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4651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / American Creed /Constitutional Law: One more challenge for Obamacare on: April 02, 2013, 10:25:08 AM
Lawsuit over health care tax could kill ‘Obamacare’

The Washington Times
Sunday, March 31, 2013

" lawsuit making its way through the court system could pull the plug on the sweeping federal health care law.

A challenge filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation contends that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the bill originated in the Senate, not the House. Under the Origination Clause of the Constitution, all bills raising revenue must begin in the House.

The Supreme Court upheld most provisions of the act in June, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. took pains in the majority opinion to define Obamacare as a federal tax, not a mandate. That was when the Sacramento, Calif.-based foundation’s attorneys had their “aha” moment.

“The court there quite explicitly says, ‘This is not a law passed under the Commerce Clause; this is just a tax,’” foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur said at a Cato Institute forum on legal challenges to the health care act. “Well, then the Origination Clause ought to apply...
4652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scrappleface: Obama Declares April 1 ‘Fiscal Responsibility Day’ on: April 02, 2013, 10:03:41 AM
Humorist Scott Ott at Scrappleface reports:

Obama Declares April 1 ‘Fiscal Responsibility Day’

Obama signs National Fiscal Responsibility Day declarationPresident Obama declares April 1 ‘National Fiscal Responsibility Day’, as the infants and toddlers of Wall Street bankers crawl around his desk just out of the camera’s view.

In a White House ceremony this morning, surrounded by young children of Wall Street bankers, and of staffers at the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, President Barack Obama signed an executive order designating today as ‘National Fiscal Responsibility Day.’

The president said the declaration would both “recognize the Herculean efforts of members of Congress and the Executive branch in paring down the federal budget to its core essentials...

Obama noted that from now on, the first day of April each year will “remind all Americans of the kind of government we ordained and established in our Constitution — one of limited, enumerated powers, that maximizes individual liberty.”...

[Too bad this is only an April Fools joke.]
4653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pathological Science: The declining confidence of climate sensitivity on: April 02, 2013, 09:55:21 AM
Locally I can report the lake is still frozen and that it was a high of 34 degrees for the outdoor baseball opener yesterday, sunny and 24 right now, April 2.  28 days of March were below historical averages at the high and at the low.

"OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar."

The question people (who didn't read the emails) are asking is - why are the climate models so wrong:

Looks like the 'deniers' had it right and the alarmists are the new deniers:

4654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela, AP - Chavez was a religious figure? on: April 02, 2013, 09:32:25 AM
Looking forward to our first-hand reports.  This story is sickening.

Chavez's legacy gains religious glow in Venezuela
 Email this Story

Mar 30, 4:58 PM (ET)


(AP)In this March 8, 2013 file photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro stands in front of a portrait of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez...

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Holding a Bible in her arms at the start of Holy Week, seamstress Maria Munoz waited patiently to visit the tomb of the man she considers another savior of humanity.

The 64-year-old said she had already turned her humble one-bedroom house into a shrine devoted to the late President Hugo Chavez, complete with busts, photos and coffee mugs bearing his image. Now, she said, her brother-in-law was looking for a larger house to display six boxes' worth of Chavez relics that her family has collected throughout his political career.

"He saved us from so many politicians who came before him," Munoz said as tears welled in her eyes. "He saved us from everything."

Chavez's die-hard followers considered him a living legend on a par with independence-era hero Simon Bolivar well before his March 5 death from cancer. In the mere three weeks since, however, Chavez has ascended to divine status in this deeply Catholic country as the government and Chavistas build a religious mythology around him ahead of April 14 elections to pick a new leader.

(AP) In this July 4, 2011 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez kisses a crucifix as he...

Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has led the way, repeatedly calling the late president "the redeemer Christ of the Americas" and describing Chavistas, including himself, as "apostles."

Maduro went even further after Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis earlier this month. Maduro said Chavez had advised Jesus Christ in heaven that it was time for a South American pope.

That comes as Maduro's government loops ads on state TV comparing Chavez to sainted heroes such as Bolivar and puts up countless banners around the capital emblazoned with Chavez's image and the message "From his hands sprouts the rain of life."

"President Chavez is in heaven," Maduro told a March 16 rally in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Catia. "I don't have any doubt that if any man who walked this earth did what was needed so that Christ the redeemer would give him a seat at his side, it was our redeemer liberator of the 21st century, the comandante Hugo Chavez."

Chavistas such as Munoz have filled Venezuela with murals, posters and other artwork showing Chavez in holy poses surrounded by crosses, rosary beads and other religious symbolism.

(AP) In this March 5, 2013 file photo, candles, placed by mourner demonstrators, burn in front of...

One poster on sale in downtown Caracas depicts Chavez holding a shining gold cross in his hands beside a quote from the Book of Joshua: "Comrade, be not afraid. Neither be dismayed, for I Will be with you each instant." The original scripture says "Lord thy God," and not "I," will accompany humanity each instant.

The late leader had encouraged such treatment as he built an elaborate cult of personality and mythologized his own rise to power, said Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, a University of Georgia media studies scholar who hails from Venezuela.

She said Chavez's successors are clearly hoping that pumping up that mythology can boost Maduro's presidential campaign, which has been based almost entirely on promises to continue Chavez's legacy. The opposition candidate, Gov. Henrique Capriles, counters that Maduro isn't Chavez, and highlights the problems that Chavez left behind such as soaring crime and inflation.

"They're fast-tracking the mythification," Acosta-Alzuru said of the government. "Sometimes I feel that Venezuelan politics has become a big church. Sometimes I feel it has become a big mausoleum."

Teacher Geraldine Escalona said she believed Chavez had served a divine purpose during his 58 years on earth, including launching free housing and education programs and pushing the cause of Latin American unity.

(AP) In this March 8, 2013 file photo, supporters of Nicolas Maduro watch on a giant screen...

"God used him for this, for unifying our country and Latin America," the 22-year-old said. "I saw him as a kind of God."

Such rhetoric has upset some religious leaders and drawn the reproach of Venezuela's top Roman Catholic official, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, on the eve of the Easter holidays.

"One can't equate any hero or human leader or authority with Jesus Christ," Urosa warned. "We can't equate the supernatural and religious sphere with the natural, earthly and sociopolitical."

Chavez, in his days, crossed paths frequently with Venezuela's church, which sometimes accused the socialist leader of becoming increasingly authoritarian. Chavez described Christ as a socialist, and he strongly criticized Cardinal Urosa, saying he misled the Vatican with warnings that Venezuela was drifting toward dictatorship.

Emerging this week from a church on the outskirts of Caracas, Lizbeth Colmenares slammed politicians from both sides for using derogatory language in the campaign, particularly during Holy Week.

(AP) In this March 5, 2012 file photo, a mural imitating the religious painting The Last Supper covers a wall of a popular housing complex, showing from left to right, Fidel Castro, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Jesus Christ, Simon Bolivar, Venezuelan rebel fighters Alexis Gonzalez and Fabricio Ojeda and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela...

"They are not following the words of Christ," said Colmenares, a 67-year old retiree who was holding palm fronds woven into the shape of the Holy Cross. "They should be more humble and they shouldn't be attacking each other that way."

Of course, politics and religion have long mixed in Latin America, starting with the Spanish conquest of the New World, which Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes famously said was carried out "between sword and cross."

In the 20th century, Argentine first lady Eva Peron helped start a leftist Latin American pantheon after her untimely death in 1952. She's since become a veritable saint for millions in her homeland, with pictures of her angelic face still commonly displayed in homes and government offices. Like Chavez, Peron was worshipped as a protector of the poor as well as a political fighter.

Chavez tied his own legacy to Bolivar, incessantly invoking his name and delivering hundreds of speeches with Bolivar's stern portrait looming over his shoulder. Chavez renamed the whole country "The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" and ordered a giant mausoleum built to house Bolivar's bones.

A short animated spot shown repeatedly on state TV this month makes clear that Chavez has already become a political saint for millions. It shows Chavez, after death, walking the western Venezuelan plains of his childhood before coming across Peron, Bolivar, the martyred Chilean President Salvador Allende and Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, among others.

(AP) In this March 19, 2013 file photo, kiss marks left by supporters of Venezuela's former...

"We know that in Argentina we have a Peronism that is very much alive," said Acosta-Alzuru. "And there are other examples in Latin America where a leader, a caudillo, tries to be everything for the country. What Maduro and Chavez's followers are doing is trying to keep Chavez alive."

Some Chavez supporters waiting to visit his tomb on a hill overlooking Caracas said their comandante is with them in spirit - and for that reason they planned to vote for Maduro, confident that Chavez was guiding his hand.

Reaching the marble tomb means first walking through an exhibit celebrating Chavez's life and military career, with photos and text exalting a seemingly inevitable rise to immortality.

"He's still alive," said 52-year-old nurse Gisela Averdano. "He hasn't died. For me, he will always continue."
4655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Paul proposes US leaving UN on: April 02, 2013, 09:22:58 AM

Bold move.  It shows that he has been reading the forum.  Since this is a budget matter, what we might do is agree to pay the UN whatever the average or median country pays for one seat, one vote.  Also move them out of NYC and into the heartland.

Meanwhile, Sec. Kerry still looking L.O.S.T.

4656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 02, 2013, 08:53:27 AM
"GM, I was answering question that Doug asked me about how my vote would go down if I were on the Court."

This is true and I am appreciative of all the responses.  Knowing we disagree, the best we can do is test out the arguments in both directions and see where they lead.  No pressure, but the Justices may be checking the forum before they decide.  I have lived to regret telling Justice Roberts that Obamacare is a tax.   wink

In tax law, the progressive rate system fails the equal protection test IMO, but is justifiable to others on a concept understood as 'equal protection, different circumstances'.  We don't apply the top rate to every dollar or every person; taxpayers have different circumstances.  If you were in that situation, that rate would apply to you too.   I can't take the depletion deduction of a gold mine because I don't own one.  Is that unfair?  The blind get an extra deduction.  I would have to poke both eyes out to qualify.  Probably easier for a gay to pretend to be hetero.  A gay can't find happiness in a one man one woman marriage but he or she is free to pursue happiness elsewhere and not receive that legislated benefit.  The majority of the 4 trillion dollar budget consists of checks sent to preferred recipients for one reason or another, and not me.  If I could not serve in the military because of condition in me from birth or genetics, should I still receive veterans' benefits?  I don't see how you logically pick at the edges of a government built on preferences without bringing down the whole system.
4657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - Basketball is his main sport? on: April 01, 2013, 08:02:36 PM

He golfs with Tiger (what did that cost?) but can't swing a club, hangs with NBA legends but can't make a free throw (video above is pretty amazing), and he wants to run the economy but has still never read a book on economics that isn't about dismantling our system.  Just getting to know the guy - as our nation heads down the tubes.

If his story was that he is a lousy basketball player or golfer (honesty), I would be impressed.  If his story is that he works on improving our economy so much, that is why his former sporting prowess has suffered, i would say - what a crock.
4658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 01, 2013, 07:35:17 PM ignores the equal protection and contract clauses, which requires states to recognize contracts made in other states. DOMA does violate that.

States, I agree, could be required to honor the contract between spouse 1 and spouse 2 (formerly referred to as husband and wife) as they travel freely through a different  state or move there.  How does that change the contract between state 2 and individual 1 or 2 as it applies to taxes or anything else, if the marriage preference (or penalty) in that state is defined as applying only to one-man-one-woman-marriages?

Can one state legislature, or ten of them, change the definition of a federal tax benefit when DOMA so specifically lays out what in federal law is defined as qualifying for that preference?  

If the issue truly is equal protection, I still fail to see how adding one group or two to the preferred group remedies the equal protection violation.  No one to my awareness ever answers that.  

The tax code is filled with preferences for all kinds of reasons.  Encouraging households potentially capable of natural offspring to marry is about as rational of a basis as there can be if we are to accept any preference.  [Of course rational basis is out the window here.)  Must everyone get a credit for not planting wheat in their yard if any farmer gets that deduction?  Isn't almost every page of the 8000 page Federal Tax Code loaded with preferences toward individuals from named groups and discrimination against everyone else?

I get it that at least one Justice will see 'heightened scrutiny' applying to sexual orientation and other Justices will follow, but I don't see 'heightened scrutiny for sexual orientation' in the original text or meaning of the original words in the constitution.  Why didn't the Court strike down all marriage preferences when they first came out?  Obviously marriage as it was defined then was a hetero-phenonmenon, and it didn't even reach all heteros.  Was there no challenge on equal protection in the tax code until now or were the precedents from the past wrongly decided?

I favor all income from all people in all industries, earned legally, taxed the same, which would have solved most of this.  Estates are essentially an accumulation of after tax income.  Some other clause, takings, or cruel and unusual punishment ought to stop the legislating of theft of those privately held assets.

From GM's post:  "You cannot defend a new civil liberty, while denying it to others [the Polygamists]. I think there's a grander more magnificent trend that can see in the law and that is this right to be left alone," Turley said. "People have a right to establish their families as long as they don't harm others."

First of all, who is stopping them?

