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4301  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed: Mitch Daniels Response on: January 25, 2012, 09:43:27 AM
John Hinderacker describes Gov. Daniels as Tim Pawlenty without all the charisma, but he looked good on radio last night and these are good points IMO:

    "As Republicans our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder. We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves. …

    The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy. It must be replaced by a passionate pro-growth approach that breaks all ties and calls all close ones in favor of private sector jobs that restore opportunity for all and generate the public revenues to pay our bills.

    That means a dramatically simpler tax system of fewer loopholes and lower rates. A pause in the mindless piling on of expensive new regulations that devour dollars that otherwise could be used to hire somebody. It means maximizing on the new domestic energy technologies that are the best break our economy has gotten in years. …

    It’s not fair and it’s not true for the President to attack Republicans in Congress as obstacles on these questions. They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down nearly time and again by the President and his Democrat Senate allies. …

    No feature of the Obama Presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others. As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have. …

    2012 must be the year we prove the doubters wrong. The year we strike out boldly not merely to avert national bankruptcy but to say to a new generation that America is still the world’s premier land of opportunity. Republicans will speak for those who believe in the dignity and capacity of the individual citizen; who believe that government is meant to serve the people rather than supervise them; who trust Americans enough to tell them the plain truth about the fix we are in, and to lay before them a specific, credible program of change big enough to meet the emergency we are facing."
4302  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: January 25, 2012, 09:38:41 AM
Very funny bigdog.  I 'watched' the speech and the response on the radio and tried to keep my moderate consumption rate consistent through all the ups and downs.  The hangover from this without alcohol is bad enough. 
4303  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness: State of the Union on: January 25, 2012, 09:24:22 AM
The state of the union was another laundry list of government based patchwork ideas from our Solyndra President (IMHO).  Then the canvas was cleansed with this for you to paint your own painting:

That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.  - What huh

The federal government is in charge of teachers and K-12 education. He didn't say from which Article that came.  Last year I think it was police and firefighters are federal responsibilities.  As Bill Clinton used to say: "We can do more."  With a trillion plus a year deficit - really, we can do less.

He touted a union factory being open in Milwaukee - happens to be battleground Wisconsin, home of the Scott Walker recall contest.

He says we don't have to choose between energy and growing our economy.  Gas prices are up 83%!  I guess we did choose.  Gas prices would be far higher than that if the economy was healthy at this level of energy production.  But he says production is at record levels, meaning there is no problem there that he has to address.  And government inventing fracking so quit your whining about government being the problem.

He kept saying that congress should write and pass a bill with his agenda and he will sign it.  I suppose so. 
'This speech offered a vision of a profoundly technocratic and activist government, with its hands in every nook and cranny of the nation’s economic life—a government guiding particular business decisions and nudging individual choices through just the right mix of incentives and rules to reach just the right balance between fairness and growth while designing the perfect website for job retraining programs and producing exactly the proper number of “high-tech batteries.” The president described the government’s bailout of the Detroit automakers as a roaring success and then said “What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.  It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.” If he thinks that all the tasks he laid out for government are things that people “cannot do better by themselves” then he must have a very high opinion of how well government can do things, or a very low opinion of how well people can do things by themselves, or (most plausibly) both.'
Two words hardly mentioned in Barack Obama’s 65-minute State of the Union address to Congress: freedom and liberty. President Obama’s fourth and possibly last State of the Union speech was long on big government proposals, but short on the principles that have made America the world’s greatest power. His lecturing tone exuded arrogance, and he failed to present a coherent vision for getting the United States back on its feet after three years of economic decline. It was heavy on class-war rhetoric, punitive taxation, and frequent references to the Left-wing mantra of “fairness”, hardly likely to instil confidence in a battered business community that is the lifeblood of the American economy.

Above all, he remains in denial over the levels of federal debt that threaten the country's long-term prosperity. This was not a speech that was serious about the biggest budget deficits since World War Two. There was no sense at all that America is a superpower on a precipice, sinking in a sea of debt that threatens to undermine America’s power to project global leadership  for generations to come. In fact, his interventionist proposals will only make matters worse.

From new federally funded infrastructure projects to increasing regulations on financial institutions, President Obama remains wedded to big government – an approach rejected by a clear majority of Americans, who view it as a millstone around their necks. As Gallup’s polling has found, nearly two thirds of Americans see big government as "the biggest threat" to their country.

This should have been a serious speech addressing the economic problems facing the United States. Instead it was a laundry list of half-baked proposals designed to appease the Left. The president should have been talking about reining in spending, lowering taxes, and fostering greater economic freedom, but he opted for policies that will speed America’s decline, not reverse it.

(Gardiner goes on with a great excerpt to compare the inspiration that Reagan offered at the same point in his Presidency - at the link.)
Text and Video State of the Union:

Text and Video of Mitch Daniels Response:
4304  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glibness on Solyndra: Greatest Moments in Past SOTU Speeches on: January 25, 2012, 01:39:21 AM
"You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy"..."A California company that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels."  - President Obama, State of the Union, January 27, 2010

$535 million for a thousand jobs?

Who was involved?

Are you better off now than you were five trillion dollars ago?
4305  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 24, 2012, 09:21:03 PM
"So Doug are you for Newt at this point?"

I find myself wishing Mitt would get his act together rather than pulling for Newt or Rick S, even though I am probably to the right of all 3 of them.  If Newt is the nominee, I will be 100% behind him.
Latest Gallup has Obama over Romney and Gingrich by the same margin, 50-48.  That is quite a move for Newt.  I think South Carolina was Newt's peak, but we will see.
I look forward to seeing which candidate truly answers the speech going on as I write.  The President has set just tossed a slow hanging curve ball over the heart of the plate for the former Speaker to hit out of the park. (Here he is, throwing his pitch - well not quite over the plate:
4306  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 24, 2012, 11:49:39 AM
"the impact he could have down ticket."

I also have expressed that fear, yet there seems to be a tendency of the voters to choose divided government.  If they are about to reelect Pres. Obama then maybe they will give him an R Senate and House as with Pres. Clinton.  The ability to stop all new big government initiatives still leaves us in a train headed off a cliff from my point of view.

If Romney wins as a weak or compromising Republican with a let's-see-how-it-goes agenda and a razor thin majority in the House and Senate, nothing bold will be enacted or repealed. 

Republicans need a clear agenda and a clear up or down vote on it.  Either the electorate will be sold or it won't.
4307  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Fed of the 2000s, asleep with its foot on the gas pedal on: January 23, 2012, 12:36:56 PM

January 23, 2012
Why the Fed Slept
By Robert Samuelson  Newsweek

WASHINGTON -- The recent release of the 2006 transcripts of the Federal Reserve's main policy-making body stimulated a small media frenzy. "Little Alarm Shown at Fed at Dawn of Housing Bust," headlined The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post agreed: "As financial crisis brewed, Fed appeared unconcerned." The New York Times echoed: "Inside the Fed in '06: Coming Crisis, and Banter."

Comments from members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) now seem misguided. The first 2006 meeting was the last for retiring Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. Janet Yellen -- then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and now Fed vice chair -- said "the situation you're handing off to your successor is a lot like a tennis racket with a gigantic sweet spot." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York -- called Greenspan "terrific" and suggested his already exalted reputation might grow even more. There was no sense of a gathering crisis.

All true, but it begs the central question: why? The FOMC members weren't stupid, lazy or uninformed. They could draw on a massive staff of economists for analysis. And yet, they were clueless.

It wasn't that they didn't see the housing boom or recognize that it was ending. At 2006's first meeting, a senior Fed economist noted "that we are reaching an inflection point in the housing boom. The bigger question now is whether we will experience (a) gradual cooling ... or a more pronounced downturn."

At that same meeting, Fed Governor Susan Bies warned that mortgage lending standards had become dangerously lax. She explained that monthly payments were skyrocketing on mortgages with adjustable interest rates. She worried that many borrowers couldn't make the higher payments. The flagging housing boom concerned many Fed officials.

But they -- and most private economists -- didn't draw the proper conclusions. Hardly anyone asked whether lax mortgage lending would trigger a broad financial crisis, because America had not experienced a broad financial crisis since the Great Depression. A true financial crisis differs from falling stock prices, which are common. A financial crisis involves the failure of banks or other institutions, panic in many markets and a pervasive loss of wealth and confidence.

Such a crisis was not within the personal experience of members of the FOMC -- or anyone. Nor was it part of mainstream economic thinking. Because it hadn't happened in decades, it was assumed that it couldn't happen. There had been previous real estate busts. From 1964 to 1966, new housing starts fell 24 percent; from 1972 to 1975, 51 percent; from 1979 to 1982, 39 percent; from 1988 to 1991, 32 percent. Declining home construction had fed economic slowdowns or recessions. So the natural question seemed: Would this happen now? The answer seemed "no." The overall economy was strong. This is the most obvious reason for an oblivious FOMC.

But it is not the main reason, which remains widely unrecognized. Since the 1960s, the thrust of economic policy-making has been to smooth business cycles. Democracies crave prolonged prosperity, and economists have posed as technocrats with the tools to cure the boom-and-bust cycles of pre-World War II capitalism. It turns out that they exaggerated what they knew and could do.

There's a paradox to economic policy. The more it succeeds at prolonging short-term prosperity, the more it inspires long-run destabilizing behavior by businesses, banks, consumers, investors and government. If they think basic stability is assured, they will assume greater risks -- loosen credit standards, borrow more, engage in more speculation, relax wage and price behavior -- that ultimately make the economy less stable. Long booms threaten deep busts.

Since World War II, this has happened twice. In the 1960s, the so-called "new economics" promised that, by manipulating the budget and interest rates, it could stifle business cycles. The ensuing boom spanned the 1960s; the bust extended to the early 1980s and included inflation of 13 percent, four recessions and peak monthly unemployment of 10.8 percent. The latest episode was the so-called Great Moderation, largely paralleling Greenspan's Fed tenure (1987-2006), when there were only two mild recessions (1990-91 and 2001). We are now in the bust.

The Fed slept mainly because it overlooked the possibility of boom-bust. It didn't recognize that its success at sustaining prosperity -- for which Greenspan was lionized -- might sow the seeds of a larger failure. It bought into an overblown notion of economic "progress."

The Great Moderation begat the Great Recession. One implication is that an economy less stable in the short run becomes more stable in the long run by reminding everyone of risk and uncertainty. Sacrificing long booms may muffle subsequent busts. But this notion appeals to neither economists nor politicians. Ironically, the central lesson of the financial crisis is ignored.
4308  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 23, 2012, 12:27:07 PM
We had a little fun with cause and effect recently over on the Path Science thread, but it seems that all has gone wrong for Mitt Romney since securing the Jon Huntsman endorsement.

McCain on stage with Romney was also symbolic of all that went wrong in recent years for the party.  Romney had better put some new people with him on stage and behind the scenes along with a better focus in his message SOON if he wants to lead the next 4-8 years.
4309  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anniversary of Roe v. Wade observations on: January 23, 2012, 12:15:20 PM
Crafty, previous post in this thread Oct. 2011: "I have often analyzed the flaw of Roe v. Wade as being that the right to privacy does not trump the right to life.  One does not have the right to murder in the privacy of one's home.  Therefore the question becomes one of when does life begin?  In that the Constitution does not grant the power to determine that question to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade is intellectual gibberish."

The answer to when when life begins has been enlightened quite a bit by science over the last several decades.  Science tells us when the heart starts beating and when unique fingerprints begin forming.  More obvious evidence would be how early the prematurely born can survive under medical care outside of fetus, if you don't buy the life begins with conception theory.

Posting a piece below that hits on constitutional and moral issues. My look at Planned Parenthood data caused me to believe that of the 60 million lives intentionally ended, 98% are performed for convenience reasons.  Blurring that with what should be done about rape or life risk to the mother is obfuscation.

Our current President apparently doesn't know that one of the main criteria for fetus slaughtering elsewhere in the world is gender selection.  In the US, the main discrimination is against black babies.

President Barack Obama says the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is the chance to recognize the “fundamental constitutional right” to abortion and to “continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

My daughter would not have been empowered by being aborted some 17 years ago.  What a bunch of anti-science, anti-constitution, anti-life, anti-reality BS.

January 23, 2012
The Unbearable Wrongness of Roe
By Michael Paulsen

39 years ago, the Supreme Court delivered a radical, legally untenable, immoral decision. It has forfeited its entitlement to have its decisions respected, and followed, by the other branches of government, by the states, and by the people.

Today, thousands of people at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., are commemorating the thirty-ninth anniversary of a legal and moral monstrosity, Roe v. Wade, and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The two cases, in combination, created an essentially unqualified constitutional right of pregnant women to abortion—the right to kill their children, gestating in their wombs, up to the point of birth. After nearly four decades, Roe’s human death toll stands at nearly sixty million human lives, a total exceeding the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin’s purges, Pol Pot’s killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined. Over the past forty years, one-sixth of the American population has been killed by abortion. One in four African-Americans is killed before birth. Abortion is the leading cause of (unnatural) death in America.

It is almost too much to contemplate: the prospect that we are living in the midst of, and accepting (to various degrees) one of the greatest human holocausts in history. And so we don’t contemplate it. Instead, we look for ways to deny this grim reality, minimize it, or explain away our complacency—or complicity.

It is important, however, to view reality with eyes wide open, focus clear, and gaze not averted. On this thirty-ninth anniversary of Roe and Doe, I would like simply to set forth what Roe and Doe held, in as clear-headed and straightforwardly descriptive legal terms as possible, and to lay out its human and moral consequences. My brief tour of Roe’s unbearable wrongness begins with Roe’s radicalism—its extreme holding creating a plenary right to obtain or commit abortion—proceeds with Roe’s legal untenability, and concludes with Roe’s immorality and the moral problem of our seeming passivity and quiescence in response to the greatest legal and moral wrongs of our age.

Roe’s Radicalism

Start with Roe’s radicalism, a radicalism that we may no longer grasp because it has become so familiar. Roe created a constitutional right to obtain or commit an abortion of a human life—that is, to terminate the life of a human embryo or fetus. It is important to be clear-sighted about this: abortion kills a living human embryo or fetus. What distinguishes “abortion” from (say) miscarriage is the specific intention to kill a living fetus. What was alive before has been deliberately killed. Abortion takes a life. Further, the life taken is human life. There is really no doubt about that as a matter of biology. The embryo or fetus belongs to the species homo sapiens. It is a separate, living human being that is killed by abortion.

To be sure, that human being is killed at an early stage in its life cycle, and for a substantial part of that time could not live without direct biological connection to his or her mother (the person in whom Roe vests the right to terminate that human life). But that does not make the human embryo any less alive, any less human, or any less a separate life from the mother. It just makes the unborn baby more vulnerable and dependent.

The right created by the Supreme Court in Roe is a constitutional right of some human beings to kill other human beings. I do not mean for my description to be provocative, but simply direct—blunt about facts. One need not presume that the human fetus has a right not to be killed in order to recognize that, as a descriptive matter, Roe creates a right for one class of human beings to kill other human beings.

Roe, coupled with Doe, creates a plenary right to kill the embryo or fetus for essentially any reason, at any time throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Distilled to its essence, Roe created a “trimester” framework for abortion. In roughly the first three months of pregnancy, the right of abortion is avowedly plenary: abortion may be had for any reason. In the second three months, government may regulate abortion to protect the life or health of the mother, but again the right to have an abortion remains plenary. In the final three months—after the point of “viability,” when the human fetus could live on his or her own outside the mother’s womb—Roe says that abortion can be restricted or prohibited . . . except where abortion is necessary to protect the “life or health” of the pregnant woman.

This is a big exception. And here is where Doe steps in. On its face, Roe might appear, to the unwary or uninitiated, “moderate”—its trimester-balancing framework a measured, reasonable-sounding, proportionate act of judicial legislation concerning abortion. It is Doe that does a lot of the work, through an indirect and ultimately disingenuous definition of the “health” reasons that always may justify a woman’s decision to have an abortion and trump any interest of society in protecting fetal human life, even when the child could survive outside the mother’s womb. Doe holds that relevant “health” considerations justifying late-term abortions include “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” (Doe’s understanding of “the patient” did not include the fetus; Roe held elsewhere that the human fetus has no legal rights that any person is bound to respect.)

Roe then cross-referenced Doe’s stylized definition of health and incorporated it into the main holding. The result is that an abortion may be had, under Roe and Doe, for essentially any reason, throughout all nine months of pregnancy, up to the point of birth.

