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5851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 14, 2008, 09:56:50 AM
David Malpass today: Markets and the Dollar.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120027129559487301.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries

I don't agree 100% but it is the best  I've read explaining the weak market for the dollar and what to do about it. (sorry I can't post the text)
5852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: December 27, 2007, 07:40:23 AM
My top ten reasons that the 'FairTax' is a non-starter.  IMHO you can stop reading after the first sentence of point 1) below which constitutes a total and complete show-stopper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who among us really believes a new tax will solve our problems. As you may have guessed, not me.   - Doug
5853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 19, 2007, 11:47:30 AM
Posting my view and looking forward to Crafty's though I know he has already posted in detail on this in the past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion for me is that our taxes will be lower if we choose an electable proponent of lower marginal rates and fiscal discipline and we will be safer if we SELECTIVELY take battle to our enemies.   
(FYI, I support Fred Thompson)   - Doug
5854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 11, 2007, 10:15:31 AM
'Was there a CIA motive to keep US from striking Iran?'

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

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

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

5855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 10, 2007, 06:16:20 PM
John Bolton's piece here explores the NIE flawed product possibility based on among other things the over-reliance on the most recent information and the pre-existence of bias in the writers.  It's funny how quick people are to trust the conclusions now right as we learn they were wrong last time.  Also wrong were intelligence conclusions in Iraq and they completely missed foretelling other events such as the Iranian revolution, Saddam invading Kuwait and the collapse of the Soviet empire.
5856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: December 07, 2007, 10:27:17 AM
On the political side of environmentalism, here is a top ten hypocrites list from junkscience.com:

The Greenest Hypocrites of 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007

By Steven Milloy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The one thing these honorees all have in common is that their real-life actions belie their carefully crafted green public images. If they don’t take their commitment seriously, why should you?
--
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
5857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 07, 2007, 10:16:07 AM
Wesbury is right on the money IMO. While I like low interest rates and as an exporter I like a weak dollar, taking the Fed rates to artificially low levels for economic stimulus would be to repeat a pattern that causes them to go up later to punitive levels and risk future stagflation.

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

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

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

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

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

p.s. Here is a link to Wesbury's weekly column.  He posts every Mondays afternoon from what I have seen.  http://www.ftportfolios.com/Retail/Commentary/CommentaryArchiveList.aspx?CommentaryTypeCode=MMO&CommentaryCategoryCode=ECONOMIC_RESEARCH 
5858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues - Kyo-Two on: December 06, 2007, 01:34:28 PM
"Capitalism had once been the enemy because it was alleged to make people poor. Now it was the enemy because of the alleged side effects of making them rich."

http://www.financialpost.com/analysis/story.html?id=eec03f41-5fa7-41b9-b179-614151eaf15e&k=87348

Road to Bali

Peter Foster, Financial Post Published: Thursday, December 06, 2007

The fate of the Earth hangs in the balance in Bali, but the issue is not whether humanity will succumb to a "climate crisis," or how the international community might craft a successor to the tattered Kyoto Accord (Let's call it KyoTwo). The real theme of this United Nations gabfest -- like that of its 12 predecessors, and of the hundreds, if not thousands, of related meetings --is whether globalization and trade liberalization will be allowed to continue, with a corresponding increase in wealth, health and welfare, or whether the authoritarian enemies of freedom (who rarely if ever recognize themselves as such) will succeed in using environmental hysteria to undermine capitalism and increase their Majesterium. Any successor to Kyoto will be rooted in hobbling rich economies, increasing the poor world's resentment, unleashing environmental trade warfare, and blanketing the globe with rules and regulations that benefit only rulers and regulators. Bali is not about climate; it symbolizes the continued assault on freedom by those who seek -- or pander to -- political power under the guise of concern for humanity.

Just at the point where Marxism was being consigned to the dustbin of history, the more or less concealed power lust that had fed it found a new cause in the environment. The fact that the UN's 1992 Rio conference followed hard on the collapse of the Soviet Union represented almost the passing of a poisoned baton. Capitalism had once been the enemy because it was alleged to make people poor. Now it was the enemy because of the alleged side effects of making them rich. The emissions of carbon-based industrial society would lead to a climate in turmoil:We would be beset by Biblical plagues of floods, droughts and monster hurricanes.

This simplistic narrative depended on carbon dioxide being the main driver of climate. Scientists who pointed that there were likely other more important factors, that climate science was in its infancy and that earth's climate had varied dramatically long before the invention of the steam, internal combustion or jet engine, were not scientifically refuted; they were howled down as "deniers" or industry shills.

The environmental left, centred in the UN, has achieved stunning success in building and pushing the climate change/sustain-ability bandwagon. They have done this first by funding, then hijacking, scientific research via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They have also promoted and allowed access to an ever-proliferating group of activist NGOs (Bali, significantly, is overrun by the non-elected "representatives" of scores of radical organizations, who have in turn forced similar numbers of industry representatives to follow them). NGOs have also had great success in pushing their alarmist message through a sympathetic media and thus --along with more direct lobbying--in achieving grossly disproportionate influence with democratic politicians. "Progressive" pols, meanwhile, have embraced environmental alarmism because it gives a much-needed boost to their flagging relevance.

Climate-change alarmism couldn't be presented as simply a new justification for power-seeking, so it had to be cloaked--as social-ism has always been cloaked, both consciously and unconsciously -- in concern for "the poor." Addressing climate change has always been linked in the UN script with Third World development, even though it in fact represents the greatest threat to such development. Nevertheless, the prospect of more international redistribution has meant that poor countries' corrupt and/or incompetent governments have become enthusiastic supporters of the Kyoto "process."

The rapid and unexpected explosion of economic growth -- and emissions -- in China and India has created a wrinkle. The United States and Canada claim that the ballooning emissions of these prospective economic superpowers mean that they must be part of any "solution." China and India, by contrast, assert --encouraged by their "poor" colleagues in the Third World bloc -- that since this "problem" was created by the developed countries, the developed countries must deal with it.

Bali will see nothing but posturing and preening, "tough" negotiations, and an agreement to talk further, in yet more exotic locations. But we should remember that the object of the exercise is not to deal practically with the problems of poverty, or to realistically address the challenges of extreme weather, whether caused by humans or otherwise. Bjorn Lomborg has eloquently pointed out why Kyoto-style approaches represent a very poor return on investment, and why we would be much better to deal directly with the specific threats of drought, flooding, malaria or hurricane damage, and with the broader issue of how to promote development. But that criticism misses the real significance of Kyoto and KyoTwo. They are not about effectively addressing specific problems, they are about exploiting ignorance about climate science, and continuing to demonize capitalism, in order to make ecocrats feel good, make others feel bad, pad incomes, and expand travel schedules.

Democratic governments have no choice but to cater to the ignorance/alarm/hypocrisy engendered in their electorates. This catering in turn reflects greater or lesser degrees of cynicism, skepticism, or moralistic bloviation.

The Australian delegation was feted on the first day of Bali because the subcontinent's new government chose at last to sign on to Kyoto, even though the agreement lay in ruins, and would have had virtually zero impact on the climate anyway. Canada's Environment Minister John Baird -- who must cope with the fact that his Liberal predecessors signed Kyoto without any plan or intention of fulfilling their obligations-- must sing from the U.N. hymnbook while keeping a firm hand on the nation's collective wallet. And preparing for the next meeting.
5859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: December 04, 2007, 09:19:23 AM
The new NIE is a very interesting development and Stratfor covers it as well as anywhere I have seen.  If an agency reports a conclusion totally opposite of what they reported 2 years ago, how do we know it is accurate now and wrong then?  Also, why do they conclude that the nuclear weapons program was ended because of diplomatic efforts and sanctions when it could have been ended, as Stratfor points out, because of a certainty that it would have been blown up militarily by the Israelis or Americans. Thirdly I do not assume that the biases within the agency reporting are in lockstep with the powers within the administration.  Leaking and undermining policy is also part of what they do.

Consequences of this will be interesting.  Every time Ahmadinejad threatened to blow up the region and redraw the middle east map, oil prices went up on fear and uncertainty.  Now that we 'know' he is rational and peace-seeking, oil price should plummet (kidding).
5860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: December 03, 2007, 05:54:37 PM
Anyone remember  Kelo v. New London, 2005? It was one of the worst supreme court decisions in history. Kelo allowed government to take private property to give to other private property purposes and worse that local elected officials have unique local knowledge so courts shouldn't make judgment on those decisions.  The public good can be as simple as higher property taxes collected after re-development or that new homes are more attractive to look at.

After the fake-emergency to get the  real owners out against their will 2-3 years ago, the project is still delayed. http://www.theday.com/re.aspx?re=95bf73ca-9e07-41a3-968a-f9d9cf6b0563

Here is the link to the decision. I recommend a read of the dissent by Clarence Thomas: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=04-108
5861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 28, 2007, 10:48:44 PM
A quick comment on the most recent posts here in the next President's thread:

I agree with the observation about Mike Huckabee.  He has nothing to lose; he is gaining a national audience and prominence that will be valuable no matter what he does next.  They always say that all 100 Senators deal with national issues everyday and see themselves as the perfect next President but I refuse to believe that every governor of Arkansas thinks it is realistically the next step for him.  The fact that it actually happened one President ago makes it even more improbable IMO.

Excellent piece about the two front runners, Hillary and Rudy, having already faced each other in a campaign; it's a story long overdue.  The electorate in NY is different than the electorate in the USA, but it still it reminds me that Rudy is not necessarily the most electable Republican.  In some ways he doesn't offer enough contrast, he targets some of the same voters and he carries some of the same flaws.  Hillary's people are experts on Rudy and ready to go.  By now all Republican consultants are experts on Hillary so that is not as big of a deal.

Thanks for posting the Fred-friendly piece with the WSJ praising his tax plan. He had a rather contentious sitting with Chris Wallace Sunday morning that I watched.  Chris asked about him dropping in the polls and about some negative comments that Fox commentators had made and Fred responded quoting another source, National Review, who had given him high marks for being the only candidate with a good plan for tackling the entitlement problems that we face.  Now add a great tax plan to that.  My first reaction was that he dodged the poll question but after pondering it I realize he answered with what he is doing to compete for the vote and to set an agenda for if he should win.  As disappointing as the pundits say he is doing, he has consistently stayed in second nationwide which is the best place possible (for those who aren't in first).

Last, my comment on one more post going back.  I didn't like the political calculator.  I answered it rather impatiently the first time through and it told me my candidate was Huckabee.  I didn't like that so I went back and filled in with more detail marking high importance on my key issues and remembering which side of 'net-neutrality' I was on.  Then it came back with a big smiling face of Mitt Romney. Looking further I found out it had the exact same score to the one hundredth of a point for second place, my own personal favorite,  Fred Thompson.  I just think there are subtle differences and personal preferences that don't come through on 'yes, no or unsure' choices on big issues. JMHO.
5862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 28, 2007, 12:21:49 AM
Commenting on the WSJ piece 'Condi's Road to Damascas': I was once a big fan of Condi.  Now I am undecided and it may take a long time to sort out her time as a lot of subtle things are attempted and handled behind the scenes.  I think the comparison to Pelosi is off-base.  After all, Pelosi was accused of pretending she was Secretary of State.  Condi is Sec of State and she summoned the Syrian leadership to come here along with the other leaders.

Bret Stephens contends that the U.S. has no carrots and presumably no sticks to offer Syria.  We don't know that.  Places like Syria, Iran and N.Korea must wonder what this administration has left to do with more than a year still remaining and the war in Iraq starting to go better.

There are many publicly unanswered questions that remain from the recent super-secret Israeli attack inside Syria.  Israel and perhaps the U.S. could have something in terms of evidence on Syria even if that attack missed its target.  Rumored was nuclear material from North Korea.  Also rumored was a portion of Saddam's missing goods.  If not the U.S., the Israelis perhaps are still ready willing and able to re-adjust and hit again.

