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5001  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Global Warming? Spring has sprung in MN on: March 25, 2011, 03:38:17 PM
Reporting from my assigned weather station, the earth did not boil over.  We know about the email fraud and the changing data tweaking algorithms, also what we see with our own lying eyes. 'Climate' changes more day to day and year to year than what is alleged in a century, and only a smidgen of that is man-caused.

Here I offer my own 'backyard' today (March 25) showing snowdrifts covering a wind powered watercraft awaiting a melting of the still snow covered view of Minnesota's busiest lake, still frozen with feet-thick ice.  Spring so far has been 2 days of blizzard and 2 days of 15 degree sunshine.  The earliest recorded ice-out was March 11, 1878, and the latest recorded date was May 8, 1856.  This year looks to be around mid-April, roughly the 100 year average.  - More proof of global warming (sarc.)

In May the water will be a sky blue reflection and the trees a beautiful shade of forest green, just like 100-150 years ago. The Pianese flowers will bloom in full color the second week of June, like clockwork.
5002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: March 25, 2011, 10:12:21 AM
The turn of events in Egypt or at least coverage all seems to be negative for freedom and positive for the MB.  I thought I would look up the Prof. from U of MN Humphrey Institute, Cairo native, who was so optimistic earlier to see what he is saying now. Couldn't find anything more recent than this fluff piece in MSNBC March 1 about young people and hope and change.  Can they really be that naive? yes.  Is there any chance we are wrong about this turning into a new oppressive regime? I hope so.  It is a little ironic that he compares to the Tiananmen protesters.  That did not work out very well.
Egyptian activist Jihan Ibrahim, 24, during the protests in Cairo that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Mideast 'baby boomers': Shock troops of protests
By Miranda Leitsinger Reporter
Demographics play a key role in unrest sweeping volatile region

The wave of protests breaking across the Mideast and North Africa has a common leading edge — in each case, the unrest was triggered by young people lacking jobs or a viable future.

The youthful revolts and protests are in many ways predictable, experts say, combining a population boom that has produced a high percentage of teenagers and young adults with social conditions that are as volatile as the oil that fuels the region’s economy.

“Young people without jobs, young people who are waiting for a chance, young people without hope … they’re waiting, waiting, waiting,” said Tarik Yousef, dean of the Dubai School of Government. “At some point, you reach a threshold of patience.”

Jihan Ibrahim, a 24-year-old Egyptian activist who was shot in the back with a rubber bullet during one of the protests and fled through a rain of tear gas and water cannons, said the pain and terror were “the price of freedom under this kind of a regime.”

“I want to be able to elect who I want to represent me. I want my government to be transparent,” said Ibrahim, who lived in California for several years when she was younger. “I want free education and decent health care, and decent wage and job opportunities — just like any reasonable human being would ask for.”

Young adults like Ibrahim are part of a regional “youth bulge,” a situation that occurs when infant mortality declines during a period of improved medical technology and families continue to have many children.

Overall, 15- to 24-year-olds make up about 20 percent of the population across the Mideast and North Africa, and 30 percent when that range is extended to 15- to 29-years old, according to a report by the Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

In the U.S., 15- to 24-year-olds and 15- to 29-year-olds make up 14.1 percent and 21.3 percent of the population, respectively.
Advertise | AdChoices

'Like the baby boom generation’
“It’s a bit like the baby boom generation in this country,” said Ragui Assaad, an Egyptian-American and professor of planning and public affairs at the University of Minnesota. “But it’s not because there are more babies — it’s because more babies are surviving.

“What makes the youth bulge particularly problematic is its combination with economic conditions that have made it hard to employ these young people in productive ways.”

Unemployment among the young is stubbornly high in many countries in the region. In 2009, Algeria and Iraq had unemployment rates of 45 percent for 15- to 24-year-olds, according the Brookings report . In Libya, where the government of Moammar Gadhafi is clinging to power amid a massive revolt, the rate was 27 percent in 2005, the most recent data available. And in Egypt, where youth-led protests forced regime change, the rate was 25 percent.

Compare that with an unemployment rate for young Americans of 19.1 percent in July 2010 and 20 percent across the 27 nations of the European Union, as of August 2010.

“The Middle East and North Africa have the highest youth unemployment rate amongst all regions,” Credit Suisse said in a Feb. 25 report on the region’s demographics. “The effect of unemployment in some of these countries is felt even more strongly due to high inflation.”

The surge in the youth population creates “a primary condition for potential destabilization” if this situation “does not translate into youth achievement,” said Yousef, the Dubai educator.

“It sets up a demand for social-economic transformation, modernization that has to be focused on addressing the needs of this particular segment of the population,” he said. “Most of the governments in the regions have precisely failed to do that. Their approach and response to it has been one of, ‘Let’s repress it.’”

As a result, sometimes an individual can ignite a revolution.

The suicide of a 26-year-old unemployed university graduate in Tunisia, who set himself on fire on Dec. 17 after authorities said he did not have a permit to sell fruits and vegetables, was one of the triggers of the youth-led protests in that country and was widely seen as helping spark the protests sweeping the region.

Educated and underemployed
Ibrahim, the Egyptian activist, said educated and underemployed young people organized the early demonstrations. She recalled one protest outside of the Ministry of Petroleum in Cairo that was led by a group of unemployed graduate engineering students.

“We have a ministry that’s supposed to employ them and they don’t,” she said, noting the students were instead “selling sandwiches off of carts.”

“You have people that have time on their hands, they’re oppressed politically and treated horribly by the police, and then unemployed or underemployed, and they’re educated,” she said. “So that definitely has to build up a lot of anger.”

In Iran, where the government has cracked down hard on recent protests and employment is 20 percent among 15- to 24-year-olds, the lack of economic opportunity also has motivated many youth to organize anti-regime protests.

Interactive: Young and restless: Demographics fuel Mideast protests (on this page)

Among them is an anti-government activist who identified himself as a 26-year-old man after being contacted by He said he has only been able to find a part-time job despite looking for work for two-and-a-half years.

“Injustice. Oppression. Lack of freedom. Our resources used for terrorism and not for jobs, or making Iran better. No future,” he wrote to, declining to identify himself out of fear for his safety.

Though he was beaten by the hardline Basiji militiamen, he said he wouldn’t stop.

“My blood is no less value then Neda … and all of our martyrs,” he wrote, referring to a young woman slain in the initial 2009 opposition protests in Iran. “… We need to free Iran.”

Assaad, the University of Minnesota professor, noted that youth were not willing to accept the “authoritarian bargain” that their parents had agreed to, giving up their freedoms in return for economic stability.

'We are not getting anything in return'
“These young people are saying, ‘We are not getting anything in return, why should we accept that bargain,’” he said. “And so they are demanding a say in how their countries are run.”

Some parallels in history of this youth bulge — and ensuing protests — can be found in the anti-government demonstrations in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, the 1986 “People Power” movement in the Philippines that brought down Ferdinand Marcos and the post-World War II protests in Europe and the U.S., Assaad said.

“It’s not a coincidence that the late 1960s in the U.S. where you saw the greatest protests on the part of young people — whether it’s a civil rights movement, or the student movement in the late ‘60s, the anti-war movement — those were led by young people,” Assaad said. “That’s the peak of where the baby boomers were becoming young adults and that same phenomenon was occurring also in Europe as the post-war generation was coming of age.”

Story: China's well-oiled security apparatus stifles calls for change

“Their demands were less economic and more cultural in nature,” he said. “I see the 1968 revolts as more, ‘We want a say in the society and we want to be able to assert ourselves culturally in ways that are different from the previous generation.’”

The Tiananmen protesters also were not primarily making economic demands. “It was a question of, ‘Now that we have this higher level of economic achievement, we would like to have also a say in running our country,’” Assaad said.

But the presence of a youth bulge does not necessarily mean there will be violence or unrest, Assaad said.

“Youth bulges basically create dynamics for things to happen that involve youth and these things could be quite different depending on the conditions in each context,” he said. “It could be cultural demands and counterculture, as well as demands for human rights and marginalized groups, like what happened in the U.S. … In the case of the Middle East, it’s a combination of economic and political.”

In East Asia — Korea, Taiwan, China — and parts of Southeast Asia, for example, the “youth bulge actually coincided with tremendous growth in the economy and good employment opportunities, and as a result, resulted in even more rapid growth” in the ’80s and early ’90s, Assaad said.

Though the Mideast protests have been led by youth, they have grown to include others disgruntled with their governments.

“The government has put the people in a situation where they live in constant fear and I think that’s one of the main reasons why so many people have come out, because they have just had enough,” said Maryam Alkhawaja, a 23-year-old activist in Bahrain who fled her home last year out of fear of imprisonment but returned to document and participate in the protests there.

The peak of the youth bulge was reached somewhere between 2005 and 2010 in much of the Mideast and is now declining in many countries there. But the youth have made a lasting impact, along the same scale of what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989, Assaad said.

“The genie is out of the bottle. You cannot bring those people back to being apolitical and apathetic. They’re going to be there, they’re going to be active, they know now how to do it,” he said. “This region had been the region where democracy had been the slowest to come in the world. … I think that’s going to change now.”
5003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 25, 2011, 12:01:26 AM
From GM's link: "Samantha Powers, the wife of Cass Sunstein, who was instrumental in advising Obama on Libya... has called for a Mammoth Protection Force against Israel."