Nothing in any of the Court’s later abortion cases alters this definition of “health” or the right to abortion throughout pregnancy. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case reaffirming Roe, tinkered slightly with the trimester framework and the point at which “viability” occurs but did not change Roe’s (and Doe’s) holding that abortion may be had for any reason, before viability, and for any “health” reason throughout pregnancy. The partial-birth abortion cases carried this understanding forward, holding that the state may not prohibit the abortion method of inducing birth and killing the fetus on the way out of the birth canal (Carhart I [2000]), unless an equally effective, equally “healthy” method of killing the fetus is available (Carhart II [2007]).

I suspect that if more people understood Roe’s and Doe’s actual holding fewer would support that constitutional regime. Roe was a truly extreme decision, creating an effectively unrestricted constitutional right to abort a living human being for any reason the mother might have, throughout pregnancy right up to the point of birth.

Roe’s Legal Untenability

This brings us to Roe’s utter indefensibility as a matter of constitutional law. If the U.S. Constitution actually protected such an extreme personal legal right to kill the human fetus, that would be troubling enough, but the trouble would be with the content of the Constitution. The further problem with Roe is that it has absolutely no basis in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution. No rule or principle of law fairly traceable to the text, discernible from its structure, or fairly derived from evidence of intention or historical understanding of an authoritative decision of the people, remotely supports the result reached in Roe. In terms of fair principles of constitutional interpretation, Roe is perhaps the least defensible major constitutional decision in the Supreme Court’s history.

Roe’s reasoning, distilled to its essentials, is that the Constitution creates a “privacy” right to abortion, on the premise that the right not “to bear” a child is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. No serious constitutional law scholar thinks this is a plausible reading of the Due Process Clause. That clause forbids government to “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Without due process of law  are crucial words. The Due Process Clause does not say that government never may deprive a person of life, liberty or property. It only says that government may not do so “without due process of law”—that is, arbitrarily, lawlessly, not in conformity with duly enacted laws and accepted procedures for their application.

Many nonetheless support Roe’s holding as a policy matter and therefore seek to rationalize the holding some other way. Perhaps the goofiest is the suggestion advanced by a few law professors, in apparent seriousness, that abortion restrictions violate the Thirteenth Amendment’s ban on slavery. Saner, but in the end still unsound as a legal matter, is the notion that abortion laws discriminate on the basis of sex and thus deny “equal protection of the laws.” The defect in this argument is that abortion laws do not classify on the basis of sex or gender and are not disguised attempts to do so. Rather, they aim at conduct—obtaining or committing an abortion—when engaged in by persons of either sex. Abortion restrictions do not restrict acts of women because they are women; they restrict acts committed by men or women because they kill human fetuses. Further, ask a “pro-choice” “feminist” whether abortion should be permitted for reasons of sex-selection—that is, because the unborn child is a girl—and the sex discrimination argument begins to turn back on itself. All but the most blindly pro-abortion ideologues abandon the argument that abortion rights are required for gender equality, if that means abortion can be chosen for gender-selection of boys over girls.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court rested the right to abortion back where Roe purported to find it, in the Due Process Clause. Recognizing the embarrassments created by this view, Casey added another prop: the doctrine of precedent or “stare decisis,” which is essentially all that is left to support Roe. But Casey’s invocation of the doctrine was transparently disingenuous: Because the public expects the Court to adhere (usually) to its past decisions, because the Court had staked its authority on Roe, and because the Court might be viewed unfavorably by some of the public if it reversed itself in such a case, the Court said that it had decided to adhere to Roe “whether or not mistaken.” Thus, what Roe held to be required by substantive due process Casey held to be required by stare decisis, even assuming Roe to be wrong.

If Roe was radical, Casey was craven. A majority of the Supreme Court apparently believed that Roe was wrongly decided, fully understood the moral and human consequences of the decision, and deliberately adhered to it anyway. Stare decisis has never been thought required by the Constitution, before or since. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) famously repudiated Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) on the question of whether racial segregation was consistent with “equal protection of the laws.” The Court has overruled scores of its own precedents. Indeed, it overruled two cases in Casey. Casey’s reaffirmation of Roe, in the name of stare decisis, was a sham—perhaps the most transparently dishonest major judicial decision since Dred Scott.

Roe’s Immorality

Finally, there is Roe’s immorality—the abortion holocaust it unleashed—and the problem of our response to it. Roe is a radical decision and a legally indefensible one. But what really makes Roe unbearably wrong is its consequences. The result of Roe and Doe has been the legally authorized killing of nearly sixty million Americans since 1973. Roe v. Wade authorized unrestricted private violence against human life on an almost unimaginable scale, and did so, falsely, in the name of the Constitution.

It is hard to escape this conclusion, but not impossible—and many certainly try. I will not here belabor the question of whether the intentional killing of innocent, dependent, vulnerable human children is a grave moral wrong. My concluding point concerns the lengths to which we will go to deny the reality of this holocaust, because it is almost unbearable to contemplate and still go on living life as if nothing is terribly wrong. The cognitive dissonance is simply too great. And so we have become, in effect, a nation of holocaust deniers.

Here is the problem, undressed: If human embryonic life is morally worthy of protection, we have permitted sixty million murders under our watch. Faced with this prospect, many of us—maybe even most—flee from the facts. We deny that the living human embryo is “truly” or “fully” human life, adopt a view that whether the embryo or fetus is human “depends,” or can be judged in degrees, on a sliding scale over the course of pregnancy; or we proclaim uncertainty about the facts of human biology; or we proclaim moral agnosticism about the propriety of “imposing our views on others”; or we throw up our hands and give up because moral opposition to an entrenched, pervasive social practice is not worth the effort, discomfort, and social costs. The one position not on the table—the one possibility too hard to look at—is that abortion is a grave moral wrong on a par with the greatest human moral atrocities of all time and that we passively, almost willingly, accept it as such.

All of this should tell us a few more sobering things. It should tell us that, much as we would like to believe that human beings have become more morally conscious, more sensitive to injustice and intolerant of clear evil, it remains the case that we often either fail to recognize it in our midst, or refuse to respond to it decisively, out of self-interest or cowardice. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think that we surely would have stood bravely against slavery, even if embedded in a nineteenth-century society that tolerated and accepted it as a legal right, we might have acquiesced or been tepid in our condemnation. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think we would never have put up with what transpired in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the 1940s, the evidence of our lives in twenty-first century America is that we might have put up with quite a lot.

And it should tell us finally, that, as much as we may claim to admire our governmental and constitutional system, the decisions of the Supreme Court in the abortion cases expose the Court—at least on this matter of life, death, and law—as a lawless, rogue institution capable of the most monstrous of injustices in the name of law. The Court has, with its abortion decisions, surely forfeited its legal and moral legitimacy as an institution. It has forfeited its claimed authority to speak for the Constitution. It has forfeited its entitlement to have its decisions respected, and followed, by the other branches of government, by the states, and by the people. Yet the docility of the American people with respect to Roe and abortion rivals the pliancy of the most cowardly, servile peoples toward ruinous, brutal, anti-democratic regimes throughout world history.

The Supreme Court is empowered by the Constitution to faithfully interpret the Constitution. But it is not alone in that power, and when it exceeds it and violates it, it is the responsibility of other actors in our system to check the abuse. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 49, “the several departments being perfectly co-ordinate by the terms of their common commission, neither of them, it is evident, can pretend to an exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between their respective powers.” Moreover, it is “the people themselves” who are “the grantors of the commission” and who “can alone declare its true meaning and enforce its observance.”

The Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should not be accepted as law, in any sense. It should be resisted by legislatures and it should be refused enforcement by executive officials because it is not the law. It should be resisted by all citizens, with all the resources at their disposal, and perhaps even with resources not (yet) at their disposal.
4310  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential, Mark Steyn: (Mitt is) The Man Who Gave Us Newt on: January 23, 2012, 11:23:27 AM
Dick Morris had it right.  It is not momentum of Newt or organization of Mitt now, it is the message from here on out, and it better get more focused.

Newt is a known commodity and has real high negatives, a bad combination that could cost R's the lead in the House and Senate takeover as well if things went badly.  Best case is if the contest now between these two raises the eventual candidate to a level they wouldn't have attained otherwise.

Romney has not yet raised his game to deserve to win.  South Carolina should clarify his thinking and help him to streamline his staff.

Mark Steyn wrote one of the strongest rips against Newt earlier.  Here he take Romney over his knee and spanks him pretty badly:

The Man Who Gave Us Newt
By Mark Steyn
January 22, 2012 6:40 P.M.

The nature of this peculiar primary season — the reason it seems at odds with both the 2009–2010 political narrative and the seriousness of the times — was determined by Mitt Romney. Even if you don’t mind Romneycare, or the abortion flip-flop, or any of the rest, there’s a more basic problem: He’s not a natural campaigner, and on the stump he instinctively recoils from any personal connection with the voters. So, in compensation, he’s bought himself a bunch of A-list advisers and a lavish campaign. He is, as he likes to say, the only candidate with experience in the private sector. So he knows better than to throw his money away, right? But that’s just what he’s doing, in big ways and small.

Small: It’s a good idea to get that telegenic gal (daughter-in-law?) to stand behind him during the concession speech, but one of those expensive consultants ought to tell her not to look so bored and glassy-eyed as the stiff guy grinds through the same-old-same-old for the umpteenth time. To those watching on TV last night, she looked like we felt.

Big: Why is the stump speech so awful? “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” Mitt paid some guy to write this insipid pap. And he paid others to approve it. Not only is it bland and generic, it’s lethal to him in a way that it wouldn’t be to Gingrich or Perry or Bachmann or Paul because it plays to his caricature — as a synthetic, stage-managed hollow man of no fixed beliefs. And, when Ron Paul’s going on about “fiat money” and Newt’s brimming with specifics on everything (he was great on the pipeline last night), Mitt’s generalities are awfully condescending: The finely calibrated inoffensiveness is kind of offensive.

And what’s with the wind up? The “shining city on the hill”? That’s another guy’s line — a guy with whom you have had hitherto little connection other than your public repudiation of him back in the Nineties. Can’t any of his highly paid honchos write him a campaign slogan that’s his own and doesn’t sound in his mouth so cheesily anodyne, as if some guy ran a focus-group and this phrase came up with the lowest negatives?

And where, among all the dough he’s handing out, is the rapid-response team? Newt’s “spontaneous” indignation at John King was carefully crafted by Gingrich himself. By contrast, Mitt has a ton of consultants, and not one of them thought he needed a credible answer on Bain or taxes? For a guy running as a chief exec applying proven private-sector solutions, his campaign looks awfully like an unreformable government bureaucracy: big, bloated, overstaffed, burning money, slow to react, and all but impossible to change.

Mitt’s strategy for 2012 as for 2008 was to sit on his lead and run out the clock: Four years ago, that strategy died in New Hampshire; this time round it died one state later. Congratulations! Years ago, I was chit-chatting with Arthur Laurents, the writer of West Side Story and The Way We Were and much else, about some show that was in trouble on the road that he’d been called in to “fix.” “The trouble with a bad show,” he sighed, “is that you can make it better but you can never make it good.” The Romney candidacy is better than it was four years ago, but it’s not clear that it’s good. Mitt needs to get good real fast: A real speech, real plan, real responses, and real fire in the belly. Does he have it in him? 
4311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 21, 2012, 08:04:37 PM
"I have seen him (Newt) readily agree on his failings in the past."

I would argue that point a bit - true for the marital crap but not for the leadership points brought up by other members of his House leadership team - but today is Newt's day.  Congrats.  The momentum is Newt's  The race is now Newt's to lose. Literally.

"I see him more like Geo H.W. Bush.

Only meant as an analogy coming into it, not a compliment.  Both HW Bush and Romney start with the potential to be a great or at least solid President. 

"I would proffer the probability that Romney's weenie response on his tax returns this past week typifies how he will respond to class warfare from Barak and the Demogogues."

Agree on the first part, it was lame although how his blind trust is taxed should be more a reflection on those in power than on him.  On the second part, how he will respond, I don't know.

If any of these guys had a core principle or a backbone, answering the questions would be a lot simpler.
4312  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 20, 2012, 04:57:37 PM
"I fear that just like George "Passionate Conservatism" Bush, Mitt suffers from what I call "patrician's guilt"

True, but I see him more like Geo H.W. Bush.  He may not suffer from the guilt but has to fight off the perception.

I see him like the risk in a Supreme Court appointee.  I think there is a 50% chance he will be a great President  Newt I think carries higher risk that he won't stay consistent, bring the congress and the people with him.

The key will be to have him work the first 4 year with a GOOD Republican House and Senate.

If the new President doesn't bring and keep the people with him he will have no chance at bullying 60 votes in the senate for anything.

Tomorrow is the key to the race.  Newt must win but if he does he may have a 2 man race and the advantage.  If Romney wins, perhaps it is over.
4313  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 20, 2012, 04:44:37 PM
"Arguably he has matured since 15 years ago-- in part due to his being brought low, in part due to his time in the wilderness, in part due to the natural passage of time."

Yes, but...  He counts the accomplishments but refuses to take the negatives from the same time period. The ex-wife story is old news.  I believe we had the Vanity Fair story here a year ago. I was only judging him by his word to prove his new discipline by showing it in the campaign.
4314  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 19, 2012, 12:30:39 PM
Yes, but which Newt are we pulling for? Dick Morris is looking for the good Newt but you only get all or none.

I guess these critics could be discounted as Romney surrogates but the criticism was present back then as well.

Ex-Senator Jim Talent calls him an "Unreliable Leader".  Representative Susan Molinari:  "I can only describe his style as leadership by chaos".  Both served under him as House Speaker.
4315  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy Q: What is the tax rate on the 15% capital gains tax? on: January 18, 2012, 10:33:25 PM
A.  I did not see the previous post in this thread, Laffer v. Buffet, when it went by a week ago.  Very interesting!  One point is that unrealized capital gains don't show up as income, don't show as tax and don't raise any revenues.  The bad part of that is that many of those gains are unrealized because of the tax!  An especially large problem is that states tax capital gains as ordinary income, not at a long term capital gains rate, so unless your gain is in Texas, South Dakota or a few other places, your tax is going to be far above the 15%, not counting the small problem described below.

B.  Why should a capital gain get a preferred tax rate?  Hint below.

C.  What is the tax rate on a capital gain taxed at 15%?  Does anyone know?  I didn't think so...

15%.  Right?  Well no.  Since it is by definition a LONG TERM capital gain, it contains an inflationary component.   Let's take an example:  If you bought an investment in 1971 for $100 and sold it in 2011 for $551.  You just walked away with 5 1/2 times your money over a very long hold - before taxes.  Your federal tax is 15% on 4 1/2 times the amount you invested, but your gain was zero because you only got back the same value in devalued dollars before taxes, so what is your tax rate really?  That is a tough one mathematically because you have a real tax but no real income.

Take any dollar amount in any year, and translate it to equal value in any other year using this online calculator.  The results may surprise you.
4316  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 18, 2012, 09:57:47 AM
We will see Saturday, but Newt with his personal baggage started with one chance to win and that was be only the guy answering Juan Williams in the clip espousing the value of freedom and work ethic, national security etc. and not fall off message.   Paul Gigot has good insights on this:

The Bain of Gingrich's Campaign
In last night's debate, Mr. Gingrich was shaky on the most recent theme of his campaign—Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.


Newt Gingrich was the star of Monday night's GOP debate in South Carolina, which isn't surprising. He's done well in all the debates. Most notable is that he was shaky on the main theme of his last week of campaigning -- Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital -- while he did best when he focused on the failures of the Obama administration and the welfare state.

The former speaker never did have a good answer for Bret Baier's queries on Bain Capital, which included critical quotes from one of the Journal's recent editorials. The Georgian lacked his usual confidence and sure-footedness. This may be because at some level Mr. Gingrich doesn't believe his own assertions that Bain practices an illegitimate form of capitalism. He said he was merely asking "questions" to see whether or not Mr. Romney "can answer them effectively." Mr. Romney wasn't much better in defending himself -- his default is always to focus on his own biography rather than the larger philosophical or moral issue -- but an attack on business doesn't play very well among GOP primary voters and it didn't in the auditorium on Monday.

Mr. Gingrich was far better on the questions of race, jobs for young people, and Social Security. One of Mr. Gingrich's debating skills is that he doesn't accept the moral premises of the (usually liberal) questioner. So he can turn a query intended to trap him into accepting the exploitation of children into an answer highlighting the dignity of work and the dangers of dependency. He can do this speaking off the cuff in a way that Mr. Romney simply cannot. The crowd in Myrtle Beach loved it, and Mr. Gingrich will probably get a bump from his performance.

His problem is that debates tend to be more consequential earlier in a campaign when impressions are being formed, and this week is late in the game. Mr. Gingrich's Bain detour was a blunder that cost him with many of the conservatives he needs to win in South Carolina.

