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5451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 09, 2009, 10:59:26 PM
"For the record the US is by far the world's largest arms merchant and we are not always very careful about to whom we sell."

Can you give an example as egregious as selling mines to Iran for them to terrorize a crucial shipping lane in international waters?
5452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 08, 2009, 11:55:30 PM
"anyone have something on this matter from a more definitive source?"
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D. Toledo) whipped the crowd up before Mr. Obama took the stage yesterday telling them that America needed a Second Bill of Rights guaranteeing all Americans a job, health care, homes, an education... 10/13/2008

Powerline wrote about Sunstein a year ago: and the book is partially published online at googlebooks:
One thing unique about these Marxists and the right to healthcare, a job, a home, an education and the rest of the Second Bill of Rights is that with the original Bill of Rights, your right to speech, bear arms, be free of unreasonable search etc. did not create a burden on someone else to provide something for you.

From Powerline Oct. 2008:

Obama's Constitution
October 28, 2008 Posted by Scott Johnson at 5:36 AM

Yesterday the Obama campaign called on University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein to tamp down the furor over Obama's advocacy of "redistributive change" and overcoming of the Constitution's "negative rights" in his 2001 radio interview. Politico's Ben Smith reliably channelled Professor Sunstein's spinning on behalf of Obama.

Professor Sunstein was actually the right man to call on to explain Obama's remarks. They derive directly from Sunstein's advocacy of Roosevelt's so-called second Bill of Rights. Sunstein devoted a book to the subject in 2004 -- The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever. Roosevelt set forth his "second Bill of Rights" in his January 1944 State of the Union Address:

    In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all--regardless of station, race, or creed.

    Among these are:

    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

    The right of every family to a decent home;

    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

    The right to a good education.

Tom Palmer usefully explicated the political thought underlying Sunstein's argument in his review of the book. By contrast with the doctrine of rights conferred by God and nature set forth in the Declaration of Independence, Sunstein holds:

    You owe your life -- and everything else -- to the sovereign. The rights of subjects are not natural rights, but merely grants from the sovereign. There is no right even to complain about the actions of the sovereign, except insofar as the sovereign allows the subject to complain. These are the principles of unlimited, arbitrary, and absolute power, the principles of such rulers as Louis XIV. Intellectuals have assiduously promoted them; think of Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes.

Thus Palmer deems Sunstein a "new intellectual champion of absolutism" who advances "the radical notion that all rights -- including rights usually held to be 'against' the state, such as the right to freedom of speech and the right not to be arbitrarily imprisoned or tortured -- are grants from the state."

At the American Constitution Society's "Constitution 2020" jamboree at Yale Law School in 2005, according to my daughter's notes, Sunstein explained:

    * With growth and change, political rights enshrined in Constitution are inadequate.

    * Need economic bill of rights. Ingredients of Second Bill of Rights--only with these rights will we have security

    * Long tradition of American political thought--states owe to every citizen a degree of subsistence. Second Bill of Rights made possible by attack on distinction between negative and positive rights. Effort to separate them is unfit for the American legal framework.

    * Roosevelt . . . did not favor return to narrowly construed judgments of those who drafted the Constitution.

    * By 2020, it's going to be about time for the Second Bill of Rights to be reclaimed. . . . Beauty of Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights is its concreteness--right to education, etc.

The debate on the left, alluded to in Obama's remarks and addressed in Sunstein's book, has been whether Congress or the courts should promulgate the welfare state agenda. Three years ago Sunstein et al. modestly posited the fulfillment of their welfare state dreams in 2020. With left-wing Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, and with Obama's ascendance, it looks like the future is now..

UPDATE: Via RealClearPolitics I see that Professor Sunstein is also spinning directly on behalf of Obama over at TNR. Maybe he'll explain some time after the election, if candor ever becomes the order of the day, what Obama meant when he referred to "the tragedies of the civil rights movement."

And from the Buckeye state, a reader reports:

    I live in Toledo, Ohio. Prior to Obama's trip here in which he met Joe the Plumber, the October 12 issue of The Toledo Blade had a signed statement by the co-publisher and editor-in-chief on the first page asking Obama whether he would agree with FDR's "Second Bill of Rights" guaranteeing "the right to a job, the right to a decent home, the right to adequate medical care, and the right to a good education." The statement includes a link to the audio clip and transcript of FDR proposing it.

    The letter was accompanied by a front page article discussing it, claiming "many" believe these ideas should be invoked, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The article stated that an answer from Obama as to whether he supports the idea is important to all Americans. The Blade claimed Obama agreed in principle to the ideas expressed in the second Bill of Rights: "Mr. Obama declined to give a simple yes or no answer, but in a written response and in an answer to the same question shouted at him, Mr. Obama appeared to agree in principle."

    Here's the article in the Blade detailing Obama's visit, noting: "U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) whipped the crowd up before Mr. Obama took the stage yesterday telling them that America needed a Second Bill of Rights guaranteeing all Americans a job, health care, homes, an education, and a fair playing field for business and farmers."

    This is scary stuff, but it obviously has the support of the Blade, Sen. Brown and Rep. Kaptur. I've frankly been surprised this hasn't received more attention as I think it sounds nutty to most Americans. At least I hope so.

Hope! Maybe that's the missing ingredient in the McCain campaign.

5453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: October 08, 2009, 11:34:40 PM
"The claim that doctors would leave medicine or retire is just a lot of hot air."

If I understand correctly, the plan isn't in place until 'Obama's 2nd term'.  I think the more the plan looks like public employee union civil service work in place of private practice, the more likely a certain number will be to re-evaluate their future during the interim rather than join and learn the new system.  it wouldn't take too many planned retirees plus early retirees to totally screw up the already screwed up numbers in the plan IMO.  The same number of doctors and nurses at the same cost are already planning to treat 20-30 million more people as it stands? As I look for a Dr. myself it seems all the ones I know are already too close to retirement to be of much use to me in my upcoming old age.

If they eased the burden of malpractice lawsuits and insurance, an aging MD could continue to practice on an eased up schedule longer instead of taking normal retirement.  Seems to me that keeping them in practice a little longer would be a better course than forcing them out if we were trying to give better treatment to more patients.  But we aren't headed in that direction right now.
5454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 08, 2009, 11:09:25 PM
Stratfor can be so good in their analysis and writing that it can be easy to forget that most conclusions are admittedly based on conjecture.  Even within the responsible agencies and with all the security clearances, much intelligence is false and much of what is needed just doesn't exist.  I think Strat is valuable so often just for asking the right questions even if their answer is just one opinion.

Maybe a military action (against Iranian nukes)would be a disaster or maybe a short, sharp air and naval campaign to set them back a generation is possible.  From our point of view in the armchair, the strike now question is hypothetical - assuming that we can.  But we don't know that.

With Osirak 1981, the Iraqis might not have known the Israelis could do that. With SDI, the enemy thought we could and the Americans thought we couldn't. Nuclear disarmament, forcible or negotiated is tricky business.
Freki, What you write about Russia is true.  I would add that as an energy producer, Russia wants higher prices for oil regardless of how it affects us, and for the US as we choose to leave our energy in the ground and choose to pay enemies for energy - the price spikes that threaten our economy and our security are our own damn fault. 

For China I think the situation is the opposite of Russia.  They are highly dependent on the US economy, the dollar and the value of their already sunken investment.
5455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 08, 2009, 11:14:28 AM
"U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to three Central European countries to discuss ballistic missile defense infrastructure and bilateral security ties. The purpose of Bidenís visit is twofold: to reassure Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania that the United States is still a powerful security guarantor, and remind Russia that the United States has clout in its geopolitical backyard."

Russia must bee worried to see Obama send Biden to Poland, lol.

Yes, our very highest official to reassure our wonderful allies that we will never let down or sell out (sarc).  It is our very highest priority to reassure them of our commitment, after just blindsiding them with surprise missile defense site cancellations, but first Biden must attend his even higher priorities, visiting the home of MN Twins owner to raise 8k a plate for the DNC.  Who pays 8k a plate to dine with Biden that isn't looking for a corporate backscratching?  Pohlad owns hundreds of banks - I don't suppose their are TARP funds in the banking industry...

Joe Biden to visit Twin Cities next week
Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio  October 6, 2009

St. Paul, Minn. ó Vice President Joe Biden will travel to the Twin Cities next Thursday for a fundraising dinner at the home of Robert Pohlad, son of the late Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad.  The Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America will host the $7,600 a plate fundraiser. 
This will be Biden's second visit to Minnesota since the inauguration. He visited a bus manufacturing facility in St. Cloud in March.

Whoops, no mention of the layoffs that followed at that mfr where he bragged about 'stimulus' money and its coming affects on the local economies across the heartland.
5456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 08, 2009, 10:55:23 AM
"Over the years, Tehran has amassed thousands of mines, largely from Russia and China."

