In 2004, the International Energy Agency prepared an analysis with the collaboration of the OECD Economics Department and with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund Research Department:
“. . . a sustained $10 per barrel increase in oil prices from $25 to $35 would result in the OECD as a whole losing 0.4% of GDP in the first and second year of higher prices. Inflation would rise by half a percentage point and unemployment would also increase.” -------------------------------
Inspired by Scotland's hopes for independence and hot on the heels of Crime'a 95% preference for accession to Russia, 89% of the citizens of Venice voted for their own sovereign state in a ‘referendum’ on independence from Italy. As The Daily Mail reports, the proposed ‘Repubblica Veneta’ includes the five million inhabitants of the Veneto region and has been largely driven by the wealthy 'who are tired of supporting the poor and crime-ridden south' (Venice pays EUR71bn in taxes and receives only EUR21bn in services and investment). The ballot appointed a committee of ten who immediately declared independence from Italy. Venice may now start withholding taxes from Rome. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2586531/Venice-votes-split-Italy-89-citys-residents-opt-form-new-independent-state.html
Pres. Obama said: We who lead the United States and the free world are committed to unilateral disarmament and drawing meaningless, rhetorical lines in sands. Mr. Putin, I will have more flexibility after my reelection. Have At Our Allies! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsFR8DbSRQE
"Non SA dropped from 519k to 283k." (non seasonally adjusted [actual] home sales)
As one of many who are invested in housing, the rosy scenario spinning of Wesbury [hummed to the melody of The Plowhorse Trot] is appealing but I am better off knowing the truth.
As people's favorite expense, housing is an indication of how well people are doing economically. It has great appreciation in great economic times. But more so than gold, I value it as something people still need and value no matter how low it goes and no matter how badly our economy disintegrates.
"If China’s economic troubles force it to reduce purchases of U.S. treasury securities, and the Fed continues to taper its own purchases, there’s no telling what could happen to interest rates. There could be serious risks to America’s ability to fund itself. "
I think they mean there could be serious risks to our continuing ability to not fund ourselves.
It looks like this was a flight that went exactly according to plan. Iran is complicit? Makes you glad that Pres Obama did everything he could do in 2009 to support the popular democratic uprising against the the world's number one sponsor of terrorism. Oh, that's right, he did absolutely nothing when that opportunity to stand down tyranny and terrorism was front and center.
The US cannot be the world's policeman? That's right but then accept that no one is going to do it. Planes and countries will disappear from time to time, not our problem. Maybe the UN can call an emergency meeting to condemn this act. Nothing says we are serious about stopping terrorism and rogue military offensives like gutting our defense and intelligence budgets.
Someone who is determined to disbelieve something can manage to disregard an Everest of evidence for it. So Barack Obama will not temper his enthusiasm for increased equality with lucidity about the government’s role in exacerbating inequality.
In the movie “Animal House,” Otter, incensed by the expulsion of his fraternity, says: “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture.” Such thinking gives us minimum-wage increases that do very little for very few. Meanwhile, there are farm bills, like the one Obama signed last month at Michigan State University.
MSU was one of the models for the land-grant colleges created under the 1862 Morrill Act, whose primary purpose was to apply learning to agriculture. Today, we apply crony capitalism to agriculture. The legislation Obama lavishly praised redistributes wealth upward by raising prices consumers pay. Vincent Smith of Montana State University says small non-farm businesses are almost 30 times more likely to fail than farms, partly because the $956 billion farm legislation continues agriculture’s thick safety net. The geyser of subsidies assures that farm households will continue to be 53 percent more affluent than average households.
Certain payments are, however, restricted. People making more than $900,000 annually are ineligible.
Seventy percent of Agriculture Department spending funds food services. Nearly 48 million people — almost as many live on the West Coast (in California, Oregon and Washington) — receive food stamps. This dependency, inimical to upward mobility, is assiduously cultivated by government through “outreach initiatives” to “increase awareness” and “streamline the application process.”
Between 2000, when 17 million received food stamps, and 2006, food stamp spending doubled, even though unemployment averaged just 5.1 percent. A few states have food stamp recruiters. An award was given to a state agency for a plan to cure “mountain pride” that afflicts “those who wished not to rely on others.”
Nearly two-thirds of households receiving food stamps qualify under “categorical eligibility” because they receive transportation assistance or certain other welfare services. We spend $1 trillion annually on federal welfare programs, decades after Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that if one-third of the money for poverty programs was given directly to the poor, there would be no poor. But there also would be no unionized poverty bureaucrats prospering and paying dues that fund the campaigns of Democratic politicians theatrically heartsick about inequality.
The welfare state, primarily devoted to pensions and medical care for the elderly, aggravates inequality. Young people just starting up the earnings ladder and families in the child-rearing, tuition-paying years subsidize the elderly, who have had lifetimes of accumulation. Households headed by people age 75 and older have the highest median net worth of any age group.
In this sixth year of near-zero interest rates, the government’s monetary policy breeds inequality. Low rates are intended to drive liquidity into the stock market in search of higher yields. The resulting boom in equity markets — up 30 percent last year alone — has primarily benefited the 10 percent who own 80 percent of all directly owned stocks. Charles Wolf writes in the Weekly Standard: “The financial sector’s profits rose from 18 percent of total corporate profits preceding the recession in 2007 to 23 percent in 2013.”
Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, says the total reserves of depository institutions “have ballooned from a pre-crisis level of $43 billion to $2.5 trillion.”
And? “The store of bank reserves awaiting discharge into the economy through our banking system is vast, yet it lies fallow.” The result is a scandal of squandered potential:
“In fourth quarter 2007, the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $14.7 trillion; at year-end 2013 it was estimated to be $17.1 trillion. Had we continued on the path we were on before the crisis, real GDP would currently be roughly $20 trillion in size. That’s a third larger than it was in 2007. Yet the amount of money lying fallow in the banking system is 60 times greater now than it was at year-end 2007.”
The monetary base having expanded 340 percent in six years, there is abundant money for businesses. But, says Fisher, the federal government’s fiscal and regulatory policies discourage businesses from growing the economy with the mountain of money the Fed has created. This is why “the most vital organ of our nation’s economy — the middle-income worker — is being eviscerated.” And why the loudest complaints about inequality are coming from those whose policies worsen it.
Advantage: Russia Putin: The Mask Comes Off, But Will Anybody Care? - Walter Russell Mead
Russia appears to be deliberately fomenting more violence in Ukraine, possibly in advance of an invasion. Putin is no Hitler, but Hitler would recognize his moves.
Violence is spreading throughout Ukraine on a course that looks exactly like conscious and deliberate Russian preparation for a wider war. Without telepathic powers it is impossible to know what is going on in the mind of the one man who can control developments in Ukraine, but overnight the chances of additional Russian military action against its helpless neighbor appeared to grow. On Friday in Donetsk conflict between pro-and anti-Russia groups left one man dead and 26 injured. Now in Kharkiv two more are dead in a similar way as clashes spread through the city. Pro-Russian groups, including it is said ‘rent-a-mob’ demonstrators bussed in from Russia, seem to be behind the violence.
Moreover, there were scattered signs today that the next step is already upon us. Unconfirmed reports from local sources claim Russian troops landed in the Kherson region today—and were repelled. The story is starting to get picked up by news agencies, but rumors run rife at times like this. If true, it would mark the first direct military action by Russia outside Crimea and would be a major escalation of the most serious European international crisis since the Yugoslav wars. Here’s how the FT is reporting it:
Ukraine’s foreign ministry described the events as a “military invasion by Russia” and called on Russia to “immediately withdraw its military forces from the territory of Ukraine”.
“Ukraine reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia,” the ministry added in a statement.
If that is what is happening, and the preponderance of evidence suggests that it is, Putin appears to be following the Adolf Hitler strategy manual pretty much to the letter.
Putin is no Hitler, and from the standpoint of power he isn’t even a Brezhnev. Still, his actions in Ukraine have been following Adolf’s playbook pretty closely. Adolf wanted to tear up the Treaty of Versailles. Putin is attempting to rip up the post-Cold War settlement in Europe and Central Asia. Like Hitler’s Germany, Putin’s Russia is much weaker than its opponents, so it can’t achieve its goal through a direct military challenge against its primary enemies. Like Hitler’s Germany, Putin’s Russia must be clever until it grows strong, and it must play on its enemies’ hesitations, divisions and weaknesses until and unless it is ready to take them on head to head.
“Keep them guessing” is rule number one. Nobody was better than Hitler at playing with his enemies’ minds. For every warlike speech, there was an invitation to a peace conference. For every uncompromising demand, there was a promise of lasting tranquillity once that last little troublesome problem had been negotiated safely away. He was so successful at it (and Stalin, too was good at this game) in part because his opponents so desperately wanted peace. French politicians like Leon Blum and British leaders like Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain were as hungry for peace (it was the Depression after all, and both countries had suffered immensely in World War One) as Barack Obama and Francois Hollande are today. Commendably and properly, they wanted to fix their domestic economies, create a more just society at home, repair their infrastructure and cut their defense budgets. They were not in the mood for trouble overseas, and so a cold blooded con man found them to be easy marks.
