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5501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pathological Science: Glaciers are growing in the Karakoram range, home to K2 on: April 16, 2012, 12:21:24 AM
Glaciers are growing in the Karakoram range, home to K2 (Increased ice was caused by warming)

Scientists discover glaciers in Asian mountain range are actually getting BIGGER

By Ian Garland    UK Daily Mail

PUBLISHED: 15:13 EST, 15 April 2012 | UPDATED: 15:20 EST, 15 April 2012

Photos taken by a French satellite show glaciers in a mountain range west of the Himalayas have grown during the last decade.

The growing glaciers were found in the Karakoram range, which spans the borders between Pakistan, India and China and is home to the world's second highest peak, K2.  - More at the link...

5502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: April 15, 2012, 09:20:54 PM
"I didn't know about Geithner and Turbo Tax.  You mean I too might have an excuse if I did something wrong? "

No, other than for Geithner that defense has been rejected for ordinary taxpayers.  - Today's WSJ:
"Mr. Geithner's episode notwithstanding, there's a growing issue here. Taxpayers who utilize a professional tax adviser such as a CPA or attorney can often avoid IRS penalties by alleging reliance on the tax adviser. (You're always responsible for the underlying tax itself and any interest on the amount.) But for someone who uses commercial software to prepare returns, no such defenses are generally available: The software isn't considered to be a "professional tax adviser." That's unfortunate, because growing numbers of Americans may end up with Mr. Geithner's the-software-did-it problem."

"Doug you once asked me for my tax plan.  I suggest a 2-3 tier system with almost no deductions"

We aren't very far apart on the structure, but the rates are crucial.  I would keep the mortgage and charitable deductions until marginal rates are lowered enough that ending those won't kill off housing and charities.  I would personally be fine without those two but the economy won't - at this point.  Phase out would be fine but you would have to simultaneously phaseout the artificial costs that government is adding to housing and remove  the duplication of government charging for what ought to be done by private charities. 

I would word it differently, not end deductions but end the social engineering in the tax code (other than those two).  No spending whatsoever in the tax code, state or federal.  Spending for great causes like helping the poor goes over on the spending side of the ledger.  The Romney plan will limit deductions like home mortgages of the upper incomes instead of raising their marginal rates to punitive levels. What you might call deductions I might call business expenses that MUST be deducted from revenues to calculate income.  I can't pay the Feds what I already gave to the state and the Feds or vice versa.  I already have a greater than 100% tax rate and pretty soon they won't even be able to take my first born as she prepares to venture from the nest.

The tax code needs to be efficient.  Collect the money to run the essentials of the public sector but do the least possible harm disrupting the engine that drives it.
"nor do I think capital gains or any other income should be treated any different than simple wage income."

Should an inflationary gain which is not a gain at all be taxed as ordinary income? 

Capital gains should be taxed to maximize economic activity and revenues to the Treasury.  (Same for corporate tax rates.) When you change the goal from raising money to fairness you raise less money.  With deficits still over a trillion and accumulated debt approaching 16 trillion, why can we afford deliberate inefficiency?

We could tax investment gains at 40% federal plus 12% state plus 15.3% FiCA plus any other surcharges that we want but no one is going to make new investments or sell off any old ones, there won't be jobs and revenues would most certainly decline.  It would end both the private and public sectors as we know them.  It doesn't work and we are lucky the Dem supermajorities of 2009-2010 did not try it.  What they propose to a Republican House in an election year that most certainly won't pass and that they did not pass themselves when they had complete control is demagogic rhetoric.  Best not to take it all too literally.

The first step in any tax burden sanity plan is to spend less.
5503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: April 15, 2012, 07:04:50 PM
A Turbotax error became the Geithner defense for why he failed to pay 4 major years of taxes.  For me it is the bringing together of all the records and numbers for input that is the hard task, not the filling in out the forms or even paying the tax.

The largest tax for me (other than property taxes which are more than 100% of take home income) is the cost of not doing certain transactions at all because of the tax consequence.

Make it simple, yes, but also make the rates low.
5504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: David Brooks / Tyler Cowen, Two Economies on: April 15, 2012, 06:50:20 PM
Bigdog, Thanks for that post.  I am not much of a Brooks fan but his reporting here is very good. 

At the high end of the economy, if you invent, innovate or simply out-hustle the competition today you now have a much larger global market in which to sell your product or service than you had a generation ago.  The income that come come from even a very low margin successful global business is nearly limitless.  That is a good thing and should not be used as a distraction for what the rest of us may need to do to survive and prosper.  There is NOT a fixed size pie that we are splitting up.  Wealth creation is just that, new wealth, and it improves potential of everyone around them for new income.  An app developer may be able to sell a million off of one home-run.  That it doesn't seem fair to someone else is not a productive thought. Still, a plumber can only replace only one tub faucet at a time though the products, methods and tools he uses may have improved.  A professor of constitutional law still needs an hour (plus prep time) to deliver a first class lecture.  Not every profession benefits from the change of scale though we all can benefit from living in a healthier economy.

One fear is that a few big businesses will take over everything, but everyone who has worked for one of the giants knows that they turn down and pass up plenty of opportunities everyday leaving behind a plethora of new opportunities for new entrepreneurs in their wake.

The question no one but me it seems is asking is why is life getting so expensive?  Everything it seems now costs way more than it should.  It take so much money to just get by. 

Something like 40 cents of every dollar of resources goes to public sector overhead.  I don't know what that burden ought to be but for my money I would say quite a bit lower.  Worse I think is the regulatory burden mostly hidden from view but perhaps one of every family's biggest expenses.  Again, I can't say what that burden ought to be, we certainly need one, but it needs to be a whole lot lower.

The 3rd economy unmentioned is the large number of people who live outside of our productive economy, not in the economy one or economy two.  In many areas, that is the majority.

Back to the first tier, it is quite a tragedy for the rest of the globe that America at the moment with its public sector brakes on is failing to lead in a forward direction.
5505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afghanistan-Pakistan: Michael Boskin, How about a free trade agreement? on: April 15, 2012, 05:54:51 PM
A Passage to Indian-Pakistan Peace
A free trade agreement would give each country a stake in the other's success.


With their sizable nuclear arsenals and tensions over territory, water and terrorism, India and Pakistan pose staggering risks to South Asia. But they also offer outsize economic potential for their citizens, the region and the world. Leaders in both nations seeking peace, stability and a prosperous future should seize on free trade as the best way to further these goals. The time has come for an India-Pakistan free trade agreement.

Free trade would substantially increase trade and investment flows, incomes and employment, and it would give the citizens of both countries a far greater stake in the other's success. Economists of varying backgrounds agree that free trade is a positive-sum economic activity for all involved. In the seven years following Nafta, trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico tripled and real wages rose in each country.

More at the link...
5506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy: Instructions to Form 1040EZ is 43 pages! on: April 15, 2012, 05:50:57 PM
Instructions to Form 1040EZ is 43 pages!

Can't figure out my own taxes and now I need to figure them out for my daughter.  Argh!

Meanwhile, President Obama who promised reform instead says hey, look at this shiny object - over here.

And he is diverting money from life saving medical devices over to expanding the IRS.  Is that hope or change?
5507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: April 15, 2012, 05:04:20 PM
Yes that is the wrong answer I already found.  Can someone post the oath that Bernancke took?  He is not 'elected', a 'Director', or a 'Class A' Director: "Class A and class B directors are elected by member banks in the District"
5508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela: After Chávez, the Narcostate (?) on: April 15, 2012, 04:49:48 PM
I wonder what Denny S thinks will be coming next to Venezuela?  I wonder if the Obama administration preparing a U.S. contingency to a military situation in the faux-democracy?

After Chávez, the Narcostate
There are powerful men in Venezuela who are far worse than Hugo Chávez. And if Obama keeps "leading from behind" in Latin America, that's who we very well might get.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez has tried for 10 months to conceal the fact that he is losing his bout with cancer, determined to appear in command of his revolutionary regime and the nation's future. This past Holy Week, however, television cameras captured him pleading for his life before a crucifix in his hometown church, his mother looking on without the slightest glint of hope on her face. Chávez's raw emotion startled his inner circle and led some to question his mental health. As a result, according to my sources inside the presidential palace, Minister of Defense Gen. Henry Rangel Silva has developed a plan to impose martial law if Chávez's deteriorating condition causes any hint of instability.

Pretty dramatic stuff. So why isn't anyone outside Venezuela paying attention? Some cynics in that country still believe Chávez is hyping his illness for political advantage, while his most fervent followers expect him to make a miraculous recovery. The democratic opposition is cautiously preparing for a competitive presidential election set for Oct. 7 -- against Chávez or a substitute. And policymakers in Washington and most regional capitals are slumbering on the sidelines.

In my estimation, the approaching death of the Venezuelan caudillo could put the country on the path toward a political and social meltdown. The military cadre installed by Chávez in January already is behaving like a de facto regime determined to hold onto power at all costs. And Havana, Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing are moving to protect their interests. If U.S. President Barack Obama were to show some energetic engagement as Chávez fades, he could begin to put the brakes on Venezuela's slide, reverse Chávismo's destructive agenda, and reclaim a role for the United States in its own neighborhood. But if he fails to act, there will be hell to pay.

Sources close to Chávez's medical team tell me that for months, his doctors have been doing little more than treating symptoms, trying to stabilize their workaholic patient long enough to administer last-ditch chemo and radiation therapies. In that moment of Chávez's very public prayer for a miracle, he set aside his obsession with routing his opposition or engineering a succession of power to hardline loyalists. Perhaps he knows that his lieutenants and foreign allies are behaving as if he were already dead -- consolidating power, fashioning a "revolutionary junta," and plotting repressive measures.

One of them is longtime Chávista operator and military man Diosdado Cabello, who was installed by Chávez to lead the ruling party as well as the National Assembly in January. Cabello's appointment was meant to reassure a powerful cadre of narcomilitares -- Gen. Rangel Silva, Army Gen. Cliver Alcalá, retired intelligence chief Gen. Hugo Carvajal, and half a dozen other senior officers who have been branded drug "kingpins" by the U.S. government. These ruthless men will never surrender power and the impunity that goes with it -- and they have no illusions that elections will confer "legitimacy" on a Venezuelan narco-state, relying instead on billions of dollars in ill-gotten gain and tens of thousands of soldiers under their command.

Chavismo's civilian leadership -- including Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro, Vice President Elías Jaua, and the president's brother, Adán Chávez, the governor of the Chávez family's home state of Barinas -- are eager to vindicate their movement's ideological agenda at the polls this fall. Maduro is extraordinarily loyal to the president, and is considered by Venezuelan political observers as the most viable substitute on the ballot. Above all, these men crave political power and will jockey to make themselves indispensable to the military leaders who are calling the shots today.   - More at the link...
5509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 15, 2012, 04:00:42 PM
I wrote international law or precedent.  'Notice Doug you didn't say "international precedent" '  Applying one adjective to conjoined nouns was intended for the lower triple digits.  Please disregard if that doesn't apply to you.

