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3851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential - He Made it Worse on: July 07, 2011, 08:42:51 AM
These are some stats of the incumbent administration.  My approach is to go back 2 more years to when Dems truly took over Washington.  'Breakeven' growth economically in America is about 3.1%.  So-called 2% growth is actually moving the country backwards.
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http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article/577501/201107061854/Romneys-Right-It-Is-Worse-Now.htm  (excerpted)

There are 2 million fewer private-sector jobs now than when Obama was sworn in, and the unemployment rate is 1.5 percentage points higher.

• There are now more long-term unemployed than at any time since the government started keeping records.

• The U.S. dollar is more than 12% weaker.

• The number of Americans on food stamps has climbed 37%.

• The Misery Index (unemployment plus inflation) is up 62%.

• And the national debt is about 40% higher than it was in January 2009.

In fact, reporters who bother to look will discover that Obama has managed to produce the worst recovery on record.

By this point in the Reagan recovery after the 1981-82 recession, for example, unemployment had been knocked down to 7.4% from a peak of 10.8%, and quarterly GDP growth averaged a screaming 7%.
3852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential: The Alibi Incumbent, Is this the best we can do? on: July 07, 2011, 08:28:24 AM
George Will today. The ending points to Gov. Rick Perry?

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/op_ed/view/2011_0707alibi_obama_is_ripe_for_takedown_ready-made_slogan_is_this_the_best_we_can_do/

‘Alibi Obama’ is ripe for takedown
Ready-made slogan: ‘Is this the best we can do?
By George F. Will- Updated 10 hours ago

“If he popped up in the pinch he should of made a base hit and the reason he didn’t was so-and-so. And if he cracked one for three bases he ought to had a home run, only the ball wasn’t lively, or the wind brought it back, or he tripped on a lump o’ dirt, roundin’ first base.”

— Ring Lardner,

“Alibi Ike” (1915)

WASHINGTON — The Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee will run against Alibi Ike. Lardner, a Chicago sportswriter, created that character (“His right name was Frank X. Farrell, and I guess the X stood for ‘Excuse me.’ ”) who resembles Chicagoan Barack Obama. After blaming his predecessor for this and that, and after firing all the arrows in liberalism’s quiver — the stimulus, cash for clunkers, etc. — Obama seems poised to blame the recovery’s anemia on Republican resistance to simultaneously raising the debt ceiling and taxes.

So the Republican nominee’s campaign theme can already be written. In 1960, candidate John Kennedy’s theme was: “We can do better.” In 2012, the Republican candidate should say “Is this the best we can do?”

In the contest to determine who will wield those words, there have been three important recent developments: Michele Bachmann’s swift ascent into the top tier of candidates, Tim Pawlenty’s perch there becoming wobbly and Jon Huntsman’s mystifying approach to securing a place there.

Bachmann has been propelled by three strengths: Her natural aptitude, honed by considerable practice, has made her formidable at the presentational side of politics. She has perfect pitch for the nominating electorate’s passions. And she has substantive private- and public-sector experience, as a tax lawyer and as a legislator on, among others, the House Intelligence Committee.

But she also has a deficiency — indiscipline — that can, if not promptly corrected, vitiate her assets. Unprepared for the intense scrutiny presidential campaigns receive, she trustingly repeats things told to her (confusing Concord, Mass., with Concord, N.H., and John Wayne with the mass murderer John Wayne Gacy), and she plunges into peripheral and utterly optional subjects she has not mastered (e.g., the Founders and slavery). Her staff, which is not ready for prime time, is not serving as a filter to protect her from eager but misinformed supporters, and from herself.

Pawlenty, a more ardent than discerning admirer of John McCain, is suddenly echoing McCain’s unhistorical and nonsensical canard that skepticism about nation-building in Afghanistan and opposition to the intervention in Libya’s civil war constitute isolationism. “America,” Pawlenty says, astonishingly, “already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal. It does not need a second one.” The Democratic Party supporting a Democratic president’s plunge into Libya is devoted to “withdrawal”? If only.

Occasionally there are Democratic presidential candidates who appeal to people who really do not like Democrats (e.g., former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt in 1988), and Republicans who appeal to people who think Republicans are among nature’s mistakes (e.g., Illinois Rep. John Anderson in 1980). Huntsman seems to be auditioning for this role, which is puzzling, because such people are not nominated.

Huntsman’s campaign manager, John Weaver, a former McCain man, believes the Republican Party is “nowhere near being a national governing party” — a view usually held by people called Democrats — and that the “simple reason” is: “No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.” Many of the cranks are called ... the Republican nominating electorate.

Announcing his candidacy near the Statue of Liberty, where Ronald Reagan began his 1980 post-convention campaign, Huntsman promised “civility” because “I don’t think you need to run down someone’s reputation” when running for president. Actually, you do.

You must say why your opponent deserves a reputation for inadequacy. So Reagan at that spot said Jimmy Carter’s “whole sorry record” was “a litany of despair, of broken promises, of sacred trusts abandoned and forgotten.” Reagan said Carter’s “cynical” proposals had produced “human tragedy, human misery, the crushing of the human spirit.” Reagan’s forthrightness was neither uncivil nor, in the electorate’s November opinion, untrue.

Who will carry the “Is This the Best We Can Do?” banner? So far, the serene front-runner, Mitt Romney, has nothing to fear from Huntsman’s politics of high-mindedness. Bachmann’s saliency with social conservatives, and the lurchings of Pawlenty’s campaign, threaten Pawlenty’s all-in wager on Iowa. And the potential fragility of Bachmann’s campaign turns attention to the last piece of the Republican puzzle — Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry, a high-octane social and economic conservative whom nobody could confuse with Alibi Ike.
3853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We the Well-armed People: Illegal Gunrunner Operation on: July 07, 2011, 08:14:18 AM
Should Eric Holder (and Obama) be tried in Mexico or in America (or at The Hague) for this type of crime?
3854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential: Obama's Jewish support down 22% on: July 06, 2011, 02:40:54 PM
 56 percent of Jewish Americans said they would vote to reelect Obama over a generic Republican candidate if the elections were held today...
78 percent of Jewish voters cast a ballot for Obama in 2008
http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/dick-morris/169715-obama-losing-jewish-voters
3855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: July 06, 2011, 11:27:17 AM
JDN, My 2cents: half-right.  It is: who can carry BOTH - conservatives and independents.  Who can win the nomination AND win the general election, not just who can win independents and a general election.  People remember the McCain experience.  He headed into the general election needing to reach rightward for a base when he should have been reaching out to the rest.

Now we are in the beauty pageant phase - ideological beauty - and that choice at the moment from the activists is Bachmann over Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Santorum.  On the competence and stature side it is Romney over Pawlenty and Huntsman.

Next come all the twists and turns along the way.  Huntsman and Pawlenty aren't out of it IMO yet.  They each need to establish what they seem to be missing and they need to be in a position to benefit from someone else faltering which is bound to happen.  As Dick Morris put it, these are the quarterfinals through this year and in the earliest primaries.

My thought on Huntsman at this point is that we got the wrong one.  Jon Jr. is a great guy but it was his father who really was the achiever.
3856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Law: Lax Scrutiny, Correcting O'Connor's Mistakes on: July 06, 2011, 10:33:35 AM
James Taranto/WSJ Opinion: "Not only is Judge Cole's decision unlikely to withstand appeal, it could provide an opening for the Supreme Court to revisit its 2003 ruling that upheld Michigan's racial preferences."

How do you find 5 justices to uphold race discrimination without O'Connor? "Roberts wrote [in 2007] "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Scalia, Thomas and Alito joined that portion of Roberts' opinion..." and Kennedy (and Scalia and Thomas) already dissented in 2003 Gretter v Bollinger.
-----------------------------------
Justice O'Connor's Lax Scrutiny
A new ruling in favor of racial preferences could spell their doom.

By JAMES TARANTO

"Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said . . . he will appeal a court ruling that overturned the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which bans the use of race and gender preferences in college admissions," the Detroit News reported Friday. Earlier the same day, a panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to strike down the initiative, also known as Proposal 2, as unconstitutional.

If you're hearing about this for the first time, you may have the same reaction we did, which is to wonder how in the world a court could find that Michigan's racial preferences in college admissions--which barely passed constitutional muster when the Supreme Court upheld them eight years ago--are constitutionally required. Perhaps the Equal Protection Clause allows for some exceptions, but it's downright Orwellian to claim that equal protection implies mandatory discrimination.

Well, it's complicated. Judge R. Guy Cole, who wrote the ruling in the unwieldily named case of Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary v. Regents of the University of Michigan (hereinafter BAMN), was clever enough to avoid reaching a conclusion that is ridiculous on its face. Instead, taking his cue from the plaintiff organization's name, he came at it from a different angle.

His ruling concedes that the Equal Protection Clause does not require Michigan to maintain policies that discriminate in favor of minorities. It concludes, however, that the means by which the state banned such discrimination--a ballot measure amending the Michigan Constitution--violated the clause. "Proposal 2 unconstitutionally alters Michigan's political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities," he wrote.

That conclusion is consistent with a pair of decades-old Supreme Court precedents. But it is too clever by half. Not only is Judge Cole's decision unlikely to withstand appeal, it could provide an opening for the Supreme Court to revisit its 2003 ruling that upheld Michigan's racial preferences.

The two precedents on which Cole bases his conclusion are Hunter v. Erickson (1969) and Washington v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 (1982). In Hunter the Supreme Court struck down an Akron, Ohio, ballot initiative that had repealed a municipal fair-housing ordinance and required that any future laws against housing discrimination be approved by a majority of voters as well as the City Council.

In a decision by Justice Byron White, the court held 8-1 that although Akron was under no obligation to enact a fair-housing law, the creation of an additional hurdle that such legislation must pass constituted an invidious distinction "between those groups who sought the law's protection against racial, religious, or ancestral discriminations in the sale and rental of real estate and those who sought to regulate real property transactions in the pursuit of other ends." Since those in the former group belonged to minorities that are protected from discrimination, the ballot measure violated equal protection.

But how could the Akron initiative, whose effect was to permit discrimination, be the equivalent for equal protection purposes of the Michigan initiative, which prohibited discrimination? That's where Seattle comes in. Washington's largest city used what was known as "forced busing" to encourage racial mixing in its public schools. Washington voters approved Initiative 350, a statewide ban on busing for racial integration. The high court struck down the measure, holding that, like the Akron one 13 years earlier, it unconstitutionally burdened minority members, who were the presumed beneficiaries of busing.

Justice Harry Blackmun's opinion took the court into Orwellian territory. He wrote "that the initiative established an impermissible racial classification in violation of Hunter v. Erickson, . . . 'because it permits busing for non-racial reasons but forbids it for racial reasons.' " By such logic, if one can even call it that, the Equal Protection Clause violates itself, because it permits discrimination for a host of nonracial reasons but forbids it for racial reasons.

There is nonetheless an important distinction between forced busing circa 1982 and racial preferences in college admissions today. The constitutionality of the former was not then in dispute. In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971), the justices had unanimously blessed judicially mandated busing as a remedy for de jure (state-imposed) segregation.

Seattle's segregation was merely de facto, and its busing program had not been imposed by a court. The justices had not expressly upheld busing in such circumstances. But Blackmun noted in a footnote that the "appellants . . . do not challenge the propriety of race-conscious student assignments for the purpose of achieving integration, even absent a finding of prior de jure segregation." (Such assignments would be successfully challenged, in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, in 2007.)

By contrast, the constitutionality of the University of Michigan's racial preferences had been called into question before Proposal 2 was enacted, in a pair of cases that reached the Supreme Court in 2003. In Gratz v. Bollinger, the court struck down the university's undergraduate preferences. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the court, in a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, upheld the law school's supposedly somewhat looser preferences--but on very narrow grounds (citations and needless brackets omitted from all quotations of court opinions):

    As part of its goal of "assembling a class that is both exceptionally academically qualified and broadly diverse," the Law School seeks to "enroll a 'critical mass' of minority students." The Law School's interest is not simply "to assure within its student body some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin." That would amount to outright racial balancing, which is patently unconstitutional. Rather, the Law School's concept of critical mass is defined by reference to the educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce.

Here is Judge Cole explaining why Proposal 2 resembles Washington's antibusing initiative:

    Proposal 2, like Initiative 350, has a "racial focus," because the Michigan universities' affirmative-action programs "inure primarily to the benefit of the minority, and [are] designed for that purpose," for the reasons articulated by the Court in Seattle. Just as the desegregative busing programs at issue in Seattle were designed to improve racial minorities' representation at many public schools, race-conscious admissions policies increase racial minorities' representation at institutions of higher education. Indeed, underrepresented minorities lobbied for the adoption of such policies at Michigan's universities in the first place for this reason, and, further, the unrebutted evidence in the record indicates that Proposal 2 will likely negatively impact minority representation at Michigan's institutions of higher education. Ample evidence thus grounds our conclusion that race-conscious admissions policies "inure primarily to the benefit of the minority."

How can Judge Cole's finding that Michigan's racial preferences were designed to "inure primarily to the benefit of the minority" be reconciled with binding Supreme Court precedent that such preferences can be justified only by "the educational benefits" of a "diverse student body"?

Cole's awkwardly written attempt to finesse the problem only makes it more glaring. He claims his conclusion that Proposal 2 has a "racial focus" as required by Hunter and Seattle "is not impacted by the fact that increased representation of racial minorities in higher education also benefits students of other groups and our nation as a whole." Thus he reduces the purported educational benefits of diversity--the entire basis on which the high court rested the constitutionality of Michigan's racial preferences--to an afterthought.

Unless the full Sixth Circuit overturns Judge Cole's ruling, it is a certainty that the Supreme Court will take it up, for it raises questions of the sort that only the justices can resolve. Not only does it expose a tension between two lines of the high court's jurisprudence, but there is also a split between appellate courts. The Ninth Circuit has upheld Proposition 209, a similar ballot initiative from California.

The justices could resolve BAMN in three different ways. The narrowest, because it would leave all existing precedents undisturbed, would be to hold that the Hunter and Seattle framework does not apply to Proposal 2 because the court has already held in Grutter that the constitutionality of the policies in question depends on their having not been designed to "inure primarily to the benefit of the minority." Since the four liberal justices have a strong interest in preserving the "diversity" rationale for racial preferences--especially Elena Kagan, a former elite law school dean--such a ruling could very well go 9-0.

The court could strike down the 1982 Seattle ruling and hold that ballot initiatives or similar measures that affect race are constitutional as long as the substance of the policy in question does not offend equal protection. Seattle is an anachronism anyway: a 5-4 decision in favor of an obsolete social policy by a court whose members have all since retired, died or both. So it's hard to predict how today's justices would come down on that one.