Putin has played on western illusions very successfully for a very long time. Remember all those ‘experts’ (many, alas, in government service) who thought that the Medvedev presidency represented a real shift in Russian politics? How shocked and disappointed people were when Putin stepped smoothly back into the top job? It is the oldest trick in the book: bait and switch. Humiliate John Kerry by making him cool his heels for three hours in the Kremlin, and then dangle hope of a cooperative relationship. Hold out a ‘helping hand’ when the Obama administration has gotten itself into an embarrassing predicament over its Syria red line, then kick Uncle Sam in the teeth at Geneva.
There was never a good reason to believe any of Putin’s talk of peace and cooperation. After the Cold War, America and its allies jammed NATO expansion down Russia’s throat. The European Union worked to expand right up to Russia’s frontiers while making it crystal clear that Russia could never be a member. Putin is no Hitler, but neither is he a Konrad Adenauer, determined to accept defeat and to cooperate wholeheartedly in building his country’s future within the lines drawn by the victors. And the US made Adenauer’s Germany a much better offer than it made Putin’s Russia. You would have to be living in what the Germans call das Wolkenkuckkucksheim, cloud-cuckoo-land, to believe that a man like Putin would passively accept the post-Cold War order.
But cloud-cuckoo-land is exactly where many westerners live, in a resolutely post-historical world where foreign policy is about development, human rights, non-proliferation and trade. If Putin tells us he lives there too, we are hungry to believe him. We don’t want to live in a difficult world. Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were having a fabulous time in cloud-cuckoo-land back in the 1930s and many of them clung to their illusions until the last possible moment. We want to live in a stable and secure world order but we don’t want to make the sacrifices world order requires—and so we will gaze deeply into the eyes of anybody who is willing to tell us what we most want to hear.
Hitler’s situation was like Putin’s in another way. Like Russia now, Germany in the 1930s was weaker than its western opponents, but its leader had much more power to change course. Hitler’s Germany was an opportunistic predator; it could move quickly, change direction on a dime, and lay plans in secret. His western opponents ran democratic governments where everything moved very slowly, secrets were regularly published in the press and big foreign policy moves were telegraphed well in advance. Hitler used what he had, and took advantage of his supreme personal power and control of the press to make Germany a much more aggressive and dynamic international actor than his lazy, contented and slow-moving opponents. Hitler could move at speed that made his rivals’ heads spin and frequently left them gaping in flat footed amazement at his quick strikes and rapid changes of course. He knew that surprise was one of his chief advantages and he used it to the hilt.
President Putin is not a stupid man. He knows that Russia faces stronger but slower moving opponents. He knows that deception, misdirection and surprise are among his most effective tools. We must expect him to use them often and to use them well. The west ended up looking utterly flatfooted and clueless as Putin moved into Crimea just as it did in 2008 when he moved into Georgia. That is the way Russia wants it.
This use of surprise, by the way, can be very far reaching. Hitler stunned the west by signing his famous non-aggression pact with Stalin, dividing eastern Europe between them. He then surprised Stalin again by attacking him in June of 1941. For people like Hitler and, in his very different way, Putin, blitzkrieg is a tactic for diplomacy and not just for war. We would be total fools not to suppose that Putin and his closest associates are looking for game changing diplomatic moves that would spoil America’s day.
Putin is using another one of Hitler’s favorite methods in Ukraine: turn your ethnic minorities in other countries into a Trojan horse— whether or not that is what those people actually want. Hitler did this with the Sudeten Germans in what is now the Czech Republic. The FT again:
Russia said on Saturday it was looking at requests for help from civilians in Ukraine, a statement which appeared to resemble those made two weeks ago in justification of its military incursion into Crimea.
“Russia is receiving numerous requests for protecting civilians. These requests will be given consideration,” the foreign ministry said. It added a string of claims that Ukrainian militants and mercenaries were threatening civilians, which could not immediately be verified.
There is nothing here that couldn’t have been taken directly out of Adolf’s Guide for Aspiring Hegemons.
Using another instrument that Putin shares with the German, a well tuned, centrally controlled and well funded state propaganda machine with international outlets, you then elevate the ‘mistreatment’ of that minority into a major issue. You scream and rant and rave, demand redress, and fill the airwaves with your warnings and your laments. You can always organize at least some of them to march and wave flags. When the other country’s police (or, better yet, angry counter-mobs) respond, you raise the temperature. Oppression! Murder! Genocide!
It worked for Hitler in the Munich crisis, and it is exactly the card Putin has played in Crimea and perhaps will play in other parts of the ex-Soviet space. After using the German minority in Czechoslovakia as a tool, Hitler gave the west a brief respite (more soft talk about peace) before turning to his next target: Poland. Once again, it was the German minority that gave him his opening. Polish thugs were trampling on their rights. Their protests were being crushed by heartless barbarians. Babies were being ripped from their mothers’ wombs by bloodthirsty Polish mobs. Whatever.
Again, it was Hitler’s propagandist Goebbels who taught the world an important lesson: when you lie, go big. This has been exactly what Russian propaganda over Ukraine has done. And if it works here, we can expect to see the same kind of thing tried elsewhere: in Central Asia, perhaps, when Putin decides the time has come to reunite the Russian motherland with the gas and oil wealth of countries like Kazakhstan. The Baltic republics, already familiar with Putin’s play of the Russian minority card, are braced for more trouble, and well they should be.
This is why the latest news from eastern Ukraine is so ominous: in the Adolf Hitler playbook, stirring up ethnic strife is something you do when the time has come to intervene. If Putin’s plan was to send troops into eastern Ukraine, we’d see Russian speakers in the streets protesting, sometimes with violence, and demanding ‘protection’. “Defending Russian nationals from fascist mobs when the Ukrainian government is unwilling or unable to do so” is just the kind of fig leaf Putin needs; as of today, he’s got it.
But when dealing with a calculating player who has read people like Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, studied under the grandmasters of the old KGB and knows how Adolf did it, we shouldn’t be too confident that we know what’s coming next. Deception, disinformation and disguise are vital to Putin’s kind of foreign policy, and it is very much in his interest to keep us off-base and baffled as much as he can. With that caveat, it’s worth noting what the three likeliest alternatives are.
First, the violence could be a preparation for an invasion that has already been decided in the Kremlin. This is unlikely to happen before the referendum in Crimea — Russia won’t want to upstage its own propaganda spectacle. Let a thumping majority (however acquired) vote for annexation, and then more violence takes place in eastern Ukraine… then boom. More riots, more incursions, more referendums.
Second, it could be that no invasion is intended or wanted at this time. Instead, Russia wants both to demonstrate its power to create crises inside Ukraine and to make the country as ungovernable as possible. A number of western commentators have been consoling themselves with the ‘Putin is trapped’ approach to Ukraine, but looking at the west’s situation the trap may be on our end. We are the ones who now have some kind of obligation to keep Ukraine’s corrupt and incompetent government alive and to keep its chronically lame, oligarch-dominated economy from withering away. We are also the ones who will be blamed if (when) economic miracles fail to occur.
We can also be blackmailed. Are we going to pay Gazprom’s outrageous gas bill for Ukraine, or are we going to let the country freeze in the dark next winter? If the West has taken on the role of paymaster and protector of the Ukrainian state, do we expect Putin to make this any cheaper or easier for us?
Meanwhile, unrest in the east can make Ukraine a much, much more expensive and difficult client for the west — and also increases the nervousness in the Baltic republics and former Warsaw Pact countries. Putin may think that a destabilized Ukraine where he can stir the pot at will is a pretty good thing for Russia — and he can quietly wait to see what develops as he plans his next steps. If nothing else, Ukraine’s is going to make people in places like Kazakhstan pay a lot more attention to Russia’s wishes than before. Let Ukraine simmer and flip your Soviet reconstruction focus to the east. The west didn’t lift a finger to protect Ukraine; the Kazhaks and others will feel very much left alone in a small room with a large bear.
Third, it’s also possible that Moscow is moving opportunistically. It may not have a long term plan, but sees the advantages of stirring things up in eastern Ukraine. Scaring Ukraine and the west is a good thing in itself. And who knows— it may turn out that further opportunities develop.
Any one of these scenarios is plausible, and any one of them offers Putin the prospect of a clear, prestige-enhancing win. The second two look like the smartest plays from the Kremlin’s point of view, but the west would be foolish to assume that Putin calculates the odds in the same ways we do.
