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5851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: April 06, 2008, 01:11:42 AM
May I suggest the author of these suggestions to be McCain s choice for VP.  - Doug

Ten Things a Candidate Might Want to Say, by Victor Davis Hanson
Date: 2008-04-06, 12:52AM CDT

1. Surplus! Talk of the notion of surplus, rather than mere budget-balancing. Deficits, and national and foreign debt, are matters of more than statistics. They are barometers of a nation’s self-confidence, its mood and self-image. Percentages of GDP may be the real indicator of debt, but in practical terms Americans think in terms of dollars owed. So we need a candidate not only to outline a balanced budget, but one of surplus that will pay down the debt as well, and by spending cuts rather than tax increases. Do that and much of the American malaise will disappear. Economists might shudder, but imagine no annual deficit, a national surplus of $1 trillion or so, the Social Security Trust Fund in Al Gore’s lockbox, $10 trillion in foreign bonds held by US interests, a dollar at a Euro (yes, we know the trade difficulties that would accrue), and gold at about $300 an ounce.

2. Close the borders. No need now to fight about amnesty, guest workers, deportation, assimilation, etc. All these key issues loom in the future. For now simply reduce the number of illegal arrivals to zero—through border fencing, more patrolling and manpower, employer sanctions, and stern negotiations with Mexico. Then as we squabble and fight, the number of foreign nationals or those not assimilated will begin to shrink in a variety of ways—once it is not growing. We need to take step one, rather than bicker over steps five and six. Who knows—we might just see many state treasuries miraculously recover, and thereby be spared the mantra that illegal aliens ‘really’ are a budget plus for states?

3. Iraq. Explain Iraq in blunt terms—that the first war against Saddam was won, but the second, more important one against radical Islam is still being won in the heart of the caliphate. Here Americans wish to know how many of the enemy we’ve killed, the degree to which other nations have stopped nuclear proliferation (cf. Libya or Dr. Khan), and the degree to which bin Laden and the tactic of suicide bombing have lost popularity. We need to explain to the American people how the tactical success of the surge translates to strategic victory, in the way stabilizing Korea, for example, allowed the powers of capitalism and constitutional government to be unleashed in the south and eventually to make a mockery of the fossilized north. If we can stabilize Iraq, its government and economy might do the same vis a vis Iran or Syria. In any case, we need some strategic vision of what Iraq is supposed to look like in five years and our role in it. A viable prosperous free Iraq is the worst nightmare of al Qaeda—but why and how needs to articulated daily.

4. Race. No more “conversations on race” but simply an end to identity politics. Americans are worn out with racial tribalism. The post-racial candidate Obama recently posed with Bill Richardson to gain a “Latino” endorsement, on the hope apparently that just as African-Americans are supposedly voting 90% for Obama, Hispanics might do likewise on Richardson’s prompt. But the scene was Orwellian. Both Obama and Richardson are elites of mixed ancestry and they just as well might have argued that they were “white” candidates. When either one claims fides to one side of their heritage, they implicitly reject the other. I can’t believe that a naturalized citizen from Oaxaca would vote for the grandee Obama because the grandee Richardson claimed that as an authentic Latino of similar background and perspective he should. And if he were to do that, then we are simply a tribal nation after all.

5. Taxes. Some simplification of the tax code. Americans can’t figure out their taxes. When in their 50s some of them finally make good money, more than 50% go to taxes while they are demonized as “the wealthy”—even as the mega-wealthy either pay on “income” as capital gains at 20%, or are so embedded in corporations that their expenses are taken care of as business deductions. In America, the couple that makes between $150,000-500,000 carries the country and gets less relief than the really well-to-do, but just as much grief and envy from the less well off. Some sort of flat-tax, simple-form is critical to our survival as a nation (I confess I just filled out my taxes and found it much harder than reading the choruses of Aeschylus).

6. Fuel. We don’t need to be “energy independent”—as opposed to cutting our appetite for imported oil by 5-6 million barrels per day. We have the world’s largest coal reserves. There are still a million or two barrels a day to be captured off our coasts and in Alaska. If every other family were to have a second electric commute car plugged into a nuclear-powered electric grid, we could easily accomplish all that rather quickly—until we arrive in 20 years at the so-called big rock candy mountain of hydrogen, flex-fuels, sustainable ethanols, etc. At $108 a barrel Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and the Middle East kleptocracies have the cash to cause us great trouble abroad, at $40 they are merely thugs. Would it help if someone said, “Ok, either drill in Anwar, or cut sales of SUVs by 10% per year,” or “Drill off the coast and build nuclear power plants, or have gas at over $5 a gallon—your choice”?

7. Colleges. We need more transparency in our universities. Why do tax-exempt private institutions use their funds largely to enrich an elite rather than to subsidize student tuitions? Universities avoid taxes, but as non-profits don’t use that saving to help those for whom they exist, but rather spend their fortunes more often subsidizing faculty and administrators. They are no different than those scandalous charities who exist for their apparat. How universities have been able to up their tuitions consistently above the rate of inflation, while exploiting part-time, poorly paid contractual faculty, and masquerading all the while as liberal institutions are among the great mysteries of the modern age. Yet any inquiry into the labyrinth of identity politics, racial quotas, the absence of intellectual diversity or the problems with tenure are met by charges of “McCarthyism” or worse. American universities are rated the world’s best only because of our sciences and engineering—and thus despite, not because of, our failed liberal arts curriculum

8. Health Care. Simply mandate, as in the case of car insurance, that everyone buy catastrophic health care plans, and use health saving accounts for everything else. When we go to K-Mart and see a sign that says “Strep Diagnosis and antibiotics—$50” or ”Check our rates for heart exam and medication” and expect to pay cash up-front out of our saving accounts, while reserving insurance for emergencies and major illnesses, the price of health care will plunge and the patient will become an adult again—rather than rushing to the emergency room at 3AM with the “flu” and no insurance, and less ability or willingness to pay. As someone who has been in emergency rooms four times the last five years for either kidney stones or broken bones, two facts I discovered: more than half don’t have health insurance, and 100% had cell phones, the costs of which per month would nearly pay for catastrophic medical plans. Americans for some reason are outraged that they might pay $3000 in health or drug uninsured costs per year, but hardly object to an extra $2000 in moon roof, rims, or GPS on their new cars. We are Hillary’s proverbial “nation uninsured” with plasma TVs and 4x4 trucks.

9. Infrastructure. The objections to government spending revolve around redistribution, not construction. We need a slash in entitlements and more investment in bigger, better, and more roads, rails, and airports. A highway 101 (note I don’t call it a freeway yet after a half-century, given its suicidal cross-traffic breaks) is a cruel joke. In California, there are still only two major winter routes in and out of the state on an east-west axis. Driving a highway 152 or 41 east-west is circa 1955. Most of our Sierra roadways are wonderful up to the crest, where they suddenly stop in their tracks or devolve into pot-holed paved cattle trails—on the apparent assumption there is not ecological damage driving up the western slope, but would be plenty descending the eastern (or that our forefathers were scoundrels that gave us these beautiful roads to the summit, but we are saints for using them and offering nothing of improvement to our children to get over the other side).

10. National Security. Talk honestly about terror and national security. Why can’t a candidate say—“We will monitor what we think are terrorist calls routed through the US. So do you think this is right, or an abject violation of your privacy?” And instead of “Close Down Gitmo!”, one might say, “We prefer to have about 400 Padilla-like trials instead”. Or we could say, “No water boarding and we will take our chances that what damage a terrorist might do is overshadowed by the damage we will do to our reputation.” I don’t think Americans quite know what they want, but they are very tired of being told the question is black/white, win/lose rather than a mess where each answer poses another question. Treat us like adults, and let the public back a candidate who apprises them of the costs and benefits and risks, instead of either mouthing “police state!” or “a nuke will go off!”
5852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: April 04, 2008, 10:52:30 PM
I came across two negative pieces about Obama that I hesitantly share here.  First is a site called which has a 68 item list of statements where they think the candidate is less than fully forthcoming (okay, they use the word 'liar' quite a bit).  Second is a cute video that takes Obama to task on 5 of his claims:

Even if each of these claims is somewhat petty by today's political standards, you can't IMO avoid seeing that this candidate is a more-of-the same politician, not something new.  Worst case is that something from Rezko to Rev. Wright or something we don't know yet will bring him down - like so many others.

Speaking of audacity, if Hillary Clinton had moved to her real home state of Illinois instead of becoming a pretend-Yankee fan, she wouldn't likely have Senator Obama to deny her now.
5853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 04, 2008, 08:39:15 PM
CCP had an interesting comment under Miliary Science: "...the US military sees China as our number one enemy"

It's true, but it's different from threats or enemies of the past, a very complex relationship.  China is clearly the number one potential threat because of size, military strength, economic strength and contention over certain geopolitical issues, particularly Taiwan. OTOH we don't want to control any inch of their land and they don't want ours. 

We had a couple of close calls that could have escalated but didn't. In May 1999 the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia by mistake. Also the crisis of April 2001 when a Chines bomber plane collided into an American reconnaissance plane that had to make an emergency landing on a Chinese runway.  The Chinese held 24 American crew members for 11 days, then released them, and they held our plane for over 2 months.

In the case of having their embassy bombed the Chinese showed restraint.  In the case of having our Navy flight crew detained, the US showed restraint.  The reason was the fear of war as deterrence but also the complexly intertwined economies IMO.

5854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 24, 2008, 07:44:30 PM
For a mathematical economist, Brian Wesbury has a great way of making complex things understandable IMO.

Government Failure, Or Market Failure?  by Brian Wesbury, 3/24/08

Every time the US has an economic problem that causes
pain or fear (a recession, high energy prices, bank failures, or a
market crash) there is always a frantic look for scapegoats.
And most often it is greedy corporations or otherwise nefarious
private-sector-types that get the blame.

For example, many believe that energy companies are
manipulating oil prices. Politicians are always investigating
them, and threatening legislation or special taxes. The Great
Depression, many believe, was caused by excessive greed.

