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5851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 30, 2012, 01:14:12 PM
Those are some excellent posts today by BBG!  I am looking forward to going back and re-reading more closely and saving for reference material.

The earth warmed ever so slightly while CO2 levels reached 390 ppmv or 0.039% of earth's atmosphere.  Causation isn't proved, but what else could it be? The science is settled?  Not exactly.  A large number of other known, poorly understood variables have been nicely identified and posted.

Chuck answered honestly that he didn't know and neither does anyone else, but I am still waiting for the right answer from anyone to my 2-part question - what is the rate of warming and what part of that is directly attributable to the rise in CO2 from human fossil fuel use? (Show your work.) Also if ever answered, what is the margin of scientific error and what then is the change in the global warming rate for each significant political policy initiative as they come up.  For example, the Keystone pipeline was blocked for AGW reasons.  The US will instead buy and ship that oil in from further away while Canada will sell and ship that oil to Asia.  We need to recalculate the new global warming rate taking that important new victory for Robert Redford, Al Gore and 'planetary concerns' into consideration.  They fought and they fought for it and they won.  We lost jobs, we lost easy access to a reliable and abundant source of demanded energy.  We lost a cost advantage for American businesses and consumers and a corresponding enrichment to our neighbor, friend and ally to the north.  So what exactly did we gain in the reduced rate of warming?

Any honest answer to that will lead the reader to why we call it pathological science.
5852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 30, 2012, 12:48:48 PM
Thinking out loud, I wonder if the collapse of Newt in the polls after the budget stand off in the 90's led some Republicans to come up with the compassionate conservative theory which W embraced.   Perhaps some repub strategists concluded too heavy on the strict conservative path may lose the independents.

I am still not sure which way to go.  However I do get the idea that compromise cannot be an answer since there really is no compromise with liberals.  They will chip away till forever.

OTOH I am not convinced that strict ideology will win out either.  I just don't know.  I'm afraid Mitt doesn't either.

Agree.  Also Al Gore was considered a harmless centrist at that point so conservatism was thought to need tempering.  2012 allows more opportunity and more need for a clear distinction between the path we are on and some version of principled and consistent, common sense conservatism. 

Newt's problems in the 90s were complicated.  The ethics charges were largely BS but he left enough running room for his critics to make the smear effective.  On policy, he was NOT too hard line (IMO), but too unfocused.  Clinton took credit for their joint accomplishments and that lasted a decade.  Now Gingrich takes at least some credit back as he should.  Clinton's Presidency would have been nothing compared to what it was without the changeover of congress which was a national opportunity seized by one great politician - the good Newt.  Not the angry one or the unfocused one, which all come in the package.

We don't need compromise with liberals, but we need the right dosage of conservatism to be successfully sold to independents presented the choice.  We don't need a zero capital gains rate, but we need a reasonable one and a 'permanent' one.  We don't need single digit income tax rates on the richest (per Herman Cain) but we do need to show we are moving significantly away from wealth destruction policies.  We don't need pollution spewing, we need environmental gains locked in but with unnecessary and unwise regulations repealed.  We don't need to be the world's policeman, but we are the world's superpower so we need a clear explanation of what peace through strength means going forward.  We don't need to slash a trillion a year in spending (per Ron Paul) laying off government workers all at once to join the construction workers, we need a path forward that balances private sector growth, revenue growth and serious and specific spending restraint, but not the root canal type.

Newt knows all this, but lacks focus.  All those accomplishments (balanced budget, economic growth, a national election victory, etc.) but never locked in baseline budgeting or CBO reform while he moved on, but these turned out to be more crucial now than having formerly balanced budgets.

Ethics violations were largely bogus, yet he goes on to sell himself out to Freddie Mac.  He can't explain his work product or any reason a (psuedo)government employee should get a million a year for part time work undefined.  It makes him the candidate of a nationalized mortgage industry and slimey public-private-partnerships while he tries fight off others for being big government candidates or not pure in their principles.

He needed to pitch a no-hitter to overcome baggage.  He did that through scattered innings here and there but also gave up some grand slams.

The reason he took the Freddie Mac deal was because he needed the money.  They have the Tiffany's bill, then the Michelle Obama-like exotic vacation during a key point in the process.  Like the I-me Obama SOTU speech, I am seeing another it's-all-about-me candidate. 

Reagan for example never made you feel like the election was about him.  It was all about a country that he loved.
5853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 29, 2012, 09:34:59 PM
"What other professions would those be? There is a serious lack of jobs out there."

Keystone pipeline.  Fracking.  Rare earth mineral mining.  Deep sea drilling.  More secretaries for Buffet? Here's an idea, repeal unnecessary and unhelpful regulations, make energy prices and property taxes globally competitive and stuff here.

Who knew that killing off all job creating investment would affect jobs?

When we get the policies right, jobs will return and so will housing. 
5854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Outer Space issues on: January 29, 2012, 09:11:57 PM
I used to be among the few who cringed at the space program.  It is to me the epitome of public private partnerships.  It is the answer to the question we aren't supposed to ask: Since we have all this power over other people's money, what should we do with it? 

For the nation, we face a stagnant economy, fossilizing entrepreneurship, mounting deficits and debt, a constitutional, budget and political crisis over impending government heathcare, Arab Spring, Iran going nuke, Chavez offering to host, Iraq into civil war, Afpak! Burma, leadership crisis in N.K, possible war in the South China Sea...  and Newt says, as predicted here by GM: "Oh look, a shiny orbital mirror!"
5855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 29, 2012, 08:52:37 PM
"there's no iron law that says that we can't have a strong economy with a weak housing sector.  We just never have had, before."

I believe that 99 weeks of unemployment slowed the jump of housing construction workers into other professions.  The car doesn't run full speed with major engine parts removed from the vehicle.
5856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clear-eyed deconstruction of inequality blather: James Q Wilson on: January 29, 2012, 08:42:36 PM
What country is the leader in correcting inequality unfairness??


Angry about inequality? Don’t blame the rich.

By James Q. Wilson, Published: January 26

There is no doubt that incomes are unequal in the United States — far more so than in most European nations. This fact is part of the impulse behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose members claim to represent the 99 percent of us against the wealthiest 1 percent. It has also sparked a major debate in the Republican presidential race, where former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has come under fire for his tax rates and his career as the head of a private-equity firm.

And economic disparity was the recurring theme of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” the president warned, “or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share.”

But the mere existence of income inequality tells us little about what, if anything, should be done about it. First, we must answer some key questions. Who constitutes the prosperous and the poor? Why has inequality increased? Does an unequal income distribution deny poor people the chance to buy what they want? And perhaps most important: How do Americans feel about inequality?

To answer these questions, it is not enough to take a snapshot of our incomes; we must instead have a motion picture of them and of how people move in and out of various income groups over time.

The “rich” in America are not a monolithic, unchanging class. A study by Thomas A. Garrett, economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, found that less than half of people in the top 1 percent in 1996 were still there in 2005. Such mobility is hardly surprising: A business school student, for instance, may have little money and high debts, but nine years later he or she could be earning a big Wall Street salary and bonus.

Mobility is not limited to the top-earning households. A study by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that nearly half of the families in the lowest fifth of income earners in 2001 had moved up within six years. Over the same period, more than a third of those in the highest fifth of income-earners had moved down. Certainly, there are people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates who are ensconced in the top tier, but far more common are people who are rich for short periods.

And who are the rich? Affluent people, compared with poor ones, tend to have greater education and spouses who work full time. The past three decades have seen significant increases in real earnings for people with advanced degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that between 1979 and 2010, hourly wages for men and women with at least a college degree rose by 33 percent and 20 percent, respectively, while they fell for all people with less than a high school diploma — by 9 percent for women and 31 percent for men.

Also, households with two earners have seen their incomes rise. This trend is driven in part by women’s increasing workforce participation, which doubled from 1950 to 2005 and which began to place women in well-paid jobs by the early 1980s.

We could reduce income inequality by trying to curtail the financial returns of education and the number of women in the workforce — but who would want to do that?

The real income problem in this country is not a question of who is rich, but rather of who is poor. Among the bottom fifth of income earners, many people, especially men, stay there their whole lives. Low education and unwed motherhood only exacerbate poverty, which is particularly acute among racial minorities. Brookings Institution economist Scott Winshiphas argued that two-thirds of black children in America experience a level of poverty that only 6 percent of white children will ever see, calling it a “national tragedy.”

Making the poor more economically mobile has nothing to do with taxing the rich and everything to do with finding and implementing ways to encourage parental marriage, teach the poor marketable skills and induce them to join the legitimate workforce. It is easy to suppose that raising taxes on the rich would provide more money to help the poor. But the problem facing the poor is not too little money, but too few skills and opportunities to advance themselves.

Income inequality has increased in this country and in practically every European nation in recent decades. The best measure of that change is the Gini index, named after the Italian statistician Corrado Gini, who designed it in 1912. The index values vary between zero, when everyone has exactly the same income, and 1, when one person has all of the income and everybody else has none. In mid-1970s America, the index was 0.316, but it had reached 0.378 by the late 2000s. One of the few nations to see its Gini value fall was Greece, which went from 0.413 in the 1970s to 0.307 in the late 2000s. So Greece seems to be reducing income inequality — but with little to buy, riots in the streets and economic opportunity largely limited to those partaking in corruption, the nation is hardly a model for anyone’s economy.

Poverty in America is certainly a serious problem, but the plight of the poor has been moderated by advances in the economy. Between 1970 and 2010, the net worth of American households more than doubled, as did the number of television sets and air-conditioning units per home. In his book “The Poverty of the Poverty Rate,” Nicholas Eberstadt shows that over the past 30 or so years, the percentage of low-income children in the United States who are underweight has gone down, the share of low-income households lacking complete plumbing facilities has declined, and the area of their homes adequately heated has gone up. The fraction of poor households with a telephone, a television set and a clothes dryer has risen sharply.

In other words, the country has become more prosperous, as measured not by income but by consumption: In constant dollars, consumption by people in the lowest quintile rose by more than 40 percent over the past four decades.

Income as measured by the federal government is not a reliable indicator of well-being, but consumption is. Though poverty is a problem, it has become less of one.

Historically, Americans have had an unusual attitude toward income inequality. In 1985, political scientists Sidney Verba and Gary Orren published a book that compared how liberals in Sweden and in the United States viewed such inequality. By four or five to one, the Swedish liberals were more likely than the American ones to believe that it was important to give workers equal pay. The Swedes were three times more likely than the Americans to favor putting a top limit on incomes. (The Swedes get a lot of what they want: Their Gini index is 0.259, much lower than America’s.)

Sweden has maintained a low Gini index in part by having more progressive tax rates. If Americans wanted to follow the Swedish example, they could. But what is the morally fair way to determine tax rates — other than taxing everyone at the same rate? The case for progressive tax rates is far from settled; just read Kip Hagopian’s recent essay in Policy Review, which makes a powerful argument against progressive taxation because it fails to take into account aptitude and work effort.

American views about inequality have not changed much in the past quarter-century. In their 2009 book “Class War? What Americans Really Think About Economic Inequality,” political scientists Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs report that big majorities, including poor people, agree that “it is ‘still possible’ to start out poor in this country, work hard, and become rich,” and reject the view that it is the government’s job to narrow the income gap. More recently, a December Gallup poll showed that 52 percent of Americans say inequality is “an acceptable part” of the nation’s economic system, compared with 45 percent who deemed it a “problem that needs to be fixed.” Similarly, 82 percent said economic growth is “extremely important” or “very important,” compared with 46 percent saying that reducing the gap between rich and poor is extremely or very important.

Suppose we tax the rich more heavily — who would get the money, and for what goals?

Reducing poverty, rather than inequality, is also a difficult task, but at least the end is clearer. One new strategy for helping the poor improve their condition is known as the “social impact bond,” which is being tested in Britain and has been endorsed by the Obama administration. Under this approach, private investors, including foundations, put up money to pay for a program or initiative to help low-income people get jobs, stay out of prison or remain in school, for example. A government agency evaluates the results. If the program is succeeding, the agency reimburses the investors; if not, they get no government money.

As Harvard economist Jeffrey Liebman has pointed out, for this system to work there must be careful measures of success and a reasonable chance for investors to make a profit. Massachusetts is ready to try such an effort. It may not be easy for the social impact bond model to work consistently, but it offers one big benefit: Instead of carping about who is rich, we would be trying to help people who are poor.
James Q. Wilson, a former professor at Harvard University and UCLA, is the Ronald Reagan professor of public policy at Pepperdine University.
5857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich opposed Reagan policies? The definitive response by Steven Hayward on: January 29, 2012, 08:34:25 PM
Fairly long, worthwhile read.  Steven Hayward wrote the book 'Age of Reagan'.  In a nushell, yes Newt opposed Reagan but not in a bad way.  This account gives great context.
5858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed - Iron Lady on: January 27, 2012, 09:23:29 PM
My understanding from other accounts is that Thatcher is played perfectly, they just omit or downplay her politics.  But why would this woman be a famous figure or historic without her politics, such as stubborn advocacy for free enterprise and helping to bring down the Soviet Union?

I don't plan to go out of my way to see the movie though maybe would be inspired to learn more about her career and philosophy through books and other readings.
5859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 27, 2012, 09:09:11 PM
Scathing comments from Bob Dole:

I didn't like Bob Dole better than Gingrich, but these are first hand observations, more negative than necessary, that match closely what others have been saying.

Positive piece (IMO) on Newt and Supply side economics:
I love the idea of LOW capital gains tax rates, state and federal.  That said and in light of the uproar of Romney's and Buffet's tax rate on millions of 15%, does anyone still think it is/was a good POLITICAL idea for Newt and almost all other R candidates to take the capital gains rate to zero? 
5860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 27, 2012, 11:09:04 AM
Regarding the WSJ editorial of Mitt muffing it, I will take (WSJ editorial page editor) Paul Gigot over either one of these guys any day.  Romney could read that column or this forum daily and save a lot of money on his overpriced Washington establishment advisers.

I did not see the debate again, but read lots of reactions.  Sounds like Santorum was strong and Mitt did well except for getting nailed to the wall on Romneycare by Santorum.  My read is that he bent his politics to fit the wishes of the most liberal state, is happy to take a more conservative line now but stuck with needing to reconcile the unreconcilable and just wishing the question would go away.  There is a difference between the state government imposing healthcare and the feds doing it, but not much.  WSJ and Crafty are right that he needs to drop the rich guilt and focus on selling economic freedom and policies that move us boldly in that direction.

Rick S. looking good probably hurts Newt whose best shot is a one on one Republican matchup against Romney.

I didn't catch what the first lady fluff question was.  It seems to me that line of thought hurts Newt.  Callista is sharp but both Marianne and Callista were 'home wreckers' before becoming Mrs. G.  I can forgive them but I don't admire them.