On radio, Beck said we don't need to follow her advice and fund a massive force against Israel.  We just got that for free in Egypt, they are called the Muslim Brotherhood.
5004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: March 24, 2011, 11:56:57 PM
Iraq 2 - 'What would things look like now if we had NOT gone in?'

a) Iraq Study Group: part of saying no imminent threat was that Saddam was 5-7 years away (like that is a long time) from nuclear weapons - in 2002 - meaning not until 2007-2009 - 2-4 years ago.  Time flies.  Without Iraq 2, the best info says he would easily be emboldened by now with nuclear weapons.

b) We didn't find WMD stockpiles, but we know he produced and used them previously. ISG said he hid or destroyed them but retained the ability and inclination to re-start.  Pretty likely he would have stockpiles of Chemical and biological WMD again by now, along with nuclear, if not for Iraq 2.

c) ISG said no "collaborative operational relationship" with al Qaida, a straw argument, no one said they were best friends or daily work partners.  Saddam's ties to terror were plenty, 25k checks to families of suicide bombers - that was true,  Harbored other terrorists cf. Abu Nidal, Iraqi passports used in WTC bombing the first time, shared a common enemies - Israel and USA, and Saddam's state newspaper named bin Laden's  targets of 9/11 two months prior - in flowery but prescient, unmistakable terms.  This was entered into the congressional record by Sen. Fritz Hollings D-SC one year after 9/11.  Iraq did not commit 9/11 but Saddam's ties to terror were plenty.

d)  Iraq Unveils Ambitious Plan to Boost Oil Output‎ - Wall Street Journal - MARCH 23, 2011 - about the only good news in the world today.
5005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: March 24, 2011, 02:42:34 PM
CCP, Interesting thoughts.  Where you wrote "Prominent republicans were against at least Iraq 2 if not 1", I think you meant no prominent Republicans opposed? Pat Buchanan excluded.

Whether Iraq was worth it is a tough call, depends on whether a functional society is the result that is not an enemy of our interests.  I am still optimistic.  Saddam deserved deposing.  The Colin Powell we break we fix it doctrine is BS to me. We found it broken.  We could have deposed and left, but only if we were willing to repeat each time a new enemy states emerges. Same goes for Libya. 

The worst thing that happened in Iraq (beyond the fatalities) was that by the end the message became the opposite to the rest of the world, that we did not have the stomach to fight enemies with any consistent staying powers.  Now we hope Ghadafy steps down just as we say we are only staying a minute and won't put a single pair of boots on the ground.  What I read from that is the whole action is a head fake.  We will weaken his forces, scare him a little, then leave him in power and hope his dictatorship benevolence improves.

The point about coalitions is well put; they are a mixed blessing.  It gives legitimacy but limits the mission to failure, as in the case of leaving Saddam in power with the need to come back later costing far more in lives and dollars.  Who with a straight face believed he would honor his 1991 surrender agreement?

"Iraq 1 I believe was because we couldn't let Saddam control 25% of more of the World's oil supply."

I think it was about the sovereignty of Kuwait and Saudi - regarding oil.  I proposed at the time that if it is okay to invade neighbors for oil without consequence, instead of helping Kuwait we should have invaded Canada.
5006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 24, 2011, 01:44:21 PM
"I saw that Newt apparently was for an invasion of Libya a few weeks ago, until now he was against it."

I think a number of the so-called candidates have that same problem, Romney, Pawlenty, Palin, and Huckabee also come to mind.  It is very easy to criticize no matter the policy choice, and very hard to put a successful policy in place. 

Huckabee, for one, at least acknowledged some of that while Obama was dithering: "I'm always a little careful to say, here's what I would do, because I think you have to base a decision based on good intelligence and information which a person in my capacity as an ordinary citizen at this point simply doesn't have."

Giuliani said regarding Obama's disengagement and travels: A leader would WANT to be right there in the middle of the discussions and negotiation and critical decision making that was going on without leadership.

I find much of the conservative radio reaction immature (Hannity comes to mind).  Parroting the Bush-haters, everything is an opportunity to attack Obama.  These candidates become the guests on these shows doing much of the same.  US policy and involvement in the Middle East and North Africa is more important than that.  A serious candidate needs to instead lay out a serious case for what criteria goes into all these questions,  who leads the coalition, whenr to go to congress, how to communicate what we are doing to the American people and what we want to communicate to others who will read something into our actions, such as the tyrants and rebels in other countries. 
5007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Government on: March 23, 2011, 02:46:21 PM
(From CCP: ""Seize the Moment" is the last one I wanted to post but it won't let me")
A special report on the future of the state
Seize the moment
The prospects for reforming the state have improved, but it will be a long haul

Mar 17th 2011 | from The Economist print edition

HOW far and how fast could reform of the state go? For now that question seems fanciful, like asking how a man who has been getting fatter for decades would do in a marathon. Yet fatalism about an unreformable state seems misguided.

To begin with, the patient is not in his current condition by design. In a forthcoming book about the role of the state, Vito Tanzi, an Italian-born economist, shows that it changed dramatically during the 20th century. Demands on it grew continuously, and theories of what it might capably do expanded to meet those demands. What began as a “normative” state, designed to offset market failures and help the poor, broadened immensely to become an active redistributor of wealth and creator of universal public goods, hoovered up by the middle class in particular.

“If something cannot go on for ever”, Herb Stein once pointed out, “it will stop.” There are several reasons to think that some time soon—maybe next year, maybe later this decade—the seemingly endless expansion of the state will begin to go into reverse. One is the political pressure from deficits. The shape of the state could be the main issue in America’s presidential election next year. Even left-wing governments are increasingly looking at the spending side of the ledger.

Globalisation is another. Commerce has proved stickier than the proponents of borderless capitalism proclaimed in the 1990s, but it is less sticky than it was. The mobility of talent, technology and capital surely puts some limit on governments’ ability to keep on raising taxes. Government is becoming a more competitive business, not just in terms of lower spending but also in what it offers for the money.

Above all, the incremental benefits of ever bigger government, even assuming it was somehow affordable, become ever smaller. Decent-sized government can reduce inequality and poverty, but most of the evidence is that gargantuan government merely gets in the way of social progress. A state that takes up more than half the economy begins to deliver an ever worse deal to ever more people in the middle: the extra benefits become harder to detect, the extra costs harder to hide.

Guessing when this penny will eventually drop is a little like speculating when an investment bubble will burst or a dictator will fall. There are always reasons for delay but, once things begin to move, they do so quickly. A revolution in government would come in three stages.

The first, which this special report has concentrated on, might simply be described as good management. Purely by copying what other countries (or bits of their own system) do well, governments could save a huge amount of money. The path forward is pretty clear—towards a small central state buying in services from a variety of different providers. Technology could speed things up. A huge quantity of information about just how poorly bits of government are doing is becoming available—and, thanks to Facebook and other new media, shareable. Transparency will also affect demand. Too many voters are “Californians”: they think they can enjoy ever more services without paying for them. When they see the true cost of government, they may change their minds.

Within the public sector, mayors and senior civil servants could play a pre-eminent role. Not only do many public services, such as education and the police, work best at city level; cities are natural test-tubes for experimentation. In the urban West, mayors can still change things visibly: think of what Rudy Giuliani did for crime in New York. As for senior civil servants, most feel despised, underpaid and deeply frustrated. More than anybody else, they stand to gain from a world where government works.

Good management sounds a little worthy, but it could achieve a lot. Imagine, for instance, that Mr Cameron succeeds in creating a “post-bureaucratic” state in Britain. You might end up with a government that delivered the same range of services—defence, justice, education, health care and so on—but consumed perhaps 40% of GDP, roughly ten points less than it does now.

Could it go further? The second stage is more difficult: limiting the scope of those services, especially the universal benefits enjoyed by most Western voters. Social transfers have accounted for a large part of the growth in the state: they also explain why even a well-run version of Britain’s all-you-can-eat “buffet” state would be twice the size of Singapore’s. Unless Western governments start to reform entitlements, the state will swell again in line with their ageing populations.

Some universal benefits can be trimmed across the board. State pension ages, for instance, are on the rise. But governments also need to start redirecting social programmes at the truly needy.

Persuading middle-class voters to give up their perks will be extremely hard. One possible avenue is to hand them greater control over their own benefits, perhaps by switching pay-as-you-go systems to individual savings accounts (like Singapore’s Central Provident Fund). That has not had much success yet—in part because most people, especially the young, are in the dark about how much the current system is really costing them. Tax simplification would help. A bipartisan commission on fiscal reform last year said that if the American government abolished all tax breaks (including middle-class ones like mortgage-interest relief), it could reduce the top individual tax rate from 35% to 23% and still generate $80 billion more revenue. Again, limiting benefits will be a colossal struggle.

Rules not OK

The final stage—untangling the web of rules—would on the face of it be less controversial. Everybody agrees that there are too many regulations. But in practice it could be the most fiddly to sort out. The European Parliament does not cost much to run, but it litters the continent with expensive rules. One in five American workers needs a licence to do his job. Sunset clauses to make laws expire in the absence of political reapproval would help.

This special report has tried to be pragmatic, focusing on what works. At the moment it is hard to see that society would gain much from even larger government, and easy to spot the gains in productivity, efficiency and personal freedom that would come from smaller government. States exist not only to lead society towards common goals; they must also provide people with the liberty to live their own lives. Over the past century government has moved too far towards the former. Now is the time to turn the dial back. Nothing would add more to the sum of human happiness in the West than a smaller, better state.
5008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 23, 2011, 11:37:30 AM
New home sales had to plunge.  We didn't build any last year.  When we still have too many, the right number to build is somewhere near zero.
5009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media Issues: The Anatomy of a Smear on: March 23, 2011, 11:32:21 AM
A long piece on Powerline by John Hinderacker.  A very good read about how biased media works.
(This is the conclusion.  You need to read the whole story to judge the facts for yourself.)
"What we see here is incest to the third degree. The disgusting morass of left-wing blogs, funded by far-left billionaires like George Soros, spew up an endless stream of slimy attacks on mainstream citizens, like Charles and David Koch, and mainstream politicians, like Mike Pompeo. Democratic Party outlets that are generally presumed to be more respectable, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, watch the dirt flow by and periodically, when they see something promising, pluck it out of the swamp and take it mainstream in order to benefit their party. The Post isn't as bad as some--I have referred to it as the most respectable voice of the Democratic Party--but when it follows this disgusting practice, plucking out the vilest unsubstantiated smear and promoting it for purely partisan purposes, it is hard to distinguish the Post from the most disreputable far-left rags, like Think Progress and the New York Times."
5010  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential: Obama, Mitt on: March 23, 2011, 11:05:58 AM
My prediction that Obama won't be the nominee of his own party still looks absurd, but pieces of that puzzle slowly begin to fall into place.  a) Dems are starting to notice his unique combination of inexperience, incompetence and unattainable expectations, b) Any perceived move away from hard left is a move against the angriest wing of politics today, the ones coincidentally who spearheaded his election in the first place.  Obama now is what they once called General BetrayUs.