We must hope that western leaders finally wake up to the nature of the opponent they face. Putin, I say again, is no Hitler. He isn’t as powerful as Hitler and he isn’t as evil as Hitler. Compared to Stalin, he’s a choirboy. But he’s a smart and able adversary of the west who believes that world politics is a zero sum game. He believes that Russia can only survive and thrive by reconstituting a great power between China and Germany, and that this can only be done by rolling back the post-Cold War expansion of western power across the old Warsaw Pact and the former Soviet Union.
Dealing effectively with Putin doesn’t require a new Cold War. American foreign policy doesn’t have to become, and shouldn’t become Russo-centric. But unless we take counsel with our allies and put the kind of intellectual and political energy into blocking Russian moves that Russia puts into thinking them through and making them, the world will become a significantly uglier place and it will be much harder to get some important things done.
The biggest cost to Putin of his Crimean adventure may not be the western sanctions, but rather the way that his Ukraine policy makes it harder for him to go back to gulling a complacent west. Not that he won’t try. Once he’s taken as much of Ukraine as he thinks he can get at this point, he is likely to launch a peace offensive, aiming to separate the Germans and the other Europeans from the Americans and let time weaken the outrage that now rolls through the west. Unfortunately, there will be people who are ready to be gulled yet again, but the quick vision the world has seen of the real nature of Putin’s policy and his ruthlessness will make at least some of the people harder to fool once more.
The whole point of health care reform (and the first name of the act) was (is) affordability. Affordability has two components, the cost of your healthcare and the size of your income.
To address the affordability 'crisis' we committed maybe a trillion dollars so far to a program that made costs go up, incomes go down, and made affordability much worse. (The law of holes suggests it is time to stop digging?)
Another approach (looking backward or looking forward) would be to grow personal, household and national incomes to make basic expenses like food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and yes, healthcare, more affordable.
Imagine instead if we had legalized free enterprise, encouraged the productive use of capital, removed burdensome regulations, simplified and lowered tax rates, opened up competition (in all industries), employed idle labor, and massively grown the private sector instead of this 7 year project of super-sizing our federal government. What would that do or have done to the affordability of health care?
Despite millions spent, Dems are down 4 points from Obama's 2012 vote. Nationally, Obama received 51% of the vote in a magical turnout year. Take away 4% and give most of it back to the Republican and Dems don't win the divided states and districts.
In this case, the Libertarian won 5% too. Someone can explain to me how a strategy that allows Dems to win with significantly less than 50% of the vote advances libertarian ideals. I fail to see it.
March 10, 2014 At This Rate, It Will Take 28 Years To Get Everyone Back To Work By Louis Woodhill (Forbes contributor)
From a jobs perspective, the economy treaded water in February. We didn't drown in unemployment, but nor did we manage to swim closer to the prosperity shore. It was a "blah" month, in the midst of the worst economic recovery in American history.
Full-time-equivalent* (FTE) jobs increased by 147,000, thanks mostly to a large decline in the number of part-time workers. This was enough to move the nation 45,000 FTE jobs closer to full employment. While this was better than average for a month in President Obama's so-called "economic recovery" (America is 2.2 million FTE jobs farther away from full employment now than it was in June 2009), it's not great. At this rate, it would take us almost 28 years to get everyone back to work.
It was extremely significant that labor force participation continued to move up during February, after its big surge in January. This confirmed that allowing extended unemployment benefits to expire in late December was the right thing to do.
Progressives predicted that limiting unemployment benefits would cause people to drop out of the labor force, but the exact opposite occurred. It turns out that people respond to incentives. Who knew?
February's employment numbers also lent support to the theory that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing produces the opposite effect of what the Fed intends and expects. The Fed increased the size of the monetary base by eight times as much in February as it did in January ($102.3 billion vs. $12.7 billion), and the rise in FTE jobs slowed from 678,000 to 147,000.
The financial markets appear to have figured out that quantitative easing has been a bad thing for the economy. The stock market has continued to make new highs in spite of (really, because of) the Fed's determination to "taper."
OK, so as of February 2014, America had 2.0 million fewer FTE jobs than it did in November 2007. Meanwhile, our working age population has grown by 13.9 million. During these 75 months, Labor force participation has plunged by three full percentage points. This amounts to 7.4 million Americans giving up on being self-supporting. What are our two great political parties offering to get our economy moving again?
President Obama delivered his plan, in the form of his FY2015 budget. Here is a quote from Obama's "Budget Message" that summarizes his approach:
"But there is clearly much more we can and should do to invest in areas like infrastructure, innovation, and education that will create jobs, economic growth, and opportunity."
When Obama (or any other progressive) uses the word "we," he is not referring to "We, the People," he is referring to "We the federal government." The essence of the progressive approach is to transfer more and more money to unelected, unaccountable "experts" in the federal bureaucracy. The presumption is that these experts will deploy this capital to produce economic returns superior to those that the private markets could manage if people were allowed to keep and invest their own money.
In short, the Obama approach is, "More Amtracks! More Solyndras!"
As George Gilder explained in his brilliant and important 2013 book, Knowledge and Power, the progressive approach cannot work. Progressive programs take power (money is a form of power) away from the people with the knowledge required to make effective use of it. Governments invariably deploy resources to serve political ends, not the interests of ordinary citizens.
The progressive road leads to Venezuela (which may be why progressives are so sympathetic to socialist dictators).
OK, progressivism won't work. So, what are conservatives offering? Thus far, mostly clueless confusion.
Congressman Dave Camp, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, unveiled his tax reform plan. The idea that our Byzantine tax code could be "simplified" by a plan that runs 979 pages is questionable. However, the Camp plan's fatal flaw is that it is not strongly "pro-growth" (and may not, on balance, be pro-growth at all).
If we look at the Camp plan through the lens of Knowledge and Power, we see that it would do little to help foster the next generation of Apples and Googles. Entrepreneurs need a simple, stable tax code, and one that allows them to reinvest all of their profits in growth. This would provide the fastest route to full employment, because most incremental high-paying jobs come from new companies that are growing fast.
The Camp tax plan looks like the result of a three-year battle among big-company lobbyists, which is basically what it is. It is apparently "dead on arrival," and it should be.
When and if Republicans are ready to stop being "the Stupid Party," they will get behind the FairTax (which is a national sales tax). Because it does not tax savings and investment at all, the FairTax would produce the best alignment of knowledge (which resides in the minds of entrepreneurs scattered throughout the country) and power (capital).
The FairTax (coupled with a stable dollar) would deliver eye-popping rates of real economic growth. This combination would get America to full employment much faster than most people would believe possible.
For their part, FairTax advocates must realize that pro-growth tax reform cannot and should not be "revenue neutral," as scored by the CBO. Their proposed 23% FairTax rate is much too high. On a present value basis, a 15% tax rate would provide the federal government with more than enough revenue for any constitutional purpose.
There were some positive vibes from conservatives this week. In his speech to CPAC, Senator Ted Cruz laid out a ten-point plan for national revival. Most of it was on target, both economically and politically.
Crucially, Cruz devoted one of his ten points to the dollar. He said:
"We need to audit the Federal Reserve. Unaccountable power in Washington, debasing our currency, driving up the cost of food and gas and the basic stuff of life, is hurting Americans who are struggling across this country. I'll tell you what else it's doing, it's fueling the abuse of power of Petro-Tyrants like Putin."
Unfortunately, auditing the Fed is not enough. Under Janet Yellen, the Fed is operating with no rules at all. From a Knowledge and Power perspective, this produces so much "noise" in the communication channel (our system of market prices) that vital economic signals are being distorted and corrupted. This leads to, well, exactly what we have seen for the past 13 years-the slowest real economic growth in American history.
If we are going to have fast economic growth and full employment, we need what Gilder calls "a low entropy channel." This will require that Fed monetary operations be based upon rules. Accordingly, Republican candidates must not only criticize the Federal Reserve, and support "auditing the Fed", but also back Congressman Kevin Brady's "Centennial Monetary Commission Act." America needs fundamental monetary reform, and the Fed is not likely to reform itself.
The one place that Senator Cruz went off the rails of sound economic policy was in his call for "...a strong balanced budget amendment." As George Gilder points out in Knowledge and Power, whether you are a company or a nation, assets matter much more than liabilities.
Ronald Reagan did not pull America out of stagnation and despair in the 1980s by balancing the budget. He did it by getting the economy growing rapidly. This produced a massive increase in the value of the federal government's principle asset-its share of the present value of future GDP. This, in turn, made Reagan's deficits irrelevant. Interest rates fell during Reagan's presidency, despite "record" budget shortfalls.
While calls for a balanced budget amendment might play well in Republican primaries, they will be political poison in general elections. In the general election, candidates calling for a balanced federal budget will be cornered into explaining how they propose to perform surgery (spending cuts) without anesthesia (strong economic growth, which will require cutting taxes).
Surgery without anesthesia has never been popular with patients. Nor would be large cuts in the federal safety net, until fast economic growth is providing most people with the opportunity to earn wage income to replace the withdrawn federal support.
The economy has now been so bad for so long that our elites have accepted quasi-depression as the "new normal." The Democrats are now offering ideas that amount to "economic hospice care."