I have a burnout on this race because I can't fix either one of them.  More attention should start getting directed to influencing the agenda that will come out of the next congress.  It was Pelosi's gang that wrote 'Obamacare'.  Maybe it can be my conservative congressman and his allies who will write the tax and spending reform of 2013, if they win majoorities, the Presidency and can get their own thinking straight.

Santorum should play up his double digit loss in PA 2006 as a positive and a marker in time.  He offered voters a clear choice.  They went the other way.  This is what happened.  6, 7 or 8 trillion dollars of new debt later and millions of jobs lost and they get another shot at a clear choice.  This time they know more about where the other path (leftism) leads.
5861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich - Krauthammer defense? on: January 26, 2012, 12:47:59 PM
First it should be said that the ethics charges then were largely bogus.  Marc Levin was very strong on that and says he was there.

Krauthammer is saying he left in defeat instead of disgrace.  The so-called disgrace was two years earlier. 

But the defeat was at partly based on the cloud of these and other leadership issues that led to his 15% approval rate at the time.

There is both good and bad to be taken from that time.  Winning a national election (yes) in 1994, getting to a balanced budget, welfare reform, trade expansion and capital gains tax rate reductions on the large plus side.  Not bringing the public with you and not keeping the confidence and respect of the people around you were problems.  Also the end of baseline budgeting was a promise in the contract.  When was that fight and where was that focus? Winning that war then might have headed off a lot of what went wrong since.
5862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive dissonance: Chomsky on military funding, war criminals on: January 26, 2012, 12:27:15 PM
"guys, as much as I like to debate stuff, please keep this thread contained of all else, BUT formulated questions for the man."

I will copy and extend comments Chomsky quotes here and delete them out of the 'Chomsky' thread.
What hypocrisy?: Chomsky makes the argument that because he has received funding from the U.S. military, he has an even greater responsibility to criticize and resist its immoral actions.
Regarding the death of Osama bin Laden, Chomsky stated: "We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a 'suspect' but uncontroversially the 'decider' who gave the orders to commit the 'supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole' (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, [and] the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region."
(Doug):Uncontroversially, Mr. Chomsky, the "deciders" to be assassinated or hanged unlike the Libyan war are many, including the current Vice President and Secretary of State as former members of the senate authorizing military destruction.  Obama could start by prosecuting his veep for authorization and then himself for continuing the war.  Guilty are not only George Bush but also 77 Senators, 296 House members and all 15 members of the UN Security Council at the time.

Not only are we are no better than bin Laden but that we are far worse, he says.  You folks go ahead and raise him to that status of visiting dignitary; I have no questions for him.  He is  an expert on linguistics employed at anesteemed university, MIT, I have no linguistic questions.  For the rest of it, I would like to see his views elevated with clarity to the ballot and DEFEATED.

War criminals around the world, by a unanimous 15-0 vote; Russia, China, France, U.S., U.K., plus Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea, Ireland, Mexico, Mauritius, Norway, Singapore and Syria all voted in favor of Resolution 1441, some will contend they had no idea the consequence would be a war already authorized by the US congress.

Seventy Seven War Criminals in the Senate alone: YEAs ---77
Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Biden (D-DE)
Bond (R-MO)
Breaux (D-LA)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Campbell (R-CO)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carnahan (D-MO)
Carper (D-DE)
Cleland (D-GA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
Daschle (D-SD)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dodd (D-CT)
Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Edwards (D-NC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Fitzgerald (R-IL)
Frist (R-TN)
Gramm (R-TX)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Helms (R-NC)
Hollings (D-SC)
Hutchinson (R-AR)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Miller (D-GA)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Nickles (R-OK)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Santorum (R-PA)
Schumer (D-NY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-NH)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thompson (R-TN)
Thurmond (R-SC)
Torricelli (D-NJ)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)

We might have to expand Guantanamo in order to criminalize our foreign policy differences.  OTOH, we would no longer be a sovereign nation with a say in it if his views had prevailed.
5863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed: Mitch Daniels Response on: January 25, 2012, 09:43:27 AM
John Hinderacker describes Gov. Daniels as Tim Pawlenty without all the charisma, but he looked good on radio last night and these are good points IMO:

    "As Republicans our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder. We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves. …

    The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy. It must be replaced by a passionate pro-growth approach that breaks all ties and calls all close ones in favor of private sector jobs that restore opportunity for all and generate the public revenues to pay our bills.

    That means a dramatically simpler tax system of fewer loopholes and lower rates. A pause in the mindless piling on of expensive new regulations that devour dollars that otherwise could be used to hire somebody. It means maximizing on the new domestic energy technologies that are the best break our economy has gotten in years. …

    It’s not fair and it’s not true for the President to attack Republicans in Congress as obstacles on these questions. They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down nearly time and again by the President and his Democrat Senate allies. …

    No feature of the Obama Presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others. As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have. …

    2012 must be the year we prove the doubters wrong. The year we strike out boldly not merely to avert national bankruptcy but to say to a new generation that America is still the world’s premier land of opportunity. Republicans will speak for those who believe in the dignity and capacity of the individual citizen; who believe that government is meant to serve the people rather than supervise them; who trust Americans enough to tell them the plain truth about the fix we are in, and to lay before them a specific, credible program of change big enough to meet the emergency we are facing."
5864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: January 25, 2012, 09:38:41 AM
Very funny bigdog.  I 'watched' the speech and the response on the radio and tried to keep my moderate consumption rate consistent through all the ups and downs.  The hangover from this without alcohol is bad enough. 
5865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness: State of the Union on: January 25, 2012, 09:24:22 AM
The state of the union was another laundry list of government based patchwork ideas from our Solyndra President (IMHO).  Then the canvas was cleansed with this for you to paint your own painting:

That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.  - What huh

The federal government is in charge of teachers and K-12 education. He didn't say from which Article that came.  Last year I think it was police and firefighters are federal responsibilities.  As Bill Clinton used to say: "We can do more."  With a trillion plus a year deficit - really, we can do less.

He touted a union factory being open in Milwaukee - happens to be battleground Wisconsin, home of the Scott Walker recall contest.

He says we don't have to choose between energy and growing our economy.  Gas prices are up 83%!  I guess we did choose.  Gas prices would be far higher than that if the economy was healthy at this level of energy production.  But he says production is at record levels, meaning there is no problem there that he has to address.  And government inventing fracking so quit your whining about government being the problem.

He kept saying that congress should write and pass a bill with his agenda and he will sign it.  I suppose so. 
'This speech offered a vision of a profoundly technocratic and activist government, with its hands in every nook and cranny of the nation’s economic life—a government guiding particular business decisions and nudging individual choices through just the right mix of incentives and rules to reach just the right balance between fairness and growth while designing the perfect website for job retraining programs and producing exactly the proper number of “high-tech batteries.” The president described the government’s bailout of the Detroit automakers as a roaring success and then said “What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.  It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.” If he thinks that all the tasks he laid out for government are things that people “cannot do better by themselves” then he must have a very high opinion of how well government can do things, or a very low opinion of how well people can do things by themselves, or (most plausibly) both.'
Two words hardly mentioned in Barack Obama’s 65-minute State of the Union address to Congress: freedom and liberty. President Obama’s fourth and possibly last State of the Union speech was long on big government proposals, but short on the principles that have made America the world’s greatest power. His lecturing tone exuded arrogance, and he failed to present a coherent vision for getting the United States back on its feet after three years of economic decline. It was heavy on class-war rhetoric, punitive taxation, and frequent references to the Left-wing mantra of “fairness”, hardly likely to instil confidence in a battered business community that is the lifeblood of the American economy.

Above all, he remains in denial over the levels of federal debt that threaten the country's long-term prosperity. This was not a speech that was serious about the biggest budget deficits since World War Two. There was no sense at all that America is a superpower on a precipice, sinking in a sea of debt that threatens to undermine America’s power to project global leadership  for generations to come. In fact, his interventionist proposals will only make matters worse.

From new federally funded infrastructure projects to increasing regulations on financial institutions, President Obama remains wedded to big government – an approach rejected by a clear majority of Americans, who view it as a millstone around their necks. As Gallup’s polling has found, nearly two thirds of Americans see big government as "the biggest threat" to their country.

This should have been a serious speech addressing the economic problems facing the United States. Instead it was a laundry list of half-baked proposals designed to appease the Left. The president should have been talking about reining in spending, lowering taxes, and fostering greater economic freedom, but he opted for policies that will speed America’s decline, not reverse it.

(Gardiner goes on with a great excerpt to compare the inspiration that Reagan offered at the same point in his Presidency - at the link.)
Text and Video State of the Union:

Text and Video of Mitch Daniels Response:
5866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glibness on Solyndra: Greatest Moments in Past SOTU Speeches on: January 25, 2012, 01:39:21 AM
"You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy"..."A California company that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels."  - President Obama, State of the Union, January 27, 2010

$535 million for a thousand jobs?

Who was involved?

Are you better off now than you were five trillion dollars ago?
5867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 24, 2012, 09:21:03 PM
"So Doug are you for Newt at this point?"

I find myself wishing Mitt would get his act together rather than pulling for Newt or Rick S, even though I am probably to the right of all 3 of them.  If Newt is the nominee, I will be 100% behind him.
Latest Gallup has Obama over Romney and Gingrich by the same margin, 50-48.  That is quite a move for Newt.  I think South Carolina was Newt's peak, but we will see.
I look forward to seeing which candidate truly answers the speech going on as I write.  The President has set just tossed a slow hanging curve ball over the heart of the plate for the former Speaker to hit out of the park. (Here he is, throwing his pitch - well not quite over the plate:
5868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 24, 2012, 11:49:39 AM
"the impact he could have down ticket."

I also have expressed that fear, yet there seems to be a tendency of the voters to choose divided government.  If they are about to reelect Pres. Obama then maybe they will give him an R Senate and House as with Pres. Clinton.  The ability to stop all new big government initiatives still leaves us in a train headed off a cliff from my point of view.

If Romney wins as a weak or compromising Republican with a let's-see-how-it-goes agenda and a razor thin majority in the House and Senate, nothing bold will be enacted or repealed. 

Republicans need a clear agenda and a clear up or down vote on it.  Either the electorate will be sold or it won't.
5869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Fed of the 2000s, asleep with its foot on the gas pedal on: January 23, 2012, 12:36:56 PM

January 23, 2012
Why the Fed Slept
By Robert Samuelson  Newsweek

WASHINGTON -- The recent release of the 2006 transcripts of the Federal Reserve's main policy-making body stimulated a small media frenzy. "Little Alarm Shown at Fed at Dawn of Housing Bust," headlined The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post agreed: "As financial crisis brewed, Fed appeared unconcerned." The New York Times echoed: "Inside the Fed in '06: Coming Crisis, and Banter."

Comments from members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) now seem misguided. The first 2006 meeting was the last for retiring Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. Janet Yellen -- then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and now Fed vice chair -- said "the situation you're handing off to your successor is a lot like a tennis racket with a gigantic sweet spot." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York -- called Greenspan "terrific" and suggested his already exalted reputation might grow even more. There was no sense of a gathering crisis.

All true, but it begs the central question: why? The FOMC members weren't stupid, lazy or uninformed. They could draw on a massive staff of economists for analysis. And yet, they were clueless.

It wasn't that they didn't see the housing boom or recognize that it was ending. At 2006's first meeting, a senior Fed economist noted "that we are reaching an inflection point in the housing boom. The bigger question now is whether we will experience (a) gradual cooling ... or a more pronounced downturn."

At that same meeting, Fed Governor Susan Bies warned that mortgage lending standards had become dangerously lax. She explained that monthly payments were skyrocketing on mortgages with adjustable interest rates. She worried that many borrowers couldn't make the higher payments. The flagging housing boom concerned many Fed officials.

But they -- and most private economists -- didn't draw the proper conclusions. Hardly anyone asked whether lax mortgage lending would trigger a broad financial crisis, because America had not experienced a broad financial crisis since the Great Depression. A true financial crisis differs from falling stock prices, which are common. A financial crisis involves the failure of banks or other institutions, panic in many markets and a pervasive loss of wealth and confidence.

Such a crisis was not within the personal experience of members of the FOMC -- or anyone. Nor was it part of mainstream economic thinking. Because it hadn't happened in decades, it was assumed that it couldn't happen. There had been previous real estate busts. From 1964 to 1966, new housing starts fell 24 percent; from 1972 to 1975, 51 percent; from 1979 to 1982, 39 percent; from 1988 to 1991, 32 percent. Declining home construction had fed economic slowdowns or recessions. So the natural question seemed: Would this happen now? The answer seemed "no." The overall economy was strong. This is the most obvious reason for an oblivious FOMC.

But it is not the main reason, which remains widely unrecognized. Since the 1960s, the thrust of economic policy-making has been to smooth business cycles. Democracies crave prolonged prosperity, and economists have posed as technocrats with the tools to cure the boom-and-bust cycles of pre-World War II capitalism. It turns out that they exaggerated what they knew and could do.

There's a paradox to economic policy. The more it succeeds at prolonging short-term prosperity, the more it inspires long-run destabilizing behavior by businesses, banks, consumers, investors and government. If they think basic stability is assured, they will assume greater risks -- loosen credit standards, borrow more, engage in more speculation, relax wage and price behavior -- that ultimately make the economy less stable. Long booms threaten deep busts.

Since World War II, this has happened twice. In the 1960s, the so-called "new economics" promised that, by manipulating the budget and interest rates, it could stifle business cycles. The ensuing boom spanned the 1960s; the bust extended to the early 1980s and included inflation of 13 percent, four recessions and peak monthly unemployment of 10.8 percent. The latest episode was the so-called Great Moderation, largely paralleling Greenspan's Fed tenure (1987-2006), when there were only two mild recessions (1990-91 and 2001). We are now in the bust.

The Fed slept mainly because it overlooked the possibility of boom-bust. It didn't recognize that its success at sustaining prosperity -- for which Greenspan was lionized -- might sow the seeds of a larger failure. It bought into an overblown notion of economic "progress."

The Great Moderation begat the Great Recession. One implication is that an economy less stable in the short run becomes more stable in the long run by reminding everyone of risk and uncertainty. Sacrificing long booms may muffle subsequent busts. But this notion appeals to neither economists nor politicians. Ironically, the central lesson of the financial crisis is ignored.
5870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 23, 2012, 12:27:07 PM
We had a little fun with cause and effect recently over on the Path Science thread, but it seems that all has gone wrong for Mitt Romney since securing the Jon Huntsman endorsement.

