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5851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care - case against socialized medicine on: September 16, 2008, 10:25:10 PM
"According to an August 2008 study published in Lancet Oncology, the renowned British medical journal, Americans have a better than five-year survival rate for 13 of the 16 most prominent cancers when compared with their European and Canadian counterparts.

With breast cancer, for instance, the survival rate among American women is 83.9 percent. For women in Britain, it’s just 69.7 percent. For men with prostate cancer, the survival rate is 91.9 percent here but just 73.7 percent in France and 51.1 percent in Britain.

American men and women are more than 35 percent more likely to survive colon cancer than their British counterparts."

http://www.dcexaminer.com/opinion/columns/guestcolumnists/Is_the_grass_greener_with_socialized_medicine.html
Is the grass greener with socialized medicine?

By Sally C. Pipes
Special to the Examiner | 8/23/08 7:35 PM With Democrats convinced 2008 is their year, the campaign trail is awash with promises to make universal health care a reality by the end of the next president’s first term.

The basic argument of those who support a government takeover of the health care system is familiar. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman once put it, “America’s health care system spends more, for worse results, than that of any other advanced country.”

Krugman’s line has been repeated so often it’s considered gospel truth in most public debates — people rarely check to see if it matches the facts. As the American humorist Josh Billings quipped, “the problem with the world ain’t ignorance, it’s the things people know that just ain’t so.”

If they did, they’d probably be surprised. Socialized health care isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Take the much-vaunted Canadian system. More than 825,000 Canadian citizens are currently on waiting lists for surgery and other necessary treatments. Fifteen years ago, the average wait between a referral from a primary-care doctor to treatment by a specialist was around nine weeks. Today, that wait is over 16 weeks.

That’s almost double what doctors consider clinically reasonable. As Canadian physician Brian Day explained to The New York Times, Canada “is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.”
In part, these waits are due to a doctor shortage. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 countries in doctors per thousand people.

Why so few doctors? Over the past decade, about 11 percent of physicians trained in Canadian medical schools have moved to the United States. That’s because doctors’ salaries in Canada are negotiated, set and paid for by provincial governments and held down by cost-conscious budget analysts. Today, in fact, the average Canadian doctor earns only 42 percent of what a doctor earns in the United States.

Canada also limits access to common medical technologies. When compared with other OECD countries, Canada is 13th out of 24 in access to magnetic resonance imagings, 18th of 24 in access to computed tomography scanners, and seventh of 17 in access to mammograms.

The problems plaguing Canada are characteristic of all universal health care systems.

In Britain, more than 1 million sick citizens are currently waiting for hospital admission. Another 200,000 are waiting just to get on a waiting list. Each year, Britain’s National Health Service cancels around 100,000 operations.

Britain even has a government agency explicitly tasked with limiting people’s access to prescription drugs. Euphemistically called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Effectiveness, the agency determines which treatments the British health care system covers. More often than not, saving money takes priority over saving lives.

In 2008, for instance, NICE refused to approve the lung cancer drug Tarceva. Despite numerous studies showing that the drug significantly prolongs the life of cancer patients — and the unanimous endorsement of lung cancer specialists throughout the United Kingdom — NICE determined that the drug was too expensive to cover relative to its effectiveness. As of August 2008, England is one of only three countries in Western Europe that denies citizens access to Tarceva.

Britain’s behavior is typical — every European government rations drugs to save money. Eighty-five new drugs hit the U.S. market between 1998 and 2002. During that same time period, only 44 of those drugs became available in Europe.

The evidence clearly indicates that patients under socialized medicine are suffering. Why, then, do countries with government-run health care consistently outrank the United States on international quality surveys?

It’s not because the American health care system is inferior. It’s because these surveys use deeply flawed metrics that don’t reflect health care quality.

Case in point: The World Health Organization rankings of overall health system performance placed the United States 37th out of 191 countries. That’s behind not only Canada, Britain and France, but even countries like Costa Rica, Morocco and Cyprus.

Life expectancy accounted for 25 percent of a nation’s WHO ranking. But life expectancy is the function of a variety of factors. Medical care is just one of them. Just as important are a nation’s homicide rate, the number of accidents, diet trends, ethnic diversity and much more.

Another factor accounting for 25 percent of a nation’s ranking was “distribution of health,” or fairness. By this logic, treating everyone exactly the same is more important than treating people well. So long as everyone is equal — even if they’re equally miserable — a nation will do quite well in the WHO rankings.

In measuring the quality of a health care system, what really matters is how well it serves those who are sick. And it’s here that America really excels.

According to an August 2008 study published in Lancet Oncology, the renowned British medical journal, Americans have a better than five-year survival rate for 13 of the 16 most prominent cancers when compared with their European and Canadian counterparts.

With breast cancer, for instance, the survival rate among American women is 83.9 percent. For women in Britain, it’s just 69.7 percent. For men with prostate cancer, the survival rate is 91.9 percent here but just 73.7 percent in France and 51.1 percent in Britain.

American men and women are more than 35 percent more likely to survive colon cancer than their British counterparts.

It’s no wonder then that foreign dignitaries living in countries with socialized health care systems routinely come to this country when they need top-flight medical treatment.

When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi needed heart surgery in 2006, he traveled to the Cleveland Clinic — often considered America’s best hospital for cardiac care. When Canadian Member of Parliament Belinda Stronach, who had denounced a two-tier health care system for Canadians, needed breast cancer surgery herself in 2007, she headed to a California hospital and paid out of pocket.

So much for the “free” health care they could have received at home.

As for the supposed cost advantages of socialized medicine? Those are illusory, too. True, other developed nations may spend less on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product than the United States does — but so does Sudan. Without considering value, such statistical evaluations are worthless.

And one of the primary reasons health care costs more in America is that we are a wealthy country that demands the best. And, we’re investing a lot more in medical research.

The United States produces over half of the $175 billion in health care technology products purchased globally. In 2004, the federal government funded medical research to the tune of $18.4 billion. By contrast, the European Union — which has a significantly larger population than the United States — allocated funds equal to just $3.7 billion for medical research.

Between 1999 and 2005, the United States was responsible for 71 percent of the sales of new pharmaceutical drugs. The next two largest pharmaceutical markets — Japan and Germany — account for just 4 percent each.

While no one can deny that there are significant problems in the American health care system, overall it provides exceptional value. The ideologues who claim we’d be better off under socialized medicine are massively wrong. Government-run health care has proven to be heartless and uncaring — and the inferior treatments it provides come with a very steep price tag.
5852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena, 10 worst Obama ideas on: September 16, 2008, 10:16:11 PM
I would have to add that raising the capital gains tax rate would be in my top ten right behind surrendering our national security.
5853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Abortion on: September 15, 2008, 09:44:06 PM
Rachel already started a topic that I didn't see because a keyword search of the word abortion didn't find it.  I seems we are caught up in word games.  I explained favoring choices especially better ones in most situations and I certainly support the right to reproduce assuming you have consenting parties. 

I agree with Crafty on the legal issues. After it is returned to the states we still have an abortion rights debate. I was just writing one person's opinion about right and wrong.  The legal issues and political process follow.

I didn't notice that Rachel addressed any point in my post, but fired back questions at me that I already addressed, so I guess we are working on two different topics.  I found the questions to be condescending and diversionary which is your right and your choice. I already posted that nearly all pro-life proposals offer exceptions and that 98% of abortions in America are for convenience reasons and back comes a story about an 11 year old girl in a foreign land who actually did find her way to get abortion services. 

If you are comfortable with a system where men have zero rights, where it is women not couples or humans or families that reproduce, where killing 49 million isn't one of your top ten concerns, where the fact that 48 million of those were for convenience reasons doesn't merit a mention even in reply, then I give up on looking for common ground or a beneficial exchange.
----
Quoting BBG: "...as an off brand libertarian, I'm loathe to tell women that they are bound by law to let a creature grow inside of them" and similarly Rachel wrote: "Do I have control over my body or does someone else?"

I see your points and offer this reasonable and pragmatic compromise solution:

Recognize the woman's right to remove the unwanted tissue but not the right to have it killed.  Leave viability issue in the hands of God, the survival strength of the fetus, the medics and the people who would adopt and love it.

Fair enough?
5854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Abortion on: September 15, 2008, 12:20:28 AM
Respectfully answering a post that opposed Palin on issues and listed "choice" first, I thought it was time to open the unmentionable topic of abortion.

We avoid the issue IMO by just calling it "choice".  I'm for choice... I favor choice in schools. trade, social security, health care, drilling, disaster relief, bridges to nowhere and putting men on the moon. Just not about respecting innocent human life.

Former President Clinton called abortion a constitutional right that should be safe, legal and rare.  What other constitutional rights should be rare? Freedom of speech? Right to assemble? Freedom of religion? Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure?  The right to vote? I can't think of another individual right that should be rare.

Sen. Kerry and others covered it by saying they are personally opposed to abortion but favor abortion rights.  Again, what other great right would they be personally opposed to?  I can't think of one.

Sen. Biden said a week ago on Meet the Press that he believes that life begins at conception, but that isn't relevant to public policy because it comes from his faith.

But it doesn't come only from faith.  We know through science that that life begins at conception.

President Reagan said in the 1980s we know 3 things about a fetus:

1) The fetus (little one) is alive

2) It is of the human species, and

3) It has separate and distinct genetic code from the mother or father.

Are not all three of these true???

The discussion often comes back to incest, rape and the life of the mother, but most anti-abortion proposals include exceptions.  I recall reading abortion reason statistics published by planned parenthood and concluding that about 98% of the abortions are for reasons I see as for convenience. 

Like it or not, Americans are using abortion as a form of birth control.

What about men?  They have a huge stake and have absolutely no say in the process. Equal protection?  I don't think so.

To me it's also personal - my daughter is a survivor of abortion.  By luck or miracle, she missed her appointment.  Now 14, she is making her little impact on the world and the people she touches.  When I look back I just can't see that she was only a potential human life.

5855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 14, 2008, 03:22:18 PM
Of course Palin is minimally qualified. Obama opened the door on that.  The difference is that Obama earned where he is with 18 million votes or so and Palin started as the choice of one, but that's how that works.  I agree with Rachel that the debate of Palin should be on issues and stands that she takes and opponents should quit underestimating or trashing her. 

Exact reverse of Rachel, I want her elected because of her positions and hope that the mini-scandals and airlifted investigators don't bring her down first.  We should hammer out those issue discussions one by one on their merits  not just the stand of a VP candidate.