"Simply saying I don't like the decision is no reason to even consider impeachment."

More arguing in redundancy over things I didn't say.  A waste of time.

"you sound like you would been one of those right wing zealots supporting McCarthyism in Georgia."

Another thing I didn't say.  And quite mean-spirited.
5510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Federal Reserve Board of Governors Oath of Office on: April 15, 2012, 02:05:41 PM
Thank you to bigdog for posting the text of the oath of office taken by Supreme Court Justices over on the the constitutional issues thread including the history of the oath:

I would also would like to know the actual text of the oath of office for Federal Reserve Governors, and begin to hold them to it.

As I understand it, each member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States shall "within fifteen days after notice of appointment make and subscribe to the oath of office."

There is a press release for every time a new Governor takes the oath, but I have not seen exactly what is that oath. The closest I could find is this oath for directors of individual Federal Reserve Banks swearing their allegiance - to the bank!
5511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 15, 2012, 02:04:43 PM
That is:  international law or [intenational] precedent, using these REASONS for decisions instead of or ahead of upholding the constitution would be a violation of their oath of office and reason if true and proven IMHO to initiate impeachment.

At least two justices have given public indications that is their thinking.  I will read the health care opinions in particular for evidence of that.  Don't worry so much about what I think, I have no vote in the House or in the Senate and I assume a supermajority of both would be required.

When you begin to come to grips with my opinion, rather than distort it why don't you begin to post YOURS.  Logic preferred over emoticons. grin smiley sad shocked huh cool cheesy tongue embarassed cry evil rolleyes wink undecided

5512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2012 Presidential: Watch this map change color on: April 15, 2012, 01:52:26 AM
Early electoral map, Obama leads:
5513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glibness: Obama Puts the I in Exceptionalism? Is our symbol - The Bald Ego? on: April 15, 2012, 12:10:13 AM
Not enough to be autographing basketballs with your face printed on them at taxpayer expense (?), but to answer the question about American Exceptionalism as he did, right alongside the leaders of two neighboring countries, is narcissism beyond explanation.

President Obama:  "my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism"  !!!!!

Obama Puts the 'I' in 'Exceptionalism'    - James Tarranto, WSJ

    "It's worth noting that I first arrived on the national stage with a speech at the Democratic convention that was entirely about American exceptionalism and that my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism," Obama said at a press conference alongside Mexican president Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

...doesn't he have an aide who can tell him that the symbol of America is not the bald ego?
5514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 14, 2012, 11:53:35 PM
it's constitutional if it"contributes toward reaching a social end"

GM, my point was that if they violate their oath of office which I assume includes swearing to uphold the constitution, then the elected branch already has a recourse available.

For the sloppy reader false quote guy, make sure you read the word IF in that statement.  And nowhere does anything I wrote suggest impeachment for disagreeing with me.  The lying cheapens the board and the discussion.
5515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Did you mean she never worked in a coal mine or on an assembly line? on: April 14, 2012, 11:26:55 PM
To have slandered a woman publicly who raised 5 boys born over an 11 year period, 30 years from pregnant to getting them to 18, survived breast cancer and lives with MS that she "NEVER WORKED A DAY IN HER LIFE", that is okay?? Not to mention that campaigning IS a job, the highest job Obama ever had before he was President.  Speaking at events like CPAC, lobbying the legislature on MS awareness, work on behalf of at-risk youth, Board Member of the New England Chapter of the MS Society, board member of the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund, director of Best Friends, an organization that addresses the special needs of adolescent, inner-city girls by providing educational and community service opportunities, she worked as a volunteer instructor at the Mother Caroline Academy, a multicultural middle school serving young girls from inner city Boston and served on the board for Families First, served on the Women's Cancer Advisory Board of Massachusetts General Hospital, board member of United Way - none of that is work.  What a bunch of bullsh*t. 

35 trips to the White House, this wasn't an accident; the whole thing down to the phony apology and scapegoat is puppetmastered. 

"Career" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person's "course or progress through life". "It can also pertain to an occupation".

Yes to the condescending and disingenuous among us, that was a CAREER choice that she made.
5516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / John Taylor, get rid of the dual mandate on: April 13, 2012, 01:59:06 PM
... The Sound Dollar Act of 2012, a subject of hearings at the Joint Economic Committee this week, has a number of useful provisions. It removes the confusing dual mandate of "maximum employment" and "stable prices," which was put into the Federal Reserve Act during the interventionist wave of the 1970s. Instead it gives the Federal Reserve a single goal of "long-run price stability."  - John Taylor, professor of economics at Stanford

    Updated March 28, 2012

The Dangers of an Interventionist Fed
A century of experience shows that rules lead to prosperity and discretion leads to trouble.


America has now had nearly a century of decision-making experience under the Federal Reserve Act, first passed in 1913. Thanks to careful empirical research by Milton Friedman, Anna Schwartz and Allan Meltzer, we have plenty of evidence that rules-based monetary policies work and unpredictable discretionary policies don't. Now is the time to act on that evidence.

The Fed's mistake of slowing money growth at the onset of the Great Depression is well-known. And from the mid-1960s through the '70s, the Fed intervened with discretionary go-stop changes in money growth that led to frequent recessions, high unemployment, low economic growth, and high inflation.

In contrast, through much of the 1980s and '90s and into the past decade the Fed ran a more predictable, rules-based policy with a clear price-stability goal. This eventually led to lower unemployment, lower interest rates, longer expansions, and stronger economic growth.

Unfortunately the Fed has returned to its discretionary, unpredictable ways, and the results are not good. Starting in 2003-05, it held interest rates too low for too long and thereby encouraged excessive risk-taking and the housing boom. It then overshot the needed increase in interest rates, which worsened the bust. Now, with inflation and the economy picking up, the Fed is again veering into "too low for too long" territory. Policy indicators suggest the need for higher interest rates, while the Fed signals a zero rate through 2014.

It is difficult to overstate the extraordinary nature of the recent interventions, even if you ignore actions during the 2008 panic, including the Bear Stearns and AIG bailouts, and consider only the subsequent two rounds of "quantitative easing" (QE1 and QE2)—the large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities and longer-term Treasurys.

The Fed's discretion is now virtually unlimited. To pay for mortgages and other large-scale securities purchases, all it has to do is credit banks with electronic deposits—called reserve balances or bank money. The result is the explosion of bank money (as shown in the nearby chart), which now dwarfs the Fed's emergency response to the 9/11 attacks.

Before the 2008 panic, reserve balances were about $10 billion. By the end of 2011 they were about $1,600 billion. If the Fed had stopped with the emergency responses of the 2008 panic, instead of embarking on QE1 and QE2, reserve balances would now be normal.

This large expansion of bank money creates risks. If it is not undone, then the bank money will eventually pour out into the economy, causing inflation. If it is undone too quickly, banks may find it hard to adjust and pull back on loans.

The very existence of quantitative easing as a policy tool creates unpredictability, as traders speculate whether and when the Fed will intervene again. That the Fed can, if it chooses, intervene without limit in any credit market—not only mortgage-backed securities but also securities backed by automobile loans or student loans—creates more uncertainty and raises questions about why an independent agency of government should have such power.

The combination of the prolonged zero interest rate and the bloated supply of bank money is potentially lethal. The Fed has effectively replaced the entire interbank money market and large segments of other markets with itself—i.e., the Fed determines the interest rate by declaring what it will pay on bank deposits at the Fed without regard for the supply and demand for money. By replacing large decentralized markets with centralized control by a few government officials, the Fed is distorting incentives and interfering with price discovery with unintended consequences throughout the economy.

For all these reasons, the Federal Reserve should move to a less interventionist and more rules-based policy of the kind that has worked in the past. With due deliberation, it should make plans to raise the interest rate and develop a credible strategy to reduce its outsized portfolio of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities.

History shows that reform of the Federal Reserve Act is also needed to incentivize rules-based policy and prevent a return to excessive discretion. The Sound Dollar Act of 2012, a subject of hearings at the Joint Economic Committee this week, has a number of useful provisions. It removes the confusing dual mandate of "maximum employment" and "stable prices," which was put into the Federal Reserve Act during the interventionist wave of the 1970s. Instead it gives the Federal Reserve a single goal of "long-run price stability."

The term "long-run" clarifies that the goal does not require the Fed to overreact to the short-run ups and downs in inflation. The single goal wouldn't stop the Fed from providing liquidity when money markets freeze up, or serving as lender of last resort to banks during a panic, or reducing the interest rate in a recession.

Some worry that a focus on the goal of price stability would lead to more unemployment. History shows the opposite.

One reason the Fed kept its interest rate too low for too long in 2003-05 was concern that raising the interest rate would increase unemployment in the short run. However, an unintended effect was the great recession and very high unemployment. A single mandate would help the Fed avoid such mistakes. Since 2008, the Fed has explicitly cited the dual mandate to justify its extraordinary interventions, including quantitative easing. Removing the dual mandate will remove that excuse.

A single goal of long-run price stability should be supplemented with a requirement that the Fed establish and report its strategy for setting the interest rate or the money supply to achieve that goal. If the Fed deviates from its strategy, it should provide a written explanation and testify in Congress. To further limit discretion, restraints on the composition of the Federal Reserve's portfolio are also appropriate, as called for in the Sound Dollar Act.

Giving all Federal Reserve district bank presidents—not only the New York Fed president—voting rights at every Federal Open Market Committee meeting, as does the Sound Dollar Act, would ensure that the entire Federal Reserve system is involved in designing and implementing the strategy. It would offset any tendency for decisions to favor certain sectors or groups in the economy.

Such reforms would lead to a more predictable policy centered on maintaining the purchasing power of the dollar. They would provide an appropriate degree of oversight by the political authorities without interfering in the Fed's day-to-day operations.

Mr. Taylor is a professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. This op-ed is adapted from his testimony this week before the Joint Economic Committee, which drew on his book "First Principles: Five Keys to Restoring America's Prosperity." (W.W. Norton, 2012).
5517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 13, 2012, 01:04:09 PM
A. Don't post hypotheticals regarding my business - last time the inference was discrimination and this time some botched analogy to terror. That's enough.  I'll post stories from my business and you from yours.
B. Again you say I said what i didn't "...impeachment merely because Doug IHHO disagrees with the ruling."  That isn't what I wrote, what a jackass, so leave my name out of your posts because you can not get it right.
C. re: [Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions..."] - Nothing in that indicates support for changing the constitution OUTSIDE of the amendment process as this string of cases is striving to do.  The constitution lived through changes of abolishing slavery, establishing an income tax, trying prohibition, ending prohibition, and they failed to end all differentiation on gender in the unratified ERA.  The amendment process works.  Use it and stop trying to change with simple majorities what constitutionally requires supermajorities. What good is a constitution if the words that have no meaning.
5518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 12, 2012, 07:35:30 PM
"Why not directly elected Justices?"

And another idea, how about the system we have now.  I haven't seen any stay too long lately, just ones that I didn't like in the first place.