McCain on stage with Romney was also symbolic of all that went wrong in recent years for the party.  Romney had better put some new people with him on stage and behind the scenes along with a better focus in his message SOON if he wants to lead the next 4-8 years.
5871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anniversary of Roe v. Wade observations on: January 23, 2012, 12:15:20 PM
Crafty, previous post in this thread Oct. 2011: "I have often analyzed the flaw of Roe v. Wade as being that the right to privacy does not trump the right to life.  One does not have the right to murder in the privacy of one's home.  Therefore the question becomes one of when does life begin?  In that the Constitution does not grant the power to determine that question to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade is intellectual gibberish."

The answer to when when life begins has been enlightened quite a bit by science over the last several decades.  Science tells us when the heart starts beating and when unique fingerprints begin forming.  More obvious evidence would be how early the prematurely born can survive under medical care outside of fetus, if you don't buy the life begins with conception theory.

Posting a piece below that hits on constitutional and moral issues. My look at Planned Parenthood data caused me to believe that of the 60 million lives intentionally ended, 98% are performed for convenience reasons.  Blurring that with what should be done about rape or life risk to the mother is obfuscation.

Our current President apparently doesn't know that one of the main criteria for fetus slaughtering elsewhere in the world is gender selection.  In the US, the main discrimination is against black babies.

President Barack Obama says the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is the chance to recognize the “fundamental constitutional right” to abortion and to “continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

My daughter would not have been empowered by being aborted some 17 years ago.  What a bunch of anti-science, anti-constitution, anti-life, anti-reality BS.

January 23, 2012
The Unbearable Wrongness of Roe
By Michael Paulsen

39 years ago, the Supreme Court delivered a radical, legally untenable, immoral decision. It has forfeited its entitlement to have its decisions respected, and followed, by the other branches of government, by the states, and by the people.

Today, thousands of people at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., are commemorating the thirty-ninth anniversary of a legal and moral monstrosity, Roe v. Wade, and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The two cases, in combination, created an essentially unqualified constitutional right of pregnant women to abortion—the right to kill their children, gestating in their wombs, up to the point of birth. After nearly four decades, Roe’s human death toll stands at nearly sixty million human lives, a total exceeding the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin’s purges, Pol Pot’s killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined. Over the past forty years, one-sixth of the American population has been killed by abortion. One in four African-Americans is killed before birth. Abortion is the leading cause of (unnatural) death in America.

It is almost too much to contemplate: the prospect that we are living in the midst of, and accepting (to various degrees) one of the greatest human holocausts in history. And so we don’t contemplate it. Instead, we look for ways to deny this grim reality, minimize it, or explain away our complacency—or complicity.

It is important, however, to view reality with eyes wide open, focus clear, and gaze not averted. On this thirty-ninth anniversary of Roe and Doe, I would like simply to set forth what Roe and Doe held, in as clear-headed and straightforwardly descriptive legal terms as possible, and to lay out its human and moral consequences. My brief tour of Roe’s unbearable wrongness begins with Roe’s radicalism—its extreme holding creating a plenary right to obtain or commit abortion—proceeds with Roe’s legal untenability, and concludes with Roe’s immorality and the moral problem of our seeming passivity and quiescence in response to the greatest legal and moral wrongs of our age.

Roe’s Radicalism

Start with Roe’s radicalism, a radicalism that we may no longer grasp because it has become so familiar. Roe created a constitutional right to obtain or commit an abortion of a human life—that is, to terminate the life of a human embryo or fetus. It is important to be clear-sighted about this: abortion kills a living human embryo or fetus. What distinguishes “abortion” from (say) miscarriage is the specific intention to kill a living fetus. What was alive before has been deliberately killed. Abortion takes a life. Further, the life taken is human life. There is really no doubt about that as a matter of biology. The embryo or fetus belongs to the species homo sapiens. It is a separate, living human being that is killed by abortion.

To be sure, that human being is killed at an early stage in its life cycle, and for a substantial part of that time could not live without direct biological connection to his or her mother (the person in whom Roe vests the right to terminate that human life). But that does not make the human embryo any less alive, any less human, or any less a separate life from the mother. It just makes the unborn baby more vulnerable and dependent.

The right created by the Supreme Court in Roe is a constitutional right of some human beings to kill other human beings. I do not mean for my description to be provocative, but simply direct—blunt about facts. One need not presume that the human fetus has a right not to be killed in order to recognize that, as a descriptive matter, Roe creates a right for one class of human beings to kill other human beings.

Roe, coupled with Doe, creates a plenary right to kill the embryo or fetus for essentially any reason, at any time throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Distilled to its essence, Roe created a “trimester” framework for abortion. In roughly the first three months of pregnancy, the right of abortion is avowedly plenary: abortion may be had for any reason. In the second three months, government may regulate abortion to protect the life or health of the mother, but again the right to have an abortion remains plenary. In the final three months—after the point of “viability,” when the human fetus could live on his or her own outside the mother’s womb—Roe says that abortion can be restricted or prohibited . . . except where abortion is necessary to protect the “life or health” of the pregnant woman.

This is a big exception. And here is where Doe steps in. On its face, Roe might appear, to the unwary or uninitiated, “moderate”—its trimester-balancing framework a measured, reasonable-sounding, proportionate act of judicial legislation concerning abortion. It is Doe that does a lot of the work, through an indirect and ultimately disingenuous definition of the “health” reasons that always may justify a woman’s decision to have an abortion and trump any interest of society in protecting fetal human life, even when the child could survive outside the mother’s womb. Doe holds that relevant “health” considerations justifying late-term abortions include “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” (Doe’s understanding of “the patient” did not include the fetus; Roe held elsewhere that the human fetus has no legal rights that any person is bound to respect.)

Roe then cross-referenced Doe’s stylized definition of health and incorporated it into the main holding. The result is that an abortion may be had, under Roe and Doe, for essentially any reason, throughout all nine months of pregnancy, up to the point of birth.

Nothing in any of the Court’s later abortion cases alters this definition of “health” or the right to abortion throughout pregnancy. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case reaffirming Roe, tinkered slightly with the trimester framework and the point at which “viability” occurs but did not change Roe’s (and Doe’s) holding that abortion may be had for any reason, before viability, and for any “health” reason throughout pregnancy. The partial-birth abortion cases carried this understanding forward, holding that the state may not prohibit the abortion method of inducing birth and killing the fetus on the way out of the birth canal (Carhart I [2000]), unless an equally effective, equally “healthy” method of killing the fetus is available (Carhart II [2007]).

I suspect that if more people understood Roe’s and Doe’s actual holding fewer would support that constitutional regime. Roe was a truly extreme decision, creating an effectively unrestricted constitutional right to abort a living human being for any reason the mother might have, throughout pregnancy right up to the point of birth.

Roe’s Legal Untenability

This brings us to Roe’s utter indefensibility as a matter of constitutional law. If the U.S. Constitution actually protected such an extreme personal legal right to kill the human fetus, that would be troubling enough, but the trouble would be with the content of the Constitution. The further problem with Roe is that it has absolutely no basis in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution. No rule or principle of law fairly traceable to the text, discernible from its structure, or fairly derived from evidence of intention or historical understanding of an authoritative decision of the people, remotely supports the result reached in Roe. In terms of fair principles of constitutional interpretation, Roe is perhaps the least defensible major constitutional decision in the Supreme Court’s history.

Roe’s reasoning, distilled to its essentials, is that the Constitution creates a “privacy” right to abortion, on the premise that the right not “to bear” a child is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. No serious constitutional law scholar thinks this is a plausible reading of the Due Process Clause. That clause forbids government to “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Without due process of law  are crucial words. The Due Process Clause does not say that government never may deprive a person of life, liberty or property. It only says that government may not do so “without due process of law”—that is, arbitrarily, lawlessly, not in conformity with duly enacted laws and accepted procedures for their application.

Many nonetheless support Roe’s holding as a policy matter and therefore seek to rationalize the holding some other way. Perhaps the goofiest is the suggestion advanced by a few law professors, in apparent seriousness, that abortion restrictions violate the Thirteenth Amendment’s ban on slavery. Saner, but in the end still unsound as a legal matter, is the notion that abortion laws discriminate on the basis of sex and thus deny “equal protection of the laws.” The defect in this argument is that abortion laws do not classify on the basis of sex or gender and are not disguised attempts to do so. Rather, they aim at conduct—obtaining or committing an abortion—when engaged in by persons of either sex. Abortion restrictions do not restrict acts of women because they are women; they restrict acts committed by men or women because they kill human fetuses. Further, ask a “pro-choice” “feminist” whether abortion should be permitted for reasons of sex-selection—that is, because the unborn child is a girl—and the sex discrimination argument begins to turn back on itself. All but the most blindly pro-abortion ideologues abandon the argument that abortion rights are required for gender equality, if that means abortion can be chosen for gender-selection of boys over girls.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court rested the right to abortion back where Roe purported to find it, in the Due Process Clause. Recognizing the embarrassments created by this view, Casey added another prop: the doctrine of precedent or “stare decisis,” which is essentially all that is left to support Roe. But Casey’s invocation of the doctrine was transparently disingenuous: Because the public expects the Court to adhere (usually) to its past decisions, because the Court had staked its authority on Roe, and because the Court might be viewed unfavorably by some of the public if it reversed itself in such a case, the Court said that it had decided to adhere to Roe “whether or not mistaken.” Thus, what Roe held to be required by substantive due process Casey held to be required by stare decisis, even assuming Roe to be wrong.

If Roe was radical, Casey was craven. A majority of the Supreme Court apparently believed that Roe was wrongly decided, fully understood the moral and human consequences of the decision, and deliberately adhered to it anyway. Stare decisis has never been thought required by the Constitution, before or since. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) famously repudiated Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) on the question of whether racial segregation was consistent with “equal protection of the laws.” The Court has overruled scores of its own precedents. Indeed, it overruled two cases in Casey. Casey’s reaffirmation of Roe, in the name of stare decisis, was a sham—perhaps the most transparently dishonest major judicial decision since Dred Scott.

Roe’s Immorality

Finally, there is Roe’s immorality—the abortion holocaust it unleashed—and the problem of our response to it. Roe is a radical decision and a legally indefensible one. But what really makes Roe unbearably wrong is its consequences. The result of Roe and Doe has been the legally authorized killing of nearly sixty million Americans since 1973. Roe v. Wade authorized unrestricted private violence against human life on an almost unimaginable scale, and did so, falsely, in the name of the Constitution.

It is hard to escape this conclusion, but not impossible—and many certainly try. I will not here belabor the question of whether the intentional killing of innocent, dependent, vulnerable human children is a grave moral wrong. My concluding point concerns the lengths to which we will go to deny the reality of this holocaust, because it is almost unbearable to contemplate and still go on living life as if nothing is terribly wrong. The cognitive dissonance is simply too great. And so we have become, in effect, a nation of holocaust deniers.

Here is the problem, undressed: If human embryonic life is morally worthy of protection, we have permitted sixty million murders under our watch. Faced with this prospect, many of us—maybe even most—flee from the facts. We deny that the living human embryo is “truly” or “fully” human life, adopt a view that whether the embryo or fetus is human “depends,” or can be judged in degrees, on a sliding scale over the course of pregnancy; or we proclaim uncertainty about the facts of human biology; or we proclaim moral agnosticism about the propriety of “imposing our views on others”; or we throw up our hands and give up because moral opposition to an entrenched, pervasive social practice is not worth the effort, discomfort, and social costs. The one position not on the table—the one possibility too hard to look at—is that abortion is a grave moral wrong on a par with the greatest human moral atrocities of all time and that we passively, almost willingly, accept it as such.

All of this should tell us a few more sobering things. It should tell us that, much as we would like to believe that human beings have become more morally conscious, more sensitive to injustice and intolerant of clear evil, it remains the case that we often either fail to recognize it in our midst, or refuse to respond to it decisively, out of self-interest or cowardice. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think that we surely would have stood bravely against slavery, even if embedded in a nineteenth-century society that tolerated and accepted it as a legal right, we might have acquiesced or been tepid in our condemnation. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think we would never have put up with what transpired in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the 1940s, the evidence of our lives in twenty-first century America is that we might have put up with quite a lot.

And it should tell us finally, that, as much as we may claim to admire our governmental and constitutional system, the decisions of the Supreme Court in the abortion cases expose the Court—at least on this matter of life, death, and law—as a lawless, rogue institution capable of the most monstrous of injustices in the name of law. The Court has, with its abortion decisions, surely forfeited its legal and moral legitimacy as an institution. It has forfeited its claimed authority to speak for the Constitution. It has forfeited its entitlement to have its decisions respected, and followed, by the other branches of government, by the states, and by the people. Yet the docility of the American people with respect to Roe and abortion rivals the pliancy of the most cowardly, servile peoples toward ruinous, brutal, anti-democratic regimes throughout world history.

The Supreme Court is empowered by the Constitution to faithfully interpret the Constitution. But it is not alone in that power, and when it exceeds it and violates it, it is the responsibility of other actors in our system to check the abuse. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 49, “the several departments being perfectly co-ordinate by the terms of their common commission, neither of them, it is evident, can pretend to an exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between their respective powers.” Moreover, it is “the people themselves” who are “the grantors of the commission” and who “can alone declare its true meaning and enforce its observance.”

The Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should not be accepted as law, in any sense. It should be resisted by legislatures and it should be refused enforcement by executive officials because it is not the law. It should be resisted by all citizens, with all the resources at their disposal, and perhaps even with resources not (yet) at their disposal.
5872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential, Mark Steyn: (Mitt is) The Man Who Gave Us Newt on: January 23, 2012, 11:23:27 AM
Dick Morris had it right.  It is not momentum of Newt or organization of Mitt now, it is the message from here on out, and it better get more focused.

Newt is a known commodity and has real high negatives, a bad combination that could cost R's the lead in the House and Senate takeover as well if things went badly.  Best case is if the contest now between these two raises the eventual candidate to a level they wouldn't have attained otherwise.

Romney has not yet raised his game to deserve to win.  South Carolina should clarify his thinking and help him to streamline his staff.

Mark Steyn wrote one of the strongest rips against Newt earlier.  Here he take Romney over his knee and spanks him pretty badly:

The Man Who Gave Us Newt
By Mark Steyn
January 22, 2012 6:40 P.M.

The nature of this peculiar primary season — the reason it seems at odds with both the 2009–2010 political narrative and the seriousness of the times — was determined by Mitt Romney. Even if you don’t mind Romneycare, or the abortion flip-flop, or any of the rest, there’s a more basic problem: He’s not a natural campaigner, and on the stump he instinctively recoils from any personal connection with the voters. So, in compensation, he’s bought himself a bunch of A-list advisers and a lavish campaign. He is, as he likes to say, the only candidate with experience in the private sector. So he knows better than to throw his money away, right? But that’s just what he’s doing, in big ways and small.

