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4551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Will: A Cliff of Their Own Choosing on: November 30, 2012, 10:07:56 AM
Some excellent points made by George Will including this one similar to one I believe Crafty already articulated on the forum: " restoration of the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent would occur in the very different Obama era of regulatory excesses and Obamacare taxes"


A cliff of their own choosing

By George F. Will, Published: November 28
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-a-cliff-of-democrats-choosing/2012/11/28/0320513c-38ce-11e2-8a97-363b0f9a0ab3_story.html

With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved health care — expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed “fiscal cliff,” the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party’s agenda.

For 40 years the party’s principal sources of energy and money — liberal activists, government-employees unions — have advocated expanding government’s domestic reach by raising taxes and contracting its foreign reach by cutting defense. Obama’s four years as one of the most liberal senators and his four presidential years indicate that he agrees. Like other occasionally numerate but prudently reticent liberals, he surely understands that the entitlement state he favors requires raising taxes on the cohort that has most of the nation’s money — the middle class.

Mitt Romney as candidate and others before and since have suggested increasing revenue by capping income tax deductions. This would increase that tax’s progressivity, without raising rates that would dampen incentives. Obama’s compromise may be: Let’s do both. Remember the story of when the British Admiralty sought six new battleships, the Treasury proposed four, so they compromised on eight.

Those proposing higher taxes on the wealthy note that when the income tax began in 1913, the top rate was 7 percent. But in 1917, war brought a 67 percent rate. Between 1925 and 1931, the rate was 24 percent or 25 percent, but in only five of the subsequent 80 years — 1988-92 — was the top rate lower than it is today.

Republicans, however, respond that because lower rates reduce incentives to distort economic decisions, they promote growth by enhancing efficiency. Hence restoration of the higher rates would be a giant step away from, and might effectively doom, pro-growth tax reform. Furthermore, restoration of the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent would occur in the very different Obama era of regulatory excesses and Obamacare taxes. Hence Republicans rightly resist higher rates.

Given liberals’ fixation with the affluent paying their “fair share,” it might seem peculiar that they are so vehemently against Paul Ryan’s “premium support” proposal for Medicare. Their recoil is, however, essential to the liberal project.

Ryan’s supposedly radical idea is that people should shop for health insurance, with government subsidizing purchases by the less affluent. This would introduce what soon will be inevitable — means testing, a.k.a. progressivity. But liberals reject it with a word, the incantation of which suffices, they think, as an argument — “voucher.”

This is peculiar because perhaps the most successful federal program of the 20th century was essentially a voucher program. The purpose of the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act — a.k.a. the G.I. Bill of Rights — was to facilitate demobilization by helping men and women acquire educations and buy houses — and hence form families. The government did not build universities or houses. It, in effect, gave individuals conditional cash — vouchers — by helping to pay for home loans and college tuition.

Liberals’ strenuous objection to vouchers is that vouchers, as the functional equivalent of cash, empower individuals to make choices. It is the business of the liberals’ administrative state, staffed by experts, to make choices for inexpert individuals. This is why, while Democrats in Washington are working to reduce the portion of Americans’ private income that is disposed of by private choices, two tentacles of the Democratic Party — the Indiana and Louisiana teachers unions — are in their states’ courts waging futile fights against school choice programs, lest thousands of low- and moderate-income parents be as empowered as millions of demobilized servicemen were.

Washington’s contentiousness about the “cliff” is producing a blizzard of numbers. The argument, however, is not about this or that tax rate but about the nature of the American regime. When the Republican House majority acts as though it has a mind — and a mandate — of its own, this is not Washington being “dysfunctional,” it is the separation of powers functioning as the Founders intended. Their system requires concurrent congressional majorities — one in the Senate, with its unique constituencies and electoral rhythms, another in the House, with its constituencies and rhythms. And at least 219 of the 234 House Republicans won in November by margins larger than Obama’s national margin.
4552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: 10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free on: November 30, 2012, 09:38:07 AM

A very interesting piece.  Surprising to me that a list of lost freedoms only includes those lost as a result of us being under attack by Islamic terrorism, with no alternative offered as to how to protect ourselves without these losses of freedoms.

"If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will."

Law enforcement as we knew it, innocent until proven guilty with prosecution after the crime occurs, does not work against suicide bombers and planned acts of war.  Did founders like George Washington have his troops hold fire in war until after each target had the right to a speedy trial and to confront his accusers?

If my cell number is found in a killed Afghan terrorist's speed dial, I expect some surveillance on me until my innocence becomes clear.  That is actually a gain not a loss of freedom IMHO.

"President Obama has claimed, as President George W. Bush did before him, the right to order the killing of any citizen considered a terrorist or an abettor of terrorism. Last year, he approved the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi and another citizen under this claimed inherent authority. Last month, administration officials affirmed that power, stating that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists. (Nations such as Nigeria, Iran and Syria have been routinely criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.)"

Does the power to kill a terrorist, a planner of war and attacks against the United States, operating in Yemen make us akin to Syria, Iran or Nigeria?  Good grief.

Sudarsan, Raghavan; Michael D. Shear (December 25, 2009). "U.S.-aided attack in Yemen thought to have killed Aulaqi, 2 al-Qaeda leaders". The Washington Post.
Usborne, David; The Centre for Social Cohesion, a British think-tank (April 8, 2010). "Obama orders US-born cleric to be shot on sight". London: The Independent.
Newton, Paula (March 10, 2010). "Purported al-Awlaki message calls for jihad against US". CNN. Archived from the original on April 19, 2010.
Scott Shane and Robert Worth, "Challenge Heard on Move to Kill Qaeda-Linked Cleric", The New York Times, November 8, 2010.


Meanwhile we have lost the right to work, to keep fruits of our labor, to save, to invest, to hire, to choose our healthcare, to grow wheat or open a lemon stand on our property, but no mention within this author's '10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free'.  Topics for another thread perhaps.
4553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: November 30, 2012, 08:47:43 AM
"But if raising taxes would lead us toward trouble, why would raising taxes only on some people ("the rich") not have some of the same harmful effect?"

Rand Paul has this right.
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Elections have consequences.  Obama held the White House, but he failed to win crucial coattails even with his miraculous turnout operation.  House Republicans hold the important trump cards.  They can pass their own balanced measure that meets all the criteria and ought to be acceptable to Democrats and then hold firm.  If and when Democrats fail to join and everyone's taxes skyrocket, Republicans can make it clear that full tax reform - for everyone, retroactive to the first - is always on the table for Democrats to join and enact.  Same goes for either comprehensive or piecemeal spending and entitlement reforms.

"All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives..."  This isn't a Republican stand; it's a clause in the constitution.  

"Buraq wants us to go over the cliff."

The President chickened out the last time (last two times?) he stood at the precipice.  For better or for worse, this economy is the Obama economy.  They didn't call the 90s the Gingrich economy.  President Obama owns it.  The Republican House was a direct result of his governance in general and Democrat overreach on health care in particular.  People chose this President but importantly they also chose his opposition for majority in the House as a check and balance against his ability to enact the policies of his choosing.  He can succeed or fail as a uniter and as a leader.  There are plenty of revenue enhancers on the table from the Republicans and there are at this late date still no real domestic program or transfer payment cuts on the table from the President or Democrats.

At the end the President can say that he upset both Republicans and Democrats to make a deal.  Voters love that and popularity equals ability to govern going forward.  Just ask George Bush.

Mr. President, make a deal, take a deal or bring us all to failure.  This is all on your watch.
4554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: November 30, 2012, 07:57:16 AM
The points in the article are interesting to me, important considerations for awareness going forward.  They do not override the competing case, that to not produce our energy means unaffordable energy contributing to other problems like uncompetitive manufacturing, imbalance of trade in the trillions with resulting effects on our currency, increased need for redistribution and big government because of widespread energy unaffordability.  Foremost, to not produce our own energy means to have the fascist forces of our government override the freedoms of our enterprise.  Not to mention making places like the Straits of Hormuz and people like the Mullahs and Chavezes of the world crucial to our economic survival.  Not an optimal situation, as the President said about 4 dead Americans in oil producing Libya.

My understanding is that fracking and shale oil and oils sands development came about because of artificially high prices on oil.  Saudi oil (and Alaskan oil, Venezuelan) is still cheaper to produce.  Those sources will always have a cost and price advantage even if they run the rest of their economy miserably.

Energy independence is not the term for what we need; it's more like energy balance.  We export a lot of energy now but import far more.  The goal IMO is just to get production totals more in line with consumption requirements.  When that becomes true we will have a neutral effect on world prices as both a producer and a consumer, and an importer and exporter of energy.  Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Emirates, etc. do not have to go broke as the oil price stabilize under $100 nor does their product become obsolete.  (Nor do we have to stop being their ally.) US production will not push prices to zero nor to a level below their cost basis. 

With increased US production these 'allies' in the Middle East will still face the same cultural/economic challenge they always faced, to build out the rest of their economy producing something of value more than just oil.  Same is true for Mexico, Canada, Houston and the people of Williston ND.
4555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / re. the attack on Amb. Susan Rice on: November 29, 2012, 07:09:48 PM
"The key difference was that we had good intel that Iraq had WMD, while the lies about Benghazi were deliberate and calculated.  Something the lefties at Slate know, but don't care about."

Yes, we heard ad nauseam that Bush et al lied, but never to my knowledge was anything ever established to contradict that the best intelligence in the world thought Saddam was close to WMD, used them on the Kurds etc.  AFTER no stockpiles were found Iraq Study Group concluded he was 6-8 years away from nuclear weapons - more than 6-8 years ago.  That means nuclear by now if not for US intervention.

The Rice scandal is two-part.  a) She covered up the tie to terrorism - which she knew.  Others took the blame for removing that from her public report.  b) They completely made up the story about the video and passed that off as what happened when it didn't and she knew it didn't.

I don't see anyone really pressing on point b) and she certainly has not come clean on that publicly.

Sec of State is in the line of order of succession to the Presidency, just ask Alexander Haig.  If you believe what I wrote about duplicity, and I believer it is true, then blocking her potential confirmation makes perfect sense.

She put herself out there for the President politically.  It was a career choice.

Susan Rice was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs when the embassies were bombed.  The sensitivity of the information is something should she have contemplated.

A shrewd move by Pres. Obama would be to make Susan Collins Sec of State.

4556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: budget process - The House Republicans still hold a few cards on: November 28, 2012, 01:28:52 PM
All the tax pledge and tax hike talk puts a historic choice in front of House Republicans with the expiration of the Bush/Obama rates, the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, Obamacare implementation, and the second term of Pres. Barack Obama all coming. 

What should they do?

Posted before, but the size and scope of government is limited to what the lowest of what the three parties, House, Senate and Executive, will support.  The burden is on House Republicans alone to set the limits.

If there is no action on the tax rate extensions, tax rates go up automatically for all.  Republicans oppose that.  What leverage do they have?  For one thing, Democrats oppose that too.

If there is no action on the so-called fiscal cliff it means automatic tax hikes and automatic defense cuts and other automatic spending cuts.  Republicans oppose that, but how worse is that to signing on to the agenda of the Democrats?  We don't need as much military spending right now if we are going to pull back for 4 years.  Call that bluff?

