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5551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Energy Politics: government bungling - not a single fire boom on hand on: May 04, 2010, 10:53:11 AM
EPA has a discretionary budget of over $10 Billion, Dept of Interior -even more.  Off-shore drilling was on the agenda, announced months ago.  A fire boom could have contained 95% of this spill, costs a few hundred thousand.  Not a one anywhere near the gulf.  Feds didn't even know if they owned one; found one in storage.  [Soon this storyline will be your healthcare.]

Despite plan, not a single fire boom on hand on Gulf Coast at time of oil spill
By Ben Raines  May 03, 2010  Source: Alabama Press-Register

(See photo at link) An image provided by Carmi, Ill.-based Elastec/American Marine shows an oil burn being conducted in one of its patented Hydro-Fire Boom systems. The inflatable, fire-resistant, water-cooled boom was developed to contain surface oil and burn it offshore, helping prevent destruction of critical environmentally sensitive shoreline habitats, company officials said.

If U.S. officials had followed up on a 1994 response plan for a major Gulf oil spill, it is possible that the spill could have been kept under control and far from land.

The problem: The federal government did not have a single fire boom on hand.

April 28, 2010 image made from video released by the Deepwater Horizon Response Unified Command, shows an in situ burn in the Gulf of Mexico, in response to the oil spill after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. The "In-Situ Burn" plan produced by federal agencies in 1994 calls for responding to a major oil spill in the Gulf with the immediate use of fire booms.

But in order to conduct a successful test burn eight days after the Deepwater Horizon well began releasing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf, officials had to purchase one from a company in Illinois.

When federal officials called, Elastec/American Marine, shipped the only boom it had in stock, Jeff Bohleber, chief financial officer for Elastec, said today.

At federal officials' behest, the company began calling customers in other countries and asking if the U.S. government could borrow their fire booms for a few days, he said.

A single fire boom being towed by two boats can burn up to 1,800 barrels of oil an hour, Bohleber said. That translates to 75,000 gallons an hour, raising the possibility that the spill could have been contained at the accident scene 100 miles from shore.

"They said this was the tool of last resort. No, this is absolutely the asset of first use. Get in there and start burning oil before the spill gets out of hand," Bohleber said. "If they had six or seven of these systems in place when this happened and got out there and started burning, it would have significantly lessened the amount of oil that got loose."

In the days after the rig sank, U.S Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said the government had all the assets it needed. She did not discuss why officials waited more than a week to conduct a test burn. (Watch video footage of the test burn.)

At the time, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oil spill response coordinator Ron Gouguet -- who helped craft the 1994 plan -- told the Press-Register that officials had pre-approval for burning. "The whole reason the plan was created was so we could pull the trigger right away."

Gouguet speculated that burning could have captured 95 percent of the oil as it spilled from the well.

Bohleber said that his company was bringing several fire booms from South America, and he believed the National Response Center discovered that it had one in storage.

Each boom costs a few hundred thousand dollars, Bohleber said, declining to give a specific price.

Made of flame-retardant fabric, each boom has two pumps that push water through its 500-foot length. Two boats tow the U-shaped boom through an oil slick, gathering up about 75,000 gallons of oil at a time. That oil is dragged away from the larger spill, ignited and burns within an hour, he said.

The boom can be used as long as waves are below 3 feet, Bohleber said.

"Because of the complexity of the system and the obvious longer production time to build them, the emphasis is on obtaining and gathering the systems," he said.

Bohleber said his company has conducted numerous tests with the Coast Guard since 1993, and it is now training crews on the use of the boom so workers will be ready when they arrive.

"We're arranging for six to be shipped in. We keep running into delays. Hopefully, they will be here by Wednesday to be available for use on Thursday. Bear in mind, two days ago, we thought they would be here today."
5552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re. Healthcare Recision on: May 03, 2010, 11:33:26 PM
The good parts of healthcare could have been done with bipartisanmaybe unanimous majority. It makes a lie (IMO)of the promise to unite, not divide.  I can't imagine a Republican opposing this.  I can't imagine an informed consumer paying for a policy while healthy that does not continue to cover you later when you are not.

The leftists in charge would not give us basic, obvious protections that people wanted without mixing them with the unpopular provisions of socialism, mandates, and new taxes in order to get the end result that they wanted.
5553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs on: May 03, 2010, 02:41:20 PM
Could put this under Energy or What the ..., but this story is about a federal program to award private companies.  Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours...

Source: CNN

In ironic twist, BP finalist for pollution prevention award

BP, now under federal scrutiny because of its role in the deadly Gulf of Mexico explosion and oil spill, is one of three finalists for a federal award honoring offshore oil companies for "outstanding safety and pollution prevention."
By the way the story reads, I suspect BP was in fact the winner to be announced.
5554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 03, 2010, 02:19:40 PM
"Most of us here are of the "Drill, baby, drill!" school of thought.  What do we have to say about events in the Gulf of Mexico?"

Random thoughts:

When Obama falsely stated he wanted to expand off-shore drilling, everything to do with preventing, curing and containing spills should have been put on fast forward if we are serious about drilling offshore.  We are paying for an 'Environmental Protection Agency' already.  Instead they are working on exhale restriction justifications.

Obama's reaction was to send a team of lawyers to the gulf.  I think he underestimated the seriousness and will regret not making a larger emergency response.  They seem more interested in pinning blame than stopping further damage.

We all drive, Obama flies large jets.  Obama and Biden fly separate jets.  I think Pelosi has a formation of passenger jets with liquor supply jets for commuting.  Everything has costs and risks.  We need to contain those risks and costs, but we can't end supply without ending usage and we aren't ending usage.

ANWAR is not off-shore. Has less risk or different risks but yet we passed on it based on phony wildlife risks.  Middle East involves tanker ships with risk and much of the money goes toward harming our interests.  All sources have their own risk.

As others mentioned, hard to know what to learn from this before we know the cause or the cure.  Looks like the fix will be to drill a new well.  Maybe we should have been geared up to do that in days instead of months.  Why aren't we 12 days into that project right now and near completion (if this is a crisis)?

Nature has oil spills.  A decade for nature to cleanse itself may be an eternity to us, to those who enjoy the beaches etc. but a blip in time for the planet.

We don't stop flying after a plane crash.  We don't stop driving for each fatal crash.  We kill 37,000 per year and keep right on driving.  This catastrophe will need to be repaired and studied.  Presumably oil rigs will be even safer and repairs swifter in the future because of this.

Nuclear has the cleanest, safest track record for energy production yet we can't agree on it here whether to move forward with more.  If commuting energy can move someday to plug in vehicles, we will need more energy on the grid to replace the amount of oil we quit using.
5555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: May 03, 2010, 01:41:24 PM
"The other half of the equation is not allowing people in the US to knowingly hire illegals..."

