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4451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Steyn, Consensus in Egypt on: August 19, 2013, 12:34:24 PM
(I'll come back to answer the poll.)

Mark Steyn's column, Consensus in Egypt, is a don't miss, read it all.

By  Mark Steyn
August 18, 2013 8:09 AM

everywhere except Washington people are thinking strategically
Eighty per cent of Egyptians say things are worse than under Mubarek.

...(as Bernard Lewis once warned) America is harmless as an enemy but treacherous as a friend.

Whatever regime emerges in Cairo, it will be post-American.

A year before the fall of Mubarak, David Pryce-Jones, in a conversational aside, quoted to me Lord Lloyd, British High Commissioner to the old Kingdom of Egypt in the Twenties: “Ah, the jacarandas are in bloom. We shall soon be sending for the gunboats.” There’s more wisdom about Arab springs in that line than in all the blather of Obama, Clinton, Kerry and Anne Patterson combined.

4452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: August 19, 2013, 12:09:51 PM
Just as the Soviet Union suffered something like 75 years of “bad weather” on its farms following the revolution, much the same is happening in tropical Venezuela:

    U.S. Rice Farmers Cash in on Venezuelan Socialism: U.S. Exporters Benefit as Production Falls in Latin American Country

    STUTTGART, Ark.—Steve Orlicek, a rice farmer here, is living the American dream. He owns a thriving business; he vacations in the Bahamas.

    His good fortune springs from many roots, including an unlikely one: He is a prime beneficiary of the socialist economic policies of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s late president and critic of what he called U.S. “imperialism.”

    It is a paradoxical legacy of Mr. Chávez’s self-styled socialist revolution that his policies became a moneymaker for the capitalist systems he deplored. During his 14 years in power, he nationalized large farms, redistributed land and controlled food prices as part of a strategy to help the poor. But these policies turned Venezuela from a net exporter to a net importer of rice—from farmers like Mr. Orlicek. “The rice industry has been very good to us,” Mr. Orlicek said, sitting in his newly renovated home, appointed with a baby grand piano played by his wife, Phyllis.

    It isn’t just rice. Production of steel, sugar and many other goods has fallen in Venezuela, leading to occasional shortages. Until recently, Venezuela was largely self-sufficient in beef and coffee. Now it imports both.
4453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: August 19, 2013, 11:10:13 AM
A very insightful read, written by someone who actually knows how to create jobs.

"The government keeps telling the very people whose jobs it destroys that if we only tax the rich more, everything will be better."

T.J. Rodgers: Targeting the Wealthy Kills Jobs
My investment in my company helps maintain 3,470 permanent positions. What's not 'fair' about that?

One of the signature themes of the Obama administration is that the American dream is under attack due to "income disparity." The words divide the country into haves and have-nots, suggesting a national condition that needs to be corrected—presumably by "progressive" taxation as a mechanism for income redistribution. The American dream has traditionally been one of individual success that is rewarded and admired. But we are now urged to become a zero-sum society in which those achieving the American dream are envied and even resented.

The American dream is not politically affiliated. The last time it was alive and well was the period from Ronald Reagan's second term in office through Bill Clinton's second term in office. In those 16 years, we enjoyed continuous low taxes, low government spending and economic prosperity.

Since 2000, the economy has staggered under the record government spending and deficits of two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The result of that spending spree has been lower real wages and higher and more-persistent unemployment. The Federal Reserve has pushed interest rates to near-zero, and, for the first time ever in the U.S., that Depression-era medicine has not worked—a scary situation reminiscent of Japan's decade-plus economic demise.

According to the latest 2012 IRS income-tax data, the top 1% of American taxpayers earned 20% of all income and paid 36% of all taxes. The top 5% earned 36% of all income and paid 58% of all taxes. Will even higher taxes help the economy? My experience in Silicon Valley tells me that high and so-called progressive taxes are a major cause of the country's current economic problems, not the solution.

In Silicon Valley, the rich commonly reinvest their wealth close to home. For example, I have reinvested most of my net worth in 8.5% of the shares of my own company.

Since its 1982 founding, Cypress Semiconductor has been a net creator of jobs and wealth. We have returned $2.2 billion more to the economy through stock buybacks, share dividends and spinouts than we have taken out in total lifetime investments. That figure doesn't count the $4 billion in wages the company has paid or the taxes paid on those wages. Currently, my investment helps maintain 3,479 permanent, high-paying jobs with good health-care benefits that are now threatened by more taxes.

A couple of years ago, I decided to invest in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wis., by building a $1.2 million lakefront restaurant. That restaurant now permanently employs 65 people at an investment of $18,000 per job, a figure consistent with U.S. small businesses. If progressive taxation in the name of "fairness" had taken my "extra" $1.2 million and spent it on a government stimulus program, would 65 jobs have been created?

According to recent Congressional Budget Office statistics on the Obama administration's 2009 stimulus program, each job created has cost between $500,000 and $4 million. Thus, my $1.2 million, taxed and respent on a government project of uncertain duration, would have created about one job, possibly two, and not the 65 sustainable jobs that my private investment did.

On the other end of the capital-intensity scale, Cypress Semiconductor required huge investments to create jobs in its chip-manufacturing plants. Between 1983 and 2003, those investments totaled $797 million and led to the creation of 4,033 jobs at an investment of $198,000 per job created. Thus, my own experience on the cost of job creation ranges from $18,000 to $198,000 per job, compared with $500,000 to $4 million per job created by the Obama stimulus program.

This data squares with the broad numbers showing that private investment is more efficient than government spending in creating jobs. In other words: Every dollar that is taxed away from private investment and spent by government produces fewer jobs than the jobs destroyed by the loss of private investment.

Yet the politics of envy, promoted most notably by President Obama himself, continuously stokes the idea that the wealthy are not paying their "fair share." This injured sense of unjust rewards was summed up on a radio show I heard the other day, when a caller said of the rich: "How much more do they need?"

How much more do I need? How many more jobs do you want?

Even European socialist democracies are starting to understand that tax-and-spend policies kill jobs. For example, both Italy and Spain have repealed their incentive programs for solar energy (along with their "green jobs") because the countries have calculated that for every job created by government investment in green energy, somewhere between 4.8 jobs (Italy) and 2.2 jobs (Spain) are lost because of the reciprocal cuts in private investment. I am aware of these figures because from 2002-11 I was a major investor in and chairman of SunPower, the world's second-largest solar-energy company, also based in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is today's brightest example of the traditional American dream still at work. The investments for most startup companies must come from individuals who can wait 10 years to get a return on investment. Only very wealthy Americans can afford that.

Like many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, I have reinvested in the next generation of entrepreneurs, in my case via the Sequoia Fund and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, two venture-capital firms that gave me a shot at the American dream. I also serve as a board member of their portfolio companies.

Does anybody really believe that moving investment decisions from Silicon Valley to Washington by raising taxes on venture capitalists and their investors would make Silicon Valley more productive? Consider the Solyndra debacle: It was obvious to most of us here that the solar-energy company had zero chance of survival. That's why the company had to be government-funded near the end; no real investors were willing to step up.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama insulted America's entrepreneurs by telling them: "You didn't build that." Progressive taxation is just another tool used by government to take over an ever-larger part of the U.S. economy. The horrible irony is that the government keeps telling the very people whose jobs it destroys that if we only tax the rich more, everything will be better.

Mr. Rodgers is the founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor
4454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: August 19, 2013, 10:50:45 AM
"The first time I read anything about plants doing better is this article that picks on a single plant only to further their agenda:
****Poison Ivy is Growing Out of Control, Thanks to Climate Change"

In our untouched forests I actually see less poison ivy than when I was a kid.  CO2 is a factor; so is heat, shade, water.  But yes, isn't it funny that was the only thing they could think of, not that enhanced CO2 is helping to feed the planet or the other most obvious point:  Increased plant growth is a negative feedback factor preventing the dreaded spiraling effect.  The higher the CO2 level, the higher the rate CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by plants.  Who knew?!

There is a website I have watched for a long time called ( that rather than denying warming or enhanced CO2 levels, just studies, publishes and editorializes on the mostly positive impact of it.
4455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: August 19, 2013, 10:38:14 AM
"Are you sure it isn't the NSA, Google, organized crime, Chinese, Russians, Nigerians or Iranians just sparking hits while they troll the net?"

Some hits perhaps are computer driven, Google, etc, but I there are different hit rates on different topics based on interest level.  The Dog Brothers organization attracts the interest of people who never join and the forum has readers who never post - including 'famous people caught reading the forum.   wink

I disagree with you on Snowden.  He did not make any effort to become a legitimate whistle blower and his leaks jeopardize our security.
4456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Canadian and American on: August 19, 2013, 10:18:43 AM
"How can we argue this is ok after just arguing that Obama birthplace was an issue?   Both have (had) mother's who were American citizens."

Yes, hypocrisy again rears its ugly head.  Maybe a court needs to rule, but natural born citizen in my view would include both people for the reasons you state.  You don't lose citizenship for you or your offspring by traveling while pregnant.

'Natural born' is a term in contrast with legalized immigrant.  Ted Cruz never had to apply for citizenship - he was born with it.  Same goes for Barack Obama; he was just confusing his detractors by presenting phony documents, applying for multiple social security numbers etc.
The issue in citizenship is the opposite.  A tourist's or trespasser's baby does not gain citizenship by birth location alone, IMO.  The baby is a member of the family first.  If the family is Mexican or Japanese, Canadian, or from anywhere else, so is the baby.  If that is not clear enough in the constitution, then an amendment is needed.
4457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Victor Davis Hanson on: August 19, 2013, 10:04:39 AM
A conservative we know, but a Democrat? huh

The Democrats should try to hang onto these members who put common sense above mindless ideology.  I will hazard a guess that it has been a long time since Dr. Hanson called himself a California Democrat.

I have called Walter Russell Mead my favorite Democrat; I will have to move VDH onto that list.

Many prominent conservatives come to their views by way of the Democrat party.  Jeanne Kirkpatrick never renounced that side, just joined up with Reagan, Kemp, Bennett and others on certain issues.  Rick Perry was a Dem (in Texas).  Reagan was a Democrat - and a union leader.  Crafty Dog admits coming from liberalism, somewhere in his formative youth...(??)  I also remember when Dr. CCP was a middle of the road moderate!

In my family, people choose either side.  The last time they thought Democrats were better, my grandfather voted for Woodrow Wilson.  He soon regretted it and learned from the mistake.
4458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: August 19, 2013, 09:37:50 AM
"If the point is that Dingy Harry et al were in the wrong, then wouldn't the Reps be wrong here?"

Yes, hypocrisy cuts both ways.  In this case Dems accuse R's of contemplating what they themselves do regularly.

My view with spending authorizations is that one congress has no power to bind the next congress to spend money.  The congress of 2009 never had the authority to bind the voters of 2013 and beyond.

"not funding Obamacare is NOT shutting down the government ... because presumably the rest of the government will be funded-- or am I missing something here?"

That is the way I thought it was designed to work.  A bill goes to the House, to the Senate and then to the President.  Instead, a bill passes in the House.  The Senate ignores or intentionally changes that and passes a different bill.  A joint committee writes a 'compromise' to send back to the House, to the Senate and then to the President.

It is in this second loop where Republicans get screwed and end up with the stark choice of funding everything or closing the government.  Their own bill was clear - to fund everything except healthcare.  That will no longer be the issue and they don't have enough bully pulpit to say that it is.