(Paul Gigot is WSJ Editorial page editor. Subscribe here:
4317  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - campaign question on: January 18, 2012, 09:40:34 AM
The question for each voter will boil down to something like this in November:

Are you better off now than you than you were five trillion dollars ago?
4318  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - Obama and Sullivan are smart, the rest of us are idiots on: January 18, 2012, 12:06:00 AM
The right, the left and the center all have it wrong and he is right.  He is just looking at the actual record. Everyone else is spin.  (The emoticon I am looking for isn't in the choices.)  "...the American people will come to see his first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started."  - The coyote follows the roadrunner - off the cliff

"Mitt Romney accuses the president of making the recession worse, of wanting to turn America into a European welfare state, of not believing in opportunity or free enterprise, of having no understanding of the real economy, and of apologizing for America and appeasing our enemies. According to Romney, Obama is a mortal threat to “the soul” of America and an empty suit who couldn’t run a business, let alone a country.

  - That made more sense to me than the rest of the piece.  BTW, a google search of 'romney calls obama empty suit' only points to critics calling Romney that.  And what business did Obama run?

"Leave aside the internal incoherence—how could such an incompetent be a threat to anyone?"  -  That is incoherent.  IF he is in over his head, he IS a threat. If his Presidency isn't economic damage, it certainly is a 4 year delay on the solution.

"When Obama took office, the United States was losing around 750,000 jobs a month. The last quarter of 2008 saw an annualized drop in growth approaching 9 percent. This was the most serious downturn since the 1930s, there was a real chance of a systemic collapse of the entire global financial system, and unemployment and debt—lagging indicators—were about to soar even further. No fair person can blame Obama for the wreckage of the next 12 months, as the financial crisis cut a swath through employment. Economies take time to shift course."

  - Broken record here, but am I really the only person in America that remembers that the Democrats took control of Washington 6 years ago this November, not 4.

"But Obama did several things at once: he continued the bank bailout begun by George W. Bush, he initiated a bailout of the auto industry, and he worked to pass a huge stimulus package of $787 billion."

  - It was NOT a stimulus.  There is no evidence of that.  He admitted they were not shovel ready jobs.  They were chosen instead for targeting key constituencies.  He passed up true shovel ready jobs like the Keystone pipeline.

"The job collapse bottomed out at the beginning of 2010, as the stimulus took effect. Since then, the U.S. has added 2.4 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s far better than what Romney would have you believe, and more than the net jobs created under the entire Bush administration. In 2011 alone, 1.9 million private-sector jobs were created, while a net 280,000 government jobs were lost. "

  - Intentional deception or a lie, you make the call.  He compares only the slow growth stretch ofObama, ignores the first year because those are runners left on base by Bush (actually Pelosi-Reid-Obama-Hillary-Biden and Bush, a ruling coalition).  Then he compares that with the "net jobs" of Bush, defined to combine the 52 months of solid growth under Bush policies with the recession left to him and with the asset collapse that came with Pelosi-Reid-Obama power handoff of Nov 2006/Jan2007.  Take a look at this unemployment chart and see if "net jobs" under Bush is a good way to summarize what happened in those 8 years:

2003 is where the Bush plan kicked in.  The lowest point in unemployment is where power switched back.  The full asset collapse occurs in Sept 2008 when the reality hits the markets that the tax cuts will be allowed to expire.  A change of that Democratic promise in early 2008, when China was lowering their business tax rates, would have removed the urgency of the asset collapse that occurred later that year that prevented Obama from becoming a great President.  But NO!

"Overall government employment has declined 2.6 percent over the past 3 years. (That compares with a drop of 2.2 percent during the early years of the Reagan administration.) "

  - The growth rate at this point in the Reagan administration was 7.75% sustained and he won 49 states.  Does he really see some similarity there or think we are stupid with a one measure comparison.  Yes, Reagan never slashed domestic spending; he had a Dem House for all 8 years.  But we had a surging economy and surging government revenues very unlike now.

"the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do. It put a bottom under the free fall. It is not an exaggeration to say it prevented a spiral downward that could have led to the Second Great Depression."

  - Not spin, just actual results, but in a 4 internet page article there was no  room to back that up with anything? Maybe in a follow up piece (Newsweek February?) he will document how very Obama-like policies led to the original Great Depression (actual results) and how Reagan-like policies led to a quarter century of growth.

"You’d think, listening to the Republican debates, that Obama has raised taxes. Again, this is not true."

  - I will make this point until someone hears it.  The do not tax you to put money into an investment.  They tax you later to take the return on that investment out.  The tax rate that counts in job creating economy growth policies is the FUTURE MARGINAL TAX RATE.  This President has managed to keep a tax rate increase impending perpetually.  He has it coming back every 2 years so he gets none of the revenue enhancement of actual income taxed at the higher rate and all of the job killing economic carnage that increasing disincentives cause.  I ask: what could be more incompetent and Sullivan says brilliant - what a long term thinker!

"Not only did he agree not to sunset the Bush tax cuts for his entire first term,"

  - He extended the Bush tax cuts AFTER the damage was done and scheduled another growth killing tax hike in just 2 more years.  Christina Romer wrote a paper on the job killing effect of these policies.  Read it.

"he has aggressively lowered taxes on most Americans. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts, affecting 95 percent of taxpayers; he has cut the payroll tax..."

  - Not all tax cuts are created equal.  Marginal rates were not cut and the lower 95% tend to be the ones who don't hire.  More money out of nowhere in their pocket is Keynesian, not supply side.  If it were paid for, it would mean less money in someone else's pocket.  It is not paid for so it just means every other dollar is worth less, with interest accruing to eternity.  Interest paid to China alone by the end of Obama's second term will surpass all of China's military budget.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

"His spending record is also far better than his predecessor’s. Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms."

  - Obama kept ALL of the overspending of the last decade and added onto it.  Sullivan of course blends in "temporary", "emergency" spending that was the consensus policy of Bush-Obama-McCain, all on board, makes it permanent then adds onto it to the tune of trillions not counting the admitted underestimates of Obamacare and host of other new programs coming.

"On foreign policy, the right-wing critiques have been the most unhinged. Romney accuses the president of apologizing for America, and others all but accuse him of treason and appeasement. Instead, Obama reversed Bush’s policy of ignoring Osama bin Laden..."

  - Really?  Obama's policies led to that find?  Not that I read. Maybe it is in Newsweek March 2012 edition, lol.

"immediately setting a course that eventually led to his capture and death."

  - I credit the President for making the right decision - after sitting on the question 16 hours while bin Laden could have been tipped off of the danger and fled the scene.  The President was cool; he was calm.  In this case he was able to golf and capture OBL all at the same time - hold my calls please.  There is a remote chance however that the campaign could overplay this one accomplishment that seems to be their answer for almost everything!
In my anecdotal real world today, two African American nurses working inner city home health care expressed a genuine interest in Republican economics and my furnace guy was all excited about the Republican debate last night, pointing out the exact same Newt quote that Crafty linked for us earlier today - all without knowing my view.  The polls say people are thinking more like 2010 than 2006 or 2008 for this year.  Assuming Andrew Sullivan is a very smart guy and I don't know that, he wrote this piece to be provocative more than to present a serious state of the race IMHO.
4319  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Concerning Stratfor: on: January 17, 2012, 10:05:19 AM
It's good to see Stratfor back in stride; I appreciate their analysis.  Like I say about a good economist, I don't expect them to know the future, just to give good analysis of what has happened so far and what is happening now.

I thought they explained and handled the attack on their organization and their customers as well as is possible. They were accused of not encrypting data and they admitted that, explained it, apologized and corrected it.  My view is that they saw their business as primarily the creation of these reports rather than marketing sales and distribution.  From the larger story it sounds like the financial data was the perhaps the least significant of the losses.  It is a warning shot for all of us of the dangers of lost privacy and putting our trade secrets on the cloud or on an fully interconnected information system. Somehow I doubt ordinary encryption would have thwarted much of what went wrong on an attack that large and sophisticated.  Look at Wikileaks.  The top intelligence agencies in the world were all hacked recently and repeatedly as well. Crafty, as one who was likely a victim, I wonder how you feel about what happened.  I sympathize with all including Strat as the largest victim.  They had their whole business model jeopardized, plus each customer  compromised.  They were guilty of a malpractice and did what they could to come clean and make it right.  Sounds like they bought each customer an identity theft package.  Now you have one more business out there storing all your data. 

This could go in some other thread, but a person should have a credit card or account just for these types of purchases with very low limit and a distinct and limited purchase pattern as the first line of protection.
4320  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Birther rebirth on: January 16, 2012, 11:12:01 AM
I don't know anything about the veracity of that but wonder about this:

If Virginia and a few other states were to keep the incumbent President off of their ballot in their state based on insufficient or inconclusive documentation provided, the campaign of the former constitutional law professor would certainly respect that decision based on the decision in the Perry case and their respect for "states rights".  No?
4321  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Talks with the Taliban - about the release of terrorists on: January 16, 2012, 10:19:55 AM

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration appeared Wednesday to acknowledge discussions about transferring some Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as part of U.S. efforts to jumpstart peace talks with the Taliban after 10 years of inconclusive fighting.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said no decision about releasing any Taliban detainees has been made. But in answering a question about whether Washington was ready to transfer Guantanamo detainees, possibly to Qatar, in exchange for talks with the Afghan insurgents, Clinton did not dispute that such a trust-building measure was under consideration.
Washington Post,  opinion piece, Jan 9, 2010, Marc Theissen:
Don’t let these Taliban leaders loose

President Obama is reportedly considering releasing several senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay as an enticement to get the Taliban to the peace table. If he does so, he will do tremendous harm to American national security — and to his prospects for reelection this fall.

To understand why, consider the individuals White House is considering setting free. Last year WikiLeaks released a trove of documents it dubbed the “Gitmo Files” with assessments of hundreds of Guantanamo detainees — including the five Taliban leaders reportedly under consideration for release. Here is the U.S. military’s assessment of them:

Mullah Mohammed Fazl, deputy defense minister. Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes while serving as a Taliban Army Chief of Staff and … was implicated in the murder of thousands of Shiites in northern Afghanistan during the Taliban reign.” He has “operational associations with significant al-Qaida and other extremist personnel,” was “involved in Taliban narcotics trafficking,” and is so senior in the Taliban hierarchy that he once threatened the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar. Military officials assess that Fazl wields “considerable influence throughout the northern region of Afghanistan and his influence continued even after his capture” adding, “If released, [Fazl] would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with anti-Coalition militias (ACM) participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy minister of intelligence.  Wasiq “was central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against US and Coalition forces.” He “utilized his office to support al-Qaida and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture…. arranged for al-Qaida personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods” and “assigned al-Qaida members to the Taliban Ministry of Intelligence.” If released “he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”

Mullah Norullah Noori, governor-general of Afghanistan's northern zone. Noori “is considered one of the most significant former Taliban officials detained at JTF-GTMO” who “led troops against US and Coalition forces” and “was directly subordinate to Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar.”  He “is wanted by the UN for possible war crimes,” is “associated with members of al-Qaida,” and is assessed “to be a hardliner in his support of the Taliban philosophy.” He “continues to be a significant figure encouraging acts of aggression and his brother is currently a Taliban commander conducting operations against US and Coalition forces…. (Analyst note: Detainee would likely join his brother if released.”)

Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Herat governor and acting interior minister. Khairkhwa is “directly associated to Usama Bin Laden (UBL) and Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Muhammad Omar” and was “trusted and respected by both.” After 9/11 he “represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support hostilities against US and Coalition forces” and “attended a meeting at the direction of UBL, reportedly accompanied by members of HAMAS.” He is “one of the premier opium drug lords in Western Afghanistan” and was likely “associated with a militant training camp in Herat operated by deceased al-Qaida commander (in Iraq) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.”

Mohammad Nabi, multiple leadership roles. Nabi is “a senior Taliban official” who was “a member of a joint al-Qaida/Taliban ACM cell in Khowst and was involved in attacks against US and Coalition forces.” He “held weekly meetings” with “three al-Qaida affiliated individuals” to discuss anti-coalition plans, “maintained weapons caches,” and “facilitated two al-Qaida operatives smuggling an unknown number of missiles along the highway between Jalalabad and Peshawar,” which intelligence officials believe contributed to the deaths of two Americans.

All have close ties to al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. All been assessed by our military as posing a “high risk” of returning to the fight if released. And we know from painful experience what happens when hardliners like these are released from Gitmo. In 2007, the Bush administration released a Taliban leader named Mullah Zakir to Afghan custody. Unlike these five, he was assessed by our military as only “medium risk” of returning to the fight. They were wrong. Today, Zakir is leading Taliban forces fighting U.S. Marines in Helmand province, and according to former intelligence officials I spoke with, he has provided the Taliban with an exponential increase in combat prowess.

Releasing more like him would be disastrous for national security. And it would also be politically disastrous for Obama. His likely opponent, Mitt Romney, has already blasted the administration for even considering such releases, declaring “We do not negotiate with terrorists. The Taliban are terrorists, they are our enemy, and I do not believe in a prisoner release exchange.”

If Obama goes through with these releases, expect Romney to make a major issue of it in the fall campaign. Every time the president has picked a fight over terrorist detention at Guantanamo during the past three years, he has lost. He will lose again if he raises it in 2012. The last thing Obama should want is to have Americans discussing his decision to release dangerous terrorists in November. If Obama won’t keep these brutal men locked up for the national interest, perhaps he will for his political self-interest.

4322  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The endgame in Afghanistan - Pete Hegseth on: January 16, 2012, 09:52:44 AM
Pete Hegseth, founder of Vets For Freedom, is now posted to Afghanistan, where he has been training Afghans as well as American and coalition troops. His reports on the situation there are as knowledgeable as any you can find. Here is his final dispatch [addressing the difficult issues and choices we face] before he heads home next month:

The Endgame in Afghanistan

My first email from Kabul was entitled “First Impressions” and the caveats I used in that email remain unchanged. Afghanistan is such a dynamic place—layered with umpteen complexities, contradictions, mysteries, and unknowns—that a holistic understanding of the country, let alone the conflict (overt and covert), is nearly impossible. That said, over the past eight months I’ve had the opportunity to challenge my first impressions, test hypotheses, and attempt to understand the true nature of the conflict. This section represents my modest—if declarative—initial attempt at distilling what I’ve learned and making some observation about America’s eventual endgame in Afghanistan.

Rather than break down my assessment categorically as I did in previous emails, I will instead look at the war through a lens provided by an insurgency expert who visited us this past summer. His name is Gérard Chaliand and the day we spent with him was fascinating. In addition to authoring over 40 books on guerilla warfare, he has also been a participant/observer of over a dozen insurgencies around the world—including Afghanistan in the 1980s, and again during the current conflict. Listening to him was like sitting in a semi-circle around Yoda himself, absorbing the insight and knowledge of a rare specimen.

Mr. Chaliand visits Afghanistan yearly, but said his 2011 trip was his last. When asked why, he said, “Because I know how it will end. The Taliban control the countryside and are growing in support throughout the country by providing an effective underground government structure. The seeds of their return were planted long ago—much before Gen. McChrystal’s 2009 counterinsurgency strategy—and their ascension is now inevitable. International forces started doing the right things at ‘half past eleven’ and now it’s too late.”

While I certainly didn’t share his pessimism then, I’ve come begrudgingly to agree with his assessment today. The Taliban—by mitigating their negatives (brutality, ethnic exclusion, and overt association with al Qaeda) and accentuating their perceived positives (swift justice, longevity, and ideological cohesion)—have gained, and maintained, a psychological grip on the Afghan population. While most Afghans, especially non-Pashtuns, do not want the Taliban to return (“hearts”), they are grappling with—and calculating accordingly—the looming reality that the Taliban will outlast U.S. forces (“minds”) and eventually challenge a weak, corrupt, and fractured Afghan Government for control of the country.

This isn’t to say that we couldn’t achieve a more advantageous outcome for the United States; of course if we got rid of the 2014 withdrawal deadline completely, were truly willing to remove Taliban and Haqqani safe-havens in Pakistan (we know where they are!), and purged the Afghan government of its most corrupt nodes we could “change the game” of this conflict. But for various reasons—be they domestic politics, a nuclear-armed Pakistan (a lesson for Iran, I would suggest), and a trepidation with undermining corrosive “Afghan sovereignty”—it is highly unlikely we will make the hard choices necessary to level the playing field. A bad outcome in Afghanistan isn’t inevitable, but in light of current realities, it is likely.