I like to think that our leaders have more information than we do so these meetings are difficult to judge.  A chance for the Americans to pass a personal message to Assad might have value to us.  From Assad's point of view, even if the information the Americans possess lacks perfect accuracy, that didn't save Assad's executed Sunni Arab neighbor.
5863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: November 25, 2007, 12:58:37 PM
Referendum date is Dec. 2.  Yes vote will enact make 69 revisions to Venezuela charter that expand the power of Chavez, including unlimited re-election.  Chavez says: Only a 'Traitor' Will Vote No: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8T3M1P00&show_article=1

Reuters reports independent poll that has the referendum down by 49% 'traitors to 39% Chavez enablers: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN2333983120071124?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=22&sp=true
Links courtesy of Drudge Report.  I really haven't seen this covered yet in the mainstream media.  Chavez attempting to become a permanent leader with dictator powers and cheating in elections is hardly news in their opinion.
--
I predict the ten point no-vote lead is not good enough.  In a previous referendum independent reports had Chavez losing by 60-40% in the exit polls but the official Chavez voting machines tallied it up as a Chavez win at 60-40%, so exit polls were off by down 20 to up 20 - a 40% swing.  "International observer" Jimmy Carter instantly verified the results and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly gave it the U.S. stamp of approval.  Oh well.
5864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 22, 2007, 11:18:18 PM
Here is an interview yesterday by Human Events, a conservative publication, with Mitt Romney covering all the large issues:  http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=23541
5865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 21, 2007, 11:17:19 PM
In mid December last time, a month later than now, Howard Dean was measuring the west wing for drapes and John Kerry was dull and unexciting.  Okay, bad analogy.  Anyway, back to issues and candidates:

I watched Fred Thompson on Meet the Press a couple of weeks ago and found him to be wise, thoughtful, independent and consistently conservative. (I watched Obama the following week.)  Here is Fred in a different interview today in Iowa:

Fred Thompson on Bloomberg TV

PETER COOK: Let me ask you first of all, if I could, about the economy. You have said that national security is the number-one issue facing the country right now. Where does the economy rank after that?

MR. THOMPSON: Number two, yeah.

MR. COOK: And what is it right now you see in the U.S. economy? Are you confident in the state of the economy? Not everyone is.

MR. THOMPSON: Yeah, I am. I think that we - the underlying factors there that the experts look at, as best I can tell, are strong. We are part of a good world economy now, and I think as long as our fiscal policies and our monetary policies make sense, that we'll continue to be strong. I think it's going to be a very bad time over these next couple of years for a tax increase, and that is what concerns me most.

MR. COOK: President Bush's handling of the economy? What sort of grade would you give President Bush?

MR. THOMPSON: I think that he would get an A as far as tax cuts are concerned. And I think he'd probably get a C-plus as far as spending is concerned. I wish he'd done better on the spending side of the ledger. I think he's doing quite good now with some of the bills that are coming across his desk. But we've got some long-term problems that he has tried to highlight in times past in terms of Social Security that are going to overtake us if we don't do better on the mandatory side of things. They don't just have to do with the everyday fiscal policies but have to do with the locked-in entitlement programs that we're facing.

So as we're concerned day-to-day with what we're doing to affect the economy in terms of fiscal policies, we have to really understand that a little bit further out, we have some drastic things that are going to happen to our economy if we don't get a handle on our mandatory spending.

MR. COOK: I know you've talked about some of these entitlement programs. You were the last one into the race, yet you've been given credit for being the first to talk about Social Security. And you've highlighted your own plan to deal with Social Security over the long term. Yet there's still some experts in Washington and elsewhere who say Medicare is actually the bigger problem right now. How are you going to fix Medicare?

MR. THOMPSON: So we hop right off into that? Medicare is a bigger problem. There's no question about it. I think that we would probably do ourselves a lot of good in addressing the Medicare problem if we could prove that we could deal with the lesser problem of Social Security. Social Security is going to go bankrupt. I mean, you consider it a lesser problem because it's somewhat easier to fix, although nobody else has stepped up to apply a fix other than myself.

But once we do that, then we need to do things like the hard choices. I think that we're going to have to ask the more affluent to pay a bigger share of the cost in the future for one thing. There's some other features of our Medicare program that -

MR. COOK: But you're not talking about a tax increase there or you are?

MR. THOMPSON: No, I'm talking about means testing some of our benefits. The deductibility, you know, at what point the person has to start kicking into his own retirement solutions - those are the issues I think that we're going to have to look at first. Tax increases, of course, always the first thing the Democrats look at. They want to means test everything. And 5 percent of our people now are paying about 60 percent of our taxes, so I don't know how progressive they want it to be, but they're in danger of hurting the economy; they're in danger of hurting small businesses and individual entrepreneurs if they keep going the tax increase route.

So we have to look at the spending side of the ledger and doing some common sense things now before we have to really hurt anybody, instead of waiting until later when we'll have to hurt everybody when we'll have drastic benefit cuts or astronomical tax increases or astronomical deficits and borrowing from abroad.

MR. COOK: You've talked already about taxes, and Democrats plans to raise taxes, as you and other Republicans suggest. What about your own differences with Republicans on tax policy? Rudy Giuliani is leading in national polls; Mitt Romney leading here in Iowa. How does Fred Thompson differ from those two when it comes to tax policy?

MR. THOMPSON: I think I'm the only one, for example, who has actively and specifically promoted a corporate tax cut. People have been talking around the edges about that for some time, but I came forth a considerable time ago and talked about it in specific detail. I said that -

MR. COOK: What's a corporate tax rate that is appropriate in Fred Thompson's mind?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I look at what's going on with regard to our international competitors, and I see that 28 percent would be the norm instead of the 35 (percent) that we have now. We have the second real highest tax rate in the industrialized world. We're only one of two countries that hasn't lowered its tax rate since 1994. All of our competitors are doing that. I mean, they've caught on to the game. And why we haven't done that, I don't know. I see today that some officials in the Treasury once again are saying that we need to do that. And it looks like they're getting closer to a proposal.

MR. COOK: They've also talked about eliminating loopholes, if you will - some of the tax breaks that companies enjoy in exchange for lowering that corporate tax rate. Would you support that?

MR. THOMPSON: No, no, that's what Charles Rangel, I think, is promoting. I'm not sure that the Treasury Department.

MR. COOK: Mr. Secretary Paulson has suggested something along those lines as well.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, today, from what I heard - I didn't see any proposals for offsets so far. I don't think you need to approach it from that standpoint. You're going to have to do something about competitiveness. You're going to have to do something about economic growth. And raising taxes at the same time that you're cutting taxes I don't think promotes either one of those things. So I don't believe in the static accounting that goes on in Washington. I don't believe that you have to raise revenue every time you cut taxes. I think that we're still at a level now where a tax cut in the right way and the right amount is beneficial for the overall economy in terms of economic growth. And as far as the corporate tax rate is concerned, it's certainly beneficial to us from a competitiveness standpoint. We just stick out like a sore thumb in terms of the high corporate tax rate.

Other than that, a lot of us are saying pretty much the same thing now in terms of lower taxes. I guess the difference is that I had eight years on the national scene with regard to national tax issues, where I was saying the same thing eight years ago, 10 years ago, 12 years ago. When I was in the Senate, we had a chance to pass about four major tax cuts including the one in 2001, which I think in large part helped lay the groundwork for the prosperity that we have right now. So I was walking the walk back sometime ago before others were even talking the talk, even though on most things, except the corporate tax cut, a lot of us are saying the same things today.

MR. COOK: All right, are we going to see more specifics from your campaign over the next few days with regard to tax policy, and do you care to share any with us right now?

MR. THOMPSON: No, we've got a couple of details to work out yet, but I think it's fair to say over the next several days we'll be putting something out that's specific along those lines, and especially will involve a corporate tax cut.

MR. COOK: Let me ask you about the question of income inequality. There are Democrats on Capitol Hill right now still talking about the Bush tax cuts and how they unfairly were tilted towards the wealthy. They'd like to remedy that, at least some of the proposals on Capitol Hill. Do you believe income inequality is a problem in America right now?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, the Democrats always want to focus on the redistribution of wealth. And they don't recognize the fact that people come up through the system in our country and they come from the lower end to the high end - and go often times to the higher end. And the overwhelming majority of people move one direction or another.

And in a free and open economy and in a growing economy, people have the opportunity to make a determination for themselves as to how far they want to go economically in this country. That's not to say that there's some people that don't need some help and some people that can't help themselves; and we have ways to address those particular problems. But you can't just say that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer in this country. I don't think that that's happening that way. I think all levels are moving up.

The IRS just did a study not too long ago, as I recall, that showed just from the income tax forms that they traced back and looked at over a period of time that people were moving from lower income levels to higher income levels throughout their career in this country, which is what you would expect. So I'm more interested in policies that promote that, that let a small-town boy with very meager prospects - one might think - who grew up in a little town like I did and started working in a factory to have the opportunity to live the American dream, as so many of us have. That's what I want to promote today.

MR. COOK: Let me ask you about a couple other issues, if I could, domestic issues. Energy policy - I looked on your website and there are references to energy policies. There are not a lot of specifics there. I'd like to ask you what as president Fred Thompson would do to try and end America's addiction to oil. And I'll start with one specific. Would you support higher vehicle fuel economy standards?

MR. THOMPSON: No, again, taxes are not the way to go. I don't think that - the cost-benefit relationship is not there, which is what I think we always have to look at. I think in terms of our energy policy in general that we're not going to immediately turn our addiction to oil around. We might as well get over that notion. What we've got to do is have greater diversification, working more toward independence and less dependence on the wrong parts of the world.

There's such problem spots like the Middle East, right now. That's going to involve several things. We're going to have to start doing several things better than we have in the past. I think we're going to have to use our own resources more than we have. We can do that -

MR. COOK: But setting higher fuel standards is not one of those steps?

MR. THOMPSON: No, I don't think so. I think that the effect of that, what that would do to the consuming public in terms of the driving habits, what it would do in terms of the increased money that they would be having to pay, what that would do to the economy, what effect that would have on other parts of the economy, I just don't see the cost-benefit there. But I do see greater protection in a more economic environmentally friendly way than we've been able to do in the past of our own resources. It can't solve all of our problem, but certainly part of it. We're making headway, I think, with regard to the cleaner coal technology.

I think nuclear has got to be put back on the table, alternative, renewables, all of those things have got to be put on the table and we have got to do all of those things simultaneously I think in order to become more diversified.

MR. COOK: Related issue, global warming, how big a challenge is global warming? How big a problem is it, do you think?

MR. THOMPSON: I don't think anybody knows yet exactly how big it is. I think it's something that we have got to get answers to. We know that the globe is warming. We don't know whether or not that is part of a cycle. The -

MR. COOK: Do you think humans are responsible?

MR. THOMPSON: The earth has cooled in times past. This could be a part of a warming cycle that we will come out of some day. I don't know how long it would be. We don't know what extent - undoubtedly humans are contributing to it, but we don't know how much and what percentage. And we do know that unless we get other countries growing large economies, like China and India, to cooperate in any solutions that it's not going to be economically realistic for us to try to do things that would harm our own economy and have very little effect unless they join with us in some kind of a solution. But we have got to do everything that we can to get the answers to these questions, to see the nature of the problem, the extent of it, and what we can realistically do about it.

MR. COOK: Immigration, I know you're up with an ad here in Iowa citing your own views on the immigration issue and the proposal that came out of the Senate a couple of months ago. Again, talk to me about the - contrast your - your background, your history on this issue with that of your opponents, most notably, Mr. Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, the mayor and my backgrounds are in sharp contrast on some points. Nineteen ninety-six, I was passing a bill outlawing sanctuary cities. The mayor went to court to try to overturn that bill, and fortunately, he lost that lawsuit. Sanctuary cities were outlawed, but we still have them in this country in violation of federal law.

I simply think we are in high-tech-growing economy. We have an economic competitiveness issue that education is going to have to solve in part. It is not going to be in our long-term interests to be bringing millions and millions of people in this country who are lower-tech and lower-educated. That is the economic part of it. There is also a fairness part to people who have played by the rules to become a part of our society. They should not be disrespected. Then there is the national security part. A small amount of material in the wrong kind of hands can destroy an American city. We have virtually open borders. So we have to secure our borders and enforce our laws and stop providing inducements for people to come here such as sanctuary cities and driver's licenses and things of that nature.

MR. COOK: As you know, there are a lot of businesses out there who say they need these workers right now; this is important to the U.S. economy, the workers who are here even right now. If you can secure the borders, what happens to the 12 million illegal immigrants already here?

MR. THOMPSON: Enforcement by attrition. Over a period of time, if you enforce the law, if you secure the border, if you require employers to use a system that they have now called e-Verify so that they can readily determine whether or not someone is legal or illegal. If you do away with sanctuary cities, as is really the federal law, and stop providing inducements for people to come here, over a period of time, the numbers will be moving in the right direction and the problem will greatly rectify itself.

