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3901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / california:example of what NOT to do on: March 23, 2011, 12:57:13 PM
California reelin'
Lessons from a place that combines most of the shortcomings of the modern Western state
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 DON NOVEY does not look like a typical Californian entrepreneur. The grandfatherly, fedora-wearing conservative began his career as a correctional officer at Folsom State prison in the 1970s. But he helped build one of the Golden State’s largest industries.

Thirty years ago, when Mr Novey became president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), only 2,600 members walked what he calls “the toughest beat in the state”, and there were only 36,000 inmates in California’s prisons. Now, as Barry Krisberg of Berkeley Law School points out, some 170,000 people are locked up there, and CCPOA has 31,000 members. From the air California can look like an archipelago of prisons.

Mr Novey made CCPOA a dominant force in state politics, and not just by dishing out political contributions in Sacramento, the state capital. He shrewdly formed an “iron triangle” with Republican lawmakers and prison-builders. And he gave it a cause: tougher sentencing for criminals. CCPOA sponsored the “three strikes” law, mandating life imprisonment for three serious felonies, and helped set up victims’ rights groups.


By the time Mr Novey gave up the CCPOA’s presidency in 2002, the state had built 21 new prisons. Some guards now earn more than $100,000 a year (with overtime). Mr Novey negotiated pensions of up to 90% of salary, with retirement starting as early as 50. To many of his members Mr Novey remains a hero—a man who provided good jobs and made them safer. And the taxpayer footed the bill.

Jerry Brown, the Democrat who was recently elected governor, faces a deficit of around $25 billion this year—bigger than the total budget in 1975. That was the year when Mr Brown in his younger “Governor Moonbeam” phase first ran the state. Back then California’s government was widely admired for its highways and its universities, and also as a font of political ideas both on the right (Reaganism) and the left (environmentalism). Now the roads and colleges are crumbling, even though total government spending in the state will reach $230 billion this year (see chart 4). Californian politicians get some of the lowest ratings in the country. Like a paranoid movie star, the state has kept on grasping at miracle cures—from Proposition 13, the tax-cutting ballot initiative, in 1978 to the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the cyborg-ex-machina, in 2003.

California is now widely studied as an example of what to avoid. Why is the home of Apple and Google so useless when it comes to running school districts or budgeting, and why have so many clever people settled for such a bad deal? Such questions are worth asking because what happens in California, which is famously like America, only more so, tends to happen elsewhere. And indeed a list of its ailments applies to a greater or lesser extent throughout the Western world.

• A messy structure of government. Look at an administrative map of California and you might assume that a child had scrawled over the design. It is a muddle of thousands of overlapping counties, cities and districts. Beverly Hills and West Hollywood sit in the middle of Los Angeles but are separate cities. The LA school district has 687,000 pupils, but there are 23 others with 20 pupils or fewer. Often voters have little idea what their officials do for their money. Last year the residents of Bell, a poor Latino city of 38,000 people, found their city manager was paid $788,000 and their police chief $457,000 a year.

In Sacramento things are no clearer. Thanks to various voters’ initiatives, as much as 75% of the budget is outside Mr Brown’s control. Proposition 13, which halved and capped property taxes, forced the state to bail out local government. A chunk of the state’s own money comes from the federal government. So cash for health, schools, welfare and much else sloshes backwards and forwards between Sacramento, Washington and various Californian cities. That makes it impossible to hold any Californian politician fully accountable for any part of government.

Some of this stems from specifically Californian afflictions, especially the ballot initiatives. But overlapping areas of responsibility are common throughout the West. In Australia, for instance, the federal government runs primary health care but the states run hospitals. In most European countries taxes are raised centrally but tend to be spent by local or regional government. The European Union increasingly plays the same role that Washington does in America, adding another layer of rules and mandates.

• Out of date. The most recent full redesign of California’s government was in 1879, when the state had only 865,000 people; now it has 37m, and a single state Senate seat represents more people than the whole Senate did then. As California’s pre-eminent historian, Kevin Starr, observes, “it is not surprising that an organisation set up to look after fewer than a million people should have a collective political nervous breakdown when it governs something almost 40 times that size.”

The same argument could be applied to the United States as a whole. Its constitution was designed for a country of 13 states and 4m people, when things like religious tolerance, the right to form militias and preventing people trying to become king mattered a lot. The Founding Fathers had no plans to bring either North Dakota or California into their union, nor could they imagine the ramifications of those two states both having the same voting weight in the Senate even though California’s population is 57 times bigger.

In Europe, thanks in part to two world wars, the state has been redesigned more recently, though many antiquated structures—such as Britain’s House of Lords—have survived. Many of these oddities work well in practice, and Americans revere their constitution. But structure matters. It is hard to think of any successful commercial outfit that has stuck to the same organisational design for 23 years, let alone 230.

• Too much power for vested interests. In “The Logic of Collective Action” (1965), Mancur Olson argued that rational individuals will work hard in a group with a selective aim reserved for its members (prison guards banding together to press for higher wages, for instance); they will expend less energy to push for public goods whose benefits are widely shared. Once entrenched, an interest group is extremely hard to shift. Its members have much to gain by fighting to retain their particular privileges, and would-be reformers have to take on disproportionately large costs to push for a vaguer public good. Californians have moaned about their prison guards’ perks for a while, yet have only recently plucked up the political will to do anything about them.

In rich countries no group has illustrated Olson’s work more clearly than farmers. In California’s Central Valley you can watch Californian tax dollars evaporating before your eyes as farmers guzzle most of the state’s precious water to cultivate crops that were never meant to grow in a desert. In the European Union two-fifths of the budget still goes to agriculture. In Poland farmers are exempt from income tax. Just as with the prison guards, the subsidies keep flowing to farmers largely because of conservative politicians. Although the greediest public-sector unions are firmly allied with the left (see article), the supposedly low-tax right also lavishes money on its own priorities. The new Republican leadership in Washington started its search for waste in the foreign-aid budget by trying to get the biggest recipient of American largesse, Israel, moved to the Pentagon’s budget.

Interest groups work especially well in systems like America’s where money needs to be raised and where party primaries matter. A Republican politician describes how the gun lobby works. If a Republican congressman signs up to the National Rifle Association’s agenda, he gets a little money and some organisational help from vocal supporters. If he does not, the NRA will put a lot of resources behind his opponent in the primary. Going with the NRA is thus a lot easier. Many Democrats would say exactly the same about the teachers’ unions and education reform. Opposing them is not worth the hassle.

Olson’s theory also helps explain why broad-based lobbying by big business has given way to narrower special interests. Fifty years ago California was run by a business elite, keen to keep taxes down and infrastructure spending up but with a broad interest in the well-being of the state. Since then Californian businesspeople have discovered that targeted lobbying can do a lot for their specific business. That has made it harder to get commercial interests to support projects of general benefit such as transport in the Bay area. It has also brought about an increase in regulation as individual businesses have lobbied for rule changes that create barriers to entry for other firms.

• Ever more rules and taxes. A study last year by the Pacific Research Institute said California had the fourth-largest government of all American states, with state and local spending equal to 18.3% of its gross state product. Texas, a state with which California is often compared, chewed up just 12.1% of GSP. It also looked at tax structures, and on that count California came 45th out of 50 states, with its steep income tax being especially damaging. Its tax system has been a mess ever since the dotcom boom when it relied too heavily on capital-gains taxes. As taxpayers have got crosser, the state has tried to tax them as sneakily as possible while adding tax breaks for favoured lobbies.

This points to two endemic problems with government throughout the West. The narrow one is that tax systems are in need of reform. America’s tax code has grown from 1.4m words in 2001 to 3.8m in 2010. Members of the European Union, too, have made their tax systems increasingly complicated—with the heroic exception of flat-tax Estonia. Most economists think taxes should be shifted towards consumption and away from income and investment. But whatever the system, it should be easy to understand.

The broader problem is the growing thicket of regulation—of which taxes are merely the most onerous part. Many of the new laws that have been passed in both Europe and America have admirable aims: better health care, cleaner air, less discrimination against minorities. But as Philip Howard of Common Good points out, they are amazingly cumbersome—Mr Obama’s health bill was over 2,000 pages long—and once on the statute book, they seldom come off again. One solution is to follow Texas’s example and let legislatures meet only occasionally. Another would be to introduce sunset clauses so that all regulations automatically expire after a while.

• The politics of gridlock. Sixty years ago California’s politics were rather cosy. In the early 1950s Pat Brown, Jerry’s father, who was then the Democratic attorney-general, used to share a car from Sacramento to San Francisco on Fridays with Earl Warren, the Republican governor. This year Jerry Brown in his inauguration speech described politics as a primordial battle between “Modocians” and “Alamedans” (Modoc being a rural, conservative Republican county and Alameda a liberal enclave east of San Francisco).

It is fashionable to blame this animosity on the internet and on partisan media channels such as Fox News. But it often has structural causes, such as gerrymandering. California has tended to choose centrists—liberal Republicans or conservative Democrats—in statewide elections, but the legislature’s electoral boundaries have been drawn to produce the biggest number of safe seats. That means primaries are the only real test for most politicians. Here reform may at last be on the way: Mr Schwarzenegger managed to force through an initiative that handed over redistricting to an independent commission.

But at a national level it will be a long time before America has a sensible debate about its budget deficit. George Lodge, a Harvard Business School professor who ran as a Republican against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in 1962, argues that many Western countries are now conducting a dialogue of the deaf. Conservatives want to talk about the “macro” vision (a smaller state) but not the “micro” specifics (the unpopular cuts to achieve that). Leftists want to talk about specific micro programmes they want to build up without ever discussing the macro bill for all of them.

• Towards the older middle. Given the fury from the left about bankers and from the right about welfare spongers, you would expect all that extra government spending to have been swallowed by either end of the income spectrum. In fact in California, as in most of the West, the cash has flowed mostly towards those with middle incomes and the old.

Both the rich and the poor do relatively badly out of government. The rich pay for most of it. In California the top 1% by income accounted for 43% of income-tax revenues in 2008 and the top 5% paid 64%. In America as a whole the top 1% paid 38% of federal income taxes and the top 5% paid 58%; their respective shares of national income were 20% and 38%. The wealthy pay the lion’s share in most European countries too. Getting the rich to cough up so much might be a desirable social goal in a time of great inequality, but it is hard to claim that they are not paying their share.

The poor pay virtually no income taxes, and many countries, especially in Europe, have a problem with entrenched welfare dependency. Britain, for instance, has a quarter of a million households in which no one has ever held a formal job. But overall it is not clear that the poor benefit from government transfers and benefits as much as you might expect. In America two-fifths of all “social payments” are made by the private sector through employers’ pension contributions and health plans—both spurred on by tax breaks that go mainly to middle-income Americans.

When you look at overall public spending, the gap widens. Middle-income Californians go to better schools than poor ones do. Their streets often have more policing. They are far more likely to go to a publicly financed university, to claim mortgage relief on their home, to own a farm that collects subsidies or to attend a ballet supported by public funds. Europe is different only in that it subsidises the middle classes less through tax breaks and more through “universal” benefits—things like free bus passes for the old—which often started out being targeted at the poorest but are now given out to all.

That points to another distortion, which is generational. A large number of welfare payments and social transfers are now aimed at the elderly. The huge baby-boom generation that is just about to retire will make these even more expensive. In Christopher Buckley’s political satire, “Boomsday”, America’s young eventually start bribing their self-indulgent parents to end their lives early. In his interesting book “The Pinch”, David Willetts eschews that solution for Britain’s baby-boom generation, but calculates that it will take out nearly 20% more from the system than it has put in. The first budget of the new Tory government, in which Mr Willetts is a minister, still directed money disproportionately towards the old.

Across the rich world, politicians keep on pushing money towards the middle class and the old because that is where elections are decided. People aged 65 and older still account for only 13% of America’s population, but they made up over a fifth of its electorate in 2010. No group is better organised: the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) has 40m members.