Government spending be the smallest number of what the House, Senate pass and President will sign.  That, and no more, is the amount we all agree on.  In fact, it is the biggest spenders who force the choice of fund it all or shut down the government.
4459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fracking the Left on: August 18, 2013, 02:05:53 PM
Are Democrats About to Fracture Over Fracking?

Asked whether natural gas is important to the state's economy, 77 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats said it was somewhat or very important. Just 22 percent called it not very important or not important at all.

  - survey taken by Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. and the University of Michigan

 "The flip side to appeasing the environmental lobby is that you open yourself up to getting roasted on killing jobs in Pennsylvania," said one Democrat working one of the campaigns.

(The point of fracking is that natural gas is a far cleaner and more efficient energy source for things like heating homes and powering manufacturing facilities than coal, oil. etc., not just a a gain of local drilling jobs.)
4460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of the left - Funding "the law of the land"? on: August 18, 2013, 01:38:50 PM
Republicans will cause a constitutional crisis if they fail to fund Obamacare in the new budget, because it is the law of the land, and requires more than a vote by one chamber to be repealed.

If so, then what about the Nuclear Waste Policy Act passed in 1982 requiring the construction a nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain?

"Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has robbed Yucca Mountain of funding, and although President Barack Obama has commissioned a blue-ribbon panel to look at other nuclear-waste alternatives, Yucca Mountain is still the law of the land."

"The D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals this week delivered a scathing rebuke to the Obama administration, ordering it to restart work on the Yucca licensing process."
4461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Thoughts on Egypt on: August 18, 2013, 01:18:44 PM
Steven Hayward writes at Powerline:

Here’s a historical counter-factual thought experiment for you: suppose the German military, in the spring of 1933, decided that the ascension of Hitler and his Nazis was bad news for Germany, moved to remove Hitler by a coup, outlawed the Nazi party, and in ruling henceforth by military decree thereby ended more than a decade of democratic weakness that was the Weimar Republic.  What judgment would you cast?

Of course you can only approve of this course with the perfect hindsight of knowing what actually happened after 1933 (or after 1938, when the Munich agreement may have forestalled a military move against Hitler).  Without today’s hindsight, a Wilsonian idealist in 1933 might well have condemned the German military, just as today’s State Department can’t speak with a clear voice about how we should think about the problems in Egypt.

So let’s be clear: the Muslim Brotherhood is a fascist political faction with murderous intent.  Full stop.  They not only deserve to be put down; they need to be put down if Egypt—and possibly the region as a whole—is going to have a future in the modern world.   The military rulers are absolutely correct to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood.
There can be little doubt that the current violence is a deliberate provocation of the Muslim Brotherhood.
4462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reuters: Fracking water's dirty little secret - recycling on: August 18, 2013, 12:36:35 PM

Analysis: Fracking water's dirty little secret - recycling

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES | Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:53pm EDT

(Reuters) - The oil and gas industry is finding that less is more in the push to recycle water used in hydraulic fracturing. Slightly dirty water, it seems, does just as good a job as crystal clear when it comes to making an oil or gas well work.

Exploration and production companies are under pressure to reduce the amount of freshwater used in dry areas like Texas and to cut the high costs of hauling millions of barrels of water to oil and gas wells and later to underground disposal wells.

To attack those problems, oilfield service companies like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and FTS International, are treating water from "fracked" wells just enough so that it can be used again. Smaller companies like Ecosphere Technologies Inc have also deployed similar methods.
4463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dying of dehydration due to fracking. Good grief. on: August 18, 2013, 12:24:51 PM
As the URL says, this is a tree hugger site  grin  By itself that does not mean it is wrong however.  Fracking uses lots of water, and this thread has many articles about water tables declining dramatically, even without fracking, so upon first blush this sounds plausible.

I hope that ours is a tree hugger site as well. )  That said, this is their logic: fracking uses water, and a small, shallow well near fracking needs re-drilling, therefore A caused B.  Not to detract from their other agenda items they start with the disclaimer, "it is important to note that fracking is not the only problem here".

Unmentioned is that fracking is the reason CO2 emissions are down nationwide, alleviating droughts, if you subscribe to the theory.  In the upper midwest the 'environmentalists' oppose the use of sand in fracking and in Texas it is based on water.  All politics is local.  The author makes no effort to hide his disdain for urban sprawl and the greening of the desert.  Most telling is that they opposed fracking before pinpointing a reason.  I support studying and following all these developments - scientifically - but as I search water issues related to fracking, I keep getting pointed to the the same study in the same county in west Texas. 

So let's look at Crockett TX:

"Fracking accounts for 25% of water use" in Crockett County.  From there, on to it being a national problem.   Crockett county has a population density was 1.46 people per square mile.  How much water are we talking about?  The county has 3000 people and the "Texas town running out of water after using it for fracking" has a population of 160.  No problem for an alarmism site to drift its logic back and forth and back between "large urban centres sucking water out of west Texas", fracking, and a well issue in one small town.  FYI to, a small town having to re-drill its well is not unprecedented in west Texas or human history.   But the proximity to fracking makes this newsworthy because a cause-effect relationship is so easily implied, and supporting the agenda is the main determinant of news.

Where I live, we are up to our eyeballs in abundant clean water.  Natural gas and nuclear power are the cleanest, abundant forms of energy in current use here, both opposed by 'environmentalists'.  But people are still moving away - to climates warmer and drier.
4464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Flashback, Princeton Physicist Freeman Dyson, climate alarmism skeptic on: August 18, 2013, 10:59:39 AM
Princeton Physicist Freeman Dyson on Yale Environment 360, an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues.

'It’s a fact that they don’t know how to model it. The question is, how does it happen that they end up believing their models?'

From the 2009 interview:

...the five reservoirs of carbon all are in close contact — the atmosphere, the upper level of the ocean, the land vegetation, the topsoil, and the fossil fuels. They are all about equal in size. They all interact with each other strongly. So you can’t understand any of them unless you understand all of them. Essentially that was the conclusion. It’s a problem of very complicated ecology, and to isolate the atmosphere and the ocean just as a hydrodynamics problem makes no sense.

Syukuro Manabe, right here in Princeton, was the first person who did climate models with enhanced carbon dioxide and they were excellent models. And he used to say very firmly that these models are very good tools for understanding climate, but they are not good tools for predicting climate. I think that’s absolutely right. They are models, but they don’t pretend to be the real world. They are purely fluid dynamics. You can learn a lot from them, but you cannot learn what’s going to happen 10 years from now.

What’s wrong with the models... the basic problem is that in the case of climate, very small structures, like clouds, dominate. And you cannot model them in any realistic way. They are far too small and too diverse.

So they say, ‘We represent cloudiness by a parameter,’ but I call it a fudge factor. So then you have a formula, which tells you if you have so much cloudiness and so much humidity, and so much temperature, and so much pressure, what will be the result... But if you are using it for a different climate, when you have twice as much carbon dioxide, there is no guarantee that that’s right. There is no way to test it.

...enhanced carbon dioxide has a drastic effect on plants because it is the main food source for the plants... So if you change the carbon dioxide drastically by a factor of two, the whole behavior of the plant is different. Anyway, that’s so typical of the things they ignore. They are totally missing the biological side, which is probably more than half of the real system.’s a fact that they don’t know how to model it. And the question is, how does it happen that they end up believing their models? But I have seen that happen in many fields. You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years and you start to think of your model as being
real. It is also true that the whole livelihood of all these people depends on people being scared. Really, just psychologically, it would be very difficult for them to come out and say, “Don’t worry, there isn’t a problem.” It’s sort of natural, since their whole life depends on it being a problem. I don’t say that they’re dishonest. But I think it’s just a normal human reaction.
4465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Christie makes his case, I am unpersuaded on: August 16, 2013, 10:21:25 AM
I am also unpersuaded by Christie but he certainly is one of the ones to watch.  A case I made last time around was to look for a two term Governor - of a purple state.  That didn't lead us to any great candidates but it was a former Governor who won the nomination.  Most of the other  candidates of current interest, who are perhaps better on the issues, lack executive experience, as did our current President.

In his feud with Rand Paul, Christie was perhaps right on the policy of security first but tone deaf I thought on the liberty and privacy concerns involved.

In that feud and with his hurricane courtship with Obama, there is an ego involved, putting himself first.  That can be good and bad in politics.
4466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 16, 2013, 10:01:21 AM
Scott Grannis thinks the numbers in the preceding piece are quite inaccurate.

"According to SMRA calculations, the Fed owned about 31.47% of the total outstanding ten year equivalents. This is above the 31.24% from the prior week, and higher than the 30.99% from the week before"

"with every passing week, the Fed's creeping takeover of the US bond market absorbs just under 0.3% of all TSY bonds outstanding: a pace which means the Fed will own 45% of all in 2014, 60% in 2015, 75% in 2016 and 90% or so by the end of 2017 (and if the US budget deficit is indeed contracting, these targets will be hit far sooner). By the end of 2018 there would be no privately held US treasury paper. Still think QE can go on for ever?"

The point is not that this will happen.  It won't. The point is that this course will change.  It has to.

Separate from the fact that the amount and percentage is increasing, it is remarkable that debt is not debt.  We owe ourselves a very significant and increasing portion of that total.  

First, we borrow in our own currency, a luxury most countries don't have.  It allows us to pay back, actually issue replacement debt, in devalued dollars that we never pay back, but replace again in devalued dollars.  A free lunch of sorts - if you believe in that sort of thing.  Now it turns out, well exposed on these pages, that we don't even pretend to borrow the actual amounts of our budget shortfalls from anyone.  We just sort of invent the money.  We get to spend the money, inject it with all the multipliers into the economy (keeping for time from falling below zero growth), and never even borrow it much less worry about paying it back.  We magically 'buy' the debt with nothing but electronic entries, not by selling off national parks or federal office buildings.  Then we point to poorly measured M-2 or M-nonsense indices and say that the money supply and the price level didn't even go up.  Just more free lunch!

Problem is that we know there is no free lunch, just an accounting puzzle.  The costs of these massive free lunches are out there lurking, whether Bernancke, Wesbury, Grannis, or any of us can immediately or demonstrably point to them or not.

The point of liberal governance, and Wesbury's plowhorse theory as well, is that our private sector is so strong that none of these impending certainties - funny money catching up with us, rising interest rates catching up with us, rising tax rates catching up with us, massive regulatory state catching up with us, lowered workforce participation rate and expanding disability and food stamp loads catching up with us, historically low rates of real business start ups, Obamacare's impending burden on employers, or just the market rising faster than the economy for 5 years and counting - not one of these things nor all of them combined will ever bring it all down.

I don't buy it.
4467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George F. Will: Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s on: August 15, 2013, 01:36:36 PM
“Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”  - Former Pres. Nixon.  Aren't we forgetting a branch or two?

Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s     by George F. Will

President Obama’s increasingly grandiose claims for presidential power are inversely proportional to his shriveling presidency. Desperation fuels arrogance as, barely 200 days into the 1,462 days of his second term, his pantry of excuses for failure is bare, his domestic agenda is nonexistent and his foreign policy of empty rhetorical deadlines and red lines is floundering. And at last week’s news conference he offered inconvenience as a justification for illegality.

Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said: “I didn’t simply choose to” ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, “this was in consultation with businesses.”

He continued: “In a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the speaker and say, you know what, this is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law. . . . It looks like there may be some better ways to do this, let’s make a technical change to the law. That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do. But we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to Obamacare. We did have the executive authority to do so, and we did so.”