Small: It’s a good idea to get that telegenic gal (daughter-in-law?) to stand behind him during the concession speech, but one of those expensive consultants ought to tell her not to look so bored and glassy-eyed as the stiff guy grinds through the same-old-same-old for the umpteenth time. To those watching on TV last night, she looked like we felt.

Big: Why is the stump speech so awful? “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” Mitt paid some guy to write this insipid pap. And he paid others to approve it. Not only is it bland and generic, it’s lethal to him in a way that it wouldn’t be to Gingrich or Perry or Bachmann or Paul because it plays to his caricature — as a synthetic, stage-managed hollow man of no fixed beliefs. And, when Ron Paul’s going on about “fiat money” and Newt’s brimming with specifics on everything (he was great on the pipeline last night), Mitt’s generalities are awfully condescending: The finely calibrated inoffensiveness is kind of offensive.

And what’s with the wind up? The “shining city on the hill”? That’s another guy’s line — a guy with whom you have had hitherto little connection other than your public repudiation of him back in the Nineties. Can’t any of his highly paid honchos write him a campaign slogan that’s his own and doesn’t sound in his mouth so cheesily anodyne, as if some guy ran a focus-group and this phrase came up with the lowest negatives?

And where, among all the dough he’s handing out, is the rapid-response team? Newt’s “spontaneous” indignation at John King was carefully crafted by Gingrich himself. By contrast, Mitt has a ton of consultants, and not one of them thought he needed a credible answer on Bain or taxes? For a guy running as a chief exec applying proven private-sector solutions, his campaign looks awfully like an unreformable government bureaucracy: big, bloated, overstaffed, burning money, slow to react, and all but impossible to change.

Mitt’s strategy for 2012 as for 2008 was to sit on his lead and run out the clock: Four years ago, that strategy died in New Hampshire; this time round it died one state later. Congratulations! Years ago, I was chit-chatting with Arthur Laurents, the writer of West Side Story and The Way We Were and much else, about some show that was in trouble on the road that he’d been called in to “fix.” “The trouble with a bad show,” he sighed, “is that you can make it better but you can never make it good.” The Romney candidacy is better than it was four years ago, but it’s not clear that it’s good. Mitt needs to get good real fast: A real speech, real plan, real responses, and real fire in the belly. Does he have it in him? 
5873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 21, 2012, 08:04:37 PM
"I have seen him (Newt) readily agree on his failings in the past."

I would argue that point a bit - true for the marital crap but not for the leadership points brought up by other members of his House leadership team - but today is Newt's day.  Congrats.  The momentum is Newt's  The race is now Newt's to lose. Literally.

"I see him more like Geo H.W. Bush.

Only meant as an analogy coming into it, not a compliment.  Both HW Bush and Romney start with the potential to be a great or at least solid President. 

"I would proffer the probability that Romney's weenie response on his tax returns this past week typifies how he will respond to class warfare from Barak and the Demogogues."

Agree on the first part, it was lame although how his blind trust is taxed should be more a reflection on those in power than on him.  On the second part, how he will respond, I don't know.

If any of these guys had a core principle or a backbone, answering the questions would be a lot simpler.
5874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 20, 2012, 04:57:37 PM
"I fear that just like George "Passionate Conservatism" Bush, Mitt suffers from what I call "patrician's guilt"

True, but I see him more like Geo H.W. Bush.  He may not suffer from the guilt but has to fight off the perception.

I see him like the risk in a Supreme Court appointee.  I think there is a 50% chance he will be a great President  Newt I think carries higher risk that he won't stay consistent, bring the congress and the people with him.

The key will be to have him work the first 4 year with a GOOD Republican House and Senate.

If the new President doesn't bring and keep the people with him he will have no chance at bullying 60 votes in the senate for anything.

Tomorrow is the key to the race.  Newt must win but if he does he may have a 2 man race and the advantage.  If Romney wins, perhaps it is over.
5875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 20, 2012, 04:44:37 PM
"Arguably he has matured since 15 years ago-- in part due to his being brought low, in part due to his time in the wilderness, in part due to the natural passage of time."

Yes, but...  He counts the accomplishments but refuses to take the negatives from the same time period. The ex-wife story is old news.  I believe we had the Vanity Fair story here a year ago. I was only judging him by his word to prove his new discipline by showing it in the campaign.
5876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 19, 2012, 12:30:39 PM
Yes, but which Newt are we pulling for? Dick Morris is looking for the good Newt but you only get all or none.

I guess these critics could be discounted as Romney surrogates but the criticism was present back then as well.

Ex-Senator Jim Talent calls him an "Unreliable Leader".  Representative Susan Molinari:  "I can only describe his style as leadership by chaos".  Both served under him as House Speaker.
5877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy Q: What is the tax rate on the 15% capital gains tax? on: January 18, 2012, 10:33:25 PM
A.  I did not see the previous post in this thread, Laffer v. Buffet, when it went by a week ago.  Very interesting!  One point is that unrealized capital gains don't show up as income, don't show as tax and don't raise any revenues.  The bad part of that is that many of those gains are unrealized because of the tax!  An especially large problem is that states tax capital gains as ordinary income, not at a long term capital gains rate, so unless your gain is in Texas, South Dakota or a few other places, your tax is going to be far above the 15%, not counting the small problem described below.

B.  Why should a capital gain get a preferred tax rate?  Hint below.

C.  What is the tax rate on a capital gain taxed at 15%?  Does anyone know?  I didn't think so...

15%.  Right?  Well no.  Since it is by definition a LONG TERM capital gain, it contains an inflationary component.   Let's take an example:  If you bought an investment in 1971 for $100 and sold it in 2011 for $551.  You just walked away with 5 1/2 times your money over a very long hold - before taxes.  Your federal tax is 15% on 4 1/2 times the amount you invested, but your gain was zero because you only got back the same value in devalued dollars before taxes, so what is your tax rate really?  That is a tough one mathematically because you have a real tax but no real income.

Take any dollar amount in any year, and translate it to equal value in any other year using this online calculator.  The results may surprise you.
5878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: January 18, 2012, 09:57:47 AM
We will see Saturday, but Newt with his personal baggage started with one chance to win and that was be only the guy answering Juan Williams in the clip espousing the value of freedom and work ethic, national security etc. and not fall off message.   Paul Gigot has good insights on this:

The Bain of Gingrich's Campaign
In last night's debate, Mr. Gingrich was shaky on the most recent theme of his campaign—Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.


Newt Gingrich was the star of Monday night's GOP debate in South Carolina, which isn't surprising. He's done well in all the debates. Most notable is that he was shaky on the main theme of his last week of campaigning -- Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital -- while he did best when he focused on the failures of the Obama administration and the welfare state.

The former speaker never did have a good answer for Bret Baier's queries on Bain Capital, which included critical quotes from one of the Journal's recent editorials. The Georgian lacked his usual confidence and sure-footedness. This may be because at some level Mr. Gingrich doesn't believe his own assertions that Bain practices an illegitimate form of capitalism. He said he was merely asking "questions" to see whether or not Mr. Romney "can answer them effectively." Mr. Romney wasn't much better in defending himself -- his default is always to focus on his own biography rather than the larger philosophical or moral issue -- but an attack on business doesn't play very well among GOP primary voters and it didn't in the auditorium on Monday.

Mr. Gingrich was far better on the questions of race, jobs for young people, and Social Security. One of Mr. Gingrich's debating skills is that he doesn't accept the moral premises of the (usually liberal) questioner. So he can turn a query intended to trap him into accepting the exploitation of children into an answer highlighting the dignity of work and the dangers of dependency. He can do this speaking off the cuff in a way that Mr. Romney simply cannot. The crowd in Myrtle Beach loved it, and Mr. Gingrich will probably get a bump from his performance.

His problem is that debates tend to be more consequential earlier in a campaign when impressions are being formed, and this week is late in the game. Mr. Gingrich's Bain detour was a blunder that cost him with many of the conservatives he needs to win in South Carolina.

(Paul Gigot is WSJ Editorial page editor. Subscribe here:
5879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - campaign question on: January 18, 2012, 09:40:34 AM
The question for each voter will boil down to something like this in November:

Are you better off now than you than you were five trillion dollars ago?
5880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - Obama and Sullivan are smart, the rest of us are idiots on: January 18, 2012, 12:06:00 AM
The right, the left and the center all have it wrong and he is right.  He is just looking at the actual record. Everyone else is spin.  (The emoticon I am looking for isn't in the choices.)  "...the American people will come to see his first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started."  - The coyote follows the roadrunner - off the cliff

"Mitt Romney accuses the president of making the recession worse, of wanting to turn America into a European welfare state, of not believing in opportunity or free enterprise, of having no understanding of the real economy, and of apologizing for America and appeasing our enemies. According to Romney, Obama is a mortal threat to “the soul” of America and an empty suit who couldn’t run a business, let alone a country.

  - That made more sense to me than the rest of the piece.  BTW, a google search of 'romney calls obama empty suit' only points to critics calling Romney that.  And what business did Obama run?

"Leave aside the internal incoherence—how could such an incompetent be a threat to anyone?"  -  That is incoherent.  IF he is in over his head, he IS a threat. If his Presidency isn't economic damage, it certainly is a 4 year delay on the solution.

"When Obama took office, the United States was losing around 750,000 jobs a month. The last quarter of 2008 saw an annualized drop in growth approaching 9 percent. This was the most serious downturn since the 1930s, there was a real chance of a systemic collapse of the entire global financial system, and unemployment and debt—lagging indicators—were about to soar even further. No fair person can blame Obama for the wreckage of the next 12 months, as the financial crisis cut a swath through employment. Economies take time to shift course."

  - Broken record here, but am I really the only person in America that remembers that the Democrats took control of Washington 6 years ago this November, not 4.

"But Obama did several things at once: he continued the bank bailout begun by George W. Bush, he initiated a bailout of the auto industry, and he worked to pass a huge stimulus package of $787 billion."

  - It was NOT a stimulus.  There is no evidence of that.  He admitted they were not shovel ready jobs.  They were chosen instead for targeting key constituencies.  He passed up true shovel ready jobs like the Keystone pipeline.

"The job collapse bottomed out at the beginning of 2010, as the stimulus took effect. Since then, the U.S. has added 2.4 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s far better than what Romney would have you believe, and more than the net jobs created under the entire Bush administration. In 2011 alone, 1.9 million private-sector jobs were created, while a net 280,000 government jobs were lost. "

  - Intentional deception or a lie, you make the call.  He compares only the slow growth stretch ofObama, ignores the first year because those are runners left on base by Bush (actually Pelosi-Reid-Obama-Hillary-Biden and Bush, a ruling coalition).  Then he compares that with the "net jobs" of Bush, defined to combine the 52 months of solid growth under Bush policies with the recession left to him and with the asset collapse that came with Pelosi-Reid-Obama power handoff of Nov 2006/Jan2007.  Take a look at this unemployment chart and see if "net jobs" under Bush is a good way to summarize what happened in those 8 years:

2003 is where the Bush plan kicked in.  The lowest point in unemployment is where power switched back.  The full asset collapse occurs in Sept 2008 when the reality hits the markets that the tax cuts will be allowed to expire.  A change of that Democratic promise in early 2008, when China was lowering their business tax rates, would have removed the urgency of the asset collapse that occurred later that year that prevented Obama from becoming a great President.  But NO!

"Overall government employment has declined 2.6 percent over the past 3 years. (That compares with a drop of 2.2 percent during the early years of the Reagan administration.) "

  - The growth rate at this point in the Reagan administration was 7.75% sustained and he won 49 states.  Does he really see some similarity there or think we are stupid with a one measure comparison.  Yes, Reagan never slashed domestic spending; he had a Dem House for all 8 years.  But we had a surging economy and surging government revenues very unlike now.

"the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do. It put a bottom under the free fall. It is not an exaggeration to say it prevented a spiral downward that could have led to the Second Great Depression."

  - Not spin, just actual results, but in a 4 internet page article there was no  room to back that up with anything? Maybe in a follow up piece (Newsweek February?) he will document how very Obama-like policies led to the original Great Depression (actual results) and how Reagan-like policies led to a quarter century of growth.

"You’d think, listening to the Republican debates, that Obama has raised taxes. Again, this is not true."

  - I will make this point until someone hears it.  The do not tax you to put money into an investment.  They tax you later to take the return on that investment out.  The tax rate that counts in job creating economy growth policies is the FUTURE MARGINAL TAX RATE.  This President has managed to keep a tax rate increase impending perpetually.  He has it coming back every 2 years so he gets none of the revenue enhancement of actual income taxed at the higher rate and all of the job killing economic carnage that increasing disincentives cause.  I ask: what could be more incompetent and Sullivan says brilliant - what a long term thinker!

"Not only did he agree not to sunset the Bush tax cuts for his entire first term,"

  - He extended the Bush tax cuts AFTER the damage was done and scheduled another growth killing tax hike in just 2 more years.  Christina Romer wrote a paper on the job killing effect of these policies.  Read it.

"he has aggressively lowered taxes on most Americans. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts, affecting 95 percent of taxpayers; he has cut the payroll tax..."

  - Not all tax cuts are created equal.  Marginal rates were not cut and the lower 95% tend to be the ones who don't hire.  More money out of nowhere in their pocket is Keynesian, not supply side.  If it were paid for, it would mean less money in someone else's pocket.  It is not paid for so it just means every other dollar is worth less, with interest accruing to eternity.  Interest paid to China alone by the end of Obama's second term will surpass all of China's military budget.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

"His spending record is also far better than his predecessor’s. Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms."

  - Obama kept ALL of the overspending of the last decade and added onto it.  Sullivan of course blends in "temporary", "emergency" spending that was the consensus policy of Bush-Obama-McCain, all on board, makes it permanent then adds onto it to the tune of trillions not counting the admitted underestimates of Obamacare and host of other new programs coming.

"On foreign policy, the right-wing critiques have been the most unhinged. Romney accuses the president of apologizing for America, and others all but accuse him of treason and appeasement. Instead, Obama reversed Bush’s policy of ignoring Osama bin Laden..."

  - Really?  Obama's policies led to that find?  Not that I read. Maybe it is in Newsweek March 2012 edition, lol.

"immediately setting a course that eventually led to his capture and death."

  - I credit the President for making the right decision - after sitting on the question 16 hours while bin Laden could have been tipped off of the danger and fled the scene.  The President was cool; he was calm.  In this case he was able to golf and capture OBL all at the same time - hold my calls please.  There is a remote chance however that the campaign could overplay this one accomplishment that seems to be their answer for almost everything!
In my anecdotal real world today, two African American nurses working inner city home health care expressed a genuine interest in Republican economics and my furnace guy was all excited about the Republican debate last night, pointing out the exact same Newt quote that Crafty linked for us earlier today - all without knowing my view.  The polls say people are thinking more like 2010 than 2006 or 2008 for this year.  Assuming Andrew Sullivan is a very smart guy and I don't know that, he wrote this piece to be provocative more than to present a serious state of the race IMHO.
5881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Concerning Stratfor: on: January 17, 2012, 10:05:19 AM
It's good to see Stratfor back in stride; I appreciate their analysis.  Like I say about a good economist, I don't expect them to know the future, just to give good analysis of what has happened so far and what is happening now.