For example, Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a bill that would bar employers from conducting credit checks on job applicants. All this use of government coercion could possibly accomplish is to reallocate jobs from people with good credit to people with bad credit. And, of course, there is President Obama's strident call for a $10.10/hour minimum wage, which would give some workers a raise, but would cost others their jobs.
Meanwhile, in general, are Republicans continuing to validate their label, "the Stupid Party," by focusing on deficits, rather than upon economic growth.
America is tired of treading water on the jobs front. It needs Republican candidates that will step forward with big, pro-growth ideas. Memo to Republican candidates: read Knowledge and Power. Then come out for a stable dollar, the FairTax, and a return to regulatory sanity.
Paul continued an assault on Obama's record, getting laughs when he asked how history will remember the president, and later quoting Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters in asking whether former supporters of the president now believed they had "trade[d] your heroes for your ghosts? … Did they get you to exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?" http://www.dailypaul.com/313910/1st-politician-ever-to-quote-a-roger-waters-song-awesome
Waters supports "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" against Israel, opposes the policies of Israel, but explains that he is not anti-Jew: "To peacefully protest against Israel’s racist domestic and foreign policies is NOT ANTI-SEMITIC." https://www.facebook.com/notes/roger-waters-the-wall/an-open-letter-from-roger-waters/688037331210720
"You could almost say that Paul is the ONLY interesting candidate on the immediate horizon — Republican or Democrat." ... "He seems future oriented, unlike the rest of the potential candidates who mouth platitudes, liberal and conservative, bashing each other in the most tedious manner imaginable." ---------------------------- Other CPAC winners: Jack Kemp (won in 1986, 1987, and 1993), Phil Gramm (1995), Steve Forbes (1998), Gary Bauer (1999), Rudy Giuliani (2005) George Allen (2006)... the all-time winner with four CPAC straw poll wins is Mitt Romney (2007-2009), and again in 2012. http://www.tpnn.com/2014/03/10/youre-never-going-to-believe-whos-won-the-most-cpac-straw-polls-in-history/ (Not too many Presidential winners on that list.)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wowed the beltway elite and even Democrats during Saturday's annual Gridiron event, showing why the Ivy Leaguer has confounded and been vilified by many with whom he shares the same intellectual pedigree.
The annual D.C. roast is hosted by the exclusive Gridiron Club, which is composed of D.C.'s mainstream and "elite" journalists.
Cruz has degrees from Princeton and Harvard, which those in the permanent political class covet, and he can do their social rituals better than they can. Yet Cruz refuses to be co-opted by them politically, instead choosing to be a staunch conservative who represents the grassroots that sent him to Washington to fight against both political and media establishments.
Politico's Mike Allen said that Cruz, "crushed his speech – even Dems said he knocked it out of the park." In an appearance with Secretary of State John Kerry and Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, the Florida gubernatorial candidate who wants to be loved by the permanent political class, Cruz called himself the "anti-Crist" in what could be the perfect description of Cruz's brand of politics.
He also made fun of his filibuster and tense relationship with the GOP leadership:
And when Leader McConnell wants something, who am I to say no?… Twenty-one hours and 19 minutes [in the filibuster] – hearing nothing but my favorite sound. We’re talking Biden territory. And so typical of how this town works, they cut me off just as I was coming to my point.
By the way, does anyone know the record for the longest speech ever at this dinner? I looked it up, and in the late 1800s, New York Senator Chauncey DePew enthralled his audience until well past midnight. So LOOSEN UP THOSE WHITE TIES, settle back, and what do you say we make Gridiron history? [Applause]
...n front of conservative and tea-party audiences, I am hailed as the anti-Obama. But tonight, I’m the anti-Crist.
He also said his relations with McCain have greatly improved because "This week… he’s only once demanded a public apology from me. As wackobirds go, that’s pretty good." He also poked fun at his having been born in Canada, mocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and compared his Cuban dad to Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL), who was also from Cuba:
Canadians are so polite, mild-mannered, modest, unassuming, open-minded. Thank God my family fled that oppressive influence before it could change me.
I might add that Canadians are also extremely efficient. No red tape at all in handling my application to renounce citizenship. They had that thing approved before I even sent it in. The simple truth is that for a very brief time my family lived on the plains of Calgary. That does not make me a Canadian. Although Elizabeth Warren says that it does make me an Algonquin Indian. Of course, my family is Cuban… At first, when he got here, my dad washed dishes for 50 cents an hour. He was so low on the totem pole where he worked that even Marco Rubio's father bossed him around.
Cruz also blasted Obama's executive orders and his disregard for the law: "We are still a nation of laws. You just have to check with Barack Obama every day to see what they are."
The fact of the matter is what the president is doing this weekend in Florida is essentially what the president would be doing if he stayed back at the White House,' Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama. (golf)
President Putin's Fiction: 10 False Claims About Ukraine Washington, DC March 5, 2014
1. Mr. Putin says: Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets. It is “citizens’ defense groups,” not Russian forces, who have seized infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea.
The Facts: Strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.
2. Mr. Putin says: Russia’s actions fall within the scope of the 1997 Friendship Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
The Facts: The 1997 agreement requires Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which have given them operational control of Crimea, are in clear violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
3. Mr. Putin says: The opposition failed to implement the February 21 agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Facts: The February 21 agreement laid out a plan in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a constitutional system centered around its parliament. Under the terms of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion. Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption.
4. Mr. Putin says: Ukraine’s government is illegitimate. Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine.
The Facts: On March 4, President Putin himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political future.” After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes – more than an 82% majority. The interim government of Ukraine is a government of the people, which will shepherd the country toward democratic elections on May 25th – elections that will allow all Ukrainians to have a voice in the future of their country.
5. Mr. Putin says: There is a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands are fleeing Ukraine to Russia and seeking asylum.
The Facts: To date, there is absolutely no evidence of a humanitarian crisis. Nor is there evidence of a flood of asylum-seekers fleeing Ukraine for Russia. International organizations on the ground have investigated by talking with Ukrainian border guards, who also refuted these claims. Independent journalists observing the border have also reported no such flood of refugees.
6. Mr. Putin says: Ethnic Russians are under threat.
The Facts: Outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat. The new Ukrainian government placed a priority on peace and reconciliation from the outset. President Oleksandr Turchynov refused to sign legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at regional level. Ethnic Russians and Russian speakers have filed petitions attesting that their communities have not experienced threats. Furthermore, since the new government was established, calm has returned to Kyiv. There has been no surge in crime, no looting, and no retribution against political opponents.
7. Mr. Putin says: Russian bases are under threat.
The Facts: Russian military facilities were and remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases. It is Ukrainian bases in Crimea that are under threat from Russian military action.
8. Mr. Putin says: There have been mass attacks on churches and synagogues in southern and eastern Ukraine.
The Facts: Religious leaders in the country and international religious freedom advocates active in Ukraine have said there have been no incidents of attacks on churches. All of Ukraine’s church leaders, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, have expressed support for the new political leadership, calling for national unity and a period of healing. Jewish groups in southern and eastern Ukraine report that they have not seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
9. Mr. Putin says: Kyiv is trying to destabilize Crimea.
The Facts: Ukraine’s interim government has acted with restraint and sought dialogue. Russian troops, on the other hand, have moved beyond their bases to seize political objectives and infrastructure in Crimea. The government in Kyiv immediately sent the former Chief of Defense to defuse the situation. Petro Poroshenko, the latest government emissary to pursue dialogue in Crimea, was prevented from entering the Crimean Rada.
10. Mr. Putin says: The Rada is under the influence of extremists or terrorists.
The Facts: The Rada is the most representative institution in Ukraine. Recent legislation has passed with large majorities, including from representatives of eastern Ukraine. Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada. There is no indication that the Ukrainian government would pursue discriminatory policies; on the contrary, they have publicly stated exactly the opposite.
More likely terror than science, I did not realize they still have not discovered what happened to the Malaysian airliner. North Korea has been playing around with shooting missiles at moving objects. Given the location, more likely this was done by either a terrorist group in possession of serious weaponry or exploded from above by the the two men who boarded with stolen passports.
Many Chinese aboard, among others. Assuming foul play, still hard to say who was the target, what was the motive?
January 23, 2014: http://www.cruz.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=824 The President and Congress should unite in a coherent and sustained program to support the opposition and encourage Yanukovych to both rescind his restrictions on the rights of the Ukrainian people and renounce violence against those engaged in protest... The Department of State should be commended for implementing visa bans against Ukrainian officials this week. We should follow-up swiftly with targeted economic sanctions as well, including freezing the assets of those responsible for the violence.