Serving as props in the scripted charade of White House news conferences, journalists did not ask the pertinent question: “Where does the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws?” The question could have elicited an Obama rarity: brevity. Because there is no such authority.

Obama’s explanation began with an irrelevancy. He consulted with businesses before disregarding his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” That duty does not lapse when a president decides Washington’s “political environment” is not “normal.”

When was it “normal”? The 1850s? The 1950s? Washington has been the nation’s capital for 213 years; Obama has been here less than nine. Even if he understood “normal” political environments here, the Constitution is not suspended when a president decides the “environment” is abnormal.

Neither does the Constitution confer on presidents the power to rewrite laws if they decide the change is a “tweak” not involving the law’s “essence.” Anyway, the employer mandate is essential to the ACA.

Twenty-three days before his news conference, the House voted 264 to 161, with 35 Democrats in the majority, for the rule of law — for, that is, the Authority for Mandate Delay Act. It would have done lawfully what Obama did by ukase. He threatened to veto this use of legislation to alter a law. The White House called it “unnecessary,” presumably because he has an uncircumscribed “executive authority” to alter laws.

In a 1977 interview with Richard Nixon, David Frost asked: “Would you say that there are certain situations . . . where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation . . . and do something illegal?”

Nixon: “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Frost: “By definition.”

Nixon: “Exactly, exactly.”

Nixon’s claim, although constitutionally grotesque, was less so than the claim implicit in Obama’s actions regarding the ACA. Nixon’s claim was confined to matters of national security or (he said to Frost) “a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude.” Obama’s audacity is more spacious; it encompasses a right to disregard any portion of any law pertaining to any subject at any time when the political “environment” is difficult.

Obama should be embarrassed that, by ignoring the legal requirement concerning the employer mandate, he has validated critics who say the ACA cannot be implemented as written. What does not embarrass him is his complicity in effectively rewriting the ACA for the financial advantage of self-dealing members of Congress and their staffs.

The ACA says members of Congress (annual salaries: $174,000) and their staffs (thousands making more than $100,000) must participate in the law’s insurance exchanges. It does not say that when this change goes into effect, the current federal subsidy for this affluent cohort — up to 75 percent of the premium’s cost, perhaps $10,000 for families — should be unchanged.

When Congress awakened to what it enacted, it panicked: This could cause a flight of talent, making Congress less wonderful. So Obama directed the Office of Personnel Management, which has no power to do this, to authorize for the political class special subsidies unavailable for less privileged and less affluent citizens.

If the president does it, it’s legal? “Exactly, exactly.”
4468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 15, 2013, 01:31:23 PM
" I am of the opinion that the low interest rate policy not only FAILED but was COUNTER PRODUCTIVE.  Therefore does it not follow that its cessation is a nullity or even a good thing?  Albeit not necessarily for the market!!!"

It was an artificial stimulus.  Yes, it was counter-productive and it failed because it didn't address the underlying problems.  It stimulated some things at the expense of other things, distorted incentives and diverted resources from best use.  Still, the beginning of the end of the monetary injection will most likely trigger the market downward in the short run as we may already be seeing.

Rising interest rates means that equities have to compete with other, safer places to tuck money, such as bonds, CDs, Treasuries, etc. instead of being the only category offering a possible return.
4469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: August 14, 2013, 04:35:50 PM
Even if they are all wrong, there seem to be a lot of articles coming out about an impending downturn.  Not to feed the frenzy, but this one is called...

10 Reasons the Market Has Peaked
by Doug Kass, President of Seabreeze Partners Management Inc.

1. Rising interest rates pose more of a threat to growth than many believe. At the core of my pessimism is that the U.S. economy will not likely be able to hold up in the face of an increase in interest rates and a higher cost of capital. The Fed's four-year-plus strategy of quantitative easing is growing increasingly more ineffective -- it has neither created jobs nor stimulated innovation. (Apparently, the San Francisco Fed now agrees.) Kick-starting asset prices and the production of economic growth of only 2% (in real terms) underscore the failure of trickle-down monetary policy and simply do not guarantee a self-sustaining recovery that will continue under its own momentum.

As I have previously written, the stock market, the consumer and the corporate and public sectors are addicted to low interest rates.

To date, the market has comfortably absorbed a doubling in the five-year U.S. note yield and a 110-basis-point increase in the 10-year U.S. note yield. The next rise in rates, however, will likely exact more of an economic and market toll (particularly on housing).

If you don't think the market is the beneficiary of quantitative easing and you think tapering is nonevent, consider that the Fed has printed $600 billion of new money this year. This has generated only a 1.5% increase in GDP or $300 billion this year. But thus far in 2013, there has been a 20% rise in the value of U.S. stocks -- that is a rise of $3.5 trillion (on a base of $20 trillion total market value). So, a change of policy (i.e., tapering), is more significant and impactful than most argue.

The "taper is not tightening" argument is semantics because less asset purchases equals less accommodation. Moreover, it is now the markets that have tightened policy over the last two months, as the Fed has begun to lose control of rates. (Note: The yield on the 10-year U.S. note resides at 2.66% this morning, only a few basis points from the recent high yield. In my judgment we are close to the line in the sand, where rates will adversely impact economic activity.)

2. Economic fragility. The recent data indicate that the domestic economy is growing moderately but steadily, but job growth is weak in quality, retail sales seem to be stalling, automobile sales have essentially flatlined since November 2012, and housing appears to be pausing (as measured by lower purchase applications, slowing traffic, reduced order books and rising cancelations).

I challenge anyone (excluding the economic perma-bulls) to say (with confidence) that the U.S. economy is at escape velocity. I don't believe it is self-sustaining without the benefit of continued quantitative easing. As expressed earlier, any further increase in interest rates will be a headwind to growth.

3. The economic prospects for China, the straw that stirs the drink of global growth, are uncertain. I am not only suspect of publicly stated China growth rates but I am increasingly concerned with the rapid pace of credit growth, which has been increasingly sourced from the more risky and less transparent Chinese shadow banking sector.

China's credit growth relative to its GDP growth has been too rapid, so the country's leadership is committed to slowing credit. This raises the risk of a banking crisis and subpar (5% or less) real economic growth.

This downturn in growth will likely have a systemic financial impact on China's banking industry (which could feed into non-Chinese banks), global economic growth and on the pricing of risk assets. (Note: I would recommend both Goldman Sachs' recent "Top of Mind" and Hedgeye's Moshe Silver's column in this week's Fortune for lengthier discussions of this issue.)

4. An expected 2013 tapering is likely a policy mistake. I anticipate a September tapering despite the economy still growing at less than its potential. In listening to the Fed fiesta over the past month, it appears that most Fed members want out of quantitative easing for two basic reasons: 1. It is increasingly clear that QE is having a reduced or more marginal impact on growth; and 2. it is also clear that some feel exiting a $4 trillion balance sheet will be a challenge.

This could be a policy error, especially if consensus and Fed economic projections are wrong-footed, as I think they are. If I am right, investors will begin to see tapering as premature relative to economic activity. Though tapering has been well-telegraphed and should start moderately -- let's say a $15-billion-per-month reduction from $85 billion -- if I have to quantify, I would guess that the S&P falls maybe up to 50 points in anticipation of it.

I recognize that though tapering lies ahead, tightening does not. That said, corrections can occur anytime, despite quantitative easing and despite zero interest rates as far as the eyes can see. Look at the weakness in the Nikkei. The hedge fund community's favorite regional stock market is almost 10% off its high despite even more expansive quantitative easing than in the U.S.

5. The Fed head selection represents a more significant market event than consensus believes. My money is on Larry Summers. The selection of Summers (the favorite) or Geithner (a very long shot) could cost the S&P something like 50 points, while the selection of Kohn or Yellen (second favorite) could be a marginal positive for the markets.

Though Summers has broad experience and is intellectually gifted, he would probably be difficult to work with, and the reduced transparency in a Summers-led Fed would likely increase asset price volatility. Both Yellen and Kohn are as qualified intellectually/academically and understand the workings of the Fed as they have been there forever. Also, they are highly respected by the other Fed members.

6. Politics will return to the front burner in the coming months. The September-October political agenda is lengthy, including the debt ceiling, government spending and immigration, tax and government-sponsored enterprise reform.

Though market participants have become inured to the nonsensical rhetoric, a lengthy fight and impasse could again weigh on consumer and corporate confidence as it has previously.

7. The bull market is long in the tooth. We now lie almost 54 months from the generational low of March 2009. Over the past six decades, the average bull market has been about 43 months, the longest bull markets have lasted 56 and 60 months. (Note: The longest bull streaks didn't face the structural economic headwinds that we face today; they had long runways of growth and technological innovation ahead of them.)

Moreover, the intermediate leg of the bull market, which commenced in November 2012, has already climbed by almost 30% in only eight months.

8. Changing leadership seen as a negative. As I recently wrote, sector/group leadership changes are typically a negative sign for markets. (And, as Jim Cramer suggested on Real Money yesterday, "It's hard to find leaders.")

Former market-leading financials (Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) is -4% off its high), housing (the most distributional pattern, with the iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB) -18% off its high), health care and biotech (iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index Fund (IBB) is -4% off high) sectors are all extended and in recent weeks have begun to show signs of lost momentum, underperformance and possibly distribution. At the same time, materials have improved, but few others have, suggesting that a broader-based (and healthier) sector rotation is not yet in place.

9. Breadth weakens. Though most indices are within 1% of an all-time high, new peaks have not been confirmed by breadth or by new 52-week highs since mid-July. This is particularly true with regard to NYSE (all issues) breadth, which includes a number of bond-equivalent stocks/ETFs. The same non-confirmation has developed in the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 600 indices. Relatedly, the McClellan Summation Index has rolled over (Hat tip, Chuck Berry!) and could go down further before even reaching a moderate oversold status.

10. Valuations are stretched. As I expect only 2%-4% growth in S&P earnings for 2013 and 2014, any further stock price gains are very dependent on improving valuations and multiple expansion.

S&P profit forecasts are for $107 a share for 2013, $110 a share for 2014, and $114 a share in 2015. Given these estimates and given the deep structural global economic issues (disequilibrium in the U.S. jobs market, continuing deleveraging, etc.) I deem an appropriate/reasonable P/E as between 14x to 15x (slightly under the five-decade average of 15.2x), a contraction in valuations from current levels

Finally, let's look at the "Shiller P/E ratio." My friend/buddy/pal FT Advisors' Brian Wesbury recently wrote the following:

    In terms of market calls, few academics or economists can match Yale University economics professor Robert Shiller. In his 2000 book, Irrational Exuberance, he argued that 10-year averages of corporate earnings smoothed out the ups and downs of the business cycle. Then, using this "cyclically adjusted" level of earnings and comparing it to current stock prices, he claimed to generate a better version of the P/E ratio. Shiller's timing couldn't have been better. The "Shiller P/E ratio" was at an all-time high in 1999-2000, a clear signal of overvaluation and a reason to sell.

Today, Shiller's valuation work says that stocks are back to being in overvalued territory.

