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5751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 07, 2008, 10:44:20 PM
CCP, Interesting observations on McCain regarding SS taxation.  First on the tax (and this should be in rants)...If social security is an insurance program then the tax and benefit schedule should apply the same to all.  In other words, you shouldn't have to pay premiums beyond some income level if you aren't buying into additional benefits.  Clearly the benefits cap out so the 'liberals' like Obama are saying they are ready to change the system over to a welfare program - unlimited pay-ins with means-tested payouts.  But if we admit SS is a welfare program, then like McCain says, everything is on the table.  Like getting people off the system or partially off and into private accounts.  (That didn't go very well last time.)  If you tax all income eliminating the cap, then the rates could or should be much lower for all. When all people pay the same rate on all income and face an uncertainty about receiving the benefits then maybe more people will consider lowering the rate and shrinking the program, which would be fine with me.  How many productive people have social security as their retirement plan centerpiece?

When you tax to 125k, skip to 250k, then tax to infinity (Obama's SS plan), you have left all logic and ideology IMO and are just targeting a demographic for their prostituted vote.  Does anyone vote on principle anymore?

Back to McCain: "McCain Irks Republicans With Confusion Over Social Security Tax."

McCain has been irking Republicans as a career path for as long as I can remember.  Like Bush Sr., Bob Dole and even 'W', he doesn't really understand or espouse the efficiency advantages or the moral case for low tax rates.  McCain opposed the most recent tax cuts.  Like Democrats, McCain expected revenue losses while revenues in fact surged 44% in 4 years from $1.78 Trillion in 2003 to $2.57 Trillion in 2007. That was a serious miscalculation.

Republicans and conservatives are gathering around McCain with soft support for a number of reasons, such as Obama being the senate's no.1 liberal, strong credentials for the war against jihad and other factors - pro-life, better tax and spend plan than Obama and the importance of the next supreme court picks.  Another factor is that conservatives also show up to vote for other offices and questions.  Here we have a key senate race and open seats for congress, state representative or county commissioner.  Our county commissioner spends more money than 7 or 8 of the smallest states.  It's pretty hard for an opinionated conservative to not show up or to be unable to pick between McCain and Obama.

The McCain plan for conservatives and the Republican plan in picking McCain does not involve a love affair.  McCain annoying his base is an attractive quality to independent voters and working class Democrats that (allegedly) hold the key to victory.

He needs to lay out precise positions but the reality is that he will be working with a Pelosi-Reid congress and none of his good proposals (from my point of view) will become law.  His bad ideas (from my point of view) will be welcomed, celebrated and implemented.

This plays into McCain's hands however in the sense that Obama's serious proposals really will be passed into law for the most part, giving people plenty of reason to fear him and fret the details.  With all the talk about change, conventional wisdom tells us that people generally favor the status quo over the unknown and voters subconsciously choose divided government more often than not.
5752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics, The Drill Nothing Congress on: July 29, 2008, 10:51:35 PM
This week in Washington, House Republicans will try to produce a little political heat from rising energy prices. They will attempt to block Congress from adjourning for its summer recess if Democrats don’t allow an up or down vote on the GOP energy plan, which includes expanded drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). House procedures -- which heavily favor the majority party -- will allow the Democrats to thwart those efforts, but Republicans can claim the issue: Congress will leave town without an up or down vote on expanded OCS drilling. Republicans hope movement in public opinion in favor of offshore drilling, spurred by record gasoline prices, will produce a new and effective line of political attack.

The GOP hypothesis draws some support in at least one Senate race. Former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer has made progress in his contest against U.S. Rep. Mark Udall in Colorado, according to the most recent polling. What accounts for the GOP’s recent improvement? It’s gasoline prices – and more specifically, the stark differences between the two candidates on drilling policies. Voters apparently now see a much clearer connection between extreme environmental policies – like banning all offshore drilling – and pain at the pump. The last two independent polls show the race moving from about a 10-point Udall advantage to a near dead heat.

The Rasmussen numbers show a particularly strong shift among swing voters: “Among unaffiliated voters, Udall leads by just four percentage points. A month ago, he held a twenty-one point lead among these voters." You can read the full Rasmussen Colorado poll report here.

This piece in today’s Washington Times underscores how Republican Schaffer has transformed his support for drilling from a political liability to an electoral asset.

Record gasoline prices linked with what House Republican leader John Boehner calls the “Drill Nothing Congress” could fuel the political engines of many Republican congressional candidates this fall.
5753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 17, 2008, 06:56:55 PM
SB,  I agree that Hinderacker's closing remark might have been offered at least partly in jest.  Previous American scandals stipulated, do you have any comment on the points about Obama's Iraq and Afghanistan inconsistencies alleged in the piece?  Back to scandals, who bought and who takes care of Obama's side yard?,0,6186743.story
5754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 15, 2008, 12:43:11 PM
From Thomas Sowell, "Are Facts Obsolete?":

In an election campaign in which not only young liberals, but also some people who are neither young nor liberals, seem absolutely mesmerized by the skilled rhetoric of Barack Obama, facts have receded even further into the background than usual.

As the hypnotic mantra of "change" is repeated endlessly, few people even raise the question of whether what few specifics we hear represent any real change, much less a change for the better.

Raising taxes, increasing government spending and demonizing business? That is straight out of the New Deal of the 1930s.

The New Deal was new then but it is not new now. Moreover, increasing numbers of economists and historians have concluded that New Deal policies are what prolonged the Great Depression.

Putting new restrictions of international trade, in order to save American jobs? That was done by Herbert Hoover, when he signed the Hawley-Smoot tariff when the unemployment rate was 9 percent. The next year the unemployment rate was 16 percent and, before the Great Depression was over, unemployment hit 25 percent.

One of the most naive notions is that politicians are trying to solve the country's problems, just because they say so-- or say so loudly or inspiringly.

Politicians' top priority is to solve their own problem, which is how to get elected and then re-elected. Barack Obama is a politician through and through, even though pretending that he is not is his special strategy to get elected.

Some of his more trusting followers are belatedly discovering that, as he "refines" his position on various issues, now that he has gotten their votes in the Democratic primaries and needs the votes of others in the coming general election.

Perhaps a defining moment in showing Senator Obama's priorities was his declaring, in answer to a question from Charles Gibson, that he was for raising the capital gains tax rate. When Gibson reminded him of the well-documented fact that lower tax rates on capital gains had produced more actual revenue collected from that tax than the higher tax rates had, Obama was unmoved.

The question of how to raise more revenue may be the economic issue but the political issue is whether socking it to "the rich" in the name of "fairness" gains more votes.

Since about half the people in the United States own stocks-- either directly or because their pension funds buy stocks-- socking it to people who earn capital gains is by no means socking it just to "the rich." But, again, that is one of the many facts that don't matter politically.

What matters politically is the image of coming out on the side of "the people" against "the privileged."

If you are a nurse or mechanic who will be depending on your pension to take care of you when you retire-- as Social Security is unlikely to do-- you may not think of yourself as one of the privileged. But unless you connect the dots between capital gains tax rates and your retirement income, you may fall under the spell of the well-honed Obama rhetoric.

Obama is for higher minimum wage rates. Does anyone care what actually happens in countries with higher minimum wage rates? Of course not.

Economists may point to studies done in countries around the world, showing that higher minimum wage rates usually mean higher unemployment rates among lower skilled and less experienced workers.

That's their problem. A politician's problem is how to look like he is for "the poor" and against those who are "exploiting" them. The facts are irrelevant to maintaining that political image.

Nowhere do facts matter less than in foreign policy issues. Nothing is more popular than the notion that you can deal with dangers from other nations by talking with their leaders.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain became enormously popular in the 1930s by sitting down and talking with Hitler, and announcing that their agreement had produced "peace in our time"-- just one year before the most catastrophic war in history began.

Senator Obama may gain similar popularity by advocating similar policies today-- and his political popularity is what it's all about. The consequences for the country come later.
5755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 15, 2008, 09:57:23 AM
I would add John Hinderacker of to CCP's list of people McCain should hire for a war-room style answer to the mixed messages coming from the Obama campaign:

In this morning's New York Times, Barack Obama published an op-ed on Iraq that presumably previews his "major speech" on the subject tomorrow. Even by Obama's standards, the piece is breathtakingly dishonest.

Obama admits that he opposed the surge, and the attendant change in strategy and tactics, that have brought us close to victory. But he somehow manages to twist his being wrong about the surge--the major foreign policy issue that has arisen during his time in Congress--into vindication:

    But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

Actually, however, Obama opposed the surge not because of those "factors" but because he thought it would fail. He said, on January 10, 2007, on MSNBC:

    I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.

On January 14, 2007, on Face the Nation, he said:

    We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war. And until we acknowledge that reality -- we can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops, I don't know any expert on the region or any military officer that I've spoken to privately that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.

On March 19, 2007, on the Larry King show, he said:

    [E]ven those who are supporting -- but here's the thing, Larry -- even those who support the escalation have acknowledged that 20,000, 30,000, even 40,000 more troops placed temporarily in places like Baghdad are not going to make a long-term difference.

On May 25, 2007, in a speech to the Coalition Of Black Trade Unionists Convention, Obama said:

    And what I know is that what our troops deserve is not just rhetoric, they deserve a new plan. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe that the course that we're on in Iraq is working, I do not.

On July 18, 2007, on the Today show, he said:

    My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.

On November 11, 2007, two months after General David Petraeus told Congress that the surge was working, Obama doubled down, saying that the administration's new strategy was making the situation in Iraq worse:

    Finally, in 2006-2007, we started to see that, even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn't withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled them and initiated a surge and at that stage I said very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there.

In short, Obama bet the farm on his prediction that General Petraeus and the American military would fail. He was as spectacularly wrong as John McCain was spectacularly right. But his op-ed somehow twists this history into vindication on the theory that Afghanistan has deteriorated, the Iraq war has been expensive, and Iraq's political leaders "have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge."

Let's start with the last point. Obama completely fails to acknowledge the remarkable political progress that has resulted from the surge, as manifested by the fact that the country's largest Sunni bloc has rejoined the government, and the U.S. Embassy reports that 15 of the 18 benchmarks of political progress that were set by Congress are now being met. Those benchmarks were set precisely for the purpose of measuring the "political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge," yet Obama fails even to mention them.

Still more dishonest is Obama's failure to acknowledge what would have happened if his policy prescription, precipitate withdrawal regardless of military conditions, had been followed: chaos, sectarian violence, possibly genocide, a resurgent al Qaeda in control of part of Iraq, with Iran possibly in control of other areas of the country. This would have been a foreign policy disaster, yet Obama, with vague references to cost and Afghanistan, claims vindication!

As to al Qaeda--the elephant in the room--Obama simply dissimulates:

    Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been.

That's not what Osama bin Laden (Iraq is where the "Third World War is raging”) or Ayman al-Zawahiri (Iraq is "the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era”) say. Al Qaeda summoned jihadists from around the Muslim world to go to Iraq to fight American troops, declaring that this effort is the central front in their war against civilization. Those jihadists have been devastated by American armed forces, who have thereby scored what may, with hindsight, turn out to have been the decisive victory in the war against Muslim extremism. Obama denies all of this in a single sentence, without citing any evidence whatsoever.

Finally, Afghanistan: Obama would have us believe that he urged defeat in Iraq because he was so firmly committed to victory in Afghanistan. Once again, he misrepresents the record.

In fact, Obama has never supported our troops in Afghanistan. On the contrary, he said on August 14, 2007--less than a year ago--that our forces there are mostly committing war crimes:

    We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.

Obama has been so uninterested in Afghanistan that when he went to Iraq and other countries in the Middle East with a Congressional delegation in January 2006, he skipped the opportunity to continue on to Afghanistan, which was taken by others who made the trip with him, including Kit Bond and Harold Ford. And, in an embarrassing gaffe, Obama claimed on May 13, 2008, that we don't have enough "Arabic interpreters, Arab language speakers" in Afghanistan because they are all being used in Iraq. Obama thereby demonstrated the intellectual laziness and incuriosity that characterizes his campaign: they don't speak Arabic in Afghanistan, and, anyway, interpreters are drawn from local populations, not shipped around the world.

Worst of all, far from being committed to victory in Afghanistan, Obama voted to cut off all funding for all of our military efforts in Afghanistan on May 24, 2007 (H.R. 2206, CQ Vote #181), thereby seeking to bring about defeat there as well as in Iraq. His current effort to portray himself as a wolf in sheep's clothing on Afghanistan is a complete fraud.

It is possible that at some point in American history there may have been a major politician as dishonest as Barack Obama, but I can't offhand think of such a miscreant.
5756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues - Tim Russert on: June 17, 2008, 11:38:07 PM
I didn't like Tim Russert very much professionally due to my heavy conservative bias, but he was the second best in the business to Jim Lehrer IMO and his show was the giant of the political shows so I defer to Thomas Sowell who is far smarter than me for a wonderful tribute to this legend who died WAY too young.

Tim Russert (1950-2008) by Thomas Sowell

Only with Tim Russert's sudden death at the age of 58 has his true stature as a landmark journalist become as widely recognized as it has long deserved to be.

To ask who will replace him as host of "Meet the Press" is to confront the reality that there is no one comparable on the horizon. Those of us who have followed "Meet the Press" since the long ago days of Lawrence Spivak know that Russert was the best of some very good hosts.

What made Tim Russert special was not some trademark catchword or contrived persona. What you saw was what you got-- a down to earth guy who came on the air having thoroughly researched the subject and having a keen insight into politics and politicians.

He didn't flaunt his knowledge. He was one of the few very smart people who seemed to feel no need to impress others that he was smart. But, if you knew the subject that he was talking about, you realized that he had really done his homework.

There was something else that set Tim Russert apart from many other journalists, whether print journalists or broadcast journalists: His agenda was bringing out the facts.

He didn't let the politicians he interviewed get away with slippery statements and inconsistent positions. But it was not "gotcha" journalism. It was not trying to filter or slant information to promote some political or ideological agenda.

No doubt Tim Russert had his own opinions. He had, after all, been on the staff of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and on the staff of former New York governor Mario Cuomo.

But, whatever Tim Russert's political opinions were then or later, that was not what his program was about. He was there to serve the audience by bringing out the facts about the political world, a world where spin is the usually name of the game.

Often critics who complain about media bias argue as if what is needed is to be "fair" to "both sides." But what is far more important is to be honest with the audience-- who are seeking information and understanding about the real world, not about the ideology or the agenda of the journalist.

This is not to denigrate opinion journalists, who have a valuable role to play, just as reporters like Tim Russert do. But, with both opinion journalists and reporters, the question is whether you play it straight with the audience, instead of filtering out inconvenient facts in order to manipulate the audience in favor of some agenda.

In short, the issue is honesty rather than "fairness." The question is whether journalists put their cards on the table. Russert put his cards on the table-- and they were high cards.

A small personal note: A few months ago, an old friend said that he would like to get a videotape of my interview on "Meet the Press" back in 1981. I dug up an old videotape in my garage but, after several summers in a hot garage, it was not in very good shape.

As a long shot, I decided to write to "Meet the Press," to see if they would sell me another copy of the interview, if it was still available.

This interview took place back in the days when Bill Monroe was the program's moderator. But, since the only name I knew of at "Meet the Press" was Tim Russert, I addressed a note to him, figuring that one of his secretaries might get back to me with the information.

Instead, I received a DVD of that interview and a brief, handwritten note from Tim Russert, with a transcript of the interview thrown in.

How people treat those who cannot do them any good or any harm reveals a lot about their character. For me, Tim Russert scored high in that department as well.
5757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Book Reviews. VDH v. Pat Buchanan on: June 16, 2008, 04:36:55 PM
I'll put this in the category of book reviews.  Two well known commentators are arguing over the lessons of WWII.  Buchanan wrote a book concluding among other things that the war against Hitler was unwise and unnecessary and seems surprised that someone like Hanson would write a book review column taking him to task.    From where I sit it looks like Hanson ate Buchanan's lunch but you be the judge.  The read might be better at the link as the format is Hanson quoting and answering Buchanan paragraph by paragraph.  - Doug

Patrick J. Buchanan—Pseudo-Historian, Very Real Dissimulator

Patrick J. Buchanan got upset that I wrote a column about the World War II revisionists, especially his book, and that of Nicholson Baker’s on the allied “crimes” of bombing German cities. I produce his column by paragraph and then comment in brackets.

In attacking my book “Churchill, Hitler and ‘The Unnecessary War’: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World,” Victor Davis Hanson, the court historian of the neoconservatives, charges me with “rewriting … facts” and showing “ingratitude” to American and British soldiers who fought World Wars I and II.
[In dealing with Mr. Buchanan, one must accept at the beginning two caveats. First, as is his style, he will always resort to ad hominem attacks in lieu of an argument. Thus note at the very beginning his sneering “court historian of the neoconservatives.”
Second, Buchanan unfortunately is neither a reliable journalist nor an historian, and thus simply cannot be trusted to report accurately what is written. He says I charge him with “rewriting… facts” (note those convenient three dots). I did not charge him with rewriting facts, but simply advancing a thesis contrary to them: “Questioning the past is a good thing, but rewriting it contrary to facts is quite another.” (emphasis added)
And I didn’t just criticize Buchanan’s book, but in a brief 750 word newspaper column lumped it together with the novelist Nicholson Baker’s (Human Smoke) equally critical attack on the allies in World War II—both as signs of the sorry state of historical revisionism that has sprung up in the climate of the Iraq war.
Writing a book whose theme is that the allies, and especially the British, unwisely and unduly pressured Hitler, and therefore were culpable for much of the carnage of World War II, again, does not “rewrite… facts”, but simply ignores them. And, yes, it does indeed serve to lessen the enormous sacrifices that American and British soldiers endured to stop a monstrosity like National Socialism, whose doctrine of racial hatred and territorial expansion logically led to a German government attacking by 1940 most of its neighbors, to the east, west, north and south, and eventually, in industrial fashion, murdering 6 million Jews.

Much of Hitler’s madness was outlined well in advance in Mein Kampf. By the late 1930s his harsh treatment of the Jews was a harbinger of things to come, once his own power was consolidated and Germany free from outside objection.]
Both charges are false, and transparently so.
Hanson cites not a single fact I got wrong and ignores the fact that the book is dedicated to my mother’s four brothers who fought in World War II. Moreover, the book begins by celebrating the greatness of the British nation and heroism of its soldier-sons.
[Within a 350-word critique devoted to the theme of his book, I cited his misreading of the Versailles Treaty (see below), and his special pleading that serves to exculpate Hitler’s Nazi government. Again, the thesis of Buchanan’s’ book is not based on facts, but can only be advanced by contradicting them. And it has a disturbing habit of mechanically at times praising those who are his natural targets—or supposedly naive victims—of the book, as if that allows him to further denigrate their wisdom and sacrifice.]

Did Hanson even read it?
[Unfortunately I did read it, and was appalled by his absence of logic—hence the column.]
The focus of “The Unnecessary War” is on the colossal blunders by British statesmen that reduced Britain from the greatest empire since Rome into an island dependency of the United States in three decades. It is a cautionary tale, written for America, which is treading the same path Britain trod in the early 20th century.
[This is as ludicrous as it is disingenuous. By 1939 the British Empire was in financial straits, its global economic position long displaced by the industrial power and growing population of the United States, and its empire an increasing economic drain. Its so-called decline had begun at the end of the nineteenth century, and was confirmed, not created, by World War II. Despite the cast-off and occasional warning about Hitler’s cruelty, the book accepts that there was nothing intrinsic within National Socialism as practiced under Hitler that would necessarily have led to war, and indeed a number of legitimate grievances that would justify Hitler’s own preemptive wars.]