Others think that Savings & Loans went belly-up because they
defrauded people and made bad loans. And today, there is a
clear belief that subprime loans are all about greed and fraud.
Some of this is true. Found in the rubble of each of these
economic upheavals are people who either made very bad
decisions or committed fraud. But, a thorough look at these
economic problems shows how government policy mistakes
played the key causal role in each of them.

The Great Depression was caused by excessively tight
monetary policy that began in the late 1920s. This created
deflation, and put upward pressure on the dollar, which in turn
encouraged protectionism – the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was
the result. Then Herbert Hoover raised tax rates in 1932, and
Franklin Roosevelt ramped up regulation and government
spending. The economy never stood a chance.

Richard Nixon closed the gold window, and devalued the
dollar in the early 1970s. The Federal Reserve made huge
mistakes, boosting inflation and undermining the dollar. This
drove up oil prices. Windfall profits taxes and energy price
controls made the problems worse.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Chicago’s Harris Bank
would not make oil loans if the oil in the ground was valued at
more than $20 per barrel. Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma
thought oil would stay high indefinitely and made billions of oil
loans. It failed in 1982. The 8th largest US bank, Chicago’s
Continental Bank, failed in 1984 partly because it had
purchased $1 billion in oil and gas participations from Penn
Square. In other words, the unexpected decline in oil prices
during the early 1980s, when Paul Volcker successfully killed
off inflation, helped cause large bank failures. Harris was fine.

It wasn’t the bank failures that caused the recessions of the
early 1980s, it was Volcker’s unexpectedly tight money. This
tight money also undermined S&L’s. Double-digit short-term
rates when many of the mortgages on their books had singledigit
interest rates turned them upside down. The losses
eventually came to roughly $250 billion.

Today, just like in the past, the US is paying a hefty price
for monetary policy mistakes. They began back in 1999 and
2000 when the Fed tightened policy too much. This caused
deflationary pressures which the Fed reacted to by cutting
interest rates to 1% in 2003. These 1% interest rates, and the
belief that they would stay low for a long time, led to excesses
in housing, just like the excesses of oil lending were caused by
commodity inflation. And with mark-to-market accounting in
place today the problems compound even more quickly.

Some argue that since individual people made all these
decisions, it’s not really the Fed’s fault. But this is like telling
someone after it’s been raining for 2 ˝ years straight that they
should not have sold their nice red convertible or wasted money
on an umbrella now that it has stopped raining. Government
failure is more responsible for our current economic problem
than is generally realized. Arguing otherwise, and regulating
the economy even more, risks compounding the government’s
already large mistakes. It’s government failure that investors
should worry about, not market failure.

- Brian Wesbury, First Trust
5855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 24, 2008, 02:57:14 PM
According to this analysis from Weekly Standard, North Carolina is the key for Obama as independents and centrists hold the key for McCain:

Obama-McCain Race Takes Shape - Some thoughts on the Presidential race:

1) Obama is 90 percent likely to be the Democratic nominee, although the press seem to have continuing trouble with basic arithmetic and thereby doubt this. It's important to note that many of the superdelegates are DNC members which means many are not unfeeling calculators of general election odds who are likely to switch in a second but instead real live ideological activists. That helps Obama even more. HRC will be out in early May, after losing North Carolina.

2) General election polls now, like those before the actual primary contests began, are close to meaningless. Wait till after both nominees have given their convention speeches to take a real look.

3) Nonetheless, the Wright kerfuffle has hurt Obama in the long run. He is off his pedestal now. This tension between the inspiring idea of Obama's campaign and the reality of his pragmatic political climb through the hard corners of Chicago Democratic politics is a growing fault line inside the Obama candidacy.

4) Despite a generic political environment that is as awful as awful can be for Republicans, McCain still stands an excellent chance to win the general election but only if he commits to the one obvious and powerful strategy available to him.

5) McCain wins by being acceptable to the independents and white Democrats who will inevitably, over time, crumble off Obama's imperfect reality. He loses if he becomes caught in a partisan base versus base contest with the Democrats. The job for Team McCain is not to tear down Obama, it is to give those who will become increasingly disenchanted from him (Hillary voting blue-collars, Jews, moderates) a reason to see McCain as acceptable. This means McCain should return to his roots and run as the different kind of Republican he truly is. The GOP base will not enjoy this, but they--sorry AM radio crowd--will not control the outcome of this election. Ticket-splitters and swing voters will.

6) Does McCainland understand this? It's unclear. So far, the only strategic news out of the McCain campaign has been a half-baked scheme to fool around with regional offices and "decentralization." Such plumbing and wiring trivia misses the critical point: what McCain needs at once is a well-executed back to the center message strategy to enlarge his appeal beyond just national security issues and win this vital election.
5856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: other sports - hockey on: March 22, 2008, 10:52:38 PM
I will put this post here until my sports of tennis and hockey are DB recognized as combat games with martial arts significance.  smiley

The intro i read on this video, was that if you thought Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player ever, then you were too young to know Bobby Orr.  He was the strongest and fastest skater, best shooter, best playmaker, best with stick control, best puck handler, best defense, best hitter, best vision of the whole ice. etc. etc.  FWIW, now with helmets and face masks, you will never again see players with this kind of vision for everything in play. Enjoy 7 minute highlights of Boston's no. 4.

5857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq - The Surge One Year Later on: March 21, 2008, 12:48:09 PM
I appreciate hearing from the generals on the ground.  This was Gen. Odierno speaking about a week ago.  One excerpt from the pre-surge portion:

"it is important that I mention one other factor that informed our planning and deci­sion-making process. On December 19, 2006, we captured some mid-level al-Qaeda leaders just north of Baghdad. Upon them was a map that clearly depicted al-Qaeda's strategy for the total and unyielding dominance of Baghdad, betting that control of Iraq's capital and its millions of cit­izens would give them free rein to export their twisted ideology and terror."
The Surge in Iraq: One Year Later
by Lt. Gen. Raymond T Odierno
Heritage Lecture #1068

I returned from Iraq a little over two weeks ago, and trust me, it's great to be in Washington and in your company today. After nearly 15 months in Iraq--most­ly spent focusing on where we are and where we're going--it's a pleasure to step back and reflect a bit about where we've been. I'd like to speak with you about Iraq in 2007, to include the surge, its implemen­tation, and my assessment of its impact.

Baghdad: Before the Surge

As I prepared to depart Fort Hood, Texas, for Baghdad in late November 2006, the Coalition effort in Iraq was at a crossroads. The United States had just held mid-term elections; a new Secretary of Defense had been appointed; and the long-awaited recom­mendations of the Iraq Study Group were about to be published.

Stories in the press described the situation in Iraq as spiraling out of control. One Los Angeles Times arti­cle discussed the rising level of sectarian violence in Baghdad and how this violence seemed to feed on itself. Placing his account in context, the writer men­tioned that al-Qaeda had detonated a bomb in the Shia neighborhood of Sadr City the previous week, killing over 200 people. This was the latest in a steady run of high-profile attacks since the Golden Mosque bomb­ing of February 2006 in Samarra. And for at least one Shiite living in Baghdad, it was the last straw.

After months of standing apprehensively on the sidelines, the 27-year-old shopkeeper signed up with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, feeling obligated to do so for his own family's protection. Illustrating how vio­lence was increasingly consuming the capital city, the article also told of a 33-year-old Sunni Arab who decided to join a militia ostensibly for the same rea­son, to protect his community. In reality though, thousands of fighters in Baghdad took an expansive view of their role as "protectors," and their actions consequently fueled the cycle of violence.

Taking the offensive against Iraqi civilians on the other side of the sectarian divide, many launched attacks that elicited retaliation, which, as the situa­tion deteriorated, only provided justification for the next round of brutal reprisals. Sunni and Shia alike tolerated the extremists in their midst because the Iraqi Army and Police, in some cases, could not be trusted and, in most cases, lacked the capacity to protect the population.

The activities of militias and death squads helped to sustain the cycle of violence in the capital city, and their continued growth stemmed--most fundamen­tally--from an absence of security. With the violence came fear. Attitudes hardened as survival became the one imperative; allegiances formed along sectarian lines; and civilian deaths accumulated. Close to 2,000 Iraqis lost their lives as a result of ethno-sec­tarian violence in November 2006 alone, and the count exceeded this grim benchmark the following month. Corpses were found in trash heaps and along Baghdad's side streets by the dozens each day.

Al-Anbar: Before the Surge

In al-Anbar province, things were actually get­ting better, but the positive signs had not yet become evident. Also in late November, The Wash­ington Post ran a story entitled "Anbar Picture Grows Clearer...and Bleaker." The article discussed the findings of an assessment that characterized the province as lost--with al-Qaeda in Iraq exerting control over the daily lives of Anbaris more so than any other political or military organization.

The Post summarized a Marine intelligence report, stating "Between AQI's [al-Qaeda in Iraq's] violence, Iran's influence, and an expected U.S. drawdown, the...situation has deteriorated to a point that U.S. and Iraqi troops are no longer capa­ble of...defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar."

In fact, the province's tribes had already begun to turn against AQI. Nonetheless, the broad sentiment among the Sunni was that their worst fears of being marginalized--even subjugated--in a Shia-domi­nated Iraq were coming to fruition. Many commen­tators at the time used the term "civil war" to describe the conflict. Given the situation in Bagh­dad and Anbar, it was hard to dismiss this as care­less exaggeration.

When I arrived in Iraq, General George Casey, then the Multinational Force commander, chal­lenged me to break the cycle of sectarian vio­lence. Breaking the cycle and reducing the violence required securing the population and stopping accelerants, our term for those carrying out the attacks and thus triggering the subsequent reprisals. We had made efforts in Baghdad along these lines before, but not to the point where they had yielded any significant or lasting gains.

Establishing Basic Security: Late 2006

Coalition forces could concentrate on selected areas and clear them of extremists. But when these areas transitioned to Iraqi control as our units moved on to other parts of the city, the Iraqi Securi­ty Forces (ISF) left behind were incapable of "hold­ing" the ground we had won. The challenges involved with securing the population were simply too great for the ISF at the time.