The proposal does address one point making recusal nearly impossible on the close cases - there currently is no one to take their place.

Currently we have appointment by an elected official and confirmation by elected officials.  We have Justices stepping down voluntarily in old age; hard to hide mental deterioration from your peers in that business - except when the starting point is too low.  I think we just need to be ready for impeachment by the elected branch if and when justified.  For reasons such as deciding cases for the wrong reasons, international law or precedent for example.
5519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: April 11, 2012, 11:01:27 AM
One side threatens death, destruction and sends missiles into neighborhoods to prove they are serious - no comment.
The other side delays or refuses to kick private citizens out of their own homes - outrage.

To each his own conclusion.  Did I miss any relevant facts?
5520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Law: Original meaning of to regulate commerce on: April 09, 2012, 01:20:43 PM
Long academic paper published in the University of Chicago Law Review Winter 2001 questioning the contention of Justice Clarence Thomas that the original meaning of to regulate interstate commerce was very narrow in scope:

While Justice Thomas has maintained that the original meaning of "commerce" was limited to the "trade and exchange" of goods and transportation for this purpose, some have argued that he is mistaken and that "commerce" originally included any "gainful activity." Having examined every appearance of the word "commerce" in the records of the Constitutional Convention, the ratification debates, and the Federalist Papers, Professor Barnett finds no surviving example of this term being used in this broader sense. In every appearance where the context suggests a specific usage, the narrow meaning is always employed. Moreover, originalist evidence of the meaning of "among the several States" and "To regulate" also supports a narrow reading of the Commerce Clause. "Among the several States" meant between persons of one state and another; and "To regulate" generally meant "to make regular"--that is, to specify how an activity may be transacted--when applied to domestic commerce... In sum, according to the original meaning of the Commerce Clause, Congress has power to specify rules to govern the manner by which people may exchange or trade goods from one state to another, to remove obstructions to domestic trade erected by states, and to both regulate and restrict the flow of goods to and from other nations (and the Indian tribes) for the purpose of promoting the domestic economy and foreign trade."
5521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Barone: Romney needs to get through to the young on: April 09, 2012, 12:48:36 PM
Barone is right on the mark IMO and I think Romney will win because the miserable status quo and the record and rhetoric of Obama will go up against a plan for optimism and growth whether you personally like Romney or not.  Young people will either see the distinction in 2012 like they did in 1980 and lean Republican or they will sit out unenthused by what the excitement of 2008 brought them IMO.  Too bad for Obama that the lasting theme was change and that 4 years comes up so quickly.
April 9, 2012   
Can Romney Show Voters That Obama Is Out of Date?
By Michael Barone

Time for a postmortem on the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Yes, I know Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are still out there saying interesting things. And that Rick Santorum says it's only halftime and argues he can somehow overtake Mitt Romney by carrying his home state of Pennsylvania.

But polls there show a close race. And the idea that, if Romney falls short of a delegate majority, superdelegates will throng to a proudly unscripted, shoot-from-the-lip alternative is delusional.

The interesting questions are what the primaries and caucuses tell us about the state of the Republican Party and about Mitt Romney's chances in the general election.

In 2000, a time of apparent peace and prosperity, George W. Bush won the nomination by consolidating cultural conservatives and making inroads among the affluent. Cultural issues were then more important than economics or foreign policy.

This year, a time of economic stagnation and lingering war, Mitt Romney won the nomination by consolidating the affluent and making inroads among tea partiers. Economic issues far overshadow cultural issues.

Romney's victory margins have come from the suburbs in big metropolitan areas. Unlike Bush, he's been losing the rural and small-town counties. "Somewhat conservative" voters now personify the Republican Party.

All of which suggests that this fall Romney may run much better than recent Republican nominees in affluent Northern suburbs. They've voted increasingly Democratic over the past 20 years, turning target states into safely Democratic states. Now they may turn back again.

Additional evidence comes from the Pew Research surveys showing Democrats losing ground in the Obama years among white Catholics and Jews -- groups disproportionately concentrated in affluent Northern suburbs.

Affluent voters like articulate candidates and dislike impulsive ones. George W. Bush, despite his eloquent speeches, didn't come across as articulate. He seemed to enjoy his Texas twang and mangled sentences with happy abandon.

John McCain, more articulate, came across as impulsive, notably when he suspended his campaign amid the financial meltdown.

Through the primaries, Mitt Romney has come across as articulate if not exciting and methodical rather than impulsive.

In contrast, Barack Obama has started to flail. His know-nothing assault on the Supreme Court and his demagogic denunciation of "social Darwinism" (a phrase more common on campus than in real life) make him look like he's appealing to ignorant voters. Ditto his attacks on the rich.

Affluent voters don't like that. That's not what suburban supporters of Obama thought they were voting for in 2008.

They may not like Obama's refusal to engage the looming entitlements crisis, either. They don't admire people who act irresponsibly.

If Romney's strength among the affluent opens up a new opportunity for Republicans, his and his primary opponents' weakness among the young highlights a problem.

Under 30s were 18 percent of the electorate in 2008 and voted 66 to 32 percent for Obama.

Many are disenchanted with him now, but very few showed up in Republican contests. Only 6 to 12 percent of Republican primary voters were under 30. Leaving out Ron Paul voters, they were only 4 to 10 percent of Republican turnout.

Moreover, Romney carried under 30s only in Florida, Arizona, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

He may owe that last result to the wholehearted endorsement of Wisconsin's Paul Ryan. The House Budget Committee chairman makes a powerful case that young people can't count on promised benefits unless entitlement programs are reformed.

There is a huge tension between the personalize-your-own-world ethos of the iPod/Facebook generation and the command-and-control, mid-20th-century welfare state programs of the Obama Democrats.

The young are stuck with disproportionate insurance premiums by Obamacare and with student loan debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy. Some hope. Some change.

Romney needs to make the case that current policy -- what Obama has fallen back on -- is leading to a crash in which government will fail to keep its promises.

He needs to argue that his "opportunity society" means vibrant economic growth that can provide, in ways that can't be precisely predicted, opportunities in which young people can find work that draws on their special talents and interests.

Obama's policies, in contrast, treat individuals as just one cog in a very large machine, designed by supposed experts who don't seem to know what they're doing (see Obamacare, Solyndra). Their supposedly cutting-edge technology (electric cars, passenger rail) is more than a century old.

Romney, potentially strong with the affluent, needs to figure out how to get through to the young.
5522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tocqueville wrote about the Pelosi-Obama governance: on: April 09, 2012, 12:39:02 PM
“A man’s admiration of absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.”
5523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 08, 2012, 11:25:07 PM
Thank you Crafty.  You and I may agree and maybe no one here will argue the other side, but we still need to have this argument about what is right and wrong in a free society with the other side of the aisle until they are either defeated or join us.

President Obama in his correction/clarification said:

"We have not seen a Court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on a economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce — a law like that has not been overturned at least since Lochner.  Right?  So we’re going back to the ’30s, pre New Deal."

That he is wrong on this and a buffoon can be argued under 'Glibness', or at this link, and also argued in a post made by GM about the influence of Derrick Bell.

Crucial and revealing though is the transparent, all-powerful-government thinking that if it is only your economic freedoms that are being taken away, then it is no big deal. ! ! ! ? ? ?  To them, commerce is defined not only as the freedom to buy, sell, and produce, but the freedom to decide what you will grow on your own property and how you will treat your own body to save your own life and your mothers' - and all that freedom is theirs, the congress and the federal government, and not yours - and your former rights have no business being protected by a Supreme Court or anyone else. 

Unbelievable to me that this thinking reached either the White House or any member of the Supreme Court in this country!

That accumulated overreach was what started the tea party movement.  The energy may have diffused into issues and candidates, but the argument remains and the fight needs to be joined.
5524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / American Creed Constitutional Law - Wickard v. Filburn continued on: April 08, 2012, 12:20:11 PM
Continuing my assault on Wickard v. Filburn and hoping for added comments:

Wickard v. Filburn  was a huge case because it showed roughly speaking that government has unlimited powers in all matters construed as commerce.  (Gonzales v. Raich followed and perhaps is worse.)

The central question coming out of Wickard Filburn (and Obamacare if affirmed): Does the existence of the power of congress to "regulate" in the constitution negate all the rest of the constitution such as basic rights of individual economic liberties like the freedom to grow food on your own property to feed your own chickens (or to choose your own health plan, what it will include and how to finance it).

Striking down Obamacare in its entirety does not require the overturning of any precedent, but with Dred Scott as an example, but the Supreme Court is not bound by precedent.

In the Wickard case, Mr. Filburn was restricted in growing wheat for his own chickens.  That is outrageous in a free society! My humble opinion.  (But still, he wasn't forced to buy wheat, he could have sold his chickens, quit farming, starved them, eaten them OR FED THEM SOMETHING ELSE.)

In Gonzales-Raich the Feds took power over your own ability to grow your own approved medicines and the Court affirmed that power.  That is outrageous! MHO.

The guy (back to Filburn) has 23 acres and wants to grow wheat.  Basically what congress codified and the Supreme Court upheld is the same system of limited production and price controls that OPEC exerted in the 1970s and ever since.  That is the legitimate role of our government?  That does not step on personal liberties?  That is not a complete rejection of our free enterprise system?  There were crops other than wheat available to plant in 1938-1941.  Were they completely oblivious to the dangers of gluten?

Lets's look at what the Court said in Wickard which is the how we got to where we are today.  Read the Court's ruling in Wickard in the context of both what the Founding Fathers would have envisioned for limits on government and what you the American libertarian of today should want as limits on the power of your government.  I wrote in some of my own reaction to it:

( Excerpts quoted, comment is mine:

“The decline in the export trade has left a large surplus in production which, in connection with an abnormally large supply of wheat and other grains in recent years, caused congestion in a number of markets; tied up railroad cars, and caused elevators in some instances to turn away grains, and railroads to institute embargoes to prevent further congestion.“

THAT is a justification of government prohibiting a man from growing plants to feed for his own animals??

“Importing countries have taken measures to stimulate production and self-sufficiency.“

THAT is a justification for government control in America trumping individual economic liberty??

“It is well established by decisions of this Court that the power to regulate commerce includes the power to regulate the prices at which commodities in that commerce are dealt in and practices affecting such prices.”

Government controlling prices in private markets is the end of a private market and the end of individual liberty IMHO.

“One of the primary purposes of the Act in question was to increase the market price of wheat ...”

It isn't a 'market price of wheat' if it was artificially through fascist government policies admittedly increased! Which Article authorized THAT power??

“The stimulation of commerce is a use of the regulatory function quite as definitely as prohibitions or restrictions thereon. “

What?  That trumps his right to grow crops and feed your own animals on his own agricultural private property to make a living and feed his family?

“We do not agree [that the Fifth Amendment requires that he be free from penalty for planting wheat and disposing of his crop as he sees fit]. In its effort to control total supply, the Government gave the farmer a choice which was, of course, designed to encourage cooperation and discourage noncooperation.”