Next comes the perpetually scheduled debt ceiling hike.  Republicans have leverage there only if they are able to say no.  What if they did say no?  What kind of organization has no survival plan for the possibility that their bank will not raise their credit limit when it is maxed out for the umpteenth time?  Federal spending including interest on the debt would instantly be limited to federal revenues.  Say it isn't so!  Isn't that what a balanced budget amendment would require anyway?  We aren't in an economic crisis.  This economy, this stagnation and this unemployment is the new normal for the poicies we are choosing.

Maybe House Republicans can steal away the initiative with bold proposals.  They could require full scale tax reform as part of any revenue increase, agree to maintain current progressivity but insist on dynamic scoring and an end to baseline budgeting.  They could insist on repeal of Humphrey Hawkins, the legislation that mandated the 'dual role' of the Fed.  If the endpoint of budget negotiations is a responsible fiscal policy, then we don't need a 4th year of artificial monetary stimulus.  They could insist on a pushback of Obamacare implementation.  They could insist on passage of a 4 year moratorium on new fracking rules or to release new federal lands to energy leases.  They could trade their needed votes on the current budget matters for Democrat votes on a balanced budget amendment that includes a cap on federal spending as a percent of GDP.  The cap in the current bill was written at 18%, a little bit optimistic in current political context.  Move it to 20%, then hold firm for passage in the House and Senate to send to the states.
4557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Abortion: Safe, Legal and Rare - Whoops on: November 28, 2012, 12:47:43 PM
http://www.lifenews.com/2012/11/27/planned-parenthood-rushes-woman-to-hospital-after-botched-abortion/

Planned Parenthood Rushes Woman to Hospital After Botched Abortion

by Steven Ertelt | St. Louis, MO | 11/27/12 1:35 PM

Another Planned Parenthood abortion clinic has been documented rushing a patient to a local hospital following a botched abortion that may have injured her and potentially claimed her life.

A St. Louis Planned Parenthood patient was rushed to a nearby hospital after suffering serious abortion complications the day before Thanksgiving. Paramedics arrived at the abortion clinic at approximately 2:45 p.m. on November 21, 2012, and removed the patient from the building with her face covered with a cloth.
----------------

Was the woman (mother) told the procedure was safe, or if she was informed of similar previous disasters at the same clinic?  http://www.lifenews.com/2011/02/14/failed-abortion-injures-woman-at-missouri-planned-parenthood/

If the mother's life is in danger BEFORE the procedure, should she go to a Planned Parenthood clinic for a procedure or wouldn't she gostraight to the hospital in the first place??!


Safe, legal and rare was the elected, pro-choice mantra from 20 years ago.  Looks like we got one out of three.
4558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 28, 2012, 12:20:03 PM
We are getting better info here from PP on housing than Wesbury is getting from his sources, Brian Wesbury should join the list of famous people who read the forum.  )

To repeat, the changing median value of new home sales tells us which types of homes are being built, more than it indicates a movement in value.  You can't build low or mid value houses in populated areas because of the depressed value of existing homes for sale.

Sales volume figures get compared with another point in the crisis, a year ago, but the term recovery (not used in this Wesbury piece) means IMO to compare with pre-crisis levels.
----

-----
For the record, you can buy a 4 bedroom house in the nation's 4th richest metro (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highest-income_metropolitan_statistical_areas_in_the_United_States) today for $19,900 (http://www.minnesotarealestatesearch.com/mn-homes/listings/minneapolis-real-estate/3110-queen-ave-n/mn-mls-4161095) because of the continuing backlog of foreclosed properties. 

We were warned here that "things will not get easier for housing for an extended period of time" more than a year and a half ago by PP: http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=2167.msg46603#msg46603
4559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: November 28, 2012, 10:28:18 AM
An interesting point, but one that changes constant measuring standard that we use to discuss this number.

I would be inclined to agree with you, but the crucial measuring standard for deficits and surpluses as they accumulate or take from debt owing is the debt ceiling law, which uses the total debt figure.  It is the debt using this measuring standard in federal law that, if not for raising the ceiling, would shut down all deficit spending. 

Treasury Direct displays both measures, at 11.4 (debt held by public excluding intragovernmental holdings) and at 16.3 trillion (total debt):  http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/BPDLogin?application=np

US Debt clock shows the debt subject to the debt limit and it is approximately same as the total debt, 16+trillion figure: http://www.usdebtclock.org/

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/01/27/debt-limit-increases-to-nearly-16-4-trillion/  "This last increase, from $15.194 trillion to $16.394 trillion, was essentially granted in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, passed August 2 at the culmination of the debt limit debate."

-----------------
Aside from choosing between two ways to measure, are we better off now than we were 2.1 trillion dollars of unfunded spending ago since the last debt ceiling crisis ended on August 2, 2011?

A few hundred people can say yes, the President and Vice president, the Senate Democrats and the House Republicans all got re-elected.  For the rest of us... no.





4560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Deficit/budget Fact Check: Bill Clinton (and Newt) Never had a Surplus on: November 27, 2012, 02:35:04 PM
'Clinton balanced the budget.  Turned deficits into a surplus.  Paid down the debt.  Left George Bush with a surplus'  How many times have I heard that?  

Actual figures from:  http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/BPDLogin?application=np

Fiscal Yr.   Year Ending National Debt      Deficit
FY1993    09/30/1993    $4.411488 trillion   
FY1994    09/30/1994    $4.692749 trillion    $281.26 billion
FY1995    09/29/1995    $4.973982 trillion    $281.23 billion
FY1996    09/30/1996    $5.224810 trillion    $250.83 billion
FY1997    09/30/1997    $5.413146 trillion    $188.34 billion
FY1998    09/30/1998    $5.526193 trillion    $113.05 billion
FY1999    09/30/1999    $5.656270 trillion    $130.08 billion
FY2000    09/29/2000    $5.674178 trillion    $17.91 billion
FY2001    09/28/2001    $5.807463 trillion    $133.29 billion

In no year did the national debt go down, nor did Clinton leave President Bush with a surplus that Bush subsequently turned into a deficit. Yes, the deficit was almost eliminated in FY2000 (ending in September 2000 with a deficit of "only" $17.9 billion), but it never reached zero--let alone a positive surplus number. And Clinton's last budget proposal for FY2001, which ended in September 2001, generated a $133.29 billion deficit. The growing deficits started in the year of the last Clinton budget, not in the first year of the Bush administration.

The difference between surpluses alleged and total debt is what is called Intragovernmental Holdings.  As an example, only if we repealed Social Security could those holdings be released to reduce the total public debt.

http://www.craigsteiner.us/articles/16

$16 trillion, the debt figure that we know today, includes intragovernmental holdings:

Today     Debt Held by the Public   Intragovernmental Holdings  Total Public Debt Outstanding
11/26/2012   11,474,648,831,627.28      4,835,089,224,735.16      16,309,738,056,362.44

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/BPDLogin?application=np
4561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - Exit polls on Issues on: November 27, 2012, 02:08:05 PM
Glass half full.  Voters in off-year elections who follow the process more closely choose Republicans.  Voters chose Republicans again for the House of Representatives which was perhaps more issue oriented where the Presidential race was more personal.

Cherry picking some exit poll results for glimmers of hope:

Obamacare: 44% said they believe the program should be expanded or left as it is.  49% said they wanted the program fully repealed or partially repealed.

Income tax rates: 13% of Americans said they favored raising income tax rates for all citizens.  47% said those earning over $250,000 a year should be taxed more.

33% said taxes should be raised to help cut the budget deficit, 63% saying no more taxes.

Size of Government: 43% said government should do more to solve problems.  51% of voters agreed with the statement that “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.”

Ideology:  41% of Americans said they were moderate, 35% said they were conservative, 25% described themselves as liberal.

Tea Party: 63% of voters say that they either support the tea party or are “neutral” toward it.


http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/2012-election-exit-polls/2012/11/25/id/465284?s=al&promo_code=10E10-1#ixzz2DSFc4Yt2
4562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Humor/WTF: German assault with deadly weapon(s) on: November 27, 2012, 11:41:59 AM
An apparently true news story?  Should go in self defense / DLO threads:

http://www.yourjewishnews.com/Pages/24114.aspx

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/woman-tried-to-kill-boyfriend-with-dd-1450638

"I wanted your death to be as pleasant as possible."
4563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: November 27, 2012, 11:27:10 AM
"And, wow, do we have plenty to invest. The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a new group record for wealth this year: $1.7 trillion"

Cool. So if we take all their assets, we'll cover federal spending this year!

The Chavez plan.  Don't think it wasn't considered.  I would say 5 months and change, one time only.  Then what?

Another measure might be to close all their businesses, cut off all their spending and investing, and see how that affects the incomes of Obama's class warrior voters.
4564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 27, 2012, 11:21:26 AM
Interesting thought Doug, though I suspect that Hamas and Iran had their own agendas as well , , ,

Agree.  Hence their eagerness and willingness to cooperate.
4565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No surprise, Warren Buffet Proposes Minimum Tax on the Wealthy on: November 27, 2012, 11:14:38 AM
How about we first establish a MAXIMUM tax of all levels of government, federal, state and local, on any dollar income legally earned in the United States of America.

Secondly, let's pass the Buffet law retroactively and in its implementation prosecute this pretend policy expert for tax evasion.

We are no longer, FYI to Buffet, competing in a 1950s global economy.  .01% of the people paying the top rate, rounded, means that no one in their right mind paid those rates.  We have the highest corporate rates in the world.  Most personal rate analyses exclude that.

Buffet says investors won't pass up an investment because of a tax rate.  More relevant would be to measure what percent and total time and resources producers take away from productive activities to put into high marginal tax rate compliance and avoidance. 

The rate of new business startups is at a 40 year low, taking us back to the Jimmy Carter hangover.  Tax rates are only part of the war against business growth success.  We need far more, not fewer, businesses to start today, tomorrow and the next day and grow into billion dollar businesses, employing thousands and enriching people along the way.  Punishing wealth and achievement does what to further that aim?  NOTHING.
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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/opinion/buffett-a-minimum-tax-for-the-wealthy.html?ref=todayspaper

A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy
By WARREN E. BUFFETT
Published: November 25, 2012

SUPPOSE that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.

Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25 percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent — and the tax rate on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment opportunity that I offered.

Under those burdensome rates, moreover, both employment and the gross domestic product (a measure of the nation’s economic output) increased at a rapid clip. The middle class and the rich alike gained ground.

So let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.

And, wow, do we have plenty to invest. The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a new group record for wealth this year: $1.7 trillion. That’s more than five times the $300 billion total in 1992. In recent years, my gang has been leaving the middle class in the dust.

A huge tail wind from tax cuts has pushed us along. In 1992, the tax paid by the 400 highest incomes in the United States (a different universe from the Forbes list) averaged 26.4 percent of adjusted gross income. In 2009, the most recent year reported, the rate was 19.9 percent. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

The group’s average income in 2009 was $202 million — which works out to a “wage” of $97,000 per hour, based on a 40-hour workweek. (I’m assuming they’re paid during lunch hours.) Yet more than a quarter of these ultrawealthy paid less than 15 percent of their take in combined federal income and payroll taxes. Half of this crew paid less than 20 percent. And — brace yourself — a few actually paid nothing.