To my friends who innocently ask how gay marriage can possibly affect their marriage, resolving this contentious issue forcefully through the courts perhaps just ended their marriage in terms of every public policy recognition or preference as we knew it.  The acceptance of gay marriage coincided with the abandonment of conventional marriage.  The majority of all kids are now born out of wedlock and are thus empirically more likely to be poor and have other problems.  Meanwhile gay men and virgin lesbians are getting pregnant.  Mother and father are now federally called Parent One and Parent Two.  Equality and degradation of our greatest institutions are synonymous and within our reach.  All to achieve nothing that looks like equal protection under the law IMHO.
4659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 01, 2013, 02:58:58 PM
It isn't the right or privilege to marry that is in question, gays have always had that same right as heterosexuals (see Billie Jean King, Rock Hudson), it is the right to marry the person you love, who consents.
DOMA does not stop any state from performing or recognizing gay marriages or single out gay marriage apart from other permutations.  It is saying that the other states and the Feds don't have to recognize other unions from the states who do that as the same as a husband-wife marriage, which is defined as one of each gender.

Prop 8 also does not single out gay marriage either any more than does it excluded larger groups:
Sec. 7.5. "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. "

In political language, the disadvantaged group is called LGBT, meaning not just gays but all Lesbians, Gays, Bi-sexuals, trans-sexuals.  Addressing the needs of the last group alone, transgender, would mean an end to all gender distinctions, as it is a changeable state.  Interestingly (to me), an end to all gender distinctions was written in the Equal Rights Amendment -  which the nation failed to ratify.  

Somewhere between about 2.5% and 3.4%(Gallup) of adults identify as gay, a significant political minority.  Presumably Bi-sexuals and Polygamists whose needs are more than one are not helped by a gay marriage ruling.  They are much smaller groups and even more vulnerable to discrimination by the majority.  They don't have political power, but how does that change the meaning of the words of the constitution?  After DOMA or Prop 8 is struck down, it is still constitutional to prohibit recognition of these multiple partner unions?  They still cannot marry whomever they love that will consent.   Why doen't that fail the same test of logic or scrutiny, treating individuals from different groups differently?

Singling out hetero-marraige(-hyphened) for public policy preference was electorally intentional, the opposite of a sin tax, to encourage certain behaviors for the general welfare.  Singling out gay couples to add to the special treatment class is still offering special treatment to members of selected groups at the exclusion of others.  It still draws a moral line in law, damaging for example the children with polygamist upbringings, to extrapolate the plaintiffs attorneys' logic.  It also leaves in discrimination against single people in tax and estate law, which is the majority of new parents, if child rearing was the concern.  Why not strike down everything to do with marriage, family or any other recognition used for preference?  Isn't that really what is in question?
4660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: March 31, 2013, 08:30:28 AM
Ah, yes.  The meaning of the words - to marry.

In the older dictionaries, pre-2013, non-hyphenated marriage meant some kind of ceremony where a man and a woman consent to become husband and wife.  Does DOMA or Prop 8 remove that right for anyone? No (IMO).  Must change the meaning of the privilege in order to deny it.  Opting out of that union is also a right.
4661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: March 30, 2013, 12:01:55 AM
Prop 8 goes down 6-3. Heightened scrutiny. Kennedy writes. RBG concurs, but only because heightened scrutiny belongs to her.

DOMA goes down 6-3. Some combination of equal protection, contract clause. Roberts writes.

I can't disagree with your prediction.  Your vote would be with the 6?

A similar view was expressed by the NYT:

NY Times Editorial, Sunday March 23, 2013:

Heightened Scrutiny

One of the central questions in the two gay marriage cases to be argued before the Supreme Court this week is whether gays and lesbians are a protected class under the Constitution. Under longstanding principles, government actions that fall heavily on “discrete and insular minorities” historically subject to prejudice and stigma are to be given particular scrutiny.

The 3.4 percent of Americans who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clearly qualify as this kind of minority. Laws classifying individuals based on sexual orientation — the anti-gay-marriage initiative in California called Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act — must be given heightened scrutiny.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then the foremost advocate for gender equality, swayed the court 40 years ago to adopt that standard for gender-based distinctions. The court concluded “that classifications based upon sex” were “inherently suspect.” But it has not yet decided how to treat laws based on sexual orientation. The solicitor general and others argue persuasively that such laws require close review just as those based on gender do.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit struck down the Defense of Marriage Act for defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The appeals court convincingly found that in focusing on sexual orientation, the act warranted heightened scrutiny under the test the Supreme Court established for gender-based laws — and that the statute was unconstitutional when reviewed closely. The test considers whether members of the group have experienced invidious discrimination; whether individuals can leave the group without losing a basic part of their identities; whether the group’s defining characteristic is relevant to its ability to contribute to society; and whether members can protect themselves in the political process.

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people share a common “immutable” characteristic because their sexual orientation is fundamental to who they are and they have indisputably been discriminated against. Until a decade ago, the Supreme Court upheld state laws making “private sexual conduct” between people of the same sex a crime. In the five most recent years for which the government has data, through 2011, hate crimes in the United States fell by 19 percent. But hate crimes based on sexual orientation went up by 3 percent. The discrimination has nothing to do with the ability to contribute to society.

Finally, gays and lesbians, as a minority group, cannot protect themselves from discrimination in a political process governed by the majority. If they had power, Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act would never have passed, nor would the laws currently on the books in 39 states that specifically restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

As the brief for the United States said in the Defense of Marriage Act case, “This is the rare circumstance in which a faithful application of the court’s established criteria compels applying heightened scrutiny to an additional classification.” Neither of the laws in the two cases before the court can withstand this serious constitutional examination.
4662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in Constitutional Law: Prop 8, DOMA and gay marriage on: March 29, 2013, 03:03:31 PM
CD, BD, others,  Are you ready to issue what your opinion would be on the two gay marriage cases, ahead of the Court's decision?  Standing, rational basis, strict scrutiny, it all seems very complicated.  If it is like the Obamacare decision, I tend to learn the most from the dissent.

Gays who aren't husband and wife, gender specific, are treated no differently under the law than all single people, an argument I haven't heard them make.  For better or worse, the movement for sameness for gays (or singles, transgenders or group arrangements), can only lead to the ending all preferential treatment aimed at the institution formerly known as marriage with no hyphen. 

I believe in an extreme passion for protecting the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all including gay.  OTOH, it is of no interest to me whether the plaintiff Windsor was in a committed relationship, until death do we part, with her sister, friend or gay partner.  God Bless her freedom to associate, for them to love and look after each other, etc.  The only logical discrimination ruling to me would be to strike down all recognition of marriage that treats any person differently than anyone else.  It would be a shame to do that, to eliminate public recognition of marriage as proposed elsewhere.
Here is a WSJ Editorial Board member disagreeing with the Editorial Board, an interesting take:

Maybe Scalia Was Wrong      March 28, 2013
How the Supreme Court could uphold Proposition 8.

The most telling question in two days of oral arguments on same-sex marriage came yesterday in U.S. v. Windsor, the Defense of Marriage Act case. The questioner, not surprisingly, was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who addressed Solicitor General Donald Verrilli:

    You are insisting that we get to a very fundamental question about equal protection, but we don't do that unless we assume the law is valid otherwise to begin with. And we are asking is it valid otherwise. What is the Federal interest in enacting this statute and is it a valid Federal interest assuming, before we get to the equal protection analysis?

Let's uproot some of the legal weeds so we have a clear view:

The justices are debating whether Section 3 of DOMA, the provision barring the federal government from recognizing any same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. (Section 2, which permits states to refrain from recognizing other states' same-sex marriage, is not under challenge.)

There are two arguments against Section 3: the federalism argument and the equal-protection argument. The federalism argument is that marriage and family law have traditionally been state domains, and therefore Congress lacks authority to legislate in these areas. The equal-protection argument is that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against homosexuals.

Kennedy seems to be giving serious consideration to striking down DOMA's Section 3 based on the federalism argument alone. In this column's view, that would be the correct outcome, which is to say that we respectfully dissent from The Wall Street Journal's editorial position.  "The Justices can help the Constitutional system, the country's political temper and the Court's reputation by letting the people decide how to define the core family unit of society."

Kennedy's evident reluctance to take up the equal-protection argument in Windsor is almost certainly a clue as to his thinking about Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case challenging California's Proposition 8.

In Hollingsworth, observers on either side could find reason for encouragement in Kennedy's questioning at oral argument. On the one hand, as we noted Tuesday, he expressed serious misgivings about the court's imposing a novel social policy on the nation. On the other, he mused about "the voice of these children"--which, as blogress Ann Althouse notes, is a slogan from the Family Equality Council, a gay-rights group that filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to strike down both Proposition 8 and DOMA.

But there is no federalism argument in Hollingsworth, which concerns a state law. It is entirely an argument about equal protection. If Kennedy is reluctant to reach the question in Windsor, how can he even form an opinion in Hollingsworth?

One answer to that question is that he may not have to. In both Hollingsworth and Windsor, the executive branch of the government--California's governor and attorney general in the former case, the Obama administration in the latter--has declined to defend the law under challenge. Other parties have been appointed to argue the case instead, and among the questions the justices considered were whether those parties even had standing to argue the defense.

The court could hold that the designated defenders in Hollingsworth have no standing and thus the case is not properly before the court. Our understanding is that in the event of such a ruling, the Ninth Circuit's opinion would be vacated and the original trial court ruling would be reinstated. That would mean California would be required to establish same-sex marriage, but the laws of no other state would change, and no court elsewhere would be obliged to follow the trial judge's precedent.

It seems to us it would be odd for the justices to hold that the defenders have standing in Windsor but not in Hollingsworth. On this question, however, we enter a rare plea of ignorance. Perhaps there is some pertinent difference, and if an expert in federal procedure would like to produce an explanatory email or blog post, we promise to read it.

At any rate, there is another possibility. Perhaps the equal-protection question in Hollingsworth is more easily resolved than the one in Windsor.

Some argue that Kennedy effectively resolved the Hollingsworth question a decade ago, and in favor of same-sex marriage. Among them are the legal journalist Jeffrey Toobin, the distinguished legal scholar Richard Epstein and . . . Justice Antonin Scalia. This columnist was an early adherent of this view--see our August 2010 column titled "Scalia Was Right," a phrase Toobin borrows in The New Yorker this week--but we've changed our mind.

In 2003 Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state laws against consensual sodomy as a violation of the right to privacy. Kennedy quoted an earlier dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens and declared that it was thenceforth the view of the court: "The fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice; neither history nor tradition could save a law prohibiting miscegenation from constitutional attack."

But the miscegenation analogy, the favorite of same-sex marriage's proponents, is misleading. Whether or not one finds the comparison morally compelling, it overlooks an important legal distinction. Laws that distinguish between individuals on the basis of race are (at least in theory) almost impossible to justify, because the Supreme Court has held that they are subject to "strict scrutiny," the most forbidding standard of review.

Neither the Obama administration nor the appellees in the marriage cases argue that the court should apply strict scrutiny in evaluating laws that make distinctions based on homosexuality. The court, led by Justice Kennedy, expressly declined to do so in Romer v. Evans (1996), which struck down a Colorado ballot initiative denying all legal protections to homosexuals. Romer was an equal-protection case while Lawrence was a privacy case, but in both of them the court applied the lowest level of scrutiny: It struck down the laws in question on the ground that disapproval of homosexuality was not even a "rational basis" for the laws under challenge.

That's where Scalia comes in. He vigorously dissented from both Romer and Lawrence, arguing for the right of a democratic majority to embody its moral views in the law. In Lawrence, Kennedy noted that the decision "does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter."

"Do not believe it," Scalia replied:

    If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is "no legitimate state interest" for purposes of proscribing that conduct; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), "when sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring," what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising "the liberty protected by the Constitution"?

It's a rhetorical question, but under rational-basis analysis it's easily answered: Providing benefits to homosexual couples costs the taxpayers money. If the lesbian widower Edith Windsor prevails in the DOMA case, for instance, the IRS will have to refund $363,053 it collected in death taxes from her late wife's estate. It doesn't get more rational than that.

That's why the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals applied "intermediate scrutiny"--the same level that applies to distinctions between the sexes--in its equal-protection analysis when it decided Windsor v. U.S. The Obama administration argues for "heightened scrutiny," which the Supreme Court has never used and which is, like intermediate scrutiny, stricter than rational basis and more relaxed than strict scrutiny.

Applying a higher level of scrutiny would be a major legal step. If Kennedy is averse to reaching the equal-protection question in Windsor, that suggests it is a step he would prefer not to take. Which leads to the question: How would one resolve Hollingsworth using a rational-basis test?

As we noted March 13, the administration's friend-of-the-court brief offers one idea. California, in common with eight other states, has a law on the books providing for "civil unions" that come with all the benefits of marriage. The administration argues that since civil unions and marriages are materially identical, those states--unlike those without civil unions, or with ones that are lesser than marriage--have surrendered the option of claiming a rational basis in protecting the public fisc.

The only plausible reason they have for denying the name marriage, the argument continues, is disapprobation of homosexuality, which the court rejected as a rational basis in both Romer and Lawrence. Thus, the administration urges, if the court won't apply heightened scrutiny it should order those nine states to abolish the distinction between civil unions and marriages.

There's no indication what Justice Kennedy made of this particular argument; he didn't ask Verrilli any questions on Tuesday. But it seems to us that it misunderstands the nature of the rational-basis test and runs counter to the logic of Romer and Lawrence. Rational basis is a test that involves both ends and means. Promoting public health, for example, would obviously be a rational basis for a statute banning smoking in bars, but it might not suffice to justify a statute banning smoking only in gay bars.