Hanson agrees the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was “flawed,” but says Germany had it coming, for the harsh peace the Germans imposed on France in 1871 and Russia in 1918.
Certainly, the amputation of Alsace-Lorraine by Bismarck’s Germany was a blunder that engendered French hatred and a passion for revenge. But does Teutonic stupidity in 1871 justify British stupidity in 1919?
[Again, Buchanan misleads. I wrote that Versailles was less harsh than the treaties imposed on the defeated by Germany—and less harsh than what Germany had planned for the allies. 1871 was not a matter of “Teutonic stupidity”, but the logical result of German aggression and carefully thought-out punishment.]
Is that what history teaches, Hanson?
[Again, Buchanan is not truthful. I argued the problem was not Versailles, but the inability or the unwillingness of the allies to promote and foster German postwar democracy, occupy the country and thereby remind the German people that they had not been “stabbed in the back” in foreign territory, but militarily defeated on the battlefield and in full retreat when their generals sued for peace. That would have had a powerful effect in reminding the German people that neither Jews nor socialists had caused their defeat, but the madness of invading France, and the futility of fighting Russia, France, Britain, Italy, and the United States all at once.]

In 1918, Germany accepted an armistice on Wilson’s 14 Points, laid down her arms and surrendered her High Seas Fleet.
Yet, once disarmed, Germany was subjected to a starvation blockade, denied the right to fish in the Baltic Sea, and saw all her colonies and private property therein confiscated by British, French and Japanese imperialists, in naked violation of Wilson’s 14 Points.
Germans, Austrians and Hungarians by the millions were then consigned to Belgium, France, Italy, Serbia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland and Lithuania, in violation of the principle of self-determination.
Germany was sliced in half, dismembered, disarmed, saddled with unpayable debt and forced, under threat of further starvation and invasion, to confess she alone was morally responsible for the war and all its devastation — which was a lie, and the Allies knew it.
[France, Britain, and Italy did not accept the 14 Points, and thus it was never an official allied position. Germany knew that when it discovered that Wilson could not speak for the allies, given the late entry of the United States into an ongoing allied effort. Germany lost two large slices of territory, about 13 percent of it European landmass, land once annexed from France by its invasion of 1870, and areas in what would become Poland that had been annexed by Prussia during the aggrandizement and long unification of the Germany. Much, though not all, of the returned territory had been won through coercion by imperial Germany in a series of wars, and was given back following plebiscites. As I wrote, the treaty was “flawed” by our modern sensibilities, but by the standards of the times, far less punitive than what Germany herself customarily demanded from the defeated. France did not invade Germany in 1870, 1914, or 1940, but by May 1940 found itself for the third time in seventy years with a German army advancing on Paris.]

Where was Hitler born?
“At Versailles,” replied Lady Astor.
[Buchanan’s citation of the quip of the aristocratic hostess Nancy Witcher Langhorne as an authority on Versailles is revealing and gives his game away—a woman known for her virulent anti-Semitism, pro-Hitler appeasement, and close correspondence with another kindred soul in Ambassador Joseph Kennedy. Her slurs about Czechoslovakian refugees, prejudice toward Catholics, lunatic pronouncements on slavery and blacks, and reprehensible slanders of British soldiers proved her to be unhinged—but apparently earns a citation of wisdom from Buchanan.]

As for the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Germany imposed on Russia in 1918, is Hanson aware that the prison house of nations for which he wails, which was forced to disgorge Finland, the Baltic republics, Poland, Ukraine and the Caucasus, was ruled by Bolsheviks?
Was it a war crime for the Kaiser to break up Lenin’s evil empire?
[This is surreal and reveals Buchanan’s lack of even a simple grasp of history. Lenin had been in power for a little over a few weeks when negotiations with Germany began in November and December 1917—and only a few months when the treaty was signed in March 1918. His “evil empire” was in fact the centuries-long imperial Russia of the Tsars. Yes, imperial Germany did want Russia to “disgorge” land—so that it in turn might gorge upon them. That’s why the Kaiser seized much of the Ukraine, the Baltic States, and Belarus. Many on Buchanan’s list of free states “disgorged” in fact in the last year of the war came under sway of the German empire as virtual dependencies.

In short, Germany demanded and until defeated got its hands on a great deal of Russian territory, ninety percent of her coal, and much of Russian industry—a greed that severely hampered its efforts to transfer manpower and material to the Western front in 1918. Note that Buchanan omits my mention of Germany’s plans for Western Europe in the event of its victory, which we know from post-World War II archives would have made the Versailles treaty tame in comparison.]

Two years after Brest-Litovsk, Churchill himself was urging Britain to revise Versailles, bring Germany into the Allied fold and intervene in Russia’s civil war — against Lenin and Trotsky.
[Now Buchanan is praising the Churchill he serially damns as the fool who had prompted World War II. What Churchill was trying to do was exactly what I stated in my essay—incorporate Germany into the family of Western nations—something impossible not because of Versailles, but because a defeated German army in November 1918 retreated from foreign territory and reentered the fatherland, promulgating the myth that it had never been beaten, when in fact it was within days of annihilation by an advancing allied army that included over a million American soldiers.]
As for my thesis that the British war guarantee to Poland of March 31, 1939, was the “Fatal Blunder” that guaranteed World War II and brought down the British Empire, Hanson is mocking:
“Buchanan argues that, had the imperialist Winston Churchill not pushed poor Hitler into a corner, he would have never invaded Poland in 1939, which triggered an unnecessary Allied response.”
First, Hanson should get his prime ministers straight. It was Neville Chamberlain who issued the war guarantee to Poland after the collapse of his Munich accord. Churchill was not even in the Cabinet.
[Buchanan, again, cannot honestly reproduce quoted material. Pace Buchanan, note that I did not write “Prime Minister” Churchill—and for precisely the reason that he was not Prime Minister in September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. But the very reason that the British turned to the “imperialist” Churchill in extremis in May 1940 was because he was on record in the British Parliament and in public life since 1932 for restoring British military preparedness, and, from at least 1936, enlightening British naïve rightists about the sinister nature of Hitler’s National Socialism. Yet Churchill is the veritable villain of Buchanan’s book, not the maniacal Hitler.]
Second, Hansen implies that I portray Hitler as a misunderstood victim. This is mendacious. Hitler’s foul crimes are fully related.
(a) Hanson, not Hansen. (b) Hitler’s crimes are mentioned in the customary Buchanan disclaimer fashion; but if they were “fully related,” they would make it impossible to empathize with a psychopath whose polices ended logically in the Holocaust.]
Third, was it moral, Hanson, for Britain to promise the Poles military aid they could not and did not deliver, thus steeling Polish resolve to resist Hitler and guaranteeing Poland’s annihilation?
[Now this is a strange contortion. The Poles were already steeled since they had known first hand German aggrandizement since 1914, had seen what Hitler had done in the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, and knew well the futility of appeasement. A militarily weak Britain and morally bankrupt France are to be faulted for not attacking in the West in September 1939, but applauded for at least declaring war on Hitler and finally apprising him that his aggression would no longer be treated with rhetoric but now with armed resistance. ]

Was it wise, Hanson, for Britain to declare a world war on the strongest nation in Europe over a town, Danzig, where the British prime minister thought Germany had the stronger claim?
[This is ludicrous. Danzig was a mere “town”? In fact, Britain declared war because for years Hitler had serially violated all of its WWI and international agreements, dismembered Czechoslovakia, and revealed the true nature of Nazi global aggrandizement as outlined years before in Mein Kampf.]
What were the consequences for Poland of trusting in Britain?
Crucifixion on a Nazi-Soviet cross, the Katyn massacre of the Polish officer corps, Treblinka and Auschwitz, annihilation of the Home Army, millions of brave Polish dead, half a century of Bolshevik terror.
[This is reprehensible. Now British military weakness is blamed for Auschwitz, rather than the innate sinister nature of Nazism? Does Buchanan believe that had Britain not tried to stop Hitler, the death camps would have never occurred? Does he know of the prewar Nazi precursors to the Final Solution, the geneses of which were clear from Germany’s own treatment of its chronically ill and mentally disturbed?]
And how did Churchill honor Britain’s commitment to Poland?
During trips to Moscow, Churchill bullied the Polish prime minister into ceding to Stalin that half of his country Stalin had gotten from his devil’s pact with Hitler, and yielded to Stalin’s demand for annexation of the Baltic republics and Bolshevik rule of a dozen nations of Eastern and Central Europe.
[Churchill distrusted Stalin, but by 1943 understood that a weak British Empire had no leverage at all against Stalin’s 400 divisions. Again in hindsight Churchill can be made to look illiberal, but given the realities of the times, there was no one more suspicious of the ally Stalin, or more sympathetic to the Poles. ]
Was it worth 50 million dead, Hanson, so Stalin, whose victims, as of Sept. 1, 1939, were 1,000 times Hitler’s, could occupy not only Poland, for which Britain went to war, but all of Christian Europe to the Elbe?
[How odd that the allies are indirectly blamed for the Holocaust, as if its seeds were not innate to Nazism. Most credit Stalin with the atrocious crime of killing 20-30 million of his own, versus Hitler’s 6 million. How that translates in “1,000 times” I am not sure—except by the misleading qualifier “by Sept.1 1939.” But here Buchanan engages in hindsight. In 1939, Britain knew of no other means—not political, not diplomatic, not economic—of stopping Hitler from absorbing all of Europe, an agenda of aggression clear from 1936 onward.]
Churchill was right when he told FDR in December 1941 it was “The Unnecessary War” and right again in 1948, when he wrote that, in Stalin, the world now faced “even worse perils” than those of Hitler.
[This is disingenuous. The aggregate of Churchill’s writings make it clear that he felt the war had been unnecessary only on the grounds that he felt, rightly I think, that it could have been prevented by standing up to a then weak Hitler in 1936, which would have humiliated the Nazis and perhaps even led to a change of government or at least a sort of containment of Nazism. And note Churchill’s choice of word “perils”. Churchill did not think, as implied by Buchanan, that Hitler was any less evil than Stalin, only that the Red Army and the resources of the Soviet Union gave it the potential to become far more dangerous than a much smaller Nazi empire.
Both World War II and the Cold War were necessary. And while the Soviet government was a vile and evil entity, millions of Red Army soldiers were not communists, but brave patriots who did much to stop the Wehrmacht, and, yes, by their efforts did save allied lives. Again, they fought for a horrendous government, but the motivation for many was not global communism or Comrade Stalin who had butchered millions of their families and friends, but to rid German soldiers from the soil of Mother Russia.]
So, what had it all been for?
[World War II—forced upon, not the fault of, the allies—was worth it. It ended fascism and Nazism, liberated thousands from death camps and starvation in forced labor compounds, led to a new democratic Europe, prevented the extinction of European Jewry, and reformed a once serially bellicose Germany that had attacked France three times in 70 years. Today’s Europe and Japan are proof of our grandfathers’ achievement.]

Historian Hanson should go back to tutoring undergrads about the Peloponnesian War and the Syracuse Expedition.
I guess Mr. Buchanan believes that working as a political operative in Richard Nixon’s White House is better training for history than formal study of classical languages and history. I think his ancient Greek citation is a vague reference to my support for the removal of Saddam Hussein and the effort to foster constitutional government in Iraq. But once more, Buchanan reveals his ignorance of history. The Syracuse expedition, as he calls it, was a case of a democratic Athens attacking a larger and democratic Syracuse and its Sicilian allies at a time when its adversary Sparta was not beaten. When I last looked the United States had not expanded its war on radical Islam by invading democratic India.
And the last time I had any notice of Buchanan himself was when his American Conservative magazine asked the so-called “War Nerd” (who once “daydreamed” of burning down my vineyard [which in fact later mysteriously experienced a roadside brushfire], cf. his “Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor” to review A War Like No Other, and wrote an incoherent rant about Iraq rather than the book in question.
I stand by everything I wrote about Patrick J. Buchanan’s book, and find his latest effort further confirmation of his delusional views about both past and present.
5758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 12, 2008, 01:54:06 AM
Interesting discussion regarding cameras, surveillance and privacy.  There is quite a balancing act between privacy and security that is hard to sort out. I value both to an extreme and of course they are in conflict.  We have a certain privacy at home being one of only two homes on a hidden dead end street.  In twenty two years I have never so much as had a pizza delivered so as to not let strangers discover our little piece of paradise.  But then the neighbor tore down and rebuilt their house and perhaps two hundred workmen traipsed through, trespassed, worked loud equipment, checked out our things and blocked our driveway  over a long period of time.  I felt extremely violated.

OTOH, I have faced four, near death, criminal victim experiences, two for myself and two for my young daughter, and in all cases would be thrilled to discover camera footage that could help identify perps and prosecute the crimes.

Leaving my personal stories aside, I'll tell this one about a friend.  He was boating on the lake and was apprehended at a checkpoint under a bridge that was the only way home for him.  He refused the alcohol test out of stubbornness and the fact that he had drinks earlier that day.  Refusing the test puts him with the maximum charge.  Since the checkpoint was controversial, there was also a television news camera filming the scene.  Officers made (false) claims about his behavior to justify the demand for the alcohol test and subsequent charges.  He subpoenaed the news camera footage which revealed their lies.  The judge saw the third party camera footage and dismissed the charges.

Part of the cameras-everywhere world to remember is that they are largely unattended cameras.  No one is likely interested in my movements near the drycleaners but the information could become helpful later for reasons not known at the time, as it was with the subway bombers.
5759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WSJ: Bushing helping Sauds build nukes?!? on: June 10, 2008, 09:17:58 AM
Crafty's concern is well taken, we need a mechanism can keep a country from migrating from nuclear powered electricity to WMD and weapons delivery systems.  I did notice, however, some misleading information and false choices presented in the editorial.  "In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "[Iran is] already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. No one can figure why they need nuclear, as well, to generate energy." "  Interesting point of argument from 2004. But today we know Iran is burning plenty of oil and gas for electricity and safe, nuclear electricity would put that oil and gas back onto the world market where it is unfortunately needed because of the failure of countries like the US to produce from our own sources.

"If Mr. Bush wanted to help his friends in Riyadh diversify their energy portfolio, he should have offered solar panels, not nuclear plants."  - That naive remark is explained only by the 'D-Mass' after the writer's name.  Who on earth thinks solar technology today is equal in economic energy production to nuclear.  Certainly not the Democrats here who think solar needs massive subsidy to exist at all. 

Markey's byline says he is 'chairman of the Select Committee on ..Global Warming'.  - I don't know why they are in denial that the only large, economical, non-emitting, energy source today is nuclear and that CO2 emitted elsewhere is the same as CO2 emitted here.

If warming alarmists were at all serious about CO2 emissions (IMO), they would be committed to making abundant all plug-in electricity from cheap, non-emitting sources so they will compete successfully against the skyrocketing cost of fossil fuels.

Last, aren't we in a better position to see that the Saudi's don't migrate from power to weapons if they buy their plants from American rather than French or Chinese sources?  That is unlike our inability to monitor the plants in Iran.  BTW, Iran IS now building nuclear electric plants, so it again is a false choice.
5760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 05, 2008, 07:30:39 PM
Disagreeing strongly with one of my favorite posters, CCP:

"The Republicans have to wake up and rally behind him (McCain).  As usual the religious right holds the center of the Republican party hostage."

McCain has made a career out of opposing his party and especially the right wing.  I wrote previously about loving his tax plan.  His support for Cap and Trade IMO wipes out my enthusiasm entirely.  Same goes for opposition to producing oil in America, ANWR etc.  My intensity is doubled by having a clone of his on our ballot for re-election, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN).

The 'religious right' made a mistake going for Huckabee who wasn't a conservative, could never win the nomination, could NEVER win the election, and tipped the balance to McCain.

McCain's problems with conservatives are his own choice and strategy.  He thinks there is more future for him courting independents and he assumes they have nowhere else to go.  So far that has worked fine for him.

I've already argued hard with conservative friends and relatives that it is worth it just for judicial appointments and prosecuting the war on terror, for examples, to have McCain and not a liberal  Democrat in White House.  Yet it makes arguing political differences nearly impossible when we see prominent Republican fingerprints on failed liberal programs and policies.  Those who say they will sit out also have a point.  Fiscal conservatism was not advanced by having Bush rather than Gore in the White House.  Out of control spending would likely have been the same either way but now there isn't a party left to turn to for spending restraint.

I plan to vote for McCain and Sen. Coleman, but I wouldn't travel far or wait in line to do it. I didn't show up as a delegate for our state convention last week.  It didn't make sense for me to drive to Rochester, MN to endorse 2 candidates who don't support my right to buy and consume modest amounts of gasoline to get there while they jet across the country and around the world without conscience or apology.

Our other Senator is an Obama liberal, Amy Klobuchar.  Against a conservative, she must have invoked the name John McCain on her side on issues at least twelve times in her debates to validate that her posistion was not that of a fringe liberal extremist.
5761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Native Americans on: May 30, 2008, 09:58:36 AM
Robert, very interesting post.  It grabbed my attention because I live near there.  A small number of native people and tribes are extremely wealthy from the gambling industry.  The money goes to take care of a limited number of members of that specific tribal family, not native people in general.  Of course, the gambling is made profitable by the fact that gambling is illegal unless you are a tribe or the state.  The Governor tried to get the casino revenues onto the state tax rolls by threatening to open or license competing casinos.  That didn't happen.

The good news in the story from my viewpoint is that they are buying property with money rather making demands or claims.  The bad news to the state and the community seems to be that if they buy land they no longer have to pay their share in property taxes.  State and local taxes are a big deal here.  If not for that, it wouldn't any legitimate issue who buys property and certainly a good thing that they invest their profits wisely. 

I envy them.  I would also like to sucede from state and local tax authorities and still receive federal military protections etc.  The county where I live has grown to be larger in population and income than 8 states.  Hardly a local government. Our county without its largest city, Minneapolis, is still larger than several states.  Yet there seems to be no way to split off a non-urban piece and secure the right to have local government.
5762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 27, 2008, 11:09:39 PM
This is a different Doug commenting.  Thank you Doug S. for posting the video.  I particularly appreciate the serious work that went into making the summary.  Due to internet and time constraints, I haven't seen the video but offer my opinions on the points in the summary.  This is NOT intended as shoot the messenger, just comment on substantive points made.

Again, just my opinion but I don't like the argument style of posting pieces of truth to build trust and then making conclusions that don't necessarily or logically follow.

1) "The oil companies do make profits however it's not near as much as the middle men that we never hear about being the IMF and the World Bank."

 - Oil companies make about 8 cents.  State and feds make about 65 cents in some cases off of a gallon of gas.  Look there - at government waste and largess - if you need a side show villain.  I don't know any reason that IMF or World Bank would get a cut on every gallon of our gas.  They are a separate side show and probably have plenty of waste and corruption to find when time permits.  They are not the reason prices are high.  Prices are high because demand grew and supply didn't and it is exaggerated by the inelastic nature of gasoline demand within the price ranges we have seen.  I thought the American consumer could easily outbid the foreign consumer of China or India for example until I read here I think that those countries subsidize the cost to the consumer to soften the price rise.  Like third party pay in health care, add that distortion to the runaway oil futures market.

2) "One of the if not the largest oil fields in the world is in Gull Island, Alaska and would supposedly last us 200 years"

 - I don't know the details of each oil field.  Like Crafty posted since, there could be issues of quality or difficulty in some, but we certainly have plenty of known sources that are blocked by politics.  In other words, oil prices are high because of the policies we choose.