This outrage points to the necessity for more than a simple revision in upper-end tax rates, though that’s the place to start. I support President Obama’s proposal to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers. However, I prefer a cutoff point somewhat above $250,000 — maybe $500,000 or so.

Additionally, we need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes. I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.

Above all, we should not postpone these changes in the name of “reforming” the tax code. True, changes are badly needed. We need to get rid of arrangements like “carried interest” that enable income from labor to be magically converted into capital gains. And it’s sickening that a Cayman Islands mail drop can be central to tax maneuvering by wealthy individuals and corporations.

But the reform of such complexities should not promote delay in our correcting simple and expensive inequities. We can’t let those who want to protect the privileged get away with insisting that we do nothing until we can do everything.

Our government’s goal should be to bring in revenues of 18.5 percent of G.D.P. and spend about 21 percent of G.D.P. — levels that have been attained over extended periods in the past and can clearly be reached again. As the math makes clear, this won’t stem our budget deficits; in fact, it will continue them. But assuming even conservative projections about inflation and economic growth, this ratio of revenue to spending will keep America’s debt stable in relation to the country’s economic output.

In the last fiscal year, we were far away from this fiscal balance — bringing in 15.5 percent of G.D.P. in revenue and spending 22.4 percent. Correcting our course will require major concessions by both Republicans and Democrats.

All of America is waiting for Congress to offer a realistic and concrete plan for getting back to this fiscally sound path. Nothing less is acceptable.

In the meantime, maybe you’ll run into someone with a terrific investment idea, who won’t go forward with it because of the tax he would owe when it succeeds. Send him my way. Let me unburden him.
4566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nuclear Power: Thorium To Be Used In a Working Reactor on: November 27, 2012, 10:39:12 AM
Addressing the issue of nuclear waste:

"thorium-based nuclear fuel has several advantages over uranium-based fuel, including better waste characteristics, improved proliferation resistance, and abundant raw material supply"

"With plutonium seed in the fuel mix, the reactors would not only generate power, but they would also eliminate dangerous waste left over from other nuclear operations and thus help address the problem of what to do with that waste."


http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2012/11/26/thorium-to-be-used-in-a-working-reactor/

Thorium To Be Used In a Working Reactor

November 26, 2012

A Norwegian company led by Alf Bjørseth will start burning thorium fuel in a conventional test reactor owned by Norway’s government with help from U.S.-based nuclear giant Westinghouse.

Bjørseth is now running his private company Scatec AS, and establishing new companies within Scatec based on the latest technologies in the areas of renewable energy and advanced materials, including a thorium fuel effort through a holding company called Thor Corporation.

Thor Corporation owns Thor Energy and also has shares in businesses related to thorium fuel, thorium mining and separation of rare earth elements.  Fen Minerals holds the mining rights to the Fen deposits in South Norway, which are rich in thorium and rare earth elements. The third company is Norwegian Separation Technology, a company in the process of developing a novel separation method for rare earth elements.

Natural Thorium Ore. Click image for more info.

The company has completed a 2-year thorium fuel cycle feasibility study which concludes that thorium-based nuclear fuel has several advantages over uranium-based fuel, including better waste characteristics, improved proliferation resistance, and abundant raw material supply.

Thor Energy has established a consortium that will fund and run a 5-year thorium irradiation project to be conducted at the Norwegian government owned Halden Nuclear Reactor.  Halden, typically described as a “test reactor,” also provides steam to a nearby paper mill. The move should bring thorium closer to replacing uranium as a possible safer and more effective nuclear power source.

Thor’s chief technology officer Julian Kelly explained Thor Energy will deploy a mix of solid thorium mixed with plutonium – a blend known as “thorium MOX”.

The plan isn’t the one most thorium enthusiasts have been hoping for.  Many professionals believe thorium’s advantages are most pronounced in alternative reactor designs such as molten salt reactors and pebble bed reactors, rather than today’s conventional solid-fuel water-cooled reactors.

Some thorium fans have realized it may be best to insert thorium into the energy scene by first putting it to use in reactors that already have regulatory approval.

Halden Heavy Water Reactor Flow Diagram. Click image for the largest view.

Best or not, Thor is testing the thorium fuel in a conventional reactor at Halden cooled by “heavy water”.  This is not the same as regular light water reactors built commercially around the world.  The cooling is by deuterium or water with an isotope of hydrogen.

With plutonium seed in the fuel mix, the reactors would not only generate power, but they would also eliminate dangerous waste left over from other nuclear operations and thus help address the problem of what to do with that waste.

The consortium reaches pretty far.  Thor will fabricate some of its own thorium MOX in partnership with Norway’s Institute for Energy Technology. Britain’s National Nuclear Laboratory – owned by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change – will also provide some, as will the European Commission’s Institute for Transuranium Elements.

Westinghouse is helping to fund the project, as are other of Thor’s industrial partners including Steenkampskraal Thorium Ltd., a South African company that is developing a thorium-fueled pebble bed reactor.  Other partners include the Finnish utility Fortum and the French chemicals company Rhodia.

That news ought to cheer all the thorium enthusiasts.

Yet Westinghouse doesn’t like to discuss its thorium activities publicly.  It is likely the firm believes working alternatives could undermine the company’s conventional nuclear business. Rumors have it Westinghouse has at least a few thorium-connected and alternative nuclear projects in the works.  One is out now and it isn’t a direct competitor as such.

Westinghouse is also known to be the commercial adviser on the U.S. Department of Energy’s collaboration with China on developing a molten-salt cooled reactor.  Westinghouse has also helped organize many of the alternative nuclear sessions at the American Nuclear Society convention just held in San Diego California.

This is great news worthy of Norway and her citizens.  The element thorium was named by the region’s ancestral God Thor, they have rich deposits, and a great deal of competency and intellectual prowess.  The test will very likely work out and that could offer reactor operators an alternative to uranium and ever more plutonium.

It will be fascinating to see the results.  The wait will be long though; it takes quite a while to burn through nuclear fuel.
4567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: November 27, 2012, 10:22:47 AM
"Smoking rubble filled with body parts" ... "An appeal to emotion."

Yes, I think terror is the emotion, not the carnage or the body count.

I rarely fly anymore.  My extreme distaste for the TSA treatment and general aversion to being treated like cattle is a part of it.

"...how many terrorist plots the TSA has foiled. Some number less than one, yes?"  ...
"TSA regularly fails security audits, is currently unionizing, and regularly produces nasty employees..."

We might all agree (?) that the current methods of current TSA are badly flawed but transportation security done wisely and effectively is a legitimate function of government.
4568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential Results on: November 27, 2012, 10:06:31 AM
A results page:
http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/index.html

Clickable map for states at the link.  Crafty, YOU will like this map.
"Key: This Site uses Red for Democrats and Blue for Republicans".

Votes are still not all counted, still being updated.

Barack H. Obama, Joseph R. Biden, Democratic   64,175,423   50.79%  332 Electoral
Willard Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Republican        60,044,046   47.52%  206
Gary Johnson, James P. Gray,   Libertarian              1,247,710    0.99%      
Jill Stein, Cheri Honkala, Green                             452,497    0.36%    
Other                                                               426,307    0.34%  


One thing striking above is that President Obama the corporate cronyist had no real challenge from the third party left.  Had this been close, the Libertarian at 1% could have swung it for Obama.

As ugly as group against group politics is, we need to get the final tally on all the major divided-America groups before we close this thread IMHO.

4569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Latest Hamas war was Morsi's wag the dog? on: November 27, 2012, 09:25:12 AM
The expression wag the dog has come to mean same as the shiny object theory, hey look over here!  Wag the dog came from the saying that 'a dog is smarter than its tail', but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would 'wag the dog'.  To me it just means you sometimes you need to look at things backwards to understand what happened.

The Hamas war timeline looking backwards:

6) Jay Carney representing the White House "expressed concerns over Egypt", but would not criticize Morsi.

5) Morsi declared super-constitutional powers for himself a day after the cease fire.

4) Obama interrupts Asia trip.  Dispatches Hillary Clinton.  Calls Morsi repeatedly.  Obama and Morsi broker a cease fire 'peace agreement'.

3) Doug asks on DBMA forum, what was the purpose of this war?

2) Israel responds to Hamas attacks 'disproportionately'.  Starts doing real damage.

1) Hamas attacks Israel with rockets.


Since it all happened rather predictably, doesn't it follow in logic that the purpose of the beginning, the Hamas attacks on Israel, was to get to the end point, Morsi's grab of more power in Egypt without losing US aid or support?

4570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Underwater drones on: November 26, 2012, 09:33:43 AM
http://rt.com/usa/news/darpa-drone-unmanned-sub-455/
4571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and neighbors, Brokering a victory for Hamas on: November 26, 2012, 09:19:25 AM
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/11/why-did-obama-broker-a-victory-for-hamas.php
4572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 26, 2012, 09:14:43 AM
Odd that there was no Obama administration interest in a cease fire when Hamas was shooting unilaterally.  No talk of cancelling an Asia trip.  The crisis began when Hamas was losing.
4573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel, and its neighbors: Krauthammer - Why was there war in Gaza? on: November 23, 2012, 09:26:29 AM
To clarify an exchange above in the thread, I favor Israel taking disproportionate responses to protect itself.

Charles Krauthammer takes on the question I was trying to get at:  Why was there war in Gaza?

The only explanation is destruction/elimination of Israel.  The strategy seems to be to keep losing these smaller failed wars, keep the Palestinian movement tied to the Islamic movement, make Israel look like a bully and draw in more war partners.

If Israel is our ally and if destruction of Israel is the agenda, again I would ask, why are we a neutral party, a 'peace' talk facilitator?

And if land for peace is a false trade, why do we still try to advance that or when did we renounce it?
-------------------------
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-why-was-there-war-in-gaza/2012/11/22/c77582e8-3412-11e2-bfd5-e202b6d7b501_story.html

Why was there war in Gaza?

By Charles Krauthammer, Published: November 22 2012

Why was there an Israel-Gaza war in the first place? Resistance to the occupation, say Hamas and many in the international media.

What occupation? Seven years ago, in front of the world, Israel pulled out of Gaza. It dismantled every settlement, withdrew every soldier, evacuated every Jew, leaving nothing and no one behind. Except for the greenhouses in which the settlers had grown fruit and flowers for export. These were left intact to help Gaza’s economy — only to be trashed when the Palestinians took over.

Israel then declared its border with Gaza to be an international frontier, meaning that it renounced any claim to the territory and considered it an independent entity.

In effect, Israel had created the first Palestinian state ever, something never granted by fellow Muslims — neither the Ottoman Turks nor the Egyptians who brutally occupied Gaza for two decades before being driven out by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel wanted nothing more than to live in peace with this independent Palestinian entity. After all, the world had incessantly demanded that Israel give up land for peace.

It gave the land. It got no peace.

The Gaza Palestinians did not reciprocate. They voted in Hamas, who then took over in a military putsch and turned the newly freed Palestine into an armed camp from which to war against Israel. It has been war ever since.