In some cases, the ISF itself was complicit in attacks against the civilians its units were charged to protect. Another obstacle to solidifying security gains was political in nature. Then, as now, sustainable security demanded a political solution, with the chief feature being a government of Iraq (GOI) commit­ment to national reconciliation. Still today, we see some GOI intransigence, but they are making progress.

In late 2006, the progress we can observe now was unthinkable. In short, we could hardly expect successful transition or meaningful reconciliation without basic security. Establishing security for the population was a prerequisite for further progress. It was essential. And to make a decisive impact, we needed more combat power and a change in approach.

However, it is important that I mention one other factor that informed our planning and deci­sion-making process. On December 19, 2006, we captured some mid-level al-Qaeda leaders just north of Baghdad. Upon them was a map that clearly depicted al-Qaeda's strategy for the total and unyielding dominance of Baghdad, betting that control of Iraq's capital and its millions of cit­izens would give them free rein to export their twisted ideology and terror.

Indeed, al-Qaeda did operate with impunity in several areas surrounding the capital that we call the "Baghdad Belts," using these sanctuaries to intro­duce accelerants of violence. This strategy was sim­ilar to the way in which Saddam Hussein employed his elite Republican Guard forces to control the city. It was clear to us that Coalition forces would need to clear AQI from these belts and deny these enemies safe havens in order to control Baghdad.

Offensive Operations: Early 2007

From January to June 2007, the surge forces deployed gradually to Iraq, but we adjusted our strategy even before the first additional Brigade Combat Team arrived. Implementing the surge involved much more than throwing extra resources at a problem. It meant committing ourselves to pro­tecting the Iraqi populace--with a priority to Bagh­dad--while exploiting what appeared to be nascent progress against AQI in Anbar.

It meant changing our mindset as we secured the people where they worked and slept and where their children played. It meant developing new tac­tics, techniques, and procedures in order to imple­ment this concept. We began to establish Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. We erected protective barriers and estab­lished checkpoints to create "safe neighborhoods" and "safe markets," improving security for Iraqis as they went about their daily lives.

Changing our approach also meant introducing more balance in our targeting by going after both Sunni and Shia extremists. I should point out that this modification required the government of Iraq's cooperation, and it is significant to note that we got it. Shia militia leaders conducting extra-judicial kill­ings would no longer get a free pass.

Changing our approach meant reinvigorating our partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces and improving their capacity. It meant improving our ability to integrate our military efforts with the expertise of other government agencies--largely through Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Finally, it meant determining where best to employ the surge forces in and around Baghdad and Anbar and sequencing their employment so that they had the greatest impact.

Many have discussed how we implemented this change in strategy - building up forces and capabil­ity through the spring of 2007; launching Phantom Thunder--a set of simultaneous operations across Baghdad and its surrounding belt areas; and quickly following up that with Phantom Strike in order to keep extremists off balance.

Results: A Change in Attack Trends

Throughout these offensive operations, we main­tained constant focus on job one--protecting the population. By November, we could claim that attacks had dropped to their lowest levels since 2004-2005. There were 30 attacks in al-Anbar province during the last week in October. One year prior, there had been over 300. Today there are under 20 incidents per week in all of Anbar.

The change in attack trends in Baghdad was also dramatic; it reflected a marked reduction of nearly 60 percent. In 2006, civilian deaths throughout Iraq were over 3,000 in the month of December. In less than a year, they had plummeted by 70 percent. In the Baghdad Security Districts specifically, ethno-sectarian attacks and deaths decreased by 90 per­cent over the course of 2007.

Obviously, it's entirely too early to declare victory and go home, but I think it's safe to say that the surge of Coalition forces--and how we employed those forces--have broken the cycle of sectarian violence in Iraq. We are in the process of exploiting that success.

Explaining the reduction in violence and its stra­tegic significance has been the subject of much debate. It's tempting for those of us personally con­nected to the events to exaggerate the effects of the surge. By the same token, it's a gross oversimplifica­tion to say, as some commentators have, that the positive trends we're observing have come about because we paid off the Sunni insurgents or because Muqtada al-Sadr simply decided to announce a ceasefire. These assertions ignore the key variable in the equation--the Coalition's change in strategy and our employment of the surge forces.

Suggesting that the reduction in violence result­ed merely from bribing our enemies to stop fighting us is uninformed and an oversimplification. It over­looks our significant offensive push in the last half of 2007 and our rise in casualties in May and June as we began to take back neighborhoods. It overlooks the salient point that many who reconciled with us did so from a position of weakness, rather than strength. The truth is that the improvement in secu­rity and stability is the result of a number of factors, and what Coalition forces did throughout 2007 ranks among the most significant.

In December 2006, the number of American fighting battalions in the Baghdad Security Districts was 13. By the following summer, there were 25 con­ducting operations from dozens of Joint Security Sta­tions and Combat Outposts in the heart of the city. Throughout Baghdad and the surrounding belts, Coalition forces were not only attacking the enemy, they were establishing and maintaining a presence in places that had long been sanctuaries of al-Qaeda.

At the same time, we were going after Shia extremists--those responsible for the displacement of Sunni families, sectarian-motivated executions, and intimidating the populace in general. We launched precise, targeted raids repeatedly against the worst offenders. Given additional troops, the Coalition employed them to protect the population. This commitment to the people of Iraq made a dif­ference both directly and indirectly.

Successful Partnerships: Police and Citizens

Partnered with the Iraqi Security Forces, our operations fragmented what were once well-estab­lished AQI support zones, disrupted the network's operations, and forced its leaders (those who sur­vived) to shift their bases elsewhere--in many cas­es, out of reach of Baghdad. Likewise, Coalition forces knocked Shia extremists off balance and drove many away from the capital. I believe our operations injected a healthy dose of confusion into the Mahdi Army's ranks, caused many intermedi­ate- and lower-level leaders to overreact, and ulti­mately prompted Muqtada al-Sadr to call for a ceasefire to restore order and to recast the image of his organization as a humanitarian rather than a military one. No doubt, our efforts to disrupt Mahdi Army leadership figured significantly in Sadr's decision.

The surge of Coalition forces also helped bring about a surge in Iraqi Security Force capacity. More U.S. brigade combat teams meant more partnered units for the Iraqi Army and National Police. When it comes to developing the ISF, there is simply no substitute for partnership.

Embracing and enabling the concept of pro­tecting the population also built momentum for bottom-up reconciliation, allowing this process to expand beyond Anbar into other provinces. Enhanced security and persistent Coalition force presence encouraged Iraqis who wanted to stand up and reject AQI to do so without fear of retaliation. Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts had a clear, noticeable effect on the Iraqi people not only physically, but more importantly, psychologically.

So, what did we do with these citizens that made the choice to reject al-Qaeda and extremism? Acknowledging the potential risks of dealing with former adversaries, our commanders seized upon the opportunity and hired them to assist in local security where Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police were lacking. Initially known as Concerned Local Citi­zens, but now called the Sons of Iraq, a grassroots movement sprung up akin to neighborhood watch­es. Mainly Sunni at the beginning and wary of the Shia-led government, these groups turned to the coalition and offered their services to provide pro­tection for the population.

In so doing, we were able to keep young Sunni men away from extremism, provide jobs and income, and gain valuable intelligence on the insur­gency, improvised explosive devices, and caches. But they were also looking for legitimacy. The impact of the Sons of Iraq went beyond security and paved the way for improvements in basic services, economic progress, and local governance. As word of their success spread, so did the program--and it continues today. Only paying them meager wages and not providing weapons and ammunition, the program has been an unqualified success.

Additionally, there is a second-order effect in that every dollar paid to the Sons of Iraq gets spent at least two additional times as they provide for their families and then local markets buy wholesale goods to stock their stands. In places where we have employed the Sons of Iraq, we average a ten-fold increase in the markets, for example going from 40 to 400 stands. Finally, the Sons of Iraq are now branching out across Iraq and increasingly include Shia groups and, in some cases, mixed sect groups.

Setting the Stage for Hope

Generally speaking, when security conditions improve, a narrow focus on survival opens up and makes room for hope. Hope provides an opportuni­ty to pursue improvements in quality of life. Along these lines, the surge helped set the stage for progress in governance and economic develop­ment. In a very real way and at the local level, this subtle shift in attitude reinforced our security gains--allowing Coalition and Iraqi forces to hold the hard-earned ground we had wrested from the enemy while continuing to pursue extremists as they struggle to regroup elsewhere.

In Baghdad, al-Anbar, and in many other areas of Iraq, the story in early 2008 is about improving people's lives and building government capacity, and about their expectations regarding the future. For the government of Iraq, the surge has provided a window of opportunity. This window will not remain open forever.

To capitalize on the reduction of violence in 2007, Iraqi leaders must make deliberate choices to secure lasting strategic gains through reconciliation and political progress. This set of choices and their collective effect will be decisive, I think. This view puts things in context.

The future of Iraq belongs to the Iraqis. The improved security conditions resulting in part from the surge of 2007 have given the Iraqis an opportu­nity to choose a better way. In the last week, several major pieces of legislation have been passed by the Iraqi parliament: accountability and justice, provin­cial powers, and amnesty law.


Let me close by emphasizing that there was much sacrifice to achieve these gains. Let us all nev­er forget those whose lives have been changed for­ever because of injuries and those who gave their lives fighting for the ideals of liberty as well as their loved ones. Their sacrifices were and are not in vain, and because of them the Iraqis have the right to choose their own destiny.

The gates of freedom remain open today because of our fallen comrades: noble and gallant warriors who gave everything so others can enjoy life, liberty, and happiness. We will honor their memory and remain dedicated to ensuring their sacrifices are never forgotten.

I am honored to serve in the greatest Armed Forces in the world, and I'm proud of what it stands for. We have not finished our mission, but we have proven our mettle. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you this morning, and God Bless America.

Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno is the Commanding General of U.S. III Corps.
5858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: March 21, 2008, 12:41:28 PM
As a speech writer, Peggy Noonan is impressed mostly with the speech, given the situation Obama was in.  She doesn't address the underlying problems that a) Wright's form of hate speech is popular with a segment and b) Obama chose to associate himself and his family with it.  Or that he threw his Grandmother who chose to raise him 'under the bus' in the speech and called her "a typical white woman" in a radio interview since.

Another view:
 Obama's Speech
By Thomas Sowell
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Did Senator Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia convince people that he is still a viable candidate to be President of the United States, despite the adverse reactions to statements by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright?

The polls and the primaries will answer that question.

The great unasked question for Senator Obama is the question that was asked about President Nixon during the Watergate scandal; What did he know and when did he know it?

Although Senator Obama would now have us believe that he is shocked, shocked, at what Jeremiah Wright said, that he was not in the church when pastor Wright said those things from the pulpit, this still leaves the question of why he disinvited Wright from the event at which he announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination a year ago.

Either Barack Obama or his staff must have known then that Jeremiah Wright was not someone whom they wanted to expose to the media and to the media scrutiny to which that could lead.

Why not, if it is only now that Senator Obama is learning for the first time, to his surprise, what kinds of things Jeremiah Wright has been saying and doing?

No one had to be in church the day Wright made his inflammatory and obscene remarks to know about them.

The cable news journalists who are playing the tapes of those sermons were not there. The tapes were on sale in the church itself. Obama knew that because he had bought one or more of those tapes.

But even if there were no tapes, and even if Obama never heard from other members of the church what their pastor was saying, he spent 20 years in that church, not just as an ordinary member but also as someone who once donated $20,000 to the church.

There was no way that he didn't know about Jeremiah Wright's anti-American and racist diatribes from the pulpit.

Someone once said that a con man's job is not to convince skeptics but to enable people to continue to believe what they already want to believe.

Accordingly, Obama's Philadelphia speech -- a theatrical masterpiece -- will probably reassure most Democrats and some other Obama supporters. They will undoubtedly say that we should now "move on," even though many Democrats have still not yet moved on from George W. Bush's 2000 election victory.

Like the Soviet show trials during their 1930s purges, Obama's speech was not supposed to convince critics but to reassure supporters and fellow-travelers, in order to keep the "useful idiots" useful.

Best-selling author Shelby Steele's recent book on Barack Obama ("A Bound Man") has valuable insights into both the man and the circumstances facing many other blacks -- especially those who were never part of the black ghetto culture but who feel a need to identify with it for either personal, political or financial reasons.

Like religious converts who become more Catholic than the Pope, such people often become blacker-than-thou. For whatever reason, Barack Obama chose a black extremist church decades ago -- even though there was no shortage of very different churches, both black and white -- in Chicago.

Some say that he was trying to earn credibility on the ghetto streets, to facilitate his work as a community activist or for his political career. We may never know why.

But now that Barack Obama is running for a presidential nomination, he is doing so on a radically different basis, as a post-racial candidate uniquely prepared to bring us all together.

Yet the past continues to follow him, despite his attempts to bury it and the mainstream media's attempts to ignore it or apologize for it.

Shelby Steele depicts Barack Obama as a man without real convictions, "an iconic figure who neglected to become himself."

Senator Obama has been at his best as an icon, able with his command of words to meet other people's psychic needs, including a need to dispel white guilt by supporting his candidacy.

But President of the United States, in a time of national danger, under a looming threat of nuclear terrorism? No.
5859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: March 19, 2008, 12:33:27 PM
Thanks to Karsk for comments and the article.  I disagree. I don't see a correlation between economic growth, wealth and the 'owning' of the natural resources in demand.  For example, America largely leaves its oil in the ground and is the world's leading economy and the largest consumer of oil.  Japan with virtually no natural resources built its wealth other ways, while places loaded with resources such as Brazil and Africa for example always seem to sputter.  I think oil wealth in countries like Iraq, Saudi, Iran, Venezuela and Russia is a distraction from real wealth building activities, much like drug kingpins with the nicest cars in the ghetto are a distraction away from constructive, wealth-building activities.

I think positive growth is more a function of consistent public policies that are conducive to earn, save, own, invest, hire, etc.

A classic book that covers timeless economic principles,  Ibn Khaldun's 'Muqaddimah'  introduction to history (from 1377) is now published on the web at

An economic excerpt in translation from the original arabic:

"In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue...As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favor of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow...owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects...[and] sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield...But the effects on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes...Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation."
5860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 18, 2008, 02:11:11 PM
The tax comparison chart is extremely helpful.  Curious about the source.  Before I spread it further, want to ensure accuracy. 

Explanation for Capital Gains tax says: "If you sell your home and make a profit, you will pay 28% of your gain on taxes".  Correction(?): I assume home sale exemption up to certain amount continues 250k single, 500k married (?)

Add 55% to Clinton/Obama reinstated inheritance tax with $1mil exclusion (?)

I am surprised at the tax tables.  I thought liberals were only admitting to raising the upper brackets. These show significant increases down to a single making 30k. Is that accurate?

And a reminder always for reading tax burdens - Federal is not usually the only tax.  Add 9% for my state to capital gain and upper income tax and add 11% state estate tax to inheritance tax. Add FICA etc. and state income tax to all individual rates etc. Plus gas taxes, sales taxes, telecom tax, property taxes...
5861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 25, 2008, 07:49:25 PM
This WSJ piece with local conservative commentator Jason Lewis (who occasionally subs for Rush L.) ripping Minnesota's Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has relevance in the Presidential thread because because Pawlenty is a possible running mate for McCain, but I will put it here because it's a rant.  Pawlenty is a very down to earth, super nice guy.  I have had face to face political talks with him several times.  Republican governors in Democrat states, like Mitt and Ahhnold, perhaps serve some purpose in slowing down the liberal freight train of new programs and taxes, but to be popular and re-elected they do not move, represent or lead anyone in a conservative direction IMO. 

Pawlenty's Record
February 23, 2008; Page A8

"The era of small government is over . . . government has to be more proactive, more aggressive."
-- Tim Pawlenty, 2006.

Minnesota's 47-year-old governor is now one of a handful of names being bandied about as a possible running mate for John McCain. But if the Arizona senator wants to unite conservative Republicans behind him, there are better choices.

First elected in 2002, Mr. Pawlenty got off to a good start by holding the line on taxes in the face of a $4.5 billion state deficit. That shortfall equaled 15% of the state's $28 billion biennial budget, and the pressure on the governor to break his no-new-taxes pledge was unrelenting. Nonetheless, he showed resolve in dealing with Minnesota's recalcitrant liberal elite.

But in 2005, signs of his "progressive" instincts emerged. In a quest for new revenue, Mr. Pawlenty supported a 75 cents per-pack cigarette tax. He called it a "health impact" fee. No one was fooled. User fees are generally charged to ensure that those who use a government service pay for the cost of providing that service. In this case, however, it was obvious that smokers were just being tapped to fund health-care entitlement programs.
[Tim Pawlenty]

Following the tax hike, the governor pushed through a state-wide smoking ban in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Aggressive, Nanny-state government seems to be big with Republican governors these days -- although policies such as smoking bans do little to stem the costly tide of state-run health care.

In 2006, liberal Democrats (there is no other kind here) proposed a universal health-care behemoth to cover all residents. Mr. Pawlenty responded with a more limited proposal to expand the state's child health-care program, Minnesota Care, to cover all children. More recently, the governor's Health Care Transformation Task Force recommended imposing a mandate -- ŕ la Massachusetts -- on residents to buy health insurance.

On prescription drugs, Mr. Pawlenty set up the state's RX Connect Program to import price-controlled Canadian drugs. The South St. Paul populist also advocated a temporary ban on ads paid for by pharmaceutical companies. Not exactly the stuff of which markets are made.

Not everything has been bleak for the right during Mr. Pawlenty's tenure. Last session he vetoed several major spending bills pushed by the Democratic Farmer Labor Party; they were so profligate that his vetoes elicited barely a whimper from Minnesota's reliably liberal media. Nevertheless, Mr. Pawlenty has presided over back-to-back biennial budget increases of 12.4% and 9.8% respectively. Last year the governor's proposed budget survived essentially intact but still spent the state's $2 billion surplus, with half the general fund increase going to education. Minnesota, with five million people, now has a biennial budget of nearly $35 billion.

Mr. Pawlenty's proactive government stance extends to support for mass transit and sport stadium subsidies, as well as for hiking the state's minimum wage, which is now $6.15 an hour for large employers (the federal minimum wage is $5.85). But it is education and the environment where Mr. Pawlenty hopes to establish his progressive bona fides.

He calls for accountability in education, but does little to buck the most powerful lobby in state politics, Education Minnesota. Indeed, Mr. Pawlenty has courted the unions, telling the Minnesota Business Partnership that "I can't have the Republican governor talk about changing the school system without having the support and help of the teachers' union and my friends on the other side of the aisle. It just won't work."

On the environment, Mr. Pawlenty imposed some of the most aggressive renewable energy mandates in the country. Other states will be requiring, in coming years, that energy producers get 20% of their electricity from "renewable" sources such as wind, solar or animal manure. In Mr. Pawlenty's Minnesota, the state's largest utility will be required to generate 30% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

Mr. Pawlenty is using his influence through the National Governor's Association to export his ideas across state lines. The NGA meets in Washington, D.C. next week. Look for Mr. Pawlenty to be on hand and stumping for renewable mandates.

In April, Mr. Pawlenty delivered the remarks that probably best reveal his views on the environment. "It looks like we should have listened to President Carter," he told the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group. "He called us to action, and we should have listened. . . . Climate change is real. Human behavior is partly and may be a lot responsible. Those who don't think so are simply not right. We should not spend time on voices that say it's not real."

At times it seems that Mr. Pawlenty's first political instinct is to placate liberal critics, as he did following the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis last August. When Rep. James Oberstar, a Democrat, tried to exploit the tragedy that killed 13 people and injured 100 others -- by blaming it on a lack of federal gas tax revenue -- Mr. Pawlenty responded by calling for a state gas tax increase. Thankfully, the governor started backpedaling on that idea almost immediately after proposing it. He now promises to veto any tax increase to come out of the legislature this year (handing down one such veto yesterday).