• The secession of the successful. Hollywood, Silicon Valley or any of the other places where successful Californians gather show a profound contempt for their government. At the most extreme, such people have walled themselves off in gated communities, with their own security, health services and even schools. Their main relationship with the state, at least as they see it, is to write a cheque for their taxes—and their only interest in it is that the cheque be as small as possible. Philanthropy continues, but remarkably little goes into beautifying their environment (Silicon Valley is the ugliest industrial cluster imaginable).

Similar complaints can be heard in other centres of elitism: Wall Street does not do much about the Bronx, and the City of London usually ignores the East End. Both globalisation and the internet have increased this sense of separation. Companies with strong local links have been swallowed up by larger groups. Wells Fargo used to be a powerful force in San Francisco and Security Pacific in Los Angeles; both are now part of bigger empires. The Indian tycoons in Palo Alto feel closer to Bangalore than they do to Bakersfield (and so do many of their American colleagues).

This secession has an effect on government. It makes capital, as well as businesses and talented people, more footloose, so it becomes harder to raise taxes overtly. Worst of all, the secession of the successful means that the most talented brains are largely left out of the mix. One leading California Democrat describes the list of businesspeople prepared to run a public commission as “painfully short”.

• You, yes you, are to blame. California is interesting for one final reason. Throughout most of the West, people are in denial about the consequences of wanting both more government and lower taxes. In California ballot initiatives have actually given voters a direct say. Generally they have made government worse, protecting bits of spending yet refusing to pay for it. Having voted for Mr Schwarzenegger in 2003, they deserted him the moment he tried to introduce structural reforms in 2005.

Interviewed shortly before his exit at the start of this year, the gubernator had two thoughts. One was that his successor would find reform easier because the system is more manifestly bust now than it was in 2003 (and Mr Brown is certainly having a go). The other is that Californians are still determined to get something for nothing. “People here are addicted to improving their lifestyle. They want more and more from their government.”

Is there a better way? Many of those who used to see the future in the Golden State now prefer to look across the Pacific—towards emerging Asia.

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3902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / controlling the growth of the "state" on: March 23, 2011, 12:53:45 PM
 A special report on the future of the state
Taming Leviathan
The state almost everywhere is big, inefficient and broke. It needn’t be, says John Micklethwait
Mar 17th 2011 | from the print edition
 THE argument sounds familiar. The disruptive reforms that have so changed the private sector should now be let loose on the public sector. The relationship between government and civil society has been that between master and servant; instead, it should be a partnership, with the state creating the right environment for companies and charities to do more of its work. The conclusion: “We are in a transition from a big state to a small state, and from a small society to a big society.”

A Republican presidential candidate in America? David Cameron rallying Britain’s Tories? Neither: the speaker is supposedly China’s most highly regarded bureaucrat. Last year Ma Hong won the country’s national award for government innovation—a great coup for her department, which is trying to get more non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to take over parts of welfare, health and education services in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.

The award partly reflects the whirl of activity that is Ms Ma. She has dismantled most of the controls on local NGOs: rather than be sponsored by some government department, all they have to do is register with her. She began in 2004 with industrial associations, but has extended the net to include independent charities. Almost 4,000 “social groups” are now registered—nearly double the number in 2002, when they were all tied to the state.

In this special report
The gods that have failed—so far
» Taming Leviathan «
 
California reelin'
Enemies of progress
Big society
Seize the moment
Go East, young bureaucrat
Favelous
A work in progress
Patient, heal thyself
Sources and acknowledgments
Offer to readers

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Related topics
Lawrence Summers
United Kingdom
United States
China
Over the past five years Ms Ma has paid out 400m yuan ($57m) to the NGOs for social work, mainly to do with the elderly. The groups are evaluated by third parties on things like their corporate governance: the higher their rating, the more money she trusts them with. She provides training in social work and tax advice. She would like donations to more NGOs to be tax-deductible, as in the West.

Ms Ma has studied what works elsewhere. In Hong Kong, where she trained in 2005, some 90% of social work is done by NGOs, paid for by the state. Like many Chinese bureaucrats, she also admires Singapore—especially its balance between easy registration for NGOs and stern punishment if they underperform. She wants her social groups to become the engines of Chinese society “just as private companies are in the economy”.

Even allowing for Ms Ma’s dynamism, there was, as so often in China, a message implied in her award. The country’s rulers are acutely aware that their government does not serve ordinary Chinese well. Back in 2007 the five-yearly Congress of the Communist Party embraced “scientific development” to create “a harmonious society”. Shenzhen is supposed to be the showcase for a new public sector, just as it showed the rest of the country how to embrace capitalism 30 years ago. The city has classified some 280 government functions as “social” ones, which means they can be contracted out to Ms Ma’s NGOs.

It is not hard to poke holes in China’s version of the Big Society, as we shall see later in this special report. But there is plainly a drive to make government work a little more like the private sector. “Just as a human has two legs, China has a very long economic one and a very short social one,” observes Ms Ma. “They should be of equal length.”

Many Western politicians feel the same way about their own bloated and inefficient governments. The immediate problem is the financial crisis: governments have had to spend furiously, both to prop up their banks and ward off a depression. With the average gross debt burden in OECD countries just over 100% of GDP and sovereign-debt markets fearful of another Greece or Ireland, every government, even America’s, is under pressure to produce a credible plan to shrink its deficit.

What is government for?

Costly though it has been, the financial crisis has merely brought forward a fiscal reckoning. In most of the rich world ageing populations have been driving up the cost of public health care and state pensions. Emerging countries that are becoming richer, such as China and India, are now wondering what sort of state they need to meet their citizens’ demands for better schools, health care and infrastructure.

Indeed, the fiery argument about capitalism prompted by the credit crunch has obscured a nascent, and much broader, debate about the nature of government. The future of the state is likely to dominate politics for the next decade at least. How can government be made more efficient? What should it do and not do? To whom should it answer? Ms Ma is one voice in this, but so are the anti-tax tea-party activists in America, French workers protesting against later retirement and British parents trying to set up independent schools with state money.

This special report’s central argument is that Leviathan can be made far more efficient. The state has woefully lagged behind the private sector. Catching up is not just a case of nuts-and-bolts productivity improvements but of liberal principle: too often an institution that, at least in a democracy, was supposed to be the people’s servant has become their master.

But nobody should expect that to be easy. The vested interests opposing change are huge: the state’s growth has been encouraged by the right as well as the left, by favour-seeking companies as well as public-sector unions, by voters as well as bureaucrats. Indeed, given the pressures for ever larger government, many reformers feel they will have to work hard just to keep it at its present size.

Government has always tended to expand (see table 1), and people have always fretted about it. In 1888 a French economist, Pierre Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, calculated that a share of 12-13% of GDP (just above the Western average then) was the sustainable limit for a modern state. By 1960 sprawling welfare states had pushed the average in the rich world to 28% (see chart 2), enough to convince Friedrich Hayek that “the deliberately organised forces of society [ie, government regulation]” might “destroy those spontaneous forces which have made advance possible.” Yet the next quarter-century saw another surge, pushed mainly by transfer payments and subsidies ostensibly aimed at the poor but often of most benefit to the middle classes.

This sparked a counterblast to halt Leviathan, led by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. By the 1990s many people thought that global capitalism would stop the state’s advance. This was the decade, after all, when Bill Clinton and other leaders declared the end of big government; when left-wingers claimed (inaccurately) that half the world’s biggest economies were multinational firms; when the emerging world was embracing the Washington consensus of deregulation: and when industrial policy mainly meant hanging on to golden shares in privatised companies. A special report in this newspaper, published in 1997, examined the then fashionable idea that the state was withering away. Its author, Clive Crook, now at the Financial Times, argued that it was not.

He has been proved right several times over. In continental Europe, where the state’s share of the economy was already pretty big, it has not risen that much. However, in America a Republican, George Bush, pushed up spending more than any president since Lyndon Johnson. In Britain New Labour became even less parsimonious: the state’s share of GDP rose from under 37% in 2000 to 44% in 2007; with the British economy struggling, it then jumped to 51% in 2010.

Share of GDP is not the only way to measure state power. “Big governance” can be just as costly to an economy as big government. Some 1,000 pages of federal regulations were added each year Mr Bush was in office. A quarter of a million Americans have jobs devising and implementing federal rules. The European Union has also produced a thicket of red tape. Some are prompted by the left (diversity, health and safety), others by the right (closed-circuit cameras, the war on drugs).

Or look at the state’s role in business. In the 1990s privatisation seemed to have settled that argument. Now state capitalism has returned, sometimes accidentally (several banks have become government-controlled) but often intentionally. Many of the new industrial champions of the emerging world are state-owned, and industrial policy is no longer a rude expression even in Anglo-Saxon countries.

There is a belief in boardrooms and among America’s tax-cutting right that a monstrous, ever-growing state is the creature of make-work bureaucrats and leftist politicians, and sometimes that is true. But often the beast is responding to popular demand. Globalisation, for instance, has increased many people’s reliance on the state: greater job insecurity among the middle classes has increased the calls for bigger safety nets, and the greater inequality that comes with bigger markets has made voters keener on redistribution. Or look at the threat of terrorism, to which the knee-jerk response on America’s right was to build up the government in Washington. As Stephen Walt, a professor at Harvard, puts it, “when September 11th happened, nobody rang Bill Gates or the Open Society Institute.”

The next battle

The recent advance of government is once again prompting a fightback. The Republicans’ victory in the 2010 mid-term elections was hailed as a return to small-government conservatism. Bruised rather than reinforced by his huge health-care reform, Mr Obama is limping back to the centre, suddenly promising businesspeople that he will rein in regulation. In Britain Mr Cameron’s government is pushing ahead with reforms that will slim some departments by a fifth. And even in big government’s continental European core, private-sector workers are reacting with fury to the perks their public-sector cousins enjoy at their expense. The German Language Society’s word of the year for 2010 was Wutbürger (irate citizen).

But will this fury stop Leviathan’s advance? Some scepticism is in order. None of the continental European government-slashers is really trying to change the structure of the state. Mr Cameron’s attempt offers a better chance of genuine radicalism, though even his savagery will take back the size of Britain’s state only to its level in 2008. The tea-party Republicans seem to be all milk and no caffeine: their first budget proposal did not touch defence or the three great entitlement programmes, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Like the apocryphal sign at a tea-party rally last year, warning government to keep its “hands off my Medicare”, they are refusing to confront reality.

Nor is it just spineless politicians who are at fault. A lot of economic theorists have predicted an ever larger state since Adolph Wagner linked its growth to industrialisation in the 19th century. The Baumol cost effect is often cited. In the 1960s William Baumol and William Bowen used the example of classical music to show that some activities are not susceptible to improvements in labour productivity. You still need the same number of musicians to play a Beethoven symphony as you did in the 19th century, even though real wages for musicians have risen since then. Larry Summers, Mr Obama’s main economic adviser till the end of 2010, argues that the goods governments buy, especially health care and education, have proved much more resistant to productivity enhancements than the rest of the economy. Since the 1970s real wages in America have risen tenfold if you measure them against the cost of televisions; set against the cost of health care, they have gone down.

Mr Summers expects that trend to continue. An ageing population will need ever more health services provided by the state. Better education means longer school years, smaller classes and more after-school activities, all of which cost more. Greater inequality will mean greater redistribution. In Italy and France cash social transfers alone take up 19% of GDP. The pressure to spend more is continuous, Mr Summers points out, whereas things that reduce the size of government tend to produce one-off savings: the end of the cold war, for instance, took a slice out of defence spending, but that was it.