Interrupted by the occasional truce, to be sure. But for Hamas a truce — hudna — is simply a tactic for building strength for the next round. It is never meant to be enduring, never meant to offer peace.

But why, given that there is no occupation of Gaza anymore? Because Hamas considers all of Israel occupied, illegitimate, a cancer, a crime against humanity, to quote the leaders of Iran, Hamas’s chief patron and arms supplier. Hamas’s objective, openly declared, is to “liberate” — i.e., destroy — Tel Aviv and the rest of pre-1967 Israel. Indeed, it is Hamas’s raison d’etre.

Hamas first killed Jews with campaigns of suicide bombings. After Israel built a nearly impenetrable fence, it went to rockets fired indiscriminately at civilians in populated areas.

What did Hamas hope to gain from this latest round of fighting, which it started with a barrage of about 150 rockets into Israel? To formally translate Hamas’s recent strategic gains into a new, more favorable status quo with Israel. It works like this:

Hamas’s new strength comes from two sources.

First, its new rocketry, especially the Fajr-5, smuggled in from Iran, that can now reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, putting 50 percent of Israel’s population under its guns.

Second, Hamas has gained strategic strength from changes in the regional environment. It has acquired the patronage and protection of important Middle Eastern states as a result of the Arab Spring and the Islamist reversal in Turkey.

For 60 years, non-Arab Turkey had been a reliable ally of Israel. The vicious turnaround instituted by its Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reached its apogee on Monday when he called Israel a terrorist state.

Egypt is now run by Hamas’s own mother organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is simply the Palestinian wing. And the emir of Qatar recently visited Gaza, leaving behind a promise of a cool $400 million.

Hamas’s objective was to guarantee no further attacks on its leaders or on its weaponry, launch sites and other terror and rocket infrastructure. And the lifting of Israel’s military blockade, which would allow a flood of new and even more deadly weapons. In other words, immunity and inviolability during which time Hamas could build unmolested its arsenal of missiles — until it is ready to restart the war on more favorable terms.

Yet another hudna, this one brokered and guaranteed by Egypt and Turkey, regional powers Israel has to be careful not to offend. A respite for rebuilding, until Hamas’s Gaza becomes Hezbollah South, counterpart to the terror group to Israel’s north, with 50,000 Iranian- and Syrian-supplied rockets that effectively deter any Israeli preemptive attack.

With the declaration of a cease-fire Wednesday, Israel seems to have successfully resisted these demands, although there may be some cosmetic changes to the embargo. Which means that in any future fighting, Israel will retain the upper hand.

Israel has once again succeeded in defending itself. But, yet again, only until the next round, which, as the night follows the day, will come. Hamas will see to that.
4574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Economics: How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims on: November 23, 2012, 09:02:58 AM
This could go under 'Founders' as well.  I have been looking for a published account of this story.  Found this in Stanford's Hoover Digest, published Jan. 1999:

http://www.hoover.org/publications/hoover-digest/article/6580

Hoover Digest » 1999 no. 1 » Private Property

How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims

When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, they established a system of communal property. Within three years they had scrapped it, instituting private property instead. Hoover media fellow Tom Bethell tells the story.

There are three configurations of property rights: state, communal, and private property. Within a family, many goods are in effect communally owned. But when the number of communal members exceeds normal family size, as happens in tribes and communes, serious and intractable problems arise. It becomes costly to police the activities of the members, all of whom are entitled to their share of the total product of the community, whether they work or not. This is the free-rider problem, and it is the most important institutional reason tribes and communes cannot rise above subsistence level (except in special circumstances, such as monasteries).

State ownership, as we saw in the Soviet Union, has its own problems. For these reasons, private property is the only institutional arrangement that will permit a society to be productive, peaceful, free, and just. The free-rider problem was plainly demonstrated at Plymouth Colony in 1620, when the Mayflower arrived in the New World. Contrary to the Pilgrims’ wishes, their initial ownership arrangement was communal property.

Desiring to practice their religion as they wished, the Pilgrims emigrated in 1609 from England to Holland, then the only country in Europe that permitted freedom of worship. They found life in Holland to be in many respects satisfactory. But war with Spain was a constant threat, and the Pilgrims did not want their children to grow up Dutch. They longed to start afresh in “those vast and unpeopled countries of America,” as William Bradford would later write in his history, Of Plymouth Plantation. There, they could look forward to propagating and advancing “the gospel of the kingdom of Christ.”

Thirty years old when he arrived in the New World, Bradford became the second governor of Plymouth (the first died within weeks of the Mayflower’s arrival) and the most important figure in the early years of the colony. He recorded in his history the key passage on property relations in Plymouth and the way in which they were changed. His is the only surviving account of these matters.

DRIVING A HARD BARGAIN

The Pilgrims knew about the early disasters at Jamestown, but the more adventurous among them were willing to hazard the Atlantic anyway. First, however, they sent two emissaries, John Carver and Robert Cushman, from Leyden to London to seek permission to found a plantation. This was granted, but finding investors was a problem. Eventually Carver and Cushman found an investment syndicate headed by a London ironmonger named Thomas Weston. Weston and his fifty-odd investors were taking a big risk in putting up the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s money. The big losses in Jamestown had scared off most “venture capital” in London.

Those waiting for news in Leyden were concerned that their agents in London would, in their eagerness to find investors, agree to unfavorable terms. Carver and Cushman were admonished “not to exceed the bounds of your commission.” They were particularly enjoined not to “entangle yourselves and us in any such unreasonable [conditions as that] the merchants should have the half of men’s houses and lands at the dividend.”

Eventually, however, Carver and Cushman did accept terms stipulating that at the end of seven years everything would be divided equally between investors and colonists. Some historians claim that those who came over on the Mayflower were exploited by capitalists. In a sense, they were. But of course they came voluntarily.

The colonists hoped that the houses they built would be exempt from the division of wealth at the end of seven years; in addition, they sought two days a week in which to work on their own “particular” plots (much as collective farmers later had their own private plots in the Soviet Union). The Pilgrims would thereby avoid servitude. But the investors refused to allow these loopholes, undoubtedly worried that if the Pilgrims—three thousand miles away and beyond the reach of supervision—owned their own houses and plots, the investors would find it difficult to collect their due. How could they be sure that the faraway colonists would spend their days working for the company if they were allowed to become private owners? With such an arrangement, rational colonists would work little on “company time,” reserving their best efforts for their own gardens and houses. Such private wealth would be exempt when the shareholders were paid off. Only by insisting that all accumulated wealth was to be “common wealth,” or placed in a common pool, could the investors feel reassured that the colonists would be working to benefit everyone, including themselves.

The investors unquestionably had profit in mind when they insisted on common property. The Pilgrims went along because they had little choice.

Those waiting in Leyden objected to this arrangement. If the Pilgrims were not permitted private dwellings, “the building of good and fair houses” would be discouraged, they wrote back to London. Robert Cushman was thus caught in a cross-fire between profit-seeking investors in London and his worried Leyden brethren, who accused him of “making conditions fitter for thieves and bondslaves than honest men.”

Cushman responded with an artful case for common ownership: “Our purpose is to build for the present such houses as, if need be, we may with little grief set afire and run away by the light. Our riches shall not be in pomp but in strength; if God send us riches we will employ them to provide more men, ships, munition, etc.”

Common ownership would also “foster communion” among the Pilgrims, he thought (wrongly). Having held discussions with the investors, who seem to have been unyielding, Cushman wanted to close the deal. So he tried to persuade his brethren not to worry about the property arrangements. Those still in Leyden remained unconvinced and unreconciled to the terms, but there was little they could do. Many had already sold their property in Holland and so had no bargaining power.

It is worth emphasizing all this because it is sometimes said that the Pilgrims in Massachusetts established a colony with common property in emulation of the early Christians. Not so. It is true that their agent Cushman used arguments that were calculated to appeal to Christians—in particular warning them against the perils of prosperity—in order to justify his acceptance of unpopular terms. No doubt he felt that a bad deal was better than none. But the investors themselves unquestionably had profit in mind when they insisted on common property. The Pilgrims went along because they had little choice.

The Pilgrims may have been “exploited,” but a greater source of hardship was the harsh environment of the North American continent. This needs to be stressed, given the tendency to regard the wealth of the United States as a product of “abundant natural resources” and the equally erroneous association of the Mayflower and those who arrived in it with the idea of privilege.

THE COMMUNAL EXPERIMENT

The Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod in November 1620 with 101 people on board. About half of them died within the first few months, probably of scurvy, pneumonia, or malnutrition. It is not easy for us to grasp the hardships that the first settlers in this country experienced, even in New England, where the native American Indians were relatively friendly.

By the spring of 1623, the population of Plymouth can have been no larger than 150. But the colony was still barely able to feed itself, and little cargo was returning for the investors in England. On one occasion newcomers found that there was no bread at all, only fish or a piece of lobster and water. “So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery,” Bradford wrote in his key passage on property.

Having tried what Bradford called the “common course and condition”—the communal stewardship of the land demanded of them by their investors—Bradford reports that the community was afflicted by an unwillingness to work, by confusion and discontent, by a loss of mutual respect, and by a prevailing sense of slavery and injustice. And this among “godly and sober men.” In short, the experiment was a failure that was endangering the health of the colony.

Historian George Langdon argues that the condition of early Plymouth was not “communism” but “an extreme form of exploitative capitalism in which all the fruits of men’s labor were shipped across the seas.” In this he echoes Samuel Eliot Morison, who claims that “it was not communism . . . but a very degrading and onerous slavery to the English capitalists that was somewhat softened.” Notice that this does not agree with the dissension that Bradford reports, however. It was between the colonists themselves that the conflicts arose, not between the colonists and the investors in London. Morison and Langdon conflate two separate problems. On the one hand, it is true that the colonists did feel “exploited” by the investors because they were eventually expected to surrender to them an undue portion of the wealth they were trying to create. It is as though they felt that they were being “taxed” too highly by their investors—at a 50 percent rate, in fact.

But there was another problem, separate from the “tax” burden. Bradford’s comments make it clear that common ownership demoralized the community far more than the tax. It was not Pilgrims laboring for investors that caused so much distress but Pilgrims laboring for other Pilgrims. Common property gave rise to internecine conflicts that were much more serious than the transatlantic ones. The industrious (in Plymouth) were forced to subsidize the slackers (in Plymouth). The strong “had no more in division of victuals and clothes” than the weak. The older men felt it disrespectful to be “equalized in labours” with the younger men.

This suggests that a form of communism was practiced at Plymouth in 1621 and 1622. No doubt this equalization of tasks was thought (at first) the only fair way to solve the problem of who should do what work in a community where there was to be no individual property: If everyone were to end up with an equal share of the property at the end of seven years, everyone should presumably do the same work throughout those seven years. The problem that inevitably arose was the formidable one of policing this division of labor: How to deal with those who did not pull their weight?

The Pilgrims had encountered the free-rider problem. Under the arrangement of communal property one might reasonably suspect that any additional effort might merely substitute for the lack of industry of others. And these “others” might well be able-bodied, too, but content to take advantage of the communal ownership by contributing less than their fair share. As we shall see, it is difficult to solve this problem without dividing property into individual or family-sized units. And this was the course of action that William Bradford wisely took.

