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5851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli Floatilla to bring aid to the oppressed in Turkey on: June 08, 2010, 11:15:14 PM
First an appreciation of the insight of George Friedman in the previous post:

Quoting: "Israel faces this strategic problem: In the short run, it has freedom of action, but its actions could change the strategic framework in which it operates over the long run. ..The threat to Israel is that its actions will generate forces in the Arab world that eventually change the balance of power."

That sums it up well IMO.  The break with the Obama administration gives them more freedom, but they still have their own limits.  BTW an Ozarik anniversary passed without much notice - where Israel took out an Iraq nuclear facility 29 years ago this week.
Here is another approach:

"Although most of the recent talk regarding flotillas has revolved around ships sailing toward Gaza, at least two plans have emerged for "reverse flotillas" - from Israel toward Turkey - to highlight what organizers have labeled the Turks' "shameless hypocrisy" in their criticisms of the Jewish state.

 The most ambitious of the two plans has been devised by members of Israel's National Student Union, who this week announced their intention to set sail toward Turkey, in an effort to bring humanitarian aid to the "oppressed people of Turkish Kurdistan" and to members of the "Turkish Armenian minority."

Brilliant. How do you think that will go over with the Turks?"
5852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / re. Michael Yon, Gobar Gas on: June 08, 2010, 12:20:15 PM
The Gobar gas piece is VERY interesting.  In a third world country there are about a dozen major things missing that prevent them from moving forward.  Gobar Gas addresses several of them.  It gives a family unit a reason to stay in one place with a source of heat and cooking gas, a reason to keep raising animals and to grow vegetables, some productivity and more likely to get their kids some education.  The lack of any attempt at an economy makes the war/stability situation in Afghanistan very hopeless.
That post gave me the opportunity to go back and read other recent posts regarding Michael Yon to find out why Crafty has gone negative on the prospects in Afghanistan.  What is so striking about Yon's negative assessments is how accurate he has been covering these wars.  Now I realize why no one is talking about Afghanistan.  No one is allowed in to cover it.

Krauthammer had a point a while back: one thing good about having a liberal as Commander in Chief is that the other half of the country needs to gradually grasp that these are America's wars, (not George Bush's) and it is America's security at stake, not some neocon conspiracy. That gain is wasted though in mis-management and defeat.

Bush-Rumsfeld et al were slow too in recognizing failure and changing course (understatement).  Maybe Obama will also snap out of this and assemble a winning team and strategy before it is too late.  By now I would think McChrystal would be thrilled to take reassignment.
5853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: June 07, 2010, 05:32:25 PM
BBG:"I've long thought about founding a counter protest the events the far left often stages.

This could go under grateful but I'll go with 'electoral process' - inspired by your protest company, Crafty's story of this mother's activism and JDN's post of the less than perfect conservatism of the Reagan administration.

My mom also took an activism in politics.  A few memories come to mind.  She and a stationwagon full of activists drove MSP to DC to protest the Reagan's selection of Sanda Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court.  They thought Reagan wanted to appoint a woman so badly that he forgot to appoint a conservative. (They were right.)  It wasn't successful but maybe helped set the stage for others to derail the Harriet Meirs mistake two decades later.  They joined forces previously with Phyllis Schlaffley to help stop the equal rights amendment.  Her view was that women already had special rights and that equal rights - being treated the same as a man - was a step down.  While people were trying to open doors for more women into more fields my mom had earned her degree in aeronautical engineering from the institute of technology in the 1940s.  Asked why there were no other women in her class picture she said no others applied.

My daughter completed her Catholic confirmation this spring with a ceremony at the great Cathedral in St. Paul.  As we left I commented that I had never been to the cathedral before.  I asked what family members had been there before and my mom said 'only to picket'.  Apparently the Catholic Church was a big proponent of unilateral disarmament (sound familiar).  She and her cronies printed up 'peace through strength' signs and tried to get their smiling faces with a different viewpoint on the news. 

These were volunteers, BBG, but hired protesters were always one of ACORN's trademarks.  Not taxpayer money, because they have the "firewall" lol.They had plenty of throw around money.  In liberal parts of Minneapolis they always had activists with signs on all the major street corners for the elections.  Turns out they were paid people from elsewhere but projected an enthused electorate.
5854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy: The economy will collapse in 2011 on: June 07, 2010, 01:26:28 PM
Crafty, Arthur Laffer is exactly right - thanks for finding and posting that.  The automatic tax increase at the end of the year are the elephants in the room that no one wants to talk about.  Only Democrats can stop that from happening.  Even if Republicans win one or both chambers, they take office after the first of the year and anything they pass will require Obama's signature.

By 2012 it will be very difficult to keep calling this country "Bush's mess".
Quoting Laffer: "...Jan. 1, 2011...the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero...  Jan. 1, 1983 the economy took off like a rocket, with average real growth reaching 7.5% in 1983 and 5.5% in 1984. It has always amazed me how tax cuts don't work until they take effect. Mr. Obama's experience with deferred tax rate increases will be the reverse. The economy will collapse in 2011.
I would argue that like Sept 2008, when investors and markets begin to see an impending implosion of values they won't sit around and wait to be the last person to sell off.

The big opportunity now is for Democrats to take some wind out of Republican sails by passing new budgets with new spending reforms coupled with comprehensive tax reforms now.  Unfortunately for the republic, that isn't likely to happen.
5855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics, Reagan Pragmatic on: June 07, 2010, 01:06:02 PM
JDN, Yes he was.  As an aside, Palin also governed as a pragmatist.  Much more interesting and relevant is that Obama is not.

"When Ronald Reagan was elected president [in 1980] he was the foul pole in right field. Today he'd be in center field,"

No.  Reagan won 40 states (and then 49 in 1984).  He was already playing centerfield in 1980.  The big increases to support the military in those times of Soviet threat were not exactly analogous to the 'stimulus' trillions and industry takeovers of today.  Also he was not the farthest to the right of his contenders in the 1980 Republican debates.

***Update: a point I missed was that the first controls on pollutants in smokestacks were not exactly analogous to CO2 witchcraft of today either.  There is nothing un-conservative in opposing filth in the environment. ***

Other asides: JFK would easily be the center of the Republican party today.  Nixon governed as a Democrat.  Back to 1980, the most prominent Democrat in the Senate did not wait for a second term to end to challenge the failed sitting President in his own party.
5856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: June 07, 2010, 12:49:02 PM
CCP,  You are correct about Schumer.  There are others but he is the most senior and trusted among his peers for liberal strategy.  His skills and view of the constitution will be on display soon as the Senate Judiciary Committee ushers through uber-liberal Elena Kagan.
5857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: June 06, 2010, 09:21:25 AM
Gov. Haley Barbor of Miss. said today that 7 of the biggest 10 spills came from tankers.  I think that matches the info in Crafty's link.  Barbor said that the greatest economic damage so far to his state is the news coverage.  Photos of only the worst spots create the impression the whole shoreline is like that right now and it isn't, he said.

Most spillage is natural.  In the long run, drilling, capturing and using the oil beneath the gulf should lessen the natural seepage I would think, if that is the goal.

While we put a moratorium on new deepwater rigs, why not open ANWR and shallower areas off-shore?

Or quit driving.  I would like to see a moratorium on Air Force One flights during the drilling ban.  The man is in his 40s and owns a bicycle, does he not? 

Same for Pelosi.  If we say we can do without oil, let's start with the leadership and see how it goes.
5858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 05, 2010, 01:04:37 AM
Thanks Crafty for followup on Bush v. Gore.  Thanks and welcome to bigdog!

"My comment was meant to be tongue in cheek...  Kelo was wrongly decided..."

Whew!   I'm usually on the other side of that with people not getting my humor.  5 Justices and plenty of other people think the Kelo decision is okay, so that view would be interesting to debate as well.  I hope my strong reaction came across as civil. Kelo is personal for me.  I have my life savings invested in property and have had property taken under the same circumstances by the City of Minneapolis.  My current home of 24 years is extremely vulnerable to the Kelo rule as well.  Don't be fooled by the 5th amendment: "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation".  If they were willing to pay market price where buyers and sellers come together voluntarily, they wouldn't have to 'take' it. 

"the issue at hand was the Fifth Amendment's taking clause, not the Fourth Amendment as you suggest"

You are correct on the first part, the issue was the takings portion of the 5th.  I am just saying that the restrictions in the 4th on the limits of even entering the property make the stretched interpretation of the 5th, going from public use to private use, absurd.

Sowell's central point rings true to me, that public use as the justification does not round down to calling it a public purpose if the city council decides to have someone other than you build for private use on your legally purchased site.  And that having the municipality determine the worthiness of the purpose defeats the purpose of limiting their power.  To me the private use takings mock the meaning of the whole constitution and the process of interpreting it.  You put it nicely: "wrongly decided".  An understatement I think, but those too are strong words.  Too many wrong decisions about limits of government power and those limits as we knew them become mere memories IMHO.
5859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Fed & the US Dollar: Iran Back to the Dollar on: June 04, 2010, 02:42:00 PM
Answering Crafty from the Iran thread: "Tehran’s move toward the euro (2008-2009) as its preferred currency for its foreign exchange reserves, a policy that dovetailed nicely with its anti-American foreign policy posture...Iran is deciding (3020) to alter its currency policy and revert to a largely dollar-denominated foreign exchange reserve"

It was never out of love for America that OPEC, China etc. pegs, buys, holds or uses dollars, it is for lack of a better alternative. If 320 million Europeans in twenty-two countries can't make a currency better than the dollar in these times, neither can any third world conglomeration.  Even gold is not more secure, transmittable and predictable in value IMO than the flawed US$.
5860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 04, 2010, 02:01:46 PM
"Justice Stevens has fundamentally changed – and strengthened – the Court’s jurisprudence regarding personal freedom."