I've never seen the left turn so hard against one of their own as the quotes coming out now against Pres. Obama.  Losing his base does not bring him support from the middle -ask Bush about that.  When the key charges are incompetence, cluelessness and disengagement, support can erode from all directions.

Speaking of troubled candidacies, I was reading about frontrunner Mitt today, found  a couple of items that don't help him win with conservative activists.

Judicial appointments: 9 out of 36 were Republican.  From  “Of the 36 people Romney named to be judges or clerk magistrates, 23 are either registered Democrats or unenrolled voters who have made multiple contributions to Democratic politicians or who voted in Democratic primaries, state and local records show. In all, he has nominated nine registered Republicans, 13 unenrolled voters, and 14 registered Democrats.”

HealthCare Form HC Massachusetts:  Take a look.  Square this up with a right to privacy or with a movement seeking smaller government.  It doesn't fit.
5011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 22, 2011, 02:01:58 PM
"Maybe we should forget "doctrines".Every situation is unique..."- CCP

My doctrine is full of caveats.  In Iraq, I would say that if your neighbor's house is on fire, and you are standing there with a fire hose, then it might make sense to help out.  That assumes that by neighbor they share some form of positive humanity, by fire hose that means something that helps put out the fire, not makes the fire worse etc.  It doesn't mean that when you are done you also build them a new house.

I agree with the Lockerbie charge if we have evidence / access to witnesses.  Murder in our law does not have a statute of limitations.  This also was terror so he can sit for trial in Obama's Guantanamo if captured.

OTOH, the 'Rebels' stronghold is also the area of largest per capita recruitment for al Qaida to Iraq:   "A 2007 US Military Academy study of information on al-Qaida forces in Iraq indicate that by far, Eastern Libya made the largest per capita contribution to al-Qaida forces in Iraq.

Like Saddam in hiding and what GM wrote about catching him, if we were going to go in by executive order without consultation or declaration from congress, then we could have done that on Feb.23 when the resigned governor of Alaska suggested it, better yet before the uprising with an element of surprise, instead of with advance notice and 3 1/2 weeks to hide.
5012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Deaths from natural disaster 22,000 times greater than from nuclear power? on: March 21, 2011, 06:26:11 PM
Zero radioactive deaths so far, though still too early to conclude anything about the nuclear accident in Japan.  The news cycle has changed quickly to Libya and other flashpoints.  Earthquake and tsunami fatalities in Japan could be 22,000.  Unimaginable from where I sit.  Not the worst of all-time natural disasters, but this tragedy will be on the list:

As the number dead and missing went into the tens of thousands, the media story moved quickly to nuclear disaster, where the measurable damage so far actually sounds more like a bad traffic accident:

"...there has been one confirmed death, but not at the Daiichi plant at all: a worker who was in a crane cab at the separate Fukushima Daini plant (where all reactors are now confirmed to be safely in cold shutdown) was killed when the quake hit. Two more workers, this time at the Daiichi plant, are still listed as missing since the quake and tsunami hit. Six more required medical help following the quake, one suffering two broken legs.

A further 15 non-radiological injuries have resulted from hydrogen explosions at the site, though some of these were minor in nature and the individuals concerned returned to duty shortly after.

As to radiation-related issues, there has been one case of measurable significance. Earlier in the week when workers were still limited to a total dose of 100 millisievert, one individual breached this limit during venting operations and consequently was evacuated to hospital. As noted above, personnel are now permitted to sustain doses of 250 millisievert.

In summary it appears that health consequences from reactor damage will be extremely minimal even for workers at the site. It will now be a surprise if anyone who has not been inside the plant gates this week is affected by the situation at at all – apart from all the people worldwide who have been taking iodide pills or eating salt unnecessarily."
5013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain rebellion could prove calamitous for the West on: March 20, 2011, 09:44:12 PM
Bahrain has the fastest growing economy in the Arab world. Bahrain also has the freest economy in the Middle East according to the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal, and is tenth freest economy overall in the world.  Now it is also center of distrust and conflict between Saudi and Iran.

Why the Bahrain rebellion could prove calamitous for the West

Saudi Arabia's support for the Gulf state risks drawing Iran into the conflict, writes Con Coughlin.

By Con Coughlin 8:39PM GMT 17 Mar 2011

The issue occupying diplomats at the UN yesterday was how best to respond to the Libyan crisis. But an even graver threat to our future prosperity and security is unfolding in the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain.

At first glance, the decision by Bahrain's Sunni royal family to call in the Saudis to help quell an anti-government revolt by Shia protesters might seem the logical outcome to a dispute that showed no sign of a peaceful resolution. Ever since the protesters made the Pearl roundabout the epicentre of their campaign in mid-February, the ruling family has made strenuous efforts to meet their demands. Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince, has repeatedly sought to open a dialogue with the demonstrators, with a view to addressing their concerns. But the more the royal family has attempted to reach out, the more intransigent the demands of the protest movement have become.

When I visited the country with William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, in early February, the first rumblings of discontent were evident. Leaders of the Bahraini Shia, who constitute a clear majority of the population, were seeking to replicate the anti-government protests then taking place in Egypt's Tahrir Square.

But unlike the Cairo protests, which demanded the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, I was assured by our diplomats that the Bahrainis' agenda was more modest. They weren't calling for the overthrow of the Sandhurst-educated King Hamad al-Khalifa; they were more interested in reform than revolution. Like many protesters throughout the Arab world, their main concern was to improve their economic lot. As one diplomat put it: "The protests are anti-government rather than anti-Khalifa."

But the mood darkened considerably in the weeks after the demonstrators set up camp on Pearl roundabout, not least because of the security forces' heavy-handed response to the initial protests, which led to several deaths and many injuries. There was a dramatic escalation in the protesters' demands, with the more militant calling for the removal of the royal family and the establishment of a Shia state.

The Sunni-Shia divide in the country is particularly problematic because of the close family connections many Shia have to Iran. An estimated 30 per cent of Bahraini Shia are of Persian descent, and maintain contact with relatives in Iran. In the past, this has enabled Iran's Revolutionary Guards to establish terrorist cells in the kingdom, aimed at destabilising the monarch. In 1981, a Tehran-organised plot to overthrow the government was uncovered. Bahraini security officials are constantly on the alert for signs of Iranian meddling, and have accused some members of the opposition Shia movement of being funded by Tehran.

The issue is further complicated by Iran's long-standing insistence that it has a legitimate territorial claim over Bahrain. A recent Iranian newspaper editorial claimed that the kingdom was in fact a province of Iran. It is because of these simmering tensions between the states that the royal family's decision this week to call for Saudi reinforcements is fraught with danger.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the ayatollahs have assumed a protective role over the world's Shia. They will not have taken kindly to the sight of 1,000 Saudi troops driving across the 15-mile causeway that links their country to Bahrain, in support of their fellow Sunni royalists.

Iran's relations with the fundamentalist Wahhabi Sunni sect that dominates Saudi Arabia is strained at the best of times. Iran was accused of planning a truck bomb attack that destroyed the US military base at Dharhran in 1996, and in 2003 the Revolutionary Guards were implicated in a series of similar bombings in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Saudi also accuses the Revolutionary Guards of trying to foment unrest among its own Shia, who constitute around 5 per cent of its 19 million population. The majority live in the Eastern Province, which is also the location of Saudi's vast oil wealth. Last week, when Saudi anti-government demonstrators attempted to stage a "day of rage", most of the disturbances took place in the Shia towns, where the security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Iran has responded to the Saudi intervention by cutting diplomatic ties with Bahrain and denouncing the reinforcements as "unacceptable". There is considerable concern within British security circles that the situation could spread into a wider conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with calamitous consequences for the West. "They are always squaring up to each other," a senior Whitehall security official told me this week. "But just imagine if it spilled over into open conflict. Not only would we have a major conflict on our hands in the Gulf: the West would be cut off from its major energy supplier."
5014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: budget slashing - NOT on: March 20, 2011, 02:27:29 PM
"One-Third of a French Fry Short of a Big Mac Meal"

Thank you GM.  Part of winning is to quit giving up the ownership of the language and the terms of the debate.  The deficit problem and the debt problem are both measured in the trillions, not billions. Not remotely similar even though they rhyme. And the only time frame worthy of discussion if you are an elected official is the rest of your term, not 10 year budgets or 30 year goals.  These cuts are $0.006 trillion (assuming they are cuts at all).  Significant maybe, maybe not, but let's call them what they are.

My congressman released the following statement "...after the House of Representatives passed $6 billion in spending cuts..."Today, my colleagues and I took another step forward in curing Washington’s spending problem and removing the barriers to job creation...”
Now try that again in English.  'After passing spending cuts of $0.006 trillion out of a $1.2 trillion gap, conservative Rep. xxx said he was very pleased with himself and expected to keep moving forward into key committee assignments and leadership positions by caving on all principles including the principles of 2nd grade arithmetic.'  - Closer to the truth but doesn't sound as impressive.
5015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Government programs, spending, budget process: House Republicans Fund ObamaCare on: March 20, 2011, 01:31:41 PM
Largely unreported in detail, so all of this is hard to follow. Please verify and call your congressman.

In some symbolic votes, the House has voted to do certain things their supporters sent them there to do, repeal and de-fund Obamacare are examples, de-fund the nation's largest abortion provider, de-fund NPR, etc.  In the latest CR, they voted to do the opposite.

54 Republicans would not support the latest continuing resolution, so it was constructed to pass with the support of 85 Democrats.  Also had to be something the Senate would also pass in order to succeed in not shutting down the government, so it continues funding for Obamacare, Planned Parenthood etc. - for 3 weeks.

Perhaps this was the wrong time for real confrontation and potential shutdown with Japan in crisis needing our help and while we need to also to dither and then focus on Libya. 