However, the policies we pursue in the coming years will impact the degree to which the outcome here is bad, or less-bad. Our commitment to training and mentoring Afghan security forces will be central to determining the future of this country. If we do it right—truly creating a multi-ethnic force that will defend the interests of most Afghans—it could be a vanguard against total Taliban control and a buffer against outright civil war. If we do it wrong or hurriedly, we’re merely indiscriminately (and heavily!) arming different elements of an Afghan army that will eventually turn its guns on each other. In my opinion the later outcome is most likely, but not inevitable.

If you know me, I’m not one for pessimism, and certainly not interested in undermining the efforts of our troops in harm’s way. Afghanistan is nowhere near a John Kerry-esque “who will be the last American to die for a mistake?” situation. Our effort is noble, our cause just, and our military sharp. But at the same time, my sentiments are in keeping with most Coalition members over here—even if they’re unwilling to say it. We soldier on. We will fight until the end. But with our ear to the ground and our boots in the snow, we can feel the undercurrent in Afghanistan. As the clock ticks to 2014, we become more irrelevant as Afghans make decisions (hoarding, segregating, and hedging) regarding a post-American future in their country.

While I don’t like acquiescing to a “non-victory” in Afghanistan, we will have nonetheless achieved an outcome in Afghanistan that is an exception to the rule in the so-called “graveyard of empires.” From a historical perspective, whenever we “leave” we will be the first “invader” that left on our own terms—a not insignificant accomplishment. Thankfully, and necessarily, I’m fairly certain our commitment to Afghanistan will continue on a smaller and enduring scale—and in doing so we will have done everything we can to create the conditions for a friendly and capable (at least on paper) Afghanistan government to determine their own future. It may not end well, but it won’t be for a lack of U.S. effort, courage, and ingenuity.

As supporting evidence for these heavy-hearted assertions, I would first submit my previous two emails (here and here). My feelings on the fundamentally corrupt Afghan government, Pakistan safe-haven, the 2014 deadline, Taliban capabilities and more are clearly stated in those emails—along with facts and financial figures. However, I’d like to take one more broad look at our mission in Afghanistan, as it currently stands in January of 2012. In doing so, I’ll use Mr. Chaliand’s closing statement to us as a framework for examination. He said, when looking at a counterinsurgency conflict, we must: “Never believe your propaganda, always re-asses the facts, challenge assumptions, and don’t rely on wishful thinking.” Wise words, and a useful filter for analyzing our mission in Afghanistan.

“Never believe your propaganda…”

The Coalition narrative (I don’t consider it “propaganda,” because we’re beholden to the truth—unlike our enemies) in Afghanistan is as follows: the “surge” summer of 2011 has inflicted serious damage on the Taliban, especially in the south; and at the same time, we are aggressively pushing Taliban re-integration programs, training increasingly capable Afghan security forces, and working to improve local governance. But, as I’ve said before, only half of this is grounded in reality. Yes the “surge” has allowed U.S. troops to push the Taliban out of traditional strongholds in the south, significantly disrupting their operations. However, there is also evidence that, despite heavy casualties, the Taliban have been able to regenerate themselves quickly, maintain their military and shadow-governance networks, and are waiting us out.

More troubling is the fact that we have not seen the ripple affects we needed the surge to induce (as it did in Iraq). While re-integration numbers (fighters giving up the fight) are increasing, they still include very few Pashtuns, especially Pashtuns from the south. Most of the re-integrated fighters are from the north and west, places not known for Taliban support. Second—and more importantly—Afghan governance at the local and national level has not decisively taken advantage of the surge environment to improve capability and legitimacy. While there are great programs (like Village Stability Operations and the Afghan Local Police) working to create the conditions for local governance, there hasn’t been—nor will there be—an Anbar-style tribal awakening like we saw in Iraq, largely because of the segmented and fractured nature of Pashtun society in modern Afghanistan. And without a legitimate government in Kabul and in the provinces, the chances for a stable outcome are minimal.

Another aspect of our narrative is that the 2012 “fighting season” (April to October) will be a decisive moment for our forces. We will increase our gains in the south, and degrade the Taliban enough to create the space for increasingly capable Afghan forces and a burgeoning government. There are three big problems with this. First, the idea of a “fighting season” is misleading. While violence is higher in the summer months, the non-violent aspect of this conflict doesn’t stop. When we’re not fighting (and sitting snug on our FOBs for the holidays), the Taliban continues to spread their influence through local dispute resolution, mobile Sharia courts (seen as increasingly legitimate by the people), and propaganda. Second, while we have achieved a critical mass of soldiers in the Afghan National Army, their ability and motivation to continue the fight when we’re not in the lead is still suspect (more on this below). Finally, it’s hard to overstate how damaging the 2014 deadline is in creating these outcomes. As the perception of 2014 gets closer, our influence—by point of fact—will diminish. The Taliban can stand back and wait us out because we told them how long to wait.

“Always reassess the facts…”

The fact is: facts are sticky in Afghanistan. And, depending on whom you’re talking to—especially amongst Afghans—they are always different, and oftentimes contradictory. So, rather than only talk “facts” now, I’d like to do a quick comparison between old facts and new realities.

Fact: In 2004, President Hamid Karzai was elected the President of Afghanistan, and seen as legitimate by wide swaths of Afghans as well as around the world. Reality today: Not only is the Karzai government corrupt and dysfunctional, it is already seen as illegitimate by most groups inside Afghanistan and as a complete money-pit to international donors. In fact, by any fair assessment, it can barely be called a “government” by traditional standards; it’s more like a ruling mafia. Bribery, nepotism, and blatant disregard for the rule of law and their own constitution are off the charts. The ruling elite are getting rich off international aid while regular Afghans scarcely see their lives improve. All-the-while, the Taliban exploit this fact through piercing propaganda. The end result is that we continue to prop up an Afghan government that is seen as increasingly illegitimate by the people, all the while hoping “peace talks” with the Taliban will provide an exit ramp for the war. The Taliban doesn’t want to work with the Afghan government, they want to replace it.

Fact: Since 2001 the United States has spent $456,000 an hour, every hour, on non-military developmental aid alone, and has spent even more on the military. Reality today: Afghanistan is an international donor state, almost completely reliant on international aid money to function. They have almost no tax base (save import taxation and…untaxed opium) and 97% of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product is linked to foreign aid. We pay for their government and military, and have created financial realities that are completely unsustainable. Take, for example, the Afghan Army. This year we will spend $13 billion on training and equipping the Afghan Army, while the Afghan government will take in less than $2 billion in revenue. Some tough financial realities loom: either we cut spending and reduce the size of their Army or we continue to pay for it. The former would mean—for certain—the Afghan Army would eventually capitulate to the Taliban; the later that we continue to pump billions into Afghanistan’s Army while we downsize our own (a bad idea, by the way). Not not only is Afghanistan’s current situation unsustainable, but spending in the country for the past decade has distorted their economy and government more negatively than positively.

Final fact: In 2001, the U.S. was attacked by al Qaeda from Afghanistan, where the Taliban granted them safe-haven. Reality today: Bin Laden is dead, al Qaeda is on the ropes, and the Taliban are wary of their association with al Qaeda. Yes the groups still coordinate, but it’s not the rock solid alliance it was ten years ago. Vice President Biden recently said that “the Taliban is not our enemy.” I respectfully and adamantly disagree (as would, I suspect, the families of those U.S. troops killed by the Taliban). Any group openly fighting and killing our soldiers is our enemy. But the more important question is—does the Taliban pose an existential threat to America and our interests? They might tell us during negotiations that they will swear off association with Al Qaeda, but just like the Iranian denial of nuclear weapons—we should not believe them. There isn’t a scenario where a radical and violent Islamic group taking control of Afghanistan is a good outcome; however, we can still salvage conditions where the Taliban are not able to utilize, or provide, substantial haven for radical Islamists with global ambitions.

“Challenge assumptions…”

The largest and most dangerous assumption we make is that there is a nation called “Afghanistan” and a collection of people called “Afghans.” Neither is correct, but that assumption continues to fuel our push for a multi-ethnic military and government that holds sway inside the arbitrary boundaries of Afghanistan. Having spent time with Afghans from multiple backgrounds—Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras—it’s painfully clear that beneath the surface of the “we are Afghans” talk are true feelings of ethnic and tribal affiliations that supersede an “Afghan” identity. History, language, violence, custom, mistrust, and animosity separate these groups—and a flag, a national anthem (only in Pashto, which angers Dari speakers) a “government” and a western-style Army are not enough to create a nation where none exists. I could tell story after story about this, but suffice it to say—this country is fragmented, and won’t unite in time to fight an ideologically cohesive, Pashtun-based Taliban movement.

In regards to the western-style Army I mentioned above, the assumptions we make with this force will have lasting, and potentially positive or negative impacts. Not only have we attempted to create a multi-ethnic institution that will represent all Afghans, but we’ve also built an Army in our image—with strong conventional capabilities and a Non-Commissioned Officer Corps, where none has existed before. We are producing new units at a rapid rate, recruiting from all backgrounds and then sending them to the Consolidated Fielding Center (CFC) in Kabul where multi-ethnic units are established and trained, before being sent to the field. There’s nothing wrong with that; but the problem is what happens after that, on three fronts:

First, each new unit is given millions of dollars of brand new weaponry and equipment, with minimal actual accountability. The kandak (battalion) commander is responsible for the equipment, some/much of which eventually ends up missing (and sometimes on sale in Pakistan). For example, a heavy weapons kandak leaves the CFC with approximately eighteen brand-new 50-caliber machine guns, and dozens of smaller-caliber heavy weapons and RPGs. I challenge you to walk into any National Guard armory in the States and ask how many functioning 50-caliber machine guns they have. They’ll probably pull out four beat-up 50-cals with rusting barrels, likely dated back to Vietnam. If things don’t end well, someone will use these weapons—and it might not be our friends.

Second, while units are formed as multi-ethnic entities, once they get to the field a slow, but deliberate, self-segregation is starting to occur. Soldiers from the north try to get back to the north, and likewise for soldiers in the south. A Tajik ultimately wants to fight alongside Tajiks from his area, and likewise for Pashtuns and other groups. What you could end up having is a series of regional armies with more commitment to their area then to “Afghanistan.” If things don’t end well, they will end up fighting each other—with weapons we have supplied them. On the flip side, if things move forward as we plan, these units will be a bulwark for the state. There are certainly many multi-ethnic units in the field, fighting bravely together and doing great things. The question is—will this be the rule, or become the exception?

Third, even once the units are fielded—and assuming they are fighting for “Afghanistan”—we are currently making big assumptions about their capability to eventually independently operate and sustain their activities. With U.S. support—which includes things like logistical resupply, air support, and medical evacuation—many units currently do well in the fight. But if we take that away in 2013, 14, or 15—will they sustain the fight? And will they push into enemy territory? Many Afghan units have become accustomed to U.S. support, and may not be willing to fight an emboldened Taliban without the robust U.S. support they receive. They’re also accustomed to being paid well, while their Taliban counterparts fight for nothing. Our brave soldiers will mentor and train them to make them as capable as possible, but if they don’t develop their own systems soon, the Afghan Army house of cards could come falling down more quickly than anyone would like to admit.

Finally, I came to Afghanistan with the assumption that this battlefield is central to defending the United States. In the realm of perception and international opinion it is still very important; how we “finish” in Afghanistan will send strong signals to the rest of the world about whether we finish what we start. Recent events in Iraq make this plainly clear. However, the question is whether the cost in Afghanistan is worth the outcome? As my British colleague says, “is the juice worth the squeeze?” I think seeing this through, while gradually drawing down, is worth doing. That said, larger and more strategically significant issues staring us in the face need to take a higher priority. We need to muster our political courage and confront our crippling domestic debt. (Did you know that, by 2015, just the interest payments on our debt to China will pay for its entire military?). We need to ensure our force posture and military might is capable of deterring a rising China. And we need to do what is necessary—including military action—to prevent a nuclear Iran (the fact that we can’t do anything in a nuclear-armed Pakistan should demonstrate that). There are obviously plenty of other challenges as well (especially at home), and spending money the way we are today in Afghanistan prevents us from confronting these challenges.

“…and don’t rely on wishful thinking.”

If you’ve read the previous two sections (and my previous emails), then I hope most of your “wishful thinking” has been stripped. That’s the point—we can’t wish our way to victory (as we say, “hope is not a strategy”). But we can look at the world the way it is and craft strategies to effect a more-desirable outcome. From where I’ve been sitting in Afghanistan, thankfully it’s clear that General Allen understands this; and as a result we’ve already seen (and will continue to see) a shift in our strategy from counterinsurgency to security force assistance. It’s a subtle, but important change. Instead of U.S. units taking the military lead in the field and trying to “partner” with Afghan units in the process, the lead responsibility will now fall to Afghans. Our soldiers will serve as embedded advisors, with 12-16 man teams embedded inside every Afghan unit—pushing the Afghan Army (and Police) to the point where they can defeat the enemy on their own. U.S advisors will start with infantry units trained to clear and hold areas of insurgents and gradually shift toward support units, including helicopter units, logisticians and other support personnel. This change makes complete sense and is the best strategy to securing a less-bad outcome for us.

At the same time, General Allen continues to talk about a post-2014 presence for NATO and the United States. This is extremely important as well. The Afghan Army, and the Taliban, need to be convinced that we won’t just leave in 2014—but will instead maintain an enduring, and strategically significant, presence. The perception (as opposed to the reality) of 2014 is what is most damaging to our effort—and from General Allen and all elements of command, there is a clear effort to erode this perception. It won’t change overnight, but we must aggressively pursue a counter-narrative.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the ongoing “peace talks” with the Taliban (aptly placed in the “wishful thinking” section). It appears that both the U.S. and the Afghan government have approved a Taliban “office” in the country of Qatar, from which they can hold peace talks. Right now the Taliban is only talking to the U.S., which angers President Karzai. In fact, the Taliban’s most recent pronouncement on negotiations rejected Karzai, his government and the Afghan constitution—which is not a promising starting point. From our side, there are talks of a prisoner exchange from Guantanamo, as well as ceasefires, etc. The U.S. insists that the Taliban would have to forswear violence, stop harboring international jihadists, and recognize the Afghan government and constitution. It is highly unlikely they will agree to all three; therefore, which one would we be willing to cave on? If they keep their weapons, they’ll keep fighting; if they continue to harbor terrorists, then our entire effort is for naught; and if they won’t recognize the Afghan government, then they’re never join it.

I honestly don’t have the slightest idea how these talks will unfold, but we’re being shortsighted and “wishful” if we think they will provide a silver bullet for this conflict. I’m fearful the beltway intelligencia, out of options and desperate for a rapid solution, will seize on this idea—regardless of underlying realities. The Taliban will not be content to share power in good faith; and since they think they’re “winning,” they’re not likely to capitulate to our demands. Their negotiation strategy is based on (again) waiting until 2014 when the United States could be forced to compromise on the most important aspects of the post-2001 order in Afghanistan.

In the end, we clearly cannot abandon Afghanistan—pulling our troops out now would be a disaster. On the other hand, maintaining our effort at the current scope and cost is not commensurate with the benefits. The surge, led by the finest generals the American military has to offer, was the right approach; however, it was undercut from the outset—when we told the enemy when we were going to leave. Having tried “more troops” (albeit, half-heartedly) and in light of political realities, the best course of action now is to continue drawing down our troops, bolster our advising mission, and emphasize our continued—if much scaled down—commitment to the outcome in Afghanistan. Despite our mistakes, we cannot abandon this mission—lest we invite larger problems in the future. Going forward, a robust advising mission, along with continued targeted special forces raids, could be sustained in perpetuity with minimal cost and most of the benefit of our current presence.

As I’ve said before, it remains the honor of my life to serve our great country—first in Guantanamo Bay, then Iraq, and finally in Afghanistan. I can think of no greater privilege than to wear our nation’s uniform, and to defend the ideals we all hold dear.

I’ll close by reiterating something I wrote in July. I urge you to remember the guy—dirty, tired, sweaty, and hungry—on patrol somewhere in no-man’s-land Afghanistan. He is fighting as I type this, and as you read this. We must always remember that, and remember him in our prayers. He is the linchpin of this effort, and the one who bears the brunt of all the policies we execute.

4323  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Regulations: Hayward - We need a new Laffer Curve on: January 16, 2012, 09:30:05 AM
Needed: A New Laffer Curve  - by Steven Hayward

The Laffer Curve—the conceptual device illustrating how high marginal tax rates reduced revenue and economic growth—helped revolutionize tax policy around the world thirty five years ago.  Every advanced nation followed the United States in lowering tax rates on income (both personal and corporate) and capital investment in the 1980s; many did so more vigorously than we did.  (The definitive treatment of the subject is Brian Domitrovic’s Econoclasts.  Belongs on everyone’s economics bookshelf.)  While the Left kvetches against the Laffer Curve, I note that not even the most leftist governments in the industrialized world propose restoring pre-Laffer Curve income and capital gains tax rates.  Game over.