That's good. But it doesn't mean that he'll be able to deliver the state for Mr. McCain. In the run-up to Super Tuesday earlier this month, Mr. Pawlenty stumped hard for Mr. McCain only to watch as Republican voters delivered Minnesota overwhelmingly to Mitt Romney.
5862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 17, 2008, 06:57:30 PM
Excerpts from a column/rant that covered more than the presidential race:

Victor Davis Hanson,  February 16, 2008
How We Got Where We Are—Turning Points of the Primaries

Candidates have intrinsic strengths and make their own fate, but the primary campaign did not necessarily have to end up where it did—since the following events were as pivotal as they were unexpected

1. Bill Clinton’s decision to drop the bite-the-lip therapeutic self and revert to the war-room hack, which along with Hillary’s clumsy civil rights revisionism turned off the liberal media.

2. Michelle Obama’s fiery speeches, that along with Oprah’s omnipresence, ended all notion that Barrack Obama was not black enough, and helped solidify the African-American base.

3. The Obama team’s decision to avoid detail and concentrate on his rock-star sermons on “change” and “hope”, that hypnotized voters, who after they woke and found he had said nothing had already joined the pied piper. In contrast, Huckabee’s specifics—fair tax, Bush’s “arrogant” foreign policy, invading Pakistan—proved the dangers of a rookie not talking only about “hope and change.”

4. Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous decision to delay, forgo face time and press coverage, and invest in Florida, based on the false assumption that leads in the national polls are static and are immune from the human desire to switch and side with the winner—even if the perception was created in tiny caucuses or small states primaries.

5. The New York Times’ decision to run serial stories on Giuliani’s personal life and petty sins of a decade prior.

6. Hillary’s scripted tear that gave her a second chance even as her cackle and screeching voice helped lose the first

7. The success of the surge by September/October that gave the McCain candidacy not only a second life, but also sanctioned his lonely and principled stand on the war when few were willing to invest in Iraq.

8. Mitt Romney’s decision to go negative in TV ads rather than give uplifting human speeches that proved effective only at the very end of his effort

9. Talk radio and right-wing base attacks on McCain that won him fides with independents and moderates, and some sympathy from mainstream Republicans

10. The vast dislike of the Clintons in the media, punditry, and among Democratic politicians—cf. Bill’s lectures and finger pointing and Hillary’s whining— who were all looking for a spark to ignite

He Kept Us Safe?

If we are not hit again, and if Iraq continues to settle down, in five years President Bush will be reassessed as the one who kept us safe after 9/11 when popular wisdom insisted that more attacks were to come. Soon someone will write a history detailing the losses al Qaeda suffered in Afghanistan and Iraq from a perspective other than “we created more terrorists”— such as “we killed thousands of committed terrorists over there, not here.”


Barrack Obama’s team should begin to worry that in the popular culture and even the mainstream media, people are beginning automatically to associate his set speech with vapidity, “hope” and “change” with saying nothing. If not curtailed, that Pavlovian identification will take on a life of its own.

Historians will wonder at what point the post-racialist Obama, who, it was alleged, “was not black enough”, transmogrified into “The Black Candidate” and began winning 85-95% of the black vote, even when head-to-head with the wife of the honorary “black” president. The downside, as Hillary’s campaign seems to be trying to exploit, is that racial identity politics married with appeals to upscale yuppie whites, is beginning to turn off other minorities such as Asians and Hispanics, as well as working whites. One lives and dies with appeals to the tribe, whether intended or not. A good example was Cruz Bustamante’s run for governor during the California Gray Davis recall. Suddenly commercials ran with crowds of Mexican-Americans shouting and waving red flags, and his ratings nosedived with each spot that aired.

Obama may well capture the nomination, but there is an outside chance that he will lose to Hillary all the key states so important in the general elections—California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Not a good sign for the November elections.

Much of the rhetoric of the Obama campaign concerns mortgage and student loans, with the clear implication that the borrower has been victimized, and is need of federal redress. Two observations: prior to the mortgage meltdown, the rhetoric had been “home ownership” or the notion that the “non-traditional” borrower had to be accommodated to get him into a first home. Now such marginal borrowers apparently were “tricked”, or coerced into buying more home than they could afford.

The same logic will apply to student loans, as we begin to hear all sorts of bail-out programs aimed at those “burdened”. Perhaps true, but in a great many of cases, many had no business going into debt for college, since they were not yet motivated and only limped through the undergraduate years, attending class haphazardly in a holding pattern, unsure whether to graduate or work or sort of both.

It may be a conservative canard, but the common theme of the Obama rhetoric is that the US is a depressingly oppressive place, where the poor citizen has not much income and gets no help from an uncaring government. It all sounds like 1929, not the entitlement colossus of 2008.
5863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Africa on: February 17, 2008, 06:47:30 PM
A largely untold story that Bush brought to light with his current trip there...

February 15, 2008
President Bush's Trip to Africa:
Solidifying U.S. Partnerships with the Region
by Brett D. Schaefer and Anthony B. Kim

President George W. Bush is scheduled to embark today on his second trip to Africa. The five-day visit includes stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia and will promote significant Bush Administration initiatives that address HIV/AIDS; combat terrorism; and promote development, good governance, and economic freedom in Africa. Indeed, the Bush Administration has demonstrated unprecedented attention and dedication to the region, including creating the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); increasing U.S. official development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa fourfold; offering a new, more effective way to provide development assistance in the Millennium Challenge Corporation; and setting up a new combatant command dedicated to Africa.

President Bush's trip is the culmination of seven years of efforts to improve U.S. relations and create trade and development partnerships with African nations. These efforts have generated real improvements in the region. A great deal more can be achieved in the coming years, and America should continue to play a leading role in helping African nations take the steps necessary to improve economic growth and development and in expanding partnerships in the region.

In a contentious election year, Africa is an issue on which there is substantial agreement and significant potential for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. The President's trip is a well-timed effort to emphasize the strides that have been made. Congress should work with the President to ensure that his initiatives continue to succeed beyond 2008.

Real Outcomes from America's Successful Engagement with Africa

Africa no longer sits on the margin of U.S. foreign policy interests. U.S engagement with the region has been moving increasingly toward closer ties as Washington "recognizes the evolutionary change the continent is undergoing."[1] President Bush has met more African heads of state than any other U.S. President. He "has focused on ways to reshape the landscape and reframe the debate" on U.S. policy towards Africa with "emphasis on partnership and cooperation" that can produce positive, measurable results. [2] In recent years, the U.S. has successfully partnered with many African nations to combat the spread of disease, encourage economic development and growth, and elevate the stature of the region as a priority in U.S. foreign and national security policy.

Helping Africa Fight Diseases. The HIV/AIDS pandemic and other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis have undermined economic progress in Africa, threatening people's livelihoods and productivity, lowering life expectancy, and increasing child mortality. Recognizing the grave challenge that disease presents to the continent, President Bush has made fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis a priority for his Administration.

The most prominent effort is the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, more commonly known as PEPFAR. Announced in 2003, the five-year, $15 billion initiative is the largest commitment by any country for an international health program dedicated to a single disease. While PEPFAR is global in scope, it has a strong focus on Africa: Twelve of the 15 focus countries are located there, including Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.[3]

PEPFAR included among its original goals providing treatment to 2 million people infected with HIV; preventing 7 million new infections; and providing care for 10 million persons, including orphans and at-risk children.[4] Over the past five years, the program has made it possible for 1.4 million people in Africa to receive life-saving treatment,[5] with a special emphasis on preventing infant infections. In his 2008 State of the Union Address, President Bush urged Congress to double funding for the program to $30 billion over the next five years to treat 2.5 million people; fund prevention efforts for 12 million people; and provide care for another 12 million, including 5 million orphans or vulnerable children.[6]

In addition to PEPFAR, the five-year, $1.2 billion President's Malaria Initiative, which aims to halve the mortality rate of the disease over five years in 15 African countries, has brought real benefits to people in Africa. Through public-private partnerships, more than 6 million insecticide-treated bed nets are being distributed, and about 25 million people have already benefited from them.[7] The U.S. has also been the largest donor to multilateral efforts to combat disease, including providing more than 27 percent of funds for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.[8] Congress should support the President's efforts to combat disease in Africa, as these programs have demonstrated significant achievements.

Partnering with Africa for Economic Growth and Development. In parallel with PEPFAR and the Malaria Initiative, the Bush Administration dramatically increased U.S. assistance to sub-Saharan Africa and created the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2004. The MCC administers the Millennium Challenge Account, an innovative approach to providing U.S. development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa.

From 2000 to 2006, the United States doubled its development assistance to $21.5 billion and quadrupled its development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa to $5.6 billion.[9] The U.S. is also the world's leading provider of humanitarian and food assistance, which has saved millions of lives in Africa and elsewhere. In 2006, the U.S. provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance in more than 50 countries and more than $2 billion in food aid in 82 developing countries.[10]

However, the Bush Administration recognizes that the level of aid funding is not necessarily a measure of effectiveness. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, most African countries are little better off today than they were decades ago.

The bulk of economic evidence shows that, while there may be a role for assistance and donor nations, the key to development lies in the hands of the governments of developing countries. African countries must first remove obstacles to development by adopting policies that bolster free markets and entrepreneurship, good governance, and the rule of law. These conclusions closely adhere to the evidence provided in the Index of Economic Freedom, an annual study by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal that looks into countries' economic policies to measure their level of economic freedom and finds that, "in pursuing sustainable prosperity, both the direction of policy and commitment to economic freedom are important."[11]

Based on this understanding, the Bush Administration proposed a new way of providing development assistance that encourages recipients to adopt sound economic policies. The MCC targets assistance toward low-income and lower-middle-income countries with a demonstrable record of investing in people and promoting policies that bolster economic growth and the rule of law. The overarching goal is to help countries graduate from the need for foreign assistance.