3) "Oil is the world currency and controls almost everything we do."

 - Oil is a big, big deal.  There is no need to overstate it's importance.  The amount of new oil that we need to stabilize the markets is not that large.  If prices go up forever, the alternatives will just emerge that much sooner causing oil's own obsolescence.  We can't instantly shut off our usage and producers like Saudi can't shut off their supply.  Producing and selling oil to them is their cash register and they are as dependent as us and more so.

4) "Back in the 1960s or early 1970s, then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger went to the middle eastern countries to negotiate a deal with them to sell us their oil and in return, they must denominate all oil sales on US Dollar currency.  Another part of the deal was that they had to take a portion of the oil revenues and buy our national debt.  The Saudi's agreed however Iran and Iraq did not."

 - I'll assume it's largely a true story but meaningless to me.  A handshake agreement with Nixon's Secretary of State is not a treaty approved by the U.S. senate or binding on America or future administrations.  It certainly isn't binding on the countries of the middle east.  Iraq of Saddam and Iran run by mullahs are known enemies and are not expected to act in our best interest or keep commitments, especially ones they never made.

5) "Iraq supposedly had plans to start denominating oil in foreign currency and had to be taken care of.  He named the name of a guy who was sent into Iraq to tell their leaders that if they invaded Kwuait that we would not intervene.  This was supposedly a set up.  When we didn't finish the job the first time around, we had to go back."

 - The name was a gal named April GIlepie, Ambassador to Iraq.  This is where the tin hat story begins IMO.  A Bush-I official said that the slant drilling allegation of Iraq against Kuwait was a matter for those parties, not for the U.S.  Political opponents and conspiracists have long run with this to pretend it was the green light for Saddam to take Kuwait by force and conquest for annexation without consequence.  I find that preposterous.  If they did read some clumsy words from a minor political appointee that way I guess they were badly mistaken and Saddam in hell probably realizes his miscalculation right now.  The sucker punch or inducement argument also fails because we now know the Americans and the coalition still had no intention of toppling Saddam in our reaction, although they could have.

6) "Iran is now a major threat to us because they are already denominating their oil in Euros and Yen.  China has already negotiated millions upon millions of barrels of oil contracts in Yen currency."

 - Again, Iran as it is run today is an enemy of the United States.  Of course they will avoid our currency or helping us in any way at every turn.  They are a threat because of their own choices and policies, supporting Hizbullah, supporting destruction of Israel, supporting the killing of Americans in Iraq, supporting the killing of civilians to escalate the violence in Iraq and continue the conflict, and just general support for global jihad and literal declarations of death to America.

7) "Iran supposedly has a plan to flood the world with cheap oil which could have a devastating effect on our economy and the value of our dollar."

 - Bring it on IMO.  Why would we be hurt by cheap oil?  Frankly Iran is cash strapped and unable to 'flood' any market with oil or any other product.
5763  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies of interest on: May 17, 2008, 11:47:25 PM
Crafty wrote: "...the movie "Miracle" (2004).  My son is getting involved in playing hockey and this could be a good movie for us to watch.  To help me with my search, do you remember the name of the lead actors?

Kurt Russell played the coach Herb Brooks.  Like the original Rocky, it is more about training, winning and the human side than about the sport.  Here's a clip:
5764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: May 17, 2008, 12:09:17 AM
Crafty wrote:"Would you please flesh out the implications of the fact that the Reagan cuts were phased in over three years?  IRRC, per supply side doctrine, the actualization of many gains was deferred until the third year, which, contrary to monetarist predictions, is when the Reagan boomed kicked off."

What you are getting at I think is that people don't accelerate their economic activity now when they know their income will be taxed at a better rate later.

As concisely as I can recap from memory:

We had horrible 'stagflation' coming into the Reagan election, simultaneous stagnation and inflation, defying all things Keynesian namely the Phillips curve which said that high unemployment meant low inflation and high inflation meant low unemployment.  We had both out of control at the same time and called it the Misery Index.

Robert Mundell, now a Nobel winner and Professor at Columbia, wrote a two prong solution for a two prong problem.  We needed tight money to control inflation and SIMULTANEOUS across the board marginal tax rate cuts to stimulate economic activity and correct what he called the "asphyxiating" tax rates that people grew into because of inflation-caused bracket creep.  In other words, ordinary workers were being taxed at the punitive rates aimed at the rich and the rich were keeping their money out of productive uses to minimize taxes.

But the timing didn't work out that way.  Reagan had to compromise with a reluctant congress led by the other party so the 30% tax cuts became 25% and were delayed and phased in over 3 years instead of immediately. Meanwhile the Fed cranked down hard on tight money right away - no delay, no phase-in.  The result was a painful recession until the full effect of the tax cuts hit in the third year.

By 1984 the economy was hitting on all cylinders and inflation was largely gone.  Candidate Mondale hated the tax cuts and promised to raise them.  Reagan won 49 states.
That part you knew, so I have to add this piece from my Minnesota bias that most historians miss:  the national confidence to elect Reagan, cut taxes, rebuild America and stand up to the Soviets started when some college kids that trained hard, went to Lake Placid NY, beat the Soviet hockey team and took the Olympic gold medal.  Fighters should get the movie 'Miracle' and see the workout Herb Brooks put his team through after a disappointing tie with Norway on their path to the gold... smiley

5765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Fed, the Dollar and inflation on: May 16, 2008, 01:04:32 PM
Personally I like low interest rates, but Wesbury explains clearly here IMO why we have problems now with the value of the dollar. At the conclusion I must quibble with him.  The solution in 1980-83 included a two-prong pollicy, tighter money AND stimulative tax rate cuts.  A tighter Fed today would not be linked with tax rate cuts, regulatory reform or anything else economically helpful so it certainly would dampen the growth rate of the economy.  It's hard to correct suddenly for a decade of mistakes.  (Cut and paste from a columned pda doesn't format very well.)

Déjà Vu: The Fed's Interest Rate Dilemma
Despite record passenger traffic,
airlines are bleeding cash and
going bankrupt. Food riots have
cropped up around the world,
Canada is paying farmers to kill
pigs because feed costs too much,
and rice, it seems, is in very short

While ethanol subsidies have
created havoc, they don't explain
everything – like huge increases
in precious metals prices, the
sharp decline in the value of the
dollar, or record-high fuel prices.

What's missing in most analysis is
the impact of inflationary
monetary policy. Since 2001, and
especially since September 2007 –
when the Fed started cutting rates
in response to credit market issues
– excessively easy monetary
policy has driven oil and other
commodity prices through the

The good news is we've been here
before, and we know – well, at
least 1980s Fed Chairman Paul
Volcker knows – how to get out
of this mess. Loose money in the
1960s and 1970s drove up the
price of everything. A barrel of
oil, which sold for $2.92 in 1965,
rose to $40 in 1980. Most people
believed that rising commodity
prices indicated that the world
was running out of resources. The
Club of Rome predicted global
ruin, and then President Jimmy
Carter said that "peak oil" was
right around the corner.

Oklahoma-based Penn Square Bank
handed out oil loans freely, and
sold off pieces of its loans in
packages called "participations."
Seafirst Bank in Seattle and
Continental Bank in Chicago were
two good customers. These banks
thought oil prices would remain
elevated and paid a huge price for
their mistake.

Today, Bear Stearns, Countrywide
and subprime lending are a repeat
of Penn Square, Continental and oil
loans. Bad decision making, based
on a money-induced mirage, is the
culprit. We are not running out of
food or natural resources; this is an
entirely man-made disaster caused
by the Fed opening wide the
monetary floodgates.

Money is the ultimate commodity
because all prices have only money
in common. And it is the only thing
that a central bank directly controls.
Unfortunately, because of
globalization and financial-market
innovation, money itself has
become hard to measure and
useless as a forecasting tool. So
analysts use interest rates.

The "natural rate of interest" is the
theoretical interest rate at which
monetary policy does not
artificially boost the economy, nor
hold it back. It is also the rate at
which money is neutral on
inflation. There have been many
attempts at measuring this. Some
economists look at real interest
rates. Others use the Taylor Rule,
which includes a target rate for
inflation and real growth.

And while these methods are
helpful, they rely on estimates. I
devised a much simpler system
back in 1993, based on actual
economic data, that has proven
extremely useful. It predicted the
sharp increase in long-term
interest rates in 1994; it also
predicted the recession of 2001,
the deflation of the early 2000s,
and the inflation of recent years.

This model shows that a neutral
federal funds rate should be
roughly equal to nominal GDP
growth. Nominal GDP growth
(real growth plus inflation)
measures total spending in the
economy, or to put it another
way, it reflects the average
growth rate for all companies in
the economy.

If interest rates are pushed well
below nominal GDP growth,
money is too easy and it
encourages leverage. If interest
rates are pulled above nominal
GDP, money is too tight, and
average companies cannot
overcome borrowing costs.

Between 1960 and 1979, the
federal funds rate averaged 5.6%
and nominal GDP growth
averaged 8.4%. With the funds
rate 280 basis points below GDP
growth, monetary policy was
highly accommodative. The
result: a falling dollar, rising
commodity prices and fears that
resources were being used up.

In 1980, then Fed Chairman
Volcker lifted the fed funds rate
significantly above GDP growth
and held it there long enough to
end inflation. This policy
instigated a steep decline in oil
prices, and drove a stake through
the heart of stagflation.

Oil and inflation stayed low in the
1980s and '90s, when the Fed held
the fed funds rate 74 basis points
above GDP growth on average.
By 1999, with oil prices still low,
the Economist magazine wrote
that the world was "drowning in

Low inflation turned to deflation
in 1999 and 2000, when the Fed
mistakenly pushed the funds rate
above nominal GDP growth
again. This deflation spooked the
Fed and led to a radical reduction
in interest rates. Since then, the
fed funds rate has been well
below GDP growth – an average
of 210 basis points – the most
accommodative six years of
monetary policy since the 1970s.
No wonder inflation is on the rise
and commodity prices are setting
new records.

The Fed lifted the funds rate from
1% to 5.25% between 2004 and
2006, but monetary policy was
never tight because the rate never
went above nominal GDP. This
suggests that housing market
problems were not caused by tight
money in 2006-07, but by
excessive investment during the
super-easy money of the years

Nonetheless, the Fed opened up the
old playbook and cut rates
aggressively when subprime loans
blew up. This cemented higher
inflation into place, crushed the
dollar, pushed commodity prices up
sharply, and created major
problems in the energy, airline and
agricultural marketplaces. And just
like the 1970s, it is now popular to
argue that the world is running out
of resources again.

The answer to all of this is for the
Fed to lift rates back to their natural
rate, which is somewhere north of
5%. Tax-rate reductions and
interest-rate hikes cured the world
of its ills in the early 1980s. They
can do so again.

Mr. Wesbury is chief
economist for First Trust
5766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: League of Democracies on: May 15, 2008, 10:36:26 AM
I love this idea as a way for the world to grow past the UN cleptocrats and the G8 with the phony Russia member, to move forward internationally WITHOUT moving toward world government.

The case for a league of democracies

By Robert Kagan

Published: May 13 2008 19:13 | Last updated: May 13 2008 19:13

With tensions between Russia and Georgia rising, Chinese nationalism growing in response to condemnation of Beijing’s crackdown on Tibet, the dictators of cyclone-ravaged Burma resisting international aid , the crisis in Darfur still raging, the Iranian nuclear programme still burgeoning and Robert Mugabe still clinging violently to rule in Zimbabwe – what do you suppose keeps some foreign policy columnists up at night? It is the idea of a new international organisation, a league or concert of democratic nations.

“Dangerous,” warns a columnist on this page, fretting about a new cold war. Nor is he alone. On both sides of the Atlantic the idea – set forth most prominently by Senator John McCain a year ago – has been treated as impractical and incendiary. Perhaps a few observations can still this rising chorus of alarm.

The idea of a concert of democracies originated not with Republicans but with US Democrats and liberal inter­nationalists. Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, tried to launch such an organisation in the 1990s. More recently it is the brainchild of Ivo Daalder, a foreign policy expert and senior adviser to Barack Obama. It has also been promoted by Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton university, and professor John Ikenberry, the renowned liberal internationalist theorist. It has backers in Europe, too, such as Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, who recently proposed his own vision of an “alliance of democracies”. The fact that Mr McCain has championed the idea might tell us something about his broad-mindedness. But Europeans should not reach for their revolvers just because the Republican candidate said it first.

American liberal internationalists like the idea because its purpose is to promote liberal internationalism. Mr Ikenberry believes a concert of democracies can help re-anchor the US in an internationalist framework. Mr Daalder believes it will enhance the influence that America’s democratic allies wield in Washington. So does Mr McCain, who in a recent speech talked about the need for the US not only to listen to its allies but to be willing to be persuaded by them.

A league of democracies would also promote liberal ideals in international relations. The democratic community supports the evolving legal principle known as “the responsibility to protect”, which holds leaders to account for the treatment of their people. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, has suggested it could be applied to Burma if the generals persist in refusing international aid to their dying people. That idea was summarily rejected at the United Nations, where other humanitarian interventions – in Darfur today or in Kosovo a few years ago – have also met resistance.

So would a concert of democracies supplant the UN? Of course not, any more than the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations or any number of other international organisations supplant it. But the world’s democracies could make common cause to act in humanitarian crises when the UN Security Council cannot reach unanimity. If people find that prospect unsettling, then they should seek the disbandment of Nato and the European Union and other regional organisations which not only can but, in the case of Kosovo, have taken collective action in crises when the Security Council was deadlocked. The difference is that the league of democracies would not be limited to Europeans and Americans but would include the world’s other great democracies, such as India, Brazil, Japan and Australia, and would have even greater legitimacy.

Some Europeans say it is precisely this global aspect that worries them, because it diminishes the centrality of Europe. The same fears make Europeans hesitant about expanding the Security Council to include Japan, India and Brazil. But this is short-sighted. New institutions should reflect global realities. The more democratic solidarity there is in the world, the more influential democratic Europe will be.

Some critics complain that it is too hard to decide which nations are democracies and which are not. This is an especially odd objection coming from anyone in the EU, the most exclusive club of democracies in the world. When Europeans consider whether to admit a new member they do not shrug their shoulders and ruminate on the hopelessly complex meaning of the term “democracy”. They employ precise and stringent criteria for deciding whether a possible entrant is or is not a democracy. A new league of democracies could simply borrow the EU’s admissions form.

Will the mere fact of democracies working together produce a new cold war? That is unduly alarmist. But ideological competition is already under way. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, notes that: “For the first time in many years, a real competitive environment has emerged on the market of ideas” between different “value systems and development models”. The good news, he believes, is that “the west is losing its monopoly on the globalisation process”. True or not, democracies should not be embarrassed about holding up their side of this competition. Neither Beijing nor Moscow would expect them to do anything else.

Here is a final reason not to worry about a league of democracies. It will not come into being unless the world’s great democracies want it to. This is one idea that the US cannot impose.

The writer is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund and an informal adviser to Senator John McCain. His new book is The Return of History and the End of Dreams
5767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Lessons from the past, peace through strength on: May 15, 2008, 01:07:32 AM
The negotiations that led to the disarming and fall of the Soviet empire might be the most important event of our lifetime (depending on your age).  Seems like almost nothing is written about it.  I came across some formerly secretive documents from the time and recommend this one - a memorandum of conversation (contemporaraneous notes from the American side)from Reykjavik, October, 1986.  Three years and one month later, east Berliners and west Berliners were partying in the streets as the wall came down.  Topics included detailed negotiations about nuclear reductions, missile defense, verification issues, philosophies of Marxism and challenging them on their lack of truly consensual government.

The context of course was that they were five and a half years into a Reagan policy of investing and building whatever was necessary to stay ahead militarily of the Soviets coupled with Reagan's persuasive explanation that Americans do not want to give up the lifestyle they enjoy for war.  The Soviets were trying to accomplish Perestroika" (restructuring) and "glasnost" (openness) without giving up communist socialism in an economy that was faltering worse than he knew.


5768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics, Newt Contract 1994 and 2008 on: May 09, 2008, 03:32:06 PM
Newt is one of my favorites too. He identifies the problem and the need for a solution beautifully, but I don't think he or anyone else has honed in on the right answer yet.  I challenge anyone out there to make a top ten list of what you believe in and what policies get us there. I take my stab at it below. 

Newt's contract with America in 1994 included some fluff (term limits) but also included at least a couple of grand slam home runs: welfare reform and capital gains tax rate cuts that, along with New's help passing NAFTA, formed the only pro-growth policies of the allegedly successful Clinton years.  The Contract also included failures such as budget process reform and zero based budgeting which are in just as bad shape today as they were then.

My comments on Newt's new list:

1) Temporary repeal of the gas tax paid for with spending restraint - a gimick
2) Use National Petroleum Reserve to alleviate current gas prices - a gimick
3) Energy Bill - This should be front and center!
4) One year Earmark Moratorium - gimick, but maybe useful making it hard to ever start again.
5) Overhaul Census - good policy, but not top ten for marketing
6) Space-based Air Traffic - ditto, not a top ten problem.  I thought he was going to say traffic control to get stoplights, lanes and cars moving where YOU drive, then I would be with him.
7) Make English the language of government - An obvious good policy, but not a brand maker for the party.
8. Secret Ballots for Labor votes - Again, good policy but only relevant to some 13% anymore.
9) Judges Matter - This also should be front and center!

Rough draft of my top ten:

1) Energy - Bigger and better energy supplies for a growing economy: use the cleanest and best known sources and methods and start producing real energy in America, oil, gas, nuclear, clean coal, solar and wind - all of it! Our government should regulate safety and require best methods but NOT prohibit or stop production.  On the demand side we should encourage conservation and smarter use.  Big government is the number one user of energy in this country and should lead by example, cutting non-essential uses immediately and aggressively.
2) Health Care - Mandate catastrophic coverage for accidents and illnesses like we do car insurance.  Pay regular costs individually out of health savings accounts.  Require transparency in health care costs.  Use market discipline to control cost.
3) National Security - Take the job of protecting Americans seriously, from terrorist surveillance and preventing new attacks to shutting down terror pipelines to killing and capturing those who would destroy us.
4) Balance the Budget using spending restraint.  Two and a half trillion in today's dollars ought to be enough!
5) Protect our Environment - zero tolerance for polluters. Pass and enforce real protection based on known science.
6) Appoint and confirm judges who will uphold the constitution.
7) Immigration - More fences, more surveillance but also more legal entry points.  Significantly expand legal immigration combined with zero tolerance for new trespassers.  No tolerance for current illegals who break a second law. One strike and you're out.  Plea bargain and settle with otherwise law-abiding illegals in America AFTER evidence proves the borders are now sealed.
8. Education aimed at global competitiveness - Local control, state guidance and increased parental choices. Limited federal involvement.
9) Taxes(McCain Plan): New alternative 2 step 'flat' tax with generous standard deduction. Eliminate the AMT.  Make the corporate tax competitive.
10) Break down trade barriers across the globe to keep spreading economic freedom and prosperity.
5769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain tax cut proposal on: April 26, 2008, 03:43:22 PM
Slow to post, but thanks CCP for kind words asking my opinion on John McCain's tax plan.  McCain presented it on April 15 when I was up to my neck in guess what - tax compliance tasks. There are both tax system and political considerations to take into account when viewing the campaign proposals. The plan is far better than I expected from McCain.  Here are my random thoughts, mostly positive, followed by negative coverage from the MSM.