I thought they explained and handled the attack on their organization and their customers as well as is possible. They were accused of not encrypting data and they admitted that, explained it, apologized and corrected it.  My view is that they saw their business as primarily the creation of these reports rather than marketing sales and distribution.  From the larger story it sounds like the financial data was the perhaps the least significant of the losses.  It is a warning shot for all of us of the dangers of lost privacy and putting our trade secrets on the cloud or on an fully interconnected information system. Somehow I doubt ordinary encryption would have thwarted much of what went wrong on an attack that large and sophisticated.  Look at Wikileaks.  The top intelligence agencies in the world were all hacked recently and repeatedly as well. Crafty, as one who was likely a victim, I wonder how you feel about what happened.  I sympathize with all including Strat as the largest victim.  They had their whole business model jeopardized, plus each customer  compromised.  They were guilty of a malpractice and did what they could to come clean and make it right.  Sounds like they bought each customer an identity theft package.  Now you have one more business out there storing all your data. 

This could go in some other thread, but a person should have a credit card or account just for these types of purchases with very low limit and a distinct and limited purchase pattern as the first line of protection.
5882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Birther rebirth on: January 16, 2012, 11:12:01 AM
I don't know anything about the veracity of that but wonder about this:

If Virginia and a few other states were to keep the incumbent President off of their ballot in their state based on insufficient or inconclusive documentation provided, the campaign of the former constitutional law professor would certainly respect that decision based on the decision in the Perry case and their respect for "states rights".  No?
5883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Talks with the Taliban - about the release of terrorists on: January 16, 2012, 10:19:55 AM

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration appeared Wednesday to acknowledge discussions about transferring some Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as part of U.S. efforts to jumpstart peace talks with the Taliban after 10 years of inconclusive fighting.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said no decision about releasing any Taliban detainees has been made. But in answering a question about whether Washington was ready to transfer Guantanamo detainees, possibly to Qatar, in exchange for talks with the Afghan insurgents, Clinton did not dispute that such a trust-building measure was under consideration.
Washington Post,  opinion piece, Jan 9, 2010, Marc Theissen:
Don’t let these Taliban leaders loose

President Obama is reportedly considering releasing several senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay as an enticement to get the Taliban to the peace table. If he does so, he will do tremendous harm to American national security — and to his prospects for reelection this fall.

To understand why, consider the individuals White House is considering setting free. Last year WikiLeaks released a trove of documents it dubbed the “Gitmo Files” with assessments of hundreds of Guantanamo detainees — including the five Taliban leaders reportedly under consideration for release. Here is the U.S. military’s assessment of them:

Mullah Mohammed Fazl, deputy defense minister. Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes while serving as a Taliban Army Chief of Staff and … was implicated in the murder of thousands of Shiites in northern Afghanistan during the Taliban reign.” He has “operational associations with significant al-Qaida and other extremist personnel,” was “involved in Taliban narcotics trafficking,” and is so senior in the Taliban hierarchy that he once threatened the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar. Military officials assess that Fazl wields “considerable influence throughout the northern region of Afghanistan and his influence continued even after his capture” adding, “If released, [Fazl] would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with anti-Coalition militias (ACM) participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy minister of intelligence.  Wasiq “was central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against US and Coalition forces.” He “utilized his office to support al-Qaida and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture…. arranged for al-Qaida personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods” and “assigned al-Qaida members to the Taliban Ministry of Intelligence.” If released “he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”

Mullah Norullah Noori, governor-general of Afghanistan's northern zone. Noori “is considered one of the most significant former Taliban officials detained at JTF-GTMO” who “led troops against US and Coalition forces” and “was directly subordinate to Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar.”  He “is wanted by the UN for possible war crimes,” is “associated with members of al-Qaida,” and is assessed “to be a hardliner in his support of the Taliban philosophy.” He “continues to be a significant figure encouraging acts of aggression and his brother is currently a Taliban commander conducting operations against US and Coalition forces…. (Analyst note: Detainee would likely join his brother if released.”)

Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Herat governor and acting interior minister. Khairkhwa is “directly associated to Usama Bin Laden (UBL) and Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Muhammad Omar” and was “trusted and respected by both.” After 9/11 he “represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support hostilities against US and Coalition forces” and “attended a meeting at the direction of UBL, reportedly accompanied by members of HAMAS.” He is “one of the premier opium drug lords in Western Afghanistan” and was likely “associated with a militant training camp in Herat operated by deceased al-Qaida commander (in Iraq) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.”

Mohammad Nabi, multiple leadership roles. Nabi is “a senior Taliban official” who was “a member of a joint al-Qaida/Taliban ACM cell in Khowst and was involved in attacks against US and Coalition forces.” He “held weekly meetings” with “three al-Qaida affiliated individuals” to discuss anti-coalition plans, “maintained weapons caches,” and “facilitated two al-Qaida operatives smuggling an unknown number of missiles along the highway between Jalalabad and Peshawar,” which intelligence officials believe contributed to the deaths of two Americans.

All have close ties to al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. All been assessed by our military as posing a “high risk” of returning to the fight if released. And we know from painful experience what happens when hardliners like these are released from Gitmo. In 2007, the Bush administration released a Taliban leader named Mullah Zakir to Afghan custody. Unlike these five, he was assessed by our military as only “medium risk” of returning to the fight. They were wrong. Today, Zakir is leading Taliban forces fighting U.S. Marines in Helmand province, and according to former intelligence officials I spoke with, he has provided the Taliban with an exponential increase in combat prowess.

Releasing more like him would be disastrous for national security. And it would also be politically disastrous for Obama. His likely opponent, Mitt Romney, has already blasted the administration for even considering such releases, declaring “We do not negotiate with terrorists. The Taliban are terrorists, they are our enemy, and I do not believe in a prisoner release exchange.”

If Obama goes through with these releases, expect Romney to make a major issue of it in the fall campaign. Every time the president has picked a fight over terrorist detention at Guantanamo during the past three years, he has lost. He will lose again if he raises it in 2012. The last thing Obama should want is to have Americans discussing his decision to release dangerous terrorists in November. If Obama won’t keep these brutal men locked up for the national interest, perhaps he will for his political self-interest.

5884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The endgame in Afghanistan - Pete Hegseth on: January 16, 2012, 09:52:44 AM
Pete Hegseth, founder of Vets For Freedom, is now posted to Afghanistan, where he has been training Afghans as well as American and coalition troops. His reports on the situation there are as knowledgeable as any you can find. Here is his final dispatch [addressing the difficult issues and choices we face] before he heads home next month:

The Endgame in Afghanistan

My first email from Kabul was entitled “First Impressions” and the caveats I used in that email remain unchanged. Afghanistan is such a dynamic place—layered with umpteen complexities, contradictions, mysteries, and unknowns—that a holistic understanding of the country, let alone the conflict (overt and covert), is nearly impossible. That said, over the past eight months I’ve had the opportunity to challenge my first impressions, test hypotheses, and attempt to understand the true nature of the conflict. This section represents my modest—if declarative—initial attempt at distilling what I’ve learned and making some observation about America’s eventual endgame in Afghanistan.

Rather than break down my assessment categorically as I did in previous emails, I will instead look at the war through a lens provided by an insurgency expert who visited us this past summer. His name is Gérard Chaliand and the day we spent with him was fascinating. In addition to authoring over 40 books on guerilla warfare, he has also been a participant/observer of over a dozen insurgencies around the world—including Afghanistan in the 1980s, and again during the current conflict. Listening to him was like sitting in a semi-circle around Yoda himself, absorbing the insight and knowledge of a rare specimen.

Mr. Chaliand visits Afghanistan yearly, but said his 2011 trip was his last. When asked why, he said, “Because I know how it will end. The Taliban control the countryside and are growing in support throughout the country by providing an effective underground government structure. The seeds of their return were planted long ago—much before Gen. McChrystal’s 2009 counterinsurgency strategy—and their ascension is now inevitable. International forces started doing the right things at ‘half past eleven’ and now it’s too late.”

While I certainly didn’t share his pessimism then, I’ve come begrudgingly to agree with his assessment today. The Taliban—by mitigating their negatives (brutality, ethnic exclusion, and overt association with al Qaeda) and accentuating their perceived positives (swift justice, longevity, and ideological cohesion)—have gained, and maintained, a psychological grip on the Afghan population. While most Afghans, especially non-Pashtuns, do not want the Taliban to return (“hearts”), they are grappling with—and calculating accordingly—the looming reality that the Taliban will outlast U.S. forces (“minds”) and eventually challenge a weak, corrupt, and fractured Afghan Government for control of the country.

This isn’t to say that we couldn’t achieve a more advantageous outcome for the United States; of course if we got rid of the 2014 withdrawal deadline completely, were truly willing to remove Taliban and Haqqani safe-havens in Pakistan (we know where they are!), and purged the Afghan government of its most corrupt nodes we could “change the game” of this conflict. But for various reasons—be they domestic politics, a nuclear-armed Pakistan (a lesson for Iran, I would suggest), and a trepidation with undermining corrosive “Afghan sovereignty”—it is highly unlikely we will make the hard choices necessary to level the playing field. A bad outcome in Afghanistan isn’t inevitable, but in light of current realities, it is likely.

However, the policies we pursue in the coming years will impact the degree to which the outcome here is bad, or less-bad. Our commitment to training and mentoring Afghan security forces will be central to determining the future of this country. If we do it right—truly creating a multi-ethnic force that will defend the interests of most Afghans—it could be a vanguard against total Taliban control and a buffer against outright civil war. If we do it wrong or hurriedly, we’re merely indiscriminately (and heavily!) arming different elements of an Afghan army that will eventually turn its guns on each other. In my opinion the later outcome is most likely, but not inevitable.

If you know me, I’m not one for pessimism, and certainly not interested in undermining the efforts of our troops in harm’s way. Afghanistan is nowhere near a John Kerry-esque “who will be the last American to die for a mistake?” situation. Our effort is noble, our cause just, and our military sharp. But at the same time, my sentiments are in keeping with most Coalition members over here—even if they’re unwilling to say it. We soldier on. We will fight until the end. But with our ear to the ground and our boots in the snow, we can feel the undercurrent in Afghanistan. As the clock ticks to 2014, we become more irrelevant as Afghans make decisions (hoarding, segregating, and hedging) regarding a post-American future in their country.

While I don’t like acquiescing to a “non-victory” in Afghanistan, we will have nonetheless achieved an outcome in Afghanistan that is an exception to the rule in the so-called “graveyard of empires.” From a historical perspective, whenever we “leave” we will be the first “invader” that left on our own terms—a not insignificant accomplishment. Thankfully, and necessarily, I’m fairly certain our commitment to Afghanistan will continue on a smaller and enduring scale—and in doing so we will have done everything we can to create the conditions for a friendly and capable (at least on paper) Afghanistan government to determine their own future. It may not end well, but it won’t be for a lack of U.S. effort, courage, and ingenuity.

As supporting evidence for these heavy-hearted assertions, I would first submit my previous two emails (here and here). My feelings on the fundamentally corrupt Afghan government, Pakistan safe-haven, the 2014 deadline, Taliban capabilities and more are clearly stated in those emails—along with facts and financial figures. However, I’d like to take one more broad look at our mission in Afghanistan, as it currently stands in January of 2012. In doing so, I’ll use Mr. Chaliand’s closing statement to us as a framework for examination. He said, when looking at a counterinsurgency conflict, we must: “Never believe your propaganda, always re-asses the facts, challenge assumptions, and don’t rely on wishful thinking.” Wise words, and a useful filter for analyzing our mission in Afghanistan.

“Never believe your propaganda…”

The Coalition narrative (I don’t consider it “propaganda,” because we’re beholden to the truth—unlike our enemies) in Afghanistan is as follows: the “surge” summer of 2011 has inflicted serious damage on the Taliban, especially in the south; and at the same time, we are aggressively pushing Taliban re-integration programs, training increasingly capable Afghan security forces, and working to improve local governance. But, as I’ve said before, only half of this is grounded in reality. Yes the “surge” has allowed U.S. troops to push the Taliban out of traditional strongholds in the south, significantly disrupting their operations. However, there is also evidence that, despite heavy casualties, the Taliban have been able to regenerate themselves quickly, maintain their military and shadow-governance networks, and are waiting us out.

More troubling is the fact that we have not seen the ripple affects we needed the surge to induce (as it did in Iraq). While re-integration numbers (fighters giving up the fight) are increasing, they still include very few Pashtuns, especially Pashtuns from the south. Most of the re-integrated fighters are from the north and west, places not known for Taliban support. Second—and more importantly—Afghan governance at the local and national level has not decisively taken advantage of the surge environment to improve capability and legitimacy. While there are great programs (like Village Stability Operations and the Afghan Local Police) working to create the conditions for local governance, there hasn’t been—nor will there be—an Anbar-style tribal awakening like we saw in Iraq, largely because of the segmented and fractured nature of Pashtun society in modern Afghanistan. And without a legitimate government in Kabul and in the provinces, the chances for a stable outcome are minimal.

Another aspect of our narrative is that the 2012 “fighting season” (April to October) will be a decisive moment for our forces. We will increase our gains in the south, and degrade the Taliban enough to create the space for increasingly capable Afghan forces and a burgeoning government. There are three big problems with this. First, the idea of a “fighting season” is misleading. While violence is higher in the summer months, the non-violent aspect of this conflict doesn’t stop. When we’re not fighting (and sitting snug on our FOBs for the holidays), the Taliban continues to spread their influence through local dispute resolution, mobile Sharia courts (seen as increasingly legitimate by the people), and propaganda. Second, while we have achieved a critical mass of soldiers in the Afghan National Army, their ability and motivation to continue the fight when we’re not in the lead is still suspect (more on this below). Finally, it’s hard to overstate how damaging the 2014 deadline is in creating these outcomes. As the perception of 2014 gets closer, our influence—by point of fact—will diminish. The Taliban can stand back and wait us out because we told them how long to wait.

“Always reassess the facts…”

The fact is: facts are sticky in Afghanistan. And, depending on whom you’re talking to—especially amongst Afghans—they are always different, and oftentimes contradictory. So, rather than only talk “facts” now, I’d like to do a quick comparison between old facts and new realities.