At the end of July, Shiller's ratio was 23.8, the highest since 2008.
4470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Left alert: Robert Reich, 'Savage' inequality in America is deeply dangerous! on: August 14, 2013, 09:31:57 AM
It is quite strange to hear the far-left punditry call the most far-left possible governance - not far enough left.  I should have sent my previous de-bunk of this straw to Reich last time.  He clearly does not read the forum.  Now it seems the inequality worsened under Pelosi-Reid and then under Obama.  Hmmm.  What policies then are needed to cure it?  Why won't he say it, if you want all to be equal you must use what in math they call lowest common denominator.  For incomes to be equal with people who don't produce or don't produce abundantly, others must stop or slow their efforts.  How does THAT make us better off?

" income, wealth, and power have become more concentrated at the top than they've been in ninety years."

"Make no mistake: The savage inequality America is experiencing today is deeply dangerous."

Oh good grief.  Among the bunk:  static, snapshot analyses always avoid the facts of income mobility.  Every new worker, illegal, immigrant or otherwise, brings down the median without lowering any one person's income.  Every successful retiree who moves from producing income to living off of earned, accumulated wealth moves down in income while moving up in leisure and perhaps quality of life.  Our measures of income for the poor do not measure their income.  Our measures for income of all do not include their wealth.  The top 1%, 5%, 20% or 50%, or bottom quintiles or half, are NOT the same people when you make comparisons versus a year ago, a decade ago or in this case, over three and half decades.   The only interruption in the Reich income inequality scare was when the Pelosi-Reid-Obama congress precipitated the recent, historic collapse of wealth in this country.  But after the devastation, paraphrasing Wesbury, the plow horse continues to plow and not everyone is equally invested and pulling.

The real test of an economy is what opportunities or choices do you have, not just what is your immediate outcome.  
4471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / War on the rule of law, Lerner Used Personal E-mail to Conduct Official Business on: August 13, 2013, 10:50:40 PM
Eliana Johnson continues to expose this scandal at National Review.

"one tax-law expert told National Review Online that the information she disclosed about one group constitutes a felony"

"[Lerner] is demanding immunity in exchange for her testimony"

  - Doesn't that imply she can deliver someone higher up with her testimony?
 IRS’s Lerner Used Personal E-mail to Conduct Official Business, Investigators Say
By  Eliana Johnson
August 13, 2013 12:01 PM

Embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner sent official documents from her government e-mail address to a personal account, according to House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and his colleague, Ohio congressman Jim Jordan.

“This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct official business,” the GOP lawmakers wrote in a letter to Lerner demanding all documents from her non-official account for the period between January 2008 and the present. “Additional documents related to the Committee’s investigation may exist in these non-official accounts over which you have some control, and the lack of access to this information prevents the Committee from fully assessing your actions,” they explained. Issa and Jordan are requesting that Lerner produce the documents by August 27.

The use of personal e-mail accounts to conduct government work also has the potential to impede federal-records requests by the public because personal accounts are not archived by the government. Controversy erupted, for example, over former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s use of a government account under the name Richard Windsor which, like a personal account, would not be captured by records requests relating to Jackson.

Lerner, the former director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit, was placed on administrative leave in late May after refusing to resign her post. She invoked her Fifth Amendment rights in testimony before the Oversight Committee and has yet to speak at length about her knowledge of the IRS’s targeting of tea-party groups. E-mail correspondence recently unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee shows Lerner exchanging messages with an FEC attorney about two conservative groups; one tax-law expert told National Review Online that the information she disclosed about one group constitutes a felony.

Congressional investigators have not yet called Lerner back to testify; she is demanding immunity in exchange for her testimony.
4472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: August 13, 2013, 10:28:31 PM
I'm working on getting BBG to come around some more.  grin We miss him.

Thank you.  I second the motion.
4473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science - Surviving CO2 400 PPM on: August 13, 2013, 02:28:55 PM
A rare BBG sighting in this thread yesterday, take a look! "State-Funded Science: It’s Worse Than You Think!"

Apparently the reason the world did not explode and people didn't suffocate at 400 ppm (parts per million) CO2 is because we missed it.  Next summer for sure!  Wrap up you unfinished business.  It's still coming.

I would be more worried if atmospheric CO2, at such thin levels was decreasing.
4474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Daily Show rips Chris Matthews on: August 13, 2013, 02:15:46 PM

3 minute video, pretty funny.
4475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - wanting to break right on: August 11, 2013, 10:23:17 PM
Photo of the Day, With Commentary on Golf and Benghazi

Reporters have followed President Obama to Martha’s Vineyard, where they are standing by to inform us of any wonderful deeds He might perform. Today, pool reporters were ecstatic that they were permitted to watch Obama play golf. You can read their #kneepadmedia–Brad Thor’s hashtag–tweets about the golf outing here. Zeke Miller, a political reporter for Time, tweeted this photo of Obama, taken just after he missed a putt:

The pool report says: “He let out a little, ‘Ooooh,’ as it happened.” Like his fellow reporters, Miller apparently found the photo more adorable than it might seem to the average American, who–for example–may have been cut back to 29 hours a week because of Obamacare. Miller also tweeted the pool report’s description of Obama’s reaction to the missed putt:

    First putt was a miss, which Obama reacted to by leaning back & kicking his knee up, as if trying to coax the ball into breaking right.

So I’m wondering: when do you suppose our intrepid press corps will report on Obama’s whereabouts and actions during the Benghazi crisis in the same detail, and with the same enthusiasm, that they devote to his missing a putt?

4476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: baseball on: August 11, 2013, 12:05:16 PM

This is a great piece.  I like that they transition into other sports and into learning psychology.  In tennis, the relationship between server and receiver is very similar to that of pitcher and batter.  Pete Sampras was one of the most successful servers of all time.  Asked about his serve in a US Open interview he said that what he does is try to get up as high in the air as he can, hit as hard as he can, and aim for the corners.  What he didn't say is that unlike the 100th or 1000th best player in the world with a similarly hard serve, he gives off almost no discernible information to the receiver about which serve to which corner he is about to hit until it is too late to react.  Obviously Finch also has that same ability.

The 10,000-hour 'rule' to master a skill is interesting.  A followup is that I think it takes a pretty high level of talent and inclination in order to dedicate total concentration into anything for that duration.  That the virtuoso violists spend a disproportionate amount of their time on self-directed practice is evidence of that.  In tennis, the Dad of an 11 year old who went on to become the top junior in the region by 13 told me his daughter would play out entire matches in her head while just 'hitting' a pretend ball against the side of the house.  That is not the intensity level of the ordinary player.
4477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Too-easy money makes market too risky on: August 11, 2013, 11:08:38 AM

A market correction of this sort seems just as likely to me as the Wesbury scenario that things just keep plowing forward, especially if the market sees a good likelihood of artificial stimuli ending.  Calling the timing of it is always dubious.

170 of the S&P 500 are already tanking.  The largest of the politically connected, crony companies are still holding up the growth in this market.

Note President Obama's comment that commitment to 'dual mission' of the Fed is central to his Fed Chair pick .  He wants this sick and stalled economy under his watch propped up to maintain its 1% growth rate for the duration, no matter the long term cost.  Maybe we can go that far before crashing and maybe we can't.

Too-easy money makes market too risky
The liquidity-fueled rally of the past 9 months is easy to like. But recent history tells us higher prices based on easy money carry extreme dangers, so a violent drop could lie ahead.
4478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: POTH: Pollution Economics on: August 11, 2013, 10:50:42 AM
Interesting ideas, but dangerous to move seamlessly between putting filthy poisons in the air and regulation of carbon dioxide.  Note that the author's profile gives a good disclosure of bias on the topic (as does the Pravda designation earned by the publication).

The filth in the air in China comes from the industrial plants that put filth in the air in China.  The filth with all its components kills the quality of life and kills life itself. 

The science of CO2 is not so simple.  Are we sure that the human act of using fossil fuels and consequential CO2 has killed the quality of life and killed life itself?  What was life expectancy and quality of life on the planet before and after the use of fossil fuels?

The point isn't to stomp out the use of clean coal, natural gas, unleaded gasoline etc BEFORE we find the replacement.  The point IMHO is to find the efficient replacement and watch how quickly the old sources become a thing of the past.

4479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy - Backyardianism on: August 11, 2013, 10:31:24 AM
In the 1970s Henry Kissinger wrote of a world that was bi-polar militarily and multi-polar economically.  What would you call the state of things after the collapse of the Soviet Empire?

A post of Denny S. in this thread 3 1/2 years ago pointed us to the concept of "Backyardianism".

"Eisenhower let the Russian invade Hungary in 1956 but Kennedy did not let them set up missiles in Cuba. Eastern Europe is Russia's back yard while the Caribbean is America's back yard. Those are hard facts on the ground.

Russia let America invade Grenada but did not let America set up missiles in Poland. Just the mirror image of the above Eisenhower/Kennedy policies. Backyardianism at work."

Perhaps America is/was the power of the world of last resort, but around China the power is China.  Russia never stopped pursuing back its influence and domination over former Soviet republics and as far as it can reach in other directions.  The EU may have no army but works its influence to pull 28 nations in a common direction.  Iran in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain.   Pakistan in Afghan, Kashmir.  Around Venezuela, the wannabe influence was Chavez.
4480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / THE SNAKE DEN: A PRIMER ON YEMEN on: August 11, 2013, 10:06:04 AM
First, a comment on the previous post, Foreign Policy:  How we "lost" Yemen.  I notice Crafty has quote marks around "lost".  Excellent article, loaded with facts and great analysis, yet I (too) question the title concluding that "we" "lost" Yemen.  It isn't all about us, and it isn't all lost.  But it does seem to be the focal point of AQ style terrorism at the moment and certainly warrants our attention.

To understand Yemen you must begin by understanding that there is very little reason for Yemen to be a country.  In fact, until very recently it wasn’t a country at all.  For most of the last 500 years, Yemen has been divided into a north and a south.  The Northern part of Yemen is predominately Shia Muslim.  Until 1918 it was dominated by the Ottoman Empire and after that it was an independent country dominated by the Zaidi Shia.

South Yemen was a British protectorate.  The port of Aden was valuable to Britain as a fueling station on the way to India.  It remained under British control from the mid-19th century until independence in 1967.  Its population and economy were much smaller than that of North Yemen and its people were predominately Sunni Muslim but it still had one very important seaport in Aden.

After centuries of being divided first by imperial powers and then by the borders drawn by Imperial powers the two Yemens were united in 1990.  North Yemen would be the senior partner in the marriage by virtue of being much larger in population and its President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, would be the President of the new united Yemen.  Ali Salim al-Bidh, the President of South Yemen would be Vice President.  The arrangements of Yemen’s merger set the stage for the serious problems Yemen faces today.

First, Saleh was an erratic personality.  He called his political strategy for governing Yemen “dancing on the heads of snakes”.  He was a bumbling would-be Machiavelli of the Arabian Desert whose modus operandi was to switch government patronage from one tribe to another and back again in such a manner that he was sure to alienate all parties.  He began his administration of Yemen by siding with Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War and promptly lost nearly all his foreign aid when Saddam was defeated.  Since 9/11, he posed as an ally against terrorism and took American aid to fight al Qaeda while he quietly coddled Salafi extremists.  He seemed at times to connive for the pure joy of conniving and he spent his 20 years as President steadily losing one group of supporters after another until he was forced out of office during the Arab Spring.

Second, Saleh’s ruling coalition as President of North Yemen had been based on the support of his fellow Zaidi Shia, who comprised a slim majority of the population of North Yemen.  But in the unified Yemen, the addition of almost exclusively Sunni southern Yemen gave the country a slight majority of Sunni Muslims.  This prompted Saleh to switch patronage over time to the Sunnis and away from the Zaidi Shia and this in turn helped lead to a revolt against Saleh’s government by people who had once been his political base.