Today we need a new Laffer Curve—for regulation.  The thought comes to mind in contemplating George Will’s column this morning discussing the impending difficulties in deepening the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina by five feet in order to accommodate a new generation of larger container ships soon to be sailing the ocean blue:

    Newsome says the study for deepening Savannah’s harbor was made in 1999. It is 2012, and studies for the environmental impact statement are not finished. When they are, the project will take five years to construct. “But before that,” he says laconically, “they’re going to be sued by groups concerned about the environmental impact.” A Newsome axiom — that institutions become risk-averse as they get challenged — is increasingly pertinent as America changes from a nation that celebrated getting things done to a nation that celebrates people and groups who prevent things from being done. . .

    The Empire State Building was built in 14 months during the Depression, the Pentagon in 16 in wartime. The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, which earned 11 battle stars in the Pacific and now is anchored here, was built in less than 17 months, back when America was serious about moving forward. Is it necessary to take eight years — just two years less than it took to build the Panama Canal with yellow fever and without computers — to deepen this harbor five feet?

It is one thing to argue that the economic benefits of health and safety regulations, such as air and water pollution, etc., outweigh the costs, though the EPA’s methodology for making these calculations is highly convenient.  But we can leave that head-splitting methodological argument for another time.  How can the economic benefits possibly outweigh the massive delays which amount to outright prevention of projects from being built (see: Keystone XL pipeline, or see the Project/NoProject? website for a cumulative rundown of projects currently held up in the environmental review process)?  More to the point, does the long, litigation-heavy environmental review process we currently use actually deliver environmental benefits? More often it is simply used as an obstructionist measure.  (I noted in watching a Keystone pipeline hearing that most of the complaints were simply blanket opposition to building the pipelines at all, not specific complaints about a harm that needed to be avoided somehow.)

Here’s where we need the regulatory equivalent of the Laffer Curve.  Take the Keystone pipeline as an example. The pipeline is likely to be approved eventually, but only after more years of review and litigation.  Certainly measures will need to be taken to reduce the environmental risks of the pipeline, but is there any safety measure that we will eventually impose that we didn’t recognize in the first six months of the review process?  It’s not like we’ve never built a pipeline before, or learned from previous pipeline accidents (like the one in Montana last summer).  Are there really any potential environmental impacts of deepening a harbor in South Carolina by five feet that require six to ten years of review and litigation, and a three-thousand page Environmental Impact Statement?

Clearly the review process we have now is largely deadweight loss, just as high marginal tax rates discouraged capital formation, investment, and productivity improvements in the high-inflation 1970s.  We can arguably afford the extravagance of regulatory suffocation when the economy is booming at 4 percent growth a year or better (as in the late 1990s) and unemployment is 5 percent. We cannot afford it under the current stagnant circumstances.  A Laffer Curve for regulation will explore just how much economic growth and how many jobs were are sacrificing for this artificial punctiliousness.

What needs to be done?  The regulatory review process ought to have a short deadline.  Agency review should be completed within six or nine months, with a presumption in favor of granting permission unless an agency can delineate a substantively new problem based on precedents from previous similar projects (that is, no speculative objections based on what global warming might do 75 years from now, as actually happened to a proposed project in California a few years back where regulators denied a building permit on the theory that rising sea levels would make the land habitat for an endangered species that would want to move upland).  Standing to sue to block projects should be tightened, and the threshold for hearing such suits made much more restrictive.  And how about requiring that all Environmental Impact Statements be no longer than 200 pages?  I’m sure all the environmental lawyers and consultants who charge by the hour and make a bundle doing these multi-volume EIRs that no one reads will howl, but if the Supreme Court can limit briefs to 50 pages on matters of high constitutional importance, why can’t our regulatory process not emulate a standard of brevity that emphasizes the essential over the frivolous and tedious?
4324  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 16, 2012, 09:10:35 AM
"Although the Laffer curve is posited as a way to increase government revenue or at least hold it nearly constant while reducing tax rates, it is nearly always held up as a model by people that don't want to maximize government revenue but would rather minimize it."

Complete straw argument or false observation IMO that the people pressing for the policies that grow revenues most during these times of paralyzing deficits want to minimize revenues.  Please cite evidence.   You passed up a much more obvious point that comes from American experience of 4 or 5 of Crafty's examples:  Proponents of higher government spending look blindly at these periods of rapidly growing revenues and are missing out on the largest source of program funding - a vibrant economic expansion.  Example: the Obama administration - the are dying to grow government but willing to pass up the greatest opportunities to fund it, instead seeking limited growth policies on all fronts.

Revenues to the Treasury doubled in the 1980s for example yet opponents of lower tax rates cling to the false math that lower rates increased the deficit.  Just one example, but there is a similar trend in each example that Crafty cited.

"If I were only to analyze those two points, I would surely come to the conclusion that the Laffer Curve was junk."

Translated/paraphrased by me - If you were to fully mischaracterize your point, it would lose all validity.  Not one of your more persuasive statements in the thread IMHO.   wink
4325  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Issues Constitutional Law: Westboro funeral protest rights case 8th Circuit on: January 15, 2012, 10:05:46 PM
No inside scoop but I had a brief conversation this morning with one of the judges who heard the first amendment, funeral protest case this past week.  Sounded like it is a little unusual for them to have all 11 judges hear a case and unusual for them to have to go through a protest to get to their courthouse.,0,1828407.story

January 9, 2012

The First Amendment and street protests both were on the docket of the Federal Appeals Court in St. Louis. The case involves the controversial Westboro Baptist Church and laws preventing its members from protesting at military funerals.

Street theatre and the First Amendment were the topics Monday afternoon as the court considered whether cities can outlaw protests at service member's funerals.

On one side, there is the Westboro Baptist Church of Wichita, Kansas and on the other, the St. Louis County suburb of Manchester.

Manchester outlawed protests at funerals in 2007. The ordinance was aimed at Westboro Baptist, which travels the country protesting at military funerals. Westboro members believe military deaths are god's punishment for the US tolerating homosexuals. The Manchester ordinance outlaws such protests within 300 feet of any funeral home the day of a funeral.

The ACLU sued Manchester and seven other Missouri cities with similar ordinances, arguing that the protests are political speech and are therefore totally protected by the First Amendment. A lower federal court agreed.

But now the case is before the Federal Appeals Court. And in a demonstration of just how important this First Amendment case is, all 11 appeals court judges heard the case inside the Eagleton Courthouse while protestors marched outside.

No word on when the appeals court may rule in this case.
4326  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Energy Politics - Oil production on federal lands down on: January 14, 2012, 11:58:33 AM
Oil production on federal lands is down 13 percent in 2011: 97,721,813 barrels in 2011 versus 112,124,812 barrels in 2010.

Meanwhile, gas prices are up.  Some expect $4 by spring and spikes up to $5 in summer/fall during the camp.

Per the discussion on Path science, I don't mean one caused the other.  But the USA owns a LOT of the land containing vast amounts of energy and the anti-energy direction of the administration is both contributing to the problem and delaying the solution.  Also reap what you sew, high gas price is part of the agenda so they can answer to the economic damage of that in the election.

Artificially high energy prices costs us jobs in all sectors.
4327  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Law: Prof. Tribe agues for(and against) recess appointments on: January 14, 2012, 11:40:22 AM
Moving from the hypocrisy of Gov. Perry on states rights over to the top of the constitutional law profession: Prof. Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School on the constitutionality (and unconstitutionality) of recess appointments - depending on who makes them. (?)

Games and Gimmicks in the Senate
By LAURENCE H. TRIBE  Published: January 5, 2012
ON Wednesday President Obama, using his power to make recess appointments, named Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A few hours later, he used the same power to appoint three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, acting to overcome unprecedented Senate encroachment on his duty to appoint executive officials. The president’s right to do so is clearly stated in the Constitution: the recess appointments clause empowers him to “fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”

Who could argue with that?  Here is Prof. Tribe arguing a federal lawsuit against a Bush recess appointment:

In support of Obama, Tribe asserts that the president's power to deem the Senate to be "in recess" and then make recess appointments "is clearly stated in the Constitution" and is further supported by "past practice." But against Bush, Tribe argued that "[t]he text, structure, purpose, function, and pre-1921 history of the Recess Appointments Clause all confirm . . . that the President may not make recess appointments during intra-session Senate breaks."

In support of Obama, Tribe argues that intra-session recess appointments are especially justified when the Senate is deliberately "frustrat[ing] presidential appointments." But against Bush, he argued the opposite: recess appointments are all the more illegitimate when the nominee in question already had been the subject of Senate debate yet "failed to obtain enough votes to go forward under Senate rules."

In support of Obama, Tribe argues that the Senate made itself "unavailable" by largely leaving Washington. But against Bush, he scoffed at the notion that the Senate was ever truly unavailable, thanks to modern technology: even during "holiday breaks that typically last one or two weeks," Senate business "can easily resume, if necessary, owing to modern communications and transportation."

In support of Obama, Tribe invokes Alexander Hamilton's Federalist 67 for the proposition that recess appointments, even intra-session appointments such as Cordray's, are justified when "necessary for the public service to fill without delay." Against Bush, by contrast, he invoked Federalist 67 for the proposition that "recess appointments would be 'necessary,' and thus permissible, only outside the 'session of the Senate"—i.e., never during type of intra-session break that President Obama exploited last week.

In defense of Obama's recess appointments, Tribe said that the president was setting a precedent that would apply "only in instances of transparent and intolerable burdens on his authority." But when Bush made recess appointments, Tribe warned of a slippery slope toward tyranny: We cannot "take comfort in the hope that no President is likely to abuse the recess appointment power" whenever the Senate opposes a nomination, because of the "hydraulic pressure inherent within" the presidency and other branches of government "to exceed the outer limits of its power."

The legal case in favor of President Obama "ought to be a slam dunk"; the same case, in favor of President Bush, was "novel" and "ominous." And so on.   (
4328  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential- Virginia ballot on: January 14, 2012, 11:10:42 AM
My reaction to the Perry suit was roughly the same; he was not the guy you expected to come from far away and sue a state.  If he thought he would ever be the candidate, he should have left that distinction for criticizing the President in the Obama administration v. Arizona.

That said, this law did not help Virginians who would be better off with more choices and I've never heard of banning write-in campaigns.

If there is a federal argument I don't know what it is. It is a state contest, though part of a national election.  Given the unpredictability of federal courts in their rulings, such as the mixed results in the Obamacare rulings, people will always be tempted to try their luck.
4329  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive dissonance of the left: Republican War on Science on: January 13, 2012, 11:07:52 AM
One consensus among the 20% of Americans who identify as liberal is that Republicans are in denial of science.

On global warming, they won't say how fast it is warming or what part of it is caused by human's using fossil fuels for energy but are certain that causation is proven in science, even after the lead scientists were caught cooking and cherry picking the data, studies and analysis.

Next is always evolution where a few 'Christian conservatives' prefer not to speak out against a Judeo-Christian religious belief that man is different from other creatures.  No one that I know on the right denies that God's creation included some ability for living things to adapt.

OTOH, the left on global warming is in compete denial that man or species will be able to adapt to the slightest variation in temperature.

Most stunning though is the omission of abortion from any discussion of a war on science.  let's see, science establishes it is a) alive, b) human, and c) of genetic code completely distinct from the mother.  In the later term, IF the cord is cut and the creature removed, it can live on support just like other people at the hospital.  Yet we kill them off at a rate that could make lenin and Stalin take pause, comparisons to Hitler and holocaust passed up by request.  Yea, this is science. But the Huffington Post is in search of something gone awry in the conservative brain.  Go figure.

Chris Mooney

Author, 'The Republican War on Science' and 'The Republican Brain'

Why Republicans Deny Science: The Quest for a Scientific Explanation
4330  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 13, 2012, 10:37:35 AM
The Vermin video and the Colbert candidacy remind me of a book I recently found by Pat Paulsen outlining his non-run for the Presidency in 1968.  Time permitting I would love to pull out passages from that book and from Obama 2008 speeches and see if the discerning reader can tell which is which.

I don't follow the comedians because I don't watch cable, but it seems that their theme to the politicians is just to stop acting like idiots.  Colbert should run in the Dem primaries on a platform of common sense liberalism (he must think there is such a thing) and just see where it goes.
I made a prediction in 2009 that Pres. Obama will not be the nominee of his own party.  I have gone silent on that lately because nothing is gained for either party or the country if he should drop out so late that only one person (Sec. of State) would be in a position to pick up the pieces.
I agree that immigration issues will flair up in SC and that Newt can hold his own.  Romney knows that what is said to win SC will stay with him nationally in the general election.  I hope he handles it well; it is a very difficult and divisive issue.  It would be nice if someone would remind them they are on the same team and should at least appear to be pushing for a solution over a political gain.  The Boeing dispute illustrates that there are plenty of other labor issues to address.

If Romney wins SC while leading in FL by 20 points, it is over.  Romney can lose SC respectably and still win the nomination.  The candidates who act desperate soon leave the race.
4331  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 11, 2012, 01:30:52 PM
Crafty: "FWIW, I'd like to see more about Romney's Bain Capital record before make a decision."

Likewise - I am no student of Bain but I know operations of other private venture capital firms.  I would point out that a) Romney was 'vetted' in Massachusetts closer to where he operated, b) this was left to an 11th hour desperation attack, if disqualifying, where was it during the last 8 months of the anyone but Romney movement, and c) what do we know about the mortals who comprise his opponents as we make attacks on what everyone did going back 20+ years... Obama doing some blow(?) and meeting over a coffee with terrorists, saying Amen and will you preside over our marriage to Rev. 'God Damn America', Gingrich starting every sentence with Marianne and I publicly, while pressing the Clinton impeachment, while sleeping with Calista, then 'chief 'historian' of the GSEs etc.  Romney is accused at being good at private sector capitalism, making organizations more effective and efficient which necessarily involves career setbacks for people deemed to be ineffective or in oversupply in a company.  Good grief.  Gingrich and Perry IMO aren't trying to save America from this capitalist.  They are trying to keep themselves in a race that is looking a lot like a sweep.

The video draws a correlation between Romney getting wealthy and others losing jobs.  In free enterprise people get wealthy and people lose jobs.  Often times those are the same people who lost their job and went on to greatness!  To Newt, JDN, whoever, are you for that or against that, or do you deny that?  Michael Moore's premise in 'Roger and me' is that if GM employed everyone in our family for generations, they owe me and my children jobs forever, not matter how bad our work product or how uncompetitive our pay package and factory performance becomes.  IMO, we are running against this mindset and looking for the person who can best explain and convey the advantages of freedom of enterprise, in spite of, like democracy, its ugliness.

Bigdog posted how winning Iowa alone, straw poll or caucus, was no great indicator of becoming President.  Romney is the first non-incumbent to win both Iowa and NH since Iowa started the tradition of going first in 1976.  Two very different contests.  If he wins SC and FL, this is over and the these regrettable quotes were all just scorched earth ego offerings that will come back to bite.
4332  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer - Sarah Burke on: January 11, 2012, 12:46:20 PM
How about a prayer for super skier Sarah Burke, ESPY award winner for best female action sports athlete, who is in a coma after a training accident  yesterday.  Her talent and charm on display in this ESPN interview a few days ago:
4333  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics - House and Senate! on: January 11, 2012, 11:29:53 AM
No matter who is the nominee or wins the Presidency, the House and Senate are also both up for grabs this year and the agenda coming out of there is crucial.  The Republican hold on the House is only one off-year election old and the Dem sweep of 2006 (6 Years since 2006) is all back on the table in the Senate for 2012.
A 2012 Republican Strategy for Congress
A series of votes can clarify the differences between the two parties on energy, taxes, spending and regulation.

By RON JOHNSON  (Republican Senator/Businessman from Wisconsin who defeated Russ Feingold in 2010)   WSJ  JANUARY 11, 2012

Americans are frustrated over Washington's inability to address our nation's economic and fiscal problems. That's why I have been working with a growing group of senators and House members to develop a plan that can build public support for solutions. It's called "America's Choice."

America's Choice seeks to highlight the differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party led by President Obama. It could do so over the coming months by presenting to the country, through a series of votes in the House of Representatives, the battle between those who believe in broadest terms in limited government and freedom and those who promote government control and dependency.

What are the choices these votes could present? Growing government spending and debt or growing the private sector and reducing government. Limiting energy development or using America's energy resources. Punishing success or pro-growth tax reform. A government takeover of health care or repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with patient-centered, free-market reforms.

The alternatives are stark. President Obama's faith in government is so strong that he has increased its size to 24% of gross domestic product from 21%, and increased our nation's debt by over $4 trillion. Republicans, on the other hand, believe long-term self-sustaining jobs are created in the private sector—that government cannot tax, spend and borrow our nation to prosperity.