Agree in the case of 'knowingly'.  My sister who consults in Human Resources complains of legislation putting more burdens on employers.  Immigration law is the responsibility of the US Govt.  The employer's burden should be limited to disclosing who they hire and who they intend to hire and to provide whatever information to the Feds that they require.  Then the burden goes back to the govt for enforcement.

I'm not in the business of hiring but as a landlord I wonder the same question.  Should I checking and stopping illegals from renting?  It hasn't been an issue for me yet.  I know some towns have tried to crack down on landlords for that.  Like the challenge the police will face under the Arizona law, I have to be very very careful to give people from any/all demographic groups equal and fair treatment.  If I demand proof of something from someone Hispanic or from elsewhere, then I need to demand it of everyone.
5556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re. analysis of Mortgage regulatory issues on: May 02, 2010, 03:07:35 PM
"because of flawed risk models that ignored the individual components of the mortgage security and focused upon quantitative analyses of probable default rates.  These models underestimated the probability and the size of the eventual default rates."

I agree with what he writes and that is only part of the story.  He is not denying fraud, just saying that plenty more went wrong.  But the whole program of trying to force money into neighborhoods without sound lending fundamentals was a fraud in itself, an invitation for worse fraud in the field, and the whole ratings debacle was a fraud.  Those of in the neighborhoods watched it happen and those who watched the Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac Oversight Hearings watched it happen.  Billions or trillions in fraud, under our nose, without consequence.

Home lending is a 3-legged stool that collapses when you remove any one of the legs: a) creditworthiness of the borrower, b) income of the borrower and c) the ratio of real equity to real value in the asset. If a solid income earner with a history of paying his/her bills saves up and pays 10-20% for a down payment and borrows less than a third of his/her income for housing expense, then that loan has normal chance of default which I think is between 1 and 2% and the loss to the mortgage company is negligible.

How can it be that we chopped out the legs of the stool on lending fundamentals and then predict that default rates will remain low and constant?  That is beyond incompetence.  There should be consequence.

How could we not know in a highly leveraged, speculated and overpriced market that there would be a correction and that the higher the market went the harder it would fall?  How could we think that choosing an anti-growth agenda in November 2006 to take unemployment from 4.9 to 10.3% would not put millions of people without savings out of their house payment?  How could we not know that stricter use of 'mark to market' rules even for loans that are not in default would exaggerate the collapse in values of the portfolios?

For all we have learned, what are we doing now?  Increasing the federal role in mortgage lending from 90% to 100% and continuing to flood FREE MONEY into false housing values with the extended homebuyer credit of thousands of dollars to anyone, paying people to move instead of staying put.  Looks like a continuing recipe for self-destruction to me.

I know areas of Minneapolis where the whole block got the funny loans and the whole block went to foreclosure while none of those lenders, borrowers, originators, realtors or appraisers have been prosecuted for organized fraud crimes. This foreclosure map of one side of one relatively prosperous city, Minneapolis, is a must see IMO!

How could a financial rating service or a government oversight agency not  see this coming and still draw a salary?  
5557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: May 01, 2010, 12:02:13 AM
I viewed her statement posted on her website:

A falsehood in the first sentence - people will be detained just for the color of their skin when in fact they won't.  Then she goes on to defend illegals to get full citizenship and zero enforcement because people are people.  Then equates it to the holocaust, "it started just like this".  Very articulate and well-spoken except all of it is BS.  Trespassers don't have a right to full ownership.  Maybe they do under the Obama doctrine where what is yours is mine.
5558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Immigration - for jobs or for welfare, Milton Friedman on: April 30, 2010, 02:11:45 PM
When Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman was asked about unlimited immigration in 1999, he stated that "it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both."
5559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Setting fire to the gulf? on: April 30, 2010, 12:21:37 PM
No fear of intensifying hurricanes by warming the gulf?,0,1038312.story

New Orleans —
Crews may set fires to burn off oil being spewed by a blown-out well that is dumping 42,000 gallons of crude oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.
5560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / While the oil spilled, a new documentary by Michael Moore on: April 30, 2010, 12:16:10 PM
Joking. A documentary you will never see.

This is starting to look a lot like Katrina, but without a hostile media scrutinizing the slow reaction of the administration.

Journalist Michael Moore has come across footage of Obama and Biden taking separate jets to NY to bitch out other people for not doing their job... while the oil spilled.

Obama dispatched a climate change administrator to the region - 8 days later... while the oil spilled.

Obama wants an investigation and a report on his desk within 30 days... while the oil spilled.
5561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: April 30, 2010, 12:03:26 AM
I saw the Taliban outsmarted by the Jewish merchant joke passed around a week or two before it was made infamous by Obama administration National Security Adviser James Jones.  I thought about posting it here and decided not to as I realized it wasn't that funny.  An armed Taliban fighter would not ask an infidel for water, he would kill and take, and that's not funny.  It didn't occur to me that it was offensive for the Jewish merchant stereotype.  I'm curious if people found it offensive?
5562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: April 29, 2010, 12:09:47 AM
"legal and illegal issue are IMHO co-mingled all the time.  This isn't just me doing it."

  - Agreed.  Prof. Hanson co-mingled those issues in the link I offered and that GM posted.  It is true that it offers some cover for those of us who are relatively pro-immigration.  It allows you to tell these people there is a process they need to follow.

"We are all so trained to be terrified of the "bigot label" we can't even discuss the reality of the scope of the problem at hand."

  - We get to discuss it honestly here, but politicians are terrified of having a label like that stick.  I just can't think of other areas of law where we don't enforce a crucial law for fear of offending a major constituency.  For example, IRS enforcement is unpopular and unfair to the group of Americans who actually pay in, yet we do it.  We authorize, staff and fund the IRS to go after this group every year - with brutal techniques for enforcement.  And you don't have to be suspected of a different crime to get questioned or accused.  If you are alive and productive, you are a suspect and required to present paperwork.
5563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: April 28, 2010, 12:08:53 PM
CCP,  I respect your opinion on legal immigration and we all come at this from different parts of the country with different problems.  For us it is those pesky Canadians infiltrating our hockey leagues.  smiley

 I just don't like to see legitimate issues of legal immigration co-mingled with the problem of illegals coming in, like comparing the merits for or against throwing a party at your house versus having a break-in. 

There is no good reason to keep turning a blind eye to illegal entry.
VDH wrote about the issue yesterday.  One point he make is that there is not going to be a mass deportation.  So pretty much everyone in will be staying whether they get some kind of deal or stay under the law.  That reality increases the urgency of border security and enforcement.
5564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: April 27, 2010, 11:52:10 AM
"I didn't literally mean everyone such as Doug or Crafty."

I understood and didn't take anything personal from that.  The issue of legal immigration levels is important and we differ on it which is fine, but the issue of urgency is about the illegals and I would rather keep the focus there.