MR. COOK: Let me ask you if I could some political questions before we wrap this up here, specifically your take on what is going on in New Hampshire. I know there is a new poll out today that suggests you may be down to 4 percent support there. What is going on in New Hampshire? Are you putting all of the marbles here in Iowa?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I'm putting a lot of marbles in Iowa, and we've been spending a lot of time in South Carolina where we are doing very well, usually running first in most of the polls there. We're going to have to wait and see. Every day is a new day. You know, Mayor Giuliani is doing well in the national polls but I'm running second in most of the national polls to Mayor Giuliani. So we're about where we need to be overall right now. We have some strength in places and some weaknesses in places and every day is a new day; you just have to do the best you can. It's very, very hard to handicap these races anymore, especially in a place like Iowa. Howard Dean was the odds on favorite in mid-December, and of course that didn't work out too well for him. And you can say the same thing about some of the early primary states in other parts of the country too. So who knows what to make of it.
5866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 19, 2007, 10:50:59 PM
Ron Paul has been the anti-Republican in the race so I am surprised they think his errors and misfortunes hurt the cause of where the party ought to be going.  All the fireworks in the debates seemed to be about Paul opposing Republican foreign policies.

OTOH, I heard a Ron Paul radio commercial traveling in Las Vegas yesterday.  His don't-tax-tips bill may never pass, but the radio spot is smart.  I'm sure there is a huge number of service workers in that market and the message broadcast is that they are being unfairly and excessively taxed.  His anti-war message is not very unique but his ant-tax message could be the first that many people hear. 
5867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: November 19, 2007, 03:36:17 PM
I found the previous post here about Saddam's WMD to be the most helpful so far.  They outline a scenario that is believable and backed up in bits and pieces, though they admit without a single smoking gun.  New information makes the administration and coalition look bad, but as they write, correct by accident.   They also prove false IMO the refrain of the critics - that Saddam posed no threat.

The captured documents in need of translation had to be pulled from the internet site when it turned out they contained extremely precise information on how to build nuclear weapons.  I'm sure more details on all of this will emerge as more translations are done.

It is quite scary that we still don't have enough translators to handle our intelligence and informational requirements for security.  Meanwhile our troops are still in harm's way without all the information available that they need.  No widespread attempt is yet being made that I am aware of to teach our troops Arabic, either at home or while serving in Iraq.

The information on Syria is interesting, but certainly not conclusive.  I remember the Debka reports from back then.  This report claims that Israel recently hit the wrong spot, but they seem to have something on Syria who remained amazingly silent about the attack.

To be continued, I'm sure.
5868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: November 19, 2007, 03:11:36 PM
As George Will wrote, the stock market has predicted nine of the last three recessions.  I agree with Crafty on his great depression summary.  I don't completely understand the low dollar period we are now experiencing.  Nor do I understand Pat Buchanan's dislike of free trade: "given their free-trade fanaticism and free-spending ways, that fate would not be undeserved." What qualifies a private freedom to do business to be lumped in with reckless public spending as a cause of economic disaster?  Buchanan has never adequately explained that, in my view.
5869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 14, 2007, 11:36:48 AM
This Asia Times article (below) makes an amazing observation on Iran demographics.  The fertility rate in Iran has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of  2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5.  One tenth of what it was.

First my own quick comments on the previous two posts in the Iran thread: 1) The Chinese visiting Iran is definitely interesting.  We will know how it went when it comes time for China to vote on sanctions. But China's vote will tell more about the state of Chinese relations with the US than about Iran's nuclear program.  2) Iran President 'Nut-job' may call protesters "traitors", call for wiping Israel off the map, deny the holocaust, build explosive devices that kill Americans, pursue nuclear weapons, etc. but the mainstream here didn't take notice until he denied there are gays in Iran. Go figure.
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http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IK13Ak01.html

Why Iran is dying for a fight   (excerpt)

Iran's demographic catastrophe in the making, I have long argued, impels Tehran to stake its claim for regional empire quickly, while it still has the manpower to do so. Now one of the world's most attentive students of the global South, Prof Philip Jenkins, has taken notice of Iran's population bust and come to a conclusion diametrically opposite to mine. Writing in the November 9 New Republic, he opines, "there's a good chance that [Iran's] declining fertility rates will usher in a new era of stability...".

It pains me to take Prof Jenkins to the woodshed - I gave his last book a glowing review [1] - but it does not seem to have occurred to him that things which make peace inevitable in the long run may propel countries into war in the short run. The textbook example (if we had a competent textbook) would be France in 1914, which sought a quick war because its falling birth rate ensured that it could not beat Germany unless it did so immediately.

Population decline eventually leads to stability, but not necessarily by a direct path.

Before Iran is buried, it will have occasion to command the undivided attention of the West. The rulers of the Persian pocket-empire know better than Jenkins that today's soldiers will become pensioners a generation hence, turning a belligerent and ambitious country into an impoverished, geriatric ruin. They believe that Iran has a last opportunity for greatness, on which they will stake their last dinar. I summarized the evidence in a series of essays in this space, including The demographics of radical Islam (Aug 23, 2005) and Demographics and Iran's imperial design (Sept 13, 2005).

As Jenkins reports, Iran's fertility rate has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of 2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5. In other words, Iran presently has a bulge of military-age men as cannon-fodder. In a generation it will not be able to fill the ranks.
5870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 13, 2007, 11:30:35 PM
Cloudy Days on the Global Warming Front  (from powerlineblog.com)

Advocates of anthropogenic global warming want you to believe that the science is settled and there is nothing left to debate. But this is the opposite of the truth; in fact, climate science is in its infancy and virtually every proposition relating to it is controversial.

A case in point: the computer programs that tell us that human activity will lead to catastrophic warming assume that warmer temperatures will give rise to more high-altitude clouds, which in turn will trap heat in the earth's atmosphere and create a positive feedback loop. Recent research suggests, however, that increasing temperatures will have the opposite effect, reducing the incidence of high-altitude clouds and thereby creating a safety valve rather than reinforcing the original warming. The research was published in Geophysical Research Letters by Roy W. Spencer, William D. Braswell, John R. Christy and Justin Hnilo:

    The widely accepted (albeit unproven) theory that manmade global warming will accelerate itself by creating more heat-trapping clouds is challenged this month in new research from The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

    Instead of creating more clouds, individual tropical warming cycles that served as proxies for global warming saw a decrease in the coverage of heat-trapping cirrus clouds, says Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist in UAHuntsville's Earth System Science Center.

    "All leading climate models forecast that as the atmosphere warms there should be an increase in high altitude cirrus clouds, which would amplify any warming caused by manmade greenhouse gases," he said. "That amplification is a positive feedback. What we found in month-to-month fluctuations of the tropical climate system was a strongly negative feedback. As the tropical atmosphere warms, cirrus clouds decrease. That allows more infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere to outer space."

    As the Earth's surface warms - due to either manmade greenhouse gases or natural fluctuations in the climate system - more water evaporates from the surface. Since more evaporation leads to more precipitation, most climate researchers expected increased cirrus cloudiness to follow warming.

    "To give an idea of how strong this enhanced cooling mechanism is, if it was operating on global warming, it would reduce estimates of future warming by over 75 percent," Spencer said. "The big question that no one can answer right now is whether this enhanced cooling mechanism applies to global warming."

    "The role of clouds in global warming is widely agreed to be pretty uncertain," Spencer said. "Right now, all climate models predict that clouds will amplify warming. I'm betting that if the climate models' 'clouds' were made to behave the way we see these clouds behave in nature, it would substantially reduce the amount of climate change the models predict for the coming decades."

    The team analyzed six years of data from four instruments aboard three NASA and NOAA satellites. The researchers tracked precipitation amounts, air and sea surface temperatures, high and low altitude cloud cover, reflected sunlight, and infrared energy escaping out to space.

    When they tracked the daily evolution of a composite of fifteen of the strongest intraseasonal oscillations they found that although rainfall and air temperatures would be rising, the amount of infrared energy being trapped by the cloudy areas would start to decrease rapidly as the air warmed. This unexpected behavior was traced to the decrease in cirrus cloud cover.

    "Global warming theory says warming will generally be accompanied by more rainfall," Spencer said. "Everyone just assumed that more rainfall means more high altitude clouds. That would be your first guess and, since we didn't have any data to suggest otherwise ..."

    There are significant gaps in the scientific understanding of precipitation systems and their interactions with the climate, he said. "At least 80 percent of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect is due to water vapor and clouds, and those are largely under the control of precipitation systems.

    "Until we understand how precipitation systems change with warming, I don't believe we can know how much of our current warming is manmade. Without that knowledge, we can't predict future climate change with any degree of certainty."

That's a remarkable quote: "Everyone just assumed" that more rainfall means more high altitude clouds. That is the level of scientific certainty on which claims of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming rest.
5871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 13, 2007, 10:31:57 AM
First, regarding the previous post - Thompson v. Obama is exactly the matchup I'd like to see.
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Here is a TIME magazine piece on Hillary that I found to be sympathetic, but somewhat objective.  A little long (4 pages) and dull, and a little bit enlightening.  Then at the end they strangely predict Edwards will win Iowa on electability because he is "the white guy".

What Hillary Stands For
Wednesday, Nov. 07, 2007 By JOE KLEIN
http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1681670,00.html
5872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: November 08, 2007, 11:57:59 AM
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTdhNDFkODBjY2Y2M2I1MGFlZTY3NTM0ZjkyNDAwZGM=

Oil Hydra
Is there an easy way out of the mess we've gotten ourselves into?

By Victor Davis Hanson

Oil is nearly $100 a barrel. Gas may soon reach $4 a gallon. And Americans are being bitten in almost every way imaginable by this insidious oil hydra.

Two billion people in China and India are now eager consumers. They want the cars, gadgets, and lifestyle that Westerners have claimed as a birthright for a half-century. Their growing energy appetites mean that the international petroleum market may remain tight, even if Americans — who use almost twice as much oil per day as China and India put together — cut back on imported energy.

The Middle East is raking in billions each week. At best, our so-called friends in cash-laden Saudi Arabia subsidize fundamentalist mosques and hate-filled madrassas worldwide. At worst, our enemies in petrol-rich Iran are after the bomb, send weapons into Iraq to kill Americans and fund Hezbollah jihadists.

War in Iraq, rumors of fighting in the near-future in Iran and tension on the West Bank only panic markets, raise oil prices and further enrich our grinning enemies.

The nearly half-trillion dollars we will soon pay for imported oil does a lot more than prop up Russia's Vladimir Putin, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The petrodollar drain also contributes to our trade deficits, falling dollar and a general demoralization of the American people.

Our oil habit not only makes us dependent on some creepy suppliers, but we look like fools as we work nonstop to hand over our earnings to those who are rich by an accident of sitting atop oil someone else found and developed.

There is talk in this country of a gradual transition to alternative fuels, solar power, wind machines, plug-in electric cars, and nuclear power. Supposedly Americans will soon be less dependent on imported oil — while helping to slow global warming — as we are weaned off our fossil-fuel addiction.

But let's talk about the present: If oil continues to climb, ultimately, it will change our very way of life. Hard-pressed families will shell out thousands more a year in direct transportation and heating and cooling costs, and more still as consumer prices inflate.

It may have always been unwise for commuters to buy large SUVs and V8 supercab trucks. Now, though, we may reach the point where these pricey huge vehicles will sputter to a halt. Indebted Americans will still shell out monthly payments to pay off their parked dinosaurs, only to drive them for emergency or ceremonial occasions.

Also expect rising popular anger at an asleep-at-the-wheel government that for the last 20 years should have been doing a lot more to mandate conservation, subsidize alternate fuels, encourage nuclear power and open up oil fields offshore and in Alaska.

Instead, doctrinaire free-market purists and radical environmentalists, hand in glove, for years have thwarted both conservation and exploration.

True, in a perfect world, the market would teach Detroit not to build gas-hungry big cars. Yet in the here and now, we are needlessly burning scarce fuel as too many 7,000-pound mammoths deliver single 180-pound drivers to work — while the auto industry continues on its path to irrelevance.

Meanwhile, green politicians may not want messy oilrigs off their coasts, or tankers up north among the ice and polar bears. But so far very few of them have sworn off jet travel, nice cars or ample homes.

Oil companies claim that they are only passing along escalating costs from overseas suppliers over which they have no control. But around a third of our oil is pumped here at home.

Think about it: The cost to extract oil from existing older wells is relatively fixed. For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, oil prices had been steady at between $20 and $30 a barrel (when adjusted for inflation) — and domestic oil companies did quite well. So now at near $100 a barrel, these corporations are raking additional profits of over $60 a barrel — potentially a domestic windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Is there an easy way out of the mess we've gotten ourselves into?

Maybe a Silicon Valley genius inventor or entrepreneur will step forward with a breakthrough new energy source.

Maybe our government will start a crash project on the scale of the Manhattan Project to conserve and produce more fuels.