Over the past four years, the MCC has created remarkable policy reform competition, known as "the MCC effect," among countries that wish to qualify for an MCC "compact agreement" or a "threshold program."[12] By increasing transparency in compiling and disseminating economic statistics and competing with each other for MCC grants, these countries have been motivated to pursue real policy improvements.

The reforms brought about by "the MCC effect" have encouraged entrepreneurial activities and created more favorable conditions for economic growth and development. Of the MCC's 16 compact agreements, nine are with African nations, including three of the five countries on the President's trip (Benin, Tanzania, and Ghana). The nine African compacts total nearly $3.8 billion, which accounts for 70 percent of the MCC's total grants to date.[13] Additional threshold programs totaling $100 million have been channeled to the seven African countries among the MCC's 18 threshold countries.[14]

To ensure the MCC's mission to "reduce poverty through sustainable economic growth in the developing world," President Bush requested in his fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget $2.23 billion for the MCC, an increase of $680 million over the level enacted for FY 2008.[15] Congress should fulfill this request to ensure the initative's continued success.

Enhancing Economic Growth Through Trade and Investment. Seizing on another powerful anti-poverty tool, the Bush Administration has expanded trade with Africa by opening the U.S. market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Trade and investment flows dwarf official development assistance. For example, in 2006, trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa from the U.S. alone totaled more than $80 billion. In comparison, total development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa from all donors that year was only $39.9 billion.[16]

Moreover, trade and investment are more effective at promoting economic growth because they directly contribute to private-sector development without a government or nongovernmental organization (NGO) intermediary. In this manner, trade efficiently spurs economic growth, increases entrepreneurial opportunities, and creates new and better-paying jobs.

AGOA, which was enacted in 2000, has been the cornerstone of America's trade and investment policy with sub-Saharan Africa. By encouraging trade and investment, AGOA has helped enable African nations to take advantage of opportunities to improve growth through integration into the global economy.

Through AGOA, many African goods receive zero-tariff access to the U.S. market.[17] In response to these lower costs, two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa has grown by almost 140 percent since the introduction of AGOA, including an increase of more than 90 percent in non-oil/gas trade.[18]

For Africa to benefit fully from trade, however, tariff and non-tariff barriers must be eliminated more broadly. The U.S. has pressed other nations in the World Trade Organization to adopt measures through the Doha Round to remove anti-development practices that inhibit trade between developing countries and between developed and developing countries. As noted by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley:

    The United States is also seeking to open markets through the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Doha represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help millions in the developing world rise above poverty and despair. And the President is committed to concluding an ambitious Doha Round agreement this year.[19]

Congress should support U.S. efforts in the Doha round by agreeing to provide fast track status to the trade reforms resulting from the Doha negotiations.

Recognizing Africa's Increasing Strategic Importance. Africa is no longer a distant region whose instability and problems can be ignored by the U.S. As articulated in the National Security Strategy, the need to expand and ensure America's access to energy resources, prevent the spread of terrorism in weak or failed states, and address transnational health and environmental concerns has transformed Africa from a strategic backwater into a priority region for U.S. economic, political, and military interests. America has become increasingly involved in the region since the end of the Cold War, with more than 20 U.S. military operations in Africa between 1990 and 2000 and another 10 since 2000. These concerns and operations, combined with a rising expectation by many in America and other countries that the U.S. should intervene in internal and regional African conflicts more frequently and actively, make it likely that the U.S. will become more involved in the region in coming years.[20]

In recognition of Africa's rising importance, President Bush announced on February 6, 2007, that the United States will create a new, unified combatant command for Africa (AFRICOM) to oversee security, enhance strategic cooperation, build partnerships, support nonmilitary missions, and conduct military operations as necessary. The unique challenges facing Africa led the Administration to set up a new type of interagency command for the continent. The President made clear that he sees the new command as having more than simply military responsibilities: "The Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa."[21] The new command will draw heavily from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal bodies for expertise.

Creating an independent command for Africa elevates the foreign policy and national security issues critical to the region in U.S. policy circles. This move is merited by the region's increasing importance to U.S. national and economic security. President Bush has demonstrated foresight in calling for an Africa Command, and Congress should support it.


President Bush's second visit to Africa is an excellent opportunity to highlight the many successful efforts and programs initiated and expanded by the Bush Administration that benefit both the United States and the people of Africa. America's constructive engagement with Africa and the President's appreciation of the region's growing importance should be noted and supported by Congress.

There is substantial agreement by both sides of the political aisle on the need to forge close relations with African countries and work together to promote economic growth, stability, and good governance. Congressional action to support these programs is critical to maintaining America's efforts to replace poverty with prosperity in the continent. Congress should support these initiatives and programs so that America can continue its efforts to guide Africa into a brighter future.
5864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 13, 2008, 12:40:00 PM
"I think Mitt failed to catch on until too late because he did not seem genuine."

I agree.  For me, Mitt and Fred both fit my views on issues well enough.  Fred lack excitement.  Mitt lacked an authenticity.  I don't value excitement but others do and I value victory.  Mitt's move to pro-life alone was plausible and his presumed negative of being Mormon I think was politically manageable.  Mitt's move from governor of the most liberal state to perfectly conservative on all issues, just in time, was bizarre, leaving people not knowing what to think.

With non-Republican, non-conservative McCain as the nominee, the question remains - who is the leader in exile of the conservative movement.  The answer unfortunately remains no one, though Romney could certainly take another shot if he chooses.  On another try I see where he could be taken more seriously sooner and maybe not face so many competing voices.  Fred, Rudy and some of the others are likely out forever.

Conservatives lack consistency, lack good leaders, lack good followers and lack good policy writers.  Other than that ...
5865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 12, 2008, 10:13:58 AM
Thanks CCP.  The selection process is ugly, but pretty soon we will see how well each party did putting its best foot forward.  I don't like McCain but maybe the reality is that he is the only Republican (at least in name) who could win right now.  It will be interesting to see if who he picks will become a likely successor, win or lose. 

On the Dem side, I agree the emotion is with Obama, the momentum is with Obama and the key match up polls against McCain are with Obama.  Counting out the Clintons is risky business for Democratic leaders and super delegates.  Reminds me (just slightly) of the Sunnis in Anbar dealing with al Qaida.  They needed to be 100% certain that these people wouldn't soon be in power before publicly and decisively turning against them.

I think Sen. Clinton would certainly pick Obama as her running mate and I think Obama would most certainly not pick Clinton.  Who he picks will be interesting.  Like Bush picking Cheney, Obama needs a boatload of experience and so-called gravitas.  But what prominent Democrat or Clinton administration former cabinet member with national security experience can he pick (Sandy Burger? Madeline Albright isn't eligible) that doesn't bring with it more negatives.  Since Obama doesn't know that he lacks experience, I predict he will make a bold move and pick someone else who lacks experience.  Advantage on the VEEP choice should go to McCain.
5866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 10, 2008, 03:04:03 PM
To be fair, Peggy Noonan's observation that Obama is no Lincoln is from Jan. 2005 when Obama had been in the U.S. Senate for about a minute.  He still is no Lincoln or even McCain for that matter in terms of any accomplishments, good or bad, but he is the candidate of excitement this year (which is exactly the quality that my candidate lacked).  Obama's oratory deliberately lacks specifics and hasn't been challenged with tough follow up questions or substantive debate. 

Democrats face two high-risk choices. Obama might or might not be a great candidate and President for them.  At least he represents some up-side risk.  Sen. Clinton could win a general election with high negatives but would serve more in the likeness of Richard Nixon than Abraham Lincoln.  One of the legacies of the Clinton-I Presidency that she wishes to continue was that they lost congress for for 12 years and lost the White House for the 8 years following. 

My first post since superTuesday - I convened our Republican caucus in 2006 in a small Republican town on the outskirts of Minneapolis and I sat literally alone in a schoolroom until I finally approved adjournment.  This year we rented City Hall and had 42 enthusiastic participants, mostly dissatisfied with elected Republicans and mostly dissatisfied with the existing choices of candidates, but the people showed up and express passion about their core beliefs.  Romney was the winner of the moment, just shortly before he dropped out.

The Newt piece (posted elsewhere) complains that we are doing nothing about Iran and is perfect proof that conservatives including myself who dislike McCain can not and will not sit out this election in a time of war.  While Obama wants dialog with terror organizations and Hillary just sees potential foreign contributors, McCain says he looked into Putin's eyes and saw the letters k-g-b.
5867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / U.S. Senate Races of 2008 on: January 29, 2008, 10:33:29 AM
Here is a thread to start watching the Senate. The Presidential thread has been a great place to both read and post during this already bizarre and frustrating year.  The Senate and House races are more local in focus, but national and global in importance.  I hope others will join in here and help keep a watch across the country.

The outcome of the senate has already been written.  Republicans have too many difficult seats to defend, too many incumbents retiring, a minority status already and all political momentum against them.  Democrats will gain seats, keep the majority, but not get close to the magic number of 60.  Time will tell if that is true.

Two senators I hope they keep are Clinton in New York and Obama in Illinois.
One of the contested seats is Republican Norm Coleman in my (blue-purple) state of MN.  To me he is a RINO.  To the Democrats he is a George Bush clone (in the extreme, negative sense) and he is sitting in Paul Wellstone's seat which is more sacred to liberals than the manger or the cross is to Christians.

Two characters want his seat: satirist Al Franken and trial lawyer Mike Ciresi and they have been hitting the airwaves hard for the last several weeks.  Obviously Franken has backing from Hollywood, New York etc. and other liberals nationwide and Ciresi has personal fortune and fame as he charged the state a half billion dollars for suing the tobacco companies.

Franken says he will "fight for you", presumably the middle class as he walks down a middle class sidewalk near where he grew up, and Mike Ciresi says will 'fight for you' the way he "fought the big special interests like the big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies and that's what [he] will keep doing for you in Washington". 

With all the talk about 'fighting for you' I thought this thread would fit just as well in the martial arts forum.