In both Romer and Lawrence, Kennedy stressed the mismatch between the (at least theoretical) onerousness of the means and the amorphous nature of the end (expressing disapprobation of homosexuality).

From Romer: "Homosexuals, by state decree, are put in a solitary class with respect to transactions and relations in both the private and governmental spheres. The amendment withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination, and it forbids reinstatement of these laws and policies. . . . [The law's] sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests."

From Lawrence: "When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the State, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres. . . . The stigma this criminal statute imposes, moreover, is not trivial. The offense, to be sure, is but a class C misdemeanor, a minor offense in the Texas legal system. Still, it remains a criminal offense with all that imports for the dignity of the persons charged."

California law, by contrast, treats homosexual couples as equal to heterosexual couples in every respect except for the official name it applies to their relationships. And "civil unions" implies no disapprobation, merely a lesser degree of approbation than "marriage." It's hard to imagine a less onerous law.

If Scalia was right, then Romer and Lawrence stand for the view that to disapprove of homosexuality, or even to view it less favorably than heterosexuality, is an irrational idea that cannot be allowed to influence public policy even in the most minimal ways. But that sounds like strict scrutiny to us.

If Scalia was wrong, the court could uphold Proposition 8 on the ground that it imposes a burden so minimal that the rational-basis test is far easier to meet than it was in Romer or Lawrence.

4663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: ah, the post racial political climate on: March 29, 2013, 02:10:45 PM
From the article:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said there was "no excuse" for the comment, in which Young described Latino workers on his family farm as "wetbacks" in a radio interview Thursday.

We will not judge people by the moisture content of their skin, nor by the validity of their documents.
4664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy - Next is the Pot Tax on: March 29, 2013, 01:17:35 PM
First this on the previous post - people are leaving failed liberal states and going to the freer, lower tax, supply side states for economic reasons.  Unfortunately they are not leaving their failed political ideas behind.  Case in point: Colorado.  Leading us to this:
Cash-starved states eye pot tax     3/28/13

The legalization argument went something like this, make it legal, drive the price down and liberty will replace crime across the fruited plain.

Enter the tax man.  Pass these bills and your private transactions are no longer legal - or private.  I wonder if this is what the libertarian, just leave me alone, recreational users had in mind.

Half the states already tax it even while it is illegal:  In 10 years under the stamp act in MN, fewer than 20 people bought the stamps and I doubt if the reasons were for tax law compliance.

4665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chicago, L.A. and NYC ranked last in terms of federal gun law enforcement on: March 29, 2013, 12:48:26 PM
Chicago leads the nation with lowest rate of prosecution for federal gun crimes.  ?

Good news I suppose that the strict local laws have chased away gun violence. ?  Tell that to the victims:

If only we had more laws - to further restrict the rights of the law-abiding.
4666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Shiller= economic illiterate? on: March 29, 2013, 12:38:15 PM

Yes. Same Shiller.  The piece begins: "With much of the global economy apparently trapped in a long and painful austerity-induced slump..."  Austerity-induced slump??!!

"There is a way out of this trap...away from austerity...increasing taxes even more..."

As a Professor of Economics at Yale University, this is what we choose to teach our best and brightest.  sad   Taking from Reagan, "it is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so."

Shiller continued: "This kind of enlightened stimulus (good grief!) runs into strong prejudices. For starters, people tend to think of taxes as a loathsome infringement on their freedom, as if petty bureaucrats will inevitably squander the increased revenue on useless and ineffective government employees and programs.

Yes we do!

With Prof. Case a fellow at Harvard and Prof. Shiller teaching at Yale, living in a bubble takes on new meaning.  Thanks to PP and Crafty, I don't think I will quote a Case-Shiller index ever again except for taking any opportunity to discredit it.

For credibility(?), it is now called the S&P Case Shiller Index.  Isn't S&P the group charged by the Eric Holder Justice Department with Fraud?

4667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 28, 2013, 06:30:45 PM
"I have no idea what Mort Zuckerman is talking about that foreigners coming here for education are not staying here."

The studies confirm both sides. Plenty are staying.  Most at the highest technology levels are planning to leave.
4668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: March 27, 2013, 04:30:16 PM
"d) "“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve gotta (sic) have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded [as the United States military]”–Candidate Barack Obama, 2008"

"A civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded as the United States military" - it turns out the President-to-be was mocking the constitutional phrase 'well regulated militias'.  He was actually proposing to expand the government workforce or, worse yet, make government service mandatory for young people.  Unarmed but "just as powerful, just as strong" is an example of why people here came up with the phrase "cognitive dissonance - glibness'.  Meanwhile he is disarming our military and canceling missile defense sites.

Tough words like unarmed civilians did not scare off the Benghazi attackers, just like gun free zone signs don't scare off criminals.

4669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: March 27, 2013, 12:38:40 PM
I'd love to see the data for 2011-12 as part of the graph , , ,

It would appear that both the SSDI new application rate and the unemployment rate are in a flat line pattern right now, both at unacceptably high levels:

What should be shocking, and isn't, is that disability is more closely tied to economic not medical condition.
4670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues - Economic Liberty is your accesss to the pond on: March 27, 2013, 11:08:29 AM
We know about the programs, taxes and regulations here in the US that are overly burdensome.  Then we hear of stories from third world countries where regulations are even worse, much worse.  Only the richest people with the deepest pockets and highest connections can jump through the hoops that empower the powerful and hold down the masses.

While we argue the age old question of whether you help people best by giving them a fish or by teaching them to fish, one observer pointed out that what we really are doing with our policies is denying them access to the pond.

Economic liberty is your access to the pond.  You shouldn't be taxed and regulated like a mulit-national conglomerate with teams of extra employees dedicated to compliance before you have found your first customer or earned your first dollar.

The default position ought to be that a person who is infringing on no one else ought to have a right to make a living.

One comprehensive set of measurements applied across the globe over time is the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom (already posted in other threads):  What we know is that with each country's policies they are choosing between being rich and poor.  If the choice is between being free and prosperous versus forcing people to either stay in poverty or be held back from improving their lives, aren't we really choosing between right and wrong?
4671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economy: Great Recession Has Been Followed by the Grand Illusion on: March 27, 2013, 10:06:23 AM
Monday's WSJ:

Mortimer Zuckerman: The Great Recession Has Been Followed by the Grand Illusion

Don't be fooled by the latest jobs numbers. The unemployment situation in the U.S. is still dire.

The Great Recession is an apt name for America's current stagnation, but the present phase might also be called the Grand Illusion—because the happy talk and statistics that go with it, especially regarding jobs, give a rosier picture than the facts justify.

The country isn't really advancing. By comparison with earlier recessions, it is going backward. Despite the most stimulative fiscal policy in American history and a trillion-dollar expansion to the money supply, the economy over the last three years has been declining. After 2.4% annual growth rates in gross domestic product in 2010 and 2011, the economy slowed to 1.5% growth in 2012. Cumulative growth for the past 12 quarters was just 6.3%, the slowest of all 11 recessions since World War II.

And last year's anemic growth looks likely to continue. Sequestration will take $600 billion of government expenditures out of the economy over the next 10 years, including $85 billion this year alone. The 2% increase in payroll taxes will hit about 160 million workers and drain $110 billion from their disposable incomes. The Obama health-care tax will be a drag of more than $30 billion. The recent 50-cent surge in gasoline prices represents another $65 billion drag on consumer cash flow.

February's headline unemployment rate was portrayed as 7.7%, down from 7.9% in January. The dip was accompanied by huzzahs in the news media claiming the improvement to be "outstanding" and "amazing." But if you account for the people who are excluded from that number—such as "discouraged workers" no longer looking for a job, involuntary part-time workers and others who are "marginally attached" to the labor force—then the real unemployment rate is somewhere between 14% and 15%.

Enlarge Image

Other numbers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have deteriorated. The 236,000 net new jobs added to the economy in February is misleading—the gross number of new jobs included 340,000 in the part-time, low wage category. Many of the so-called net new jobs are second or third jobs going to people who are already working, rather than going to those who are unemployed.

The number of Americans unemployed for six months or longer went up by 89,000 in February to a total of 4.8 million. The average duration of unemployment rose to 36.9 weeks, up from 35.3 weeks in January. The labor-force participation rate, which measures the percentage of working-age people in the workforce, also dropped to 63.5%, the lowest in 30 years. The average workweek is a low 34.5 hours thanks to employers shortening workers' hours or asking employees to take unpaid leave.

Since World War II, it has typically taken 24 months to reach a new peak in employment after the onset of a recession. Yet the country is more than 60 months away from its previous high in 2007, and the economy is still down 3.2 million jobs from that year.

Just to absorb the workforce's new entrants, the U.S. economy needs to add 1.8 million to three million new jobs every year. At the current rate, it will be seven years before the jobs lost in the Great Recession are restored. Employers will need to make at least 300,000 hires every month to recover the ground that has been lost.

The job-training programs announced by the Obama administration in his State of the Union address are sensible, but they won't soon bridge the gap for workers with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Nor is there yet any reform of the patent system, which imposes long delays on innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs seeking approvals. It often takes two years to obtain the environmental health and safety permits to build a modern electronic plant, a lifetime in the tech world.

When employers can't expand or develop new lines because of the shortage of certain skills, the employment opportunities for the less skilled are also restricted. To help with this shortage, the administration's proposals for job-training programs do deserve support. The stress should be on vocational training, postsecondary education and every program that will broaden access to computer science and strengthen science, technology, engineering and math in high schools and at the university level.

But the payoffs from these programs are in the future, and it is vital today to increase the number of annual visas and grants of permanent residency status for foreigners skilled in science and technology. The current situation is preposterous: The brightest and best brains from all over the globe are attracted to American universities, but once they get their degrees America sends them packing. Keeping these foreigners out means they will compete against us in the industries that are growing here and around the world.

More at the link:

Mr. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report.
4672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs, spending, deficit, budget: SSI Disability on: March 27, 2013, 10:01:19 AM
As the number receiving disability checks approaches 12 million and the number of new recipients growing faster than job growth, it seems to me we should either:  a) fire the surgeon general for completely ignoring the known cause of this epidemic, or b) celebrate the fact that we now have the healthiest disabled workers to ever walk this planet, helping to support our restaurants, bars and golf courses across the fruited plain.

Obama's economy is empirically causing American disability, more than heart attacks or strokes, cigarettes or sodas:

4673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Liberal fascism: James Taranto WSJ on Nanny State Advocacy on: March 26, 2013, 11:51:50 AM
First, bringing this post over from Cognitive Dissonance of the Left thread:

Continuing in our get to the know the left series. 

It’s For Your Own Good!
Cass R. Sunstein

Left thinker Sunstein reviews "Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism"
by Sarah Conly which explains with a straight face why a system of "paternalist" government-based decision making is better than individual free choices.  I kid you not.

"Conly convincingly argues that behavioral findings raise significant questions about Mill’s harm principle [coersion can only be to prevent harm to others]. When people are imposing serious risks on themselves, it is not enough to celebrate freedom of choice and ignore the consequences."

Yesterday Sarah Conly argued her points in the New York Times: 
Three Cheers for the Nanny State
Published: March 24, 2013

In today's online WSJ and linked at Real Clear Politics Opinion Journal Editor James Taranto taking her to task, pointing out a little cognitive dissonance in the choices of liberal left nanny state advocates.  In our continuing, content sharing agreement with the WSJ I thank them for generously listing yours truly in the credits at the end of the column.  )

Don't Nudge Me There
If government may dictate soda size, why not sexual behavior?


If you want to get published on the op-ed page of a major newspaper, a good way to go about it is to make a reasonable, or at least reasonable-sounding, case for an unpopular and outlandish position. It's important that the issue be trivial, so that readers will get riled up but no one will really feel offended or threatened.

Philosopher Sarah Conly, author of a new book called "Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism," has discovered the formula. In a New York Times op-ed titled "Three Cheers for the Nanny State," she defends Mayor Michael Bloomberg's almost universally ridiculed (and judicially enjoined) ban on large sodas and other sugary beverages.

Conly's argument doesn't seem unreasonable, though it is incoherent in places. In a parenthetical aside, for example, she mocks opponents for objecting over such a trivial matter: "Large cups of soda as symbols of human dignity? Really?" (Note to the editors: That "Really?" is lazy writing. Why not let a rhetorical question stand on its own? See what we mean?) But of course she wants us to take her defense of this silly policy as a serious philosophical argument.

Then there's this priceless passage: "Do we care so much about our health that we want to be forced to go to aerobics every day and give up all meat, sugar and salt? No. But in this case, it's some extra soda. Banning a law on the grounds that it might lead to worse laws would mean we could have no laws whatsoever."

Oddly, Conly bases her reductio ad absurdum on false empirical premises. The benefits and risks of exercise, and of particular forms of exercise, vary from individual to individual. And giving up all meat and salt, unlike sugar, is likely to harm your health.

The best part is that conclusion. Essentially she's saying that if you accept one slippery-slope argument, you have to accept all slippery-slope arguments. Therefore, slippery-slope arguments are unsound.

We police the front seat. Why not the back seat?

But wait, that's a slippery-slope argument! You've heard of the liar's paradox? Its simplest form is the statement "This statement is false." Conly's greatest contribution to philosophy may be the slippery-slope argument against slippery-slope arguments. Call it the slipper's paradox.