Will green energy power America's future? The administration has squandered billions of dollars on politically connected, green-energy boondoggle projects, while at the same time maintaining a de facto moratorium on off-shore drilling, and dragging its feet on granting permits for other energy utilization projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and restricting and limiting leases for offshore energy production. Republicans could propose a plan to utilize crucial domestic resources, including oil, natural gas and coal, to produce energy and create jobs.

Regulatory overreach in this administration has been breathtaking. Executive agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor have been in hyper-drive, adding to the already job-crushing $1.75 trillion annual cost, according to the Small Business Administration, of federal regulatory compliance. Republicans could propose a regulatory moratorium to give businesses a chance to recover, and then enact real reform to achieve common-sense regulatory balance.

President Obama has launched a divisive campaign pitting one group of Americans against another. Yet 10% of Americans already pay 70% of all income taxes. Increasing the tax burden on that group is counterproductive. Sowing class division is an act of political cynicism producing terrible economic consequences. Significant pro-growth tax reform is the better path to build our economy and create jobs.

Government takeover of our health-care system has been a liberal-progressive dream for decades. President Obama and Democrats in Congress passed the partisan Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It neither protects patients, nor does it make health care more affordable. But it will lead to a government takeover of one-sixth of our economy, and it will blow a hole in an already horribly broken budget.

Republicans are united in our commitment to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered reforms. Malpractice tort reform, health savings account expansion, insurance purchase across state lines, reduction of government mandates, and equalized tax treatment of insurance premiums are some of the key changes we will propose to the country.

America's Choice would clearly present two different visions of the country's future—one represented by the Republican Party and the other represented by the Democratic Party and its leader, President Obama. Once Congress returns from recess later this month, the Republican majority in the House could focus on one major area of domestic policy at a time. For example, February could be used to debate, craft and pass an energy utilization policy.

When the House debates and passes an agenda item, Republican senators, candidates and conservative groups could concentrate on the same issue, using the same powerful facts and figures to inform and persuade the American public. Coordinating our focused efforts improves our ability to compete with the presidential bully pulpit and counteract media outlets that often work to marginalize us.

In 2011, President Obama stopped running the country and started running his re-election campaign. In his cynical attempt to divert attention away from his record by dividing us, Republicans have been put on defense. The America's Choice agenda would put us on offense.

If done well, we just might put enough pressure on Senate Democrats and the president to actually pass legislation that will begin to solve our problems. If not, Republicans will have provided Americans with a clear choice in November.
4334  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 11, 2012, 11:18:47 AM
"About the best that can be said about the Republican attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital is that President Obama is going to do the same thing..."

  - The difference is that the next accuser cannot be painted as anti-capitalism, anti-free market or far left when they can point to a conservative standard bearer like Newt Gingrich as the source of their attack.  Our liberal Sen. Amy Klobuchar escaped all attempts to be painted as extreme by showing how Sen John McCain had shared her anti-Republican views in the early 2000s.

"...if somebody who is very wealthy comes in, takes over your company..."

  - In a free society, how does someone 'come in and take over' your company?  Someone help me with that.  How does that happen with a private company, "your company".  And when you took 'your company' public, or when you gave away shares and control to people from far away in exchange for money, what did you think that meant?  (It isn't "your company" or YOU would be the one making that decision.)
4335  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics - More Analysis on Daley Departure on: January 11, 2012, 11:00:19 AM
I wonder if the praise heaped on Bill Daley for his 15 minutes of service will buy his silence for the turmoil he witnessed.  Also interesting to note that the Kennedy's would be a more famous example of those 'white Irish Catholic' families of power that Mrs. Obama resents.

Obama’s real reelection problem  (excerpted, more a the link)
By John Feehery - 01/10/12   The Hill

The Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet picked out an interesting morsel in Jodi Kantor’s book about the Obama family:

“When Michelle Obama worked in Mayor Daley’s City Hall in the early 1990s, she was 'distressed' by how a small group of 'white Irish Catholic' families — the Daleys, the Hynes and the Madigans — 'locked up' power in Illinois.

"She particularly resented the way power in Illinois was locked up generation after generation by a small group of families, all white Irish Catholic — the Daleys in Chicago, the Hynes and Madigans statewide.”

Obama White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, one of those hated white Irish Catholics, resigned the same weekend the book’s juiciest tidbits leaked out.

It is probably all just a coincidence, but sometimes coincidences reveal bigger truths.

And the bigger truth is that Bill Daley left the White House because he lost to Valerie Jarrett and to the president’s wife in the battle for the philosophical direction of the Obama White House.

I don’t know if Michelle Obama’s antipathy toward white Irish Catholics finally became too much of a barrier to Daley or not. But I do know that Daley was only ineffective because his boss would not let him be effective.

Bill Daley is a political pragmatist. He cuts deals. Like his father and his brother, he is not a left-wing ideologue; nor is he a Republican in Democratic clothing.

He is a pro-business Democrat, an increasingly rare breed these days in Washington.

Obama is not a pro-business Democrat. His wife is not a pro-business Democrat. They don’t like the business community. They don’t trust the free market. They want to spread wealth around (other people’s wealth, I might add).

It has become increasingly clear over the last several months that Obama has little interest in tacking to the political middle to improve his standing with the broad center of the country.

He has decided that he wants his presidency to mean something different, and he has made the fateful decision that he will govern as a left-wing political populist. That is why he has embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement, why he keeps using class-warfare rhetoric, why he has given up on deal-cutting, why he has decided to run against Congress rather than on his accomplishments.
Ignoring and marginalizing Bill Daley might have pleased the wife and Valerie Jarrett, but Daley’s departure is very bad news for Obama’s hopes for reelection.

Those white Irish Catholics whom Michelle Obama so despises are the key to her husband's campaign success. And getting rid of Bill Daley is one more example of President Obama’s real problem this coming election year.
4336  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Selective Reading of the Law on: January 11, 2012, 10:35:12 AM
Obama’s Postmodern Vision
Will we have another four years of his selective reading of the law?

By Victor Davis Hanson    January 11, 2012    National Review

There has been for months a popular parlor game of tallying instances in which President Obama seems to have either ignored or simply bypassed federal law. But what started out as a way of exposing occasional hypocrisy is now getting a little scary.

Most recently, President Obama made several recess appointments — a tactic that as a senator he once criticized — even though Congress was not in recess. In December, the president signed a $1 billion omnibus spending bill, but notified Congress that he might not abide by some of the very provisions he had just signed into law. During the Libya war, Obama felt that bombing Qaddafi’s forces did not really constitute military operations, and therefore he had no need to notify Congress under the War Powers Act.

It is clear that Arizona is not trying to circumvent federal immigration law, but rather is desperately trying to find some way to enforce it, given that the Obama administration has selectively chosen not to do so. In response, the federal government is suing the state of Arizona, even as it assures illegal aliens that they will not be arrested if they have not committed a crime — as if Obama can by himself decide that illegally entering and residing in the United States is not a federal crime in the first place.

President Obama argued that it was constitutional to force citizens to purchase federalized health care, and that all Americans would be subject to his new health-care law — except some 2,000 businesses and organizations that were given politically driven waivers. Obama decided to reverse the legal order of creditors in the bailout of a bankrupt Chrysler Corporation in favor of more politically suitable constituencies. The administration does not like the Defense of Marriage Act, and therefore announced that it won’t enforce it. When a federal judge struck down an Obama- administration ban on new leases for gas and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama for a time ignored the injunction. When a BP oil leak in the Gulf outraged America, the president met with company executives and announced that they had agreed to set up a $20 billion “fund” to pay for imminent damage claims — as if our chief executive now meets with culpable private businesses to assess what he thinks they should pony up to avoid federal retaliation.

Every administration, of course, has constitutional disputes with Congress, the courts, and the public over the exact limits of its power. But in the case of the Obama administration there is a new sort of lawlessness unseen in recent governments. Is that predictable or surprising, given Obama’s own constant references to himself as a former constitutional scholar and community organizer?

Both as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator, Obama blasted as unconstitutional or abuses of presidential power almost all of the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols — Guantanamo, renditions, military tribunals, preventive detention, the Patriot Act — which as president he later embraced or expanded. Apparently, Obama’s own status as an out-of-power senator or an in-power president, and the degree to which such issues were or were not politically useful to his larger agenda, alone determined whether something like renditions or military tribunals was lawful.

Other than the normal explanations of abject hypocrisy and political expediency, why has the Obama administration shown such a disdain for the integrity of the law? In a word, Obama is a postmodernist. That is a trendy word for someone who leaves academia believing that there are not really absolute facts, but merely competing ideas and discourses. In this view, particular ideologies unfortunately gain credibility as establishment icons only from the relative advantage that arises from race, class, and gender biases.

In postmodern jurisprudence, “critical legal theory” postulates that law and politics are inseparable. Those with power call their self-serving rules “the law.” But “laws” are not sacrosanct. Instead, they are mere embedded reflections of wealthy, white, and male privilege — dressed up in some bogus timeless concept of “justice.”

A few critical and progressive minds among the legal technocracy have the ability to spot these fictions. And thus a Barack Obama or an Eric Holder has a duty on our behalf to use his training to make the necessary corrections, even if the rest of us don’t quite fathom what is going on. Federal voting-rights laws, for example, do not mean ensuring that no one intimidates voters. Hardly. They are instead fluid and relative, properly focusing only on those who are not now intimidating voters but whose ancestors might have, while exempting those who now are but whose ancestors might have been intimidated.

Whether Congress is, or is not, in recess, or whether wealthy bondholders should be paid back before working-class union pensioners, or whether some company should or should not be allowed to drill in the Gulf — these and others are moral and political, but not necessarily legal, issues. To the degree that he can, on any given challenge Obama assesses the politics of favoring his constituency of the “poor” and “middle class,” and then uses the necessary legal gymnastics post facto to offer the veneer of lawfulness.

If someone is breaking a federal “law” by entering Arizona illegally from Mexico, there must be a way to make the enforcer of that “law” the real suspect — given that a Sheriff Joe Arpaio is by allegiance of the privileged 1 percent and those whom he arrests most surely are not. Consumers are deemed to need federal help more than do lenders; accordingly, Congress “really” is now in recess. In other words, we are witnessing with this administration the ancient idea of the supposedly exalted ends justifying the somewhat ambiguous means — albeit dressed up in trendy Ivy League legalese and progressive moralizing.

Our postmodern president is not content with just picking and choosing which laws he will follow in advancing his social agenda. The war against the myth of disinterested Western jurisprudence extends also to free-market economics, as we see with the monotonous demonization of the so-called 1 percent and those who make over $200,000 per year. Sometime after January 2009, we learned that the “wealthy” did not gain their riches by a wide variety of what we once thought were legitimate means — luck, inheritance, work, health, intelligence, expertise, experience, education, or an overriding desire for money and status, coupled with an avoidance of classical sins like sloth, crime, and drunkenness.

Rather, we were taught that there was something else going on, something innately unfair in the manner in which we are arbitrarily compensated. In some sense, we are back to the old notion of a labor theory of value (e.g., an hour of working at Starbucks is inherently no less valuable to our society in terms of how much the worker should be paid than an hour crafting a deal at Goldman Sachs). The role, then, of government is not to ensure an equality of opportunity — which is impossible, given inherent and unending race, class, and gender exploitations — but to strive for an equality of result.

That utopian task demands that the best and the brightest in government redistribute capital, or rather use the state to make right what the private sector has distorted. (Of course, no one dares to suggest that Obama himself is cynically interested mostly in power and the delights thereof — and so as a postmodernist he simply constructs these egalitarian stage-sets as a means to enjoy the privileges of the technocratic class that he surrounds himself with.)

Tally up Obama’s early and recent unrehearsed and unguarded quips about wealth — “Spread the wealth”; his regrets that the Supreme Court has not addressed “redistributive change”; his concern that some have not realized that they already have made “enough” money; his warnings that now is not the time for “profit.” That serial message bookends the president’s slurs about millionaires and billionaires, corporate-jet owners, fat-cats, profit-driven doctors, and Vegas and Super Bowl junketeers.

All this unscripted editorializing reflects a recurring theme: Those with superior intelligence and higher moral authority must correct for warped private-sector compensation and human greed. And they can do that by deciding roughly how much each of us deserves to end up with.

In concrete terms, this pop socialism leads Obama to wish to enact more regulations, higher taxes on fewer taxpayers, and more on entitlements. Larger government can absorb health care and also many private-sector companies, as more federal and state workers likewise can even out the playing field. Near-zero interest rates, and renegotiating mortgage or student loans, along with higher deficits, more national debt, and expansionary monetary policy are likewise means to correct the inherent imbalances of the system and counter the greed of a few among us.

It does not matter that much whether, in the attempt to do all that, the better-off must be demonized with crude sloganeering. It does not matter that the poor must be caricatured as Steinbeck’s Joads, starving and poorly clothed, lacking iPhones, $200 sneakers, and big-screen TVs. It does not matter that 20th-century phenomena like National Socialism, Communism, and the European Union — and any other crackpot effort of a self-anointed elite to redistribute wealth and expand the state under the banner either of nationalism, or the global proletariat, or enlightened world citizens — have led only to poverty and chaos, at least for those outside the small exempt managerial class that implements, profits from, and often survives the ensuing disaster.

What makes Barack Obama a different president is not his racial heritage, his liberal outlook, or his mellifluous cadences, but rather the banal idea that the United States is fundamentally in need of this sort of radical change, and that only a select few like himself have the insight and skills necessary to both implement and preside over it. We simply have not seen that redistributive ideology in a president since Jimmy Carter, and then only in part. So far the biggest edge for Obama is his inability to push more of his agenda through first a friendly and now a not-so-friendly Congress — as if to say, “How could I be a redistributionist when they did not let me redistribute as planned?”

The fulfillment of that old vision of mandated equality of result is what the 2012 election is about — nothing more, nothing less.
4337  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - Populism is anti capitalism on: January 11, 2012, 09:54:50 AM
Newt elaborated quite extensively on his anti-capitalism message yesterday and has lost me forever.  (Perry also.)
"I don't think I'm using the language of the Left. I'm using the language of classic American populism," he said on Fox and Friends. "Main Street has always been suspicious of Wall Street."

The ad targets Gingrich opponent and the front-runner Mitt Romney as a predatory capitalist who was “playing the system for a quick buck” during his time at private-equity firm Bain Capital.

The film features poignant interviews with people who lost jobs at companies bought and then later dissolved by Bain. 

“There's a big difference between people who go out to create a company, even if they fail, if they try in the right direction, if they share in the hardships, if they're out there with the workers doing it together, that's one thing,” he said on Fox. “But if somebody who is very wealthy comes in, takes over your company, takes out all the cash and leaves behind the unemployment, I think that's not a model we want to advocate."

Watch the trailer, a story of greed.
4338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Was Forstmann Little (Bain competitor) employing Gingrich as a historian? on: January 09, 2012, 11:12:26 PM
First this: I think the Todd Palin endorsement is significant.  The conservative candidates all wanted Sarah Palin's endorsement.  I think this is her way of announcing that.  It should have been done earlier, while he was on top, instead of the other bunglings he was up to like trashing capitalism.
The attacks from the right on Romney's work at Bain are misplaced; it also turns out Newt worked in the industry:

During Saturday night’s GOP primary debate in New Hampshire, Gingrich said: ”I’m not nearly as enamored of a Wall Street model where you can flip companies, you can go in and have leveraged buyouts, you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers.”

Upon leaving Congress in 1999, the former Speaker joined private equity firm Forstmann Little & Co. as a member of its advisory board.  Forstmann Little was one of the world’s original leveraged buyout firm.
4339  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Foreign Policy- Wash Post: Obama’s foreign initiatives have been failures on: January 09, 2012, 01:28:57 PM
Could go under Glibness or media issues.  Is the coalition between the DNC and the MSM showing some cracks? I chose 'US Foreign Policy' thread for the serious points presented.

Obama’s foreign initiatives have been failures

By Jackson Diehl (Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor)

The political writers tell us that President Obama’s foreign affairs record will be one of his strengths with voters in the 2012 campaign. The logic is pretty simple; Obama himself summed it up in 11 words at the Pentagon last week: “We’ve ended our war in Iraq. We’ve decimated al-Qaeda’s leadership.”

That may well be enough in a year when foreign policy is a low priority for voters. Of course, there could be unexpected crises; a confrontation with Iran that sends U.S. gasoline prices soaring, for example. But even some foreseeable disasters might not hurt much: Will independents in Ohio or Florida really be swayed if Iraqis go back to slaughtering one another?