What part of LIVE IN ONE'S OWN HOME is not a personal freedom?

Justice Stevens wrote the opinion Kelo v. New London that takes a situation where the constitution explicitly prohibits the government from entry, search or seizure and gives them the right to bulldoze it and gift the property title to a new, more affluent owner.  

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause..."  - 4th amendment to the U.S. constitution.

In the war on terror example Stevens sought to tie the hands of the Commander in Chief in a time of war and national emergency and in a situation where no prisoners were injured and culturally sensitive meals were ordered by inmates off of a menu.

In Bush v. Gore, the majority correctly noted that the U.S. Constitution gave the authority in question specifically to the "State Legislature" of Florida, not to the state in general and not to the Florida court to strike down or make new law where they may have a better idea or believe the Legislature to have erred.  Stevens dissented.

"His 2005 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, ruling that the EPA could regulate greenhouse gases and that Massachusetts could sue the EPA for failing to do so, is the most important environmental decision in a generation"

Yes, the federal government gained a new means to stop manufacturing, limit unnecessary drives to visit Grandma and keep a watchful government eye over exhaling.

For Justice Stevens, I agree with the two word title of the following piece: Good Riddance!

Good Riddance!
By Thomas Sowell  April 13, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Let's go back to square one. Just who was this provision of the Constitution supposed to restrict? Answer: government officials. And to whom would Justice Stevens defer: government officials. Why would those who wrote the Constitution waste good ink putting that protection in there, if not to protect citizens from the very government officials to whom Justice Stevens deferred?
5861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / State Dinner for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on: June 02, 2010, 10:29:17 AM
Sorry JDN for my lame attempt at humor.  There isn't/wasn't ever going to be an Obama White House State Dinner for this Israeli leader.  Those are saved for great world leaders like Calderon (sarcasm).  Netanyahu would be lucky to get in and out the White House side door without being publicly berated by Obama.
"sociopaths are quite charismatic and glib" - GM on Martial Arts thread today.

A better indicator than appearance on sociopaths is the trait that they have difficulty differentiating between friends and enemies. 
5862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness and the Israelis on: June 01, 2010, 10:56:05 PM
Speaking of that special relationship between the US and Israel (over on the Israel thread), I never heard anything about that state dinner the Obamas held for Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Did anyone here attend or know what they served?  Did the President bow or is that reserved for unelected leaders?
5863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 01, 2010, 12:24:58 PM
Just curious, who in the world has been a better ally to the United States than Israel?  Who in the Middle East has been equal to Israel as a friend to the United States?  What foreign policy interest of the United States does it serve to turn our back on our best friends and appease out worst enemies?

We don't help Israel because Israelis are Jewish.  Our enemies want them annihilated because they are Jewish and they want us annihilated because we are American, so the Jewish state and the American state work together in certain ways where we share a common interest.  That common interest is not religion.  It is survival against war-mongering enemies.
5864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 30, 2010, 11:23:35 PM
BBG: "Dang, Doug..."  - Thanks for the kind words. Twisted minds think alike(?)

If Evan Bayh ran maybe it would be Obama who still lacked the experience.  It would be good for the Republic IMHO to have two fresher faces in the next election to fight more on competing political philosophies than on mistakes and grudges of the past.
5865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Energy Politics: Why are we 5000 feet down? on: May 30, 2010, 01:55:56 PM

May 27, 2010
Environmentalists with Oil on Their Hands
By Henry P. Wickham, Jr.
When evaluating in an honest way all factors that contributed to the current pollution of the Gulf, we must ask why BP was drilling in 5,000 feet of ocean when there are so many other accessible and safe alternatives. There are large deposits of oil shale in Western Colorado that could easily and safely be extracted as it is now in Western Canada. We have all heard of the huge deposits of oil in ANWR, on Alaska's North Shore. Because of improved drilling technology, all available oil in ANWR can be extracted by using only 2,000 of its roughly 19,000,000 acres.

BP now drills in 5,000 feet of ocean because these better alternatives have been foreclosed to the oil industry. Environmental groups have effectively stymied this safe and relatively easy production of oil in the name of some higher but more nebulous good. Where they once rationalized their campaign against oil companies based upon the threat of environmental degradation, environmental groups now use the increasingly dubious claims of global warming to justify their obstruction.

As the policies of environmental groups were a factor in what we now see in the Gulf of Mexico, so they were in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.  When huge quantities of oil were discovered in Prudhoe Bay on the North Shore of Alaska in the mid-1960s, one issue among many was the transportation of this oil.

The safest approach was a pipeline from the North Shore directly to the northern border of the contiguous United States. As a member of the Sierra Club at that time, I remember well the relentless war that the Sierra Club waged against both the drilling and the pipeline. In what has now become a predictable strategy, the Sierra Club catastrophized the entire project and attacked the motives of those who sought merely to respond to the demand for oil by the American public.

The Sierra Club at that time published a "Battlebook," where readers were told that the drilling and pipeline "will despoil thousands of acres of virgin wilderness, change the ecology of huge tracts, pollute Alaska's rivers and harbors, and interrupt the migration patterns of the caribou herds."

Because of what he called this "mindless onslaught of technology," the author asserted that the caribou herds would be decimated as American buffalo were in the 19th century. His heated rhetoric, no doubt a contribution to global warming, took control as he wrote that this development was a "rape" in the name of "fat profits."     

Fortunately for America, the environmentalists at that time did not have the political clout they do now. Prudhoe Bay was developed, and it now operates without all the dire consequences to the land so hysterically predicted by the Sierra Club. However, as a partial victory for the environmentalists, the pipeline was constructed only to Valdez, Alaska, rather than to the border of the lower forty-eight states. And so, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground, dumping 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. Exxon is certainly responsible for the blunders that occurred that day.

In the one instance where a Sierra Club predictions came true, the Sierra Club had a hand in that disaster. The blunders of the ship's captain likely would not have occurred had it not been for the obstruction of the pipeline that could have reached the contiguous United States. The longer pipeline would have eliminated, or at least significantly reduced, the need for an Exxon Valdez. As with the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, the crisis today in the Gulf may not have occurred if the environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club had not obstructed so many of the safe alternatives to drilling in 5,000 feet of ocean.

The chronic obstruction of so many economic endeavors is a symptom of deeper problems in the environmental movement. Environmentalists tend to live in a fantasy world, where some unattainable perfection is always the enemy of the good. What was once reasonable conservation has become for many the pseudo-religion of environmentalism, where Luddite obstruction is the default position, and no environmental benefit, no matter how small, is ever too costly.

Aside from the nostalgic illusions of some lost Eden, among environmentalists there is a strong element that opposes democratic capitalism. Environmentalism becomes just another means to a dreamy collectivized end.  They simply ignore or are ignorant of the causes of their comfortable life and the serious environmental degradation done by regimes with" planned" economies and "public" ownership of the means of production.

Environmentalism is also a worldview where one never really has to accept or take responsibility for the consequences of those policies. Millions die of malaria because affluent environmentalists had the political might to have DDT banned. America can be deprived of new sources of safe and clean nuclear energy because of the hysterical and dishonest war waged against the nuclear power industry. Environmentalists can tout wind power while campaigning to obstruct its generation near the shores of Cape Cod. (We must not interfere with the yachting patterns of the local but classy endangered species off Hyannisport.) Environmentalists seem never to be called to account.

As we experience the effects of and calculate the enormous costs to clean up the Gulf of Mexico, by all means, let's hold BP accountable. But let's refuse to give the environmentalists a free pass. We must judge them by all the consequences of what they advocate, and not just by their flowery rhetoric, pretty calendars, and supposedly noble intentions. We must emphasize that for all those supposedly "green" benefits, there are real costs and risks that the environmentalists downplay or conceal. In this case, environmentalists have Gulf oil on their hands as much as any floating pelican carcass, although we will never get an acknowledgment of any responsibility or an apology from them.
5866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The emperor wiith no clothes on: May 30, 2010, 01:48:45 PM
"IMHO there will be no serious challenge and BO will be the nominee."

That is the conventional wisdom.  We all still have memories of the Greek columns, the tingling feeling and the tears of victory for thousands at the Grant Park speech in Chicago.  There is no one perfectly positioned in either party (including BHO) with competence, experience and support to easily step forward through the electoral process and be the next President. But someone from somewhere will.

The powers of incumbency are enormous but can turn into a negative force.  From a Dem. point of view last cycle, the incumbent was Hillary. She was expected and she had all the power - until it became clear that . Not to take away from candidate Obama and his quick rise, but his candidacy surged as he became the alternative who could win who was not Hillary.