I like Sen. Rubio's explanation of his willingness to vote no.  Asked repeatedly if he was willing to vote to shut the government down if the bill didn't contain this or that reform, he refused to accept the premise.  He was sent there to enact reform and he stands ready and willing to vote yes for responsible funding of the government.  It is the other side talking about a willingness to shut down for perceived political gain.

My conclusion is that nothing good has happened in these 2 continuing resolutions except to schedule the unaddressed questions to come right back up to be resolved by April 8.

Within 3 weeks, I will either be reasonably impressed with real progress on spending reform (doubtful) or be calling loudly for new leadership in the House.
5016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and other Arab countries on: March 20, 2011, 11:55:38 AM
To JDN's question: "why not say thank you President Obama?  Is that so hard?"  

My take is a little different.  I agree with the no fly zones.  I think the process might lead to removal of Ghadafy.  Marginally better to take him alive than dead but I place no moral value on that, taking a phrase from Marianne Pearl, he is a 'nuisance to humanity'.  Down a civilian jetliner like beheading a journalist, if we can't take action against things that egregious, our species doesn't deserve the oxygen we breathe on the planet. The reason I don't give immediate and full credit to Obama is the delay.  Power that shifted during the delay, ground was lost and lives were lost.  He captured back most of the country while we argued within the administration, evaluated brackets and waited for return phone calls from Europe.  Maybe this will all turn out so well that the delay was insignificant to the result.  In Iraq, the 6 months notice we gave our enemy while we dithered with ally and international approvals were extremely costly.  

Consultations and cooperation of allies is great.  That process needs to happen faster - hours, not weeks and months.
5017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness: Administration to push for privacy on: March 19, 2011, 06:06:46 PM
First note, the theme of the video in the previous video might be what finally brings him down.  It covers the disengagement very well!  Second I note that 64 senators sent a letter to the President asking him to engage on entitlement reform.  He was not present, in Rio, not available to receive the letter. Third I would note that regarding basketball a different presumed candidate led her team as point guard to a Cinderella story state championship for highly underrated Wasilla.  The incumbent candidate is talking about spectator sports - aka sitting on the couch watching government controlled monopoly television.

Isn't it strange how every story about the administration seems to keep falling under the themes of glibness or cognitive dissonance.

This one, "White House to Push Privacy Bill" flies in the face of all the new invasions on privacy, like HEALTHCARE, and everything we learned from the year of WikiLeaks, that our government can't keep national security information private - private conversations with our closest allies, how are they going to protect the national database of women who had abortions or any other sensitive area of heathcare information.

Same administration, same week, is pushing for school administrators to track children's posts on facebook more closely.

The worst private information seizure I have faced was from trying to change the bank account my state required car insurance gets taken  from.  They needed DOB, SS no, bank info obviously, all secret questions answered etc, and the only reason I was switching was because of other federal mandates on banks causing that account to be service charged to death and forcing me to use other accounts.

Cognitive dissonance.  Stop taking all our data would be the best way for government to help with privacy.
5018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: March 19, 2011, 01:40:58 PM
"No one should consider buying in this environment."
    - Ooops, made a buy yesterday.  But I understand your point.

Going back a couple of days:  "the FICO Score and the Loan to Value are the "primary" considerations on loan approvals.  All other factors are considered as "Contributory Risk Factors".  They are assigned little importance."

  - Do you mean FICO and LTV are primary along with income verification, or is it possible to borrow favorably today with perfect credit and clear title, but not provide tax returns?
5019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - Are you better off now... on: March 19, 2011, 12:31:21 AM
GM posted this elsewhere: "US Cost of Living Hits Record, Passing Pre-Crisis High"
Read differently, if incomes are flat, and cost of living hits record, then the standard of living is falling.  Begs the reelection question, are you better off now than you were...

I would judge Presidents by the success or failure of their policies, not the chronology of the days their name was on the door.  This was a 6 year experiment in leftism. Power in Washington changed in Nov 2006.  That's when Obama came into the ruling majority and when Bush became fully a lame duck, at least on economic policies.  In Nov 2008 it was all-Dem, even during transition.  In Nov 2010 it switched halfway back, to stalemate, with two parties to fight over policy.  R's can't quite repeal what happened and Dems can't enact any more of it.  So the most telling part about these policies is the part between the elections in 2006 and the elections in 2010.  Coincidentally perhaps the worst economic times of our lives - for most of us.  Unemployment doubled, revenues imploded, spending and deficits exploded, energy prices, all the best investments have gold in their name, etc.  Not everything that went wrong was 100% their fault (RINOs have their fingerprints over all of it too, and same goes for the Fed), but buy now people hopefully see some correlation.  Maybe things grow from here, we'll see.  I'm predicting sputtering, mixed results, near zero growth.  Certainly not consistent growth of more than the 3.1% or so we need just to break even.  Whatever the case, this is the record he will run on.  Kind of hard for any core constituency to get ecstatic about.  I can't quite hear the sound yet of full stadiums with the styrofoam Greek columns chanting:  'Four More Years!'

The flip side of my argument is that if Obama succeeds in framing it as coming into power after these crashes, the are you better off question becomes more like a 50-50 rather than a slam dunk against him.  Then it just comes down to how well he can spin his accomplishments of spend and regulate.

Contrast Obama's record with the President he likes to contrast with, Reagan was having 6 consecutive quarters of nearly 8% economic growth at this point in his Presidency and went on to win 49 states.  The difference: Reagan enacted pro-growth policies, Obama and his allies enacted anti-growth policies.  That, over time, goes from conjecture to that which is readily apparent.
5020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 18, 2011, 11:34:23 PM
"A popular vote majority is a rather rare presidential election.  Don't read too much in Clinton's inabilty to get 50% or more. "

 - This is true. I remember in 2000 that Al Gore won with only 48.4% of the vote.   smiley,_2000
5021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: March 18, 2011, 11:23:08 PM
"Blacks have every right to be angry."

Some truth in that, but that anger should not be indiscriminate.  Speaking of our heritage only, some whites were only on the side of freeing slaves and gave blood and lives for that.  Some black ancestors such as from Kenyan roots might have been slave owners, slave sellers or slaves.  One can not tell by color of the skin which side of history's horrible struggles people's ancestors were on.

A more timely question would be, what atrocities are going on now and what can we do about them.
5022  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential: Obama's Strategy? Ohio or Colorado on: March 18, 2011, 02:10:54 PM
Obama sympathetic strategists look at the table set for 2012 from the Obama perspective:

In a nutshell, they debate whether he forms the same coalition as 2008 with minorities, young people, socially liberal women and other upscale, upper middle class voters, or working class whites, or fight back after the college-educated whites, which swung 18 points to the Republicans in just 2 years.  Everyone is in a group in their world.  No mention of targeting AMERICANS.

My take is that he is screwed either way IF he faces a strong competitor.  smiley
5023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 18, 2011, 01:51:05 PM
CCP: "we shouldn't be building them in earthquake zones"


Those people can have coal, or hook up their exercise machines to run the lights and charge the iphones.

If we want power generation further from the population and further from the earthquake zone, plan on using more power to do that.  "Energy losses are directly proportional to the square of the current." - James Prescott Joule
5024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 18, 2011, 01:39:10 PM
CCP: "Or just kill the Ghaddafi and get it over with."
GM: "Bingo!"

There was a nice, longer explanation by GM recently to ya about how we don't just do the hit and run, scorched earth type of hit.  True, that was the thinking behind Iraq and Afghanistan.  It started with or was articulated by Powell.  If we break it, we have to fix it.  But IraQ and Afghanistan were certainly already broken.  I believe we had a right to act with either a hit and run or the full 10 years and running plan.

With Ghadafy, no one seemed to question Reagan much for an attempted assassination of a foreign leader - who executed the Lockerbie mass murder.  We missed and still accomplished the mission - scaring the #*@& out of him.  From my point of view, if we are right in our information, that these people like Saddam, Moammar are murderous thugs, it is okay with me to take them out without full followup.  The concept in law and morality is that innocent people are facing imminent death, a concept with equal standing to self defense, if I understand correctly. 

Regarding no-fly zone, I believe it was presumed candidate of no substance Palin who called for exactly that on Feb. 23, how many innocent deaths ago?
5025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Next few days critical. Too soon to write off nuclear power - Washington Post on: March 18, 2011, 09:11:22 AM
Washington Post Editorial today:

Too soon to write off nuclear power

FIRST CAME an earthquake so powerful that it shifted Japan’s largest island, Honshu, eight feet eastward. Thirty minutes later a tsunami washed away thousands of lives. Now, a third disaster threatens as technicians desperately try to keep the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station from releasing radioactive material.

During all of this, the Japanese people have reacted with fortitude. In a rare television appearance, the emperor asked Japanese to “hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times.” That seems to be exactly what they are attempting; and the skeleton staff at Fukushima Daiichi is taking on more than its share, only briefly evacuating the site after detecting a radiation spike on Tuesday, then returning to continue cooling the reactors.

Though the reactors are shut down, they are still producing immense quantities of heat. It doesn’t appear that catastrophic levels of radiation have leaked from the plant’s thick containment barriers, but U.S. officials still have few details. The next few days will be critical.

On this side of the Pacific, the crisis has reinvigorated a debate on nuclear safety. Opponents of atomic power say this crisis proves that the risks can never be eliminated. That’s true. There will always be challenges that designers don’t fully anticipate.

Yet Energy Secretary Steven Chu insisted Wednesday that he and President Obama want to retain nuclear energy as an option, and they have good reason to do so. Generating electricity carries risks, no matter how you do it. Burning fossil fuels pumps harmful gases and particulates into the air every day, causing respiratory illness and cancer in thousands. People die in explosions of coal mines, oil drilling rigs and natural gas pipelines. Unlike nuclear energy, burning fossil fuels contributes to the gravest environmental threat of our time — climate change, which is likely to affect not thousands or millions of people, but billions.