The doctor example is tricky because the shortage I think is artificial; we keep plenty of good and smart Americans out of the profession with the artificially low number of people we admit to our medical schools (IMO).  Our local University with an overall enrollment of over 50,000 takes an incoming class to the Med. School of about 200 students.  If that is all the young people that can grasp the subject material then so be it, but then we end up being seen by less trained people like physician assistants and nurse practitioners.  Barriers to entry in medicine were designed to maintain the highest quality but also drive up costs based on artificial scarcity.  Medical schools have no market incentive or oversight that I know of to catch up to the reality that we have 300 million patients needing attention.  That should be fixed here primarily, not just fill the need from elsewhere.

In other areas such as software engineering, wireless, optical communications, energy innovation etc. I think all the talented people of the world have the opportunity to be employed or else go the entrepreneurial route that is virtually unlimited. 

"Do we require one has an advanced degree?" - No, but that would be one indicator of not coming for the free perks. Bringing intellectual properties into the country is a good thing for us and bringing people likely to ride on our overloaded system is a bad thing.  "How about they are coming here to get an advanced degree? - I think we allow that very openly if it is legit, but that alone does not bring citizenship.  "How do we define the criteria besides just saying not criminals?"  - I guess I would require each application to be looked at individually and closely.  Key is that WE get to decide who comes in and it should be from a wider cross section of the globe if we want or expect assimilation.
5565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Way Forward: Guiding Principles and Values on: April 24, 2010, 07:48:50 PM
The R party in our state has a platform so long and detailed that no ordinary delegate has read it and no candidate has ever agreed to it.  There has been an interest in coming up with something more succinct and marketable to describe what we strive for.  A year or so back I wrote my top ten list which was ignored by the party; I don't know if I posted it here.  Here is someone else's list that will be voted on by the state party next week.

I would ask every like-minded board reader here to comment on these or write their own answer to this question.  Let's say a 16 or 18 year old or new immigrant walks up to you and asks you to explain briefly what are the central, guiding principles of your political group or movement that you would ask candidates to follow in order to gain your endorsement or wear your label.

It would be especially interesting to see a serious equivalent posted also by any Dem-liberal-progressives.  Rog, Rachel, anyone willing?
Guiding Principles and Values

Individuals, businesses and the country succeed and prosper when government stays out of the way of those who lead the way with integrity, responsibility, charity, hard work, humility, courage, gratitude and hope.

Government has a role in our society – but that role is carefully enumerated in the United States Constitution. Our party believes that a good government does not eclipse roles that are best carried out by individuals, families, houses of faith, charitable organizations or businesses.

1) America is a great nation; we are the “Shining City,” an exemplar of virtues for all other nations and their people. The greatness of the American nation, the virtues of its people, and the success of the American experiment are a beacon of hope for the entire world.

2) Liberty is essential for our society to advance and prosper. The freedom to explore advances in culture, business, faith, science and government improves all of our lives; on the other hand, excessive government regulation and control hinders that development. The ability and freedom to disagree with each other and our government must also be protected; any hindrances to the free market of ideas will sap the ability of America to advance and to better herself.

3) We believe in the ability of the individual, by themselves or through families, businesses, groups and non-profit organizations, rather than the government to solve the problems of today and lead us into the future.

4) Faith is where we derive our moral compass and come to understand the eternal rules of order and rights which God himself has ordained. We believe each person needs to be free in order to explore his/her Faith.

5) Human Life is sacred; it must be protected at all stages.

6) The Family is among our society’s most important institutions. Government must not be allowed to infringe on the sanctity of the family.

7) The Pursuit of Happiness is essential to our existence; we support equal opportunities not equal results.

8 ) Charity comes best from the heart of individuals and cannot be forced or coerced via taxation and regulation.

9) The law must be applied to everyone equally; no one is above the law.

10) Law abiding citizens must be trusted to defend their life, family and property.
5566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: April 24, 2010, 07:27:28 PM
"I notice a lot of conservatives...extolling how they are for raising the "legal" immigration levels as an excuse to say they are against illegal immigration."

CCP, Must admit I am for legal immigration and I don't think it is an excuse.  I find the questions of legal immigration, guest workers and legal visitors a completely different issue from dealing with illegals.

We should be able to allow or debate the merits of allowing people to come for good reasons as in the past, to fill needs, to assimilate, to enjoy opportunities and liberties not available elsewhere and we should be VERY selective about who we take now and call Americans. 

A timeout on new immigration from time to time might make sense while we catch our breath and find out who is here now, where and why.  But then I would like to see limited legal immigration continue.  Demographically I think we will be a dying society without some sources of newcomers.

In order to assimilate, new citizens should not all be from the same region or ethnicity to avoid getting permanent, non-assimilating enclaves like the Muslims are doing in Europe.  In order to fill a need, we must look at education, skills, age, work ethic and reason for coming. 
Dealing with the illegals already here is quite a dilemma.  a) Amnesty is a mockery of our laws and unfair to people who immigrated legally with great patience and expense.  b) Roundup and deportation of all illegals is not going to happen.  c) Round up of cross sections is not exactly equal protection or equal treatment. 

I would like to see a comprehensive program starting with securing our borders first.  Then offer some equivalent to a negotiated plea agreement to all illegals who choose to come forward within a reasonable time that would involve going home within some notice period to reapply, or to negotiate work papers to stay but preclude citizenship.

Our cowardice really showed itself during the census.  Here we have federal workers constitutionally checking each residence to see who lives there for representation purposes.  Especially after 9/11 where we had the hijackers living illegally among us and federal departments not communicating, why not have the census workers ask who is a citizen and discover at least partly who else is here.  No illegal searches but certainly an obligation to report what is in plain view and suspicions of the undocumented that they encounter.
5567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: April 24, 2010, 06:24:53 PM
"When towns turn into cities there seems to be a transition... "

Not just anonymity from size but also from physics we know collisions increase with the square of density.  As the density increases, 'bumping into each other' increases exponentially.

The 'smart growth' advocates want us to live closer together while libertarians often prefer a yard, a driveway and a front door that is not shared with the neighbor.
5568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Personal Finance on: April 22, 2010, 11:27:55 AM
Mine is slightly different but I like that rule of thumb Rachel posted as an indicator of when homes are over-priced.  I don't know when we all accepted the idea that it okay to do something (pay too much) just because everyone else is doing it.

A flaw in the analysis (IMO)is the idea that it is the same house you would rent or buy in the same area.  My advice to some who can't afford it all in this time of low prices is to rent a small apartment while you buy the lot you would build on or buy a home in a lower priced area for rental and at least see some of the appreciation and accumulation of equity there that the homeowner would tend to see.

One remaining loophole in tax law is that you can still buy, live and fix up a house for 2 years and pay no gains tax on certain amounts of profit that you could then roll into the house you truly wanted.  If you rent your dream home now, you might find yourself in a tougher situation to buy it later.
5569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: April 22, 2010, 10:52:44 AM
The argument here makes me think of the times I have been wronged by police, once by their action and others by their inaction over a couple of decades.  In the case of the action they took, they had to deal as I did with a false accusation and the truth sorted itself out over time.  In the cases of inaction, there were limited clues to solve those crimes so indicating there is little they can do about it was probably just the unfortunate truth that I didn't want to hear at the time.