January 28, 2014, 12:39 pm Cruz: Putin plays chess, Obama plays checkers on foreign policy http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/europe/196646-cruz-putin-plays-chess-obama-plays-checkers-on-foreign-policy He also called on Obama to take a more active role in helping pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine who are trying to break the grip of Russian influence. The Obama administration should consider short-term and long-term steps such as setting up a free-trade zone to help bolster the Ukrainian economy and protect it from Russian economic coercion, he said. Cruz said the United States should share the expertise of American companies to assist in the development of Ukraine’s domestic shale gas reserves and assist with the construction of liquid natural gas import infrastructure so that the former satellite state does not have to depend on Russia as a source.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday over the occupation of southern Ukraine, with the libertarian-leaning Republican claiming that “if he’s going to act like a rogue nation, he will be isolated.”
Paul spoke to Fox News’ Greta van Susteren at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where he delivered a speech on Friday. “What will you do about Putin and Ukraine?” the reporter asked the prospective 2016 presidential candidate.
Often criticized by right-wing hawks for his push to limit American involvement overseas Paul’s response indicated a willingness to articulate clear consequences to aggression without resorting to military confrontation. “We have to tell him that his behavior is unacceptable. He needs to be isolated,” the senator said. “And if he’s going to act like a rogue nation, he will be isolated.”
“I don’t think that involves a military option,” Paul continued, “and I think that most of the party has come to my way of thinking on this, that there really isn’t a military option for us there. That doesn’t mean that we don’t react, and that we don’t let Putin know in clear and uncertain terms that what he’s done is unacceptable.”
The senator also noted that if Russia pushes beyond Crimea and invades the rest of the country, an international response may be the least of Putin’s problems. “If he tries to further occupy Ukraine, my prediction is Ukraine becomes Syria,” he said, referencing the bloody 3-year civil war ravaging that country. “If Ukraine becomes Syria it’ll be a disaster for Russia, and he better think twice about it. Because one Ukrainian teenager with $200 of explosives could disrupt his pipelines.”
Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said on Sunday that he would have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by “drilling every possible conceivable place” in the U.S. if he were president.
Following his Saturday win in the Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll, Paul was asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday if he was willing to let Russian President Vladimir Putin have the Ukraine peninsula of Crimea.
“If they annex Crimea, Ukraine will almost certainly come within the Western orbit,” Paul explained. “So, it will backfire on them. Because you will be taking Russian-speaking voters that have been speaking for Russian-speaking presidents of Ukraine, you’ll be taking them out of the population.”
“The other thing I’ve said is, that I would do something differently from the president,” the Kentucky Republican added. “I would immediately get every obstacle out of the way for our export of oil and gas.”
“And I would begin drilling in every possible conceivable place within our territories in order to have production we can supply Europe with if it’s interrupted from Ukraine.”
Crafty has already posted about this movement to draft Ben Carson, but there is quite an effort going on at CPAC to support this. http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/is-ben-carson-the-republican-who-can-defeat-hillary-clinton-20140306 Their argument is that if a Republican, ANY Republican, can win 17% of the black vote, it is all over for the Democrats. My argument is that with a Rubio-Carson ticket, for example, you could change enough hearts and minds that it would not matter what color, ethnicity, skill set or first language a person has or is, they will want to jump in and earn a piece of the new freedom, peace and prosperity that will be coming to their neighbrhood and their country.
The draft committee raised $2.83 million dollars from 47,000 donors in its first six months of operation, which ended in late February. "We crushed Ready for Hillary in fundraising," http://www.runbenrun.org/
KIEV, Ukraine — OVER the past two weeks, residents of Kiev have lived through its bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, watched their reviled president flee and a new, provisional team take charge, seen Russian troops take control of part of the country, and heard Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, assert his right to take further military action. Yet the Ukrainian capital is calm.
Revolutions often falter on Day 2, as Ukraine has already bitterly learned twice — once after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and then again in 2005 after the Orange Revolution. That could happen again, but the new revolution is enjoying a prolonged honeymoon, thanks to Mr. Putin, whose intervention in Ukrainian foreign and trade policy provoked the uprising in the first place, and whose invasion has, paradoxically, increased its chance of long-term success.
Kiev smells like a smoky summer camp, from the bonfires burning to keep the demonstrators still out on Independence Square warm, but every day it is tidier. Sidewalks in the city center are checkerboarded with neat piles of bricks that had been dug up to serve as missiles and are now being put back.
The police, despised for their corruption and repression, are returning to work. Their squad cars often sport Ukrainian flags and many have a “self-defense” activist from the protests with them. A Western ambassador told me that the activists were there to protect the cops from angry citizens. My uncle, who lives here, said they were also there to stop the police from slipping back into their old ways and demanding bribes.
This revolution may yet be eaten by its own incompetence or by infighting. A presidential election is scheduled for May, and the race, negative campaigning and all, has quietly begun. The oligarchs, some of whom have cannily been appointed governors of the potentially restive eastern regions, are jockeying for power. But for now, Ukrainians, who were brought together by shared hatred of the former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, are being brought closer still by the Kremlin-backed invasion.
“Yanukovych freed Ukraine and Putin is uniting it,” said Iegor Soboliev, a 37-year-old ethnic Russian who heads a government commission to vet officials of the former regime. “Ukraine is functioning not through its government but through the self-organization of its people and their sense of human decency.”
Mr. Soboliev is a former investigative journalist who grew frustrated that carefully documented revelations of government misbehavior — which he says “wasn’t merely corruption, it was marauding” — were having no impact. He and a few friends formed Volya, a movement dedicated to creating a country of “responsible citizens” and a “state worthy of their trust.”
“People in Odessa, Mykolaiv, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk are coming out to defend their country,” Mr. Soboliev said. “They have never liked the western Ukrainian, Galician point of view. But they are showing themselves to be equally patriotic. They are defending their country from foreign aggression. Fantastical things are happening.”
This conflict could flare into Europe’s first major war of the 21st century, and Crimea may never again be part of Ukraine. But no matter what happens over the next few months, or even years, Mr. Putin and his vision of an authoritarian, Russian-dominated former Soviet space have already lost. Democratic, independent Ukraine, and the messy, querulous (but also free and law-abiding) European idea have won.
So far, the only certain victory is the ideological one. Many outsiders have interpreted the past three months as a Yugoslav-style ethno-cultural fight. It is nothing of the kind. This is a political struggle. Notwithstanding the bloodshed, the best parallel is with Prague’s Velvet Revolution of 1989. The emphasis there on changing society’s moral tone, and each person’s behavior, was likewise central to the protests that overthrew Mr. Yanukovych.
For Ukraine, as well as for Russia and much of the former U.S.S.R., the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was only a partial revolution. The U.S.S.R. vanished, but the old nomenklatura, and its venal, authoritarian style of governance remained. Mr. Putin is explicitly drawing on that heritage and fitfully trying to reshape it into a new state capitalist system that can compete and flourish globally. An alliance with Mr. Yanukovych’s Ukraine was an essential part of that plan.
That effort has now failed. Whatever Mr. Putin achieves in Ukraine, it will not be partnership with a Slavic younger brother enthusiastically joining in his neo-imperialist, neo-Soviet project.
The unanswered question is whether Ukraine can be a practical success. The economy needs a total structural overhaul — and that huge shift needs to be accomplished while either radically transforming, or creating from scratch, effective government institutions.
This is the work Central Europe and the Baltic states did in the 1990s. Their example shows that it can be done, but it takes a long time, requires a patient and united populace, and probably also the promise of European partnership.
The good news is that Ukraine may finally have achieved the necessary social unity. The bad news is that it isn’t clear if Europe, struggling with its economic malaise and ambivalence toward its newish eastern members, has the stomach to tutor and support Ukraine as it did the Visegrad countries — Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland — and the Baltic states.
THIS should be Ukraine’s biggest problem. But with Russian forces in Crimea, the more urgent question Kiev faces is whether it will find itself at war.
The answer depends in large part on Russia. Sergei Kovalev, a former dissident who became a member of the Russian Parliament in the 1990s, once told me that a good rule for understanding Russian strongmen was that “eating increases the appetite.” Mr. Putin has thus far lived up to that aphorism.
Thanks to his agility in Syria, his successful hosting of the Sochi Olympics and even, at first, his masterful manipulation of Mr. Yanukovych, Mr. Putin has won himself something of a reputation as a master strategist. But he has made a grave miscalculation in Ukraine.
For one thing, Mr. Putin misunderstands the complexities of language and ethnicity in Ukraine. Certainly, Ukraine is diverse, and language, history and culture play a role in some of its internal differences — just as they do in blue- and red-state America, in northern and southern Italy, or in the north and the south of England.
The error is to believe there is a fratricidal separation between Russian and Ukrainian speakers and to assume that everyone who speaks Russian at home or voted for Mr. Yanukovych would prefer to be a citizen of Mr. Putin’s Russia. The reality of Ukraine is that everyone in the country speaks and understands Russian and everyone at least understands Ukrainian. On television, in Parliament, and in the streets, bilingual discussions are commonplace.