Nuclear accidents pose a uniquely frightening danger: the prospect, in a worst case, of large swaths of territory being poisoned and uninhabitable for decades or longer. Mr. Chu and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko are right to have the government closely examine what happens in Japan and adjust U.S. policy as necessary. But the Fukushima plant is old. New plants would use more sophisticated technology, such as small-scale high-temperature gas reactors that use fuel in forms that shrink the risk of meltdown further still. A proposed nuclear plant in Georgia would not require backup power in order to activate emergency cooling systems.

Events in Japan will affect the “nuclear renaissance” to some extent, no matter what Mr. Chu or anyone else says, and all the more if the damage is not contained. Our thoughts, as ever, are with the Japanese people struggling to cope; beyond that, it is too soon to form broad and absolute judgments on relative risks.
5026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics: US life expectancy surpasses 78, a new record on: March 17, 2011, 09:12:46 PM
From all the things I have read about how we live wrong and botch up our food supply in particular, with altered cows, stressed chickens, unhealthy school lunches, processed everything, fats, salts, sugars, overuse of pesticides, etc., I was surprised to read, again, that life expectancy just keeps going up:
5027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Clinton prepares to jump from the SS Obamatanic on: March 17, 2011, 09:01:43 PM
Hillary parting company with Obama as his ship begins to sink has one of two meanings. One is like she said, an end to all public life.  The other... (is there an emoticon for screaming in horror?)
5028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: March 17, 2011, 08:57:20 PM
"...cut the top U.S. tax rate to 25% for individuals and corporations..."

This is a great proposal.  Better would be to cap both at 25% in a constitutional amendment.  Better still would be a constitutional amendment to cap spending at 18% of GDP. with a supermajority required to approve spending in excess of the limit.

States need to take some action on tax rates as well, particularly state capital gains taxes that tax false inflationary gains as ordinary income.  If you want to increase revenues, you need to grow the economy.  Blocking capital from flowing to its most productive use does not get you there.

On April 1, if we take no action, the U.S. will have the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world.
5029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: March 17, 2011, 08:50:03 PM
"So, who thinks that Japan may be the final straw?"

FWIW, I do not.  I think Japan will roar back stronger for this in spite of unthinkable tsunami fatalities.  I don't quite see how they replace the electric power lost to reactors permanently shutdown but somehow they will. Freighters from Russia of liquid natural gas perhaps.

The damage we are doing with trillion dollar deficits I think is a slow invisible cancer, getting harder and harder to cure, but not an immediate fatal blow.  Both the rise in interest rates and the rise in energy prices come from economic strength.  As economic strength falters, those increases will slow and delay we sputter until we start thinking straight and decide to fix our negligently misguided policies.  MHO.
5030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance: The To Be or Not To Be President - VDH on: March 17, 2011, 12:24:38 PM
My prediction that BHO will not be the nominee of his own party is totally wrong - so far, with about a year to go.  A combination of two things would need to happen I think for Obama to throw in the towel, approvals dropping into the 30s and the emergence of a real, Republican challenger.  Maybe neither will happen, we will see, but it is hard to see how approvals won't fall further with the events already set in motion.  62% want Obamcare repealed.  Bumbling over Egypt, blathering over Ghadafy, dithering over Japan, not even present over a domestic energy crisis, handing deterrence to the Russians, clueless about the private economy etc. etc.  VDH says it all so much better...
Victor Davis Hanson

March 17, 2011 12:00 A.M.
President Hamlet
Thinking out every possible side of a question can mean never acting on any of them.

More than 400 years ago, William Shakespeare wrote a riveting tragedy about a young, charismatic Danish prince who vowed to do the right thing in avenging his murdered father. That soon proved easier said than done. As a result, Hamlet couldn’t quite ever act in time — given all the ambiguities that such a sensitive prince first had to sort out. In the meantime, a lot of bodies piled up through his indecision and hesitancy.

President Obama wanted to give us all universal health care. But then he discovered that the country was broke and that most people did not like his massive federal takeover. So we got both his health care and, so far, more than 1,000 exemptions from his landmark plan for unions, corporations, and entire states.

The president wished to please his liberal supporters with more government redistributive programs and higher taxes on the wealthy. But such entitlements cost lots of money — more than $4 trillion in new borrowing in just three years – and scare to death the job-creating private sector. So the president not only borrows at record levels, but also sets up a commission to warn us that his borrowing will soon bankrupt the country. He damns the “fat-cat bankers” and the rich who “at some point” have made enough money, even as he courts them for campaign donations and begs their companies to start hiring new employees.

Obama warned us that we could not drill our way out of the ongoing gas crisis and needed instead to develop new green energy. As proof, he borrowed billions to promote wind and solar power, and stopped most new leases for fossil-fuel exploration in Alaska, the west, and offshore. But it turned out that we still need lots of oil as gas nears $4 a gallon. So the president brags that America is now pumping more oil under his green administration than ever before — but neglects to mention that this is true only because Presidents Clinton and Bush long ago approved the sort of oil leases that Obama had rejected.

President Obama wanted so much to discontinue George W. Bush’s war on terror that he banned the phrase “war on terror” altogether. He apologized to the Muslim world, promised to “reset” our foreign policy, and vowed to close Guantanamo Bay and stop the other nasty Bush antiterrorism protocols. But our “to be or not to be” Hamlet also wanted to continue to keep the country safe from another 9/11-style terrorist attack, so he kept Guantanamo open, quadrupled the number of Predator drone attacks, and either preserved or expanded all the Bush protocols that he had once derided.

Abroad, a new multilateral Obama wished to act only in concert with the United Nations and our allies. He vowed to respect the sovereignty of other countries and not “meddle” in their affairs by imposing American values. And yet the president also embraced eternal and universal human rights and wanted the United States to be on the right side of history. So he criticized our intervention to foster democracy in Iraq even as his vice president praised it. We surged in Afghanistan even as we posted deadlines to leave. We promised not to meddle to support Iranian protestors, and to meddle to support Egyptian protestors.

Hosni Mubarak was a dictator and was not a dictator, who had to leave yesterday, today, or maybe tomorrow. The situation in Libya is deemed “unacceptable,” but how exactly it could be made acceptable is never spelled out. Intervening there to support rebels is said to be good; but apparently so is supporting Saudi troops intervening in Bahrain to put down rebels and protect the status quo.

Middle East strongmen, the president tells us, are cruel and must leave. But the why and how of it all are also never stated. Are they supposed to flee only when protests reach a critical mass? In Egypt and Tunisia, but not in Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Iran?

President Obama has spent most of his life either in, or teaching, school — or making laws that he was not responsible for enforcing. His hope-and-change speeches were as moving in spirit as they were lacking in details.

But now Obama is chief executive, and learning, as did Prince Hamlet, that thinking out every possible side of a question can mean never acting on any of them — a sort of Shakespearean “prison” where “there is nothing either good or bad.” Worrying about pleasing everyone ensures pleasing no one. Once again such “conscience does make cowards of us all.”

Hamlets, past and present, are as admirable in theory as they are fickle — and often dangerous — in fact.
5031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Japan on: March 17, 2011, 12:04:33 PM
PC,  Good points, I agree, and my gripe was with MSNBC mixing an unthinkable tsunami death toll with the extremely difficult ongoing effort to cool these shutdown reactors in a highly populated area.  - Doug
5032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: March 17, 2011, 11:47:26 AM
Geithner: "there was no alternative except for Congress to raise the debt ceiling so that the government can keep borrowing."

The alternative for a country that knows how to take in $2.6 Trillion in revenues, would be to argue about how to spend that $2.6 Trillion  - if we aren't paying back the other 14 Trillion, not argue about spending between 3.799 and 3.8 Trillion. 

It used to be that markets would flinch and panic on just body language of people like a Fed chair or Treasury Secretary.  Markets today seem to know about the hoax theory. The flashback shows that for people like Geithner and Joe Biden, when their lips move, meaningless words can come out.  If these people have no idea what they mean by what they say, how can the markets guess.

I wrote then that countries like China, Saudi etc. do not use the US dollar as a favor to us, it is solely from the lack of a better alternative.  I wonder what an IMF currency backed by Greece, Italy and a nuclear-free Germany would look like without US backing.
5033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Japan on: March 17, 2011, 11:00:01 AM
Journalism of the worst kind IMHO to mix up these stats.  In a story about nuclear troubles,
"At least 19 workers hurt, 20 exposed to radiation ... More than 5,300 officially listed as dead, but toll expected to top 10,000"

I wish to minimize nothing in any tragedy, but the first stat, 19 hurt, 20 exposed, is what we know so far about the nuclear disaster.  The second stat (5300 dead, expected to top 10,000) has nothing to do with the nuclear plant damage.

We don't know the end of this developing tragedy but a news story should leave the reader more, not less, informed.

Chernobyl was a Soviet disaster built without protective enclosure and set off without an earthquake.  Fukushima was shut down and damaged in perhaps the worst earthquake of Japan in 1100 years.  

It is the Tsunami damage that is far, far, far worse than Chernobyl.  The nuclear toll right now is completely unknown.
5034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: March 17, 2011, 10:36:55 AM
"Stratfor:  Russia's Great Power Strategy"

 - Imagine if AMERICA had a great power strategy...

"Russia may be the one country that stands to gain from the various calamities in 2011. First, the general unrest in the Middle East has increased the price of oil by 18.5 percent. As the second largest oil exporter..."

  - If the US strove to be the world's number one in oil (and natural gas) from now until the end of the brief fossil fuel era, a number of things would happen, energy prices would drop and stabilize, America's standard of living would actually increase, employment would improve, the global economy would improve, poverty would decline, reliance on Saudi would decrease, Russia would drop to 3rd and have to increase production to a fall in revenues and experience a decrease in 'power' over its trading partners and bullied neighbors.  Who would want any of that?