The most aggressive approach--and therefore perhaps the unlikeliest, but also the one that would be most satisfying to those of us who care about the integrity of the law--would be to use BAMN as an opportunity to revisit Grutter. Judge Cole's assertion that Michigan's racial preferences were designed to "inure primarily to the benefit of the minority" may, after all, be true. We think it is. If we are right, the "diversity" rationale that the Grutter majority accepted was a fraud.

That would mean the court was derelict in its duty, as Justice Anthony Kennedy argued in his Grutter dissent:

    The separate opinion by Justice [Lewis] Powell in Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke is based on the principle that a university admissions program may take account of race as one, nonpredominant factor in a system designed to consider each applicant as an individual, provided the program can meet the test of strict scrutiny by the judiciary. . . . If strict scrutiny is abandoned or manipulated to distort its real and accepted meaning, the Court lacks authority to approve the use of race even in this modest, limited way. The opinion by Justice Powell, in my view, states the correct rule for resolving this case. The Court, however, does not apply strict scrutiny. By trying to say otherwise, it undermines both the test and its own controlling precedents.

If the current court revisits Grutter, the result will certainly be a 5-4 ruling over bitter liberal dissent. It probably won't quite spell the end of racial preferences in university admissions, for Kennedy endorsed the "diversity" rationale in theory. His dissent was from O'Connor's travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham of strict scrutiny.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, by contrast, did not accept the proposition that diversity justifies discrimination. And although Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have not weighed in directly on the question, Roberts wrote in his 2007 Parents Involved opinion that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Scalia, Thomas and Alito joined that portion of Roberts's opinion, but Kennedy did not.

It is unusual for the court to reconsider its own constitutional precedents when it can decide a case more narrowly. But that's just what the justices did last year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, when a 5-4 majority led by Justice Kennedy overturned another 2003 O'Connor precedent. If BAMN reaches the high court, Kennedy will again have an opportunity to correct one of O'Connor's mistakes.
3857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: July 06, 2011, 09:17:01 AM
8% say the economy is good?  That number seems high, are we measuring sense of humor?

87% approval among blacks? Yes, but they won't show up in anywhere near the same numbers as 2008.  The excitement is gone.  Black unemployment is way up.  Obama is the first (half)black President and that was historic, but nothing magical came to them for it.  Blacks as a group fare better like everyone else in pro-growth times like under Presidents Reagan and Clinton  than under Obama.  Obama may win 87% of blacks or more in exit polls, but far lower in number of votes than in 2008.

The comparison to Bush at 20-24% approval is in the 2006-2008 period, not 2004.  Conservatives turned against Bush after reelection while liberals at this point believe Obama is their best and only bet.

Bush approvals in 2004 were roughly where Obama is now (http://www.hist.umn.edu/~ruggles/Approval.htm).  2004 was about war but Bush had pro-growth policies kicking in by that time while Obama has put nothing in motion to grow the economy, is still working further on an anti-growth agenda (spread the prosperity), and recession fatigue has already set in.

Pretty hard to say 'stay the course' when no one can identify in a positive way what the course is. 

The only campaign slogan they have come up with so far is that everything was far worse than we thought when we got here (Bush's fault).

Missing from the Republican campaigns IMO is any attempt to pin some blame for the 2008 financial collapse onto the Pelosi-Reid-Obama congress that took Washington by storm in Nov 2006, promising anti-growth / anti-productive investment measures, right when unemployment was at its lowest point.
3858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: July 05, 2011, 06:44:13 PM
If we wanted to squeeze the profit per gallon and power and influence out of oil companies, we would expand production, not curtail it.  Companies like Exxon-Mobil and Koch are in a business that includes owning oil at the various points of the production and transportation process.  When prices are forced up with excessive regulations, it forces out competition, forces up prices and gives a windfall to big oil companies.  I wonder if that is what the Obama policies intend.
3859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pathological Science, Longest Utah Ski season in Snowbiird History on: July 05, 2011, 06:12:31 PM
I love this story. Just a few years ago I remember Copper Mountain Colorado warning that snow skiing die as a sport because of global warming.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705375684/Snowbird-caps-longest-season-with-holiday-skiing.html

Snowbird caps longest season with Fourth of July snow skiing
Published: Monday, July 4, 2011
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON (Utah) — A few thousand mostly red-and-blue-clad skiers celebrated the Fourth of July on the white slopes at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.  By being open for skiing Monday Snowbird set a record for the number of days it was able to stay open in a single season with 202...
Snowbird also had a record for snowfall this season, with 783 inches...
(For those of us who appreciate skiing in fresh powder, that is over 65 feet of snow in one season!)
3860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness: Demagogic Dishonesty on: July 05, 2011, 04:41:20 PM
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/07/01/corporate_jets_and_tax_breaks__110438.html

July 1, 2011
Corporate Jets and Tax Breaks
By Jonah Goldberg

President Obama's core message in his Wednesday press conference, his first since March, could be found in his advice to Republicans. "You go talk to your constituents and ask them, ‘Are you willing to compromise your kids' safety so some corporate-jet owner can get a tax break?'"

This was just one of six shots the president took at corporate-jet owners. A novice might be forgiven for thinking that the president really doesn't like corporate jets or that the Republicans cared so much about the darn things that they had proposed crossing out "arms" in the Second Amendment and replacing it with "corporate jets." Where's Charlton Heston to proclaim, "From my cold dead hands you can have my Learjet 85 . . . "?

A novice might also think that tax status of corporate jets is of disproportionate significance in how to move this country toward a balanced budget.

But the novice would be wrong. For starters, Obama's most recent budget calls for adding $9.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade. If you got rid of the "accelerated depreciation" of corporate jets, Reuters economics columnist James Pethokoukis calculates, it would save a whopping .03 percent of that total.

Sadly, the room was full of journalists who do not consider themselves novices but who nonetheless let Obama get away with this demagogic dishonesty. No one asked the president why he suddenly cares so much about getting rid of a tax break he himself was for before he was against it. Indeed, no one asked why, if it is such an affront to the liberal conscience, it was part of Obama's stimulus bill, which was passed without any Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate (which means Nancy Pelosi voted for special tax breaks for corporate jets and the GOP didn't).

More broadly, no one threw a flag on his claim that "every single observer who's not an elected official, who's not a politician," agrees with him on the burning need to raise taxes as part of any budget deal. This is a good example of Obama's most grating tic, his need to claim that all reasonable and serious people agree with him and anyone who disagrees must be doing so for base or ideological motives.

No one queried why he talks about the need to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" but the fine print of his proposals defines millionaires and billionaires as people who make $200,000 a year as individuals or $250,000 as joint-filing couples. Jay Duckson at Central Business Jets tells the Wall Street Journal that the starting price for a private jet is $10 million dollars. Annual upkeep and fuel is about $500,000. You do the math.

This points to what is most offensive about Obama's focus-grouped class-warfare rhetoric: the total incoherence of the underlying policies.

The day before his press conference, Obama was in Bettendorf, Iowa, at the Alcoa Davenport Works plant to highlight his economic vision for manufacturing. "Alcoa is showing us the future we can build here in eastern Iowa and across the country," he proclaimed.

"The idea is to create jobs now, and to make sure America stays on the cutting edge of manufacturing for years to come," Obama declared.

The factory Obama visited, however, isn't a generic aluminum plant. It is, according to Alcoa, the "premier aerospace supply plant and is today the hub of Alcoa's $3 billion aerospace business."

That includes the general aviation industry, which is centered in Wichita, Kan., where they make private jets "right here in America" as Obama likes to say. The upshot: Obama says that Alcoa must lose business among American customers to repeal a tax break Obama and the Democrats supported because Republicans want to balance the budget.

To be fair, Alcoa's biggest customers aren't manufacturers of private jets but the big manufacturers of commercial jets - you know, like Boeing. Well, that company is being told by Obama's union-hack-packed National Labor Relations Board that it cannot open a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina, because to do so would offend Obama's beloved unions in Washington State.

The point isn't that there's no merit to any of Obama's positions (personally, I'm all for clearing the junk out of the tax code). The point is that at this point merit simply has nothing to do with the positions Obama takes.
3861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran providing weapons that are killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan on: July 05, 2011, 04:29:07 PM
"Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials"

And the consequence for prosecuting two covert wars against a United States led by President Obama is .....     nothing??
-----------------------------
Iran Funnels New Weapons to Iraq and Afghanistan

By JAY SOLOMON

TEHRAN—Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials, in a bid to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from these countries.

The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, defense officials said. They said Iranians have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance.

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Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
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Such arms shipments would escalate the shadow competition for influence playing out between Tehran and Washington across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by U.S. preparations to draw down forces from two wars and the political rebellions that are sweeping the region.

The U.S. is wrestling with the aftermath of uprisings against longtime Arab allies from Tunisia to Bahrain, and trying to leave behind stable, friendly governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran appears to be trying to gain political ground amid the turmoil and to make the U.S. withdrawals as quick and painful as possible.

"I think we are likely to see these Iranian-backed groups continue to maintain high attack levels" as the exit date nears, Maj. Gen. James Buchanan, the U.S. military's top spokesman in Iraq, said in an interview. "But they are not going to deter us from doing everything we can to help the Iraqi security forces."

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A security check in Baghdad on June 6, a day when attacks the U.S. links to Iranian arms killed six Americans.
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In June, 15 U.S. servicemen died in Iraq, the highest monthly casualty figure there in more than two years. The U.S. has attributed all the attacks to Shiite militias it says are are trained by the Revolutionary Guards, rather than al Qaeda or other Sunni groups that were the most lethal forces inside Iraq a few years ago.

In Afghanistan, the Pentagon has in recent months traced to Iran the Taliban's acquisition of rockets that give its fighters roughly double the range to attack North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. targets. U.S. officials said the rockets' markings, and the location of their discovery, give them a "high degree" of confidence that they came from the Revolutionary Guard's overseas unit, the Qods Force.

U.S. defense officials are also increasingly concerned that Iran's stepped-up military activities in the Persian Gulf could inadvertently trigger a clash. A number of near misses involving Iranian and allied ships and planes in those waters in recent months have caused Navy officials to call for improved communication in the Gulf.

Iran's assertive foreign policy comes amid a growing power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many of the president's closest aides have been detained on alleged corruption charges in recent weeks, raising questions as to whether Mr. Ahmadinejad will serve out his term.U.S. and European officials also say Iran has grown increasingly aggressive in trying to influence the political rebellions across the Middle East and North Africa. Tehran is alleged to have dispatched military advisers to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad put down a popular uprising.

In recent months, according to U.S. officials, Iran has also increased its intelligence and propaganda activities in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, countries where pro-U.S. leaders have either fallen or come under intense pressure.

Iranian officials denied in interviews and briefings this week that the Revolutionary Guard played any role in arming militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. They charged the U.S. with concocting these stories to justify maintaining an American military presence in the region.
3862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics - Krugman's demons on: July 05, 2011, 01:05:19 PM
Avoiding the ad hominem attascks (as I accused on a post against Beck), I always try to refute Krugman point by point, rather than smear the person.  Still I wonder how he came to his current status of liberal economist de facto in chief and I wonder what scholarly work he once did to earn the profession's highest award.  This piece touches on the evolution of the famous journalist/economist of the NY Times and Princeton.

http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/06/28/peter-foster-the-demons-in-krugmanomics/

Peter Foster: The demons in Krugmanomics
Financial Post, Jun 28, 2011

Paul Krugman’s affection for ­markets fell as he became obsessed with inequality, market instability and catastrophic climate change

Nobel economist Paul Krugman is due to address the Economic Club of Toronto Wednesday on whether the United States has “mortgaged its future.” If Mr. Krugman is true to form, he will tell his audience that it has not mortgaged its future enough. What is desperately needed is more government borrowing and spending.

Mr. Krugman is a Nobel-winning trade-policy academic economist who, over the past couple of decades, has gone increasingly to the liberal dark side, as evidenced in his columns in The New York Times. What seems to have driven him completely over the edge is a combination of Bush Derangement Syndrome and an evangelical desire to prove that Reaganomics was a failure. He criticizes Barack Obama for not going far enough. He hates Republicans with a passion and is Keynesian to the core. Thus he can only interpret the failure of government stimulus as evidence of “cowardice” or “lack of political will.”

Like most liberal moralists, Mr. Krugman demonizes his opponents as not merely wicked and/or stupid/and or venal, but also “furious” because he is so right and they are so wrong. On election night 2008, he and his even more uncompromisingly liberal wife, Robin Wells, who is also a Princeton economist, had a party at which effigies of their enemies were burned. Salem, anyone?

Mr. Krugman constantly concocts conspiracies of the rich to grind the faces of the poor. He calls anti-Keynesians “The Pain Caucus.” He is currently lashed to the mast of not one but two sinking ships, the USS Keynes and the USS Draconian Climate Policy.

Modern American conservatism, he has written, “is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paycheques for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defences of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultra-wealthy families.”

Maybe he should check out what causes the Rockefeller, Carnegie, Pew, Hewlett and Packard foundations are actually promoting. It certainly isn’t climate change denial.

Mr. Krugman’s Nobel Prize for work in international trade and economic geography was widely praised. Early in his career he was a fan of markets and free trade, and attacked “popular” economists such as John Kenneth Galbraith, Lester Thurow and Robert Reich, who catered to economic misconceptions beneath a cloak of liberal good intentions. However, that cloak in the end proved too attractive not to try on.

Mr. Krugman’s affection for markets has declined as he has become obsessed with inequality, market instability and catastrophic climate change. He doesn’t think consumers can be trusted to make the “right” choices any more, and has taken to the remarkably annoying habit of condemning free marketers as people who believe that people are always rational and markets perfect. Then again, straw men are easy to torch.

Mr. Krugman’s take on the ongoing crisis is remarkable not merely for wishing to keep doing more of what has failed, but his blindness to the role of government policy in its creation. Fannie and Freddie? Mere bystanders who only decided to help blow up the system “late in the game.” Greece? It’s all the euro’s fault.

Anthropogenic global warming has become an article of religious faith for Mr. Krugman, which has required him to go through astonishing convolutions in the face of growing evidence of corruption. Climategate? A “fake scandal.” Remember those emails about a “trick” to “hide the decline”? According to Mr. Krugman this was an “anomalous decline.” Well, no. The decline was in actual temperature readings which failed to concur with the proxy data from tree rings. These had to be “hidden” because tree ring data were essential to the credibility of the poster child “hockey stick” graph that presented the twentieth century as a thousand year anomaly. The decline had to be hidden because it exposed fake science.

The former free trader now thinks that carbon tariffs might not be such a bad idea, and since cap and trade represents an alleged “market solution” to the catastrophe-to-come, the conservatives who (successfully) opposed it are, in Mr. Krugman’s view, hypocrites.