'Control total supply' is a function one might expect from their government in Nazi Germany, not a 'regulatory power' in a constitutionally limited government Republic like ours...

None of this is REGULATION in any way that I know the term to mean.  All of this popular and well-intended central control and free market ending manipulation was a neat idea – right up until it stepped on and destroyed  anyone's individual liberties.

In all its excesses, none of it compelled a person to go out and buy a product he or she did not otherwise choose to purchase which is the present question before the Court in the latest expansion of limits on freedom and privacy case -healthcare.

Yet they they keep pointing to these egregious precedents to justify making a much larger new one.

Still unmentioned by the advocates is the affirmation of the individual mandate in the Japanese-American internment case.  At least that was a perceived national security case, not a 'regulation' of commerce, though it certainly served to regulate their commerce.

The answer (IMHO) to this school of thought of 'constitutionally' expanding government powers without amendment is:  not one more inch of encroachment against our individual economic liberties.
5525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nuclear Power - Bill Gates on 4th generation nuclear on: April 08, 2012, 11:56:49 AM
“The part of uranium that's fissile—when you hit it with a neutron, it splits in two—is about 0.7%. The reactors we have today are burning that 0.7% . … The concept of the TerraPower reactor is that in the same reactor, you both burn and breed. Instead of making plutonium and then extracting it, we take uranium—the 99.3% that you normally don't do anything with—we convert that and we burn it. The 99.3% is cheap as heck, and there's a pile of it sitting in Paducah, Kentucky, that's enough to power the United States for hundreds and hundreds of years.
MR. MURRAY: What's the timetable for this?
MR. GATES: By 2022, if everything goes perfectly, our demo reactor will be in place. And by 2028, assuming everything continues to go perfectly, it will be a design that could be replicated.
MR. MURRAY: How often does everything go perfectly?
MR. GATES: In nuclear? If you ignore 1979 and 1986 and 2011, we've had a good century. No, seriously. Nuclear energy, in terms of an overall safety record, is better than other energy."
5526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Justice Alito on: April 08, 2012, 11:53:51 AM
Excerpted from transcript:

Justice Alito: “ appears to me that the [Congressional Budget Office] has estimated that the average premium for a single insurance policy in the non-group market would be roughly $5,800 in—in 2016.

Respondents—the economists have supported—the Respondents estimate that a young, healthy individual targeted by the mandate on average consumes about $854 in health services each year.

So the mandate is forcing these people to provide a huge subsidy to the insurance companies for other purposes that the act wishes to serve, but isn't—if those figures are right, isn't it the case that what this mandate is really doing is not requiring the people who are subject to it to pay for the services that they are going to consume? It is requiring them to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else.”
5527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama's no vote on Justice Roberts on: April 08, 2012, 11:51:19 AM
I believe Obama caught some criticism for calling himself a professor, but to have taught constitutional law should be quite a wonderful credential for a potential President.  Unfortunately there is quite a split in this country regarding what that means.  To the far left IMO the study and teaching of the constitution and the ruling and precedents is in the ends justify means quest to enlarge the power and scope of government.  

"the audio of him on Chicago Public Radio referring to the U.S. Constitution as a "charter of negative rights," and saying it "fails to say what the government must do [in the citizens'] behalf." "

This is helpful.  I had hoped that as the 2008 campaign unfolded we would learn more about his views which I assumed were radical about the meaning to him of the constitution.  He mostly got a pass on that.  Now we can judge 2 of his appointees (so far) and gradually discover more about his past and current views.

If more of his views come out I think people will see he is more radical than the center of the Dem party- he voted no on confirmation of Justices Roberts because though he will apply the law correctly on 95% of the cases he will not have same values as Obama to go beyond the letter of the constitution?!   For those who think the constitution is document limiting the size and scope of government, you do not have an ally in the White house IMHO.

A right to healthcare including a duty to others to provide it for you and the power of government to enforce all that is just one example of how radicals such as our President believe the founding fathers fell short in their duty.  Yet unexplainably they see no need for an amendment necessary to make the correction.
Sen. Obama on his Roberts 'No' vote, link above:

. . . [T]he decision with respect to Judge Roberts' nomination has not been an easy one for me to make. As some of you know, I have not only argued cases before appellate courts but for 10 years was a member of the University of Chicago Law School faculty and taught courses in constitutional law. Part of the culture of the University of Chicago Law School faculty is to maintain a sense of collegiality between those people who hold different views. What engenders respect is not the particular outcome that a legal scholar arrives at but, rather, the intellectual rigor and honesty with which he or she arrives at a decision.

Given that background, I am sorely tempted to vote for Judge Roberts based on my study of his resume, his conduct during the hearings, and a conversation I had with him yesterday afternoon. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land. Moreover, he seems to have the comportment and the temperament that makes for a good judge. He is humble, he is personally decent, and he appears to be respectful of different points of view.

It is absolutely clear to me that Judge Roberts truly loves the law. He couldn't have achieved his excellent record as an advocate before the Supreme Court without that passion for the law, and it became apparent to me in our conversation that he does, in fact, deeply respect the basic precepts that go into deciding 95% of the cases that come before the federal court -- adherence to precedence, a certain modesty in reading statutes and constitutional text, a respect for procedural regularity, and an impartiality in presiding over the adversarial system. All of these characteristics make me want to vote for Judge Roberts.

The problem I face -- a problem that has been voiced by some of my other colleagues, both those who are voting for Mr. Roberts and those who are voting against Mr. Roberts -- is that while adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95% of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95% of the cases -- what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5% of cases that are truly difficult.

In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.

In those 5% of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country, or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions, or whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled -- in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart.

I talked to Judge Roberts about this. Judge Roberts confessed that, unlike maybe professional politicians, it is not easy for him to talk about his values and his deeper feelings. That is not how he is trained. He did say he doesn't like bullies and has always viewed the law as a way of evening out the playing field between the strong and the weak.

I was impressed with that statement because I view the law in much the same way. The problem I had is that when I examined Judge Roberts' record and history of public service, it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak. In his work in the White House and the Solicitor General's Office, he seemed to have consistently sided with those who were dismissive of efforts to eradicate the remnants of racial discrimination in our political process. In these same positions, he seemed dismissive of the concerns that it is harder to make it in this world and in this economy when you are a woman rather than a man.

I want to take Judge Roberts at his word that he doesn't like bullies and he sees the law and the court as a means of evening the playing field between the strong and the weak. But given the gravity of the position to which he will undoubtedly ascend and the gravity of the decisions in which he will undoubtedly participate during his tenure on the court, I ultimately have to give more weight to his deeds and the overarching political philosophy that he appears to have shared with those in power than to the assuring words that he provided me in our meeting.
5528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Law: Justice Breyer Wrong on Commerce and Wheat? on: April 06, 2012, 11:09:28 AM
Justice Stephen Breyer asked, for example: “Didn’t they make that man growing his own wheat go into the market and buy other wheat for his — for his cows?”

Well, actually, no, Justice Breyer, they didn’t.
I posted this in a stack on the healthcare thread but did not want to let this go by without asking for comment here. Justice Breyer is about to decide perhaps the most important commerce clause case yet and he lacks the fundamentals to start the analysis? Is there some other explanation to what he said about Wickard v. Filburn and wheat?  Was he just pandering or playing around or does he really not know the law and the precedent? And where is the watchdog press, lol.

In the question of precedent for a mandate to purchase a private product, it is a big deal whether or not in 1942 they made him buy wheat!

Do we have a defender of Justice Breyer available who can explain this?

Scott Johnson writing on Powerline:

Reading the transcript and listening to the audio of day 2 of the Obamacare argument, I was struck by the sheer intellectual laziness and complacency of Justice Breyer. To liken him to a rodeo clown would be to credit him with too much energy. Referring to the key New Deal Commerce Clause case of Wickard v. Filburn, Breyer asked, for example: “Didn’t they make that man growing his own wheat go into the market and buy other wheat for his — for his cows?”

Well, actually, no, Justice Breyer, they didn’t. “They” — Congress in an amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 — limited the amount of wheat farmer Filburn could grow on his farm under a quota set for him by the geniuses in Washington (or penalized him for exceeding the quota). “They” didn’t make him go into the market and buy wheat for his cows. That’s the point — the point Randy Barnett has argued for the past few years.

The distinction between the case vaguely recalled by Justice Breyer and the one decided by the Supreme Court in the Wickard case might be the difference between a pass or a fail on a fairly graded Con law exam in law school. It goes to the heart of the Obamacare case. Justice Breyer has apparently been pursuing other intersts over the past few months.

As Jeffrey Anderson and Conn Carroll have observed, this wasn’t necessarily Justice Breyer’s only laugh-out-loud moment during day 2 of the oral argument. And if Justice Breyer were not a party-line liberal, you would have heard about it.
5529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics of Health Care including issues of constitutional law on: April 04, 2012, 11:54:12 AM
I am out traveling with limited access, but would otherwise want some of these points discussed in addition to the ones on Legal Issues.
Justice Breyer flunks Con law    Scott Johnson, Powerline

Reading the transcript and listening to the audio of day 2 of the Obamacare argument, I was struck by the sheer intellectual laziness and complacency of Justice Breyer. To liken him to a rodeo clown would be to credit him with too much energy. Referring to the key New Deal Commerce Clause case of Wickard v. Filburn, Breyer asked, for example: “Didn’t they make that man growing his own wheat go into the market and buy other wheat for his — for his cows?”

Well, actually, no, Justice Breyer, they didn’t. “They” — Congress in an amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 — limited the amount of wheat farmer Filburn could grow on his farm under a quota set for him by the geniuses in Washington (or penalized him for exceeding the quota). “They” didn’t make him go into the market and buy wheat for his cows. That’s the point — the point Randy Barnett has argued for the past few years.

The distinction between the case vaguely recalled by Justice Breyer and the one decided by the Supreme Court in the Wickard case might be the difference between a pass or a fail on a fairly graded Con law exam in law school. It goes to the heart of the Obamacare case. Justice Breyer has apparently been pursuing other intersts over the past few months.

As Jeffrey Anderson and Conn Carroll have observed, this wasn’t necessarily Justice Breyer’s only laugh-out-loud moment during day 2 of the oral argument. And if Justice Breyer were not a party-line liberal, you would have heard about it.
Barack Obama, Constitutional Ignoramus    Steven Hayward, Powerline

I’m grateful for the favor Obama did for us yesterday of exposing his extreme constitutional ignorance, with his comments on how it would be “unprecedented” for the Court to strike down a law passed by a “strong majority” in Congress.  (As if a House margin of seven votes is a “strong” majority.)  True, he walked back the comment today, but surely because his statement was not merely indefensible but outright embarrassing to his media defenders.

I’ve been growing weary of hearing people mention that he’s a “constitutional scholar,” since he never published a single thing on the subject either as editor of the Harvard Law Review or as a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School.  But hey—he taught constitutional law, didn’t he?