I stayed out of a previous debate or two like the gay marriage discussion in trying to avoid making me-too posts of comments already made, but I certainly agree with Crafty that I greatly appreciate the presence of opposing views on both sides here. 
5856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 10, 2008, 06:44:45 PM
Pig comment sexist?  I wrote that because I find the term to be a visual put-down.  How do I say nicely - we aren't talking about farm animals and we aren't talking about supermodels - millions and millions of women not comfortable with their looks put on billions of dollars of makeup/lipstick with millions of hours in front of the mirror and they attain mixed results, to put it lightly.  The phrase in question doesn't make me visualize a painted farm animal; it makes me visualize the unpleasant sight of one of these unsuccessful makeover experiments, like one of the male actors in an SNL parody all lipsticked up and in a dress with a false front and a pretend high voice, not pulling off the beauty of an attractive woman. 

Guys my age mostly think Palin is hot.  But the hate blogs were all over her hair during the speech from another decade and though trimmer than Hillary, she wasn't the exact figure (months after childbirth) as her beauty queen photos. More importantly, feminists think she is a pig or other creature for being a woman and holding non-liberal-feminist views.  Obama was NOT directly talking about her but he had VERY recently been talking about her and the crowd instantly got the unintended double-triple meaning, slamming Palin while he was slamming 'failed' policies and apparently pigs.  JMHO.
5857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 10, 2008, 12:09:25 PM
The lipstick - hockey mom - pitbull joke is old and funny because there's truth in it.  It's derogatory to the pitbull but only self deprecating to the hockey mom.  Parents who commit to kid hockey programs spend thousands a year on ice time, coaching and equipment, drive their SUV's daily at all hours through all weather to the arenas and away games forsaking whatever they would be doing without kids or hockey.  When they get there they don't just sit there and clap politely for the nice plays like it's a senior golf event or a slide show at the library.  They holler and scream and scold and tell their kids they don't hustle enough while they demand to the coaches their kid deserves more ice time. Same goes for the parents in plenty of other sports.  The joke was a headsup to the fact that she was not going to sit pretty next to McCain and stay out of the mix.  And she didn't.

Lipstick on a pig is also an old phrase, it's sexist, and both candidates have used it. 

The difference was the timing and the crowd instantly got it.  McCain's crowd doesn't roar if he calls socialized  heathcare a pig or a turkey.  Obama's turn of phrase was roll on the floor funny ONLY IF he intended to get moveon.org nasty with his new opponent who recently tweaked him in front of $40 million.  Obama didn't intend to do that or have it read that way IMO.  It was a gaffe.

Liberals went into a feeding frenzy over George Allen's "Mucaca".  He was just trying to put some kind of name on his stalker, but the guy's look was ethnic and the made up name sounded ethnic and the instant news cycle spin turned it into a condescending slur. Sen. Allen was supposed to be the next Reagan.  He's out and his replacement is a Dem.

Obama should know that phrase at this time will be taken wrong, he should apologize and find a new cliche. (Doesn't he carry the unabridged cliche collection with him?)  Instead this will haunt him.
5858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 09, 2008, 11:48:36 PM
The original political point about Justice Thomas was that he received bad treatment from the judiciary committee under Sen. Biden's watch.  The allegation wasn't 'vetted'. This was pre-Lewinski when they brought 'pubic hair on a coke can' and 'Long Dong Silver' into our living rooms with our children and into our congressional record based on one person saying it was so.  No incident before.  No incident after.  No pattern.  No evidence.  No second 'victim', no witness, no contemporaneous complaint.  The point at the time IMO was that Thomas like Bork didn't find an unenumerated right of privacy unwritten into the constitution that trumped life so they believed the adjudicated right to an abortion would become in jeopardy.  That may be enough reason for certain senators to vote against him, but not a license to smear.

Obama dove in there lately by singling out Thomas as unworthy of the court, then like I said previously, failed to back up his harsh judgment with anything unique to this Justice, such as at least one badly reasoned opinion.  Two recent posts at powerlineblog.com take this story from there:
---------------------
August 19, 2008
A strange singling out

During the forum at Saddleback, Barack Obama said he would not have nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court because Thomas lacked relevant experience at the time. I (Paul Mirengoff at powerline) suggested that this statement was disingenuous because Obama clearly wouldn't have selected Thomas, a powerful spokesman against the "liberal" view of civil rights, regardless of how much judicial experience Thomas had possessed. I agreed, though, that Thomas lacked substantial experience as a judge, adding that in this respect (and this respect alone) Thomas could be viewed as the Barack Obama of the Supreme Court.

A reader reminded me, however, that when Thomas joined the Court, it was not unusual for Justices to have little or no prior judging experience. Two of the sitting Justices at that time, White and Rehnquist, had never been judges. Two others, O'Connor and Brennan had never been federal judges. Lewis Powell, who retired four years before Thomas joined the Court, likewise had never been a judge before he joined the Supreme Court. Neither had former Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Obama isn't the only person who has singled out Justice Thomas for his lack of prior judging experience. It makes for interesting speculation to ponder the reasons for this singling out.
-------------------------
August 24, 2008
A strange singling out explained

Barack Obama's recent comment about Justice Thomas -- that he would not have nominated Thomas for the Supreme Court due to Thomas' "inexperience" -- coupled with Obama's selection of Joe Biden as his running mate, provide a painful reminder of the judicial confirmation wars of the past 20 plus years. I wrote about Biden's central (and disgraceful) role in these wars here. I wondered why Thomas is singled out for having been inexperienced at the time of his nomination here.

The latter post brought this response from a reader:

    The answer is this: liberals like Mr. Obama simply cannot fathom how a black person could hold seriously thought-out views about jurisprudence like those of Clarence Thomas. And there is something too crass about attacking Justice Thomas' jurisprudence on the merits, as well as too time-consuming.

    Liberals deem it too crass because they like to pretend that their objections are unrelated to politics, perhaps out of a concern that conservatives will apply the same approach to liberal judicial nominees when the tables are turned. So they find other reasons: Bork is too smart and doesn't understand the "common man;" and Thomas is too dumb. But the Thomas-as-too-dumb view is too crass also, so the easy thing to do is say he was "unqualified" or too inexperienced.

    Substantive critiques of Justice Thomas' jurisprudence are too time-consuming because people like Mr. Obama don't want to read, much less engage, his opinions. Note that criticisms of Justice Thomas never cite any examples of actual opinions he's written. Obama certainly failed to do so at the Saddleback forum.

    Ultimately, the theme continues for liberals: "self-hating" minorities who deviate from liberal orthodoxy are attacked because liberals view them as turn-coats. For more recent examples, see the treatment Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown received when the president nominated them to the D.C. Circuit, while the white guy, John Rodgers, sailed through to confirmation. And, recall Justice Thomas' words:

    "This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree."

    The "old order" is liberalism. Mr. Obama's cheap shot against Justice Thomas, which would be applauded in Cambridge and Hyde Park, is the most recent example of the stereotypical left-wing effort to keep minorities on the plantation.
5859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: September 09, 2008, 12:00:14 PM
The question was the depth of Thomas' intellect.  My example was the opinion posted.  He is no lightweight.  That Scalia or others find themselves on the same side does not mean Thomas followed them. He VERY often writes a separate opinion concurring or dissent. If the majority didn't sign on with this opinion, from my point of view, shame on them. 

Jan Crawford Greenburg covers the court for the PBS Jim Lehrer News Hour, ABC News, and Chicago Tribune.  I find her to be informed and objective.  She wrote this for the Wall Street Journal in 2007: (this was posted previously)

AT LAW
The Truth About Clarence Thomas
He's an independent voice, not a Scalia lackey.
by JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG
January 28, 2007 http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110009590

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the forcefulness and clarity of Justice Thomas's views, coupled with wrongheaded depictions of him doing Justice Scalia's bidding, created an internal dynamic that caused the court to make an unexpected turn in his first year. Justice O'Connor--who sought ideological balance--moved to the left. With the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, the court now is poised to finally fulfill the hopes of the conservative movement. As George W. Bush told his legal advisers early in his presidency, he wanted justices in "the mold of Thomas and Scalia." Interestingly, on President Bush's marquee, Justice Thomas got top billing.
5860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: September 08, 2008, 09:56:15 PM
(Kelo v. New London, Justice Thomas dissenting continued)

III

    Our current Public Use Clause jurisprudence, as the Court notes, has rejected this natural reading of the Clause. Ante, at 8—10. The Court adopted its modern reading blindly, with little discussion of the Clause’s history and original meaning, in two distinct lines of cases: first, in cases adopting the “public purpose” interpretation of the Clause, and second, in cases deferring to legislatures’ judgments regarding what constitutes a valid public purpose. Those questionable cases converged in the boundlessly broad and deferential conception of “public use” adopted by this Court in Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954), and Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229 (1984), cases that take center stage in the Court’s opinion. See ante, 10—12. The weakness of those two lines of cases, and consequently Berman and Midkiff, fatally undermines the doctrinal foundations of the Court’s decision. Today’s questionable application of these cases is further proof that the “public purpose” standard is not susceptible of principled application. This Court’s reliance by rote on this standard is ill advised and should be reconsidered.

A

    As the Court notes, the “public purpose” interpretation of the Public Use Clause stems from Fallbrook Irrigation Dist. v. Bradley, 164 U.S. 112, 161—162 (1896). Ante, at 11. The issue in Bradley was whether a condemnation for purposes of constructing an irrigation ditch was for a public use. 164 U.S., at 161. This was a public use, Justice Peckham declared for the Court, because “[t]o irrigate and thus to bring into possible cultivation these large masses of otherwise worthless lands would seem to be a public purpose and a matter of public interest, not confined to landowners, or even to any one section of the State.” Ibid. That broad statement was dictum, for the law under review also provided that “[a]ll landowners in the district have the right to a proportionate share of the water.” Id., at 162. Thus, the “public” did have the right to use the irrigation ditch because all similarly situated members of the public–those who owned lands irrigated by the ditch—had a right to use it. The Court cited no authority for its dictum, and did not discuss either the Public Use Clause’s original meaning or the numerous authorities that had adopted the “actual use” test (though it at least acknowledged the conflict of authority in state courts, see id., at 158; supra, at 9, and n. 2). Instead, the Court reasoned that “[t]he use must be regarded as a public use, or else it would seem to follow that no general scheme of irrigation can be formed or carried into effect.” Bradley, supra, at 160—161. This is no statement of constitutional principle: Whatever the utility of irrigation districts or the merits of the Court’s view that another rule would be “impractical given the diverse and always evolving needs of society,” ante, at 8, the Constitution does not embody those policy preferences any more than it “enacts Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics.” Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 75 (1905) (Holmes, J., dissenting); but see id., at 58—62 (Peckham, J., for the Court).