Everybody comes at this with different experiences, but I must come down on the side of GM.  The system we have works pretty well.  Where I live I can't imagine locking my home or car and our town budgets for roughly half a cop.  In the inner city, a house unattended will find its plumbing pipes stolen.  We need some presence and availability of law enforcement, but some possibility of crime is better than living under total surveillance and police control.

Municipal budget challenges are one limiting factor on police forces and the rules they operate under are another.

Many of the complaints against police are really complaints against the laws, as Rarick suggests.  You may want only deadly crimes dealt in a peaceful  area but the Giuliani experience for big cities suggests that when they started writing tickets for littering, loitering and spitting, the murder rate went down.

My main gripes against the strong arm of government are against the other departments like inspectors, regulators, taxing authorities, eminent domain and IRS for examples.  Again, the laws we pass set us up for these types of abuse.  I have twice this year paid civil fines far greater than punishment for a misdemeanor for the crime of converting vacant property into code compliant affordable housing in the city of Minneapolis.  They call it an administrative fee not a fine, but if I don't pay the 'fee' it becomes a much larger fine and ultimately a taking.
5570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The way Forward? on: April 21, 2010, 05:52:00 PM
Thanks Freki.  I remember you are from Texas and was looking for your feedback on Perry.  As with Mark Sanford, I was hoping to hear they are great guys but will settle for hearing the truth before we head any further down the wrong road.

Anybody from further away have a first impression yet about our governor - Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)?  He is trying to run but not making much of an impact that I can see.
5571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Warming or Cooling? on: April 21, 2010, 10:24:43 AM
Linear regression trends in temperatures (deg C per century):

US, 1880-2009:  +0.64 deg/century

US, 1997-2009:  -2.50 deg/century

Globe, 1880-2009:  +0.57 deg/century

Globe, 2002-2009:  -0.40 deg/century

Data Source:  NASA/GISS.
5572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 21, 2010, 10:02:44 AM
A new report from Americans for Limited Government (ALG) clearly shows that the Democrats have destroyed our economy since they took control of our lives in January of 2007.

The most eye catching of ALG’s data items is the sad comparison of the rate of 4.6% unemployment at the start of 2007 and today’s alarming 9.7%. In real terms this means while there were about 7 million unemployed workers when the Democrats took over, today that number has more than doubled to 14.8 million out of work Americans.
5573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Toppled Kyrgyz leader insists he is still president on: April 21, 2010, 09:56:30 AM
 I would not want to be this guy's food tester...
AFP - Kyrgyzstan's ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev insisted Wednesday that he was still the rightful leader of his country, breaking several days of silence after his flight into exile.
"I, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, am the legally elected president of Kyrgyzstan and recognised by the international community," he said, speaking to reporters in Belarus where he took refuge earlier this week
"I do not recognise my resignation. Nine months ago the people of Kyrgyzstan elected me their president and there is no power that can stop me. Only death can stop me," Bakiyev said in the Belarussian capital Minsk.
Bakiyev was toppled by a popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago that brought a new interim government to power in the former Soviet republic.
After holding out in his stronghold in southern Kyrgyzstan for about a week, Bakiyev flew to neighbouring Kazakhstan, and the interim government announced that he had submitted his resignation.
On Monday he and several family members left Kazakhstan and arrived in Belarus at the invitation of strongman Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Speaking in the Minsk-based headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a grouping of former Soviet republics, Bakiyev lashed out at the interim government which replaced him.
"Everyone must know the the bandits who try to take power are the executors of a external force and have no legitimacy," he said with steely determination.
"I call on leaders of the international community: do not set a precedent and do not recognise this gang as the legitimate authorities," he said.
"Kyrgyzstan will be nobody's colony. My people want to be free and will become free," Bakiyev added.
5574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rick Perry on: April 21, 2010, 09:33:36 AM
Before we narrow the list of names, we need to expand it.  Among people not running for President I added Paul Ryan recently and today mention the largest red state's longest serving governor.  Roger Simon CEO of Pajamas Media wrote:

    "Perry is a people person on a level I have not quite seen before in politics. You even worry about him, if he ever does make a White House run.

    When Rudy Giuliani was Mayor of New York, he had some of that people person thing, throwing out the ball at Yankee games and taking the role of America's Mayor after 9/11. But he doesn't have as much charisma as Perry."
5575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: April 20, 2010, 12:55:41 PM
"prevented non-union shops from bidding"

Didn't know hope and change included steering lucrative projects to your friends for payback.  When you exclude qualified bidders on public projects, you are stealing from the taxpayers besides steering jobs to the already powerful.

Another form of elitism as unions are the high end of labor.  He risks offending the other 85-90% if they are paying attention.  Some 40% of the union vote is Republican.  Most union members are white males, a group slipping away from Democrats.  And public employees lean hard to the Dem side whether unionized or not.
5576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: April 20, 2010, 12:44:44 PM
Crafty wrote: "Like the Founding Fathers, like me, [Glen Beck] believes in a Creator."

CCP:When they speak of reaching to Christ for strength and direction, you need to translate to you own faith for meaning.  I can't remember having a President who just won't go to church except for political reasons and his lack of belief or faith finds its way into policy, like the transfer of power from the people to the bureaucrats.  Liberalism and atheism have a connection that must make liberal Jewish voters cringe.  Wearing Christianity too openly turns them off worse.

I agree in general with CCP that this is no time politically to wear a specific religion on our sleeves.  Fiscal survival - tax and spend issues, basically agreeing to a constitutionally limited definition and role for government should take center stage and difficult and divisive social issues beyond that can wait.

But commentators don't need 51% to succeed.  There is an authenticity to Beck telling his audience who he is, where that focus may need to be different if he were a candidate.
5577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: April 19, 2010, 03:44:35 PM
CCP, See what crafty says but it sounds like you are referring to radio and I think Crafty is watching his television show.  I don't see cable shows so I only know him through radio.  There can be a big difference in how they come across on the different media.  Also Crafty may be viewing with commercials cut out (?) which I imagine makes quite an improvement in the quality of the time for the viewer.
5578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: April 17, 2010, 11:38:27 AM
"the answer to your question, "But I wonder how many of those among the 46 percent would consider voting for an actual Republican", is very few."

CCP, thanks.  I agree and I did read the previous.  The question comes from the powerline post quoted. My point is that any noticable gain with any of these groups is a big deal.  If republicans can win 25%  of Jewish vote it chips away at those historic differences. Same for winning >10% of black vote or >40% of Hispanic vote.  These could be decisive in a divided nation and shift the momentum for the future.

