to bail out big government-sponsored corporations like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or even those who irresponsibly bought expensive homes they couldn’t afford.
We deserve a system that finally breaks the Washington-induced destructive cycle of boom, bust and bailout.
That’s why the House Financial Services Committee, which I chair, recently approved the PATH Act — the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act. The PATH Act creates a sustainable housing finance system by limiting government control, putting private capital at the center of the mortgage system and giving homebuyers more informed choices about their mortgage options.
With the PATH Act, we end the bailout of Fannie and Freddie and phase out their failed taxpayer-backed business model.
The PATH Act also protects the Federal Housing Administration, which is so overextended that it is heading for its own bailout. Today, FHA can use taxpayers to insure mortgages for millionaires and homes valued as high as $729,750. We return FHA to its traditional mission: serving first-time homebuyers and those with low and moderate incomes, as well as ensuring it will be able to insure loans to any qualified borrower if ever faced with another economic crisis.
Finally, the PATH Act removes artificial barriers to private capital to attract investment and encourage innovation.
Others, including some who profit from the status quo, have discussed different reform plans. I welcome them, but all of us must be careful. We cannot allow a plan to become law that simply puts Fannie and Freddie in the federal witness protection program, gives them cosmetic surgery and new identities, then releases them upon an unsuspecting public. We can no longer allow Wall Street investment firms to offload their credit risks on Main Street taxpayers under the guise of promoting homeownership.
No, America needs real reform and a healthier economy. The best housing program is not a subsidy, guarantee or tax credit; it is a good job in a growing economy. The PATH Act will strengthen our economy. It is our path toward real reform and a truly sustainable housing finance system that’s built to last.
 - Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, represents the 5th Congressional District and is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. He may be contacted through
3846  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CNN: Stunning turn of events could change everything on Syria on: September 10, 2013, 09:35:22 AM
"The Russian offer is a good way for Putin to get back those chemicals, delivery mechannisms and other agents that he and the USSR sent to Assad's father and to the late Saddam Hussein.  We would not want to find that a permanent member of the UN Security Council had been trading those items in violation of the 1993 UN Treaty - would we?"

Yes, interesting to wonder what motivates Putin; he is certainly not concerned helping the US our Pres. Obama or the our best interests of the civilized world.  I was wondering if we will ever know what part of Assad's stock came from Saddam. 

Another post mentioned horse trading.  If Putin helps Obama save face here, what is he expecting in return?  ("Please tell Vladimir I will have more flexibility to [unilaterally disarm] after my reelection.")

(CNN) -- It's a stunning turn of events that could change everything on Syria.

Facing the threat of a U.S. military strike, the country's leaders Tuesday reportedly accepted a Russian proposal to turn over its chemical weapons.

Nothing scares a nation into pleading guilty and giving up its arsenal like "facing the threat of a U.S. military strike" that is "unbelievably small".  Something else is going on here.
3847  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Australia on: September 08, 2013, 12:45:11 PM
"it’s worth noting that Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Britain now all have prime ministers to the right of the US president. That’s a kind of American exceptionalism the world could do without."

Leading from behind, we now call it.  Hopefully this movement away from left governance, that arguably started in Sweden(?), will find its way over to the American colonies.

(Sweden's economy booms with cautious turn to the right,
3848  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rep. King to run on: September 08, 2013, 12:39:31 PM
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Long Island Congressman Peter King has thrown his hat in the 2016 presidential ring.

A good addition to the field.  Rep. Peter King was Chairman of the United States House Committee on Homeland Security, has served 20 years in the House.  If you are Republican from NY, the next step up for elected office is President.

(On first read, I had him confused with Rep Steve King, a leader in anti-amnesty, who declined to run for the open Senate seat in Iowa.)
3849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: September 08, 2013, 12:20:41 PM
Not a freaking peep from MSM.
I get Scientific American and nearly every article about everything somehow has references to man made "climate change".
They refuse to admit, maybe just maybe they are wrong.
The left never does.

Not just no correction for new data (no warming since 1997 covers the entire Kyoto Protocol / Inconvenient Truth era), but also no real disclaimers in past work that the theories were unproven, that natural volatility obviously plays the largest role, no recognition of negative feedback forces and their role in cycles, factors unaccounted for such as clouds, or that the best models do not fit or explain past data, much less future data.

Instead they run with phony polls of scientists that group anyone who believes CO2 emissions play ANY role in climate as agreeing with alarmism's wildly exaggerated predictions. 
3850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Greg Hicks: I've Been 'Punished' for Speaking Out - Benghazi on: September 08, 2013, 12:07:05 PM
Benghazi Whistleblower: I've Been 'Punished' for Speaking Out

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