Mr Summers has a lot of history on his side. This special report takes a more optimistic view. To start with, it is not inevitable that spending will keep on going up. Countries such as Canada and Sweden have reduced public spending when they had to. Moreover, some governments are massively more efficient than others, and there are huge gains to be achieved merely by bad governments copying what good governments do—such as planning ahead, backing winners and rewarding people for doing the right thing. With a smaller central core and much more competition for the provision of services, most governments could do the same for much less.

Most of this special report will focus on that overdue reorganisation. A second set of reforms, for which there is still less political appetite at the moment, would retarget government spending—especially adjusting social transfers (a category that in America’s national accounts rose from 8% of GDP in 1970 to 16% in 2009). Benefits that have become middle-class boondoggles should be redirected at the poor.

Not all of history is on the pessimists’ side. Fifty years ago companies seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. Business has since changed shape dramatically. The state can catch up by doing many of the same things business did to transform itself, not least bringing in competition and rethinking what it should do itself and what it should contract out to others. And the state, too, has changed shape in the past. In 19th century Britain, for instance, liberal reformers dismantled the patronage state of rotten boroughs and bought offices, building up a professional civil service. Government got leaner and much more efficient. It can surely do so again.

Second, even if Mr Summers is right that the state is unlikely to shrink, there is still a vast amount of work to be done to make it deliver more for the same money and become much more accountable. The ramifications are huge—for people, the economy and society.

Reasons to change

On a personal level, the state matters because it has a big impact on people’s lives. As Geoff Mulgan observes in his excellent book on the state, “Good and Bad Power”, the quality of the state you live in will do more to determine your well-being than natural resources, culture or religion. In the surveys that measure people’s happiness, decent government is as important as education, income and health (all of which are themselves dependent on government).

To business, government can make an enormous difference. Most obviously, if the state accounts for half the economy then improving any part of that will create better conditions for growth. Even if government were to cost the same but produce more (better-educated workers, decent health care, roads without holes, simpler regulation), the effect on private-sector productivity would be electric.

For society, the debate about the state matters because liberalism is on trial. “The challenge of Western democracy is always presented as one to do with transparency and accountability,” reflects Tony Blair, who served as Britain’s prime minister for ten years. “In fact it is really a challenge of efficacy. Our politicians on the whole are not corrupt. But they are not delivering the services people want. The emerging world is deciding what sort of government it wants. It looks at us and sees a system that costs a lot and does not deliver enough.” Another prominent Western politician goes further, seeing government as an increasing problem for the West too. “If it carries on as it is, eventually our own voters may also be more tempted by ‘something that makes the trains run on time’.”

A host of books have recently been singing the praises of China’s authoritarian approach. This special report will look at that model, but it will focus on the rich world, where most of the problems and solutions are to be found. No place better illustrates the troubles of the public sector than California, the American state that has become synonymous with private-sector ingenuity.

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3903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 22, 2011, 10:48:05 AM
Maybe we should forget "doctrines".  Every situation is unique and to tie us down with doctrines doesn't really make sense.
Maybe we simply do what is best for the US period in each given situation.

I am of the opinion we should either go arrest the Colonel for war crimes (using new evidence he ordered Lockerbie), or simply assasinate him.

To go about these military/political rituals for this ONE guy is nuts.

That said I don't see how he can survive long unless we let him.  And letting him do that for political reasons just doesn't seem worth it.  Either kill the guy or attempt to arrest him.  IF necessary to appease the libs arrest the guy and have the mock war crimes trial drag on for years while the ACLU gives him all the lawyers he needs and go through the silly spectacle of giving him them the motions of a justice system and then hang him anyway.

 
3904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 21, 2011, 06:32:08 PM
Numerous articles in this week's Economist mag. delving into the issue of how much government is good and bad.  The world wide trend is for less government at least in the West.  All over Europe are movements that are akin to the Tea Party here in the US.  The Economist also seems seems to come down on the side that too much gov. is bad, is like a tsunami that is impossible to stop from growing and is leading the West to financial ruin.

Great Britain is actually leading the way to reign in on the costs of an out of control state.

GB is also going the opposite way on health care that the lobs here in the US are praising them for.

After reading several articles one can only conclude as we here on this board have already believed that Bamster, to the contrary of what he and his liberal cronies allege are not on the right side of history, but instead are on the WRONG side of history.

And this leads me to believe that this is the fundamental issue to take him on for '12. 

The two problems in convincing a majority that he is the one who is wrong and pushing us the wrong way are:

50 % pay no taxes.  So this groups has to be convinced despite the bribes, that this situation is not sustainable.

The other is Republicans MUST in my small time opinion address the wealth gap and how the middle class is not going to continue falling behind and ever more government entitlements paid for by taxpayers including years of retirement, health care, is not the answer to sustain a middle class lifestyle.

 
3905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: March 21, 2011, 12:50:13 PM
As a lover of animals:

BERLIN (AP) -- Veterinary experts performed a necropsy Monday on Berlin zoo's celebrity polar bear Knut to try to determine why he died suddenly over the weekend.

The four-year-old polar bear died Saturday afternoon in front of visitors, turning around several times and then dropping to the ground, and falling into the water in his enclosure.

Polar bears usually live 15 to 20 years in the wild, and even longer in captivity, and the zoo is hoping the investigation may help clarify what happened.

Results were expected later Monday or on Tuesday, the zoo said.

In the meantime, people continued to flock to the zoo to sign their name in a condolence book in tribute to Knut.

"Every visit to the Zoo brought happiness, because he was such a warmhearted animal and he brought us all so much fun," visitor Eveline Plat told AP Television News.

Knut was rejected by his mother at birth, along with his twin brother, who only survived a couple of days. He attracted attention when his main caregiver, Thomas Doerflein, camped out at the zoo to give the button-eyed cub his bottle every two hours. The bear went on to appear on magazine covers, in a film and on mountains of merchandise.

Doerflein, the zookeeper who raised him, died in 2008 of a heart attack.

Soon after Knut and Doerflein's first public appearance in early 2007, fan clubs sprang up across the globe. "Knutmania" led to a 2007 Vanity Fair cover with actor Leonardo DiCaprio shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz, a film and plush Knut toys.

Zoo spokeswoman Claudia Beinek said that they had to set up another condolence book online to accommodate the outpouring of sympathy from around the world for the polar bear.

In addition, the zoo said it was starting a special account to accept donations on Knut's behalf, which will be used for polar bear research and the preservation of their habitat.

"He has brought joy to us, the Berliners and many others around the world," the zoo said in a statement. "Knut also was an icon for the endangerment of his species and natural habitats of all wild animals."

 
3906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Twain.What horse poop on: March 19, 2011, 12:54:37 PM
Shania Twain 'Why Not' airing in May
March 18, 2011 01:45 PM EDT
Shania Twain's new show, Why Not, will begin airing on OWN, on Sunday, May 8. On the show, the country superstar will share her innermost feelings about her failed marriage and her journey to a new beginning. She does so by heading out in to the world to meet people who have inspirational stories of survival after "deep life
struggles."

**What a joke.  The multimillionairess got divorced.  She is already remarried.***

Twain will go on a tour of sorts to talk with people who have overcome hardships and who have asked themselves the question, "why or why not?" The show will encompass all that Twain has gone through privately over the past couple of years, and will embrace her voyage back to the top.

***Voyage back to the top?  Another joke.  The issue is she has no songs, no music, couldn't right a song lyric to save her life, and if she could and had the creative talent she would cut an album and it would be back on the radio in minutes.***

OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) is a great outlet for Shania Twain to really reach out to people who want to listen. Oprah was very cautious in choosing which shows she would have on her network, and Twain's sounds as though it fits in with the type of inspirational, educative, and stimulating shows that are already airing on OWN.

***the show will be a flop.  Twain is a simpleton with no personality.  One person who apparently is in the know called her the "biggest bitch in Nashville".  Unfornately, I can't prove it but I can only allege all the hits she claim she wrote were stolen (lyrics).  Perhaps Mutt Lange did come up with the melodies I don't have any clue about those.***

There are so many people who love and support Twain, and want to see her succeed. Her divorce was very shocking to the watching world, who have yet to see her publicly regain her confidence and her spirit. Why Not will showcase her journey back to the top.

***So many people who love and support Twain.  Of course, they love her for the wonderful lady she is, not they want to make tons of money promoting her.***

3907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / school bullying a Federal crime??? on: March 19, 2011, 12:33:15 PM
With all the white collar crime in this country what the crazy One thinks is important is to hire and maintain a large civil rights staff at the DOJ, "Democrat Party Of Justice" is to troll for bullying at school.   The Prez is a nut.

****DOJ to white male bullying victims: Tough luck

Kerry Picket
Published on March 18, 2011
viral video sensation showing a bullying incident at an Australian school has brought the issue of bullying back into the spotlight. Here in the United States, the Obama administration has made school bullying a federal issue. Last week, President Barack Obama addressed an anti-bullying conference with First Lady Michelle Obama at his side. The administration's anti-bullying campaign has been ongoing since the beginning of Mr. Obama's term.  The Department of Justice announced in December 2010 its intention to hold liable school districts that fail to protect students that are bullied.

DOJ’s website states:

The Civil Rights Division and the entire Justice Department are committed to ending bullying and harassment in schools, and the video highlights the Department’s authority to enforce federal laws that protect students from discrimination and harassment at school because of their race, national origin, disability, religion, and sex, including harassment based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes.

The statement later says:

The enforcement of the Equal Protection Clause, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in school districts is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information is available at the Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section website at www.justice.gov/crt/edo/.

Here is the catch. DOJ will only investigate bullying cases if the victim is considered protected under the 1964 Civil Rights legislation. In essence, only discrimination against a victim’s race, sex, national origin, disability, or religion will be considered by DOJ. The overweight straight white male who is verbally and/or physically harassed because of his size can consider himself invisible to the Justice Department.

Apparently, the Justice Department is going by George Orwell’s famous Animal Farm ending: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

 “We can only take action where we have legal authority,” wrote DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa in a December 2010 e-mail to The Washington Times Water Cooler. She continues:

“As stated in the website below, we are statutorily authorized to initiate suits under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, and under Title III of the American with Disabilities Act. More information on the Civil Rights Act, Equal Educational Opportunities Act, and the ADA can be found here:

http://www.justice.gov/crt/edo/faq.php#3 "



 The Justice Department’s anti-bullying initiative is tantamount to bringing hate crime legislation to the public school system. Obviously, not only is the heterosexual white male student out of luck but  inner city minority students lose out in this deal too.

 If a schoolyard bully is a straight black male and his target is another straight black male where does that leave the victim in the eyes of Attorney General Eric Holder? What about two female students of the same sexual orientation and race?  Is the victim in the latter situation considered to be less equal in the eyes of Obama’s Justice Department than a minority student who is picked on by a heterosexual white male student with no disabilities?

 Unfortunately, the Justice Department is politicizing its priorities yet again. One must wonder why the administration believes it should be micro managing local school districts bullying problems. When the Justice Department is more interested in making ideological statements through seemingly sugar coated campaigns, no one should feel protected.****

3908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 18, 2011, 04:11:56 PM
Strategy of going after the "white working class" "defined as those without college degrees".

I smile when the author points out how "Clinton figured out" a way to get these voters in his camp.  Well, despite the screw up by WHBush throwing away a 90% approval rating in 1992 and a three way race for the Presidency, and a very weak candidate in Dole,  Clinton still never got more than 48% of the vote. I guess, despite Dems furious bribes to people with more and more taxpayer money this is a center right country.


The lib armies are already trying push this strategy to make the union issue in Wisconsin a "middle class issue".   They are actually trying to persuade most Americans that government spending for public union workers is great for all.     
3909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 18, 2011, 03:40:19 PM
"no one seemed to question Reagan much for an attempted assassination of a foreign leader"

Good point.  Except for some hypocrite-Hollywood types I believe the sense was Reagan finally did the common sense thing.