I find it strange that I am more pro-Israel than Jewish voters, more pro-life than Catholic voters and more protective of the right to keep wealth than the wealthy, more pro-family and pro-marriage as a single father than most intact Hispanic families, stronger on school choice than the majority of those who live in failed districts etc, but those who appear to me to be voting against their own interests offer the greatest opportunity for political change IMO even if it is small and slow.
5579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Group politics - Jewish vote on: April 16, 2010, 09:43:01 AM
Much as I hate group politics and generalities, group identity plays some role in voting patterns.  Below is a short piece by Paul Mirengoff at Powerline, he says Obama carried the Jewish vote by a margin of 78-21 but that support is falling. (I posted at 'The Way Forward' that the Dem-Repub split is roughly 90-10 for Blacks, and 60-40 for Hispanic.)  Gay vote split is about 75-25 Dem.  Obama won 41% of white males.  Whichever political side you are on in a divided electorate, making progress in any or all of the groups swings elections.
"There's a new  poll ( according to which 42 percent of American Jewish voters say they would vote to re-elect President Obama and 46 percent say they would consider voting for someone else. But I wonder how many of those among the 46 percent would consider voting for an actual Republican. Nonetheless, the poll provides some evidence of intelligent life among my fellow American Jews. In 2008, according to exit polls, Obama carried the Jewish vote by a margin of 78-21" - Paul Mirengoff, Powerline
5580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy 'Fair Tax' on: April 15, 2010, 01:45:51 PM
Rarick, GM, all
(please see discussion in this thread from around March 2009 on this topic)
In the hypothetical, I like the 'fair tax' as well. Closer to the theme of the founders who had only import duties then which I do not like now.  I like the Laffer proposal with 11% flat income tax plus 11% corporate income tax MUCH better, but is also not possible politically.

The transition to consumption-only taxes from where we are now is impossible at this time.  It requires FIRST a repeal of the federal government's power to tax income.  Otherwise you are creating an additional layer of taxation.  Our opponents are talking about a VAT right now as an ADDITIONAL layer of taxation.  Repeal of the 16th amendment is not going to happen in this political environment, you won't win support from independents, moderates Dems or moderate Republicans, and you need roughly 75% support to end all income taxation when we are more than a trillion a year in the red already. 

This is no time politically for long range hypotheticals.  We need to oppose new tax increases, repeal the most recent 25 new taxes signed by Obama (, make 'permanent' the expiring cuts, and then CUT SPENDING FIRST! (IMHO!)

5581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 14, 2010, 11:31:40 AM
Thanks BBG, these guys had to at least once study or write about incentives and disincentives even if they deny the effects of their policies today.  Regarding the panhandlers, when they wave the cup of coins past me I always say no thanks, I have plenty.  I am acutely aware that if I throw a buck in the jar I only reinforce their view of how to get money.

In line at a Target store the other day I stood behind 3 cute little girls begging their mom for candy during the wait for checkout.  The mom said 'no' almost a dozen times and I almost congratulated her, but kept my mouth shut.  At the end she said 'yes but just this once'.  Begging insistently led to candy and the lecture after the yes is not the lesson they take from it.  
5582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 14, 2010, 11:19:48 AM
"having nurse practitioners and physician assistants do what [doctors] do"

Except that with public unionization and lack of market discipline on costs and efficiencies, we will be paying the less qualified as much as we would or could have been paying the MD's IMO.

As far as I know the physician shortage is matched with a system of keeping good people out.  The extreme salaries needed to pay doctors (in the eyes of others) comes from the limits on supply and the artificially high cost of higher eduction.  Medical schools have no constraints on costs either until people quit applying and entering at those prices.

I'm waiting for my libertarian friends to call for legalization of private, unlicensed health care if we are moving toward less trained and less qualified practitioners anyway.
5583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unemployment extensions "cause person to remain unemployed longer" on: April 14, 2010, 10:40:20 AM
 "The second way government assistance programs contribute to long-term unemployment is by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. Each unemployed person has a 'reservation wage'—the minimum wage he or she insists on getting before accepting a job. Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs increase [the] reservation wage, causing an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer."

 - Lawrence H. Summers, 1999, current Obama White House economic adviser
5584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: April 14, 2010, 10:35:41 AM
Posting about Justice Stevens elsewhere I was reminded again about the Kelo decision where the government gets to decide who owns YOUR house and I noticed that the timing of that decision coincides with the peak of the housing market.  It's not that people don't still need homes or want to own their own and make them nice, it's just that the dream of paying off your mortgages and having 100% control over your small piece of America for a lifetime (and pass it on to your heirs) has became a farce.  Your rights as what we used to call the property owner don't extend much further than having your name appear as 'taxpayer' on the next property tax assessment.

People kept putting large amounts borrowed money into homes but were less and less motivated to invest very much of their own, which happened to make the market less and less stable prior to collapse.
5585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Good Riddance Justice Stevens! on: April 14, 2010, 10:14:44 AM
This piece by Thomas Sowell covers my view very nicely.  Win or lose it should be good for the Republic to watch new confirmation hearings this summer and have a review of the system we once called limited government.

Good Riddance!
By Thomas Sowell

When Supreme Court Justices retire, there is usually some pious talk about their "service," especially when it has been a long "service." But the careers of all too many of these retiring jurists, including currently retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, have been an enormous disservice to this country.

Justice Stevens was on the High Court for 35 years-- more's the pity, or the disgrace. Justice Stevens voted to sustain racial quotas, created "rights" out of thin air for terrorists, and took away American citizens' rights to their own homes in the infamous "Kelo" decision of 2005.

The Constitution of the United States says that the government must pay "just compensation" for seizing a citizen's private property for "public use." In other words, if the government has to build a reservoir or bridge, and your property is in the way, they can take that property, provided that they pay you its value.

What has happened over the years, however, is that judges have eroded this protection and expanded the government's power-- as they have in other issues. This trend reached its logical extreme in the Supreme Court case of Kelo v. City of New London. This case involved local government officials seizing homes and businesses-- not for "public use" as the Constitution specified, but to turn this private property over to other private parties, to build more upscale facilities that would bring in more tax revenues.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the Supreme Court opinion that expanded the Constitution's authorization of seizing private property for "public use" to seizing private property for a "public purpose." And who would define what a "public purpose" is? Basically, those who were doing the seizing. As Justice Stevens put it, the government authorities' assessment of a proper "public purpose" was entitled to "great respect" by the courts.

Let's go back to square one. Just who was this provision of the Constitution supposed to restrict? Answer: government officials. And to whom would Justice Stevens defer: government officials. Why would those who wrote the Constitution waste good ink putting that protection in there, if not to protect citizens from the very government officials to whom Justice Stevens deferred?

John Paul Stevens is a classic example of what has been wrong with too many Republicans' appointments to the Supreme Court. The biggest argument in favor of nominating him was that he could be confirmed by the Senate without a fight.

Democratic presidents appoint judges who will push their political agenda from the federal bench, even if that requires stretching and twisting the Constitution to reach their goals.