Maybe China and India will consider radical conservation measures.

Maybe countries like Iraq, Libya, and Russia will start reinvesting in their oil infrastructures and double production.

Maybe the Middle East will finally settle down and soothe jittery oil speculators.

Those are too many maybes to wait for while our way of life hangs in the balance. It is past time to demand from our presidential candidates, as well as the current government, exactly when and how they plan to slay this many-headed oil monster.
5873  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 02, 2007, 08:51:04 AM
Saw this on local news last night. Police tasers are equipped with cameras that help the officer document the scene.

http://wcco.com/local/taser.cameras.minneapolis.2.480654.html

Mpls. Police Use Tasers Equipped With Cameras
Reporting
Caroline Lowe
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) ― The Minneapolis Police Department has become one of the latest law enforcement agencies to use Tasers equipped with cameras. The new Tasers have the cameras mounted on the end of them. Once an officer turns on his Taser, the camera starts recording audio and video of the encounter.

The MPD released video to WCCO-TV from several incidents which occurred in recent months. They included a confrontation with a man armed with a knife at a pool hall, a domestic call where a man holds a crying baby hostage and several encounters where the suspects cooperated after the Taser was turned on but before the officer used the electronic jolt.

"More often than not it does give us a very good picture of the scene just prior to Taser deployment," said Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Scott Gerlicher.

Gerlicher also believes the Taser cameras will increase community confidence in how the MPD handles encounters with suspects.

"We think it affords us a lot better accountability for the officers and for the public to know that we can go back and look at the video and see under the circumstances with which the Taser was deployed," said Gerlicher.

The MPD currently has cameras on 10 of the department's 200 Tasers. Officials hope to eventually provide Taser cameras to all officers on patrol.

The MPD Taser coordinator, Officer Adam Grogove, invited WCCO-TV reporter Caroline Lowe, who also has her Minnesota police license, to try out their new tool. Lowe has been "tased" twice for previous reports but this was the first time she had been on the other end of a Taser.

Grobove wore a protective suit and was armed with a knife when he played a "bad guy" confronting Lowe.

Lowe yelled at him to "back off" and then shot off her Taser cam when he continued to lunge forward. After he was struck with a burst from Lowe's Taser, two other officers took control of "bad guy" Grobove and handcuffed him.

The "staged" incident with Lowe was all captured on video and audio recorded by the Taser cam.

According to a report by the Minneapolis Police Department, officers used Tasers 232 times last year. So far, they have received no complaints from the community.

The Minnesota State Patrol will be getting their first Taser cameras in the next few weeks. They will join Minneapolis, St. Cloud and the Itasca County Sheriff's Office who already have the Taser cameras.
5874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 23, 2007, 10:28:19 AM
Since I haven't found anyone here so far to argue against free market based economics, I'll post the opposing view myself, courtesy of the NY Times.  They contend we are severely under-taxed.  Absolutely no hint in their 'analysis' that revenues to the treasury are actually growing at record rates.  Only 'logic' I could find to back their view is that America needs to be more like the rest of the world, starting with tax burden.  Their math with a 28% total tax burden doesn't exactly match tax freedom day that occurs here in May.  Nonetheless, our "meager tax take" of 4 trillion dollars per year"leaves the United States ill prepared to compete."  huh

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/opinion/22mon2.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin

Editorial:  A Dearth of Taxes
Published: October 22, 2007

President Bush considers himself a champion tax cutter, but all the leading Republican presidential candidates are eager to outdo him. Their zeal is misguided. This country’s meager tax take puts its economic prospects at risk and leaves the government ill equipped to face the challenges from globalization.

According to a report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a think tank run by the industrialized countries, the taxes collected last year by federal, state and local governments in the United States amounted to 28.2 percent of gross domestic product. That rate was one of the lowest among wealthy countries — about five percentage points of G.D.P. lower than Canada’s, and more than eight points lower than New Zealand’s. And Danes, Germans and Slovaks paid more in taxes, as a share of their economies.

Politicians on the right have continuously paraded the specter of statism to rally voters’ support for tax cuts, mainly for the rich. But the meager tax take leaves the United States ill prepared to compete. From universal health insurance to decent unemployment insurance, other rich nations provide their citizens benefits that the United States government simply cannot afford.

The consequences include some 47 million Americans without health insurance and companies like General Motors being dragged to the brink by the cost of providing workers and pensioners with medical care.

President Bush and his tax-averse friends extol the fact that the tax haul has risen over the past two years as evidence of the wisdom of his tax cuts. But if anything, the numbers underscore the economy’s weaknesses — mainly its growing inequality.

Indeed, the growth in tax revenue since 2004 is due mostly to the spectacular increase in corporate profits, which have grown at the expense of workers’ wages. Moreover, it’s proving ephemeral. As economic growth has decelerated, corporate profits are losing steam and the growth of tax revenue has begun to slow. This pretty much guarantees that the revenue will prove too low to face the challenges ahead.
5875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 20, 2007, 10:32:47 PM
Not exactly a perfect ally, but a valuable one according to this WSJ editorial:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/weekend/hottopic/?id=110010760

The Turkish Front
The path to a better Middle East goes through Ankara.

Saturday, October 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Some day, we may look back on this week as a turning point in America's relations with its closest Muslim ally, Turkey, and perhaps for the entire Middle East. Unfortunately, only a seer can say whether it'll be a turn for the better.

The ructions over the House's foray into Ottoman history and Turkey's threat to invade northern Iraq don't look good. But clear-eyed leaders will spot an opportunity in this crisis to renew an alliance for this difficult new era. American and Turkish interests overlap, and the countries need each other as much as they did during the Cold War.

The more sober politicians in Washington and Ankara understand this. Wednesday's parliamentary approval of a possible Turkish incursion to chase down Kurdish terrorists in their Iraqi hideouts was remarkable for its restraint. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waited more than a week after the latest strike by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (or PKK) killed 13 Turkish soldiers to bring up the measure. No democratic government could ignore such attacks and the growing public outrage.

The Turks have also ruled out any rash move into northern Iraq. Ankara would prefer that the Iraqi Kurds and U.S. squeeze the PKK hiding in the Qandil mountains and avoid the risks of launching its own incursion. The vote this week is a wake-up call from the Turks--not least to the Iraqi Kurds, who have an opening to improve ties with their most important neighbor.

Meanwhile, with uncanny timing, Congressional Democrats this week were about to stick a finger in Turkey's eye. Whether the massacres of up to 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 constitute "genocide," as a nonbinding House resolution declares, is a matter for historians. In the here and now, the resolution would erode America's influence with Ankara and endanger the U.S. effort in Iraq. Worse, Mr. Erdogan's ability to work with Washington would be constrained by an anti-American backlash.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the week promising to bring the resolution to the House floor. But she is now having second thoughts--if not out of good sense, then because her rank-and-file are peeling away as they are lobbied against the anti-Turk resolution by the likes of General David Petraeus. Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert tabled a similar resolution when asked by President Clinton in 2000, and we'll soon see if Ms. Pelosi will do the same for a Republican President.

The PKK also reads the papers, and its leaders timed their attacks on consecutive weekends this month as the resolution moved through the House. The Marxist separatist group, whose 20-year war has claimed almost 40,000 lives, would love to divide the U.S. from Turkey. Unless managed right, the Turkish response this week also imperils improving bilateral ties between Ankara and Baghdad; the countries had only recently signed a counterterrorism pact. In Turkey itself, PKK support is dwindling, and Mr. Erdogan's ruling party swept the Kurdish-majority areas in July's elections.

To avoid the trap set by the PKK, the U.S. needs to press the Iraqi Kurds to act against them. This doesn't have to hurt America's friendly dealings with the Kurds. But someone has to remind Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's Kurdish region, that the PKK poses a grave threat to the economic boom and stability of northern Iraq. His aggressive rhetoric toward Turkey, and the Kurdish peshmerga militia's disinterest in cracking down on the PKK, gives the wrong impression of complicity with the terrorists. With typical bluster, Mr. Barzani yesterday said he'd fight the Turks--hardly helpful.

Short of declaring war on the PKK, the peshmerga could easily cut off supply lines of food and arms into the Qandil mountains. The Turks want the U.S. to nab a few big PKK fish, which is easier said than done. But Ankara isn't unreasonable to expect to see more of an effort. In return, its troops can stay on their side of the border.

This hasn't been an easy year for Turkey. For most of it, Mr. Erdogan and his neo-Islamist party fought a cold war with the country's secular establishment, led by the military. His commanding election victory in July ended that political crisis, only to see Congress and the PKK distract anew from his primary task, which is building the Muslim world's most vibrant free-market democracy.

Turkey wants a unitary, stable and prosperous Iraq, and should know that any wrong moves in the north could jeopardize that. The Turks unabashedly support Israel's right to exist and can't abide a nuclear Iran. On these and other issues, Ankara is an indispensable partner for America. Mr. Erdogan is expected to meet President Bush next month to discuss Iraqi Kurdistan and probably the Armenian resolution. The U.S.-Turkey friendship is too important to let it be ruined by parochial politics in either country.
5876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 18, 2007, 07:44:50 PM
"...reads like we just caved in big time"

Here's another look and excerpt:
http://www.euro2day.gr/articlesfna/45451397/
"A senior US defense official said Washington would continue negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic towards building the missile defense installations. But he said the US was willing to leave the system switched off until the US and Russia had jointly validated that Iranian ballistic missiles posed a threat. "It is our intention to proceed with the construction of missile defense in Europe," said Geoff Morrell, Pentagon spokesman. "But the pace at which it becomes operational could be adjusted to meet the threat."

Who snowed whom? a) Putin is adamant about no bases in those locations.  America is apparently going to begin construction.  This looks like a wink of face saving - we won't flip on the switch - while we go right ahead and build.  b) The delay could fit with our process of perfecting the technology. c) It puts an incentive on Putin to keep Iran unready and non-nuclear. d) Ahmadinejad has a big-mouth.  He isn't going to achieve full nuclear readiness without shouting it from the rooftops. It will be meaningless to wait for 'validation' from Moscow after Iran declares itself ready, willing and able. Switch it on.

Meanwhile, most of what those meetings in Russia should have been about was the restraint we need right now from them.  We'll see in time if we received any.
5877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 18, 2007, 03:52:33 PM
Thanks for the dog story. I'm not much of an Ellen fan or of anyone else in showbiz - still couldn't help wondering how they came to have kids,so I googled it:

Ellen DeGeneres denies adoption reports, Saturday, February 10 2007 ... denied claims that she is planning to adopt a child with girlfriend Portia De Rossi. The talk show host insisted that she has no plans to have children and praised De Rossi for making her life "almost perfect". "We're not adopting and we don't want to have children," she explained. "No babies - neither of us want children.

But also found:
DEGENERES TO ADOPT? Comedian Ellen DeGeneres reportedly has plans to adopt a child with her actress girlfriend Alexandra Hedison. ...pals say they're now ready to seal their romance with a child. ( - oops, wrong 'spouse')

And this:
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi are said to be considering cementing their romance by becoming first-time parents. Although the two stars did not reveal their choice for adoption or for natural birth, comedienne DeGeneres confessed she's been thinking about motherhood - and she's aware she has to act fast. "I think we should do it (have a child) soon... When I'm around babies, I just melt. It's a big responsibility", she told America's People magazine.

I guess they really 'cemented their relationship' when they took the next big step after a kid and added a dog... File it all under media issues. huh
5878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: October 18, 2007, 03:19:50 PM
An interesting piece from the Boston Globe this week that I think marks the memory of Hong Kong as a free colony. Amazing that we saw in our lifetime this little island of liberty exist within Communist China and then be given back to China.

Hong Kong's heyday

By H.D.S. Greenway  |  October 16, 2007

HONG KONG
FORTY YEARS ago I came to live here with my family, landing on a heart-stopping thumb of land sticking out in the harbor that served as a runway, where the landing wheels seemed about to snatch the laundry off the clotheslines of Kowloon.
 
Hong Kong was then what they called a British Crown Colony, with most of it on a 99-year lease - "on borrowed time in a borrowed place."

China was in the grip of the Cultural Revolution, with unimagined excesses going on just across the border, which Americans were forbidden to cross. Some of it spilled into the colony with Red Guards going around waving the little red books of Chairman Mao's sayings, and bombs that would occasionally kill. Bodies would sometimes float down the Pearl River from Canton, some of them having been tied up and tortured.

And all around the restless rim of Asia there was trouble. The Vietnam War, for which I was headed, raged. Indonesia had recently experienced mass killings of astonishing scale. Singapore and Malaysia's future could not be assured. Thailand faced a Communist insurgency on its northeast frontier, and Laos, "the landlocked kingdom" of newspaper headlines, seemed always to be "teetering on the brink."