    This Court’s cases followed Bradley’s test with little analysis. In Clark v. Nash, 198 U.S. 361 (1905) (Peckham, J., for the Court), this Court relied on little more than a citation to Bradley in upholding another condemnation for the purpose of laying an irrigation ditch. 198 U.S., at 369—370. As in Bradley, use of the “public purpose” test was unnecessary to the result the Court reached. The government condemned the irrigation ditch for the purpose of ensuring access to water in which “other land owners adjoining the defendant in error … might share,” 198 U.S., at 370, and therefore Clark also involved a condemnation for the purpose of ensuring access to a resource to which similarly situated members of the public had a legal right of access. Likewise, in Strickley v. Highland Boy Gold Mining Co., 200 U.S. 527 (1906), the Court upheld a condemnation establishing an aerial right-of-way for a bucket line operated by a mining company, relying on little more than Clark, see Strickley, supra, at 531. This case, too, could have been disposed of on the narrower ground that “the plaintiff [was] a carrier for itself and others,” 200 U.S., at 531—532, and therefore that the bucket line was legally open to the public. Instead, the Court unnecessarily rested its decision on the “inadequacy of use by the general public as a universal test.” Id., at 531. This Court’s cases quickly incorporated the public purpose standard set forth in Clark and Strickley by barren citation. See, e.g., Rindge Co. v. County of Los Angeles, 262 U.S. 700, 707 (1923); Block v. Hirsh, 256 U.S. 135, 155 (1921); Mt. Vernon-Woodberry Cotton Duck Co. v. Alabama Interstate Power Co., 240 U.S. 30, 32 (1916); O’Neill v. Leamer, 239 U.S. 244, 253 (1915).

B

    A second line of this Court’s cases also deviated from the Public Use Clause’s original meaning by allowing legislatures to define the scope of valid “public uses.” United States v. Gettysburg Electric R. Co., 160 U.S. 668 (1896), involved the question whether Congress’ decision to condemn certain private land for the purpose of building battlefield memorials at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was for a public use. Id., at 679—680. Since the Federal Government was to use the lands in question, id., at 682, there is no doubt that it was a public use under any reasonable standard. Nonetheless, the Court, speaking through Justice Peckham, declared that “when the legislature has declared the use or purpose to be a public one, its judgment will be respected by the courts, unless the use be palpably without reasonable foundation.” Id., at 680. As it had with the “public purpose” dictum in Bradley, supra, the Court quickly incorporated this dictum into its Public Use Clause cases with little discussion. See, e.g., United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 552 (1946); Old Dominion Land Co. v. United States, 269 U.S. 55, 66 (1925).

    There is no justification, however, for affording almost insurmountable deference to legislative conclusions that a use serves a “public use.” To begin with, a court owes no deference to a legislature’s judgment concerning the quintessentially legal question of whether the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the taken property. Even under the “public purpose” interpretation, moreover, it is most implausible that the Framers intended to defer to legislatures as to what satisfies the Public Use Clause, uniquely among all the express provisions of the Bill of Rights. We would not defer to a legislature’s determination of the various circumstances that establish, for example, when a search of a home would be reasonable, see, e.g., Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 589—590 (1980), or when a convicted double-murderer may be shackled during a sentencing proceeding without on-the-record findings, see Deck v. Missouri, 544 U.S. ___ (2005), or when state law creates a property interest protected by the Due Process Clause, see, e.g., Castle Rock v. Gonzales, post, at __; Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 576 (1972); Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 262—263 (1970).

    Still worse, it is backwards to adopt a searching standard of constitutional review for nontraditional property interests, such as welfare benefits, see, e.g., Goldberg, supra, while deferring to the legislature’s determination as to what constitutes a public use when it exercises the power of eminent domain, and thereby invades individuals’ traditional rights in real property. The Court has elsewhere recognized “the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home that has been embedded in our traditions since the origins of the Republic,” Payton, supra, at 601, when the issue is only whether the government may search a home. Yet today the Court tells us that we are not to “second-guess the City’s considered judgments,” ante, at 18, when the issue is, instead, whether the government may take the infinitely more intrusive step of tearing down petitioners’ homes. Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not. Once one accepts, as the Court at least nominally does, ante, at 6, that the Public Use Clause is a limit on the eminent domain power of the Federal Government and the States, there is no justification for the almost complete deference it grants to legislatures as to what satisfies it.

C

    These two misguided lines of precedent converged in Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954), and Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229 (1984). Relying on those lines of cases, the Court in Berman and Midkiff upheld condemnations for the purposes of slum clearance and land redistribution, respectively. “Subject to specific constitutional limitations,” Berman proclaimed, “when the legislature has spoken, the public interest has been declared in terms well-nigh conclusive. In such cases the legislature, not the judiciary, is the main guardian of the public needs to be served by social legislation.” 348 U.S., at 32. That reasoning was question begging, since the question to be decided was whether the “specific constitutional limitation” of the Public Use Clause prevented the taking of the appellant’s (concededly “nonblighted”) department store. Id., at 31, 34. Berman also appeared to reason that any exercise by Congress of an enumerated power (in this case, its plenary power over the District of Columbia) was per se a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment. Id., at 33. But the very point of the Public Use Clause is to limit that power. See supra, at 3—4.

    More fundamentally, Berman and Midkiff erred by equating the eminent domain power with the police power of States. See Midkiff, 467 U.S., at 240 (“The ‘public use’ requirement is … coterminous with the scope of a sovereign’s police powers”); Berman, 348 U.S., at 32. Traditional uses of that regulatory power, such as the power to abate a nuisance, required no compensation whatsoever, see Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623, 668—669 (1887), in sharp contrast to the takings power, which has always required compensation, see supra, at 3, and n. 1. The question whether the State can take property using the power of eminent domain is therefore distinct from the question whether it can regulate property pursuant to the police power. See, e.g., Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 1014 (1992); Mugler, supra, at 668—669. In Berman, for example, if the slums at issue were truly “blighted,” then state nuisance law, see, e.g., supra, at 5—6; Lucas, supra, at 1029, not the power of eminent domain, would provide the appropriate remedy. To construe the Public Use Clause to overlap with the States’ police power conflates these two categories.3

    The “public purpose” test applied by Berman and Midkiff also cannot be applied in principled manner. “When we depart from the natural import of the term ‘public use,’ and substitute for the simple idea of a public possession and occupation, that of public utility, public interest, common benefit, general advantage or convenience … we are afloat without any certain principle to guide us.” Bloodgood v. Mohawk & Hudson R. Co., 18 Wend. 9, 60—61 (NY 1837) (opinion of Tracy, Sen.). Once one permits takings for public purposes in addition to public uses, no coherent principle limits what could constitute a valid public use—at least, none beyond Justice O’Connor’s (entirely proper) appeal to the text of the Constitution itself. See ante, at 1—2, 8—13 (dissenting opinion). I share the Court’s skepticism about a public use standard that requires courts to second-guess the policy wisdom of public works projects. Ante, at 16—19. The “public purpose” standard this Court has adopted, however, demands the use of such judgment, for the Court concedes that the Public Use Clause would forbid a purely private taking. Ante, at 7—8. It is difficult to imagine how a court could find that a taking was purely private except by determining that the taking did not, in fact, rationally advance the public interest. Cf. ante, at 9—10 (O’Connor, J., dissenting) (noting the complicated inquiry the Court’s test requires). The Court is therefore wrong to criticize the “actual use” test as “difficult to administer.” Ante, at 8. It is far easier to analyze whether the government owns or the public has a legal right to use the taken property than to ask whether the taking has a “purely private purpose”—unless the Court means to eliminate public use scrutiny of takings entirely. Ante, at 7—8, 16—17. Obliterating a provision of the Constitution, of course, guarantees that it will not be misapplied.

    For all these reasons, I would revisit our Public Use Clause cases and consider returning to the original meaning of the Public Use Clause: that the government may take property only if it actually uses or gives the public a legal right to use the property.

IV

    The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful. So-called “urban renewal” programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful. If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect “discrete and insular minorities,” United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152, n. 4 (1938), surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects. The deferential standard this Court has adopted for the Public Use Clause is therefore deeply perverse. It encourages “those citizens with dis-
proportionate influence and power in the political pro-
cess, including large corporations and development
firms” to victimize the weak. Ante, at 11 (O’Connor, J., dissenting).

    Those incentives have made the legacy of this Court’s “public purpose” test an unhappy one. In the 1950’s, no doubt emboldened in part by the expansive understanding of “public use” this Court adopted in Berman, cities “rushed to draw plans” for downtown development. B. Frieden & L. Sagalayn, Downtown, Inc. How America Rebuilds Cities 17 (1989). “Of all the families displaced by urban renewal from 1949 through 1963, 63 percent of those whose race was known were nonwhite, and of these families, 56 percent of nonwhites and 38 percent of whites had incomes low enough to qualify for public housing, which, however, was seldom available to them.” Id., at 28. Public works projects in the 1950’s and 1960’s destroyed predominantly minority communities in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Baltimore, Maryland. Id., at 28—29. In 1981, urban planners in Detroit, Michigan, uprooted the largely “lower-income and elderly” Poletown neighborhood for the benefit of the General Motors Corporation. J. Wylie, Poletown: Community Betrayed 58 (1989). Urban renewal projects have long been associated with the displacement of blacks; “n cities across the country, urban renewal came to be known as ‘Negro removal.’ ” Pritchett, The “Public Menace” of Blight: Urban Renewal and the Private Uses of Eminent Domain, 21 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 1, 47 (2003). Over 97 percent of the individuals forcibly removed from their homes by the “slum-clearance” project upheld by this Court in Berman were black. 348 U.S., at 30. Regrettably, the predictable consequence of the Court’s decision will be to exacerbate these effects.
***
    The Court relies almost exclusively on this Court’s prior cases to derive today’s far-reaching, and dangerous, result. See ante, at 8—12. But the principles this Court should employ to dispose of this case are found in the Public Use Clause itself, not in Justice Peckham’s high opinion of reclamation laws, see supra, at 11. When faced with a clash of constitutional principle and a line of unreasoned cases wholly divorced from the text, history, and structure of our founding document, we should not hesitate to resolve the tension in favor of the Constitution’s original meaning. For the reasons I have given, and for the reasons given in Justice O’Connor’s dissent, the conflict of principle raised by this boundless use of the eminent domain power should be resolved in petitioners’ favor. I would reverse the judgment of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Notes

1.  Some state constitutions at the time of the founding lacked just compensation clauses and took property even without providing compensation. See Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 1056—1057 (1992) (Blackmun, J., dissenting). The Framers of the Fifth Amendment apparently disagreed, for they expressly prohibited uncompensated takings, and the Fifth Amendment was not incorporated against the States until much later. See id., at 1028, n. 15.