Republicans too often appoint judges whose confirmation will not require a big fight with the Democrats. You can always avoid a fight by surrendering, and a whole wing of the Republican party has long ago mastered the art of preemptive surrender.

The net result has been a whole string of Republican Justices of the Supreme Court carrying out the Democrats' agenda, in disregard of the Constitution. John Paul Stevens has been just one.

There may have been some excuse for President Ford's picking such a man, in order to avoid a fight, at a time when he was an unelected President who came into office in the wake of Richard Nixon's resignation in disgrace after Watergate, creating lasting damage to the public's support of the Republicans.

But there was no such excuse for the elder President Bush to appoint David Souter, much less for President Eisenhower, with back-to-back landslide victories at the polls, to inflict William J. Brennan on the country.

In light of these justices' records, and in view of how long justices remain on the court, nominating such people was close to criminal negligence.

If and when the Republicans return to power in Washington, we can only hope that they remember what got them suddenly and unceremoniously dumped out of power the last time. Basically, it was running as Republicans and then governing as if they were Democrats, running up big deficits, with lots of earmarks and interfering with the market.
But their most lasting damage to the country has been putting people like John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.
5586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: How to cut government spending on: April 14, 2010, 12:48:29 AM
Great category! Where to start?!  May I suggest that no program is too small for mention.  Chopping the small ones helps to set the can-do attitude for chopping the big ones. 

There was a federal study of the sexual habits of female college freshman.  We can get people do that for free, and when did that become an enumerated power?

A moratorium on UN dues.

Send NO ONE to the next climate change conference.  Let them meet without us and see if we can get the conference notes free on the internet.

Social Security ratios should be indexed back to where it was solvent.  In other words a floating retirement age that maintains a sustainable ratio of x workers for each retiree.  Means test Social Security.

End all paid brand advertising for food stamps. 

US government out of automobile manufacturing.

End insurance company bailouts, investment bank bailouts.

End all agricultural subsidies.  (Keep the Food Safety Inspection Service.)

No retirement packages for elected officials.

End all public unions.  If you work for 'we the people', there is no evil capitalist.

Privatize the mortgage business.

Strategic changes in military and defense:  Bigger sticks, shorter wars, cut 10% off the budget.

Repeal Obamacare. Repeal Obamacare. Repeal Obamacare. That was worth repeating.

Severely limit paid congressional staff.

Shorten the Census form to its original purpose.

End earmarks.

Switch to flat tax and send home 90% of the IRS.

End federal funding of local transportation systems such as light rail.

Identify all the programs that are not the federal government's responsibility, for the ones that you can't end instantly phase them out on a 7-10 straight line cut to zero.

Sell off 10% of federal lands over 10 years and reduce land management staff by 10%.
5587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: April 13, 2010, 10:46:49 AM
I missed the discussion of 93 degrees in NJ in April.  As that was posted I was driving through a brutal winter storm with glare ice coming out of the I-70 Eisenhower tunnel in Colo.  Skied 19 inches of fresh wintery powder at Vail the next day, not the slushy stuff you normally associate with spring skiing.  This week they are closed for the season because of Forest Service rules, not because the snow is gone.  Snow depth is still around 70 to 80 inches at many of the areas.

At home (MN) it was a brutally long and cold winter (even for us and that is long and cold), followed by a warm spring so far.

My take:  If you are truly noticing an increase of about .0023 degrees warming per decade, then maybe it is human caused global warming.  But if it is 40-50 degrees warmer than usual on a particular day, then it is weather.

Head of the IPCC after climategate admitted no statistically significant warming since 1995.
5588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How Will the Economy Affect Midterm Elections? on: April 13, 2010, 10:22:43 AM
A couple of points and a piece continuing on the projection that the economy of this year's elections will have a mixture of statistics for both sides to point to as evidence of why they deserve your vote.  The Dems are better at finding and using obscure stats to make their point than the R's are at findinig and using obvious ones.

1. Remember 1992.  The smallest of slowdowns was spun as the biggest recession since the great depression and our unenthused Presdent, who was guilty only of signing on with a promise breaking Dem budget, took the entire hit even though the tax and spend bills all came out of a D-congress. 

2. Remember 2006. We were on a 50 consecutive months roll of job growth coming out of the crash of 2000 and the attacks and recession of 2001.  Dems found a twist or two in the statistics to make record, explosive growth look like a bad economy.

3. Dems took power Jan 2007, announced a full list of anti-growth agenda items and killed off all growth with the most inflated of all bubbles crashing first and hardest, but with unemployment from anti-growth policies becoming the lagging and enduring result.  Despite this sequence, most voters in 2008 blamed Bush and the Republican congress that has been gone since 2006 for the problems coming into the Obama Presidency and most may still blame them today.  Certainly every administration official is required to re-state that blame in almost every economic sentence.

4. There are and will be signs of growth in Nov 2010, if current projections are at all accurate.  We (if you are conservative leaning or Republican)have been losing the PR battle in all but the most obvious of situations.  So don't take this electoral shift opportunity for granted.

That said, here is a piece from the Atlantic warning Dems that recovery won't be strong enough or soon enough for them to count on:

How Will the Economy Affect Midterm Elections?

It is by now conventional wisdom that the economy is going to cost Democrats big in the midterm elections . . . so it's refreshing to see folks like James Surowiecki challenge that wisdom.  After all, the economy has started growing again, and, in what must be an astonishing coincidence, we're just about to get a big river of stimulus money sluicing through voter pockets.

Possibly.  But conventional wisdom has a lot going for it.  I agree with Surowiecki that what matters is not the headline numbers on the newspaper page, but peoples' actual felt experience with the economy, particularly real income growth.  That felt experience is maybe improving a tiny amount.  Consider the following, however:

    * At this point, there is not enough time for employment to recover significantly.  We lost a lot of jobs, and if analysts are right that this represents mostly structural change in the economy (rather than a temporary collapse in aggregate demand), employment will rebound only slowly.  It took years under the Bush administration to work off the relatively modest collapse around 9/11.
    * Most peoples' major asset will still be worth a whole lot less than it used to be.  And people who are pinched will not have the housing piggybank to cushion their anxiety.
    * Delinquencies are finally slacking of, but the backlog of foreclosures is eventually going to come on the market, further pushing down home values in many areas.
    * We can't really afford to expand the various forms of housing support much further . . . but if we stop them, housing markets will look even worse.
    * Low inflation means the cost of living doesn't go up . . . but people are now conditioned to expect nominal wage increases.  Money illusion is going to make people perceive the labor market, and income growth, as worse than they actually are.
    * Health care costs are going up due to selection effects in individual and small business markets--healthy people are cutting the expense when they lose their jobs, landing companies with a smaller, sicker pool.  That's going to further cut into any wage growth.
    * Budget deficits are almost certainly going to keep going up in the short term.  People get especially touchy about deficits when they are personally strapped.
    * Oil prices are still rising.