We're less impressed with Conly's argument in favor of the soda ban and measures like it. She rebuts John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century liberal philosopher who established the "harm principle"--the idea that coercion is generally justified only to prevent individuals from harming others. Mill also allowed that there were unusual cases in which government would be justified in restricting an individual's behavior for his own good--"when we are acting out of ignorance and doing something we'll pretty definitely regret." Since it's common knowledge that large quantities of refined sugar are bad for you, that wouldn't justify the soda ban.

Conly thinks Mill didn't go far enough in justifying coercion. Science has shown "that we often don't think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends," she writes. "We make errors. . . . We are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations." Thus we should surrender a measure of autonomy and yield to rules promulgated by experts, who presumably know what's good for us: "Giving up a little liberty is something we agree to when we agree to live in a democratic society that is governed by laws."

Again she brings up the slippery slope: "What people fear is that this is just the beginning: today it's soda, tomorrow it's the guy standing behind you making you eat your broccoli, floss your teeth, and watch 'PBS NewsHour' every day."

Crazy, right? Maybe not. Conly's op-ed never mentions smoking, but in a sympathetic review in the New York Review of Books, Cass Sunstein reports that in "Against Autonomy" she argues "that because the health risks of smoking are so serious, the government should ban it." (Sunstein, a legal scholar and former Obama administration official, is coauthor of the 2008 book "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness," which makes an argument similar to Conly's.)

What's interesting about the smoking-ban proposal is that while it is culturally radical, it is not philosophically radical. Is there any doubt that if cigarettes were a new invention, lawmakers would quickly ban them? Libertarians would object, on the same ground that they argue for the legalization of other drugs. But their point of view would command little public support, at least unless and until illicit cigarette smoking became as widespread as illicit marijuana use is today.

That is to say that a moderate form of Conly's philosophy has long prevailed, even in as freedom-loving a country as America. While we may bridle at being told we can't do something we are used to doing or didn't realize we weren't supposed to do, generally we don't do so as a matter of principle. (Libertarians, you're off the hook on that observation.) Generally speaking, Americans accept a wide variety of regulations on their personal behavior that are designed to be in their own good.

So what does Conly have to say that is original? Well, her book is called "Against Autonomy" and subtitled "Justifying Coercive Paternalism." That makes it sound as if she is advocating aggressive and thoroughgoing government intrusion into individual decision-making. Her positions on the soda ban and tobacco prohibition seem to bolster that. But those take her only slightly beyond the views that today prevail among the left-liberal elite.

Similarly, according to Sunstein, she endorses Bloomberg's ban on trans fats as well as "regulations designed to reduce portion sizes"--presumably of solid food as well as dissolved sugar. But in areas in which her philosophy would seem to conflict with prevailing left-liberal views, she's less adventurous than Bloomberg:

    She is far more ambivalent about Mayor Bloomberg's effort to convince the US Department of Agriculture to authorize a ban on the use of food stamps to buy soda. She is not convinced that the health benefits would be significant, and she emphasizes that people really do enjoy drinking soda.

You'd think the logic of "coercive paternalism"--of government-imposed restrictions designed to promote individual welfare--would apply more strongly when individuals are dependent on government for financial support of their welfare. To put it another way, someone who is financially autonomous has a stronger argument that he ought to be personally autonomous. We're not sure what Conly thinks of that argument--the $95 cover price (0% off at Amazon) has nudged us away from acquiring her book--but we suspect she adheres less strongly to "coercive paternalism" than to the orthodoxies of contemporary left-liberalism.

An even better example is this observation from Sunstein's review: "Because hers is a paternalism of means rather than ends, she would not authorize government to stamp out sin (as, for example, by forbidding certain forms of sexual behavior)."

What a staggering cop-out. The past 50 years or so have seen a massive deregulation of personal behavior in the sexual sphere, a revolution of law, technology, custom and economics, all in the name of personal autonomy. Never mind "sin"--this has had bad consequences for public health (AIDS and other new sexually transmitted diseases), for children (far more of whom are born out of wedlock and reared without fathers), and even for the future of the welfare state (since declining fertility makes old-age entitlements unsustainable).

It may be that the sexual revolution is irreversible and the concomitant problems are intractable. If Conly lacks the imagination to come up with policy solutions, so do we. But if she dismisses this enormous question as a matter of "sin" and focuses instead on trivia like soda-size regulations, why should we take her philosophy seriously?
4674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Congressional races 2014, Sen Tim Johnson (D-SD) out on: March 26, 2013, 11:11:35 AM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson was expected to announce his retirement Tuesday, making the state the fifth where Democrats will have to defend a seat without an incumbent seeking re-election. The decision opens up a 2014 race that Republicans had already labeled as a top target to grab a seat.
Johnson joins Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey as seasoned and influential Democrats departing the chamber, where Republicans need to gain six seats to take control.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds and current Rep Kristi Noem would be possible replacements.  )
4675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Hillary's emails hacked on: March 20, 2013, 01:22:03 PM

I hope they prosecute the hacker but also learn from the info about what was going on / not going on relating to this attack and scandal, since no one else will tell us.  My understanding is that Valerie Jarrett was the director of the coverup.

"My good friend Chris" couldn't get his security requests answered to save his life.   If we are so far into this administration that they didn't even think to blame the disaster on George Bush, then this administration has almost nothing left.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE NOW - that we let al Qaida win this round.  Hillary has moved on to gay marriage.  If she is out of public life, who cares what she thinks about social issues.
4676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: March 18, 2013, 02:39:10 PM
MHO, because they went up way too far, too fast previously, up 4 times more than the Dow since 2000.
4677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: America's Inner City; WRM - Detroit's governing decadence on: March 16, 2013, 09:51:04 AM

March 15, 2013
Detroit Dems Enrich Wall Street As City Goes Bust
Walter Russell Mead

Michigan made it official this week: Detroit can no longer survive without adult supervision. Michigan’s governor named Kevyn Orr, a DC bankruptcy lawyer, to handle the city’s affairs on an emergency basis as the deep blue city makes a last ditch effort to avoid the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

During the long grim slide, much of Detroit’s population fled the implosion; those who remained suffered through declining city services. Schools, police, fire, infrastructure: all the vital services cities are supposed to provide have gone into steep decline.

But while the city’s mostly low-income and mostly African-American residents struggled to survive civic decline, the ill wind from Detroit blew somebody good: well connected Wall Street firms have feasted on the Motor City’s carcass.

Ever since the long death spiral began, Detroit has relied on periodic bond sales to keep its bills paid. The thinking was clear: borrow now, pay it back later when the city’s finances recover. Of course, Detroit’s finances never recovered, and now it’s on the hook for much of this borrowing, in addition to the fees that these banks charged.

And these are serious fees. Bloomberg reports that since 2005, Wall Street banks have charged the city a whopping $474 million. As a comparison, that’s about as much as the city’s current entire police and fire budget for this year:

    “The banks promise to get you the money and say you can pay later,” said Greg Bowens, spokesman for Stand Up For Democracy, a Lansing group that campaigned last year to repeal the law allowing appointment of a financial manager. “They get their fees off the top, and you trust that they’re doing what’s in your taxpayers’ best interest.”

As Detroit is learning now, in many cases they weren’t. And Detroit is not alone: In city after city, struggling pension funds have turned to exotic Wall Street investments claiming high returns and minimal risks. In some cases this is working out, in many more it isn’t, but either way, Wall Street is collecting its fees and leaving taxpayers and pensioners to pick up the pieces when it falls apart.

Democrats are shocked, shocked by the news that there is gambling going on in America’s blue cities. They do their best to avert their eyes from the close political ties between corrupt urban political machines and exploitative Wall Street banks. In the lame progressive mindset that characterizes these decadent times, Wall Street is bad, and urban politicians are good. There can’t possibly be some sort of symbiotic relationship between them. How could something so good, so honest, so dedicated to serving the poor as the Detroit Democratic machine be engaged in a vicious conspiracy with Wall Street to bleed the poor and suck the city dry?

Some Democrats don’t like this kind of talk because they are cynical and others don’t like it because they are naive. The cynics are either in the game themselves or knowingly agree to look the other way because they value the support of political allies and don’t care how much those allies bleed the poor. The naive ones, and there are lots of starry eyed intellectuals in this country who don’t know a hawk from a handsaw, think that because many of these urban thugs are African-American, and because they advocate for more government programs to help the poor, they must obviously be sincere and be part of a general wave of good progressive people fighting to make this world a better place. Surely nobody is so cynical as to lobby for government programs because they plan to cream off the money?

Others have an uneasy sense that something is amiss, but a combination of historical ignorance and race sensitivity strikes them dumb. They look around America and see a number of urban areas with predominantly African-American populations. They see that many (not all) of these cities are run by incompetent, race-baiting hacks and criminals who use identity politics to bond themselves to the voters they exploit.

Because they don’t understand that corruption and identity politics have been the hallmark of American municipal government since the 1830s and 184os, they think the ghastly spectacle of demagogic corruption ruining our cities today is somehow a racial phenomenon. The racists among us see that picture and want to draw racist conclusions about African-American capacity for self governance; most of the rest of us are made so uncomfortable by the whole topic that we let the subject slide.

But thieves like the despicable Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit are anything but a racial phenomenon. There were Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish and Greek Kilpatricks in their day. We can confidently expect a wave of Latino Kilpatricks as Latino voting power pushes African-American machines aside in more urban areas.

And there’s another thing American history teaches: unscrupulous politicians will find unscrupulous bankers who will float them abusive loans in exchange for fat fees.

If our so-called ‘progressives’ today weren’t so intellectually decadent and, well, historically challenged, they would be leading the charge to clean up American cities. Instead they are mostly silent — and sometimes even defend the machines.

It’s a terrible shame because reformers and progressives really can fight the rot and help the poor — if they can get past their messed up ‘political correctness’ illusions long enough to recognize the basic facts of the case. Some people are trying. Politicians like (one hopes) Cory Booker are part of the wave of renewal and change that slowly and bit by bit can make a change. Courageous prosecutors, crusading attorneys-general, fiercely determined governors are part of the solution. And so are presidents who believe that their oath of office obliges them to attack with special force and determination the organized political machines that use a whole series of corrupt and collusive procedures to deprive American citizens of their right to a republican form of government.

Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Governor Snyder’s choice of Kevyn Orr to take the reins in Detroit is looking good. For one thing, Orr has a history of turning around failing organizations in Michigan. He was partially responsible for guiding Chrysler through bankruptcy in 2009. Given that many expect Detroit to enter bankruptcy as well, Orr’s skill set in this area is likely to come in handy. But perhaps most importantly, Orr, along with 82 percent of Detroit’s population, is black.

The mix of political machines, unscrupulous bosses and low income voters is not inherently a racial issue, but Detroit’s problems can’t be separated from racial concerns. Ever since the state of emergency was announced, many in Detroit have been concerned that the emergency manager law is effectively taking control away from the city’s black population and putting it in the hands of a manager appointed by a white Republican governor.

Michigan has a real mess on its hands. As Bloomberg notes, Detroit now joins Flint, Benton Harbor, Pontiac and a few other, smaller cities under emergency management. These cities account for nearly 50 percent of the state’s black population, so that almost half the black people in Michigan now live in places where local government has effectively lost power. In Benton Harbor in particular, the current situation has sparked racial concern:

    “If I’m a young, African-American person growing up in Detroit or Benton Harbor or one of these mostly black areas, what is the message that sends?” Pilgrim said. “It certainly looks like the message is that people that look like you can’t govern.” [...]

    “I don’t see how it couldn’t be racially motivated,” Williams, 30, said of the law. “We will stop this because of folks who stood before us, like Medgar Evers, who fought for voting rights.”

It’s true that the emergency manager law is taking power away from Detroiters and other Michigan urbanites, and we certainly hope that the state can return control to the people as soon as possible. But despite the fears of a hostile outside takeover, most of Detroit’s problems come from the corrupt political machine that has been looting the city for decades — and from the indifferent state and national prosecutors and politicians who failed to address the lawless state of city government and left the city’s poor to the mercies of heartless thugs.

Following in the footsteps of cheap foreign demagogues like Robert Mugabe, Kwame Kilpatrick and others of his ilk have played relentlessly on identity politics to earn support from poor, minority communities while using the power of their office to funnel money out of these same communities and into their own pockets. And while Kilpatrick—who was just indicted on 24 charges of corruption—may be the worst of the lot, he was far from alone.

What they have left behind is a city where taxes are among the highest in the nation, yet which can’t afford to pay its pensions, provide adequate police service, or keep the lights on.

The best way to stop future tragedies like this is to enforce the law. From voting fraud to corrupt relations with contractors and financiers to fraudulent accounting on pensions, many American cities are being run more like criminal conspiracies than anything else. And the cost isn’t just the money the politicians steal, or the inflated profits that those doing business with a crooked city can earn or even the sweetheart deals with public sector unions who function as part of the machine. It is the shambolic education offered to generations of poor kids, the lack of protection for person and property, the burden of a government that is both costly and ineffective and the enterprises and jobs such a government kills or drives away: corrupt big city machines may be the most important single civil rights issue in America today.