Hong Kong was the oasis then, despite the occasional disturbance. My favorite image of those years was watching cricket players on their downtown pitch with the Bank of China in the background draped in huge red Mao banners.

Refugees, as they always had when China was in trouble, tried to sneak or swim into British territory.

The rules were that you would be stopped and turned back if caught. But if you made it you would not be deported.

Britain ran its colony in the most laissez-faire way possible, with few rules on its unfettered capitalism, in stark contrast to the nanny state that was pre-Thatcherite Britain.

As the last governor, Christopher Patten, would write: "Hong Kong's special fortune was to be blessed with a small team of colonial administrators eccentric enough to believe in free markets and cussed enough to stick to their guns. . ." While the home country flirted with "nationalization, high taxation, rigid labor markets, excessive social spending, it allowed its colonial dependency to practice the ancient economic virtues with conspicuous success."

There was poverty, of course, extreme by British standards, but everyone felt better off than their neighbors on the mainland.

There were courts of law with bewigged judges, but just across the way Red Guards trampled laws and Chinese traditions in their political frenzy.

Everyone knew that China could take Hong Kong anytime it wanted. A British general, briefing the press on the colony's defenses, was incredulously asked: "You are not implying that you could actually defend this place from the People's Liberation Army, are you?"

"Perhaps not," the general answered, "but we would give them an interesting afternoon." Despite the turmoil, the Chinese leadership kept its hands off Hong Kong, their invaluable window to the West.

Hong Kong became one of the wealthiest places on earth in the following years. It was a front-page story when the number of registered Rolls Royces passed the number of registered rickshaws.

In time, of course, the borrowed time was up and the borrowed place had to be given back. The idea of "one country, two systems" was a masterpiece of political compromise, allowing Hong Kong, in theory, to run its own show for 50 years.

Ten years ago, when the British flag was being lowered for the last time over its last big - in population anyway - colonial possession, I came back to watch the empire end, Christopher Patten and Prince Charles sail away on the royal yacht, and the Chinese Army rumble in on a monsoon rain.

Today, Hong Kong's spectacular skyline continues to grow ever higher, even as its storied harbor shrinks before ever- increasing landfills. If democracy has not advanced as much as Patten had hoped, neither has totalitarianism as many of us feared.
5879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 17, 2007, 10:27:56 AM
Payroll Growth: 1990s vs. 2000s
Posted by BRIAN WESBURY   October 17, 2007
http://time-blog.com/real_clear_politics/2007/10/payroll_growth_1990s_vs_2000s.html

As far as economic recoveries go, the current one may be the most maligned in history. One glaring weakness, which pessimists never tire of pointing out, is that payroll job growth in this cycle has been weaker than in the 1990s. Over the past three years, payroll jobs have grown at an average monthly rate of 180,000. At the same point in the previous cycle (1994-96) payrolls grew at an average monthly rate of 244,000.

But don't despair. While the data is accurate, it is highly misleading. After digging beneath the surface, the jobs market is just as strong today as it was in the mid-1990s.

First, the unemployment rate was higher in 1994 than it was in 2004, 6.6% versus 5.4%. As a result, pent up demand for labor in the 1990s helped lift job growth.

Second, there has been a massive decline in young people who want a job. Without the drop among 16-24 year olds, a higher share of the population would be participating in the labor force today than a decade ago.

Notably, most of the drop in labor force participation among the young is due to increased school enrollment. Not only do students work less than non-students, but today's students are working less than their predecessors. About 44% of teenage students were in the labor force in the mid- 1990s versus about 36% in the past few years. In our view, this is a sign of prosperity and suggests support for productivity growth in the future once these more educated workers eventually get a job.

Third, Baby Boomers were in their peak working years in the 1990s and are now moving toward retirement. Labor force participation tends to peak at about age 40 and declines rapidly after age 50. In the mid-1990s the typical Baby Boomer was about age 40 and none of them were older than 50. Now, about half of Boomers have passed age 50.

Last, the Labor Department uses two major surveys for job creation. The establishment survey asks businesses how many are on their payrolls. That's the source of the payroll data, which has been weak relative to the 1990s. The household survey asks people directly if they are working. This survey generates data on civilian employment, which has increased at an average monthly rate of 189,000 in the past three years, almost exactly the 191,000 rate in 1994-96.

If someone has two jobs, the payroll data counts them twice, while the household survey does not. In the 1990s, the number of workers holding multiple jobs was rising, which boosted the payroll data relative to the household data. Lately, the number of these multiple job holders has fallen, helping move the two surveys back in line. Clearly, this suggests that the 2000s may actually have a healthier job market than the 1990s. This view is buttressed by the fact that in the past two years average hourly earnings are up 8.4, the fastest pace since 1990.

Given all these important demographic changes, payroll growth has actually been healthy, not weak. A useful analysis published last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City suggests payrolls need to grow at an average monthly rate of about 120,000 to keep the unemployment rate steady. Looking back, payroll employment has grown at a 1.07% annual rate since March 1998, when the unemployment rate was also equal to today's 4.7%. Applying this rate of growth to the current level of payrolls suggests that the US needs 123,000 new payroll jobs every month to hold the unemployment rate steady.

A little digging is all it takes to show that the unfairly maligned economy is actually doing quite well. The good news is that all this concern creates a “wall of worry” that the stock market continues to climb.
5880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: October 09, 2007, 11:24:29 AM
Coincidental to the timing of the story that US intel obtained bin Laden's tape before he posted it, that media outlets blew our cover and that AQ had to shut down their sites, I see there has been heavy fighting in Waziristan the last 3 days where that group is presumed to be residing. I'm guessing the new fighting is inspired by the latest intel. One of these days, one of these battles is going to bring us the head of AQ.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7034795.stm

Battles rage on Pakistan border
Pakistani troops in North Waziristan (file photo)
The army faces well-armed, well-trained militants in Waziristan
At least 45 Pakistani soldiers and 150 pro-Taleban militants have died in three days of fierce fighting in North Waziristan, the Pakistani army says.

Unconfirmed reports say 50 more rebels died in fresh air strikes on Tuesday.  It is the heaviest fighting in the Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan, for many months. Locals are reported to be fleeing the clashes.

US and Nato have been pressing Pakistan to do more to stop militants crossing the border to attack their troops.

The fighting is centred around the town of Mir Ali. The bombing destroyed many shops and homes...
Latest reports say many of its residents are trying to escape, but it is unclear how many are going.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that Mir Ali is known as a base for foreign militants with links to the Taleban and al-Qaeda.  The violence has been escalating since mid-July when a ceasefire between the army and the militants broke down.  Access for journalists to the tribal areas is restricted and it is impossible to independently verify the casualty figures.

Military aircraft struck "one or two places" near Mir Ali on Tuesday, army spokesman Maj Gen Waheed, the Associated Press news agency reports. There were unconfirmed reports that about 50 militants had been killed.

As well as soldiers confirmed killed, the army says up to 15 soldiers who went missing on Monday are still unaccounted for.

The army says it has rejected a ceasefire proposed by the militants and will "continue punitive action till complete peace is restored", AP said.

Our correspondent says that, by all accounts, the fighting in North Waziristan has been extraordinarily fierce.  The army has been bombing suspected militant positions in villages using helicopter gun ships and jet fighters.
5881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Book Reviews on: October 09, 2007, 10:55:40 AM
Thomas Sowell writes about the new Clarence Thomas book and interviews.  I heard a couple of interviews but haven't read his book yet.  Crafty correctly put his Clarence Thomas post in 'legal issues'.  This book maybe falls in the category of 'parenting'.  I see the soft, easy, material life that my 13yo daughter and her friends live and we know of the harder, tougher upbringing that people like Thomas and Sowell experienced and wonder how we can hope for our kids to develop a fraction of the character that they learned.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/10/clarence_thomas.html

October 09, 2007
Clarence Thomas
By Thomas Sowell

It would be hard to think of anyone whose portrayal in the media differs more radically from the reality than that of Justice Clarence Thomas. His recent appearances on "60 Minutes," the Rush Limbaugh program, and other media outlets provide the general public with their first in-depth look at the real Clarence Thomas.

These media appearances are part of the promotion of his riveting new memoir, titled "My Grandfather's Son." Otherwise, Justice Thomas would probably have continued to confine himself to doing his work at the Supreme Court, without worrying about what was being said about him in the media.

In an era when too many judges, including justices of the Supreme Court, seem to be playing to the media gallery -- if not writing opinions or leaking information with an eye toward favorable coverage in the press -- Justice Thomas' refusal to play that game tells us a lot about him.

His memoir tells us more. Born in material poverty beyond anything experienced even by people on welfare today, Clarence Thomas was raised with an abundance of discipline and character-building that would pay off in later life.

This was largely the work of his grandfather, who raised him, and whom he now calls "the greatest man I have ever known." But that was not his view at the time, when he was a child.

His grandfather, however, was not preoccupied -- like so many modern parents -- with how the children see things. He took his role as a parent to be to see things that children could not see, including challenges that they would encounter in later life.

The metamorphosis of Clarence Thomas went through many phases -- from altar boy to seminary student to a campus radical and racial militant, before eventually coming full circle back to the values his grandfather taught him and an understanding of the law and society that he acquired on his own.

One sign of where he was in his radical and militant phase was that, when someone gave him a book of mine to read, he threw it in the trash basket.

But, by the time I first met him, in 1978, he had already reached the same conclusions on his own that I had reached.

Those conclusions were probably more firmly grasped because they were his own, rather than something he read by somebody else.

Clarence Thomas' own experiences shocked him into a realization that "affirmative action" and other policies being pushed by civil rights organizations and by liberals generally were doing more harm than good, both to blacks and to American society.

In an era when so many people have neither the time nor the patience to examine arguments and evidence, critics have tried to dismiss Clarence Thomas as someone who "sold out" in order to advance himself.

In reality, he was in far worse financial condition than if he had taken the opposite positions on political issues.

As late as the time of his nomination to the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas' net worth -- everything he had accumulated over a lifetime -- was less than various civil rights "leaders" make in one year.

Nobody sells out to the lowest bidder.

The other great myth about Justice Thomas is that he is a lonely and embittered man, withdrawn from the world, as a result of the brutal confirmation hearings he went through back in 1991.

Clarence Thomas was never a social butterfly. You didn't see his name in the society pages or at media events, either before he got on the High Court or afterward.

In reality, Justice Thomas has been all over the place, giving talks, especially to young people, and inviting some of them to his offices at the Supreme Court.

Summers find him driving his own bus all around the country, mixing with people at truck stops, trailer parks and mall parking lots. The fact that he is not out grandstanding for the media does not mean that he is hunkering down in his cellar.

Clarence Thomas' sense of humor is terrific. Whenever I am on the phone with someone and laughing repeatedly, my wife usually asks me afterward, "Was that Clarence?" It usually is.

Now, thanks to his book, the public can get to know the man himself, rather than the cardboard image created by the media.
5882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 08, 2007, 11:15:12 AM
http://victordavishanson.pajamasmedia.com/2007/10/06/observations_about_the_war.php
Observations about the war, from Victor Davis Hanson

Last week’s quiet

I just returned to Kuwait, and have been in Iraq visiting forward operating bases in Anbar and Diyala provinces, as well as suburbs of Baghdad the last week, hence the recent silence on this blog given sporadic internet facilities in Iraq. I hope to post a series of observations. But for now here are a few initials impressions from my second visit to the country. (Please excuse the typos, writing in haste from Kuwait City)

Better News?

Almost all the Marines and Army units I visited from Ramadi to Taji to various hot spots in Baghdad and Diyala believe there has been a sudden shift in the pulse of battlefield. Sometimes without much warning thousands of once disgruntled Sunni have turned on al Qaeda, ceased resistance, and are flocking to join government security forces and begging the Americans to stop both al Qaeda and Shiite militias.

Commanders in the field are cautious. They know that if the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad stays vengeful for decades of past suffering at the hands of Sunni Baathists, the reconciliation will fail. So thousands of American officers are desperately pressuring ministries to start distributing the vast wealth of Iraq’s $80 a barrel oil revenues to Anbar and Diyala before the Sunni revert back to insurgency.

The U.S. military

The brilliance of U.S. army and marines officers has not been fully appreciated. I met scores with PhDs and MAs, from Majors to Colonels, who are literally all at once trying to defeat al Qaeda gangs and Shiite militias, rebuild government facilities, arbitrate tribal feuds, repair utilities and train Iraqi army and police. As was true of the last trip to Iraq, I am left with three general impressions about the military.