5035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 16, 2011, 02:12:51 PM
Read point c),  specific ticker listed, past performance linked.   smiley
5036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market: Defensive Strategies on: March 16, 2011, 01:34:32 PM
"...interest rates are going to start really climbing, what investments do we avoid and what do we do to protect ourselves?  What does a hunker down strategy look like?"

a) I am in R.E.  Can't really get out.  I am working on improving the quality of what I own and the intrinsic value for some future sale, as nominal values bounce and fall.  Retail real estate for financed homeowners will go down proportionally with interest rates going up, because affordability is based on the monthly payment.  Still there are some amazing buys out there now and in the next year in terms of cash buying distressed property.  I see a fairly stable market at least here (maybe not where you are) right now, compared to the future(?), to sell quality homeowner property at some fair price.  One theoretically could sell a home at today's retail, and buy at an amazing value on a distressed property to hunker down on if so inclined.

b) In the total real 'meltdown' scenario, a good friend tells me buy silver dimes instead of bars of gold or gold on paper.  You might be able to buy a loaf of bread or an iodine sample with silver dimes.  Show real gold and they might just kill you. Can't make change or conduct basic transactions with bullion.

c) Paper investments, I recommend a mutual fund like T Rowe Price Spectrum Income which is I think one of their more defensive funds.  (I previously mentioned knowing someone managing large funds but cannot recommend their own or give out any information.)  You are brave to still research companies and plan in and out strategies in a game run by pros.  Even buy and hold of great companies is not foolproof.  You can get in and out of a fund like the above any market day with no transaction fee. The costs (0.72%) are in the fund, not something you are charged at the beginning or end.  They provide the professional management and the in and out strategies within the investment.  The Spectrum series has other funds with other mixes.  (I used to buy TRP's more aggressive growth stock funds - offensive strategies only.) Last time the market really tanked, the mgr of this fund was on the cover of Barrons for good performance.  Regarding the future, I have no idea and certainly no inside information.
5037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 16, 2011, 11:43:37 AM
Gm, Wow! angry
We leave our own resources in the ground and our best technologies on hold, buy what we prohibit ourselves to build, leave the filthiest mining to the places with the worst standards, where they don't even allow testing.  Ship the apparatus across the ocean and to the installations with fossil fuels, leave the rare earth mess behind, we set it all up here and with a ribbon cutting - and brag about zero emissions.  Then we pay 5 fold for the energy, force out the rest of dirty manufacturing - back to wherever standards are the worst and out of our control.  Next we push for world government and global taxes to tackle what we just caused.  Mandate plastic in place of steel in our cars,mercury into lighting, and Lithium into everything.  We drive SUVs to schools clearcut for asphalt parking, plant a tree and then do a bunch of high fives for our contributions to earth day.

The actual China photo today is eerily similar to a fictional one from British rock 35 years ago on the exact same subject:
Crisis! What Crisis?
5038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 16, 2011, 09:32:29 AM
I was pleased to see that my Sen. Al Franken agrees with me that Net Neutrality is to the internet what PelosiObamaCare is to healthcare, capped with criminal penalties.

The analysis at the bottom yesterday by Ed Morrisey of Hot Air (and Townhall Northern Alliance Radio) is about the same as mine.  The customer is the cable internet subscriber, not the content provider.  If the highly demanded App is NetFlix and the download time is unacceptable or blocked, people will go elsewhere.  Is grocery store required to sell a fresh orange or a bottle of soy sauce? No, but they would get very tired of people asking why something isn't available and go elsewhere.  Our economic system of choice works better than the centrally dictated model.  The beauty is that the worse the service is at the pseudo-monopoly, the more room they leave for alternatives will emerge.

Senator Al Franken says that the charge that Net Neutrality amounts to a government takeover of the Internet is just as silly as claiming ObamaCare to be a government takeover of health care.  And just to prove how Net Neutrality doesn’t amount to a government takeover, Franken wants government to respond to violations of Net Neutrality rules with criminal prosecution:

    Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) plans to introduce a bill that would make net neutrality violations a crime.

    The Justice Department cannot take enforcement actions against cable and phone companies who block websites, according to experts and congressional Democrats.

    Franken said in a speech at the South by Southwest conference on Monday that he is planning legislation that would amend antitrust laws to “call violations of net neutrality out for what they are: anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our anti-trust laws.”

Huh?  Internet companies act in a competitive market; they have to compete for consumers, albeit in some cases in restricted markets.  Wireless carriers, however, have a robustly competitive environment, and even the wired industry usually has two or three options for consumers in most cases.  If one carrier starts blocking websites, consumers will vote with their feet and go to the provider who doesn’t restrict access to them.

It’s amazing to see how Franken can argue that Net Neutrality laws don’t mean a government takeover of the Internet and then demand that people who don’t play along get prosecuted for it.
5039  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Glibness Hoax on: March 16, 2011, 08:17:20 AM
Richmond Time Dispatch Op/Ed

U.S. stunned by latest undercover sting
By A. Barton Hinkle
Published: March 15, 2011

The nation was left reeling yesterday by the revelation that the presidential election of 2008 was a hoax. The shocking announcement came when White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Barack Obama has been working in secret with conservative provocateur James O'Keefe since 2007.

The long-running hoax is the most elaborate yet in a series of recent sting operations by primarily right-of-center gadflies that have embarrassed organizations including ACORN, Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio.

Those stunts, as well as the prank call to Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin that was captured on tape last month, proved to be sources of personal or institutional embarrassment. Historians warned yesterday that the latest caper may inspire a sense of national shame.

Origins of a hoax

Carney said the scam entailed pulling together demographic, social, cultural and policy characteristics to create the most exaggerated Democratic candidate possible without stepping over the line into caricature.

"By combining empty, touchy-feely slogans like 'hope' and 'change' with far-left-wing policy planks and presenting them in the person of a racial minority from a major Midwest city with an Ivy League background, we thought we might be able to make a good showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, maybe even capture the Democratic nomination," Carney told reporters. "But the entire country? No. We never, ever for even a second imagined the American people would elect someone who had served only half a term in the U.S. Senate to be the leader of the entire free world."

Obama won the presidency with 52.9 percent of the popular vote, defeating Republican nominee John McCain, who received 45.7 percent.

"All you guys in the press were so giddy about it," Carney continued, "we couldn't really just announce that the whole thing was a big fat joke, you know? I mean, how would that look?"

Contacted by phone, O'Keefe said he, too, was surprised the hoax had lasted as long as it did.

"I thought people would catch on in the early days, like with the clinging-to-guns stuff," said O'Keefe, referring to an incident at a San Francisco fundraiser in which candidate Obama said small-town Americans "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

O'Keefe said he also expected the ruse would be unmasked when Obama said that "under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket," and again when Obama claimed, "I've now been in 57 (U.S.) states," with "one left to go."

"We modeled the 57-states gaffe on Dan Quayle's 'potatoe' mistake," said O'Keefe, referring to a 1992 incident at a Trenton, N.J., elementary school in which then-Vice President Dan Quayle added an "e" to "potato." "We figured Obama would become a national laughingstock like Quayle, (but we) underestimated the tendency of the press and the public to forgive mistakes by people they like."

Worldwide deceit

Victims of the fabrication stretch around the globe. "President" Obama has held numerous meetings with foreign heads of state, among them Chinese President Hu Jintao, leaders of NATO and the G8, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee also was taken in, awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009 — only months after he had taken office and just weeks before he announced an escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

Reaction from abroad yesterday was swift.

"I'm not surprised," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Well, that explains everything, doesn't it?" said British Prime Minister David Cameron. "I mean, really now."

A prank gone too far

As the 2008 campaign wore on, O'Keefe said, insiders grew worried Obama might actually win. They began dropping hints that the candidate was just a parody. They had him complain about the price of arugula to Iowa farmers. When that didn't work, Obama went bowling, scored a 37, and then joked that the almost impossibly poor performance "was like the Special Olympics or something."

"A few right-wing bloggers made a big deal out of it," O'Keefe said. "Nobody else seemed to notice."

The hint-dropping campaign intensified after Obama took office. Justin Whittemore, a former White House staffer who was part of the elaborate plot, said advisers began copying policy positions straight from The New York Times and the liberal Center for American Progress in an increasingly transparent attempt to provoke suspicion.

"We've tried everything," O'Keefe said. "Nationalizing health care, the stimulus, a $4 trillion budget, insane levels of debt, even high-speed rail. No matter how ridiculous a proposal we come up with, people take it seriously."

Asked why he is pulling the plug now, O'Keefe replied that the good of the country was at stake. "Things have gotten way out of hand," he said. "People are talking about a second term now. It's just gone way too far — even for me."
5040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 15, 2011, 12:00:16 PM
Thank you for the replies.  I should remove foot from mouth until this settles, but attempts to discuss this previously never got this far.

I share the distrust of experts, but only for their own limitations, not bad motives.  No one is an expert at forecasting a 9.1.  That is 10,000 time stronger than anything in history in my part of the country and 100 times stronger than the one that dropped the Bay Bridge in 1989.  Not just energy systems and cooling pumps failing, the coastline and storm sewers failed too.  This is Pompei or Atlantis scale.

Meanwhile Germany closes 7 plants.  Because an earthquake is forecast? No, because an election is coming.

My point is the math of the energy grid equation:  a + b + c = d  (coal + nuclear + solar and wind = the total).
The contribution of solar and wind is near zero, already heavily subsidized and slow to grow.  Coal is undesirable and very hard to increase.  The total is VERY closely tied to our standard of living and way of life.  The equals sign is non-negotiable, we can't print it and run a deficit.  You can't remove b without some combination of changing the other variables in equal amounts, and the contribution of nuclear is enormous.

So we say build no new ones, just use the old ones?  But it is the old ones that will pose the most danger.  Tomorrows plants that are likely to be the safest ever.

5041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Education: MIT Open Course Ware on: March 15, 2011, 12:11:13 AM
One of the most amazing resources available on the internet. MIT is free. I'm amazed at how few people know about this.