Mr. Krugman leans towards the global salvationist posturing of Lord Stern, whose climate review is a monument to perverted cost-benefit analysis. “Stern’s moral argument for loving unborn generations as we love ourselves may be too strong,” Mr. Krugman has written, “but there’s a compelling case to be made that public policy should take a much longer view than private markets.”

The problem is that it doesn’t.

The evil of Mr. Krugman’s opponents is all embracing. He has written that “[T]hose who insist that Ben Bernanke has blood on his hands tend to be more or less the same people who insist that the scientific consensus on climate reflects a vast leftist conspiracy.” You see the connection? Leaving aside the blood libel, if you oppose further corruption of the monetary system you are clearly also a climate denier. And why doesn’t America have universal public health care? Simple, it’s due to “The legacy of slavery, America’s original sin.”

Once Mr. Krugman’s intellectual inspiration was Adam Smith. Now it’s Naomi Klein.
3863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / American Creed/Constitutional Law: Ending racial preference is unconstitutional? on: July 05, 2011, 12:45:11 PM
See Crafty's post 7/2 in this thread.  Isn't U of Michigan Affirmative Action the case where Sandra Day O'Connor discovered the bizarre 25 year rule in the constitution: we need preferences now but not forever?

"The proposition that “All Men Are Created Equal” was ultimately forged into our Constitution in the form of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In its 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held—incredibly—that the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee forbids the people of Michigan from voting the elimination of racial preferences in college and university admissions."

Kirk Kolbo (writing above and below) represented the plaintiffs in the historic Gratz  and Grutter cases in the United States Supreme Court:
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/07/the-6th-circuits-affirmative-action-decision-a-critique.php

    It is unfortunate that on the eve of our Fourth of July weekend, a federal appeals court handed down a decision delivering injury and insult to the most important of those self-evident truths for which we honor and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The proposition that “All Men Are Created Equal” was ultimately forged into our Constitution in the form of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In its 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held—incredibly—that the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee forbids the people of Michigan from voting the elimination of racial preferences in college and university admissions.

    The court’s decision came in a challenge to an amendment to the Michigan constitution enacted in 2006 after passage (by a 58% to 42% margin) of a state-wide voter initiative banning race and gender preferences in college and university admissions and other government activities. The initiative was a reaction to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, companion cases challenging racial preferences in admissions at the University of Michigan’s flagship undergraduate college (Gratz) and Law School (Grutter). While the Supreme Court struck down the undergraduate admissions policies at issue in Gratz, it ruled in Grutter that race could be used in a limited way in the admissions process: one “plus” factor among others to achieve a racially diverse student body, and it upheld the admission policies of the Law School on that basis. Jennifer Gratz, one of the lead plaintiffs, headed up the Michigan initiative effort. After its passage, an assorted group of plaintiffs immediately challenged the new law as it applied to Michigan’s colleges and universities, and last week’s decision by the 6th Circuit is the latest word, but not likely the final one, on that challenge.

    The Supreme Court has never held that the equal protection clause requires the use of racial preferences in admissions or other areas (e.g., hiring, firing, contracting). The decisions instead have all focused on whether in particular circumstances it is permissible for the government to employ those preferences by means “narrowly tailored” to accomplish what the Court concludes to be a “compelling government interest.”

    So how came the 6th Circuit to its decision? The court looked principally to two decades-old Supreme Court opinions recognizing an equal protection challenge to government actions that single out race issues for a distortion of the government decision-making process to the disadvantage of racial minorities. In the first of these cases, Hunter v. Erickson, after the Akron, Ohio city council enacted an ordinance to enforce anti-discrimination in housing, the people of Akron passed by referendum an amendment to the city charter requiring all regulations of real estate on the basis of race to be approved by a city-wide referendum, while all other real estate regulation required only city council approval. In a subsequent case, Washington v. Seattle School District No. 1, an elected Seattle school board passed and implemented certain school desegregation policies, including mandatory busing of students, designed to alleviate racial imbalances in the schools due to segregated housing patterns. Opponents of the school board’s measures were successful in getting a state-wide referendum passed prohibiting any of the State’s local school boards from mandating busing for desegregation, except when ordered to do so by a court.

    In both cases, the Supreme Court invalidated the referenda on grounds that they reallocated the political structure impermissibly to the disadvantage of racial minorities in violation of the equal protection clause. The decisions do not furnish any plausible basis for striking down the State of Michigan’s decision to eliminate racial preferences in admissions. The focus of the Court in Hunter and Seattle was on the removal of political decision-making authority on race issues from a locally accountable entity (city council and school board) “to a new and remote level of government” (city- and state-wide electorate). The Court compared such a restructuring to voter dilution. In both cases, the change made it more difficult for minorities to obtain “beneficial legislation” because the political restructuring made it more burdensome, onerous, and complex to “enact legislation.” The rulings in Hunter and Seattle protected “the ability of minorities to participate in the process of self-government.” (Emphasis added).

    The 6th Circuit held that by removing the authority of college and university admissions officials to grant preferences based on race through the successful state-wide initiative, there had been an impermissible political restructuring. It reached this conclusion by equating the admissions officials at Michigan colleges and universities with the elected city council and school board in Hunter and Seattle. This is, of course, preposterous. The dissenting opinion lays out the record showing how admissions decisions at the schools at issue are made by assorted faculty (often tenured) and administrators not accountable to any voting electorate. And any parent or student who has gone through the admissions process knows well that those anxiously-awaited admissions decisions are made pursuant to policies over which they have no control and the workings of which are from them and the rest of the public generally shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Because neither minorities nor others in the public possess any political authority over admissions committees and decision-makers it is absurd for the court to have found that there has been a “restructuring” of such authority.

    The 6th Circuit also took no account of the fact that the challenged actions in Hunter and Seattle had the effect of overturning and making it more difficult to enact anti-discrimination legislation. The racial preferences eliminated by the voters of Michigan are themselves, however, as the Supreme Court has held repeatedly, presumptively invalid under the equal protection clause. They are “potentially so dangerous” that they must be subject to strict scrutiny. In eliminating racial preferences and mandating race-neutral admissions decision-making, the voters of Michigan have furthered what the Supreme Court has repeatedly referred to as the “core purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment”—“to do away with all government imposed discrimination based on race.”

    In Grutter, the Court wrote approvingly of experiments in race-neutral admissions and specifically mentioned state laws prohibiting racial preferences in admissions in California, Florida, and Texas. It also held that a “permanent justification for racial preferences would offend [the] fundamental equal protection principle.” Accordingly race-based admissions policies must be of “limited duration.”

    So the 6th Circuit’s decision is neither compelled by the “political restructuring” doctrine of Hunter and Seattle, nor consistent with what the Supreme Court has held about the lawfulness and desirability of race-neutral policies. To the contrary, the court’s decision throws obstacles in the way of a body politic wanting to achieve the constitutionally favored goal of race-neutral decision-making. Under its rationale, any local or other low-level governmental authority (elected or not) could enact racial preferences which would be immune from interference or elimination by a larger government body or electorate on grounds of a “political restructuring” violation.

    Even the liberal and independent-minded 9th Circuit has rejected the contention that a State is prohibited from requiring race-neutral admissions policies. It upheld California Proposition 209 against an equal protection and “political restructuring” challenge. Fortunately, the prospects are good that the 6th Circuit’s decision will be reheard by the entire court (en banc). There is a strong dissent, and the panel’s decision conflicts with the decision of an earlier panel that considered the same issues in staying a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Michigan law. Both are good indicators for eventual review and a decision by the full 6th Circuit. Finally, while the odds are against any given case being accepted for review by the Supreme Court, should it get there, last week’s decision would almost certainly be reversed by the current Court.
3864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy: Conservative case for raising taxes on: July 05, 2011, 12:31:58 PM
This will never fly, but at least someone out there (Steven Hayward) poses the question about raises taxes on those in this country who are not paying their fair share:

"if the broad middle class of Americans are made to pay for all of the government they get, they may well start to demand less of it, quickly."

Is There a Conservative Case for Higher Taxes?
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/07/is-there-conservative-case-for-higher-taxes.php

No doubt this will set off an explosion of indignation, but my answer to the question posed here is—Yes.  (I can hear it now: What!  Are you trying to get yourself kicked off Power Line?)

Maybe it will help if I qualify this by saying that I think taxes should be raised sharply on the middle class and the poor, many of whom currently pay almost no federal income tax at all, while cutting the capital gains tax, the corporate income tax, and the highest marginal income tax rates.  Feel a little better?  I thought not.

But here’s the case: one problem with our current tax policy is that at the moment the American people as a whole are receiving a dollar of government for the price of only 60 cents.  (I don’t say a “dollar’s worth of government,” but let’s leave that snark for another time.)  Any time you can get a dollar of something at a 40 percent discount, you are going to demand more of it.  My theory is simple: if the broad middle class of Americans are made to pay for all of the government they get, they may well start to demand less of it, quickly.

There’s corollary point to this.  Back in the Reagan years, there was a vigorous internal debate about whether to resist tax increases because “starving the beast” would hold down spending.  But evidence is now in: this strategy doesn’t work.  My witness on this point is the Cato Institute’s chairman, William Niskanen (who was chairman of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers at one point, and a person whose libertarian credentials are hard to beat). Niskanen noted this striking finding in a Cato Policy Report a while ago:

    In a professional paper published in 2002, I presented evidence that the relative level of federal spending over the period 1981 through 2000 was coincident with the relative level of the federal tax burden in the opposite direction; in other words, there was a strong negative relation between the relative level of federal spending and tax revenues.  Controlling for the unemployment rate, federal spending increased by about one-half percent of GDP for each one percentage point decline in the relative level of federal tax revenues. . . One implication of this relation is that a tax increase may be the most effective policy to reduce the relative level of federal spending.

Other economists have reached the same conclusion.  In other words, if you want to limit government spending, instead of starving the beast, serve the check.  (Well, I can hear everyone now, there’s goes your invitation to Grover Norquist’s Wednesday meetings! True that.)  Right now the anti-tax bias of the right has the effect of shifting costs onto future generations who do not vote in today’s elections, and enables liberals to defend against spending restraints very cheaply.  Time to end the free ride.

A debate on how to raise taxes might actually be fun to have with liberals, because their only idea—eat tax the rich—doesn’t produce anywhere near enough revenue to fund their programs.  Of course, the “tax the rich” slogan is just a cover so they can raise taxes on everyone, but why not smoke them out on this by agreeing?

But more to the point, the argument should be cast in terms of a creating pro-growth tax reform.  Froma Harrop of the Providence Journal has a typically idiotic column out today saying Americans want higher taxes.  It is not even worth the bother of debunking.  There is one highly useable sentence in it: “Today, high-tax Sweden has only 7 percent unemployment, while ours is 9 percent. How come? Before the 2008 economic meltdown, Sweden prudently maintained a budget surplus equal to 3.6 percent of its economy.”  Never mind that Sweden isn’t exactly putting its shoulder to the wheel in the fight against terrorists (or anything else), and just focus your mind on one fact: yes, it is a high tax country, but its corporate income tax rate is one-third lower than the U.S. rate (26% for Sweden; 39% for the U.S.).  So, my opening bid is—yes. By all means let’s emulate Sweden’s tax rates, starting with a one-third cut in our corporate income tax rate, and a hike in middle class income tax rates.  Deal?   I didn’t think so.
3865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: July 03, 2011, 11:19:55 AM
"I would also submit that the 2.1% inflation number is complete and utter bull excrement."

Discussing 'real growth' with friends yesterday I was just making that same point.  'Real growth' is 'inflation adjusted' but the adjuster is a phony multiplier.  I can't remember the latest formula but when they subtract out the things that are going up worst like energy and food, the result is necessarily false. 

The context was Romney not being able to back up a line he stole from Peggy Noonan that Obama made things worse.  Breakeven growth is roughly 3.1% 'real growth' in the false way we measure it.  Anything below that (all of Obama's record) is negative growth - in other words, things are getting worse and monetary tricks don't address in any way what is systemically wrong.
3866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation: Washington Post - QE2, Did it work? on: July 02, 2011, 11:25:29 PM
I should know by now that an opinions titled with a question don't have the answers.  They are saying that the purpose was to buy time to heal, not to cause the economic healing.  No mention really of the damage done to our currency or credibility by such a policy.  I think they are just marking in time the news that QE2 is ending and soon we will know happens next.
----------------
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/did-the-feds-qe2-work/2011/06/30/AGmW8lsH_story.html

Did the Fed’s QE2 work?

By Editorial, Published: June 30

WITH A FEW last multibillion-dollar mouse clicks,the Federal Reserve’s bond traders have finished the $600 billion program of Treasury-bond purchases known as “QE2.” This second round of “quantitative easing” — the economist’s term for money creation by direct central bank balance-sheet expansion — began last fall and followed a previous $1 trillion round at the height of the Great Recession in 2009. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke announced QE2 in late August 2010 to prevent a spate of unexpected economic weakness from spiraling into a double-dip recession or outright deflation. QE2 has been controversial from the moment Mr. Bernanke announced it. But was it a success?

Let’s start with the positive side of the ledger. A year ago, inflation was running below the Federal Reserve’s rough target of 2 percent per year, a sign, to Mr. Bernanke, of deflation risk. That’s not a problem anymore. Deutsche Bank, to cite a typical blue-chip private-sector forecast, sees 2011 inflation running at 2.1 percent. QE2 also propped up the economy by bidding up the price, and thus lowering the yield, of Treasuries and other safe debt instruments. This encouraged investors to put their money into higher-yielding investments such as stocks, which reduced the cost of capital for businesses. And the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is indeed up 25 percent since last August. A cheaper dollar was an unstated, but obvious, consequence of QE2, and that too has occurred, arguably boosting U.S. exports.

But the negative consequences of QE2 — all of them also foreseeable — have canceled out some of the positives. Perhaps the most important of these was a commodity price boom, caused by the fact that many investors used the Fed’s freshly printed money to speculate on grain or oil. The winnings accrued to a wealthy few, while the U.S. middle class coped with higher prices for groceries and gasoline. And for all that, it is not even clear that the Fed achieved its primary goal of depressing the interest rate on long-term U.S. debt: The 10-year bond paid 2.5 percent when Mr. Bernanke announced QE2 but pays about half a percentage more than that today.

Economic growth has hardly taken off during QE2. Unemployment still lingers above 9 percent, and the Fed has lowered its 2011 growth forecasts from just over 3 percent to a bit less than 3 percent. Yes, the deflationary wolf has been chased from the door — but avoiding future inflation will be more difficult now that the Fed has a $2.7 trillion balance sheet to unwind.