(1) Our army and marines are far too few and overextended. The United States must either radically increase the size of these traditional ground units or scale back its commitments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Through constant rotations, we are literally burning out gifted officers and lifetime professionals— and will lose their priceless expertise if they begin, as I fear, retiring en masse due to the sheer exhaustion.

(2) There is more optimism about success among the battlefield soldiers than present with analysts in Baghdad. The sudden decrease in violence has left many units stunned that Iraqis who used to try to kill them are suddenly volunteering information about terrorists and landmines, and clamoring to join the joint security force. Usually those behind the desk are the optimists, the soldiers who die the pessimists. But instead there is genuine feeling on the front that after four frustrating years of ordeal, at last there are tangible signs of real, often radical improvement.

(3) As a supporter of some four years of the now unpopular effort to remove Saddam and leave a democracy in his place, I continue to have only one reservation, albeit a major one. The U.S. soldier in the field is so unusually competent and heroic that one comes to despair at the very thought of losing even one of them. As a military historian I know that an army that can’t take casualties can’t win, but I confess after spending 16-hour days with our soldiers in impossible conditions one wonders whether the entire country of Iraq is worth the loss of just of these unusual Americans. I understand both the lack of logic and perhaps amorality in such a sweeping statement, but feel it nonetheless out here.

The complexity of the effort

The military is pulling out all the stops. Some examples. They have flown Vietnam-era veterans to lecture on counter-insurgency in their school at Taji, in addition to clinic psychologists and veterans of recent wars from Panama to Afghanistan. The problem is now not too few interpreters, but too many trying to join us. Some of the best are Iraqi-Americans, who know American idiom and deeply appreciate being an American.

Hundreds are working on IEDs, not just counter-technologies and aerial surveillance, but sophisticated methods of learning how they are made, how the bombers function, and how they are paid and maintained. Thousands of other reserve and retired engineers have come to Iraq to build and advise Iraqi contractors. I met a fascinating engineer in his mid-fifties who volunteered to return to the Marines and is now supervising the reconstruction of the governmental center in Ramadi.

Again, they are trying not just to defeat the insurgency, but to literally take Iraq from its primordial past to the twenty-first century within four years. A Herculean Task.

Mythologies

A common slur is that Halliburton is looting the treasury and contractors in Iraq are greedy profiteers. I again found the opposite to be true. Thousands of construction personnel build bases, road, and Iraqi facilities, sometimes under fire, but living with the notion of shelling or shooting any minute. I consider them more likely under- rather than overpaid.

Iraq is not a poor country. Flying over the Tigris-Euphrates valley (I speak now a farmer) is unlike anything in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. The soil is rich, the water plentiful and the dry climate perfect for intensive agriculture. That the country in theory within a year or two could pump well over three million barrels of petroleum a day, gives some indication of just how badly Iraq has been run the last forty years to screw up such natural bounty of a country—the Baathist-terror state, the attack on Iran, the massacres of Kurdish and Shiite innocents, the 1991 Gulf War, the no-fly zones and UN embargo, et al.

Next posting…

Hope to leave Kuwait tonight and post more on Iraq—some thoughts on our chances of winning, the nature of our colonels in the field, an interview with General Petraeus, the real Al Qaeda (or what Sunnis who once joined them now say about them) and other observations. .. Again, excuse the typos, since I write in haste.

Postscript
Hope to post tomorrow. One final thought. I must emphasize that we as a country have to support those in the field of fire. They believe not just that we can win by securing Iraq, but that they are doing a moral good by giving millions a chance of something quite different. Whatever one’s views on the war are, it seems to me morally reprehensible that anyone would slander an American soldier, whether comparing them to terrorists or their General to a betrayer. We have a very rare precious resource in today’s military that really does represent the moral upper crust of American society, and as long as it is engaged, we need to support it. We may come to the day that the military itself thinks victory is beyond our resources or not worth the cost, but from what I saw this week, as in 2006, we are not there at that day yet by a long shot.
5883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 08, 2007, 11:02:57 AM
The Best Economy Ever?
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/10/018668.php

It's time to start taking seriously the proposition that the American economy under the Bush administration is the best in the nation's history. This morning the White House expressed entirely appropriate pride in the country's economic achievements on its watch:

    Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new jobs figures – 110,000 jobs created in September. September 2007 is the 49th consecutive month of job growth, setting a new record for the longest uninterrupted expansion of the U.S. labor market. Significant upward revisions to employment in July and August mean employment growth has averaged 97,000 per month over the last three months. Since August 2003, our economy has created more than 8.1 million jobs, and the unemployment rate remains low at 4.7 percent.

    Real after-tax per capita personal income has increased by over 12.5 percent – an average of over $3,750 per person – since President Bush took office. More than 30 percent of the Nation's net worth has been added since the President's 2003 tax cuts.

    Real wages have grown 2.2 percent over the 12 months that ended in August. This is much higher than the average growth rate during the 1990s, and it means an extra $1,266 in the past year for a family with two average wage earners.

    Real GDP grew at a strong 3.8 percent annual rate in the second quarter of 2007. The economy has now experienced nearly six years of uninterrupted growth, averaging 2.7 percent a year since the turnaround in 2001.

The stock market is at record highs, unemployment continues at historic lows. What's not to like? Of course, one can always question the link between prosperity (or the lack thereof) and government policies. But in President Bush's case, it seems pretty obvious that his tax cuts prevented what could have been a disastrous downward spiral. At a time when our economy was subject to the double-whammy of recession and the bursting of the tech bubble, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 could easily have sent the economy into a tailspin.

By the same token, I don't think any serious observer doubts that the policies the Democrats want to adopt will damage the economy. The Democrats want higher taxes:

    If Congress lets Bush's tax cuts expire, it would increase taxes by more than $1,800, on the average, for a family of four making $60,000 dollars a year. Small business owners would see their taxes go up by almost $4,000, and families with children would pay an additional $500 per child.

Beyond that, the adverse economic consequences of socialized medicine are incalculable. And we haven't mentioned what would happen if the federal government started mandating the shut-down of industry so as to reduce carbon emissions in a superstitious attempt to control the weather, while China and India do nothing of the sort.

I became a Republican mostly because experience and observation taught me that free enterprise works, and socialism doesn't. Those issues have been more or less off the table in recent years because of the downfall of international socialism, the relatively enterprise-friendly Clinton administration and the Republicans' failure to control spending while they controlled Congress. But the economic issues may be about to emerge once again, as Americans consider whether they want to abandon the successful policies of the Bush administration.
5884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The left's family values on: October 07, 2007, 02:12:32 PM
"the ones who want to keep the troops in harm's way"
We are trying to accomplish something, agree with that or not, but certainly not just 'keeping them in harm's way which guarantees that some will be killed. Planet earth IMO is in harm's way for the larger force we are fighting.  I know you disagree with the war but those who disagree with this part of this war lost that argument and right now our troops are in harm's way fighting for something.  It's hard not to cringe at your previous words wishing them to lose at war.  If I am reading you wrong on that or you have already clarified that I apologize; I don't think anyone here intends to mis-state what you have written. In the hypothetical I can appreciate that you wish they were home, but this war is not hypothetical.

My perspective on Christians imposing views - I believe the school prayer issue is about a right to pray, never a requirement to pray at all much less Christian.  Banning abortion to me is like banning murder or slavery. It really isn't a desire to run all aspects of people's lives, just to stop the carnage.  Do people really still argue that the unborn is not an innocent life?  Most pro-life arguments I see are aimed at raising that awareness and at criticizing and overturning what so many believe is a badly-decided case.

"forbidding gays from marrying" - Again, it is not complicated or controversial to me, a single dad, that marriage is a special relationship between a man and a woman, hence the terms husband and wife.   A brother and sister or group of close friends might bond together under one roof to take care of each other, our household is a father and daughter, but that does not make a relationship a marriage or cause a need to re-define a pretty good institution.  Arguing for rights such as the right to will and inherit and to designate each other for end of life decisions seems perfectly fair, but not to change  the meaning of husband and wife.  JMHO
5885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: September 27, 2007, 11:11:18 AM
Choosing the category of race, culture and humanities for a follow up on crime in America's cities as unearthed in the Wisconsin self defense case from Milwaukee.  I speculate that the aggressors and the victim in this case are black because the bad neighborhoods of Milwaukee are primarily black and because race is not covered in the story. If true, it means this tragic, concealed carry story is also about black on black crime.  I would be thrilled to be corrected on that, but the major media has a ban on publishing race 'when it isn't part of the story'.

Illegalized self-defense was one factor.  Another is our social system of bad incentives.  Welfare payments cause dependency and perpetuate unproductive lifestyles.  It's still happening today, a decade after 'welfare reform'.  The dependency cycle hits blacks disproportionately, and crime is rampant in areas of unproductive density.

Wisconsin was a leader in welfare reform, but they only reformed one type of payment while dozens/hundreds of other federal, state and local programs continued to increase and perpetuate the cycle of poverty.    Free health care, food stamps, and section 8 housing are enormous examples, while the payroll tax chops off a huge chunk of the incentive from those on the edge of becoming contributing members, making the jump even less attractive.
5886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: September 25, 2007, 11:54:59 PM
I applaud the Wisconsin concealed carry decision but mainly I am struck by the facts - the poor man being mugged so many times.  It's puzzling that he stayed in Milwaukee and kept delivering pizzas in a high crime area.  What's wrong with this town that they allow crime to run out of control?  Looks like a good part of the answer is in the case: they took away the right of citizens to defend themselves.
5887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: September 25, 2007, 12:26:03 PM
Commenting on Crafty's quote of Mark Twain - Scary how true that became!  ... and

CCP's post of Republican trouble in the senate this year with Dick Morris' analysis:
"It may well be another 50 years before we see that party come back."

The senate may look bleak for Republicans in 2008 because of numbers and matchups, but the thin Democratic majority in the unpopular house is also up for re-election.  I see two scenarios: one, if conventional wisdom prevails and Hillary becomes President because of the demographics and momentum cited, then the electorate who seem to unconsciously support divided government could cross votes in the close swing districts.  If Hillary success is based on the model of her husband,then her party will likely be hurt down the ticket.

The other unmentioned scenario is that some Republican with a conservative message could win the contest of competing philosophies and thus win some coattails. 

Even if Republicans lose 3 seats in the senate, the majority still falls in the 51-59 seat range unable to do business without minority support.  The lessons of 2008 are not yet known, but almost every scenario I can see involves divided government.

I find Morris to be a polling and demographic expert, but his take on my state "liberal Minnesota" is half wrong.  Statewide elections have split about 50-50 over the last two decades.
5888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 25, 2007, 11:39:29 AM
I appreciate seeing a positive Fred Thompson story (Crafty's Chris Edwards of Cato post) as I still prefer him. For balance, here is a nice compilation of all the negatives cast against Thompson, written by Dick Morris who thinks Thompson isn't up to the task: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,296882,00.html

What Morris, an ideological agnostic, misses IMO is that the ho-hum speeches sounding ho-hum conservative themes like secure borders, federalism, judges who interpret the constitution, etc. might actually have surprising appeal. 

Should he win the nomination, it is good for him strategically in the general election to have not been branded early as an extreme conservative or be in lock-step with the party or the administration.

One of the knocks against Thompson is fund-raising, yet look at the attention and poll numbers he has drawn without money.  Right now these candidates are not running very hard against each other.  The idea that if you don't give to Fred for example, then Rudy or Mitt will be the nominee, even McCain, is not a scary proposition for a Republican.  In a general election it will be pretty easy to make the case in a fund raising letter that if you don't support this guy (or whoever the nominee is) that Hillary will be President.
5889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 25, 2007, 11:14:49 AM
There is quite a wide range of views from good economists on the economy right now.  I see Brian Wesbury thinks interest rate cuts aren't necessary and the economy still has good growth going.  http://blogs.forbes.com/digitalrules/2007/09/dont-cut-says-w.html

David Malpass sees a 'material slowdown', very weak growth coming and calls for the Fed to "move quickly to its interest-rate goal rather than stringing out its hikes or cuts as in the past." http://blogs.forbes.com/digitalrules/2007/09/material-slowdo.html

From my point of view, I hold economists to a much lower standard than their ability to see the future - I am happy if they can just explain the past with some degree of accuracy.  For example, I am interested in a plausible explanation of how we got to these new relative values for competing currencies.

5890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: September 18, 2007, 12:30:50 AM
"Any comments on my Red October [Stratfor] post of earlier today?"