Mr. Putin seems to have genuinely believed that Ukraine was Yugoslavia, and that his forces would be warmly welcomed by at least half of the country. As Leonid D. Kuchma, a former president of Ukraine and once a senior member of the Soviet military-industrial complex, told me: “His advisers must have thought they would be met in eastern Ukraine with flowers as liberators. The reality is 180 degrees opposite.”
Many foreign policy realists wish the Ukrainian revolution hadn’t happened. They would rather Ukraine had more fully entered the corrupt, authoritarian zone the Kremlin is seeking to consolidate. But we don’t get to choose for Ukraine — Ukrainians do, and they have. Now we have to choose for ourselves.
CNN author makes a bunch of straw arguments in the '5 myths' format, IMHO. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/08/opinion/miller-five-myths-about-ukraine-crisis/index.html?hpt=hp_t4 Myth 1. We're back in the Cold War - No, we are in a new one. 2. Putin is Hitler - No one is Hitler, but the similarities are worth noting. "Russia believed its vital interests in Ukraine were threatened and it had the means, will, and proximity to act on them. And it's about time we faced up to it." - Hitler I suppose had his apologists in the west as well. 3. It's all Obama's fault - No, not the motives or the exact events, but the timing is certainly tied to perceived American weakness. 4. Bombing Syria would have saved Ukraine - Bombing Syria wasn't anyone's proposal in total, but actually it probably would have slowed Putin and saved Ukraine as we knew it. 5. Ukraine can have a 'Hollywood' ending - The goal of peace through strength and deterrence is not to have a happy ending to a brutal, hard fought, nuclear confrontation. The author is either too deep in his cocoon to know that or is intentionally obfuscating. Perfect example of what we mean by mainstream or lamestream media coverage, where the more you read the less you know.
Point well taken. In my view, the speeches by Ben Carson, Mia Love, Herman Cain, Alan West, TJ Shannon, Tim Scott, (as well as speeches by Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, Marco Rubio and others) are also outreaches to minorities, in fact if not in title.
"The rules that Obama says befuddled the IRS boneheads — to his benefit — read today exactly as they have read since 1959. For half a century they did not prevent the IRS from processing applications for tax-exempt status in less than three months."
"[Obama] After calling the IRS behavior “outrageous,” he now says there is not a “smidgen” of evidence of anything to be outraged about. He knows this even though the supposed investigation of the IRS behavior has not been completed, or perhaps even begun. The person he chose to investigate his administration is an administration employee and a generous donor to his campaigns."
The IRS’s behavior taxes credulity
By George F. Will, March 7 2014
What’s been said of confession — that it is good for one’s soul but bad for one’s reputation — can also be true of testifying to Congress, so Lois Lerner has chosen to stay silent. Hers, however, is an eloquent silence.
The most intrusive and potentially most punitive federal agency has been politicized; the IRS has become an appendage of Barack Obama’s party. Furthermore, congruent with exhortations from some congressional Democrats, it is intensifying its efforts to suffocate groups critical of progressives, by delaying what once was the swift, routine granting of tax-exempt status.
So, the IRS, far from repenting of its abusive behavior, is trying to codify the abuses. It hopes to nullify with new rules the existing legal right of 501(c)(4) groups, many of which are conservative, to participate in politics. The proposed rules have drawn more than 140,000 comments, most of them complaints, some from liberals wary of IRS attempts to broadly define “candidate-related political activity” and to narrow the permissible amount of this.
Lerner is, so far, the face of this use of government to punish political adversaries. She knows what her IRS unit did and how it intersects with the law, and for a second time she has exercised her constitutional right to remain silent rather than risk self-incrimination. The public has a right to make reasonable inferences from her behavior.
And from Obama’s. After calling the IRS behavior “outrageous,” he now says there is not a “smidgen” of evidence of anything to be outraged about. He knows this even though the supposed investigation of the IRS behavior has not been completed, or perhaps even begun. The person he chose to investigate his administration is an administration employee and a generous donor to his campaigns.
Obama breezily says there was nothing more sinister than “boneheaded decisions” by wayward and anonymous IRS underlings. Certainly boneheadedness explains much about this administration. Still, does he consider it interesting that the consequences of IRS boneheadedness were not randomly distributed but thwarted conservatives?
The rules that Obama says befuddled the IRS boneheads — to his benefit — read today exactly as they have read since 1959. For half a century they did not prevent the IRS from processing applications for tax-exempt status in less than three months. Some conservative group should offer $10,000 to anyone who can identify a liberal group that had the experience scores of conservative groups have had — an application delayed more than three years and receipt of an IRS questionnaire containing at least 60 questions.
Speaking of questions: Can anyone identify a Democratic Senate candidate whose tax records were leaked, as Christine O’Donnell’s were when she was the Republican candidate in Delaware in 2010? Is it a coincidence that in January 2011, after Catherine Engelbrecht requested tax-exempt status for two conservative groups she founded in Texas — King Street Patriots and True the Vote — the Engelbrecht family business was notified of its first IRS audit? Does James Comey wonder why (this was before he became FBI director), five months after Engelbrecht’s tax-exemption request, FBI agents appeared seeking information about attendees at the King Street Patriots meetings? Were five subsequent FBI contacts “checking in” for “updates” on the group’s activities really necessary? Why did the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show a sudden intrusive interest in the Engelbrechts’ business, which has nothing to do with alcohol or tobacco or firearms or explosives?
The idea that politicians should write laws restricting people critical of them is as perverse as the idea that the sprawling, opaque IRS bureaucracy should be assigned to construe and apply such laws. It is bad enough that there is the misbegotten Federal Election Commission to do what the First Amendment forbids — government regulation of the quantity, content and timing of political speech.
This column has previously noted that in 1996 a Republican Senate candidate called the FEC to dispute campaign finance charges made by Democrats. The head of the FEC’s enforcement division told the Republican: “Promise me you will never run for office again, and we will drop this case.” So spoke Lois Lerner.
He is not my favorite, but I am not as negative on Chris Christie as ccp is. (But I don't live there.) I don't know that he is guilty on this scandal. Blue (yellow?) state Republican governors are one of two types, either a lean with the wind rino or a true conservative who has learned to soften the edge and turn it down a little to get elected. I have no idea how Christie would govern as a President on economic or foreign policy. It makes more sense to me that he be treated as an unknown than as a frontrunner.
The way he behaved around his reelection exposed his ego over the interests of state or country. I can't imagine Rubio, Rand Paul or Jindal putting personal gain ahead of public interest, like holding the Senate election a month before his reelection to keep Senate Dem voters away from the Governor race.
Executive experience is one thing. But direction, results and character matter. We need the trains not just running on time (lanes open?) but running in the right direction.
"Certainly the libertarian wing of the Reps offers one, but IMHO it contains some serious flaws."
"Libertarians have a foreign policy beyond 'me and my shotgun on my front porch'? Really? Do tell." ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It isn't that they have an answer for the growing threats around the world. It is that in the context of American war fatigue from Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam(?), their policy of 'do nothing, this isn't America's problem' is quite popular and tempting. Rubio is acknowledging that. He or any other candidate will have to unite the two sides (or lose). Rand Paul has also moved at least his rhetoric to the middle from his father's blame America first, hands off, stay home approach. This will be interesting to watch.
Rubio's approach is more likely to lead to peace, through strength and deterrence while the appeasers approach always seems to just embolden enemies and lead to even more trouble. Case in point, Barack Hussein Obama: how are those Berlin 2008 speeches and Cairo 2009 speeches working out for us? Can't we all just get along?
I like to remind isolationist libertarians that we had a little foreign assistance securing our liberties! As Rubio points out, living without oppression is the exception in human history.
For some years now I have been posting here about the lack of a coherent American foreign policy. Certainly the libertarian wing of the Reps offers one, but IMHO it contains some serious flaws. Rubio begins to threaten to offer a vision. This bears watching.
I don't know if anyone has a complete foreign policy 2014 answer, but at least Rubio understands the reality of the global threat situation. He also gets the political and practical aspects of it: "that doesn't mean were going to be involved in 15 wars." He gets the role of energy dependence in it. He gets the moral case, and he is able to express it!
He calls out liberals on their lame tactics, "that we are going to pit Americans against each other on issue after issue is something we should never accept as a people".
Best of all, he demonstrates a rare ability to express a populist case against big intrusive government regulations and taxation:
"If you are a big corporation or multi-billionaire, you may not like big government but you can afford to deal with big government. You can hire lawyers and lobbyists and try to influence that regulation and navigate it. If you are trying to start a business out of the spare bedroom of your home, probably a violation of the zoning code, but if you are trying to start a business out of the spare bedroom of your home, you can't deal with runaway regulations and complicated laws. And that's why we're not getting the investment and innovation this country so desperately needs."
'American corporations have more cash sitting on the sidelines than the size of the entire German economy.' Are Hillary et al going to point that out, make a speech like this or make a compelling case of how to get things going again? No. They can't.