For all the billions invested and bullsh*t exchanged in all these multilateral diplomacies, is there no international law or UN resolution prohibiting China and Russia from conspiring with a terrorist nation to mine international waters for random, massive destruction?

Perhaps the west should detonate one Chinese ship in international waters for each oil vessel damaged until they bring their own central party swimmers in to round up each and every explosive until the waters are clear.

More likely we will have another multilateral commission look blindly into the matter and get back to us with no solution at some later date yet to be determined.
5457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: October 06, 2009, 10:52:15 AM
Shoulder to shoulder to shoulder, pictured as they stood up to Iran, Sarkozy with the youthful glibness and dead-man-walking Gordon Brown... missing were Putin and Hu.  We are not part of a united nations whether keep holding meetings and photo-ops, passing resolutions or not.
5458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters, Iran ended nuclear weapons program in 2003? on: October 06, 2009, 10:42:39 AM
While we are investigating the questioning methods of terrorists that saved thousands of innocent lives, why is there no push for a congressional investigation and prosecution of the lying, backstabbing, partisan traitors in the intelligence agencies that brought us the known-FALSE report in 2007 that Iran had ended its pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003?  Just curious.

I would hope that these negligent contributors to future genocides would receive fair trials with plenty of lengthy and expensive appeals, and then be executed for treason.
5459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: October 06, 2009, 10:29:56 AM
Honduras:  More fitting with his professed foreign policy philosophy, that the U.S. doesn't have all the answers, would have been wise to not comment on Honduras instead of taking the wrong side and making things worse.

"...while not an American taxpayer..."  - Denny, don't worry, most people here don't pay US taxes either.  sad

The Winston Churchill quote is just perfect ("You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.")  - People were ready for hope and change but not necessarily choosing the sharp left turn that they got. 

"It is utterly disgusting to see Obama in bed with Chavez, Morales, Correa, Zelaya, Castro and Ortega. These people are the scum of Latin America."   - Add Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett and the ACORN organization to the foreign friends list and people should get a feel for where the guy is coming from, as well-meaning as he might be.  I wish more people here were clear on that.

After the Obama exuberance finishes winding down we are really only returning to an evenly and more angrily divided nation IMHO.
5460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / corruption fraud etc. ACORN loses foundation funding on: October 05, 2009, 11:04:19 AM
The failure of the crony contracts to build the Olympic village may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the young President.  He gets the credit at the home precinct for putting it all on the line for them and averts the scandals that were certain to follow.
Beware you charity givers that most do-gooding in the inner cities is welfare and dependency supporting redistribution along with opposition to private property rights and support for public and private takings, laced in scandal and corruption (my humble observation). 

ACORN Losing Funding From Big Foundations
By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 3, 2009

The liberal political organizing group ACORN, battered by the release of embarrassing videos and allegations of financial mismanagement and fraud, has also been losing support from several major foundations.

The Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Bank of America have stopped funding the group and its affiliates over the past year and a half.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a network that helps low-income families with housing, voter registration and other issues, receives about 10 percent of its $25 million annual budget from federal grants, according to Brian Kettenring, deputy director of national operations. The rest comes from foundations, membership dues and private donations.
5461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: October 05, 2009, 10:40:44 AM
"Sounds awfully like the rumors of Hitlers partial Jewish ancestry."

I remember that and believe it was debunked.  With Makmood I think it irrelevant what makes him the way he is - I see him more as a puppet than a leader - so I put it under WTF. 
5462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WTF? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed to have Jewish past on: October 05, 2009, 09:47:20 AM
Home  News World News Middle East Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed to have Jewish past
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vitriolic attacks on the Jewish world hide an astonishing secret, evidence uncovered by The Daily Telegraph shows.
By Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat
Published: 7:30AM BST 03 Oct 2009
Ahmadinejad showing papers during election
Ahmadinejad showing papers during election. It shows that his family's previous name was Jewish

A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.

A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian Ė a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.
The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from "weaver of the Sabour", the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior.

The Iranian leader has not denied his name was changed when his family moved to Tehran in the 1950s. But he has never revealed what it was change from or directly addressed the reason for the switch.

Relatives have previously said a mixture of religious reasons and economic pressures forced his blacksmith father Ahmad to change when Mr Ahmadinejad was aged four.

During this year's presidential debate on television he was goaded to admit that his name had changed but he ignored the jibe.

However Mehdi Khazali, an internet blogger, who called for an investigation of Mr Ahmadinejad's roots was arrested this summer.
5463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glibness - Running a small 'r' republic on: October 04, 2009, 12:05:55 PM
Going back a week or so I agree with how perceptive the BBG/VDH post is about this President thinking he is running a University.  Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics has a slightly different take on Obama's problem with the presidency:

RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog
By Jay Cost

Does Obama Have a republican Problem?

We all know that President Obama has a Republican problem, namely the 200 or so Republican members of Congress who refuse to go along with his health care reform plans. However, I think he might also be developing a republican problem. Namely, I think he is having trouble keeping his ego within the boundaries of an office that fundamentally reflects the republican quality of this country.

It is difficult to nail down precisely what "republicanism" means. It has had different meanings in different places at different times. In the United States, it conjures up the notion of self-government: the people are capable of ruling themselves, and the authority of the leaders derives from the consent of the governed, rather than some aristocratic pedigree or superior position in life.

The evidence of American republicanism is all around us. Consider, for instance, the title of address for the President of the United States. Originally, Federalists like John Adams desired a grand title, something like "His Highness." However, the simple phrase "Mr. President" was ultimately adopted.

Anybody who walks down the 1600 Block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. will notice that the house of the most powerful person on the planet lacks the grandiosity that one might otherwise expect.

Compare this residence to the head of the House of Windsor.

Or how about the old home of the French House of Bourbon.

The first home is the residence of a republican leader. It is formal and respectable, but not grandiose. In square footage terms, your place might be larger than the President's. You might also make more money than the President. Lots of people do, seeing as how we do not pay him that much. George Washington wanted to turn down the princely sum that the First Congress was prepared to pay him for his tenure. Generally, Washington's modesty and self-restraint helped establish the republican quality the office retains to this day.

Ironically, the sense that the President is no better than any of us is a major reason why the office is so powerful, or at least why it can be. A President who appears to be of the people, rather than above them, can more easily rally them to his cause, thereby forcing the Congress to do as he likes. It is not coincidental that the first stirrings of the modern, powerful presidency can be seen in the administration of Andrew Jackson, who was thought by his opponents to be the leader of a mob.

Since he emerged on the national stage, Barack Obama has not been the model of American republicanism. This was the case during the campaign, and it continues today. Juxtapose the simple respectability of the White House with these images taken from the Obama-Biden campaign website.

This is why I was not surprised to see that video of schoolchildren being taught to praise President Obama like he is a deity. Ultimately, the campaign that President Obama waged hinted at such ideas. Is it a shock that a few, overly enthusiastic supporters thought it appropriate to proselytize in such a fashion?

That "Progress" picture is easily the most non-republican of the bunch. The image suggests that Obama's campaign is somehow a source of goodness for the people. From a republican standpoint, the imagery in the picture should be reversed, with the people being the source of goodness from which the candidate benefits.

I had hoped that the President would find his inner republican upon ascension to the office. I have been disappointed. His speeches are too full of references to himself. His omnipresence suggests a disregard for the people's tolerance levels, as well as for the idea that ours is a limited government and we are entitled to enjoy our lives without these constant executive impositions. Additionally, I share Michael Gerson's sentiments regarding his address to the U.N., which was typical of other speeches he has given to the international community:

    Obama's rhetorical method in international contexts -- given supreme expression at the United Nations this week -- is a moral dialectic. The thesis: pre-Obama America is a nation of many flaws and failures. The antithesis: The world responds with understandable but misguided prejudice. The synthesis: Me. Me, at all costs; me, in spite of all terrors; me, however long and hard the road may be. How great a world we all should see, if only all were more

    On several occasions, Obama attacked American conduct in simplistic caricatures a European diplomat might employ or applaud. He accused America of acing "unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others" -- a slander against every American ally who has made sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued that, "America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy" -- which is hardly a challenge for the Obama administration, which has yet to make a priority of promoting democracy or human rights anywhere in the world.

There are two problems with the attitude that Gerson has correctly identified. First, it's fair to criticize the actions of the previous administration to a point, but speeches like his U.N. address often move beyond that to suggest a broader failure, one that implicates the mass public. For instance, the best rejoinder he has to those who question the "character" of his country is: "look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months," which he suggests are "just a beginning." This rhetoric does not befit the leader of a democratic republic, especially one as great as the United States of America. The President should be willing and able to defend the "character" of his country beyond his own, inconsequential-to-date actions.