Yemen’s weak government and religious divisions helped set the stage for the civil war that began in 1994.  Al-Bidh, Saleh’s Vice President, tried to launch a secession movement to break the south off from the newly united Yemen.  As former President of South Yemen his power base was in the lightly populated south.  He found himself increasingly marginalized in Saleh’s northern dominated government as resources were diverted towards the powerful Zaidi sheiks that Saleh depended on for support.  Saleh won the civil war, but the country he won was severely damaged by the conflict.  Saleh came out of the war having concluded that his Zaidi-dominated government was not durable in a majority Sunni country.  He began to tilt towards Sunnis, increasing the patronage bestowed on Sunni tribes at the expense of the Zaidi (Even though Saleh was himself a Zaidi).   By the decade’s end, Saleh’s government was dominated by Sunnis.

Yemen’s problems also made it a perfect target for al Qaeda.  Yemen became a hotbed of al Qaeda activity in the late 1990s.  An al Qaeda cell based in Aden bombed an American destroyer, the USS Cole, in 1999.  Three years later, another attack occurred when Yemen based al Qaeda terrorists hit the Limburg, an oil tanker, off the coast near Aden.  Saleh did not intend to repeat his mistake of supporting Saddam during the Gulf War.  He saw the al Qaeda threat was of paramount importance to the US.  He worked to ingratiate himself to the Americans and struck a pose as an ally in the War on Terror.

But while he was taking American aid he would not separate himself completely from some of his extremist allies.  Saleh always appeared to be playing a double-game with the US on the terrorism issue.  On the one hand, Saleh would allow American drone strikes like the one that killed al Qaeda leaders like Qaed al-Harithi and Anwar al-Awlawki to occur on his soil.

On the other hand, there were a series of suspicious “escapes” by terror suspects from Yemeni jails.  In the most egregious jailbreak incident 23 terrorists escaped a jail in the capital city of Sanaa by tunneling into a women’s bathroom in a mosque next door to the prison.  One of the escapees, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, is now the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the second highest ranking member of al Qaeda in the world.  Few observers believe this escape was possible without help from the prison guards.  While Saleh tried to play games with al Qaeda the terror group grew in strength and now controls large swaths of Yemen’s interior.  The group is becoming stronger every day and now threatens to take control of the port of Aden.

Al Qaeda was not the only problem Saleh faced after 9/11.  Saleh’s tilt towards the Sunnis had alienated his Zaidi allies.  His alliance with the US had alienated them further.  In 2004, a powerful family of Zaidi Shia called the al-Houthi began to lead organized protests against the government.  The government overreacted massively by arresting hundreds of protests and killing the leader of the protest movement, Sheikh Hussein al-Houthi.  The government’s crackdown sparked a broader revolution of Zaidi Shia.  The revolution has become extremely violent and has killed 25,000 people since it began in 2004 and left 250,000 more internally displaced.

By 2011, Saleh’s position had become untenable.  In the north, he faced a broad based rebellion of his own Zaidi sect led by the al-Houthis who were receiving arms from Iran.  In the country’s center and south, he faced a growing al Qaeda insurgency that was beginning to take control of entire towns.  Yemen’s security services were unable to win this two-front war.  Saleh’s government was toppled during the Arab Spring.

The post-Saleh government  of Yemen is sandwiched between two insurgencies it cannot seem to control.  The United States continues to send substantial foreign aid to the government of Yemen in the hopes that Yemen’s government will be able to contain these twin rebellions but it is now obvious that as time goes by AQAP grows stronger while the central government grows weaker.

The US has no interest in seeing al Qaeda take control of Yemen and turn it into a base from which it can launch attacks against western targets.  Nor does it wish to see the Houthi rebellion take control if it would increase Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula.  It cannot afford to simply ignore the problems in Yemen.  As the attack on the Cole and the Limburg show, a terrorist dominated Yemen would be a severe threat to international shipping.  A terrorist safe haven for al Qaeda anywhere would be a base from which al Qaeda could launch attacks against American interests around the world.

The hope going forward is that Yemen’s government will be less duplicitous now that Saleh is gone and that it will stop playing a double game between the US and al Qaeda.  For the moment, the US has no real choice but to continue to prop up Yemen’s government in the hope that it can roll back the two insurgencies it faces.  This task will prove difficult because Yemen has no natural reason to be a country and the two insurgencies fall along Yemen’s natural dividing line going back for hundreds of years: A Zaidi Shia north and a Sunni dominated south.

For further reading:

“Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes” by Victoria Clark

“The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia” by Gregory Johnsen

“High Value Target: Countering al Qaeda in Yemen” by Ambassador Edmund Hull
4481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George F. Will: Taming the Tax Code Beast on: August 10, 2013, 03:59:26 PM
On the previous, isn't it just like liberalism and our media to allow a huge new tax to be called 'marketplace fairness'.
George Will writes today on the beginning of a new effort at tax reform:

"Since the 1986 simplification, the code has been re-complicated more than 15,000 times at the behest of Americans who simultaneously praise the principle of simplification.  All other taxes could be abolished if we could tax the nation’s cognitive dissonance"

Taming the tax code beast

By George F. Will, Published: August 9

“Colleagues,” said the June 27 letter to 98 U.S. senators, “now it is your turn.” The letter’s authors are Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, on the tax-writing Finance Committee. From their combined 71 years on Capitol Hill they know that their colleagues will tiptoe gingerly, if at all, onto the hazardous terrain of tax reform.

Together with Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) of the House Ways and Means Committee, Baucus and Hatch propose a “blank slate” approach, erasing all deductions and credits — currently worth more than $1 trillion a year — and requiring legislators to justify reviving them. Hence the Baucus-Hatch letter, in response to which almost 70 senators sent more than 1,000 pages of suggestions. Although some often were short on specificity, the submissions were given encrypted identification numbers and locked in a safe, as befits dangerous documents.

Every complexity in the 4 million-word tax code was created at the behest of a muscular interest group that tenaciously defends it. Which is why tax simplification would be political reform: Writing lucrative wrinkles into the code is one of the primary ways the political class confers favors. Furthermore, “targeted” tax cuts serve bossy government’s behavior modification agenda: Do what we want you to do and you can keep more of your money. Simplification would reduce the opportunities for the political class to throw its weight around. Hence the flinch from simplification.

In 1986, however, Congress did not flinch. In the past 40 years, Finance, the Senate’s most important committee, has had formidable chairmen — Russell Long, Bob Dole, Bob Packwood, Lloyd Bentsen, Pat Moynihan and Baucus. And in 1986 there were additional serious reformers, including Sen. Bill Bradley and Rep. Dick Gephardt.

Of the three biggest tax preferences, unions, especially, oppose taxing as compensation — which it obviously is — employer-paid health insurance (a $260 billion benefit), and Democrats oppose ending the $80 billion deduction for state and local taxes. It encourages high government spending.

The third preference, the mortgage-interest deduction, is a $70 billion benefit that goes disproportionately to affluent homeowners. But Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, which have no mortgage-interest deduction, have homeownership rates comparable to America’s. Every congressional district, however, has real estate brokers benefiting from the bankers who benefit by providing mortgages.

Baucus is proud to have been mentored by the greatest Montanan, Mike Mansfield, a Democrat who for 16 of his 24 Senate years was majority leader. Today, the main impediment to tax reform, aside from Baucus’s risk-averse colleagues, is Majority Leader Harry Reid, who, Baucus insists, emphatically but implausibly, is a friend. Reid, who is as petty as Mansfield was grand, deplores partisanship but resents Democrats such as Baucus who practice bipartisanship. Reid says he did not even read the Baucus-Hatch letter, and insists tax reform “can’t be revenue neutral; it can’t be even close to neutral.”

Each year 6.1 billion hours are spent complying with the tax code. This is equal to the work time of 3 million full-time workers, making tax compliance one of America’s largest industries. Is there time for Congress to reduce this waste of time?

“It’s early,” says Baucus equably. Actually, it is late in this legislative year, and elections are next year. But, says Baucus serenely, 1986 was an election year in a president’s second term . He seems unperturbed about the possibility that Camp might be distracted by seeking Michigan’s open Senate seat. Baucus still hopes to bring Congress to an “all join hands and jump together” moment, “a tipping point where there is a sense of inevitability.”

Inevitably, however, the tax code has reached a critical mass of complexity that renders it almost unreformable. This illustrates the crisis of the regulatory state: Interest groups fasten themselves onto the government and immobilize it.

At the 2004 Republican convention, George W. Bush vowed to “simplify” the tax code’s “complicated mess.” The convention roared approval. Next, he promised new complexities — tax benefits for “opportunity zones” in depressed areas, a tax credit to encourage businesses to offer health savings accounts. Another roar of approval.

Since the 1986 simplification, the code has been re-complicated more than 15,000 times at the behest of Americans who simultaneously praise the principle of simplification. All other taxes could be abolished if we could tax the nation’s cognitive dissonance.
4482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WSJ: Redmond CA vs. the 5th Amendment, echoes of Kelo on: August 10, 2013, 03:41:34 PM
"...This is what happens when politicians use government power to help themselves and their private financial partners at the expense of others."

   - The only thing worse than totalitarian, oppressive government is when government pretends to keep a 'private' sector but engages in 'public-private partnerships'.  Cringe and fight back when you hear any of these terms.

"Richmond claims the public purpose is to ... "

The rest of that sentence is lie, spin or just doesn't matter.  It is not public use.  It was the Supreme Court that violated the constitution.  The public purpose now is that local authorities were granted the power to choose one private owner over another private owner anytime, any place, on any scale for any reason.

"All of this echoes the 2005 Kelo case when New London, Connecticut, seized private homes to clear land so Pfizer Inc. PFE +0.27% could build a research headquarters. Susette Kelo lost her home but Pfizer later abandoned the city. In a notorious 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blessed the seizure, but we wonder if swing-vote Anthony Kennedy would do the same today. The lawsuit against Richmond says the city's claim to help the local economy is merely a pretext to benefit private investors, and such pretexts are a key issue in Fifth Amendment property-rights cases."

  - That's right!

Even if we had no constitution that had been tromped all over here, does no one believe anymore that a free market with free people making free choices is better than central government control where the powerful can transfer property and advantages to cronies with no limits?

In our town, besides the takings against me, the big project was the Best Buy headquarters where they chased out smaller, independent private businesses in favor of Fortune 500 fame and clout.  Now the story is losses, layoffs and closures.  The point isn't that the government was wrong with Pfiser in New London, Best Buy in MSP or a GSE buyout in Richmond, it is that they are always wrong to pretend central planners know economic need better than letting scarce resources flow to their most productive use in a free market.
4483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: August 09, 2013, 11:24:04 AM
Yes, but isn't there much that the Reps can and should be doing to identify and connect with voters of their own?

Absolutely!  Both of these groups have exceptions and overlap but I believe the opposite of a (long term) welfare recipient is a property owner in America.  Conservatives should identify, track and communicate with every voter who owns every parcel in the country.  (Someone should reach out to Martial Artists too, who tend to have a strong sense of individual rights, responsibilities and self reliance!)

And as we agreed before the last election, the challenge is in the clarity of the message.  Instead, the last contest was fought in a thick fog of economic war.  Screwups and sidetracks like perception of accepting apathy toward rape victims and building car elevators when we should be building voter databases cost us dearly, and perhaps permanently.