To those voters, Obama looks relatively good, for now, on the big problems he inherited: the wars and al-Qaeda. What could go missing is a discussion about the president’s performance on his own priorities for foreign affairs — the initiatives he chose to launch.

If so, Obama will be fortunate. As he heads into the last year of his first term, the president’s biggest failures have been his own ideas.

The easiest one to document — and the one most likely to draw Republican attention next fall — is the busted Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Obama arrived in office afire with the ambition to create a Palestinian state within two years. But his diplomacy was based on a twofold misunderstanding: that the key to successful negotiations was forcing Israel to stop all settlement construction — and that the United States had the leverage to make that happen.

Veterans of the Middle East “peace process” shook their heads in wonderment as what at first appeared to be a rookie error evolved into a two-year standoff between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There was only one possible explanation for this persistence in futility: The president himself was fixed on it.

Obama’s next big project was global nuclear arms control — an initiative so impressive to Norwegians that it won him the Nobel Peace Prize before he could act on it. Yet the results to date hardly seem prizeworthy. The New Start nuclear arms agreement with Russia merely ratifies warhead reductions already underway in Russia, while imposing a modest cut on the U.S. arsenal. More ambitious multilateral initiatives by Obama — to control nuclear materials, for example — have made little progress, despite an elaborate summit the president hosted in 2010.

Here again there appears to be a disconnect between Obama’s 1970s-vintage ideas and the real world of the early 21st century. There’s nothing wrong, and modest good, in extending Cold War nuclear conventions with Russia, or extracting highly enriched uranium from Ukraine and Chile. But the most dangerous proliferation threats emanate from countries that don’t attend summits or sign international treaties, such as North Korea and Iran. In terms of nuclear capability, both are ahead of where they were in 2009.

This brings us to Obama’s most distinctive — and most ill-fated — idea, and the one most identified with his 2008 campaign: the determination to “engage” with U.S. adversaries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. Obama promised “direct diplomacy” — even one-to-one meetings — with the likes of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong Il. More broadly he made the case that the United States could benefit by reaching out to autocratic regimes, while dropping the George W. Bush administration’s moralizing “freedom agenda.”

In his first year Obama dispatched two letters to Khamenei while keeping his distance from the revolutionary Green movement. He shook hands with Hugo Chavez. He launched a “reset” of relations with Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin and dispatched envoys to reason with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. He delivered a sweeping address to the Muslim world from Cairo.

The results have been meager. Khamenei spurned the U.S. outreach. Relations with Putin warmed for a time but now have grown cold again. In Egypt and across the Middle East, the president’s popularity is lower today than when he gave the Cairo address.

That’s largely because, in pursuing “engagement,” Obama has mishandled the biggest international development of his presidency: the popular revolutions against autocracy. Detente with dictators can sometimes yield results, but Obama’s outreach turned out to be spectacularly ill-timed. Following the failure to back Iran’s Green movement, the strategy caused the administration to lag in supporting the popular uprisings in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere.

The consequences of all this are not yet clear. To voters and maybe even to history they may be trumped by the dismantling of al-Qaeda. Taken together, what they describe is a president who has been a good counterterrorism commander, who has ended a war he promised to end — and whose signature initiatives have flopped.

4340  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media Issues: Keith Olberman over at Al Gore TV, not getting along on: January 09, 2012, 01:19:11 PM
... and the NY Times enjoying it:

Who could have seen this coming?
4341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Japan's Earthquake: A dangerous lack of urgency in drawing lessons on: January 09, 2012, 01:16:22 PM
More followup from 'The Economist' on Fukushima regarding bungled pre-planning and bad information that followed the nuclear plant failure on the world's most dangerous fault line.

"Meanwhile, across Japan, 48 out of 54 nuclear reactors remain out of service, almost all because of safety fears."  (The coverup of the extent of the problem did not help instill confidence!)

The Fukushima black box
A dangerous lack of urgency in drawing lessons from Japan’s nuclear disaster

Without intending to be callous, I am still not seeing a death toll or full reporting of measurable human damage from the radiation release.

The stories say more than 10,000 dead (from tsunami) and radiation peaked at dangerous levels (worse than we were told then), but they don't finish that thought with a human toll specific to the nuclear accident.

My thought is that this horrible experience will lead to the capability of constructing nuclear plants with the ability to withstand future levels that are immeasurably unlikely to happen elsewhere, but that process seems badly delayed by a lack of good information coming out.
4342  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces - Welfare in Maine on: January 09, 2012, 12:56:23 PM
Yes, there is almost no real poverty left to fight in America.  Like climate change, there is a theory that living in hunger causes obesity.

Even if EBT can't go directly to liquor, junk foods or prepared foods, it frees up other monies to do that.  Dollars on food stamp cards sell on the street for 50 cents on the dollar.  Not a good tradeoff for the taxpayer, but with deficits where they are, the taxpayer isn't really paying either.   sad

The 'average' person in poverty has several luxuries I live comfortably without:

As scholar James Q. Wilson has stated, “The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.”[3] In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR... and a coffee maker.

Not to mention iPhone with the unlimited data package...
4343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces - Public Bandwidth on: January 09, 2012, 12:46:06 PM
CCP: "Should we have government policy overseeing this?  If so one can then imagine a new Gov. agency.  Or stated another way smaller government, at least in this area is not better."

Yes, Friedman always seems fascinated by the way the trains run on time under totalitarian regimes.  He doesn't usually come out and say our government is who should do this but he frames his context by saying the people running for head of the federal government should be talking about it.

For me, no thank you to the central planners.  Sure a super high speed network linking Stanford Univ and all the engineers and labs in Silicon Valley would be nice if they don't already have one.  Then we will need to provide equal services to inner cities, suburbia and rural America, right?  We don't want anyone to be disadvantaged.

Information technology is important and dynamic, always changing and advancing.  You wouldn't put your government in charge of auto manufacturing, energy or health care would you?  Whoops! It's hard to find examples of things they wouldn't turn over to government control.   sad

The only role I see for public sector is for local government to help with the right of ways for fiber optic lines, not the 60% tax they had home telephone service as they helped to kill it off.  Or the mortgage oversight committees where they asked themselves, now that we have all this power, what shall we do next with it?

If given the choice, choose the door with the smaller, equal-protection government behind it.  That will not leave us insurmountably lagging the Chinese and the Koreans IMHO.
4344  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive dissonance of the left: Wassserman-Shultz on: January 09, 2012, 12:29:11 PM
The DNC Chair won't hurry back to Fox News Sunday.  This clip only shows a little of it.  It was worse in total.  She struggles to answer the "one term proposition" he made in his own words in Feb 2009: "if I 'doesn't get it done in 3 years'...

I harped on this in another thread, but she can only refer back to the mess "he inherited":

"Without any help from the Republicans"
"The Republican Congress" - [HE HAD A DEM CONGRESS THE FIRST 2 YEARS!]
"he inherited a huge set of problems at once"
"George W Bush presided over... No one was minding the store, with almost no regulation that was appropriate over the financial services industry..."

I realize I am the only one harping on this, but he moved over to the White House, not from political obscurity, but from serving 2 YEARS IN MAJORITY CONTROL AND DE FACTO LEADERSHIP OF CONGRESS, ALMOST COMPLETELY UNRESTRAINED BY A LAME DUCK, 2ND HALF OF A 2ND TERM PRESIDENT.

Unemployment was 4.6% when the American people turned out people like Sen. Santorum by double digits in a swing state and put a San Francisco liberal in Speaker's chair leading up to the elevation of the Senate's number one rated liberal to be the nominee and then the President.  That is not exactly an inheritance - it has their fingerprints all over it.  And also it was not exactly a path to getting conservatives or Republicans on board with a reach to the middle agenda. 

"Without any help from the Republicans"  - Thank God.

Even if no one says it aloud, didn't everyone alive and paying attention see this happen?
4345  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 09, 2012, 11:53:37 AM
Yes, Santorum's plan is good and like George W Bush he also shows that he doesn't really get it.  Huntsman's plan is very good but it is a piece of paper.  I don't hear him selling it.  Similar for Gingrich.  Plenty of good plans but no focus.  Romney is intentionally vague trying to cleverlymake general election attacks more difficult.  Meanwhile he wonders why we don't get all excited about plans that he won't disclose.  Santorum's is perhaps the most realistic tax plan of the  bunch.  I like the idea of top rates in the 20s and capital gains lowered from 15 to 12%.  Zero tax on capital gains would be a dream to me but seems out of touch politically and leaving good government revenues on the table during times of historic deficits.  All these others starting with Pawlenty, Huntsman, Gingrich saying no tax on capital gains for anyone is a campaign promise sure to go nowhere and just gives fuel to the class envy movement.

The latest round of attacks on Romney are fair but don't reflect well on Newt in particular and others IMO.  Half the things Newt attacks on he is guilty of something similar himself and the rest often show either ignorance or deception.  Romney's experience and success at Bain was not a bad thing for the American economy.  The first of those flames thrown is what knocked Newt out of the lead in the first place.  Now it's "Predatory Capitalist"? Romney should have been a more benevolent and socialist capitalist-for-the-people? He should preside over restructuring of companies but treat the outgrown, middle managers like federal employees or tenured professors?  I just don't get what that line of attack is except to oppose or not understand competitive capitalism.  That should be left to the occupy Marxists.

The Obama people are starting to show that Gov. Romney is not the one they want to face.

Update: I agree with the WSJ criticism of Santorum treating manufacturers differently than all other businesses.  They don't need a zero tax; they need a conducive business environment.  Energy policies and impending Obamacare hurt manufacturers more than a high tax rate on no profit.
4346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: January 08, 2012, 12:39:57 PM
Crafty thanks for great additions to that.  Going back a step, if Republicans let Obama and the Goolsbee types frame the debate, Republicans lose.   We need real answers to their straw arguments but this will be decided by something much simpler: the right direction/wrong direction question.  Is the progress expected by Nov 2012 (unemployment 7.9%?) good enough to reelect on?  And what do swing voters think of the Republican alternative?

Starting at the end, "Are we happy with how the Rep candidates are communicating this message?"

   - Obviously not.  But this is unfortunately a time of candidates bickering amongst themselves.  This part could be over very quickly, hopefully followed by many months of a more singular and coherent argument against the direction of the current administration.

Taking one key passage leading to where Crafty wrote "THIS is a VITAL point and it is a HUGE failing of the Reps that it is not part of the narrative":

[I contended this mess goes back to Nov 2006 and Pelosi-Reid-Obama taking over congress]

MARC:  I’m not sure that this answers the point as perceived by most voters— many/most of them tend to say “Obama inherited a really bad situation.”

(Doug)“...investors and employers in the economy were wide awake heading into the tax rate increases and the host of new programs and regulations impending beyond their worst nightmare of imagination when the asset selloff began and when the collapse of housing and employment ensued.

MARC:   THIS is a VITAL point and it is a HUGE failing of the Reps that it is not part of the narrative. 

Yes.  Republicans need to attack on what caused our current mess, even where that means taking responsibility, because it is tied to what solves it.

I have called it '6 years since 2006'.  Not just the Presidency but those Senate seats are up.  Obama entered the majority Jan. 2007, was a rock star by that time, and voted yes on everything he showed up for in the agenda tied to the collapse.  If he gets a free pass for his role in the 2 years preceding the Oval Office, then no one has learned anything about what went wrong so why would we expect to win their vote now.  One person who should know about the change of power in Nov. 2006 is former Sen. Rick Santorum who lost very badly that year in a key swing state.  He should take responsibility for his part in what led to the Republican defeat and power shift, then he should be all over what happened to this country aftger his opponents won and took power.  Not that all that is wrong started then, but what they didn't reform before the collapse they still haven't reformed now - this many years later - and won't fix in the next 4 years either.  Out they go!

None of the Obama/Goolsbee wild goose chase straw distractions justify the Democrats obsession with raising taxes on job creators (from 36% to 39.6% plus the Buffet-Reid surcharge, plus a 15.3% payroll tax removing the ceiling, the estate tax against wealth, and the 24 new taxes in Obamacare) when we are only collecting 14.4% taxes on income in the current setup.  The marginal rate of disincentive to produce, hire and grow doesn't need to surpass 50% when the goal is only to get back to collecting 18% of GDP in federal revenues.  We ought to be able to do that with a top rate in the mid-20s and end the counter productive class envy and class warfare mindset.  It's been 6 years of attacking ourselves and it didn't work.


1) Open up the energy production by widely approving projects that use state of the art, clean processes only - not dirtier air and dirtier water.

2) Close down the excesses in regulations especially in hiring and employment regulations.  This does not mean return to the dark ages or slave labor. 

3) Phase out federal spending on failed programs and things the federal government has no business doing in the first place.  Get entitlements in line with our ability to pay.

4) Get tax RATES on individuals, business owners and corporations down to what is efficient and competitive in a 21st century global marketplace.  Cut out the crap.  Lower the rates.  Even Goolsbee admits it, revenues only come back with economic growth and the deficit will never close with spending cuts alone.

It isn't rocket science.
4347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re:Political Economics- comments on Wesbury social security tax cut and pipeline on: January 08, 2012, 11:12:34 AM
Good to see Wesbury to get his attention back on the political side of the economic mess, even if it is to criticize Republicans, because that is the only place where it can be solved.  Great to see him explaining the importance of marginal rates over the concept of just money changing hands or not.

Crafty noted previously how weak Speaker Boehner looked on the so-called payroll tax cut issue, amazingly leaving Dems to look like the party of tax cutting.  True.  He caved without ever saying why it was bad policy, why they were apprehensive about allowing the defunding of S.S. to become long term or permanent.  To do so he would have had to become the great defender of the of our largest entitlement, instead of hopefully its reformer.  

The Dems think they pulled a clever one here.  Wesbury nailed it.  With half the taxpayers paying nothing in income tax, this is all their side has left to play with on the tax side.  They turned it into the new minimum wage issue of politics, where all economists know it is bad policy and no one will say so politically.

But that the short term non-gain for Dems has great potential IMO for a long term loss.  They 'succeeded' in defunding Social Security in exchange for a non-existent stimulus and a trivial political gain.  Like Wesbury says, it passed the Republican House unanimously so what did Democrats really gain in bragging rights?  Nothing, just the appearance of being out front on that.  To avoid another showdown, the Republicans have already decided to cave again in 2 months.  The question becomes, what then?  In my view that removes the most powerful argument in defense of S.S. as we know it - that it is paid for and it is your money.  This actually helps open the door for serious future reforms IMO.

There will never be a good time to "raise taxes" on social security so they will never again be able to say that it pays for itself.  If you are tucking 2% less of your income away for retirement in this public fund, at some point you had better think about tucking some away privately for your retirement - a novel idea.  The left will try to raise or eliminate the income ceiling, but at some point that removes the original premise, we were pretending it is your money stored securely by great bureaucrats in a lock box to return back to you in your old age.  

If they 'succeed' in raising the tax on the rich by the same 15.3% at the margin, they a) can't grow the economy, and b) they can't argue that what they turned into a giant redistributive plan is your money stored for you in a lockbox anymore.

It seems to me that sometime in the future only the poor from among America's wealthiest demographic group will be collecting the entitlement formerly known as Social Security.  Defund it and shrink it - that's fine with me.  I don't think Democrats of the 1960s (or 1930s) would think it was Republicans who blinked on this one.
Doc Fix and a number of similar tricks in CBO scoring:

Wesbury continued: "...the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assumes that Congress will follow through on its 1997 agreement when it scores the budget.  So, the deficit forecast for the next decade assumes a cut in doctor reimbursements that everyone knows won’t happen."

Let's see, everyone knows CBO numbers are complete BS yet are quoted and relied on constantly.  When Republicans are done fighting Republicans maybe they can address structural problems that confront us.  Baseline budgeting (often attacked here and hardly anywhere else), static scoring and now this excellent point of Wesbury's - that CBO is scoring the letter of the law instead of what everyone knows is true.  These are things a real leader will need to address, attack and win on, if and when a leader emerges.  

Gingrich already promised a fix 18 years ago: "On the first day of their majority in the House, the Republicans promise to pass eight major reforms...8. guarantee an honest accounting of the Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting." They either never got it done or the fix did not last.  At least we know he is aware of the problem.  If Romney plans to take a CEO mentality to the job, a real CEO does not put up with basing important decisions on know to be bad numbers.  He certainly has a strong enough economic team to address that.
Wesbury on the pipeline: "From an economic point of view the pipeline is a no-brainer, making this the only economically sane part of this bill."

Hey, give Speaker Boehner some credit here!  smiley

The pipeline, like drilling, like fracking and just legalizing clean energy production in general is more than symbolic in sending a message to the country and to the world that America will be to pursuing economic strength and prosperity going forward.
4348  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: January 07, 2012, 01:10:03 PM
Crafty wrote:  Alright gents, answer this...  I'm thinking Romney or Santorum would have a hard time answering this in debate-- how about each of us?