Not really.

His course on constitutional law, one of several constitutional law courses on the U of C curriculum, dealt exclusively with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment—the favorite, all-purpose clause for liberal jurists to use to right wrongs and make us more equal by judicial fiat.  There is no evidence that Obama ever taught courses that considered other aspects of constitutionalism, such as executive power, the separation of powers, the Commerce Clause, or judicial review itself.

I have a copy of one of his final exams.  It is a long hypothetical involving civil rights, which begins thus:

    In part, Hardsville’s racial isolation is the result of white flight and the limited economic means at the disposal of the black community.  It is also well documented, however, that Hardsville’s racial isolation arose in part due to decisions by a white-controlled city government prior to the seventies that were purposely discriminatory.

So you can see what kind of “narrative” this exam question promotes, and hence the kind of answers likely to get an A from Professor Obama.  One of the questions students are asked is, “What is the likelihood that the city will be held liable for violating the constitutional rights of blacks under the Equal Protection Clause. . .”  There’s a second hypothetical involving potential gender discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause.

A law student in Professor Obama’s class would learn virtually nothing about the constitutionalism of the Founding, or even of John Marshall or Joseph Story.

Now, clearly Obama is hoping to intimidate the Court in the same way FDR did in 1937 with his court-packing scheme.  Some time later I’ll discuss FDR’s extraordinary rhetoric attacking the Court that year, but suffice it to say for now that Obama already showed his hand with his inaccurate attack on the Citizens United decision in the State of the Union speech two years ago. As John Steele Gordon put it well, “It seems there is simply no lie President Obama will not tell in pursuit of his agenda.”

Notwithstanding the fact that Justice Alito could be seen mouthing the words, “Not true,” the Supreme Court by its traditions does not hit back at the President or Congress in these kind of brawls.  But thank goodness for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which today rather tartly demanded that the Justice Department please explain, in at least three pages, within 48 hours, its understanding of judicial review.  This should be interesting.  Here’s a copy of the follow-up letter from the court... more at link
Obama Walks Back Supreme Court Threat, Still Gets It Wrong
Does the Commerce Clause Negate the Rest of the Constitution?
The Man Who Knew Too Little
President Obama's stunning ignorance of constitutional law.
James Tarranto WSJ, at the link
5530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: April 04, 2012, 11:45:30 AM
Yes, I also am interested to know BD latest thoughts on this.  It did seem Kagan stayed somewhat in the background on questioning.  My understanding is that she largely denies the involvement Crafty suggests and it is her own decision to make on recusal.  OTOH, critics want to know details of a 2 month Nixon-like gap in her govt email record ot know her involvement and dishonesty IMHO would set up a political case for impeachment - that I'm sure will never happen...

Remember Thomas' critics were also strong on recusal for his wife's political involvement.
5531  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions- Child Protective Services on: March 29, 2012, 03:34:42 PM
"There was no allegation of crazed behavior due to marijuana use; only the allegation of use. For Michigan CPS authorities, that was enough to remove the child...."

In MN it is a temporary 72 hour hold with an emergency court hearing set right away.  The criteria I don't know exactly but basically the the LEO must believe, have some verification and sign that the 'child is need of protective services' (a CHiPS petition).  Assuming there is some truth and verification to what the LEO wrote, the judge takes control and starts ordering the social services investigations  and the county attorney's office prosecutes the case.  If found guilty or true, the parent files a re-unite plan and the speed of that depends on all the factors.  Like GM says, they would re-unite with almost anyone.  Terminating parental rights has a statute, but they don't go there.

I'm sure it is simplest if you are guilty.  They find the parent a program, they get clean, got tested a few times and the state is not going to want to keep spending money on the case.  Proving yourself innocent is a whole different matter.  You would have a trial or hearing similar to a criminal hearing plus a criminal trial - I would assume it would take a simultaneous criminal charge, child endangerment etc. for this to continue.  If you are accused but innocent in all that, think how long that process could take.  They can hold your kid for all that time until you are cleared, because you are presumed guilty.

Yes, that would be a stresser for them to come for your kid for the wrong reasons but not a good time to commit a higher crime, threaten the police for example. 

Just my 2 cents, I agree with Crafty, this is outrageous IF it started over a false and fairly minor accusation. My guess was the whiff of pot was on top of the domestic threat which could have been significant, and the threat to police added another incident plus credibility toi the domestic threat. 

The domestic threat is another presumed guilty situation in this state, depending on gender.

On the other side, it is amazing in what lousy circumstances for a kid that they will not take action to protect the children.  This jurisdiction is Michigan so the precedent of what circumstances they will act on includes the insides of some homes in the inner city of Detroit with some pretty bad conditions (my opinion from an inner city landlord perspective).  I am quite a bit skeptical that this began over a reported whiff of pot. 
5532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geithner admits another fact from the forum, Obama was in power since 2007 on: March 28, 2012, 08:28:09 PM
A freshman congressman caught reading DBMA forum:

Geithner Admits Obama Was Part of Congress that Caused Economic Woes

At a hearing today on Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner blamed members of Congress (before 2008) for the economic troubles:

When Geithner is reminded by freshman GOP congressman Tom Graves of Georgia that President Obama was a member of that congressional body, he's forced to admit, "Oh, I see your point. That's a good point. He was a senator for two years. You're right."

Graves then says, "He had an opportunity to be part of the solution."

Geithner replies, "That's true."

Kind of an obvious point, but pointed out by almost no one.
5533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics, Senators follow up on DB post on: March 28, 2012, 02:02:31 PM
Today, Senators David Vitter, Jeff Sessions and John Cornyn called Obama on his lies in the form of a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Their indictment is devastating:

    Dear Secretary Salazar:

    We are concerned with the veracity of statements you made in recent weeks regarding domestic energy production on our federal resources. These statements are similar to claims made by other members of the Administration including the President himself. As you may know, the federal government owns almost 2.5 billion acres of mineral estate, an area larger than the entire land mass of the United States. As director of the Bureau of Land Management, Robert Abbey, testified this month, oil production on our federal property is actually down 14% and offshore production from federal areas is down 17% from only a year ago. Just last week, the Congressional Research Service issued a report revealing that 96 percent of the increase in domestic oil production since 2007 has occurred on non-federal lands. It further revealed that in 2011 production on federal public lands has actually declined by an average of 275,000 barrels per day. Oil production on private lands is indeed up year-over-year, but the Administration does not manage private lands and should not attempt to take credit for private market decisions.

    Oil production on federal lands increased in 2009 and 2010 as a result of leasing and permitting decisions made before your Administration took office. However, the falloff in leasing and permitting actions under the Obama Administration is apparent, and even your own Energy Information Administration anticipates continued falloff in production in 2012 and beyond.

    We also ask that you rectify the President’s claim that we only have 2% of the world’s oil. Nothing could be further from the truth, as even the Washington Post reported last week.[1] He bases this statement on U.S. “proved reserves” but the U.S. Energy Information Administration has stated that proved reserves is “not an appropriate measure for judging total resource availability in the long-term.” As Secretary of Interior, surely you are aware of the vast oil resources we possess both onshore and offshore that are currently off limits due to this Administration’s combined actions. America is endowed with resources that exceed a TRILLION barrels of oil.[2]

    According to the Institute for Energy Research, “USGS estimates that unconventional U.S. oil shale resources hold 2.6 trillion barrels of oil, with about 1 trillion barrels that are considered recoverable under current economic and technological conditions. These 1 trillion barrels are nearly four times the amount of oil resources as Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves.
    We provide the following examples of what we would view as further inaccurate statements by the Administration regarding the state of federal energy production and resources:

    1. Claim: “Expanding offshore oil and gas production is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home.” Secretary Ken Salazar, DOI Press Release 1/26/2012

    Fact: You made the two most pivotal decisions to shrink domestic offshore energy production over the last three years that could have been made. First, you eliminated the 2010-2015 OCS lease plan that would have opened areas of the Atlantic, four geologic basins off S. California, one geologic basin off N. California, while expanding areas in Alaska, including the Cook Inlet. Instead, you have proposed a new 5-year plan that excludes all of the areas of the OCS where the moratorium was lifted in 2008, and reduces the number of planned lease sales by roughly half. Essentially, the moratorium lifted by President Bush and a Democrat Congress in 2008 will continue in effect for a decade under your plan.

    2. Claim: The proposed 5-year offshore lease plan will “make more than 75 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas estimated on the OCS available for development.” Secretary Salazar, DOI Press Release 11/08/2011

    Fact: These numbers distort the facts. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is 1.76 billion acres. Of that 1.76 billion, less than 35 million acres are actually leased (less than 2%). Your proposed 5-year lease plan does not open a single new lease planning area, and therefore we have no way of knowing what estimates of “technologically recoverable” oil in all of the areas that remain off limits are because you have chosen to keep them off limits. Most of our OCS has not been explored for decades, and providing access to only a fraction gives us no clue what is truly there.

    A more accurate statement is that your 5 year plan opens 75% of the oil and gas in areas where we think it exists because we have drilled there. We don’t know about the vast majority of the OCS that isn’t leased, much of which has not been assessed with the benefit of new information for a quarter century.

    3. Claim: “Since we put in place new safety standards in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, we have approved more than 400 drilling permits. In fact, we are now permitting at levels seen before the spill, all while meeting these important new standards.” Secretary Ken Salazar, 3/12/2012

    Fact: There exists no evidence that permitting for production has indeed reached pre-moratorium levels. In fact, the families impacted in the Gulf are still reeling from the impacts of the slowed pace of permitting. Exploration and permitting have yet to recover to pre-2010 levels on account of the moratorium and ensuing permitorium on shallow and deepwater permits. According to one recent study, “Prior to the deepwater drilling moratorium, the U.S. oil and natural gas offshore industry was forecasted to grow significantly due to identified prospects, mostly in the deep water. With the establishment of the moratorium and the subsequent slowdown in the issuance of drilling permits at all water depths, an estimated $18.3 billion of previously planned capital and operational expenditures did not occur in 2010 and 2011.”[3] The study further concludes that the permitting challenges have already cost 90,000 jobs. It is of importance to note that the moratorium was never endorsed by the National Academy of Engineers, as you had attempted to represent. An Inspector General investigation was required to uncover the political influence and misrepresentation by the White House and your office in an important scientific document.

    4. Claim: “The fact of the matter is that we are producing more from public lands, both oil and gas, both onshore as well as offshore, than at any time in recent memory. And when you look back at the years of 2009, 2010, and 2011, we’ve continued to make millions and millions of acres of the public estate available both on the land, as well as on the sea.” Secretary Ken Salazar, 3/12/2012

    Fact: As we pointed out earlier in this letter, there is significant lag time to production after the process of leasing. Presumably this is the reason for your repeated observation that “there is no immediate fix” for higher gas prices. After a company has leased property they then have to explore, develop and produce, with each stage requiring new permits and compliance with federal processes. The production gains we saw in 2009 and 2010 were the result of leasing and permitting that occurred in the Clinton and Bush Administrations, and was just beginning to come online. However, by 2011 we began to experience the impacts from the moratorium and falloff of leasing and permitting under your leadership. Total oil production on federal lands is down 14% over the previous year, offshore is even worse at down 17%, and federal lands saw the fewest number of new onshore leases since 1984. You also failed to hold a single offshore lease sale in fiscal year 2011.