This is not, repeat not, a black thing. Historically, most of America’s worst urban machines have been white criminal enterprises. Often in American history, a combination of identity politics, fear and hopes of getting scraps from the machine have prevented poor people in the cities from organizing against their criminal masters. In the past it was often progressives and middle class reformers, some of the same ethnicity as most of the victims, others from different groups, who banded together to drive out the crooks. The criminals did their best to smear the reformers and identity politics was part of their shtick. Tammany Hall accused its critics of being anti-Catholic or anti-Irish bigots. Prosecutors who attacked the mafia were called anti-Italian. And so it goes.

Urban machines have a legitimate place in American politics. New waves of immigrants into urban America — whether from Europe, Asia, Latin America or the rural South — benefit from organizing to protect their economic and political issues. The machines allow them to assert themselves, claim a share of city patronage and business, and direct city resources to communities that might otherwise be overlooked.

But unchecked and uncontrolled, these machines have a tendency to go over the line. Graft proliferates; crony appointments degrade the quality of governance to the point that city administration is no longer able to function. This is where the reformers come in, pushing back against the tendency of political machines to jump the shark, imposing some limits and discipline on what goes on. Partly because today’s progressives are moral cowards who have allowed themselves to be shamed by the race card, this process of balance and reform didn’t really get underway in Detroit (and perhaps elsewhere) until enormous damage had already been done.

By overlooking the corruption and a mafia thinly disguised as a political party for so long, the authorities of the United States deprived the citizens of Detroit of the equal protection of the law. That must not happen in our other cities; municipal government in this country needs to be much more transparent, and law enforcement really needs to crack down.

Without this, all the federal block grants or social programs in the world will help those trapped in the inner cities escape poverty and get the education and skills they need to build the kind of future all Americans want.

This is the pre-eminent civil rights problem of our day and is devastating minority communities throughout the country. Our political establishment, our university faculties and fashionable intellectuals, our newspaper editorialists, our legal profession and our clergy stand essentially silent; it is the silence of shame.
4678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: March 15, 2013, 11:34:04 AM
When does Woodward wake up to find a horse's head in his bed?

In the first term maybe it would have been a dead fish. "one pollster who notoriously ticked off Rahm Emmanuel received a 2 1/2 foot decomposing fish in the mail -- ripe, stinky, and to the point."

What is amazing in the Woodward smear is that all these attack pieces start by admitting the context and motive.

I never really liked Woodward.  But if it is not him, who is the gold standard of Washington reporting?
4679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: European matters, tax policy, climate? EU to suspend aviation carbon tax on: March 15, 2013, 11:26:26 AM
EU to suspend aviation carbon tax
4680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Univ of Colorado (Boulder) hires conservative for temporary outreach program on: March 15, 2013, 10:59:32 AM
A long national search has resulted in Steven Hayward of Powerline, AEI, Reagan biographer and prolific author etc.  chosen by Univ Colo as their temporary, visiting conservative.

I don't know if this is sad, funny, an admission of guilt or encouraging.   I will go with the latter.   Univ of Colo, was recently the comfortable home of Prof. Ward Churchill [Americans killed on 9/11 deserve their fate because they were participants in the capitalist system.,2933,146031,00.html#ixzz2NcjZ4FUP]  Churchill was fired for research misconduct, not for his outrageous statements.

The campus of 32,000 students and 3,800 tenured and tenure-eligible faculty could use a resident scholar of conservative thought and policy — maybe two or three... A survey conducted at the University of Colorado found only 23 of 825 faculty respondents self-identified as Republicans.

Hayward announces that UC "agreed with my insistence that they not set up a separate “conservative studies” program that would implicitly ratify the separatism (or “ghettoization”) of gender studies, etc.  Instead, I’ll be working in and through the political science department, teaching regular catalogue courses (one of them will be the two-semester sequence of Con Law I & II for undergraduates)."

"it may be that the folks at Colorado see conservative thought and policy as a sort of historical artifact — something that will help students understand why almost all of their professors have embraced progressive ideas and liberal solutions to our personal and social challenges."

"Regrettably, it is likely that Hayward’s classes will become a refuge for conservative students in search of relief from the liberal condescension that rolls effortlessly off the tongues of many faculty members. But liberal students of a truly liberal mind will not be disappointed if they register for a Hayward class. They might be challenged, they might be outraged, but they will not be disappointed. Unfortunately, whatever Colorado accomplishes with this little experiment, it is a blip on the radar screen of the national academy."

This will be interesting to watch.
4681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dem budgets never balance - leave a legacy of debt on: March 15, 2013, 10:32:34 AM
Dem Senators want to raise taxes by a trillion and a half and still never balance the budget even working with a ridiculously long ten year time frame.

Kick the can down the road.  Who lives down the road?  Our children.  What American generation would leave their children worse off than themselves?  Only our own as far as I know.
4682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media still pounding on Woodward on: March 14, 2013, 04:25:34 PM
Bob will-regret-this Woodward had quite an awful career in journalism I have very recently learned, 3rd or 4th post on this:

The Breitbart story in particular is loaded with links.

Slate excerpts:

"How accurate is his reporting? Does he deserve his legendary status?  I believe I can offer some interesting answers to those questions."...
"he’d put down the mechanics of the story more or less as they’d happened. But he’d so mangled the meaning and the context that his version had nothing to do with what I concluded had actually transpired."
"The wrongness in Woodward’s reporting is always ever so subtle."
"Again, Woodward’s account is not wrong. It’s just … wrong."
"Like a funhouse mirror, Woodward’s prose distorts what it purports to reflect."
"Bob Woodward, deploying all of the talent and resources for which he is famous, produced something that is a failure as journalism."

Woodward's employer, the Washington Post owns Slate.

I wonder what pissed everybody off...

4683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / For Communist Party leader and military chief: a 'China Dream' of Military Power on: March 14, 2013, 03:49:42 PM
I wonder if Admiral Locklear and/or President Obama have read this report about the other religion of peace.  No mention of global warming as the biggest threat.

WSJ   CHINA NEWS (not the opinion section)  March 13, 2013, 8:19 a.m. ET

For Xi, a 'China Dream' of Military Power


BEIJING—Soon after taking over as Communist Party and military chief, Xi Jinping launched a series of speeches referring to "The China Dream."

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping visited the destroyer Haikou in December and spoke of the 'dream of a strong military.'

It was music to the ears of Col. Liu Mingfu of the People's Liberation Army.

Three years ago, the former professor at its National Defense University wrote a book of the same name, arguing that China should aim to surpass the U.S. as the world's top military power and predicting a marathon contest for global dominion. The book flew off the shelves but was pulled over concerns it could damage relations with the U.S., according to people familiar with its publication.

The day after Mr. Xi's first "China Dream" speech, however, Col. Liu's publisher called to say he had gotten approval to launch a new edition. Now, it is on display in the "recommended books" section of a state-run bookstore.

"I don't know if he read the book, but he has sent a strong message," Col. Liu said in an interview at his apartment here, leaping to his feet with excitement to leaf through letters of support. "He could have grasped the economy, or some social issues, but instead he grasped the military."

As Mr. Xi prepares to add Chinese president to his other titles on Thursday, during a parliament meeting that caps a once-a-decade leadership change, "The China Dream" has become his signature. Officially defined as the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, it in some ways echoes previous leaders dating back to the Qing Dynasty's collapse in 1912. But Mr. Xi is making the idea his own by giving it a strikingly military flavor.
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"This dream can be said to be the dream of a strong nation. And for the military, it is a dream of a strong military," Mr. Xi told sailors in December on board the Haikou, a guided-missile destroyer that has patrolled disputed waters in the South China Sea. "To achieve the great revival of the Chinese nation, we must ensure there is unison between a prosperous country and strong military."

Mr. Xi has also made high-profile visits to army, air force, space program and missile command facilities in his first 100 days in office, something neither of his two immediate predecessors did. He has taken personal control of China's military response to a newly inflamed territorial dispute with Japan. And he has launched a campaign to enhance the armed forces' capacity to "fight and win wars."

All this leads many diplomats, party insiders and analysts to believe Mr. Xi is casting himself as a strong military leader at home and embracing a more hawkish worldview long outlined by generals who think the U.S. is in decline and China will become the dominant military power in Asia by midcentury.

In doing so, they say, Mr. Xi is setting the stage for a prolonged period of tension between China and its neighbors, as well as for a potentially dangerous tussle for influence with a U.S. that is intent on reasserting its role as the dominant Pacific power.

He has even set a precise date for the fulfillment of his dream: 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Communist takeover of China.

No doubt Mr. Xi has a domestic political agenda. As the son of a revolutionary leader, he has strong family ties to the military and a keen appreciation for its role in elite Chinese politics. In another speech, he made clear he believes the Soviet Union collapsed largely because the Soviet Communist Party lost command of the military.

Some believe Mr. Xi is trying to build support among China's powerful generals as a prelude to launching potentially disruptive economic and other reforms, including moves to curb corruption within the military itself. Others suspect he is trying to distract attention from problems that could derail Chinese growth, especially official corruption and abuse of power, an issue highlighted by the Bo Xilai scandal last year.

More broadly, Mr. Xi is determined to set himself apart from his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who was popularly viewed as relatively weak and colorless, say party insiders, family friends, diplomats and analysts.

Whatever his domestic goals, Mr. Xi's military posturing represents a clear break with the past that has potentially profound implications for China's foreign and defense policies.

"I think this reflects Xi's mind-set, his view of China's strength and relations with the outside world," said Li Mingjiang, an assistant professor and China security-policy expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. "Given his close personal ties, a lot of the information and policy suggestions he gets come from the military."

For three decades, the foundation of China's international relations has been the principle of taoguang yanghui—"hiding capabilities and biding one's time"—which was promoted by the late leader Deng Xiaoping.

Jiang Zemin, who became party and military chief in 1989 but had little authority over the generals until Mr. Deng's death in 1997, eventually won them over with defense-spending increases but kept them focused on building the capacity to defend borders and retake Taiwan.

After Mr. Hu became party chief in 2002, he kept a low military profile, not least because Mr. Jiang remained commander-in-chief until 2004. He focused on China's "peaceful rise," a term later toned down to "peaceful development." Although Mr. Hu encouraged the military to take on broader responsibilities, such as cybersecurity, he stressed their defensive nature.

By contrast, Mr. Xi has quickly asserted his authority over the 11-man Central Military Commission, on which he is the sole civilian. Among his first moves was to issue orders for the armed forces to focus on "real combat" and "fighting and winning wars," suggesting to many observers preparation for conflict beyond China's borders.

Mr. Xi also has added a qualification to Mr. Hu's signature foreign-policy idea: "We will stick to the road of peaceful development," he recently told the Politburo, according to the Xinhua news agency, "but we absolutely will not abandon our legitimate rights and interests, and absolutely cannot sacrifice core national interests." In China, the "core interests" term is taken to mean issues of sovereignty over which China would be prepared to go to war.

Mr. Xi has backed up his words with actions, overseeing a military response to the territorial dispute with Japan that included scrambling Chinese fighter jets and, according to Japanese and U.S. officials, locking weapons-guiding radar onto a Japanese ship and helicopter. Chinese officials deny those incidents.

"The Chinese are making up their own rules," said one U.S. military official, who described the radar incidents as "a serious escalation."

Mr. Xi's words and actions have played well with the Chinese public, as well as with military hawks like "China Dream" author Col. Liu. He and other outspoken officers don't reflect official policy but play an important part in molding public opinion, and do reflect the mind-set of more senior commanders, analysts say.

Col. Liu's book has a preface by Gen. Liu Yazhou, the political commissar of the National Defense University. "In my opinion," the general writes, "the competition between China and the U.S. in the 21st century should be a race, that is, a contest to see whose development results are better, whose comprehensive national power can rise faster, and to finally decide who can become the champion country to lead world progress."

Gen. Liu is among a small group of officers who have met regularly in private with Mr. Xi and helped to shape his strategic worldview, say people familiar with the matter.

For three years or so, many U.S. and Asian officials have attributed China's more assertive behavior, especially on territorial issues, partly to military hawks exerting pressure on a weak civilian leadership through the media, academia and informal lobbying channels.

Now those U.S. and Asian officials' concern is that Mr. Xi, while establishing clear authority over China's generals, has endorsed the more muscular approach to international relations, and a more prominent role for the military in China's development. Since his speech aboard the destroyer, China's military newspapers have been peppered with references to the "dream of a strong military" and the need for "combat readiness."

The PLA's General Staff Office published an article in Qiushi, the official journal of the party's Central Committee, in February that said: "History and reality show us that what determines the political and economic pattern of the world is, in the final analysis, a comparison of great powers' strength, and ultimately depends on force."

The PLA has also issued instructions for training to focus on real combat. Recently it for the first time published a schedule of exercises for the year, which will consist of 40 drills involving joint air-land combat and live fire operations on the open sea.

"Make no mistake, the PRC Navy is focused on war at sea and about sinking an opposing fleet," said Capt. James Fanell, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, at the U.S. Naval Institute in January. "In terms of their ultimate goals, they write a lot about national rejuvenation—restoration of China's rightful place. Well, we have to say: What does that mean? Where were they when they were back in their rightful place?"

For PLA commanders, according to many analysts, the dream of a strong military means securing the defense-spending increases needed to fund costly weapons programs such as aircraft carriers and stealth fighter jets, even as economic growth slows over the next decade.

The PLA has been focused for much of the past decade on developing and deploying the weapons it believes it needs to deny U.S. forces access to waters around China's shores. But while wary of entering an arms race with the U.S., it is increasingly preoccupied with enhancing capabilities to operate farther afield and establishing China as a maritime power.