2.  Compare ante, at 8, and n. 8 (majority opinion) (noting that some state courts upheld the validity of applying the Mill Acts to private purposes and arguing that the “ ‘use by the public’ test” “eroded over time”), with, e.g., Ryerson v. Brown, 35 Mich. 333, 338—339 (1877) (holding it “essential” to the constitutionality of a Mill Act “that the statute should require the use to be public in fact; in other words, that it should contain provisions entitling the public to accommodations”); Gaylord v. Sanitary Dist. of Chicago, 204 Ill. 576, 581—584, 68 N. E. 522, 524 (1903) (same); Tyler v. Beacher, 44 Vt. 648, 652—656 (1871) (same); Sadler v. Langham, 34 Ala. 311, 332—334 (1859) (striking down taking for purely private road and grist mill); Varner v. Martin, 21 W. Va. 534, 546—548, 556—557, 566—567 (1883) (grist mill and private road had to be open to public for them to constitute public use); Harding v. Goodlett, 3 Yerg. 41, 53 (1832); Jacobs v. Clearview Water Supply Co., 220 Pa. 388, 393—395, 69 A. 870, 872 (1908) (endorsing actual public use standard); Minnesota Canal & Power Co. v. Koochiching Co., 97 Minn. 429, 449—451, 107 N. W. 405, 413 (1906) (same); Chesapeake Stone Co. v. Moreland, 126 Ky. 656, 663—667, 104 S. W. 762, 765 (Ct. App. 1907) (same); Note, Public Use in Eminent Domain, 21 N. Y. U. L. Q. Rev. 285, 286, and n. 11 (1946) (calling the actual public use standard the “majority view” and citing other cases).

3.  Some States also promoted the alienability of property by abolishing the feudal “quit rent” system, i.e., long-term leases under which the proprietor reserved to himself the right to perpetual payment of rents from his tenant. See Vance, The Quest for Tenure in the United States, 33 Yale L. J. 248, 256—257, 260—263 (1923). In Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229 (1984), the Court cited those state policies favoring the alienability of land as evidence that the government’s eminent domain power was similarly expansive, see id., at 241—242, and n. 5. But they were uses of the States’ regulatory power, not the takings power, and therefore were irrelevant to the issue in Midkiff. This mismatch underscores the error of conflating a State’s regulatory power with its taking power.
5861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: September 08, 2008, 09:49:55 PM
JDN: "As for Justices, perhaps I was too harsh on Thomas, but I do not think he has the intellect of the others".

Still no examples.  I strongly disagree and challenge you / others again to illustrate this often stated assertion.  He doesn't ask questions of the lawyers who appear but he reads the briefs and writes opinions with wisdom and constitutional discipline like almost no one else IMO.

EXAMPLE: Kelo v. New London.  The worst decision in recent memory destroying private property rights by allowing local governments to take private property for what THEY deem to be better private property purposes.  Thomas wrote the strongest opinion opposing it.

Thomas' opinion follows. He goes beyond the dissent of Sandra Day O'Connor and argues very persuasively the original meaning of the public use in the takings restrictions clause.  I watched his confirmation hearings and his intellect held up very well especially as compared to the Senators in the room.  - Doug

(aside: JDN, I didn't know you play squash. Maybe we have another way of settling this...)
-----------------------------
Thomas, J., dissenting

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

No. 04—108
SUSETTE KELO, et al., PETITIONERS v. CITY OF
NEW LONDON, CONNECTICUT, et al.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF CONNECTICUT

[June 23, 2005]

    Justice Thomas, dissenting.

    Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that “the law of the land … postpones even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property.” 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134—135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for “public necessity,” but instead for “public use.” Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a “ ‘[P]ublic [P]urpose’ ” Clause, ante, at 9—10 (or perhaps the “Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society” Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is “legitimate” and the means “not irrational,” ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a “public use.”

    I cannot agree. If such “economic development” takings are for a “public use,” any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution, as Justice O’Connor powerfully argues in dissent. Ante, at 1—2, 8—13. I do not believe that this Court can eliminate liberties expressly enumerated in the Constitution and therefore join her dissenting opinion. Regrettably, however, the Court’s error runs deeper than this. Today’s decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning. In my view, the Public Use Clause, originally understood, is a meaningful limit on the government’s eminent domain power. Our cases have strayed from the Clause’s original meaning, and I would reconsider them.
I.     The Fifth Amendment provides:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process, of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” (Emphasis added.)

It is the last of these liberties, the Takings Clause, that is at issue in this case. In my view, it is “imperative that the Court maintain absolute fidelity to” the Clause’s express limit on the power of the government over the individual, no less than with every other liberty expressly enumerated in the Fifth Amendment or the Bill of Rights more generally. Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. ___, ___ (2005) (slip op., at 2) (Thomas, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment) (internal quotation marks omitted).

    Though one component of the protection provided by the Takings Clause is that the government can take private property only if it provides “just compensation” for the taking, the Takings Clause also prohibits the government from taking property except “for public use.” Were it otherwise, the Takings Clause would either be meaningless or empty. If the Public Use Clause served no function other than to state that the government may take property through its eminent domain power–for public or private uses–then it would be surplusage. See ante, at 3—4 (O’Connor, J., dissenting); see also Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 174 (1803) (“It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect”); Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 151 (1926). Alternatively, the Clause could distinguish those takings that require compensation from those that do not. That interpretation, however, “would permit private property to be taken or appropriated for private use without any compensation whatever.” Cole v. La Grange, 113 U.S. 1, 8 (1885) (interpreting same language in the Missouri Public Use Clause). In other words, the Clause would require the government to compensate for takings done “for public use,” leaving it free to take property for purely private uses without the payment of compensation. This would contradict a bedrock principle well established by the time of the founding: that all takings required the payment of compensation. 1 Blackstone 135; 2 J. Kent, Commentaries on American Law 275 (1827) (hereinafter Kent); J. Madison, for the National Property Gazette, (Mar. 27, 1792), in 14 Papers of James Madison 266, 267 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983) (arguing that no property “shall be taken directly even for public use without indemnification to the owner”).1 The Public Use Clause, like the Just Compensation Clause, is therefore an express limit on the government’s power of eminent domain.

    The most natural reading of the Clause is that it allows the government to take property only if the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the property, as opposed to taking it for any public purpose or necessity whatsoever. At the time of the founding, dictionaries primarily defined the noun “use” as “[t]he act of employing any thing to any purpose.” 2 S. Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language 2194 (4th ed. 1773) (hereinafter Johnson). The term “use,” moreover, “is from the Latin utor, which means ‘to use, make use of, avail one’s self of, employ, apply, enjoy, etc.” J. Lewis, Law of Eminent Domain §165, p. 224, n. 4 (1888) (hereinafter Lewis). When the government takes property and gives it to a private individual, and the public has no right to use the property, it strains language to say that the public is “employing” the property, regardless of the incidental benefits that might accrue to the public from the private use. The term “public use,” then, means that either the government or its citizens as a whole must actually “employ” the taken property. See id., at 223 (reviewing founding-era dictionaries).

    Granted, another sense of the word “use” was broader in meaning, extending to “[c]onvenience” or “help,” or “[q]ualities that make a thing proper for any purpose.” 2 Johnson 2194. Nevertheless, read in context, the term “public use” possesses the narrower meaning. Elsewhere, the Constitution twice employs the word “use,” both times in its narrower sense. Claeys, Public-Use Limitations and Natural Property Rights, 2004 Mich. St. L. Rev. 877, 897 (hereinafter Public Use Limitations). Article 1, §10 provides that “the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States,” meaning the Treasury itself will control the taxes, not use it to any beneficial end. And Article I, §8 grants Congress power “[t]o raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.” Here again, “use” means “employed to raise and support Armies,” not anything directed to achieving any military end. The same word in the Public Use Clause should be interpreted to have the same meaning.

    Tellingly, the phrase “public use” contrasts with the very different phrase “general Welfare” used elsewhere in the Constitution. See ibid. (“Congress shall have Power To … provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States”); preamble (Constitution established “to promote the general Welfare”). The Framers would have used some such broader term if they had meant the Public Use Clause to have a similarly sweeping scope. Other founding-era documents made the contrast between these two usages still more explicit. See Sales, Classical Republicanism and the Fifth Amendment’s “Public Use” Requirement, 49 Duke L. J. 339, 368 (2000) (hereinafter Sales) (noting contrast between, on the one hand, the term “public use” used by 6 of the first 13 States and, on the other, the terms “public exigencies” employed in the Massachusetts Bill of Rights and the Northwest Ordinance, and the term “public necessity” used in the Vermont Constitution of 1786). The Constitution’s text, in short, suggests that the Takings Clause authorizes the taking of property only if the public has a right to employ it, not if the public realizes any conceivable benefit from the taking.

    The Constitution’s common-law background reinforces this understanding. The common law provided an express method of eliminating uses of land that adversely impacted the public welfare: nuisance law. Blackstone and Kent, for instance, both carefully distinguished the law of nuisance from the power of eminent domain. Compare 1 Blackstone 135 (noting government’s power to take private property with compensation), with 3 id., at 216 (noting action to remedy “public …nuisances, which affect the public and are an annoyance to all the king’s subjects”); see also 2 Kent 274—276 (distinguishing the two). Blackstone rejected the idea that private property could be taken solely for purposes of any public benefit. “So great … is the regard of the law for private property,” he explained, “that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community.” 1 Blackstone 135. He continued: “If a new road … were to be made through the grounds of a private person, it might perhaps be extensively beneficial to the public; but the law permits no man, or set of men, to do this without the consent of the owner of the land.” Ibid. Only “by giving [the landowner] full indemnification” could the government take property, and even then “[t]he public [was] now considered as an individual, treating with an individual for an exchange.” Ibid. When the public took property, in other words, it took it as an individual buying property from another typically would: for one’s own use. The Public Use Clause, in short, embodied the Framers’ understanding that property is a natural, fundamental right, prohibiting the government from “tak[ing] property from A. and giv[ing] it to B.” Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798); see also Wilkinson v. Leland, 2 Pet. 627, 658 (1829); Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorrance, 2 Dall. 304, 311 (CC Pa. 1795).