Hey, that was some 40 posts back, where are those answers?!  Put it another way, either know and be able to articulate a rebuttal to Obamanomics or settle for you, your children and your grandchildren living their lifetimes in the transformed country that Pres. Obama and his Czars and central planners are building for you.  I will go through this drivel point by point, but would rather see the deceptions answered in a coherent and persuasive 60-90 second debate narrative, as Crafty indicated.  The piece contains the central thesis of the reelection, at least the best they can manufacture.

   - FWIW, this is the editorial page publishing an opposing view and these are the slanted underpinnings for a partisan stump speech written by an insider and co-conspirator.  He is highly credentialed but this is not a serious academic economic analysis.

"The Iowa caucuses presented the full range of views of the Republican hopefuls. When it came to fiscal strategy, however, there was almost no daylight among them."

   - FALSE. A view that they are all the same can only come from an opposing partisan setting up a series of straw arguments.  Reminds me of a white guy saying all blacks or Asians look alike.  If the author isn't interested or can't see the differences, then why comment.

"Each candidate decried the rise of government spending and wants to cut taxes."

    - FALSE and its a theme here.  It's the tax RATES that they want to cut, not cut revenues.  A professor of economics at the Univ. of Chicago knows the difference.  Shame on him.

"Again and again they noted that spending under President Obama rose to 25% of the economy in 2009, the highest in decades and well over the 20%-21% norm of the last 30 years." ( - TRUE!)

"To hear the GOP candidates tell it, this fact explains the deficit, explains America's long-run fiscal problem, and explains why new taxes cannot be tolerated. Congressional Republicans have the same outlook. The deficit is up thanks to government spending, so we must cut spending right now in every form."

    - FALSE,  Everyone of them knows that the under-performance of the private economy is the central problem.  Resources taken from the private economy for the public sector are just one of the causes of that under-performance.  Taxes and especially overly burdensome regulations comprise most of the rest.

"Yet the long-run fiscal problem facing the country—which is real—has almost nothing to do with the reasons that the deficit is currently large or that spending is abnormally high. They are high for the same reason taxes are abnormally low: because of the economic downturn. We should debate the real issues, not try to pretend the recession never happened."

    - FALSE!  What Republican is pretending the recession never happened?  Prof. Goolsbee, OTOH, pretends that the economic stagnation is like weather; this recession is like a rain certain to be followed by sunshine just by waiting or doing more of the same.  This recession/stagnation was and is a GOVERNMENT CAUSED DOWNTURN and as a top adviser, former chief economic adviser, he was right there at the table where they failed to identify either the correct cause or solution to the mess.

"The Congressional Budget Office forecast a $1.2 trillion deficit before the Obama administration even came into office."

    - DECEPTIVE to say the least.  Yes the pundits and voters will look at the calendar days of the Obama Occupy the White House movement but everyone who was alive and paying attention knows that domestic power in Washington DC changed hands in the Nov 2006 election.  The CBO forecast he sites is from the Pelosi-Reid-Obama-Hillary-Biden 'non-partisan' CBO scoring the budget passed by the Pelosi-Reid-Obama-Hillary-Biden congress signed by Bush 'before the Obama administration even came into office'.   The downturn was under THEIR watch as well, including SEN. Obama always supporting or voting with the majority, and the emergency measures coming into the 2008 election and during the transition period were made in 100% consultation and agreement with the incoming Obama administration.  Spin that some other way if you would like, but the investors and employers in the economy were wide awake heading into the tax rate increases and the host of new programs and regulations impending beyond their worst nightmare of imagination when the asset selloff began and when the collapse of housing and employment ensued.

"The stimulus added only around $250 billion a year, and more than one-third of that came from tax cuts, especially the tax credit in the stimulus bill's "Making Work Pay" provision."

    - This is 4 years later! "ONLY" a quarter trillion/yr. is a TRILLION in 4 years and it wasn't a stimulus if it didn't stimulate and it doesn't count the QEx, nationalization of autos and host of other excesses.  If you didn't know that then, surely you know that now as the chief outgoing economic adviser.  And not all tax cuts are created equal.  Some stimulate economic activity and others give up revenues without improving incentives whatsoever.  Some are targeted to constituent voting groups and some apply to all, especially those inclined to hire and produce.  Guess which types the Obama administration working the first 2 years with a 100% Dem congress chose??

"Most of the increase in the deficit during a downturn doesn't come from new policies in Washington. The deficit rises because both spending and taxes automatically adjust when the economy struggles. Unemployment insurance payments rise and more people qualify for Medicaid and food stamps. Incomes fall so people pay less taxes."

    - A theoretically truth, but FALSE in this case.  Spending sold as "emergency" and "temporary" in fact became the new benchmark used by same author and the administration and its allies to assail any reduction from emergency levels an act of war against the 99% and the weakest among us in particular.  Proof: After all the budget hysterics and pretend "cuts" of the past year under bitterly divided government, spending was up another 5% for the year.  What part of that spending was emergency?  None of it.  It was the why-waste-a-crisis crowd intentionally transforming American dependency on government.  BTW, we aren't in a recession (and the downturn did come from new government policies).  We are in the new American economy operating exactly as it should be under the disincentives scheme designed by Prof. Goolsbee et al and legislated and signed by the side he is defending.

"It's completely normal that spending rises during big downturns. The government's share of the economy jumped significantly during the big recessions in the 1970s and '80s. As the economy grows back to health, the government share of the economy will fall (and many analysts forecast just that for the coming year)."

    - WHY should the economy grow back to health.  Doing more and more of the same and expecting a different result is WHAT?? (definition of insanity?)

"The same dynamic applies to tax revenues. You would think that—using the same logic they apply to the rise of government spending—the GOP candidates would be trumpeting the last three years as one of the greatest tax cutting periods of the century."

    - BLATANTLY FALSE!!  If anyone would believe this drivel then I would put it with falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater - perhaps not protected speech.  Do they need that level of LIE to run on their record?  Once again, a fully educated economist intentionally confuses tax rates with tax revenues for political deception purposes.  The frontrunners are NOT trying to lower government revenues.  Maybe Ron Paul would lower revenues AND balance the budget, but that blows the Professor's first premise that he (blindly) can't see any daylight between any of them.

"The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center's data predict that in 2011 taxes will have fallen more as a share of national income than during almost any other comparable period in U.S. history (including under Ronald Reagan) and may hit their lowest level since World War II: 14.4% of GDP, compared with the more than 18% average of the last 30 years. Individual income taxes may hit their lowest level as a share of income since 1950 and corporate income taxes the lowest since 1936.

The deficit shot up in basically equal measure from taxes falling and spending rising. Spending rose to 25% of GDP from 20.5% in the recession and soon it will fall back down. Taxes fell to 14.5% of GDP from 18.5% and will also return to more normal levels."

    - Again, he implies a bad economy was happenstance rather than admit it was a government policies caused event.  We avoided large downturns for almost a quarter century by keeping mostly in place the Reagan pro-growth agenda, even with reform in the late 80s, smaller increases under HW Bush and the early Clinton years.  But this economy IS the new normal.  What changed?  He doesn't say here but if pressed I'm sure he would say Bush's fault.

"The true fiscal challenge is 10, 20 and 30 years down the road. An aging population and rising health-care costs mean that spending will rise again and imply a larger size of government than we have ever had but with all the growth coming from entitlements—while projected federal revenues as a percentage of GDP after the rate cuts of the 2000s will likely remain below even historic levels of 18%."

    - FALSE.  The true challenge is get off the slow growth or no-growth trajectory of the current policies and to minimize the amount of debt we accumulate during this wasted 4-8 years of 'transformation' BEFORE the worsening demographics fully set in.

"To hear the Republican candidates, you would think our problems were about discretionary spending running wild."

    - FALSE.  Does anyone remember the sensation of 9-9-9? That was all about unleashing economic growth running wild.  Or Pawlenty's plan highly acclaimed by Prof Taylor of Stanford, or Rick Perry's plan endorsed by Steve Forbes, or Gingrich's plan - all about regenerating economic growth and innovation, or Huntsman's or even Romney's Plan.  The centerpiece of NONE of them is slashing spending or starving seniors, our single most prosperous demographic group.

... Iowa showed us a series of candidates trying to outdo one another with condemnation for the short-term rise in spending while simultaneously proposing tax policies that would add trillions to the long-term deficit.

    - FALSE and when will we truly be rid of the proven false doctrine of static scoring?!?!  Growth at this point in the Reagan recovery was close to 8% and revenues in the 1980s DOUBLED! Good riddance to you and your team.

Mr. Goolsbee, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, was chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers from 2010 to 2011.

    - Can you imagine investing your family's life savings in sending your kid to one of the top schools in the country and finding out this is the level of analysis being taught?  Did the professor writing about FISCAL challenges really not know that REGULATIONS are a tax on the economy or simply run out of space?  Did he not know or just wish to not say that under his watch 77,000 pages of new regulations were issued?  Did he not know that Obamacare impending is a tax on our economic growth and perhaps the final nail in the coffin of new hiring?  Did he forget to notice the differences between these candidates and his policies prohibited energy development and blocked pipelines that are taxes on our growth?  Did he not know that the perpetual cloud of expiring Bush-Obama tax rate cuts is a huge tax on our economy that yields all the destruction and no new revenues and same for the Harry Reid surcharge proposal on millionaires, the 24 new taxes in  Obamacare:  Republican are proposing plenty of remedies starting with canceling his new programs and reversing most of their new regulations, the question is whether anyone is listening and whether people would really prefer just more of the same policies, but expecting a different result.

My two cents.
4349  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: January 07, 2012, 12:28:34 PM
JDN,  Thank you.  Your link confirms much of Hayward's point, 5 cities in Calif and 6 in the southwest came in worse than Pittsburgh yet that piece was all about slamming one city.  Also confirmed is the amazing improvements not mentioned in the original piece.  Particulate is one measurement and the standards give a good benchmark, but are arbitrarily set IMO. 

The same political movements decrying dirty air the loudest as I see it also want people to live more in centrally planned density.  But the air we breathe tends to be cleaner further away from the central cities, out in those xurban sprawl communities the planners so despise. 

The air quality monitors are mostly measured at the most dangerous intersections as I understand it but for scare purposes they count the number of people in danger for living anywhere in that county no matter the proximity.  That doesn't seem right.

The current political argument over emissions is almost 100% over CO2, not the filth that everyone opposes.  No one is proposing to build 1950s era autos, buses or coal plants today.

I wonder what the soot level would be if domestically produced clean natural gas was readily available as a transportation fuel? Ironically it is the same environmental groups working to block that production as well.
4350  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues - Missing in the WSJ Pittsburgh story... on: January 07, 2012, 09:43:02 AM
Steven Hayward, author of 'Air Quality in America' reminds us on Powerline yesterday that the WSJ is home of famous editorial page but the rest of the reporting is often right out of MSM script.  You will need to read at the link to catch the graphs:

The Journal Blows a Story

The editorial page is the glory of the Wall Street Journal, which often reports the facts better than its news pages.  Today the Journal’s news pages feature a truly pathetic example of conventional, follow-the-crowd journalism with a story entitled “Pittsburgh Tries to Clear the Air on Pollution.”  It has every trope of superficial environmental news reporting and is simply a lazy and tarted-up version of an activist group’s press release—in this case, a local enviro group called the “Breathe Project,” which upon reading between the lines of the story is simply a cat’s paw for the usual suspects such as the Sierra Club.  It is another vindication of an observation the Washington Post’s longtime media critic Howard Kurtz once acknowledged: “Some reporters say privately that it is difficult to write stories that debunk the conventional wisdom of environmental activists, whom the press treats more deferentially than industry spokesmen and other lobbyists.”

The piece is almost comical in the lengths it goes to try to persuade people that air pollution in Pittsburgh is a serious problem, which may require “more regulation,” naturally.  As the story reports,

    More than half of the residents here aren’t aware that Pittsburgh’s air ranks among the worst in the nation, according to a survey commissioned by the Heinz Endowments. Only 15% of residents feel that a “lot of work” needs to be done on it.

    “When you look back, we had problems when we had the mills,” said Richard Wilson, who said he does tai chi outside without worrying about the air. “The air in Pittsburgh is pretty good.”

    Sentiments like that prompted Breathe to launch a $500,000 media campaign that includes ads on TV, in newspapers, on billboards, on the sides of buses and at the homes of the Steelers and Penguins.

One of the real howlers in this excerpt is what I call the “reverse Lake Woebegone Effect,” namely, that Pittsburgh’s air is among “the worst in the nation.”  Turns out the American Lung Association’s annual report on air pollution—a shoddy report I’ve repeatedly called “a smoldering stogie of misinformation”—always has local versions of a press release that say each metropolitan area suffers from “some of the worst air pollution” in the nation.  I did a Nexis search for the phrase “smog” and “some of the worst” a few years ago, and discovered the phrase in press coverage in dozens of American cities.  Of course, if everyone has about the same level (which is true for just about every place except the region that actually does have the highest air pollution levels—California), then no one has air that is notably “worse” than everybody else.  But it’s always good for the harum-scarum narrative that environmentalists and regulators can’t do without.

The Journal story is entirely typical of media malpractice for its complete absence of data.  Reporters ought to ask—but never do—what the underlying trend is, and how ambient conditions measure up against Clean Air Act standards.  Air pollution in Pittsburgh, like everywhere else in America, is declining, as a check of the EPA’s data would show.  Apparently this was too much trouble for the Journal reporter, Kris Maher, to do, even though the EPA now has a very user-friendly site where you can check both ozone levels and particle pollution levels on a monitor-by-monitor basis.  Pittsburgh currently meets the Clean Air Act standard for particulates (fine particulate pollution levels have declined 22 percent over the last decade), and is only slightly above the current very tight ozone standard.

This makes all the more comical this paragraph:

    One example of Pittsburgh’s new focus as a tech hub is Google Inc.’s 200-worker office here. The employees work on online commerce and data storage, among other things, a company spokesman said. The office added 50 people in 2011, but the city’s air quality is a “big problem” when it comes to recruiting employees to work here, said Andrew Moore, a Google vice president and head of the operation.

    “If we can’t offer [clean air and clean water] to employees we need to recruit to fill the jobs of the future, then we will lose them to those cities that do,” said Mr. Moore, who backs the Breathe Project.

Hmm.  How do ozone and particulate pollution levels compare between Pittsburgh and Google’s home office in Silicon Valley?  Google also has a large office in Atlanta—are air pollution levels in Atlanta also an impediment to recruiting workers?  Let’s look first at the data for fine particles (known as “PM2.5” in the trade).

Figure 1: Fine Particulate Levels in Pittsburgh and Atlanta

The story for ozone is a little more complicated, because there isn’t complete data for Sunnyvale (the closest EPA monitor to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View), but the figure below shows that Pittsburgh not only has a lower ozone level than Atlanta, but has been flirting with attainment of the 0.75 8-hour ozone standard for the last few years.  Sunnyvale has been in attainment of the ozone standard, but as you can see from the figure Pittsburgh is not notably worse than Sunnyvale on ozone either.

Figure 2: Ozone Levels in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Sunnyvale

Conclusion: the Journal reporter is a dupe.  The Google manager is a fool.

P.S. As my last witness, I offer Seymour Garte, professor of public health at the University of Pittsburgh (someone the Journal ought to have called as an expert source on this story) who wrote a terrific book entitled Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet.  Prof. Garte relates the story of attending a professional conference in Europe, where he was struck by the data from a speaker showing steadily declining air pollution trends, being surprised by the data, and being even more surprised to hear the speaker say, “Everyone knows that air pollution levels are constantly decreasing everywhere.”  “I looked around the room,” Prof. Garte writes:

    I was not the only nonexpert there.  Most of my other colleagues were also not atmospheric or air pollution specialists.  Later I asked one of them, a close friend, if he had known that air pollution levels were constantly decreasing throughout Europe and the United States on a yearly basis.  “I had no idea,” he said.  It certainly was news to me.  Even though I was a professor of environmental health and had been actively involved in many aspects of air pollution research for many years, that simple fact had somehow escaped me. . .  I had certainly never seen it published in the media.

Well, if you’re reading the Wall Street Journal in Pittsburgh today, you still aren’t getting an accurate account of the story.

Lastly, if you want to know more about all of this generally, see my Almanac of Environmental Trends website, or track down the book I wrote on this with Joel Schwartz, Air Quality in America: A Dose of Reality on Air Pollution Levels, Trends, and Health Risks.  - Steven Hayward at Powerline
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