    As a further example, in 2008 the industry spent $2.6 billion to obtain 487 leases in the Chukchi Sea for production offshore Alaska. So far, not a single well has been drilled on any of these leases. There have also been numerous new regulatory roadblocks and permit withdrawals from federal onshore production since you took over leadership of the Agency. Examples of onshore leasing challenges include your withdrawn and slowed leasing in the West, including Montana and the Dakotas.

    In July of 2008, then as a United States Senator, you had an opportunity to support increasing domestic energy production, if the price of gas increased beyond a certain threshold. You repeatedly objected to increasing domestic energy production, even if the price of gas were to have reached $10 per gallon.

    Although gas prices are not $10 per gallon, they are increasingly impacting our economy and fellow Americans, particularly low-income and middle-class families. We are hopeful that similarly to Secretary Chu, you have reevaluated your position on gas prices and will redirect your efforts to alter what the agency has done to limit future production, and will instead work to develop our truly vast domestic oil resources, resources that well exceed “2%” of the world’s oil.

    [2] NORTH AMERICAN ENERGY INVENTORY, Institute for Energy Research, December, 2011.
    [3] The State of the Offshore U.S. Oil and Gas Industry, An in-depth study of the outlook of the industry investment flows offshore, Quest Offshore Resources, Inc., December 2011.


    Jeff Sessions
    David Vitter
    John Cornyn
Of all the reasons why it is imperative to bring the Obama administration to an end in January, its pervasive dishonesty is near the top of the list.  - JohnHinderacker, Powerlineblog
5534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 28, 2012, 01:58:55 PM
"criminal matters"

Sorry, where was the criminal charge in this case - at the link?
5535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 28, 2012, 01:57:08 PM
"not only that they're compelling us to enter into the marketplace, they're not — they're prohibiting us from buying the only economically sensible product that we would want. Catastrophic insurance."  Carvin quote from the exchange below. [not exactly necessary, not exactly proper.]

For sure Roberts and Kennedy are trying to find the limits of both sides of the argument.  I read through the day two transcripts, individual mandate day at the Court, a strange sort of 9 or 10 person highly interrupted discussion. (and now lost my post in a computer crash) 

(Now they are on severability - if they strike down part, the justices are supposed to then read, judge and re-write 2700 pages - that the lawmakers never read??)

Each has their own points they are trying to get at.  Ginsburg kept going back to how Social Security and other programs tie to this.  Each new program expanding government and shrinking liberties is used as the lever to help enable the next expansion of government.  Social security in is actual form is merely tax and spend.  In its conceptual form as a forced savings, generational transfer and long term contract binding future congresses to continue it to for everyone's lifetime, it is a constitutional farce.

Verrilli was adamant to not call anything a mandate; it is merely the minimum coverage set by congress.

Many justices were lost to find a 'limiting principle'.  If we allow this expansion, then what is the limit on government power over the individual? 
Sotomayer (wise Latina) showed a sign of noticing a problem:  "...The government says, borrowing my colleague's example, you can't buy a car without emission control. I don't want a car with emission control. It's less efficient in terms of the horsepower. But I'm forced to do something I don't want to do by government regulation. [but you don't have to buy the car]  You are not forced to buy a product you don't want. And I agree with you that since the government regulates all markets, there is no limiting principle on their compelled purchase. When they put these environmental controls on the...They forced me to buy, if I need...unpasteurized goods, goods that don't have certain pesticides but have others. There is government compulsion in almost every economic decision because the government regulates so much...."

CARVIN: The difference here is the government is trying to tell you to buy the car in the first place.

And as Justice Kennedy pointed out, that's a fundamental alteration of the relationship between the national government and its citizens. Never before in our history has the government presumed to tell us, Go ahead and buy products you don't want because it's going to help other people.
Can they make you buy a cell phone, buy brocolli, buy burial insurance?

Health insurance is unique because you don't know when you will need it or what you will need. (?)  Yet we have systems in place that work fine for police and fire emergency services.   Opposing attorney ripped up the catastrophic argument because the bill is a far cry from just catastrophic coverage - that is what is prohibited by the bill.  This is a brief excerpt of note, read it to the end, why framers were not afraid of 'regulating commerce':

Mr. Carvin:  ...It would be perfectly fine if they

20 allowed — you do actuarial risk for young people on the

21 basis of their risk for disease, just like you judge

22 flood insurance on the homeowner's risk of flood. One

23 of the issues here is not only that they're compelling

24 us to enter into the marketplace, they're not — they're

25 prohibiting us from buying the only economically


1 sensible product that we would want. Catastrophic

2 insurance.

3 Everyone agrees the only potential problem

4 that a 30-year-old, as he goes from the healthy 70

5 percent of the population to the unhealthy 5 percent.

6 And yet Congress prohibits anyone over 30 from buying

7 any kind of catastrophic health insurance. And the

8 reason they do that is because they needed this massive

9 subsidy.

10 Justice Alito, it's not our numbers. CBO

11 said that injecting my clients into the risk pool lowers

12 premiums by 15 to 20 percent. So, Justice Kennedy, even

13 if we were going to create exceptions for people that

14 are outside of commerce and inside of commerce, surely

15 we'd make Congress do a closer nexus and say look, we're

16 really addressing this problem. We want these

17 30-year-olds to get catastrophic health insurance.

18 And not only did they — they deprived them

19 of that option. And I think that illustrates the

20 dangers of giving Congress these plenary powers, because

21 they can always leverage them. They can always come up

22 with some public policy rationale that converts the

23 power to regulate commerce into the power to promote

24 commerce, which, as I was saying before, is the one that

25 I think is plenary.


1 JUSTICE KAGAN: Mr. Carvin, a large part of

2 this argument has concerned the question of whether

3 certain kinds of people are active participants in a

4 market or not active participants in a market. In your

5 test, which is a test that focuses on this

6 activity/inactivity distinction, would force one to

7 confront that problem all the time.

8 Now, if you look over the history of the

9 Commerce Clause, what you see is that there were sort of

10 unhappy periods when the Court used tests like this -­

11 direct versus indirect, commerce versus manufacturing.

12 I think most people would say that those things didn't

13 really work. And the question is, why should this test,

14 inactive versus active, work any better?

15 MR. CARVIN: The problem you identify is

16 exactly the problem you would create if you bought the

17 government's bogus limiting principles. You'd have to

18 draw distinctions between the insurance industry and the

19 car industry and all of that.

20 We turn you to the Commerce Clause

21 jurisprudence that bedeviled the Court before the 1930s,

22 where they were drawing all these kinds of distinctions

23 among industries; whereas our test is really very

24 simple. Are you buying the product or is Congress

25 compelling you to buy the product? I can't think of a


1 brighter line.

2 And again, if Congress has the power to

3 compel you to buy this product, then obviously, they

4 have got the power to provide you — to compel you to

5 buy any product, because any purchase is going to

6 benefit commerce, and this Court is never going to

7 second-guess Congress's policy judgments on how

8 important it is this product versus that product.

9 JUSTICE ALITO: Do you think they are

10 drawing a line between commerce and everything else that

11 is not commerce is drawing an artificial line, drawing a

12 line between Congress and manufacturing?

13 MR. CARVIN: The words "inactivity" and

14 "activity" are not in the Constitution. The words

15 "commerce" and "noncommerce" are. And again, it's a

16 distinction that comes, Justice Kagan, directly from the

17 text of the Constitution.

18 The Framers consciously gave Congress the

19 ability to regulate commerce, because that's not a

20 particularly threatening activity that deprives you of

21 individual freedom. If you were required, if you were

22 authorized to require A to transfer property to B, you

23 have, as the early cases put it, a monster in

24 legislation which is against all reason in justice,

25 because everyone intuitively understands that regulating


1 people who voluntarily enter into contracts in setting

2 changing conditions does not create the possibility of

3 Congress compelling wealth transfers among the

4 citizenry. And that is precisely why the Framers denied

5 them the power to compel commerce, and precisely why

6 they didn't give them plenary power.

5536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 28, 2012, 01:14:35 PM
"somehow I mixed up Rush and Beck; not much difference though."

Not much difference?  Not if the attack is ad hominem.

If the ad hominem attack is against the person, we will need the Latin plural for the attacking all of them and their sponsors in one fell swoop.

That the accused agreed to pay out is the evidence of a crime not charged.  We waste so much time and money even having a criminal justice system.  Easier to just accuse and extort until we get the right amount of damages out of them. 
5537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney Calif House on: March 27, 2012, 04:47:01 PM
Politico today with a big link on the Huff Post, the rebuild of the beach house will have a car elevator.  That won't hurt Romney's perception of not exactly being the average guy?
5538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: How to cut government spending Paul Ryan on: March 27, 2012, 04:32:47 PM
Ryan has courage and expertise in a very dry, important subject.  This a serious plan for governing, not a Ron Paul plan where we say cut - no problem, but never get the votes to do it.  The Ryan plan could actually be the blueprint.  Really it is stop tha crazy increases and hold spending within sight while we try to grow the economy.   

They say Ryan would likely accept the VP slot if chosen.  That is a nice option to have available.  I lean toward Rubio at this point.  Save Ryan maybe for Speaker of the House.
5539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics of Health Care - Transcripts of oral arguments coming out on: March 27, 2012, 04:14:34 PM
Part one, part two transcripts.  Historic stuff, might be interesting to go through.  I imagine one could go wrong guessing their opinion by hearing their question.

Other accounts:
"Can you create commerce to regulate it?" Kennedy asked Solicitor General Don Verrilli.
During the debate of the Obamacare mandate at the Supreme Court Justice Kennedy says that the mandate fundamentally changes the relationship of a citizen with the government.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The key in Lochner is that we were talking about regulation of the States, right, and the States are not limited to enumerated powers. The Federal Government is. And it seems to me it's an entirely different question when you ask yourself whether or not there are going to be limits in the Federal power, as opposed to limits on the States, which was the issue in Lochner.

SOLICITOR GENERAL VERRILLI: I agree, except, Mr. Chief Justice, that what the Court has said as I read the Court's cases is that the way in which you ensure that the Federal Government stays in its sphere and the sphere reserved for the States is protected is by policing the boundary: Is the national government regulating economic activity with a substantial effect on interstate commerce?

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But the reason, the reason this is concerning, is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act. In the law of torts our tradition, our law, has been that you don't have the duty to rescue someone if that person is in danger. The blind man is walking in front of a car and you do not have a duty to stop him absent some relation between you. And there is some severe moral criticisms of that rule, but that's generally the rule.