I'm not saying the Democrats can't pull it out.  Nothing is impossible, and they have GDP growth on their side.  On the other hand, they're facing some pretty strong headwinds--much stiffer than Bill Clinton faced when he lost the House to the Republicans in 1994.  And contra what I was assured by many Democrats, health care reform has not gotten more popular since it passed; arguably, it's gotten slightly less popular.

That base had better be very motivated.
5589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: April 12, 2010, 11:41:28 PM
Besides mass murder speculation, another thing that follows from the list of violations by Russia brought to light here is what a joke it is that we still go through the UN 'Security Council' for crucial matters of global security with Russia sitting as an equal 'partner'.

I hope that in the next generation of leaders someone has the courage to stand up to this farce a la Reagan addressing the value of the wall:  Mr. Secretary General of the UN, tear down this phony security council.  To the Ways and Means chair and the UN, we wont pay one dollar more than Uganda or Congo pays ever again or bring important issues before the security council until the council includes only countries with a sincere interest in global security.
5590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: April 12, 2010, 06:45:21 PM
Didn't Russia just foment the overthrow the govt of Krygyztan...invaded Georgia without consequence...uses its status as a natural gas supplier to squeeze and nudge Europe towards desired behaviors...backed down the US from anti-missile defense for Europe...?

Yes, and shame on us.  They are ruthless and on a roll. Why would they risk all that for an inefficient takedown of a Polish leader who annoys them?  There is a difference between assassination and terrorism.  Downing an airliner doesn't make sense to me. I like the other story about a powerful person thinking this can't or won't happen to them better, it fits the aviation mentality of JFK jr, Paul Wellstone, Ron Brown and maybe John Denver.  Not excusing Russians from their other crimes.
5591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: April 12, 2010, 01:47:43 PM
"If everyone is paying a flat percentage, or a pay as you go fee, then everyone is paying a fair share."

I am with Rarick on this one (unfortunately that only makes two of us).  Every dollar earned should be taxed the same.  Then we all have the same stake in our nation when we vote for or against programs, taxes and expenditures.  That is the way public spending gets scrutinized and contained. Necessary assistance should be addressed only on the spending side and better yet on the private charitable side. 

Since this is politically impossible, then the compromise has to be to move only in the direction of flatter, wider and simpler taxes that reach further into the electorate, not to target or isolate any group as the party of free lunch and class warfare proposes.
5592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: April 12, 2010, 01:34:55 PM
"I hope the Polish investigators have the skill sets required to do a proper forensic analysis of the evidence."

Agree and they should seek assistance from whoever are the best at this.  My doubt isn't that Putin is morally incapable of this, just that I assume the Polish President is more an annoyance than a threat to him. Putin is a shrewd politician and downing an airliner full of innocent people could hurt even his reputation.
5593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: April 12, 2010, 01:25:33 PM
A justification for opposing meth lab next door is the unusually high risk of explosion and contamination.  Liberties tend to end when they cross over and take away someone else's liberty - (like abortion).

Over the weekend, a neighbor of a property of mine had a huge barn fire very close to my property.  My tenants were downwind and evacuated; any further spreading could have certainly taken lives.  Cause unknown so the lesson from it is unknown, point is that some regulation can be justified.  This was in a very unregulated, unenforced area, my other properties are in the highly and overly regulated city where virtually nothing is allowed.  Yet all my real damage seems to occur in the regulated area including vandalism, crime and continuous threats of closure from the regulators as I try be a law abiding citizen and eek out a living providing affordable housing.  They can't regulate reasonably and stop there. They can't send a statement or notice without a threat of closure, because that is their power. It becomes an occupation, a power and an entity all its own.

At our own home the neighbor built a tall home on a narrow lot and blocked all mid-day winter sun from our house forever.  There should a law against that. Actually 13 different ordinances prohibit what they built, so variances were approved to get the 'improvement', much like Kelo.  My pet peeve is the certain laws come with exceptions.  Real laws against real crimes like murder don't require exceptions.  For zoning and regulating people's lives and properties, the exceptions always bring us back toward third world bribe and corruption and power of the state, and away from equal protection.
5594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: April 11, 2010, 11:09:16 AM
I have heard no foul play.  What a tragedy for all 97 aboard.  I'm sure no tears were shed though by Putin regarding Kaczynski.  Can't help being reminded of whistle blower Alexander Litvinenko with the radioactive poisoning and Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko with dioxin poisoning.
5595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 11, 2010, 10:57:11 AM
I noticed that Brian Wesbury predicts 4% GDP growth by year end.  The campaigns of both sides will have a variety of statstics to claim as their evidence of success and failure.  I would assume unemployment will stay high as long as investment taxes remain punitive.  Republicans will need to make the connection to working people that overtaxing employers does not bring in free money.
5596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Poland on: April 11, 2010, 10:40:08 AM
Freedom lost a friend in the plane crash that killed Poland's president. 
What's Next for Poland

In the United States, all you have to do is say "Pearl Harbor," and everyone knows what you are talking about. In Poland—a country that was invaded countless times by Russians from the east and Germans from the west—there are far more names of places that everyone instantly recognizes because of their tragic symbolism. But one stands out above all others: Katyn. The fact that the plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including a who's who of the Polish political and military elite, crashed as it was attempting to land in the western Russian city of Smolensk near the Katyn forest, makes this national tragedy overwhelming in its emotional impact.

Kaczynski and the others on the ill-fated flight were supposed to go to the Katyn forest to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the execution of 21, 857 Polish POWs and civilians on the direct orders of Joseph Stalin and his Politburo. When I was growing up in our family's new home in the United States, my father—who had served in the Polish Army in 1939 and then fled to the West, joining Polish forces under British command—made sure that his children knew the full meaning of Katyn. Poland hadn't only been invaded by Hitler, he reminded us; it had also been invaded by Stalin's armies, and then they had attempted to wipe out any future source of opposition by executing so many of its top officers and men.

The fact that Stalin and subsequent Soviet and Polish communist regimes insisted on blaming this crime on the Nazis, who invaded Russia only much later, just magnified Katyn's potency as a symbol. When I started visiting Poland as a student and then as a journalist in communist times, people only had to whisper the word "Katyn" to signal their opposition to the government and its wholesale falsification of history. You could talk openly about the truth of Katyn only in the West, where Polish exiles like my father and grandfather, who served in the Polish government-in-exile in London during World War II, kept insisting that the cover-up was as bad as the original crime.

But things began to change after the fall of communism in 1989, triggered by Solidarity's successful battle for freedom in Poland, which included the freedom to tell the full truth about Katyn. In a goodwill gesture to Poland in 1992, Russia's new President Boris Yeltsin finally released the order from Stalin's Politburo that confirmed Soviet responsibility for the murders. While this briefly improved Polish-Russian relations, Yeltsin's successor Vladimir Putin took a harder line on history, initially encouraging a more positive view of Stalin ("the most successful Soviet leader ever," proclaimed a Russian teacher's manual in 2007) and renewed equivocation about his record of mass murder. That included new efforts by some Russians to deny the truth about Katyn.