1. Not raise taxes like his opponents both want to do plus a proposal to require 3/5 majorities to raise taxes.  I don't see that one explained but sounds to me like a constitutional amendment which is always unlikely.

2. Get our Corporate Tax in line with other countries, Cut from 35 down to 25%.  This needs to be explained and sold or it certainly will be demogogued to sound like tax cuts for the wealthy - people living paycheck to paycheck don't own profitable corporations.  The federal corporate tax is double taxation (at least, and really triple and quadruple taxation when all things are considered).  You can't just take your money after the corporate tax, federal and state, is paid. You must declare the personal income and be taxed again at the federal and state levels.  The rate correction will bring in more money to the treasury.  Having a rate higher than our economic competitors pulls companies, jobs and profits away.  Excessive rates keep money diverted away from profits and taxes.

3. Introduce an alternative tax system. I thought this was the big one but I don't see it on his site as I look now.  Near as I can tell this was the Fred Thompson plan that received the highest marks from conservative pundits such as the WSJ editorial page.  Not a true flat tax which would never be implemented in this liberal dominated political time we are in, but a 2-step 'flat tax' of 10 and 25% combined with a generous standard deduction.  Making this plan optional is clever.  It eliminates the gripe of those who lose deductions and fare worse under the new, simpler system.

4. Estate tax: Exempt the first $10 million and reduce the rate to 15%. - That is FAR better than the current schedule to go to zero in 2010 and then back to 55% in 2011 which is completely nuts!  15% is probably a reasonable rate that people would pay without turning their lives upside down to avoid.  Estate is generally after-tax money but I don't think this electorate is going to repeal the tax entirely.  Also, the argument that we collect more money at lower rates doesn't work at zero.

5. Gas Tax Holiday.  No federal gas taxes for this summer.  To me, that falls in a gimicky category with the rebates.  We don't need up and down tax rates.  We need a tax system that pays our bills without stomping down productive activities.  One piece of logic supporting a summer holiday is that gas prices go up partly because of summer formulation rules.  One might say this break would offset that.

6. Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.  This is BIG, affects more and more taxpayers every year.

7. Other: allowing businesses to write off the cost of new equipment and technology, banning Internet and new cellphone taxes, and permanently extending the business tax credit for research and development.

8. Hard line on spending.  McCain originally opposed the Bush cuts based on budget balance concerns.  In fact, revenues SURGED under the rate cuts and the economy only started to stall as impending tax rate hikes looked likely.  We know the deficits came from excessive spending because the revenue increase were far above expectations.  McCain will be attacked (and already has been) for fiscal irresponsibility for cutting any tax rate or even for any instance of not  raising taxes.  McCain has to make the case that tax rates that are "low, simple and fair" are good the economy and good for revenues to the treasury and that fiscal responsibility must come from entitlement reform and spending disciplline. Good luck with that.

Other than perhaps the final point about spending discipline, I would find his tax proposal to be the right plan, wrong messenger.  Bush passed some impressive cuts of the best kind -  to marginal tax rates, but he failed to articulate how they worked, why they worked or even that they did work. Most people are far more aware of the past couple of months of slow growth than they are about 51 months of robust growth.  McCain has a history of being a tax cut skeptic and that will make selling his program difficult.

In 1996, Bob Dole's lackluster campaign picked Jack Kemp to be his running mate and Dole adopted a serious tax cut proposal from Kemp.  On the stump and in press questioning Dole couldn't explain his own support for this new, bold proposal and Kemp couldn't explain Dole's past positions opposing these types of rate cuts.

Here is a negative story on the McCain tax plan from CBS / Washington Post just yesterday:

McCain Changes Tune On Tax Cuts
Washington Post: GOP Candidates Offers Tax Policies He Once Opposed

April 25, 2008

On May 26, 2001, after then-Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) cast his vote against President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, he trudged back to his office, convinced, he recalled, that he had been the lone Republican to oppose the largest tax cut in two decades.

But Chafee's staff told him that one other Republican, who had largely avoided the grueling efforts at compromise, had joined him in dissent. That senator, John McCain, was marching to his own beat, Chafee said, impervious to pressure from either side.

Now that he is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, however, McCain is marching straight down the party line. The economic package he has laid out embraces many of the tax policies he once decried: extending Bush's tax cuts he voted against, offering investment tax breaks he once believed would have little economic benefit and granting the long-held wishes of tax lobbyists he has often mocked.

McCain's concerns -- about budget deficits, unanticipated defense costs, an Iraq war that would be longer and more costly than advertised -- have proved eerily prescient, usually a plus for politicians who are quick to say they were right when others were wrong. Yet McCain appears determined to leave such predictions behind.

"He's looking forward, not back," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain's senior policy adviser.

To supporters, McCain has simply seen the light and now understands the power that business tax relief has to spur economic growth and innovation. Said J.D. Foster, a former Bush White House and Treasury tax policy expert, now at the Heritage Foundation: "It's logical that he wouldn't be repeating the arguments he made then. We all learn from experience."

To critics, it is political pandering. "It's just part of the new John McCain that's taking on the conventional wisdom that in tight races, you have to energize the base and win by 50.000001 percent," Chafee said. "I was frankly surprised that he's kept it up after securing the nomination. I thought he'd move to the center, and I haven't seen it."

Holtz-Eakin urged skeptics to "wind the clock way back," saying McCain has supported lower taxes and a smaller federal government throughout his political career.

But McCain's conflicts with fellow Republicans over taxes date back well before his differences with Bush. In December 1994, after his party swept to control of Congress on tax-cut promises, he challenged Ronald Reagan's legacy when he warned, "I think we would be making a terrible mistake to go back to the '80s, where we cut all of those taxes and all of a sudden now we've got a debt that we've got to pay on an annual basis that is bigger than the amount that we spend on defense."

In 1998, Republican leaders and their tobacco industry allies lambasted McCain's $516 billion tobacco regulation bill as the "McCain tax," painting it as big-government overreach and a $1.10 tax increase on every pack of cigarettes.

"This bill is not about taxes," he pleaded, just before the measure fell to a Republican filibuster. "It's about whether we're going to allow the death march of 418,000 Americans a year who die early from tobacco-related disease and do nothing."

In 2001, just days before Bush's first tax cut passed, McCain lamented on ABC's "This Week" that, "I'd like to see much more of this tax cut shared by working Americans. . . . I think it still devotes too much of it to the wealthiest Americans."

Almost exactly two years later, Bush was back for more: $350 billion in tax cuts, which accelerated the first round and added deep cuts to the tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

"Most of the economists view this as primarily benefiting wealthier Americans," McCain said on CNBC at the time. "There's a theory, I think, that's prevalent -- it was true in the 2001 tax cuts -- that if you give it to the wealthy people, then they will then, you know, create jobs, et cetera. The interesting thing to me is that most economists will tell you that it's the middle-income Americans that have been keeping the economy afloat."

Indeed, many of his warnings from those years have come to pass. Numerous expiration dates on those tax cuts, designed to hold down the cost to the Treasury, proved to be just the "gimmicks" he said they were, as Congress extended them repeatedly. The budget deficits he warned about in 2001 reemerged in dramatic fashion, as did defense spending increases not accounted for when Bush said the tax cuts were affordable. And the war in Iraq proved to be far longer and more expensive than lawmakers had expected when they approved the 2003 cuts.

"We have enormous defense expenditures. We don't know the cost of the war. We don't know the cost of reconstruction. We know it's in the tens of billions, at least, if not more," McCain said before the 2003 cuts were approved. "Obviously, we're going to be in Iraq a lot longer than many had anticipated."

Yet in Pittsburgh last week, in the face of a projected budget deficit of $400 billion and a sixth year of war, McCain proposed extending Bush's tax cuts, including the dividends and capital gains tax cuts, lowering the corporate income tax, allowing businesses to write off the cost of new equipment and technology, banning Internet and new cellphone taxes, and permanently extending the business tax credit for research and development.

By McCain's accounting, his tax proposals would cost the Treasury $200 billion a year.

"Philosophically, John McCain believes Americans pay too much in taxes, not too little," said Steve Schmidt, one of McCain's senior strategists. "The economy is in distress. Senator McCain wants to grow the economy."

Conservative tax policy analysts noted that some things McCain predicted in his earlier days did not happen. In 2003, he doubted that a capital gains and dividends tax cut would have any economic effect, and said that whatever gains were to be had would be swamped by rising deficits and interest rates. Foster said, however, that the economy took off with the passage of the 2003 tax cut, and although budget deficits have remained, interest rates have stayed low.

Holtz-Eakin said McCain did campaign for president in 2000 on a tax cut plan, albeit one significantly smaller than Bush's. But it was always meant as a first step toward a simple flat-tax system, Holtz-Eakin said. His latest tax proposal is merely the next step in that process, building on the past eight years of tax changes.

No doubt, conservatives say, McCain is now on the right political side of the tax issue.

"He's put himself in a position where a conversation about the economy is a conversation about Democratic tax increases and Republican lower taxes, and that's where any Republican wants to be," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who has clashed fiercely with McCain in the past.

But a change of position can always be used by the opposition, and Democrats have already begun.

"He's promising . . . tax cuts that he once voted against because he said they offended his conscience," Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) said Tuesday night. "Well, they may have stopped offending John McCain's conscience somewhere along the road to the White House, but George Bush's economic policies still offend ours."
5770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 10, 2008, 12:22:33 AM
John Burns and Dexter Filkins of the NY Times were on the Charlie Rose show tonight.  (I should put this under media issues as it is newsworthy just to get honest reporting and discussion from that organization.) I have posted John Burns previously for what I found to be excellent, firsthand war coverage and analysis.  I saw only part of this show.  I will give you the link but as I post it says video not yet available.  Give it a moment or two and then take a look if you are interested.  Very worthwhile IMO. They are probably back in the US because of the Petraeus hearings, also today was the anniversary of the fall of the Saddam regime.  Probably a full hour is required to watch.

Many, many serious points covered. And small things that might surprise you like that fact that they now have bicycle races in Ramadi and Haditha.

Tomorrow, for another view, they have George Soros on the program.
5771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: April 06, 2008, 01:33:59 PM
Nice read, CCP on superfast internet, and good questions.  I don't know about specific companies, but Gilder was onto something all along regarding exploding data traffic and network capacities.  The phonyness was to take his big picture thinking and try to frame it as an investment newsletter just because those are the only newsletters that sell.  Those companies needed to make continuing huge investments without corresponding cash flows and profits.  It's true that the net will increase its data flow exponentially, but I doubt it's true that we will be willing to pay exponentially more for that capability.

Because I have been nearly 99% in real estate and because I was working in fiber optics and followed developments in real time, I intentionally accepted the high risk - high potential rewards offered by these companies with all my available funds prior to the tech stock crash, and lost it all. It only seemed like major losses because of the paper successes before crashing.  Oh well. I'm still trying to sort out the lessons.
5772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 06, 2008, 02:00:52 AM
Responding to three points Crafty made regarding China:

"1)  China as a unique demographic profile due to the one child policy.  What are the implications thereof?"

There is an enormous field of study and thought regarding the effect of birth order on personality and I am no expert on that, but I am raising an only child - now 13.  One observation would be that only child gets the extensive to undivided attention of sometimes 6 adults, counting grandparents, where many of us probably grew up in the opposite situation where children outnumbered adults and competed for or shared attention and received  less.  IMO there are pluses and minuses so I don't draw any big conclusions from that. I  would go a couple of different directions with this.  The one-child policy including the horrific abortion situation and loss of freedom solved the population explosion on this piece of the planet.  One theory that was posted by Karsk says that the limits of physical resources places limits our potential for economic growth. (I owe him a reply that is half-written and partially disagrees on that.) Under that theory the population controls helps the sustainability of China's economic growth. Under other theories of demographics, they will be in big trouble when too few workers in the newer generations need to support too many retirees that likely will live longer and longer with rising costs.  I don't know how these things will resolve themselves.

"2) China is a toxic dump, an ecological disaster"

I don't know why bloody totalitarian regimes don't have more environmental protesters (sarcasm). We saw the toxic mess when communist east Europe was freed.  There is a correlation between prosperity, consensual government and cleaning up our environment.  Right now China is moving toward prosperity without moving toward consensual government.  Uncharted territory as far as I can see.  They have the regulatory authority, they just need the desire from the rulers since there is no electorate.

3)  China's banking industry's books make Enron a paradigm of financial rectitude.  Is there a disaster in the making?  Or will it lead to an even worse version of what happened to former econ juggernaut Japan?

I agree with the premise.  Japan had prolonged stagnation.  China will someday have a real downturn.  My credibility is lousy here.  I predicted since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 that their house of cards economy would suffer setbacks and the ruling regime would not survive that.  So far, I'm wrong.

5773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: April 06, 2008, 01:11:42 AM
May I suggest the author of these suggestions to be McCain s choice for VP.  - Doug

Ten Things a Candidate Might Want to Say, by Victor Davis Hanson
Date: 2008-04-06, 12:52AM CDT

1. Surplus! Talk of the notion of surplus, rather than mere budget-balancing. Deficits, and national and foreign debt, are matters of more than statistics. They are barometers of a nation’s self-confidence, its mood and self-image. Percentages of GDP may be the real indicator of debt, but in practical terms Americans think in terms of dollars owed. So we need a candidate not only to outline a balanced budget, but one of surplus that will pay down the debt as well, and by spending cuts rather than tax increases. Do that and much of the American malaise will disappear. Economists might shudder, but imagine no annual deficit, a national surplus of $1 trillion or so, the Social Security Trust Fund in Al Gore’s lockbox, $10 trillion in foreign bonds held by US interests, a dollar at a Euro (yes, we know the trade difficulties that would accrue), and gold at about $300 an ounce.

2. Close the borders. No need now to fight about amnesty, guest workers, deportation, assimilation, etc. All these key issues loom in the future. For now simply reduce the number of illegal arrivals to zero—through border fencing, more patrolling and manpower, employer sanctions, and stern negotiations with Mexico. Then as we squabble and fight, the number of foreign nationals or those not assimilated will begin to shrink in a variety of ways—once it is not growing. We need to take step one, rather than bicker over steps five and six. Who knows—we might just see many state treasuries miraculously recover, and thereby be spared the mantra that illegal aliens ‘really’ are a budget plus for states?

3. Iraq. Explain Iraq in blunt terms—that the first war against Saddam was won, but the second, more important one against radical Islam is still being won in the heart of the caliphate. Here Americans wish to know how many of the enemy we’ve killed, the degree to which other nations have stopped nuclear proliferation (cf. Libya or Dr. Khan), and the degree to which bin Laden and the tactic of suicide bombing have lost popularity. We need to explain to the American people how the tactical success of the surge translates to strategic victory, in the way stabilizing Korea, for example, allowed the powers of capitalism and constitutional government to be unleashed in the south and eventually to make a mockery of the fossilized north. If we can stabilize Iraq, its government and economy might do the same vis a vis Iran or Syria. In any case, we need some strategic vision of what Iraq is supposed to look like in five years and our role in it. A viable prosperous free Iraq is the worst nightmare of al Qaeda—but why and how needs to articulated daily.

4. Race. No more “conversations on race” but simply an end to identity politics. Americans are worn out with racial tribalism. The post-racial candidate Obama recently posed with Bill Richardson to gain a “Latino” endorsement, on the hope apparently that just as African-Americans are supposedly voting 90% for Obama, Hispanics might do likewise on Richardson’s prompt. But the scene was Orwellian. Both Obama and Richardson are elites of mixed ancestry and they just as well might have argued that they were “white” candidates. When either one claims fides to one side of their heritage, they implicitly reject the other. I can’t believe that a naturalized citizen from Oaxaca would vote for the grandee Obama because the grandee Richardson claimed that as an authentic Latino of similar background and perspective he should. And if he were to do that, then we are simply a tribal nation after all.

5. Taxes. Some simplification of the tax code. Americans can’t figure out their taxes. When in their 50s some of them finally make good money, more than 50% go to taxes while they are demonized as “the wealthy”—even as the mega-wealthy either pay on “income” as capital gains at 20%, or are so embedded in corporations that their expenses are taken care of as business deductions. In America, the couple that makes between $150,000-500,000 carries the country and gets less relief than the really well-to-do, but just as much grief and envy from the less well off. Some sort of flat-tax, simple-form is critical to our survival as a nation (I confess I just filled out my taxes and found it much harder than reading the choruses of Aeschylus).

6. Fuel. We don’t need to be “energy independent”—as opposed to cutting our appetite for imported oil by 5-6 million barrels per day. We have the world’s largest coal reserves. There are still a million or two barrels a day to be captured off our coasts and in Alaska. If every other family were to have a second electric commute car plugged into a nuclear-powered electric grid, we could easily accomplish all that rather quickly—until we arrive in 20 years at the so-called big rock candy mountain of hydrogen, flex-fuels, sustainable ethanols, etc. At $108 a barrel Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and the Middle East kleptocracies have the cash to cause us great trouble abroad, at $40 they are merely thugs. Would it help if someone said, “Ok, either drill in Anwar, or cut sales of SUVs by 10% per year,” or “Drill off the coast and build nuclear power plants, or have gas at over $5 a gallon—your choice”?

7. Colleges. We need more transparency in our universities. Why do tax-exempt private institutions use their funds largely to enrich an elite rather than to subsidize student tuitions? Universities avoid taxes, but as non-profits don’t use that saving to help those for whom they exist, but rather spend their fortunes more often subsidizing faculty and administrators. They are no different than those scandalous charities who exist for their apparat. How universities have been able to up their tuitions consistently above the rate of inflation, while exploiting part-time, poorly paid contractual faculty, and masquerading all the while as liberal institutions are among the great mysteries of the modern age. Yet any inquiry into the labyrinth of identity politics, racial quotas, the absence of intellectual diversity or the problems with tenure are met by charges of “McCarthyism” or worse. American universities are rated the world’s best only because of our sciences and engineering—and thus despite, not because of, our failed liberal arts curriculum

8. Health Care. Simply mandate, as in the case of car insurance, that everyone buy catastrophic health care plans, and use health saving accounts for everything else. When we go to K-Mart and see a sign that says “Strep Diagnosis and antibiotics—$50” or ”Check our rates for heart exam and medication” and expect to pay cash up-front out of our saving accounts, while reserving insurance for emergencies and major illnesses, the price of health care will plunge and the patient will become an adult again—rather than rushing to the emergency room at 3AM with the “flu” and no insurance, and less ability or willingness to pay. As someone who has been in emergency rooms four times the last five years for either kidney stones or broken bones, two facts I discovered: more than half don’t have health insurance, and 100% had cell phones, the costs of which per month would nearly pay for catastrophic medical plans. Americans for some reason are outraged that they might pay $3000 in health or drug uninsured costs per year, but hardly object to an extra $2000 in moon roof, rims, or GPS on their new cars. We are Hillary’s proverbial “nation uninsured” with plasma TVs and 4x4 trucks.

9. Infrastructure. The objections to government spending revolve around redistribution, not construction. We need a slash in entitlements and more investment in bigger, better, and more roads, rails, and airports. A highway 101 (note I don’t call it a freeway yet after a half-century, given its suicidal cross-traffic breaks) is a cruel joke. In California, there are still only two major winter routes in and out of the state on an east-west axis. Driving a highway 152 or 41 east-west is circa 1955. Most of our Sierra roadways are wonderful up to the crest, where they suddenly stop in their tracks or devolve into pot-holed paved cattle trails—on the apparent assumption there is not ecological damage driving up the western slope, but would be plenty descending the eastern (or that our forefathers were scoundrels that gave us these beautiful roads to the summit, but we are saints for using them and offering nothing of improvement to our children to get over the other side).

10. National Security. Talk honestly about terror and national security. Why can’t a candidate say—“We will monitor what we think are terrorist calls routed through the US. So do you think this is right, or an abject violation of your privacy?” And instead of “Close Down Gitmo!”, one might say, “We prefer to have about 400 Padilla-like trials instead”. Or we could say, “No water boarding and we will take our chances that what damage a terrorist might do is overshadowed by the damage we will do to our reputation.” I don’t think Americans quite know what they want, but they are very tired of being told the question is black/white, win/lose rather than a mess where each answer poses another question. Treat us like adults, and let the public back a candidate who apprises them of the costs and benefits and risks, instead of either mouthing “police state!” or “a nuke will go off!”
5774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: April 04, 2008, 10:52:30 PM
I came across two negative pieces about Obama that I hesitantly share here.  First is a site called which has a 68 item list of statements where they think the candidate is less than fully forthcoming (okay, they use the word 'liar' quite a bit).  Second is a cute video that takes Obama to task on 5 of his claims:

Even if each of these claims is somewhat petty by today's political standards, you can't IMO avoid seeing that this candidate is a more-of-the same politician, not something new.  Worst case is that something from Rezko to Rev. Wright or something we don't know yet will bring him down - like so many others.

Speaking of audacity, if Hillary Clinton had moved to her real home state of Illinois instead of becoming a pretend-Yankee fan, she wouldn't likely have Senator Obama to deny her now.
5775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 04, 2008, 08:39:15 PM
CCP had an interesting comment under Miliary Science: "...the US military sees China as our number one enemy"

It's true, but it's different from threats or enemies of the past, a very complex relationship.  China is clearly the number one potential threat because of size, military strength, economic strength and contention over certain geopolitical issues, particularly Taiwan. OTOH we don't want to control any inch of their land and they don't want ours. 

We had a couple of close calls that could have escalated but didn't. In May 1999 the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia by mistake. Also the crisis of April 2001 when a Chines bomber plane collided into an American reconnaissance plane that had to make an emergency landing on a Chinese runway.  The Chinese held 24 American crew members for 11 days, then released them, and they held our plane for over 2 months.

In the case of having their embassy bombed the Chinese showed restraint.  In the case of having our Navy flight crew detained, the US showed restraint.  The reason was the fear of war as deterrence but also the complexly intertwined economies IMO.

5776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 24, 2008, 07:44:30 PM
For a mathematical economist, Brian Wesbury has a great way of making complex things understandable IMO.

Government Failure, Or Market Failure?  by Brian Wesbury, 3/24/08

Every time the US has an economic problem that causes
pain or fear (a recession, high energy prices, bank failures, or a
market crash) there is always a frantic look for scapegoats.
And most often it is greedy corporations or otherwise nefarious
private-sector-types that get the blame.

For example, many believe that energy companies are
manipulating oil prices. Politicians are always investigating
them, and threatening legislation or special taxes. The Great
Depression, many believe, was caused by excessive greed.

Others think that Savings & Loans went belly-up because they
defrauded people and made bad loans. And today, there is a
clear belief that subprime loans are all about greed and fraud.
Some of this is true. Found in the rubble of each of these
economic upheavals are people who either made very bad
decisions or committed fraud. But, a thorough look at these
economic problems shows how government policy mistakes
played the key causal role in each of them.

The Great Depression was caused by excessively tight
monetary policy that began in the late 1920s. This created
deflation, and put upward pressure on the dollar, which in turn
encouraged protectionism – the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was
the result. Then Herbert Hoover raised tax rates in 1932, and
Franklin Roosevelt ramped up regulation and government
spending. The economy never stood a chance.

Richard Nixon closed the gold window, and devalued the
dollar in the early 1970s. The Federal Reserve made huge
mistakes, boosting inflation and undermining the dollar. This
drove up oil prices. Windfall profits taxes and energy price
controls made the problems worse.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Chicago’s Harris Bank
would not make oil loans if the oil in the ground was valued at
more than $20 per barrel. Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma
thought oil would stay high indefinitely and made billions of oil
loans. It failed in 1982. The 8th largest US bank, Chicago’s
Continental Bank, failed in 1984 partly because it had
purchased $1 billion in oil and gas participations from Penn
Square. In other words, the unexpected decline in oil prices
during the early 1980s, when Paul Volcker successfully killed
off inflation, helped cause large bank failures. Harris was fine.

It wasn’t the bank failures that caused the recessions of the
early 1980s, it was Volcker’s unexpectedly tight money. This
tight money also undermined S&L’s. Double-digit short-term
rates when many of the mortgages on their books had singledigit
interest rates turned them upside down. The losses
eventually came to roughly $250 billion.

Today, just like in the past, the US is paying a hefty price
for monetary policy mistakes. They began back in 1999 and
2000 when the Fed tightened policy too much. This caused
deflationary pressures which the Fed reacted to by cutting
interest rates to 1% in 2003. These 1% interest rates, and the
belief that they would stay low for a long time, led to excesses
in housing, just like the excesses of oil lending were caused by
commodity inflation. And with mark-to-market accounting in
place today the problems compound even more quickly.

Some argue that since individual people made all these
decisions, it’s not really the Fed’s fault. But this is like telling
someone after it’s been raining for 2 ½ years straight that they
should not have sold their nice red convertible or wasted money
on an umbrella now that it has stopped raining. Government
failure is more responsible for our current economic problem
than is generally realized. Arguing otherwise, and regulating
the economy even more, risks compounding the government’s
already large mistakes. It’s government failure that investors
should worry about, not market failure.

- Brian Wesbury, First Trust
5777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 24, 2008, 02:57:14 PM
According to this analysis from Weekly Standard, North Carolina is the key for Obama as independents and centrists hold the key for McCain:

Obama-McCain Race Takes Shape - Some thoughts on the Presidential race:

1) Obama is 90 percent likely to be the Democratic nominee, although the press seem to have continuing trouble with basic arithmetic and thereby doubt this. It's important to note that many of the superdelegates are DNC members which means many are not unfeeling calculators of general election odds who are likely to switch in a second but instead real live ideological activists. That helps Obama even more. HRC will be out in early May, after losing North Carolina.

2) General election polls now, like those before the actual primary contests began, are close to meaningless. Wait till after both nominees have given their convention speeches to take a real look.

3) Nonetheless, the Wright kerfuffle has hurt Obama in the long run. He is off his pedestal now. This tension between the inspiring idea of Obama's campaign and the reality of his pragmatic political climb through the hard corners of Chicago Democratic politics is a growing fault line inside the Obama candidacy.

4) Despite a generic political environment that is as awful as awful can be for Republicans, McCain still stands an excellent chance to win the general election but only if he commits to the one obvious and powerful strategy available to him.

5) McCain wins by being acceptable to the independents and white Democrats who will inevitably, over time, crumble off Obama's imperfect reality. He loses if he becomes caught in a partisan base versus base contest with the Democrats. The job for Team McCain is not to tear down Obama, it is to give those who will become increasingly disenchanted from him (Hillary voting blue-collars, Jews, moderates) a reason to see McCain as acceptable. This means McCain should return to his roots and run as the different kind of Republican he truly is. The GOP base will not enjoy this, but they--sorry AM radio crowd--will not control the outcome of this election. Ticket-splitters and swing voters will.

6) Does McCainland understand this? It's unclear. So far, the only strategic news out of the McCain campaign has been a half-baked scheme to fool around with regional offices and "decentralization." Such plumbing and wiring trivia misses the critical point: what McCain needs at once is a well-executed back to the center message strategy to enlarge his appeal beyond just national security issues and win this vital election.
5778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: other sports - hockey on: March 22, 2008, 10:52:38 PM
I will put this post here until my sports of tennis and hockey are DB recognized as combat games with martial arts significance.  smiley

The intro i read on this video, was that if you thought Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player ever, then you were too young to know Bobby Orr.  He was the strongest and fastest skater, best shooter, best playmaker, best with stick control, best puck handler, best defense, best hitter, best vision of the whole ice. etc. etc.  FWIW, now with helmets and face masks, you will never again see players with this kind of vision for everything in play. Enjoy 7 minute highlights of Boston's no. 4.

5779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq - The Surge One Year Later on: March 21, 2008, 12:48:09 PM
I appreciate hearing from the generals on the ground.  This was Gen. Odierno speaking about a week ago.  One excerpt from the pre-surge portion:

"it is important that I mention one other factor that informed our planning and deci­sion-making process. On December 19, 2006, we captured some mid-level al-Qaeda leaders just north of Baghdad. Upon them was a map that clearly depicted al-Qaeda's strategy for the total and unyielding dominance of Baghdad, betting that control of Iraq's capital and its millions of cit­izens would give them free rein to export their twisted ideology and terror."
The Surge in Iraq: One Year Later
by Lt. Gen. Raymond T Odierno
Heritage Lecture #1068

I returned from Iraq a little over two weeks ago, and trust me, it's great to be in Washington and in your company today. After nearly 15 months in Iraq--most­ly spent focusing on where we are and where we're going--it's a pleasure to step back and reflect a bit about where we've been. I'd like to speak with you about Iraq in 2007, to include the surge, its implemen­tation, and my assessment of its impact.

Baghdad: Before the Surge

As I prepared to depart Fort Hood, Texas, for Baghdad in late November 2006, the Coalition effort in Iraq was at a crossroads. The United States had just held mid-term elections; a new Secretary of Defense had been appointed; and the long-awaited recom­mendations of the Iraq Study Group were about to be published.

Stories in the press described the situation in Iraq as spiraling out of control. One Los Angeles Times arti­cle discussed the rising level of sectarian violence in Baghdad and how this violence seemed to feed on itself. Placing his account in context, the writer men­tioned that al-Qaeda had detonated a bomb in the Shia neighborhood of Sadr City the previous week, killing over 200 people. This was the latest in a steady run of high-profile attacks since the Golden Mosque bomb­ing of February 2006 in Samarra. And for at least one Shiite living in Baghdad, it was the last straw.

After months of standing apprehensively on the sidelines, the 27-year-old shopkeeper signed up with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, feeling obligated to do so for his own family's protection. Illustrating how vio­lence was increasingly consuming the capital city, the article also told of a 33-year-old Sunni Arab who decided to join a militia ostensibly for the same rea­son, to protect his community. In reality though, thousands of fighters in Baghdad took an expansive view of their role as "protectors," and their actions consequently fueled the cycle of violence.

Taking the offensive against Iraqi civilians on the other side of the sectarian divide, many launched attacks that elicited retaliation, which, as the situa­tion deteriorated, only provided justification for the next round of brutal reprisals. Sunni and Shia alike tolerated the extremists in their midst because the Iraqi Army and Police, in some cases, could not be trusted and, in most cases, lacked the capacity to protect the population.

The activities of militias and death squads helped to sustain the cycle of violence in the capital city, and their continued growth stemmed--most fundamen­tally--from an absence of security. With the violence came fear. Attitudes hardened as survival became the one imperative; allegiances formed along sectarian lines; and civilian deaths accumulated. Close to 2,000 Iraqis lost their lives as a result of ethno-sec­tarian violence in November 2006 alone, and the count exceeded this grim benchmark the following month. Corpses were found in trash heaps and along Baghdad's side streets by the dozens each day.

Al-Anbar: Before the Surge

In al-Anbar province, things were actually get­ting better, but the positive signs had not yet become evident. Also in late November, The Wash­ington Post ran a story entitled "Anbar Picture Grows Clearer...and Bleaker." The article discussed the findings of an assessment that characterized the province as lost--with al-Qaeda in Iraq exerting control over the daily lives of Anbaris more so than any other political or military organization.

The Post summarized a Marine intelligence report, stating "Between AQI's [al-Qaeda in Iraq's] violence, Iran's influence, and an expected U.S. drawdown, the...situation has deteriorated to a point that U.S. and Iraqi troops are no longer capa­ble of...defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar."

In fact, the province's tribes had already begun to turn against AQI. Nonetheless, the broad sentiment among the Sunni was that their worst fears of being marginalized--even subjugated--in a Shia-domi­nated Iraq were coming to fruition. Many commen­tators at the time used the term "civil war" to describe the conflict. Given the situation in Bagh­dad and Anbar, it was hard to dismiss this as care­less exaggeration.

When I arrived in Iraq, General George Casey, then the Multinational Force commander, chal­lenged me to break the cycle of sectarian vio­lence. Breaking the cycle and reducing the violence required securing the population and stopping accelerants, our term for those carrying out the attacks and thus triggering the subsequent reprisals. We had made efforts in Baghdad along these lines before, but not to the point where they had yielded any significant or lasting gains.

Establishing Basic Security: Late 2006

Coalition forces could concentrate on selected areas and clear them of extremists. But when these areas transitioned to Iraqi control as our units moved on to other parts of the city, the Iraqi Securi­ty Forces (ISF) left behind were incapable of "hold­ing" the ground we had won. The challenges involved with securing the population were simply too great for the ISF at the time.

In some cases, the ISF itself was complicit in attacks against the civilians its units were charged to protect. Another obstacle to solidifying security gains was political in nature. Then, as now, sustainable security demanded a political solution, with the chief feature being a government of Iraq (GOI) commit­ment to national reconciliation. Still today, we see some GOI intransigence, but they are making progress.

In late 2006, the progress we can observe now was unthinkable. In short, we could hardly expect successful transition or meaningful reconciliation without basic security. Establishing security for the population was a prerequisite for further progress. It was essential. And to make a decisive impact, we needed more combat power and a change in approach.

However, it is important that I mention one other factor that informed our planning and deci­sion-making process. On December 19, 2006, we captured some mid-level al-Qaeda leaders just north of Baghdad. Upon them was a map that clearly depicted al-Qaeda's strategy for the total and unyielding dominance of Baghdad, betting that control of Iraq's capital and its millions of cit­izens would give them free rein to export their twisted ideology and terror.

Indeed, al-Qaeda did operate with impunity in several areas surrounding the capital that we call the "Baghdad Belts," using these sanctuaries to intro­duce accelerants of violence. This strategy was sim­ilar to the way in which Saddam Hussein employed his elite Republican Guard forces to control the city. It was clear to us that Coalition forces would need to clear AQI from these belts and deny these enemies safe havens in order to control Baghdad.

Offensive Operations: Early 2007

From January to June 2007, the surge forces deployed gradually to Iraq, but we adjusted our strategy even before the first additional Brigade Combat Team arrived. Implementing the surge involved much more than throwing extra resources at a problem. It meant committing ourselves to pro­tecting the Iraqi populace--with a priority to Bagh­dad--while exploiting what appeared to be nascent progress against AQI in Anbar.

It meant changing our mindset as we secured the people where they worked and slept and where their children played. It meant developing new tac­tics, techniques, and procedures in order to imple­ment this concept. We began to establish Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. We erected protective barriers and estab­lished checkpoints to create "safe neighborhoods" and "safe markets," improving security for Iraqis as they went about their daily lives.

Changing our approach also meant introducing more balance in our targeting by going after both Sunni and Shia extremists. I should point out that this modification required the government of Iraq's cooperation, and it is significant to note that we got it. Shia militia leaders conducting extra-judicial kill­ings would no longer get a free pass.

Changing our approach meant reinvigorating our partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces and improving their capacity. It meant improving our ability to integrate our military efforts with the expertise of other government agencies--largely through Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Finally, it meant determining where best to employ the surge forces in and around Baghdad and Anbar and sequencing their employment so that they had the greatest impact.

Many have discussed how we implemented this change in strategy - building up forces and capabil­ity through the spring of 2007; launching Phantom Thunder--a set of simultaneous operations across Baghdad and its surrounding belt areas; and quickly following up that with Phantom Strike in order to keep extremists off balance.

Results: A Change in Attack Trends

Throughout these offensive operations, we main­tained constant focus on job one--protecting the population. By November, we could claim that attacks had dropped to their lowest levels since 2004-2005. There were 30 attacks in al-Anbar province during the last week in October. One year prior, there had been over 300. Today there are under 20 incidents per week in all of Anbar.

The change in attack trends in Baghdad was also dramatic; it reflected a marked reduction of nearly 60 percent. In 2006, civilian deaths throughout Iraq were over 3,000 in the month of December. In less than a year, they had plummeted by 70 percent. In the Baghdad Security Districts specifically, ethno-sectarian attacks and deaths decreased by 90 per­cent over the course of 2007.

Obviously, it's entirely too early to declare victory and go home, but I think it's safe to say that the surge of Coalition forces--and how we employed those forces--have broken the cycle of sectarian violence in Iraq. We are in the process of exploiting that success.

Explaining the reduction in violence and its stra­tegic significance has been the subject of much debate. It's tempting for those of us personally con­nected to the events to exaggerate the effects of the surge. By the same token, it's a gross oversimplifica­tion to say, as some commentators have, that the positive trends we're observing have come about because we paid off the Sunni insurgents or because Muqtada al-Sadr simply decided to announce a ceasefire. These assertions ignore the key variable in the equation--the Coalition's change in strategy and our employment of the surge forces.

Suggesting that the reduction in violence result­ed merely from bribing our enemies to stop fighting us is uninformed and an oversimplification. It over­looks our significant offensive push in the last half of 2007 and our rise in casualties in May and June as we began to take back neighborhoods. It overlooks the salient point that many who reconciled with us did so from a position of weakness, rather than strength. The truth is that the improvement in secu­rity and stability is the result of a number of factors, and what Coalition forces did throughout 2007 ranks among the most significant.

In December 2006, the number of American fighting battalions in the Baghdad Security Districts was 13. By the following summer, there were 25 con­ducting operations from dozens of Joint Security Sta­tions and Combat Outposts in the heart of the city. Throughout Baghdad and the surrounding belts, Coalition forces were not only attacking the enemy, they were establishing and maintaining a presence in places that had long been sanctuaries of al-Qaeda.

At the same time, we were going after Shia extremists--those responsible for the displacement of Sunni families, sectarian-motivated executions, and intimidating the populace in general. We launched precise, targeted raids repeatedly against the worst offenders. Given additional troops, the Coalition employed them to protect the population. This commitment to the people of Iraq made a dif­ference both directly and indirectly.

Successful Partnerships: Police and Citizens

Partnered with the Iraqi Security Forces, our operations fragmented what were once well-estab­lished AQI support zones, disrupted the network's operations, and forced its leaders (those who sur­vived) to shift their bases elsewhere--in many cas­es, out of reach of Baghdad. Likewise, Coalition forces knocked Shia extremists off balance and drove many away from the capital. I believe our operations injected a healthy dose of confusion into the Mahdi Army's ranks, caused many intermedi­ate- and lower-level leaders to overreact, and ulti­mately prompted Muqtada al-Sadr to call for a ceasefire to restore order and to recast the image of his organization as a humanitarian rather than a military one. No doubt, our efforts to disrupt Mahdi Army leadership figured significantly in Sadr's decision.

The surge of Coalition forces also helped bring about a surge in Iraqi Security Force capacity. More U.S. brigade combat teams meant more partnered units for the Iraqi Army and National Police. When it comes to developing the ISF, there is simply no substitute for partnership.

Embracing and enabling the concept of pro­tecting the population also built momentum for bottom-up reconciliation, allowing this process to expand beyond Anbar into other provinces. Enhanced security and persistent Coalition force presence encouraged Iraqis who wanted to stand up and reject AQI to do so without fear of retaliation. Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts had a clear, noticeable effect on the Iraqi people not only physically, but more importantly, psychologically.

So, what did we do with these citizens that made the choice to reject al-Qaeda and extremism? Acknowledging the potential risks of dealing with former adversaries, our commanders seized upon the opportunity and hired them to assist in local security where Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police were lacking. Initially known as Concerned Local Citi­zens, but now called the Sons of Iraq, a grassroots movement sprung up akin to neighborhood watch­es. Mainly Sunni at the beginning and wary of the Shia-led government, these groups turned to the coalition and offered their services to provide pro­tection for the population.

In so doing, we were able to keep young Sunni men away from extremism, provide jobs and income, and gain valuable intelligence on the insur­gency, improvised explosive devices, and caches. But they were also looking for legitimacy. The impact of the Sons of Iraq went beyond security and paved the way for improvements in basic services, economic progress, and local governance. As word of their success spread, so did the program--and it continues today. Only paying them meager wages and not providing weapons and ammunition, the program has been an unqualified success.

Additionally, there is a second-order effect in that every dollar paid to the Sons of Iraq gets spent at least two additional times as they provide for their families and then local markets buy wholesale goods to stock their stands. In places where we have employed the Sons of Iraq, we average a ten-fold increase in the markets, for example going from 40 to 400 stands. Finally, the Sons of Iraq are now branching out across Iraq and increasingly include Shia groups and, in some cases, mixed sect groups.

Setting the Stage for Hope

Generally speaking, when security conditions improve, a narrow focus on survival opens up and makes room for hope. Hope provides an opportuni­ty to pursue improvements in quality of life. Along these lines, the surge helped set the stage for progress in governance and economic develop­ment. In a very real way and at the local level, this subtle shift in attitude reinforced our security gains--allowing Coalition and Iraqi forces to hold the hard-earned ground we had wrested from the enemy while continuing to pursue extremists as they struggle to regroup elsewhere.

In Baghdad, al-Anbar, and in many other areas of Iraq, the story in early 2008 is about improving people's lives and building government capacity, and about their expectations regarding the future. For the government of Iraq, the surge has provided a window of opportunity. This window will not remain open forever.

To capitalize on the reduction of violence in 2007, Iraqi leaders must make deliberate choices to secure lasting strategic gains through reconciliation and political progress. This set of choices and their collective effect will be decisive, I think. This view puts things in context.

The future of Iraq belongs to the Iraqis. The improved security conditions resulting in part from the surge of 2007 have given the Iraqis an opportu­nity to choose a better way. In the last week, several major pieces of legislation have been passed by the Iraqi parliament: accountability and justice, provin­cial powers, and amnesty law.


Let me close by emphasizing that there was much sacrifice to achieve these gains. Let us all nev­er forget those whose lives have been changed for­ever because of injuries and those who gave their lives fighting for the ideals of liberty as well as their loved ones. Their sacrifices were and are not in vain, and because of them the Iraqis have the right to choose their own destiny.

The gates of freedom remain open today because of our fallen comrades: noble and gallant warriors who gave everything so others can enjoy life, liberty, and happiness. We will honor their memory and remain dedicated to ensuring their sacrifices are never forgotten.

I am honored to serve in the greatest Armed Forces in the world, and I'm proud of what it stands for. We have not finished our mission, but we have proven our mettle. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you this morning, and God Bless America.

Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno is the Commanding General of U.S. III Corps.
5780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: March 21, 2008, 12:41:28 PM
As a speech writer, Peggy Noonan is impressed mostly with the speech, given the situation Obama was in.  She doesn't address the underlying problems that a) Wright's form of hate speech is popular with a segment and b) Obama chose to associate himself and his family with it.  Or that he threw his Grandmother who chose to raise him 'under the bus' in the speech and called her "a typical white woman" in a radio interview since.

Another view:
 Obama's Speech
By Thomas Sowell
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Did Senator Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia convince people that he is still a viable candidate to be President of the United States, despite the adverse reactions to statements by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright?

The polls and the primaries will answer that question.

The great unasked question for Senator Obama is the question that was asked about President Nixon during the Watergate scandal; What did he know and when did he know it?

Although Senator Obama would now have us believe that he is shocked, shocked, at what Jeremiah Wright said, that he was not in the church when pastor Wright said those things from the pulpit, this still leaves the question of why he disinvited Wright from the event at which he announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination a year ago.

Either Barack Obama or his staff must have known then that Jeremiah Wright was not someone whom they wanted to expose to the media and to the media scrutiny to which that could lead.

Why not, if it is only now that Senator Obama is learning for the first time, to his surprise, what kinds of things Jeremiah Wright has been saying and doing?

No one had to be in church the day Wright made his inflammatory and obscene remarks to know about them.

The cable news journalists who are playing the tapes of those sermons were not there. The tapes were on sale in the church itself. Obama knew that because he had bought one or more of those tapes.

But even if there were no tapes, and even if Obama never heard from other members of the church what their pastor was saying, he spent 20 years in that church, not just as an ordinary member but also as someone who once donated $20,000 to the church.

There was no way that he didn't know about Jeremiah Wright's anti-American and racist diatribes from the pulpit.

Someone once said that a con man's job is not to convince skeptics but to enable people to continue to believe what they already want to believe.

Accordingly, Obama's Philadelphia speech -- a theatrical masterpiece -- will probably reassure most Democrats and some other Obama supporters. They will undoubtedly say that we should now "move on," even though many Democrats have still not yet moved on from George W. Bush's 2000 election victory.

Like the Soviet show trials during their 1930s purges, Obama's speech was not supposed to convince critics but to reassure supporters and fellow-travelers, in order to keep the "useful idiots" useful.

Best-selling author Shelby Steele's recent book on Barack Obama ("A Bound Man") has valuable insights into both the man and the circumstances facing many other blacks -- especially those who were never part of the black ghetto culture but who feel a need to identify with it for either personal, political or financial reasons.

Like religious converts who become more Catholic than the Pope, such people often become blacker-than-thou. For whatever reason, Barack Obama chose a black extremist church decades ago -- even though there was no shortage of very different churches, both black and white -- in Chicago.

Some say that he was trying to earn credibility on the ghetto streets, to facilitate his work as a community activist or for his political career. We may never know why.

But now that Barack Obama is running for a presidential nomination, he is doing so on a radically different basis, as a post-racial candidate uniquely prepared to bring us all together.

Yet the past continues to follow him, despite his attempts to bury it and the mainstream media's attempts to ignore it or apologize for it.

Shelby Steele depicts Barack Obama as a man without real convictions, "an iconic figure who neglected to become himself."

Senator Obama has been at his best as an icon, able with his command of words to meet other people's psychic needs, including a need to dispel white guilt by supporting his candidacy.

But President of the United States, in a time of national danger, under a looming threat of nuclear terrorism? No.
5781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: March 19, 2008, 12:33:27 PM
Thanks to Karsk for comments and the article.  I disagree. I don't see a correlation between economic growth, wealth and the 'owning' of the natural resources in demand.  For example, America largely leaves its oil in the ground and is the world's leading economy and the largest consumer of oil.  Japan with virtually no natural resources built its wealth other ways, while places loaded with resources such as Brazil and Africa for example always seem to sputter.  I think oil wealth in countries like Iraq, Saudi, Iran, Venezuela and Russia is a distraction from real wealth building activities, much like drug kingpins with the nicest cars in the ghetto are a distraction away from constructive, wealth-building activities.

I think positive growth is more a function of consistent public policies that are conducive to earn, save, own, invest, hire, etc.

A classic book that covers timeless economic principles,  Ibn Khaldun's 'Muqaddimah'  introduction to history (from 1377) is now published on the web at

An economic excerpt in translation from the original arabic:

"In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue...As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favor of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow...owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects...[and] sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield...But the effects on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes...Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation."
5782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 18, 2008, 02:11:11 PM
The tax comparison chart is extremely helpful.  Curious about the source.  Before I spread it further, want to ensure accuracy. 

Explanation for Capital Gains tax says: "If you sell your home and make a profit, you will pay 28% of your gain on taxes".  Correction(?): I assume home sale exemption up to certain amount continues 250k single, 500k married (?)

Add 55% to Clinton/Obama reinstated inheritance tax with $1mil exclusion (?)

I am surprised at the tax tables.  I thought liberals were only admitting to raising the upper brackets. These show significant increases down to a single making 30k. Is that accurate?

And a reminder always for reading tax burdens - Federal is not usually the only tax.  Add 9% for my state to capital gain and upper income tax and add 11% state estate tax to inheritance tax. Add FICA etc. and state income tax to all individual rates etc. Plus gas taxes, sales taxes, telecom tax, property taxes...
5783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 25, 2008, 07:49:25 PM
This WSJ piece with local conservative commentator Jason Lewis (who occasionally subs for Rush L.) ripping Minnesota's Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has relevance in the Presidential thread because because Pawlenty is a possible running mate for McCain, but I will put it here because it's a rant.  Pawlenty is a very down to earth, super nice guy.  I have had face to face political talks with him several times.  Republican governors in Democrat states, like Mitt and Ahhnold, perhaps serve some purpose in slowing down the liberal freight train of new programs and taxes, but to be popular and re-elected they do not move, represent or lead anyone in a conservative direction IMO. 

Pawlenty's Record
February 23, 2008; Page A8

"The era of small government is over . . . government has to be more proactive, more aggressive."
-- Tim Pawlenty, 2006.

Minnesota's 47-year-old governor is now one of a handful of names being bandied about as a possible running mate for John McCain. But if the Arizona senator wants to unite conservative Republicans behind him, there are better choices.

First elected in 2002, Mr. Pawlenty got off to a good start by holding the line on taxes in the face of a $4.5 billion state deficit. That shortfall equaled 15% of the state's $28 billion biennial budget, and the pressure on the governor to break his no-new-taxes pledge was unrelenting. Nonetheless, he showed resolve in dealing with Minnesota's recalcitrant liberal elite.

But in 2005, signs of his "progressive" instincts emerged. In a quest for new revenue, Mr. Pawlenty supported a 75 cents per-pack cigarette tax. He called it a "health impact" fee. No one was fooled. User fees are generally charged to ensure that those who use a government service pay for the cost of providing that service. In this case, however, it was obvious that smokers were just being tapped to fund health-care entitlement programs.
[Tim Pawlenty]

Following the tax hike, the governor pushed through a state-wide smoking ban in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Aggressive, Nanny-state government seems to be big with Republican governors these days -- although policies such as smoking bans do little to stem the costly tide of state-run health care.

In 2006, liberal Democrats (there is no other kind here) proposed a universal health-care behemoth to cover all residents. Mr. Pawlenty responded with a more limited proposal to expand the state's child health-care program, Minnesota Care, to cover all children. More recently, the governor's Health Care Transformation Task Force recommended imposing a mandate -- à la Massachusetts -- on residents to buy health insurance.

On prescription drugs, Mr. Pawlenty set up the state's RX Connect Program to import price-controlled Canadian drugs. The South St. Paul populist also advocated a temporary ban on ads paid for by pharmaceutical companies. Not exactly the stuff of which markets are made.

Not everything has been bleak for the right during Mr. Pawlenty's tenure. Last session he vetoed several major spending bills pushed by the Democratic Farmer Labor Party; they were so profligate that his vetoes elicited barely a whimper from Minnesota's reliably liberal media. Nevertheless, Mr. Pawlenty has presided over back-to-back biennial budget increases of 12.4% and 9.8% respectively. Last year the governor's proposed budget survived essentially intact but still spent the state's $2 billion surplus, with half the general fund increase going to education. Minnesota, with five million people, now has a biennial budget of nearly $35 billion.

Mr. Pawlenty's proactive government stance extends to support for mass transit and sport stadium subsidies, as well as for hiking the state's minimum wage, which is now $6.15 an hour for large employers (the federal minimum wage is $5.85). But it is education and the environment where Mr. Pawlenty hopes to establish his progressive bona fides.

He calls for accountability in education, but does little to buck the most powerful lobby in state politics, Education Minnesota. Indeed, Mr. Pawlenty has courted the unions, telling the Minnesota Business Partnership that "I can't have the Republican governor talk about changing the school system without having the support and help of the teachers' union and my friends on the other side of the aisle. It just won't work."

On the environment, Mr. Pawlenty imposed some of the most aggressive renewable energy mandates in the country. Other states will be requiring, in coming years, that energy producers get 20% of their electricity from "renewable" sources such as wind, solar or animal manure. In Mr. Pawlenty's Minnesota, the state's largest utility will be required to generate 30% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

Mr. Pawlenty is using his influence through the National Governor's Association to export his ideas across state lines. The NGA meets in Washington, D.C. next week. Look for Mr. Pawlenty to be on hand and stumping for renewable mandates.

In April, Mr. Pawlenty delivered the remarks that probably best reveal his views on the environment. "It looks like we should have listened to President Carter," he told the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group. "He called us to action, and we should have listened. . . . Climate change is real. Human behavior is partly and may be a lot responsible. Those who don't think so are simply not right. We should not spend time on voices that say it's not real."

At times it seems that Mr. Pawlenty's first political instinct is to placate liberal critics, as he did following the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis last August. When Rep. James Oberstar, a Democrat, tried to exploit the tragedy that killed 13 people and injured 100 others -- by blaming it on a lack of federal gas tax revenue -- Mr. Pawlenty responded by calling for a state gas tax increase. Thankfully, the governor started backpedaling on that idea almost immediately after proposing it. He now promises to veto any tax increase to come out of the legislature this year (handing down one such veto yesterday).

That's good. But it doesn't mean that he'll be able to deliver the state for Mr. McCain. In the run-up to Super Tuesday earlier this month, Mr. Pawlenty stumped hard for Mr. McCain only to watch as Republican voters delivered Minnesota overwhelmingly to Mitt Romney.
5784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 17, 2008, 06:57:30 PM
Excerpts from a column/rant that covered more than the presidential race:

Victor Davis Hanson,  February 16, 2008
How We Got Where We Are—Turning Points of the Primaries

Candidates have intrinsic strengths and make their own fate, but the primary campaign did not necessarily have to end up where it did—since the following events were as pivotal as they were unexpected

1. Bill Clinton’s decision to drop the bite-the-lip therapeutic self and revert to the war-room hack, which along with Hillary’s clumsy civil rights revisionism turned off the liberal media.

2. Michelle Obama’s fiery speeches, that along with Oprah’s omnipresence, ended all notion that Barrack Obama was not black enough, and helped solidify the African-American base.

3. The Obama team’s decision to avoid detail and concentrate on his rock-star sermons on “change” and “hope”, that hypnotized voters, who after they woke and found he had said nothing had already joined the pied piper. In contrast, Huckabee’s specifics—fair tax, Bush’s “arrogant” foreign policy, invading Pakistan—proved the dangers of a rookie not talking only about “hope and change.”

4. Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous decision to delay, forgo face time and press coverage, and invest in Florida, based on the false assumption that leads in the national polls are static and are immune from the human desire to switch and side with the winner—even if the perception was created in tiny caucuses or small states primaries.

5. The New York Times’ decision to run serial stories on Giuliani’s personal life and petty sins of a decade prior.

6. Hillary’s scripted tear that gave her a second chance even as her cackle and screeching voice helped lose the first

7. The success of the surge by September/October that gave the McCain candidacy not only a second life, but also sanctioned his lonely and principled stand on the war when few were willing to invest in Iraq.

8. Mitt Romney’s decision to go negative in TV ads rather than give uplifting human speeches that proved effective only at the very end of his effort

9. Talk radio and right-wing base attacks on McCain that won him fides with independents and moderates, and some sympathy from mainstream Republicans

10. The vast dislike of the Clintons in the media, punditry, and among Democratic politicians—cf. Bill’s lectures and finger pointing and Hillary’s whining— who were all looking for a spark to ignite

He Kept Us Safe?

If we are not hit again, and if Iraq continues to settle down, in five years President Bush will be reassessed as the one who kept us safe after 9/11 when popular wisdom insisted that more attacks were to come. Soon someone will write a history detailing the losses al Qaeda suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq from a perspective other than “we created more terrorists”— such as “we killed thousands of committed terrorists over there, not here.”


Barrack Obama’s team should begin to worry that in the popular culture and even the mainstream media, people are beginning automatically to associate his set speech with vapidity, “hope” and “change” with saying nothing. If not curtailed, that Pavlovian identification will take on a life of its own.

Historians will wonder at what point the post-racialist Obama, who, it was alleged, “was not black enough”, transmogrified into “The Black Candidate” and began winning 85-95% of the black vote, even when head-to-head with the wife of the honorary “black” president. The downside, as Hillary’s campaign seems to be trying to exploit, is that racial identity politics married with appeals to upscale yuppie whites, is beginning to turn off other minorities such as Asians and Hispanics, as well as working whites. One lives and dies with appeals to the tribe, whether intended or not. A good example was Cruz Bustamante’s run for governor during the California Gray Davis recall. Suddenly commercials ran with crowds of Mexican-Americans shouting and waving red flags, and his ratings nosedived with each spot that aired.

Obama may well capture the nomination, but there is an outside chance that he will lose to Hillary all the key states so important in the general elections—California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Not a good sign for the November elections.

Much of the rhetoric of the Obama campaign concerns mortgage and student loans, with the clear implication that the borrower has been victimized, and is need of federal redress. Two observations: prior to the mortgage meltdown, the rhetoric had been “home ownership” or the notion that the “non-traditional” borrower had to be accommodated to get him into a first home. Now such marginal borrowers apparently were “tricked”, or coerced into buying more home than they could afford.

The same logic will apply to student loans, as we begin to hear all sorts of bail-out programs aimed at those “burdened”. Perhaps true, but in a great many of cases, many had no business going into debt for college, since they were not yet motivated and only limped through the undergraduate years, attending class haphazardly in a holding pattern, unsure whether to graduate or work or sort of both.

It may be a conservative canard, but the common theme of the Obama rhetoric is that the US is a depressingly oppressive place, where the poor citizen has not much income and gets no help from an uncaring government. It all sounds like 1929, not the entitlement colossus of 2008.
5785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Africa on: February 17, 2008, 06:47:30 PM
A largely untold story that Bush brought to light with his current trip there...

February 15, 2008
President Bush's Trip to Africa:
Solidifying U.S. Partnerships with the Region
by Brett D. Schaefer and Anthony B. Kim

President George W. Bush is scheduled to embark today on his second trip to Africa. The five-day visit includes stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia and will promote significant Bush Administration initiatives that address HIV/AIDS; combat terrorism; and promote development, good governance, and economic freedom in Africa. Indeed, the Bush Administration has demonstrated unprecedented attention and dedication to the region, including creating the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); increasing U.S. official development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa fourfold; offering a new, more effective way to provide development assistance in the Millennium Challenge Corporation; and setting up a new combatant command dedicated to Africa.

President Bush's trip is the culmination of seven years of efforts to improve U.S. relations and create trade and development partnerships with African nations. These efforts have generated real improvements in the region. A great deal more can be achieved in the coming years, and America should continue to play a leading role in helping African nations take the steps necessary to improve economic growth and development and in expanding partnerships in the region.

In a contentious election year, Africa is an issue on which there is substantial agreement and significant potential for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. The President's trip is a well-timed effort to emphasize the strides that have been made. Congress should work with the President to ensure that his initiatives continue to succeed beyond 2008.

Real Outcomes from America's Successful Engagement with Africa

Africa no longer sits on the margin of U.S. foreign policy interests. U.S engagement with the region has been moving increasingly toward closer ties as Washington "recognizes the evolutionary change the continent is undergoing."[1] President Bush has met more African heads of state than any other U.S. President. He "has focused on ways to reshape the landscape and reframe the debate" on U.S. policy towards Africa with "emphasis on partnership and cooperation" that can produce positive, measurable results. [2] In recent years, the U.S. has successfully partnered with many African nations to combat the spread of disease, encourage economic development and growth, and elevate the stature of the region as a priority in U.S. foreign and national security policy.

Helping Africa Fight Diseases. The HIV/AIDS pandemic and other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis have undermined economic progress in Africa, threatening people's livelihoods and productivity, lowering life expectancy, and increasing child mortality. Recognizing the grave challenge that disease presents to the continent, President Bush has made fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis a priority for his Administration.

The most prominent effort is the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, more commonly known as PEPFAR. Announced in 2003, the five-year, $15 billion initiative is the largest commitment by any country for an international health program dedicated to a single disease. While PEPFAR is global in scope, it has a strong focus on Africa: Twelve of the 15 focus countries are located there, including Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.[3]

PEPFAR included among its original goals providing treatment to 2 million people infected with HIV; preventing 7 million new infections; and providing care for 10 million persons, including orphans and at-risk children.[4] Over the past five years, the program has made it possible for 1.4 million people in Africa to receive life-saving treatment,[5] with a special emphasis on preventing infant infections. In his 2008 State of the Union Address, President Bush urged Congress to double funding for the program to $30 billion over the next five years to treat 2.5 million people; fund prevention efforts for 12 million people; and provide care for another 12 million, including 5 million orphans or vulnerable children.[6]

In addition to PEPFAR, the five-year, $1.2 billion President's Malaria Initiative, which aims to halve the mortality rate of the disease over five years in 15 African countries, has brought real benefits to people in Africa. Through public-private partnerships, more than 6 million insecticide-treated bed nets are being distributed, and about 25 million people have already benefited from them.[7] The U.S. has also been the largest donor to multilateral efforts to combat disease, including providing more than 27 percent of funds for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.[8] Congress should support the President's efforts to combat disease in Africa, as these programs have demonstrated significant achievements.

Partnering with Africa for Economic Growth and Development. In parallel with PEPFAR and the Malaria Initiative, the Bush Administration dramatically increased U.S. assistance to sub-Saharan Africa and created the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2004. The MCC administers the Millennium Challenge Account, an innovative approach to providing U.S. development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa.

From 2000 to 2006, the United States doubled its development assistance to $21.5 billion and quadrupled its development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa to $5.6 billion.[9] The U.S. is also the world's leading provider of humanitarian and food assistance, which has saved millions of lives in Africa and elsewhere. In 2006, the U.S. provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance in more than 50 countries and more than $2 billion in food aid in 82 developing countries.[10]

However, the Bush Administration recognizes that the level of aid funding is not necessarily a measure of effectiveness. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, most African countries are little better off today than they were decades ago.

The bulk of economic evidence shows that, while there may be a role for assistance and donor nations, the key to development lies in the hands of the governments of developing countries. African countries must first remove obstacles to development by adopting policies that bolster free markets and entrepreneurship, good governance, and the rule of law. These conclusions closely adhere to the evidence provided in the Index of Economic Freedom, an annual study by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal that looks into countries' economic policies to measure their level of economic freedom and finds that, "in pursuing sustainable prosperity, both the direction of policy and commitment to economic freedom are important."[11]

Based on this understanding, the Bush Administration proposed a new way of providing development assistance that encourages recipients to adopt sound economic policies. The MCC targets assistance toward low-income and lower-middle-income countries with a demonstrable record of investing in people and promoting policies that bolster economic growth and the rule of law. The overarching goal is to help countries graduate from the need for foreign assistance.

Over the past four years, the MCC has created remarkable policy reform competition, known as "the MCC effect," among countries that wish to qualify for an MCC "compact agreement" or a "threshold program."[12] By increasing transparency in compiling and disseminating economic statistics and competing with each other for MCC grants, these countries have been motivated to pursue real policy improvements.

The reforms brought about by "the MCC effect" have encouraged entrepreneurial activities and created more favorable conditions for economic growth and development. Of the MCC's 16 compact agreements, nine are with African nations, including three of the five countries on the President's trip (Benin, Tanzania, and Ghana). The nine African compacts total nearly $3.8 billion, which accounts for 70 percent of the MCC's total grants to date.[13] Additional threshold programs totaling $100 million have been channeled to the seven African countries among the MCC's 18 threshold countries.[14]

To ensure the MCC's mission to "reduce poverty through sustainable economic growth in the developing world," President Bush requested in his fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget $2.23 billion for the MCC, an increase of $680 million over the level enacted for FY 2008.[15] Congress should fulfill this request to ensure the initative's continued success.

Enhancing Economic Growth Through Trade and Investment. Seizing on another powerful anti-poverty tool, the Bush Administration has expanded trade with Africa by opening the U.S. market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Trade and investment flows dwarf official development assistance. For example, in 2006, trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa from the U.S. alone totaled more than $80 billion. In comparison, total development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa from all donors that year was only $39.9 billion.[16]

Moreover, trade and investment are more effective at promoting economic growth because they directly contribute to private-sector development without a government or nongovernmental organization (NGO) intermediary. In this manner, trade efficiently spurs economic growth, increases entrepreneurial opportunities, and creates new and better-paying jobs.

AGOA, which was enacted in 2000, has been the cornerstone of America's trade and investment policy with sub-Saharan Africa. By encouraging trade and investment, AGOA has helped enable African nations to take advantage of opportunities to improve growth through integration into the global economy.

Through AGOA, many African goods receive zero-tariff access to the U.S. market.[17] In response to these lower costs, two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa has grown by almost 140 percent since the introduction of AGOA, including an increase of more than 90 percent in non-oil/gas trade.[18]

For Africa to benefit fully from trade, however, tariff and non-tariff barriers must be eliminated more broadly. The U.S. has pressed other nations in the World Trade Organization to adopt measures through the Doha Round to remove anti-development practices that inhibit trade between developing countries and between developed and developing countries. As noted by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley:

    The United States is also seeking to open markets through the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Doha represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help millions in the developing world rise above poverty and despair. And the President is committed to concluding an ambitious Doha Round agreement this year.[19]

Congress should support U.S. efforts in the Doha round by agreeing to provide fast track status to the trade reforms resulting from the Doha negotiations.

Recognizing Africa's Increasing Strategic Importance. Africa is no longer a distant region whose instability and problems can be ignored by the U.S. As articulated in the National Security Strategy, the need to expand and ensure America's access to energy resources, prevent the spread of terrorism in weak or failed states, and address transnational health and environmental concerns has transformed Africa from a strategic backwater into a priority region for U.S. economic, political, and military interests. America has become increasingly involved in the region since the end of the Cold War, with more than 20 U.S. military operations in Africa between 1990 and 2000 and another 10 since 2000. These concerns and operations, combined with a rising expectation by many in America and other countries that the U.S. should intervene in internal and regional African conflicts more frequently and actively, make it likely that the U.S. will become more involved in the region in coming years.[20]

In recognition of Africa's rising importance, President Bush announced on February 6, 2007, that the United States will create a new, unified combatant command for Africa (AFRICOM) to oversee security, enhance strategic cooperation, build partnerships, support nonmilitary missions, and conduct military operations as necessary. The unique challenges facing Africa led the Administration to set up a new type of interagency command for the continent. The President made clear that he sees the new command as having more than simply military responsibilities: "The Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa."[21] The new command will draw heavily from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal bodies for expertise.

Creating an independent command for Africa elevates the foreign policy and national security issues critical to the region in U.S. policy circles. This move is merited by the region's increasing importance to U.S. national and economic security. President Bush has demonstrated foresight in calling for an Africa Command, and Congress should support it.


President Bush's second visit to Africa is an excellent opportunity to highlight the many successful efforts and programs initiated and expanded by the Bush Administration that benefit both the United States and the people of Africa. America's constructive engagement with Africa and the President's appreciation of the region's growing importance should be noted and supported by Congress.

There is substantial agreement by both sides of the political aisle on the need to forge close relations with African countries and work together to promote economic growth, stability, and good governance. Congressional action to support these programs is critical to maintaining America's efforts to replace poverty with prosperity in the continent. Congress should support these initiatives and programs so that America can continue its efforts to guide Africa into a brighter future.
5786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 13, 2008, 12:40:00 PM
"I think Mitt failed to catch on until too late because he did not seem genuine."

I agree.  For me, Mitt and Fred both fit my views on issues well enough.  Fred lack excitement.  Mitt lacked an authenticity.  I don't value excitement but others do and I value victory.  Mitt's move to pro-life alone was plausible and his presumed negative of being Mormon I think was politically manageable.  Mitt's move from governor of the most liberal state to perfectly conservative on all issues, just in time, was bizarre, leaving people not knowing what to think.

With non-Republican, non-conservative McCain as the nominee, the question remains - who is the leader in exile of the conservative movement.  The answer unfortunately remains no one, though Romney could certainly take another shot if he chooses.  On another try I see where he could be taken more seriously sooner and maybe not face so many competing voices.  Fred, Rudy and some of the others are likely out forever.

Conservatives lack consistency, lack good leaders, lack good followers and lack good policy writers.  Other than that ...
5787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 12, 2008, 10:13:58 AM
Thanks CCP.  The selection process is ugly, but pretty soon we will see how well each party did putting its best foot forward.  I don't like McCain but maybe the reality is that he is the only Republican (at least in name) who could win right now.  It will be interesting to see if who he picks will become a likely successor, win or lose. 

On the Dem side, I agree the emotion is with Obama, the momentum is with Obama and the key match up polls against McCain are with Obama.  Counting out the Clintons is risky business for Democratic leaders and super delegates.  Reminds me (just slightly) of the Sunnis in Anbar dealing with al Qaida.  They needed to be 100% certain that these people wouldn't soon be in power before publicly and decisively turning against them.

I think Sen. Clinton would certainly pick Obama as her running mate and I think Obama would most certainly not pick Clinton.  Who he picks will be interesting.  Like Bush picking Cheney, Obama needs a boatload of experience and so-called gravitas.  But what prominent Democrat or Clinton administration former cabinet member with national security experience can he pick (Sandy Burger? Madeline Albright isn't eligible) that doesn't bring with it more negatives.  Since Obama doesn't know that he lacks experience, I predict he will make a bold move and pick someone else who lacks experience.  Advantage on the VEEP choice should go to McCain.
5788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 10, 2008, 03:04:03 PM
To be fair, Peggy Noonan's observation that Obama is no Lincoln is from Jan. 2005 when Obama had been in the U.S. Senate for about a minute.  He still is no Lincoln or even McCain for that matter in terms of any accomplishments, good or bad, but he is the candidate of excitement this year (which is exactly the quality that my candidate lacked).  Obama's oratory deliberately lacks specifics and hasn't been challenged with tough follow up questions or substantive debate. 

Democrats face two high-risk choices. Obama might or might not be a great candidate and President for them.  At least he represents some up-side risk.  Sen. Clinton could win a general election with high negatives but would serve more in the likeness of Richard Nixon than Abraham Lincoln.  One of the legacies of the Clinton-I Presidency that she wishes to continue was that they lost congress for for 12 years and lost the White House for the 8 years following. 

My first post since superTuesday - I convened our Republican caucus in 2006 in a small Republican town on the outskirts of Minneapolis and I sat literally alone in a schoolroom until I finally approved adjournment.  This year we rented City Hall and had 42 enthusiastic participants, mostly dissatisfied with elected Republicans and mostly dissatisfied with the existing choices of candidates, but the people showed up and express passion about their core beliefs.  Romney was the winner of the moment, just shortly before he dropped out.

The Newt piece (posted elsewhere) complains that we are doing nothing about Iran and is perfect proof that conservatives including myself who dislike McCain can not and will not sit out this election in a time of war.  While Obama wants dialog with terror organizations and Hillary just sees potential foreign contributors, McCain says he looked into Putin's eyes and saw the letters k-g-b.
5789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / U.S. Senate Races of 2008 on: January 29, 2008, 10:33:29 AM
Here is a thread to start watching the Senate. The Presidential thread has been a great place to both read and post during this already bizarre and frustrating year.  The Senate and House races are more local in focus, but national and global in importance.  I hope others will join in here and help keep a watch across the country.

The outcome of the senate has already been written.  Republicans have too many difficult seats to defend, too many incumbents retiring, a minority status already and all political momentum against them.  Democrats will gain seats, keep the majority, but not get close to the magic number of 60.  Time will tell if that is true.

Two senators I hope they keep are Clinton in New York and Obama in Illinois.
One of the contested seats is Republican Norm Coleman in my (blue-purple) state of MN.  To me he is a RINO.  To the Democrats he is a George Bush clone (in the extreme, negative sense) and he is sitting in Paul Wellstone's seat which is more sacred to liberals than the manger or the cross is to Christians.

Two characters want his seat: satirist Al Franken and trial lawyer Mike Ciresi and they have been hitting the airwaves hard for the last several weeks.  Obviously Franken has backing from Hollywood, New York etc. and other liberals nationwide and Ciresi has personal fortune and fame as he charged the state a half billion dollars for suing the tobacco companies.

Franken says he will "fight for you", presumably the middle class as he walks down a middle class sidewalk near where he grew up, and Mike Ciresi says will 'fight for you' the way he "fought the big special interests like the big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies and that's what [he] will keep doing for you in Washington". 

With all the talk about 'fighting for you' I thought this thread would fit just as well in the martial arts forum.

Al Franken commercial: or linked at  Mike Ciresi commercials are posted at:

Unfortunately Sen. Norm Coleman, as a Democrat-lite (with an R) centrist and former Democratic mayor of St. Paul, he doesn't have much of a conservative core to "fight back' with.
5790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters - World Peace on: January 29, 2008, 09:39:47 AM
VDH is apparently poking fun at the world's current obsession with the plight of the Palestinians.  Within his five step program are some valuable nuggets of historical wisdom, IMO.

A Modest Proposal for Middle East Peace
The U.N. need only take five simple steps.

By Victor Davis Hanson

There seems to be a growing renewed animus against Israel lately. Arun Gandhi, grandson of the purported humanist Mahatma Gandhi, thinks Israel and Jews in general are prone to, and singularly responsible for, most of the world’s violence. The Oxford Union is taking up the question of whether Israel even has a right to continue to exist. Our generation no longer speaks of a “Palestinian problem,” but rather of an “Israeli problem.” So perhaps it is time for a new global approach to deal with Israel and its occupation.

Perhaps we ought to broaden our multinational and multicultural horizons by transcending the old comprehensive settlements, roadmaps, and Quartet when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a dispute which originated with the creation of Israel.

Why not simply hold an international conference on all of these issues — albeit in a far more global context, outside the Middle East?

The ensuing general accords and principles could be applied to Israel and the West Bank, where the number of people involved, the casualties incurred, and the number of refugees affected are far smaller and far more manageable.

Perhaps there could be five U.N. sessions: disputed capitals; the right of return for refugees; land under occupation; the creation of artificial post-World War II states; and the use of inordinate force against suspected Islamic terrorists.

In the first session, we should try to solve the status of Nicosia, which is currently divided into Greek and Turkish sectors by a U.N. Greek Line. Perhaps European Union investigators could adjudicate Turkish claims that the division originated from unwarranted threats to the Turkish Muslim population on Cyprus. Some sort of big power or U.N. roadmap then might be imposed on the two parties, in hopes that the Nicosia solution would work for Jerusalem as well.

In the second discussion, diplomats might find common ground about displaced populations, many from the post-war, late 1940s. Perhaps it would be best to start with the millions of Germans who were expelled from East Prussia in 1945, or Indians who were uprooted from ancestral homes in what is now Pakistan, or over half-a-million Jews that were ethnically cleansed from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria following the 1967 war. Where are these refugees now? Were they ever adequately compensated for lost property and damages? Can they be given promises of the right to return to their ancestral homes under protection of their host countries? The ensuring solutions might shed light on the Palestinian aspirations to return to land lost sixty years ago to Israel.

A third panel would take up the delicate issue of returning territory lost by defeat in war. Ten percent of historic Germany is now part of Poland. The Russians still occupy many of the Kurile Islands, and Greek Cyprus lost sizable territory in 1974 after the invasion by Turkey. The Western Sahara is still annexed by Morocco, while over 15 percent of disputed Azerbaijan has been controlled by Armenia since 1994. Additionally, all of independent Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1950-1. Surely if some general framework concerning these occupations could first be worked out comprehensively, the results might then be applied to the much smaller West Bank and Golan Heights.

In a fourth panel, the international conference should take up the thorny issue of recently artificially created states. Given the tension over Kashmir, was Pakistan a mistake — particularly the notion of a homeland for Indian Muslims? North Korea was only created after the stalemate of 1950-3; so should we debate whether this rogue nation still needs to exist, given its violent history and threats to world peace?

Fifth, and finally, is there a global propensity to use inordinate force against Muslim terrorists that results in indiscriminate collateral damage? The Russians during the second Chechnyan War of 1999-2000 reportedly sent tactical missiles into the very core of Grozny, and may have killed tens of thousands of civilians in their hunt for Chechnyan terrorists — explaining why the United Nations later called that city the most destroyed city on earth. Syria has never admitted to the complete destruction of Hama, once home to Muslim Brotherhood terrorists. The city suffered the fate of Carthage and was completely obliterated in 1982 by the al-Assad government, with over 30,000 missing or killed. Did the Indian government look the other way in 2002 when hundreds of Muslim civilians in Gujarat were killed in reprisal for Islamic violence against Hindus? The lessons learned in this final session might reassure a world still furious over the 52 Palestinians lost in Jenin.
5791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq/ Saddam Lied, People Died on: January 25, 2008, 12:38:55 AM

...through the FBI interrogator who debriefed him for seven months, George Piro. Piro has been interviewed by 60 Minutes; the interview will air on Sunday. This preview is interesting, but not surprising.

As many have believed, Saddam misjudged the Bush administration. He expected another "four-day bombardment," which he was willing to wait out. At some point, though, it became apparent that an invasion was inevitable. Why didn't Saddam come clean and admit that he had run out of WMDs? Piro says that Saddam told him he didn't dare let the world know that his WMDs were gone, because he would then be unable to deter an Iranian attack:

    Saddam still wouldn't admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," he tells Pelley.

Of course, there was something else going on too: Saddam had been telling the world for years that Iraq had no WMDs, and no one believed him. In fact, Saddam didn't want to be believed; he wanted the world (particularly Iran) to take his obvious non-cooperation with U.N. inspectors as evidence that he was concealing active biological and chemical programs. So Saddam would have been in the position of saying, "No, no--I really mean it this time!" It's doubtful whether anyone would have believed him.

Piro reinforces another point that was emphasized in the Duelfer report; that is, that Saddam was biding his time, and had the personnel and resources he needed to restart his weapons programs when the time was right:

    He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. "Saddam still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there," says Piro. "He wanted to pursue all of WMD…to reconstitute his entire WMD program." This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

Putting it all together, it appears that liberals should adopt a new slogan: "Saddam lied, people died!"
5792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight / Ron Paul on: January 24, 2008, 08:37:58 PM
I'm about a month late re-posting what David (SkinnyDevil) requested I move to this thread, (roughly the amount of time my Computer has been down sad  .)  Thanks for the nice compliment.  I think the first half of this post applies directly to why we fight. The second half covers freedom to trade and economic strength and still falls within my view of 'why we fight'.

Ron Paul: "The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars."

 - The first sentence is technically correct.  False information.  That's what imperfect intelligence is.  We also acted on the best information available in the world that matched the intelligence coming from Britain, France, Russia etc.  IMO Saddam had enough dealings with al Qaida, though not a 'collaborative, operational relationship', to justify our involvement in his demise and he wasn't going to leave some other way.  He didn't have 'stockpiles of WMDs' sitting out, but he posed enough of a WMD threat to meet my threshold for a threat.  He didn't attack the U.S. inside our borders, other than a possible involovement in the 1993 WTC bombing, but did attempt an assassination of an ex-President and was shooting daily at our planes as they performed their lawful flights.  He attacked four of his neighbors including a full scale invasion of Iran and a complete takeover of Kuwait.  He violated his cease fire agreement and cheated on his oil-for-food relief from sanctions.  (Not to mention gassing the Kurds, real torture programs and the slaughter of Dujail for which he was hanged.)  All without consequence if not for the backbone of our current effort.  Standing up to the bloody tyrant affected the policies of Libya and perhaps Iran and others.  I don't appreciate anyone saying we brought this on ourselves and I won't vote for a candidate who implies that.  Ron Paul's simplistic message hasn't been updated to reflect progress made, just the same slogans used by America's left.  If stability breaks out in Iraq and it really is starting to look that way, then his whole premise that the world is more dangerous becomes false.  Nothing sets back the global terrorist movement like the humiliating defeat they are now suffering.  All they can do now in Iraq is blow up things, like they do in the U.S. and in London, Bali and Madrid.  They have no major ally left in Iraq.

I have long asked this question of Ron Paul's foreign policy:  What foreign interventions would he have supported going back all 200+ years especially to a much smaller threat faced by Jefferson with the Barbary pirates (early al Qaida) in the Mediterranian?  Does he even acknowledge that our constitutional liberties were achieved with the assistance of foreign powers as he disparages our effort to allow consensual government in Iraq?

I agree in principle with Ron Paul on issues of domestic spending.  But America doesn't.  He would be accused in the general campaign and the debates of wanting to end this program and that, you name it, all these departments closed and programs ended.  That isn't realistic and that isn't electable.  I wouldn't move that suddenly or that drastically and there aren't 50% of the American people to the right of me, more like 2-3%.  Primaries are about advancing your own principles and also they are about winning.

Ron Paul writes on the second sentence (excerpted)of his issues statement: "...Dr. Paul tirelessly works markets..."
 - yet Ron Paul:
Voted against Fast Track Authority
Voted against a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Chile
Voted against free trade with Singapore
Voted against free trade with Australia
Voted against CAFTA
Voted against the U.S.-Bahrain trade agreement
Voted against the Oman trade agreement
Voted against normal trade relations with Vietnam

 - Freedom to trade is an economic liberty as sacred to me as keeping the fruits of our labor and we expand trade by negotiating down the barriers in the other countries IMO.

I disagree with Ron Paul on the failure of our monetary system.  We have rising prices on energy because we illegalize supply.  We have out of control inflation in the government meddled 'markets' of healthcare and college tuition because of the preponderance of third party pay.  Price stability otherwise has been excellent.

David, I disagree with you about the impending collapse of the American economy.  Job growth in spite of manufacturing loss has been phenomenal.  In spite of all the damage we do with excessive taxation, regulation and debt the economy shows remarkable resilience.

Conclusion for me is that our taxes will be lower if we choose an electable proponent of lower marginal rates and fiscal discipline and we will be safer if we SELECTIVELY take battle to our enemies.   
5793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 15, 2008, 09:36:57 AM
Fred Thompson interviewed about 'war on terror':
From November, only dated in the sense that Bhutto was still alive. 

I predict Thompson will be the VP pick no matter who wins (other than him) and Republicans will have another upside down ticket like Dole-Kemp '96.  How did that work out?
5794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 14, 2008, 09:56:50 AM
David Malpass today: Markets and the Dollar.

I don't agree 100% but it is the best  I've read explaining the weak market for the dollar and what to do about it. (sorry I can't post the text)
5795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: December 27, 2007, 07:40:23 AM
My top ten reasons that the 'FairTax' is a non-starter.  IMHO you can stop reading after the first sentence of point 1) below which constitutes a total and complete show-stopper.

1) Changing over to the 'FairTax' requires the repeal of the 16th amendment. You will not see 2/3rds of Nancy Pelosi's House, 2/3rds of Harry Reid's Senate and 3/4ths of the legislatures, including states like Senator Amy Klobuchar's Minnesota and Senator Hillary clinton's New York, voting to 'permanently' cancel the authority of the federal government to tax income at all while their careers are fully focused on "raising taxes on the wealthiest among us" to pay for health care and more government of all kinds.

Perhaps Mike Huckabee or a liberal (redundant?) would create a new layer of federal taxation without eradicating the old one, but then I would consider supporting a 'well regulated Militia' to dissuade him.

2)  A 23% "inclusive" tax is a 30% sales tax in American English.  When you buy a $1 item you pay $1.30.  Do the math!

3) Unless you live in South Dakota or other location without a state income tax you will still need to file a complete income tax return including all of the schedules with the government every year.  (Who really thinks the states will soon quit taxing income.)

4) Somewhere approaching 40% of the economy are the government purchases.  You can make them FairTax-exempt and then adjust the 30% tax upward for the rest of us, or you can assume they are not exempt and adjust our spending-neutral needs proportionately upward for revenue requirements to buy the same amount of government purchases which will similarly bump up the tax rate to citizens beyond affordability.

5)  The so-called "prebates" that remove the harshness of sales tax regressivity also remove the simplicity which was the primary strength, purpose and justification for the 'Fair Tax'.

6)  New items are taxed and used items are not taxed again because they already were, yet 'used' homes will be taxed!  Unbelievable.  Again, there goes the simplicity and the lobbying as it means all rules are negotiable.

7)  Fairness? For whom? Those who worked hard, paid taxes and saved for the future and now want to enjoy it will be openly double taxed.  So much for fairness.  Again, if we adjust for fairness, out goes the simplicity.

8.) What kind of real tax reform  is revenue neutral?  Those who want reform generally want lower tax burdens.  Those who preach the populist 'tax the rich' message of today are diametrically opposed to the efforts to lower or remove the burdensome taxes on production.

9)  The false promise of ending taxation on income has split and damaged the already feeble movement to truly reform our massive, incomprehensible tax system.  Case in point, look at the GOP contest in Iowa that will spread from there.  The already thin minority of Iowans who are inclined to be a) caucus-goers, b) fiscal conservatives and c) have a tax reform orientation are now distracted away from the difficult to elect conservatives like Fred Thompson, who has a serious income tax reform proposal, toward the impossible to elect Mike Huckabee who is not even a fiscal conservative and just recently co-opted the 'FairTax ' banner.  IMO that means certain defeat for the larger cause of simplifying and lessening the burden.

10)  The nomenclatures and slogans of "FairTax"  and "revenue neutral" are bogus.  They sound like they originate from the same public relations firm that informed us that taxes are mere "contributions".  Changing to consumption-based taxation is not fairer, it is just different.  It is not revenue-neutral to the individual taxpayers.  It would shift burdens around and half the people would certainly cry out 'unfair!'.  But they won't need to because it is impossible to implement this total system changeover. Please see no. 1) above. 

Bonus, 11)  A national 30% sales tax would compete and worden the state and local sales taxes that are often as high as 7% or more.  States and localities would then shift taxation heavier toward the income side, potentially removing most or all gains after adding an enormous new layer.  Imagine your local public schools looking at all that new revenue potential.  Nothing in the federal constitution or future amendments removes the ability of the state, county, local, school, or waste, stadium or transit commissions to go after any revenues that the feds leave on the table. 

Who among us really believes a new tax will solve our problems. As you may have guessed, not me.   - Doug
5796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 19, 2007, 11:47:30 AM
Posting my view and looking forward to Crafty's though I know he has already posted in detail on this in the past.

Ron Paul: "The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars."

 - The first sentence is technically correct.  False information.  That's what imperfect intelligence is.  We also acted on the best information available in the world that matched the intelligence coming from Britain, France, Russia etc.  IMO Saddam had enough dealings with al Qaida, though not a 'collaborative, operational relationship', to justify our involvement in his demise and he wasn't going to leave some other way.  He didn't have 'stockpiles of WMDs' sitting out, but he posed enough of a WMD threat to meet my threshold for a threat.  He didn't attack the U.S. inside our borders, other than a possible involovement in the 1993 WTC bombing, but did attempt an assination of an ex-President and was shooting daily at our planes as they performed their lawful flights.  He attacked four of his neighbors including a full scale invasion of Iran and a complete takeover of Kuwait.  He violated his cease fire agreement and cheated on his oil-for-food relief from sanctions.  (Not to mention gassing the Kurds, real torture programs and the slaughter of Dujail for which he was hanged.)  All without consequence if not for the backbone of our current effort.  Standing up to the bloody tyrant affected the policies of Libya and perhaps Iran and others.  I don't appreciate anyone saying we brought this on ourselves and I won't vote for a candidate who implies that.  Ron Paul's simplistic message hasn't been updated to reflect progress made, just the same slogans used by America's left.  If stability breaks out in Iraq and it really is starting to look that way, then his whole premise that the world is more dangerous becomes false.  Nothing sets back the global terrorist movement like the humiliating defeat they are now suffering.  All they can do now in Iraq is blow up things, like they do in the U.S. and in London, Bali and Madrid.  They have no major ally left in Iraq. 

I have long asked this question of Ron Paul's foreign policy:  What foreign interventions would he have supported going back all 200+ years especially to a much smaller threat faced by Jefferson with the Barbary pirates (early al Qaida) in the Mediterranian?  Does he even acknowledge that our constitutional liberties were achieved with the assistance of foreign powers as he disparages our effort to allow consentual government in Iraq?

I agree in principle with Ron Paul on issues of domestic spending.  But America doesn't.  He would be accused in the general campaign and the debates of wanting to end this program and that, you name it, all these departments closed and programs ended.  That isn't realistic and that isn't electable.  I wouldn't move that suddenly or that drastically and there aren't 50% of the American people to the right of me, more like 2-3%.  Primaries are about advancing your own principles and also they are about winning.

Ron Paul writes on the second sentence (excerpted)of his issues statement: "...Dr. Paul tirelessly works markets..."
 - yet Ron Paul:
Voted against Fast Track Authority
Voted against a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Chile
Voted against free trade with Singapore
Voted against free trade with Australia
Voted against CAFTA
Voted against the U.S.-Bahrain trade agreement
Voted against the Oman trade agreement
Voted against normal trade relations with Vietnam

 - Freedom to trade is an economic liberty as sacred to me as keeping fruits of our labor and we expand trade by negotiating down the barriers in the other countries IMO.

I disagree with Ron Paul on the failure of our monetary system.  We have rising prices on energy because we illegalize supply.  We have out of control inflation in government meddled 'markets' for healthcare and college tuition because of the preponderance of third party pay.  Price stability otherwise has been excellent.

David, I disagree with you about the impending collapse of the American economy.  Job growth in spite of manufacturing loss has been phenomenal.  In spite of all the damage we do with excessive taxation, regulation and debt the economy shows remarkable resilience. 

Conclusion for me is that our taxes will be lower if we choose an electable proponent of lower marginal rates and fiscal discipline and we will be safer if we SELECTIVELY take battle to our enemies.   
(FYI, I support Fred Thompson)   - Doug
5797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 11, 2007, 10:15:31 AM
'Was there a CIA motive to keep US from striking Iran?'

Yes. 1) CIA careerists disagree with preemption and any other policy if it originates from this administration, and 2) they don't want the humiliation of being wrong again. So they took a mixed report and picked the risk-gone headline.  Same report could just as easily have been titled 'Iran shifted uranium enrichment to civilian facilities'.

The Stratfor statement that "The U.S. doesn’t have the force to attack Iran" is strange to me.  Certainly we would not attempt a million troop ground force occupation in Iran, but more importantly we don't have the accurate and compelling intelligence combined with the necessary will to perform Osiraq-like target strikes on facilities in either Iran or North Korea before Bush's term expires.  I doubt we lack the equipment.

In this case and with the missile defense concessions handed to Putin, I would like to think that we are not always on the losing end of the mind games played with tyrants.  In order to move an adversary's position in difficult negotiations, it's necessary to hand them something for saving face or to change the stakes.  My estimation of the current Iran strategy is that we contain them best by winning right now in Iraq.

5798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 10, 2007, 06:16:20 PM
John Bolton's piece here explores the NIE flawed product possibility based on among other things the over-reliance on the most recent information and the pre-existence of bias in the writers.  It's funny how quick people are to trust the conclusions now right as we learn they were wrong last time.  Also wrong were intelligence conclusions in Iraq and they completely missed foretelling other events such as the Iranian revolution, Saddam invading Kuwait and the collapse of the Soviet empire.
5799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: December 07, 2007, 10:27:17 AM
On the political side of environmentalism, here is a top ten hypocrites list from

The Greenest Hypocrites of 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007

By Steven Milloy

Green has traditionally been the color of the deadly sin of envy. But this year, a trendy upstart mounted a serious challenge to envy’s claim.

Here are green hypocrisy’s top 10 poster children for 2007.

1. Al Gore’s Inconvenient Lifestyle. While the former veep and nouveau-$100 millionaire jets around the world squawking about the “planet having a fever” and demanding that we all lower our standard of living, his own personal electricity use is 20 times the national average, including an indoor pool costing $500/month to heat.

While Gore deflected criticism of his inconvenient electric bill during March congressional testimony by saying he purchased “green” electricity, the truth is, he didn’t start doing so until 2007.

2. Google’s Sky Pig. A photo-op of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin plugging-in a hybrid car was part of the search engine giant’s June announcement promising carbon neutrality by 2008. But how this PR-fluff squares with the so-called “Google party jet” — Page and Brin’s gargantuan personal Boeing 767, which burns about 1,550 gallons/hour — is any one’s guess.

3. RFK Jr. Tilts at Windmills. Outspoken global warming activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently railed against coal-produced electricity because “climate change is the most urgent threat to our collective survival.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy vigorously campaigns against a proposed Cape Cod wind farm that would generate CO2-free electricity because it would “impoverish the experience of millions of tourists and residents and fishing families who rely on the sound's unspoiled bounties.” Unmentioned in Kennedy’s tirades, however, is the windmill’s unfortunate proximity to his family’s famed Hyannis Port compound.

4. The U.N.’s ‘Bali High’. Early December will witness 10,000 climateers descending upon the paradisiacal island resort of Bali for the 13th annual U.N. global warming meeting. The reason for much jet and limo travel — and other prodigious greenhouse gas generating activity associated with such a mega-conference — is relatively modest: setting the agenda and timeframe for a post-Kyoto treaty. Sure seems like something that could have been handled in a less carbon-intensive way — either by Internet and video conferencing or, if meeting is necessary, somewhere in North America or Europe where most key attendees are based.

5. Nancy Nukes Nukes. Supposedly concerned that “global warming and energy independence…have profound implications for our nation’s economic competitiveness, national security, environmental quality and public health,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to take the congressional lead on those issues.

So who did Speaker Pelosi pick to chair the committee? None other than long-time nuclear power opponent Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who appeared with anti-nuke celebrities Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne at an October Capitol Hill press conference to denounce legislation promoting the development of ultra-green nuclear power.

6. Every home a Superfund site? “Mercury is highly toxic to everyone, but particularly to children and developing fetuses,” says the activist group Environmental Defense, a long-time campaigner against mercury from power plant emissions and in automobile convenience lighting.

So it came as quite a surprise when the group began advocating that consumers bring the “highly toxic” mercury into their homes in the form of compact fluorescent light bulbs in order to reduce power plant CO2 emissions. CFLs are so hazardous, according to public health officials however, that special safety precautions must be taken for disposal or if the bulbs break.

7. Doesn’t everyone own a NASA scientist? In March 2007, NASA’s climate alarmist-in-chief James Hansen criticized “special interests” campaigning against climate regulation.

“By larding the campaign coffers of numerous politicians, the fossil fuel industry has succeeded in subverting the democratic principle…Until the public indicates sufficient interest, and puts pressure on political systems, special interests will continue to rule.”

Though Hansen poses as a humble civil servant, it recently came to light that his alarmist efforts have been bankrolled by leftist billionaire and sugar-daddy George Soros. Doesn’t Soros qualify as a “special interest,” Dr. Hansen?

8. Like a Virgin’s Carbon Footprint. London’s Daily Mail reported (“What planet are they on?, July 7) on the climate consciousness of Madonna and other Live Earth performers.

“[T]he pop stars headlining the concerts are the absolute antithesis of the message they promote with Madonna leading the pack of the worst individual rock star polluters in the world… Madonna alone has an annual carbon footprint of 1,018 tons… the average Briton produces just 10 tons… [her] Confessions tour last year produced 440 tons of carbon pollution in just four months, simply in flights between venues.”

That’s one small footprint for the average Brit, but one giant footprint for celebrity-kind.

9. The NBC Poppycock. NBC-Universal kicked-off of its “Green is Universal” initiative by dimming the studio lights — but not two giant video screens and advertisements — during a break in the Nov. 4 Cowboys-Eagles game.

Candle-lit host Bob Costas then cut to video of Today show personalities Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry reporting about climate change from the Arctic, Amazon and Antarctic, respectively. None gave even a nod to the energy-hogging effort required to send them and crews to do such pointless broadcasts from exotic locales.

10. California’s Hypocritenator. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared in June 2005 that, “California will be a leader in the fight against global warming…the time for action is now.”

But just two years later, the Los Angeles Times reported that state efforts had been derailed by the governor’s mismanagement and deceit. Schwarzenegger even fired the state’s chief regulator for refusing to limit the number of greenhouse gas regulations. Columnist Debra Saunders noted that, “Schwarzenegger boasts that he is a world leader in the fight against global warming — but his advocacy shouldn't keep him from flying in private jets or driving a Hummer.”

The one thing these honorees all have in common is that their real-life actions belie their carefully crafted green public images. If they don’t take their commitment seriously, why should you?
Steven Milloy publishes and He is a junk science expert and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
5800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 07, 2007, 10:16:07 AM
Wesbury is right on the money IMO. While I like low interest rates and as an exporter I like a weak dollar, taking the Fed rates to artificially low levels for economic stimulus would be to repeat a pattern that causes them to go up later to punitive levels and risk future stagflation.

The government has other stimulative tools available, not just free money.  Legalize energy production comes first to mind. Introduce market reforms into health care.  Make the previous tax rate cuts permanent, stable and predictable, not just stimulative.  Cut corporate tax rates.   At the state level, stop taxing capital gains that include inflationary gains as ordinary income!

The Fed's primary function is to maintain a stable value of the currency, not to attempt to tweak out all the minor ups and downs in the economy.  Other than energy, health care and government costs, none of which are dollar-caused problems, price stability has been good.

Stable interest rates are a secondary, but VERY important goal as well.  It is bad for the economy to have homebuilding, for example, alternate in boom and bust modes instead of to flourish as an ongoing, profitable industry employing millions. 

The Fed was painted into a corner last time when it lowered its rate to 1%.  The only step down from there would have been to just give money away.  They were out of policy options and admitted later that they don't want to be in that situation again.

Wesbury didn't like the last rate cut and I like rates right where they are now.  Let's start solving other problems.   - Doug

p.s. Here is a link to Wesbury's weekly column.  He posts every Mondays afternoon from what I have seen. 
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