5540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Can the Supreme Court Survive a Health-Care Decision? on: March 27, 2012, 02:14:26 PM
"Can the Supreme Court Survive a Health-Care Decision?" (from constitutional issues)

Yes, if they get it right - one way or the other. 

This is quite an odd situation - the will of the people and the action of their representatives are pulling in two different directions.

If the law is struck down, it means there are still limits on government.  How well they define that will reflect on them and on the structuring of new programs far into the future.

Bush v. Gore stood the test of time (IMO) because it turned on a simple concept. the constitution gave an authority to the Florida legislature, not the Florida court, so the overturn of the will of the legislature by the state court was struck down.

In Roe v. Wade the right of privacy was judged paramount; the life of the unborn human being was not.  That is obscenely immoral and illogical to many but no one questions that the life status of the unborn is not covered in the words of the constitution.  All it takes is a new amendment to fix that.

What is the phrase or concept that will be paramount in the healthcare decision, in either direction?

Conservatives believe the healthcare case is symbolic of having no limits on government, but the justices would need to agree on what that limit is and how this program violates it. 

I think it is as simple as this: the federal government does not have unenermerated powers.  If the people want this new power in their federal government, they need (IMO) to go back and authorize it in an amendment like they did with the 16th amendment authorizing the power to levy a direct tax on income.  The amendment process didn't change.

On the liberal side, they believe that requiring someone to perform healthcare services on you is already a right (unenumerated) in a civilized society and the provisions in the bill were all 'necessary and proper' to 'regulate' the interstate commerce market to guarantee those services are performed and paid for.

Seems to me that "necessary" is a much stronger test in this context than just politically necessary.  There is no one in the Obama administration or Pelosi-Reid congress that did not know they had already authority to spend more on healthcare services and to raise conventional tax up to any rate they want.  The far simpler and broader alternative of single payer with universal coverage was ruled out at the time for political, not constitutional reasons.

What is the evidence and unanswerable argument that this new power is necessary?
5541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 27, 2012, 01:48:40 PM
The point was, how is it political, what is Beck or Goldline running for, if it clouds his judgment on Israel, big government, liberty etc, how so?  Not answered as usual.  Welcome back.

If they are breaking laws they can face prosecution, pay fines, go to jail.  If you are pointing out the system is working, then what is the political point of it?  Some similarity to Geithner not paying his taxes?  Really?

I don't like commercials but I like free radio.  I'm sure the hosts would prefer not to do personal sponsorships.  No comment (as usual) on how the anti-free speech radical extremists keep him from having mainstream sponsors.  No comment on Hillary (shocking) and her commodity trading.  The only thing that is not a prosecutable felony in her case is the statute of limitations.  She is still in power and still contemplated for the Presidency.   She helped make the last decision about going to war and HER judgment matters. This wasn't a sponsor of a pundit.  Cat got your tongue or did I miss where you thoroughly trashed her for that?

Isn't there enough in Beck's opinions and analysis to discuss his views in a political context?  The logic is discredit the view because of business practices of the sponsor?  I don't think the point ever was that Beck is a great man, but that his articulated views on pertinent issues resonate with certain people here.  How does Beck's sponsor cloud my judgment, or that of others here? 

All rhetorical.  Just venting my view of it.  No reply is requested.
5542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: March 27, 2012, 10:55:36 AM
Besides innocent until ... what? where did I miss the point about Goldline being political?  Does it taint Glen Beck's view on Israel or change the video he played exposing Obama's radical advisers?  What is the point? If Beck were the politician then maybe it questions his judgment, but what is he running for?

Obama sat in the pew while Rev Wright assaulted our country, did Beck sit in the room while client money was wrongfully disbursed.  And again, what is he running for?  Did the poster in a crusade against corruption make a point previously about the commodities trading of HRC that I missed, or is this a cheap shot at a radio show that the host of the forum said that he liked?

If not for the opponent boycott campaigns against freedom of speech, Beck's sponsors might be GE, Chevrolet and Goldman Sachs.  Oops I just named 3 more corrupt companies.
5543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: After Obama's "last election" on: March 27, 2012, 10:52:37 AM
"If this is power centralization by a president, it is business as usual."

True but business as usual is exactly what the Obama phenomenon opposed.  Now the bumper sticker has no meaning or a very different meaning if you even see one.  Being hip and aware and progressive and open to the public and power to the people populism with the sticker on your Prius in 2008 became business as usual in a Washington DC cynical sense.  Today the logo and mantra of hope only means that our czars are better than your czars, our mandates are better than your mandates, our guys in the revolving door of advisers and influence peddlers are smarter than your guys selling influence, our backroom cornhusker exemption deals to get healthcare done are better than your back room deals, and our national security back room negotiations are conducted better when we don't have to face the scrutiny of another election.  

Open microphone comments give a small window into what he is thinking, where the teleprompter and carefully crafted interviews do not.  He will govern better without the burdens of oversight and accountability and that is front and central on his mind - is my read.  Yes, Pres. Obama is not the first or only elected official to think that thought but this was in the context (my take) of him having more flexibility to negotiate more terms away to the perceived liking of the Russians - after giving up missile defense for them to the surprise of committed allies previously.  It brings to mind these other examples like the back room deals for one state here and another there on healthcare.  Of course we should not presume to know his meaning or context; he could have playing mind games to our advantage with the Russians.  But the question was opened, what will the policy shift across the board be when the electoral accountability ends?  Having independents ponder that question is to the conservatives' advantage and having conservatives ponder that question brings fire and passion to the campaign.
5544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics of Health Care, Presidential ego trip, Rbt Samuelson Newsweek on: March 26, 2012, 09:55:03 AM
As a media issue aside, I have started to wonder if Newsweek (Wash Post co.) is turning conservative or if Samuelson is another token conservative like Geo. Will.  This piece has excellent insight.  Extrapolating the numbers cited for health improvements gained when the uninsured get insurance, this program should spark about a 0.14% improvement in health outcomes to the American public, not counting the overall detriment the system that it will certainly cause.

March 26, 2012
Obama's Ego Trip
By Robert Samuelson

WASHINGTON - As the Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- Obamacare, as many call it -- the justices will probably share at least one assumption: that their decision will have a big effect on the health of Americans. Ideally, everyone ought to have insurance, and it's popular wisdom that this would significantly improve people's health. But it's not true. The ACA's fate will dramatically affect government and the health care system; the impact on Americans' health will be far more modest.

Rarely has a program with so little potential inspired so much contention. Although millions would benefit from health insurance, the overall relationship between people's insurance status and their self-reported health is underwhelming. Consider a study of Massachusetts' universal coverage program, enacted under former Gov. Mitt Romney, by economists Charles J. Courtemanche of the University of Louisville and Daniela Zapata of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It estimated that about 1.4 percent of the state's adult population moved into the "very good" or "excellent" health categories.

Another study by economist Daniel Polsky of the University of Pennsylvania examined what happened to uninsured Americans who went on Medicare at age 65. Polsky found "no significant health effect for the uninsured relative to the insured upon reaching Medicare eligibility." Although other studies report somewhat larger effects, most share a weakness. They rely on people's self-reported assessment of their health. Just receiving government-subsidized insurance, worth $8,000 to $12,000, may make people feel better. It shields them from financial setbacks.

On reflection, the loose relation between health and insurance is not puzzling. Many uninsured are young and healthy; in 2010, 40 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34. Others pay their own bills or receive "uncompensated" care. Still others are too sick to be cured by any means. Finally, having insurance may not change unhealthy lifestyles or how people use the medical system. Before receiving Medicare, the uninsured used emergency rooms more than the insured; once on Medicare, they still did.

So the laudable goal of universal coverage ought to be balanced against drawbacks. At the margin, the ACA will probably discourage job creation, because mandated insurance raises the cost of hiring and the complexity of the 2,700-page law will intimidate some employers. Requiring younger workers to have expensive, comprehensive insurance (as opposed to catastrophic coverage) expands the undesirable inter-generational transfer from them to their wealthier elders. Finally, the ACA worsens the budget outlook.

The Obama administration has obscured this by arguing the program reduces budget deficits. Though technically true, this is misleading.

From 2012 to 2021, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the ACA's insurance subsidies at $1.5 trillion. But the CBO reckons these costs will be offset by revenue increases (including: a higher Medicare payroll tax, higher taxes on unearned income, penalties for individuals without insurance, taxes on drug and insurance companies) plus assumed cuts in Medicare. Still, all these tax increases and savings might have been applied to the huge projected deficits that existed pre-ACA. The administration resembled a homeowner who couldn't afford the mortgage but scraped up money for an expensive renovation. And if the renovation's costs are underestimated -- or all the new money doesn't materialize -- the ACA will increase the deficit.

To these problems is now added a possible backlash from a Supreme Court ruling. The administration argues that the ACA falls within the government's authority to regulate interstate commerce. Opponents contend that the insurance "mandate" requiring coverage would give government unprecedented power to order Americans to buy almost anything. Unless there's a lopsided decision (7-2 or better), the court may deepen public polarization over the ACA.

If the court disallows the mandate, President Obama's liberal supporters will accuse it of partisan judicial activism by usurping the role of elected leaders. If it narrowly blesses the ACA, conservatives will say constitutional liberties were sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Either way, the court risks withering criticism that it is meddling in the election.

Considering the ACA's glaring -- and predictable -- economic and political shortcomings, why did Obama make it his first-term centerpiece? The answer seems to be his obsession with securing his legacy as the president who achieved the liberal grail of universal coverage. In his book "The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery," Noam Scheiber recounts a telling incident. Obama's advisers tell him he can be known for preventing a second Great Depression. "That's not enough for me," Obama replies.

The ACA is Obama's ego trip, but as a path to presidential greatness, it may disappoint no matter how the court decides. Lyndon's Johnson's creation of Medicare and Medicaid was larger, and he isn't deemed great. And then, unlike now, government seemed capable of paying for bigger programs.

5545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: March 26, 2012, 09:43:39 AM
"Just as President Barack Obama has intensified his anti-K Street rhetoric with the November elections in view, several of his administration’s senior aides have decamped for jobs along the influence corridor."

Yes, like a former Speaker of the House taking millions from Freddie Mac.  If we capable of giving a resounding NO to the requests of the advocacy groups, it wouldn't matter who they hired.

My own stone age view of equal protection under that law is that whether you are Solyndra, Chrysler, Tiger Stadium or Goldman Sachs, you get the same treatment under the law as everyone else.  Imagine that.

Another law is not the answer.  Just ask Gingrich.   He wasn't a lobbyist, he was a historian. 
5546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 26, 2012, 09:34:02 AM
"Interest rates will only go up if the economy does better. Meanwhile, look at Japan where their debt burden and their deficit are both much bigger than ours relative to GDP and yet interest rates are even lower than ours."

Scott is right on this, but it is unfortunate to need to look at stagnation elsewhere for guidance.