Al Franken commercial: or linked at  Mike Ciresi commercials are posted at:

Unfortunately Sen. Norm Coleman, as a Democrat-lite (with an R) centrist and former Democratic mayor of St. Paul, he doesn't have much of a conservative core to "fight back' with.
5868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters - World Peace on: January 29, 2008, 09:39:47 AM
VDH is apparently poking fun at the world's current obsession with the plight of the Palestinians.  Within his five step program are some valuable nuggets of historical wisdom, IMO.

A Modest Proposal for Middle East Peace
The U.N. need only take five simple steps.

By Victor Davis Hanson

There seems to be a growing renewed animus against Israel lately. Arun Gandhi, grandson of the purported humanist Mahatma Gandhi, thinks Israel and Jews in general are prone to, and singularly responsible for, most of the world’s violence. The Oxford Union is taking up the question of whether Israel even has a right to continue to exist. Our generation no longer speaks of a “Palestinian problem,” but rather of an “Israeli problem.” So perhaps it is time for a new global approach to deal with Israel and its occupation.

Perhaps we ought to broaden our multinational and multicultural horizons by transcending the old comprehensive settlements, roadmaps, and Quartet when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a dispute which originated with the creation of Israel.

Why not simply hold an international conference on all of these issues — albeit in a far more global context, outside the Middle East?

The ensuing general accords and principles could be applied to Israel and the West Bank, where the number of people involved, the casualties incurred, and the number of refugees affected are far smaller and far more manageable.

Perhaps there could be five U.N. sessions: disputed capitals; the right of return for refugees; land under occupation; the creation of artificial post-World War II states; and the use of inordinate force against suspected Islamic terrorists.

In the first session, we should try to solve the status of Nicosia, which is currently divided into Greek and Turkish sectors by a U.N. Greek Line. Perhaps European Union investigators could adjudicate Turkish claims that the division originated from unwarranted threats to the Turkish Muslim population on Cyprus. Some sort of big power or U.N. roadmap then might be imposed on the two parties, in hopes that the Nicosia solution would work for Jerusalem as well.

In the second discussion, diplomats might find common ground about displaced populations, many from the post-war, late 1940s. Perhaps it would be best to start with the millions of Germans who were expelled from East Prussia in 1945, or Indians who were uprooted from ancestral homes in what is now Pakistan, or over half-a-million Jews that were ethnically cleansed from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria following the 1967 war. Where are these refugees now? Were they ever adequately compensated for lost property and damages? Can they be given promises of the right to return to their ancestral homes under protection of their host countries? The ensuring solutions might shed light on the Palestinian aspirations to return to land lost sixty years ago to Israel.

A third panel would take up the delicate issue of returning territory lost by defeat in war. Ten percent of historic Germany is now part of Poland. The Russians still occupy many of the Kurile Islands, and Greek Cyprus lost sizable territory in 1974 after the invasion by Turkey. The Western Sahara is still annexed by Morocco, while over 15 percent of disputed Azerbaijan has been controlled by Armenia since 1994. Additionally, all of independent Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1950-1. Surely if some general framework concerning these occupations could first be worked out comprehensively, the results might then be applied to the much smaller West Bank and Golan Heights.

In a fourth panel, the international conference should take up the thorny issue of recently artificially created states. Given the tension over Kashmir, was Pakistan a mistake — particularly the notion of a homeland for Indian Muslims? North Korea was only created after the stalemate of 1950-3; so should we debate whether this rogue nation still needs to exist, given its violent history and threats to world peace?

Fifth, and finally, is there a global propensity to use inordinate force against Muslim terrorists that results in indiscriminate collateral damage? The Russians during the second Chechnyan War of 1999-2000 reportedly sent tactical missiles into the very core of Grozny, and may have killed tens of thousands of civilians in their hunt for Chechnyan terrorists — explaining why the United Nations later called that city the most destroyed city on earth. Syria has never admitted to the complete destruction of Hama, once home to Muslim Brotherhood terrorists. The city suffered the fate of Carthage and was completely obliterated in 1982 by the al-Assad government, with over 30,000 missing or killed. Did the Indian government look the other way in 2002 when hundreds of Muslim civilians in Gujarat were killed in reprisal for Islamic violence against Hindus? The lessons learned in this final session might reassure a world still furious over the 52 Palestinians lost in Jenin.
5869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq/ Saddam Lied, People Died on: January 25, 2008, 12:38:55 AM

...through the FBI interrogator who debriefed him for seven months, George Piro. Piro has been interviewed by 60 Minutes; the interview will air on Sunday. This preview is interesting, but not surprising.

As many have believed, Saddam misjudged the Bush administration. He expected another "four-day bombardment," which he was willing to wait out. At some point, though, it became apparent that an invasion was inevitable. Why didn't Saddam come clean and admit that he had run out of WMDs? Piro says that Saddam told him he didn't dare let the world know that his WMDs were gone, because he would then be unable to deter an Iranian attack:

    Saddam still wouldn't admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," he tells Pelley.

Of course, there was something else going on too: Saddam had been telling the world for years that Iraq had no WMDs, and no one believed him. In fact, Saddam didn't want to be believed; he wanted the world (particularly Iran) to take his obvious non-cooperation with U.N. inspectors as evidence that he was concealing active biological and chemical programs. So Saddam would have been in the position of saying, "No, no--I really mean it this time!" It's doubtful whether anyone would have believed him.

Piro reinforces another point that was emphasized in the Duelfer report; that is, that Saddam was biding his time, and had the personnel and resources he needed to restart his weapons programs when the time was right:

    He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. "Saddam still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there," says Piro. "He wanted to pursue all of WMD…to reconstitute his entire WMD program." This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

Putting it all together, it appears that liberals should adopt a new slogan: "Saddam lied, people died!"
5870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight / Ron Paul on: January 24, 2008, 08:37:58 PM
I'm about a month late re-posting what David (SkinnyDevil) requested I move to this thread, (roughly the amount of time my Computer has been down sad  .)  Thanks for the nice compliment.  I think the first half of this post applies directly to why we fight. The second half covers freedom to trade and economic strength and still falls within my view of 'why we fight'.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion for me is that our taxes will be lower if we choose an electable proponent of lower marginal rates and fiscal discipline and we will be safer if we SELECTIVELY take battle to our enemies.   
5871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 15, 2008, 09:36:57 AM
Fred Thompson interviewed about 'war on terror':
From November, only dated in the sense that Bhutto was still alive. 

I predict Thompson will be the VP pick no matter who wins (other than him) and Republicans will have another upside down ticket like Dole-Kemp '96.  How did that work out?
5872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 14, 2008, 09:56:50 AM
David Malpass today: Markets and the Dollar.

I don't agree 100% but it is the best  I've read explaining the weak market for the dollar and what to do about it. (sorry I can't post the text)
5873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: December 27, 2007, 07:40:23 AM
My top ten reasons that the 'FairTax' is a non-starter.  IMHO you can stop reading after the first sentence of point 1) below which constitutes a total and complete show-stopper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who among us really believes a new tax will solve our problems. As you may have guessed, not me.   - Doug
5874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: December 19, 2007, 11:47:30 AM
Posting my view and looking forward to Crafty's though I know he has already posted in detail on this in the past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion for me is that our taxes will be lower if we choose an electable proponent of lower marginal rates and fiscal discipline and we will be safer if we SELECTIVELY take battle to our enemies.   
(FYI, I support Fred Thompson)   - Doug
5875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 11, 2007, 10:15:31 AM
'Was there a CIA motive to keep US from striking Iran?'

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

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

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

5876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: December 10, 2007, 06:16:20 PM
John Bolton's piece here explores the NIE flawed product possibility based on among other things the over-reliance on the most recent information and the pre-existence of bias in the writers.  It's funny how quick people are to trust the conclusions now right as we learn they were wrong last time.  Also wrong were intelligence conclusions in Iraq and they completely missed foretelling other events such as the Iranian revolution, Saddam invading Kuwait and the collapse of the Soviet empire.
5877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: December 07, 2007, 10:27:17 AM
On the political side of environmentalism, here is a top ten hypocrites list from

The Greenest Hypocrites of 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007

By Steven Milloy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The one thing these honorees all have in common is that their real-life actions belie their carefully crafted green public images. If they don’t take their commitment seriously, why should you?
Steven Milloy publishes and He is a junk science expert and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
5878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 07, 2007, 10:16:07 AM
Wesbury is right on the money IMO. While I like low interest rates and as an exporter I like a weak dollar, taking the Fed rates to artificially low levels for economic stimulus would be to repeat a pattern that causes them to go up later to punitive levels and risk future stagflation.

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

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

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

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

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

p.s. Here is a link to Wesbury's weekly column.  He posts every Mondays afternoon from what I have seen. 
5879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues - Kyo-Two on: December 06, 2007, 01:34:28 PM
"Capitalism had once been the enemy because it was alleged to make people poor. Now it was the enemy because of the alleged side effects of making them rich."

Road to Bali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Australian delegation was feted on the first day of Bali because the subcontinent's new government chose at last to sign on to Kyoto, even though the agreement lay in ruins, and would have had virtually zero impact on the climate anyway. Canada's Environment Minister John Baird -- who must cope with the fact that his Liberal predecessors signed Kyoto without any plan or intention of fulfilling their obligations-- must sing from the U.N. hymnbook while keeping a firm hand on the nation's collective wallet. And preparing for the next meeting.
5880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: December 04, 2007, 09:19:23 AM
The new NIE is a very interesting development and Stratfor covers it as well as anywhere I have seen.  If an agency reports a conclusion totally opposite of what they reported 2 years ago, how do we know it is accurate now and wrong then?  Also, why do they conclude that the nuclear weapons program was ended because of diplomatic efforts and sanctions when it could have been ended, as Stratfor points out, because of a certainty that it would have been blown up militarily by the Israelis or Americans. Thirdly I do not assume that the biases within the agency reporting are in lockstep with the powers within the administration.  Leaking and undermining policy is also part of what they do.