Words alone will not carry him next time; he is building a record.

I don't know which of Obama's heaviest baggage will be his downfall or which other Dem can say he was not part of the fall yet involved enough to be credible as the next leader.  I always think the main event or issue of our time is one we don't know of yet.  For America under Bush it was 9/11 and we all knew it when we caught our breath that evening and started to measure the damage and grasp the threats we still faced that we had previously ignored or underestimated.

Maybe right now it is the oil spill reaction mixed in with the other flounderings and misdirections.  The mess itself is a tragedy, Malia gets it, and the people feel powerless, a little like 9/11.  What we need to know is that the leadership we chose to handle our emergencies is as trustworthy and competent as humanly possible.  And the answer is no; our pretend leadership is dishonest and clueless.  They think rhetoric substitutes for action and solutions.  Meanwhile the continued gush is symbolic of more that is wrong and he continues to pass blame.

Maybe they are doing all that can be done behind the scenes but what we see and hear is finger pointing, lawyer sending, commission forming and a few hours on a beach, while separately on the same news broadcasts we hear (Sestack) the totally implausible, delayed and concocted lies of how the job offer to buy the 60th vote was not really a job offer to buy the 60th vote, in spite of the opposite we were told by the candidate of the same party whose honesty was previously beyond reproach.

Today 53% of the people think the Obama administration response to the oil spill is either 'poor' or 'very poor'.  I wonder how that will grow when the gush is still gushing at the end of the summer, when we have had more time to look at what was not done and could have been done faster-sooner-better.

To those who rightly say how unfair it is to hold leadership accountable for things beyond their control, one might say welcome to the beehive that was spun under any number of previous events turned political - like Katrina.  Forget about unfair criticism of Bush over Katrina response, they are still blaming Bush and Cheney for this one, giving the green light to political criticism and political revenge over catastrophic events and the reactions to them.

What have we learned?  We can't plug the hole because it is too far down and too far off-shore.  The oil companies spent hundreds of millions to drill too far out and too far down - why?  Because the 97% of the energy that would be easier to get we designate as off-limits due to the same tired strain of political rhetoric winning out over common sense previously.

The power of incumbency is insurmountable within his own party only until the negatives of the incumbent reach some critical mass - like with Hillary, or LBJ.

The incompetence is exposed.  The corruption is exposed.  The tie to socialism is exposed.  The shame of our country is expressed overseas and exposed.  The fiscal irresponsibility is exposed. The failure of appeasement with our enemies is exposed.  The failure of the countries whose economies we are emulating is exposed.  The 'accomplishments' require quotation marks like passing 'the stimulis' and seeing 2/3 of voters favoring repeal of ObamaCare.

At the end of the oil spill and in the accumulation of trillions in total squandered, we will still be getting 0.4% of our energy from renewables.  There is no energy vision, or grow the private economy vision, close the border vision, stop Iran vision, just talk, and the ideas are still stuck on the cliche that we must 'do something' even when the doing of something does nothing - like golf balls in an oil gush.

The real arbatross (IMO) is the budget.  $4 trillion in spending with 2.5 expected in receipts for 2011.  This is not for the emergency panic of Sept. 2008, nearly 3 fiscal years previous, with an impending collapse.  This is our budget.  This is our plan.  I know the 2011 budget presented in February went through on a slow news day at a time when people already knew we running a trillion in debt, but this IS the plan, it will not go away, and it does not count the unexpected emergencies that keep on coming or the underestimation of costs for programs already passed and proposed.  Moderate Dems (are there any?) and deficit-adverse independents are not going to go along with this course indefinitely.  When it becomes clear the ship is sinking, the rats will scurry (insert Carville photo).

LBJ enjoyed a far bigger victory in 1964 than Obama in 2008.  Who ran against LBJ in 1968 when the party and the public suspected he had no clothes? One disgruntled senator (Eugene McCarthy out of nowhere) challenged and narrowly lost New Hampshire, showed the President's vulnerability.  A former President's brother (a senator) entered, the incumbent withdrew suddenly, there was an assassination, the VEEP (former senator) won the nomination and none of them won the election.  Everyone in politics thinks they can do it better, just watching, waiting and plotting for a way to get in.

My prediction that Obama will not be the D-nominee is simply pointing out that an incumbent who won't win reelection, won't be feared by his backstabbing 'friends' either. Conventional wisdom drops easily and often in politics.  We will see on this one.
5867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / re. California Bankruptcy Talk on: May 30, 2010, 11:15:01 AM
From the previous link:
"Bankruptcy is exactly what public unions deserve."

Refreshing to see 'bankruptcy' presented as a solution, not the problem.  Legacy debts of an operation are obligations only so long as the entity is successful and survives.  There needs to be some mechanism to clear out the outrageous pension and unrealistic benefit packages approved by previous legislatures who had no governing right to bind future legislatures. 

We don't choose forest fire but it does clear out dead wood and let sunlight shine through to the new growth on the forest floor. 

People confuse bankruptcy - the positive process of dismantling the failure and starting over - with the failure itself that led to it.
5868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Great Moments in Presidential Speeches on: May 28, 2010, 09:30:25 AM
Wonder if Letterman will replay this one:

March 31, 2010  President Obama:
"today we’re announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration...  Under the leadership of Secretary Salazar, we’ll employ new technologies that reduce the impact of oil exploration.  We’ll protect areas that are vital to tourism... consider potential areas for development in the...Gulf of Mexico"
5869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 27, 2010, 12:36:56 AM
[" prediction that Obama won't be the D-nominee..."  That leaves.......say it ain't so.....]

No, not her and I don't know who.  But both parties need new blood, new ideas.
5870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: May 27, 2010, 12:31:01 AM
"Think of this [China heavily invested in dollars] as economic warfare."

  - This aspect alone of the US China relationship looks more like a business partnership (or dysfunctional codependency) than a war. 
5871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Libertarian Issues: Snooping on the Palins on: May 26, 2010, 10:48:34 PM
CCP,  Maybe people who hear the story of the Palins' stalker can feel a small part of the pain you have described here about having family privacy violated.  Too bad anyone would do business with such a scoundrel.
Palin said the news of the investigative reporter renting out the house next to her has put her family on edge and has left her more concerned about the privacy of her children.  AP

5872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 26, 2010, 02:16:02 PM
"I feel sick in my stomach at the ever growing disaster. Is BP doing all that it can? Should the Feds be doing more?"

We will know more later.  Maybe they will plug the hole today and then we can reflect on what went wrong.  The filth depresses me too, yet I heard an LSU professor of environmental sciences say that nature leaks this much anyway through the gulf floor but not concentrated in one location like this.  He hated to say aloud that the magical formula for dispersion would be a severe tropical storm (probably coming soon).

Interesting insight from a radio host today (not an energy expert):  We drill sooooo deep and sooooo far from shore because of the past 'success' of environmental extremism.  This spill would be more manageable and solvable if it was more reachable.  I wonder if that is true.

Politically, I would like to know what day (somewhere between day 6 and day 8 ) it was that the Obama defenders began using the phrase "since day one".  When we finally plug it we can ask ourselves why that solution was not ready before the spill or airlifted across the world if necessary on 'day one'.  And why the blowout protectors don't protect against blowouts, while the federal regulators have time for this and money for that - fill in your own wasteful examples - studying the sex habits of female college freshmen, 4 hour erection warnings etc.

I recall that Obama offered to open more offshore drilling about two months prior to this but predicated it on more studies, (a fake, like his effort to send 3 troops to the border).  Alright, valuable time went by even if it was only a couple of months, and millions were spent by these agencies, where are those studies or why were we lied to and who will be fired?  I think you will find that the environmental regulators were viewing porn like the SEC regulators on taxpayer internet connections and corresponding with their friends in the global warming farce crowd and the political lobbies instead of doing the science and regulatory functions they were assigned like reviewing the testing procedures of blowout protectors. 
5873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics - Carville rips Obama Administration on: May 26, 2010, 01:39:26 PM
As a large radio host used to say, nothing with the Clintons happens by accident.  James Carville hapens to choose the Stephanopoulos show to rip the Obama administration for "ineptness" and for being "lackadaisical", "It just looks like he's not involved in this," an angry Carville said. "Man, you got to get down here and take control of this, put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving. We're about to die down here." These guys were always known for floating trial balloons.  This is a first.  For Carville there is no downside as he is a Louisiana native, a known loose cannon and I'm sure not an Obama insider.

If this trial balloon gains traction within his own party, more will split with him for plenty of other reasons as they face survival vs. extinction in this year's mid-terms and the next round.  One problem that grew against Bush was that the right didn't like him very well either.

I stand by my prediction that Obama won't be the D-nominee in 2012.

Separately, Jonathon Alder of Newsweek in his book about the first year about the Obama administration wrote that Biden and H.R.Clinton would switch places in the second term.  That assumes a relatively successful, uneventful first term, IMO, which does not appear to be the case.
5874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Way Forward: Reject the Keynesian 'stimulus' on: May 26, 2010, 10:07:28 AM
From other threads: Next year's budget is to spend $4 trillion and take in just 2.5 while private employment is at the lowest percentage of the economy in history and public employment at its highest.

We can't all agree on all issues.  Could we all at least agree that the government is not the economy, that we do not stimulate the economy by growing the government and we certainly do not alleviate the debt crisis by exploding the debt.

If everyone knows you can't raise taxes in a weak economy, then get the tax increases scheduled for the end of this year off the table NOW.  The opposition party should make that point every morning on the steps of congress until the ruling party agrees or until the voters have their say.

The double tax on business is out of line competitively - the corporate rate should be lowered to the average of the OECD.  Then the rest of the tax cutting wish list needs to be put on hold while we Cut Spending First. 

At four trillion of federal spending and growing, the answer to which program to cut is yes - all of them will be fully scrutinized, cut and frozen until the private economy can catch up with the  funding.  JMHO.
5875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: May 26, 2010, 09:20:32 AM
Rarick, "welcome to a more dangerous world"  - I agree.  What a shame for world peace and prosperity to not have a free and functional friend and ally in the space occupied by Chavez and his forces.

"this oil addiction thing is crippling our ability to act internationally according to our founding principles"

  - But this oil addiction thing to me is synonymous with freedom.  Freedom requires mobility and mobility uses oil.  A gallon of gas is the most safe, compact, stable, efficient, and still affordable form of transportable energy that we have.  Our refusal to produce our own that creates the import addiction and the current oil spill will set that even further back indefinitely.  You could drive a short distance in a form of an electric golf cart and I am fascinated by the transportation capabilities of homegrown compressed natural gas, but nothing else so far matches the performance of a gallon of gas.

"someone took their eyes off the ball during the Clinton years"

  - I have seen no indication that South Americans want U.S. intervention no matter how bad things get.  The low point I observed (from my secure midwest location) was under Bush and then Sec. State Colin Powell in August 2004.  The American diplomats did not know how to tell self-appointed observer Jimmy Carter to take a hike and send in real election observers (and Chavez would not have accepted real observers).  The polls were 40-60 against Chavez while he won 60-40, a 40 point swing.  Carter quickly signed on to the result, putting the Bush administration in a bad situation of either recognizing the result or rejecting it based on no evidence.  The appeasement did us no good as the anti-Bush anti-US rhetoric and relations from Chavez only increased.  Had we rejected the referendum result, we would have the same reality - an illegitimate leader running Venezuela.  Personally I am more taken aback by the 40% who favor this type of rule (same in the U.S.) than I am by the electoral cheating.
REVIEW & OUTLOOK  Wall Street Journal (from 2004)
Conned in Caracas
New evidence that Jimmy Carter got fooled in Venezuela.

Thursday, September 9, 2004 12:01 A.M. EDT

Both the Bush Administration and former President Jimmy Carter were quick to bless the results of last month's Venezuelan recall vote, but it now looks like they were had. A statistical analysis by a pair of economists suggests that the random-sample "audit" results that the Americans trusted weren't random at all.

This is no small matter. The imprimatur of Mr. Carter and his Carter Center election observers is being used by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to claim a mandate. The anti-American strongman has been steering his country toward dictatorship and is stirring up trouble throughout Latin America. If the recall election wasn't fair, why would Americans want to endorse it?

The new study was released this week by economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and Roberto Rigobon of MIT. They zeroed in on a key problem with the August 18 vote audit that was run by the government's electoral council (CNE): In choosing which polling stations would be audited, the CNE refused to use the random number generator recommended by the Carter Center. Instead, the CNE insisted on its own program, run on its own computer. Mr. Carter's team acquiesced, and Messrs. Hausmann and Rigobon conclude that, in controlling this software, the government had the means to cheat.

"This result opens the possibility that the fraud was committed only in a subset of the 4,580 automated centers, say 3,000, and that the audit was successful because it directed the search to the 1,580 unaltered centers. That is why it was so important not to use the Carter Center number generator. If this was the case, Carter could never have figured it out."

Mr. Hausmann told us that he and Mr. Rigoban also "found very clear trails of fraud in the statistical record" and a probability of less than 1% that the anomalies observed could be pure chance. To put it another way, they think the chance is 99% that there was electoral fraud.

The authors also suggest that the fraud was centralized. Voting machines were supposed to print tallies before communicating by Internet with the CNE center. But the CNE changed that rule, arranging to have totals sent to the center first and only later printing tally sheets. This increases the potential for fraud because the Smartmatic voting machines suddenly had two-way communication capacity that they weren't supposed to have. The economists say this means the CNE center could have sent messages back to polling stations to alter the totals.

None of this would matter if the auditing process had been open to scrutiny by the Carter observers. But as the economists point out: "After an arduous negotiation, the Electoral Council allowed the OAS [Organization of American States] and the Carter Center to observe all aspects of the election process except for the central computer hub, a place where they also prohibited the presence of any witnesses from the opposition. At the time, this appeared to be an insignificant detail. Now it looks much more meaningful."

Yes, it does. It would seem that Colin Powell and the Carter Center have some explaining to do. The last thing either would want is for Latins to think that the U.S. is now apologizing for governments that steal elections. Back when he was President, Mr. Carter once famously noted that the Afghanistan invasion had finally caused him to see the truth about Leonid Brezhnev. A similar revelation would seem to be in order toward Mr. Chavez.
5876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / U.S. Budget: $4 Trillion spending with 2.5 in revenues on: May 25, 2010, 11:45:35 AM
I wonder what the blowback would be if a Bush or Reagan had submitted this budget.  33% of all spending is pretend money we admit we will never have, but agree to pay with interest.

Submitted    February, 2010
Submitted by    Barack Obama
Submitted to    111th Congress
Total revenue    $2.57 trillion (estimated)
Total expenditures    $3.83 trillion (estimated)
Deficit    $1.267 trillion (estimated)

For revenues at that level, 'baseline' spending should be at 2005-2006 levels, no more.
5877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: May 25, 2010, 10:14:35 AM
"If someone can find a good definition/explanation of Baseline Budgeting and post it here it would be appreciated."
I don't welcome the task of going inside the liberal, big government mind to explain its inner workings.  What if I never make it back out?

Take last year's budget for any one of the thousands of federal social spending programs (like that amount was a commandment from God) and add some artificial multiplier for inflation and for population increase.  Then any amount for the following year that is less than this 'required' increase is a 'cut' in a program.

So if your budget was $100 billion last year and we say inflation was 4% and population increase was 1% and then spend $102 Billion the next year, that is a 3% cut, in Washington-speak, typically hitting women and children the hardest.

A few small flaws in the logic:

a) If the $100 billion was spent to solve something, then presumably only $50 billion or ideally nothing would be required the following year.  But in fact, if you pay for homelessness or hunger, for example, you will get more of it.

b) Budgets in a rational world come out of money available, not need or wish.  So if the budget was in balance last year and tax revenues contract by 5%, then the baseline for each worthwhile program would be -5%, holding its share of the public money available.  Not in Washington.

The real solution is Zero-Based-Budgeting, every two years.  No congress has any right to obligate or presume that the following congress will choose to tax or spend on any of the same programs before the people have had their say.  That is a level of arrogance and unconstitutionality I will never understand.
5878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 25, 2010, 12:56:19 AM
 "Paul will win in Kentucky even if caught with a dead woman or live boy..."

Forget the dead woman or live boy, I find your optimism and confidence encouraging.  Wish I could say that about any of our candidates.  It's true they won't be ale to control him but that too is a good thing.  But the 'they' we are calling the the national Republican leadership is changing - I think.  For example Bennett in Utah, Specter gone, several others turning over, newcomers in and the rest nervous. The status quo will change visibly or they won't be trusted by the people.

Let's assume for a second that Republicans make big gains this year.  Then we head into the Presidential year with a little momentum and no obvious front runner.  When Bush began, he vetoed nothing.  The next leader, if he/she want to win, will not be wishy-washy, go along to get along.  Even Reagan caved on domestic spending to win in two other areas.  That won't work this time.  If a conservative wins in 2012, the mandate will be to control spending, reform entitlements, balance the budget - at a lower level of GDP and secure the country.  A Republican will not win by talking out of both sides of his mouth with no meaning. A candidate who is soft on spending will not pull together independents who are anti-deficit along with so-called tea-partiers who want the size of government scaled back and limited.

CCP wrote: "...Republicans were simply trying to compete with the Dems for votes..."

  - I agree.  Ribbon cutting ceremonies for new earmark projects were fun and rewarding.  Beefing up gusset plates on interstate bridges, making New Orleans Cat 5 proof , better testing on blow out Protectors and entitlement reforms - not quite as glamorous.  Question is whether or not we have evolved since the 2000s when people were still impressed with new programs and new spending and in fear of anything cut.
5879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 24, 2010, 04:46:54 PM
"Doug, I hope you are right and there is some sort of "Contract with America" again. "

In 1994 that was done very late in the campaign and these were all very highly poll tested proposals.  It stole the oxygen away from their opponents and it answered the main complaint of the opponents - we know what you are against, but you never tell us how you would govern.  The Contract did that.

2006 was the opposite.  As Democrats were coasting to a negative victory - people were going to elect Bush's opposition.  Pelosi went into hiding, either to heal her plastic surgery or to keep her San Francisco Liberal mug out of the local news or the moderate Dems running contested races across the heartland.  The strategy of 2008-2008 was to downplay the leftist agenda because it doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

I don't know if Republicans need a Contract with America to win this year, but they need the experience and discipline of hammering one out in order to govern and to set the table for 2012.   For 2012 we will need leaders that will agree to the principles, not Pied Piper types that will make some other song sound appealing.
5880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 24, 2010, 04:23:04 PM
"The Party isn't supporting Paul in this media shark fest because they want him damaged."

P.C:  I disagree.  I think the party wants to win the Kentucky seat very badly, even with Paul, but is worried about collateral damage.  Paul's remarks were not racist, but the implications of them may sound that way.  They just weren't disciplined enough for the national limelight.  But if he is a surgeon and a serious senate candidate he should be able to put a tight and clear message together right now for the general election. 

Michele Bachmann R-MN has also stepped in it a few times and still wins in a conservative district.  One of hers was also the unAmerican comment.  The media is just dying to get them to say something extreme sounding in a sound byte and then paint the whole movement or party to be extreme. 

Paul could turn this into a positive.  He has drawn an inordinate amount of attention to himself.  Now we will see how he uses it.  McConnell won by only 53-47% even as leader.  Paul will bring in some new voters that use to sit out but he will need the McConnell voters to win.  McConnell will need the Paul voters on his next try, but he for sure needs to win this one in Kentucky to ever reach 50 or 51 R-senators.  As the party in opposition, the main problems will remain on the left side with the Susan Collins and former Arlen Specter types, not on the right.

BTW, the Rand Paul proposal to require a constitutional justification for every federal authority is brilliant.  You can argue the details of the authority, but how can you deny that you even have to find and justify the authority.  My proposal was a little different.  I think they require themselves to pass an Unintended Consequences Report prior to the budget authorization for every federal program, just like developers may be required to publish an environmental impact statement.  In other words, what are the downsides of this legislation.  Can you imagine Democrats arguing either one of those on ObamaCare? Take both of these proposals together and you might slow the legislation and funds authorization process by adding a little sobriety.
5881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Politics of Health Care - Repeal popularity hits 63% on: May 24, 2010, 01:37:53 PM
Rasmussen reports that "Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters nationwide favor repeal of the health care law. That’s the highest level of support for repeal yet measured." 
5882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance - Daniel Pearl wasn't "lost", he was beheaded on: May 24, 2010, 01:31:51 PM
Mark Steyn (May 22, 2010) has the outrage that President Obama lacks.
One of Those Moments
The president has become the latest Western liberal to try to hammer Daniel Pearl’s box into a round hole.

Barack Obama’s remarkable powers of oratory are well known: In support of Chicago’s Olympic bid, he flew into Copenhagen to give a heartwarming speech about himself, and they gave the games to Rio. He flew into Boston to support Martha Coakley’s bid for the U.S. Senate, and Massachusetts voters gave Ted Kennedy’s seat to a Republican. In the first year of his presidency, he gave a gazillion speeches on health-care “reform” and drove support for his proposals to basement level, leaving Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to ram it down the throats of the American people through sheer parliamentary muscle.

Like a lot of guys who’ve been told they’re brilliant one time too often, President Obama gets a little lazy, and doesn’t always choose his words with care. And so it was that he came to say a few words about Daniel Pearl, upon signing the “Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act.”

Pearl was decapitated on video by jihadist Muslims in Karachi on Feb. 1, 2002. That’s how I’d put it.

This is what the president of the United States said: “Obviously, the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is.”

Now Obama’s off the prompter, when his silver-tongued rhetoric invariably turns to sludge. But he’s talking about a dead man here, a guy murdered in public for all the world to see. Furthermore, the deceased’s family is standing all around him. And, even for a busy president, it’s the work of moments to come up with a sentence that would be respectful, moving, and true. Indeed, for Obama, it’s the work of seconds, because he has a taxpayer-funded staff sitting around all day with nothing to do but provide him with that sentence.

Instead, he delivered the one above. Which, in its clumsiness and insipidness, is most revealing. First of all, note the passivity: “The loss of Daniel Pearl.” He wasn’t “lost.” He was kidnapped and beheaded. He was murdered on a snuff video. He was specifically targeted, seized as a trophy, a high-value scalp. And the circumstances of his “loss” merit some vigor in the prose. Yet Obama can muster none.

Even if Americans don’t get the message, the rest of the world does. This week’s pictures of the leaders of Brazil and Turkey clasping hands with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are also monuments to American passivity.

But what did the “loss” of Daniel Pearl mean? Well, says the president, it was “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination.” Really? Evidently it never captured Obama’s imagination, because, if it had, he could never have uttered anything so fatuous. He seems literally unable to imagine Pearl’s fate, and so, cruising on autopilot, he reaches for the all-purpose bromides of therapeutic sedation: “one of those moments” — you know, like Princess Di’s wedding, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, whatever — “that captured the world’s imagination.”

Notice how reflexively Obama lapses into sentimental one-worldism: Despite our many zip codes, we are one people, with a single imagination. In fact, the murder of Daniel Pearl teaches just the opposite — that we are many worlds, and worlds within worlds. Some of them don’t even need an “imagination.” Across the planet, the video of an American getting his head sawed off did brisk business in the bazaars and madrassas and Internet downloads. Excited young men e-mailed it to friends, from cell phone to cell phone, from Karachi to Jakarta to Khartoum to London to Toronto to Falls Church, Va. In the old days, you needed an “imagination” to conjure the juicy bits of a distant victory over the Great Satan. But in an age of high-tech barbarism, the sight of Pearl’s severed head is a mere click away.

And the rest of “the world”? Most gave a shrug of indifference. And far too many found the reality of Pearl’s death too uncomfortable and chose to take refuge in the same kind of delusional pap as Obama. The president is only the latest Western liberal to try to hammer Daniel Pearl’s box into a round hole. Before him, it was Michael Winterbottom in his film A Mighty Heart: As Pearl’s longtime colleague Asra Nomani wrote, “Danny himself had been cut from his own story.” Or, as Paramount’s promotional department put it, “Nominate the most inspiring ordinary hero. Win a trip to the Bahamas!” Where you’re highly unlikely to be kidnapped and beheaded! (Although, in the event that you are, please check the liability-waiver box at the foot of the entry form.)

The latest appropriation is that his “loss” “reminded us of how valuable a free press is.” It was nothing to do with “freedom of the press.” By the standards of the Muslim world, Pakistan has a free-ish and very lively press. The problem is that some 80 percent of its people wish to live under the most extreme form of Sharia, and many of its youth are exported around the world in advance of that aim. The man convicted of Pearl’s murder was Omar Sheikh, a British subject, a London School of Economics student, and, like many jihadists from Osama to the Pantybomber, a monument to the peculiar burdens of a non-deprived childhood in the Muslim world. The man who actually did the deed was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed in March 2007: “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi.” But Obama’s not the kind to take “guilty” for an answer, so he’s arranging a hugely expensive trial for KSM amid the bright lights of Broadway.

Listen to his killer’s words: “The American Jew Daniel Pearl.” We hit the jackpot! And then we cut his head off. Before the body was found, The Independent’s Robert Fisk offered a familiar argument to Pearl’s kidnappers: Killing him would be “a major blunder . . . the best way of ensuring that the suffering” — of Kashmiris, Afghans, Palestinians — “goes unrecorded.” Other journalists peddled a similar line: If you release Danny, he’ll be able to tell your story, get your message out, “bridge the misconceptions.” But the story did get out; the severed head is the message; the only misconception is that that’s a misconception.

Daniel Pearl was the prototype for a new kind of terror. In his wake came other victims from Kenneth Bigley, whose last words were that “Tony Blair has not done enough for me,” to Fabrizzio Quattrocchi, who yanked off his hood, yelled “I will show you how an Italian dies!” and ruined the movie for his jihadist videographers. By that time, both men understood what it meant to be in a windowless room with a camera and a man holding a scimitar. But Daniel Pearl was the first, and in his calm, coherent final words understood why he was there:

“My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California, U.S.A.”

He didn’t have a prompter. But he spoke the truth. That’s all President Obama owed him — to do the same.

I mentioned last week the attorney general’s peculiar insistence that “radical Islam” was nothing to do with the Times Square bomber, the Pantybomber, the Fort Hood killer. Just a lot of moments “capturing the world’s imagination.” For now, the jihadists seem to have ceased cutting our heads off. Listening to Obama and Eric Holder, perhaps they’ve figured out there’s nothing much up there anyway.
5883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: May 24, 2010, 01:21:30 PM
States face same/similar spending and deficit problems.  New Jersey may now be the best example, but Minnesota of all places is another example over the last 8 years.  Gov. Tim Pawlenty claims to have cut real spending levels by an average of 2% per year over his two 4-year terms.  Hostile liberal CBS affiliate television station ran a mixed fact check reply but concluded the main claim is True.

Pawlenty presided over the implementation of the tax cuts enacted by his predecessor (a wrestler) to take Minnesota  out of the top ten worst tax states.  Coincidentally, the unemployment rate just dropped to 7.2%.

(Maybe this should be posted in the way forward for California.)

Minnesota loves its 'great liberals' Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Paul Wellstone, Garrison Keillor etc. but doesn't trust them to govern.  The last time Dems won the Gov. race was 1982/1988, a dentist from the iron range who ran against the party establishment and pioneered school choice.
5884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 24, 2010, 12:47:54 PM
Also might be time to open a thread for the 2010 individual senate and congressional races going on across the country.  Something big is going on.

Rasmussen: Gov. John Hoeven, R, leads his Democratic opponent for Senate in North Dakota, 72 to 23 percent. 

Republicans have not won a senate seat in North Dakota since 1980. 
5885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: May 23, 2010, 06:04:33 PM
Thank you GM for quantifying an argument I was trying to make.  Besides the amazingly large number of dollars, we don't even have any way of truly measuring them and certainly no way of promising to redeem them, on demand, in gold.  Yes we could peg the dollar to the current price of gold, and that ratio would never change - except in an emergency - but as mentioned recently, everything is an emergency - a crisis.  Bankruptcy of our largest state (Calif.)is an emergency.  Continuous war is an emergency.  Collapse of our financial sector is an emergency, 9/11 was obviously an emergency etc.

So you would still have a Board (called the Fed) but you would just issue them a stronger directive to uphold the value of the dollar, which is already their mandate.  But the value of the dollar with a new mandate would still only rely on the promise of the United States government (as it does now) and in the context of a government that already moved twice in its past to decouple further from gold.  

In 1971 when Bretton Woods collapsed, it wasn't by choice.  It was a no-choice situation brought on by previous policies, deficits and trade imbalances.  If I were a Fed Governor, I would take the new mandate and then throw it back on congress: If you want the currency in balance then you will eliminate the budget imbalance NOW and legalize industry and manufacturing up the point where trade deficits are rounding errors, not rivers of currency flow.

My main point in bringing this up is that like-minded people, conservative and/or libertarian need to get on the same page, (like CCP says) and get our collective act together, give our leaders clear direction, (or keep losing).  If ending the Fed is not an immediate possibility, priority or solution, like revisiting civil rights legislation is not, then we need to move the focus to only what we CAN achieve right now in the next election cycle, in the next congress and in the next Presidential contest. (IMHO)

5886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: May 22, 2010, 12:09:44 AM
Nice post Freki.  This is a difficult subject.  That I see it a little differently doesn't mean there is a hole in your understanding. smiley  The main point I was making is that I think we are past the point of being capable of reverting back to a true gold standard where all the new dollars are convertible back to gold.  For one thing I don't think most dollars are even paper much less gold.  Dollars today are largely electronic entries transferred around between banks and institutions, credit card companies, employers, consumers, governments, etc.

I have also read the 95% figure.  From the chart here it looks like they are getting that by going back to 1913:

By looking past the peaks and troughs on the chart it also looks like the rate of decline in purchasing power was similar in all the periods - before we went off true convertibility in 1933, from 1933 through 1971 when we were forced to go off the Bretton Woods link to gold, and from 1971 to the present. 

The criticism that it is a semi governmental organization which we have no real oversight is valid.  Congress has 'oversight' but not operational control when they haul the Fed chair in for regular questioning.  But IMO that is far better than letting the politicians (spenders) have more direct control. 

If true convertibility to gold isn't possible anymore, they talk instead about tracking the dollar's purchasing power with a basket of goods where the price of gold would be a strong component because of its strong reputation for holding its value.  The actual tracking of purchasing power is tricky because the mix of goods and services we buy changes over time.  If there was a formula instead of a Fed, I think we would still need a board (The Fed)to tweak that formula over time.

"what is the upside of the fed"(?)

It seems to me that there needs to be a human hand able to make an adjustment, a pressure relief, emergency assistance or human judgment to avoid a run, a panic or a collapse, especially in these times.  We faced a deflation scare recently and we always seem to face an inflation threat.  We had a country go under.  We have states going under.  We've had market crashes.  We had one allegedly triggered by a computer glitch.  I remember a near-cornering of the silver market by two brothers.  We have droughts, trade imbalances and we have budget shortfalls in the trillions.  We've had foreign wars and we had attacks on the homeland with our own planes that shut down entire industries. With a little discipline we could avoid some of these catastrophes, but not all of them.

Let's look at it politically.  End the Fed means going back to pre-1913 policies (?) A lot has changed since then and we certainly have a lot of needs for the contingencies partly listed above.  Even if that were great policy I think the idea would scare the hell out of the electorate. 

More realistically, we need to give the existing Fed and the new governors appointed and confirmed the mandate or guideline that they need to minimize inflation and the loss of purchasing power and to track as close as possible to the stability of gold and other core commodities, products and services.  I think that is what the Fed's mandate is already.

Problem is that, as discussed previously, we give this mandate mixed in with the reality that we are spending with no correlation to our means, we are creating future liabilities in amounts that are unfathomable, we are destroying our manufacturing sector and choosing to not produce our own energy - right as our demand for consumption increases - and so the dollars leave our economy and must find their way back in some other way.  There is no way to achieve perfect balance among forces that are so far out of balance.  In light of all these complexities, I actually think the Fed does a pretty good job.
5887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Monetary Policy, End the Fed? on: May 21, 2010, 11:29:00 AM
"Said with love, but I think you have been distracted by matters that are essentially irrelevant.  Fed announcements about interest rate policy and all the rest of it ultimately are not the point.  The point is this:  We are living beyond our means.  Government spending is out of control, and it is already in the entitlement pipeline that it will be more out of control.    If we cut it back, then all will be well.  If we don't, it won't."

I agree, but those are matters of fiscal policy.

Moving on, the Rand Paul matter brings up again the 'End the Fed' question, coincidentally a book title by Ron Paul and a proposal I just heard Glen Beck make a similar proposal on the radio.  Beck then backed off slightly by saying 'not just end the Fed and that's it, but I'm talking about a total transformation'.

My opinion could come right out of the Crafty quote above.  The corrections we need are fiscal, the excess spending and unfunded entitlements.  I would NOT end the Fed.  I don't think that is realistic operationally, and I don't think proposals that won't happen are helpful politically.

What do others think about ending the Fed?
5888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / America's Inner City - Detroit on: May 21, 2010, 10:23:08 AM
8 minutes of a camcorder going through a third world country called Detroit.  Many factors caused this, but suffice it to say that free markets were not allowed to flourish, the war on poverty became a war against families and individual responsibility, private employment was supposed to be an entitlement no matter how uncompetitive your work and your product have become.  Visualize from these pictures how the middle class can succeed while we punish investors, employers and wealth creation.
5889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 21, 2010, 10:13:08 AM
The law of the land should be - color blind.  Unfortunately the government, the census, the supreme court and private institutions like Harvard are not there yet.  James Taranto of WSJ had a pretty good take on the Rand Paul matter, below.  It might be philosophically interesting to ponder issues of the last century like how to move to a post-racial society without using the heavy hand of the federal government.  But if Paul and others, libertarians or conservatives, want to win this year they better get focused quickly and stay focused on maybe 10 concrete steps forward we can take today.  Paul is an opthamologist.  Now he is a politician running for serious office, a 6 year term, and he needs to use the discipline of his first profession to succeed in his new one. He and the others need to figure out HOW to move us gently in a libertarian direction, not to some utopia, but just a little less reliant on the government for the solutions for our every problem, and they need to bring the conservatives and the majority of independents along with them to win.  When they figure out what that realistic agenda is for the next 2, 4 or 6 years, they need to stick to the agenda, the details, the mindset, the benefits, and the persuasion required to get us there, not just wander around with every gotcha journalist or political opponent.
Rand Paul and Civil Rights
A rookie mistake feeds a left-wing smear.

Rand Paul was 1 when Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now 47, he is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Kentucky, his first ever foray into politics. To his evident surprise, the hypothetical question of how he would have voted in 1964 has been drawing a lot of attention.

Politico's Ben Smith characterizes as "evasive" this response Paul gave when asked the question by National Public Radio (we've corrected Smith's transcription errors):

    "What I've always said is, I'm opposed to institutional racism, and I would have--if I was alive at the time, I think--had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism, and I see no place in our society for institutional racism," he said in response to a first question about the act.

    "You would have marched with Martin Luther King but voted with Barry Goldwater?" asked an interviewer.

    "I think it's confusing in a lot of cases in what's actually in the Civil Rights Case (sic)," Paul replied. "A lot of things that were actually in the bill I'm actually in favor of. I'm in favor of--everything with regards to ending institutional racism. So I think there's a lot to be desired in the Civil Rights--and indeed the truth is, I haven't read all through it, because it was passed 40 years ago and hadn't been a real pressing issue on the campaign on whether I'm going to vote for the Civil Rights Act."

In an update to his post, Smith notes that it wasn't the first time Paul was asked the question:

    Paul articulated his view on the Civil Rights Act in an interview with the editorial board of the Louisville Courier-Journal. . . .

    Paul explained that he backed the portion of the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in public places and institutions, but that he thinks private businesses should be permitted to discriminate by race.

    "I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I'm all in favor of that," he said. "I don't like the idea of telling private business owners. . . ."

Smith is not the only commentator to accuse Paul of being "evasive" or refusing to give a "straight answer." This criticism is absurd. The politically wise answer would have been "yes"--a straight answer in form, but an evasive one in substance. Answering the way he did was a rookie mistake--or, to put it more charitably, a demonstration that Paul is not a professional politician.

Taken at face value, the question itself--How would you have voted if you had been in the Senate as an infant?--is silly. It is a reasonable question only if it is understood more broadly, as an inquiry into Paul's political philosophy. The question within the question is: How uncompromising are you in your adherence to small-government principles?

Paul gave his answer: Pretty darn uncompromising--uncompromising enough to take a position that is not only politically embarrassing but morally dubious by his own lights, as evidenced by this transcript from the Courier-Journal interview, provided by the left-wing site

    Interviewer: But under your philosophy, it would be OK for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworths?

    Paul: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part--and this is the hard part about believing in freedom--is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example--you have too, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things. . . . It's the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior.

Again, Paul could have given a "straight" answer to the question--a flat "no"--that made clear his personal disapproval of discrimination while evading what was really a question about his political philosophy. Far from being evasive, Paul has shown himself to be both candid and principled to a fault.

We do mean to a fault. In this matter, Paul seems to us to be overly ideological and insufficiently mindful of the contingencies of history. Although we are in accord with his general view that government involvement in private business should be kept to a minimum, in our view the Civil Rights Act's restrictions on private discrimination were necessary in order to break down a culture of inequality that was only partly a matter of oppressive state laws. On the other hand, he seeks merely to be one vote of 100 in the Senate. An ideologically hardheaded libertarian in the Senate surely would do the country more good than harm.

It's possible, though, that Paul's eccentric views on civil rights will harm the Republican Party by feeding the left's claims that America is a racist country and the GOP is a racist party. Certainly that's what Salon's Joan Walsh is hoping. Here are her comments on a Rand interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:

    You've got to watch the whole interview. At the end, Paul seemed to understand that he's going to be explaining his benighted civil rights views for a long, long time--but he seemed to blame Maddow. "You bring up something that is really not an issue . . . a red herring, it's a political ploy . . . and that's the way it will be used," he complained at the end of the interview. Whether the Civil Rights Act should have applied to private businesses--"not really an issue," says Tea Party hero Rand Paul.

    It's going to become increasingly clear that the Tea Party movement wants to revoke the Great Society, the New Deal and the laws that were the result of the civil rights movement. Paul may be right that his views are "not really an issue" with his Tea Party supporters, although I have to think some of them won't enjoy watching him look like a slippery politician as he fails, over and over, to answer Maddow's questions directly.

When Paul says this "is really not an issue," he is speaking in the present tense. It is quite clear that he means that the Civil Rights Act, which has been the law for nearly 46 years, is politically settled; there is no movement to revoke it. In this, he is correct. Walsh's assertion that this is what the tea-party movement seeks is either a fantasy or a lie.

It's a curious role reversal: Rand Paul is a politician; Joan Walsh is a journalist. He is honest, perhaps too honest for his own good. She is playing the part of the dishonest demagogue.
5890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Criminalizing Migration?? on: May 20, 2010, 09:58:38 AM
Did I hear the Mexican President correctly?  I know there were some problems with translation.  The problem is with the laws against trespassing, not with trespassing.  Maybe this is a libertarian issue.

"In Mexico, we are and continue to be respectful to the policies of the United States...but we will retain our firm rejection to criminalizing migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals, and we oppose firmly the SB1070 Arizona law, given in fair principle that are partial and discriminatory..."

If you can't check citizenship when you already have other cause to make contact and when you have reason to believe there may be a problem, then when can you check it?

A less discriminatory way of checking would have been to use the census process as we are constitutionally required anyway to find out every 10 years who lives here.

Regarding Calderon, when a politician from anywhere is caught up in that bad of a gaffe, his own laws are far stronger, why is he ever taken seriously again, much less wined and dined?

I heard Mark Levin say last night: Take the Mexican Immigration Law, word for translated word, put an HR number on it and vote it up and down in Washington.
5891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rant on: May 18, 2010, 12:03:06 PM
Short rant regarding gays in the military, higher education, Kagan and the Supreme Court, the Solomon amendment, free speech, the autonomy of a private institution in this country and the ridiculous imbalance of makers vs. takers in this country:

Kagan was prevented from standing on her principles and opposing the way the American military discriminates because of the addiction of Harvard University to federal money.  Excuse me, but why in the hell is one of the world's richest, most expensive, elitist institutions receiving federal subsidy?  With a billion in the bank are they unable or unwilling to perform research for the public good at their own expense and give something back to society?  The result is that a plumber in flyover country who works all day with no college degree, who makes a good wage, gets 2 weeks a year off and supports a family of four must pay taxes that subsidize Harvard University, its elitist professors with all their tenure, time off, idealism and excesses.  Unbelievable.
5892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: May 18, 2010, 11:45:47 AM
JDN: "I am against ILLEGAL Immigration period."  - Right and that was the only point of the analogy, THEY have the right to control who enters the event even if I think Sarah Palin or Glen Beck should be free to walk in and liven up the event.  Having rules and enforcement is necessary for security and to keep some sort of control.  They won't be checking docs for Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton because they look familiar, but if either were to run a red light in AZ they would be asked for their driver's license and proof of insurance, and if something indicates they may be a foreign national then whatever other documents legally required would be needed.  Plenty of blond/slightly graying people are non-US citizens.  Jose can not lawfully be pulled over for looking Hispanic but Wolfgang or Lars, if caught speeding, may be detained for carrying a false ID or expired visa.  True?
5893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: May 18, 2010, 11:00:27 AM
"...I dunno about those prescriptions."  - I'm not fully on board the prescriptions but the idea is to pre-announce to the markets that interest rates will not be staying at the 0% emergency levels indefinitely.

"Volcker's actions...  - It is not clear to me that our current situation tracks that situation closely."  - Very true, but he is talking about trying to rates up to 2% where Volcker had them up near 20%(?)

"...we have Federal deficits of some 10% of GDP...national debt will be 100% of GDP"  - THAT is the heart of the matter.  There is no perfect monetary policy for a fiscal policy that out of whack.  Why should the deck chairs be straight as the ship sinks.  This is worse than an accident at sea.  We aimed for the rock that broke the hull.

Going back to Volcker, the damage there was done because the tightness of money was supposed to be coupled with the stimulus of tax cuts.  In this situation, we need spending control and fiscal sanity.  We need success with the political movement that says expanding government and printing play money is no way to stabilize, survive or prosper.  But then the Fed needs to right-size its rates before we head back to Jimmy Carter levels of inflation.
5894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: May 18, 2010, 10:38:54 AM
Large radio host posed an interesting question yesterday... Is it also a Human Rights Violation that the Obama Administration will secure borders, check documents and refuse entry to the White House for the undocumented during the upcoming State Dinner with the Mexican President?  Why would they do that?  How is that different than Arizona's concerns?
5895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Libertarian Robin Hood? on: May 18, 2010, 12:14:56 AM
Did the legend of Robin Hood steal from the rich and give to the poor as some say or did he fight for liberty and against tyrannical authority?  Interesting commentary in the context of the new Robin Hood film by Cathy Young, contributing editor at Reason magazine.
5896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Monetary Proposal on: May 18, 2010, 12:02:36 AM
Opinion piece from Financial Times, just food for thought, and for discussion.
New battle plan needed for a crisis-prone world
By Stephen Roach

Published: May 17 2010 16:40 | Last updated: May 17 2010 16:40

The pace and severity of financial crises has taken an ominous turn for the worse. Over the past 30 years, a crisis has occurred, on average, every three years. Yet, now, only 18 months after the meltdown of late 2008, Europe’s sovereign debt crisis has hit with full force. With one crisis seemingly begetting another, and the fuse between crises now getting shorter and shorter, the world economy is on a very treacherous course.

In the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, über monetary accommodation fed the equity bubble. Once that bubble burst in 2000, another dose of extraordinary monetary ease set the stage for massive property and credit bubbles. The aftershocks of that post-bubble carnage have now brought Europe to the brink.

Sadly, central banks are doing it again – policy rates near the zero bound in nominal terms and negative in real terms. And in the parlance of the Federal Reserve, this destabilizing condition is likely to persist for an “extended” period. As day follows night, this is a recipe for the next crisis. Whether that crisis is spawned by another asset bubble, a credit binge, or CPI inflation is impossible to say. But any – or all – of these options are conceivable in yet another undisciplined post-crisis climate.

Breaking this daisy chain won’t be easy. But a new approach is desperately needed. History gives us a guide as to how and where to find the answer. Think back to the late 1970s. At the time, there was a deep-rooted sense of despair and hopelessness over the seemingly intractable Great Inflation. Politicians and policy makers were convinced that the system was unwilling – or perhaps unable – to accept the pain of the cure. Sound familiar?

Paul Volcker dispelled that notion – breaking the back of inflation by pushing the federal funds rate up to 19 per cent in 1981. Just as monetary discipline was the answer nearly 30 years ago, I suspect it is the only way out today. For a world in the depths of crisis and despair, another “Volcker moment” may well be at hand.

No, I am not suggesting that central banks tighten monetary policy in the midst of a crisis. But it is high time to banish the moral hazard of macro policy – the false sense of security provided by open-ended fiscal and monetary accommodation as the world lurches from crisis to crisis. Central banks need to lead the way in regaining policy traction by laying out credible and transparent exit strategies from the unprecedented stimulus now in place.

Three things are required here: an explicit target for a “normal” policy rate; a macro forecast that would identify the conditions under which this normalization would occur; and a specific timetable of adjustments in the policy rate that would achieve this result.

As an example of how this approach might work, consider the task of the Federal Reserve.

Step One: Announce a target of restoring the real federal funds rate back to its long-term average of 2 per cent.

Step Two: Lay out a three-year macro forecast of the US economy. For the sake of argument, plug in average real GDP growth and inflation of 2.5 per cent and an unemployment rate that falls back to 6 per cent by the end of 2013.

Step Three: Conditional on that forecast coming to pass, announce a normalization plan of nine moves of 50 basis points in the federal funds rate – spread out over 18 months and commencing as soon as the dust settles on the euro crisis.

This is a hypothetical example of how a new approach might work. Admittedly, it is predicated on an imperfect forecast, and hostage to forces that might render that forecast wide or short of the mark.

But it has the advantage of identifying the parameters of a restoration of monetary discipline – something that has been sorely missing over the past 15 years. And it avoids the perils of the “asymmetrical reaction function” – the aggressive monetary easing in a crisis followed by the baby steps of post-crisis normalization that have allowed the “cure” of one crisis to sow the seeds of the next one.

Central banks are imperfect institutions – and more so in recent years as they have abdicated their political independence. They were outstanding in waging the battle against inflation. They have failed in managing the post-inflation peace. The only hope for a crisis-prone world is a new battle plan.

Stephen Roach is the Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and author of The Next Asia (Wiley 2009).
5897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hong Kong challenges the non-electoral dictates of Beijing on: May 17, 2010, 11:45:52 PM
Hong Kong by-elections a test for democracy camp AFP
by Peter Brieger  – Sun May 16

HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong on Sunday held by-elections triggered by pro-democracy lawmakers seeking to pressure Beijing into speeding up the pace of electoral reform in the territory.

The election, which has angered Beijing and divided the city's democracy movement, comes after five lawmakers from the Legislative Council quit in January in a bid to force a de facto referendum on reform.

Frustrated by what they say is China's intransigence, the lawmakers had hoped that the move -- which will likely see them all re-elected -- would send the strongest message yet to Beijing since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

However, the outcome of the vote is seen as academic since all pro-Beijing political parties have boycotted the process.

Under the current electoral system, only half of Hong Kong's 60-seat legislature is directly elected while the rest is selected by the pro-China business elite. Campaigners want the entire parliament to be directly elected.

They also want voters to be able to choose the city's chief executive, who is currently appointed by a Beijing-friendly election committee.

Beijing has said that, at the earliest, Hong Kong's chief executive can be directly elected by 2017 and the legislature by 2020.

Chinese officials have openly denounced the "referendum", calling it a "blatant challenge" to Hong Kong's Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution that guarantees certain civil liberties for citizens of the former British colony.

Democracy figurehead Martin Lee condemned a decision by Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's chief executive, not to cast a ballot. "This is absolutely ridiculous," the founder of Hong Kong's Democratic Party told AFP on Sunday.

"It is a total act of kow-towing to Beijing. This is the problem -- Tsang is not elected by the people."

Tsang said his decision was "purely personal".

"In view of the unique nature of this by-election and after careful consideration, I have decided not to vote," he said in a statement.

"All members of my political team share this view and, of their own accord, have also decided not to vote."

In response, "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, one of the five who resigned his seat, protested outside Tsang's residence on Sunday, calling on the city's leader to cast his ballot.

The radical political activist is famous for wearing Che Guevara T-shirts and throwing bananas at government officials during meetings.

Critics said the poll was unlikely to resolve a deadlock between the government and democrats over the pace of political reform, while surveys indicated turnout was only expected to be around 20 percent.

As of 0745 GMT, about 8.5 percent of Hong Kong's 3.7 million registered voters had cast a ballot, according to government statistics, with polling stations due to close at 1430 GMT.

The government introduced a reform proposal in April to increase the size of the election bodies for chief executive and the legislature in 2012. But opposition parties said they would not accept the proposal.

"It is very clear this government is not accountable to the people of Hong Kong," Tanya Chan, another of the five candidates, told AFP on Sunday.

"We hope the government will give a clear road map (on political reform)."
5898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela, road to ruin on: May 17, 2010, 11:38:54 PM
Denny,  That's quite a photo and a story.  It must be fun to steal other people's wealth and destroy it but like the story says, it is a "road to ruin".  Why would anyone ever invest and create wealth again?  For some reason the socialists think wealth destruction is a good thing.
5899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kagan, her record is thin but dangerously consistent on: May 17, 2010, 07:58:23 PM
"...while her record is thin, it is dangerously consistent.

In United States v Stevens, which Kagan argued and lost on behalf of a law passed by Congress which criminalized “the commercial creation, sale, or possession of certain depictions of animal cruelty," she suggested in a written brief that "Whether a given category of speech enjoys 1st Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs."

In his 8-1 majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts reaction to Kagan's assertion was as fierce a statement as I've seen from his pen:

“As a free-floating test for 1st Amendment coverage, that sentence is startling and dangerous. The 1st Amendment's guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The 1st Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it. The Constitution is not a document ‘prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure.’"

Does anybody wonder who Kagan believes would be the arbiter of such a test? The federal bureaucracy, no doubt. But the details of the test aren't as important as Kagan's assault on Americans' most fundamental right—freedom of speech.

Less than a year earlier, in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, Kagan and her office argued that the "McCain-Feingold" Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act would theoretically allow the government to ban electioneering communication or publication 30 or 60 days before an election.

As in Stevens, Kagan ran into the buzzsaw of John Roberts who, in a concurring opinion in the 5-4 decision overturning some of McCain-Feingold's key provisions, gave Kagan this slap-down:

“The government urges us in this case to uphold a direct prohibition on political speech. It asks us to embrace a theory of the 1st Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet, and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concern. Its theory, if accepted, would empower the government to prohibit newspapers from running editorials or opinion pieces supporting or opposing candidates for office, so long as the newspapers were owned by corporations—as the major ones are. 1st Amendment rights could be confined to individuals, subverting the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy.

“The court properly rejects that theory, and I join its opinion in full. The 1st Amendment protects more than just the individual on a soapbox and the lonely pamphleteer.”

Roberts' reference to pamphlets was not accidental: During oral argument in September, 2009, there was this telling back and forth between the chief justice and the out-of-her-depth Kagan, following Kagan's response to Justice Scalia about banning books (which Kagan said the government wouldn't do):

Chief Justice Roberts: But...we don't put our 1st Amendment rights in the hands of FEC bureaucrats; and if you say that you are not going to apply it to a book, what about a pamphlet?

Solicitor General Kagan: I think a—a pamphlet would be different. A pamphlet is pretty classic electioneering, so there is no attempt to say that [the law] only applies to video and not to print.

Got that? Kagan argued that McCain-Feingold means the government could ban the next Common Sense, the next Thomas Paine or Daniel DeFoe, because they might have the temerity to care and opine about who gets elected to political power in the United States. And we're just taking her word for it that, had she not lost that case as well, government wouldn't determine that there's basically no difference between a book and a pamphlet, so why draw the line at banning pamphlets?

Kagan's hostility toward the plain meaning of the 1st Amendment is nothing new. In a 1996 paper (PDF) for the University of Chicago Law Review (she was a professor at the University of Chicago at the same time that Barack Obama was a lecturer there), Kagan suggested that the government's motives in restricting speech should be important factors in whether those restrictions are upheld by a court. She wonders aloud, in eye-opening Socialist language "what view of the 1st Amendment accounts for the court's refusal to allow, by means of restrictions, the redistribution of expression?"

You read that right; she said "redistribution of expression."

She continues: "The question remains, however, why the court should treat as especially suspicious content-neutral regulations of speech—such as the regulations in Buckley—that are justified in terms of achieving diversity." You can already hear her ruling in a sure-to-come challenge to the re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine meant to muzzle talk-radio conservatives in the guise of increasing "diversity of opinion".

Similar to her argument in Stevens which implies a government arbiter of speech, Kagan makes this remarkable statement in her paper: "If there is an ‘overabundance’ of an idea in the absence of direct governmental action—which there well might be when compared with some ideal state of public debate—then action disfavoring that idea might ‘unskew,’ rather than skew, public discourse."

5900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 17, 2010, 06:19:11 PM
"YOU will be on O'Reilly?  shocked  How very cool!  cool  We would love an AAR! grin

No, No, No...  I was quoting John Hinderacker of Powerline.  I must be more careful with my punctuation!  I will update the post with QUOTATION MARKS.
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