Second, the implication here is that his administration has sanctified our character. No administration can do that in a republic because no administration possesses the moral standing to offer such a blessing. He is the equal of the people in every measure. He temporarily holds an office whose magnificence is dependent upon the goodness of the people he represents. Yet this President implies a claim to such moral superiority - in the above quoted sentence, then later on when he says: "The test of our leadership will not be the degree to which we feed the fears and old hatreds of our people." No President should suggest that his people would fall prey to fear and hatred were it not for his leadership - even if he thought this were true. And he surely should not air such "dirty laundry" to an international audience that does not understand how this country actually functions. Instead, he should claim that he leads a great people who have the wisdom and equanimity not to fall prey to such fears, and it is his hope that he can emulate them.

Ultimately, this President stands a better chance of success if he embraces the republican character of the people who imbue his temporary position with its power and majesty. The fact is that we are a republican people who tend not to think that anybody is better than we. If we begin to intuit that the President thinks he is better, it could impede his efforts to rally us to his side.

It is also a fact that staunch republicans created the presidency, and the office reflects their preferences even after 220 years of intervening history. By explicit design, the President is not a leader-for-life. Instead, he must face the judgment of his peers just 48 months after he wins the office. The Constitution endorses the view of the supremacy of the people because it delineates a timeline for when the executive power leaves the President and returns to the people (originally, as represented by the state governments). As if that were not enough, the 22nd Amendment forbids a President from seeking a third term, meaning that the people of this democratic republic will be around long after the Obama Administration has come to an end.
5464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Way Forward - Victor Davis Hanson: 10 random suggestions on: October 04, 2009, 11:42:04 AM
We Should Vote for Anyone . . .

Who offers a coherent systematic agenda of reform. What do most want? Not necessarily a Republican or Democrat, or at this 11th hour to be mired in messy issues like gay marriage (Iím opposed to it), but rather fundamental matters of finance, investment, and defense. Here are ten random suggestions; dozens more could be adduced.

I will add one, McCain should have picked VDH for running mate and so should the next nominee.  That would keep the issue and policy debates on track.

1)   Fiscal sanity that leads to federal spending freezes and a balanced budget that in turn soon allows a paying down of the debt.

2)   An oil/nuclear/coal/natural gas rapid development effort (again, to exploit especially new fields in Alaska, California, the Gulf, and North Dakota) to tide us over until alternate energy and new conservation lessen dependence. The alternative is to dream on about ďgreen jobsĒ while we go broke trying to pay for scarcer imported oil, and lose our autonomy in the next price hike or Mideast crisis, even as we suffer amoral rants from oil-rich unhinged thugs like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Gaddafi, and Putin.

3)   A new national consensus on security to decide that when and if we go to war, to see the effort through, on the principle that whatever the mistakes we commit in battle are far outweighed by the cost of defeat.

4)   A bad/worse choice gut check reform on entitlements, especially concerning those unsustainable like Social Security and Medicare, that calibrates payouts in terms of incoming capitalówhether by raising age eligibilities or curbing automatic cost of living hikes.

5)   Clear, demarcated, and enforced national borders, and an end to illegal immigration through greater enforcement, employer sanction, border fortification, and a change in national attitudes about unlawful entry.

6)   Zero tolerance on government corruption. There is no reason why someone like a Charles Rangel is still the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

7)   Tort reform, including limits on personal injury settlements and loser-pays law suit reform.

Cool   A renewed commitment to national and regional missile defense, on the expectation that the next two decades are going to be terribly dangerous, as lunatic regimes may well threaten to hold an American city or ally as nuclear hostage.

9)   Federal investment in hard infrastructure projects, not redistributive entitlements or Murtha-like earmarks, such as freeways, dams, water projects, electrical grids, ports, rail, etc., with regional needs adjudicated by national bipartisan boards.

10)       A move to lower taxes, preferably by alternatives to the present income tax system, whether by a consumption tax or flat taxes, calibrated to commensurate spending cuts.
5465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afghanistan-Pakistan, re. 10 steps worth a serious look on: October 04, 2009, 11:18:59 AM
To summarize, if we continue on the course we are on we will fail.  If we increase our presence and the foreign footprint we will increase the flow of nationalists into suicide bomber missions and fail.  And if we retreat or withdraw, terrorists will retake, set up terror training camps and we fail.

Certainly this is a most difficult conundrum.  I can see now why Pres. Obama took 25 minutes out his Olympic journey to meet with our commander.

I don't suppose the villagers along the countryside notice the American lack of commitment shown by our Commander and Chief, while troops are in harm's way,  taking several weeks to re-evaluate our commitment to their security and freedom.

One reason the Iraq surge worked was that the people of Anbar for example saw a) an American President not hedge, flinch or waiver with all the setbacks, b) got re-elected by the American people in spite of it all, and then c) raised up the commitment to win - noticeably - at ground level.
04 Oct 2009: Eight US soldiers killed as Taliban storm outpost
Nato-led forces have suffered their bloodiest attack in more than a year after eight American soldiers were killed in a multi-pronged assault on outposts near the Pakistan border.

5466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 03, 2009, 02:44:33 PM
Getting back to you CCP: "Doug, Don't you just love this stuff from liberal academia.
Like the one that came out recently from Boston (of course) that 44K people die every year because they don't have insurance.

Like this one  that holds our standing in the World has had a sharp increase since Obama is President.  Though it may be too late to turn the downward trend.

Of course we are popular - he wants to give all away."

I would like to see 44k signed death certificates saying that the cause of death was 12 years of neglect by frugal Republican congresses, lol.

US popularity when we were a great nation would be like asking other cities about the popularity of the Yankees when they were winning all the World Series.  How high were their approval numbers among Cubs and Cardinals fans?  Not so good I would suspect.  I would measure it differently - by actions, not polls.  Where do they send their kids for higher ed.  Who do they call when Saddam invades their country, for missile defense, life saving meds, information  technology, etc? 

These questions may be moot as we unilaterally give up all of our advantages in pursuit of fairness and mediocrity.
5467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: America's Inner City on: October 03, 2009, 02:19:47 PM
Meanwhile back in Chicago... "freshman's skull fractured in Edgewater attack
October 1, 2009   A 14-year-old boy severely beaten in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood was able to talk to detectives today after undergoing surgery for a fractured skull, police said. The boy, a freshman at Mather High School, was chased down the xxx block of on Wednesday evening by three males who beat him, police said. One hit him with a pipe, they said.

In Detroit: "Too broke to bury their dead.  Money to bury Detroit's poor has dried up, forcing struggling families to abandon their loved ones in the morgue freezer.
Unclaimed bodies piling up in the Detroit morgue. can smell the plight of Detroit.  Inside the Wayne County morgue in midtown Detroit, 67 bodies are piled up, unclaimed, in the freezing temperatures. Neither the families nor the county can afford to bury the corpses.

And my latest landlord story this week in Minneapolis.  I looked up the backgrounds on my tough looking applicants for a house rental after being assured they have no problems with credit, criminal record or evictions and found among other things that they get their welfare money through other people and that one had a recent conviction for felony strangulation.  Wish a had a couple of you with me when I needed to gently give them the bad news.

There is a large part of America that does not participate in the productive economy and people that are not saddled with responsibilities find other ways to keep themselves occupied. 
5468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 03, 2009, 02:01:54 PM
Narcissistic IMO for Obama to make America's bid about him.  If we won and especially if Obama was in a second term it would be all become a tribute to him.  Meanwhile Chicagoans were apathetic about it.  Recall that Colorado won the 1976 Winter Olympics and then the voters of Colorado voted it down.  They already had enough tourists and didn't want access to the ski resorts interrupted.

Also strange was to see Obama take a sudden stab at proclaiming American exceptionalism, in direct contradiction to all his other overseas speeches and to exactly the wrong audience for that message -  that we are the greatest nation on the planet and that Chicago is the second or now third greatest city in the greatest nation.  The reality is that core areas of Chicago more closely resemble a third world country, lacking what makes the rest of America great.  And the governance of Chicago has no semblance to consent of the governed, limited government or any other principle espoused by the founders.

Maybe the humiliated, "Harry, I have a gift" Glibness can go back to Chicago between world tours, take a page out of the Bill Cosby responsibility book and be the real leader these people so desperately need.
5469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 01, 2009, 12:52:43 PM
"our top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has told CBS's "60 Minutes" that he has spoken with President Barack Obama only once"

Obama economic advisers get the same treatment according to CNBC Editor in the NY Post: 

"Obama economic counselor Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman, is barely consulted at all on just about anything -- not even issues involving the banking system, of which he is among the world's leading authorities."   
5470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: September 29, 2009, 10:29:51 AM
"This erroneous conclusion was made public before OBama became President.
W very much let Israel drift in the wind at the end of his second term."

True, thanks.  It was not Obama but it was from similar forces from within Bush's own agencies that undermined any coherent response to an obvious and growing threat.