PROPERTY IS PRIVATIZED

Bradford’s history of the colony records the decision:

    At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number.

So the land they worked was converted into private property, which brought “very good success.” The colonists immediately became responsible for their own actions (and those of their immediate families), not for the actions of the whole community. Bradford also suggests in his history that more than land was privatized.

The system became self-policing. Knowing that the fruits of his labor would benefit his own family and dependents, the head of each household was given an incentive to work harder. He could know that his additional efforts would help specific people who depended on him. In short, the division of property established a proportion or “ratio” between act and consequence. Human action is deprived of rationality without it, and work will decline sharply as a result.

Under communal land stewardship, Bradford reports, the community was afflicted by an unwillingness to work, by confusion and discontent, by a loss of mutual respect, and by a prevailing sense of slavery and injustice.

William Bradford died in 1657, having been reelected governor nearly every year. Among his books, according to the inventory of his estate, was Jean Bodin’s Six Books of a Commonweale, a work that criticized the utopianism of Plato’s Republic. In Plato’s ideal realm, private property would be abolished or curtailed and most inhabitants reduced to slavery, supervised by high-minded, ascetic guardians. Bodin said that communal property was “the mother of contention and discord” and that a commonwealth based on it would perish because “nothing can be public where nothing is private.”

Bradford felt that, in retrospect, his real-life experience of building a new society at Plymouth had confirmed Bodin’s judgment. Property in Plymouth was further privatized in the years ahead. The housing and later the cattle were assigned to separate families, and provision was made for the inheritance of wealth. The colony flourished. Plymouth Colony was absorbed into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and in the prosperous years that lay ahead, nothing more was heard of “the common course and condition.”
4575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 21, 2012, 11:09:02 AM
I like the McClintock piece.  I don't know how a California conservative stays sane and interested in politics. 

Isn't it amazing that Republicans worst year ever, 1976, was followed by a) Dem governing failure, and b) Republican return to principles and the election of Reagan winning 40 states in 1980 and 49 states in 1984.

Many observations, but take the abortion question for one.  Assume 40% roughly of the electorate are to the right, 40% are to the left and the remaining are in the center.  From a pro-life vs. libertarian (false argument) how does it make sense to kick 4% of the electorate (10% of your base) out of your party?  Especially when you know that the 5% hard core pro-choice will never join you for doing that.
4576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 21, 2012, 10:56:41 AM
Pat, good stuff - always.  Even if the truth is bad news...

My view of housing is simpler.  It is directly tied to personal and national income.  The interventions of the various types may have delayed the correction and held values slightly up to some artificial level, but real recovery in housing comes after people start making more money.  Not in the foreseeable future IMHO.

We just had an election where from my perspective we chose continued stagnation over growth.  Rapid growth later, after 2 or 4 more years of failed economic policies, seems less and less likely if not impossible.  (I'm always ready to be proven wrong!)

Uncertainty in its many forms, of the economy overall, of housing, of personal income, or take home income, of the deductibility of mortgage interest, also contributes greatly to the inaction of those who could be or should be the move up buyers right now.  
4577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glibness response on Benghazi: 78 Minutes to get to the crisis room? on: November 21, 2012, 10:41:37 AM
Obama's 3am call came in at 5pm(?) and he was already awake.

Pres Bush was visiting a Kindergartner class when the 9/11/01 attacks unfolded and took several minutes to pull away.  The delay became a major theme in a movie.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WztB6HzXxI

One hour and 18 minutes after the attacks in Benghazi began, the President was in the room.   Still doing nothing about it. (?)

Right or wrong that it was so hard to get his attention, it took 2 months with a national election elapsed to even get the question asked publicly:  Where was he when he learned the United States was under attack and what exactly did he do in response to everything he learned - in real time.

We still have no answer.  (Please correct if wrong.)

The official White House schedule indicates he was in the White House when it happened: http://www.whitehouse.gov/schedule/president/2012-09-11

Benghazi is a coastal, Mediterranean city.  We had a drone in the air.  We have an Naval air base in Sicily with some of the fastest planes in the world.(?)  If the base in Sicily is only to protect Sicily, why the planes?

The stand down order has been denied.(?)  The election is over.  I understand the media's role in the election but can we please now learn what was known when and what exactly was our response.

The argument over defense cuts is academic when we don't use the defense assets to that we have to protect American lives, embassies and diplomats.

Were we just trying to set a good example for Israel in our advocacy of Obama's do-not-defend-your-own-country doctrine?
4578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya Lies, Half a Clap from Clapper? on: November 21, 2012, 09:31:48 AM
Citing “an intelligence source,” CBS News reports that the “Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)” cut references to “al Qaeda” and “terrorism” from the unclassified talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice on the Benghazi consulate attack, and did so with the agreement of the CIA and FBI. Neither the State Department nor the White House made these changes.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57552328/sources-dni-cut-al-qaeda-reference-from-benghazi-talking-points-cia-fbi-signed-off/
----------------

Isn't Clapper the intelligence director (oxymoron alert) who declared the Muslim Brotherhood secular.

He is an Obama appointee.  The distance doesn't insulate the White House.  It was the White House who sent out Susan Rice and handed her the talking points with the truth scrubbed and the falsehood added.

As is so often the case with lying liberals, they answer half a question or answer a different question.  Was there really a national security need to deny what everyone knew, the United States was caught unguarded and hit by terrorist in the home of our most recent Middle East 'victory'?

If there was a good security reason to scrub that truth (there wasn't), how does excuse inventing the lie about the role of the video?

Susan Rice said on Meet the Press, Sept. 16, in her third of four references to the "video": 

"But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of-- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.  What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.  They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya.  And it escalated into a much more violent episode.  Obviously, that’s-- that’s our best judgment now."


This is not the removal of references to terrorism, it is the invention of another plausible story to carry the media story past the election - and for the most part it did.

There was no "spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of-- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video".  It simply didn't happen.  The Clapper DNI BS does nothing to answer who invented that FALSE tale.

Mis-speak? I don't think so.  Almost verbatum off the talking points, on Fox News Sunday she said:  "the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video."

Who selected and sent out Susan Rice to tell this false story?

Panelist Brit Hume asks that question of his host on Fox News Sunday Oct. 14, 2012:

HUME: You know the answer to this question, when you are seeking Sunday show guest for this program, where do you get the answers from the administration? Where does that come from.

WALLACE: It comes from the white house.

HUME: Exactly.

WALLACE: Always. For anybody in the administration.

HUME: So, if anybody in the administration. So if Susan Rice is going out, that has been OK'd, approved, and - by the White House. That's where this comes from, correct?

WALLACE: Yes.

HUME: Thank you.

WALLACE: I don't like having to answer the questions.
--------

FNS video and transcript:

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/fox-news-sunday-chris-wallace/2012/09/16/amb-susan-rice-rep-mike-rogers-discuss-violence-against-americans-middle-east#p//v/1843960658001

Does she look uninformed, out of the loop?  I don't think so.  Best guess is that she is someone totally in the loop who knows better.  Now she has NO credibility.  Same for the White House.  Getting at the President by taking out his lying surrogates is a long standing Washington tradition.
------
Must be my television, but I didn't know she would be unimpeachable because she is African American.  All criticisms will be called sexist and racist.
4579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Law: New York Times Co. wants media monopoly on corp. speech on: November 21, 2012, 08:57:53 AM
The Privilege to Speak

The New York Times Co. wants a monopoly on the Constitution.

By JAMES TARANTO 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323713104578131200617146638.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_MIDDLETopOpinion

A corporate division has once again exercised its First Amendment rights to argue that corporations don't have First Amendment rights. This time, however, the New York Times Co. claims to have discovered a loophole that protects its First Amendment rights.

Justice Alito

In an editorial today, the Times Co.'s eponymous flagship newspaper answers Justice Samuel Alito, who in a terrific speech last week at the Federalist Society in Washington penetratingly ("speciously," according to the Times) defended the court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That 5-4 ruling struck down portions of two laws that imposed government censorship on political speech by corporations and unions (though they made an exception for "media corporations" such as the New York Times Co. and News Corp., which publishes The Wall Street Journal and this website).

Alito elaborated an argument this column made in January 2010, just after he and his colleagues handed down Citizens United. He noted that many landmark free-speech decisions vindicated the rights of corporations, including two that involved the New York Times Co. Here's the company's response:

    In New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the First Amendment was used to rein in the law of libel, the Supreme Court focused on the "profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open." It made almost no mention of the fact that The Times was a corporation. Nor were the free speech rights of a corporation any part of the ruling in the Pentagon Papers case.

Really? The free speech rights of a corporation weren't "any part" of a case styled New York Times Co. v. United States?

As for the libel case, it was similarly styled New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Leaving out the "Co." is a common journalistic shorthand, but in this case a misleading one. The editorial also omits that Times v. Sullivan concerned a political advertisement, the very sort of communication that the Times insists is not protected by the First Amendment.

At least this time, unlike in its 2010 editorial about which we wrote back then, the Times Co. acknowledges that it had been exempted from the censorship regime it endorsed. "It is not the corporate structure of media companies that makes them deserving of constitutional protection," the Times Co. asserts today. "It is their function--the vital role that the press plays in American democracy--that sets them apart."

Here is how Citizens United, the appellant in the 2010 case, describes its function:

    Citizens United is an organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizens' control. Through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization, Citizens United seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security. Citizens United's goal is to restore the founding fathers' vision of a free nation, guided by the honesty, common sense, and good will of its citizens.

Citizens United is a nonprofit advocacy organization, incorporated under Section 501(c)4 of the Internal Revenue Code. The same is true, by the way, of many corporations that oppose Citizens United, including, as we have noted, Common Cause.

Surely advocacy of ideas about public policy plays a "vital role" in democracy. But it isn't clear if the Times Co. thinks 501(c)4 corporations are protected by the First Amendment or not. In its 2010 editorial, the company obliquely opined that Citizens United involved "a narrower, technical question involving the broadcast of a movie that attacked Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 campaign."

In a 2010 interview with this columnist, the great First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams--who represented both the Times Co. in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case and Sen. Mitch McConnell, a friend of the court on Citizens United's side in the 2010 case--answered this dodge:

    "Here is a very committed, very conservative entity that does a film attacking then-Sen. Hillary Clinton when she seemed likely to be nominated for president by the Democratic Party," Mr. Abrams says. "I ask myself: Well, isn't it obvious that that sort of speech must be protected by the First Amendment? And then I hear in response to that, 'Well, they could have used a PAC. Or they could have put the film out farther away from the election. Or they could have refrained from taking any money from any corporate grantor.'

    "And my reaction is sort of a John McEnroe: You cannot be serious! We're talking about the First Amendment here, and we're being told that an extremely vituperative expression of disdain for a candidate for president is criminal in America?"

One could draw a distinction between nonprofit corporations and those that "exist to make money," as the Times Co. put it in 2010, and argue, as the Times Co. did only implicitly, that the former are entitled to First Amendment protections while the latter are not. But the Times Co. is a for-profit entity. It would be on the wrong side of that line. Hence the "function" argument.