Hundreds of courses, No cost, no credit. Available for about 10 years now and the course list keeps growing.
    * Aeronautics and Astronautics
    * Anthropology
    * Architecture
    * Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation
    * Biological Engineering
    * Biology
    * Brain and Cognitive Sciences
    * Chemical Engineering
    * Chemistry
    * Civil and Environmental Engineering
    * Comparative Media Studies
    * Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
    * Economics
    * Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
    * Engineering Systems Division
    * Experimental Study Group
    * Foreign Languages and Literatures
    * Health Sciences and Technology
    * History
    * Linguistics and Philosophy
    * Literature
    * Materials Science and Engineering
    * Mathematics
    * Mechanical Engineering
    * Media Arts and Sciences
    * Music and Theater Arts
    * Nuclear Science and Engineering
    * Physics
    * Political Science
    * Science, Technology, and Society
    * Sloan School of Management
    * Special Programs
    * Supplemental Resources
    * Urban Studies and Planning
    * Women's and Gender Studies
    * Writing and Humanistic Studies
5042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 14, 2011, 05:49:19 PM
Must say, this catastrophe generated a long deserved conversation here and elsewhere.  

CCP, GM,  I agree, it is way too early to know the end result.  My first instinct was right.  Bury my head from news if we can't help, and wait until we know what happened.  But that's not the coverage.  It is meltdowns, explosions, evacuations and low level radiation announced every hour and on every site with absolutely no explanation of what on earth that means.  A dental X-ray? That is hardly a measure as it is something that has changed ten-fold over the years. 1/10th of a CT scan? 0.1 r.e.m? A banana? An MIT scientist describes it as: "drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation."

The problem with waiting to comment is that in 30 years since Three Mile Island, the conclusion of the studies is lost to our total inability to hold a focus.

I passed by a nuclear plant in Monticello MN today.  28 degrees and sunny with the Richter stuck where it has been every day since the plant was licensed 40 years ago, at 0.00.  The forecast tomorrow: Richter 0.00.  Not exactly pretty, but the plant powers 500,000 homes with a single reactor.  I agree with shutting it down - after 500,000 nuclear opponent households agree to disconnect their homes.  No one else will be affected.  Power for 500,000 homes is dangerous no matter how you produce and distribute it.

I stand by my preface to that article as a prediction not a foregone conclusion, that the devastation was maybe thousand-fold more from seawater and natural disaster than from nuclear, while the coverage is equal perhaps heavier on the nuclear side.  The end is not known, but so far more people died in Ted Kennedy's car - one too many.

That article (Tucker, WSJ) does not have all the facts but he gave the best description of what is happening that I have seen.  

After the tragedy and damage passes, what we have had from a scientific and engineering perspective is an amazing test that money could not buy.  9.1 is several hundred times more force than is projected to be the maximum possible at our San Andreas facilities.  

The CNN Money link at one point answers a question that Crafty posed in 2006 to start this thread: "tests have shown that the country's nuclear plants could withstand an impact from an airliner".  What was learned from the tenacity of the truthers doubting that an airliner even hit the Pentagon is that an airliner disintegrates rather quickly and easily on a solid impact.  

Once again, someone, anyone, please outline a better energy mix that works today with nuclear removed.  How many 'trainloads' of coal to Japan? from where? China? will it take to replace nuclear's projected 50% contribution to electric power?
5043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, corruption etc. Energy Lobbying on: March 14, 2011, 10:35:32 AM
This might as well go under corruption since that is what is implied when we chart lobbying dollars against subsidies won.

a) Oil drilling is banned nearly everywhere in and around this country while we drive, fly and transport products everyday.  It isn't necessarily a special favor sought to petition the government for the right to ask nicely for their industry to be legalized or to argue against banning it.  If congress has the power to close your business, it seems you might have some right to ask them not to.  The less cynical view is that these policies we make are based on the political views of the elected officials and the electorate more than from comparing piles of lobby dollars, but who knows..  My bias is toward legalizing production until we are ready to prohibit consumption.

b) Much of what were described as subsidies to the oil industry were in fact rules that allowed monies disbursed (sometimes called business expenses) to be counted against monies taken in to calculate taxable income.  There are technical accounting issues at stake here that could easily be settled with a simpler tax code for all companies.  Every company and industry fights to sort out what needs to be expensed over its useful life and what is expensed as it is incurred and paid.  Considering congress' and the administration's willingness to shut down any and all energy production at any time and with every news story, I would think any assumption that an investment has a productive life beyond the current fiscal year is fatally flawed.  My leaning is toward equal protection under the law, a bizarre concept that, if tried, would drastically reduce special interest lobbying of all types.

c) The slanted journalistic conclusion that oil companies pay low taxes always seems to ignore that we excise the f*ck out of their product at the pump.  This is money the consumer is willing to pay that the producer does not receive, in what way is that not a tax on the oil and gas industry?  The idea that it goes directly and exclusively to roads used begins to remind me of the social security lockbox.  In years where where anti-energy interest groups allege an oil company has paid absolutely no tax, they always ignore the plethora of other taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, state taxes, employment taxes etc.etc.  Just the need to lobby is a tax on the system IMO.
5044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nuclear Power: Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl - WSJ on: March 14, 2011, 09:53:29 AM
Previously, "...nuclear needs to take into account the external diseconomies both actual and possible attendant to the technology.  Ask Japan, Russia, and Pennsylvania."

I am curious how Chernobyl Ukraine (a Soviet disaster built with no containment structure), Three Mile Island (no deaths or known health effect?) and Japan (where the tsunami devastation is perhaps headed to the tens of thousands and the nuclear radiation released during cooldown is roughly dental x-ray levels quickly dispersed?) all get cast together.  Always open to evidence to the contrary.

Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl


Even while thousands of people are reported dead or missing, whole neighborhoods lie in ruins, and gas and oil fires rage out of control, press coverage of the Japanese earthquake has quickly settled on the troubles at two nuclear reactors as the center of the catastrophe.

Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), a longtime opponent of nuclear power, has warned of "another Chernobyl" and predicted "the same thing could happen here." In response, he has called for an immediate suspension of licensing procedures for the Westinghouse AP1000, a "Generation III" reactor that has been laboring through design review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for seven years.

Before we respond with such panic, though, it would be useful to review exactly what is happening in Japan and what we have to fear from it.

The core of a nuclear reactor operates at about 550 degrees Fahrenheit, well below the temperature of a coal furnace and only slightly hotter than a kitchen oven. If anything unusual occurs, the control rods immediately drop, shutting off the nuclear reaction. You can't have a "runaway reactor," nor can a reactor explode like a nuclear bomb. A commercial reactor is to a bomb what Vaseline is to napalm. Although both are made from petroleum jelly, only one of them has potentially explosive material.

Once the reactor has shut down, there remains "decay heat" from traces of other radioactive isotopes. This can take more than a week to cool down, and the rods must be continually bathed in cooling waters to keep them from overheating.

On all Generation II reactors—the ones currently in operation—the cooling water is circulated by electric pumps. The new Generation III reactors such as the AP1000 have a simplified "passive" cooling system where the water circulates by natural convection with no pumping required.

If the pumps are knocked out in a Generation II reactor—as they were at Fukushima Daiichi by the tsunami—the water in the cooling system can overheat and evaporate. The resulting steam increases internal pressure that must be vented. There was a small release of radioactive steam at Three Mile Island in 1979, and there have also been a few releases at Fukushima Daiichi. These produce radiation at about the level of one dental X-ray in the immediate vicinity and quickly dissipate.

If the coolant continues to evaporate, the water level can fall below the level of the fuel rods, exposing them. This will cause a meltdown, meaning the fuel rods melt to the bottom of the steel pressure vessel.

Early speculation was that in a case like this the fuel might continue melting right through the steel and perhaps even through the concrete containment structure—the so-called China syndrome, where the fuel would melt all the way to China. But Three Mile Island proved this doesn't happen. The melted fuel rods simply aren't hot enough to melt steel or concrete.

The decay heat must still be absorbed, however, and as a last-ditch effort the emergency core cooling system can be activated to flood the entire containment structure with water. This will do considerable damage to the reactor but will prevent any further steam releases. The Japanese have now reportedly done this using seawater in at least two of the troubled reactors. These reactors will never be restarted.

None of this amounts to "another Chernobyl." The Chernobyl reactor had two crucial design flaws. First, it used graphite (carbon) instead of water to "moderate" the neutrons, which makes possible the nuclear reaction. The graphite caught fire in April 1986 and burned for four days. Water does not catch fire.

Second, Chernobyl had no containment structure. When the graphite caught fire, it spouted a plume of radioactive smoke that spread across the globe. A containment structure would have both smothered the fire and contained the radioactivity.

If a meltdown does occur in Japan, it will be a disaster for the Tokyo Electric Power Company but not for the general public. Whatever steam releases occur will have a negligible impact. Researchers have spent 30 years trying to find health effects from the steam releases at Three Mile Island and have come up with nothing. With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.

What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The problem has been with the electrical pumps required to operate the cooling system. It would be tragic if the result of the Japanese accident were to prevent development of Generation III reactors, which eliminate this design flaw.
5045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Will: SCOTUS and the Health Care Mandate Muddle on: March 14, 2011, 09:25:53 AM
The layman (PhD Princeton) makes far more sense to me than the law review article and judge's ruling that he rebuts.  I added those links back in to the article.

The Supreme Court and the health-care mandate muddle
By George F. Will
Sunday, March 13, 2011

When the Supreme Court considers whether Congress has the constitutional power to compel individuals to buy health insurance, the argument supporting Congress may rest on a non sequitur and a semantic fiat. A judge's recent ruling argues that the insurance mandate must be constitutional because Obamacare would collapse without it. A forthcoming law review article agrees with this and with the judge's idea that, regarding commerce, being inactive is an activity.

Obamacare does indeed require the mandate: Because the law requires insurance companies to sell coverage to people regardless of their preexisting conditions, many people might delay buying insurance until they become sick. But is the fact that the mandate is crucial to the law's functioning dispositive?

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler's ruling ( that the mandate is constitutional conflates moral, policy and constitutional considerations. She says that people who choose "not to purchase health insurance will benefit greatly when they become ill, as they surely will, from the free health care which must be provided by emergency rooms and hospitals to the sick and dying who show up on their doorstep." So "those who choose not to purchase health insurance will ultimately get a 'free ride' on the backs of those Americans who have made responsible choices to provide for the illness we all must face."