Fact: In 2004, President Hamid Karzai was elected the President of Afghanistan, and seen as legitimate by wide swaths of Afghans as well as around the world. Reality today: Not only is the Karzai government corrupt and dysfunctional, it is already seen as illegitimate by most groups inside Afghanistan and as a complete money-pit to international donors. In fact, by any fair assessment, it can barely be called a “government” by traditional standards; it’s more like a ruling mafia. Bribery, nepotism, and blatant disregard for the rule of law and their own constitution are off the charts. The ruling elite are getting rich off international aid while regular Afghans scarcely see their lives improve. All-the-while, the Taliban exploit this fact through piercing propaganda. The end result is that we continue to prop up an Afghan government that is seen as increasingly illegitimate by the people, all the while hoping “peace talks” with the Taliban will provide an exit ramp for the war. The Taliban doesn’t want to work with the Afghan government, they want to replace it.

Fact: Since 2001 the United States has spent $456,000 an hour, every hour, on non-military developmental aid alone, and has spent even more on the military. Reality today: Afghanistan is an international donor state, almost completely reliant on international aid money to function. They have almost no tax base (save import taxation and…untaxed opium) and 97% of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product is linked to foreign aid. We pay for their government and military, and have created financial realities that are completely unsustainable. Take, for example, the Afghan Army. This year we will spend $13 billion on training and equipping the Afghan Army, while the Afghan government will take in less than $2 billion in revenue. Some tough financial realities loom: either we cut spending and reduce the size of their Army or we continue to pay for it. The former would mean—for certain—the Afghan Army would eventually capitulate to the Taliban; the later that we continue to pump billions into Afghanistan’s Army while we downsize our own (a bad idea, by the way). Not not only is Afghanistan’s current situation unsustainable, but spending in the country for the past decade has distorted their economy and government more negatively than positively.

Final fact: In 2001, the U.S. was attacked by al Qaeda from Afghanistan, where the Taliban granted them safe-haven. Reality today: Bin Laden is dead, al Qaeda is on the ropes, and the Taliban are wary of their association with al Qaeda. Yes the groups still coordinate, but it’s not the rock solid alliance it was ten years ago. Vice President Biden recently said that “the Taliban is not our enemy.” I respectfully and adamantly disagree (as would, I suspect, the families of those U.S. troops killed by the Taliban). Any group openly fighting and killing our soldiers is our enemy. But the more important question is—does the Taliban pose an existential threat to America and our interests? They might tell us during negotiations that they will swear off association with Al Qaeda, but just like the Iranian denial of nuclear weapons—we should not believe them. There isn’t a scenario where a radical and violent Islamic group taking control of Afghanistan is a good outcome; however, we can still salvage conditions where the Taliban are not able to utilize, or provide, substantial haven for radical Islamists with global ambitions.

“Challenge assumptions…”

The largest and most dangerous assumption we make is that there is a nation called “Afghanistan” and a collection of people called “Afghans.” Neither is correct, but that assumption continues to fuel our push for a multi-ethnic military and government that holds sway inside the arbitrary boundaries of Afghanistan. Having spent time with Afghans from multiple backgrounds—Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras—it’s painfully clear that beneath the surface of the “we are Afghans” talk are true feelings of ethnic and tribal affiliations that supersede an “Afghan” identity. History, language, violence, custom, mistrust, and animosity separate these groups—and a flag, a national anthem (only in Pashto, which angers Dari speakers) a “government” and a western-style Army are not enough to create a nation where none exists. I could tell story after story about this, but suffice it to say—this country is fragmented, and won’t unite in time to fight an ideologically cohesive, Pashtun-based Taliban movement.

In regards to the western-style Army I mentioned above, the assumptions we make with this force will have lasting, and potentially positive or negative impacts. Not only have we attempted to create a multi-ethnic institution that will represent all Afghans, but we’ve also built an Army in our image—with strong conventional capabilities and a Non-Commissioned Officer Corps, where none has existed before. We are producing new units at a rapid rate, recruiting from all backgrounds and then sending them to the Consolidated Fielding Center (CFC) in Kabul where multi-ethnic units are established and trained, before being sent to the field. There’s nothing wrong with that; but the problem is what happens after that, on three fronts:

First, each new unit is given millions of dollars of brand new weaponry and equipment, with minimal actual accountability. The kandak (battalion) commander is responsible for the equipment, some/much of which eventually ends up missing (and sometimes on sale in Pakistan). For example, a heavy weapons kandak leaves the CFC with approximately eighteen brand-new 50-caliber machine guns, and dozens of smaller-caliber heavy weapons and RPGs. I challenge you to walk into any National Guard armory in the States and ask how many functioning 50-caliber machine guns they have. They’ll probably pull out four beat-up 50-cals with rusting barrels, likely dated back to Vietnam. If things don’t end well, someone will use these weapons—and it might not be our friends.

Second, while units are formed as multi-ethnic entities, once they get to the field a slow, but deliberate, self-segregation is starting to occur. Soldiers from the north try to get back to the north, and likewise for soldiers in the south. A Tajik ultimately wants to fight alongside Tajiks from his area, and likewise for Pashtuns and other groups. What you could end up having is a series of regional armies with more commitment to their area then to “Afghanistan.” If things don’t end well, they will end up fighting each other—with weapons we have supplied them. On the flip side, if things move forward as we plan, these units will be a bulwark for the state. There are certainly many multi-ethnic units in the field, fighting bravely together and doing great things. The question is—will this be the rule, or become the exception?

Third, even once the units are fielded—and assuming they are fighting for “Afghanistan”—we are currently making big assumptions about their capability to eventually independently operate and sustain their activities. With U.S. support—which includes things like logistical resupply, air support, and medical evacuation—many units currently do well in the fight. But if we take that away in 2013, 14, or 15—will they sustain the fight? And will they push into enemy territory? Many Afghan units have become accustomed to U.S. support, and may not be willing to fight an emboldened Taliban without the robust U.S. support they receive. They’re also accustomed to being paid well, while their Taliban counterparts fight for nothing. Our brave soldiers will mentor and train them to make them as capable as possible, but if they don’t develop their own systems soon, the Afghan Army house of cards could come falling down more quickly than anyone would like to admit.

Finally, I came to Afghanistan with the assumption that this battlefield is central to defending the United States. In the realm of perception and international opinion it is still very important; how we “finish” in Afghanistan will send strong signals to the rest of the world about whether we finish what we start. Recent events in Iraq make this plainly clear. However, the question is whether the cost in Afghanistan is worth the outcome? As my British colleague says, “is the juice worth the squeeze?” I think seeing this through, while gradually drawing down, is worth doing. That said, larger and more strategically significant issues staring us in the face need to take a higher priority. We need to muster our political courage and confront our crippling domestic debt. (Did you know that, by 2015, just the interest payments on our debt to China will pay for its entire military?). We need to ensure our force posture and military might is capable of deterring a rising China. And we need to do what is necessary—including military action—to prevent a nuclear Iran (the fact that we can’t do anything in a nuclear-armed Pakistan should demonstrate that). There are obviously plenty of other challenges as well (especially at home), and spending money the way we are today in Afghanistan prevents us from confronting these challenges.

“…and don’t rely on wishful thinking.”

If you’ve read the previous two sections (and my previous emails), then I hope most of your “wishful thinking” has been stripped. That’s the point—we can’t wish our way to victory (as we say, “hope is not a strategy”). But we can look at the world the way it is and craft strategies to effect a more-desirable outcome. From where I’ve been sitting in Afghanistan, thankfully it’s clear that General Allen understands this; and as a result we’ve already seen (and will continue to see) a shift in our strategy from counterinsurgency to security force assistance. It’s a subtle, but important change. Instead of U.S. units taking the military lead in the field and trying to “partner” with Afghan units in the process, the lead responsibility will now fall to Afghans. Our soldiers will serve as embedded advisors, with 12-16 man teams embedded inside every Afghan unit—pushing the Afghan Army (and Police) to the point where they can defeat the enemy on their own. U.S advisors will start with infantry units trained to clear and hold areas of insurgents and gradually shift toward support units, including helicopter units, logisticians and other support personnel. This change makes complete sense and is the best strategy to securing a less-bad outcome for us.

At the same time, General Allen continues to talk about a post-2014 presence for NATO and the United States. This is extremely important as well. The Afghan Army, and the Taliban, need to be convinced that we won’t just leave in 2014—but will instead maintain an enduring, and strategically significant, presence. The perception (as opposed to the reality) of 2014 is what is most damaging to our effort—and from General Allen and all elements of command, there is a clear effort to erode this perception. It won’t change overnight, but we must aggressively pursue a counter-narrative.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the ongoing “peace talks” with the Taliban (aptly placed in the “wishful thinking” section). It appears that both the U.S. and the Afghan government have approved a Taliban “office” in the country of Qatar, from which they can hold peace talks. Right now the Taliban is only talking to the U.S., which angers President Karzai. In fact, the Taliban’s most recent pronouncement on negotiations rejected Karzai, his government and the Afghan constitution—which is not a promising starting point. From our side, there are talks of a prisoner exchange from Guantanamo, as well as ceasefires, etc. The U.S. insists that the Taliban would have to forswear violence, stop harboring international jihadists, and recognize the Afghan government and constitution. It is highly unlikely they will agree to all three; therefore, which one would we be willing to cave on? If they keep their weapons, they’ll keep fighting; if they continue to harbor terrorists, then our entire effort is for naught; and if they won’t recognize the Afghan government, then they’re never join it.

I honestly don’t have the slightest idea how these talks will unfold, but we’re being shortsighted and “wishful” if we think they will provide a silver bullet for this conflict. I’m fearful the beltway intelligencia, out of options and desperate for a rapid solution, will seize on this idea—regardless of underlying realities. The Taliban will not be content to share power in good faith; and since they think they’re “winning,” they’re not likely to capitulate to our demands. Their negotiation strategy is based on (again) waiting until 2014 when the United States could be forced to compromise on the most important aspects of the post-2001 order in Afghanistan.

In the end, we clearly cannot abandon Afghanistan—pulling our troops out now would be a disaster. On the other hand, maintaining our effort at the current scope and cost is not commensurate with the benefits. The surge, led by the finest generals the American military has to offer, was the right approach; however, it was undercut from the outset—when we told the enemy when we were going to leave. Having tried “more troops” (albeit, half-heartedly) and in light of political realities, the best course of action now is to continue drawing down our troops, bolster our advising mission, and emphasize our continued—if much scaled down—commitment to the outcome in Afghanistan. Despite our mistakes, we cannot abandon this mission—lest we invite larger problems in the future. Going forward, a robust advising mission, along with continued targeted special forces raids, could be sustained in perpetuity with minimal cost and most of the benefit of our current presence.

As I’ve said before, it remains the honor of my life to serve our great country—first in Guantanamo Bay, then Iraq, and finally in Afghanistan. I can think of no greater privilege than to wear our nation’s uniform, and to defend the ideals we all hold dear.

I’ll close by reiterating something I wrote in July. I urge you to remember the guy—dirty, tired, sweaty, and hungry—on patrol somewhere in no-man’s-land Afghanistan. He is fighting as I type this, and as you read this. We must always remember that, and remember him in our prayers. He is the linchpin of this effort, and the one who bears the brunt of all the policies we execute.

5885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Regulations: Hayward - We need a new Laffer Curve on: January 16, 2012, 09:30:05 AM
Needed: A New Laffer Curve  - by Steven Hayward

The Laffer Curve—the conceptual device illustrating how high marginal tax rates reduced revenue and economic growth—helped revolutionize tax policy around the world thirty five years ago.  Every advanced nation followed the United States in lowering tax rates on income (both personal and corporate) and capital investment in the 1980s; many did so more vigorously than we did.  (The definitive treatment of the subject is Brian Domitrovic’s Econoclasts.  Belongs on everyone’s economics bookshelf.)  While the Left kvetches against the Laffer Curve, I note that not even the most leftist governments in the industrialized world propose restoring pre-Laffer Curve income and capital gains tax rates.  Game over.

Today we need a new Laffer Curve—for regulation.  The thought comes to mind in contemplating George Will’s column this morning discussing the impending difficulties in deepening the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina by five feet in order to accommodate a new generation of larger container ships soon to be sailing the ocean blue:

    Newsome says the study for deepening Savannah’s harbor was made in 1999. It is 2012, and studies for the environmental impact statement are not finished. When they are, the project will take five years to construct. “But before that,” he says laconically, “they’re going to be sued by groups concerned about the environmental impact.” A Newsome axiom — that institutions become risk-averse as they get challenged — is increasingly pertinent as America changes from a nation that celebrated getting things done to a nation that celebrates people and groups who prevent things from being done. . .

    The Empire State Building was built in 14 months during the Depression, the Pentagon in 16 in wartime. The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, which earned 11 battle stars in the Pacific and now is anchored here, was built in less than 17 months, back when America was serious about moving forward. Is it necessary to take eight years — just two years less than it took to build the Panama Canal with yellow fever and without computers — to deepen this harbor five feet?

It is one thing to argue that the economic benefits of health and safety regulations, such as air and water pollution, etc., outweigh the costs, though the EPA’s methodology for making these calculations is highly convenient.  But we can leave that head-splitting methodological argument for another time.  How can the economic benefits possibly outweigh the massive delays which amount to outright prevention of projects from being built (see: Keystone XL pipeline, or see the Project/NoProject? website for a cumulative rundown of projects currently held up in the environmental review process)?  More to the point, does the long, litigation-heavy environmental review process we currently use actually deliver environmental benefits? More often it is simply used as an obstructionist measure.  (I noted in watching a Keystone pipeline hearing that most of the complaints were simply blanket opposition to building the pipelines at all, not specific complaints about a harm that needed to be avoided somehow.)

Here’s where we need the regulatory equivalent of the Laffer Curve.  Take the Keystone pipeline as an example. The pipeline is likely to be approved eventually, but only after more years of review and litigation.  Certainly measures will need to be taken to reduce the environmental risks of the pipeline, but is there any safety measure that we will eventually impose that we didn’t recognize in the first six months of the review process?  It’s not like we’ve never built a pipeline before, or learned from previous pipeline accidents (like the one in Montana last summer).  Are there really any potential environmental impacts of deepening a harbor in South Carolina by five feet that require six to ten years of review and litigation, and a three-thousand page Environmental Impact Statement?

Clearly the review process we have now is largely deadweight loss, just as high marginal tax rates discouraged capital formation, investment, and productivity improvements in the high-inflation 1970s.  We can arguably afford the extravagance of regulatory suffocation when the economy is booming at 4 percent growth a year or better (as in the late 1990s) and unemployment is 5 percent. We cannot afford it under the current stagnant circumstances.  A Laffer Curve for regulation will explore just how much economic growth and how many jobs were are sacrificing for this artificial punctiliousness.