The court has long recognized a somewhat analogous distinction: between commercial and political speech. The former is protected by the First Amendment, but not as strongly as the latter. If a company, for example, fails to live up to a promise to customers, it can be sued or prosecuted for false advertising. When a politician breaks his promises, voters' only recourse is through the ballot box.

But that is a distinction between types of speech, not types of organizations. The New York Times Co. would be laughed out of court if it claimed a "media exemption" from laws regulating its commercial dealings with advertisers and subscribers. The government may not censor its editorial product (except in very limited circumstances) because it is the type of expression that is entitled to the strongest First Amendment protection.

The Times Co.'s notion that only certain types of corporations are "deserving of constitutional protection" is pernicious. It recasts freedom of expression as a privilege rather than a right. It assigns to the government the authority to determine which corporations are to be favored with the "media" distinction allowing them to engage in political debate.

The Times Co. wants itself and similar corporations to enjoy a monopoly on free speech. The only way to accomplish that is through a regime in which the government effectively licenses the press. That would be an anathema to America's constitutional tradition.
4580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama Must Come Clean on Libya Attacks - Des Moines Register on: November 21, 2012, 08:32:13 AM
Yesterday's Des Moines Register editorial:

Obama Must Come Clean on Libya Attacks

This nation has a long list of serious problems that it must deal with following the election of a new Congress. The last thing it needs is a protracted political fight over who knew what when surrounding the murders of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three U.S. government employees in Benghazi, Libya.

Some critics of the Obama administration, including Republicans in Congress, are determined to inflate the Benghazi attack into a full-blown scandal. President Obama’s administration seems determined to follow the standard script for Washington by sticking to the original story line, apparently in the hope it eventually will go away.

But this story is not going away.

So the first thing that should happen is the administration should lay out the events in detail and let the chips fall where they may. If someone along the line shaded or changed the facts, as they were known, to protect the administration, let that be known. If that means someone has to take the fall, so be it.

Members of Congress in both parties are asking questions about why the administration’s public statements about the origins of the attack contradicted early intelligence information that it was planned by terrorist groups, with the aid of al-Qaida, and timed for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Contrary to that intelligence information, administration officials initially said the attack was an outgrowth of spontaneous demonstrations in the Middle East spawned by an anti-Muslim video. The theory is that evidence of a premeditated terrorist attack would have undermined the administration’s assertion that it had crippled al-Qaida by taking out Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the terrorist organization behind the 9/11 attacks.

It’s a serious charge. Ginning up intelligence information to explain foreign policy is wrong, whether it’s to protect a president seeking re-election or whether it’s used by an earlier president to justify going to war.

If that’s what happened, the public should have all the facts. The sooner relevant information is put out, the better. Rather than hunkering down, the Obama administration should make all key State Department and CIA officials available to Congress with instructions to answer every question and turn over every document.

This could be embarrassing. It could force some officials to say they were wrong. It may cause problems for United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s chances at winning a nomination as secretary of state. But that is far better than the alternative.

As President Richard Nixon discovered during Watergate, a “two-bit burglary” resulted in the downfall of a president as a result of an elaborate effort to conceal of the facts. That is the lesson the Obama administration should keep in mind as it lays out the complete story of the Benghazi attack.

The nation needs to get this controversy behind us so we can focus on the pressing matter of the federal government’s financial problems.

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20121120/OPINION03/311200068/The-Register-editorial-Obama-must-come-clean-on-Benghzai?Opinion&nclick_check=1
4581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 20, 2012, 11:27:26 PM
I have more questions than answers.  I don't understand what is the other side of the story.

Hamas was sending rockets with into Israeli neighborhoods.  It does not require much killing to accomplish terror and elicit a response; more would have been killed if not for Israel air defense.

Israel is known to fight back disproportionately; this is nothing new.  They intend to both disable the source of the bombings and provide a deterrence for attacks.  If the disproportionate response does not deter, why would we expect less of a response? 

Now we all go to the peace table (again) and negotiate what?  A piece of paper that again, with a straight face, says never again. 

There is something bizarre about this.  What did Hamas intend to accomplish?   Was Hamas intentionally baiting a disproportional Israeli attack to take more casualties and make Israel look bad?

Israel wants survival and peace and has strong defense and strong counter-punch.  Hamas wants the destruction of Israel.  US stands with Israel but takes no side?  We step in and say, come on guys, can't we all get along.  That ought to do it.

Why are we not siding with our ally under attack rather than taking a neutral role? 

Does say one thing but do another work effectively in foreign policy?

4582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 20, 2012, 09:21:52 PM
Interesting point from Pat that median price can tell more about which homes are selling than whether values going up or down.  Median home price is not a fixed unit of measure like an ounce of gold, bushel of corn or barrel of oil.

Housing starts may help construction employment but lack of housing starts is what bolsters the value of existing homes.  The two different charts seem to confirm that.

A sustained move to multi-unit construction might mean some existing homes will never face increasing demand or recovering values.

I wonder how much of multi-unit construction is driven by public investment and 'public-private partnerships' (meddling) rather than any indicator of a private sector recovery.

An aside, my last multi-unit went the way of a Kelo-style public taking from private ownership to new, subsidized, quasi-private ownership with the non-consensual transfer performed by the big city department of fascism.  Liberals upscale the inner city by using government power and taxpayer funds to force out the working poor.  Making investments that don't even pretend to pay for themselves.  a.k.a. the housing 'market'.
4583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: November 17, 2012, 02:43:14 PM

That Scalia is a flaming liberal - like Roberts.   wink

Is there no freedom of association anymore?

The colonists, signers of the Declaration of Independence (and framers) believed they had a right of secession, judging by their actions.

Secession issue was "resolved by the Civil War" - ?

The Civil War was 'resolved' before the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment, the right of women to vote.  Women tend to be anti-war.  Women will not support civil war and America will never (I am told) support a war against women. 

I would like to see a red-blue secessional overlay jurisdictional map involving maximum consent of the governed.  Republicans can tax themselves and pay extra for national defense.  Democrats can tax themselves and pay for welfare and transfer programs.  We could have cooperative agreements (imagine that) where both sides pay for legitimate functions of government.
4584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Allen West gets recount! on: November 17, 2012, 02:15:41 PM
Now that they have the recount, I'm not sure why this group is asking for more money...

Recounts involve (guns,) lawyers and money.  The Al Franken / Norm Coleman (Obamacare) recount was an 8 month legal battle.  Disputed ballots far outnumbered the initial and final margins of victory.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_election_in_Minnesota,_2008

Recounting precincts that had 150% turnout, retrieving boxes of uncounted ballots from the trunks of cars takes time, verifying the permanent address of felons serving life without parole, these things aren't easy.  It's not like they just sit around and count valid ballots. 

Besides, raising money is what 'non-profits' do for a living!
4585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy: Why Lower Tax Rates Are Good for Everyone on: November 16, 2012, 08:43:33 AM
Is it counter-intuitive?  Why is this so hard to understand much less explain?
----------------------------------
Stephen Moore: Why Lower Tax Rates Are Good for Everyone
If we want millionaires to pay more taxes, then we need an economy where there are more millionaires.

By STEPHEN MOORE  (WSJ) 11/15/2012

President Obama on Wednesday announced that any budget deal must include $1.6 trillion from higher taxes. "When it comes to the top 2%," he said, "what I'm not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it." He argued that we are never going to get anywhere near balancing the budget without more revenue from people earning above $250,000 a year.

He's probably right about that, though not in the way he intends. The country needs an economy that will create more of the "millionaires and billionaires" that Mr. Obama loves to excoriate, not more taxes from those who already exist. Total taxes paid by millionaires fell by almost $100 billion between 2007 and 2010, the last year with statistics available from the Internal Revenue Service. The drop resulted not from too-low tax rates, but from the severe recession and an anemic recovery since 2009 that thinned the ranks of the wealthy.
Related Video

Editorial board member Steve Moore on the GOP's stand-off with President Obama over raising taxes. Photo credit: Getty Images.

If Mr. Obama wants the Warren Buffetts and Justin Biebers to shoulder more of the nation's tax burden, he would do well to pay attention to the history of tax rates. Over the past century, lower rates have shifted the tax burden onto high-income earners and away from the middle class while maintaining the tax code's progressivity.

Let's start with the 1920s. All tax rates were cut during the Calvin Coolidge administration, including the top rate, which fell to 25% from the World War I high of 73%. Between 1923 and 1928, benefited by lower tax rates, the economy surged, raising incomes and living standards for the middle class. Tax collections in real terms nearly doubled—and the share of taxes paid by those who made more than $100,000 a year (more than $1 million today) increased to 51% from 28%.

The top tax rate rose to 63% in 1932, to 79% in 1936, and to 90% during World War II. The higher rates persisted after the war, and while the economy grew as the government's economic role ebbed, high rates generally helped to hold back the pace of growth.

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Corbis

Tax rates weren't reduced much until the Kennedy administration. JFK cut rates by about 30% for every income group. He argued that the lower tax rates would "boost the economy, produce revenues, and achieve a future budget surplus." He even called lower rates "an investment in the future."

The Kennedy tax cut was enacted in 1964 (after JFK's assassination), lowering the highest tax rate to 70% from 91%. His prediction that the economy would surge was validated by rapid growth every year from 1965 through 1968. Tax collections grew by 8.6% per year and unemployment fell to 3.4%. "The unusual budget spectacle of sharply rising revenues following the biggest tax cut in history," announced a 1966 U.S. News and World Report article, "is beginning to astonish even those who pushed hardest for tax cuts in the first place."

Americans earning over $50,000 per year (the equivalent of about $250,000 today) increased their tax payments by nearly 40% after the rate cut, according to a report from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Their share of overall taxes paid rose to almost 15% in 1966 from 12% in 1963. Americans with an income of more than $1 million nearly doubled their tax payments to $603 million in 1965 from $311 million in 1962.

President Reagan cut all tax rates across the board in his first term, with the highest rate reduced to 50% from 70%. That was followed a few years later with the 1986 Tax Reform Act, which closed loopholes and lowered the top tax rate to 28%.

The economy soared in the 1980s and the unemployment rate plunged after the mini-depression of 1978-82. Tax rates fell but federal revenues rose to $1.032 trillion in 1990 from $517 billion in 1980.

Taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans facing the highest marginal tax rates increased every year during the 1980s expansion. Meanwhile, the share of total income taxes paid by the top 1% rose to 25% in 1990 from 18% in 1981. The wealthiest 5% of Americans saw their tax share rise to 44% from 35%. The surge in revenues was the result of prosperity that was largely spurred by tax-rate cuts. The increase in government deficits during that period, on the other hand, was due to higher federal spending.

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed legislation that cut the top income tax rate to 35% from 39.6% and cut taxes on capital gains, too. Federal tax revenues surged by a record $780 billion from 2003-07, when the housing bubble collapsed. And once again, the rich paid more tax, not less. The share of taxes paid by the top 1% rose to 41% in 2007 from 35% in 2003. Tax payments by millionaires doubled from 2003 to 2007 because there were more millionaires and their before-tax incomes rose rapidly.