"Even a blind man could see there is going to be a butter-versus-guns debate not far down the road," said Kenneth Lieberthal, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Many Chinese and foreign analysts see Mr. Xi's military stance, especially regarding the territorial dispute with Japan, as a direct response to the U.S. "pivot" toward Asia.

The short-term aim, those analysts say, is to discourage countries that have territorial disputes with China from feeling emboldened by the U.S. strategy of focusing more on Asia. Longer term, the goal is to convince the U.S. that the strategy is unsustainable, given financial pressures on the Pentagon and China's expanding power.

"China's strength can play a positive role in the region," said Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA general and now a senior researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. "It's a strategic mistake for the U.S. to rely on Japan for its rebalancing in Asia."

One U.S. military adviser said Chinese military strategists see China becoming the dominant power in Asia by midcentury, by which time they believe the world will be divided into spheres of influence dominated by at least four great powers: China, the U.S., the European Union and Russia.

That view also appears to be reflected in Mr. Xi's main foreign-policy initiative, which is a proposal to redefine China's relationship with the U.S. as one between equal "great powers."

U.S. officials and analysts are still waiting for details about the proposal. But many foreign governments fear it is an attempt to curb U.S. influence in Asia, in much the way the U.S. sought to restrict European meddling in the Americas with the Monroe Doctrine in the early 19th century.

War remains an unlikely prospect, say most observers. Even Col. Liu, whose next book is titled "Why the People's Liberation Army Can Win," didn't predict war in "The China Dream," seeing instead a protracted competition that Beijing is destined to win.

Lee Kuan Yew, the former Singaporean leader, has said that Chinese leaders recognize they can't confront the U.S. militarily until they have overtaken it in terms of the development and application of technology. Nonetheless, he says he is sure they aspire to displace the U.S. as the leading power in Asia.

"The 21st century will be a contest for supremacy in the Pacific because that is where the growth will be," Mr. Lee was quoted as saying in a recently published book. "If the U.S. does not hold its ground in the Pacific, it cannot be a world leader."
4684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: March 14, 2013, 12:36:47 PM
Thanks Objectivist.  Sorry that I missed that.
4685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Parenting, the breakdown of the shotgun marriage on: March 14, 2013, 12:03:06 PM
WSJ columnist James Taranto on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to reduce illegitimate parenting

By JAMES TARANTO   WSJ opinion excerpt
At issue is a subway ad campaign by the New York City Department of Social Services. It features photos of grumpy-looking infants (carefully chosen for racial diversity), captioned by messages to their putative parents, written in a toddler-like scrawl. Examples: "Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years." "Honestly Mom . . . chances are he won't stay with you. What happens to me?" "If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% chance of not being in poverty." Viewers of the ad are invited to "text 'NOTNOW' to 877877 for the real cost of teen pregnancy."

"The campaign pulls no punches," writes Goff, though in fact it pulls a very large punch by defining the problem as "teen pregnancy" rather than illegitimate childbearing. If an 18-year-old woman marries and has a child, that's almost certainly better for society, and for the child, than if she waits until she's 20 and gives birth out of wedlock.

Goff describes the opposition to the Bloomberg ad campaign:

    Well, according to Planned Parenthood, "The latest NYC ad campaign creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people." I'm not sure where to start with this lunacy. First off, I thought that as one of the nation's leading sexual-health organizations, Planned Parenthood would focus on decreasing the number of unplanned pregnancies, not celebrating and encouraging them. Did I miss something?

Did you ever! Planned Parenthood may describe itself as a "health organization," but in reality it is an ideological outfit. It is committed to the idea of "reproductive rights" that belong only to women. In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, for instance, the group persuaded the Supreme Court that a married woman has a constitutional right to abort her husband's child without telling him.

If men have no reproductive rights, it follows logically that they have no reproductive responsibilities. That's an abstract formulation, and one with which the law is often inconsistent: Family courts frequently attempt to hold men responsible for their offspring (though that poster slogan "Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years" almost surely makes a false promise to Mom).

But culturally this logic has proved irresistible. In a 1996 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and excerpted by the Brookings Institution, George Akerloff and Janet Yellin found that the introduction of the pill, which gave women control over the reproductive process, freed men from the sense that they were responsible for it. The result was the breakdown of the tradition of the shotgun wedding. Before, it was understood that if a man impregnated a woman, he would marry her. Now, it's up to her to exercise her "reproductive rights" and get an abortion--or to keep the baby and assume primary responsibility for it. Even if a court docks the man for child support, the burden is much greater on the woman.

The contemporary problem of illegitimacy, then, is largely the consequence of Planned Parenthood's ideology of female "reproductive rights" and the technology that made it feasible. Planned Parenthood's hostility toward any effort to tackle, or even acknowledge, the problem is anything but coincidental.

The ad campaign's focus on "teen pregnancy" rather than illegitimacy illustrates a class bias. The two may seem more or less interchangeable inasmuch as the idea of marrying and starting a family at 18 is today virtually unthinkable within the educated class. Today's privileged woman is expected to follow a life script in which high school is followed by college and a career. In that script, a period of sexual and romantic experimentation begins in college or before (made possible thanks to contraception, with abortion available as a Plan C), and marriage and children are expected to wait until after she is established in her career.

The "98%" poster alludes to that life script and makes the dubious supposition that following it--at least if one leaves out college--is realistic for all women. But an important reason women bear children out of wedlock is because they don't expect to find husbands. That's true of some educated older women, who take the plunge into single motherhood as the biological clock approaches its final tick with no suitors in sight. But in society's lower strata, even young women have limited marital prospects.

The illegitimacy rate among black Americans began to reach troubling levels even before the pill and the sexual revolution. "Both white and Negro illegitimacy rates have been increasing, although from dramatically different bases," observed Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his famous 1965 report. "The white rate was 2 percent in 1940; it was 3.07 percent in 1963. In that period, the Negro rate went from 16.8 percent to 23.6 percent." The black illegitimacy rate now approaches 75%; the white rate is higher than the black rate was in the 1960s.

Why were blacks a leading indicator of this disturbing trend? The common explanations are racism, poverty and alleged shortcomings in "black culture." In their 1983 book, "Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question," Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord largely reject those hypotheses: "So far as we have been able to ascertain, the social conditions that we report all follow from demographic features of the black population."

The central demographic feature was a low sex ratio--that is, a shortage of men--among urban blacks: "In 1930, four-fifths of all black families lived in the South, and most were rural." By 1960, less than 60% of black families were Southern and more than 75% of all blacks lived in cities. But more women than men moved to the cities. The low sex ratio was further lowered by black men's high propensity to join the military or end up in prison and by the high rates of infant mortality among blacks (boys are more apt than girls to die during childhood).

Guttentag and Secord explained:

    Predictions for the cluster of social, sexual, and cultural consequences of low sex ratio demography include the following: black men would be reluctant to make a long-term marital commitment to one woman throughout her childbearing years; black men would be reluctant to marry and to invest in parenthood; black men would have a number of women sequentially or simultaneously; sexual libertarianism would be the ethos, and illegitimate births would be common; brief sexual liaisons with black men would be frequent; black male attitudes would be misogynistic; women would not be highly valued or respected; sex roles would be less differentiated; and black women would seek and possibly achieve economic, social and sexual independence for themselves, rather than acquiring economic or social status through marriage. . . .

    To avoid any misunderstanding, let us . . . emphasize that none of these social consequences has anything to do with being black. . . . Our position is that the same social consequences would follow for a white population having similarly low sex ratios and similar accentuating conditions.

Sex ratios are not sufficient to explain the subsequent explosion of illegitimacy across the population, but sex-ratio theory helps explain how another social revolution of the 1960s--feminism, in this context meaning female careerism--contributed.

As this column has repeatedly noted, women are hypergamous, which means that their instinct is to be attracted to men of higher status than themselves. When the societywide status of women increases relative to men, the effect is to diminish the pool of suitable men for any given woman. If most women reject most men as not good enough for them, the effect is no different from that of a low sex ratio. High-status men, being in short supply, set the terms of relationships, resulting in libertine sexual mores and higher illegitimacy.

Suppose Bloomberg's ad campaign is successful at inducing a large number of lower-class teenage women to stay in school, pursue careers, and forgo childbearing until marriage. If they succeed in school and work, they will find their marital prospects further limited by competition from other successful women. The problem of illegitimacy isn't soluble through moral suasion. The sexual and feminist revolutions are so deeply embedded in American culture and law that it may not be tractable at all.
4686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama administration budget nonsense: The children won't get vaccinations? on: March 14, 2013, 11:48:34 AM
Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland:  "So let me get it — let me get it straight. Under the president’s cut of $58 million to the 317 program, you think you could get around that to avoid cutting vaccines to children, but under a sequester ($30 million 'cut'), that the president blames on Republicans, you don’t know if you can do that?"

Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control: We’re going to do everything we can to limit any damage that occurs because of the across-the-board cut, but it reduces our flexibility significantly.
4687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science and Military Issues on: March 14, 2013, 11:30:12 AM
In Obama's third term maybe he will look to a Keystone pipeline protestor to head the Pacific fleet, or someone with a meteorology or IPCC background instead of military.

Admiral Locklear: “It is not just about China and everybody else, because there are disputes between other partners down there, too. Sometimes I think the Chinese get handled a little too roughly on this.”

I wonder if our friends and allies in the region agree with him:
4688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times: Holocaust numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought on: March 14, 2013, 11:11:15 AM
Important historical NYT piece from March 1 2013 that I did not see posted:

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking   Published: March 1, 2013  Sunday New York Times

THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.

What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.

“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear.

The maps the researchers have created to identify the camps and ghettos turn wide sections of wartime Europe into black clusters of death, torture and slavery — centered in Germany and Poland, but reaching in all directions.

The lead editors on the project, Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean, estimate that 15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned in the sites that they have identified as part of a multivolume encyclopedia. (The Holocaust museum has published the first two, with five more planned by 2025.)

The existence of many individual camps and ghettos was previously known only on a fragmented, region-by-region basis. But the researchers, using data from some 400 contributors, have been documenting the entire scale for the first time, studying where they were located, how they were run, and what their purpose was.

The brutal experience of Henry Greenbaum, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives outside Washington, typifies the wide range of Nazi sites.

When Mr. Greenbaum, a volunteer at the Holocaust museum, tells visitors today about his wartime odyssey, listeners inevitably focus on his confinement of months at Auschwitz, the most notorious of all the camps.

But the images of the other camps where the Nazis imprisoned him are ingrained in his memory as deeply as the concentration camp number — A188991 — tattooed on his left forearm.

In an interview, he ticked off the locations in rapid fire, the details still vivid.

First came the Starachowice ghetto in his hometown in Poland, where the Germans herded his family and other local Jews in 1940, when he was just 12.

Next came a slave labor camp with six-foot-high fences outside the town, where he and a sister were moved while the rest of the family was sent to die at Treblinka. After his regular work shift at a factory, the Germans would force him and other prisoners to dig trenches that were used for dumping the bodies of victims. He was sent to Auschwitz, then removed to work at a chemical manufacturing plant in Poland known as Buna Monowitz, where he and some 50 other prisoners who had been held at the main camp at Auschwitz were taken to manufacture rubber and synthetic oil. And last was another slave labor camp at Flossenbürg, near the Czech border, where food was so scarce that the weight on his 5-foot-8-inch frame fell away to less than 100 pounds.

By the age of 17, Mr. Greenbaum had been enslaved in five camps in five years, and was on his way to a sixth, when American soldiers freed him in 1945. “Nobody even knows about these places,” Mr. Greenbaum said. “Everything should be documented. That’s very important. We try to tell the youngsters so that they know, and they’ll remember.”

The research could have legal implications as well by helping a small number of survivors document their continuing claims over unpaid insurance policies, looted property, seized land and other financial matters.

“HOW many claims have been rejected because the victims were in a camp that we didn’t even know about?” asked Sam Dubbin, a Florida lawyer who represents a group of survivors who are seeking to bring claims against European insurance companies.

Dr. Megargee, the lead researcher, said the project was changing the understanding among Holocaust scholars of how the camps and ghettos evolved.

As early as 1933, at the start of Hitler’s reign, the Third Reich established about 110 camps specifically designed to imprison some 10,000 political opponents and others, the researchers found. As Germany invaded and began occupying European neighbors, the use of camps and ghettos was expanded to confine and sometimes kill not only Jews but also homosexuals, Gypsies, Poles, Russians and many other ethnic groups in Eastern Europe. The camps and ghettos varied enormously in their mission, organization and size, depending on the Nazis’ needs, the researchers have found.

The biggest site identified is the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, which held about 500,000 people at its height. But as few as a dozen prisoners worked at one of the smallest camps, the München-Schwabing site in Germany. Small groups of prisoners were sent there from the Dachau concentration camp under armed guard. They were reportedly whipped and ordered to do manual labor at the home of a fervent Nazi patron known as “Sister Pia,” cleaning her house, tending her garden and even building children’s toys for her.

When the research began in 2000, Dr. Megargee said he expected to find perhaps 7,000 Nazi camps and ghettos, based on postwar estimates. But the numbers kept climbing — first to 11,500, then 20,000, then 30,000, and now 42,500.

The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.