What needs to be done?  The regulatory review process ought to have a short deadline.  Agency review should be completed within six or nine months, with a presumption in favor of granting permission unless an agency can delineate a substantively new problem based on precedents from previous similar projects (that is, no speculative objections based on what global warming might do 75 years from now, as actually happened to a proposed project in California a few years back where regulators denied a building permit on the theory that rising sea levels would make the land habitat for an endangered species that would want to move upland).  Standing to sue to block projects should be tightened, and the threshold for hearing such suits made much more restrictive.  And how about requiring that all Environmental Impact Statements be no longer than 200 pages?  I’m sure all the environmental lawyers and consultants who charge by the hour and make a bundle doing these multi-volume EIRs that no one reads will howl, but if the Supreme Court can limit briefs to 50 pages on matters of high constitutional importance, why can’t our regulatory process not emulate a standard of brevity that emphasizes the essential over the frivolous and tedious?
5886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: January 16, 2012, 09:10:35 AM
"Although the Laffer curve is posited as a way to increase government revenue or at least hold it nearly constant while reducing tax rates, it is nearly always held up as a model by people that don't want to maximize government revenue but would rather minimize it."

Complete straw argument or false observation IMO that the people pressing for the policies that grow revenues most during these times of paralyzing deficits want to minimize revenues.  Please cite evidence.   You passed up a much more obvious point that comes from American experience of 4 or 5 of Crafty's examples:  Proponents of higher government spending look blindly at these periods of rapidly growing revenues and are missing out on the largest source of program funding - a vibrant economic expansion.  Example: the Obama administration - the are dying to grow government but willing to pass up the greatest opportunities to fund it, instead seeking limited growth policies on all fronts.

Revenues to the Treasury doubled in the 1980s for example yet opponents of lower tax rates cling to the false math that lower rates increased the deficit.  Just one example, but there is a similar trend in each example that Crafty cited.

"If I were only to analyze those two points, I would surely come to the conclusion that the Laffer Curve was junk."

Translated/paraphrased by me - If you were to fully mischaracterize your point, it would lose all validity.  Not one of your more persuasive statements in the thread IMHO.   wink
5887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Issues Constitutional Law: Westboro funeral protest rights case 8th Circuit on: January 15, 2012, 10:05:46 PM
No inside scoop but I had a brief conversation this morning with one of the judges who heard the first amendment, funeral protest case this past week.  Sounded like it is a little unusual for them to have all 11 judges hear a case and unusual for them to have to go through a protest to get to their courthouse.,0,1828407.story

January 9, 2012

The First Amendment and street protests both were on the docket of the Federal Appeals Court in St. Louis. The case involves the controversial Westboro Baptist Church and laws preventing its members from protesting at military funerals.

Street theatre and the First Amendment were the topics Monday afternoon as the court considered whether cities can outlaw protests at service member's funerals.

On one side, there is the Westboro Baptist Church of Wichita, Kansas and on the other, the St. Louis County suburb of Manchester.

Manchester outlawed protests at funerals in 2007. The ordinance was aimed at Westboro Baptist, which travels the country protesting at military funerals. Westboro members believe military deaths are god's punishment for the US tolerating homosexuals. The Manchester ordinance outlaws such protests within 300 feet of any funeral home the day of a funeral.

The ACLU sued Manchester and seven other Missouri cities with similar ordinances, arguing that the protests are political speech and are therefore totally protected by the First Amendment. A lower federal court agreed.

But now the case is before the Federal Appeals Court. And in a demonstration of just how important this First Amendment case is, all 11 appeals court judges heard the case inside the Eagleton Courthouse while protestors marched outside.

No word on when the appeals court may rule in this case.
5888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Energy Politics - Oil production on federal lands down on: January 14, 2012, 11:58:33 AM
Oil production on federal lands is down 13 percent in 2011: 97,721,813 barrels in 2011 versus 112,124,812 barrels in 2010.

Meanwhile, gas prices are up.  Some expect $4 by spring and spikes up to $5 in summer/fall during the camp.

Per the discussion on Path science, I don't mean one caused the other.  But the USA owns a LOT of the land containing vast amounts of energy and the anti-energy direction of the administration is both contributing to the problem and delaying the solution.  Also reap what you sew, high gas price is part of the agenda so they can answer to the economic damage of that in the election.

Artificially high energy prices costs us jobs in all sectors.
5889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Law: Prof. Tribe agues for(and against) recess appointments on: January 14, 2012, 11:40:22 AM
Moving from the hypocrisy of Gov. Perry on states rights over to the top of the constitutional law profession: Prof. Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School on the constitutionality (and unconstitutionality) of recess appointments - depending on who makes them. (?)

Games and Gimmicks in the Senate
By LAURENCE H. TRIBE  Published: January 5, 2012
ON Wednesday President Obama, using his power to make recess appointments, named Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A few hours later, he used the same power to appoint three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, acting to overcome unprecedented Senate encroachment on his duty to appoint executive officials. The president’s right to do so is clearly stated in the Constitution: the recess appointments clause empowers him to “fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”

Who could argue with that?  Here is Prof. Tribe arguing a federal lawsuit against a Bush recess appointment:

In support of Obama, Tribe asserts that the president's power to deem the Senate to be "in recess" and then make recess appointments "is clearly stated in the Constitution" and is further supported by "past practice." But against Bush, Tribe argued that "[t]he text, structure, purpose, function, and pre-1921 history of the Recess Appointments Clause all confirm . . . that the President may not make recess appointments during intra-session Senate breaks."

In support of Obama, Tribe argues that intra-session recess appointments are especially justified when the Senate is deliberately "frustrat[ing] presidential appointments." But against Bush, he argued the opposite: recess appointments are all the more illegitimate when the nominee in question already had been the subject of Senate debate yet "failed to obtain enough votes to go forward under Senate rules."

In support of Obama, Tribe argues that the Senate made itself "unavailable" by largely leaving Washington. But against Bush, he scoffed at the notion that the Senate was ever truly unavailable, thanks to modern technology: even during "holiday breaks that typically last one or two weeks," Senate business "can easily resume, if necessary, owing to modern communications and transportation."

In support of Obama, Tribe invokes Alexander Hamilton's Federalist 67 for the proposition that recess appointments, even intra-session appointments such as Cordray's, are justified when "necessary for the public service to fill without delay." Against Bush, by contrast, he invoked Federalist 67 for the proposition that "recess appointments would be 'necessary,' and thus permissible, only outside the 'session of the Senate"—i.e., never during type of intra-session break that President Obama exploited last week.

In defense of Obama's recess appointments, Tribe said that the president was setting a precedent that would apply "only in instances of transparent and intolerable burdens on his authority." But when Bush made recess appointments, Tribe warned of a slippery slope toward tyranny: We cannot "take comfort in the hope that no President is likely to abuse the recess appointment power" whenever the Senate opposes a nomination, because of the "hydraulic pressure inherent within" the presidency and other branches of government "to exceed the outer limits of its power."

The legal case in favor of President Obama "ought to be a slam dunk"; the same case, in favor of President Bush, was "novel" and "ominous." And so on.   (
5890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential- Virginia ballot on: January 14, 2012, 11:10:42 AM
My reaction to the Perry suit was roughly the same; he was not the guy you expected to come from far away and sue a state.  If he thought he would ever be the candidate, he should have left that distinction for criticizing the President in the Obama administration v. Arizona.

That said, this law did not help Virginians who would be better off with more choices and I've never heard of banning write-in campaigns.

If there is a federal argument I don't know what it is. It is a state contest, though part of a national election.  Given the unpredictability of federal courts in their rulings, such as the mixed results in the Obamacare rulings, people will always be tempted to try their luck.
5891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive dissonance of the left: Republican War on Science on: January 13, 2012, 11:07:52 AM
One consensus among the 20% of Americans who identify as liberal is that Republicans are in denial of science.

On global warming, they won't say how fast it is warming or what part of it is caused by human's using fossil fuels for energy but are certain that causation is proven in science, even after the lead scientists were caught cooking and cherry picking the data, studies and analysis.

Next is always evolution where a few 'Christian conservatives' prefer not to speak out against a Judeo-Christian religious belief that man is different from other creatures.  No one that I know on the right denies that God's creation included some ability for living things to adapt.

OTOH, the left on global warming is in compete denial that man or species will be able to adapt to the slightest variation in temperature.

Most stunning though is the omission of abortion from any discussion of a war on science.  let's see, science establishes it is a) alive, b) human, and c) of genetic code completely distinct from the mother.  In the later term, IF the cord is cut and the creature removed, it can live on support just like other people at the hospital.  Yet we kill them off at a rate that could make lenin and Stalin take pause, comparisons to Hitler and holocaust passed up by request.  Yea, this is science. But the Huffington Post is in search of something gone awry in the conservative brain.  Go figure.

Chris Mooney

Author, 'The Republican War on Science' and 'The Republican Brain'

Why Republicans Deny Science: The Quest for a Scientific Explanation
5892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 13, 2012, 10:37:35 AM
The Vermin video and the Colbert candidacy remind me of a book I recently found by Pat Paulsen outlining his non-run for the Presidency in 1968.  Time permitting I would love to pull out passages from that book and from Obama 2008 speeches and see if the discerning reader can tell which is which.

I don't follow the comedians because I don't watch cable, but it seems that their theme to the politicians is just to stop acting like idiots.  Colbert should run in the Dem primaries on a platform of common sense liberalism (he must think there is such a thing) and just see where it goes.
I made a prediction in 2009 that Pres. Obama will not be the nominee of his own party.  I have gone silent on that lately because nothing is gained for either party or the country if he should drop out so late that only one person (Sec. of State) would be in a position to pick up the pieces.
I agree that immigration issues will flair up in SC and that Newt can hold his own.  Romney knows that what is said to win SC will stay with him nationally in the general election.  I hope he handles it well; it is a very difficult and divisive issue.  It would be nice if someone would remind them they are on the same team and should at least appear to be pushing for a solution over a political gain.  The Boeing dispute illustrates that there are plenty of other labor issues to address.

If Romney wins SC while leading in FL by 20 points, it is over.  Romney can lose SC respectably and still win the nomination.  The candidates who act desperate soon leave the race.
5893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 11, 2012, 01:30:52 PM
Crafty: "FWIW, I'd like to see more about Romney's Bain Capital record before make a decision."

Likewise - I am no student of Bain but I know operations of other private venture capital firms.  I would point out that a) Romney was 'vetted' in Massachusetts closer to where he operated, b) this was left to an 11th hour desperation attack, if disqualifying, where was it during the last 8 months of the anyone but Romney movement, and c) what do we know about the mortals who comprise his opponents as we make attacks on what everyone did going back 20+ years... Obama doing some blow(?) and meeting over a coffee with terrorists, saying Amen and will you preside over our marriage to Rev. 'God Damn America', Gingrich starting every sentence with Marianne and I publicly, while pressing the Clinton impeachment, while sleeping with Calista, then 'chief 'historian' of the GSEs etc.  Romney is accused at being good at private sector capitalism, making organizations more effective and efficient which necessarily involves career setbacks for people deemed to be ineffective or in oversupply in a company.  Good grief.  Gingrich and Perry IMO aren't trying to save America from this capitalist.  They are trying to keep themselves in a race that is looking a lot like a sweep.

The video draws a correlation between Romney getting wealthy and others losing jobs.  In free enterprise people get wealthy and people lose jobs.  Often times those are the same people who lost their job and went on to greatness!  To Newt, JDN, whoever, are you for that or against that, or do you deny that?  Michael Moore's premise in 'Roger and me' is that if GM employed everyone in our family for generations, they owe me and my children jobs forever, not matter how bad our work product or how uncompetitive our pay package and factory performance becomes.  IMO, we are running against this mindset and looking for the person who can best explain and convey the advantages of freedom of enterprise, in spite of, like democracy, its ugliness.

Bigdog posted how winning Iowa alone, straw poll or caucus, was no great indicator of becoming President.  Romney is the first non-incumbent to win both Iowa and NH since Iowa started the tradition of going first in 1976.  Two very different contests.  If he wins SC and FL, this is over and the these regrettable quotes were all just scorched earth ego offerings that will come back to bite.
5894  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer - Sarah Burke on: January 11, 2012, 12:46:20 PM
How about a prayer for super skier Sarah Burke, ESPY award winner for best female action sports athlete, who is in a coma after a training accident  yesterday.  Her talent and charm on display in this ESPN interview a few days ago:
5895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics - House and Senate! on: January 11, 2012, 11:29:53 AM
No matter who is the nominee or wins the Presidency, the House and Senate are also both up for grabs this year and the agenda coming out of there is crucial.  The Republican hold on the House is only one off-year election old and the Dem sweep of 2006 (6 Years since 2006) is all back on the table in the Senate for 2012.
A 2012 Republican Strategy for Congress
A series of votes can clarify the differences between the two parties on energy, taxes, spending and regulation.

By RON JOHNSON  (Republican Senator/Businessman from Wisconsin who defeated Russ Feingold in 2010)   WSJ  JANUARY 11, 2012

Americans are frustrated over Washington's inability to address our nation's economic and fiscal problems. That's why I have been working with a growing group of senators and House members to develop a plan that can build public support for solutions. It's called "America's Choice."

America's Choice seeks to highlight the differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party led by President Obama. It could do so over the coming months by presenting to the country, through a series of votes in the House of Representatives, the battle between those who believe in broadest terms in limited government and freedom and those who promote government control and dependency.

What are the choices these votes could present? Growing government spending and debt or growing the private sector and reducing government. Limiting energy development or using America's energy resources. Punishing success or pro-growth tax reform. A government takeover of health care or repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with patient-centered, free-market reforms.

The alternatives are stark. President Obama's faith in government is so strong that he has increased its size to 24% of gross domestic product from 21%, and increased our nation's debt by over $4 trillion. Republicans, on the other hand, believe long-term self-sustaining jobs are created in the private sector—that government cannot tax, spend and borrow our nation to prosperity.

Will green energy power America's future? The administration has squandered billions of dollars on politically connected, green-energy boondoggle projects, while at the same time maintaining a de facto moratorium on off-shore drilling, and dragging its feet on granting permits for other energy utilization projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and restricting and limiting leases for offshore energy production. Republicans could propose a plan to utilize crucial domestic resources, including oil, natural gas and coal, to produce energy and create jobs.

Regulatory overreach in this administration has been breathtaking. Executive agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor have been in hyper-drive, adding to the already job-crushing $1.75 trillion annual cost, according to the Small Business Administration, of federal regulatory compliance. Republicans could propose a regulatory moratorium to give businesses a chance to recover, and then enact real reform to achieve common-sense regulatory balance.

President Obama has launched a divisive campaign pitting one group of Americans against another. Yet 10% of Americans already pay 70% of all income taxes. Increasing the tax burden on that group is counterproductive. Sowing class division is an act of political cynicism producing terrible economic consequences. Significant pro-growth tax reform is the better path to build our economy and create jobs.