Barack Obama received the black vote, but he didn't change minds - on anything. Marco Rubio may have very little in common with Mexican-Americans or many other Hispanics in America, but he can make this same case in equally articulate Spanish. No liberal can do that. Not because of language, but because we already know their policies lead to failure.
We don't need a candidate to eek out a win on the electoral map in 2016. We need to permanently change a few hearts and minds.
Objections to Marco Rubio: He is too young and inexperienced. Same age roughly as Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, and Barack Obama at this point of the 2008 cycle. Same age as the median voter. And Rubio has economic and foreign policy credentials.
The immigration reform fiasco. He tried sincere negotiations with people who aren't. Probably learned something! His effort on this angered conservatives but likely made him more electable, which helps conservatism.
Executive experience. He could go back and serve as Florida Governor for two terms. (He already was Speaker of the Florida House.) But where will America be if we wait until 2026 for a perfectly credentialed candidate? We need to turn this ship around now.
Interesting take here on housing policy. By favoring housing with our policies, we screw up the market for housing and hurt the people we are trying to help. Sounds familiar, just like government interventions in nearly everything else.
Michael Milken: How Housing Policy Hurts the Middle Class Many buyers decided that the largest-possible house was a better idea than a retirement fund or a child's education
WSJ March 5, 2014 Opinion, (link below)
The American dream traditionally meant that anyone could get ahead based on ability and hard work. But over the past few decades, the United States government created incentives through housing programs and the tax code that changed the dream for many Americans. Middle-class families began to think of homes as investments, not just shelter. When the housing market crashed, everyone suffered—homeowners, investors, wage-earners and taxpayers.
Aggressive housing programs have not always helped the poor and middle class. The median net worth of American adults is now one of the lowest among developed nations—less than $45,000, according to the Credit Suisse CSGN.VX +1.32% Global Wealth Databook. That compares with approximately $220,000 in Australia, $142,000 in France and $54,000 in Greece. Almost a third of American adults have a net worth of less than $10,000. Those statistics don't convey the pain endured by millions of American families who lost their homes. Enlarge Image
As recently as 1980, government-sponsored Fannie Mae FNMA +10.08% and Freddie Mac FMCC +8.18% held, guaranteed or securitized fewer than 10% of U.S. mortgages or less than $100 billion. Today, it's $4.7 trillion. Add Ginnie Mae's mortgage guarantees, and the number exceeds $6 trillion. Since 2008, these agencies have been involved in more than 95% of all new mortgages. This massive exposure has been justified by clichés: Housing should be affordable; ownership creates financial independence; government programs sustain the economy by increasing ownership. But did ownership increase?
According to the Census Bureau, 65.6% of households owned a home in 1980. More than three decades and trillions of dollars later, the needle hasn't budged—it's still about 65%. Subsidized mortgages did create three things, none of them good:
1. The largest housing price bubble in American history. Research by Nobel economist Robert Shiller shows that U.S. housing prices declined in about half of the years since 1890. While U.S. stocks during those years enjoyed an average real rate of return of about 6% a year, the annual inflation-adjusted return on houses was a meager 0.18%. Factor in real estate's heavy transaction costs and that number turns negative. Nevertheless, in the housing-boom decade before 2007, many buyers decided that the largest-possible house (with an equally large mortgage) was a better idea than a retirement fund or their children's education.
By contrast, according to CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, middle-class households in 11 Asian nations spend an average 15% of income on supplemental education for their children—nearly as much as the 16% spent on housing and transportation combined. Americans spend only 2% on supplemental education and 50% on housing and transportation. For American home buyers taking on big loans, there was no margin for error if they lost their job or the roof leaked.
2. Misguided economic priorities. Uniquely among nations, the U.S. gives mortgage borrowers a trifecta of benefits: extensive tax advantages, no recourse against the borrowers' nonresidential assets if they walk away, and typically no protection for the lender if the borrower prepays the loan to get a lower rate. Enlarge Image
These policies long seemed like a great deal for borrowers, but they wreaked havoc on the financial system. People with marginal credit were encouraged to finance more than 90% of the purchase price with 30-year mortgages. If interest rates later fell, they could refinance. If rates rose, they could congratulate themselves for locking in a low rate. If prices rose, they enjoyed all the upside and could tap the equity. If prices fell and they faced foreclosure, their other assets were protected because the loans were usually non-recourse.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now wants to tip the scale even more against lenders by asserting the legal theory of "disparate impact." Consumers can sue if the volume of loans to any racial group or aggrieved class differs substantially from loans to other groups. No intent to discriminate is required, and it's illegal for a mortgage application to ask the borrower's race. Financial institutions trying to avoid making bad loans by implementing prudent underwriting practices can inadvertently get in trouble. A bank forced to pay a fine one year because it irresponsibly made "predatory" loans to people with bad credit can be fined the next year for not making similar loans.
3.Damage to the environment and public health. As the nearby chart indicates, the size of the average American house grew by more than half—about 900 additional square feet—over the past three decades while the number of people in the average house decreased. Larger houses need larger lots that are usually farther from the home owner's job. Construction, heating, cooling, landscaping and extended commutes consume more natural resources. Because breadwinners spend more time in cars, they have less time for their families.
As someone who helped finance several of the nation's leading residential builders, I understand the important role the industry plays in the economy. Homebuilders didn't create the problems. Policies made in Washington distorted the banking system and discouraged personal responsibility by subsidizing loans that borrowers couldn't otherwise afford. This encouraged housing speculation supported by financial leverage. Ultimately, taxpayers got the bill.
Housing's 2008 collapse led to the U.S. Treasury takeover of Fannie's and Freddie's obligations even as the Federal Housing Administration increased its guarantees to more than $1 trillion and the Federal Reserve stepped up purchases of mortgage-backed securities. Federal debt surged.
Americans will eventually have to pay for that through some combination of inflation, higher taxes, higher interest rates or reduced benefits and services. For now, the Fed is doing what the savings and loan industry did in the 1980s: borrowing short term while lending long term. When interest rates rise, the value of the government's mortgage holdings will decline.
Many housing experts believe that the solution is to reduce the government's role by attracting private capital. That's the centerpiece of proposals presented to the Senate Banking Committee last fall by Phillip Swagel, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute's Center for Financial Markets. Rather than hold or securitize mortgages, Fannie and Freddie would retain only a limited role as secondary guarantors. With the government as a backstop and private capital risking the first loss, mortgage interest rates would undoubtedly rise. But the taxpayer subsidy would fall. It's a reasonable tradeoff to transfer risk from taxpayers to investors and let the market determine rates. Congress appears to be moving in that direction as it debates various proposals.
Fortunately, the private sector is well-positioned to assume much of the government's role. Thanks to booming capital markets and accommodative central banks, there is tremendous liquidity worldwide. Fannie and Freddie have now paid the Treasury more in dividends than they received in the bailout. Private capital already plays a substantial role in commercial real estate and has the capacity to make comparable residential commitments.
Investments in quality education and improved health will do more to accelerate economic growth than excessive housing incentives. That will give everyone a better chance to achieve the real American dream.
On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) addressed the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference attendees with a fiery speech focused on redefining America’s approach to foreign affairs. He defined the threats he warned that the United States will face in the near future and defined current and long-term America’s economic challenges in terms relating to the preservation of free trade guaranteed by American military and diplomatic strength.
“We are right on the verge, if we make a few right decisions, of a new American century,” Rubio began. He took a populist approach to arguing against “big government” by saying that large corporations are able to “deal with big government,” while other smaller firms are not able to compete. He added that Democratic politicians are creating “disunity” in the country by focusing on addressing “inequality” rather than expanding access to opportunity.
“This notion that we’re going to pit Americans against each other on issue after issue is something that we should never accept as a people, because it’s never been who we are and it isn’t who we are right now,” Rubio said.
He pivoted to foreign policy, defining the threats faced by the United States. He said that China is threatening to take parts of the South China Sea which would limit trade and threaten America’s allies, a nuclear North Korea is testing missiles, Venezuela is slaughtering protesters, and Cuba remains an oppressive dictatorship. He added that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and regional hegemony and Russia is attempting to “reconstitute” the former Soviet Union.
“And by the way, what do all these countries have in common?” he asked. “These are totalitarian governments.”
“There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio said. “The United Nations cannot do this. In fact, they cannot do anything.”
“We cannot ignore that the flawed foreign policy of the last few years has brought us to this stage, because we have a president who believed but by the sheer force of his personality he would be able to shape global events,” Rubio asserted. “We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be. We have to see the world the way it is. And we have to address these issues before they grow unmanageable, and they threaten, not just our freedoms, but our economy.”
“[Ronald] Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted peace, but he never accepted the Soviet Union,” he declared. He said went on to outline how the behavior of the Iranian government should be unacceptable to the American public and regarded as illegitimate.