Now the focus is on in-fighting, Gov. Christy vs. Sen Rand Paul, for example, Powerline vs. Marco Rubio, everyone vs. Boehner.  No reader of the newspaper in our town would have any ideas what conservatives, economic libertarians or smaller government advocates stand for.  Just people who hate others and oppose progress.  They even hate themselves.

The focus needs to be on areas of agreement, not our differences.  Short, clear messages of what direction the country needs to turn to survive and succeed are a part of the answer IMHO.
4484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics - Obama's Economic Failure on: August 09, 2013, 10:57:21 AM
I quoted from this piece earlier, now posting it here in its entirety.  We all know the economy is under-performing.  The question is why.  Hopefully, at this point, we all know that too.

"What will it take for them to say they were wrong?"

Obama's Economic Failure

By Larry Elder - August 8, 2013

How's the left-wing, ivory-tower, we-know-best elitist Obamanomics working for you? Here's the news.

First-quarter gross domestic product numbers for 2013 were recently revised -- downward from 1.8 percent to 1.1 percent. For perspective, four years into the recovery from the last deep recession in '81-'82, the economy grew at 4.1 percent.

What about the declining "labor force participation rate"?

This counts the percentage of civilians 16 years and older working or actively looking for work. When President Barack Obama took office, the labor force participation rate was 65.7. Today it is 63.4, up 0.1 from April's 34-year low. Frustrated, many able-bodied and able-minded would-be workers have simply given up looking for jobs.

The number of people receiving federally subsidized food assistance today exceeds the number of full-time, private-sector working Americans. The number of Americans receiving foods stamps (now called SNAP) has reached 47.5 million, increasing an average of 13 percent a year from 2008 to 2012. Almost 9 million disabled American workers currently collect federal Social Security benefits -- double the number of disabled in the late '90s -- many admitting that they could work, but choose not to look.

Just to break even -- to keep pace with new entrants into the market -- the economy must produce 150,000 jobs per month. To date, Obama's four years of recovery have produced 4,657,000 jobs -- an average of 97,020 per month. At this juncture in the '80s, following the last big recession, the economy had produced 11.2 million new jobs, or 233,333 per month.

Even left-wing media outlets like ABC and The Washington Post cannot pretend that this is normal. About the advance estimate of the most recent quarter's dismal 1.7 percent growth, a Post business writer said: "It isn't even mediocre. It's terrible. It's a sign of the diminished economic expectations ... that it's anything to crow about at all. ABC called this latest report "disappointing." Of course, neither ABC nor The Washington Post attributed the disappointing results to anything President Obama has done.

But President Ronald Reagan took an entirely different course than has Obama. Reagan dramatically lowered taxes, reduced the speed of domestic spending and continued deregulation policies of Jimmy Carter. The economy took off, and three years into recovery, had produced an 8.9 percent increase in civilian employment -- almost 9 million jobs, with a post-recovery GDP that averaged over 5 percent.

The Reagan recovery was no aberration. Spending and tax cuts between 1922 and 1929 gave us the so-called "roaring '20s," when unemployment fell from 6.7 percent to 3.2 percent, and real gross national product grew at an annual average rate of 4.7 percent. Similarly, when President George W. Bush lowered taxes, the economy took off, and the unemployment rate went down to a low of 4.4 in 2006.

Democrats brag about the robust Clinton economy. But President Bill Clinton inherited an economy in its 22nd month of recovery. And Democrat historians ignore the economy-damaging measures that Clinton attempted -- most notably HillaryCare -- but could not pull off because Republicans stopped him.

Seventy-four percent of small-business owners say they plan to reduce hours, put off hiring or fire people to minimize the impact of ObamaCare. ObamaCare kicks in at 50 employees and applies to full-time workers.

So employers keep the number of workers under 50 and-or reduce hours to less than full-time (30 hours or more), and they get around ObamaCare. What this does to the economy and job creation is another story.

In 2009, Obama's economic team outlined the path of the economy "if we do nothing" versus the path of the economy with Obama's plans for stimulus and ObamaCare. Team Obama predicted an unemployment rate, at this point in the recovery, of 5 percent -- with his "stimulus." If Obama did nothing, they predicted, unemployment would reach 5 percent by the beginning of 2014. Today unemployment is at 7.4 percent, artificially low considering the number of people who have given up.

What will it take for them to say they were wrong?
How many more Americans must remain unemployed or underemployed before the left stops blaming G.W. Bush, the GOP-led House or global warming?

Historically, the deeper the recession, the higher the bounce back. Since World War II, this recovery has been by far the weakest. The question is why.

Our history shows that burdening the productive through higher taxes, especially during sluggishness, hurts the economy. Imposing billions of dollars in new federal regulations, as this administration has done, hurts the economy. Placing nearly one-seventh of the nation's economy -- via ObamaCare -- under the control of the federal government hurts the economy.

This is an arrogant administration led by a man distrustful of the private sector and devoid of experience in it. Obama is cheered and emboldened by a compliant media that would "report" relentlessly on the "jobless recovery of President X" were these the economic numbers of a Republican president. Stacked with power-assuming administrative "czars," the Obama administration fancies itself enlightened and noble, in complete possession of the wisdom needed to know from whom to take and to whom to give.

Therefore, to paraphrase former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "What difference do these bad numbers make?"

Read more:

4485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics - DBMA Fact checking the 'Plow Horse Trot' on: August 09, 2013, 10:23:56 AM
Brian Wesbury (with italics added): "What we have here is a Plow Horse Economy that looks like it may be starting to trot."

Plow horses don't trot, especially when pulling a load heavier than themselves.  

"The number of people receiving federally subsidized food assistance today exceeds the number of full-time, private-sector working Americans."

Economics to Wesbury sometimes becomes art over science.  But plow horses, even as a figure of speech, operate under the laws of Newtonian Physics where they measure 'work done', not results spun.  

The Workforce Participation Rate is up 0.1% since hitting the lowest point in our history since the time that women widely entered the workforce.  Was he tempted to call this upsurge a 'canter'??

The private sector will trot when the load it is pulling becomes manageable.  Neither spin not optimism will not overcome the laws of physics.

"The Right wants a recession to prove that government is too big."

If a huge boulder is hanging in the air directly over my family or neighborhood, expressing an awareness of gravity is not the same as wishing for it to fall.
4486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: August 09, 2013, 09:35:44 AM
Appeal to emotion, not logic.  This is a great get-to-know-the-left piece that happens to focus on gun control politics and messaging.  Same techniques also apply to all other issues and causes of the left.  Your rights and the constitution itself are subordinate to their agenda - always.  For a perfect example of this please see the previous post in this thread, the latest NY Times editorial supporting the Bloomberg-disarm agenda.

Shot to the Heart
A how-to book about inciting a moral panic.


Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner has uncovered a fascinating document: an 80-page "talking points" monograph titled "Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging," written by a trio of Democratic political operatives.

The document, as Bedard writes, instructs politicians and advocates "to hype high-profile gun incidents like the Florida slaying of Trayvon Martin to win support for new gun control laws." Essentially it's a how-to book on inciting a moral panic.

"The most powerful time to communicate is when concern and emotions are running at their peak," it advises. Antigun advocates are urged to seize opportunistically on horrific crimes: "The debate over gun violence in America is periodically punctuated by high-profile gun violence incidents including Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, the Trayvon Martin killing, Aurora, and Oak Creek. When an incident such as these attracts sustained media attention, it creates a unique climate for our communications efforts."

The booklet explicitly urges foes of the Second Amendment to abjure rationality in favor of the argumentum ad passiones, or appeal to emotion. "When talking to broader audiences, we want to meet them where they are," the authors advise. "That means emphasizing emotion over policy prescriptions, keeping our facts and our case simple and direct, and avoiding arguments that leave people thinking they don't know enough about the topic to weigh in."

The do's and don'ts are consistent with this advice. "Examples of power language" include: "It breaks my heart that every day in our country (state or city) children wake up worried and frightened about getting shot." "Just imagine the pain that a mother or father feels when their young child is gunned down." "The real outrage--the thing that makes this violence so unforgivable--is that we know how to stop it and we're not getting it done."

And here are examples of "some ineffective language to avoid": "There's a clear body of research demonstrating the high social cost of gun violence." "The policy outcomes we're after are the ones that can have the most beneficial impact on the rates of violence among the most affected populations." "Of course, gun violence affects people's lives. But, it also has a devastating economic impact to the tune of over $100 billion a year. That's a number that should get every American taxpayer's attention."

The monograph was published before the December massacre at Newtown, Conn., and its advice, as Bedard puts it, was "likely followed by top Democratic leaders including President Obama." Whether the post-Newtown campaign was propter hoc or merely post, there's no question that the book describes with great accuracy the approach Obama and his fellow antigun zealots took. The paradigmatic example, as we noted in April, was a New York Times op-ed carrying the name of Gabrielle Giffords, which was a model of unreasoning vehemence.

The campaign proved remarkably ineffective. A few states--Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, New York--enacted new antigun laws amid the post-Newtown panic. But it was hardly a national trend: Democratic Party dominance of state government was a necessary condition. On Capitol Hill, the big gun-control effort ended with a whimper in April, as even the mildest measures failed to win approval in the Democratic Senate. In fact, that Giffords op-ed was a reaction to that outcome, not an attempt to prevent it.

Why didn't these cynically manipulative tactics work? Maybe because the antigun zealots aren't as cynical as they imagine themselves to be--which is to say that they themselves are the most susceptible to these sorts of emotional appeals.

After all, Obama was genuinely furious when he appeared at the Rose Garden in April and raged impotently against the Senate for thwarting his efforts. No doubt the president was, as the monograph advises, trying to manipulate others by playing on their emotional weakness. He ended up playing on his own weakness instead.
4487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Benghazi: Did Valerie Jarrett Give the Stand Down Order? on: August 09, 2013, 09:22:10 AM
This piece is based on speculation, but it the best information available (IMO) until the Presidential stonewalling breaks down, which is likely never.

She did it before.  Where was he after the 5:00 meeting?  No one else from staff 'regularly follows' the President to the residential quarters of the White House.

"Present as the call was made, reports blogger Chip Jones at Conservative Report Online, was Valerie Jarrett, who, as the call was ending, went from the living quarters to the White House Situation Room, where the attack in Benghazi was being monitored by Dempsey, Panetta and other top-ranking officials.  What she may have said and whether the president sent her is unknown. We do know the president retired for the night, and no rescue mission was launched.  Once before, Jarrett had called off the military for political purposes."
4488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Doctor changes mind on pot on: August 09, 2013, 08:26:44 AM

Very interesting post and good points but I don't find it fully convincing.  From the title I assumed he looked at Colorado and changed his mind in the other direction.

Doesn't want his kids to try until their brains are fully formed in their mid-20s.  Under full legalization and state sanctioning, good luck with that.
4489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 09, 2013, 08:22:23 AM
Yes, "deepen the ports in the gulf - in Charleston SC, Savannah GA and Jacksonville FL."  Does anyone have a map?  57 states?  Corpsman?  Gift to the Queen is a DVD of his own speeches - in an unreadable format was the only good part.  Russian 'Reset' that means 'Overcharged/Overloaded'.  "Let's Not Spike the Football on Osama", then spike, spike, spike.  "I believe in the private sector", while beating it into submission.