I don't recall people sitting around ringing their hands wondering who would have replaced him if the attempt had succeeded.

We have a murderer slaughtering his own people.  If the "Colonel" (why not "general" or "admiral" anyway?) and his son got executed their regime would collapse.

Could it actually be any worse?
3910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: March 18, 2011, 02:33:03 PM
Interesting read.  I just watched a Globetrekker episode where they visited two plantations in Lousianna.

(who needs to travel anymore - we get to see the world on TV)

The first one was beautiful but lacked ANY mention whatsoever that it was a slave plantation.  No remains of slave quarters, pictures, etc.

The one down the road had the remains of one slave house and spoke of the issue during the tour.

Again Southerners can call me a Yankee if they want but this whitewash of is no different than say Germans covering the site of Auschwitz with a beer hall.

Blacks have every right to be angry.   

Forget Haley Barbour.  I've read enough about him.
3911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 18, 2011, 02:23:47 PM
"hook up their exercise machines to run the lights and charge the iphones"

And environmentalist elistist basketball players should give up basketball and take up treadmills to power their batterries. cheesy
3912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 18, 2011, 12:18:37 PM
"Just as there are long term, potentially negative consequences for acting, there can be the same for failing to act. Power vacuums never go unfilled."

Well, that is the problem.  Khaddafi, Qaddafi, Gaddafi, or however it is spelled, leaves and what replaces him?

Again we have a vaccuum and the US is in the middle.  I don't know.  I tend to agree with those who feel we have enough on our plate.  On this point I agree with Gates.

Or just kill the Ghaddafi and get it over with.
3913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 18, 2011, 10:51:31 AM
Nobody is "writing off nuclear power".

But we shouldn't be building them in earthquake zones perhaps.
3914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 18, 2011, 10:12:43 AM
OK now he is the "weakest" prez in history?  He is not liberal enough.  The guy who with the Dem leadership in both houses rammed the biggest soicalistic agenda down all our throats is suddenly not strong enough?  The left still is in denial.  He is not falling in poll numbers because he is not liberal enough.  They refuse to get it.
Madcow was on the other night saying how the media is not covering the story in Wisconsin enough.  She thinks it is huge and they are not covering it.  The Miami mayor got fired for raising taxes and giving pay raises to gov employees.  Just the opposite of her tirades.  Yet, they ignore the truth.  They still want to demaguage this to death and the country into the sewer.

Can anyone believe the insanity of below's article with statements like:

"Ditto the country’s ecological health; the American love affair with the car and oil remains undiminished despite any alleged commitment. But the White House appears to shy away from any tough action."

These are the same liberal people who were the first to condemn Bush for Iraq and Afghanistan.

****President Barack Obama's supporters believed that he had the vision to transform America
Friday March 18,2011
By Anna Pukas 
INEFFECTUAL, invisible, unable to honour pledges and now blamed for letting Gaddafi off the hook. Why Obama’s gone from ‘Yes we can’ to ‘Er, maybe we shouldn’t’...

Let us cast our minds back to those remarkable days in November 2008 when the son of a Kenyan goatherd was elected to the White House. It was a bright new dawn – even brighter than the coming of the Kennedys and their new Camelot. JFK may be considered as being from an ethnic and religious minority – Irish and Catholic – but he was still very rich and very white. Barack Obama, by contrast, was a true breakthrough president. The world would change because obviously America had changed.

Obama’s campaign slogan was mesmerisingly simple and brimming with self-belief: “Yes we can.” His presidency, however, is turning out to be more about “no we won’t.” Even more worryingly, it seems to be very much about: “Maybe we can… do what, exactly?“ The world feels like a dangerous place when leaders are seen to lack certitude but the only thing President Obama seems decisive about is his indecision. What should the US do about Libya? What should the US do about the Middle East in general? What about the country’s crippling debts? What is the US going to do about Afghanistan, about Iran?

What is President Obama doing about anything? The most alarming answer – your guess is as good as mine – is also, frankly, the most accurate one. What the President is not doing is being clear, resolute and pro-active, which is surely a big part of his job description. This is what he has to say about the popular uprising in Libya: “Gaddafi must go.” At least, that was his position on March 3.

Since then, other countries – most notably Britain and France – have been calling for some kind of intervention. Even the Arab League, a notoriously conservative organisation, has declared support for sanctions. But from the White House has come only the blah-blah of bland statements filled with meaningless expressions
and vague phrases. Of decisive action and leadership – even of clearlydefined opinion – there is precious little sign.

What is the Obama administration’s position on the protests in the Gulf island state of Bahrain, which the authorities there are savagely suppressing with the help of troops shipped in from Saudi Arabia? What is the White House view on the alarming prospect of the unrest spreading to Saudi Arabia itself? Who knows? Certainly not the American people, nor the leaders of nations which would consider themselves allies of America.

The President has not really shared his views, which leads us to conclude that he either doesn’t know or chooses, for reasons best known to himself, not to say. The result is that a very real opportunity to remove an unpredictable despot from power may well have been lost. Who knows when or if such an opportunity will come along again?

Every day for almost the last two months our television screens, radio broadcasts and the pages of our newspapers have been filled with the pictures, sounds and words of the most tumultuous events any of us can remember in the Arab world. The outcome of these events, once the dust has settled, could literally change the world. Yet Obama seems content to sit this one out. He has barely engaged in the debate. Such ostrich-like behaviour is not untypical of the 49-year-old President who burst through America’s colour barrier to become the first African-American to occupy the White House.

Two days after taking office in January 2009, he pledged to close down the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, which has become notorious for holding detainees for years without trial. Obama promised to lose the prison within 12 months and to abolish the practice of military trials of terrorism suspects. It was an important promise. America’s reputation had been severely tarnished by revelations about the conditions at Guantanamo, by reports of waterboarding and extraordinary rendition (transporting prisoners to a third country for torture) and by the appalling treatment of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Closing Guantanamo was a redemptive gesture. Two years on, not only is the prison still in use but its future is as assured as ever. Ten days ago, the President signed an executive order reinstating the military commissions at the island prison. Human rights organisations were outraged. “With the stroke of a pen, President Obama extinguished any lingering hope that his administration would return the United States to the rule of law,” said Amnesty International while Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, declared the President’s action to be “unlawful, unwise and un-American.”

White House spokesmen insisted the President was still committed to closing Guantanamo, which currently has 172 detainees in custody. It was Congress, they said, that had refused to sanction the transfer of the prisoners to the US mainland for trial, leaving no option but to keep the prison open in Cuba. Very little has been achieved in the quest to secure peace in the Middle East. Under Obama, US foreign policy is founded on extreme caution. At first this cool-headedness was a welcome change from the naked aggression of George W Bush and his henchmen Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

It is also true that the President is constantly stymied by a hostile, Republican-ruled Congress. But Obama’s apparent reluctance to engage with momentous events is starting to look like more than aloofness. Some tempering of America’s role as the world’s No1 busybody may be no bad thing but under Obama the US appears to be heading towards isolationism. He is hardly doing much better at home. Economically, the US is in big trouble but the national debt is not shrinking.

Ditto the country’s ecological health; the American love affair with the car and oil remains undiminished despite any alleged commitment. But the White House appears to shy away from any tough action. The energy with which Obama entered the White House seems to have all gone in the push to bring in health care reform, which many Americans didn’t want (or still don’t realise they want).

All of which means that it is starting to look as if Obama and the Democratic Party have but one aim in mind for the rest of this presidential term: to get elected for a second. That means not doing anything that might upset any number of special interest or niche groups, which in effect means not doing very much at all. So, not too many harsh but necessary measures to tackle the financial deficit; no clear direction on where America goes with Afghanistan, even though the war there is going nowhere except from bad to worse.

The Obama government can’t even give clear direction on whether the American people are in danger of exposure to nuclear fallout from Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin advised San Francisco residents to stock up on radiation antidotes, prompting a run on potassium iodide pills, while the President said experts had assured him that any harmful radiation would have receded long before reaching the Western shores of the US.

Yes we can was a noble and powerful mantra which secured for Barack Obama the leadership of the free world. Those than can, do. It is time he started doing.

3915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: March 16, 2011, 02:35:11 PM
PS,
I remember travelling to Lehigh to see Timothy Leary give a lecture in the mid 70's.

My impression was he was brain damaged due to too much LSD.  He was somewhat incoherent, rambling, almost "Sheen-like" saying something about space colonies.  That is all I remember.  My friend was also as less than impressed.

OTOH, maybe it wasn't the acid but was Harvard that did that to him.
3916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: March 16, 2011, 02:29:35 PM
"He was a fanatical carnivore who once said that eating broccoli may have contributed to a heart attack several years ago."

LOL -

I remember reading the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in the seventies.  Then seeing the movie One Flew Over the Coockoos Nest.  Tom Wolfe came to our college to speak.
I guess a movie on 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' is coming out this year?

I was never a big Dead fan though.

***The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a work of literary journalism by Tom Wolfe, published in 1968. Using techniques from the genre of hysterical realism and pioneering new journalism, the "nonfiction novel" tells the story of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters. The book follows the Pranksters across the country driving in a psychedelic painted school bus dubbed "Furthur," reaching what they considered to be personal and collective revelations through the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs. The novel also describes the Acid Tests, early performances by The Grateful Dead, and Kesey's exile to Mexico.

In 1968, Eliot Fremont-Smith of The New York Times called The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test "not simply the best book on hippies… [but also] the essential book."[1]

Film adaptation
A film adaptation of the book is in development for a 2011 release. It will be directed by Gus Van Sant.[2]
3917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Like the kamikazees of WW2 on: March 16, 2011, 02:16:17 PM
Reminds me of the suicidal fighting of the Japanese during WW2.  Kamikazees.  Clint Eastwood's movie about the diary from Iwo Jima was moving in this regard.  Of course I am not trying to white wash history.  The Japanese were particularly holocaust-like cruel to Chinese, Koreans, American prisoners of war, Phillipinos and everywhere else.   

http://frank.mtsu.edu/~dfrisby/kinryu.pdf
3918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MaureenDowd:enough is enough on: March 16, 2011, 02:04:37 PM
In Search of Monsters
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: March 12, 2011
 
The Iraq war hawks urging intervention in Libya are confident that there’s no way Libya could ever be another Iraq.

Of course, they never thought Iraq would be Iraq, either.

All President Obama needs to do, Paul Wolfowitz asserts, is man up, arm the Libyan rebels, support setting up a no-fly zone and wait for instant democracy.

It’s a cakewalk.

Didn’t we arm the rebels in Afghanistan in the ’80s? And didn’t many become Taliban and end up turning our own weapons on us? And didn’t one mujahadeen from Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden, go on to lead Al Qaeda?

So that worked out well.

Even now, with our deficit and military groaning from two wars in Muslim countries, interventionists on the left and the right insist it’s our duty to join the battle in a third Muslim country.

“It is both morally right and in America’s strategic interest to enable the Libyans to fight for themselves,” Wolfowitz wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.

You would think that a major architect of the disastrous wars and interminable occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq would have the good manners to shut up and take up horticulture. But the neo-con naif has no shame.

After all, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates told West Point cadets last month, “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Gates boldly batted back the Cakewalk Brigade — which includes John McCain, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry — bluntly telling Congress last week: “Let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts.”

Wolfowitz, Rummy’s No. 2 in W.’s War Department, pushed to divert attention from Afghanistan and move on to Iraq; he pressed the canards that Saddam and Osama were linked and that we were in danger from Saddam’s phantom W.M.D.s; he promised that the Iraq invasion would end quickly and gleefully; he slapped back Gen. Eric Shinseki when he said securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops; and he claimed that rebuilding Iraq would be paid for with Iraqi oil revenues.

How wrong, deceptive and deadly can you be and still get to lecture President Obama on his moral obligations?