The irony is that this year, on the 70th anniversary of those murders, there was renewed hope that the truth would really set both countries free.  Four days before the fatal crash, Putin had accompanied Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to Katyn and admitted Stalin's responsibility for what happened—although he also tossed in a pseudo-justification by claiming the Soviet leader was avenging earlier mistreatment of Russian POWs by Poles in the two countries' war of 1920.

That was precisely the kind of statement that still infuriated Poles, and particularly someone like President Kaczynski, 60, whose experience as a Solidarity activist in the 1980s made him instinctively distrustful of Russian leaders who weren't willing to come completely clean about their history. When I interviewed Kaczynski shortly after Russia's brief war with Georgia in August 2008, he was uncompromising in his language. "There was a test of strength, and Russia showed the face it wanted to show—an imperial face," he told me. He also blasted the West for its passive response.

Yet even Kaczynski, as tough as he was on the Russians, could imagine a better day—so long, as he put it, that the world would "convince Russia that the imperial era is over." And the very fact that such high-level Polish delegations, representing so much of recent Polish history, were flying often to commemorate the Katyn massacre demonstrated how times have changed. Among those who died today was Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last Polish president-in-exile in London, who officially gave up his post when former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa was elected president of a newly free Poland in 1990. Kaczorowski's government was a largely symbolic continuation of the first Polish government-in-exile during World War II, the government my grandfather was a part of. To Poles, all these connections feel personal.

And then there was a whole new generation of parliamentarians and government officials who died today as well. Among them was Undersecretary of Defense Stanislaw Komorowski, a gifted former scientist who then embarked on a diplomatic career. I met him at a small dinner party in Warsaw in October. As he juggled urgent calls on his cell about Vice President Biden's visit to Poland to discuss missile defense plans, he was both witty and highly knowledgeable, covering a broad range of issues in a coolly analytical way that was quite different from the more impassioned style of slightly older ex-opposition activists like President Kaczynski.

But nothing can be coolly analytical about the way Poles are thinking about Katyn. Now it's not only a name that connotes a past tragedy with continuing political overtones; it will also live in the memories of today's Poles as a symbol of the loss of so many of their countrymen who experienced the full range of the country's recent history—and its battles over the meaning of the place where they, too, came to die.

Newsweek's former Warsaw bureau chief Andrew Nagorski is now vice president and director of public policy at the EastWest Institute. He is the author of  The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II.
5597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Health Care, 2 questions on: April 05, 2010, 10:44:36 AM
First, remember poor people have free coverage, elderly have coverage, the rich have coverage (even if it is self insured) and the employees of most medium and large firms have plans, so we are filling a gap mostly where the cost doesn't show value to the person declining coverage.

I'll go with the easy one first: "2) What should be the rules for insurance companies when someone develops a serious condition?  Should the insurance company be allowed to drop them?"  

No.  That is what you are carrying healthy insurance for, IMO, so it will be in place when you are not healthy or eligible for affordable coverage.  The policy pays up to the policy lifetime limits if the premiums are maintained.  Otherwise, who would ever insure while they are healthy?

1)  What should be the rules concerning someone with a pre-existing condition?  What is the conceptual basis for your opinion?

Conceptually, there is no easy answer.  We can deny coverage but we don't deny treatment.  This current law will requires 'repeal and REPLACE'. You can't politically just repeal and this is the heart of it.

Generally when I see a 3-way financial dispute, in this case the taxpayer, the insurance company and the patient, I say split it 3 ways in compromise.  There should be a one-time settlement to allow all people with pre-conditions now to get in.

Going forward without an individual mandate, the incentive needs to be to take coverage now while you're healthy and a strong disincentive to wait.  All you can really do is require a spend down of people's future assets and income if they wait.  Isn't this done with nursing home costs now?
5598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 04, 2010, 11:35:18 AM
"Sec'y of the Treasury Geithner has recently been talking a bit about how the Chinese should revalue the renminbi.  Coincidentally we now begin to hear that the Chinese may get on board for some lesser level of sanctions against Iran." 

The Geithner report trashing China over currency manipulation was supposed to come out Apr 15.  Hu visits the 12th. Geithner 'delays' the report trashing China.  China presumably will agree not to fully block watered down sanctions which we all agree are just symbolic, not effective.  This pressures Israel not to strike because the international 'community' is 'doing something'.  And then what? We all live happily ever after?

No one can say ever again that the Obama administration doesn't have experience with this type of negotiations, not after healtcare via the Louisiana purchase, the Cornhusker kickback, the federal hospital for Connecticut and the State Bank of North Dakota.  These guys know how to put a deal together!
 April 4 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner delayed a scheduled April 15 report to Congress on exchange-rate policies, sidestepping a decision on whether to accuse China of manipulating the value of the yuan.

Geithner in a statement yesterday urged China to move toward a more flexible currency and said a series of meetings over the next three months will be “critical” to bringing policy changes that lead to a stronger, “more balanced” global economy. The delay comes as Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit Washington for a nuclear summit April 12-13.
5599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: April 03, 2010, 01:08:35 PM
I agree with Prentice.  Your money needs to go directly to the right candidates and the right causes and you get to decide what that is.  After the nominees are set for each race, then you may have to hold your nose and vote, but there is no reason to have your hard earned money support candidates elsewhere around the country who will later be stabbing you in the back.

For example, McCain's career of being a maverick kills conservative candidates in other states. Dem incumbents excuse their extremist votes by saying it was a bipartisan vote, that they were joined in that vote by the respected R-senator from Arizona so therefore it was a reasonable position.

CCP I agree with you about Michael Steele, but think firing him now will only make things worse.  The RNC is not the republican party, the power today is from the ground up.  Let the party succeed in spite of the so-called leaderhip.  If the RNC does not earn your dollar then just go after the candidates and causes who will.  A group of MN businessmen have put up some attention grabbing billboards, here's one in Michele Bachmann's district this year:

5600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 02, 2010, 01:53:15 PM
If we define 'rightist' as someone who believes in a less intrusive, controlling government, pretty hard to find fascist in that definition.  Wanting the Pledge of Allegiance recited is about as far as we go, but we are asking them to pledge to keep our liberties.

With most leftists, the charges of fascism are exaggerated.  They don't really want to control ALL of your life cradle to grave.  Far more than they should but not all of it.

When you look at the kooks who commit the atrocities, I thinks the ties to their politics either way are mostly irrelevant.  Their violence does not further their agenda in any of the examples.  They are mentally ill, criminally deranged or physically missing a crucial connection in their brain, whichever political side they say they are on.  Bill Maher flipping the bird doesn't move the moral or economic arguments for or against national health care or closing Guantanamo one iota in either direction.  It just means he's a jerk.
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