It is also true that when Bill Clinton raised tax rates in the 1990s, the economy boomed and the share of taxes paid by the rich increased. But the otherwise depressive effect of higher tax rates was counteracted by the lighter burden of government on the private sector—federal spending declined to 18% of GDP in 2000 from 22% in 1993.

A cut in spending is the economic equivalent of a cut in taxes now, or later. This point is effectively conceded by Mr. Obama demanding that his spending and borrowing binge of the past four years must be paid for by a giant increase in taxes over the next decade.

Some liberals acknowledge these fiscal facts of life but argue that tax revenues from the wealthy increased simply because the rich got richer. And so they did. But the economic growth that was touched off by lower tax rates, particularly in the 1960s and 1980s, also benefited middle-class incomes and living standards. If Mr. Obama has his way and raises tax rates on upper-income groups, it will slow the economy, and everyone will lose.
4586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 15, 2012, 08:43:05 PM
Isn't he dead?

Kemp died in 2009, Dole is 88.

Bob Dole wrote in August 2012 that Republicans need to move to the middle, away from rigid conservatism.  http://www.businessinsider.com/bob-dole-urges-mitt-romney-to-confront-the-republican-partys-right-wing-2012-8

In '96 Dole won 19 states.  Jack Kemp had no idea how to defend Dole's centrist record - a little like Paul Ryan in 2012.
4587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: POTB (Pravda on the Beach): GM is wrong on: November 15, 2012, 06:33:46 PM
If tax rate hikes bring prosperity, why not raise them further, and on everyone?

The forum (search function) is a time machine.  Soon enough we will know who was right, the LA Times or our poster GM.
4588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO in 2006 on the meaning of a 3% win. on: November 15, 2012, 06:20:46 PM
"Maybe peace would have broken out with a different kind of White House, one less committed to waging a perpetual campaign--a White House that would see a 51-48 victory as a call to humility and compromise rather than an irrefutable mandate."

   - The junior Senator from Illinois, Audacity of Hope, 2006, p.20, regarding George W Bush's reelection in 2004

http://books.google.com/books?id=4vlcQZU6mwQC&pg=PA20#v=onepage&q&f=false
4589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 10 ways to protect your retirement savings on: November 15, 2012, 01:20:47 PM
WSJ falls behind on its reading of the forum.  Just now catching up on the coming crash:  http://www.marketwatch.com/story/retiring-on-the-edge-of-the-fiscal-cliff-2012-11-13

Summarizing this long piece:  Sell.  Take point 1 for example, "Set aside 12 months of living expenses".  A full year of expenses in cash ought to get most people out of the market.  What is the downward price momentum after every investor sells off a full year's salary worth of equities?

Point 2, "Rebalance assets" also means sell equities.  So does point 3,
"Strategic asset allocation", point 4 "Avoid dividend-paying stocks", and especially point 6, "Harvest long-term capital gains", all equal sell.  Expect a GDP decline of 5% if the fiscal cliff cuts all materialize.  Who has been saying that?  These guys (WSJ/Marketwatch) have no shame in re-publishing our material.

Current environment is more like a “storm watch” rather than a “storm alert”. Really?  Maybe today or tomorrow Obama, Pelosi, Schumer and the House Republicans will all come together with a great big, budget balancing, free enterprise expanding deal (and the Vikings might win the Super Bowl).  To their credit, the piece was written before the Pres. started launching rockets and missiles at his opposition in yesterday's press conference.
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Retiring on the edge of the fiscal cliff
10 ways to protect your retirement savings

By Robert Powell, MarketWatch

One of the biggest risks that retirees and pre-retirees face is that of taxes; not just paying them but the risk that tax policy will change and throw a big wrench into one’s plans.

Well, that risk—in the form of the fiscal cliff—is now upon us and retirees and pre-retirees must now develop a plan of action for their portfolio should all, some, or none of the scheduled tax changes and spending cuts become a reality on Jan. 1.

“The ‘fiscal cliff’ may affect retirees, pre-retirees and the economy as a whole unless Congress acts,” said Thomas DiLorenzo, manager in the Employee Financial Services group at Ernst & Young LLP.

According DiLorenzo, increased taxes—higher income, higher dividend, and capital gains tax rates—are the primary personal finance concern as the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire for all individuals. Among the changes:

    Marginal tax rates will rise from 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% in 2012 to 15%, 28%, 31%, 36% and 39.6% in 2013.

    The 15% maximum long -term capital gains rates will revert to 20% and qualified dividend rates will increase from 15% to being taxed at an individual’s marginal tax rate.

    Earned income tax credit, child tax credit, and the American Opportunity credits will all be reduced.

    Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will become subject to phaseout.

    Estate and gift tax exemption will drop from $5.12 million to $1 million and the top estate tax rate will go from 35% to 55%.

    And while not part of the Bush tax cuts, the 2% FICA tax reduction that has been in place for the past two years would also expire at the end of this year.

In addition, the lower Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption that is currently in place for 2012 would result in many more individuals being subject to the AMT if the exemption amount is not increased as it has been in previous years..

While there is still time for Congress to take action and every individual’s situation will be different depending upon their facts and circumstances, experts including DiLorenzo said retirees and pre-retirees ought to consider the following given that the fiscal cliff might become a reality.

Read related story, 5 fiscal-cliff tax moves for retirement savers.

Set aside 12 months of living expenses

Things might get a little bumpy as we approach the fiscal cliff. So, Stephen Smith, a vice president at Noesis Capital Management, recommends that retirees and pre-retirees set aside 10 to 12 months of living expenses in a money-market fund. “That should provide a cushion so that their investment portfolio can be managed according to their respective time frame and circumstances, with less regard for volatility over a six-month period,” he said.

Rebalance assets

In the event that we do go over the fiscal cliff for more than just a few weeks of 2013, “the ramifications could be quite significant,” according to a UBS Wealth Management Report.

So retirees and pre-retirees might consider how they will allocate their assets given any number of scenarios that could play out as we near the fiscal cliff.

In a worst-case scenario, for instance, UBS reports that there will be severe double-digit losses for U.S. and cyclical non-U.S. equities; U.S. Treasuries and highly-rated non-U.S.-government bonds will rally and credit spreads will spike across the board; the U.S. dollar and other safe-haven currencies will rally; and there will be severe double-digit declines in the broad commodity indexes, with energy and base metals being the most affected.

In its report, UBS outlined four other possible scenarios, including a scenario where lawmakers design a best-case grand bargain that avoids the fiscal cliff. In this scenario, UBS predicts that there will be a rally in stocks, fueled by multiple expansion and stronger earnings growth; Treasury yields will rise modestly, but remain low; the U.S. dollar will rise; and commodities won’t fall.

Others, however, have a different point of view. “Although tax policy for 2013 remains highly contingent on the outcome of U.S. Presidential elections—we think that most likely scenarios continue to favor our themes of preferring large cap over small cap and dividend payers/growers over non-payers,” said Lisa Shalett, CIO and head of Investment Management and Guidance for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Strategic asset allocation

While many agree that you need to develop a plan for the best- and worst-case scenarios, some suggest that you consider what’s called strategic asset allocation.

“Investors should, in my view, one, have a plan for what to do if valuation levels in the current stock market go up or go down substantially; and two, adhere to that plan—strictly,” said Ron Rhoades, assistant professor at Alfred State College and the president of ScholarFi Inc.

According to Rhoades, the current valuation level of the overall U.S. stock market is currently slightly below normal levels seen over the past 30 years, perhaps 0% to 10% below mean valuation levels. “Given the substantial rise in equities which has occurred this year, and the macroeconomic risks present, a prudent investor might desire to ‘take gains off the table’ at present,” he said. “This would be done by selling longer-duration bonds and/or equities, and reinvesting in short-term bond funds or CDs. This would serve to minimize the risk present in a downturn.”

Rhoades is not suggesting that investors time the market with tactical asset allocation. Rather, he suggests “adopting a prudent long-term strategic asset allocation and undertake tax-efficient rebalancing of the portfolio on a periodic, perhaps quarterly or semiannually, basis…This forces the investor to ‘sell high’ and ‘buy low’—to a degree.”

Tactical moves

For investors with significant equity positions in their portfolio who might not want to reduce that allocation, Jeff Witt, the director of research at Private Asset Management, recommends buying longer-term put options on the S&P 500 index as a type of “insurance” for your portfolio. “Investors could also look at buying the VIX Index (either through Futures contracts or ETFs), which has traditionally been negatively correlated with the broader market,” he said. “These investments could lessen the impact of a potential pull back in the equity market, should one occur.”

For fixed-income investors, Witt said higher taxes should make tax-exempt municipal bonds relatively more attractive. “Therefore, for taxable accounts, repositioning a portfolio toward a higher concentration of municipal bonds might make sense,” he said.

Roger Aliaga-Diaz, an economist at Vanguard said in a recent webcast that investors should not move out of fixed-income assets. “You want to hold part of your portfolio in fixed income, only because of this low correlation to equities,” he said. “Only because in the situation like a fiscal cliff you would see the bond part of your portfolio really to buffer and to push in the impact on the more risky part.” Read the transcript of Aliaga-Diaz’ webcast.

Avoid dividend-paying stocks?

Others, meanwhile, say that retirees and pre-retirees need to rebalance their portfolios for the coming fiscal cliff, but suggest avoiding dividend-paying stocks.

“Normally in a down economy, investors might want a defensive stock with a high dividend,” said Lukas Dean, an assistant professor at William Paterson University. he said. “But with dividend rates taking such a significant increase, it is doubtful that investors will be as prone to turn that traditional safe haven.”

Witt is of the same opinion. “Should the Bush tax cuts be allowed to expire, the tax rate on dividends will increase,” he said. And that would make dividend-paying stocks relatively less attractive to income investments such as master limited partnerships and high-yield bonds. “We believe the utility and telecommunication services sectors are most at risk, as these sectors traditionally have high yields and relatively low growth rates,” Witt said. “Furthermore, both appear to be trading at fairly stretched valuations.”

Asset location

Experts often recommend that you not only make sure your assets are allocated based on your investment goals, but that those assets are also located in the right types of accounts. So, DiLorenzo recommends reviewing which assets you hold in your taxable and tax-deferred accounts and shuffling things around if need be. Move, for instance, the most tax-sensitive investments—dividend-paying stocks and fixed-income securities—from taxable to tax-deferred accounts, and move investments such as growth stocks that don’t pay a dividend from tax-deferred account to a taxable account. Doing so will improve your after-tax wealth and income.

In short, you want to optimize your use of tax-deferred account such as IRAs, 401(k)s and populate them with the most tax-sensitive (ordinary income) instruments,” said Shalett.

Speaking of trying to create tax-efficient income, Shalett also suggests using more tax-efficient investments and accounts, such as single stocks, separately managed accounts, and ETFs

Harvest long-term capital gains

Shalett also recommends rebalancing your portfolio before year-end with an eye toward tax management and harvesting of losses vs. gains, especially long-term gains. Selling assets that qualify for long-term capital gain treatment in 2012 will lock in the maximum 15% long-term capital gains rate, said DiLorenzo.