From my point of view it answered a central question I've had about Russia - why do we pretend they are still relevant.  Russia is a second rate power, a third world country, a potentially failed new democracy, a lousy ally of the US, if they are one at all. They are not in the top 15 economies in the world yet are included in the big 'G8' talks every year and they are a 'permanent' member of the UN security council.

Friedman put in very clear terms why they are still relevant and strategic.  They are capable of building and selling weapons and defense products to our worst enemies that could cost us real casualties and problems in future conflicts that are no doubt already under consideration.

They prove false George Bush's doctrine: "Either you are with us or you are against us."  Like the swing vote senators, they could go either way at any time on the biggest issues and thus take on an importance larger than they spinelessly deserve.  When France did not back us or help us in Iraq, they also did not take up arms against us.  Russia is different.  Friedman describes with specificity how Russia could be supporting the wrong side in the next conflict.  Even if Russian arms and defense systems sold to enemy nations turn out to be defective and inferior, the false confidence the weapons provide removes a portion of the deterrent for avoiding full-scale war.

From the piece:
"In Ukraine and Belarus, the Russians will expect an end to all U.S. support to nongovernmental organizations agitating for a pro-Western course.

In the Baltics, the Russians will expect the United States to curb anti-Russian sentiment and to explicitly limit the Baltics' role in NATO, excluding the presence of foreign troops, particularly Polish.

Regarding Serbia, they want an end to any discussion of an independent Kosovo.

The Russians also will want plans abandoned for an anti-ballistic-missile system that deploys missiles in Poland. "

To each I would say - how is that any of their business?

I was not familiar with details of the Russia-Georgia tensions.  Here is a pretty good overview for anyone else who is curious: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0827/p06s02-woeu.html

GM's comment is a little blunt.  "I'd give him free reign to do as he wishes with the Chechen problem in exchange for cutting off support to Iran and Syria."  The back room negotiations might go something like that and then the public pronouncements would come out a little softer.

Players like Russia in the global security picture sure make diplomacy an ugly and difficult business.
5891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 04, 2007, 11:23:12 PM
A second post also inspired by Marc's WSJ piece, my comments for the other side of the aisle. I noticed this phrase from the WSJ story: "In 1996, when Bob Dole was battling Steve Forbes and Lamar Alexander in Iowa..."

It's not a perfect analogy, but that scenario reminds quite a bit of the trio right now on the Democratic side.  Hillary is the Bob Dole of her party and will win the nomination.  She is nearly the war hero politically (remember the 60 minutes episode confronting the Gennifer Flowers story that rescued her party to victory in 1992) and it appears right now that this is her turn.

Barack Obama is the Steve Forbes though reversed in qualities.  Forbes had substance without charisma and Obama may have the reverse.  Still each is the big hope of the idiological wing of his own party.  My favorite liberal friends still want Obama though it is pretty clear he has no chance.  And Edwards is the Lamar Alexander.  From my point of view just running very hard yet staying irrelevant. 

I hope someone also writes the positives of this cast here, but from my point of view Hillary is unchallenged by anyone of substance in her own party but lacking in real achievements qnd crossover appeal.
5892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 04, 2007, 10:44:04 PM
Thanks Marc for the post on Fred Thompson.  I support Fred at this time for reasons I already wrote and will likely elaborate on over time.  Mostly because I'm a conservative and I find him to be an unapologetic conservative, unlike hyphonated-compassionate-conservatives and Republicans in our purple state who brag about how much like Democrats they are.  That said, I wanted to enter this negative critique of Fred Thompson into the record here from a writer whose opinion I respect, John Hinderacker at Powerlineblog last week.  Basically he says that something is missing with Fred.  Where I disagree I think is that he doesn't seem to give credit for some very direct and bold written positions that Fred has delivered also via radio and internet that will form a foundation for his candidacy in both the primaries and the general election. Also I predict Thompson is the candidate who will align most closely with proposals that Newt is generating which may answer the objection: "Nor does he offer unique solutions to problems...".  To his credit, Hinderacker was face to face with Thompson and has been watching his pre-candidacy pretty closely.  I would say the guys at Powerline lean pro-Mitt Romney and are very respectful of Giuliani though they claim to be undecided.
--
August 27, 2007
My Dinner With Fred
(by John Hinderaker)
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/08/018298.php

Actually, given the exigencies of Presidential campaigns, Fred Thompson left before dinner. But I did have the opportunity to be part of a small group who chatted with him and asked him questions.

Thompson was in Minnesota today for a variety of functions, including an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair. That convinced me that he is in the race to stay. No one would work the state fair circuit unless he were serious about the race.

My own impression of Thompson was similar to the image I already had of him. He's good; he has a nice, folksy manner, some good lines, a sincere, fatherly demeanor, and comes across as a solid conservative of the border-state variety.

Yet I still think there is something missing. Thompson gives long answers to questions, and a point often comes where his folksiness gives way to ennui. He rarely shows much--any--intensity. Thomson presents himself as the solution to intractable problems like entitlements and the world-wide Islamofascist threat. Yet one misses the spark of fire, of energy, that would generate confidence that Thompson is really the man to get the job done. Nor does he offer unique solutions to problems; his proposals are, like his persona, of the generic conservative variety.

There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily. But in the end, Thompson's candidacy rests on the premise that there is something about him that will rally millions of otherwise uncommitted voters to the conservative banner. Maybe there is; maybe that folksiness goes a long way. If in the end I'm convinced that he is the strongest Republican candidate, I'll support him. But I haven't seen persuasive evidence of that yet.
5893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 29, 2007, 11:03:25 AM
This story from Sunday came and went by quietly as I hear both sides of the American aisle say that no political progress is being made in Iraq. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070826/wl_nm/iraq_dc

Iraq's leaders agree on key benchmarks

By Waleed Ibrahim and Wisam Mohammed Sun Aug 26, 6:27 PM ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.

But skeptics will be watching for action amid growing frustration in Washington over the political paralysis that has gripped the government of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore congratulated Iraq's leaders on the accord, hailing it in a statement as "an important symbol of their commitment to work together for the benefit of all Iraqis."

The apparent breakthrough comes two weeks before U.S. President George W. Bush's top officials in Iraq present a report that could have a major influence on future American policy in Iraq.

"I hope that this agreement will help Iraq move beyond the political impasse," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told Reuters. "The five leaders representing Iraq's major political communities .... affirmed the principle of collective leadership to help deal with the many challenges faced by Iraq."

Maliki's appearance on Iraqi television with the four other leaders at a brief news conference was a rare show of public unity.

The other officials present were President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi; Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Iraqi officials said the five leaders had agreed on draft legislation that would ease curbs on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military.

Consensus was also reached on a law governing provincial powers as well as setting up a mechanism to release some detainees held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority being held are Sunnis.

The laws need to be passed by Iraq's fractious parliament, which has yet to receive any of the drafts.

OIL LAW

Yasin Majid, a media adviser to Maliki, told Reuters the leaders also endorsed a draft oil law, which has already been agreed by the cabinet but has not yet gone to parliament.

But a statement from Talabani's office said more discussions were needed on the draft oil law and constitutional reforms. Committees had also been formed to try to ensure a "balance" of Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds in government.

The oil law is seen as the most important in a package of measures stalled by political infighting in Maliki's government.

The lack of action has frustrated Washington, which has been urging more political progress before the pivotal report on Iraq is presented to the U.S. Congress around September 11.

The report by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and ambassador Ryan Crocker, is seen as a watershed moment in the unpopular four-year-old war, with Democrats likely to use the negligible political progress to press their case for troops to begin pulling out soon.

Bush is pleading for patience, pointing to the military's apparent success in reducing levels of violence between majority Shi'ite Muslims and minority Sunni Arabs.

The White House's Lawrimore said in her statement that the United States would "continue to support these brave leaders and all the Iraqi people in their efforts to overcome the forces of terror who seek to overwhelm Iraq's democracy.

"The President also welcomes the desire of the Iraqi leadership to develop a strategic partnership with the United States based on common interests."

But Democrats are not convinced, and presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton and fellow Senator Carl Levin have called for Maliki to be replaced.

Maliki hit back on Sunday, saying: "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin."

"This is severe interference in our domestic affairs. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton are from the Democratic Party and they must demonstrate democracy," he said. "I ask them to come to their senses and to talk in a respectful way about Iraq."
5894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 27, 2007, 08:00:02 PM
There was a big story on global warming this month of some downward corrections in recent temperatures that makes the 1930s again hotter than any year of late.  Credit goes to Buzzwardo for posting the NASA corrections here and to the source he linked of coyoteblog http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2007/08/official-us-cli.html for timely and enlightening info.

I predicted elsewhere that the NY Times would pick up this story in a few days maybe on page 47.  In fact, it took them 16 days and they changed the context to be a story about right wing blogs making a big deal out a quarter of a degree "fix".  For that reason I moved my reply to 'media issues'.

A larger point I took from the story is that they don't measure temperature, they gather readings and then adjust, balance, tweak and make changes to the data according to some secret and flawed algorithms from some scientists who have their own bias and investment in the outcome.

Here is that NY Times story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/us/26climate.html

Quarter-Degree Fix Fuels Climate Fight

By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: August 26, 2007

Never underestimate the power of the blogosphere and a quarter of a degree to inflame the fight over global warming.

A quarter-degree Fahrenheit is roughly the downward adjustment NASA scientists made earlier this month in their annual estimates of the average temperature in the contiguous 48 states since 2000. They corrected the numbers after an error in meshing two sets of temperature data was discovered by Stephen McIntyre, a blogger and retired business executive in Toronto. Smaller adjustments were made to some readings for some preceding years.

All of this would most likely have passed unremarkably if Mr. McIntyre had not blogged that the adjustments changed the rankings of warmest years for the contiguous states since 1895, when record-keeping began.

Suddenly, 1934 appeared to vault ahead of 1998 as the warmest year on record (by a statistically meaningless 0.036 degrees Fahrenheit). In NASA’s most recent data set, 1934 had followed 1998 by a statistically meaningless 0.018 degrees. Conservative bloggers, columnists and radio hosts pounced. “We have proof of man-made global warming,” Rush Limbaughtold his radio audience. “The man-made global warming is inside NASA.”

Mr. McIntyre, who has spent years seeking flaws in studies pointing to human-driven climate change, traded broadsides on the Web with James E. Hansen, the NASA team’s leader. Dr. Hansen said he would not “joust with court jesters” and Mr. McIntyre posited that Dr. Hansen might have a “Jor-El complex” — a reference to Superman’s father, who foresaw the destruction of his planet and sent his son packing.

Blogs are still reverberating, but Mr. McIntyre, Dr. Hansen and others familiar with the initial data revisions are clarifying what is, and is not, at issue.

One thing not in question, Mr. McIntyre and Dr. Hansen agree, is the merit of shifting away from energy choices that contribute heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Mr. McIntyre said he feels “climate change is a serious issue.” His personal preference is to shift increasingly to nuclear power and away from coal and oil, the main source of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

Mr. McIntyre and Dr. Hansen also agree that the NASA data glitch had no effect on the global temperature trend, nudging it by an insignificant thousandth of a degree.

Everyone appears also to agree that too much attention is paid to records, particularly given that the difference between 1934, 1998, and several other sets of years in the top 10 warmest list for the United States are so small as to be statistically meaningless.

Mr. McIntyre said that when he posted the revised list under the heading “A New Leaderboard at the U.S. Open,” “I just was sort of having some fun with it as much as anything.”

He added: “The significance of things has been misstated by Limbaugh and people like that.”

Dr. Hansen and his team note that they rarely, if ever, discuss individual years, particularly regional findings like those for the United States (the lower 48 are only 2 percent of the planet’s surface). “In general I think that we want to avoid going into more and more detail about ranking of individual years,” he said in an e-mail message. “As far as I remember, we have always discouraged that as being somewhat nonsensical.”

Jay Lawrimore, a scientist at the National Climatic Data Center of the Commerce Department who works on assembling the climate records that NASA analyzed, said his agency could probably do a better job of emphasizing the uncertainty surrounding its annual temperature announcements.

Indeed, there is enough wiggle room in the numbers that the center has a different list of the 10 warmest years than those produced using NASA’s and Mr. McIntyre’s analyses. By the climate center’s reckoning, 1998 remains the warmest year for the 48 states (with 2006 second and 1934 third).

Dr. Lawrimore, Dr. Hansen and other experts said that trends are far more important than particular years, and the recent widespread warming trend has been clear — and very distinct from the regional hot spell that drove up United States temperatures in the 1930s.

Mr. McIntyre and the government scientists do agree on at least one more thing: the need to improve the quality of climate data gathered around the world, including in the United States, which has by far the planet’s biggest network of meteorological stations.