    The public purpose interpretation of the Public Use Clause also unnecessarily duplicates a similar inquiry required by the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Takings Clause is a prohibition, not a grant of power: The Constitution does not expressly grant the Federal Government the power to take property for any public purpose whatsoever. Instead, the Government may take property only when necessary and proper to the exercise of an expressly enumerated power. See Kohl v. United States, 91 U.S. 367, 371—372 (1876) (noting Federal Government’s power under the Necessary and Proper Clause to take property “needed for forts, armories, and arsenals, for navy-yards and light-houses, for custom-houses, post-offices, and court-houses, and for other public uses”). For a law to be within the Necessary and Proper Clause, as I have elsewhere explained, it must bear an “obvious, simple, and direct relation” to an exercise of Congress’ enumerated powers, Sabri v. United States, 541 U.S. 600, 613 (2004) (Thomas, J., concurring in judgment), and it must not “subvert basic principles of” constitutional design, Gonzales v. Raich, ante, at __ (Thomas, J., dissenting). In other words, a taking is permissible under the Necessary and Proper Clause only if it serves a valid public purpose. Interpreting the Public Use Clause likewise to limit the government to take property only for sufficiently public purposes replicates this inquiry. If this is all the Clause means, it is, once again, surplusage. See supra, at 3. The Clause is thus most naturally read to concern whether the property is used by the public or the government, not whether the purpose of the taking is legitimately public.

II  

Early American eminent domain practice largely bears out this understanding of the Public Use Clause. This practice concerns state limits on eminent domain power, not the Fifth Amendment, since it was not until the late 19th century that the Federal Government began to use the power of eminent domain, and since the Takings Clause did not even arguably limit state power until after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Note, The Public Use Limitation on Eminent Domain: An Advance Requiem, 58 Yale L. J. 599, 599—600, and nn. 3—4 (1949); Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243, 250—251 (1833) (holding the Takings Clause inapplicable to the States of its own force). Nevertheless, several early state constitutions at the time of the founding likewise limited the power of eminent domain to “public uses.” See Sales 367—369, and n. 137 (emphasis deleted). Their practices therefore shed light on the original meaning of the same words contained in the Public Use Clause.

    States employed the eminent domain power to provide quintessentially public goods, such as public roads, toll roads, ferries, canals, railroads, and public parks. Lewis §§166, 168—171, 175, at 227—228, 234—241, 243. Though use of the eminent domain power was sparse at the time of the founding, many States did have so-called Mill Acts, which authorized the owners of grist mills operated by water power to flood upstream lands with the payment of compensation to the upstream landowner. See, e.g., id., §178, at 245—246; Head v. Amoskeag Mfg. Co., 113 U.S. 9, 16—19, and n. (1885). Those early grist mills “were regulated by law and compelled to serve the public for a stipulated toll and in regular order,” and therefore were actually used by the public. Lewis §178, at 246, and n. 3; see also Head, supra, at 18—19. They were common carriers–quasi-public entities. These were “public uses” in the fullest sense of the word, because the public could legally use and benefit from them equally. See Public Use Limitations 903 (common-carrier status traditionally afforded to “private beneficiaries of a state franchise or another form of state monopoly, or to companies that operated in conditions of natural monopoly”).

    To be sure, some early state legislatures tested the limits of their state-law eminent domain power. Some States enacted statutes allowing the taking of property for the purpose of building private roads. See Lewis §167, at 230. These statutes were mixed; some required the private landowner to keep the road open to the public, and others did not. See id., §167, at 230—234. Later in the 19th century, moreover, the Mill Acts were employed to grant rights to private manufacturing plants, in addition to grist mills that had common-carrier duties. See, e.g., M. Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law 1780—1860, pp. 51—52 (1977).

    These early uses of the eminent domain power are often cited as evidence for the broad “public purpose” interpretation of the Public Use Clause, see, e.g., ante, at 8, n. 8 (majority opinion); Brief for Respondents 30; Brief for American Planning Assn. et al. as Amici Curiae at 6—7, but in fact the constitutionality of these exercises of eminent domain power under state public use restrictions was a hotly contested question in state courts throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. Some courts construed those clauses to authorize takings for public purposes, but others adhered to the natural meaning of “public use.”2 As noted above, the earliest Mill Acts were applied to entities with duties to remain open to the public, and their later extension is not deeply probative of whether that subsequent practice is consistent with the original meaning of the Public Use Clause. See McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 370 (1995) (Thomas, J., concurring in judgment). At the time of the founding, “business corporations were only beginning to upset the old corporate model, in which the raison d’ętre of chartered associations was their service to the public,” Horwitz, supra, at 49—50, so it was natural to those who framed the first Public Use Clauses to think of mills as inherently public entities. The disagreement among state courts, and state legislatures’ attempts to circumvent public use limits on their eminent domain power, cannot obscure that the Public Use Clause is most naturally read to authorize takings for public use only if the government or the public actually uses the taken property.

(opinion didn't fit, continued in next post)
5862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palin phenomenon on: September 08, 2008, 11:01:17 AM
Even if she fails miserably and becomes a trivia question in history, I think she has already earned her own DB topic.  smiley

One network host is up in arms that Palin isn't doing interviews her first minute on the ticket while another ABC is sending Charlie Gibson to Alaska this week for an interview.  I agree with protecting her a little at first from the wolves as she will get plenty of exposure including the VP debate.  My free advice is that they should offer her for an extra debate, Palin v. Barack Obama, one on one, anytime/any place, and find out quickly which side is more afraid of their next gaffe. 

If you want to preview for the VP debate you can see a Gubernatorial debate from 2006 on C-Span at http://cspanjunkie.org/?p=407  Unlike her current opponent, she makes her point clearly and then stops talking. The woman has talent.
5863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: September 08, 2008, 10:22:26 AM
Great post BBG. Dr. Hansen may be a scientist, but mainly serves as a politician and a bureaucrat. He represents the Bush administration and abhors it.  He should have been fired for his politics.  Problem was that the administration could not have removed him without looking like they are the ones being political.  So instead we let warming over-hype run its course at taxpayer expense.  These scientists can't remove agenda and funding from data IMO.

I'm curious, what does he mean specifically by: "I think that we also need to look at next-generation nuclear power".  His wording indicates that he prefers wait over build.  If he needs "to look" there, why hasn't he been looking there and reporting his conclusions - today!  The sooner we expand our power grid, the sooner other uses can be plugged in, such as transportation or heating.

Nuclear is fairly unique for having zero CO2 emissions and such a large scale capacityl.  No new plants approved since 1978?  That's before Al Gore's first book.  From what I can find, next generation nuclear means building smaller, safer, lower power intensity, gas cooled reactors.  That's fine with me.  Let's go.  But what does it have to do with opposing clean coal?
5864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 07, 2008, 01:32:53 PM
responding to JDN's points but writing to all ( or none?):  I challenge you or anyone to post and rebut ANY written opinion on the supreme court from Justice Thomas that makes you think he is not up to the job.  Without an example or a pattern, that sounded too much like an Obama talking point and Obama also did not provide one example.  My point was not just the vote on an opposing party's appointment, it was that the conduct of the hearings was a disgrace (IMO) and that the leadership lacking came from the chair. Regarding votes on nominees, I would point out that Obama was one of the 22 furthest to the left in opposing confirmation Chief Justice John Roberts, a very competent opposing party appointment IMO.  Is Roberts also not "up to the job"?

Age discrimination: I very rarely support ANY rule where government tells private companies how to run their business, but certainly there is a difference between retirement according to a consensual contract with a fat golden compensation package and the issue of not hiring a qualified applicant.  Our personal experiences are obviously VERY different on age.  Some of the people I admire most in the world right now are a decade older than McCain.  I would more likely question Obama as too young and too new.  The Palin situation is slightly different because she MIGHT serve suddenly as President, but she  is running for 2nd position.  Assuming, and I don't, that McCain dies or retires later in his term or more likely declines to run for a second term, she will have new experience gained because of her selection, just as Obama would have more experience running for a second term that he doesn't have now.

JDN, thanks for your honest, candid views.  FWIW, if you read deeper in these threads you will see that I didn't support McCain and I didn't favor the Palin appointment before it was made.  I just prefer this ticket at this time presented with these choices. 
5865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 07, 2008, 12:53:19 PM
Crafty: "What do we make of the following?" - The first part seems like terrible news, a border crossing closed that is essential for NATO supply lines.  Reminds me of Turkey blocking us late in the planning of operation Iraqi freedom. Also a threat of retaliation for any American attack.

Far more importantly, the piece ends with this mention in passing:

"The US has conducted an unprecedented air campaign over the past week in North and South Waziristan. The US has conducted five cross-border attacks inside Pakistan since Aug 31. Three of the strikes occurred in North Waziristan, and two in South Waziristan.  The US has stepped up its attacks against al Qaeda and the Taliban's networks inside Pakistan over the past year. There have been 13 confirmed cross-border attacks by the US in Pakistan this year. Five safe houses have been hit in North Waziristan, six have been hit in South Waziristan, and two have been targeted in Bajaur this year. The most controversial strike involved special operations teams inserted by helicopters in a village in South Waziristan just one mile from the Afghan border on Sept. 3."

From a 'war on terror' standpoint, this is GREAT news.  This administration can't communicate or articulate (on anything) and likely has limitations on what can or should be said while a serious operation is in progress, but this information would indicate that a) we are getting specific intelligence, b) we are acting militarily on it, not limited by the border or politics, and c) we are taking these risks in hot pursuit of a successful outcome.

Killing or capturing bin Laden and his top liutenants would not be the end of our security problems, but it would be another important milestone, sending a signal to potential enemies and to our so-called allies about who is winning and who is losing in this costly effort.
5866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 06, 2008, 10:45:25 PM
JDN, I appreciate having different views posted.  From my viewpoint, Biden presided over the Bork and Clarence Thomas, two of the worst chapters of phoniness and character assassination in our history and was wrong twice on Iraq - by his own judgment.  Not the new harmony or leadership Obama claimed he would bring.

Since it is an opinion board I must say that I have a hard time holding against McCain the years he wasted in N. Vietnam while I frolicked in freedom.  Maybe he should have run 5 1/2 years sooner, but he was detained.

Curious, would you repeal other laws about age discrimination or just make this exception? smiley  - Doug
5867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race - Biden on: September 06, 2008, 09:23:43 PM
The Biden pick:  Before the pick and before the final short list I tried hard to think of a Democrat with perceived 'gravitas' and perhaps foreign policy experience that could fill his ticket.  Shallow bench.  They really had to have served in the Clinton administration or settle for one of the second-guessers from the foreign relations committee.  I thought of Madeline Halfbright but I don't think she is eligible.  Sandy Burglar, but the docs in the boxers was for sure a deal-killer.  Not exactly foreign policy experience, but I recalled that Clinton had a pretty well respected Treasury Secretary from the private sector.  Came up with the name Robert Rubin, looked him up on Wikipedia to find out he was older than McCain [correction: similar in age to McCain].  That wouldn't work.  I still couldn't take seriously the idea that the dream--hope-change ticket would have Joe Biden on it.  I assume that he was the neutral choice for Obama, not to enhance his ticket but for the party faithful across the board to accept without revolt.

Questioning Biden's experience, I LOVE this piece by Thomas Sowell from last week:

"The difference between being a spectator and being a participant, with responsibility for the consequences of what you say and do, is fundamental."

Foreign Policy "Experience"
by Thomas Sowell, Sept. 3, 2008

Now that the Democrats have recovered from the shock of Governor Sarah Palin's nomination as the Republican's candidate for vice president, they have suddenly discovered that her lack of experience in general-- and foreign policy experience in particular-- is a terrible danger in someone just a heartbeat away from being President of the United States.

For those who are satisfied with talking points, there is no need to go any further. But, for those who still consider substance relevant, this is an incredible argument coming from those whose presidential candidate has even less experience in public office than Sarah Palin, and none in foreign policy.

Moreover, if Senator Barack Obama is elected, he will not be a heartbeat away from the presidency, his would be the heartbeat of the president-- and he would be the one making foreign policy.

But the big talking point is that the Democrats' vice-presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden, has years of foreign policy experience as a member, and now chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That all depends on what the definition of "experience" is.

Before getting into that, however, a plain fact should be noted: No governor ever had foreign policy experience before becoming president-- not Ronald Reagan, not Franklin D. Roosevelt, nor any other governor.

It is hard to know how many people could possibly have had foreign policy experience before reaching the White House besides a Secretary of State or a Secretary of Defense.

The last Secretary of War (the old title of Secretaries of Defense) to later become President of the United States was William Howard Taft, a hundred years ago. The last Secretary of State to become President of the United States was James Buchanan, a century and a half ago.

The first President Bush had been head of the C.I.A., which certainly gave him a lot of knowledge of what was happening around the world, though still not experience in making the country's foreign policy.

Senator Joe Biden's years of service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is even further removed from foreign policy experience. He has had a front-row seat as an observer of foreign policy. But Senator Biden has never had any real experience of making foreign policy and taking the consequences of the results.

The difference between being a spectator and being a participant, with responsibility for the consequences of what you say and do, is fundamental.

You can read books about crime or attend lectures by criminologists, but you have no real experience or expertise about crime unless you have been a criminal or a policeman.

Although I served in the Marine Corps, I have no military experience in any meaningful sense. The closest I ever came to combat was being assigned to photograph the maneuvers of the Second Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

That was photographic experience, not military experience. If someone gave me a policy-making job in the Pentagon, I wouldn't have a clue.

The fact that Senator Joe Biden has for years listened to all sorts of people testify on all sorts of foreign policy issues tells us nothing about how well he understood the issues.

Out of the four presidential and vice-presidential candidates this year, only Governor Palin has had to make executive decisions and live with the consequences.

As for Senator Obama, his various pronouncements on foreign policy have been as immature as they have been presumptuous.

He talked publicly about taking military action against Pakistan, one of our few Islamic allies and a nation with nuclear weapons.

Barack Obama's first response to the Russian invasion of Georgia was to urge "all sides" to negotiate a cease-fire and take their issues to the United Nations. That is standard liberal talk, which even Obama had second thoughts about, after Senator John McCain gave a more grown-up response.

We should all have second thoughts about what is, and is not, foreign policy "experience."
5868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: September 06, 2008, 05:46:19 PM
Guinness,  Thanks for the excellent post from Wm Briggs. I wasn't aware of his work. Just looking at the graph it is easy to see how any (crooked) statistician could measure temperature from a trough in the late 1800s or a peak in the early 1600s and (falsely) declare significant amounts of warming or cooling over an extended period.  They not only filter the data statistically, but they also tweak the actual temp data collected with secret algorithms that are written and changed by mortals with biases. 
---
By my calculation, the sea level at the beach in Florida or southern California goes up and down more in a day than it does in a century.  I'm glad that scientists study it all and offer their judgments, but not on my dime.
5869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 06, 2008, 05:20:11 PM
" if BO had won [with Hillary], he would have been but one of three presidents"

Barack in his quiet wisdom may know that part of the Obama phenomenon was really anti-Hillary, anti-Clinton excitement - to win WITHOUT these weaseling triangulators.  On that theory, the combined Hillary and Obama forces are not additive, but partially canceling.  With her on the ticket he might or might not lock in Hillary voters but certainly would alienate parts of the grass roots far left.

The food taster comment is very funny but Clintonistas in the White House would always have the power of the leak to undermine Obama. 

My thought is that he would lose his entire image by having the old guard share the stage, removing the mystique of amazing new leadership and a complete break with the past.  Instead he chose Washington consummate insider Joe Biden. Lol.
5870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rant, energy and geopolitics on: September 05, 2008, 11:07:39 AM
A political rant-  I hate to over simplify, but isn't nearly the whole Russian problem rooted in the distortions of energy prices and the Russian hold over Europe, Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia, etc.?  Same for Iran and others.  If energy was legal, affordable and plentiful, wouldn't these rogue economies have to actually produce something else to make money and then be too busy in their enterprises to blow us up or invade their neighbors?  Same for the slowness in the American economy.  Other than high taxes, over-regulation and government messing up heathcare and other markets, aren't energy prices the main drag on the economy right now?

Several people here wanted Newt leading the ticket and that didn't fly but he hit the nail on the head with "Drill here, drill now, pay less" Even that is oversimplified because we need ALL forms of energy.  We need to build nuclear plants here, now, if we plan to plug in a significant part of our transportation system soon.  Natural gas is back in the discussion. Natural gas from the ground, natural gas from coal, I don't care if it comes from the cows. It's a great fuel, let's go.  Legalize production.  Find ways.  Get government back in the business of ensuring public safety, not blocking production.

And what's up with burning food to produce energy and then the bewilderment when we discover food prices went up and hit the poorest people hardest.  What kind of 'liberal' policy is that?  I just drove through Iowa and Nebraska to get to Colorado.  The government punishes you heavily to drive your car but makes you use taxpayer money and government mandates to put destroyed food (ethanol) in your tank.  The Iowa primary is over.  Can't the adults agree soon that this policy is horrible???

Of course one of the reasons for the stall in energy production was the confusion created over global warming.  It reminds me of the Y2K scare.  Did you all survive that one? lol. Up here in 'hockey mom' country (MN) I just put away all my air conditioners, none were used at all this summer while the winter was one of the longest and coldest in recent years.  Try fact checking the oceans rising allegation and see if anything definitive jumps out.  Looks to me like 20cm in 120 years with zero acceleration.  Where the arctic ice is melting the sea level is actually falling.  Hmmm...

Speaking of hockey moms, at the hockey arenas in the parking lots you can often count 15-20 SUV's or light trucks in a row before you see a sedan, much less a tiny car.  The reason is because hockey driving involves carrying people and hockey bags with lots of equipment, often through snow and ice, and the people involved typically have other hobbies that involve liberties beyond the liberal vision of federally funded trolley car trains to government approved, clustered home developments. 

End this rant with a hope that McCain's selection of the energy governor gives him cover to flop his anti-ANWR position and the hope that she can use that distinction to circle Sen. Biden in the debate, on domestic AND foreign policy.  If she gets a word in edgewise.  JMHO.
5871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 05, 2008, 10:04:33 AM
3 times during the speech I called my daughter in to 'make' her watch because she will be voting next time and 3 times I said skip it because no clarity was being given at the time to any important issue.  Seemed like an NFL coach thanking everyone who made it possible to be only 2 touchdowns (house and senate) and a field goal behind coming into halftime. 
5872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 05, 2008, 12:36:12 AM
"A real snore of a speech tonight from McCain. "

He is trying to recapture the enthusiasm of Bob Dole's '96 campaign.  It looks hard for middle of the roaders to get specific or passionate about their principles. 
5873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race, heroes and that 'VP thing' on: September 04, 2008, 12:18:35 PM
Sarah Palin knocked my socks off FWIW.  For my money she is the next Reagan.  She is an unapologetic conservative able to explain that view (my view) in simple and direct terms.  I wish McCain had that quality and wish the other side ran as unapologetic liberals instead of sneaky ones who conceal the extent of their liberalism behind centrist rhetoric.

---
Re. the discussion on heroes:  I gave this some thought when people said nice things about me for rescuing my daughter as a baby.  When you climb through harm's way to save yourself or save your own family, you are just a normal living thing or a normal parent with a normal survival instinct.  Not a hero.  But when you enter a burning building for example to rescue your neighbor's children, then you are a hero.  Maybe a few firefighters or fighter pilots are there for non-heroic reasons, but in my view, most anyone like a McCain who served his country, risked his own life, flew a plane into enemy air space performing a mission and held out even a shred of information for more than a second from his enemy captors through even a perceived threat of harm is without a doubt a HERO.  Same goes for people like my father who performed medical rather than combat functions in WWII, maybe not front line but close enough and part of the mission.  They are all heroes.
---

Back to the RNC. GM I think mentioned humor in the message.  My favorite came from Rudy telling Biden to get it in writing:

"Look at just one example in a lifetime of principled stands -- John McCain's support for the troop surge in Iraq. The Democratic Party had given up on Iraq. And I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that when they gave up on Iraq they were giving up on America. The Democratic leader in the Senate said so: "America has lost."

Well, if America lost, who won? Al Qaida? Bin Laden? In the single biggest policy decision of this election, John McCain got it right and Barack Obama got it wrong.

If Barack Obama had been President, there would have been no troop surge and our troops would have been withdrawn in defeat.

Senator McCain was the candidate most associated with the surge. And it was unpopular.

What do you think most other candidates would have done in that situation? They would have acted in their own self-interest by changing their position.

How many times have we seen Barack Obama do that?

Obama was going to take public financing for his campaign, until he didn't.

Obama was against wiretapping before he voted for it.

When speaking to a pro-Israel group, Obama favored an undivided Jerusalem. Until the very next day when he changed his mind.

I hope for his sake, Joe Biden got that VP thing in writing."
5874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Death of NATO on: September 02, 2008, 10:15:04 PM
I would add to the thesis below, death of the UN also.

September 1, 2008
Farewell NATO
by Victor Davis Hanson

When I was growing up in the 1960s, we had a majestic Santa Rosa plum orchard on my family's farm. The trees were 40 years old and had grown to over 20 feet high. My grandfather would proudly recall how its once-bumper crops of big, sweet plums had helped him survive the Depression and a postwar fall in agricultural prices.

But by the 1960s, the towering, verdant trees were more a park than a profitable orchard. The aged limbs had grown almost too high to pick, the fruit there too few and too small to pack profitably. Yet my grandfather simply could not bring himself to bulldoze the money-losing, unproductive old orchard.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is like that noble Santa Rosa orchard. We all remember how NATO once saved Western Europe from the onslaught of global communism. Its success led to the present European Union. The Soviets were kept at bay. The Americans were engaged, while the postwar German colossus remained peaceful. A resurgent Europe followed, secure enough to prosper while complacent enough to slash defense expenditures and expand entitlements.

After the victory of the Cold War, NATO's raison d'etre became more problematic — even as its theoretical reach now went all the way to the old borders of the Soviet Union. Yet, without the Soviet menace that had prompted the alliance, what justified the continued need for transatlantic collective defense?

We saw NATO's paralysis in the European inaction over Serbia's ethnic cleansing in the 1990s. When NATO finally acted to remove Slobodan Milosevic in 1999, the much-criticized intervention proved little more than a de facto American air campaign.

Article 5 of NATO's charter requires its members to come to the aid of any fellow nation that is attacked. But when it was evoked after Sept. 11 for the first time, NATO — other than a few European gestures such as sending surveillance planes to fly above America — didn't risk much abroad to fight Islamic terrorists.

Australia, a non-NATO member, is doing far more to fight the Taliban than either Germany or Spain. Many Western European countries have national directives that prevent aggressive offensives against the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents, overriding NATO military doctrine.

Take away Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S. from Afghanistan and the collective NATO force would collapse in hours.

The enemy in Afghanistan knows this. The savvy and sinister Taliban just targeted the French contingent. It figured the loss of 10 French soldiers might have a greater demoralizing effect on French public opinion than Verdun did in 1916, when France suffered nearly a half-million casualties in heroically stopping the German advance. But 90 years ago, France kept on fighting to win a war. Now, the French parliament may meet to discuss withdrawal altogether.

There is much talk that had Georgia been a NATO member, Russia might not have attacked it. The truth is far worse. Even if Georgia had belonged to NATO, no European armed forces would have been willing to die for Tbilisi. Remember the furor in 2003 when some NATO countries — angry at the United States — tried to block support to member Turkey should Saddam's Iraq have retaliated against Ankara for the American invasion to remove him.

The well-intended but ossified alliance keeps offering promises to new members that are weaker, poorer and in more dangerous and distant places, but its old smug founding states are ever more unlikely to honor them.

In the last two decades, the safety of a rich Western Europe also spawned a new continental creed of secularism, socialism and anti-Americanism that embraced the untruth that the United Nations kept the peace while the United States endangered it. But if a disarmed continent counted on continued expensive American protection, then it was suicidal to mock its protector.

If NATO dissolves, Europe will at least receive a much-needed reality check. It might even re-learn to invest in its own defense. European relations with America would be more grounded in reality, and the United States could still forge individual ties with countries that wished to be true partners, not loud caricatures of allies.

That stately Santa Rosa orchard? When it finally was toppled, uprooted and cut up, we all nearly wept — but my grandfather had new varieties of plum trees planted in its place by the next spring.
5875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus on: September 02, 2008, 09:51:23 PM
Denny, Thanks for your wisdom on the situation in Georgia.  A hundred or a thousand ships mean nothing if we are committed to non-intervention.  Whether we look at our failure to rescue Hungary or our difficulties liberating Iraq,  I wish we had the time, resources and resolve to topple more tyrants and give more people a shot at freedom.

What makes many battles impractical IMO is the lack of contribution and sacrifice from other nations.  They seem to feel a resentment of America that is stronger than the offense they take to oppression or aggression.

There is the unarmed, worthless UN where Russia has a permanent veto and there is American unilateralism. There isn't much in between. 
5876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 02, 2008, 09:18:00 PM
The only thing not felonious IMO about Hillary's commodity trading escapades was that the records were hidden until the statute of limitations had expired. Certainly she is entitled to presumption of innocence in a criminal sense, but in a political sense she is shameless felon, one who committed felony without remorse.  That is an opinion based on public information, not a court-proven fact.

If Sen. Obama loses she will be the automatic nominee next time, nearly as certain as she was this time.
5877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: How McCain Decided on Palin on: August 29, 2008, 08:03:11 PM
Expanding on what CCP wrote - that she was chosen because she is a woman - she was chosen to make the ticket win.  It's extremely ironic IMO to hear the Obama campaign point out her lack of foreign policy experience.
---

from ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg

    It wasn't until Sunday night that John McCain, after meeting with his four top advisers, finally decided he could not tap independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to be his running mate. One adviser, tasked with taking the temperature of the conservative base, had strongly made the case to McCain that it would be a disaster for the party and that the base would revolt. McCain concluded he could not go that route.

    The next day, McCain studied the three men at the top of his shortlist: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. All had different strengths and negatives, but McCain was not satisfied. None of them had what McCain believed he needed to do -- and would have done -- with Lieberman.

    McCain wanted to shake up the ticket.

    Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's name was in the mix as an unconventional choice for months, but she had not been considered a front-runner. So, over the next few days, with McCain continuing to believe he needed someone who had more of a maverick streak than his other choices, lawyers reviewed her vetting information. They kept their activities from even some in McCain's most senior inner circle....

    The campaign secretly flew Palin into Dayton last night. She and McCain met privately for a couple of hours. McCain concluded she would "shake up the system" and was "a maverick," qualities he believed Lieberman would have brought to the ticket. But she also would appeal to conservatives -- which Lieberman most certainly would not have done.

    After their meeting, McCain concluded he was comfortable with his choice. He notified Pawlenty this morning that he was going in a different direction.
5878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: August 24, 2008, 04:31:55 PM
Great points made by Scott Grannis on the economic drivel from the NY Times.  Writing corrections to MSM is thankless work but someone needs to do it, and more people need to read it IMO.

There seems to be a demographic trend that family sizes are getting smaller with an aging population and more single households.  Liberals turn that around to say that family incomes are stagnant, cleverly ignoring - as Grannis points out - a 17.5% increase in real, personal, disposable income.  (If two working people marry or divorce, family income is increased by 200% or decreased by 50% but personal income didn't change. They just made different choices.)

--

Quoting: "As a case in point, Obama's tax proposals are designed to reduce the burden of taxes on the lower and middle class, but they would actually
make things worse for those people because his proposals will sharply
increase marginal tax rates. This will make it much harder for the
poor to get rich, a perfect example of unintended consequences to tax-
rate engineering. See this article for proof, it is really impressive. "

Marc, where he says "See THIS article for proof" I think there was a link in the original that didn't come through.  Please post if you have it.  TIA.
5879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 24, 2008, 04:04:43 PM
"Whom do others here think McC should pick?"

I'll leave aside my personal wish for leaders more conservative than the current bunch and go with what we know this election cycle.  I think the pick will be Romney because he has been vetted through the process, because he presents himself well, is extremely bright, competent and well-spoken.  He has good experience and is squeaky clean with no surprises.  He already ran hard this time so he has already pondered most likely questions that could be asked about issues across the globe and across the economy.  He is close enough to McCain on issues compared with any other recent pair.  His previous differences with McCain are nothing compared to the differences they both share with the far left philosophies of the opponents.  His evolved position on abortion etc. is not new, interesting or relevant compared to the baggage that the candidates at the top of both tickets have to deal with.

The Mormon question is a matter for those who want to discriminate to sort out. (Discrimination overall probably hurts Obama more.)  McCain is a Christian and Obama doesn't want focus turned back to the teachings in each other's place of worship.  If Mitt Romney was a recent polygamist or had writings attacking Christianity it would be a problem but that is not the case.

Our governor, Tim Pawlenty, is perhaps second choice.  In a subtle way he is a very good politician with a few accomplishments.  He was on the McCain team early when no one else was, but he is not known nationally, he will not knock your socks off, he does not guarantee McCain even Minnesota much less the region, and there isn't time for everyone to get to know him and come to like him.  The main point is that choosing a new face involves unnecessary risk. Romney has been looked at already.  Choosing him steers the arguments back to the issues and the leadership questions at the top of the tickets.

I don't think anyone on the political right or center doubts that Mitts Romney could step in quickly and competently in a national emergency and serve as President until the next election.  The arguments in the VP debates will be about the positions already set out by McCain and Obama.  Mitt should request no time limit in the debate for Joe Biden to speak.
5880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: August 11, 2008, 10:49:11 PM
My recollection of Larry Summers in his own words is that his questions had more to do with the long term choices of women being less likely to sacrifice family and personal life for decades or an entire career to reach the very top of their technical profession more than he was questioning their aptitude, ability or academic achievement.
5881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: August 11, 2008, 10:29:54 PM
Rachel, adding my two cents here -  My mom is a sort of anti-feminist who earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and I noticed very few women in her graduating class from the Institute of Technology in the 1940s.  She says it wasn't from discrimination but from lack of interest from the girls at the time. Thirty years later, my cousin's wife graduated from a technical college and she said they gave free tuition to get girls to go there.  Regarding recent test scores, I find myself pulling for the girls as father of a daughter just entering high school. 

Regarding gender differences and pay differences I don't have the answer but have these suggestions from a public policy point of view: 1) not all observed differences require a 'solution' and 2) not all solutions require government action.
5882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 11, 2008, 10:03:08 PM
"So why don't we: a) Do an Osirak on their nuke capabilities, and b) burn all the opium fields in Afg c) leave them to stew in their own mess?"

I agree with the other comments. A Hail Mary is right but the idea of strikes without further occupation should certainly be on the table. Many lessons come from the Iraq effort.  For me, I question whether the obligation exists to guarantee security after a justified strike.  I would say no.  The rebuild dollars and the human sacrifice to win long term security needs to be with conditions and only where it lines up with our own best interests IMO.  In the case of Iraq, it was broken before we deposed Saddam.  Remember the pre-war the Afghan economy.  George Gilder described it as incapable of manufacturing a flashlight.  Yet they harbored the training facilities to attack us with our own assets and technology. Also, the Afghanistan choices come with the constraint of being part of a coalition. 

An occupation and security guarantee in Pakistan I assume is impossible and leaving nukes in the wrong hands after a coup or shakeup is unthinkable.  Maybe our friends the Indians have a take out plan.
5883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 11, 2008, 06:32:33 PM
CCP,  I share your sentiments about slanted news coverage.  I always regret finding out important facts through right wing sources instead of from my local paper, the evening news or a show like Meet the Press.  For example, I shouldn't have to learn new, relevant facts on the opinion page of the WSJ.  Those should be on page one and not just in the WSJ.

I missed the Sunday shows and was reading transcripts this am.  Even on Fox, Chris Wallace was very hard on Treasury Secretary Paulson, trying to match the other shows.  Assuming Paulson is guilty of something and denying it, then I would understand the tone, but he is OUR (US) treasury secretary and doing his best as far as I know.  It seems that a discussion/interview tone could have worked just fine to get the facts out instead of having 100% of the questions being combative. At least he does that to both sides.
5884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 07, 2008, 10:44:20 PM
CCP, Interesting observations on McCain regarding SS taxation.  First on the tax (and this should be in rants)...If social security is an insurance program then the tax and benefit schedule should apply the same to all.  In other words, you shouldn't have to pay premiums beyond some income level if you aren't buying into additional benefits.  Clearly the benefits cap out so the 'liberals' like Obama are saying they are ready to change the system over to a welfare program - unlimited pay-ins with means-tested payouts.  But if we admit SS is a welfare program, then like McCain says, everything is on the table.  Like getting people off the system or partially off and into private accounts.  (That didn't go very well last time.)  If you tax all income eliminating the cap, then the rates could or should be much lower for all. When all people pay the same rate on all income and face an uncertainty about receiving the benefits then maybe more people will consider lowering the rate and shrinking the program, which would be fine with me.  How many productive people have social security as their retirement plan centerpiece?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This plays into McCain's hands however in the sense that Obama's serious proposals really will be passed into law for the most part, giving people plenty of reason to fear him and fret the details.  With all the talk about change, conventional wisdom tells us that people generally favor the status quo over the unknown and voters subconsciously choose divided government more often than not.
5885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics, The Drill Nothing Congress on: July 29, 2008, 10:51:35 PM
This week in Washington, House Republicans will try to produce a little political heat from rising energy prices. They will attempt to block Congress from adjourning for its summer recess if Democrats don’t allow an up or down vote on the GOP energy plan, which includes expanded drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). House procedures -- which heavily favor the majority party -- will allow the Democrats to thwart those efforts, but Republicans can claim the issue: Congress will leave town without an up or down vote on expanded OCS drilling. Republicans hope movement in public opinion in favor of offshore drilling, spurred by record gasoline prices, will produce a new and effective line of political attack.

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

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

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

Record gasoline prices linked with what House Republican leader John Boehner calls the “Drill Nothing Congress” could fuel the political engines of many Republican congressional candidates this fall.
5886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 17, 2008, 06:56:55 PM
SB,  I agree that Hinderacker's closing remark might have been offered at least partly in jest.  Previous American scandals stipulated, do you have any comment on the points about Obama's Iraq and Afghanistan inconsistencies alleged in the piece?  Back to scandals, who bought and who takes care of Obama's side yard? http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-0611010273nov01,0,6186743.story
5887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 15, 2008, 12:43:11 PM
From Thomas Sowell, "Are Facts Obsolete?":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Obama may gain similar popularity by advocating similar policies today-- and his political popularity is what it's all about. The consequences for the country come later.
5888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 15, 2008, 09:57:23 AM
I would add John Hinderacker of Powerlineblog.com to CCP's list of people McCain should hire for a war-room style answer to the mixed messages coming from the Obama campaign:
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is possible that at some point in American history there may have been a major politician as dishonest as Barack Obama, but I can't offhand think of such a miscreant.
5889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues - Tim Russert on: June 17, 2008, 11:38:07 PM
I didn't like Tim Russert very much professionally due to my heavy conservative bias, but he was the second best in the business to Jim Lehrer IMO and his show was the giant of the political shows so I defer to Thomas Sowell who is far smarter than me for a wonderful tribute to this legend who died WAY too young.

Tim Russert (1950-2008) by Thomas Sowell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How people treat those who cannot do them any good or any harm reveals a lot about their character. For me, Tim Russert scored high in that department as well.
5890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Book Reviews. VDH v. Pat Buchanan on: June 16, 2008, 04:36:55 PM
I'll put this in the category of book reviews.  Two well known commentators are arguing over the lessons of WWII.  Buchanan wrote a book concluding among other things that the war against Hitler was unwise and unnecessary and seems surprised that someone like Hanson would write a book review column taking him to task.    From where I sit it looks like Hanson ate Buchanan's lunch but you be the judge.  The read might be better at the link as the format is Hanson quoting and answering Buchanan paragraph by paragraph.  - Doug

http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historian Hanson should go back to tutoring undergrads about the Peloponnesian War and the Syracuse Expedition.
I guess Mr. Buchanan believes that working as a political operative in Richard Nixon’s White House is better training for history than formal study of classical languages and history. I think his ancient Greek citation is a vague reference to my support for the removal of Saddam Hussein and the effort to foster constitutional government in Iraq. But once more, Buchanan reveals his ignorance of history. The Syracuse expedition, as he calls it, was a case of a democratic Athens attacking a larger and democratic Syracuse and its Sicilian allies at a time when its adversary Sparta was not beaten. When I last looked the United States had not expanded its war on radical Islam by invading democratic India.
And the last time I had any notice of Buchanan himself was when his American Conservative magazine asked the so-called “War Nerd” (who once “daydreamed” of burning down my vineyard [which in fact later mysteriously experienced a roadside brushfire], cf. his “Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor” http://groups.google.com/group/eurolegalgroup/browse_thread/thread/62138f41e7283b35) to review A War Like No Other, and wrote an incoherent rant about Iraq rather than the book in question.
I stand by everything I wrote about Patrick J. Buchanan’s book, and find his latest effort further confirmation of his delusional views about both past and present.
5891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 12, 2008, 01:54:06 AM
Interesting discussion regarding cameras, surveillance and privacy.  There is quite a balancing act between privacy and security that is hard to sort out. I value both to an extreme and of course they are in conflict.  We have a certain privacy at home being one of only two homes on a hidden dead end street.  In twenty two years I have never so much as had a pizza delivered so as to not let strangers discover our little piece of paradise.  But then the neighbor tore down and rebuilt their house and perhaps two hundred workmen traipsed through, trespassed, worked loud equipment, checked out our things and blocked our driveway  over a long period of time.  I felt extremely violated.

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

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

Part of the cameras-everywhere world to remember is that they are largely unattended cameras.  No one is likely interested in my movements near the drycleaners but the information could become helpful later for reasons not known at the time, as it was with the subway bombers.
5892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WSJ: Bushing helping Sauds build nukes?!? on: June 10, 2008, 09:17:58 AM
Crafty's concern is well taken, we need a mechanism can keep a country from migrating from nuclear powered electricity to WMD and weapons delivery systems.  I did notice, however, some misleading information and false choices presented in the editorial.  "In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "[Iran is] already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. No one can figure why they need nuclear, as well, to generate energy." "  Interesting point of argument from 2004. But today we know Iran is burning plenty of oil and gas for electricity and safe, nuclear electricity would put that oil and gas back onto the world market where it is unfortunately needed because of the failure of countries like the US to produce from our own sources.

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

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

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

Last, aren't we in a better position to see that the Saudi's don't migrate from power to weapons if they buy their plants from American rather than French or Chinese sources?  That is unlike our inability to monitor the plants in Iran.  BTW, Iran IS now building nuclear electric plants, so it again is a false choice.
5893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 05, 2008, 07:30:39 PM
Disagreeing strongly with one of my favorite posters, CCP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our other Senator is an Obama liberal, Amy Klobuchar.  Against a conservative, she must have invoked the name John McCain on her side on issues at least twelve times in her debates to validate that her posistion was not that of a fringe liberal extremist.
5894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Native Americans on: May 30, 2008, 09:58:36 AM
Robert, very interesting post.  It grabbed my attention because I live near there.  A small number of native people and tribes are extremely wealthy from the gambling industry.  The money goes to take care of a limited number of members of that specific tribal family, not native people in general.  Of course, the gambling is made profitable by the fact that gambling is illegal unless you are a tribe or the state.  The Governor tried to get the casino revenues onto the state tax rolls by threatening to open or license competing casinos.  That didn't happen.

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

I envy them.  I would also like to sucede from state and local tax authorities and still receive federal military protections etc.  The county where I live has grown to be larger in population and income than 8 states.  Hardly a local government. Our county without its largest city, Minneapolis, is still larger than several states.  Yet there seems to be no way to split off a non-urban piece and secure the right to have local government.
5895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 27, 2008, 11:09:39 PM
This is a different Doug commenting.  Thank you Doug S. for posting the video.  I particularly appreciate the serious work that went into making the summary.  Due to internet and time constraints, I haven't seen the video but offer my opinions on the points in the summary.  This is NOT intended as shoot the messenger, just comment on substantive points made.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 - Bring it on IMO.  Why would we be hurt by cheap oil?  Frankly Iran is cash strapped and unable to 'flood' any market with oil or any other product.
5896  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies of interest on: May 17, 2008, 11:47:25 PM
Crafty wrote: "...the movie "Miracle" (2004).  My son is getting involved in playing hockey and this could be a good movie for us to watch.  To help me with my search, do you remember the name of the lead actors?

Kurt Russell played the coach Herb Brooks.  Like the original Rocky, it is more about training, winning and the human side than about the sport.  Here's a clip: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi379191577/
5897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: May 17, 2008, 12:09:17 AM
Crafty wrote:"Would you please flesh out the implications of the fact that the Reagan cuts were phased in over three years?  IRRC, per supply side doctrine, the actualization of many gains was deferred until the third year, which, contrary to monetarist predictions, is when the Reagan boomed kicked off."

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

As concisely as I can recap from memory:

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

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

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

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

5898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Fed, the Dollar and inflation on: May 16, 2008, 01:04:32 PM
Personally I like low interest rates, but Wesbury explains clearly here IMO why we have problems now with the value of the dollar. At the conclusion I must quibble with him.  The solution in 1980-83 included a two-prong pollicy, tighter money AND stimulative tax rate cuts.  A tighter Fed today would not be linked with tax rate cuts, regulatory reform or anything else economically helpful so it certainly would dampen the growth rate of the economy.  It's hard to correct suddenly for a decade of mistakes.  (Cut and paste from a columned pda doesn't format very well.)

http://www.ftportfolios.com/Commentary/EconomicResearch/2008/4/30/Deja_Vu:_The_Feds_Interest_Rate_Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Wesbury is chief
economist for First Trust
5899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: League of Democracies on: May 15, 2008, 10:36:26 AM
I love this idea as a way for the world to grow past the UN cleptocrats and the G8 with the phony Russia member, to move forward internationally WITHOUT moving toward world government. 

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f62a02ce-20eb-11dd-a0e6-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1

The case for a league of democracies

By Robert Kagan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund and an informal adviser to Senator John McCain. His new book is The Return of History and the End of Dreams
5900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Lessons from the past, peace through strength on: May 15, 2008, 01:07:32 AM
The negotiations that led to the disarming and fall of the Soviet empire might be the most important event of our lifetime (depending on your age).  Seems like almost nothing is written about it.  I came across some formerly secretive documents from the time and recommend this one - a memorandum of conversation (contemporaraneous notes from the American side)from Reykjavik, October, 1986.  Three years and one month later, east Berliners and west Berliners were partying in the streets as the wall came down.  Topics included detailed negotiations about nuclear reductions, missile defense, verification issues, philosophies of Marxism and challenging them on their lack of truly consensual government.

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

Link: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB203/Document13.pdf

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