In Berlin alone, researchers have documented some 3,000 camps and so-called Jew houses, while Hamburg held 1,300 sites.  (more at link above)
4689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glibness: Michelle Malkin - Obama’s pending secretary of illegal alien labor on: March 13, 2013, 01:31:01 PM
Obama’s Nominee for Secretary of (Illegal Alien) Labor
By Michelle Malkin  •  March 13, 2013

My column today refreshes your memories of radical assistant attorney general for Obama’s DOJ civil rights division, Thomas Perez. As icing on the corrupto-cake, here’s a brand-spanking — emphasis on spanking — new DOJ Inspector General’s report on the racialist foul play at Perez’s bureau, where “polarization and mistrust” reign.

Former DOJ attorney and brave whistleblower J. Christian Adams has much more. He writes:

    The 250-page report offers an inside glimpse of systemic racialist dysfunction inside one of the most powerful federal government agencies.

    The report was prepared in response to Representative Frank Wolf’s (R-VA) outrage over the New Black Panther voter intimidation dismissal. In response to the report, Rep. Wolf said today, the “report makes clear that the division has become a rat’s nest of unacceptable and unprofessional actions, and even outright threats against career attorneys and systemic mismanagement.”

    Former Voting Section Chief Chris Coates and I both testified about the hostility towards race-neutral law enforcement by the Justice Department.

    Today’s report paints a disgusting portrait, confirming our accounts.

Roll over or stand up to this injustice, GOP? Your move.


Obama’s Nominee for Secretary of (Illegal Alien) Labor
by Michelle Malkin

The Beltway is buzzing over President Obama’s likely nomination of Thomas E. Perez as the next head of the U.S. Department of Labor. But when Americans find out whom Perez has lobbied for most aggressively over the course of his extremist leftwing social justice career, they’ll be wondering which country Obama’s pick really plans to serve.

Press accounts describe Perez, currently the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, as a “tireless advocate of worker and civil rights.” The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Perez was a former special counsel for the late illegal alien amnesty champion Sen. Ted Kennedy.

During the Clinton years, Perez worked at the Justice Department to establish a “Worker Exploitation Task Force” to enhance working conditions for … illegal alien workers. While holding down his government position, Perez volunteered for Casa de Maryland. This notorious illegal alien advocacy group is funded through a combination of taxpayer-subsidized grants (totaling $5 million in 2010 alone from Maryland and local governments) and radical liberal philanthropy, including billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

That’s in addition to more than $1 million showered on the group by freshly departed Venezuelan thug Hugo Chavez’s regime-owned oil company, CITGO.

As I’ve reported previously, Perez rose from Casa de Maryland volunteer to president of the group’s board of directors. Under the guise of enhancing the “multicultural” experience, he crusaded for an ever-expanding set of illegal alien benefits, from in-state tuition discounts for illegal alien students to driver’s licenses and tax-subsidized day labor centers. Casa de Maryland opposes enforcement of deportation orders, has protested post-9/11 coordination of local, state and national criminal databases, and produced a “know your rights” propaganda pamphlet for illegal aliens that depicted federal immigration agents as armed bullies making babies cry.

The group can claim credit for pushing the White House to issue an estimated 800,000 illegal alien deportation waivers by executive fiat. And now, Casa de Maryland is currently leading the charge for an even broader illegal alien “path to citizenship.”

Questioned by GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions during his DOJ confirmation hearing in 2009 about the illegal alien rights guide produced by Casa de Maryland, Perez grudgingly stated that “the civil rights division must not act in contravention to valid enforcement actions of our federal immigration laws.”

But “act(ing) in contravention” of the law is at the heart of Perez’s and Casa’s radicalism — and not just on behalf of illegal aliens.

During his tenure with the Obama DOJ, Perez sought to undermine electoral integrity by attacking South Carolina’s voter ID law. His race card antics were rebuked by a unanimous U.S. District Court panel (which included a Clinton appointee), and the law prevailed.

Perez was instrumental in covering the backsides of the militant New Black Panther Party thugs who menaced voters and poll watchers in Philadelphia in 2008. The American Spectator’s Quin Hillyer recounted that a federal judge challenged the veracity of Perez’s testimony about DOJ political appointees’ interference on behalf of the Panthers. “This came after Perez also had, apparently unlawfully, refused to honor valid subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and it was in addition to yet another falsehood by Perez, this one to the effect that DOJ had sought the maximum allowable penalty against the Panthers,” Hillyer reported. “While the original decision to dismiss the case pre-dated Perez’s appointment to the Justice Department, his direct involvement in, and hands-on management of, what amounted to a cover-up of the decision’s origins should alone be disqualifying for any Cabinet post.”

Perez also helped spearhead the lawsuit against Arizona over its immigration enforcement measures and launched a three-year DOJ witch-hunt against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The vengeful investigation against Arpaio, the nation’s most outspoken local law enforcement official against illegal alien crime, was dropped without charges last summer. Perez is leading similar witch-hunts against police departments across the country based on leftwing junk science theories about racial “disparate impacts.”

With Senate Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham and company folding like lawn chairs on Obamamnesty, open-borders groups are thrilled at the prospect of another victory with Perez’s nomination.

Last week, conservatives stood with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., over John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director. Who will stand for American workers in opposition to Obama’s pending secretary of illegal alien labor? Anyone?
4690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 13, 2013, 01:02:10 PM
"I am comparing where I was at the last peak to where I am now"

That makes sense.  A share of a global company is not entirely a dollar (or any other currency) based asset.  You are buying in a sense a piece of their market share in a global industry.  That involves plenty of risk but is better than holding dollars guaranteed to go down in value while earning 0% interest.  The post calculating the Dow in gold terms or silver instead of dollars illustrates that we aren't really moving forward, just trying to slow the rate of moving backward.  For me it is real estate.  By buying low, buying smart and adding value i believe I can still yield after-inflation appreciation of zero over the long run which is sadly better than most dollar-based assets.

Wesbury closes with:  "We still expect more inflation in the trade sector in the year ahead due to loose monetary policy."

For an eternal optimist, that is quite a candid warning.

G M posted yesterday:  Why America's middle class is losing ground
'milk up 70 cents from what she paid last year' - plus gas up 50 cents.

G M, Core CPI 'excludes goods with high price volatility, such as food and energy'.  Those prices didn't go up for her, they are just "volatile".

Payroll tax rate went up too, I wonder where they figure that in the consumer price index.

"Full-time employment is one casualty of the recession"

Full time employment is a casualty of Obamacare as well.  Companies no longer expected to hire full time or pay benefits should mean stocks going up even further.
4691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 13, 2013, 01:45:55 AM
Good points.  Just saying that in total there is plenty of trouble brewing out there.  We lived through a pretty big crash or two.  Hard to carry that experience and face the current scenario with no fear or doubt.

Everyone leaves money on the table when we measure exact trough to peak.  That is not a fair measurement.  Anyone all-in since the summer of 2009 was probably in for the losses of 2008 as well. 
4692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races, Ashley Judd on: March 13, 2013, 01:27:08 AM

""Ashley Judd is cute and smart, charismatic I presume. , , ,Mitch McConnell comes across old, worn out and has lousy approval numbers"

Hard to think of a worse face for the Reps than MMcC or a less articulate communicator for that matter and contrast that with a pretty, professional liar-- excuse me I meant actress-- who has been an appealing figure in many movies that many women have seen.  If AJ has a Harvard masters degree in public affairs, she may be utterly wrong on the issues, but she is no bimbo.

Yes, by smart I meant well educated.  I don't see many movies so I googled her work:

John Kerry running for President fell into a trap.  He was too liberal for the country and had already been pegged as a flip flopper.  The only way he could alleviate the too liberal charge was further toward flipflopper, and lose either way.

Ashley Judd's views are off the charts liberal: "It's unconscionable to breed with the number of children who are starving to death in impoverished countries."  For one thing I wonder how many families call it "breeding".

What is refreshing in a liberal like Ashley Judd is the purity of their views.  A beautiful actress working with impoverished kids doesn't have to compromise.  But if she tries to move toward the political center of Kentucky the purity will be gone and she will have to answer like Mitt Romney for the contradictions from previous positions and statements.

If she is so smart, she will not run.  MHO
4693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Benghazi and related matters on: March 13, 2013, 12:17:20 AM
"Still waiting on the Stevens autopsy report"

Interesting point made by one of the talk pundits:  Do you notice what President Obama and then-Sec. of State Hillary Clinton both call the deceased ambassador?

Not Mr. Stevens, not Ambassador Stevens, never Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  They call him Chris.  First name only.  Buddy to buddy.  Nobody knew him better, except maybe his wife and kids.  Barack and Hillary, I wonder if he called them by their first names too.  Closest of friends, probably would be golfing together right now if he was around.

Yet 'Chris' couldn't get a message about security through to either one of them over a period of many months to save his life.
4694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 12, 2013, 11:49:16 PM
Well, I'd be damn near 100% ahead of where I am now if I hadn't listened to me , , ,

Hindsight not being 20/20...

If you knew in advance 4 years ago that the growth rate coming out of the worst economy in memory would be 0.8% dropping to 0.1% in the last quarter, if you knew Europe would be in near collapse, if you knew we would leave two wars without real victory, that we would be under heavy cyber-attacks from China who is still supporting North Korea while they go nuclear and threaten to hit America, if you knew Russia would return to a Soviet-like stance, with Putin stronger than Brezhnev and Obama more eager than Carter to give away American defense, if you knew of the unrest in nuclear armed Pakistan and that Iran was a minute away from going nuclear too, the Muslim Brotherhood running Egypt, civil war in Syria, if you knew we would get hit with another deadly embassy attack this time in Libya, if you knew the trillion dollar deficits would go on for 4 years and counting, that we wouldn't even sell bonds to cover our debt, workers leaving the labor force exceed all new jobs coming back and that the Fed would be diluting our dollar by trillions, that U6 unemployment figured at the old labor participation rate would be 20%, that Obama would be reelected and taxes would be raised on the rich and the poor...

If you knew all that, except for the rise in the Dow, perfectly in hindsight, would you have gone all-in to the stock market?  

If you add to the above that the Dow has already gone up for all this time yet we still have all this hanging over us plus Obamacare kicking in, steep tax hikes in largest state, amnesty next, and the lowest business startup rate in our history, would you go all in now?

Or would a rational person be a little bit skeptical?

4695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 12, 2013, 10:55:12 PM
"then it should handle spending restraint"
Umm , , , in that we are not Keynesians here, may I suggest that the budget cuts are a contributory cause to the market going up?

Poorly expressed in my post, but I strongly agree.  If the market survived the bad things that happened, it can handle the good like a surprising dose of govt spending restraint.
4696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2 on KY, Judd on: March 12, 2013, 04:37:41 PM

Thanks Bigdog.  This link: tells 'How Ashley Judd Can Win', but they compare what she needs to do in conservative Kentucky with what Al Franken did to win his 0.0% victory in liberal Minnesota.  Franken was actually to the right of Obama and his fellow Dem.  Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Ashley Judd is cute and smart, charismatic I presume.  She is also extremely liberal, perhaps to the left of Obama.  The carpet bagger attacks may get old but the idiological questions will not.

Mitch McConnell comes across old, worn out and has lousy approval numbers.  The challenge for Judd and any Democrat is that there will be serious liberal vs. conservative questions at stake and Romney beat Obama in 2012 in KY by roughly 60-38%.  Conservatives and libertarians tired of McConnell will see Rand Paul at his side with his own national reputation on the line trying to deliver a Republican victory in his home state. 

Based on the analysis in BD's second link, tying Dems nationally to some of her statements and tying Democrats in KY to the Obama agenda, I hope she runs.
4697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 12, 2013, 03:58:48 PM
My stellar opinion of Wesbury keeps slipping:  "Real GDP increased just 0.1% in Q4 2012".   - A steady trot?  Not really.

"jobless rate slipping to 7.7%":    - More people left the workforce than found jobs.

The labor force participation decline is largely demographic?  Okay, then what positive force offsets that?

"Stocks have surged with the S&P 500 hitting our year-end 2012 forecast of 1475 just two weeks behind schedule, in mid-January."     - From this thread: If you bought gold instead of Dow Jones stocks at the start of year 2000, you could keep 3/4 of your gold and buy the same quantity of the same stocks today with just 1/4 of your gold.  Stocks have surged is a rear view mirror indicator.

He mixes his lipstick-on-a-pig view of the US economy with optimism for the index of global companies.  Hard to draw conclusions from that.  We must admit that if this market held up through the Obama reelection, the fiscal cliff, at least two tax increases on the people own the most stocks, and 0.1% quarterly growth, then it should handle spending restraint and a country coming into spring and summer - until some external shock hits and selling panic ensues.

The market I believe will continue to go up or hold fairly constant - right up until it starts to go down again.   wink

4698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight on: March 12, 2013, 02:43:48 PM
Also looking forward to discussion on the questions Crafty posed.

Happily married people ask how the gay marriage issue could possibly affect their marriage.  Obj's proposal illuminates that.  First we define marriage to not mean marriage, then make it unrecognized altogether.

The federal government is already shifting to parent-one, parent-two designations, removing recognition of basic natural phenomena like mother and father as fast as they can.  Why only two parents or spouses, politicians and bureaucrats only know.

Like Barack Obama, my own thinking has evolved.  Somewhere between 2 and 3% of people are gay.  Condemnation of that is not helpful.  Everyone has the right of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. 