Wolfowitz was driven to invade Iraq and proselytize for the Libyan rebels partly because of his guilt over how the Bush I administration coldly deserted the Shiites and Kurds who were urged to rise up against Saddam at the end of the 1991 gulf war. Saddam sent out helicopters to slaughter thousands. (A NATO no-fly zone did not stop that.)

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is also monstrous, slaughtering civilians and hiring mercenaries to kill rebels.

It’s hard to know how to proceed, but in his rush, Wolfowitz never even seems to have a good understanding of the tribal thickets he wants America to wade into. In Foreign Affairs, Frederic Wehrey notes that “for four decades Libya has been largely terra incognita ... ‘like throwing darts at balloons in a dark room,’ as one senior Western diplomat put it to me.”

Leslie Gelb warns in The Daily Beast that no doubt some rebels are noble fighters, but some “could turn out to be thugs, thieves, and would-be new dictators. Surely, some will be Islamic extremists. One or more might turn into another Col. Qaddafi after gaining power. Indeed, when the good colonel led the Libyan coup in 1969, many right-thinking Westerners thought him to be a modernizing democrat.”

Reformed interventionist David Rieff, who wrote the book “At the Point of a Gun,” which criticizes “the messianic dream of remaking the world in either the image of American democracy or of the legal utopias of international human rights law,” told me that after Iraq: “America doesn’t have the credibility to make war in the Arab world. Our touch in this is actually counterproductive.”

He continued: “Qaddafi is a terrible man, but I don’t think it’s the business of the United States to overthrow him. Those who want America to support democratic movements and insurrections by force if necessary wherever there’s a chance of them succeeding are committing the United States to endless wars of altruism. And that’s folly.”

He quotes John Quincy Adams about America: “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy ... she is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

As for Wolfowitz, Rieff notes drily, “He should have stayed a mathematician.”

3919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 16, 2011, 11:59:14 AM
Doug I am sure this picture is more or less recyled.  It looks familiar.

One could just as easily substitute Bamster making March madness picks with a bunch of hoopsters while Japan, the Middle East, our financial insitutions, the budget mess, and everything else is burning down.

I remember someone telling us a supposedly true story about Reggie Jackson getting on an elevator in the WWTC with an old lady in the 1980's.  He had a dog with him and at some point on the way down shouted sit!  The lady not the dog sat down in the elevator.  And Jackson reportedly looked at her incredulous and kind of embarassed and told her he was talking to the dog.  Well I told that story to someone who told it to an old timer.  The old timer said that is an old story that gets recycled every generation or so.  He heard the same story with Jackie Robinson in the 50's.

Well low and behold a few weeks later I am reading the sports section in my local paper and one of the sports writers told this hilarious story about Reggie Jackson!  It was the same one I had just heard and soon found out was a crock of crap.   I am sure he felt like he had egg on his face when he found it is was all BS.
3920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / libs distorting truth as usual on: March 16, 2011, 11:32:28 AM
Miami mayor recalled for raising taxes.  HIs recall was rightly called a tax revolt by Fox yet liberal news outlet *Time* twists the truth saying he was fired for bravely increasing taxes so as not to cut government benefits and trying to claim it was to preserve "critical departments like fire and police".   Libs are also trying to tie this somehow in their favor to the recall attempt by Democrat machine operatives in Wisconsin saying politicians better watch out.  Thye must be sorely frustrated that the MIami mayor is recalled for raising taxes not cutting government benefits:

Alvarez Recall: Miami-Dade Prepares to Vote Out Mayor
 By TIM PADGETT / MIAMI Tim Padgett / Miami – Mon Mar 14, 6:45 pm ET
Politicians often do the right thing wrongly. Democrats are mistaken to think we can stanch our hemorrhaging budgets without cutting entitlements, but Republicans are just as delusional to suggest it can be done without raising taxes. Carlos Alvarez, the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County, or greater Miami, understood this. And so, staring at the revenue free fall caused by South Florida's housing collapse, he engineered a property-tax increase last year to plug a near half-billion-dollar budget hole and keep critical departments like fire and police from being, as he said, "gutted."

Problem was, taking that step during the Great Recession, when Miami-Dade unemployment was approaching 13%, meant that you and your administration better be models of fiscal responsibility. But it turned out that Alvarez, one of the few Miami politicos with a reputation for probity, was at the same time raising high-level staffers' salaries as high as 15% while calling for a 5% cut for county workers; he also used his government car allowance to help pay for a new luxury BMW 550i Gran Turismo. Couple that with the fact that the Miami-Dade County Commission, which passed Alvarez's tax hike, is widely considered a feckless body - many of its members recently ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in police overtime costs with the all-too-common practice of using cops as their personal chauffeurs - and you can expect a bruising backlash. (See 25 crimes of the century.)

It looks like that's coming on March 15, when Alvarez will face a recall vote. "We've all been complaining about the quality of our government for a long time, and now we finally have a chance to do something about it," said Norman Braman, the Miami billionaire who led the recall-petition drive, after casting his anti-Alvarez ballot when early voting opened last week. Polls indicate that Alvarez probably won't be parking his beemer in the mayor's downtown-Miami space much longer. According to a March 6 Bendixen survey, 67% of Miami-Dade voters want to dump him. And when and if they do, Miami and its dysfunctional civics are likely to become a new rallying point for the antigovernment wave that swept so many ultra-conservative candidates - including Florida's controversial new governor, Rick Scott - into office last year.

The fall of Alvarez, who was first elected in 2004, would be resounding. Before the recession hit, he was riding high: Miami's housing boom was like a never-ending South Beach party, and in 2007 he won a referendum that gave the mayor, occupying a then relatively weak post, broad new powers that residents hoped would check the incompetent county commission. (Alvarez aides say that was the reason for the staff raises: the new mayoral powers thrust additional duties on the office.) (See "40 Under 40: The Rising Stars of American Politics.")

But though he handily won re-election in 2008, Alvarez may have overestimated Miami-Dade's new mayoral mandate as the recessionary hurricane bore down on South Florida. Even his accomplishments soon came under critical scrutiny, including the deal he and the county commission inked with the Florida Marlins for a new downtown baseball stadium, which in many respects now looks like a sweeter arrangement for a fat-cat sports franchise than for a struggling, low-wage county. Meanwhile, the 13-member county commission remains as clueless as ever. It hardly blinked, for example, when the Miami Herald last fall reported that Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz is the director of a construction firm hired to do work at Miami International Airport, which is overseen by the commission. Diaz claims he never directly voted to give the firm contracts, but the Herald found that companies that have won airport concessions have in turn employed his firm.

All of which was too much for Braman and other Alvarez critics, who were able to secure almost twice the number of petition signatures needed to force a mayoral recall vote. Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who reportedly warned a political rival in 2002 during a debate that she'd "leave here in a body bag," also faces a recall, and four other commissioners may confront one soon. After exhausting his appeals to nullify the petition last month, Alvarez curtly stuck by his fateful tax-increase decision. "I recommended a budget that preserves services," he said. (See the top 10 unfortunate political one-liners.)

But he did it, as far as many if not most Miamians are concerned, while he and the county commission preserved their privileges. In the process, they handed more leverage to controversial watchdogs like Braman - who, as an owner of car dealerships, has used his financial clout to kill sales-tax levies for badly needed public-transportation improvements in Miami. If Alvarez and Seijas (who voted with seven other commissioners for the property-tax hike) are toppled on March 15, their political tone-deafness will only have made it harder for the next politician to do the right thing when it's warranted.

3921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 15, 2011, 01:55:48 PM
" On the whole, I'd rather have the Japanese running things when you absolutely positively don't want to have an inadvertent clusterfcuk"

Well, WE do have Obama... wink
3922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 15, 2011, 10:11:18 AM
"Here in CA with the Diablo Canyon reactor being built on an earth quake vault, the experts, business interests, and politicians swore "not to worry".  Sorry but that strikes me as madness-- and so now I am leery of the reassurances of the experts, business interests, and the politicians."

Even one in NY we are hearing is built on a fault line.  I don't know what this means.  In general I am for nuclear energy but....


***Nuclear reactor nightmare: Could it happen in the U.S.?
Experts say many reactors in U.S. share same basic design as stricken reactors in Japan
As workers in Japan struggle to limit the release of dangerous radiation from the nation's earthquake-stricken nuclear reactors, some in the U.S. are wondering: Could the same thing happen here?

Some experts say yes.

"We have 23 nuclear reactors that are the same design as the Fukushima plants that have failed," Dr. Ira Helfand, past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility and a long-time critic of nuclear power, told CBS News.

A database maintained by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission shows that 23 of 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. are boiling water reactors that use GE's Mark 1's radioactivity-containment system, the same system used by the reactors at the troubled reactors at the Fukushima Dia-ichi plant in Japan, MSNBC reported. The reactors are in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

Calls to GE were referred to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group. In an email to CBS News, it confirmed that some plants use the same basic system as the Japanese plants, but added that "specific elements of the safety systems will vary."


According to Dr. Helfand, some of the U.S. plants with containment systems similar to the ones in the Japanese reactors are built on fault lines, including one near New York City.

"The Indian Point reactor just north of New York City is built on a fault capable of generating a magnitude 7 earthquake, but it was only built to withstand a magnitude 3 quake," he said. "If the Indian Point reactor experienced a major meltdown, the entire New York metropolitan area, with 20 million people, would be at risk."
The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on the central California coast, which is within about 60 miles of the San Andreas Fault, and even close to other faults, was built to withstand a 7.5 earthquake, according to owner Pacific Gas and Electric. The company maintains that the faults in the region are not expected to produce any larger quakes.

Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Gregory Jaczko was asked at a press briefing by CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid whether reactors in the U.S. could withstand a quake similar to the 9.0 event in Japan. He offered a vague response:  "At this point what I can say is we have a strong safety program in place to deal with seismic events that are likely to -- to happen at any nuclear facility in this country."

What steps, if any, should be undertaken by people living near a power plant in the U.S.?

"I would want the nuclear facility to be honest with me and tell me if this is the same kind of reactor design as the ones in Japan," Dr. Jerome M. Hauer, former director of emergency management for New York City, told CBS News. "And what are they doing to ensure that the flaws that this earthquake exposed are being dealt with. If anything happens to the plant, how are you going to deal with them?"

In its email to CBS News, the Nuclear Energy Institute said it was premature to draw conclusions from Japan's nuclear crisis about the U.S. nuclear energy program.

"Japan is facing what literally can be considered a 'worst case' disaster and, so far, even the most seriously damaged of its 54 reactors has not released radiation at levels that would harm the public," the email said. "That is a testament to their rugged design and construction, and the effectiveness of their employees and the industry's emergency preparedness planning."

© 2011 CBS Interactive Inc.
3923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time article on: March 14, 2011, 02:36:06 PM
"Wisconsin's Governor Wins, but Is He Now Dead Man Walker?"

What is interesting is that author Dawn Reiss points out on her website she does NOT pick the headline.  In other words the headline was chosen by Times editors.

Amazing how the MSM points out how peaceful the protests were.  I guess chalk outlines with body parts drawings are peaceful.  Get a load of the last paragraph from the union members in tears as though not getting her pay raise or  totally free health care is some sort of human rights violation.  Indeed.

*****Wisconsin's Governor Wins, but Is He Now Dead Man Walker?
By Dawn Reiss / Madison Saturday, Mar. 12, 2011
 
 
Protesters march outside the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on March 11, 2011

Scott Olson / Getty Images
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The Wisconsin State Capitol had taken on an eerie quiet by late Friday. Gone were the throngs of protesters who had occupied its marble floors like it were a summer campground. The midnight honking of cars circling the white building had ceased. The chalk outlines around fake dead bodies etched with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's name remained in dismembered parts, not yet completely washed away by hoses.