Bush let his presidency drift or end long before its term other than the amazing success of the surge in Iraq.  Cheney was distanced from being a close adviser and no one with wisdom replaced him.  Especially from a public relations point of view of arguing for your own policies and philosophies, Bush had quit his job by early 2005.
Iran stopped weaponization.
Iraq never posed a threat.
If we would just talk to the murderous thugs...
   - I often wish liberals were right so we could end this tiring effort of opposing them.

5471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / America's Inner City; Urban Issues on: September 29, 2009, 10:06:10 AM
Brutal video showing a glimpse of a day going home from a high school in Chicago last Thursday:

More info after arrests:
5472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: September 29, 2009, 09:43:57 AM
"US:  Iran has halted weaponization in 2003."

That would be the first instance of Obama crediting Bush for a success.  Unfortunately it is false.
5473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: September 22, 2009, 03:36:23 PM
Point of clarification and I hope this doesn't take away from the importance or credibility of his criticism, but Lawrence Eagleburger served under Republican Presidents RR and GHWB.  - Doug
5474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media Issues - The story behind the ACORN story, with more to come on: September 21, 2009, 11:06:52 PM
Conservative niches in media profit from the void left by the so-called mainstream media, still they are frustrated by the what they won't cover or expose.  In this particular case the main media was badly outsmarted and humiliated by one who knows their bias and their methods better than they know themselves. 

September 21, 2009
The Story Behind the ACORN Story
By Andrew Breitbart

Everything you needed to know about the unorthodox roll out of the now-notorious ACORN sting videos was hidden in plain sight in my Sept. 7 column, Katie Couric, Look in the Mirror. ACORN was not the only target of those videos; so were Katie, Brian, Charlie and every other mainstream media pooh-bah.

They were not going to report this blockbuster unless they were forced to. And they were. What's more, it ain't over yet. Not every hint I dropped in that piece about what was to come has played itself out yet.Stay tuned.

When filmmaker and provocateur James O'Keefe came to my office to show me the video of him and his friend, Hannah Giles, going to the Baltimore offices of ACORN - the nation's foremost "community organizers" - dressed as a pimp and a prostitute and asking for - and getting - help for various illegal activities, he sought my advice. In the past, Mr. O'Keefe created brilliant social satire that rocked his college campus and even made its way on to the talk-radio and cable-news shows, but the magnitude of his latest adventure had the potential to rock the political establishment.

I was awed by Mr. O'Keefe's guts and amazed by the footage, but explained that the mainstream media would try to kill this important and illuminating expose about a corrupt and criminal political racket, and that the well-funded political left would go into "war room" mode, with 25-year-old Mr. O'Keefe and 20-year-old cohort Miss Giles in the cross hairs. I felt I had a moral obligation to protect these young muckrakers from the left and from the media, and to devise a strategy that would force the media's hand.

Once the American public saw with its own eyes the grotesque, common practices of ACORN's housing offices, Mr. O'Keefe and Miss Giles could no longer be a legitimate focus of media scrutiny. Kill the messenger doesn't work with the American people when they realize that the message is so devastating and honest. I think the video exposed the misuse of public funds and systemic manipulation of the tax code in the name of "helping the poor."

If Mr. O'Keefe dumped the videos on YouTube, the political powers would have killed the expose before it got traction. I half-joked that he should secretly tape pitching the major television networks exclusive use of his videos for their nightly news broadcasts. But a simpler, less controversial method proved as fruitful.

I told him that in addition to launching his compelling and stylized Web videos, we needed to offer the full transcripts and audio to the public in the name of transparency, and to offer Fox News the full footage of each video before each was released.We had to devise a plan that would force the media to see the evidence before they had enough time to destroy these two idealistic 20-something truth seekers. Mr. O'Keefe agreed to post the full audio and full transcript of his video experiences at

Thus was born a multimedia, multiplatform strategy designed to force the reluctant hands of ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post.

Videos of five different ACORN offices in five separate cities would be released on five consecutive weekdays over a full week - Baltimore, Washington, New York, San Bernadino and San Diego. By dripping the videos out, we exposed to anyone paying attention that ACORN was lying through its teeth and that the media would look imbecilic continuing to trot out their hapless spokespeople.

If the media, as expected, pretended that the story didn't exist, they'd have another debacle on their hands comparable to the failure to report the shocking views of the White House's "green jobs czar," Van Jones. If they invested in the story, I told Mr. O'Keefe, they would do ACORN's defense work. I told him the focus needed to be on the message, not the messenger. Otherwise, the mainstream media would attempt to direct attention away from the damaging video evidence.

The best example of this came from ABC's anchor, Charlie Gibson. "I don't even know about it. So you've got me at a loss," he told WLS radio when asked about it. "But my goodness, if it's got everything, including sleaziness in it, we should talk about it in the morning." But he also said that what was seen on these videos was best left for the "cables."

Is this not malevolent arrogance?

That evening, Katie Couric and "The CBS Evening News" cried uncle and did a story. Six days into an underground media sensation that caused the White House to force the Commerce Department to delink ACORN from the census on day two, CBS knew it could sit on the sidelines no longer. Especially since ACORN spokespeople were issuing what to me was clearly lie after lie, and CBS could only assume that more videos were coming.

CNN made the most sustained effort to blame the messenger and make the videos the issue. Producers aggressively called Miss Giles, Mr. O'Keefe and me, imploring us to explain our journalistic tactics. I told them repeatedly that if they offered the videos a fair airing and let their audience decide, we'd agree to a Time Warner grilling. I also said we could have the debate on journalistic ethics after this story played out at a journalism school of their choice.

Instead, the media repeated ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis' growing body of lies, never holding her accountable for her shameless hackery. Jonathan Klein, CNN's president, is emerging as symbol of the mainstream media's last depressing days.

No wonder Jon Stewart delivered a stinging and hilarious rebuke of the real newspeople on his "Daily Show" parodies every night: "Where were the real reporters on this story? ... Where the hell were you?"

High praise to you, Mr. Stewart. It's nice to see there's someone out there in liberal media-land who would recognize there's something terribly wrong on these videos. And yes, there are more to come.

At the very least, filmmaker James O'Keefe and actress Hannah Giles deserve a Pulitzer Prize for their expose of deep corruption and unspeakable immorality at the ACORN housing division. But more important, I won't rest until they receive a grant to continue their partisan artistry from the National Endowment for the Arts.
5475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: electoral process fraud - Quid Pro Art on: September 21, 2009, 09:26:44 PM
The NEA is the largest funder of arts in the country.  The link has the NEA conference call plea for help with an all star lineup from the White House asking funded artists to support the President's agenda on a host of NON-ART related issues.  Just like ACORN working their neighborhoods, they just presume you are with them politically.  George Will speculated that a few laws were broken.
5476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: September 21, 2009, 09:33:52 AM
The Gates piece is important: "Last week, President Obama ó on my recommendation and with the advice of his national-security team and the unanimous support of our senior military leadership ó decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles ó weapons that are growing in capability ó in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe."

It doesn't seem that he bothered to inform the Czechs or the Poles of his new enlightenment before springing it on the world.  Either that or they knew the plan and were not particularly impressed or reassured.

One problem with scrapping the old plan is that is was a PROMISE MADE BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA to key allies that rely on our word for their survival and sovereignty.

Another problem is that the new improved plan is also a promise made by the united states of america, a lower case nation that sometimes keeps its word and sometimes doesn't, like our support for the u.s.dollar.

A bigger problem is that the current President along with his closest allies in the congress oppose missile defense systems on the grounds that the rogue states targeting missiles find them threatening and destabilizing.  Worst is that the current Secretary of Defense despite all of his intelligence gathering capabilities and budgets doesn't seem to be aware of that.
5477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2009, 09:28:37 AM
"Some Jews are Anti-Zionists."

Sorting out the meaning of this, Zionism is support for the existence of a state of Israel.  I couldn't tell from the video if the anti-Zionists along with Ahmedinejad favor annihilation or some other method of disappearance.

Further I find it odd that anti-Israel nations find comfort in the UN.  Wasn't that the origin of their problem.  Or through war where they lost even more ground?

Life is odd in the US also where the further our fading system of liberty and free enterprise brings us toward health, peace, and prosperity and the more people we find that want to turn it back in failed directions.
5478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 19, 2009, 11:21:16 PM
"Obama just sold out our allies in eastern Europe. Things don't look good for Israel either..."

Already mentioned here but isn't it odd and a potential political time-bomb to know that the current, US ruling party includes nearly all Jewish-Americans and nearly all American haters of Israel, all in one big tent.

I recall in 2004 when international polling indicated that nearly everyone overseas hoped John Kerry would win, the exception was Israel where the Jerusalem Post reported that Bush was favored by a wide margin.

I suppose that liberal Jewish Americans don't favor Netanyahu or his policies so the contradiction is mutual.
5479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues: What the meaning of 'is' is on: September 19, 2009, 11:08:31 PM
Sounds like glibness but this IS about immigration...

Obama Sept 9 2009: "the reforms Iím proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally"

Bill Clinton: "There is no improper relationship."