According to Paul Mauro, the managing partner of Legacy Financial Advisors, Inc. what moves you make with your portfolio will depend also on your level of income, not just your assets. So for instance, taxpayers who are in the 15% tax bracket and who would qualify to pay 0% on long-term capital gains might consider selling, for instance, their second home, assuming of course they have a gain on the property.

Prepare for a recession?

To be sure, it’s wise to prepare your prepare your portfolio for the coming fiscal cliff. But it’s also wise to contemplate what might happen to the economy and prepare for that as well.

It will be up to this postelection session of Congress to address this issue, according to a recent report by Jeff Applegate, the chief investment officer of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

What’s more, Applegate reminds us that the Congressional Budget Office has warned that failure to reduce the fiscal drag risks recession in 2013 and that Moody’s has warned that the US credit rating is at risk for another downgrade.

“Postelection, we think an agreement will take place to significantly mitigate and delay the fiscal cliff,” he said. “We expect most or all of the tax cuts will be extended for a year, but extended jobless benefits and payroll-tax reductions will lapse. We also expect Congress to override planned defense-spending cuts that are built into the automatic sequester. In all, a fiscal drag of 1% to 2% of GDP seems most likely to us, as opposed to the estimated 5% if all the cutbacks take effect.”

And lessening the drag reduces the near-term risk of recession, he said.

Don’t make bad decisions

“People are well aware of the potential problems because of the fiscal cliff,” said Gary Thayer, the chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. “People need to understand what’s at stake. But we can’t predict the outcome yet.”

With the election over, however, Thayer said, there will be some better guidance. “Prior to the election, there was just a lot of speculation because neither party was really putting out substantive proposals until they knew there’s a chance that they can get something enacted.”

For the record, Thayer doesn’t think the worst-case situation is going to happen. “So, we are not telling people to panic or get too defensive,” said Thayer. “If the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen, the prospects for the economy remain favorable. But we can’t say for sure what’s going to happen. Right now things are sort of in limbo.”

Thayer likens the current environment to a “storm watch” rather than a “storm alert.”

“We don’t want to say that this is going to happen, but if there’s a storm watch, you pay attention but you don’t necessarily go to the basement,” Thayer said. “You don’t want to be making decisions about something that may not happen.”
4590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: November 15, 2012, 12:33:30 PM
Great post by PP! 

Absurd to think we live in an economy mostly based on free enterprise when you look at energy, transportation, healthcare, agriculture or housing.  Take just housing for the moment.  What would the market interest rate be for mortgages if not for federal intervention?  No one knows exactly.

Pat wrote: "3. Higher rates = less affordability = lower sales = decreasing sales values."

Illustrate that with a hypothetical example: 

Assume a house has a 200,000 selling price today with all borrowed money (for simplicity) at 3%. The same payment would only yield a 140,000 price if/when interest rates jump to 6%, 96,000 at 10%, and 76,000 at 1980-83 interest rate levels (13%).  Same house, same buyer, same payment, but 30-62% of the value is lost in some historically possible, rising interest rate scenarios. 
4591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: real media bias on: November 15, 2012, 11:31:50 AM

Yes!  But the blame goes to the audience rather than the media outlet IMO.  In fast and furious, a dead border agent story could not buy interest in the story.  Sex with a General/former General, that's a story!  Petraeus bridges the media double standard.  Dems see him as the guy who prosecuted the Iraq war for Bush (not for America, "Betray-us", 'you must suspend belief in reality to listen to him') and R's see him as an Obama appointee, even a potential whistle blower in the Obama administration.
-----
“This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out,” Broadwell’s dad, Paul Krantz, told the Daily News outside his home in Bismarck, N.D.

“There is a lot more that is going to come out,” said Krantz, claiming he was not allowed to elaborate. “You wait and see. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.”

Whatever that means...
4592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Scalia: NFW on secession on: November 15, 2012, 11:12:43 AM
A 28th amendment specifically authorizing secession for states and/or individuals might be easier to pass and ratify than the next budget deal.

Pondering secession aloud is still legal but dangerous to one's future political prospects.

A political compromise short of secession would be for congress and legislatures to offer opt out plans to individuals, the ability to not have to pay into or receive from a myriad of controversial and inefficient government programs. 

4593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: November 13, 2012, 07:40:16 PM
In a strange set of coincidences, Pres. Obama lost in all states that require Voter ID.
4594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs - Food Stamps, numbers, dollars and causes on: November 13, 2012, 06:43:34 PM
Taken from GMs decline/fall post, Washington Post - home of some of the most widely read 'fact checkers' wrote:

"Nearly 47 million Americans rely on federal food assistance benefits, a 12-year high attributed to the weak U.S. economy and high rates of unemployment over the last five years."

A '12-year high'?!?  No.  It's an ALL TIME HIGH.  12 Years ago 17.2 million people were on foods stamps.  It has almost tripled in 12 years.

The program has been growing every year, weak economy or not.  51 consecutive months of job growth and it grew the whole time. Source: Washington Post.  Who knew?  It grew and not because of a weak economy or expanding unemployment.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/think-tanked/post/food-stamp-growth-started-before-obama-took-office/2012/09/06/36f49b00-f844-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_blog.html

The number of recipients grows because we are talking about FREE FOOD!
4595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Decline, Fall, and Resurrection of America on: November 13, 2012, 02:34:35 PM
GM, Same college students now own our debt. 
4596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why did AQ want to kill Amb. Stevens? on: November 13, 2012, 01:43:16 PM
http://pjmedia.com/blog/why-did-al-qaeda-target-ambassador-stevens/
...
Emerging from the chaos is a dim understanding that the U.S. was operating a clandestine arms operation from the CIA post that was loosely — and incorrectly — described as a “consulate.”

If so, the term 'Ambassador' was a rather loose and incorrect title for the man running the operation.
4597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy - The Macrcoeconomic Effects of Tax Changes on: November 13, 2012, 01:37:09 PM
I get that, but perhaps the $80B number I have seen is the 1%ers tax PLUs the revenues from the other tax increases (e.g. the increase in the tax on dividends)?

That could be.  What we know for sure is that quoting the static number is to quote a known falsehood.  The reaction to a major policy change will not be static.  See Romer and Romer:  emlab.berkeley.edu/~dromer/papers/RomerandRomerAERJune2010.pdf  http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleskadlec/2012/04/23/christina-romer-knows-tax-hikes-will-kill-the-recovery/

Robert Rubin had a piece today in the NY Times not worth posting.  He goes through the deduction and loophole closing possibilities and decides they aren't worth it.  Then comes back to favoring tax rate hikes on the rich that also close no gap and spur no growth.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/opinion/rubin-deluding-ourselves-over-the-fiscal-cliff.html?_r=0

Broken record: We increase revenues significantly only with pro-growth policies.  We rejected that in the Presidential race and in the Senate, but not in the House.
The President is the so-called leader of the free world.  He needs to find where he has common ground with the House, get something positive passed or we all live with the consequences.

I would stay as far to the sideline as possible while this plays out.  There is a lot that still can go wrong.
-------------------
“Tax increases appear to have a very large, sustained, and highly significant negative impact on output.” - Former Chief Obama Economic Adviser Cristina Romer

From the Forbes link above:

A powerful analysis by  President Barack Obama’s first Chair of his Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) indicates the President’s proposed tax increases would kill the economic recovery and throw nearly 1 million Americans out of work.  Those are the extraordinary implications of academic research by Christina D. Romer, who chaired the CEA from January 28, 2009 – September 3, 2010.  In a paper entitled: “The Macrcoeconomic Effects of Tax Changes” published by the prestigious American Economic Review in June 2010 (during her tenure at the White House), she stated: “In short, tax increases appear to have a very large, sustained, and highly significant negative impact on output.”
4598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Abortion on: November 13, 2012, 01:07:54 PM
Doug: "pro-life conservatism defeats 'unadulterated liberty' by about 50-1 in the electoral marketplace."
BBG: "I'm assuming the "50-1" is a typo as it certainly isn't reflected in any polling I've encountered."

Mitt Romney 59 million, Gary Johnson 1 million, for one example, or almost any race, any state, any year.  That's all I was saying there.

You didn't address my question, liberty for whom - meaning who protects the unborn, the most innocent among us.

Liberty to me is that freedom that runs wild through us - right up to the point where it starts to harm someone else. 

If one takes the extreme pro-choice view that the unborn is nothing, then defining liberty is simple, abortion kills nothing.  That is fine, but I doubt most Democrats or even Libertarians agree with that, much less Republicans. 

"Repubs tend to nominate folks the Dems can cast as right wing abortion zealots, and that ability costs elections."

Republicans could learn from these mistakes and nominate pro-lifers who merely declare that belief like Romney, Bush and Reagan did, show proper revulsion toward rape and all its consequences and go on to address other issues.

Similar to what I wrote about Aiken and Mourdock not advancing their own cause, only in the wildest dreams of the statists should the pro-liberty and the pro-life factions split up. 


"Isn't Planned Parenthood a private organization that receives public monies?"

Yes.  At least ACORN never killed anyone.

"The Dem. campaign seemed to purposely elevate PP to some sort of entitlement status; the Repubs had no effective response."

An axiom of this election is that a lie (or a really bad idea) not immediately refuted is scored as a debate point won.
4599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Abortion on: November 13, 2012, 12:04:30 PM
"A two part question:
a)  WHY do most of us include incest along with rape as a valid reason for abortion?
b) Is it not that incest leads to children with birth defects?
c) Therefore should we not be restating the standard as "rape and/or birth defects" to be logically consistent?"

Crafty, I disagree; I think that was a 3-part question.   grin

a) I don't know, but to me it has something to do with that with incest like rape the pregnancy resulted from an inappropriate relationship.
b) That may be true, but my guess is what I described above.  A kid born to parents who are brother/sister, mother/son etc. enters life with a host of problems beyond birth defects.
c) "Logically consistent" is what set up these pro-life candidates for the rape abortion political trap. I am not comfortable or informed enough to comment on abortion for birth defect reasons from a law-writing perspective.  We are all defective so that would be tricky line to write in law as more and more testing is possible. 

Your probing questions stand for others to address. 

My main point over time on this thread is about the moral question ahead of the legal question.  You don't ban abortions when 50% of the people think there is nothing wrong with killing an unborn no different than you or me at the same point in the womb.  From my point of view you first try to change hearts and minds.

My main point in yesterday's post was that rape is for certain one of the exceptions that will be included if we ever do write meaningful restrictions.  Unite on that point and unite on your point that it is a state right and move the most divisive of issues off of the front burner, so that we can build a better coalition on the other political issues.
4600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US in a multipolar world on: November 12, 2012, 02:03:25 PM
Some great points in there and some with which I differ.  Iraq war total will be $6 trillion is quite an assertion.  Raising a tax rate is not synonymous with raising revenue.  Some parts of the title American Decline I think he doesn't address, economic decline to me is central to why our influence is on a path of decline.  I would confront it economically.

He doesn't claim to have any easy answer, but makes a good series of points that we know how to fight, not how to win or how to end wars.  He makes a strong argument for less intervention.  It is not clear to me what we should have done instead.

I should add, glad that you posted it.  BD has a reading list wider than some of the rest of us!

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