It was the governor, however, who had walked away the legislative victor in the showdown. On Friday, as angry protesters chanted "Shame" and blew horns and vuvuzelas, Walker took up a dozen pens, one at a time, to sign into law a bill that not only takes away the ability of unions to bargain collectively over pensions and health care but also limits pay raises of public employees to the rate of inflation and ends automatic union dues collection by the state. It also requires public unions to recertify annually. It was a coup by Wisconsin Republicans against the labor movement in one of its strongholds.
(See how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got his way.)

The governor allowed himself a moment to reflect on how his signature might play historically. "Some have asked whether this is going to set a national precedent," he said. "And I don't know ... but if along the way we help lead a movement across the state for true fiscal reform, true budgetary reform to ultimately inspire others across this country, state by state and in our federal government, inspire others to stand up and make the tough decision to make a commitment to the future so that our children across all states don't have to face the dire consequences we face because previous leaders have failed to stand up and lead, I feel that is a good thing." He also attempted to be magnanimous toward the thousands of protesters who had gathered in Madison since he first announced his legislative intentions on Valentine's Day. "I think we've had a civil discussion," he said. "It's been passionate, but it's been civil along the way."

The public outcry had been unexpected and brought out many first-time protesters who stayed on or returned again and again, even as observers thought the remarkably peaceful demonstrations would dissipate. And so, for the many who showed up, some at great sacrifice, were the protests in vain? "No," says Kenneth Mayer, who teaches political science at the University of Wisconsin. "It was pretty clear that the protests, as massive as they got, weren't going to change the governor's mind. Even though they didn't succeed in getting what they wanted, they mobilized a lot of people and made this a salient issue. A protest doesn't have to succeed in its immediate goal to have a long-term impact."
(See pictures of the showdown in Wisconsin.)

That probably means the protesters are going to turn from slogans to pocketbooks, funneling millions of dollars in donations into the state's unions. Their anger will likely also provide momentum for recall petitions. Wisconsin allows for the recall of elected officials once they have been in office for a year. According to Mayer, signatures amounting to 25% of the original voters must be gained to start a recall election. Getting rid of Walker would be tough. The governor was just voted into office and therefore could not be subject to a recall until Jan. 3, 2012. And it would require about 540,000 signatures to get his name on a recall ballot. Wisconsin has never recalled a governor in its history. Still, the threat of a recall — to Walker and his allies — could keep the governor in check. Democrats need to gain three seats in the state senate to win back control of the body; there are eight GOP senators who are now eligible for recall.
(See pictures of the Japan earthquake.)

The anger and activism could also propel legal challenges regarding the way Republicans may have violated open-meetings law and internal procedures to get the bill passed without a quorum (Democratic senators fled to Illinois specifically to prevent passage). But Mayer says that such claims are unlikely to succeed because "there is case law where the state courts have declined to get involved and force a legislature to enforce its own rule." A constitutional challenge on the basis of whether the Republican reclassification of the bill from fiscal to nonfiscal were legal may have a better chance, says Mayer, but "it's not a slam dunk."

The protesters have a lot of contained anger to vent. The demonstrations — a "quiet riot," according to some — managed to avoid turning violent. Though tensions mounted toward the end, there were never any door-busting, glass-breaking riots. It was horn blowing and button wearing instead of fistfights. There was drum beating and dancing instead of destruction. There were baby strollers and wheelchairs decked out with snarky signs. When Bill Hoyt, 52, saw his middle- and high school daughters and their friends banging on glass panels on the capitol grounds, he reminded them to be respectful of government property, saying destruction wasn't a good use of their frustration and that it would only create more problems.
(Comment on this story.)

The frustration from the defeat will be channeled elsewhere. Wiping tears from beneath her dark-rimmed glasses, Anne Moser, 47, who works for the University of Wisconsin-Madison's science-based Water Library, said, "People know that violence doesn't get you anywhere. The attack the Republicans have made is violent and a violation of human rights. It is an attack on the middle class. We teach our children to follow rules and to sit at the table and work it out, but that certainly hasn't happened here." And so she and her allies may seek their revenge elsewhere: in a court of law or, most likely, a polling booth.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2058601,00.html#ixzz1GbWOMOYE*****
3924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Real cause for concern on: March 14, 2011, 12:34:16 PM
Is Anthony Watts calling the US military a bunch of panicking banana heads?:

***US moves ships out of path of Japan radiation
 
The Navy says it has moved several US ships away from a troubled Japanese nuclear plant after detecting low-level radiation on 17 helicopter crew members positioned there for relief efforts.
 
Navy Cmdr Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet, said on Monday that the Navy is committed to continuing the operation to help the Japanese after last week's earthquake and tsunami. But he says officials had to figure out how to continue safely after airborne radiation was detected on Sunday by the carrier USS Ronald Reagan and on a helicopter crew returning to the ship from search and rescue operations.
 
By moving the ships in the carrier group out of the downwind path of the power plant, Davis says the Navy can continue with less risk to Americans participating.
 
- With inputs from AP***
 
3925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 14, 2011, 11:12:46 AM
The WSJ article contradicts itself:

"Before we respond with such panic, though, it would be useful to review exactly what is happening in Japan and what we have to fear from it."

Yes,

Well it is too soon to know what is going on and what will happen.

But,

Japanese authorites are less than forthcoming.
One cannot deny that no matter how many times we are told these things are safe another event occurs and we find the truth is not that they are perfectfully safe as sold. 

But this is also a  premature conclusion:

"What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The problem has been with the electrical pumps required to operate the cooling system. It would be tragic if the result of the Japanese accident were to prevent development of Generation III reactors, which eliminate this design flaw."

Lets also not blow it off as already its proven to be no big deal and start off with design 3 - just yet.



3926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Yogiisms on: March 12, 2011, 12:33:20 PM
Yogi Berra is also well known for his pithy comments and witticisms, known as Yogiisms. Yogiisms very often take the form of either an apparently obvious tautology, or a paradoxical contradiction.

[edit] Examples
As a general comment on baseball: "90% of the game is half mental."[18]
On why he no longer went to Ruggeri's, a St. Louis restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."[19]
"It ain't over till it's over." In July 1973, when Berra's Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by 9½ games in the National League East; the Mets rallied to win the division title on the final day of the season.[20]
When giving directions to Joe Garagiola to his New Jersey home, which is accessible by two routes: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."[21]
On being the guest of honor at an awards banquet: "Thank you for making this day necessary."[22]
"It's déjà vu all over again". Berra explained that this quote originated when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs in the Yankees' seasons in the early 1960s.[23]
"You can observe a lot by watching."[24]
"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours."[25]
Responding to a question about remarks attributed to him that he did not think were his: "I really didn't say everything I said."[26]
3927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 12, 2011, 09:59:53 AM
"For me, oversight? - yes. Government in charge (other than fighting off things like unfair business practices) - no."

Yes I agree.  But correct me if I am wrong, the Repubs are not advocating any oversight.  It is the same as a lawless wild west.
3928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Carteresque on: March 11, 2011, 01:55:32 PM
Now he sounds like Carter for sure.  The job is just too big for the ONE.  Remember when Carter admitted he didn't know if one man could handle the Presidency anymore?  Here we go again:

“Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’”

“Obama Seeks a Course of Pragmatism in the Middle East,” The New York Times, March 11, 2011.

Mr. Obama is right.

If you’re president of China, people around the world who are fighting for freedom don’t really expect you to help. If you’re president of China, you don’t have to put up with annoying off-year congressional elections, and then negotiate your budget with a bunch of gun-and-religion-clinging congressmen and senators. If you’re president of China, you can fund your national public radio to your heart’s content. And if you’re president of China, when you host a conference on bullying in schools, people take you seriously.

Unfortunately for him and us, Barack Obama is president of the United States. That job brings with it certain special responsibilities. It’s a tough job—maybe tougher than being president of China. But Barack Obama ran for president of the United States. Maybe he should start behaving as one.
3929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 11, 2011, 01:05:40 PM
Doug,

I don't know if you saw this post above.  If not please review as it applies to "net neutrality".  I think it makes some good points.  The general idea of the government regulating or having control over the internet is not attractive at face value but the idea of letting private companies controlling the internet gates without some oversight is also unattractive.  This article sums up the threat.  I've learned the hard way how our lives can be more and more controlled as we continue this descent (or ascent for some) into endless electronmagnetic interconnectedness:

  The post titled above:   Net neutrality. Good,Bad,Ugly
3930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Decline, Fall, (and Resurrection?) of America on: March 11, 2011, 12:01:09 PM
"on issues like the “Jewish cultural mafia” and the “exaggerated” anti-Semitism of past and present Romania"

What??   Again it is the fault of the Jews?  Why does this theme keep rearing its head as the bottom line to all of man's ill?

There are only several thousands Jews left in Romania.  The rest were murdered or fled to Israel:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Romania

3931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: March 11, 2011, 11:04:49 AM
Ironically The One was busy hosting a summit on school bullying.  What a joke.  We have nothing but bullying going on in Wisconsin by the liberals (aka, *regressives*), and not a peep about that but he is telling us how kids made fun of his ears as a child.

The hypocracy of this man knows no bounds.
3932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Republicans are wrong on net neutrality on: March 11, 2011, 11:01:20 AM
I think the ability for Google to manipulate rather than just provide information is a great cause of concern.   Don't think they aren't doing it and don't think they are going to admit it.  "Net neutrality" doesn't stifle business it just makes it fair. 

*** 'We will closely examine allegations raised by' Google competitors, said Herb Kohl.
By MIKE ZAPLER | 3/10/11 6:00 PM EST
Media consolidation, net neutrality and Google's dominance in Internet search are among the issues the Senate's leading legislator on antitrust issues plans to scrutinize in the months ahead.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who heads the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, listed those issues as priorities in an announcement Thursday outlining his top concerns for the 112th Congress.
Kohl specifically called out Google as a potential cause for concern. The senator in December urged the Justice Department to conduct a "careful review" of the search giant's attempted acquisition of travel search software firm ITA.

"In recent years, the dominance over Internet search of the world’s largest search engine, Google, has increased and Google has increasingly sought to acquire e-commerce sites in myriad businesses," Kohl said in a news release.

"In this regard, we will closely examine allegations raised by e-commerce websites that compete with Google that they are being treated unfairly in search ranking, and in their ability to purchase search advertising,” Kohl continued. “We also will continue to closely examine the impact of further acquisitions in this sector."

The emergence of online video — and barriers providers face reaching consumers over broadband Internet lines — will also be a focus of the subcommittee. He said the panel will also track Comcast's integration with NBC Universal and whether conditions on the deal attached by regulators are being met.

"Internet video holds the promise of providing consumers, for the first time, an alternative to expensive pay TV subscriptions and the ability to purchase only the programming they want," Kohl said.

The panel will look at “challenges that video programmers face in distributing their programming over the Internet, challenges that online video distributors face in obtaining programming, and whether Internet service providers are placing undue barriers to the video delivered over the Internet,” Kohl said in the release.

In addition, he said, the panel is going to explore adherence to “the merger conditions imposed on the Comcast/NBC Universal merger to ensure that these conditions are being properly applied to foster competition, including competition from new forms of Internet delivery of video content."

Kohl has also trained his sights on the high-speed broadband market.

"Maintaining competitive choices in this industry is crucial to consumers and the health of the national economy," he wrote. "We will also examine the issue of network neutrality principles and monitor whether consumers continue to have the freedom to access the Internet content they wish without interference from their internet service provider."

The tech and telecom sector is just one area among many the senator has his eye on. He also plans to focus attention on competition issues surrounding the freight railroad, prescription drugs, energy and agriculture markets, among others.
 