To be sure, the picture might look very different if not for the disruptions wrought in the U.S. and global economies by the tsunami in Japan. And, like all other judgments about economic policy, any evaluation of QE2 must consider that things could have been even worse without it. Growth might have gone even lower and bond rates even higher if the Fed had not bought up the U.S. government's rapidly growing debt.

Still, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this was, in the end, a holding action. QE2 was not so much an asset-buying program as a time-buying program — time for America’s households, firms and governments to deleverage and heal as best they could. QE2 is over and unlikely to be repeated; Mr. Bernanke was not kidding last August when he said, “Central bankers alone cannot solve the world’s problems.” Meanwhile, the prospects of much more fiscal stimulus seem doubtful. For better or worse, the U.S. economy may be on its own.
3867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: July 01, 2011, 03:15:29 PM
"Beck is quite a remarkable man, someone whom I respect greatly."

That has been pretty well known on the board.  The ad hominem attack didn't seem necessary.  Discussing or criticizing specific points he makes would be far more helpful.  Otherwise when you don't like someone, the channel changer works pretty well.

If "he was fired" was the whole truth, the delayed exit didn't make very much sense either.  Most people "fired" find the door rather quickly.  But truth isn't crucial when the attack is emotional and against the person.

The prediction OTOH was asked for.  Now we need to know what failure means if it includes being first in your slot and winning 2 1/2 times the audience share of your nearest competitor.
3868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: July 01, 2011, 02:08:06 PM
"Oil prices: back to before the strategic reserves were tapped"

That policy was so flawed most serious analysts didn't bother to criticize it.  First you have the Obama/far left admitting that supplies matter in prices and that prices matter in preventing growth and hiring, in eroding our standard of living and in his private non-re-election polling.  Then they choose the only source we know of that has a strictly finite amount available.

He could have coupled that with openings in ANWR, offshore etc and hit the market with the news that ongoing supplies are coming for as far into the future as the eye can see.

I wonder how much oil would come from ANWR, which they trivialized when they stopped it - wouldn't be enough to make an impact, as compared to the total that can come once emptying our reserve.

What will be the impact on supplies and prices later when we have to buy oil and take it off the market to build back a strategic reserve?

Not really chess players, they couldn't think one move ahead.
3869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: July 01, 2011, 07:08:48 AM
Native Iowan would not be Bachmann's pitch if she were running for one of Minnesota's far left senate seats.  She also would start as a 20 point underdog with no second chance to make a first impression.

The proximity makes visiting easier for Pawlenty in particular, also Bachmann once congress finishes business and goes on recess.  

During Pawlenty's time as Governor I doubt many Iowans were aware of him.  I needed google to remember who is governor of Iowa now.  Different markets. Other than the visits, Iowans see these folks on the same national shows as everyone else.  Palin, Romney, Gingrich, Giuliani, even Ron Paul - all had higher total numbers of familiarity in Iowa than Pawlenty and Bachmann.  

One thing striking from the poll is that people thought it was impossible to oppose ethanol subsidies in Iowa.  Pawlenty did that in his Des Moines announcement speech.  58-13 favorable means he survived that but hasn't broken through for other reasons.

The second point of BD is very true.  The straw poll tells us something about the activist part of the conservative electorate, but is nothing like a full primary or general election so it has a different winner, see 2007 below.  For every candidate, even the winner in Iowa, it is all about gaining traction. The activists this year are like kids in a candy store with Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul all coming through, plus Sarah Palin and perhaps Rick Perry.  Pawlenty courts those people but probably needs to pull more first ballot support from Romney and Newt's numbers to gain anything.  His real problem is how to gain any traction in places like NH and SC if he has no positive headline coming out of Iowa.

Still, it's the flirting and courting stage.  There will be a couple more momentum shifts before the main events.  I wouldn't have predicted McCain or Obama in 2008 - and neither did Iowa in August 11, 2007:
Place    Candidate    Votes    Percentage
1    Mitt Romney    4,516    31.6%
2    Mike Huckabee    2,587    18.1%
3    Sam Brownback    2,192    15.3%
4    Tom Tancredo    1,961    13.7%
5    Ron Paul    1,305    9.1%
6    Tommy Thompson    1,039    7.3%
7    Fred Thompson    203    1.4%
8    Rudy Giuliani    183    1.3%
9    Duncan Hunter    174    1.2%
10    John McCain    101    0.7%

OTOH, McCain perhaps thought he was clever to skip Iowa and focus on New Hampshire, but in Nov he lost both states by 9-10 points.  The goal of 2012 is not to become the McCain or Dukakis of our time.
3870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / re: Tax Policy: Obama tax increases back on the table on: June 30, 2011, 06:40:47 PM
Paraphrasing Sec. Geithner, we NEED to increase the burden on businesses who hire.  Otherwise that burden would fall onto our lean, already cash-strapped federal government.  "There is really no alternative to doing it."

http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=2123.msg51038#msg51038  (Decline and Fall thread)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=H4bYNkXu5qs#at=14
3871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential: Iowa Poll on: June 30, 2011, 06:17:37 PM
Very early info while Bachmann is the hot ticket of the moment pulling roughly even with Romney.  The favorables/unfavorables also tell something about how the candidates are being received in Iowa:
3872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 30, 2011, 01:03:32 AM
People that have played hockey with the governor might suggest regarding his hockey and fighting skills that he not quit his day job. smiley  Good answer though.  He didn't play Herb Brooks 'Miracle on ice' level hockey nor was he a Derek Boogaard level fighter but hockey does toughen you, it's all teamwork and you learn (political analogy) that if you keep your balance and keep your head on straight going into the collisions you can be the one still standing after a big hit.
3873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 30, 2011, 12:41:31 AM
JDN to al Qaida (?): "Stop the needless wars and maybe we will balance the budget"... we need a leader "the President" [who will] follow... 

I think GM's point was that quite a bloodbath followed our exit in Vietnam.  A bit callous to say not our problem that perhaps 165,000 perished on our exit. Orange County Register 4/29/2001 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War_casualties

We went to war against Hitler because they attacked us at Pearl Harbor...oops that isn't right.  I'm no WWII or Vietnam expert but Hitler's Germany was attacking and taking over countries.  Stalin, Kruchev and the Soviets were not peace loving people either, nor Mao.  The map of the 1960s was showing more and more red with the spread of communism.  Maybe we look back now and see Vietnam more as a civil war but I think JFK and LBJ saw it as another domino in a world falling to communism.  I think the point of the current wars was to give the current threat no safe harbor to launch from.
3874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Foreign Policy: Pawlenty speech on: June 29, 2011, 01:51:21 PM
I agree with Crafty that separate from the context of the campaign we should discuss and argue this from a policy point of view.  He basically argued these same (hawkish) points in rebuttal to Ron Paul in the NH debate - in the 60 seconds provided.
-------------------
Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the Council on Foreign Affairs, 6/28/11:  (Link at the end)

I want to speak plainly this morning about the opportunities and the dangers we face today in the Middle East.  The revolutions now roiling that region offer the promise of a more democratic, more open, and a more prosperous Arab world.  From Morocco to the Arabian Gulf, the escape from the dead hand of oppression is now a real possibility.   

Now is not the time to retreat from freedom’s rise.

Yet at the same time, we know these revolutions can bring to power forces that are neither democratic nor forward-looking.  Just as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and elsewhere see a chance for a better life of genuine freedom, the leaders of radical Islam see a chance to ride political turmoil into power.

The United States has a vital stake in the future of this region.  We have been presented with a challenge as great as any we have faced in recent decades.  And we must get it right.  The question is, are we up to the challenge?

My answer is, of course we are.  If we are clear about our interests and guided by our principles, we can help steer events in the right direction.  Our nation has done this in the past -- at the end of World War II, in the last decade of the Cold War, and in the more recent war on terror … and we can do it again.

But President Obama has failed to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy in response to these events.  He has been timid, slow, and too often without a clear understanding of our interests or a clear commitment to our principles.

And parts of the Republican Party now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments.  This is no time for uncertain leadership in either party.  The stakes are simply too high, and the opportunity is simply too great.

No one in this Administration predicted the events of the Arab spring - but the freedom deficit in the Arab world was no secret.  For 60 years, Western nations excused and accommodated the lack of freedom in the Middle East.  That could not last.  The days of comfortable private deals with dictators were coming to an end in the age of Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook.  And history teaches there is no such thing as stable oppression.

President Obama has ignored that lesson of history.  Instead of promoting democracy – whose fruit we see now ripening across the region – he adopted a murky policy he called “engagement.”

“Engagement” meant that in 2009, when the Iranian ayatollahs stole an election, and the people of that country rose up in protest, President Obama held his tongue.  His silence validated the mullahs, despite the blood on their hands and the nuclear centrifuges in their tunnels.

While protesters were killed and tortured, Secretary Clinton said the Administration was “waiting to see the outcome of the internal Iranian processes.”  She and the president waited long enough to see the Green Movement crushed.

“Engagement” meant that in his first year in office, President Obama cut democracy funding for Egyptian civil society by 74 percent.  As one American democracy organization noted, this was “perceived by Egyptian democracy activists as signaling a lack of support.”  They perceived correctly.  It was a lack of support.

“Engagement” meant that when crisis erupted in Cairo this year, as tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, Secretary Clinton declared, “the Egyptian Government is stable.”  Two weeks later, Mubarak was gone.  When Secretary Clinton visited Cairo after Mubarak’s fall, democratic activist groups refused to meet with her.  And who can blame them?

The forces we now need to succeed in Egypt -- the pro-democracy, secular political parties -- these are the very people President Obama cut off, and Secretary Clinton dismissed.

The Obama “engagement” policy in Syria led the Administration to call Bashar al Assad a “reformer.”  Even as Assad’s regime was shooting hundreds of protesters dead in the street, President Obama announced his plan to give Assad “an alternative vision of himself.”  Does anyone outside a therapist’s office have any idea what that means?  This is what passes for moral clarity in the Obama Administration.

By contrast, I called for Assad’s departure on March 29; I call for it again today.  We should recall our ambassador from Damascus; and I call for that again today.  The leader of the United States should never leave those willing to sacrifice their lives in the cause of freedom wondering where America stands.  As President, I will not.

We need a president who fully understands that America never “leads from behind.”

We cannot underestimate how pivotal this moment is in Middle Eastern history.  We need decisive, clear-eyed leadership that is responsive to this historical moment of change in ways that are consistent with our deepest principles and safeguards our vital interests.

Opportunity still exists amid the turmoil of the Arab Spring -- and we should seize it.

As I see it, the governments of the Middle East fall into four broad categories, and each requires a different strategic approach.

The first category consists of three countries now at various stages of transition toward democracy – the formerly fake republics in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.  Iraq is also in this category, but is further along on its journey toward democracy.

For these countries, our goal should be to help promote freedom and democracy.

Elections that produce anti-democratic regimes undermine both freedom and stability.  We must do more than monitor polling places.  We must redirect foreign aid away from efforts to merely build good will, and toward efforts to build good allies -- genuine democracies governed by free people according to the rule of law.  And we must insist that our international partners get off the sidelines and do the same.

We should have no illusions about the difficulty of the transitions faced by Libya, Tunisia, and especially Egypt.  Whereas Libya is rich in oil, and Tunisia is small, Egypt is large, populous, and poor.  Among the region’s emerging democracies, it remains the biggest opportunity and the biggest danger for American interests.

Having ejected the Mubarak regime, too many Egyptians are now rejecting the beginnings of the economic opening engineered in the last decade.  We act out of friendship when we tell Egyptians, and every new democracy, that economic growth and prosperity are the result of free markets and free trade—not subsidies and foreign aid.  If we want these countries to succeed, we must afford them the respect of telling them the truth.

In Libya, the best help America can provide to these new friends is to stop leading from behind and commit America’s strength to removing Ghadafi, recognizing the TNC as the government of Libya, and unfreezing assets so the TNC can afford security and essential services as it marches toward Tripoli.

Beyond Libya, America should always promote the universal principles that undergird freedom.  We should press new friends to end discrimination against women, to establish independent courts, and freedom of speech and the press.  We must insist on religious freedoms for all, including the region’s minorities—whether Christian, Shia, Sunni, or Bahai.

The second category of states is the Arab monarchies.  Some – like Jordan and Morocco – are engaging now in what looks like genuine reform.  This should earn our praise and our assistance.  These kings have understood they must forge a partnership with their own people, leading step by step toward more democratic societies.  These monarchies can smooth the path to constitutional reform and freedom and thereby deepen their own legitimacy.  If they choose this route, they, too, deserve our help.

But others are resisting reform. While President Obama spoke well about Bahrain in his recent speech, he neglected to utter two important words:  Saudi Arabia.

US-Saudi relations are at an all-time low—and not primarily because of the Arab Spring.  They were going downhill fast, long before the uprisings began.  The Saudis saw an American Administration yearning to engage Iran—just at the time they saw Iran, correctly, as a mortal enemy.

We need to tell the Saudis what we think, which will only be effective if we have a position of trust with them.  We will develop that trust by demonstrating that we share their great concern about Iran and that we are committed to doing all that is necessary to defend the region from Iranian aggression.

At the same time, we need to be frank about what the Saudis must do to insure stability in their own country.  Above all, they need to reform and open their society.  Their treatment of Christians and other minorities, and their treatment of women, is indefensible and must change.

We know that reform will come to Saudi Arabia—sooner and more smoothly if the royal family accepts and designs it.  It will come later and with turbulence and even violence if they resist.  The vast wealth of their country should be used to support reforms that fit Saudi history and culture—but not to buy off the people as a substitute for lasting reform.

The third category consists of states that are directly hostile to America.  They include Iran and Syria.  The Arab Spring has already vastly undermined the appeal of Al Qaeda and the killing of Osama Bin Laden has significantly weakened it.

The success of peaceful protests in several Arab countries has shown the world that terror is not only evil, but will eventually be overcome by good.  Peaceful protests may soon bring down the Assad regime in Syria.  The 2009 protests in Iran inspired Arabs to seek their freedom.  Similarly, the Arab protests of this year, and the fall of regime after broken regime, can inspire Iranians to seek their freedom once again.

We have a clear interest in seeing an end to Assad’s murderous regime.  By sticking to Bashar al Assad so long, the Obama Administration has not only frustrated Syrians who are fighting for freedom—it has demonstrated strategic blindness.  The governments of Iran and Syria are enemies of the United States.  They are not reformers and never will be.  They support each other.  To weaken or replace one, is to weaken or replace the other.   

The fall of the Assad mafia in Damascus would weaken Hamas, which is headquartered there.  It would weaken Hezbollah, which gets its arms from Iran, through Syria.  And it would weaken the Iranian regime itself.   