“If you think high taxes and regulations are bad for our economy, so is global instability and the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio added. “What we have in America is the exception, not the rule, in human history. Almost everyone who has ever lived on this planet didn’t’ get to choose their leaders, and they didn’t get to choose their life either.”
“Every time I talk about how special America is, some commentator or whoever it may be will roll their eyes and say, ‘Well, that’s just something Americans tell each other to make themselves feel good,’” Rubio said. “You have the right to believe that. I don’t have that option, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
Steven Hayward called it the "Best. Supreme Court. Brief. Ever." http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/03/best-supreme-court-brief-ever.php Steven Driehaus is the sore-loser Democrat who is suing Susan B. Anthony List for independent ads they ran in the election that cost Driehaus his Ohio congressional seat. I can’t imagine he has much of a case, but it’s made it to the high court anyway. O’Rourke and his co-authors, which include the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro, defend the idea that opinionated speech is not only protected under the First Amendment, but essential to democracy. Such as:
After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular- humanist professors of Chicano studies. . .
While President Obama isn’t from Kenya, he is a Keynesian—so you can see where the confusion arises.
Driehaus voted for Obamacare, which the Susan B. Anthony List said was the equivalent of voting for taxpayer- funded abortion. Amici are unsure how true the allegation is given that the healthcare law seems to change daily, but it certainly isn’t as truthy as calling a mandate a tax.
I didn't see any glaring errors. I'll look it over in more detail and report back.
Under "Never" it says "Never Answer Questions"
This is written from a defense attorney's point of view to a future client. Whatever the accused said is on the record and won't go away. I would just add, on the other hand, there are times with law enforcement where you might want to be helpful.
Late night police stops around here for minor infractions, tail light, rolling stops, etc. are aimed at finding something else, drunk drivers in particular. IF you have had nothing to drink and have nothing else to hide, being cooperative seems like a better strategy than saying I don't have t answer that. Not consent to a search, but to answer their questions hopefully shows your sobriety quickly so they can get on with their next stop.
I had one encounter with law enforcement that comes to mind; it was not a police stop but a criminal investigation of sorts. I was leaving my office to meet with the Mpls Fire Chief about an apartment building fire when my insurance adjuster warned me on the phone that as owner of the building with an insurance policy in force, I was their first suspect. I was shocked; that is ridiculous! I was a thousand miles away when it happened and I can prove it. Then I thought through that excuse and realized that sounded exactly the same as the alibi they would hear if I had arranged the fire. So I got focused on being extremely helpful and forthcoming in helping them solve the crime. With my keys I got them into units where the tenants would not let him in. Answering everything and then some sure seemed like a better strategy than acting guilty, but only I knew I was innocent and that no evidence could be discovered that would point to me. (Now I self-insure.)
The two Western powers signed an agreement with Ukraine in 1994, which Kiev's parliament wants enforcing now. The Budapest Memorandum, signed by Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma – the then-rulers of the USA, UK, Russia and Ukraine – promises to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine, in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.
Article one reads: "The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine ... to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine."
And Kiev is now claiming that their country's borders are not being respected.
Barack Obama: “This has been a secret project we’ve been working on for a long time." Private researchers working with the Pentagon, classified, maybe, not really, ha ha. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77pnVFLkUjM
Camp's proposal is not exactly what I am looking for, but I respect him for stepping forward with a real plan. John E. Sununu comments on it in the Boston Globe today.
Tax reform: Ski it if you dare By John E. Sununu March 03, 2014
When David Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, released tax reform legislation last week, the first thing that sprang to my mind was Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine. Looming just 2 miles or so from the Pinkham Notch visitor center, the greatest natural snow bowl east of the Mississippi beckons thousands of hardened skiers every year. The ravine’s 50-foot snow pack entices them with the promise of beauty and exhilaration. For those who conquer it, there’s a sense of achievement to which nothing else compares.
In Washington, the siren of tax reform calls out to devoted policy wonks in the same way. Designing a simpler tax system, like skiing the ravine, allows suitors to take on as much as they dare: corporate taxes, personal income taxes, or the entire 75,000-page code. At Tuckerman, the higher you climb, the steeper the grade. The ultimate thrill is reserved for those willing to attack the sheer face from the snowfields above.
Approaching the steep headwall from that relatively flat terrain, the slope falls away so abruptly that skiers cannot possibly see what awaits below — until they pass the point of no return. Tax seminars, hearings, and speeches are the Washington version of those snowfields. Everyone gets the opportunity to posture, talk about what could be, and pretend they know what lies over that horizon. But as Camp found out last week, talking and doing are different things. Once you crest the lip and are clinging to a 55-degree slope, the mountain becomes a lonely place.
Camp’s loneliness has nothing to do with ability. The Michigan Republican is an outstanding congressman with an effective, inclusive leadership style. But the “discussion draft” he made public contains something that makes most members of Congress uncomfortable: details. Every deduction, credit, exemption, and loophole makes the tax code more complicated, and simplification demands that they must go. Meaningful tax reform requires trade-offs. But when confronted with hard choices, most members of Congress start looking for a way to bail out.
Camp’s bill demonstrates the courage of his convictions. Rafts of deductions are capped, phased out, or eliminated altogether. The bill reduces the number of personal income tax brackets from seven to three: 10 percent, 25 percent, and an additional surcharge on income over $400,000. The corporate tax rate would drop from 35 percent today — one of the highest in the world — to 25 percent.
Wisely, Camp designed his bill to be revenue-neutral. It doesn’t attempt to raise or cut tax collections overall. Perhaps more important, it is “distributionally” neutral; he makes no effort to raise or lower taxes for the rich, the poor, or the middle class. This debate should be about how we pay, not how much — and about making the code and our entire economy more efficient, productive and fair.
Avoiding class warfare rhetoric makes for a smoother trail, but those who benefited from the code’s complexity will still be unhappy. Every wrinkle in the current tax code has its own constituency. Farmers, ranchers, teachers, caregivers, and gamblers — an endless list — are singled out within the law. Everyone loves the idea of simplicity, but getting there will require that we think of ourselves as taxpayers, not part of a special group.
To date, few in Congress have been willing to support the bill publicly. The more narrow-minded have clung to their opposition to the bill’s “bank tax,” which was designed to pay for future bailouts under the Dodd-Frank regulations passed in 2010. If that’s the biggest flaw they can find, fine. Drop that piece and get on with it. At least we’ll learn who has genuinely committed to reform and who just wants to pay lip service.
Most important, everybody needs to realize no one can possibly agree with every element in such a comprehensive bill. You need to believe that the fundamental economic fairness that comes from taking the plunge makes it worth the trouble . . . and then push over the edge.
A good friend once described his favorite Tuckerman moment, watching an enthusiastic father encourage a group of young teenagers to take on the headwall. “Come on guys!” he waved while crossing the upper lip. Catching an edge on his crucial first turn, he bounced and slid like a rag doll several hundred yards to the floor of the ravine. The young gaggle behind followed without incident, no worse for having witnessed the spectacle.
Camp’s tax reform effort is unlikely to pass, but his willingness to take the plunge with honesty and substance deserves enormous credit. Most important, if he inspires just a few to follow his courageous path, we may remember his pioneering run for a long time.
John E. Sununu, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, writes regularly for the Globe.
Crafty and Bigdog may be right here about the negative effect for Republicans with independents and centrists. Still I think it is important that someone keep pointing out truths about both Clintons. On one hand we are saying that Ted Nugent can't be used to rev up a crowd because of association of a candidate or official with statements Nugent made or words he has used. Then on the other hand, in a most crucial Senate race we see a pretty, married, 35 year old woman (Grimes of Kentucky) use a serial sexual predator to rev up a crowd for her, while running against the 'Republican war on women'. Why does this not shine badly on her judgment? The hypocrisy should go unmentioned?
As it applies to 2016, I don't see Rand Paul as the nominee. Typically it is the VP who does this type of hatchet work. I do see Rand Paul as an excellent tactician. Maybe he is not running, as he has implied, and this type of work is just taking one for the team. Or maybe he is acting like a VP candidate now with a plan of elevating in time for 2016. If he is running, this is not the general election, it is the fight for the nomination, and what counts is his standing with people who vote in Republican caucuses and primaries.
The Bill Clinton behavior was not run of the mill unfaithfulness. It was a conspiracy run with the power of the Governor's office and then the power of the Presidency, putting demands on everyone from highway Patrol and Secret Service to executive staff. The 'shenanigans' were not all consensual. Upon learning about it, attacking Republicans is not the normal wife/girlfriend response. The anger she expressed was about him being stupid and getting caught. Has Hillary ever called him out for the abuse of his executive power? No, instead she attacked ALL the people who did that.
SHE was a crook. If Rand Paul is making a strategy of going after the Clintons and he seems to have done his homework, I doubt if we have seen all he has to say. When people have heard enough about the Clinton scandals of the 70s, 80s and 90s, Rand Paul can move right over to Benghazi: