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5751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: May 08, 2007, 03:55:28 PM
I am closer to Newt than any of the others on the issues.  He loves to say "This is not about Newt Gingrich."  Once he enters the race it is about him and he has high negatives, plenty of enemies and very little crossover appeal IMO.  The 1994 Republican takeover of congress was amazing.  They had some great accomplishments in the majority such as capital gains rate cuts and  welfare reform, while constrained by an opposing president.  Other important things never got done such as reforming the budget process and rules.  Tax cuts are still limited by false forecasting methods that were never ended at CBO.

Unfair as it is, I think Giuliani or even McCain might get a pass on past marital issues where Newt will forever be punished, mostly because of the timing of his in relation to the Clinton impeachment (which wasn't even about infidelity).
--

CD wrote: "...stupidities of McCain-Feingold Act (Shame on McCain and the US Supreme Court!"  - Agree wholeheartedly!  The name alone is a clue, partnering with Feingold on campaign rules or Kennedy on education policy is a sign you are headed in the wrong direction from my point of view.  Shame on Bush for signing this when he already made clear that he saw everything flawed in it. 

I wish those in politics or on the court who don't like the constitution would go through the process of amending it rather than arbitrarily declaring which rights and provisions we have outgrown and are no longer operative.

5752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: May 05, 2007, 12:04:19 AM
Thanks for posting.  The act is called:"Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007".  - I'll keep an open mind to arguments otherwise, but my first reaction is that denying firearms and explosives to dangerous terrorists is a good idea (obviously), that the word "arbitrary" would mean the denial could be done without revealing sources and methods, and that the criteria would not require legal threshholds such as preponderance of the evidence, that would also require disclosure.  The Attorney General hopefully has good motives, and some oversight: congress, the President and the next election.  I think I'm as big a liberty fanatic as anyone, but I recognize that a serious enemy wants to cause serious carnage here. 

Like the FISA/surveillance issue, in the best case a tragedy is averted.  In the worst case an innocent person has accidental contact or communication with an offshoot or a contact of an alleged terrorist organization and might find that communications looked at or in this case that someone from Washington is blocking their ability to buy a firearm or or to buy expolsives.  I strongly support the "shall issue" wording of concealed carry permit laws, but see this an exception, as you should have with a felon, a psycho or 'an arbitrary block' signed by the Attorney General of the United states.  I don't don't see that as the end of second amendment rights.
--
A friend of mine owns a quarry of very hard rock that is broken form the ground with explosives.  He was questioned after the Oklahoma City bombing about whether anyone had ever approached him for explosives.  Post 9/11 and in the context of suicide bombers that can't be deterred with death penalty or any other law enforcement after the fact, I would hope that preventive policies are in place and from my point of view that their hands are not tied.
--
Meanwhile, here in the west suburbs of Minneapolis I received from law enforcement today a registered letter threatening serious legal consequences against me because my tenant has a vehicle in his private driveway with a sticker that is no longer current.  I guess I'd rather have them hunting terrorists.


 
5753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: May 03, 2007, 12:09:01 PM
Crafty made the following comment as part of a preface to an editorial on a current homeland security proposal:

"... but a President who chose and stands by an Attorney General who doesn't belive that habeas corpus is a Constitutional right has credibility problems of his own too."

Crafty, can you expand on what you meant.  I searched and found what you are likely referring to - the following exchange between Gonzales and Sen. Specter in a committee meeting this January:

Gonzales: There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There's a prohibition against taking it away. ...

Specter: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in cases of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's an invasion or rebellion?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas. Doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except...

Specter: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

--

I'm not an attorney, but wondered if Gonzales was making a correct technical point while creating a public relations blunder, or is there a real difference in views here.

In the US Constitution under the heading of 'Limits on Congress'  I see the only reference: "The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

To the untrained eye, it would seem that a) the right of habeus, to not be detained long without charges filed, is presumed in the constitution, b) the limit placed is on Congress and not on the Commander in Chief in wartime, and c) the context of the threat of terrorism against public safety at this moment in time might persuasively be argued to comprise a "Rebellion or Invasion".

Presuming a right by reading the limits placed on it in the constitution didn't cut it in the (faulty) Kelo decision allowing taking of private property to give/sell to other private concerns.   I think it was the Justice Thomas dissent that pointed out the irony and tragedy that they couldn't have even entered or searched without permission or a warrant and they couldn't have gotten a warrant without probable cause, yet the majority ruled that they could take title and demolish it.  I wouldn't want to bet my life on presumed rights under activist judges.

Look forward to reading the thoughts of others on this.


5754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: May 03, 2007, 12:04:08 AM
Regarding the VDH piece just posted.  That is a great read from start to finish IMO.  Looking past the question of Baghdad, wouldn't it be nice if we tried this strategy toward world peace:

"Let Brazil export duty-free ethanol; drill in Anwar and off our coasts; build 20 or so nuclear reactors to replace natural gas and power batteries at night of small commuter cars; up the fleet average gas mileage; develop oil tar and oil shale; use alternative energies—and do all that inclusively rather than in an either/or strategy, and we can collapse the world price, and with it the strategic importance of this dangerous, dysfunctional, and ultimately irrelevant part of the world."

Considering the trillion dollars and thousands of lives going into war right now, isn't it amazing that we can't even agree on taking these simple steps to empower ourselves and depower the thugs of that region.
5755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting... on: April 20, 2007, 12:43:26 AM
This personal account is from an Oakland Univ. Prof in Michigan.  I find it analogous to the advance concerns about Cho and to illustrate CCP's comment about not know which sociopaths will be dangerous and which just have strange behaviors.

Op-Ed Contributor (NY Times)
The Killer in the Lecture Hall

By BARBARA OAKLEY
Published: April 19, 2007

Rochester, Mich.

THE sticky note on my door was wiggling. It was a gift from a student.

Glued to the middle of it was a cockroach.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that I was an unpopular professor. To the contrary — according to student evaluations, I might as well have had a sign on my forehead that said “Kindly.”

I was told later that the cockroach was a symbol of love from — well, let’s call him Rick. Rick had recently moved into the lab across the hall from my office, where he spent the night in a sleeping bag under one of the benches.

Rick, who had been a student for more than a decade, sometimes whiled away his time discussing guns and explosives with some of the more munitions-inclined faculty members. He admitted that he kept his basement stocked with a variety of “armaments.”

Sometimes I wished I had an armament, although, like Virginia Tech, my university does not allow firearms on campus. I wished that because, not only did Rick attach love-cockroaches to my door and live across the hall from my office and possess a small armory, but Rick watched me all the time. Sometimes he followed me out to my car — just to make sure I was safe.

When I complained about Rick to the dean of students, I was told there was nothing to be done — after all, “students have rights, too.” Only after appealing to that dean’s boss and calling a raft of fellow professors who had also come to fear Rick’s strange behavior was I able to convince the administration to take grudging action; they restricted his ability to loiter in certain areas and began nudging him toward the classes he needed to graduate.

In a strange way, I could see the administration’s point. Rick looked fairly ordinary, at least when away from his sleeping bag and pet cockroaches. It must have seemed far more likely that Rick could sue for being thrown out of school, than that I — or anyone else — could ever be hurt. The easiest path, from their perspective, was to simply get me to shut up.

Many professors have run across more than their share of Ricks. At least one Virginia Tech professor noticed that Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people on campus on Monday, was potentially dangerous and did her best to warn the administration and the police. (So did at least two female students.) But there is only so much a teacher can do — “students have rights, too.”

It’s a simple fact that, for every deranged murderer like Mr. Cho there are thousands more oddballs just below the breaking point. I know one quasi-psychopathic incompetent, for example, who remained on the campus payroll for over a dozen years simply because his supervisor was afraid of being killed if he was fired.

It’s long been in fashion to believe that people are innately good, and that upbringing and environment are responsible for nasty personalities. But research is beginning to show that mean, sometimes outright evil behavior has a strong genetic component. Some of us, in other words, are truly born bad.

Researchers at King’s College London have recently determined that if one identical twin shows psychopathic traits, the other twin, who coincidentally shares precisely the same set of genes, has a very high probability of having the same psychopathic traits. But among fraternal twins, who share only half their genes, the chance that both twins will show psychopathic traits is far smaller. In other words, there is something suspiciously psychopath-inducing in some people’s genes.

What could it be? Medical images of the brain give tantalizing clues — the amygdala, the “fight or flight” decision-making center of the brain, may be smaller than usual, or some areas of the brain may glow only dimly because of low serotonin levels. We may not know precisely what set Mr. Cho off, but we are beginning to home in on the unusual differences in certain neurochemistries that can make people act in bizarre and dysfunctional ways.

Still, the Virginia Tech shootings have already led to calls for all sorts of changes: gun control, more mental health coverage, stricter behavior rules on campuses. Yes, in a perfect world, there would be no guns, no mental illness and no Cho Seung-Huis. But the world is very imperfect. Consider that Britain’s national experiment with gun-free living is proving to be a disaster, with violent and gun crime rates soaring.

In other words, most of the broad social “lessons” we are being told we must learn from the Virginia Tech shootings have little to do with what allowed the horrors to occur. This is about evil, and about how our universities are able to deal with it as a literary subject but not as a fact of life. Can administrators and deans really continue to leave professors and other college personnel to deal with deeply disturbed students on their own, with only pencils in their defense?

Barbara Oakley, a professor of engineering at Oakland University, is the author of the forthcoming “Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend.”
5756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: April 19, 2007, 11:29:02 PM
Dick Morris makes a good headsup about the potential for crossover vote to swing the primaries on one side or the other, but I wouldn't predict that the either race will be decided that early or that a crossover would be effective.  I think both sides will be contested.  I'd rank myself as very high on the dislike-Hillary scale, and I can't imagine risking a crossover and adding momentum to a Obama or Edwards campaign when both are to the left of Hillary on paper.

If the Democratic race wraps up early, moderate Dems might crossover to vote for the moderate R, but that would be a sign that they would also support him in the general election.   Extreme leftists could try to help the weaker Republican.  But all the R candidates seem to be pro-war which is not moderate in these times, and trying to pick the other side's weakest candidate is a losing proposition.

So it's independents that hold the balance as they so often do.  Except for the war issue which could change in a year, Republican candidates seem to be positioned more to the center while the Democrats seem to be in a race to the left.

For the general election there is the possibility of a third party spoiler, depending on who feels unrepresenting when the nominations get resolved.
5757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: April 10, 2007, 12:00:02 PM
GM, Thanks for that. I was hoping to draw out why you felt that way and I likewise agree with your points.  I see most of the failures coming from the cumbersome nature of this huge democracy with our limits on power and multiple viewpoints trying to exert itself.  The electorate can't fully support the mission when the leaders are sloppy and inconsistent in explaining it.  Authorization of congress for the Iraq war would not have passed with bipartisan support without the promise to take it to the security council.  The approval of the security council would not have happened without framing the justification in terms of WMD and violations of the UN's previous resolutions.  The Iraq mission would not have bogged down so badly had we not given Saddam months and months and months to clean up weapons sites and prepare for an insurgency that would outlive him andif the enemy didn't know that support erodes with every American they kill.  The Syrians and Iranians cannot seriously feel militarily threatened by America when they see the quagmire in Iraq, the disapproval polls, and the anti-war momentum broadcasted continuously.  In the face of all that I guess I have even more admiration for the resolve of the leaders of this effort, though again, not their ability to communicate.  I think the above explains why Pakistan, Syria and Iran no longer feel heat from the promise that "either you are with us or you are against us".

I agree whole heatedly with your point about borders. National security is the reason IMO to support borders enforcement as tight as you so graphically describe. lol.  I am pro-free-trade, pro-legal-immigration and pro-guest-worker etc, but only in the context that America chooses and controls the numbers and needs that we fill with approvals for legal entry.  How can we possibly invest so much in security - hundreds of billions or trillions(?) of dollars, lose our right to walk from the ticket counter onto an airplane etc, and then have no idea who, why, where from, or how many people are entering our country???  Up here (MN) we joke about those pesky Canadians procuring our medical services and infiltrating our hockey games.  Other places they may complain about Mexicans.  But when we allow an illegal industry to flourish to the point of becoming organized crime, how can we not think we are also welcoming the next wave of terrorists?

Border politics, they say, is tricky.  You can't risk offending today's Hispanic-Americans or future voters who my be legalized along the way.  To me, an Hispanic American citizen is one of us,  not a minority.  I find it condescending to think people of certain origin cannot see a connection between border control and national security.  (Comments welcome)




5758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: April 10, 2007, 01:21:52 AM
GM, interesting comments.

 "dems (with a few exceptions) think the global jihad is just some neocon conspiracy..."

It is true that the vocal left put more energy into blaming Bush etc. than blaming the enemy for our troubles.  They also pretend that nothing was the matter in Iraq before 'we' went in and messed it up.  There was a Hillary parody on Saturday Night Live illustrating that everyone knows and accepts that all these statements and positions on Iraq and the so-called war on terror are just what is necessary to win power.  It's is doubtful that these wroters oppose her, so I take their underlying message to be that everyone understands the silly anti-war and anti-American-power rhetoric is just saying what is necessary to get nominated and elected. The same people would expect that she or others would be thoughtful and responsible leaders AFTER being elected.  In other words, getting to power is more important than fighting the enemy only because they are out of power.  If they were in power they would fight the enemy.  That theory is tested with the changeover of power in congress.  As a party, Dems have the possibility to vote for an immediate end to all funding of the hostilities they allegedly oppose.  But as they get closer to power they back off of their own rhetoric.  Through Google news I found evidence from our favorite source - world socialist web site: "

In a declaration of support for an extended and open-ended US occupation of Iraq, two leading Democratic senators (Carl Levin, Chuck Schumer) told national television audiences Sunday that under no circumstances would the Democratic congressional majority cut off funding for the war."

--

Meanwhile on the other side:  "The republicans are fighting a half-assed war against the global jihad"

My first reaction:  I think the Republican problem has been more about inability to communicate rather than lack of resolve or action.  My God, they formed a coalition and took down the Taliban almost instantly after 9/11.  They killed, captured and interragated terrorists as fast and aggressively as possible up to the point of drawing heavy criticism from all directions and are still doing it.  They largely shut down the financial networks that suported terror.  They took down Saddam Hussein including the cumbersome hurdles of securing  congressional and UN security council approvals.  We have the  Patriot Act and the surveillance program and whatever other protection and enforcement programs we don't even know about. 

Saddam was cowering in a rat hole while the Americans marched freely above.  The central, former leadership of al Qaida can't so much as use a telephone to make a call, and Iran is right now isolated from its last protectors on the security council.

Critics ask the question: WHERE is Osama hding?  I see the more telling questions: Where is Saddam now and WHY is Osama hiding???

I share your frustration, but I wouldn't characterize the efforts as half assed.  JMHO.



5759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: April 09, 2007, 04:39:10 PM
My opinion is that the labels ARE helpful even when exceptions are available.  Pelosi is the highest ranking Democrat.  Can't we just all talk and get along is a philosophy from her side of the aisle - primarily.  Bush, not these few congressmen, was chosen to represent his side of the aisle to run for Pres and lead foreign policy if elected.  The Bush policy for the most part seeks to avoid adding stature to thugs like Assad and Ahmedinajad and for the most part I agree.

In hindsight(IMO), the valid correction - that a few R's were included and the fact that labels don't tell the whole story - could have been added to the discussion without blame for omission.  FWIW, I have seen CCP dish out plenty of criticisms at either side of the aisle at his own choosing.
5760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: April 09, 2007, 01:31:14 PM
Prof. Richard Lindzen of MIT wrote this for the upcoming Newsweek issue.  Comments and criticisms on the science and data he references are encouraged.  I've read and posted his work previously.  My observation with this is that it seems mainstream news organizations (NY Times recently, now Newsweek) are suddenly scrambling to publish alternative views as the previous overselling is becoming more obvious.  I find it humorous that he now discloses his funding in his credentials as that has been the only previous criticism I have seen of his work.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17997788/site/newsweek/

Why So Gloomy?

By Richard S. Lindzen
Newsweek International

April 16, 2007 issue - Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true. What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe. What most commentators—and many scientists—seem to miss is that the only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes. The earth is always warming or cooling by as much as a few tenths of a degree a year; periods of constant average temperatures are rare. Looking back on the earth's climate history, it's apparent that there's no such thing as an optimal temperature—a climate at which everything is just right. The current alarm rests on the false assumption not only that we live in a perfect world, temperaturewise, but also that our warming forecasts for the year 2040 are somehow more reliable than the weatherman's forecast for next week.
Story continues below ↓advertisement
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A warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now. Much of the alarm over climate change is based on ignorance of what is normal for weather and climate. There is no evidence, for instance, that extreme weather events are increasing in any systematic way, according to scientists at the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the World Meteorological Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which released the second part of this year's report earlier this month). Indeed, meteorological theory holds that, outside the tropics, weather in a warming world should be less variable, which might be a good thing.

In many other respects, the ill effects of warming are overblown. Sea levels, for example, have been increasing since the end of the last ice age. When you look at recent centuries in perspective, ignoring short-term fluctuations, the rate of sea-level rise has been relatively uniform (less than a couple of millimeters a year). There's even some evidence that the rate was higher in the first half of the twentieth century than in the second half. Overall, the risk of sea-level rise from global warming is less at almost any given location than that from other causes, such as tectonic motions of the earth's surface.

Many of the most alarming studies rely on long-range predictions using inherently untrustworthy climate models, similar to those that cannot accurately forecast the weather a week from now. Interpretations of these studies rarely consider that the impact of carbon on temperature goes down—not up—the more carbon accumulates in the atmosphere. Even if emissions were the sole cause of the recent temperature rise—a dubious proposition—future increases wouldn't be as steep as the climb in emissions.

Indeed, one overlooked mystery is why temperatures are not already higher. Various models predict that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will raise the world's average temperature by as little as 1.5 degrees Celsius or as much as 4.5 degrees. The important thing about doubled CO2 (or any other greenhouse gas) is its "forcing"—its contribution to warming. At present, the greenhouse forcing is already about three-quarters of what one would get from a doubling of CO2. But average temperatures rose only about 0.6 degrees since the beginning of the industrial era, and the change hasn't been uniform—warming has largely occurred during the periods from 1919 to 1940 and from 1976 to 1998, with cooling in between. Researchers have been unable to explain this discrepancy.

Modelers claim to have simulated the warming and cooling that occurred before 1976 by choosing among various guesses as to what effect poorly observed volcanoes and unmeasured output from the sun have had. These factors, they claim, don't explain the warming of about 0.4 degrees C between 1976 and 1998. Climate modelers assume the cause must be greenhouse-gas emissions because they have no other explanation. This is a poor substitute for evidence, and simulation hardly constitutes explanation. Ten years ago climate modelers also couldn't account for the warming that occurred from about 1050 to 1300. They tried to expunge the medieval warm period from the observational record—an effort that is now generally discredited. The models have also severely underestimated short-term variability El Niño and the Intraseasonal Oscillation. Such phenomena illustrate the ability of the complex and turbulent climate system to vary significantly with no external cause whatever, and to do so over many years, even centuries.

Is there any point in pretending that CO2 increases will be catastrophic? Or could they be modest and on balance beneficial? India has warmed during the second half of the 20th century, and agricultural output has increased greatly. Infectious diseases like malaria are a matter not so much of temperature as poverty and public-health policies (like eliminating DDT). Exposure to cold is generally found to be both more dangerous and less comfortable.

Moreover, actions taken thus far to reduce emissions have already had negative consequences without improving our ability to adapt to climate change. An emphasis on ethanol, for instance, has led to angry protests against corn-price increases in Mexico, and forest clearing and habitat destruction in Southeast Asia. Carbon caps are likely to lead to increased prices, as well as corruption associated with permit trading. (Enron was a leading lobbyist for Kyoto because it had hoped to capitalize on emissions trading.) The alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem. The conclusion of the late climate scientist Roger Revelle—Al Gore's supposed mentor—is worth pondering: the evidence for global warming thus far doesn't warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate.

Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.




5761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 29, 2007, 02:32:09 PM
Crafty, I agree with you on Rudy. Wrong to my taste on too many issues to support him in the primaries, but I will certainly join up if/when he secures the endorsement.  I also oppose gun control, but if I favored it and was President, I hope I would be principled enough to propose amending rather than stomping on the constitution.  Rudy has talked the talk on strict constructionist judicial appointments, but that contradicts his own position on gun control and on a mother's right to choose. 

Back to tax issues, in the 2000 campaign John McCain opposed candidate Bush's tax cut proposal.  Now McCain says make most of them permanent and Rudy sounds like he may go further into cutting and simplifying. And those are the moderates (RINOs). That is a step forward IMO. Still, McCain is feuding with Club for Growth (who I recently joined) over his previous anti tax cut votes.  It is not just the 'no' votes, but the rhetoric that helps gives credibility and cover to the left.  Specifically, McCain words and votes were cited often by the Dem here in our most recent senate race to demonstrate that she wasn't some extreme leftist.
--

Club for Growth Calls on McCain to Apologize for Tax Votes

Washington - The Club for Growth called on Senator McCain to renounce his 2001 and 2003 votes against the Bush tax cuts and apologize for his vocal class-warfare-laced opposition to them.

In 2001, Senator McCain was 1 of only 2 Republicans to oppose the Bush tax cuts (Roll Call #170, 05/26/01) and 1 of only 3 Republicans in 2003 (Roll Call #196, 05/23/03).  He even went so far as to adopt the class-warfare rhetoric of the Senate’s most liberal Democrats, arguing in a 2003 Face the Nation interview that “the reason why I opposed the last round was because the—what I felt was a disproportionate favoring of the wealthiest 1 percent, 10 percent of Americans.  If that's continued, obviously, then I wouldn't support that.”    http://www.clubforgrowth.org/
5762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 29, 2007, 01:46:10 AM
Checking in here with two items:

1) Rumor that Steve Forbes is joining the Rudy Giuliani campaign at a high level policy position, per 'Pajamasa Media'; the news story so far is just that Forbes is endorsing Giuliani: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/28/AR2007032800918.html?reload=true

Forbes advising Giuliani is great news from my point of view.  In previous campaigns I found Steve Forbes to be my best choice on policy positions but not charismatic enough to carry the message or win the votes.  Giuliani isn't my first choice candidate, but as things sit today, he has the best chance of winning the nomination and getting elected.  He needs the best advisors possible to help nail down the specifics of his proposals and to successfully frame the arguments.  Steve Forbes on tax policy makes sense IMO--

2) I recommend a long piece this week from the Chicago Tribune on Ill. Sen. Barack Obama:
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-070323obama-youth,0,445780.story
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0703250359mar25,1,605874.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed
   http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0703250359mar25,1,605874.story?page=2&coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true
 They pursue the angle that his real story isn't exactly as he wrote in his books.  I would read these just from the point of just getting to know one of the key players entering the national stage.
5763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race - Hillary Foreclosure-Timeout on: March 28, 2007, 01:32:18 AM
Hillary in the news - today's talking point was 'universal healthcare'.  I'm sure we'll get to that in the campaign.  First I want to criticize her proposal from last week for a "Foreclosure-Timeout" in response to the trouble in the housing market.  I read it first in 'The Economist' but here is a short version from NPR Morning Edition:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=8951674

Democratic Hopefuls Weigh In on Subprime Loans

Morning Edition, March 16, 2007 · "With foreclosure rates at their highest level in four decades, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York is calling for a "foreclosure timeout." Another Democratic presidential hopeful — Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, the Senate Banking Committee chairman — says he will hold hearings on the subprime crisis. In recent weeks at least 20 companies who specialize in high-risk mortgages have gone bust."
--

Let's walk through this.  A customer with a credit issue or low down payment, who would not qualify for the lowest risk - lowest interest rate mortgage, is able to buy a house they otherwise couldn't, by paying a premium on the interest rate to compensate the mortgage company for the higher risk.  It's a highly regulated business and the transaction is all legal.  The mortgage company pays out let's say $189,900 for the customer to buy the house in exchange for the right to receive scheduled payments and take the first position lien on the house for collateral.  Now let's say the customer with the higher risk defaults on his payments.  That happens; he did have a credit problem and/or insufficient savings. The mortgagecompany is powerless except to follow the contractual and highly regulated processs of mitigating its loss with a foreclosure and take back the property to re-sell.  During the long process they receive no further payments as the loan in in default.  The process takes some 6 months to a year(?) while the mortgage company has no right of possession, receives no money and keeps incurring costs.  Now enter new President Hillary who says they can't even do that.  She declares a 'foreclosure timeout'.  The customer stays in the house.  Payments in default don't need to be made.  The mortgage is prevented fom exercizing its right under the contract and under the law.

It reminds me of the Nixon Price Wage freeze of 1971.  So, the crisis includes lenders going broke and her answer is a foreclosure-timeout.  I don't know if these people hate capitalism or just don't understand it.  I can't say this stongly enough, but IMO, if you favor economic freedoms and the right to enter into binding, legal contracts - these policies are exactly the opposite.
5764  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: March 27, 2007, 09:52:56 AM
Quoting: "The Venezuelan government seized 16 ranches...comprising about 817,000 acres...any resistance to the expropriations will result in a forceful response from the government."

To me, that's outragious.  Taken with the previous story that Chavez passd up Iran and Pakistan as arms purchasers, it foretells danger and trouble ahead.  Like Saddam's slaughter of DuJaille or poisoning the Kurds, these takings are an act of force, not an economic policy. 

To the media and the public, this looks like a dog takes a nap story.  Takings are what they do.  How else would you have 'collective property'?  Like the politics of envy in the US, it is presented as fairness, populism and helping the poor or the workers.  Here is the AP story: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8O3TR1G0.htm

In my mind it illustrates perfectly the choices we all face.  Here it is usually just partial takings from the rich with our proclivity to accept and worsen the 'progressivity' in tax rates.  We limit marginal tax rates only based on an efficiency argument - that at some high rate, the productive will not produce and pay more tax.  We never seem to acknowlege the moral argument that coveting and taking your neighbor's riches is wrong.  Whether it is a dictator taking land by force or a majority of 51% of the people taxing the other 49% at a rate far higher than their own, IMO it completely fails to comply with a central principle of free people called consent of the governed.
5765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: March 22, 2007, 11:57:29 PM
That was an extremely insightful analysis by Stratfor regarding Geopolitics and the U.S. Spoiling Attack.  Thanks for bringing us posts like that Crafty.  They certainly take a long view.  Agree or disagree, they offer insight and analysis that I don't find elsewhere.

I think they hit the Vietnam context right on the money.  From a US war point of view it was a failure.  From a south vietnamese view it was a failure.  There was unbelievable loss of life.  But it was a unique battle in a larger fight against global communist expansionism.  The losses hurt us but the struggles like Vietnam along the way slowed down the expansionism.  We gave up officially in the 1970s and the surrender was a failure.  Millions more died or fled.  But by the end of the 1980s China was capitalistic(somewhat) and the Soviet empire collapsed.  The efforts to oppose or slow down their expansion by the U.S. played a role.

The need to topple Saddam Hussein was intuitive and hard to put to words.  The official justifications were clumsy, such as the marketing focus on WMD and the 23 reasons contained in the congressional joint resolution authorizing use of military force in Iraq.  Those were symptoms or examples of the need, not true articulation of the problem or the solution. 

I think it was Rick Neaton on another board who explained it in simple terms I could understand.  We toppled Saddam as part of a policy aimed at of preventing something we call the next 9/11.  We were not prosecuting Iraq for their affiliation with al Qaida or retaliating for the 2001 attack which they did not plan or carry out.  We found and used justifications to stop a declared enemy from playing a part in the next attack on the US.  We were stopping, delaying or spoiling the possibility of a militant islamic superstate from getting a foothold and combining resources against their common enemy.

As I understand the Stratfor analysis, the result in Iraq, like Vietnam, might be ugly, but a few important things were accomplished.  The central enemy, a stateless force of al Qaida and miltant Islam, is not finding safety, sanctuary, financing or weapons for the next attack.  Meanwhile American forces happen to be trapped in the heart of the islamic world and the middle east, not just with our guns, but with our eyes, ears, cameras, listening devices and the miltants we capture for interrogation, calling lists etc. That is not all bad.  In the end and especially if and when America leave, a different balance of power will emerge and we will have had quite a large opportunity to impact with timing and force just how that new balance evolves.
5766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 21, 2007, 11:49:47 PM
It's only 2 years until the election and I have held out long enough.  I made up my mind and Fred Thompson is my choice.  More after this comment on the last post:
--
GM: "I'd vote for Hillary before i'd vote for McCain."  - I don't know what to say to that except that I hope to vote for neither. 
--
Thompson gave his thoughts today on immigration and relations with Mexico:

http://www.aei.org/publications/filter.all,pubID.25816/pub_detail.asp
Southern Exposure         
By Fred Thompson
Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2007
ARTICLES
National Review Online 
Publication Date: March 20, 2007

Editor's note: Click here to listen to the original radio commentary this transcript is based on.

We are all very well aware of the fact that we have an illegal-immigration problem in this country. As usual, we avoided the problem for as long as we could and when we couldn’t avoid it any longer we were told that, indeed, somewhere between 12 and 20 million people had somehow come into this country unnoticed.

It's like we went overnight from "no problem" to a problem so big that it now defies a good solution. It’s become one of those "there are no good choices only less bad choices" that Americans are becoming all too familiar with.

Hey guys, you're our friends and neighbors and we love you but it’s time you had a little dose of reality.

We know that the overwhelming majority of illegals come across the Mexican border. Fortunately, we’ve got someone who is all too willing to tell us what we should do about it--the president of Mexico Felipe Calderon.  President Calderon doesn’t think much of our border policies. He criticizes our efforts to secure the border with things such as border fencing. He says that bottle necks at U.S. checkpoints hurt Mexican commerce and force his citizens to migrate illegally in order to make a living (and of course send money back to Mexico). He apparently thinks we should do nothing except make American citizens out of his constituents. Calderon also accused U.S. officials of failing to do enough to stop the flow of drugs in to the United States. Mexican politicians gave President Bush an earful of all of this during his recent trip to Mexico.

I think its time for a little plain talk to the leaders of Mexico. Something like:

    Hey guys, you're our friends and neighbors and we love you but it’s time you had a little dose of reality. A sovereign nation loses that status if it cannot secure its own borders and we are going to do whatever is necessary to do so, although our policies won't be as harsh as yours are along your southern border. And criticizing the U.S. for alternately doing too much and too little to stop your illegal activities is not going to set too well with Americans of good will who are trying to figure a way out of the mess that your and our open borders policy has already created.

My friends, it’s also time for a little introspection. Since we all agree that improving Mexico’s economy will help with the illegal-immigration problem, you might want to consider your own left-of-center policies. For example, nationalized industries are not known for enhancing economic growth. Just a thought. But here’s something even more to the point that you might want to think about: What does it say about the leadership of a country when that country’s economy and politics are dependent upon the exportation of its own citizens?

Fred Thompson is a visiting fellow at AEI.

--
A couple other comments of mine on Thompson:

He was impressive handling the Chief Justice nomination of John Roberts through confirmation.  Right or wrong, he didn't hesitate or flinch when asked about pardoning Scooter Libby.

I heard him on the radio today where he called the leadership of the Justice Department "the B team" and described exacty how he would have unapologetically made the changes with the US Attorneys. 

Areas I've found so far where I disagree with him:  He favored campaign finance reform.  He opposes tort reform.  And he voted against removing Clinton from office.  I think he may have softened on campaign finance regulations.  I'm no expert on tort reform and politically he may have been right not to remove CLinton from office.  After all they were certainly known criminals before the ''92 and 96 election so maybe the voters deserved two full terms.

No one is another Reagan, but he may have exactly what it takes to stand next to Hillary in the debates and explain the merits of a conservative philosophy with 'plain talk', grace and humor.
5767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: March 18, 2007, 06:19:04 PM
From a discussion a few weeks ago:  Al Gore's 20x electric bill was revealed.  The question back (paraphrasing) - what does that have to do with the merits of the argument?  Answer: it was about hypocrisy, not the merits.

My two cents:  Yes there is hypocrisy which one could use to question character.  More importantly I think is it indicates he may not truly really believes his own story.

Let's say the US or 'Cally-fornia' for example makes a drastic, unilateral mandate to curtail economic activity, travel, production, etc.  In the big picture we are only setting an example for rest of the world, hoping they follow.  If the entire Kyoto group does it - likewise; they still exclude places like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, etc.  If you include all countries, but still allow massive CO2 production at negotiated levels, you still only touch on real, planetary change.  In my view, the alarmists should be out front in setting the example and showing extreme sacrifices of lifestyle.  My anecdotal observation is that even hybrid owners are generally well above the median in terms of total fossil fuel use when jet travel and utilities for mantions is included.

Further, I think the so-called 'offsets' are bogus.  If they believe their own story, they should be doing both: the drastic personal sacrifices and buying and investing in all the offsets they can afford.

When leaders such as Al Gore have wasteful electrical usage and uncurtailed world jetting, when John Edwards clearcuts a forest to build a monument to himself, when John Kerry buys/owns a powerboat the size of my neighborhood, when Nancy Pelosi demands larger aircraft to carry more friends and avoid the inconvenience of refueling... yes it shows hypocrisy.  But I don't care much about their personal shortcomings.  More specifically it tells me they don't believe their own arguments and that their passion is feigned and opportunistic.  JMHO.

5768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 18, 2007, 03:13:01 PM
I don't know how or why the Twin Cities became the center of American Islamic issues - home of Zacarius Moussoui, Kieth Mohamed Ellison, cab drivers that won't drive customers with liquor, the Imams who undermine airport security - now we have another one, the cashiers who won't scan bacon at Target. 

Like the Imam-airport controversy, the cashiers seem to know to go after a 'Target' worth suing, not some single location locally owned corner grocery.  And Target happens to be headquartered here. 

The setup is that some Target stores now sell food. Muslims don't eat pork.  Common sense might tell you that if you don't want to be around one of the most common American meat products, don't work at a grocery store.  Target offered the cashiers who refuse to scan bacon a transfer within the store with no cut in pay.  I wonder if that ends the controversy. lol

Here is one commentator's take.  Joe Soucheray is St. Paul newspaper comumnist and local talk show personality where he is mayor of his mythical town of Garage Logic where the theme is common sense (conservatism) as compared with the alternative views in the neighboring towns of Liberal Lakes and Euphoria.

Quoting Soucheray:

"As long as the newspaper is asking for feedback, I might as well weigh in.

Actually, who might best weigh in is a spokesman for Muslims, which is part of the problem. There are many. As I understand it, there are many imams, just as there are many priests or rabbis. And while it is true that pork is forbidden in the diet, it is my understanding as well that there is no prohibition against touching pork.

That's problem No. 1. If there is no directive against touching pork, then why in the world is a Muslim cashier refusing to scan a package of bacon? And if he or she is practicing a tributary branch of the faith that prevents touching pork, then most of us have the same question we have about the cabdrivers. Why did you take a job where you might have to touch pork or be in the same car with a bottle of vacation rum?

Besides which, when you get a package of bacon home, you practically need a garden shears to open it. We spend billions of dollars a year in this country marketing and packaging products. Handle the package of bacon by the shrink-wrapped, double-sealed, triple-glazed hermetically encapsulated cardboard corner and slide it across the scanner. There. The price gets registered, and you haven't touched any pork.

Or, as ridiculous as we might wish to get, keep a pencil handy and poke or guide the bacon across the scanner.

This is America. We get inventive. And we get inventive in order to keep things moving along. That's the way we do business. Please join us.

That might touch at the heart of our shared frustration. We are basically a large blob of 300 million or so people who conduct our commerce in a secular fashion while practicing, pretty much in private, an astounding variety of religious obligations. Great. Worship grasshoppers for all I care, but when I am standing at the counter with a dollar in my hand, reach behind you and get me that O-ring I need for my lawnmower.

As wave after wave of immigrants arrived in, say, the Twin Cities, I can find no historical evidence that they demanded that America accommodate them. On the contrary, they assimilated, worked hard and benefited from America. I can find no historical evidence that other immigrant groups wished to have such a religious presence in the material marketplace, or, to put it another way, we have not previously been this expected to accommodate such a public component of one particular faith.

That's what stuck in the craws of most of us, and most of us are weary of being thought intolerant by the likes of newspapers."
--
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16926961.htm  - AP coverage of original story
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/columnists/16920908.htm  - Soucheray column, St. Paul Pioneer Press
http://www.powerlineblog.com/  - the link and excerpt was from powerline
5769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 15, 2007, 11:40:44 AM
Crafty wrote: "What do you make of the global warming skeptics' assertion that Mars too is going through a warming phase?"

That observation came from NASA, not necessarily skeptics.  Hidden in my paragraph stating that we don't know humans are the whole or main cause of warming, I wrote:  "Other planets are also warming which indicates the main cause of all may be solar fluctuation."

Before the Mars data, I started noticing reports from other places, Venus, Jupiter, Pluto and Triton - Neptune's largest moon.  The conclusion I drew is that tempertures vary and planets have warming and cooling trends.  Venus has an intense greenhouse effect.  Triton may have just been in a portion of its orbit closer to the sun. Each is different. The Mars data will be very interesting to study. 

I accused the people I call alarmists of lazy science.  In Al Gore's case, he is deceitful for selectively including views and data friendly to his conclusions and excluding all others, then labeling all opposing views as fraud bought by industry.  I wouldn't want to follow that by reading a couple of headlines and simplistically concluding that all of this is about solar fluctuation.  My thought is that God's creations are far more complex than the understanding of these climate scientists and their flawed models will ever be.  (I'm not a climate scientist and know even less.)

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060504_red_jr.html  - Jupiter
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/pluto_warming_021009.html  - Pluto
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html  - Mars

5770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security - imams on: March 15, 2007, 10:10:40 AM
An eerie development in the imams case here in Minneapolis.  The pretend terrorists trying to cripple airport security are suing the unidentified passengers for reporting the intentionally bizarre behavior.  Even if a jury gets this right, and we don't know that they will, some poor travelors are going to spend a lifetime of income into legal defense costs.

Source: Katheryn Kersten Mpls Strib column - http://www.startribune.com/blogs/kersten/
Excerpts and analysis from Powerline  (http://www.powerlineblog.com/):

March 15, 2007
Meet John Doe

Gary Cooper played John Doe in the Frank Capra's movie "Meet John Doe." It's a timely film about media manipulation driven by a sinister newspaper mogul with cynical political purposes. The media manipulation nevertheless takes on a life of its own in the flowering of the "John Doe Movement."

Many of us think that the case of the flyling imams begins with another case of media manipulation. In her Star Tribune column today, Katherine Kersten takes a look at the complaint they have filed against US Airways in Minnesota federal district court. Kathy discovers some John Doe defendants -- defendants whose identity plaintiffs do not know at present, but may later include in the lawsuit:

    the most alarming aspect of the imams' suit is buried in paragraph 21 of their complaint. It describes "John Doe" defendants whose identity the imams' attorneys are still investigating. It reads: "Defendants 'John Does' were passengers ... who contacted U.S. Airways to report the alleged 'suspicious' behavior of Plaintiffs' performing their prayer at the airport terminal."

    Paragraph 22 adds: "Plaintiffs will seek leave to amend this Complaint to allege true names, capacities, and circumstances supporting [these defendants'] liability ... at such time as Plaintiffs ascertain the same."

    In plain English, the imams plan to sue the "John Does," too.

    Who are these unnamed culprits? The complaint describes them as "an older couple who was sitting [near the imams] and purposely turn[ed] around to watch" as they prayed. "The gentleman ('John Doe') in the couple ... picked up his cellular phone and made a phone call while watching the Plaintiffs pray," then "moved to a corner" and "kept talking into his cellular phone."

    In retribution for this action, the unnamed couple probably will be dragged into court soon and face the prospect of hiring a lawyer, enduring hostile questioning and paying huge legal bills. The same fate could await other as-yet-unnamed passengers on the US Airways flight who came forward as witnesses.

    The imams' attempt to bully ordinary passengers marks an alarming new front in the war on airline security. Average folks, "John Does" like you and me, initially observed and reported the imams' suspicious behavior on Nov. 20. Such people are our "first responders" against terrorism. But the imams' suit may frighten such individuals into silence, as they seek to avoid the nightmare of being labeled bigots and named as defendants.

Unlike Frank Capra's John Doe, these John Does are the real deal. Like Capra's John Doe, however, they represent a genuine citizens' movement. If identified and added to the lawsuit, they may have a claim or two of their own to assert against the flying imams, or a movement to start.
5771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 14, 2007, 02:35:10 PM
Thanks for your view Marc. I agree that pollution in general is an external cost that escapes free market pricing and requires public policy action.  In some cases, the science is clear and alternatives are available, so a solution is possible.  For example, scrubbers on a clean coal electric plant are an acceptable cost and mandate, up to some reasonable point for capturing and cleaning emissions.  If dirty coal was the only way to make electricity and there are public benefits gained from the electricity, then some clever tax and cost transfer scheme might work.  But I think taxing and redistributing would be just as political and imperfect as the reasonable mandate ‘solution’.  The problem with pollution politics is the prevalence of junk science in both life sciences and economics.  If the sciece is real, and if mercury is truly harmful, and if it doesn't need to go into the stream, then the capitalist has no right to dump it in the stream.  Put me in with the regulators in that example - stop polluting or we will close you, fine you and jail you.  I wouldn't give them credits to buy and sell.  The opposite example involves the release of trace element levels of something that harms no one and has infinite costs to eliminate.  The earth has an amazing ability to filter and cleanse itself.

Global warming is different. CO2 is not a pollutant per se; it is an essential ingredient of life.  We are arguing over a vague concept of 'excess' CO2 produced by humans with no standard for what the right level is or should be.  We are also arguing over whether or not the science is settled.  Clearly it is not, IMO.  Public opinion polls might indicate otherwise depending on what has been printed in the newspaper lately.  That's why it was such a breakthrough for a balancing story to get published in the media where mainly bias is fit to print.

Some things we don't know in the science of global warming:

1) We don't know that the earth is warming at an alarming rate. Best information is that very slow warming is occurring with no acceleration in the rate.

2) We don’t know that the measured warming is wholly human caused or mainly human caused.  Fossil fuel combustion releases CO2, and measured CO2 levels have increased, but only lazy science can turn those facts into a perfect cause-effect relationship.  The alternative theory is that warmer air just holds more CO2 content and that most atmospheric CO2 originates from the oceans.  Other planets are also warming which indicates the main cause of all may be solar fluctuation.  Most puzzling to me is that if two O2 molecules are consumed for each CO2 produced in combustion and atmospheric CO2 increases are mainly attributed to combustion, why do atmospheric O2 levels show absolutely no depletion and even an insignificant increase?  That fact doesn't fit with the combustion-cause theory in my view.

3) We don’t know that human caused CO2 increases or minor human caused warming of the planet, if true, is harmful - over the blip in time of earth’s history that humans rely on fossil fuels for energy.  Certainly there would be offsetting benefits, enhanced plant growth and longer growing seasons and more parts of the globe becoming habitable, for examples.  The migration of the US population still reflects people moving from colder areas toward warmth rather than escaping the heat. 

4) I think most importantly is that we don’t know that the earth doesn’t have its own correcting forces that are far stronger than the misbehavior of humans.  Just taking examples from this thread, a rain and especially a hurricane convert the worst greenhouse offender – water vapor – out of the atmosphere into ground water, and higher CO2 levels enhance plant growth – which then consumes CO2 at an increased rate.  The history of warming and cooling cycles indicates (prooves?) that the earth possesses amazingly powerful, self-correcting forces. 

It is easy for me to conclude that the science is not settled, but OTOH impossible to prove that humans cause no warming, so the correct strategy becomes risk management, balancing and addressing the two main risks.  There is the risk that part of the alarmists’ outcomes will materialize on our current course - that man is messing dangerously with nature, and there is the risk that over-reacction and over-regulation will bring down our economy and civilization as we know it if no real harm is actually taking place. 

The answer is to take reasonable steps, mostly voluntary, while we learn and debate the science. 

The first step is to look at conservation by choice and ways to eliminate waste in energy use.  (Government's role could be to close down unnecessary government buildings, vehicles, travel and staffing.)

On the energy production side - with the technology we know today, I don’t see any alternative to being pro-nuclear if one is concerned with greenhouse gases.  What else has zero greenhouse gas emissions with an enormous energy output capability?  The main challenges are spent rod storage and being a target for terrorists.  We have safe storage techniques IMO, and today's radioactive waste is by definition a potential energy source for the future. As for the argument that nuclear plants are a target for terrorists - that is a fight that goes on and I favor getting serious and winning it.

JMHO.
5772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: March 13, 2007, 11:52:26 AM
Thanks Crafty for finding that story.  I have no idea why earth science is political, but it is. It's quite a breakthrough for that paper to publish a contrary view, though it took them almost a year.  I saw a headsup yesterday that a major hit piece on Al Gore's script was coming in the NY Times, then I didn't see the story. Silly me, I expected a story that changes the liklihood of survival on our planet and life as we know it to be center front page.  Turns out it was the 141st story listed on their website for 'today's paper'.  http://www.nytimes.com/pages/todayspaper/index.html   I am curious if any of my liberal friends who read the Times will notice this story and curious if you came across it while reading the paper or were referred to it by link from another source.
5773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: March 10, 2007, 09:06:25 AM
I'm not exactly sure how the surrender resolution debate in Washington relates to Iraq, but I'll post this here anyway:

“There was the Biden resolution, then there was the Levin Resolution, then there was the Reid-Pelosi Resolution, the Murtha Plan, the Biden-Levin Resolution, the funding cut, the waiver plan, the Feingold Plan, an Obama Resolution, a Clinton Resolution, a Dodd Resolution, a Kennedy Resolution, a Feinstein Resolution, a Byrd Resolution, a Kerry Resolution, and today would make number 17."

  - Sen. Mitch McConnell in objection

Maybe the pathetic posturing of the fractured Democratic "leadership" in congress will help illustrate why the framers in their wisdom named only one person at a time to be Commander in Chief.
5774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues, Global Warming in Duluth on: March 04, 2007, 11:53:54 AM
Nice photos from Powerline at the link if you have never come home to find your house or car buried in a 15-20 foot snow drift.  Of course isolated weather isn't ever eveidence of anything global, though I keep seeing a replay on television of a glacier dropping ice chunks as presumably depicting something.

I came home (Lake Minnetonka, MN)  last night from an extended ski trip with constant Montana snow to find our house, cars and property covered, not quite as thoroughly as the photos at the link.  It took hours to clear out a place to put a car and to clear a door to access the house.  Then this morning began the process of clearing the roof to avoid collapse, ice dams or water damage.

I whine about winter, but of course we love it.  Most of my friends who believe the globe has warmed noticeably have coincidentally moved south or west to avoid winter.

http://powerlineblog.com/archives/016931.php
5775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2008 Races on: February 15, 2007, 11:49:18 AM
Not yet(!), but we will need a thread for the House and Senate races of 2008 as well.  I stick this in here because the in-state politics will affect the Presidential vote and turnout in 'purple' states. Al Franken is not guranteed the nomination, but is running to unseat MN Senator Norm coleman.  Powerline with its Minnesota roots will obviously be covering this closely (as they did with Keith Ellison).

http://powerlineblog.com/archives/016784.php

Vox populi, vox Franken

(link for text and video) in which Al Franken made his announcement yesterday of his candidacy for the Democatic nomination to run for the Senate seat currently held by Norm Coleman. In the video Franken states that he campaigned last year for Democratic candidates "from Waseca and Wabasha up to Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes, over to Bemidji and the Iron Range, from Duluth down to Albert Lea." He recalls what voters told him as he travelled around the state: "They told me that they’re sick of politics as usual—and they're sick of the usual politicians."

Funny thing is, that's pretty much the same statement that Al Frnaken used in announcing his satirical presidential candidacy in his 2000 book Why Not Me? There in his fictional March 24, 1999 announcement of his presidential candidacy, he envisions the creation of an electoral majority that will "let them know that politics as usual will only get you politicians as usual. (PAUSE FOR APPLAUSE.)"

Yesterday's real-life announcement of his Senate candidacy mixes recycling with shtick to kick off a campaign that promises to be even longer than the one depiicted in Why Not Me? It also promises to offer the definitive answer to the question posed in the book's title.

5776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 13, 2007, 11:02:29 PM
Karl Rove picked out these four segments for Republicans to work on:

Suburbanites: "The heart of our party is married couples with children, but they are also those that are most prone to be mobile in our society and hence less linked into politics."

Younger voters: "That's where you set in motion things that come to pass not in a matter of an election or two, but a matter of a decade or two."

African-Americans: "You can't claim to be a great political party if you're getting 9 or 10 or 11 percent. One of the interesting things about the 2006 election is that we appeared to make gains in the African-American community even while we were losing a national election."

Latinos: "This group is rapidly growing. We do well among them in some elections and not well in others."

Rove has a special interest in the group that demographers call "some college" -- people who, like him, attended college but did not graduate. The concerns of this group dovetail with one of his current policy passions: income distribution and education.

"Income is increasingly correlated to more education," he said. "The challenge for our society is how do we prepare every child to be ready for college if he or she decided to go to college? Our problem today is not that we don't have enough higher education opportunities. It's that we don't have enough people who are prepared to take advantage of it."

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0207/2732.html
The rest of the interview is interesting as well.
5777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 09, 2007, 11:37:58 PM
My understanding of the alarmist view is that once the glaciers start melting, the rate accelerates (net positive feedback) and basically can't be slowed much less stopped.  This study indicates the opposite is true.

--

"Greenland isn’t melting as fast as we feared."

"the melting of Greenland's glaciers can slow as rapidly as it can accelerate, making the ice's effect on rising sea levels tough to forecast, a study says."

--

http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/02/08/greenlands-glaciers-take-a-breather/

February 8, 2007,  4:08 pm
Greenland’s Glaciers Take a Breather

By John Tierney  (NYTimes)

Tags: climate change, glaciers, Greenland, ice, sea level
Helheim Glacier, located in southeast Greenland, in May 2005Helheim Glacier in southeast Greenland, pictured in 2005, is one of the two glaciers that have slowed down in their flow to the sea. (Photo: NASA/Wallops)

Greenland isn’t melting as fast as we feared.

It was big news when the rate of melting suddenly doubled in 2004 as ice sheets began moving more quickly into the sea. That inspired predictions of the imminent demise of Greenland’s ice — and a catastrophic rise in sea level. But a paper published online this afternoon by Science reports that two of the largest glaciers have suddenly slowed, bringing the rate of melting last year down to near the previous rate. At one glacier, Kangerdlugssuaq, “average thinning over the glacier during the summer of 2006 declined to near zero, with some apparent thickening in areas on the main trunk.”

I asked the lead author of the paper, Ian Howat of the University of Washington, for some perspective. Here’s his take:

    Over the past few years there has been a major revolution in the way scientists think about ice sheet response to climate change. Previously, it was assumed that the big ice sheets react very slowly to climate, on the order of centuries to millenia. This is because surface melting and precipitation was thought to be the dominant way in which ice sheets gain and lose mass under changes in climate. However, over the past five years we have observed that the flow speed of the ice sheets, and therefore the rate at which the ice flows to ocean can change dramatically over very short time scales.

By short, he means months or less.

I also asked Dr. Howat about the argument that, since Greenland went through decades of relatively warm weather in the first half of the 20th century without catastrophic consequences, it’s unlikely that the glaciers are suddenly going to plunge into the ocean because of the current warming. His response:

    Greenland was about as warm or warmer in the 1930’s and 40’s, and many of the glaciers were smaller than they are now. This was a period of rapid glacier shrinkage world-wide, followed by at least partial re-expansion during a colder period from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Of course, we don’t know very much about how the glacier dynamics changed then because we didn’t have satellites to observe it. However, it does suggest that large variations in ice sheet dynamics can occur from natural climate variability. The problem arises in the possibility that, due to anthropogenic warming, warm phases will become longer and more severe, so that each time the glaciers go through a period of retreat like this, they won’t fully grow back and they will retreat farther the next time.

That sounds like a reasonable concern. But for now, with the glaciers moving in fits and starts, it’s wise not to make any sweeping predictions based on a few measurements. Although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was criticized for not incorporating the recent scary data from Greenland into its long-range projections, these new results seem to vindicate its caution. As Dr. Howat and his co-authors warn: “Special care must be taken in how these and other mass-loss estimates are evaluated, particularly when extrapolating into the future because short-term spikes could yield erroneous long-term trends.”

--

Simiolar story from Bloomberg at Boston Globe:
http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2007/02/09/study_finds_puzzle_in_greenland_glacier_melt/

Study finds puzzle in Greenland glacier melt

By Bloomberg  |  February 9, 2007

The melting of Greenland's glaciers can slow as rapidly as it can accelerate, making the ice's effect on rising sea levels tough to forecast, a study says.

After two glaciers on Greenland's east coast exhibited "dramatic" shrinkage between 2000 and 2005, the rate slowed in 2006, said Ian Howat, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle and a study author. He said the size of the ice sheets were able to change in a matter of months.

The findings, published in the journal Science, may affect how researchers view the interaction between rising sea levels and global warming. A recent United Nations report on climate change acknowledged uncertainties over sea-level forecasts due to "limited" understanding of the dynamics of the ice sheets, and didn't include observations made since 2003.

"Before, we thought ice sheets tended to respond on the century- to millennial-scale," Howat said yesterday in a telephone interview. The study, involving the Kangerdlugssuaq and Helheim glaciers, showed "the ice sheets can respond more on the scale of months or even less."

"What's happened is the glaciers retreated back to a point where they could regain some of their footing and are now decreasing the rate at which they're losing mass," Howat said.

5778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 09, 2007, 01:18:22 PM
Below is Peggy Noonan on Hillary v. Rudy. First my take on the players so far.  My bias is right-wing, free market, low tax, limited government, strong defense conservative with certain, limited, 'neocon' type tendencies.

I agree with the points above on Edwards indecisiveness and Hillary on war.  Obama, I think, is a good man, too far left for me, and too far left for America if people choose to consider that.  Unqualified in the sense of executive experience, but not necessarily unelectable.

The top Republicans have greater stature.  Quoting powerline: 

"John McCain is a war hero. In addition, as a U.S. Senator he's been at the forefront of nearly every major legislative battle for well over a decade. For better or worse, his footprints are all over our election laws, the judicial confirmation wars, and the war against terrorism, to cite three leading examples."

I don't support McCain and I think they don't either.  But he is qualified to be President.

Mitt Romney I just don't know.  Some conservatives are turning toward him.  To me, it seems his conservative views are too recent for me to trust.  He does comes across as presidential. 

Rudy is the front-runner.  His liberal social views, different than mine, perhaps make him more electable, yet he says he would appoint non-activist judges in the spirit of Roberts and Alito.  He has executive experience, national clout, a solid conservative record on tax and spend issues, and a strong persuasive view of taking the fight to the enemy.  He is consistent, diplomatic and unapologetic with his views.  That's better than shifting in most cases.  That said, and that Rudy personally detests abortion,  as a man and a father I have no idea what the phrase "a woman's right to choose" means, except that a legislating court made a ruling in violation of the judicial principles that Giuliani supports.

I am hoping to learn more from others here especially those who favor the other candidates.  Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo have not been able to break through with measuralbe support.  I like Hunter but have concern about a tendency toward protectionism.  Brownback I believe is anti-war.  For some that is a positive quality.  Tancredo is too single issue oriented for my taste and on that issue I think he mixes an anti-immigration feeling with the important border security message. (I'm happy to be corrected on that or anything else.)

Later in the campaigns people complain about not having the best candidates to choose from. I am voicing my frustration right now.  The only other name mentioned around that matches my views better is Newt Gingrich.  I don't find him to be presidential and in his case I am not confidant he can win a general election which is more important to me than matching my views perfectly.

Maybe I am just to picky.  Anyway, the score right now is Hillary versus Rudy.  Rudy reaches better to the middle and so he wins if the election is held today and if conservatives show up.  Of course the election isn't held today.  They have nearly a couple of years to bring him down.

Here is Peggy Noonan on that particular matchup:

New York, New York
Rudy vs. Hillary in 2008?

Friday, February 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

According to polls, Hillary Clinton holds an early and significant lead among Democratic voters (43%, compared with 22% for Barack Obama, according to a Fox News poll 10 days ago). She is of course the killer fund-raiser of the race, with one of her contributors crowing this week that she'll raise more money than all the other candidates combined. So let's call her the likely Democratic nominee, even though Mr. Obama hasn't even announced yet. On the Republican side it's Giuliani time, with Fox News putting him at 34% among GOP voters and John McCain coming in second with 22%. He hasn't announced yet either, but this week he filed all the papers.

So at the moment, and with keen awareness that not a vote has been cast, it is possible to say the state of New York is poised to become the home of both major-party presidential candidates. This is not unprecedented, but it is unusual. It happened in 1904, when New York, was the home of the hero of Oyster Bay, President Theodore Roosevelt, and reluctant Democratic nominee Alton Parker, a judge on New York's Court of Appeals, who carried only the solid South. It happened again in New York in 1944, when Teddy's cousin Franklin sought a fourth term against the bland and mustachioed Thomas Dewey, the New York district attorney unforgettably labeled by Teddy's daughter, the chilly and amusing Alice Roosevelt Longworth, "the little man on the wedding cake." In 1920 both the Democratic and Republican nominees were from Ohio; Sen. Warren Harding, who seemed boring but proved sprightly, landslided Democrat James Cox, a dreamy Wilsonian who thought America wished to hear more about the League of Nations. (Illinois was the first state to enjoy dual nominees when Republican Abraham Lincoln beat Stephen Douglas, the official but not the only Democratic candidate that year.)

Right now New York, our beloved, overtaxed, postindustrial state, is the red-hot center of the political map.

These are exciting times, with rival gangs roaming uptown and down looking for money and support. The styles of the two tongs are different. Hillary's people are cool and give away nothing; they're all business. They're like a captain from an army about to crush you. Why should he bother to charm you?

Rudy's people are more like old-style New Yorkers: They are pugnacious, and if you express reservations about their guy, they give you the chin. They don't make the case or try to persuade; they tilt their chins up and try to argue you into conceding he can win. As if they think it's all on them, and if they can win the conversation, he will win the nomination.

The city, as we say in the state, is full of people who've met both candidates, know them, had dealings with them. The other night I bumped into a veteran journalist who talked about Iran. The journalist said, "I wrote Hillary and gave her good advice but she didn't write back!" I went to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee speech Mrs. Clinton gave last week, and the higher geopolitical meanings of the event aside, the crowd ate dinner as she spoke and didn't seem unduly impressed. They'd seen her before and would see her again.

What a boon the race is for the tabloid press and the mainstream media: If New York's at the center, they're at the center. The tabloids had fun with the formal debut, via a Harper's Bazaar interview, of Judi Giuliani. The Post famously front-paged The Kiss, a posed and mildly creepy smooch--it was bigger story in New York than the mad astronaut--and her recent reflections that the presidential race is "a journey" they can make "together." It left one observer--that would be me--saying, "Oh no, please no." In politics, in the world of political life, the proper attitude of a third wife is modesty.

Mrs. Clinton also has an interesting spouse.

Mr. Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton seem in a way to represent two different New Yorks, two different templates of what it is to be a New Yorker. Rudy as mayor: An embattled pol bickering with reporters trying to bait him. A Western European ethnic from the outer boroughs with a slight hunch to his shoulders. He does the chin too, or did. His people probably got it from him. He was the government-prosecutor son of a Brooklyn guy, a Republican in a Democratic town, a man who had ideas--convictions!--about how to cut crime and stop the long slide, and who had to move entire establishments (and if there's one thing New York knows how to make, it's establishments) to get his way. And he pretty much did, winning progress and enmity along the way. On 9/10/01 he was a bum, on 9/11 he was a man, and on 9/12 he was a hero. Life can change, shift, upend in an instant.

Mrs. Clinton is not ethnic or outer-borough. She's suburban, middle class; she was raised in a handsome town in Illinois and lived an adulthood in Arkansas and Washington. She founded the original war room, is called "The Warrior" by some of her staff, has been fierce and combative in private, but obscures it all now under clouds of pink scarves. She literally hides the chin.

Both candidates seem now almost...jarringly happy. As if they've arrived and it's good, which they have and it is. But good fortune distances. They are both rich now, and both have spent the past six years being lauded and praised. In both it seems to have softened their edges--the easy, ready smile. We'll see if it's softened their heads.

But it is significant that in Mrs. Clinton's case, for the past 30 years, from 1978 through 2007--which is to say throughout most, almost all, of her adulthood--her view of America, and of American life, came through the tinted window of a limousine. (Now the view is, mostly, through the tinted window of an SUV.)

From first lady of Arkansas through first lady of the United States to U.S. senator, her life has been eased and cosseted by staff--by aides, drivers, cooks, Secret Service, etc. Her life has been lived within a motorcade. And so she didn't have to worry about crime, the cost of things, the culture. Status incubates. Rudy Giuliani was fighting a deterioration she didn't have to face. That's a big difference. It's the difference between the New Yorker in the subway and the Wall Street titan in the town car.
5779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: February 07, 2007, 12:26:23 PM
Some excellent food for thought points in that post.  I learned a little because I don't follow gold.  I've always seen gold investment as a bet against productive investments.   I prefer real estate for performance and as a hedge against monetary risk.

Nitpicking the first point about copper, I would point out that glass and plastic fiber optics can replace copper for voice and data, and  plastic can replace copper for plumbing.  My plumber in the highest town in Colo. no longer stocks copper, not just because of price but also because of the freeze resilience of new plastic: http://www.wirsbo.ca/default.php?id=32. Copper may still have an importance in the economy, but not exactly the same as it once was.

The Fed was criticized: "With each new dollar created, the value of each existing dollar held by savers declines in value."  - Yes, but at a very low and controlled rate.  In my study of the Bernancke Fed, I find they are (also) scared to death of deflation.  When inflation hits zero, they have no tools, so the mission is to keep inflation low but the target is never below 1% per year.  The article does some analysis back to the 1920's (also takes some perfect trough buys and perfect peak sells for illustration), but for current, managed investments, I think low, consistent inflation is no threat to otherwise good investments.

The list of Dow companies changing in nearly a century makes a point, but an index fund would make all those adjustments.  Also seems to me that the investor who was in Sears Roebuck then would be in Microsoft now, for example, with or without the updates to the Dow.

I see no threat or significance to the shift from emphasis on manufactured goods to a so-called service economy, unless there was a shortage of manufactured goods.  We may think of fast food workers as service but a service worker might also be a heart surgeon.  Value added is the key IMO.
 

5780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 06, 2007, 01:15:23 PM
Picking a couple passages from Reagan speeches in honor of his birthday in the context of looking for a governing philosophy for our next leader.  (If your time is limited, read the two Reagan speeches linked rather than my ramblings.) Here is Reagan quoting Lincoln:

"What they truly don't understand is the principle so eloquently stated by Abraham Lincoln: "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."" - Reagan speech 1992 RNC http://www.presidentreagan.info/speeches/rnc.cfm

Amazingly, what was an issue for Lincoln, was the issue of Reagan and certainly the economic issue of 2008.   Distracted by war, Republicans largely didn't show up for the debate on economic policy differences in 2006 and for the most part couldn't demonstrate that their view was noticably different from their opponents.

Here's another Reagan quote from his farewell Oval office speech expanding on what he meant by his usage of the famous Shining City on a Hill vision:

"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still." http://www.presidentreagan.info/speeches/farewell.cfm

There is so much in there.  For today's controversies I'll pick out the parts about free ports and open doors. 

Free trade versus protectionism has been debated for centuries.  Both parties have members on both sides.  Put me with Reagan and the free traders.  I see at least one conservative running with tendencies toward protectionism. 

Lastly, I don't interpret the Reagan vision of open doors to be in conflict with the paramount need today to secure our borders; there aren't any suicide bombers in his shining city vision.  In my view we can should favor and encourage increased legal immigration and guest workers, highly screened, while enacting a lock-down, zero tolerance border enforcement for our national security (echoing what Crafty wrote in the previous post).  My reasons are economic and moral, but I also think a general anti-immigration message will not win in 2008.

5781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: February 04, 2007, 08:51:12 PM
"The sun's strong role indicates that greenhouse gases can't have much of an influence on the climate -- that C02 et al. don't dominate through some kind of leveraging effect that makes them especially potent drivers of climate change."

"CO2 does play a role in climate, Dr. Shaviv believes, but a secondary role, one too small to preoccupy policymakers." (Part science, part policy opinion)

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=156df7e6-d490-41c9-8b1f-106fef8763c6&k=0

Lawrence Solomon, National Post (Canada)
Published: Friday, February 02, 2007

Astrophysicist Nir Shariv, one of Israel's top young scientists, describes the logic that led him -- and most everyone else -- to conclude that SUVs, coal plants and other things man-made cause global warming.

Step One Scientists for decades have postulated that increases in carbon dioxide and other gases could lead to a greenhouse effect.

Step Two As if on cue, the temperature rose over the course of the 20th century while greenhouse gases proliferated due to human activities.

Step Three No other mechanism explains the warming. Without another candidate, greenhouses gases necessarily became the cause.

Dr. Shariv, a prolific researcher who has made a name for himself assessing the movements of two-billion-year-old meteorites, no longer accepts this logic, or subscribes to these views. He has recanted: "Like many others, I was personally sure that CO2 is the bad culprit in the story of global warming. But after carefully digging into the evidence, I realized that things are far more complicated than the story sold to us by many climate scientists or the stories regurgitated by the media.

"In fact, there is much more than meets the eye."

Dr. Shariv's digging led him to the surprising discovery that there is no concrete evidence -- only speculation -- that man-made greenhouse gases cause global warming. Even research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-- the United Nations agency that heads the worldwide effort to combat global warming -- is bereft of anything here inspiring confidence. In fact, according to the IPCC's own findings, man's role is so uncertain that there is a strong possibility that we have been cooling, not warming, the Earth. Unfortunately, our tools are too crude to reveal what man's effect has been in the past, let alone predict how much warming or cooling we might cause in the future.

All we have on which to pin the blame on greenhouse gases, says Dr. Shaviv, is "incriminating circumstantial evidence," which explains why climate scientists speak in terms of finding "evidence of fingerprints." Circumstantial evidence might be a fine basis on which to justify reducing greenhouse gases, he adds, "without other 'suspects.' " However, Dr. Shaviv not only believes there are credible "other suspects," he believes that at least one provides a superior explanation for the 20th century's warming.

"Solar activity can explain a large part of the 20th-century global warming," he states, particularly because of the evidence that has been accumulating over the past decade of the strong relationship that cosmic- ray flux has on our atmosphere. So much evidence has by now been amassed, in fact, that "it is unlikely that [the solar climate link] does not exist."

The sun's strong role indicates that greenhouse gases can't have much of an influence on the climate -- that C02 et al. don't dominate through some kind of leveraging effect that makes them especially potent drivers of climate change. The upshot of the Earth not being unduly sensitive to greenhouse gases is that neither increases nor cutbacks in future C02 emissions will matter much in terms of the climate.

Even doubling the amount of CO2 by 2100, for example, "will not dramatically increase the global temperature," Dr. Shaviv states. Put another way: "Even if we halved the CO2 output, and the CO2 increase by 2100 would be, say, a 50% increase relative to today instead of a doubled amount, the expected reduction in the rise of global temperature would be less than 0.5C. This is not significant."

The evidence from astrophysicists and cosmologists in laboratories around the world, on the other hand, could well be significant. In his study of meteorites, published in the prestigious journal, Physical Review Letters, Dr. Shaviv found that the meteorites that Earth collected during its passage through the arms of the Milky Way sustained up to 10% more cosmic ray damage than others. That kind of cosmic ray variation, Dr. Shaviv believes, could alter global temperatures by as much as 15% --sufficient to turn the ice ages on or off and evidence of the extent to which cosmic forces influence Earth's climate.

In another study, directly relevant to today's climate controversy, Dr. Shaviv reconstructed the temperature on Earth over the past 550 million years to find that cosmic ray flux variations explain more than two-thirds of Earth's temperature variance, making it the most dominant climate driver over geological time scales. The study also found that an upper limit can be placed on the relative role of CO2 as a climate driver, meaning that a large fraction of the global warming witnessed over the past century could not be due to CO2 -- instead it is attributable to the increased solar activity.

CO2 does play a role in climate, Dr. Shaviv believes, but a secondary role, one too small to preoccupy policymakers. Yet Dr. Shaviv also believes fossil fuels should be controlled, not because of their adverse affects on climate but to curb pollution.

"I am therefore in favour of developing cheap alternatives such as solar power, wind, and of course fusion reactors (converting Deuterium into Helium), which we should have in a few decades, but this is an altogether different issue." His conclusion: "I am quite sure Kyoto is not the right way to go."
5782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: February 04, 2007, 03:09:22 PM
The unintended consequence of raising the minimum wage
--
I am posting this because I think the question is interesting - how does a raising minimum wage affect the border issue - not because I agree with the answer.  I'm still thinking about that.    - Doug
--

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/4523270.html

 Feb. 3, 2007, 6:36PM
Working toward reform
Effect of $7.25 on immigration
The unintended consequence of raising the minimum wage

By DALE O. CLONINGER

I have yet to see anyone address the effect of a significant increase in the federal minimum wage on illegal immigration. In that void, I offer the following observations: First, if most of the 11 million or 12 million illegal immigrants came to the United States because of the enticement of jobs and the prospect of earning $5.15 an hour, what do you think increasing that wage to $7.25 an hour would do? If you do not know the answer, I suggest you eschew our southern border lest you be trampled by the surge in illegal immigrants.

Second, given the Law of Diminishing Returns, what do you think the employer response to the sudden and significant increase will be? This question is not answered easily.

Theory suggests employers would reduce the number of employees to help offset the increase in the hourly wage. However, if demand for their products remains high, employers will most likely maintain production levels and look to cut costs (or raise prices) in other ways.

There are at least two ways employers can reduce their labor costs in the short run.

First, employers could outsource more jobs overseas, where labor costs are a mere fraction of those in the United States. Second, faced with paying an American the $7.25 above the table, employers could choose to hire (more) illegal immigrants at a subminimum wage under the table. This practice is not new; it will simply be magnified. The black-market wage will, in all likelihood, also rise — meaning that employers may be unwilling to employ all those scrambling across the borders looking for work. In any event, American workers (as well as legal immigrants) get the short end of the stick.

The heightened exodus across the Mexican border will undoubtedly create greater political pressure for immigration reform — read legal guest worker program. An effective guest worker program will lead to higher labor costs, as the now legal immigrant workers can petition for enforcement of the federal minimum wage law without fear of deportation.

The single most important reason why illegal immigrants are able to find jobs in the United States is that employers can employ them at wage rates significantly lower than their American counterparts. If employers lose this incentive, they will have less reason to offer jobs to immigrants. Fewer jobs for immigrants will mean fewer immigrants. In this manner, an unintended consequence of a higher federal minimum wage may be sound immigration reform that could result, eventually, in fewer immigrant workers in the United States.

There is an important caveat, however.

This conclusion assumes that a guest worker program will stem the flow of illegal immigrants and minimize the black market in their labor — heroic assumptions to say the least. As long as there is a mass of labor willing to work for wages below the minimum, there will be employers who will do so.

Cloninger is professor emeritus at the School of Business of the University Houston-Clear Lake.
5783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 04, 2007, 11:28:22 AM
Interesting political point by VDH that: "We are in a rare period in American political history, in which the battlefield alone will determine the next election..."

As time permits, I'll post my take on each candidate.  So far there isn't one running from my wing of conservatism.  A new face with wisdom and maturity is needed in the race, How about Hanson...

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGM2Y2Q1YjYzYzc4NjhiYzI2NzliNGU4M2M4NzhkODk=

February 2, 2007 7:15 AM

Hedging on Iraq
The Democrats prepare for anything, and advocate nothing.

By Victor Davis Hanson

For all the talk of cutting off funds, redeployment, and pulling out, the new Democratic Congress will, at least for now, probably do nothing except speak impassioned words and make implicit threats. Here’s why.

First, they have to digest what they have swallowed. Democratic critics had previously framed their opposition to the war in terms of a disastrous tenure of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld; a culpable indifference to the status quo in Baghdad and at Centcom; a failure to listen to the more intellectual generals such as David Petraeus; the “too few troops” mantra; and the lionization of Gens. Shinseki, Zinni, and other shunned military critics.

But now Abizaid, Casey, Khalilzad, and Rumsfeld are all absent — or about to be — from direct involvement in the war. The supposed villain cast of Cobra II and Fiasco has exited, and the purported good guys have entered. David Petraeus will, de facto, be in charge, not just in the strictly military sense, but, given the press and politics of the war, spiritually as well — in the manner that Grant by late summer 1864 had become symbolic of the entire Union military effort that was his to win or lose. Many of those officers involved in the “revolt of the generals” have now largely supported the surge — something Democrats themselves had inadvertently apparently called for when they serially lamented there were too few troops to win in Iraq.

All the old targets of the Democrats are no more, and it will take time for them to re-adjust the crosshairs to aim at men and policies that they have heretofore viewed sympathetically.

Second, there is also a new twist to the Democratic criticism, evident in their increasing attacks on the Iraqi government in general and on Prime Minister Maliki in particular. The Michael Moore/Cindy Sheehan/Code Pink rants are no longer to be echoed by bellowing Sens. Durbin, Kennedy, or Kerry, saying in effect that American troops at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, or on patrol in Iraq are somehow akin to Hitler, Pol Pot, terrorists, or Saddam Hussein. Instead, in the new liberal brief, we are dying for incompetent Iraqi sectarians who can’t even conduct a decent execution.

That is, we are getting the Sen. Webb brand of critique of Iraq, given in terms of the national interest. Democrats seem to be saying that the Iraqis aren’t worth another American life, and that the hope of democracy over there was misplaced, making futile the rare opportunity offered by American blood and treasure.

It matters little whether this is factually correct; their only concern is the immediate political ramifications of such a “blame ’em” stance. In terms of the effect on military operations, Bush is, in a weird way, sometimes being attacked from his right by the Left — that the Iraqis are tying our hands, or not doing their own part, or incapable of enlightened government.

Not only will the administration bring pressure on Maliki by playing the sympathetic good cop to the Democrats’ bad, but also in the process it will ironically be given, for a time, more leeway to inflict damage on the jihadists. If the old liberal mantra was Abu Ghraib ad nauseam, the new one is that the treacherous Iraqis are releasing those killers that our brave soldiers arrest. While the Democrats may have meant to attack our present tactics in terms of naiveté and incompetence, the charge often translates as insufficient force applied — giving Bush a window to do more, not less.

Third, for all the gloom about Iraq, it remains volatile. We have gone from wild exultation in April 2003 when Saddam’s statue fell, to depression in 2004 during the pullback from Fallujah, to optimism at the elections and the Cedar Revolution in the spring of 2005, to gloom over the sectarian killing. Of course, the politics and punditry have adjusted accordingly.

Now all agree that the surge is not merely an increase of a few thousand troops, but a last effort to bring in new tactics and personnel to win or lose the war in 2007. Given the 2008 election to come, Democrats are crafting the necessary holding position for the next few months, which will allow them to readjust their past records either to defeat or to victory — something difficult to achieve should they now vote to cut off funds before the verdict is in.

Fourth, there is the “what next?” dilemma. It is fine for Democrats to talk of “redeployment” out of Iraq, “engagement” with Syria and Iran, more soft power, Europeans and the United Nations, organizing “regional interests,” etc. — until one realizes that we did mostly just that for most of the 1990s.

And? We got Syrian absorption of Lebanon, Afghanistan as an al Qaeda base, a Libyan WMD program, worldwide serial terrorist attacks, Oslo, a Pakistani bomb, a full-bore Iranian nuclear program, Oil-for-Food — and 9/11. If one doubts any of this, just reflect on why the Democrats have not offered any specific alternative plans. And when pressed, they usually talk only of “talking” and thereby bring embarrassment to even their liberal questioners.

So, privately, some sober Democrats realize that the use of force in the present was a reaction to the frustrations of the past. For all the slurs against the neocons, it could be wise to stay mum, and see whether the stabilization of Afghanistan and Iraq might well, in fact, still provide the United States with options unavailable in the past. It could be even wiser to let Bush take the heat for the ordeal in Iraq, and the slanders against democratization, and then, if it all finally succeeds, to huff, snort, nit-pick about the messy details — and then take advantage of the favorable outcome.

In contrast to the complex daily Democratic triangulation, the Republican position has solidified and can’t really be further nuanced. More troops, Secretary Rumsfeld, new tactics — these are no longer issues between a Sen. McCain and the administration. And the other front-runners likewise support the current effort, and its success or failure will help determine their own particular fates.

We are in a rare period in American political history, in which the battlefield alone will determine the next election, perhaps not seen since 1864. The economy, scandal, social issues, domestic spending, jobs, all these usual criteria and more pale in comparison to what happens in Iraq, where a few thousand brave American soldiers will determine our collective future.
5784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Global warming math on: February 02, 2007, 11:47:58 AM
Winter in Minnesota brings out the global warming skeptic in me.  We woke today to nice sunshine, a below zero temp and -30 F 'windchill'.  The forecast shows below zero temps every hour for the whole weekend coming up with -33 F windchill during the 'heat' of the day on Saturday.  Not global measures, just giving context to my skepticism. 

Earlier in this thread I saw both sides of the climate change debate well represented. I disclose I am no scientist, just trying to calculate the human caused component of global warming based on the imperfect science I have read so far.  I never see the proponents or alarmists quantify the human element of warming, so here I give it my first shot. I recognize that all components of my math are inexact (wrong) and controversial, but they are based on the best estimates I have found, and I already disclosed my bias above.  Please re-do the math with the data you trust better and post your answer to the question - at what rate is mankind warming the planet?

Estimate of total warming over the last 50 years:  0.5 degrees Celsius

Proportion of atmosphere CO2 attributable to humans:  3% (0.03)

Proportion of greenhouse effect attributable to CO2: less than 2% (0.02)

Negative feedback factor estimate: 50% (0.5)

Conversion factor of 50 year warming to per decade warming: 1/5 (0.2)

Total warming attributable to humans: 0.5 x 0.03 x 0.02 x 0.5 x 0.2 =0.00003 degree C per decade.

This is not in contradiction to the wording of scientists that it is very likely, with 90% certainty, that human activity is contributing to global warming.

Up go the oceans - 20 feet.

--
Adding to the many skeptic questions about consensus theories, I am curious about Oxygen levels in the atmosphere:

If fossil fuel combustion destroys 2 O2 molecules for each CO2 created, and if fossil fuel combustion is the central reason we see elevated levels of CO2 (I think it isn't), why don't why see matching double depletion levels of O2 in the atmosphere?  Oxygen levels have stayed amazingly steady.  Any measurable oxygen depletion would certainly steal the headlines away from all other issues.

5785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / DDD afflicting our children on: February 01, 2007, 12:37:33 PM
First, my comment that the above piece by Charles Murray is excellent!
--
This post could be classified as 'parenting'; I'll assume that's included in 'Education'. The author is the only conservative ever hired by the Mpls. Star-Tribune (known affectionately as the Red-Star). Her employment and columns are openly despised by their own editorialists and other columnists as covered by powerline a couple of days ago, "When envy met Kathy" http://powerlineblog.com/archives/016642.php

In today's column she correctly explains a lot of problem behaviors we see as the result of the newly labeled malady: DDD, Discipline Deficit Disorder.  If the DB common bond is martial arts, I assume that isn't that as big a problem around here.

http://www.startribune.com/191/story/973103.html

A character-killer is lurking in your neighborhood
There's a childhood epidemic sweeping Minnesota and the nation. Its warning signs aren't fever or skin rashes. The symptoms are behavioral -- and unmistakable.

By Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune

Consider a recent, particularly virulent outbreak of the affliction in Maplewood, N.J., as reported by the New York Times. In the last few years, out-of-control kids from the middle school have overrun the town's library after school. They routinely mouth off to librarians, disrupt common areas, leave restrooms a shambles and race about, sometimes almost knocking over elderly patrons.

Lately, problems have escalated. There have been fights, and graffiti have been scrawled on the walls. Librarians have had to summon police. In December the library board voted to close the building daily for two hours after school. A few weeks later they revoked their decision under pressure, but only after hiring guards.

Maplewood must be the kind of place where drug dealers skulk on the corners, right? Wrong. Money magazine recently listed the cozy suburb as one of America's Best Places to Live, according to the Times.

What is this character-killing disease, which can unleash an adolescent rampage in the best of places?

Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family in Minneapolis calls it discipline deficit disorder: DDD. In his new book, "NO: Why Kids -- of All Ages -- Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It," Walsh emphasizes that DDD is an equal-opportunity malady.

"It may look a little different in inner cities and affluent suburbs," he says, "but there are underlying similarities."

Discipline deficit disorder springs from a persistent lack of a single word in young people's lives. That word is "no." In an effort to make kids happy and ease their way in life, parents are increasingly failing to discipline them, and showering them with the things they demand. But without rules and limits, kids become self-absorbed, disrespectful and unable to delay gratification, says Walsh. And without challenge and disappointment, they fail to develop the "psychological muscles" -- resilience, resourcefulness and determination -- that they will need to cope with life's inevitable adversity.

"We all have an inborn drive to seek pleasure," Walsh explains. "Unfortunately, kids don't learn to manage that drive on their own. They outsource the job to us -- parents, teachers and other adults. Our job is to help them learn self-discipline -- the core trait they need to balance competing drives -- so that they, not the drives, are in charge."No" is not just a word, Walsh emphasizes. It's a parenting strategy.

In his search for a prescription for DDD, Walsh dug back into his own past. His mother, he recalls, had no trouble saying "no" to his pleas for a dime when the ice cream truck passed by. "I want you to learn an important lesson," she told him. "You don't always get what you want."

So what's changed?

Contemporary parents have to contend with pressures that his mother never faced, says Walsh. Today, popular culture -- "the culture of yes" -- exalts the drive for pleasure as life's highest good. Its slogan: "More, Easy, Fast and Fun." Kids get this message from movies, TV, video games and a consumer culture that bombards them, on average, with 23 million advertisements before they are 21.

Among those troubled by the discipline deficit are educators and business leaders, Walsh says. One-third of teachers are so discouraged by student behavior that they have considered abandoning their profession, according to research cited in his book.

Walsh also cites an October 2006 Conference Board study on work readiness. One of its biggest surprises is the degree of concern American business leaders express about young people's lack of work ethic, he says.

"Work ethic," he adds, "is the adult equivalent of self-discipline."

So are we parents enablers of DDD, or just the dupes of popular culture, as peddled by slick media types? Too often, it seems, we are willing accomplices in DDD's rapid spread.

Walsh has a telling anecdote: "Recently, a teacher came up to me after a workshop. 'I realized during your talk that I never give Cs or Ds anymore,' she told me. Why? 'I don't want to fight with the parents,' she said."
5786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: What is "Democracy"? on: January 31, 2007, 11:42:14 PM
Taking my rambling shot at the question - we're spreading 'democracy', but what is it we are spreading when you see Hamas 'elected' as a ruling political party, etc. Hugo Chavez was 'elected'. Saddam won sham 'elections'.  Some countries have elections but don't allow unapproved parties or candidates. Some countries call elections suddenly when it's convenient and some cancel elections and hold power. Even Hitler and Nazi rise to power had some origin in the electoral process. 

Pure democracy has some pure meaning such as every citizen voting on every issue and you risk tyranny of the majority(as Crafty just wrote).  I take 'democracy' in the spreading sense as meaning loosely some form of self rule. From our point of view I guess we are looking for a lot of good qualities in new republics based on what we value, but want it to be their idea in their own form.

So my answer is that democracy, such as the 3 national elections in Iraq, is step one in freedom, not the end-all solution.  Giving people a taste of freedom and self-rule where none has existed in their lifetime is the beginning.  That doesn't mean the security issue is solved or that capital markets are free or that basic freedoms will be protected or that tyranny won't return.

I just believe that the first step toward freedom is amazingly important. It was impressive to see the recently freed republics of Europe such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria identify with the cause of Iraqi freedom.  My daughter and I saw Pres. Bush up close at a campaign appearance in Oct. 2004 they day that Afghans first headed to the polls, with a 75% turnout and women included, not just rule by men, much less the taliban and al Qaeda.  For me it was a quite an emotional feeling to connect the freeing of these many millions of people we've never seen or met with the choices and political efforts that we make here.  In iraq, I am very proud that Saddam got a fair trial and is now dead.  We didn't achieve US independence without war and outside help, and it wouldn't have happened in these new countries either without help.

Now back to bad, elected governments, such as Hamas.  Democracy is ugly, but better than the alternatives. Capitalism and free markets are ugly but better than the alternatives.  I grew up in a Goldwater-Reagan type Republican family in a state (Minnesota) completely dominated by the Democrat-Farmer-Labor party of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, etc. and a country run by Lyndon Johnson and huge Democratic congressional majorities.  Of course it didn't seem like self rule when you keep losing elections and live under someone else's tax code and spending programs and court system.  The difference was that you always knew you could change minds; you didn't have shoot the oppressors.  Through 1984, Minnesota was America's most liberal state as Reagan won all the other 49. The liberal issues were the same as today IMO: reverse the tax cuts and pacify the enemy.  Eighteen years later Walter Mondale was defeated in his home state and a tax cut supporting Republican took the Senate's most liberal seat of Paul Wellstone. (This year we sent a Wellstone-clone to take the other senate seat, oh well.)

My point is that the process of getting it right, from anyone's point of view, is a long, long, long process and we never quite get it right. (I see that same point made with "How could it not take decades?")  In America, we didn't free slaves until seventy-some years after the bill of rights went into effect.

I was asked the same spreading democracy question previously by another friend in the same context - I think the implication was the a benevolent dictatorship might have been preferable to the actual choice of the people. In the case of Iraq, we installed the interim government of english-speaking American Paul Bremer while the first elections were scheduled.  Considering the criticisms we face now, can you imagine what world and Iraqi opinion would be now if the American installed government was the permanent solution?

Now back to good government and real freedoms.  Heritage makes a freedom index ranking of 161 countries.  I'm sure their criteria aren't perfect, but I like the thought process. http://www.heritage.org/index/topten.cfm

Some politician suggested an 'Association of Democracies' as an international rival for the UN's tolerance for illegitimate regimes.  It makes sense to me.
5787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: January 31, 2007, 02:28:22 PM
This WSJ piece from a couple of weeks ago is about the greater Middle East, but I thought I would attach it here as it applies to the Iran question.  I don't get the idea that the author is fond of Bush, the surge or the war, but argues that we have accidently stumbled into an outcome where the struggles each side faces causes them to require alliance and cooperation of the US.  I offer his view FWIW.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110009521

Two Alliances
President Bush has managed to divide and conquer the Middle East.

BY EDWARD N. LUTTWAK
Sunday, January 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

It was the hugely ambitious project of the Bush administration to transform the entire Middle East by remaking Iraq into an irresistible model of prosperous democracy. Having failed in that worthy purpose, another, more prosaic result has inadvertently been achieved: divide and rule, the classic formula for imperial power on the cheap. The ancient antipathy between Sunni and Shiite has become a dynamic conflict, not just within Iraq but across the Middle East, and key protagonists on each side seek the support of American power. Once the Bush administration realizes what it has wrought, it will cease to scramble for more troops that can be sent to Iraq, because it has become pointless to patrol and outpost a civil war, while a mere quarter or less of the troops already there are quite enough to control the outcome. And that is just the start of what can now be achieved across the region with very little force, and some competent diplomacy.

On Dec. 4, 2006, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of Iraq's largest political party, went to the White House to plead his case with President Bush. The son of an ayatollah, and himself a lifelong militant cleric, Mr. Hakim is hardly a natural partner for the U.S.--while living in Iran for 23 years he must have declaimed "death to America" on many an occasion. But as the chief leader of Iraq's Arab Shiite population, he has no choice. Each day brings deadly Sunni attacks, and just as the Sunnis are strengthened by volunteers and money from outside Iraq, the Shiites, too, need all the help they can get, especially American military training for the Shiite-dominated army and police. For President Bush, the visiting Mr. Hakim brought welcome promises of cooperation against his aggressive Shiite rival Moqtada al-Sadr as well as the Sunni insurgents. It no longer even seems strange that the best ally of the U.S. in Iraq is Mr. Hakim's party, the Sciri: the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose very title evokes the Iranian model of radically anti-Western theocracy.

Just as the Sunni threat to majority rule in Iraq is forcing Sciri to cooperate with the U.S., the prospect of a Shiite-dominated Iraq is forcing Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan, to seek American help against the rising power of the Shiites. Some Sunnis viewed Iran with suspicion even when it was still under the conservative rule of the shah, in part because its very existence as the only Shiite state could inspire unrest among the oppressed Shiite populations of Arabia. More recently, the nearby Sunni Arab states have been increasingly worried by the military alliance between Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah of Lebanon. But now that a Shiite-ruled Iraq could add territorial contiguity to the alliance, forming a "Shiite crescent" extending all the way from Pakistan to the Mediterranean, it is not only the Sunnis of nearby Arabia that feel very seriously threatened. The entire order of Muslim orthodoxy is challenged by the expansion of heterodox Shiite rule.

Although it was the U.S. that was responsible for ending Sunni supremacy in Iraq along with Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, it remains the only possible patron for the Sunni Arab states resisting the Shiite alliance. Americans have no interest in the secular-sectarian quarrel, but there is a very real convergence of interests with the Sunni Arab states because Iran is the main enemy for both.

At this moment, it is in Lebanon that the new Sunni-U.S. alliance has become active. With continuing mass demonstrations and threatening speeches, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is trying to force the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to give way to a new coalition which he can dominate. Syria and Iran are supporting Mr. Nasrallah, while the U.S. is backing Mr. Siniora. He has the support of the Druze and of most Christians as well, but it is also very much as a Sunni leader that Mr. Siniora is firmly resisting so far. That has gained him the financial backing of Saudi Arabia, which is funding Sunni counterdemonstrations and has even tried to co-opt Hezbollah, among other things. It was in their Arab identity that Hezbollah claimed heroic status because they were not routed by the Israelis in the recent fighting, but evidently many Sunni Arabs in and out of Lebanon view them instead as Shiite sectarians, far too obedient to non-Arab Iran. That suits the U.S., for Iran and Hezbollah are its enemies, too.

The Sunni-U.S. alignment in Lebanon, which interestingly coexists with the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq, may yet achieve results of strategic importance if Syria is successfully detached from its alliance with Iran. Originally it was a necessary alliance for both countries because Saddam's Iraq was waging war on Iran, and periodically tried to overthrow the Assad regime of Syria. Now that Iraq is no longer a threat to either country, Iran still needs Syria as a bridge to Hezbollah, but for Syria the alliance is strategically obsolete, as well as inconsistent with the country's Arab identity. True, Syria is ruled primarily by members of the Alawite sect that is usually classified as a Shiite offshoot. But that extremely heterodox faith (it has Christmas and the transmigration of souls) is far different from the Shiism of Iraq, Lebanon or Iran--where it would be persecuted; and besides, at least 70% of Syrians are Sunnis. That may explain why the Syrian regime has not used its full influence to overthrow Mr. Siniora: His stand against the Shiite Hezbollah resonates with his fellow Sunnis of Syria. But another reason may be the promise of substantial aid and investment from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates for Syria's needy economy, if the regime diminishes its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, or better, ends it altogether. The U.S., for its part, is no longer actively driving Syria into the arms of the Iranians by threatening a march on Damascus, while even the unofficial suggestions of negotiations by the Iraq Study Group made an impression, judging by some conciliatory Syrian statements.

The U.S.-Sunni alliance, which is a plain fact in Lebanon, is still only tentative over Syria; but it would be greatly energized if Iran were successfully deprived of its only Arab ally. At the same time, the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq has been strengthened in the wake of Mr. Hakim's visit. The Sunni insurgency is undiminished, but at least other Shiite groups are jointly weakening the only actively anti-American Shiite faction headed by Mr. Sadr.

When the Bush administration came into office, only Egypt and Jordan were functioning allies of the U.S. Iran and Iraq were already declared enemies, Syria was hostile, and even its supposed friends in the Arabian peninsula were so disinclined to help that none did anything to oppose al Qaeda. Some actively helped it, while others knowingly allowed private funds to reach the terrorists whose declared aim was to kill Americans.

The Iraq war has indeed brought into existence a New Middle East, in which Arab Sunnis can no longer gleefully disregard American interests because they need help against the looming threat of Shiite supremacy, while in Iraq at the core of the Arab world, the Shia are allied with the U.S. What past imperial statesmen strove to achieve with much cunning and cynicism, the Bush administration has brought about accidentally. But the result is exactly the same.

Mr. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" (Belknap, 2002).
5788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: January 31, 2007, 01:38:53 PM
I appreciate the Lindzen WSJ post above.  Going further back in time, he wrote a great piece still posted at Cato on the origin of the global warming debate, the underlying science and the politics driving it.  It's very long so I will just link it. I recommend a slow, careful read.  The first half is science and the second half covers the debate in the early years.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n2/reg15n2g.html

One point is his characterization of CO2 and methane as minor greenhouse gases with water vapor and clouds having 50 times more greenhouse effect.

At the heart of the science debate is the issue of net positive or negative feedback issues with warming.  In other words, a cloud may trap in heat but blocks light out. Net negative feedback would mean that warming in itself would cause offsetting phenomenon rather triggering even more warmth as others argue.

He criticizes existings models for inaccurately explaining existing data.  For example:

"If one considers the tropics... There is ample evidence that the average equatorial sea surface has remained within plus or minus one degree centigrade of its present temperature for billions of years, yet current models predict average warming of from two to four degrees centigrade even at the equator. It should be noted that for much of the Earth's history, the atmosphere had much more carbon dioxide than is currently anticipated for centuries to come."

Comments and criticisms of his science encouraged, but not on his integrity or his funding please.

5789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: January 30, 2007, 02:27:25 PM
First my comment on the above (Europe balking on Iran sanctions): If these are our best allies, why would they expect anything other than go-it-alone strategies from America - on anything???

I don't know enough to have a complete opinion, but I visualize a timely strike on Iran's nuclear facilities (and North Korea for that matter) comparable to Israel's attack on Iraq's Ozirak facility in June, 1981.  Like the Iraq war, I haven't done thorough analysis or planning for the aftermath.

Victor Davis Hanson wrote a couple of columns on Iran last month, one in particular arguing against military intervention, at least for now. "Neither immediate military intervention nor dialogue with Iran is the answer."

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/12/irans_ahmadinejad_far_weaker_t.html

December 28, 2006
Iran's Ahmadinejad Far Weaker Than He Lets On
By Victor Davis Hanson

The Iraq Study Group, prominent U.S. Senators and realist diplomats all want America to hold formal talks with the government of Iran. They think Tehran might help the United States disengage from Iraq and the general Middle East mess with dignity. That would be a grave error for a variety of reasons - the most important being that Iran is far shakier than we are.

The world of publicity-hungry Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not expanding, but shrinking. Despite his supposedly populist credentials, his support at home and abroad will only further weaken as long as the United States continues its steady, calm and quiet pressure on him.

In Iran's city council elections last week, moderate conservative and reformist candidates defeated Ahmadinejad's vehemently anti-American slate of allies. At a recent public meeting, angry Iranian students - tired of theocratic lunacy and repression - shouted down their president.

By supporting terrorists in Iraq and Lebanon, enriching uranium and insanely threatening to destroy a nuclear Israel, Ahmadinejad is only alienating Iranians, who wonder where their once vast oil revenues went and how they can possibly pay for all these wild adventures.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad has invested little in the source of his wealth - the oil infrastructure of Iran. Soon, even the country's once-sure oil revenues will start to decline. And that could be sooner than he thinks if the United Nations were to expand its recent economic sanctions in response to Ahmadinejad's flagrant violation of nuclear non-proliferation accords.

So, as Iranians worry that their nation is becoming an international pariah and perhaps heading down the path of bankruptcy in the process, now is not the time for America to give in by offering direct talks with Ahmadinejad. That propaganda victory would only help him reclaim the legitimacy and stature that he is losing with his own people at home.

Better models to follow instead are our past long-term policies toward Muammar el-Qaddafi's Libya and the Soviet Union of the 1980s. As long as Libya sponsored terrorism and attacked Westerners, we kept clear, and boycotted the regime. Only in 2003, when the Libyans unilaterally gave up a substantial program of weapons of mass destruction, agreed not to violate nuclear proliferation accords and renounced terrorism did we agree to normalize relations.

In other words, "talking with" or "engaging" Libya did not bring about this remarkable change in attitude within the Libyan government. In contrast, tough American principles, economic coercion, ostracism and patience finally did.

The United States always maintained open channels with the Soviet Union. After all - unlike with Iran or Libya - we had little choice when thousands of nukes were pointed at us and Red Army troops were massed on the West German border.

But Ronald Reagan nevertheless embraced a radical shift in U.S. policy by actively appealing to Russian dissidents. He used the bully pulpit to expose the barbarity of the "evil empire" in the world court of ideas. All the while, Reagan further enhanced America's military advantage over the Soviets to speed the regime's collapse.

After the fall, courageous Russian dissidents from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to Natan Sharansky did not applaud Jimmy Carter, who had smugly pronounced the end of his own "inordinate fear" of such a murderous ideology. Instead, they preferred Reagan, who had challenged Soviet Premier Michael Gorbachev "to tear down" the Berlin Wall. America came out ahead when we were on the side of people yearning for change rather than coddling the regime trying to stop it.

The larger Middle East that surrounds Iran is in the throes of a messy, violent three-stage transition: from dictatorship to radicalism and chaos to constitutional government. Thugs and terrorists like Ahmadinejad ("We did not have a revolution in order to have democracy") want it to stop and return to the old world before Sept. 11.

In similar fashion, there are also terrible aftershocks in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the old authoritarian rules of Saddam and the Taliban are over. So perhaps is the Syrian colonization of Lebanon. Yasser Arafat is gone in the Middle East, and his successors are fighting each other more than they are Israel.

In all this chaos - which will take years to settle - the United States needs to stick to its principles. Neither immediate military intervention nor dialogue with Iran is the answer. Instead, we must just keep up the pressure on the trash-talking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is far weaker than he lets on.
5790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 29, 2007, 02:06:25 PM
Craig, all,

I thought of Condi when Hillary started changing her emphasis from 'woman' to 'mom'.  Of course Condi is out for now because a) she isn't running and b) Bush foreign policy is currently in low regard.
--
Speaking of foreign policy, this speech Mitt Romney gave in Israel last week offers a very clear plan regarding Iran and a worthwhile read IMO.

http://powerlineblog.com/archives/016622.php

Mitt Romney Herzliya Conference Speech
January 23, 2007

    Thank you Ron Lauder for that introduction. And thank you for what you do – and to you Uzi Arad as well – to make this important conference happen. It’s good to be at the Herzliya Conference this afternoon. It’s been a busy day. I saw the sunrise in Jerusalem. And along with friends, I traveled to the Gaza border, from there wechoppered up to the Lebanese border. And now here.I am glad to be in Israel again. It has been about 10 years since my last visit and I am struck by how much has changed. The economy is booming. As someone who spent most of my career in business, I have great respect for the ingenuity and resilience of Israel’s workers and entrepreneurs.

    But the changes are not only economic and they are not only positive.

   And it is not just Israel that has changed in the past decade, but the world around us. Unfortunately, many have not fully caught up with the new strategic paradigm we face.In that old world, the Arab-Israeli conflict was thought of as just another intractable regionalconflict. One that drags on…that should be resolved…but is not part of a global threat to theworld order.9/11 changed that perspective. Or it should have. Contrary to the Baker-Hamilton Commission, resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict will not magically mollify the jihadists. No, what we should have realized since 9/11 is that what the world regarded as an Israeli-Arab conflict over borders represented something much larger. It was the oldest, most active front of the radical Islamist jihad against the entire West. It therefore was not really aboutborders. It was about the refusal of many parts of the Muslim world to accept Israel's right toexist – within any borders.

    This distinction came into vivid focus this summer. The war in Lebanon had little to do with thePalestinians. And it had nothing to do with a two-state solution. It demonstrated that Israel isnow facing a jihadist front that from Tehran through Damascus to Southern Lebanon andGaza.As Tony Blair astutely put it, Hizbullah was not fighting “for the coming into being of a Palestinian state...but for the going out of being of an Israeli state."

    Yet we have still not fully absorbed the magnitude of the change. As far as our enemies areconcerned, there is just one conflict. And in this single conflict, the goal of destroying Israel issimply a way station toward the real goal of subjugating the entire West.Jihadism -- violent radical Islamic fundamentalism -- has emerged as this century’s nightmare. It follows the same dark path as last century’s horrors: fascism and Soviet-styled communism.In my country, the attack by Al Queda has led some to believe that we are threatened by aband of fanatics in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They imagine that if we couldonly get Bin Laden and his cohorts, all this unpleasantness could be over.But Jihadism is much, much more.

    Jihadists are among Shia and Sunni, promoted by Hamasand Hizbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, financed by knowing and unknowing Muslimgovernments, and preached to hundreds of millions in many nations. Their goal is theoverthrow of moderate Muslim states and their replacement by a caliphate. Their strategy isthe collapse of the economy, the government, and the military of America and our friends.To their eyes, our destruction is not delusional, but possible.In my country, the focus has been on Iraq, which is understandable. We have some 140,000 men and women there, with more on the way. And we are suffering casualties. Indeed, the past few days have been especially painful for the United States. Thousands of American families continue to make the greatest sacrifice for security in Iraq. And for whatever the mistakes made and the challenges before us, we must remain committed to making everyeffort for success there.And on Iraq, I would just like to make another point. Some Congressional leaders in theUnited States today are arguing that the President is not authorized to allow our forces topursue Iranian elements inside Iraq – which are attacking our own troops. That would be folly.

    But today, I wish to focus on the regime that has become the heart of the Jihadist threat - Iran. I believe that Iran’s leaders and ambitions represent the greatest threat to the world sincethe fall of the Soviet Union, and before that, Nazi Germany.

    Ahmadinejad has gone well beyond the boundary of outrage…beginning with his calculateddesecration of history. Indeed, when he denies the Holocaust, he could care less about history– his point is about the present and the future. His purpose is not to deny the Holocaust, but todeny Israel. He is testing the waters. He wants to know who will object. And how they willregister their objection.The Iranian regime threatens not only Israel, but also every other nation in the region, andultimately the world. And that threat would take on an entirely new dimension if Iran were allowed to become a nuclear power. And just think of the signal a nuclear Iran would send toother rogue regimes with nuclear ambitions – this could be a tipping point in the developmentand proliferation of nuclear regimes. How should the civilized world approach this challenge?

    Our first goal should be to dispense with three major schools of wishful thinking:The first school concedes that Iran must not be allowed to go nuclear. But that's where thecertitude ends. Beyond that recognition, there is only the hope that Iran’s weakeningeconomy and political rivalries will yield a change in the government’s leadership. We are all hopeful, but this is not a strategy. The second assumes that it is possible to live with a nuclear Iran. This thinking is based onthe theory that Iran, once granted the privilege of joining the nuclear club, will be aresponsible actor.

    Neither their words nor their record justify this conclusion. The third school believes that the logic of deterrence, which served us through the Cold War,will apply to Iran. But for all of the Soviets’ deep flaws, they were never suicidal. A Sovietcommitment to national survival was never in question. This assumption simply cannot bemade about an irrational regime that celebrates martyrdom.Each of these three represents a rationale for inaction, rather than a strategy for success.Each would in all likelihood yield the same result – an Iran that is nuclear armed, threateningthe world, or worse. They should be rejected. And they should be replaced with anunderstanding of two fundamental realities:

    1) Iran must stopped;

    2) Iran can be stopped.

    It is inconceivable to me that some think otherwise. Their view must be based ondisbelief…disbelief that Iran’s regime means what it says.Few believed that Hitler meant when he called for the destruction of the Jewish people in Mein Kampf. Few believed what Osama bin Laden said.

    The 9/11 Commission found numerous failures – failures of intelligence, of coordination, andof analysis. But they found that the most critical failure was what they called a “failure ofimagination.” Americans simply could not believe that people would crash airplanes full ofinnocent people into buildings full of innocent people.

    Since that happened, can we really dismiss horrific threats as mere rhetoric? A nuclear Iran is unacceptable because, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates pointed out inhis confirmation hearings, we have no way of guaranteeing that Iran will not use a nuclearweapon. Many people do understand that Iran must be stopped, but they do not believe it is possible. They see the modest sanctions that the UN took three years to produce. They see Russia refusing to end its cooperation with Iran's nuclear program. They conclude that the UNSecurity Council will never produce sanctions tough enough – and soon enough - to stop Iran.

    What is less appreciated is what the US and Europe can do. Yes, we should continue toencourage China and Russia to work with us on the UN Security Council. And from my meetings in Israel over the past few days, and in China two months ago, I have reason to bemore optimistic about the role China could play.But we must not sit idle while we wait for cooperation: The US and Europe can do much toexploit the Iranian regime’s vulnerabilities.

    In considering our strategy, we must remember that the government and the clerics arenot the sole center of power. The people of Iran also represent a major source of power. Byand large, they have not been radicalized by their government and clerics. They feareconomic stagnation and political repression. Most are not seeking a military confrontationwith the West. Indeed, most want greater engagement with the West - there’s a reason, for example, that there are more than 75,000 bloggers active in Iran today. A successfulstrategy should consider and encompass the people of Iran, as well as their leaders. In my view, our strategy to stop Iran should include the following five dimensions:

    First, we must continue tighten economic sanctions. Our model should be at least as severeto the sanctions imposed on Apartheid South Africa. We should demand no less from theinternational community today.The Bush Administration deserves credit for the efforts it has made on the economic trackthus far. The Administration’s campaign to deny Iran access to the international bankingsystem is crucial. The United States and Europe must ensure that Iran is unable to obtaincredit. And we must ensure that Iranian purchases in foreign currencies become difficult or impossible.

    We must also be imaginative in the way we pressure Iran economically – an issue I havebeen looking into. In my meetings this week in Israel, I have become aware of the potential ofUS pension funds to further isolate the Iranian economy. We should explore a selective disinvestment policy. After a series of briefings here, I have contacted the Treasurer of my own state of Massachusetts and Governors of other states to begin this process by meetingtoday with senior Israeli leaders in Boston.

    Second, we must impose diplomatic isolation of Iran’s Government. Ahmadinejad should notbe provided the trappings, respect, and recognition of a responsible head of state as hetravels. In fact, when former Iranian President Khatami traveled to Boston last year to lectureat Harvard University, I denied him state police security for his visit. The real question is: why was he invited in the first place? Ahmadinejad is even more strident than Khatami. He should neither be invited to foreign capitals nor feted by foreign leaders. This would haveimportant symbolic significance, not just to Ahmadinejad, but to the people of Iran.Diplomatic isolation should also include an indictment of Ahmadinejad for incitement togenocide under the Genocide Convention. The United States should lead this effort.

    The full title of the Genocide Convention is the Convention on the Prevention andPunishment of the Crime of Genocide. Remember that word: Prevention.Article III of that treaty establishes that “public incitement to commit genocide” is apunishable crime. Every signatory to this treaty, including the U.S. and most Europeancountries, shares an obligation to enforce it. So do human rights groups that care aboutinternational humanitarian law.Nobel Prize Winner Elie Wiesel, and human rights advocate and former Canadian JusticeMinister Irwin Cotler have spoken out on this issue.In addition, former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has been a forceful advocate for this effort, and is joined by Alan Dershowitz. If these two can agree, they must be on to something.

    Third, Arab states must join this effort to prevent a nuclear Iran. These states can do muchmore than wring their hands and urge America to act. They should support Iraq’s nascentgovernment, They can help America focus on Iran by quickly turning down the temperatureof the Arab-Israeli conflict -- stopping the financial and weapons flows to Hamas andHizbullah…thawing relations with Israel…and telling the Palestinians they must dropterrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

    Fourth, we must make it clear that while nuclearization may be a source of pride, it can alsobe a source of peril. The military option remains on the table. And further, nuclear materialthat falls into the hands of terrorists would surely provoke a devastating response from thecivilized world.

    Fifth, our strategy should be integrated into a broader approach to the broader Muslim world.I agree with our friend, former Prime Minister Aznar of Spain, that a central purpose of NATO should be to defeat radical Islam. I believe this has two critical dimensions. The first is anunquestionably capable military. This will mean a greater investment by the United States aswell as other nations. The second is a global partnership which includes NATO and otherallies. Its mission would be to support progressive Muslim communities and leaders in every nation where radical Islam is battling modernity and moderation. This Partnership for Prosperity should help provide the tools and funding necessary for moderates to win the debate in their own societies. They need secular public schools, micro credit and banking,the rule of law, adequate healthcare, human rights, and competitive economic policies. In thefinal analysis, only Muslims will be able to permanently defeat radical Islam. And we canhelp.

    We should remember that in the two other global confrontations with totalitarianism in thepast century, it was not always obvious that the West would prevail. Indeed, in these conflicts, the balance of power was not always in the West’s favor. Those were wars we could have lost, but did not.

    In the current conflict, the balance of forces is not nearly as dangerously close as it wasduring moments of World War II and the Cold War. There is no comparison between the economic, diplomatic, and military resources of the West and the handful of weak terrorist states that threaten us. In the previous global wars, there were many ways to lose, and victory was far fromguaranteed. In the current conflict, there is only one way to lose, and that is if we as acivilization decide not to lift a finger to defend ourselves, our values, and our way of life.

    It is time for the world to plainly speak three truths:

    One, Iran must be stopped.

    Two, Iran can be stopped.

    And three, Iran will be stopped.

    Thank you.
5791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: January 29, 2007, 01:11:05 PM
My first post on Global Warming, though I have been following the debate here.  Marc, I was wondering whether I would find the category under politics or science.  (

I found this article from the National Post of Canada Friday http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/archives/story.html?id=eabbe10d-3891-41eb-9ee1-a59b71743bec
interesting in that it draws different conclusions and disagrees with cause and effect assumptions of the 'consensus' anthropogenic-caused global warming model.

Picking out excerpts: "the climate (on Mars)is the warmest it has been in decades", "without a greenhouse", "the sun's increased irradiance over the last century, not C02 emissions, is responsible for the global warming we're seeing", and my favorite part: "Solar irradiance has begun to fall, ushering in a protracted cooling period beginning in 2012 to 2015."

We will know soon enough.

--

Look to Mars for the truth on global warming
National Post - Canada.com
Friday, January 26, 2007

Climate change is a much, much bigger issue than the public, politicians, and even the most alarmed environmentalists realize. Global warming extends to Mars, where the polar ice cap is shrinking, where deep gullies in the landscape are now laid bare, and where the climate is the warmest it has been in decades or centuries.

"One explanation could be that Mars is just coming out of an ice age," NASA scientist William Feldman speculated after the agency's Mars Odyssey completed its first Martian year of data collection. "In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated." With each passing year more and more evidence arises of the dramatic changes occurring on the only planet on the solar system, apart from Earth, to give up its climate secrets.

NASA's findings in space come as no surprise to Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov at Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory. Pulkovo -- at the pinnacle of Russia's space-oriented scientific establishment -- is one of the world's best equipped observatories and has been since its founding in 1839. Heading Pulkovo's space research laboratory is Dr. Abdussamatov, one of the world's chief critics of the theory that man-made carbon dioxide emissions create a greenhouse effect, leading to global warming.

"Mars has global warming, but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians," he told me. "These parallel global warmings -- observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth -- can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance."

The sun's increased irradiance over the last century, not C02 emissions, is responsible for the global warming we're seeing, says the celebrated scientist, and this solar irradiance also explains the great volume of C02 emissions.

"It is no secret that increased solar irradiance warms Earth's oceans, which then triggers the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations."

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. "Ascribing 'greenhouse' effect properties to the Earth's atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated," he maintains. "Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away."

The real news from Saint Petersburg -- demonstrated by cooling that is occurring on the upper layers of the world's oceans -- is that Earth has hit its temperature ceiling. Solar irradiance has begun to fall, ushering in a protracted cooling period beginning in 2012 to 2015. The depth of the decline in solar irradiance reaching Earth will occur around 2040, and "will inevitably lead to a deep freeze around 2055-60" lasting some 50 years, after which temperatures will go up again.

Because of the scientific significance of this period of global cooling that we're about to enter, the Russian and Ukrainian space agencies, under Dr. Abdussamatov's leadership, have launched a joint project to determine the time and extent of the global cooling at mid-century. The project, dubbed Astrometry and given priority space-experiment status on the Russian portion of the International Space Station, will marshal the resources of spacecraft manufacturer Energia, several Russian research and production centers, and the main observatory of Ukraine's Academy of Sciences. By late next year, scientific equipment will have been installed in a space-station module and by early 2009, Dr. Abdussamatov's space team will be conducting a regular survey of the sun.

With the data, the project will help mankind cope with a century of falling temperatures, during which we will enter a mini ice age.

"There is no need for the Kyoto Protocol now. It does not have to come into force until at least 100 years from no w," Dr. Abdussamatov concluded. "A global freeze will come about regardless of whether or not industrialized countries put a cap on their greenhouse- gas emissions."
   
   
5792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Truth About Clarence Thomas on: January 28, 2007, 05:21:27 PM
This author was Supreme Court analyst for the Jim Lehrer News Hour and for the Chicago Tribune, now of ABC news.  Today she writes at opinionjournal.com about my favorite justice on the court:
--

The Truth About Clarence Thomas
He's an independent voice, not a Scalia lackey.

BY JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG
Sunday, January 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Clarence Thomas has borne some of the most vitriolic personal attacks in Supreme Court history. But the persistent stereotypes about his views on the law and subordinate role on the court are equally offensive--and demonstrably false. An extensive documentary record shows that Justice Thomas has been a significant force in shaping the direction and decisions of the court for the past 15 years.

That's not the standard storyline. Immediately upon his arrival at the court, Justice Thomas was savaged by court-watchers as Antonin Scalia's dutiful apprentice, blindly following his mentor's lead. It's a grossly inaccurate portrayal, imbued with politically incorrect innuendo, as documents and notes from Justice Thomas's very first days on the court conclusively show. Far from being a Scalia lackey, the rookie jurist made clear to the other justices that he was willing to be the solo dissenter, sending a strong signal that he would not moderate his opinions for the sake of comity. By his second week on the bench, he was staking out bold positions in the private conferences where justices vote on cases. If either justice changed his mind to side with the other that year, it was Justice Scalia joining Justice Thomas, not the other way around.

Much of the documentary evidence for this comes from the papers of Justice Harry Blackmun, who recorded the justices' votes and took detailed notes explaining their views. I came across vivid proof while reading the papers as part of my research for a book about how the Rehnquist Court--a court with seven justices appointed by Republican presidents--evolved into an ideological and legal disappointment for conservatives.

Justice Thomas's first term was especially interesting. He replaced legendary liberal icon Thurgood Marshall, and joined the court just a year after David Souter took William Brennan's seat. There appeared to be a solid conservative majority, with the court poised to finally dismember the liberal legacy of the Warren Court. But that year it instead lurched inexplicably to the left--even putting Roe v. Wade on more solid ground.

Justice Thomas's first year on the job brought to life the adage that a new justice makes a new court. His entry didn't merely change the vote of the liberal justice he replaced. It turned the chessboard around entirely, rearranging ideological alliances. Justice Thomas acted as a catalyst in different ways, shoring up conservative positions in some cases and spurring others--the moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in particular--to realign themselves into new voting blocs.

Consider a criminal case argued during Justice Thomas's first week. It concerned a thief's effort to get out of a Louisiana mental institution and the state's desire to keep him there. Eight justices voted to side with the thief. Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that although it "may make eminent sense as a policy matter" to let the criminal out of the mental institution, nothing in the Constitution required "the states to conform to the policy preferences of federal judges."

After he sent his dissenting opinion to the other justices, as is custom, Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Kennedy changed their votes. The case ended up 5-4.

Justice Thomas's dissents persuaded Justice Scalia to change his mind several times that year. Even in Hudson v. McMillan, the case that prompted the New York Times to infamously label Justice Thomas the "youngest, cruelest justice," he was again, initially, the lone dissenter. Justice Scalia changed his vote after he read Justice Thomas's dissent, which said a prison inmate beaten by guards had several options for redress--but not under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment."

From the beginning, Justice Thomas was an independent voice. His brutal confirmation hearings only enforced his autonomy, making him impervious to criticism from the media and liberal law professors. He'd told his story, and no one listened. From then on, he did not care what they said about him.

Clarence Thomas, for example, is the only justice who rarely asks questions at oral arguments. One reason is that he thinks his colleagues talk too much from the bench, and he prefers to let the lawyers explain their case with fewer interruptions. But his silence is sometimes interpreted as a lack of interest, and friends have begged him to ask a few questions to dispel those suggestions. He refuses to do it. "They have no credibility," he says of critics. "I am free to live up to my oath."

But the forcefulness and clarity of Justice Thomas's views, coupled with wrongheaded depictions of him doing Justice Scalia's bidding, created an internal dynamic that caused the court to make an unexpected turn in his first year. Justice O'Connor--who sought ideological balance--moved to the left. With the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, the court now is poised to finally fulfill the hopes of the conservative movement. As George W. Bush told his legal advisers early in his presidency, he wanted justices in "the mold of Thomas and Scalia." Interestingly, on President Bush's marquee, Justice Thomas got top billing.

Ms. Crawford Greenburg, legal correspondent for ABC News, is the author of "Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story for Control of the United States Supreme Court" (Penguin Press, 2007).
5793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ten Myths of the Iraq War on: January 28, 2007, 04:55:11 PM
I think many critics of Bush and the war overplay their case every bit as much as they say Bush did.  This piece summarizes that view IMO.
--

Ten Myths of the Iraq War, http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/topten/articles/20070128.aspx

January 28, 2007: Top 10 Myths of the Iraq War. In no particular order. There are more, but ten is a manageable number.

1-No Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Several hundred chemical weapons were found, and Saddam had all his WMD scientists and technicians ready. Just end the sanctions and add money, and the weapons would be back in production within a year. At the time of the invasion, all intelligence agencies, world-wide, believed Saddam still had a functioning WMD program. Saddam had shut them down because of the cost, but created the illusion that the program was still operating in order to fool the Iranians. The Iranians wanted revenge on Saddam because of the Iraq invasion of Iran in 1980, and the eight year war that followed.

2-The 2003 Invasion was Illegal. Only according to some in the UN. By that standard, the invasion of Kosovo and bombing of Serbia in 1999 was also illegal. Saddam was already at war with the U.S. and Britain, because Iraq had not carried out the terms of the 1991 ceasefire, and was trying to shoot down coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone. 

3-Sanctions were working. The sanctions worked for Saddam, not for Iraq. Saddam used the sanctions as an excuse to punish the Shia majority for their 1991 uprising, and help prevent a new one. The "Oil For Food" program was corrupted with the help of bribed UN officials, and mass media outlets that believed Iraqi propaganda. Saddam was waiting out the sanctions, and bribing France, Russia and China, with promises of oil contracts and debt repayments, to convince the UN to lift the sanctions.

4-Overthrowing Saddam Only Helped Iran. Of course, and this was supposed to make Iran more approachable and open to negotiations. With the Iraqi "threat" gone, it was believed that Iran might lose its radical ways and behave. Iran got worse as a supporter of terrorism and developer of WMD. Irans clerical dictatorship did not want a democracy next door. The ancient struggle between the Iranians and Arabs was brought to the surface, and the UN became more active in dealing with problems caused by pro-terrorist government of Iran. As a result of this, the Iranian police state has faced more internal dissent. From inside Iran, Iraq does not look like an Iranian victory.

5-The Invasion Was a Failure. Saddam's police state was overthrown and a democracy established, which was the objective of the operation. Peace did not ensue because Saddam's supporters, the Sunni Arab minority, were not willing to deal with majority rule, and war crimes trials. A terror campaign followed. Few expected the Sunni Arabs to be so stupid. There's a lesson to be learned there.

6-The Invasion Helped Al Qaeda. Compared to what? Al Qaeda was a growing movement before 2003, and before 2001. But after the Iraq invasion, and especially the Sunni Arab terrorism, al Qaeda fell in popularity throughout the Moslem world. Arab countries cracked down on al Qaeda operations more than ever before. Without the Iraq invasion, al Qaeda would still have safe havens all over the Arab world. 

7-Iraq Is In A State of Civil War. Then so was Britain when the IRA was active, and so is Spain today because ETA is still active. Both IRA and ETA are terrorist organizations based on ethnic identity. India also has tribal separatist rebels who are quite active. That's not considered a civil war. This is all about partisans playing with labels for political ends, not accurately describing a terror campaign.

8-Iraqis Were Better Off Under Saddam. Most Iraqis disagree. Check election results and opinion polls. Reporters tend to ask Iraqi Sunni Arabs this question, but they were the only ones who benefited from Saddams rule.

9-The Iraq War Caused Islamic Terrorism to Increase in Europe. The Moslem unrest in Europe was there before 2001, and 2003. Interviews of Islamic radicals in Europe reveals that the hatred is not motivated by Iraq, but by daily encounters with hostile natives. Blaming Islamic terrorism on Iraq is another attempt to avoid dealing with a homegrown problem.

10- The War in Iraq is Lost. By what measure? Saddam and his Baath party are out of power. There is a democratically elected government. Part of the Sunni Arab minority continues to support terror attacks, in an attempt to restore the Sunni Arab dictatorship. In response, extremist Shia Arabs formed vigilante death squads to expel all Sunni Arabs. Given the history of democracy in the Middle East, Iraq is working through its problems. Otherwise, one is to believe that the Arabs are incapable of democracy and only a tyrant like Saddam can make Iraqi "work." If democracy were easy, the Arab states would all have it. There are problems, and solutions have to be found and implemented. That takes time, but Americans have, since the 18th century, grown weary of wars after three years. If the war goes on longer, the politicians have to scramble to survive the bad press and opinion polls. Opposition politicians take advantage of the situation, but this has nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with local politics in the United States.
5794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 26, 2007, 11:47:41 PM
We lost a few people in the move. (

I tried to recognize the initials.  Is that you Doc?

I agree to some extent. The format is a little hard for me to adjust to.  Clicking on the '10 most recent posts' seems to give a glimpse of the current discussion.  I have been reading, but slow to dive in.  I started that way on OP as well. 

Many posts here are worthwhile readings.  The best to me are the personal exchanges on the issues of the day. 

Hang in there.  Maybe we find a few other familiar faces and get to know the rest better as well.

    - Doug
5795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iraq Economy on: January 05, 2007, 01:07:00 PM
This Kuwait Times article tells a positive side of the economic story in Iraq.  It starts slowly with complaints about no mainstream media coverage of progress, then gives plenty of first-hand, specific information about projects, jobs, salaries, locations, currency valuation, price of gas, etc.

http://www.kuwaittimes.net/Navariednews.asp?dismode=article&artid=1839729411

Iraq on the right path
 
Generally speaking, the media worldwide report predominantly about the sensational, catastrophes, deaths, controversial statements by international personalities, wars, celebrity stories, gossip, rumours and the abnormal.

News about socio-economic success, development and progress is scantily tackled. A veteran German reporter told me this kind of news is boring for media consumers. People prefer the sensational. Hence, media providers fiercely compete to get hold of dramatic events. This is the kind of news that mesmerises people to the media. Commercial media, above all TV channels rejoice in reporting about wars and killing, the sooner the better. They rush to the scene of events and report live. "Thank God! At last something sensational is happening. Now we can make money (through commercials of course)." Commercial TV owners celebrate joyfully. Sensational events overshadow normal, ordinary, effective, humane achievements.

Had Mohammed Yunus not won this year's Nobel Prize for peace, no body would have taken notice of his great Mini-Loan Bank in Bangladesh which helped eradicate poverty for seven million people. International media used to report almost only about floods and poverty from Bangladesh. Yunus's work was ignored. It was not sensational enough. Commercial media live on the sensational, the weird, the bloody, the negative, the abnormal, and the controversial.

All this seems to apply to Iraq. We only hear and read bad news from Iraq: suicide and car bombs. Random killing, sabotage, and destruction are the only news we get from Iraq. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General describes the situation in Iraq as "worse than a civil war." Obviously he watches only CNN. But is Iraq really only killing and destruction?

An American businessman with links to major parts of Iraq told me another story of Iraq. While he admits that there is daily killing and destruction in Iraq, there is also construction, development, progress and freedom. Here are some of his facts: Slowly but steadily, "80 per cent of Iraqis are creeping (back) to (normal) life."

"Um Qasr, in the southeast extremity of Iraq on the Persian Gulf" which was deserted by the spring of 2003 is back to normal. "It is back in business as a port with commercial and military functions. "Hundreds of families have returned - joining many more who have come from all over Iraq."
"The boom in Um Qasr is part of a broader picture that also includes Basra, the sprawling metropolis of southern Iraq"

Very few media report about good news from Iraq. "Newsweek has just hailed the emergence of a booming market economy in Iraq as "the mother of all surprises," noting "Iraqis are more optimistic about the future than most Americans are." The reason, of course, is that Iraqis know what is going on in their country while Americans are fed a diet of exclusively negative reporting from Iraq."

The growing dynamism of the Iraqi economy is reflected in the steady increase in the value of the national currency, the dinar, against the three currencies in direct competition with it in the Iraqi marketplace: the Iranian rial, the Kuwaiti dinar and the US dollar, since January 2006."

"No doubt, part of the dinar's strength reflects the rise in Iraq's income from oil exports to almost $40 billion in 2006, an all-time record. But oil alone does not explain all, since both Iran and Kuwait are bigger exporters than Iraq."

"The fact that civil-servant salaries have increased by almost 30 per cent, with a further 30 per cent due to come into effect early next year, also has helped boost demand.

But a good part of the boom is due to an unexpected flow of foreign capital. This has been facilitated by the prospect of a liberal law on direct foreign investments, which exists only in such free-trade parts of the region as Dubai and Bahrain . None of Iraq 's six neighbours offers such guarantee for the free flow of capital to and from the country."

"Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the number of private companies in Iraq has increased from a mere 8,000 to more than 35,000 this year. Each week an average of 60 new companies spring up in Iraq 's booming areas. A good part of the investment in southern Iraq , including in Um Qasr, comes from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates."

"Whatever happens, Iraq is Iraq ," says a Kuwaiti businessman, building hotels in the south. "Iraq will always remain the country with the world's largest oil reserves and the Middle East's biggest resources of water."

"One hears similar comments from local and foreign businessmen investing in real estate in Najaf and Karbala. Over 200 million Shiite Muslims regard the cities as holy. Najaf and Karbala have always been dream destinations for pilgrims. Under Saddam Hussein, however, few foreign pilgrims were allowed. With the despot gone, pilgrims are pouring in-and with them the fresh money."

"That good business is possible in Iraq is reflected in the performance of new companies, most of which did not exist three years ago. One privately owned mobile phone company is expected to report revenues of more than $500 million this year, a sevenfold increase in three years. Another private firm marketing soft drinks has seen profits double since the end of 2003. The number of luxury cars imported has risen from a few hundred in 2002 to more than 20,000 this year. The leading export of Iraq is producing nearly $41 billion in revenues."

But what about continued attacks of insurgents and terrorists?

"Most foreign investors coming to make money in Iraq shrug their shoulders. "Doing business in any Arab country is always risky," says a Turkish investor who has set up a trucking company and a taxi service. "In some Arab countries, you risk nationalization or straight confiscation by the ruler. In other Arab countries, you must give a cut to one of the emirs (and princes). Here, you face possible terrorist attacks. But such attacks are transitory."

"The relatively low cost of labour is another attraction to investors. Wages in Iraq , where unemployment is (still) over 30 per cent, are less than a quarter of the going rates in Kuwait . Nevertheless, the Iraqi boom appears to be attracting some Iranian labourers from areas close to the border-people who come in for a few days to make some money before returning home."
"Although Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's government has slowed down the pace of privatisation, the foundations of the command economy created by Saddam continue to crumble."

"The transition from a rentier economy-in which virtually the whole of the population depended on government handouts-to a free-market capitalist one entails much hardship for some segments of society. Many pensioners and some civil servants find it hard to make ends meet as prices rise across the board. The end of government subsidies on virtually everything-from bread and sugar to gasoline and water-is also causing hardship."

"But, judging by the talk in teahouses and the debate in Iraq's new and pluralist media, most people welcome the switch to capitalism and regard it as an exciting adventure.

 "Since 2003 the salaries of average Iraqis have risen in excess of 100 per cent. In addition the Iraqi government has slashed the income tax rates from 45 per cent to just around 15 per cent. That has resulted in the average Iraqi family being able to develop long term nest-eggs (we call them IRAs)."
"Gasoline is only .56 cents a gallon. It wouldn't be that high except that Iraq decided to payoff some of its debt to the World Bank and are using energy profits to do so.

In addition much of the formerly centralised organisation of the economy has been turned over to private sector endeavours and while some government sectors have seen a spike in unemployment, private sector unemployment is hovering around 30 per cent. High to you and me, but still better than in the Saddam era."

The more and more Iraqis are taken on the board of development, the less they would listen to warlords and terrorist groups. Insurgents are not recruited among the 70 per cent of peaceful and diligent Iraqis; they are recruited among the 30 per cent jobless and retainers of the old regime. I'm confidant and millions of Iraqis with me that the course of development will prevail.
5796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Preserving the Our Piazza archive on: December 07, 2006, 10:46:51 AM
Keeping you informed of the effort to preserve the archive.

I wrote to Eric: "I asked a few others how to convert from Lotus Notes format to something more universally readable and searchable.  The only suggestion I received was the possibility that Adobe 8 might do it.  I don't know if that's true but I'm willing to try it.  I agree that it is worthwhile to capture the database as is and we can work on conversion after that.


Eric wrote:

"...Adobe 8 won't be able to read the Lotus
Notes Database directly.

You'll have to have Lotus Domino and Lotus Notes installed. Acrobat is only
the capture tool.

You could also get away with only the Lotus Notes Client installed and then
Install Acrobat 8 Professional with that.

I have Lotus Notes installed here.

Let me know.

In any case, I've not picked up the server. It's on my list.

Eric"
5797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: A Post From Our Piazza member on: November 27, 2006, 11:57:43 AM
"Finding a Lotus/Domino site with an administrator interested in helping us is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack.  It would likely be more expeditious to entice Eric to convert.  Adobe 8 is now available (upgrade price is $129), and Eric thought that would work."
--

Thanks for the reply and advice Gene.  I will pass the Adobe idea back to Eric. It also looks to me like Adobe can be 'bought' on a 30 day free trial basis which I am willing to try. I am also hoping to hear any further suggestions from Mark G.  I am guessing that Mark is the most likely of our small group to have the technical capability to do this.  I put in request to friends of mine for advice.  No reply yet.

Former OPers might be interested in the archive or in finding people here.  Like you say, I don't know how to reach people.

My thinking at this point is to encourage Eric to preserve the archive and to get a copy even if unreadable, then to share the costs of conversion with those who are interested and willing.  With a little luck maybe Eric will solve the conversion puzzle as he archives without incurring large, new costs. 

After format conversion, all we will get for contact info is name and a past email address. At least an attempt can be made to reach and invite those who may be interested in continuing here.



5798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Email from Eric Mack - Our Piazza archive on: November 24, 2006, 06:54:36 PM
I received the following update 11/20 regarding the archive from Our Piazza.  My hope is that we can receive the DVD backup as is and that someone in this small group showing interest can translate from lotus notes to a more widely accessible format. I personally don't use any Lotus  products or have any expertise there.  Please respond here or to me directly if you can offer any suggestions.  Thank you.    - Doug

--

Doug, the web site is in a Lotus Notes database. It's full text searchable
only when using a Notes client or a Domino Server. It's in the NSF format
and is not readable by other software.

The other option is to load the database <2 Gigs onto a notes client or
Domino server and export it, using a 3rd party tool that would need to be
purchased.

When I get the server back I'll copy the NSF files to a DVD for
safe-keeping.

Eric Mack

5799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our Piazza archive on: November 15, 2006, 11:47:51 AM
Mark, Gene and all others interested,

Please contact me directly with input for replying to Eric.

dmacgibbon at gmail.com
5800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: November 10, 2006, 01:29:53 PM
"I hadn't realized that the "axis of evil" speech came after Iran helped us in Afg."

Hopefully history will sort this out someday.  Looks to me like Iran played some kind of dual role of helping and sabotaging our interests in Afghanistan and with AQ. Trita Parsi takes a cynical view that Iran was there for us and we backstabbed them; that may not be the final word. (Also, I don't see middle ground for Iran becoming a nuclear power.) Here is a Time magazine piece Feb 2002 exploring the question of including Iran in the 'axis of evil'.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,198857,00.html
"...But one complaint not mentioned by the administration may be evidence suggesting that Tehran may have helped senior Taliban and al Qaeda members escape from Afghanistan. An adviser to Heart warlord Ismail Khan told TIME that shortly before the U.S. bombing campaign began in October, a high-ranking Iranian official connected to the hard-line supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini had been dispatched to Kabul to offer secret sanctuary to Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives. The Iranian official was apparently trapped in Kabul during the bombing, and remained there until the Northern Alliance took control of the city. Although the Iranians despised the Taliban for their persecution of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, their hatred for the U.S. may have run deeper.

And, according to sources in Herat, the Taliban and al Qaeda took the Iranians up on their offer.

Shortly before Herat's Taliban garrison fled in November, a convoy of 50 off-road vehicles carrying some 250 senior Taliban and al Qaeda members allegedly crossed over into Iran, using a smugglers' route through the hills about 20 miles north of the city. A Western diplomat in Afghanistan claims that groups of Taliban and al Qaeda are still threading their way through the mountains of central Afghanistan and heading for the Iranian border. "The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has an eye on everything that happens along the border," says the diplomat. "Of course they know that Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are getting across." Once inside Afghanistan, the al Qaeda and Taliban could slip over to the Gulf States through Bandar Abbas and other Iranian ports. Conventional wisdom in Herat, according to Ismail Khan's aides and also elders of the city's large Shiite community, is that Tehran hard-liners, especially within the Revolutionary Guards, have a different political agenda from President Khatami for the war in Afghanistan ? one they've been actively implementing to the benefit of the Taliban and al Qaeda."  (end TIME quote)


Similar story, same time frame in BBC here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1817141.stm

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Victor Davis Hanson (interesting) comments on Rumsfeld

Don't Blame Rumsfeld! [Victor Davis Hanson]  Thurs am, 11/9/06

I don't see how removing the Secretary of Defense helps either the country or the Republicans, especially given the pre-election vote of confidence in his full tenure. He was on the right track reforming the military; the removal of the Taliban and the three-week victory over Saddam were inspired.

So we are down to his supposed responsibility for the later effort to stop the 3-year plus insurgency, whose denouement is not yet known. Rumsfeld's supposed error that drew such ire was troop levels, i.e., that he did not wish to repeat a huge presence in the manner of Vietnam, but sought to skip the 1964-1971 era morass, and go directly to the 1972-5 Vietnamization strategy of training troops, providing aid, and using air power.

I think he was right, and that most troops in Iraq today would agree. I was just talking to a Marine Lt. back from Haditha and Hit; his chief worry was not too few Americans, but rather Iraqi Security Forces insidiously expecting Americans to do their own security patrolling. Since sending in tens of thousands to do a Grozny-like smash-up is both politically impossible and antithetical to American policy, I don't see the advantage of more troops at all, especially when we will soon near 400,000 Iraqis in arms, which, together with coalition forces of ca. 150,000, would in theory provide 555,000?or more than the "peacetime" army of Saddam's. As a rule in history, it is not just the size, but the nature, rules of engagement, and mission, of armies that matter.

For the future, neither precipitous withdrawal nor a big build-up are the right solutions, the former will leave chaos, the latter will only ensure perpetual Iraqi dependency. As it is, there are too many support troops over in Iraq in compounds, who are not out with Iraqis themselves; more troops will only ensure an even bigger footprint and more USA-like enclaves. Abezaid, Casey, Petraeus, McMaster, etc. understand counter-insurgency and the need for a long-term commitment that marries political autonomy for the Iraqis with American aid, commandos, and air support. Rumsfeld supported them all.

A final note.Whatever Rumsfeld's past in the 1970s and 1980s, he wholeheartedly supported the present effort to offer the MIddle East something other than realpolitik. I don't see how the Reagan-Bush era 1980s and early 1990s policies in the Middle East?selling arms to Iran, putting troops in Lebanon and running when they were hit, cynically playing off Iran against Iraq, selling weapons to any thug in the Middle East, giving a blank check to the House of Saud, letting the Shiites and Kurds be massacred in February-March 1991?were anything other than precursors to the events of 9/11?when, of course, enhanced by the shameless Clintonian appeasement of the middle and late 1990s.

The return of the realists-Baker, Gates, and the former advisors to GB I-should prove an interesting mix with the Dean-Pelosi Democrats. The latter used to call for idealism in foreign policy, then got it with GWB's democratization, then turned on him, and now will get the realism that they currently profess to favor. Don't hold your breath.

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