Mr. McIntyre is not alone in pointing out that the need to adjust and revise such data — with the attendant risk of mistakes — would be reduced with more care and consistency taken in collecting climate data.

The National Academy of Sciences has repeatedly called for improvements in climate monitoring. An independent group of meteorologists and weather buffs is compiling its own gallery of American weather stations at www.surfacestations.org, with photographs showing glaring problems, like thermometers placed next to asphalt runways and parking lots.

Dr. Lawrimore said that the government is preparing to build a climate reference network of more sophisticated, and consistent, monitoring stations that should cut uncertainty in gauging future trends.

In any case, he said, the evidence for human-driven warming remains robust. “Saying what they’re saying has just provided an opportunity for them to create doubt in people’s minds,” he said of the bloggers.
5895  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 27, 2007, 01:27:10 PM
My first 'martial arts' post, not perfectly placed here, but a good story about a citizen's defense of self and family that led to the arrest of a fugitive. Perhaps his martial arts skill was wrestling(?) He is a law partner of John Hinderacker at Powerline: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/08/018281.php http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2007/08/018280.php

Radtke was listed in good condition at Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Saturday and, although he didn't want to talk about his ordeal, authorities had a message for him: Thanks.

Sgt. Andrew Ellickson said he was convinced that if Radtke's brave actions hadn't stopped the suspect, he would have caused more damage and injuries.

"He wouldn't have been stopped," Ellickson said.

Leland Klanderman agreed: "The guy was determined."

Radtke, an attorney for Faegre & Benson, and his wife, Jody, had just put their three sons to bed Friday.

They were headed downstairs to relax when the front door flew open, according to Jody's mother, Sandy Brandt.

The Radtkes were staring at a ragged-looking man with a rifle, she said.

Authorities said the man forced Keith and Jody Radtke toward the garage.

Quick decision

At this point, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said, Radtke's world began to narrow into a "funnel."He had to make a decision," Hutton said.

When they got into the garage, Radtke saw an opportunity and pounced, knocking the rifle out of the suspect's hands.

Radtke put the suspect in a bear hug and yelled for his wife to go inside and call 911, Hutton said. She did.

Radtke didn't realize there also was a .45-caliber gun in the suspect's waistband, and the suspect was able to get a hold of it and shot Radtke in the lower back.

Radtke continued to struggle with the suspect and knocked the handgun across the garage floor. The suspect bit Radtke several times, and Radtke put him in a wrestling hold.

Nearby officers arrived at the scene, separated the men and used a Taser to subdue the suspect.

 
5896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bridges and Infrastructure on: August 22, 2007, 11:53:07 PM
This post could have gone into 'Science' but I think the topic, if discussed, will quickly move to politics.  I wrote earlier that  "I twice drove over an 8-lane, 2000 ft. bridge within 3 hours of it tumbling into the Mississippi."  The story is national but it is a particularly big deal here since it is still down and quite a few people died, 13 I think.  My flippant mind tells me the force that brought the bridge down was gravity and the onus was on the engineers to tell us why it shouldn't fall.

First hunch on cause that makes so far is good news in a sense because it was only installed on a few bridges including the I-35W Minneapolis bridge that fell and the counterpart I-35E bridge over the Mississippi in St. Paul.  It turns that they installed an automatic spraying system for Potassium Acetate on the bridge which is likely a weld and bolt corrosion accelerator.  That's a side effect; its primary purpose is to rust and rot our cars, it also melt snow and ice.

My lesson so far from this ordeal is to question whether these are the people we want to run our health care system.

(Repeating from above, this is only a hunch, the cause of the collapse won't be determined for a long time)

http://www.startribune.com/10204/story/1377743.html

Oct. 19, 1999: I-35W bridge getting de-icer system

By Laurie Blake, Star Tribune

Starting today, the most notorious winter slick spot on the Twin Cities-area freeway system - the Interstate Hwy. 35W Bridge over the Mississippi River - is being fitted with an automatic de-icing system.

Using temperature- and precipitation-activated nozzles embedded in the bridge deck, the system will spray the bridge with liquid potassium acetate in a bid to rid the surface of the treacherous black ice that has caused more than 120 accidents in the past five winters.

The potassium retains its melting power at 20 to 30 degrees below zero. Keeping the bridge clear of black ice has been difficult at sub-zero temperatures when salt is no longer effective. The State Patrol occasionally has closed the bridge to protect drivers.

The automatic system will apply the liquid potassium to the bridge from 68 spray heads in the driving surface placed 59 feet apart and from eight additional spray heads on the north end of the bridge in the median barrier and on the sides of the bridge, said Ia Xiong, project engineer.

Sensors in the bridge detect freezing temperatures before ice forms and activate the potassium spray to prevent ice formation.  The liquid will squirt out of nozzles in an arc 4 to 6 inches high, so motorists will see the spray. The deck surface will be wet.  The plastic nozzles are about an inch thick and 11 inches in diameter. The spray will reach most of the bridge and vehicles will spread it across the entire deck.
5897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 20, 2007, 10:31:16 PM
Tom,  I did not give you my "talking strategy"; I gave you honest, heartfelt opinions on matters of life and death.  In return you acknowledge no validity and return with condescension.  What a bummer it was investing the time I did.   - Doug
5898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 20, 2007, 06:24:49 PM
Tom wrote: "I notice you did not respond to my assertion that there were better places world wide to confront Jihadists....so how do you feel about the Sudan?"

Give me a break, yes I did in my own way.  I spelled out dangers in Iraq that are not the same as in the Sudan: [If al Qaida and the terrorists win in Iraq they will] "take the riches of the 3rd largest oil reserves to arm and finance and export terror, worse than before." - Most third world tyranny locations are tragedies.  Iraq is explosive.  Besides oil, 3 reasons Iraq is unique are location, location, location, relating to Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and other hot spots.

How the hell do you think I feel about genocide in Sudan (where is that angry face symbol)? Different than you or others? I would like to find a justification to depose and hang every genocidal dictator across the globe, time permitting, and they will all be more nervous when we are winning in Iraq than when we are losing.

I adamantly disagree with you that we started this war.  Saddam did that.  Saddam justified this war and finally some American President noticed it. He invaded Kuwait, was driven out, saved his skin by signing a 4-page surrender agreement which I have read and then he violated everything in it.

I don't write for a consensus here and I've never met anyone else on the board.  I know Crafty only through writings over a period of years.  In the short time I've been here I've seen most sides of most issues represented.

Let's get a fresh start on a different subject.
5899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 20, 2007, 12:07:15 PM
"I would contend that not all those that engage our troops fall into the terrorist category. "

They are terrorizing the countryside, the roadside, the neighborhoods and the mosques.  They are terrorists.  They are not "engaging" our troops, they are hiding and taking hostages.  Set aside the involvement of America as a foreign country, they are fighting the freely elected government of their own country and the security forces trying to establish peace.

There were two wars in Iraq.  The one against Saddam is long over and only under debate for historical perspective.  The war continuing will result either in what you described as "a free and democratic society" and of course it will pass laws that are based on the traditions and rules of Islam, a peaceful and socially strict religion.  The American goal includes the first part, free and democratic, the second part that they can't take on the same qualities we rightly or wrongly fought - WMD programs and sponsoring or harboring terrorists, and third, the American interest is to have it remain one country with an internal balancing of power which turns out to be the hardest. 

"but there again....What kind of Jihad was going on in Iraq before we got there?"

And there again we are not fighting Saddam.  That war is over.  We are fighting an alternative power who would like to fill the vacuum, to oppress same or worse than Saddam as they do in Iran, to threaten the world's oil supply with saber rattling as the Mulluhs constantly do, and to take the riches of the 3rd largest oil reserves to arm and finance and export terror, worse than before. 

"Very bold of you to equate Sadaam with the likes of Hitler(or the Iraq war with ww2)....hardly but ok......."

Please no straw man argument.  The war against Saddam is over (broken record), we are fighting an opposing vision for Iraq that I described above.  I don't equate Saddam with Hitler, I equate Nazism with the Jihadist movement, which I think you acknowledge is real and global - call it by whatever name  you like, Radical Islamic Fundamentalism, Islamofascism, etc.  Like Soviet communism and Nazi fascism, in the real world radical Islamic fundamentalism doesn't face free and fair elections and isn't content to capture one country and not export terror and destabilization.

"No one will argue Sadaam a bad guy and needed to be removed from power....Now all I ask is we take responsiblity for removing him from power.  Is that too much to ask?"

Thank you for conceding the first part; that was not at all clear in your recent posts or elsewhere in this one. For the second part, isn't that exactly why we are fighting - taking responsibility for the vacuum we created.

"Where are all those folks who dream to be free from the tyranny of Islam?  Oh I know.....they defected with the 110,000 AK 47'S"

To me that statement implies a view that the majority favor a collapse of the budding new democratic government.  I don't believe that.  The innocent civilians in the neighborhoods should be reluctant to stick their neck out publicly siding with Americans or the current government the day before we pull the plug and they face slaughter from the victory of the terrorists.  OTOH, as they see security and democracy taking shape, the citizens seem to be more and more helpful with reliable information, and accurate info is the only way we know the difference between a bomb builder and a plumber.  With reliable information we win.  Without it we lose.  JMHO.

5900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: August 19, 2007, 06:47:53 PM
Tom, all - Combining my reply to Tom's from two threads over to here in Rants-  The back and forth is nice, but in general I prefer if someone else jumps in.  From a time management perspective, I plan to answer or post only when I think I have something to add that hasn't already been said.  I don't have any unique or inside info on Iraq or foreign policy except to explain my own opinions and why I think this way. We are looking at the same information and drawing different views. I don't see any sign of minds changing.

I recognize that you served and I didn't and I am grateful and always remembering of that.

Picking what I answer,I won't get to everything- 

"One mans terrorist is another mans patriot."  - No, I don't share the moral equivalent view that comment implies to me.  If you join me in bank robberies and the cops are our enemy that doesn't change which side has the patriots and which side has the terrorists.  Maybe it's a judgment or opinion, and maybe it takes fifty years to sort it all out, but there is a difference.  There's no moral symmetry IMO between this American intervention and the fight of the Jihadists.  If we can't draw that distinction here I don't see how you could in any past conflict either.  Why was it okay to fight Japan and Germany but not these thugs.

Another huge difference in thinking, Tom wrote: "The Kurd massacares happend 20 years ago. These things were not going on when we went into Iraq to "liberate" the people."  -My view is diametrically opposed to that.  Time elapsing doesn't remove anything about the crimes against humanity for me except perhaps the freshness of the evidence, and gassing the Kurds was far from being Saddam's only or most recent crime.  If a people live with a gun to their heads and they do exactly as they are told and then are not killed, I say life is still lost and terror and violence have been committed although death and damage may be hard to measure.  I join this with opposing the view that we are responsible for al Qaida's damage to Iraq.  These are show stopping differences.

"Do you think its been worth it so far"  - Again it's different thinking. The value to me doesn't change easily.  I also don't know how to explain to anyone who disagrees that a half million American lives were worth it to win WWII - I just have to say yes IMO it was clearly the right thing to do and the cost is an unbelievable tragedy.  This is no less important.  Yes we misjudged and bogged down and changed tactics and gained battleground information and added resources and changed leaders and stayed resolved to win, if momentum and victory are possible before either a new President changes course or until congress ends it.  Yes I think fighting and winning this war now is better than the alternatives such as leaving Saddam in power then or leaving unfinished now.  The 'viewed as liberators' and all will cooperate scenario isn't what played out.  We underestimated our enemy, their numbers, their will and their abilities.  Hunting them down in all neighborhoods simultaneously is the current strategy and we'll see how that goes.  I support it and wish them speedy success.

The point is beautifully stated in Crafty's post from the cabinet secretary of India.  His context I think is global, meaning more difficult than Iraq: 28.There is no end in sight to the US military operations against the Neo Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban even almost six years after the operations started. This is nothing to be surprised about. Victory in the war is not for tomorrow or the day after. There is no doubt that the US will one day ultimately prevail over the jihadi terrorists. It has to in order to protect its homeland. But that day is still far off."(end quote)   In Iraq the battle is joined and I believe a) we will win and b) it was worth it.

"You also did not answer my question as to what would be considered a"victory" in Iraq."  - I have written about that in the past.  I'll describe it here the best I can.  The American part of the war is 'over' when the Iraqi security forces can provide basic security. Then American troops can fortress back from the front line and reduce numbers significantly.  The war itself is won when the  preponderance of activities in Iraq having to do with commerce, family, religion, self-government,  communities and recreation etc. overshadow the remnants of war. 



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