Government takeover of our health-care system has been a liberal-progressive dream for decades. President Obama and Democrats in Congress passed the partisan Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It neither protects patients, nor does it make health care more affordable. But it will lead to a government takeover of one-sixth of our economy, and it will blow a hole in an already horribly broken budget.

Republicans are united in our commitment to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered reforms. Malpractice tort reform, health savings account expansion, insurance purchase across state lines, reduction of government mandates, and equalized tax treatment of insurance premiums are some of the key changes we will propose to the country.

America's Choice would clearly present two different visions of the country's future—one represented by the Republican Party and the other represented by the Democratic Party and its leader, President Obama. Once Congress returns from recess later this month, the Republican majority in the House could focus on one major area of domestic policy at a time. For example, February could be used to debate, craft and pass an energy utilization policy.

When the House debates and passes an agenda item, Republican senators, candidates and conservative groups could concentrate on the same issue, using the same powerful facts and figures to inform and persuade the American public. Coordinating our focused efforts improves our ability to compete with the presidential bully pulpit and counteract media outlets that often work to marginalize us.

In 2011, President Obama stopped running the country and started running his re-election campaign. In his cynical attempt to divert attention away from his record by dividing us, Republicans have been put on defense. The America's Choice agenda would put us on offense.

If done well, we just might put enough pressure on Senate Democrats and the president to actually pass legislation that will begin to solve our problems. If not, Republicans will have provided Americans with a clear choice in November.
5896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: January 11, 2012, 11:18:47 AM
"About the best that can be said about the Republican attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital is that President Obama is going to do the same thing..."

  - The difference is that the next accuser cannot be painted as anti-capitalism, anti-free market or far left when they can point to a conservative standard bearer like Newt Gingrich as the source of their attack.  Our liberal Sen. Amy Klobuchar escaped all attempts to be painted as extreme by showing how Sen John McCain had shared her anti-Republican views in the early 2000s.

"...if somebody who is very wealthy comes in, takes over your company..."

  - In a free society, how does someone 'come in and take over' your company?  Someone help me with that.  How does that happen with a private company, "your company".  And when you took 'your company' public, or when you gave away shares and control to people from far away in exchange for money, what did you think that meant?  (It isn't "your company" or YOU would be the one making that decision.)
5897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics - More Analysis on Daley Departure on: January 11, 2012, 11:00:19 AM
I wonder if the praise heaped on Bill Daley for his 15 minutes of service will buy his silence for the turmoil he witnessed.  Also interesting to note that the Kennedy's would be a more famous example of those 'white Irish Catholic' families of power that Mrs. Obama resents.

Obama’s real reelection problem  (excerpted, more a the link)
By John Feehery - 01/10/12   The Hill

The Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet picked out an interesting morsel in Jodi Kantor’s book about the Obama family:

“When Michelle Obama worked in Mayor Daley’s City Hall in the early 1990s, she was 'distressed' by how a small group of 'white Irish Catholic' families — the Daleys, the Hynes and the Madigans — 'locked up' power in Illinois.

"She particularly resented the way power in Illinois was locked up generation after generation by a small group of families, all white Irish Catholic — the Daleys in Chicago, the Hynes and Madigans statewide.”

Obama White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, one of those hated white Irish Catholics, resigned the same weekend the book’s juiciest tidbits leaked out.

It is probably all just a coincidence, but sometimes coincidences reveal bigger truths.

And the bigger truth is that Bill Daley left the White House because he lost to Valerie Jarrett and to the president’s wife in the battle for the philosophical direction of the Obama White House.

I don’t know if Michelle Obama’s antipathy toward white Irish Catholics finally became too much of a barrier to Daley or not. But I do know that Daley was only ineffective because his boss would not let him be effective.

Bill Daley is a political pragmatist. He cuts deals. Like his father and his brother, he is not a left-wing ideologue; nor is he a Republican in Democratic clothing.

He is a pro-business Democrat, an increasingly rare breed these days in Washington.

Obama is not a pro-business Democrat. His wife is not a pro-business Democrat. They don’t like the business community. They don’t trust the free market. They want to spread wealth around (other people’s wealth, I might add).

It has become increasingly clear over the last several months that Obama has little interest in tacking to the political middle to improve his standing with the broad center of the country.

He has decided that he wants his presidency to mean something different, and he has made the fateful decision that he will govern as a left-wing political populist. That is why he has embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement, why he keeps using class-warfare rhetoric, why he has given up on deal-cutting, why he has decided to run against Congress rather than on his accomplishments.
Ignoring and marginalizing Bill Daley might have pleased the wife and Valerie Jarrett, but Daley’s departure is very bad news for Obama’s hopes for reelection.

Those white Irish Catholics whom Michelle Obama so despises are the key to her husband's campaign success. And getting rid of Bill Daley is one more example of President Obama’s real problem this coming election year.
5898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Selective Reading of the Law on: January 11, 2012, 10:35:12 AM
Obama’s Postmodern Vision
Will we have another four years of his selective reading of the law?

By Victor Davis Hanson    January 11, 2012    National Review

There has been for months a popular parlor game of tallying instances in which President Obama seems to have either ignored or simply bypassed federal law. But what started out as a way of exposing occasional hypocrisy is now getting a little scary.

Most recently, President Obama made several recess appointments — a tactic that as a senator he once criticized — even though Congress was not in recess. In December, the president signed a $1 billion omnibus spending bill, but notified Congress that he might not abide by some of the very provisions he had just signed into law. During the Libya war, Obama felt that bombing Qaddafi’s forces did not really constitute military operations, and therefore he had no need to notify Congress under the War Powers Act.

It is clear that Arizona is not trying to circumvent federal immigration law, but rather is desperately trying to find some way to enforce it, given that the Obama administration has selectively chosen not to do so. In response, the federal government is suing the state of Arizona, even as it assures illegal aliens that they will not be arrested if they have not committed a crime — as if Obama can by himself decide that illegally entering and residing in the United States is not a federal crime in the first place.

President Obama argued that it was constitutional to force citizens to purchase federalized health care, and that all Americans would be subject to his new health-care law — except some 2,000 businesses and organizations that were given politically driven waivers. Obama decided to reverse the legal order of creditors in the bailout of a bankrupt Chrysler Corporation in favor of more politically suitable constituencies. The administration does not like the Defense of Marriage Act, and therefore announced that it won’t enforce it. When a federal judge struck down an Obama- administration ban on new leases for gas and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama for a time ignored the injunction. When a BP oil leak in the Gulf outraged America, the president met with company executives and announced that they had agreed to set up a $20 billion “fund” to pay for imminent damage claims — as if our chief executive now meets with culpable private businesses to assess what he thinks they should pony up to avoid federal retaliation.

Every administration, of course, has constitutional disputes with Congress, the courts, and the public over the exact limits of its power. But in the case of the Obama administration there is a new sort of lawlessness unseen in recent governments. Is that predictable or surprising, given Obama’s own constant references to himself as a former constitutional scholar and community organizer?

Both as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator, Obama blasted as unconstitutional or abuses of presidential power almost all of the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols — Guantanamo, renditions, military tribunals, preventive detention, the Patriot Act — which as president he later embraced or expanded. Apparently, Obama’s own status as an out-of-power senator or an in-power president, and the degree to which such issues were or were not politically useful to his larger agenda, alone determined whether something like renditions or military tribunals was lawful.

Other than the normal explanations of abject hypocrisy and political expediency, why has the Obama administration shown such a disdain for the integrity of the law? In a word, Obama is a postmodernist. That is a trendy word for someone who leaves academia believing that there are not really absolute facts, but merely competing ideas and discourses. In this view, particular ideologies unfortunately gain credibility as establishment icons only from the relative advantage that arises from race, class, and gender biases.

In postmodern jurisprudence, “critical legal theory” postulates that law and politics are inseparable. Those with power call their self-serving rules “the law.” But “laws” are not sacrosanct. Instead, they are mere embedded reflections of wealthy, white, and male privilege — dressed up in some bogus timeless concept of “justice.”

A few critical and progressive minds among the legal technocracy have the ability to spot these fictions. And thus a Barack Obama or an Eric Holder has a duty on our behalf to use his training to make the necessary corrections, even if the rest of us don’t quite fathom what is going on. Federal voting-rights laws, for example, do not mean ensuring that no one intimidates voters. Hardly. They are instead fluid and relative, properly focusing only on those who are not now intimidating voters but whose ancestors might have, while exempting those who now are but whose ancestors might have been intimidated.

Whether Congress is, or is not, in recess, or whether wealthy bondholders should be paid back before working-class union pensioners, or whether some company should or should not be allowed to drill in the Gulf — these and others are moral and political, but not necessarily legal, issues. To the degree that he can, on any given challenge Obama assesses the politics of favoring his constituency of the “poor” and “middle class,” and then uses the necessary legal gymnastics post facto to offer the veneer of lawfulness.

If someone is breaking a federal “law” by entering Arizona illegally from Mexico, there must be a way to make the enforcer of that “law” the real suspect — given that a Sheriff Joe Arpaio is by allegiance of the privileged 1 percent and those whom he arrests most surely are not. Consumers are deemed to need federal help more than do lenders; accordingly, Congress “really” is now in recess. In other words, we are witnessing with this administration the ancient idea of the supposedly exalted ends justifying the somewhat ambiguous means — albeit dressed up in trendy Ivy League legalese and progressive moralizing.

Our postmodern president is not content with just picking and choosing which laws he will follow in advancing his social agenda. The war against the myth of disinterested Western jurisprudence extends also to free-market economics, as we see with the monotonous demonization of the so-called 1 percent and those who make over $200,000 per year. Sometime after January 2009, we learned that the “wealthy” did not gain their riches by a wide variety of what we once thought were legitimate means — luck, inheritance, work, health, intelligence, expertise, experience, education, or an overriding desire for money and status, coupled with an avoidance of classical sins like sloth, crime, and drunkenness.

Rather, we were taught that there was something else going on, something innately unfair in the manner in which we are arbitrarily compensated. In some sense, we are back to the old notion of a labor theory of value (e.g., an hour of working at Starbucks is inherently no less valuable to our society in terms of how much the worker should be paid than an hour crafting a deal at Goldman Sachs). The role, then, of government is not to ensure an equality of opportunity — which is impossible, given inherent and unending race, class, and gender exploitations — but to strive for an equality of result.

That utopian task demands that the best and the brightest in government redistribute capital, or rather use the state to make right what the private sector has distorted. (Of course, no one dares to suggest that Obama himself is cynically interested mostly in power and the delights thereof — and so as a postmodernist he simply constructs these egalitarian stage-sets as a means to enjoy the privileges of the technocratic class that he surrounds himself with.)

Tally up Obama’s early and recent unrehearsed and unguarded quips about wealth — “Spread the wealth”; his regrets that the Supreme Court has not addressed “redistributive change”; his concern that some have not realized that they already have made “enough” money; his warnings that now is not the time for “profit.” That serial message bookends the president’s slurs about millionaires and billionaires, corporate-jet owners, fat-cats, profit-driven doctors, and Vegas and Super Bowl junketeers.

All this unscripted editorializing reflects a recurring theme: Those with superior intelligence and higher moral authority must correct for warped private-sector compensation and human greed. And they can do that by deciding roughly how much each of us deserves to end up with.

In concrete terms, this pop socialism leads Obama to wish to enact more regulations, higher taxes on fewer taxpayers, and more on entitlements. Larger government can absorb health care and also many private-sector companies, as more federal and state workers likewise can even out the playing field. Near-zero interest rates, and renegotiating mortgage or student loans, along with higher deficits, more national debt, and expansionary monetary policy are likewise means to correct the inherent imbalances of the system and counter the greed of a few among us.

It does not matter that much whether, in the attempt to do all that, the better-off must be demonized with crude sloganeering. It does not matter that the poor must be caricatured as Steinbeck’s Joads, starving and poorly clothed, lacking iPhones, $200 sneakers, and big-screen TVs. It does not matter that 20th-century phenomena like National Socialism, Communism, and the European Union — and any other crackpot effort of a self-anointed elite to redistribute wealth and expand the state under the banner either of nationalism, or the global proletariat, or enlightened world citizens — have led only to poverty and chaos, at least for those outside the small exempt managerial class that implements, profits from, and often survives the ensuing disaster.

What makes Barack Obama a different president is not his racial heritage, his liberal outlook, or his mellifluous cadences, but rather the banal idea that the United States is fundamentally in need of this sort of radical change, and that only a select few like himself have the insight and skills necessary to both implement and preside over it. We simply have not seen that redistributive ideology in a president since Jimmy Carter, and then only in part. So far the biggest edge for Obama is his inability to push more of his agenda through first a friendly and now a not-so-friendly Congress — as if to say, “How could I be a redistributionist when they did not let me redistribute as planned?”

The fulfillment of that old vision of mandated equality of result is what the 2012 election is about — nothing more, nothing less.
5899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential - Populism is anti capitalism on: January 11, 2012, 09:54:50 AM
Newt elaborated quite extensively on his anti-capitalism message yesterday and has lost me forever.  (Perry also.)
"I don't think I'm using the language of the Left. I'm using the language of classic American populism," he said on Fox and Friends. "Main Street has always been suspicious of Wall Street."

The ad targets Gingrich opponent and the front-runner Mitt Romney as a predatory capitalist who was “playing the system for a quick buck” during his time at private-equity firm Bain Capital.

The film features poignant interviews with people who lost jobs at companies bought and then later dissolved by Bain. 

“There's a big difference between people who go out to create a company, even if they fail, if they try in the right direction, if they share in the hardships, if they're out there with the workers doing it together, that's one thing,” he said on Fox. “But if somebody who is very wealthy comes in, takes over your company, takes out all the cash and leaves behind the unemployment, I think that's not a model we want to advocate."

Watch the trailer, a story of greed.
5900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Was Forstmann Little (Bain competitor) employing Gingrich as a historian? on: January 09, 2012, 11:12:26 PM
First this: I think the Todd Palin endorsement is significant.  The conservative candidates all wanted Sarah Palin's endorsement.  I think this is her way of announcing that.  It should have been done earlier, while he was on top, instead of the other bunglings he was up to like trashing capitalism.
The attacks from the right on Romney's work at Bain are misplaced; it also turns out Newt worked in the industry:

During Saturday night’s GOP primary debate in New Hampshire, Gingrich said: ”I’m not nearly as enamored of a Wall Street model where you can flip companies, you can go in and have leveraged buyouts, you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers.”

Upon leaving Congress in 1999, the former Speaker joined private equity firm Forstmann Little & Co. as a member of its advisory board.  Forstmann Little was one of the world’s original leveraged buyout firm.
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