The difference here is that Clinton's cleverness was literally true - in his own words:  "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If 'is' means is and never has been, that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."

But if you take Obama literally (and why shouldn't we?): "reforms...would not apply to those who are here illegally [Sept. 9, 2009]", making them 'legal' later would not change the FACT that they ARE here illegally now and the reforms he is proposing would not apply to them.  The instant the 'reforms' (free health care) do apply to them, he is the liar and the accusing representative is vindicated IMHO.
5480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights - nullification on: September 19, 2009, 10:17:49 PM
Freki: "we need to get a handle on the out of control Federal Government... and nullification seem the best way to go about it."

I agree.  Wikipedia: "Nullification is a legal theory that a U.S. State has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional."

Corollary to Crafty's point, just because the confederacy used it for bad purposes does not mean it could not apply here to the feds obviously legislating beyond their enumerated constitutional authority.

Is it reasonable to believe that the levy of a $3800 per year federal fine for NOT purchasing a federal government mandated health insurance policy falls within the enumerated power to regulate interstate commerce?  If I don't buy a policy or cross state lines to contract for health care services, what the hell am I interstate commercing?

5481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 19, 2009, 09:20:18 PM
I don't doubt Crafty's friend or his example but Dr. CCP's example is more instructive for the health care choices we face. 

In the first example we order more tests, receive more treatments and pay far more and receive no gain.  In that scenario it was bogus to order the tests, treatments and expenses that yielded no gain so the answer is simple - stop doing it. 

CCP's example is far more instructive:  Pay a zillion more (rounded numbers) and your chances improve from 5.8 to 4.5 per hundred. 

To me the question is not should we pay the zillion to make the one in a hundred improvement, the question is WHO should make that decision.

The more that we can get good information on the choices and their consequences and the more that we pay with our own money, the more accurately we will value that gain in our health or quality of life.

If you ask me how much of YOUR money is it worth to me to improve my chances by one in a hundred, it will be very hard to get a good number.

As Margaret Thatcher said (I think I read it here): The problem with socialism is that you will eventually run out of other people's money.

Remove third party pay as much as possible and the price will likely fall and fall rapidly.  Very people will choose to pay the introductory price for such a small gain.  Or leave the artificial subsidy and the price stays high or escalates. (cf. college tuition, healthcare costs, 'affordable housing', etc.etc.)
5482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc. on: September 17, 2009, 11:45:07 AM
BBG, Excellent piece.  Might be the first of the 'humor' shows I've seen really ripping the corruption of the left. Excellent question, where was the media on this.

Charlie Gibson, ABC Anchor: "maybe this is just one you leave to the cables."

This group is a racketeering conspiracy corrupting democracy across state lines for more than a decade.  Unbelievable that they are also federally funded, not just a hack, anti-capitalism leftist Marxist activist group.  And that our President is an alum.  Which article in the constitution authorizes their millions and decades of funding?
My previous comments tying ACORN to the US Census were meant a bit tongue in cheek, that these types already working the neighborhoods would be the ones that would seek and get the Census jobs especially with the leftist machine holding power.  In a worst nightmare scenario I didn't imagine there was actually an official, contractual relationship!
On the silver lining side, a short time ago I felt like I was whining to the only 3 people in America who also already knew what a danger the group posed, and now ACORN is becoming exposed and infamous.  If there was a right wing equivalent - just for the extreme views, not the corruption and methods - a candidate's affiliation during the primaries would have been a disqualification because of unelectability in a general election.

The videos begin to expose the fact that these people oppose all the principles the founders and the republic once represented.
5483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media Issues - re. our side screwed up on: September 17, 2009, 10:55:49 AM
Crafty,  You are correct but I would also note the speed that the story got corrected.  I was traveling and noticed and shared the picture of the protest on powerline.  I looked again a very short time later and another powerline poster had issued the correction - right with the original post.  Then they took down the false picture.  Not like CBS and Dan Rather digging in their heels or the NY Times burying corrections much later deep in the paper if at all.

Same goes for this format which lends itself nicely to offering corrections or other takes on anything posted.

I remember reading and repeating a story that Oliver North so long ago testified that he needed his elaborate security system because he had been targeted by a then unknown terrorist - OBL, and that was false, I think the real story was of another terrorist named Abu Nidal.  Anyway I remember being duped and hating it.  Makes me wonder how regular readers of the NY Times must feel on a near-daily basis.
From the wit of the tea party crowd, some blogs covering the protest posted photos of protesters pretending to be czars wearing protest t-shirts mocking the glibness administration and their avoidance of senate confirmations for key appointees.  Hope this is received in good humor...
5484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education, Obama speech to the children on: September 08, 2009, 06:53:35 PM
I didn't watch the speech but the word is that it generally positive and motivational.  Congrats to our district and principal for their decision to not interrupt the day with it.

This could go under glibness, but we won't see the same speech to adults in America tellinig them they can all make a valuable contribution etc. instead of telling them the rich could pay more and then we would have more money to spend on them...

From the speech: "Iím working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. "

  -  Which means fighting selfish Republicans to get bigger funding increases and greater federal government control over your local schools.

To any smug liberals out there:  Since education is not a federal power, YES, I find that political and offensive.

If he was doing everything he could for the worst districts instead of for the teachers' unions he would support school VOUCHERS, IMHO.
5485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 07, 2009, 09:43:51 PM
Nice post Boyo.  Interesting that besides doing everything the opposite of Reagan he is emulating the policies that worsened and lengthened the great depression.
On a different note I picked up a pearl of wisdom from Professor Walter Williams last week.  He was explaining inflation which he defines as increasing (inflating) the money supply.  What we think of as inflation - increases in prices - are a symptom of inflation, but it is the increase in money supply that is the inflation.

I would clarify that it is the increase in money supply relative to the quantity of good and services in the economy, but at a time of zero growth - all monetary increases are inflationary.

Translated I think that means that it will only take ordinary levels of new growth in the economy for this current inflation to show its ugly head in the form of spiraling prices increases, and it will also be possible to return to stagflation, where inflation roars up without the accompanying economic growth.  sad
5486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 07, 2009, 09:28:03 PM
A story linked below says China is nervous about the US printing money.  That, I assume, is a world class understatement - they hold $2 trillion already and must feel like they are in quite a box to have to keep buying to protect their previous investments.

As I read the article, the meaning quickly turned upside down for me.  The US is in a lousy position economically right now, but China it seems to me is in an even more precarious situation because their bubble has continue to inflate even further and has yet to burst or correct.

From the story: "Mr Cheng said the Fed's loose monetary policy was stoking an unstable asset boom in China. "If we raise interest rates, we will be flooded with hot money. We have to wait for them. If they raise, we raise.  Credit in China is too loose. We have a bubble in the housing market and in stocks so we have to be very careful, because this could fall down."
5487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: September 03, 2009, 12:33:43 PM
sgtmac, crafty, bbg,   I agree at least part way with you guys.  Consumer level amounts should be a state right to legislate and I would like the move to be toward decriminalization rather than legalization.  As much of a free marketer that I pretend to be, I am not interested in seeing pot commercials on prime time, just as I don't appreciate actors discussing erection issues  during prime time with my daughter.  I don't want to see big government start to profit off selective legalization with taxation the way they do with gambling and smoking.  As long as they do there will still be a black market.  I don't see highly addictive and highly destructive drugs (meth for example) in the same light as those that we consider no worse than alcohol.  Unfortunately, the really effective pain meds are highly addictive.

The feds may still have a role regarding large amounts crossing state and federal boundaries. 

What is grown on your property, consumed on your property and harms no one off of your property should already be legal under the highest law of the land.
5488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics - Rove on: September 03, 2009, 11:38:19 AM
One of Pres. George W. Bush worst off-teleprompter moments, Nov. 30, 2004 just after reelection he said: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."  From that moment on he accomplished nothing domestically and then lost the house, the senate and the Presidency for his party.

Pres. Obama also needed a little humility in the job, instead adopted a larger than reality view of himself, his popularity and his agenda.

See if this chart comes through regarding the most important problem people see.  Throughout the decade, the economy and the wars were intertwined as number one even when the economy was going gangbusters and the wars were going terribly.  Then the Iraq situation improved and housing and financial sectors collapsed and the economy soared to 80% - by the nations most important problem.  Meanwhile healthcare hovered in single digits even during the campaign and the election, before the new President told us it was our biggest problem.  Then it still only soared to 20% which includes people like me thinking that defeating the current proposal is the biggest problem facing the republic.

Source: Pew Research
5489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews, Gilder on: September 03, 2009, 11:13:16 AM
"Gilder contends, "not only the canary in the coal mine -- it is also a crucial part of the mine." If Americans will not defend Israel, they will "prove unable to defend anything else."
Some negatives on Gilder have been posted previously and with some validity, but IMO he is a very brilliant guy.  That's why many of us were reading his work for so long.  He is an amazing researcher.  (On the technologies he covered, I think he was spot-on every time, but that did not mean the correct response was to buy and hold shares in that particular company.)