To take advantage of this moment, we should press every diplomatic and economic channel to bring the Assad reign of terror to an end.  We need more forceful sanctions to persuade Syria’s Sunni business elite that Assad is too expensive to keep backing.  We need to work with Turkey and the Arab nations and the Europeans, to further isolate the regime.  And we need to encourage opponents of the regime by making our own position very clear, right now:  Bashar al-Assad must go.

When he does, the mullahs of Iran will find themselves isolated and vulnerable.  Syria is Iran’s only Arab ally.  If we peel that away, I believe it will hasten the fall of the mullahs.  And that is the ultimate goal we must pursue.  It’s the singular opportunity offered to the world by the brave men and women of the Arab Spring.

The march of freedom in the Middle East cuts across the region’s diversity of religious, ethnic, and political groups.  But it is born of a particular unity.  It is a united front against stolen elections and stolen liberty, secret police, corruption, and the state-sanctioned violence that is the essence of the Iranian regime’s tyranny.

So this is a moment to ratchet up pressure and speak with clarity.  More sanctions.  More and better broadcasting into Iran.  More assistance to Iranians to access the Internet and satellite TV and the knowledge and freedom that comes with it.  More efforts to expose the vicious repression inside that country and expose Teheran’s regime for the pariah it is.

And, very critically, we must have more clarity when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program.  In 2008, candidate Barack Obama told AIPAC that he would “always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel.”  This year, he told AIPAC “we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”  So I have to ask: are all the options still on the table or not?  If he’s not clear with us, it’s no wonder that even our closest allies are confused.   

The Administration should enforce all sanctions for which legal authority already exits.  We should enact and then enforce new pending legislation which strengthens sanctions particularly against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who control much of the Iranian economy.

And in the middle of all this, is Israel.

Israel is unique in the region because of what it stands for and what it has accomplished.  And it is unique in the threat it faces—the threat of annihilation.  It has long been a bastion of democracy in a region of tyranny and violence.  And it is by far our closest ally in that part of the world.

Despite wars and terrorists attacks, Israel offers all its citizens, men and women, Jews, Christians, Muslims and, others including 1.5 million Arabs, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to vote, access to independent courts and all other democratic rights.

Nowhere has President Obama’s lack of judgment been more stunning than in his dealings with Israel.

It breaks my heart that President Obama treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem, rather than as an ally.  The President seems to genuinely believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the heart of every problem in the Middle East.  He said it Cairo in 2009 and again this year.   

President Obama could not be more wrong.

The uprisings in Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli and elsewhere are not about Israelis and Palestinians. They’re about oppressed people yearning for freedom and prosperity.  Whether those countries become prosperous and free is not about how many apartments Israel builds in Jerusalem.

Today the president doesn’t really have a policy toward the peace process.  He has an attitude.  And let’s be frank about what that attitude is:  he thinks Israel is the problem.  And he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel.

I reject that anti-Israel attitude.  I reject it because Israel is a close and reliable democratic ally.  And I reject it because I know the people of Israel want peace.

Israeli – Palestinian peace is further away now than the day Barack Obama came to office.  But that does not have to be a permanent situation.

We must recognize that peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives clearly that America stands strongly with Israel.

I would take a new approach.

First, I would never undermine Israel’s negotiating position, nor pressure it to accept borders which jeopardize security and its ability to defend itself.

Second, I would not pressure Israel to negotiate with Hamas or a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless Hamas renounces terror, accepts Israel’s right to exist, and honors the previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. In short, Hamas needs to cease being a terrorist group in both word and deed as a first step towards global legitimacy.

Third, I would ensure our assistance to the Palestinians immediately ends if the teaching of hatred in Palestinian classrooms and airwaves continues. That incitement must end now.

Fourth, I would recommend cultivating and empowering moderate forces in Palestinian society.

When the Palestinians have leaders who are honest and capable, who appreciate the rule of law, who understand that war against Israel has doomed generations of Palestinians to lives of bitterness, violence, and poverty – then peace will come.

The Middle East is changing before our eyes—but our government has not kept up.  It abandoned the promotion of democracy just as Arabs were about to seize it.  It sought to cozy up to dictators just as their own people rose against them.  It downplayed our principles and distanced us from key allies.

All this was wrong, and these policies have failed.  The Administration has abandoned them, and at the price of American leadership.  A region that since World War II has looked to us for security and progress now wonders where we are and what we’re up to.

The next president must do better. Today, in our own Republican Party, some look back and conclude our projection of strength and defense of freedom was a product of different times and different challenges.  While times have changed, the nature of the challenge has not.

In the 1980s, we were up against a violent, totalitarian ideology bent on subjugating the people and principles of the West.  While others sought to co-exist, President Reagan instead sought victory.  So must we, today.  For America is exceptional, and we have the moral clarity to lead the world.

It is not wrong for Republicans to question the conduct of President Obama’s military leadership in Libya.  There is much to question.  And it is not wrong for Republicans to debate the timing of our military drawdown in Afghanistan— though my belief is that General Petraeus’ voice ought to carry the most weight on that question.   

What is wrong, is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world.  History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item.

America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal.  It does not need a second one.

Our enemies in the War on Terror, just like our opponents in the Cold War, respect and respond to strength.  Sometimes strength means military intervention.  Sometimes it means diplomatic pressure.  It always means moral clarity in word and deed.

That is the legacy of Republican foreign policy at its best, and the banner our next Republican President must carry around the world.   

Our ideals of economic and political freedom, of equality and opportunity for all citizens, remain the dream of people in the Middle East and throughout the world.  As America stands for these principles, and stands with our friends and allies, we will help the Middle East transform this moment of turbulence into a firmer, more lasting opportunity for freedom, peace, and progress.  http://www.timpawlenty.com/articles/no-retreat-from-freedoms-rise-gov-tim-pawlentys-remarks-at-council-on-foreign-relations
3875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 29, 2011, 01:43:03 PM
CCP, Interesting, I agree.  Each of these people have their role to play.  Ours is in the armchair telling them what their role is. smiley The best thing Michele Bachmann can do IMO is hold Republican feet to the fire from inside of congress.  Demint in the senate is doing that also.  Her Presidential run, to the extent that it goes well, increases her power in that role.  When the key primaries hit, people I think are going to look at who has governed and who can win in the general election and that is a challenge all of them have to demonstrate.

Pawlenty I think has gotten excellent attention from punditry and opinion leaders and access to the shows.  He is one who has the experience and has done his homework.  His struggle is to poll as voter's first choice, not just win a mildly favorable reaction.  He needs to win enough support to compete and stay relevant and he needs to raise money.  https://action.timpawlenty.com/contribute   wink  His strengths (consistent, conservative and qualified) will help him more later in the process if he makes it that far.

Over the media, he comes across as the ordinary guy.  Not a chiseled face for Mt Rushmore nor a Barry White voice for network anchor.  Advisers and pundits tell him to come across stronger and be more exciting.  There are limits to that.  He needs to be his best but be himself, not something he isn't.  He needs keep the focus on direction and competence.
3876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: June 29, 2011, 12:30:01 PM
Like with legalization of drug issues, there are some inherent contentions between conservatism and libertarianism.  My view is that we can have lines drawn in law about morality and decency beyond just prosecuting theft and murder.  I fear slippery slopes too but I disagree with the idea that no limits can be placed on decadence without descending into a total police control state.  I'm not worried so much about keeping my daughter from porn, I'm opposed to it being universally available to all boys at all ages learning all the wrong messages at the wrong time in  the culture she lives in.  If their parents want that for their child, then they can provide it to the child, but I support reasonable restrictions on what merchants can provide to other people's children without parents express consent.

ps.  Crafty is quite knowledgeable on the titles for sale in that section of the store!  smiley
3877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential: Pres. Pawlenty's approach to Middle East on: June 29, 2011, 12:07:48 PM
I want to speak plainly this morning about the opportunities and the dangers we face today in the Middle East.  The revolutions now roiling that region offer the promise of a more democratic, more open, and a more prosperous Arab world.  From Morocco to the Arabian Gulf, the escape from the dead hand of oppression is now a real possibility.   

Now is not the time to retreat from freedom’s rise.

Yet at the same time, we know these revolutions can bring to power forces that are neither democratic nor forward-looking.  Just as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and elsewhere see a chance for a better life of genuine freedom, the leaders of radical Islam see a chance to ride political turmoil into power.

The United States has a vital stake in the future of this region.  We have been presented with a challenge as great as any we have faced in recent decades.  And we must get it right.  The question is, are we up to the challenge? 

My answer is, of course we are.  If we are clear about our interests and guided by our principles, we can help steer events in the right direction.  Our nation has done this in the past -- at the end of World War II, in the last decade of the Cold War, and in the more recent war on terror … and we can do it again.

But President Obama has failed to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy in response to these events.  He has been timid, slow, and too often without a clear understanding of our interests or a clear commitment to our principles.

And parts of the Republican Party now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments.  This is no time for uncertain leadership in either party.  The stakes are simply too high, and the opportunity is simply too great.

No one in this Administration predicted the events of the Arab spring - but the freedom deficit in the Arab world was no secret.  For 60 years, Western nations excused and accommodated the lack of freedom in the Middle East.  That could not last.  The days of comfortable private deals with dictators were coming to an end in the age of Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook.  And history teaches there is no such thing as stable oppression. 

President Obama has ignored that lesson of history.  Instead of promoting democracy – whose fruit we see now ripening across the region – he adopted a murky policy he called “engagement.” 

“Engagement” meant that in 2009, when the Iranian ayatollahs stole an election, and the people of that country rose up in protest, President Obama held his tongue.  His silence validated the mullahs, despite the blood on their hands and the nuclear centrifuges in their tunnels. 

While protesters were killed and tortured, Secretary Clinton said the Administration was “waiting to see the outcome of the internal Iranian processes.”  She and the president waited long enough to see the Green Movement crushed. 

“Engagement” meant that in his first year in office, President Obama cut democracy funding for Egyptian civil society by 74 percent.  As one American democracy organization noted, this was “perceived by Egyptian democracy activists as signaling a lack of support.”  They perceived correctly.  It was a lack of support. 

“Engagement” meant that when crisis erupted in Cairo this year, as tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, Secretary Clinton declared, “the Egyptian Government is stable.”  Two weeks later, Mubarak was gone.  When Secretary Clinton visited Cairo after Mubarak’s fall, democratic activist groups refused to meet with her.  And who can blame them?

The forces we now need to succeed in Egypt -- the pro-democracy, secular political parties -- these are the very people President Obama cut off, and Secretary Clinton dismissed. 

The Obama “engagement” policy in Syria led the Administration to call Bashar al Assad a “reformer.”  Even as Assad’s regime was shooting hundreds of protesters dead in the street, President Obama announced his plan to give Assad “an alternative vision of himself.”  Does anyone outside a therapist’s office have any idea what that means?  This is what passes for moral clarity in the Obama Administration. 

By contrast, I called for Assad’s departure on March 29; I call for it again today.  We should recall our ambassador from Damascus; and I call for that again today.  The leader of the United States should never leave those willing to sacrifice their lives in the cause of freedom wondering where America stands.  As President, I will not.

We need a president who fully understands that America never “leads from behind.” 

We cannot underestimate how pivotal this moment is in Middle Eastern history.  We need decisive, clear-eyed leadership that is responsive to this historical moment of change in ways that are consistent with our deepest principles and safeguards our vital interests. 

Opportunity still exists amid the turmoil of the Arab Spring -- and we should seize it.

As I see it, the governments of the Middle East fall into four broad categories, and each requires a different strategic approach.

The first category consists of three countries now at various stages of transition toward democracy – the formerly fake republics in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.  Iraq is also in this category, but is further along on its journey toward democracy. 

For these countries, our goal should be to help promote freedom and democracy. 

Elections that produce anti-democratic regimes undermine both freedom and stability.  We must do more than monitor polling places.  We must redirect foreign aid away from efforts to merely build good will, and toward efforts to build good allies -- genuine democracies governed by free people according to the rule of law.  And we must insist that our international partners get off the sidelines and do the same. 

We should have no illusions about the difficulty of the transitions faced by Libya, Tunisia, and especially Egypt.  Whereas Libya is rich in oil, and Tunisia is small, Egypt is large, populous, and poor.  Among the region’s emerging democracies, it remains the biggest opportunity and the biggest danger for American interests. 

Having ejected the Mubarak regime, too many Egyptians are now rejecting the beginnings of the economic opening engineered in the last decade.  We act out of friendship when we tell Egyptians, and every new democracy, that economic growth and prosperity are the result of free markets and free trade—not subsidies and foreign aid.  If we want these countries to succeed, we must afford them the respect of telling them the truth. 

In Libya, the best help America can provide to these new friends is to stop leading from behind and commit America’s strength to removing Ghadafi, recognizing the TNC as the government of Libya, and unfreezing assets so the TNC can afford security and essential services as it marches toward Tripoli. 

Beyond Libya, America should always promote the universal principles that undergird freedom.  We should press new friends to end discrimination against women, to establish independent courts, and freedom of speech and the press.  We must insist on religious freedoms for all, including the region’s minorities—whether Christian, Shia, Sunni, or Bahai. 

The second category of states is the Arab monarchies.  Some – like Jordan and Morocco – are engaging now in what looks like genuine reform.  This should earn our praise and our assistance.  These kings have understood they must forge a partnership with their own people, leading step by step toward more democratic societies.  These monarchies can smooth the path to constitutional reform and freedom and thereby deepen their own legitimacy.  If they choose this route, they, too, deserve our help. 

But others are resisting reform. While President Obama spoke well about Bahrain in his recent speech, he neglected to utter two important words:  Saudi Arabia. 

US-Saudi relations are at an all-time low—and not primarily because of the Arab Spring.  They were going downhill fast, long before the uprisings began.  The Saudis saw an American Administration yearning to engage Iran—just at the time they saw Iran, correctly, as a mortal enemy. 

We need to tell the Saudis what we think, which will only be effective if we have a position of trust with them.  We will develop that trust by demonstrating that we share their great concern about Iran and that we are committed to doing all that is necessary to defend the region from Iranian aggression.

At the same time, we need to be frank about what the Saudis must do to insure stability in their own country.  Above all, they need to reform and open their society.  Their treatment of Christians and other minorities, and their treatment of women, is indefensible and must change.

We know that reform will come to Saudi Arabia—sooner and more smoothly if the royal family accepts and designs it.  It will come later and with turbulence and even violence if they resist.  The vast wealth of their country should be used to support reforms that fit Saudi history and culture—but not to buy off the people as a substitute for lasting reform.

The third category consists of states that are directly hostile to America.  They include Iran and Syria.  The Arab Spring has already vastly undermined the appeal of Al Qaeda and the killing of Osama Bin Laden has significantly weakened it.