3 things come to mind (and more) that will keep economy from seriously entering a period of robust, uninhibited growth:

a) Interest rates as GM and Scott say.  Interest rates will go up when some economic activity gets going again, but that will further hurt the cost of buying homes, automobiles, business expansion etc.  We have seen this cycle before.

b) Energy costs will go up.  The price increases proved the inelasticity of oil demand, consumption was down only 3% while prices at the pump skyrocketed.  But in fact and in light of the barriers still in place to new production, gas prices are artificially low compared to what they would be if 6 or 10 million more people were soon commuting to work and a hundred million or more were better able to afford weekend and vacation travel.  Just as likely as a new lease from the administration offshore is a crackdown on fracking or closure of coal or nuclear etc.

c) We still have unindexed, progressive tax brackets with more tax rate increases coming.  The more that nominal incomes go up either through economic growth or inflation, the larger of a share that is taken and the greater the disincentive is to either produce or report that additional income.

d) Over-regulation and botched and convoluted regulation. Nothing in the Stimulus 1, 2, 3  or QE to the nth power plans address that.  Even a Supreme Court decision striking down all of Obamacare only gets us back to where we were before implosion.

We build into our economy all these man-made forces that ensure the better things go, the worse things will get.

Scott G makes clear the importance to the economy of changing political course.  Many economists do not come out and say that, and there are many economists of course who hold a different or opposite political policy view.  (Romer and Krugman say government spending stimulus is still too small.)  I don't see how anyone can project the future direction of our economy without knowing the policy outcomes this election, house, senate and Presidential, will bring.  Will we have national healthcare? Will have 20% across the board tax rate cuts?  We will the rate increases plus the Buffet surcharge plus a near doubling of capital gains rates?  Will we have corporate rates cut to around the OECD average or the highest in the world?  Will interest rates be near zero or double digit? Will we have gas at the pump - or algae? 

Like the uncertainty of investing in a third world country, nobody knows.

5547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Energy Politics: NY Post also leads with the L-word (Lies) for Obama on energy on: March 25, 2012, 12:47:49 PM

Obama’s energy lies

Playing politics with gas prices and a pipeline


Last Updated: 12:13 AM, March 25, 2012

..."If the American public is dumb enough to buy all that – and I don’t think so – we deserve this guy and the gas prices that come with him."

Full commentary at the link.
5548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis: The seven fatal flaws of ObamaCare on: March 25, 2012, 12:34:31 PM
Subscribe at the link for excellent economic analysis!

Scott Grannis: The seven fatal flaws of ObamaCare    March 1, 2012

Fatal flaw #1: The penalty imposed for not buying a policy is very likely to be less than the cost of insurance for a great many people. This, combined with the requirement that insurance companies may not deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition, means that a large number of people will forgo signing up for a policy, knowing that they a) will save money and b) can always sign up for insurance if they turn out to develop a serious medical condition. Thus, the actual revenues will far way short of projections.

Fatal flaw #2: The government has no ability to enforce the penalty for noncompliance.

Fatal flaw #3: Mandating that people buy a health insurance policy simply because they are alive is arguably unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has already decided to take up this issue and will begin hearing oral arguments this month. I note that a recent USA/Gallup poll shows that an overwhelming 72% of Americans believe that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. The mandate is also a way of hiding the fact that young people will effectively be paying a huge new tax in order to subsidize older people.

Fatal flaw #4: Regulating the price which insurance companies must charge for policies, coupled with a requirement that companies must rebate to their customers the amount by which their loss ratios fall below 90%, effectively turns these companies into government-run enterprises and would likely result in the effective nationalization of the healthcare industry. That is a violation of the Fifth Amendment, and of a Supreme Court requirement "that any firm in a regulated market be allowed to recover a risk-adjusted competitive rate of return on its accumulated capital investment."

Fatal flaw #5: A government-imposed restructuring of the healthcare industry can't possibly improve our healthcare system, and is extremely likely to make it worse. As Don Boudreaux has noted, "Trying to restructure an industry that constitutes one-sixth of the U.S. economy is ... so complicated that it's impossible to accomplish without risking catastrophic failure." No collection of laws or government bureaucrats can achieve anything close to the efficiency that free markets can deliver; the demise of socialism is the most obvious proof of this. Government control of healthcare will inevitably result in higher prices and rationing, leaving everyone worse off. UPDATE: Acknowledging this reality, the CBO in March '12 calculated the cost of ObamaCare to be $1.76 trillion over a decade, almost double the $940 billion forecast when the bill was signed into law.

Fatal flaw #6: In cases wherein companies find that complying with the law would result in large increases in healthcare premiums that would threaten employees' access to a plan, the Dept. of Health and Human Services may grant a waiver to the company. As evidence of the first five fatal flaws accumulates, and as healthcare insurance companies continue to raise premiums to pay for the unintended consequences of government attempting to regulate an entire industry and hundreds of millions of people, more and more companies are likely to apply for waivers. To date, over 1200 companies have been granted waivers. At some point the whole edifice will come crashing down of its own weight.

Fatal flaw #7: The individual mandate violates centuries of contract law, since in order to be valid, contracts to purchase health insurance must be entered into freely.
5549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics - What caused the collapse? Forbes Mag. answers Geithner on: March 25, 2012, 12:19:02 PM
This is important, was it economic freedom running wild or was it botched government programs and regulations that caused the financial collapse?  Forbes contributor Charles Kadlec answers the political spin of our Treasury Secretary. (read it at the link)

Tim Geithner Covers for Corruption On Pennsylvania Avenue

Last Friday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner charged in a Wall Street Journal op-ed ( that those who oppose the Obama Administration’s regulatory regime for the financial services industry “seem to be suffering from amnesia about how close America came to complete financial collapse under the outdated regulatory system we had before Wall Street reform.” Au contraire, Secretary Geithner, it is you who choose to ignore and misrepresent the lessons of the financial crisis by perpetuating the myth that the source of the crisis was a lack of regulation.

First, your essay glosses over the central role the federal government played in creating the crisis. In particular, the government through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac directed $5.2 trillion (that is trillion with a “t”) of capital to increase the supply of mortgages. In addition, it passed a law that required banks to make billions of dollars in loans to individuals that were unlikely to pay off the loans, in the end with 0% down.

In 1998, Fannie Mae announced it would purchase mortgages with only 3% down. And, in 2001, it offered a program that required no down payment at all. Between 2001 and 2004, subprime mortgages grew from $160 billion to $540 billion. And between 2005 and 2007, Fannie Mae’s acquisition of mortgages with less than 10% down almost tripled. These loans are now known as “subprime” and “alt A” loans. At the time they were made, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac encouraged their issuance by lowering their standards and buying them up from the now vilified mortgage brokers, S&Ls, banks and Wall Street investment banks.

This activity was not due to a lack of regulation or oversight as you claim. Both companies are under the direct supervision of a federal regulator and Congress. At the time these loans were being purchased by these two Government Sponsored Enterprises, their actions were defended by many in Congress who, led by Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, saw such reckless lending as a successful government initiative.

At the same time, the easy money policies of the Federal Open Market Committee, of which you were a voting member, were feeding an asset bubble in residential real estate, providing what proved to be an irresistible lure not only for speculators, but also for American families trying desperately to buy a house before inflation robbed them of their chance for home ownership.

Yes, mortgage brokers and banks encouraged reckless borrowing, though many who borrowed, with a little honest reflection, could have known that they would be unable to meet the financial obligation of paying the mortgage that they were using to buy a house that they could not afford. Nor does any of this excuse the poor judgment of those on Wall Street who levered their firms’ balance sheets so that even a 4% loss on their investments would leave them either bankrupt or in need of a bailout.

But, the culpability of those in the private sector should not be used to cover up or excuse the irresponsible behavior of those in the federal government. The self-regulatory check normally provided by markets on activities that are likely to lose money — lenders backing away — was simply blocked by the government’s intervention in the capital markets. As you must know, six top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with securities fraud for hiding the size of the purchases of low quality mortgages from the market.

In addition, the normal check on excessive leverage provided by unwilling lenders was overwhelmed by the perception, now validated, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt were backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government. This created a willing buyer backed by the federal government with unlimited access to credit markets and a trillion dollar budget. No wonder S&Ls and Wall Street found ways to satisfy the demand. Blaming a lack of regulation for the subsequent losses is political spin meant to cover up the greed and corruption on Pennsylvania Avenue that led to the crisis.

Second, your claim that increased regulatory oversight would have prevented the crisis requires a credulous belief in the wisdom and courage of those in power. Regulators with all of the necessary powers have failed in their most basic task of preventing fraud including Bernie Maddoff’s Ponzi scheme, and now the still unexplained disappearance of $1.6 billion of customer money at MF Global. Yet, you ask us to believe tens of thousands of pages of new regulations will somehow empower you and other elite public servants to prevent another financial crisis?

As we know now, you and the other members of the Federal Open Market Committee in 2006 did not grasp the implications of the then faltering housing market for the general economy or the health of the banking system. As a consequence, you and your colleagues did not use the powers you had to head off the financial crisis when there was still plenty of time to act. As former Prime Minister Tony Blair writes in his memoir, A Journey of My Political Life, an important contributor to the financial crisis was a failure “of understanding. We didn’t spot it…it wasn’t that we were powerless to prevent it even if we had seen it coming; it wasn’t a failure of regulation in the sense that we lacked the power to intervene. Had regulators said to the leaders that a huge crisis was about to break, we wouldn’t have said: There’s nothing we can do about it until we get more regulation through. We would have acted. But they didn’t say that.”

Third, the new regulatory regime for the financial industry created by the Dodd-Frank bill — ironically named after two of the perpetrators of the financial crisis — omits any reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yet, unlike the commercial and investment banks who have repaid the government bailout money, these two state sponsored financial giants have cost taxpayers more than $140 billion and are seeking billions more in bailout funds. At the same time, HUD is moving forward on issuing new rules that would support racial quotas for bank mortgages, which no doubt will again force banks to make loans to individuals who cannot afford them.

In light of this evidence and your own experience, your promise that a new, expansive regulatory regime reduces the risk of financial crisis is not credible. The regulatory maze created by Dodd-Frank not only robs the private sector of real resources that otherwise would be committed to allocating capital to credit worthy borrowers, it also undermines market skepticism essential to preventing systemic risk. In addition, it puts even more power in the hands of a few individuals who, like you, are fallible, rather than dispersing power among market participants.

You conclude your essay by writing: “We cannot afford to forget the lessons of the crisis and the damage it caused to millions of Americans. Amnesia is what causes financial crises.”

With all due respect Mr. Secretary, federal government policies, not amnesia, were at the heart of the financial crisis. The arrogance of power revealed by your selective memory and political spin, and the expansive regulatory regime you support are now the primary source of systemic risk to the U.S. financial system and the economic security of the American people.
5550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: March 25, 2012, 12:07:39 PM
"I'm sure it'll be kind and civil, as the left always is."

Yes, Bill Maher asking for our prayers for a speedy and successful recovery.  No one would joke about heart trouble and life-risking surgery, would they?

To be fair I have to ponder what my comment would be if Joe Biden had just undergone a brain transplant.
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