I have not read his new book but agree with his security view of Israel.  How do we downplay the fact that a major power is actively developing nuclear weapons and committed to destroying an ally?  How does anyone not see a parallel to Hitler stating and writing his intentions to a world of busy people sure that he couldn't really mean it. 

For those who will disagree with Gilder's conclusions, I think there will still be plenty of information and analysis of value to justify a read.  Then you can draw your own conclusions, but I'm sure once you are drawn in you will find his very persuasive.

Further on Israel, I mentioned before that I have read but cannot find online Saddam Hussein's surrender speech of March 1991.  Saddam goes on for 4 pages about the 'Imperialists and the Zionists' (America and Israel), all in one breath, over and over and over, before finally mentioning that he accepts the UN resolutions that equal surrender.  To our Middle East and Islamic-extremism-based enemies, Israel and the US are one and the same and our destruction is their stated objective.
5490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: September 03, 2009, 10:50:15 AM
Buchanan was very much against deposing Saddam IIRC, and departs from most Republicans on the issue of trade as well.  When he ran against sitting Pres. Bush (1) in 1992 he was very protectionist - we need to buy everything American etc. Then he drove his Mercedes to New Hampshire. 

Very charismatic guy who, along with Perot, succeeded in weakening Bush which led right into the Clinton presidency.  So Bush lost his 90% popularity for breaking his 'no new taxes' pledge, Buchanan was very tough on that, and then Bush lost his job to a guy committed to raising taxes much further on his first day in office.  Somewhere in there I hope are lessons learned.

5491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 01, 2009, 12:18:56 PM
Following up to difficult questions asked by Crafty about what we should be doing in Afghanistan.  Personally I don't know the answers but I am amazed by the silence of the left.  My liberal friends still have 'not one drop' bumper stickers from their opposition to Bush in Iraq as they blindly support Obama's current escalation.  And I am still worn out by the phony debates of the Iraq operation but the questions today about Afghanistan are important.

Here is George Will, who I find to be a very independent thinker and sometimes I agree with him, writing persuasively about how we should be downsizing and moving back in Afghanistan.
September 1, 2009
Afghanistan: Time to Stop Nation-Building
By George Will

WASHINGTON -- "Yesterday," reads the e-mail from Allen, a Marine in Afghanistan, "I gave blood because a Marine, while out on patrol, stepped on a (mine's) pressure plate and lost both legs." Then "another Marine with a bullet wound to the head was brought in. Both Marines died this morning."

"I'm sorry about the drama," writes Allen, an enthusiastic infantryman willing to die "so that each of you may grow old." He says: "I put everything in God's hands." And: "Semper Fi!"
clear pixel

Allen and others of America's finest are also in Washington's hands. This city should keep faith with them by rapidly reversing the trajectory of America's involvement in Afghanistan, where, says the Dutch commander of coalition forces in a southern province, walking through the region is "like walking through the Old Testament."

U.S. strategy -- protecting the population -- is increasingly troop-intensive while Americans are increasingly impatient about "deteriorating" (says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) conditions. The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible.

U.S. strategy is "clear, hold and build." Clear? Taliban forces can evaporate and then return, confident that U.S. forces will forever be too few to hold gains. Hence nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state.

Military historian Max Hastings says Kabul controls only about a third of the country -- "control" is an elastic concept -- and "'our' Afghans may prove no more viable than were 'our' Vietnamese, the Saigon regime." Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. The New York Times reports a Helmand official saying he has only "police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for 'vacation.'"

Afghanistan's $23 billion GDP is the size of Boise's. Counterinsurgency doctrine teaches, not very helpfully, that development depends on security, and that security depends on development. Three-quarters of Afghanistan's poppy production for opium comes from Helmand. In what should be called Operation Sisyphus, U.S. officials are urging farmers to grow other crops. Endive, perhaps?

Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan's recent elections were called "crucial." To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American "success," whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a "renewal of trust" of the Afghan people in the government, but The Economist describes President Hamid Karzai's government -- his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker -- as so "inept, corrupt and predatory" that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords, "who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai's lot."

Adm. Mullen speaks of combating Afghanistan's "culture of poverty." But that took decades in just a few square miles of the South Bronx. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, thinks jobs programs and local government services might entice many "accidental guerrillas" to leave the Taliban. But before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent re-establishment of al-Qaeda bases -- evidently there are none now -- must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?

U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000 to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.

So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor, such as Allen's, is squandered.
5492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Consequences of governing with glibness on: September 01, 2009, 11:17:51 AM
First part is about the Lockerbie release but the topic is still governing glibly instead of wisely.

Suicide of the West?
By Thomas Sowell

Britain's release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi-- the Libyan terrorist whose bomb blew up a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people-- is galling enough in itself. But it is even more profoundly troubling as a sign of a larger mood that has been growing in the Western democracies in our time.

In ways large and small, domestically and internationally, the West is surrendering on the installment plan to Islamic extremists.
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The late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on the problem when he said: "The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles."

He wrote this long before Barack Obama became President of the United States. But this administration epitomizes the "concessions and smiles" approach to countries that are our implacable enemies.

Western Europe has gone down that path before us but we now seem to be trying to catch up.

Still, the release of a mass-murdering terrorist, who went home to a hero's welcome in Libya, shows that President Obama is not the only one who wants to move away from the idea of a "war on terror"-- as if that will stop the terrorists' war on us.

The ostensible reason for releasing al-Megrahi was compassion for a man terminally ill. It is ironic that this was said in Scotland, for exactly 250 years ago another Scotsman-- Adam Smith-- said, "Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent."

That lesson seems to have been forgotten in America as well, where so many people seem to have been far more concerned about whether we have been nice enough to the mass-murdering terrorists in our custody than those critics have ever been about the innocent people beheaded or blown up by the terrorists themselves.

Tragically, those with this strange inversion of values include the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder. Although President Obama has said that he does not want to revisit the past, this is only the latest example of how his administration's actions are the direct opposite of his lofty words.

It is not just a question of looking backward. The decision to second-guess CIA agents who extracted information to save American lives is even worse when you look forward.

Years from now, long after Barack Obama is gone, CIA agents dealing with hardened terrorists will have to worry about whether what they do to get information out of them to save American lives will make these agents themselves liable to prosecution that can destroy their careers and ruin their lives.

This is not simply an injustice to those who have tried to keep this country safe, it is a danger recklessly imposed on future Americans whose safety cannot always be guaranteed by sweet and gentle measures against hardened murderers.

Those who are pushing for legal action against CIA agents may talk about "upholding the law" but they are doing no such thing. Neither the Constitution of the United States nor the Geneva Convention gives rights to terrorists who operate outside the law.

There was a time when everybody understood this. German soldiers who put on American military uniforms, in order to infiltrate American lines during the Battle of the Bulge were simply lined up against a wall and
shot-- and nobody wrung their hands over it. Nor did the U.S. Army try to conceal what they had done. The executions were filmed and the film has been shown on the History Channel.

So many "rights" have been conjured up out of thin air that many people seem unaware that rights and obligations derive from explicit laws, not from politically correct pieties. If you don't meet the terms of the Geneva Convention, then the Geneva Convention doesn't protect you. If you are not an American citizen, then the rights guaranteed to American citizens do not apply to you.

That should be especially obvious if you are part of an international network bent on killing Americans. But bending over backward to be nice to our enemies is one of the many self-indulgences of those who engage in moral preening.

But getting other people killed so that you can feel puffed up about yourself is profoundly immoral. So is betraying the country you took an oath to protect.

5493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: August 31, 2009, 11:30:40 PM
The Maudlin piece is interesting.  He introduces the idea of a double-dip recession which makes sense if we are having a bit of a turnaround while we inject trillions of pretend money.  Eventually that faucet slows or dries and the pre-existing problems are still all there.

He points to deflation risk now but that will pass if/when we economically survive this.  Then we instantly have huge inflationary pressures.

He spelled out the bad choices we face and then the piece ended kind of suddenly before he told us the right answer.  Hopefully there is a sequel.
5494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics of Health Care on: August 31, 2009, 11:12:59 PM
CCP: "I think it a terrible mistake to make health care a gigantic government entitlement though a lot of it already is.  I prefer reversing this not expanding this."  Couldn't agree more.  Like most of politics, it would be something of an accomplishment to just stop moving in the wrong direction.

Medicaid - free health care for poor people, Medicare - government plan for older people.  And S-CHIP which goes up to something like 3 times the poverty level, was supposed to be aimed at children but means all kinds of different things now.  No one proposes to end any of these so reform can only mean to tighten up eligibility, ration care more or raise taxes in an upward spiral until we collapse (even worse than now).