The main media intentionally leave it for the right wing media to cover the boneheaded parts of the administration and the material is endless.  Imagine this was ANY Republican!
4490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Abortion on: August 08, 2013, 10:53:02 PM
Rand Paul agrees with Crafty's theory that Roe allows for congress to define when life begins.

The post sounds like the bill has no exceptions.  I have argued that there is no serious bill that doesn't make exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother, etc.  A bill without exceptions is pandering to the right, not a serious attempt to win the center and change law IMO.

In this recent interview with Wolf Blitzer, Rand Paul says there will need to be "thousands of exceptions":

"Well, there’s going to be, like I say, thousands of extraneous situations where the life of the mother is involved and other things that are involved.
So, I would say that each individual case would have to be addressed and even if there were eventually a change in the law, let’s say, the people came more to my way of thinking, it’s still be a lot of complicated things that the law may not ultimately be able to address in the early stages of pregnancy that would have to be part of what occurs between the physician and the woman and the family.”

Slightly up the thread is a rare situation where an abortion could save the life the life of the other unborn twin.  We can't agree on 20 weeks but we suddenly will pass a bill for no abortions, no exceptions?  There is a moral case to be made before a major law change.  That argument won't be won without thoughtful provision for necessary exceptions.
4491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Reps tech gap with Dems on: August 08, 2013, 10:45:05 PM

True, but what is the Republican equivalent of the Obama-Dem 'data mining' of 50 million food stamp recipients?

First R's will need to data mine the Dem data mine and blow the whistle on the operations that ran outside of the law.
4492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: Another Obama Head Fake On Fannie, Freddie Reform on: August 07, 2013, 01:01:32 PM
IBD Editorial confirming what Pat just posted.  If he is saying this, he is doing the opposite.

Another Obama Head Fake On Fannie, Freddie Reform    08/06/2013

Big Government: President Obama is renewing calls to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But it's just another ruse to prevent these costly government failures from being privatized.

While outlining his plan Tuesday in a housing speech in Phoenix, Obama proved he's the master of talking out of both sides of his mouth.

In one breath, he encouraged the private market to take a bigger role in home lending, and even suggested the government's role should be limited.

Yet in the next, he argued the government still plays a vital role in the mortgage market by guaranteeing "affordable housing" for lower-income Americans.

Then he talked about how he wants to "strengthen" the Federal Housing Administration, by which he means expand its role in the affordable housing market. FHA has already picked up the subprime slack from Fannie and Freddie on his watch.

Now Obama seeks to further expose it to risky subprime loans by qualifying deadbeat borrowers with foreclosures and bankruptcies. Obama also prattled on about personal "responsibility," and making sure those who want a home can actually afford one.

Yet instead of making deadbeat borrowers wait three years to apply for another home loan, Obama is ordering FHA to back such high-risk loans right now, as long as the borrowers have a job and take credit counseling.

He also linked housing reform to immigration reform, arguing that immigration can stimulate the housing market. But in the run-up to the crisis, thanks to government pressure on Fannie and Freddie, millions of Hispanic immigrants — many here illegally — took out home loans with no down payments and weak or no established credit, and defaulted on those loans in droves.

We've heard this from Obama before. In February 2011 he put forth a plan to "reform" Fannie and Freddie. Then as now, he vowed to wind down the toxic twins in favor of a private market solution — with a big caveat.

"Any such changes should occur at a measured pace," the president said in his 30-page report to Congress, "that preserves widespread access to affordable mortgages." He also asserted: "The government still has an important role to play in housing finance."

Two-and-a-half years later, he's still dragging his feet.

Despite prespeech headlines trumpeting "an end to Fannie and Freddie," Obama did no such thing.

Indeed, he offered no specifics about how he would actually unwind the nationalized mortgage giants — which so far have cost taxpayers $190 billion in bailouts, thanks largely to federal affordable-housing mandates that drove them into the subprime market.

If Obama truly were serious about reforming housing finance, he wouldn't have tapped Democratic Rep. Mel Watt to be the nation's top housing finance regulator.

Watt teamed with Democratic Rep. Barney Frank to pressure Fannie and Freddie to underwrite high-risk loans to satisfy their affordable-housing social agenda.

Obama in his speech says he wants to lay a "rock-solid foundation" in home lending to prevent another crisis. But he really only cares about "affordable housing" and carrying out his social agenda.
4493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wind Power: Only When the Subsidies Flow on: August 07, 2013, 12:58:17 PM
Wind Power: Only When the Wind Blows and the Subsidies Flow

Nicolas Loris,  August 6, 2013

Wind turbines produce power only when the wind is blowing. But perhaps more importantly, wind production builds only when the subsidies are flowing.

The wind industry is experiencing slow growth through the first half of the year and blaming uncertainty over a massive subsidy as a reason why. Alex Guillen of Politico reported last week that the United States added only 1.6 megawatts of wind power in the first half of 2013, which is far less than the 13 gigawatts installed last year and significantly smaller than the 3 gigawatts of new power installed over the first half of 2012.

The fact that the wind production experiences significant declines when the subsidy expires is not a good reason to extend it; in fact, it’s a good reason to permanently remove it.

The wind industry is confident that installation will pick up towards the end of year and that the uncertainty over the extension of the tax credit created the lag in production for the year. But what is most important, however, is just how dependent wind production is upon subsidies, as well as state mandates for renewable electricity generation.

Congress first passed the wind production tax credit (PTC) in 1992 but allowed it to expire several times. The PTC expired in 2000, 2002, and 2004, and annual wind installation decreased by 93 percent, 73 percent, and 77 percent, respectively. Wind energy advocates call this a boom-and-bust cycle created by unstable policy, but it is more likely a case of the wind PTC’s oversupplying a market and artificially propping up a large portion of wind production.

The complaint from wind advocates is that there’s no business certainty. While there may be uncertainty as to whether politicians cave and extend the PTC another year or two, the wind industry knew the expiration was coming for years. If they wanted policy certainty, they should have stopped lobbying for an extension.

Removing the energy subsidies would eradicate the near-term dependence but also promote long-term growth within the industry. The part of the wind industry that doesn’t depend on the PTC would be the more robust, competitive part and would provide consumers with affordable energy. Until the training wheels are taken off, however, the industry will not have the strongest incentive to innovate and lower costs to become economically viable and instead will concentrate efforts on lobbying for handouts.

Even Patrick Jenevein, CEO of the clean energy firm Tang Energy Group, affirmed in The Wall Street Journal the problems with his own industry’s dependence on subsidies:

    Government subsidies to new wind farms have only made the industry less focused on reducing costs. In turn, the industry produces a product that isn’t as efficient or cheap as it might be if we focused less on working the political system and more on research and development.

The wind PTC is again set to expire at the end of the year. To provide certainty, save taxpayers billions of dollars, and promote healthy competition in the energy sector, Congress should let it expire and work to remove all energy subsidies for all sources.
4494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Metro 'Smart Planning', 'Regionalism', "Cities without Suburbs" on: August 07, 2013, 12:53:44 PM
This article is written with the Twin Cities MN metro of Minneapolis, St. Paul and suburbs in mind.  The same issues are likely in play in your metro as well.  Met Council of which she refers is the unelected governing body of the seven county metro area.  Minnesota currently has a Dem Governor, House and Senate, so these liberal causes are currently able to move quite rapidly.

Twin Cities suburbs should beware of the Met Council

    August 3, 2013

Crusaders for ‘regionalism’ want a more concentrated, centrally planned Twin Cities. Those who don’t may never know what hit them.

The Twin Cities of 2040 will likely be starkly different from the place you live now. People will increasingly live in dense, urban concentrations, even if they’d prefer a house with a yard outside the 494 beltway.

Government planners will have power to steer new jobs into central cities and first-ring suburbs, and to set what amounts to quotas for people of different incomes and races in neighborhoods and schools throughout the metro area. Outside the urban core, highway conditions will deteriorate and congestion — encouraged by government — will get worse.

As these changes unfold, you’ll never be sure how the freedom and quality of life you once took for granted slipped away. Plenty of elected officials will be as frustrated as you are. But mysteriously, they too will stand powerless as choices constrict.

What will be the engine of this transformation? An out-of-the-limelight agency we generally think of as running the buses and occasionally approving a new runway at the airport: the Metropolitan Council.

In coming months, the council will release a draft of “Thrive MSP 2040” — its comprehensive plan to shape development in the seven-county region over the next 30 years. Powerful forces are coalescing to use the document as a tool for social planners to use to design their vision of the perfect society — and to impose it on the rest of us.

A huge, unchecked power grab is about to take place beneath our noses. But mayors and city councils will find it hard to push back. That’s because the Met Council will increasingly wield the power to decide which municipalities thrive and which decline. It will both write the rules for development and hold the purse strings.

The Met Council was established in the mid-1960s at the behest of Republican-leaning policymakers, who believed regional planning of infrastructure could enhance efficiency. Its reach has grown dramatically, and today it allocates funds (state, federal and regional) among the region’s 187 municipalities for projects ranging from highway improvement to bridges to sewer lines. In the process, the council’s role has expanded well beyond its original mandate, as government so often does.

We can expect MSP 2040 to put this process on steroids, giving the agency a license, over time, to dramatically remake the entire region.

The forces shaping MSP 2040 — whose final vision the council will approve in 2014 — are part of a growing nationwide movement called “regionalism.”

Regional planning of service delivery and infrastructure is important, of course. But “regionalism,” as an ideology, is not, as its name suggests, about promoting the good of a region as a whole. It’s about metro centers — the urban core and inner-ring suburbs — usurping control over outer-ring communities to advance their own interests and, in the process, effectively replacing local elected officials with a handful of regional governments.

In the case of the Twin Cities, the ramifications for democratic self-rule are profound. The Met Council’s 17 members are not elected. Though they come from different parts of the seven-county area, they don’t represent the needs and interests of voters there. They are all appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton, and they owe their allegiance to him.

The press for regionalism is coming from the highest power in the land: the Obama White House. The Obama administration’s campaign to build the regulatory framework to implement the movement’s agenda is documented in political analyst Stanley Kurtz’s 2012 book, “Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.”

The Twin Cities may be a showcase for how far the regionalist crusade can go. Our Met Council is unique, and we already have regional tax-base sharing — one of the movement’s most sought-after tools.

An army of academics, environmental organizations, foundations, and transit advocacy and left-wing religious groups is working to ensure that MSP 2040 greatly expands the Met Council’s regulatory control. And there’s a movement underway to organize politicians from inner-ring suburbs and Minneapolis and St. Paul, with the goal of taking on the outer-ring suburbs and forging a permanent legislative majority for the regionalist agenda.

Regionalism is driven by a core ideological conviction: The cause of the poverty and social dysfunction that bedevil America’s cities is the greed and racial bigotry of suburbanites — especially those in prosperous, outer-ring suburbs, which are viewed as unjustly excluding the poor. Regionalists believe that financial aid for the inner ring won’t remedy this injustice. A profound change in governance is required.

What sort of change? The title of a book by regionalist guru David Rusk puts it bluntly: “Cities without Suburbs.” In regionalists’ view, suburbs with their own tax bases are, by definition, a menace to cities, and the distinctions between the two must be wiped out as completely as possible.

Regionalists’ strategy to effectively merge cities and suburbs turns on two ideologically freighted buzzwords: “equity” and “sustainability.” “Equity” is code for using public policy to redistribute wealth and to engineer economic equality among demographic groups.