The success of peaceful protests in several Arab countries has shown the world that terror is not only evil, but will eventually be overcome by good.  Peaceful protests may soon bring down the Assad regime in Syria.  The 2009 protests in Iran inspired Arabs to seek their freedom.  Similarly, the Arab protests of this year, and the fall of regime after broken regime, can inspire Iranians to seek their freedom once again. 

We have a clear interest in seeing an end to Assad’s murderous regime.  By sticking to Bashar al Assad so long, the Obama Administration has not only frustrated Syrians who are fighting for freedom—it has demonstrated strategic blindness.  The governments of Iran and Syria are enemies of the United States.  They are not reformers and never will be.  They support each other.  To weaken or replace one, is to weaken or replace the other.   

The fall of the Assad mafia in Damascus would weaken Hamas, which is headquartered there.  It would weaken Hezbollah, which gets its arms from Iran, through Syria.  And it would weaken the Iranian regime itself.   

To take advantage of this moment, we should press every diplomatic and economic channel to bring the Assad reign of terror to an end.  We need more forceful sanctions to persuade Syria’s Sunni business elite that Assad is too expensive to keep backing.  We need to work with Turkey and the Arab nations and the Europeans, to further isolate the regime.  And we need to encourage opponents of the regime by making our own position very clear, right now:  Bashar al-Assad must go. 

When he does, the mullahs of Iran will find themselves isolated and vulnerable.  Syria is Iran’s only Arab ally.  If we peel that away, I believe it will hasten the fall of the mullahs.  And that is the ultimate goal we must pursue.  It’s the singular opportunity offered to the world by the brave men and women of the Arab Spring.

The march of freedom in the Middle East cuts across the region’s diversity of religious, ethnic, and political groups.  But it is born of a particular unity.  It is a united front against stolen elections and stolen liberty, secret police, corruption, and the state-sanctioned violence that is the essence of the Iranian regime’s tyranny. 

So this is a moment to ratchet up pressure and speak with clarity.  More sanctions.  More and better broadcasting into Iran.  More assistance to Iranians to access the Internet and satellite TV and the knowledge and freedom that comes with it.  More efforts to expose the vicious repression inside that country and expose Teheran’s regime for the pariah it is. 

And, very critically, we must have more clarity when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program.  In 2008, candidate Barack Obama told AIPAC that he would “always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel.”  This year, he told AIPAC “we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”  So I have to ask: are all the options still on the table or not?  If he’s not clear with us, it’s no wonder that even our closest allies are confused.   

The Administration should enforce all sanctions for which legal authority already exits.  We should enact and then enforce new pending legislation which strengthens sanctions particularly against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who control much of the Iranian economy.

And in the middle of all this, is Israel.

Israel is unique in the region because of what it stands for and what it has accomplished.  And it is unique in the threat it faces—the threat of annihilation.  It has long been a bastion of democracy in a region of tyranny and violence.  And it is by far our closest ally in that part of the world. 

Despite wars and terrorists attacks, Israel offers all its citizens, men and women, Jews, Christians, Muslims and, others including 1.5 million Arabs, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to vote, access to independent courts and all other democratic rights. 

Nowhere has President Obama’s lack of judgment been more stunning than in his dealings with Israel. 

It breaks my heart that President Obama treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem, rather than as an ally.  The President seems to genuinely believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the heart of every problem in the Middle East.  He said it Cairo in 2009 and again this year.   

President Obama could not be more wrong. 

The uprisings in Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli and elsewhere are not about Israelis and Palestinians. They’re about oppressed people yearning for freedom and prosperity.  Whether those countries become prosperous and free is not about how many apartments Israel builds in Jerusalem.

Today the president doesn’t really have a policy toward the peace process.  He has an attitude.  And let’s be frank about what that attitude is:  he thinks Israel is the problem.  And he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel. 

I reject that anti-Israel attitude.  I reject it because Israel is a close and reliable democratic ally.  And I reject it because I know the people of Israel want peace.

Israeli – Palestinian peace is further away now than the day Barack Obama came to office.  But that does not have to be a permanent situation.

We must recognize that peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives clearly that America stands strongly with Israel. 

I would take a new approach.

First, I would never undermine Israel’s negotiating position, nor pressure it to accept borders which jeopardize security and its ability to defend itself.

Second, I would not pressure Israel to negotiate with Hamas or a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless Hamas renounces terror, accepts Israel’s right to exist, and honors the previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. In short, Hamas needs to cease being a terrorist group in both word and deed as a first step towards global legitimacy.

Third, I would ensure our assistance to the Palestinians immediately ends if the teaching of hatred in Palestinian classrooms and airwaves continues. That incitement must end now.

Fourth, I would recommend cultivating and empowering moderate forces in Palestinian society.

When the Palestinians have leaders who are honest and capable, who appreciate the rule of law, who understand that war against Israel has doomed generations of Palestinians to lives of bitterness, violence, and poverty – then peace will come.

The Middle East is changing before our eyes—but our government has not kept up.  It abandoned the promotion of democracy just as Arabs were about to seize it.  It sought to cozy up to dictators just as their own people rose against them.  It downplayed our principles and distanced us from key allies.

All this was wrong, and these policies have failed.  The Administration has abandoned them, and at the price of American leadership.  A region that since World War II has looked to us for security and progress now wonders where we are and what we’re up to.

The next president must do better. Today, in our own Republican Party, some look back and conclude our projection of strength and defense of freedom was a product of different times and different challenges.  While times have changed, the nature of the challenge has not. 

In the 1980s, we were up against a violent, totalitarian ideology bent on subjugating the people and principles of the West.  While others sought to co-exist, President Reagan instead sought victory.  So must we, today.  For America is exceptional, and we have the moral clarity to lead the world.

It is not wrong for Republicans to question the conduct of President Obama’s military leadership in Libya.  There is much to question.  And it is not wrong for Republicans to debate the timing of our military drawdown in Afghanistan— though my belief is that General Petraeus’ voice ought to carry the most weight on that question.   

What is wrong, is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world.  History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item. 

America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal.  It does not need a second one.

Our enemies in the War on Terror, just like our opponents in the Cold War, respect and respond to strength.  Sometimes strength means military intervention.  Sometimes it means diplomatic pressure.  It always means moral clarity in word and deed. 

That is the legacy of Republican foreign policy at its best, and the banner our next Republican President must carry around the world.   

Our ideals of economic and political freedom, of equality and opportunity for all citizens, remain the dream of people in the Middle East and throughout the world.  As America stands for these principles, and stands with our friends and allies, we will help the Middle East transform this moment of turbulence into a firmer, more lasting opportunity for freedom, peace, and progress.  http://www.timpawlenty.com/articles/no-retreat-from-freedoms-rise-gov-tim-pawlentys-remarks-at-council-on-foreign-relations
3878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media: Powerline 3.0 on: June 29, 2011, 11:05:10 AM
The guys at Powerline IMO are thoughtful conservatives, insightful and objective in my opinion, [of whom] wink I quote or source often.  Just a note here to point out they upgraded from a blog to a newspaper format today to make the site more readable: http://www.powerlineblog.com/
3879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: June 29, 2011, 10:55:58 AM
JDN, (I hit post while still writing, starting over)Looks like my reaction to your question is covered in Crafty's post of Scalia's opinion (and points just made by Bigdog).  To me it is about parental control rights rather than children's rights.  Government isn't denying the kid the Playboy; it is requiring the parent to buy it or approve the purchase instead undermining that relationship.  The slippery slope would be the end of restricted movies too. Is that what we want?

There is a difference JDN between the wisdom of the details of any of these laws infringing on minors and empowering parents, x movies, violent games, cigarettes etc and having the court say those restrictions in your locality can't be done.
3880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential: Rick Perry on: June 28, 2011, 02:27:19 PM
When we say executive experience, running a 3-20 person office isn't preparation for Commander in Chief, it is just some first hand small business understanding, more than all of the current cabinet combined -  a sad observation.  Governor of a small medium-sized state isn't good enough alone either, being a one-term or partial-term governor isn't good enough.  Somewhere in there though we pick the best of what is available, as Dems tried to do picking governors of Georgia, Massachusetts and Arkansas, before picking zero experience and winning - if Obama is still considered a win for them.

Agree that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas will be the next one to watch.  Probably a 50/50 he will get in.  Depends on how he and his family think they will hold up to the scrutiny.  He has the oratory ability to project out the big picture of what America means.  On a par of stature with Romney and better in content.  Reagan obviously had it.  Marco Rubio has it, and so few others.  Clinton and Obama have something even greater - the ability to project out that feeling while twisting the principles we all believe in to mean something else.

I recall Freki (I believe) posting that Perry is phony - a typical politician.  Maybe so, but his flaws come in from a totally different part of the political spectrum than Pres. Obama or even Romney, quite a bit more conservative than most, including that other Texas governor.

Question becomes (IMO) who best embraces the ideas of Cain, Bachman, Rubio, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, etc -p and is running and has credible experience and delivery.  Realistically, this race comes down to hiring without experience or choose from a few governors who have taken some path of realistic stepping stones to running the American executive branch.
-------
ps I just saw my first presidential bumper sticker and it wasn't for one of the 3 Minnesotans running.  "Allen West 2012".
3881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Immigration issues: Who is the home team in L.A.? on: June 28, 2011, 12:08:24 PM
Where I live we have our own border issue when Packer fans take over the Vikings metrodome once a year.  This story in American Thinker says that the US team was booed in their soccer matchup against Mexico:

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/06/in_rose_bowl_mexico_is_home_team_as_us_soccer_team_is_booed.html

In Rose Bowl, Mexico is 'home' team as U.S. soccer team is booed

...for the sake of those who will say this is just a sporting contest, and nothing is to be inferred or learned from it, here are a couple thoughts:

In soccer, as in no other sport, team allegiance mirrors national allegiance.  Soccer's ultimate contest, The World Cup, is a competition of national teams. The national team World Cup mentality dominates the entire fan base.  In inter-country games, the fan roots for the team whose flag owns his heart and claims his first allegiance.  The PC Los Angeles Times quotes one of the Mexican team's Rose Bowl fans, in part, as follows: "I was born in Mexico, and that is where my heart will always be."  Exactly.  And that's the problem with recent and present Mexican immigration.

The massive river of immigrants from Mexico, legal and illegal, that the Democratic Party has been chaperoning into America for decades, in goals and desires, is not your grandparents' immigrants.  The vast majority come to share space and partake of our prosperity (such as it is), not to become Americans.  They are encouraged in these aims by those who welcome them for their own electoral purposes -- Democrat activists, who know that, as an unassimilated nation apart, laden with grievances and a sense of victimhood, Mexican immigrants are most likely to become dependable clients and voters of the statist party.

 Judging by the sympathies of the vast majority of the Rose Bowl crowd, Democrats are getting their wish. No one will ever know for sure how many present at Pasadena on that warm southern California evening were second or third generation "Americans", or how many are in fact American citizens. But those in the crowd who fit these profiles must have been huge in number.  And still, whether second or third generation, or American citizen, their first allegiance manifestly was to a foreign state.  

And that first allegiance is dragging America into balkanization and disintegration. In these trends, as in so many other phenomena destructive of the nation we all once knew, California leads the way.  New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado are right behind, closing fast.  Other states will follow if the pattern is not stopped and soon.

In his last public utterance, then former President Theodore Roosevelt spoke of the terms on which immigration to America should be offered, and of the reward for the immigrant's acceptance of those terms:

    "In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin.  But this is predicated on the man's becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American.

    If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn't doing his part as an American.

    "We have room for but one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people."

Letter of President Theodore Roosevelt, January, 1919, written and read, as intended, in public, just before his death.

Theodore Roosevelt's views of immigration to America, and the promise America extended to the immigrants who kept their side of the bargain, were in fact the terms on which the great waves of European immigrants to America during the period 1880-1920 came, lived their lives, and became Americans.  This writer's four grandparents were among them.  That system worked. And it would work again.  In fact, Theodore Roosevelt's terms are those which every nation in the world, including Mexico, (but not America), requires of its immigrants.

We need to return to our grandparents' immigration: assimilation, English and single, undivided loyalty.  Multiculturalism is a catastrophic, nation-destroying mistake, invented by Democrats to prop up their sagging electoral base. It is pulling America apart.

In the meantime, to each of those living in America whose hearts will always be in Mexico, we can only wish a safe one way journey that reunites heart with body.      

Yet another example of Mexico's reconquista of America's Southwest was displayed at the Rose Bowl in the  prestigious Gold Cup Final between the U.S. and Mexico's soccer teams.
 
Mexico was the "home team" for the largely Hispanic crowd. America's national anthem got no respect: Air horns blared. And once the game started, the U.S. team was constantly booed. Every goal by Mexico's team drew shouts of "Ole!"
 
So what does the Los Angeles Times think about this unsettling spectacle? Sports reporter Bill Plaschke likes it and says so in an article, "In Gold Cup final, it's red, white and boo again."
 
He writes:

    How many places are so diverse that it could fill football stadiums with folks whose roots are somewhere else? How many places offer such a freedom of speech that someone can display an American flag on their porch one day and cheer against the flag the next? I hated it, but I loved it. It felt as if I was in a strange place, and yet I felt right at home."

 He loves it?...But hates it? And gets a warm and fuzzy feeling because it's all about "diversity." Well, this certainly sounds like a nasty case of liberal cognitive dissonance - an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas in one's mind at the same time.
 
To be sure, the sort of thing that Plaschke and L.A. Times regard as an all-American display has been going on for years in Los Angeles. Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington was particularly appalled by what he considered the anti-American displays evident in the Rose Bowl in 1998.
 
In his famous essay "The Hispanic Challenge" in Foreign Policy magazine, Huntington saw the disrespect for American's national anthem and the booing of the U.S. soccer team as harbingers of things to come - a country split in two as Mexicans and other Latinos failed to assimilate into American culture.
 
Referring to Mexican-Americans booing America's national anthem and even assaulting U.S. soccer players, Huntington wrote:

    "Such dramatic rejections of the United States and assertions of Mexican identity are not limited to an extremist minority in the Mexican-American community. Many Mexican immigrants and their offspring simply do not appear to identify primarily with the United States."

 That a Los Angles Times writer approves of the most recent Rose Bowl spectacle underscores yet again that many in the mainstream media are out-of-step with what most Americans believe.
 
Incidentally, one Mexican-American quoted by the L.A. Times said that booing the U.S. team was a natural thing to do. Victor Sanchez, 37, was apparently brought to the U.S. as a boy. Dressed in a Mexico jersey, he explained: "I love this country, it has given me everything that I have, and I'm proud to be part of it. But yet, I didn't have a choice to come here, I was born in Mexico, and that is where my heart will always be."
 