Crafty: "If we stay within the entitlement structure AND limit our spending to what we can afford, then as best as I can tell, are not death panels inevitable?

  - Yes.  The success rate of saving lives in the long run is zero so death panels are part of the ordeal. That panel is hopefully is small room of people you trust including loved ones and a second medical opinion. They will come to tell me or you someday that we've got til Friday if untreated, but if we take the aggressive million dollar treatment we have until maybe next Tuesday.  Then we look at coverage and options and make the hard choices.  We just don't want the government in the room as we sort it out.  Besides inefficiencies and incompetencies, they would come in with other biases, such as the fact that you are taking up one of their beds in short supply, or that someone else has more income tax paying years left than you and should move past you in the line.

Instead we plan ahead hopefully and get the best advice on the best plans and coverage to anticipate our future circumstance and hopefully match coverage to the type of aggressiveness that we will want to fight off whatever nasty ailment is going to attack us.  When we go to one size fits all, then for sure it will be third parties instead of us deciding the size of the coverage and the level of cost.
5495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: August 30, 2009, 11:53:26 AM
While finding an acceptable proposal let's not forget underlying principles regarding what is the state and county role, what role does charity play, and what is a constitutionally-based federal government role.  If we decide that health care is a constitutionally unenumerated right, it will be the vaguest right ever established with denial of service decisions made in every state and every hospital, every minute or so, challenging that right, with costs spirally up to economic collapse, not down to containment.  It will be the first right I know of that creates a burden on someone else to perform an act of service for you, like having freedom of speech require people to tune in and pay attention while you speak, with federal enforcement.
Seems to me Feds could make a huge difference with tort reform.  A doctor does not need the threat of punitive damages because he/she can be punished through state licensing (lose your license you lose your income) and because the doctor doesn't pay, malpractice insurance does and its all wrapped in the cost.

I can see a federal role in encouraging insurance competition across state lines.

Feds play a role in the federal tax code.

Feds could play a role in mandating easy access for consumers to know costs before treatment choices.
For the most part we are not arguing health care, we are arguing about finance and control, who decides and who pays.  Insurance is designed to protect your assets against large unforeseen future costs, so that you won't have to pay your life savings on catastrophic costs or so that your up and down medical costs as needed can be budgeted nicely into predictable monthly costs.  If you have no significant income, assets or likelihood of future income or assets, you are already covered by public plans and receive treatment today not only in emergency rooms.

The only thing that really controls cost other than rationing/denying service is the extent that INFORMED consumers make their own choices and pay their own bills.  (Current bills stomp out Health Saving Accounts and catastrophic coverage only - high deductible plans.)
"Universal" should refer to the availability of choices for everyone, not the mandate that you take one of them.

To one of Crafty's questions, people already diagnosed with diabetes for example while not covered might expect a higher cost than signing up healthy.  A millionaire with colon cancer or in need of heart surgery but no health plan might have to exhaust his own assets before qualifying for public assistance.  Or be offered a plan for people in that circumstance more expensive than was available to him before he was diagnosed.  That seems logical to me.  Making providers cover you for what they insure after you are diagnosed and keep you as long as you continue to pay the premium is only common sense as a regulation IMO.  If I find out that is not already the case I would cancel my plan today.
The current healthcare system is built very largely off of Medicare reimbursement schedules even for private coverage outside of Medicare.  Because of this, there is almost no innovation in the system in terms of lower cost ways to administer common services that we all need.

Under the current system even a self-paying customer has NO IDEA what kind of money he is spending while being treated until after the bill comes.  Better consumer cost disclosure requirements and regulations are a proper role for government at some level and we certainly want to be treated across state lines so a common sense federal standard seems justified to me.
Proposals under consideration don't add to the number of doctors, nurses, facilities, hospitals, etc. because that would add to the total cost. True - but bringing down the cost per procedure using market pressure can never happen in a zero competition environment.

National Health Insurance of any kind will totally wipe out every aspect of any libertarian's view of their informational privacy.  Please review again the 'humor' video of national pizza ordering that both Freki and I posted.  You call and they already know where you live, where you work, what you make, what you drive, what foods and activities you need to stay away from and on and on and on.  Not very funny.

Once everything is under the federal government responsibility, does anyone think a bill to end mountain climbing shouldn't follow?  Motorcycle jumping, obviously out.  Then what? French fries? I hate to even be facetious because nothing is out of the realm. Soccer players with federal helmets or banning the header altogether...

Gentlemen, do you really think MARTIAL ARTS will still be legal in a few years as acceptable risk? Sparring with knives?

As this is a finance/insurance bill, does everyone understand that the enforcement agency is the IRS?  That is no joke or exaggeration and they cannot perform their federally mandated duties without more agents, larger budgets and more powerful informational tools.  Let's poll that question and see how many favor 'universal' coverage.
If the CBO says the cost of this will be a trillion, the cost will be tens of trillions.  Go back to original social security projections and original medicare projections and learn to translate government numbers.  If it doesn't grow at double-digit, compound rates, it is a cut that will kill innocent people.
I disagree with Crafty that we have to offer specific alternatives right now more than "NO".  IMHO moving forward now starts with a resounding defeat of the current takeover attempts.  Let's get real clear and articulate on 'no' and why 'no'. Then proposals and solutions will be offered by the candidates and parties who want to compete in 2010 and 2012.

I quibble with CCP over the idea that the 'cans (Republicans) need to answer to all these questions.  It is the party in power that currently needs to answer the objections raised - and they haven't!  The 'cans who need to figure out a better way are the Ameri-cans, including 'blue-dog' Democrats, blue-collar Democrats, non-class-envy Democrats (if there are any) who don't have a goal of making someone else pay for their expenses, deficit-weary Democrats who previously railed against fiscal irresponsibility and independent voters who make up about a third of the electorate and need to sort out what kind of country they want to live in and who always swing the outcomes of the elections.

JMHO.   - Doug

5496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics, Krugman against deficits, Krugman for deficits on: August 28, 2009, 12:02:35 PM
GM, Who could have imagined this intellectual giant was criticizing deficits just as we grew out from under economic disaster that followed the stock crash of 2000 and the attacks of 9/11/01.  As said about the Clintons, they lie with such ease!

Bush deficits were all about spending, not tax cuts.  An economist should know that Bush did not 'cut taxes', he cut tax rates and revenues surges beyond all projections.

2003  1,782,532,000,000  Federal revenues as Krugman sounded his alarm
2004  1,880,279,000,000   5.6% increase in revenues, in spite of lower rates
2005  2,153,859,000,000  14.6% increase - The surge goes to double digits!
2006  2,407,254,000,000  11.5% increase - Double digit revenue increases continue as tax cuts remain firmly in place.
Jan. 2007 Pelosi-Reid-Obama take over majorities in congress, promise to end tax cuts.  Economic growth ends after setting a 52 month consecutive job growth record and surpassing federal revenue forecasts by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Same for the 1980's, rates slashes - revenues doubled.
1980:   $517 Billion
1990 $1.032 Trillion

Same for the 1990's.  Slow growth until the (Clinton)-Gingrich capital gains rate cuts of 1995.  Revenues surged, budget balanced.

Professor Krugman, the problem is the SPENDING, stupid.

ps. I meant to include this link with my numbers, straight from Obama's office.  These charts are hard to find through google.
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5497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ABC NBC will not air ad critical of ObamaCare on: August 28, 2009, 11:13:44 AM
For my small part, I wrote a complaint email to both networks.  I will not air their network until I hear otherwise.  Free speech when it suits their purposes is the new slogan.
5498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews, Organ hustler on: August 28, 2009, 10:49:30 AM
CCP,  Amazing story.  Of course the perp. in the story is only a Jew by association or by family of origin, not Judeo-Christian in his beliefs - Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's organs for transplant.
5499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Paul Krugman: These Deficits are Good, but Bigger would be Better on: August 28, 2009, 10:18:27 AM
I don't know if Krugman formally advises the administration or is just their chief apologist in the media. Forget about Cheney allegedly saying Reagan proved deficits don't matter, this Nobel prize winner thinks 10 trillion is good but more would be better. 

At the heart of the differences in philosophy is the belief in government intervention, a never-ending so-called Keynesian stimulus of demand, versus a supply side view that if government reduced its role of crowding out the private sector in terms of taxing, spending and regulating, the economy would flourish faster, freer and stronger, without all the man-made 'business cycles'.

Could have run this in 'Humor/WTF' but I swear to God this is his column...

Till Debt Does Its Part

Published: August 27, 2009

So new budget projections show a cumulative deficit of $9 trillion over the next decade. According to many commentators, thatís a terrifying number, requiring drastic action ó in particular, of course, canceling efforts to boost the economy and calling off health care reform.

The truth is more complicated and less frightening. Right now deficits are actually helping the economy. In fact, deficits here and in other major economies saved the world from a much deeper slump. The longer-term outlook is worrying, but itís not catastrophic.

The only real reason for concern is political. The United States can deal with its debts if politicians of both parties are, in the end, willing to show at least a bit of maturity. Need I say more?

Letís start with the effects of this yearís deficit.

There are two main reasons for the surge in red ink. First, the recession has led both to a sharp drop in tax receipts and to increased spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs. Second, there have been large outlays on financial rescues. These are counted as part of the deficit, although the government is acquiring assets in the process and will eventually get at least part of its money back.

What this tells us is that right now itís good to run a deficit. Consider what would have happened if the U.S. government and its counterparts around the world had tried to balance their budgets as they did in the early 1930s. Itís a scary thought. If governments had raised taxes or slashed spending in the face of the slump, if they had refused to rescue distressed financial institutions, we could all too easily have seen a full replay of the Great Depression.

As I said, deficits saved the world.

In fact, we would be better off if governments were willing to run even larger deficits over the next year or two. The official White House forecast shows a nation stuck in purgatory for a prolonged period, with high unemployment persisting for years. If thatís at all correct ó and I fear that it will be ó we should be doing more, not less, to support the economy.

But what about all that debt weíre incurring? Thatís a bad thing, but itís important to have some perspective. Economists normally assess the sustainability of debt by looking at the ratio of debt to G.D.P. And while $9 trillion is a huge sum, we also have a huge economy, which means that things arenít as scary as you might think.

Hereís one way to look at it: Weíre looking at a rise in the debt/G.D.P. ratio of about 40 percentage points. The real interest on that additional debt (you want to subtract off inflation) will probably be around 1 percent of G.D.P., or 5 percent of federal revenue. That doesnít sound like an overwhelming burden.

Now, this assumes that the U.S. governmentís credit will remain good so that itís able to borrow at relatively low interest rates. So far, thatís still true. Despite the prospect of big deficits, the government is able to borrow money long term at an interest rate of less than 3.5 percent, which is low by historical standards. People making bets with real money donít seem to be worried about U.S. solvency.

The numbers tell you why. According to the White House projections, by 2019, net federal debt will be around 70 percent of G.D.P. Thatís not good, but itís within a range that has historically proved manageable for advanced countries, even those with relatively weak governments. In the early 1990s, Belgium ó which is deeply divided along linguistic lines ó had a net debt of 118 percent of G.D.P., while Italy ó which is, well, Italy ó had a net debt of 114 percent of G.D.P. Neither faced a financial crisis.

So is there anything to worry about? Yes, but the dangers are political, not economic.

As Iíve said, those 10-year projections arenít as bad as you may have heard. Over the really long term, however, the U.S. government will have big problems unless it makes some major changes. In particular, it has to rein in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending.

That shouldnít be hard in the context of overall health care reform. After all, America spends far more on health care than other advanced countries, without better results, so we should be able to make our system more cost-efficient.

But that wonít happen, of course, if even the most modest attempts to improve the system are successfully demagogued ó by conservatives! ó as efforts to ďpull the plug on grandma.Ē

So donít fret about this yearís deficit; we actually need to run up federal debt right now and need to keep doing it until the economy is on a solid path to recovery. And the extra debt should be manageable. If we face a potential problem, itís not because the economy canít handle the extra debt. Instead, itís the politics, stupid.    - Paul Krugman, NY Times
The $10 trillion estimate is low UNLESS there is a change of government.  What is the cost of the new, permanent debt when interest rates hit 15% or 20% and GDP growth is at 0.00?  - Doug
5500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China - Much ado on: August 27, 2009, 11:21:54 PM
The world's second largest, fastest growing economy and most populated country, but the inevitability that it will soon overtake the US as we enter the 'Age of China' deserves a little skepticism.  I don't agree 100% with this author but appreciate his key points including the historical perspective and the conclusion that our focus should be on getting our own house in order and then competition with China will go just fine for the U.S.

Much ado about China

Overblown announcements heralding the supposed coming of the Age of China have become a staple of journalistic futurism in recent years. When Maclean's magazine banners across the top of its cover "When China Rules the World," as it did last month -- and it is not a Monty Python send-up of swarms of incomprehensible people in Mao suits -- I know it is time to raise a peep of dissent.

Does any of this sound familiar? It was not even 20 years ago that the same was being said about Japan, when U. S. president George H. W. Bush went to Tokyo and was patronized by the Japanese prime minister for being at the head of a declining power. At an official dinner, the president vomited and returned to his embassy in an ambulance (but explained privately that his indigestion was the consequence of eating plain fish while facing Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca for two hours).

And it was only 15 years before -- during the Carter doldrums, following the Kennedy assassinations and the debacles of Vietnam and Watergate -- that the world was abuzz with predictions that the U. S. S. R. would surpass the United States.

In fact, the most serious threat came from the Nazis. The official borders of Germany at the end of 1940, including Austria, Bohemia (the Czechs), Moravia, most of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Benelux and the Atlantic coast of France, gave the Reich 130 million people, the same population as the United States, and almost equivalent industrial potential. This was why Roosevelt ran for a third term, determined to help keep Britain (and Canada) in the war, and to assist all who resisted the Nazification of Europe. The Nazi threat was so serious that it required the entire combat strength of the British Commonwealth, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to defeat it.

In the Cold War that followed, the Soviet challenge simply imploded, crumbled, after 40 years of containment by a U. S.-led alliance, in which no fire was exchanged between the major powers. As for Japan, it simply ran out of steam, lost a whole decade in financial stagnation while its stock market declined by 90% -- even though it continued, to this day, to be a brilliant manufacturer and marketer of automobiles and many sophisticated products from cameras to television equipment.

None of this means that China won't continue to rise, or that the U. S. won't again have to prove its staying power as a world force. But matter-of-fact assertions, complete with timetables, of an imminent Chinese assumption of world leadership, are rubbish.

The takeaway message on the failure of the brief era of U. S. unipolarity that followed the demise of the U. S. S. R. is not that the U. S. is finished as the world's leading country, but that multipolarity, not the hegemony of a sole superpower, will replace the bipolarized Cold War. There are about 40 reasonably important countries in the world (of a total of 192), and the major powers will compete to build relations within that group.

The theory of the inevitable rise of China is similar to the recent theory of the inevitable end of the U. S. as a mainly Caucasian country: It is based on the extrapolation of current statistics that will not continue, and that in the case of the Chinese economy, are a fiction anyway.

China has a centrally directed economy, and calculates growth rates as a function of production, not spending; and production is deemed to occur when it is commissioned by the state. Thus, all Chinese predictions of economic growth are self-fulfilling: The central economic leadership orders production of toasters or submarines and announces construction of roads and sports stadiums, and the anticipated costs are added to the GDP at once. (In western countries, by contrast, GDP is the sum of consumption, investment, government spending and exports.)

The government monitors the progress of state construction and inventory levels, but doesn't release these numbers. It regularly claims 15% annual retail sales increases, but that reflects shipments to retail outlets, not sales, and even less, sales revenue. Such a system preserves some aspects of the catastrophic Soviet-style command economy. There are reports of consumer goods being virtually given away at point of sale, i. e., at below their cost of production.

All outsiders can do to judge the progress of demand is to see what the central bank does with credit and the money supply. The country has had a 21% decline in exports this year, so to achieve its 8% economic growth for 2009, there will have to be a 15% to 17% increase in domestic economic activity. There has been a strenuous effort to increase domestic demand, and the much-ballyhooed US$586-billion Chinese stimulus plan was really an excuse for the relaxation of credit and the redesignation of categories of already approved expenses.

The money-supply increase for this year is a very audacious 34.5%, to stimulate domestic demand. The two Shanghai stock exchanges almost doubled (before a recent 20% downturn) and major city residential prices are up around 13% so far this year. So bubbles are clearly developing. The country's claimed savings rate of 50% is not real, because it includes provision for all health care, retirement benefits and other social spending that is provided by the state in most western countries.

China claims to be expanding health care and other social services, but has not allocated realistic amounts to accomplish this. The country also has no credible legal system, and is rife with corruption (as evidenced by the shoddily built schools -- used as shelters during the recent earthquakes -- which were built on the cheap with no structural steel, and then collapsed, killing thousands of people). It has one billion peasants who largely live as they did 3,000 years ago. Almost every great urban development attracts swarms of expropriated people throwing rocks at bulldozer drivers, and the Chinese navy regularly steals the catches of commercial fishermen. The one-child-per-couple policy is creating an ageing and male-unbalanced population. It is a rough country, oscillating between near chaos and Tiananmen-like exertions of authority.

The rise of China is impressive and an objectively good thing, and the United states is labouring. But the U. S. has a functioning, if conspicuously imperfect, political and legal system, formidable resources, an incomparably productive work force, nearly four times China's GDP, and a popular culture that dominates the world. It must put its house in order, which will be painful, but a trifle compared to the challenges facing China. The United States has seen off greater challenges than this.
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