Denying the unique relationship of a man and a woman becoming husband and wife is not helpful either.  Nor is dropping a societal preference that a child have a mother and a father in love, married and living under one roof whenever possible.
4699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics: VDH, How to weaken an economy... on: March 12, 2013, 11:30:20 AM
I have tried hard to describe how the principles of supply side economics center around all the things we can logically do to grow a healthy economy.  To that, people yawn and move on.  Perhaps more persuasive is the opposite - identify all the things you could do to weaken a healthy economy, then look at the anti-growth and prosperity agenda being implemented here in the U.S.

How to Weaken an Economy   by Victor Davis Hanson

...there are plenty of ways to slow down even an inherently strong economy. History offers plenty of examples. But as more contemporary models, take your pick of successfully ruined economies — the Venezuelan, the Cuban, the North Korean, the Greek, the Italian, the Portuguese, or pretty much any from Mediterranean Africa to the Cape of Good Hope. There are certain commonalities about why and how they fail. Let’s review some of them.


The state can never be too big. Ensure that it is unaccountable and intrusive, in constant need of more money and more targets to regulate. The more government, the more people are shielded from the capital-creating, free-market system. Think the DMV or TSA, not Apple. The point is for an employee to spend each labor hour with less oversight, while regulating or hampering profit-making, rather than competing with like kind to create material wealth. Regulatory bodies are a two-fer: the more federal, union employees, the more regulations to hamper the private sector. The more federal mandates, like new health-care requirements and financial reporting, the less employers profit and the fewer employees they can hire. Washington should be a growth city, absolutely immune from the downturn elsewhere, a sort of huge and growing octopus head with decaying tentacles. State jobs should be redefined as something partisan — whose expansion is noble and helps the helpless, and whose contraction is evil and the design of a bitter and aging white private-sector class.

On the other end of the equation, ensuring 50 million on food stamps, putting over 80,000 a month on Social Security disability insurance, and extending unemployment insurance to tens of millions all remind the jobless that life is not too bad (thanks to the government), and certainly a lot better than working at a “low-paid” job that equates to giving up federal support. To paraphrase Paul Krugman, the more and the longer the jobless receive, the less likely they are to take chances looking for a job. That too might be again a good thing if you wish to slow down the economy. In general, even Arnold Toynbee, a man of the Left, acknowledged that the greedy drive of the scrambling private sector was not as pernicious to civilizations as the collective ennui produced by vast cadres of lethargic and unaccountable public “servants” doing supposedly noble work.

The Law

To ensure capriciousness and unpredictability for both suspect employers and investors, make the law malleable, even unpredictable from day to day, in the style of an Argentina or Venezuela. Redefine the law as what is deemed socially useful. For federally subsidized bankrupt auto companies, creditors should be paid back on the basis not of contractual law, but of nobility — why borrow to give a rich man a return on his superfluous investment, when a retired auto worker might have to pay a higher health care premium? Boeing wants to open a non-union plant in South Carolina? Have the NLRB try to stop it (and illegally staff the NLRB with recess appointments). Illegal aliens? They are neither illegal nor aliens, as federal immigration law is itself a capricious construct. Does the Senate really have to present a budget? Do presidents need to meet budget deadlines? Who said there is a Defense of Marriage Act?

What law says that gays cannot serve overtly in the military or women cannot fight at the front — some reactionary construct? The point is to restore a simulacrum of popular sovereignty: the law is what 51% of the people are perceived by technocrats to want on any given day. I would hammer away at legal fictions like the very idea of borrowing and paying back loans and debts. Soon the popular culture would respond in kind, and run ads constantly on radio, TV, and the Internet in a way rare just a generation ago: how to renegotiate IRS debt, how to renegotiate mortgages, how to renegotiate credit card debt, and how to renegotiate student loan debt.

The man who owes $50,000 has been taken advantage of; the man who is owed $50,000 already has enough without being paid back. The aim is to create a general climate where when one borrows, one does not necessarily have to the pay back the full sum for a variety of legitimate considerations. The more bubbles — housing, student loan, credit card — the more avenues for government intervention and relief. Do all that and perhaps lending itself might slow down, again not a bad thing for our purposes. The debtor, not the lender, is the true American success, as our collective debt underscores.


Don’t forget the value of cynicism in weakening an economy. It is a critical tool in sowing distrust and fatalism, as in “Why try, when it doesn’t matter anyway?” or “Why should I follow the rules, when they don’t?” Greece, for example, is a cynical country to the core and one can see where such endemic distrust got them: a successfully ruined economy.

I would lecture about the evils of federal bailouts to Wall Street fat cats who then take million-dollar bonuses for mediocre performance — and then appoint a Treasury secretary who did just that. I would trash offshore accounts as something amoral and unpatriotic — and then appoint a Treasury secretary who did just that. I would lecture about paying your fair share and hiking taxes — and then appoint a Treasury secretary who avoided paying the income taxes he owed. I would sermonize on the evils of the revolving door — and then appoint as my top financial officials those who for a lifetime have gone into the White House, out to Wall Street, and back into the White House. Again, if “they” do that, why then do “we” need to pay our taxes or follow ethical behavior? The cynical mindset is a valuable tool in recreating a Greece or Italy. Indeed, almost any cynicism is a good thing: so why not praise federal financing of campaigns and then be the first to refuse it, or campaign on the evils of the Bush anti-terrorism protocol and then embrace or expand almost all of it?

Top Down, Not Bottom Up

Leveling must go in one direction, not two.  To ensure equality, the public schools should lower standards so that all are the same. The more who need remediation upon entering college, the more likely the curriculum will have to adjust to level the playing field, and the less skilled will emerge the average graduate. The more that those with “Cadillac” insurance plans can have procedures rationed, the more others will see their own options expanded.

The world is a finite system, a pie with only so many slices. There is no middle class, just rich and poor. For each F student, an A student stole the former’s resources. I would invest not in honor students, but in remedial ones. Grades and test scores should count little for college admission; life “experiences” and community service far better would ensure the presence of mediocre students. The aim again is not to turn out graduates with expertise or knowledge who build a strong economy, but to graduate students, brand them with degrees, and ensure they are invested in a similar ideology of redistribution. If California — of Caltech and Stanford repute — can dumb down its public schools to rank 48th or 49th in the nation in math or English testing, then there is hope for the country at large.

The War of Words

Prosperity is always relative, never absolute. A car, a house, or a job is not to be judged on its own merits, but in comparison to someone else who has one better.  If today’s Kias are better than a Mercedes of 20 years ago, it matters little: they are not as nice as someone else’s Mercedes of today. Britain in the postwar 1940s discovered the power of envy and what it can do to slow down ill-won prosperity.

From Plato to Marx to Tocqueville, philosophical minds, for both good and bad reasons, have always appreciated that human nature is attracted to the idea of enforced equality, to such a degree that most would rather be poor and the same, than better off with some far better off. Let’s give them that chance!

I would try to redefine the entire capitalist notion of profit, getting ahead, and being rich or successful as something arbitrary. Better yet, it should be analogous to cheating, proof of unfairness, or incurring general shame. The point is to make profit-making synonymous with failure; and poverty something inherently noble. Compensation should be seen as capricious, never based on logical requisites like education, knowledge, experience, level of responsibility, hard work, personal comportment, or even the less predictable such as health, luck, fate, and chance. Redefine rich and poor to emphasize the fact that one making $20,000 a year and another $200,000 is unfair, period — and to be corrected by a fair, all-knowing, and compassionate government. I would talk always of poverty and hunger, never of the epidemic of obesity or the nation’s collective youth glued to iPhones.

Sometimes, sloppy language is critical: jumble together “millionaires” with those worth 1,000 times more, and you earn the force-multiplying evil “millionaires and billionaires.” The word “fair” is critical: as in “pay your fair share.” But “patriotic” is even better, as in “unpatriotic” past presidents who run up debt, and “patriotic” present egalitarians who borrow in four years what used to take eight.

I would also redefine entire professions in negative terms: bankers are “fat cats”; the rich “junket” to Las Vegas; CEOs are “corporate jet owners”; doctors lop off limbs and yank out tonsils to pile up profits. Material wealth alone defines us. Mitt Romney is a man with lots of money, a big house with an elevator, a wife with horses. Who cares what he did with the Olympics or as governor?

I could continue, but you get the picture: the point is to slow down the capitalists by making them look over their shoulders, to hamper the grasping small businesses by prepping a psychological battlefield in which the rich deserve higher taxes and regulations to atone for their sins. If lots of those who once made $400,000 a year no longer do, is that not progress? Did they not at last realize that they had made enough money and that it was no longer the time to profit? My goal would be to convince the pizza-parlor owner that after 12 hours on the job, he was taking away money from his noble customers and had a duty to pay more in taxes and cut his profits for those more noble who could not afford his crust. But there would be one exception: fat cats can buy exemption by loudly supporting the president, serving on his jobs council, or investing in green energy. In other words, send the message that getting rich building a Solyndra is noble in a way Exxon is not. A Warren Buffett or George Soros is not a “billionaire” but a “philanthropist,” whose profits are channeled in the right direction. That’s an important message to send if one wants to warp an economy — suggesting that the rich can pay proper homage and thereby win exemption from being culpably rich.

Everywhere a War

The rich/poor dichotomy is valuable, but perhaps not enough in itself to harm the economy. Political stasis is also critical. Think the blues and greens in the hippodrome, fighting over everything from religion and civil service to class, ethnicity, and sports.  And what better way to seed acrimony and to ensure constant bickering than unleashing a series of domestic wars? The camouflaged assault-weapon killers who hide behind the 2nd Amendment are at war with millions of innocent children. Even female celebrities and lawyers are under attack by misogynists and chauvinists, who won’t pay for their birth control. Latinos are targeted by nativists. The latter even hunt them down at ice-cream parlors. Blacks are back to near slavery as racist conservatives want to put them back in chains. Greens battle nobly against the polluters, gays against the homophobes. Muslims are demonized as terrorists by racists and bigots.

The point would be to introduce so many divisive fault lines that no one can much agree on anything — other than a common enemy. Worry over unemployment, slow or nonexistent growth, and massive debt gives way to more pressing issues like gay marriage and banning semi-automatic assault weapons. Distraction is valuable: who cares that the real unemployment rate is way over 10% if  the Keystone pipeline will destroy the Nebraska aquifer or Jim Crow is back on election day? A “jobless recovery” and the “misery index” can become artifacts of a distant era.


I would borrow as much money as possible, to the point of making the word “trillion” synonymous with the old “billion,” and “billion” now not more than a mere “million.” On its coins, a fading Rome pressed bronze over a thin silver core; we have done better with the Fed. Think of all the ways in which deficits are good: they spread the wealth through greater entitlements; they eventually require higher taxes from the wealthy; they usually lead to inflation that erodes wrongly accumulated wealth. For every trillion borrowed, there is a greater likelihood that the deserving will receive more federal largess and the undeserving will have to pay for it — and the country itself will slow down and smell the roses. Is it not far preferable for the government to print money than the cumbersome private sector to create it?


Zero interest is as important as sky-high interest. Thus, 1% on passbook accounts can be as valuable in stalling the economy as 15%. If there is no gain in stored wealth, why seek to store it? If owing is better than being owed, why work to create capital? A good way to ensure inflation is to ensure zero interest. The many who have no money deserve the use of free money and the few who have it have no need to profit from it. Again, if the state employee’s pension pays out more in annual revenue than the multi-millionaire’s passbook account, is not that a distortion worth institutionalizing? The point would be to guide the retiree into real estate, precious metals, or the stock market, anywhere with real risk to beat his .5% passbook return. Or better yet, do away with the idea of the retiree altogether, as the poor fool keeps working to earn what his savings won’t — thereby providing an added benefit of keeping his would-be younger replacements jobless.


I would try to find a way to discourage private gas and oil production through more regulation and cancellation of projects like the Keystone pipeline: keep the country paying steep import fees and keep it vulnerable to Persian Gulf oil. New technologies like fracking and horizontal drilling are to be declared de facto synonymous with pollution and destroying the environment. How can energy “skyrocket” or gas reach “European levels” — that alone will ensure a cooler planet or government- and union-run mass transit — if freelancers can find hoards of natural gas on land the government can’t touch? I would also borrow billions to subsidize wind and solar power. The more costly the kilowatt, the more expensive energy might slow down human activity and finally stop the rat race.

Success is Failure

Finally, I would double down. The more higher taxes, class warfare, bigger government, borrowing, zero interest, and political stasis began to slow down the economy, the more I would demand more of them all, and declare that the economy is expanding and growing. Again, the key to fine tuning a properly moribund economy is to stay the course — and learn to redefine failure as success.
4700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics of Health Care: Obamacare in a photo on: March 12, 2013, 11:04:50 AM
Nancy Pelosi said that we’d have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.  Refreshing to hear an honest liberal...

If Congress passes a statute–even one that is 1,600 pages long like Obamacare, but the law can’t go into effect as written, it is not really a law at all.  The simple proof is the photo here that Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office has released, showing the 20,000-plus pages of regulations issued so far for the implementation of Obamacare.  ”Regulation” is just a multi-syllabic word for “law,” after all.  The point is, administrators–the slightly nicer term for “bureaucrats”–now govern us much more than our elected lawmakers do.  (

Comply with THIS!  Regulations issued SO FAR for the implementation of Obamacare
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