Party: IndependentReply #4
Mar. 11, 2011 - 12:10 AM ESTI'm concerned that Obama want's an internet kill switch. I'm concerned that Google was involved in the "Alliance of Youth Summit" in 2008,2009,and 2010 teaching young revolutionaries how to organize to overthrow their governments using the internet, networking, media, facebook, twitter. One Google executive surfaced in Egypt and has been credited with the overthrow of Mubarak. That concerns me that Obama is meddling in foreign affairs and he is not smart enough to forsee unintended consequences.
Party: ConservativeReply #5
Mar. 11, 2011 - 3:11 AM ESTROEg and Cheetosareus you stole the thoughts right out of my mind. If anything about Google needs to be investigated it's their strange political relationships with Democratic operatives. Along with GE they make Halliburton look like little league.
Mar. 11, 2011 - 5:55 AM ESTHERBIE - I am so glad u r there to make sure `google' isn't monopolizing the internet. hey, jerk my committee is going to investigate you and the all political hacks who pass legislation which favors certain industries protecting them from competition - you what it's called - CRONYISM! BTW HERBIE, DO U FIND IT CHALLENGING WEARING `2’ FACES?
Mar. 11, 2011 - 6:52 AM ESTThe US has to be the only country in the world that boasts of a devotion to capitalism and the little guy making it, and once he does taxes the daylights out of him, sues him for making a product so popular that it becomes 'a monopoly' and breaks up his company so he can't compete to the fullness of his ability against his competitors.


And why is it the 'progressives' who always seem to be the ones squelching success in business?***
3933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / first republican party meeting on: March 10, 2011, 07:43:44 PM
was in Wisconsin:

***The Origins of the Republican Party
Trying times spawn new forces. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 divided the country at the 36° 30' parallel between the pro-slavery, agrarian South and anti-slavery, industrial North, creating an uneasy peace which lasted for three decades. This peace was shattered in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Settlers would decide if their state would be free or slave. Northern leaders such as Horace Greeley, Salmon Chase and Charles Sumner could not sit back and watch the flood of pro-slavery settlers cross the parallel. A new party was needed.

Where was the party born? Following the publication of the "Appeal of Independent Democrats" in major newspapers, spontaneous demonstrations occurred. In early 1854, the first proto-Republican Party meeting took place in Ripon, Wisconsin. On June 6, 1854 on the outskirts of Jackson, Michigan upwards of 10,000 people turned out for a mass meeting "Under the Oaks." This led to the first organizing convention in Pittsburgh on February 22, 1856.

The gavel fell to open the Party's first nominating convention, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 17, 1856, announcing the birth of the Republican Party as a unified political force.

Horace GreeleyThe Republican Party name was christened in an editorial written by New York newspaper magnate Horace Greeley. Greeley printed in June 1854: "We should not care much whether those thus united (against slavery) were designated 'Whig,' 'Free Democrat' or something else; though we think some simple name like 'Republican' would more fitly designate those who had united to restore the Union to its true mission of champion and promulgator of Liberty rather than propagandist of slavery."

The elections of 1854 saw the Republicans take Michigan and make advances in many states, but this election was dominated by the emergence of the short-lived American (or 'Know-Nothing') Party. By 1855, the Republican Party controlled a majority in the House of Representatives. The new Party decided to hold an organizing convention in Pittsburgh in early 1856, leading up to the Philadelphia convention.

As the convention approached, things came to a head — and to blows. On the floor of the Senate Democratic representatives Preston Brooks and Lawrence Keitt (South Carolina) brutally attacked Charles Sumner with a cane after Sumner gave a passionate anti-slavery speech which Brooks took offense (he was related to the main antagonist of Sumner's speech, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler). Both representatives resigned from Congress with severe indignation over their ouster, but were returned to Congress by South Carolina voters in the next year. Sumner was not able to return to the Congressional halls for four years after the attack. Brooks was heard boasting "Next time I will have to kill him," as he left the Senate floor after the attack.

On the same day as the attack came the news of the armed attack in Lawrence, Kansas. As a direct outgrowth of the "settler sovereignty" of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, an armed band of men from Missouri and Nebraska sacked the town of Lawrence and arrested the leaders of the free state. The anti-abolitionists had made it clear that "settler sovereignty" meant pro-slavery. Labeled only as "ruffians" by Southern politicians, Horace Greeley was quick to decry both events as plots of the pro-slavery South. "Failing to silence the North by threats. . .the South now resorts to actual violence." The first rumblings of the Civil War had begun. The stage was set for the 1856 election, one which held the future of the Union in its grasp.

Read the Republican Platform of 1856

And what of the nickname "Grand Old Party"?
The nickname of the Republican Party didn't get attached to it until 1888. Previously, the nickname had been used by Southern Democrats. After the Republicans won back the Presidency and Congress for the first time since the Grant administration, the Chicago Tribune proclaimed: "Let us be thankful that under the rule of the Grand Old Party ... these United States will resume the onward and upward march which the election of Grover Cleveland in 1884 partially arrested."
 Copyright ©1999-2010 by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942.
3934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: March 10, 2011, 05:41:58 PM
Compare the restrained peaceful Tea Party events to the screaming, yelling, name calling, disruptive tresspassing MOB that is the union protesters.

OK Bamster where are you now??? when speaking of civility.

Next step is to fire all these people if they don't report to work.

This is EXACTLY what FDR even feared.  The taxpayers are being held hostage by public employees.

Let them keep it up.   They are not helping there cause any.

They are lucky to have jobs.

3935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / still missing on: March 10, 2011, 03:14:22 PM
I can't imagine what this is like:

http://michellemalkin.com/
3936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / France is recognizing the Libyan opposition: Italy is probably next on: March 10, 2011, 02:34:32 PM
Reason,
is they have their own illegal immigration problems.  From the Economist:

****Fear of foreigners

The Italian government worries about a huge influx from north Africa
Mar 3rd 2011 | ROME

 All washed up and ready to goNOWHERE has the Libyan uprising caused greater anguish than inside Silvio Berlusconi’s Italian government. Distress at the death of so many protesters? Sympathy for the prime minister’s friend and erstwhile ally, Muammar Qaddafi? Neither, really. What has prompted reactions ranging from alarm to hysteria is the prospect of a sharp increase in immigration from the Maghreb. The foreign minister, Franco Frattini, feared “an exodus of Biblical proportions”. It would bring Italy “to its knees”, said the interior minister, Roberto Maroni. Mr Frattini talked of 200,000-300,000 arrivals, creating a future that was “impossible to imagine”.

The government has good reason to worry. The achievement of which it is perhaps proudest is a sharp cut in the flow of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean (from 36,951 in 2008 to only 4,406 in 2010). It managed this by striking deals with Libya in 2008 and Tunisia in 2009 under which both countries were paid to clamp down on human trafficking. The danger is that these agreements will be rendered null by the chaos. On February 26th Italy declared that its friendship treaty with Libya was “de facto no longer in operation” (though that was probably to free it from an obligation not to use force against its former colony: as later became clear, Italy supports a no-fly zone).

The earliest tear in the diplomatic membrane shielding Italy came after the uprising in Tunisia. More than 5,000 people fled to the little Italian island of Lampedusa, which is closer to north Africa than to Sicily. The Italians elicited an outraged response from Tunis when they suggested intervening militarily to block the boats. But the Tunisians seem to have tightened their grip and this, assisted by bad weather, stopped the landfalls until March 1st, when the first of 413 people, mostly Tunisians, arrived on Lampedusa and a nearly island. Unsurprisingly Mr Maroni failed to convince his European colleagues in Brussels on February 24th that Italy was facing a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis”.

His real worry is Libya. The total estimated foreign population there is put as high as 1.5m. There have been reports of sub-Saharan Africans being attacked and even killed by anti-Qaddafi protesters who mistook them for mercenaries. Yet it would be absurd to claim that all foreigners in Libya will go to Italy; most would prefer to return home. There is little evidence of their fleeing northward so far. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that, of 55,000 people who crossed into Egypt between February 10th and 28th, all but 6,900 were Egyptians or Libyans. Most others were Asian.

The Italian government’s fear is that hundreds of thousands may yet take advantage of the disorder to embark for Europe. But the disruption may affect people smugglers as much as anyone. For the moment, the numbers seem bearable in a country of 60m. Germany’s outgoing interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, noted that Sweden, with a population of only 9m, took 30,000 asylum-seekers last year.

Where there is a real and immediate humanitarian emergency is on Tunisia’s border with Libya. On March 1st, in an abrupt and welcome change of tack, the Italian government announced that it was putting some money into a humanitarian mission to the area. Mr Maroni said it would provide food and shelter for 10,000 people, “but also stop them from leaving”.****

3937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: March 10, 2011, 01:51:53 PM
If only Sally Hemings saved her dress with the stain for 200 years:               
 
****Y-chromosome studies indicate that Thomas Jefferson may very well have had children by the slave Sally Hemings.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Did Thomas Jefferson Father Slave Children?
Back to Build a Family Tree

The first American presidential sex scandal never went on trial, but rumors have persisted to this day that President and founding father Thomas Jefferson had an illicit relationship with his slave mistress, Sally Hemings, that bore him children. Jefferson never responded publicly to this attack on his character nor denied the accusations.

The circumstantial evidence is suggestive. Jefferson, who traveled extensively for long periods, always happened to be in residence nine months before the birth of each of Sally Hemings's seven children. Some of Hemings's children were said to bear a striking resemblance to Jefferson. And in an 1873 interview, Sally's fourth son Madison stated that his mother had been Jefferson's "concubine," and that he and his siblings were the president's children.

The Y chromosome keeps its family secrets and now, nearly two centuries later, DNA evidence has unequivocally linked a male descendant of Sally Hemings to the house of Thomas Jefferson.

To a geneticist, the obvious solution to resolve questions of paternity going back generations is to compare Y chromosomes from living descendants of the father in question. Because the Y chromosome is passed virtually intact from father to son to grandson and so on down the line, it traces the father's male side of the family tree.

 Jefferson's slave records listing the names of Sally Hemings and her sons.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
If Jefferson fathered a child with Hemings, all his male descendants should carry a nearly identical copy of his Y chromosome. Investigators tracked down living male descendants of Hemings's sons and compared their Y-chromosome DNA to that from male descendants of the president's paternal uncle, Field Jefferson. (Thomas Jefferson's only legitimate son by his wife Martha died in infancy.)

The story the DNA told was that the descendant of Eston Hemings, Sally's youngest son, had the same genetic signature as the male descendants of Field Jefferson. But the descendants of Thomas Woodward, Sally's first son, did not share a genetic signature in common with Thomas Jefferson. The DNA data clearly shows that one of Sally's sons, Eston, born during the president's second term in office, was a Jefferson offspring. What the data cannot resolve definitively is whether Thomas Jefferson or another male relative on his father's side of the family was Eston Hemings's father.

It is noteworthy that the same Y chromosome type existed just 20 miles away with Thomas Jefferson's brother Randolph and his five sons. The historical records indicate that Randolph and his sons occasionally spent time at Monticello, the presidential residence, but the trail of evidence disappears there, leaving Thomas Jefferson as still the most likely father of Eston Hemings Jefferson.

3938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 10, 2011, 01:45:48 PM
On every single MSM coverage of King's hearings the use the adjective, "controversial".

The "controversial hearings".  It is clearly a liberal jornolist strategy going viral on MSM.
3939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NJ policeman perspective on: March 10, 2011, 01:39:33 PM
One of my patients pointed out this article from a police officer.  He points out that Republican governor Christie Whitman raided the pension funds of police and firemen in the 90's and that is the reason for today's shortfall.

****News Item: 
 
Mount Olive Cop: Politicians Caused Pension Woes
 12/02/2010
 
Editor's note: The writer, Michael Poquat, is a police officer in Mount Olive Township.

BUDD LAKE, NJ – As a police officer in the state of New Jersey, I find myself unable to sit by while the current climate of public employee bashing continues under the misinformation fed to the public by the media and our current governor.