Consequences of this will be interesting.  Every time Ahmadinejad threatened to blow up the region and redraw the middle east map, oil prices went up on fear and uncertainty.  Now that we 'know' he is rational and peace-seeking, oil price should plummet (kidding).
5881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: December 03, 2007, 05:54:37 PM
Anyone remember  Kelo v. New London, 2005? It was one of the worst supreme court decisions in history. Kelo allowed government to take private property to give to other private property purposes and worse that local elected officials have unique local knowledge so courts shouldn't make judgment on those decisions.  The public good can be as simple as higher property taxes collected after re-development or that new homes are more attractive to look at.

After the fake-emergency to get the  real owners out against their will 2-3 years ago, the project is still delayed.

Here is the link to the decision. I recommend a read of the dissent by Clarence Thomas:
5882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 28, 2007, 10:48:44 PM
A quick comment on the most recent posts here in the next President's thread:

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

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

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

Last, my comment on one more post going back.  I didn't like the political calculator.  I answered it rather impatiently the first time through and it told me my candidate was Huckabee.  I didn't like that so I went back and filled in with more detail marking high importance on my key issues and remembering which side of 'net-neutrality' I was on.  Then it came back with a big smiling face of Mitt Romney. Looking further I found out it had the exact same score to the one hundredth of a point for second place, my own personal favorite,  Fred Thompson.  I just think there are subtle differences and personal preferences that don't come through on 'yes, no or unsure' choices on big issues. JMHO.
5883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 28, 2007, 12:21:49 AM
Commenting on the WSJ piece 'Condi's Road to Damascas': I was once a big fan of Condi.  Now I am undecided and it may take a long time to sort out her time as a lot of subtle things are attempted and handled behind the scenes.  I think the comparison to Pelosi is off-base.  After all, Pelosi was accused of pretending she was Secretary of State.  Condi is Sec of State and she summoned the Syrian leadership to come here along with the other leaders.

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

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

I like to think that our leaders have more information than we do so these meetings are difficult to judge.  A chance for the Americans to pass a personal message to Assad might have value to us.  From Assad's point of view, even if the information the Americans possess lacks perfect accuracy, that didn't save Assad's executed Sunni Arab neighbor.
5884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: November 25, 2007, 12:58:37 PM
Referendum date is Dec. 2.  Yes vote will enact make 69 revisions to Venezuela charter that expand the power of Chavez, including unlimited re-election.  Chavez says: Only a 'Traitor' Will Vote No:

Reuters reports independent poll that has the referendum down by 49% 'traitors to 39% Chavez enablers:
Links courtesy of Drudge Report.  I really haven't seen this covered yet in the mainstream media.  Chavez attempting to become a permanent leader with dictator powers and cheating in elections is hardly news in their opinion.
I predict the ten point no-vote lead is not good enough.  In a previous referendum independent reports had Chavez losing by 60-40% in the exit polls but the official Chavez voting machines tallied it up as a Chavez win at 60-40%, so exit polls were off by down 20 to up 20 - a 40% swing.  "International observer" Jimmy Carter instantly verified the results and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly gave it the U.S. stamp of approval.  Oh well.
5885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 22, 2007, 11:18:18 PM
Here is an interview yesterday by Human Events, a conservative publication, with Mitt Romney covering all the large issues:
5886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 21, 2007, 11:17:19 PM
In mid December last time, a month later than now, Howard Dean was measuring the west wing for drapes and John Kerry was dull and unexciting.  Okay, bad analogy.  Anyway, back to issues and candidates:

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

Fred Thompson on Bloomberg TV

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

MR. THOMPSON: Number two, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MR. COOK: Do you think humans are responsible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I'm putting a lot of marbles in Iowa, and we've been spending a lot of time in South Carolina where we are doing very well, usually running first in most of the polls there. We're going to have to wait and see. Every day is a new day. You know, Mayor Giuliani is doing well in the national polls but I'm running second in most of the national polls to Mayor Giuliani. So we're about where we need to be overall right now. We have some strength in places and some weaknesses in places and every day is a new day; you just have to do the best you can. It's very, very hard to handicap these races anymore, especially in a place like Iowa. Howard Dean was the odds on favorite in mid-December, and of course that didn't work out too well for him. And you can say the same thing about some of the early primary states in other parts of the country too. So who knows what to make of it.
5887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 19, 2007, 10:50:59 PM
Ron Paul has been the anti-Republican in the race so I am surprised they think his errors and misfortunes hurt the cause of where the party ought to be going.  All the fireworks in the debates seemed to be about Paul opposing Republican foreign policies.

OTOH, I heard a Ron Paul radio commercial traveling in Las Vegas yesterday.  His don't-tax-tips bill may never pass, but the radio spot is smart.  I'm sure there is a huge number of service workers in that market and the message broadcast is that they are being unfairly and excessively taxed.  His anti-war message is not very unique but his ant-tax message could be the first that many people hear. 
5888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: November 19, 2007, 03:36:17 PM
I found the previous post here about Saddam's WMD to be the most helpful so far.  They outline a scenario that is believable and backed up in bits and pieces, though they admit without a single smoking gun.  New information makes the administration and coalition look bad, but as they write, correct by accident.   They also prove false IMO the refrain of the critics - that Saddam posed no threat.

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

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

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

To be continued, I'm sure.
5889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: November 19, 2007, 03:11:36 PM
As George Will wrote, the stock market has predicted nine of the last three recessions.  I agree with Crafty on his great depression summary.  I don't completely understand the low dollar period we are now experiencing.  Nor do I understand Pat Buchanan's dislike of free trade: "given their free-trade fanaticism and free-spending ways, that fate would not be undeserved." What qualifies a private freedom to do business to be lumped in with reckless public spending as a cause of economic disaster?  Buchanan has never adequately explained that, in my view.
5890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 14, 2007, 11:36:48 AM
This Asia Times article (below) makes an amazing observation on Iran demographics.  The fertility rate in Iran has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of  2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5.  One tenth of what it was.

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

Why Iran is dying for a fight   (excerpt)

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

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

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

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

As Jenkins reports, Iran's fertility rate has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of 2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5. In other words, Iran presently has a bulge of military-age men as cannon-fodder. In a generation it will not be able to fill the ranks.
5891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 13, 2007, 11:30:35 PM
Cloudy Days on the Global Warming Front  (from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's a remarkable quote: "Everyone just assumed" that more rainfall means more high altitude clouds. That is the level of scientific certainty on which claims of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming rest.
5892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 13, 2007, 10:31:57 AM
First, regarding the previous post - Thompson v. Obama is exactly the matchup I'd like to see.
Here is a TIME magazine piece on Hillary that I found to be sympathetic, but somewhat objective.  A little long (4 pages) and dull, and a little bit enlightening.  Then at the end they strangely predict Edwards will win Iowa on electability because he is "the white guy".

What Hillary Stands For
Wednesday, Nov. 07, 2007 By JOE KLEIN,8599,1681670,00.html
5893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: November 08, 2007, 11:57:59 AM

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

By Victor Davis Hanson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe China and India will consider radical conservation measures.

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

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

Those are too many maybes to wait for while our way of life hangs in the balance. It is past time to demand from our presidential candidates, as well as the current government, exactly when and how they plan to slay this many-headed oil monster.
5894  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 02, 2007, 08:51:04 AM
Saw this on local news last night. Police tasers are equipped with cameras that help the officer document the scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Minnesota State Patrol will be getting their first Taser cameras in the next few weeks. They will join Minneapolis, St. Cloud and the Itasca County Sheriff's Office who already have the Taser cameras.
5895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 23, 2007, 10:28:19 AM
Since I haven't found anyone here so far to argue against free market based economics, I'll post the opposing view myself, courtesy of the NY Times.  They contend we are severely under-taxed.  Absolutely no hint in their 'analysis' that revenues to the treasury are actually growing at record rates.  Only 'logic' I could find to back their view is that America needs to be more like the rest of the world, starting with tax burden.  Their math with a 28% total tax burden doesn't exactly match tax freedom day that occurs here in May.  Nonetheless, our "meager tax take" of 4 trillion dollars per year"leaves the United States ill prepared to compete."  huh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, the growth in tax revenue since 2004 is due mostly to the spectacular increase in corporate profits, which have grown at the expense of workers’ wages. Moreover, it’s proving ephemeral. As economic growth has decelerated, corporate profits are losing steam and the growth of tax revenue has begun to slow. This pretty much guarantees that the revenue will prove too low to face the challenges ahead.
5896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 20, 2007, 10:32:47 PM
Not exactly a perfect ally, but a valuable one according to this WSJ editorial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey wants a unitary, stable and prosperous Iraq, and should know that any wrong moves in the north could jeopardize that. The Turks unabashedly support Israel's right to exist and can't abide a nuclear Iran. On these and other issues, Ankara is an indispensable partner for America. Mr. Erdogan is expected to meet President Bush next month to discuss Iraqi Kurdistan and probably the Armenian resolution. The U.S.-Turkey friendship is too important to let it be ruined by parochial politics in either country.
5897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 18, 2007, 07:44:50 PM
"...reads like we just caved in big time"

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

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

Meanwhile, most of what those meetings in Russia should have been about was the restraint we need right now from them.  We'll see in time if we received any.
5898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 18, 2007, 03:52:33 PM
Thanks for the dog story. I'm not much of an Ellen fan or of anyone else in showbiz - still couldn't help wondering how they came to have kids,so I googled it:

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

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

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

I guess they really 'cemented their relationship' when they took the next big step after a kid and added a dog... File it all under media issues. huh
5899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: October 18, 2007, 03:19:50 PM
An interesting piece from the Boston Globe this week that I think marks the memory of Hong Kong as a free colony. Amazing that we saw in our lifetime this little island of liberty exist within Communist China and then be given back to China.

Hong Kong's heyday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, Hong Kong's spectacular skyline continues to grow ever higher, even as its storied harbor shrinks before ever- increasing landfills. If democracy has not advanced as much as Patten had hoped, neither has totalitarianism as many of us feared.
5900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 17, 2007, 10:27:56 AM
Payroll Growth: 1990s vs. 2000s
Posted by BRIAN WESBURY   October 17, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little digging is all it takes to show that the unfairly maligned economy is actually doing quite well. The good news is that all this concern creates a “wall of worry” that the stock market continues to climb.
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