Her disapproval is neither a legal argument nor pertinent to one. The question remains: Does Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce entitle it to create a health-care regime that requires the mandate?

Mark Hall of Wake Forest University, in an article for the University of Pennsylvania Law Review (, says there would be constitutional "uncertainty over the mandate in isolation." But it is "inextricably intertwined" with Obamacare's "other insurance regulations" - e.g., those pertaining to preexisting conditions - "which indisputably are constitutional." So the "strongest defense" of Congress's power to enact the mandate is "the acknowledged undesirability, if not impossibility" of the regulations regarding preexisting conditions, absent the mandate.

Hall says that the mandate "meets a high threshold of necessity to accomplish the overall reform scheme, clearly within congressional power, to create a market structure in which no one is ever again medically uninsurable." But unless we postulate that Congress has whatever power is required to create such a market structure, this question remains: Does the fact that Congress has the constitutional power to do X - say, guarantee universal access to insurance - make Y constitutional merely because Y is necessary for doing X?

Congress has the constitutional power to combat political corruption, the "appearance" thereof and the "circumvention" of laws for this purpose. But suppose Congress, exercising this power by regulating campaign finances, decides that abridging freedom of speech is necessary for its anti-corruption measures. This necessity, defined by this preference, does not make such abridgement constitutional. The Supreme Court said as much concerning McCain-Feingold.

The mandate's defenders note that the Constitution says Congress has the power to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution" its enumerated powers, one of which is to regulate interstate commerce. "Necessary and proper." An unconstitutional law is improper.

Does the mandate acquire derivative constitutionality merely by Congress making the mandate necessary for something Congress wants to do in the exercise of the enumerated power of regulating interstate commerce? If so, what would not acquire such constitutionality?

Madison's constitutional architecture for limited government will be vitiated unless the court places some limits on what constitutes commerce eligible for regulation. So the question becomes: Is the inactivity of not buying insurance a commercial activity Congress can proscribe because it has economic consequences?

Hall says it is unclear what constitutes "pure inaction." But virtually nothing qualifies as "pure" inactivity if, as he says, "the passivity of non-purchasing decisions does not rob them of their inherently economic nature." Judge Kessler disdains the distinction between activity and inactivity as "of little significance." Her Orwellian theory is that government can regulate the activity - the mental activity - of choosing not to participate in a commercial activity.

Hall perfunctorily says that "some limit" on Congress's commerce power "is necessary" but then says "democratic electoral constraint" - trusting "the political process itself to set limits" - will suffice to restrain government.

The question about the mandate is, however, whether a political institution has traduced constitutional limits placed on it. Because the Framers prudently doubted the sufficiency of "democratic electoral constraint" - because they were wary about "the political process" policing itself - the Constitution was written.
5046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 13, 2011, 07:23:10 PM
Bigdog,  I sincerely hope my ramblings about my own views don't sound like I am attributing to you something you did not write.  I never mean to do that. 
GM's point of density is the first criteria for mass transit but there are others. such as whether travel patterns have linear qualities.  That is not at all the case in our fully scattered metro.

GM/Denver study: Denver is 50% denser than our metro and far more linear (mountains run along one side of it) and the passenger cost is $1/mile mostly subsidized.  That is obscene.  One study of our LRT (MSP) suggested we could provide a new, leased Lexus to each person taking the train that didn't otherwise have a private vehicle option and save money over building low speed trains.

Accommodating more travel, not less, in cleaner smaller more efficient private vehicles (with room for your stuff) by free choice looks like the way forward to me.  CNG hybrids perhaps if NG is still legal. If a significant part of transportation is going to plug in, then the grid needs to expand capacity accordingly (coal, nuclear, wind) to support that.  Plug ins don't work in cold climates (or extremely hot ones).  If it isn't a national strategy then it shouldn't be a federal subsidy. 
I recently watched a convoy of trucks, at least 8 of them,  delivering one giant wind turbine across central Nebraska.  I would argue that the buildout, until fully in place, of going from 0% to 2% to 20% of electricity from wind sources will be a net increase, not a decrease, in demand and use of oil for transportation and electricity (coal, nuclear) for manufacturing. 
Heritage is on the right track.  We need progress now on quite a number of fronts.  Our economy shouldn't be jostled every time a Mullah or a Muammar has a screw come loose.
Crafty,  IMO hard to accept the need for nuclear without working through the need for abundant energy and the limitations of the alternatives. Only coal offers similar KW capability today for example.  Remove nuclear and we get more coal, more mining issues, more CO2 emission, more train loads blocking traffic etc., or get economic meltdown IMO.  The likelihood of anything like a 9.1 earthquake where I live or across most of this country ( simply isn't measurable.  The map may explain why Calif power companies own part of an AZ nuclear plant.  Japan is like Calif only worse I suppose.   Still I doubt Japan can or will move entirely away from nuclear after this horrific disaster begins to pass.

I am all ears to hear a better energy mix that works today with nuclear removed. 
5047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 13, 2011, 01:27:30 PM
re. BD,  I am very pleased to have your view in the mix.

Public transportation, I can say that it doesn't work at all where I am or for what I do.  If it is largely an urban/regional construct then it should be regionally financed - urban and regionally, not something people across the less populated heartland with their own financial challenges should be paying for.  Those systems don't pay for themselves and most wouldn't be built without the 'free' federal money.

Wind energy: I am with BD on that to a point, with major limitations.  (I am a big user of wind powered vehicles but not much work gets done when I am sailing.) Wind is about a 2% source of electricity now with heavy subsidies, probably a theoretical 20% source based on the most optimistic political views, one Stanford study said 33% theoretical, but with unrealistic assumptions. (That is electricity only, not all energy needs.) Wind generation reduces by those percentages the total power required from nuclear and coal, but it doesn't reduce the peak production capability required from coal and nuclear;the sweltering hot peak usage days tend not to be windy and trying to store the energy adds unacceptably to the cost.  In other words, we still need to build all of it, clean coal, safe nuclear and whatever is coming next or get used to outages.  The other main limitation: as the wind proportion of energy increases at 5 times the cost, say goodbye to the rest of manufacturing in this country.  We can't compete now on basic labor costs and we won't be competitive on energy costs if we use our affluence to choose more expensive solutions.  If we add to that burden an agreement to pay for third world upgrades and mandates, our overhead cost goes up even more.

Consumption:  Again I am with you on that as far as it is voluntary rather than coerced.  Artificially raising costs and refusing to produce available energy I put in the category of coercion. I posted elsewhere big steps I have taken on usage.  A 40 mpg old Honda (oops, just died for now), no home AC for over 15 years, added 2 feet of attic insulation (unsubsidized), put a used 95% furnace in myself 1/3 the size of the old one, partitioned off rooms not in use from heat, and put spiral bulbs in dozens of houses at my expense, etc.

Still it is illegal for me to not drive to work (laws against absentee landlording) and my daughter's activities are something else - and that is with just one kid.  Cutting out the optional trips is not always a great thing.  I was a no-show last night to meet up with wonderful lifelong friends from 4 corners of a widely spread metro.  Saved a drive, but nothing was gained by being a bum on that.  Nor from having my daughter visit 4 wonderful grandparents less often - things like that make up our drives - roughly an hour round trip each time no matter who drives it. You won't do that on a bus or a train or a bicycle. The home school question is intriguing and I will guess your kids are younger, but the mass transit school bus doesn't even work for us anymore with all the activities before and after school. 

At the start of kid sports we chose the local solution, 'recreational' soccer over 'traveling' soccer and biked the bike trail by our house to a huge park with plenty of kids and games for years.  It was a great childhood and neighborhood experience, but not a path to the highest levels in that sport.  Now she competes near the highest levels of 2 other sports and the transportation requirements are amazing and non-stop.  Same goes for orchestra.  We have instruments and music books in our home, but there is no proficiency without teaching and participation which means endless transportation.  Free instruction from my sister, a professional viola player, is great but also a serious transportation event no matter where we do it.  Can we do without that? Yes. Are we better off if we did? No. I posted in 'music' a classical piece by Holtz recently, left out this personal story:  I was introduced to that when my daughter was part of 800 of the best youth musicians from across the state filling Orchestra Hall downtown with those amazing sounds, the stage full plus violins lining the aisles and brass from the balconies. I found out it was my Dad' favorite piece and has touched 4 generations in our family.  Imagine the years of drives to lessons and rehearsals for 800 kids to make that amazing performance possible.  Could we do without all that? Yes. Are we better off if we do? No.  My point is that a free people fully developing and expressing their God given capabilities involves major individual mobility.  Living on the edge of a metro on a lake in the land of lakes and not in an apartment is an amazing thing. For one thing, no AC required. No one uptown or downtown on the light rail steps out their door and sail 5 miles on the first tack. (They drive to the lake and use gas powered boats.) Participating and connecting with people from all over in sports, music, politics, is an amazing thing.  Staying home is great (assuming it is heated with natural gas smiley) but freedom, affluence, and moving forward on quality of life also require serious levels of energy powered individual mobility IMHO.  We aren't out here commuting the same line from the same neighborhoods at the same times to the same job locations, as the mass transit model would suggest.
5048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 13, 2011, 12:07:11 AM
GM, No, I posted about a 20 link answer including a point by point rebuttal and quotes from regulatory officials in 15 key states saying it has never happened there.
5049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 12, 2011, 08:39:55 PM
Thanks for the replies on that.  BD in particular, I understand those concerns.  Of the other alternatives possible today to expand (including doing without), which way do you lean, may I ask?
5050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Japan's Earthquake on: March 12, 2011, 08:27:08 PM
Hearts and prayers out to the victims and families struggling in Japan.  My own way of coping is to hide from disaster news coverage as it breaks.  My nuclear post elsewhere is in the context of not knowing which way that conflicting story will break.  I couldn't help though at peaking at this raw news footage in Japan of a helicopter rescue airlift and just the immense water force aftermath of the tsunami.  I am deathly afraid of earthquakes, but this is something else horrific that follows...

Conjecture here but thank God for one thing that this is a first world country in an earthquake zone I am guessing built to handle something devastating like this better than a lot of other places might be.

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