He added: "We're not booing the country, we're booing the team. There is a big difference."
 
Samuel Huntington, who died in 2008, would not be surprised.
3882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential, Bachmann Chief of Staff on: June 28, 2011, 11:15:11 AM
Hard to read that.  For one thing it sounds like an office in disarray under his watch.  OTOH, depending on his reputation and credibility it shows why we need people with serious executive experience and all that entails to become the chief executive.  We need both a 180 turn in ideology which she certainly represents, but we also need the ability to competently manage a very complex government and get things done.
3883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: June 28, 2011, 10:56:39 AM
Sounds like a Supreme Court case in the making.  As the piece points out, they are not regulating gold bullion, they are banning it - taking away an unenumerated right! (?)

"The Ban on Physical/Tangible Bullion trading is set forth by the Dodd-Frank Reform and Consumer Protection Act"

This is a different law than the one contained in ObamaCare also aimed at destroying gold ownership.  That one 'raises revenue' by tracking individual purchases and ownership of gold in order to tax what by definition isn't really a gain.

In a very real sense, the government joins your ownership your gold purchase, if it is even allowed.  You cannot have any part of your investment back without first settling with them.  The government owns the 'gain' portion of your gold and you only own what they determine to be left after it is run through multiple levels of unknown future taxation and surcharges.

In gold, you bought an ounce, you held an ounce, and you sell an ounce.  How can that be a gain?  People who held a dollar or dollar-based asset over that time period took a loss.   All the gold owner did was perhaps avoid that loss on that portion of a portfolio.  Same goes for real estate.

I wander here, but it shows some of the big government bias toward perpetual inflation, in addition to the compounding devaluation of our debt.

3884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: June 28, 2011, 10:30:04 AM
CCP,  Panetta isn't even the furthest left of the Obama circle but the confirmation hearings for the Sec. of Defense certainly present a great opportunity to expose and confront these views.

Conservatives and Republicans often want to end federal departments like energy and education.  If the Obama campaign had been honest they might have proposed closing the DOD.  We shouldn't need to fund a full department in support porous borders, betraying allies and leading the world from behind.  Decisions like troops Afghanistan could be handled from the campaign war room eliminating the obvious duplication.
3885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glibness on Afghanistan war policy: on: June 28, 2011, 10:17:46 AM
3886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: June 28, 2011, 10:13:42 AM
It is good to hear from Denny S on the scene even though the message isn't exactly optimism: "It took the USSR 70 years and a weak government for it to collapse."

"I have become convinced that the revolution is about the drug trade."

Interesting take.  It always looks like the theme is Marxism, which really is some form of Stalinism.   Too many people for reasons unknown to me are willingly transferring what power they had over to tyrants to rule them. 

We do it on a different scale here in the U.S., but we are always devising programs and giving away rights in ways that can't be easily undone in the next election.
3887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glen Beck: GBTV on: June 28, 2011, 09:30:28 AM
"Any comment on it's expected success or failure?"

It will succeed to some extent, but not take over the world.  I think he may be right about the format which I think is view extremely current internet content to the television, as easy as downloaded movies, and who needs cable tv or dish anymore.

Official start is 9/12, but content over the summer in advance of that as well.

Want it to succeed?  Send him money, 50 or 100 dollars buys a full year of content.  New ventures succeed by taking in money...

I believe it is the 3rd rated national radio talk show.  He can promote content and viewership 3 hours a day, 15 hours a week nationwide to people who already show an interest.

(While you are at it, send money to the tea party candidate of your choice.  They all need increasing numbers of contributors as well as dollars to survive and succeed.)

Freedom isn't free.


3888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya: Sen. Jim Webb on: June 28, 2011, 09:00:59 AM
Sen. Jim Webb on Meet the Press:

SEN. WEBB:  We--nobody wants to see Khaddafy remain in power, but that's totally--a totally different question as to how the United States should be involved.  With respect to the United Nations resolutions, the, the Security Council vote was taken with the abstention of Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany.  This wasn't the U.N. saying this is a great thing to do.  And the president did not come to the Congress, and he also--the, the reasons that he used for going in defy historical precedent.  We weren't under attack, we weren't under a imminent attack, we weren't honoring treaty commitments, we weren't rescuing Americans.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43512460/ns/meet_the_press-transcripts/
3889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 27, 2011, 11:08:35 AM
"p.s. off topic, but a while ago you said you need a license to sail a boat in MN?  You mean registration don't you?"

Correct. Large govt fees required to harness the wind from my own property. 

In the Boundary waters (BWCA) under federal control, sail boats are banned entirely. http://www.bwca.cc/tripplanning/rules.htm

If they knew anything about political economics or cared about wanting to save the world from the C02 that is growing our forests too rapidly, they might want to subsidize rather than tax and ban sailboats.
3890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bloomberg: Why China’s Heading for a Hard Landing on: June 27, 2011, 10:25:38 AM
The Chinese economy has had a hell of a roll.  Also has real structural weaknesses.  Predicting past growth rates will go on forever is

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-27/why-china-s-heading-for-a-hard-landing-part-1-a-gary-shilling.html
Why China’s Heading for a Hard Landing, Part 1: A. Gary Shilling

Few countries are more important to the global economy than China. But its reputation as an unstoppable giant -- as a country with an unending supply of cheap labor and limitless capacity for growth -- masks some serious and worsening economic problems.

China’s labor force is aging. Its consumers save too much and spend too little. Its political and economic policy tools remain crude. Its state bureaucracy seems likely to curb spending just as exports weaken, and thus risks deflation. As U.S. consumers retrench, and as the global commodity bubble begins to dissipate, these fundamental weaknesses will combine in a way that’s unlikely to end well for China -- or for the rest of the world.

To start, China is much more vulnerable to an international slowdown than is generally understood. In late 2007, my firm’s research found that too few people in China had the discretionary spending capability to support its economy domestically. Our analysis showed that it took a per-capita gross domestic product of about $5,000 to have meaningful discretionary spending power in China.

About 110 million Chinese had that much or more, but they constituted only 8 percent of the population and accounted for just 35 percent of GDP in 2009, while exports accounted for 27 percent. Even China’s middle and upper classes had only 6 percent of Americans’ purchasing power.

With such limited domestic spending, why do so many analysts predict that China can continue its robust growth?

In part because they believe in the misguided concept of global decoupling -- the idea that even if the U.S. economy suffers a setback, the rest of the world, especially developing countries such as China and India, will continue to flourish. Recently -- after China’s huge $586 billion stimulus program in 2009; massive imports of industrial materials such as iron ore and copper; booms in construction of cement, steel and power plants, and other industrial capacity; and a pickup in economic growth -- the decoupling argument has been back in vogue.

This concept is flawed for a simple reason: Almost all developing countries depend on exports for growth, a point underscored by their persistent trade surpluses and the huge size of Asian exports relative to GDP. Further, the majority of exports by Asian countries go directly or indirectly to the U.S. We saw the effects of this starting in 2008: As U.S. consumers retrenched and global recession reigned, China and most other developing Asian countries suffered keenly.

Overconfidence in China’s ability to keep its economy booming is also partly psychological. It reminds me of the admiration and envy (even fear) that many felt toward Japan during its bubble days in the 1980s. As Japanese companies bought California’s Pebble Beach, Iowa farmland and Rockefeller Center in New York, what was safe from their zillions? Then the Japanese stock and real-estate bubbles collapsed, and Japan entered the deflationary depression in which it’s still mired.
Success and Complacency

What’s more, China’s recent successes have been so pronounced that they’ve led many to conclude that its economy is a juggernaut. And, indeed, the Chinese have much to be proud of: Last year, China passed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, a huge achievement considering China started in the late 1970s with a tiny pre-industrialized economy.

But this success may have led to complacency. I suspect that the 2007-2009 global recession, and the dramatic transformation by U.S. consumers from gay-abandon borrowers-and- spenders to Scrooge-like savers, caught Chinese leaders flat- footed. They probably planned to encourage consumer spending and domestic-led growth, but later -- much later.

They were enjoying a well-oiled growth machine. Growing exports, especially to American consumers, stimulated the capital spending needed to produce yet more exports and jobs for the millions of Chinese streaming from farms to cities. Wages remained low, due to ample labor supplies, and held down consumer spending. So did the high Chinese consumer saving rate. Because Chinese could not invest offshore, much of that saving went into state banks at low interest rates. The money was then lent to the many inefficient government-owned enterprises at subsidized rates.

In a country where stability is almost worshipped, why would any leader want to disrupt such a smoothly running economy?

But before you worry about China’s becoming No. 1 any time soon, consider the remaining gap between its economy and the U.S. economy. In 2009, China’s GDP was $4.9 trillion, only 34 percent of the U.S.’s $14.3 trillion. Because China has 1.32 billion people, or 4.3 times as many as the U.S. has, the gap in per-capita GDP was even bigger: China’s $3,709 was only 8 percent of the U.S.’s $46,405.
3891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 27, 2011, 10:03:04 AM
JDN,  The economics of pro sports is nuts, an extreme version of crony capitalism aka fascism where government picks winners and losers.  I'm sure every town has their story.  I wonder what baseball would look like if government considered treating all businesses equally.
3892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: June 26, 2011, 11:18:31 AM
"It seems to me to be perfectly legal to film an arrest."

I think there are local laws against that.  We need to repeal those laws.
3893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Decline, Fall, (and Resurrection?) of America on: June 26, 2011, 11:16:36 AM
The video shows quite a wise and perceptive questioner Rep. Ellmers from North Carolina who I hadn't seen before. 

The first words out of Geithner's mouth are total deception: "only affects 3% of small business owners".

For one, I incorporate each property of mine separately,never hired an employee; that makes me alone many small business owners according to Geittner? SBA (US Govt) defines small business in a variable way that includes companies who employ 1500 people with revenues up to 21 million.  Small business!  To throw that in with a solo worker self employed on the side who may mow lawns or clean apartments part time and then say only 3% are affected is pure BS.

My point is that 100%of the 'small businesses' who can make an impact on new hiring either make 250k of hope to and plan to or they wouldn't be considering hiring.

Geithner basically is saying that the additional burden against hiring in the productive sector that funds government is necessary so they won't have to won't have to make those burdens on the all-important public sector - like on education.

What percent of schools are primarily funded by the Feds and in which article is the responsibility put on the feds?  What a crock.  Even if anything Geithner said was true, you could not punish the 3% without punishing the rest of us.  We share the same economy whether those are your bosses, customers, neighbors or family.

The personal stories are a good reminder about how all economic measures are flawed, unemployment measurement is one of the worst.  It is measured two main ways but you mostly can only see trends, not accurate measures.  My favorite indacator of economic health unfortunately is revenues to the Treasury.  If the friend forced out of business is employed, self-employed, unemployed, underemployed, or running the household so a spouse can make more money, that all shows up in revenues to the Treasury.

On the other side of the coin, the closed business owner at age 50-60 or more is not condemned to being a greeter at Walmart (no offense intended to greeters at Walmart). We all better be ready to make a change if necessary, pick up the pieces and go forward.
3894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: June 25, 2011, 10:12:03 PM
Good points Crafty.  I would add to this "In that the price of oil in dollars is to a great extent a function of the state of the dollars purchasing parity viz other currencies" that I think the Saudis and OPEC might be the last people on earth still trying to value their product on the gold standard, independent from any of the flawed currencies:

Oil and Gold 1970 through 2009
3895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela: Hugo Chavez 'Critical Condition' on: June 25, 2011, 09:10:35 PM
Too bad about him spouting off about the USA and bragging about Cuban Healthcare.  Other foreign leaders prefer the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, but if he likes Havana healthcare, good luck.
------------------
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2011/06/25/report-hugo-chavez-in-critical-condition-in-cuba/#ixzz1QJt1dSw9
http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2011/06/25/967505/en-estado-critico-la-salud-de.html
Report: Hugo Chávez in Critical Condition In Cuban Hospital

By Adrian Carrasquillo  June 25, 2011
AP

Jun 17: Hugo Chávez poses for a photo with Fidel and Raul Castro from his hospital room in Cuba.

Hugo Chávez extended stay in a Cuban hospital is because he is in critical condition, according to a report in El Nuevo Herald.

The Venezuelan president, who was last seen in public June 9 and last heard from on June 12, on a phone call with Venezuelan state television, was said to have been treated for a pelvic abscess in Cuba.

During the call Chávez said that medical tests showed no sign of any "malignant" illness.

But according to the report in El Nuevo Herald, Chávez finds himself in "critical condition, not grave, but critical, in a complicated situation."

The Miami newspaper cited U.S. intelligence officials who wished to remain anonymous.

Chávez silence has led to chatter and speculation in Venezuela that the socialist leader is actually suffering from prostate cancer. Intelligence officials could not confirm a diagnosis of prostate cancer...

Photo Fidel, Hugo Raul:

3896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Monetary Policy: Kudlow - Did IEA Just Deliver QE3? More 'Faux stimulus' on: June 25, 2011, 02:09:52 PM
"We need to undo the massive wave of new regulations known and unknown, we need to eliminate the massive spending by the Feds, we need to end monetizing the debt and to protect the value of the currency, we need to throw out the tax code and replace it with something simple and fair e.g. the FAIR tax, etc etc etc."

Except for the FAIR tax part, I am with you on all of that.

Kudlow makes the point I think that oil is money and we just announced the release of more and more.
-------------------
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/06/24/did_the_iea_just_deliver_a_qe3_quick_fix_to_save_obamas_skin_110346.html

June 24, 2011
Did the IEA Just Deliver a QE3 Quick Fix?
By Larry Kudlow

Did the International Energy Agency (IEA) just deliver the oil equivalent of Quantitative Easing 3?

The decision to release 2 million barrels per day of emergency oil reserves -- with the U.S. covering half from its strategic petroleum reserve -- is surely aimed at the sputtering economies of the U.S. and Europe following an onslaught of bad economic statistics and forecasts. This includes a gloomy Fed forecast that Ben Bernanke unveiled less than 24 hours before the energy news hit the tape.

I wonder if all this was coordinated.

The Bernanke Fed significantly downgraded its economic projections, blaming this forecast on rising energy (and food) prices as well as Japanese-disaster-related supply shocks. Of course, the Fed head takes no blame for his cheap-dollar QE2 pump-priming, which was an important source of the prior jump in energy and commodity prices. That commodity-price shock inflicted a tax on the whole economy, and it looks to be responsible for the 2 percent first-half growth rate and the near 4.5 percent inflation rate.

Bernanke acknowledged the inflation problem, but he didn't take ownership of that, either. Reading between the lines, however, the Fed's inflation worries undoubtedly kept it from applying more faux stimulus to the sagging economy with a third round of quantitative easing.