Regionalists view metrowide “economic integration” as one of government’s primary responsibilities. Their plan to accomplish it is twofold: Disperse urban poverty throughout a metro area via low-income housing and make suburban life so inconvenient and expensive that suburbanites are pushed back into the city.

“Sustainability” means policies that would override market forces to ensure that in the future, the great majority of new jobs, economic development and public works projects are funneled into the metro area’s urban core and inner ring — where, not coincidentally, regionalists’ own political base is concentrated. “Sustainable” policies promote high-density, Manhattan-style living, and attempt to wean us away from our cars and push us to walk, bike or use public transit to get to work.

As one critic — speculating on MSP 2040’s likely outcome — lamented: “Do we all have to live in a 1,500-square-foot condo above a coffee shop on a transit line?”

Suburbanites will disproportionately shoulder the costs of this socially engineered transformation, paying more in taxes and getting less back in infrastructure and public services.

Purse strings

Regionalists’ strategy for imposing their agenda hinges on giving regional bodies like the Met Council the ultimate trump: the power of the checkbook. The Obama administration’s “Sustainable Communities Initiative” (SCI) provides a model. SCI channels federal funds for land use, transportation and housing projects through regional bodies. The catch is that, to participate, municipalities must embrace redistributive “equity” goals.

The Met Council already has announced that “equity” and “mitigating economic and social disparities through regional investments” will be top priorities of MSP 2040. This explicit embrace of social engineering goals appears to signal an intent to initiate what could be a virtually limitless remake of our metro area.

Special-interest groups are lining up to lobby for proposals to embed “equity” and “sustainability” criteria in Met Council plans and/or funding criteria. These proposals include creating one giant seven-county metro school district to facilitate apportionment of students by race and income, and ensuring that “at least 70 percent of projected growth in population and households” in the next 30 years takes place through “infill and redevelopment of already urbanized land.”

In the future, if Prior Lake or Anoka want to get a grant to expand a major regional highway, officials there may need to demonstrate that their city meets the council’s “equity” criteria on low-income housing and doesn’t allow “exclusionary” zoning, instead of just showing that the project would improve safety or reduce congestion.

Over time, demands could escalate. Eventually, for example, a municipality may have to meet onerous “carbon footprint” or “clean energy” requirements to get approval for a new sewer line. Pressure will mount to make state and federal aid of all kinds contingent on meeting Met Council social planning dictates.

Most likely, the council will continue to operate under the fiction that cities have a choice. Yet a city council or a county board that declines to comply with “regionalist” criteria — citing its citizens’ needs and preferences — would ensure that funds and approval for improvement would stop, and so would remain frozen in time.

Advocates insist that the Twin Cities must embrace regionalist policies to remain “economically competitive.” In fact, top-down planning by unaccountable bureaucrats that distorts market forces is likely to constrict overall prosperity and stymie development. Ironically, it’s also likely to increase “sprawl,” as people flee to cities like Delano or Elk River to get beyond the Met Council’s iron grip.

Most importantly, the direction the Met Council is heading is inconsistent with our deepest beliefs as a people. The American dream is about striving for a better life through economic growth, not redistribution of wealth. Regionalists’ Orwellian appeals to “equity” and “sustainability” are hostile to our cherished traditions of individual liberty, personal responsibility and local self-government.
Katherine Kersten is a senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment.
4495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics - Recovery is over, was it good for you? on: August 07, 2013, 11:16:12 AM

Is it possible that the U.S. economic recovery is currently, at this very moment, moving at the fastest pace at which it will ever move? (under these policies)

The BEA GDP growth figure for 2Q13 was +1.7%, meaning that the United States economy grew 0.425% over that period. That is about half of what we might like. Bill Gross at PIMCO, among others, has been advancing the proposition that this low-or-no growth is the “new normal” for the United States

My prediction [Joe Malchow, Powerline] is that his 2009 missive by that title will be remembered for a very long time. His post-election letter questioned “Retrain, rehire into higher paying and value-added jobs? That may be the political myth of the modern era. There aren’t enough of those jobs. A structurally higher unemployment rate of 7% or more is the feared ‘whisper’ number in Fed circles.”

All manner of things change in a low-or-no growth economy, especially the relative attractiveness of predation as an economic modality. Over a sufficient period of time, this transforms the great lie of liberalism–that your neighbor’s success is the cause of your poverty–into a terrible truth. We aren’t there yet. The consensus among the money managers I know (and the ones I overhear in the cafes of Palo Alto) is that we are still in a tepid recovery, slowly climbing our way back to our historical growth metrics. But what if this is as good as it gets?

Here is a chart just published by Ashok Rao:

This chart helps us see the second order of number of unemployeds–i.e., not the number of people unemployed, nor the change in the number of people unemployed, but the rate of improvement in the change of the number of people unemployed. As you can see from the shaded areas, which are recessions, what happens as a recession is ending and the U.S. is returning to growth is that the number of unemployeds falls, and falls at a faster rate. It then seems to normalize, somewhat, at a negative rate, during which periods we have good, solid growth. Crucially, the rate of improvement in the number of unemployeds never gets too fast. Over the last forty years it seems to be negative-bounded at -10%. What that means is that there is very little precedent for our current “recovery” to become any more furiously ebullient than it already is. It would mean that our labor market is now adjusted.
4496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics vs the stock market on: August 07, 2013, 11:07:49 AM

The S&P index of entrenched companies operating globally going up 177% is not evidence that the plowhorse economy is stronger and healthier than we think.

Is there any chance that interest rates artificially set at zero, moving all money to equities, quantitative easing, flooding 85B/mo. into the market, and over-regulation, locking out all new competition, had anything to do with stocks going up while the rest of America and the world are all stuck in stagnation?
4497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Benghazi - A terror attack of oppportunity, not a CIA mission coverup on: August 07, 2013, 11:01:16 AM
The scandal revolves around President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice.

A congressional source (to Powerline) who has knowledge of the Benghazi investigation wrote regarding the CIA:

    "The bottom line is that the CIA has been exceedingly responsive to us, we have no evidence to substantiate the claims of intimidation, and we interact with CIA personnel of all levels all the time both at official functions and informally. And we have not heard anything that would make me think any of the conspiracy rumors or intimidation rumors are true.

    We know what they were doing there (yes, there were such folks on the ground). We knew before the attack. And we have seen nothing to suggest that they were shipping arms to Syria or holding detainees at the annex, both of which would have been outside their authorization. We have been given a very large volume of reports, emails, and intelligence — thousands of pages — and we have met with folks who were on the ground. I see no evidence suggesting the attack was at all related to their specific activities. It was apparently a target of opportunity, and a relatively insecure one at that. We are pretty confident we know the whole story, and I constantly ask reporters to share their unnamed sources with a promise to keep it anonymous and confidential, and they never follow through."

If there was a substantial group of CIA people on the ground in Benghazi, could they have been brought into play to help save Ambassador Stevens? Our source responds:

    "The folks who moved to the TMF were able to get everyone out, save Stevens who could not be found. They were able to evacuate everyone else, including retrieving Sean Smith’s body.

    The two security professionals from the Annex who died were killed later — during the mortar attack on the annex — not during the initial attack on the TMF. We don’t see anything suggesting that more people going to the TMF from the annex would have helped. They mobilized pretty quickly. Some guys weren’t immediately close, and you don’t want to clear out an entire facility to help another. So the tactical decisions on the ground can be debated with hindsight, but we see nothing suggesting that there was a failure on the ground by the U.S personnel at the moment of the attacks. Everyone behaved rationally and heroically."

Does that include Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton back in Washington? No:

    "There is a scandal here. It is the light footprint mindset of this admin and the inability of the white house to make the tough decisions to get the attackers. As we learned from the 911 commission report, when terrorists succeed in attacking the United States, and we don’t respond quickly and successfully to find them, terrorist groups are only emboldened and empowered. It seems it is a truth that we are seeing play out again around the world right now."
4498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO supports killing FMs?!? on: August 07, 2013, 10:45:25 AM

Yes, he believes the private sector is the solution.  The only indication that he is lying is that his lips were moving when he said that - and that everything he has done as President, Senator and community activist before that has been to the contrary.
4499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / How Bad is the Ammo Shortage? on: August 06, 2013, 12:32:35 PM
Ammo is getting scarce! But this morning I lucked out and was able to buy two boxes of ammo.

I placed the boxes on the front seat and headed back home, but stopped at a gas station where a drop-dead gorgeous blonde in a short skirt was filling up her car at the next pump.

She glanced at the two boxes of ammo, bent over and leaned in my passenger window, and said in a sexy voice, “I’m a big believer in barter, old fella. Would you be interested in trading sex for ammo?”

I thought for a few seconds and asked,

“What kind of ammo ‘ya got?”
4500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Way Forward for the American Creed - The Wisconsin Model on: August 06, 2013, 12:21:07 PM
It is the Upper Midwest, the 'Rust Belt', one might confuse Wisconsin for Michigan, and Wisconsin's worst city Milwaukee no doubt has all the makings of the problems of Detroit, yet now the so-called dairy state is one of America's 5 fastest growing state economies.

Who knew?  The voters.  Twice.

Shrinking the size and scope of government is not an exciting, Hyde Park, Yes We Can agenda, but it does serve to re-energize the economy.

EDITORIAL: The Wisconsin model
Hard work and no more free rides for anyone


Monday, August 5, 2013

The nation’s governors met in Milwaukee over the weekend to share tips about what to do to make their states better. Some of the governors had more to tell than others, but few more than Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin. He’s showing the rest of the nation what an actual economic recovery looks like.

Mr. Walker talked of the numbers from the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia that put his state among the top five in economic growth. “We know that employers want stability, and while we can’t control all of the factors affecting job creation, this ranking is another sign that the work we are doing is improving the business climate in the state,” he said.

The results in Wisconsin were wrought by neither coincidence nor luck. Wisconsin earned them. The state’s voters made a conscious and distinct choice to break from the failed public policies of the past. Before Mr. Walker assumed office in 2011, public-sector unions ruled Madison, carving for themselves golden pension plans that nobody else had and Wisconsin couldn’t pay for, swelling the deficit to $3.6 billion. Unlike many of his colleagues, Republican or Democrat, Mr. Walker was willing to wager his own future to say no to greedy unions. Voters explicitly endorsed Mr. Walker’s agenda when they voted against recalling him, and by a comfortable margin.

This enrages liberals in a solid blue state with a large union membership. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. Lizz Winstead, co-creator of the “Daily Show,” appeared on Al Jazeera’s new American television network last week and her bile exploded. “I hate Scott Walker really down to the core of my being,” she said. Chanting demonstrators gathered in the Capitol rotunda for a “singing protest” against the new era of responsible budgeting.

Mr. Walker took away the free ride for state employees. They must now pay half of the contribution to their pension and 12.6 percent of the cost of their health insurance. Abuse of overtime, used to fatten prospective pensions, was eliminated. The changes added up to $1.9 billion in savings, and much of it was returned to taxpayers. So far this session, the Wisconsin legislature has approved across-the-board tax cuts, a manufacturing tax credit and a reduction in unnecessary regulation.

Before Mr. Walker took office, only 1 of every 10 businessmen said the state was headed in the right direction. Last month, more than 9 of 10 CEOs said in a survey by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce trade association that they like where Wisconsin is headed. President Obama would cheer for numbers like that.

America’s economic future depends on local, state and federal legislators taking the lesson that good business is good for America. The Wisconsin model can work in other states. Washington could learn from it, too. They only have to try it.
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