Somehow, the new Fed forecast suggests that the second-half economy will grow at 3.5 percent while it miraculously presses inflation down to 1.4 percent. But the plausibility of this forecast is low. It's almost "Alice in Wonderland"-like.

So, low and behold, the IEA and the U.S. Department of Energy come to the rescue.

Acting on the surprising news of a 60 million barrel-per-day crude-oil release from strategic reserves scheduled for July, traders slammed down prices by $5 to $6 for both West Texas crude and European Brent crude. That's about a 20 percent drop from the April highs, which followed the breakout of civil war in Libya in March. In fact, both the IEA and the U.S. DOE cited Libyan oil disruption as a reason for injecting reserves.

Of course, most folks thought Saudi Arabia would be adding a million barrels a day to cover the Libyan shortfall. The evidence strongly suggests it has. So the curious timing of the oil-reserve release -- coming in late June rather than last March or April -- strongly suggests that governments are manipulating the oil price with a temporary supply add to boost the economy.

In theory, these reserves are supposed to be held for true national emergencies. But the real U.S. national emergency seems to be a political one -- that is, President Obama's increasingly perilous re-election bid amidst high unemployment and the second-worst post-recession economic recovery since 1950.

Tall joblessness, big gasoline prices, low growth, a poor housing sector, growing mortgage foreclosures and sinking polls are probably the real reason for the strategic-petroleum-reserve shock. European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet warns of a "Code Red" emergency due to Greek and other peripheral default risk. China has registered its lowest manufacturing read in 11 months. U.S. jobless claims increased again. And the U.S. debt-ceiling talks have broken down. It's almost a perfect storm for economic and stock market jitters.

So, will the government-sponsored oil-price-drop work? Will it fix the economy, by lowering inflation and speeding up growth? Well, it might, provided that the Bernanke Fed doesn't bungle the dollar.

If Bernanke keeps his balance sheet stable, applying what former Fed Governor Wayne Angell calls quantitative neutrality, it's quite possible that the greenback will rise and oil and commodity prices will slip. In fact, ever since Bernanke's first press conference in late April, when he basically said "no QE3," the dollar had been stabilizing, with oil prices slipping lower.

Bernanke is right to hold off on QE3 -- we could all be surprised with a stronger dollar. Then we could lower tax, spending, regulatory, trade and immigration barriers to growth. If we did that, we wouldn't need another short-run, so-called government fix, this time from the strategic petroleum reserve.

Lord save us from short-run government fixes. Haven't we had enough of them?
3897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Government budget process: Balanced Budget Amendment on: June 25, 2011, 12:52:41 PM
Liberals are up in arms because it contains an 18% of GDP cap on spending.

Conservatives should beware of Balanced Budget Amendment talk because without the cap on spending, the amendment is certain to cause tax increases forever.

If adopted exactly as written, it would solve most of our problems.  Current GDP 14.12 T times 18% is 2.5T, coincidentally What we already take in now in a down economy.  Implementation of the amendment as written is Jan 2017, time to phase things in and get our house in order.  Super majority required to raise taxes makes sense because most increases are not across the board to they already lack consent of the governed.  Forces priorities and choices, not just layering of additional spending every time someone has a great idea.  Higher dollar spending is achieved by - growing the economy.  This has no chance of passing 2/3 House, 2/3 Senate and 3/4 state legislatures as written.  And to change the terms is to destroy it, IMO.

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http://www.fedsmith.com/article/2957/house-judiciary-committee-approves-balanced-budget.html

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a balanced budget amendment (H.J. Res. 1) to the Constitution to restore fiscal responsibility and accountability to federal government spending. The proposal for a balanced budget amendment passed the Committee by a vote of 20-12.

The amendment:

    * Requires Congress never to spend more than it takes in
    * Requires a 3/5 majority vote to raise the debt ceiling, with an exception in times of national emergency
    * Requires a supermajority to raise taxes
    * Requires Spending as a Percentage of GDP to not Exceed 18% - Preventing Tax Increases to Balance the Budget
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Full text:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.J.RES.1:

Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

      Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein),
      That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

`Article--

      `Section 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a rollcall vote.

      `Section 2. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed 18 percent of economic output of the United States, unless two-thirds of each House of Congress shall provide for a specific increase of outlays above this amount.

      `Section 3. The limit on the debt of the United States held by the public shall not be increased unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such an increase by a rollcall vote.

      `Section 4. Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year in which total outlays do not exceed total receipts.

      `Section 5. A bill to increase revenue shall not become law unless two-thirds of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such an increase by a rollcall vote.

      `Section 6. The Congress may waive the provisions of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war is in effect. The provisions of this article may be waived for any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which becomes law.

      `Section 7. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts.

      `Section 8. Total receipts shall include all receipts of the United States Government except those derived from borrowing. Total outlays shall include all outlays of the United States Government except for those for repayment of debt principal.

      `Section 9. This article shall take effect beginning with the later of the second fiscal year beginning after its ratification or the first fiscal year beginning after December 31, 2016.'.
3898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Budget: NY Times - "An Unfair Burden on the Poor", Strengthen the safety net?? on: June 25, 2011, 12:32:35 PM
"take steps to strengthen the safety net. The alternative is unconscionable harm"
(It's already a hammock that has swallowed up 4 going on 5 generations!)

Can you imagine, if you subscribed to the NY Times, and read every word cover to cover everyday, and nothing else, just how miserably uninformed you would be?

I honestly believe you know more in total if you spent that time wandering around observing with your own eyes and ears.

Our own CCP has pointed out that 50% of the people pay nothing whatsoever in federal income taxes and that percentage is rising.  Absolutely no mention of that in this story.

We are spending roughly a trillion and a  half a year more than we take in, close to $4 trillion a year in total, most of that is in the form of government checks to individuals, robbing Peter to pay Paul so to speak.  No mention of that in this story.

We are arguing at the margin about ending some things that were TEMPORARY and containing the increases of some other excess spending items.

The World Bank definition of poverty has been raised from $1.08 to $1.25 per day.  There is no one in America anywhere near that level unless they are refusing government help and these caps and containments on spending have NOTHING to with that.

In walks the NY Times to the discussion:

"Republicans are targeting poverty-fighting programs for deep cuts... Exempting low-income programs has been a major feature of deficit deals going back to 1985. Both sides should publicly commit to that now, and take steps to strengthen the safety net. The alternative is unconscionable harm"

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/opinion/25sat1.html?_r=1

"Making the poor carry a heavy part of the deficit burden is intolerable."

We have no measurable poor by any global standard.  The ones we call poor are receiving a lot before, during and after any so-called budget cutting conference.  The poor are paying NOTHING!! (in direct federal income tax)   Punishing potential employers for the excesses of government transfer payments creates even more 'poor'.  No mention of that.




3899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science - National Natural Gas Strategic Reserve on: June 25, 2011, 10:54:42 AM
How about we switch to an American made natural gas strategic reserve.  Legalize safe clean production, produce it in high quantities, make it affordable and hook it up to every home and business with a pipeline and a meter.

http://www.naturalgas.org/environment/naturalgas.asp
"The combustion of natural gas emits almost 30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil, and just under 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal."
3900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Environmental issues: Facts about Fracking - WSJ on: June 25, 2011, 10:43:34 AM
A couple of faulty studies and some bad journalism starting at the NY Times with a bunch of 'could' and 'might' allegations started a war against fracking. (IMHO)

The Duke study had no 'before' measurement benchmark.  The chemicals used in fracking are 99.5% sand and water, the depth is typically a thousand feet below drinking water separated by impenetrable rock, all states involved report no instances of contamination.  We are capable of purifying water and we are in need of abundant, domestic, clean natural gas sources.  The industry is employing thousands and thousands of people.  Natural gas combustion releases 30% less CO2 than oil, 45% less than coal. To an environmentalist, this situation is a nightmare...
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576398462932810874.html

The Facts About Fracking
The real risks of the shale gas revolution, and how to manage them.

The U.S. is in the midst of an energy revolution, and we don't mean solar panels or wind turbines. A new gusher of natural gas from shale has the potential to transform U.S. energy production—that is, unless politicians, greens and the industry mess it up.

Only a decade ago Texas oil engineers hit upon the idea of combining two established technologies to release natural gas trapped in shale formations. Horizontal drilling—in which wells turn sideways after a certain depth—opens up big new production areas. Producers then use a 60-year-old technique called hydraulic fracturing—in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into the well at high pressure—to loosen the shale and release gas (and increasingly, oil).
***

The resulting boom is transforming America's energy landscape. As recently as 2000, shale gas was 1% of America's gas supplies; today it is 25%. Prior to the shale breakthrough, U.S. natural gas reserves were in decline, prices exceeded $15 per million British thermal units, and investors were building ports to import liquid natural gas. Today, proven reserves are the highest since 1971, prices have fallen close to $4 and ports are being retrofitted for LNG exports.

The shale boom is also reviving economically suffering parts of the country, while offering a new incentive for manufacturers to stay in the U.S. Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry estimates fracking in the Marcellus shale formation, which stretches from upstate New York through West Virginia, has created 72,000 jobs in the Keystone State between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2011.

The Bakken formation, along the Montana-North Dakota border, is thought to hold four billion barrels of oil (the biggest proven estimate outside Alaska), and the drilling boom helps explain North Dakota's unemployment rate of 3.2%, the nation's lowest.

All of this growth has inevitably attracted critics, notably environmentalists and their allies. They've launched a media and political assault on hydraulic fracturing, and their claims are raising public anxiety. So it's a useful moment to separate truth from fiction in the main allegations against the shale revolution.

• Fracking contaminates drinking water. One claim is that fracking creates cracks in rock formations that allow chemicals to leach into sources of fresh water. The problem with this argument is that the average shale formation is thousands of feet underground, while the average drinking well or aquifer is a few hundred feet deep. Separating the two is solid rock. This geological reality explains why EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, a determined enemy of fossil fuels, recently told Congress that there have been no "proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water."

View Full Image
1frack
Getty Images

A drilling team from Minard Run Oil Company pull out steel pipe during a fracking operation at a 2100 foot natural gas well in Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania in 2008.
1frack
1frack

A second charge, based on a Duke University study, claims that fracking has polluted drinking water with methane gas. Methane is naturally occurring and isn't by itself harmful in drinking water, though it can explode at high concentrations. Duke authors Rob Jackson and Avner Vengosh have written that their research shows "the average methane concentration to be 17 times higher in water wells located within a kilometer of active drilling sites."

They failed to note that researchers sampled a mere 68 wells across Pennsylvania and New York—where more than 20,000 water wells are drilled annually. They had no baseline data and thus no way of knowing if methane concentrations were high prior to drilling. They also acknowledged that methane was detected in 85% of the wells they tested, regardless of drilling operations, and that they'd found no trace of fracking fluids in any wells.

The Duke study did spotlight a long-known and more legitimate concern: the possibility of leaky well casings at the top of a drilling site, from which methane might migrate to water supplies. As the BP Gulf of Mexico spill attests, proper well construction and maintenance are major issues in any type of drilling, and they ought to be the focus of industry standards and attention. But the risks are not unique to fracking, which has provided no unusual evidence of contamination.

• Fracking releases toxic or radioactive chemicals. The reality is that 99.5% of the fluid injected into fracture rock is water and sand. The chemicals range from the benign, such as citric acid (found in soda pop), to benzene. States like Wyoming and Pennsylvania require companies to publicly disclose their chemicals, Texas recently passed a similar law, and other states will follow.

Drillers must dispose of fracking fluids, and environmentalists charge that disposal sites also endanger drinking water, or that drillers deliberately discharge radioactive wastewater into streams. The latter accusation inspired the EPA to require that Pennsylvania test for radioactivity. States already have strict rules designed to keep waste water from groundwater, including liners in waste pits, and drillers are subject to stiff penalties for violations. Pennsylvania's tests showed radioactivity at or below normal levels.

• Fracking causes cancer. In Dish, Texas, Mayor Calvin Tillman caused a furor this year by announcing that he was quitting to move his sons away from "toxic" gases—such as cancer-causing benzene—from the town's 60 gas wells. State health officials investigated and determined that toxin levels in the majority of Dish residents were "similar to those measured in the general U.S. population." Residents with higher levels of benzene in their blood were smokers. (Cigarette smoke contains benzene.)

• Fracking causes earthquakes. It is possible that the deep underground injection of fracking fluids might cause seismic activity. But the same can be said of geothermal energy exploration, or projects to sequester carbon dioxide underground. Given the ubiquity of fracking without seismic impact, the risks would seem to be remote.

• Pollution from trucks. Drillers use trucks to haul sand, cement and fluids, and those certainly increase traffic congestion and pollution. We think the trade-off between these effects and economic development are for states and localities to judge, keeping in mind that externalities decrease as drillers become more efficient.

• Shale exploration is unregulated. Environmentalists claim fracking was "exempted" in 2005 from the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, thanks to industry lobbying. In truth, all U.S. companies must abide by federal water laws, and what the greens are really saying is that fracking should be singled out for special and unprecedented EPA oversight.

Most drilling operations—including fracking—have long been regulated by the states. Operators need permits to drill and are subject to inspections and reporting requirements. Many resource-rich states like Texas have detailed fracking rules, while states newer to drilling are developing these regulations.

As a regulatory model, consider Pennsylvania. Recently departed Governor Ed Rendell is a Democrat, and as the shale boom progressed he worked with industry and regulators to develop a flexible regulatory environment that could keep pace with a rapidly growing industry. As questions arose about well casings, for instance, Pennsylvania imposed new casing and performance requirements. The state has also increased fees for processing shale permits, which has allowed it to hire more inspectors and permitting staff.

New York, by contrast, has missed the shale play by imposing a moratorium on fracking. The new state Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, recently sued the federal government to require an extensive environmental review of the entire Delaware River Basin. Meanwhile, the EPA is elbowing its way into the fracking debate, studying the impact on drinking water, animals and "environmental justice."
***

Amid this political scrutiny, the industry will have to take great drilling care while better making its public case. In this age of saturation media, a single serious example of water contamination could lead to a political panic that would jeopardize tens of billions of dollars of investment. The industry needs to establish best practices and blow the whistle on drillers that dodge the rules.

The question for the rest of us is whether we are serious about domestic energy production. All forms of energy have risks and environmental costs, not least wind (noise and dead birds and bats) and solar (vast expanses of land). Yet renewables are nowhere close to supplying enough energy, even with large subsidies, to maintain America's standard of living. The shale gas and oil boom is the result of U.S. business innovation and risk-taking. If we let the fear of undocumented pollution kill this boom, we will deserve our fate as a second-class industrial power.
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