While I cannot comment on the teachers' retirement system, I can speak about the Police and Fire Retirement Fund (PFRS), and more specifically, how it has been mishandled by some of our elected officials. The truth should come out, and the public has a right to know how we got to where we are today.

Long before I became a police officer, the state of New Jersey enacted a law which required police officers and firemen to contribute a certain percentage of their salary into the state's "secure" pension fund. Throughout my 22 year career, I have paid 8.5 percent of my salary, as mandated by law, into this fund every pay period.

I was not given the option to place my 8.5 percent in an IRA or other investment fund. Every pay check since I was 25 years old had the 8.5 percent taken out of my pay and placed into the PFRS with the promise that the money would be there when I retired. By law, towns and municipalities were required to match that 8.5 percent.

By the time Gov. Christine Todd Whitman took office, there was over $100 billion in the fund. This meant that at the current rate of retirements, pension costs for police officers and firemen were funded at 104 percent, well into the future. This was a prudent and financially responsible plan that worked, and it provided security for the families of these men and women who risked their lives every day serving and protecting the citizens of New Jersey.

In no way was it heavily over funded or excessive. It covered the costs of promised retirements with a small cushion left over. It was at this time that Whitman stepped in. Gov. Whitman recognized the billions of dollars in our "secure" and "separate" pension fund, and she proceeded to raid that fund. Unknown and unannounced to the public, monies were indiscriminately withdrawn from the PFRS and used to pay for Whitman's tax cuts and to balance the state budget.

Billions of dollars were taken, and to make matters worse, the Whitman administration passed a law allowing towns and municipalities to no longer contribute to the fund. Over $3 billion in contributions were skipped over the next eight years, while the individual police officers and firefighters continued to have their 8.5 percent contribution taken from them and placed into the PFRS.

The state gambled for years, relying heavily on the returns from the stock market to cover the missing funds. Politicians misspoke on the campaign trail, touting the virtues of how their financial genius was able to balance their state and local budgets, and the public was lulled into a sense of false financial security.

But the small print in Whitman's bill was ignored. The funds they failed to contribute would have to be made up at a later date. The pension reprieve was temporary and their contributions would have to be paid back, just like any other loan. It was quietly suggested by the Whitman administration that towns set these contributions aside for when the state called to make good on them. It appears most towns and municipalities failed to heed this advice.

Governors (Donald) DiFrancesco, (James) McGreevy, and (Richard) Codey continued this trend, and all failed to call the towns and municipalities on their "loan" while the PFRS fund continued to dwindle down close to $66 billion. They remained silent. To bring this to light at this point would certainly mean political suicide, knowing that towns and municipalities would have to raise taxes to make up for their error in financial judgment and planning.

It wasn't until Gov. Jon Corzine took office that this trend was stopped, but unfortunately, the damage was done. Gov. Corzine made the call the governors before him were afraid to make. He advised the towns and municipalities that it was time to pay back the monies the towns had been given a temporary reprieve on. And the media jumped on this, printing bold headlines "Towns going broke over police and fire pensions."

This attention grabbing and misleading headline made it appear that your police and firemen were bilking the taxpayers dry, when the truth is totally the opposite. The politicians bilked your police officers and firemen dry and in the long run, the tax payers of New Jersey.

Towns and municipalities knew they were going to have to pay this money back and for them to insinuate otherwise is simply not true. Realizing the gravity of the situation, a new bill was introduced and passed into law. This allowed the towns to pay back the loan given to them by their public employees in increments; starting at 20 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent, 80 percent, and finally 100 percent each proceeding year.

Towns and municipalities continue to act as if they have been caught unaware and shocked by this entire process. The public is being told that payments for police and fire pensions are doubling, tripling and quadrupling and that the public employee system is out of control. What the public needs to know is that they are the victims of a mounting debt that was created by the Whitman administration and compounded by those following her tenure.

To blame your public employees for the abuses of the pension system is ludicrous at best, especially when our elected officials are the ones responsible for raiding the fund and then enacting the legislation on how and when to pay it back.

Gov. Jim Florio recognized the financial hardship facing the state of New Jersey and proceeded to raise the state sales tax to 7 percent. This helped spell political suicide for him, and Gov. Whitman was not going to make the same mistake. She repealed the 7 percent, dropping it back down to the 6 percent, knowing full well this money would have to come from somewhere. Her solution was to raid the Police and Fire Pension System, allowing her to balance the state budget and give the false appearance that all was fiscally sound under her watch.

Our current governor, facing the same financial crisis of those going before him, has chosen a similar route, but one with a more vilifying tone. He has again found the same victim: Your public employees. When asked about the pension situation in the state of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie replied "I wasn't going to put $3 billion into a failing pension system. We need pension reform. I passed some already for new hirees, and this fall we are going after the current employees and pension reform and benefits because we are broke."

Nowhere does he mention how the public employees had already bailed out this state years before, and now he is focused on "going after" the current employees to fix a mess created and compounded by politicians. To say otherwise for him would be political suicide should he aspire to higher political office, and as most of those before him, he is not about to risk his future. Rather, he would gamble on the future of those men and woman and their families who have served this state with honor and integrity.

The principals of the pension system are not broken, Mr. Governor. What is broken is the manner in which the politicians have treated and abused it. Yes, the system is failing now, but not because of your police officers and firemen. As of 2009, the pension fund should have assets of $112 billion to meet its obligations, yet it is currently sitting at $66 billion.

It is the largest unfunded liability in the country. New Jersey is the first state ever to be charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Gov. Christie, strangely, has no comment on this. Yet he continues his rhetoric on the evils done to us by our police officers and firemen, ignoring the truth and lambasting and vilifying us at every turn.

As the saying goes, "Politics has no shame when it comes to preserving your place in office. Why let the truth get in between a good, attention grabbing headline?"

The system is on the brink of collapse, and continued arrogance and mudslinging will not fix it. The truth is what it is, Mr. Governor, and there is no getting around that. Politicians put us in this mess for their own political gain, not our public employees, as you would like the public to believe. You know this and need to stop ignoring the facts. How we deal with it from here is the measure of each of our character and integrity. I know the public is smart enough to recognize this and I hope that you are too. Long after you are gone, we will still be here, protecting and serving as we always have. In the end, all we have left is our name. Let's hope yours is remembered for your integrity and not for what you have slung so far in your race for political aspiration. I challenge you to do the right thing, as so many police officers and firemen strive to do every day for their families and the citizens of New Jersey.

Poquat, Michael. "Mount Olive Cop: Politicians Caused Pension Woes." NewJerseyHills.com. November 12, 2010. <http://newjerseyhills.com/content/tncms/live/newjerseyhills.com/mt_olive_chronicle/opinion/columns/article_487cc442-ec43-11df-8ac0-001cc4c002e0.html>.
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3940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: March 10, 2011, 01:11:30 PM
Kostas,
Look forward to your insight.
Thanks,
ccp
3941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: March 09, 2011, 01:48:49 PM
I think he said they preferred him to Bush and Clinton both of whom they saw as more aggressive.

I was just thinking again about his comments about Clinton.

Never have I heard any group not be happy with Clinton for bombing of Serbia.

Listening to the US MSM Clinton is made out to be the equivalent of a Greek adonis (at least with regards to politics) whose bombing of Serbia was a stupendous success.

There are always two sides to every story and I wanted to hear more of the other side from Kostas if possible.
3942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 09, 2011, 01:44:39 PM
Doug,

Yes, we see this everyday in the MSM propaganda machine.

Rather sickening.  I don't see anything in here about the truth or facts.

One correction:

"Unions used this tactic" on rule 10.

Unions aka the Democrat party use all of these rules.
3943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Liberal onslaught on rep. King on: March 09, 2011, 01:07:14 PM
CNN was on the liberal offensive this AM going after Rep. King for his investigating Muslim extremism in the US.
Going into his past such as saying he supported the IRA which while on Fox he explained he did not support their terrorism but was roundly commended for bringing peace there even by Clinton.  Even Obama recommended him to be ambassador to Ireland.  Does anyone think that if he had ties to Irish terrorism the One would offer him the ambassadorship to Ireland?

Of course CNN's the "soloDAD" is off on another lopsided show trying to gain sympathy for the minority of the month.

It was Latinos, Blacks and now of course it is Muslims.

"Unwelcome in America" is the title.

The jornolist crowd appears to have King in their sights.
3944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / History being rewritten on "Bush doctrine" on: March 08, 2011, 01:46:33 PM
Will history look back at W as being a foreign policy giant??

"A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's."

Exactly! It wasn't about morality it was about politics.

***From Baghdad to Benghazi

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, March 4, 2011

Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the United States has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance and imperialism.

From Baghdad to Benghazi

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear."

Moreover, that systemized brutality made Hussein immovable in a way that Gaddafi is not. Barely armed Libyans have already seized half the country on their own. Yet in Iraq, there was no chance of putting an end to the regime without the terrible swift sword (it took all of three weeks) of the United States.

No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush's freedom agenda, it's not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama's foreign policy - the "smart power" antidote to Bush's alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil society funds - money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy - by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee with Obama's reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street - to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them."

Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.

Iraq, of course, required a sustained U.S. military engagement to push back totalitarian forces trying to extinguish the new Iraq. But is this not what we are being asked to do with a no-fly zone over Libya? In conditions of active civil war, taking command of Libyan airspace requires a sustained military engagement.

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq's democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what's unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect - last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services - but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.

Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? In fact, notes Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, the United States has been "conspicuously absent from the sloganeering."

It's Yemen's president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. They are not chanting the antiwar slogans - remember "No blood for oil"? - of the American left. Why would they? America is leaving Iraq having taken no oil, having established no permanent bases, having left behind not a puppet regime but a functioning democracy. This, after Iraq's purple-fingered exercises in free elections seen on television everywhere set an example for the entire region.

Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.

3945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: March 08, 2011, 01:32:31 PM
Does anyone recall which thread Kostas posted on?

I wanted to ask if he would please clarify his mention of Greeks not liking Bill Clinton.
3946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President's I saw on: March 08, 2011, 01:28:09 PM
Yes this is shocking.

I am certainly no Obama fan but it is still a thrill to have a President come to one's graduation.

I saw Clinton once in West Palm Beach.  As a Republican I felt out of place, but there is still a thrill - even for him.

I saw Reagan twice, once on the WH lawn and once in my home town across from my former High School in NJ.  The Democratic mayor praised Reagan for bringing back a sense of pride to America.  Reagan was so impressed a Dem would cross party lines to compliment him he took time to come to the city of Elizabeth to speak. 

I saw GHW Bush play tennis with Chris Evert in Boca Raton in the early ninetees.  He was pretty damn good.
3947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michelle Malkin's missing relative on: March 08, 2011, 01:18:51 PM
http://michellemalkin.com/2011/03/08/searching-for-marizela-an-update/
3948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: March 08, 2011, 11:03:31 AM
"The "crime" in this instance is insider trading.  An insidious crime that
people think is harmless, yet it's path of damage can harm hundreds of thousands of people."

Agreed.

Not to mention the outright fraud and scams. 

"Frankly, in my opinion "white collar crime" is not nearly punished as severely as it should be; it is difficult to prove
and perpetrators are protected by an army of high priced attorneys, it seems unstoppable."

Agreed. 
3949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: March 08, 2011, 09:44:58 AM
Crime does pay.  Particularly white collar crime.

That is why I don't understand why we have law enforcement retiring at 50 when we have stealing and thievery rampant in our society.  This society does not take theft seriously.  The law enforcement officers could be retrained to go after some of this stuff.

"Not a single Wall Street executive has gone to jail over the excesses that led to the collapse"

Nor did any politician pay in away way for their complicity from the SEC to Barney Frank etc.

"Prosecutors are coming to the conclusion that it's difficult, maybe impossible, to put people in jail for greed and irrational exuberanc"

Sure with the same millions stolen they can now hire million dollars liars for hire (to quote The Guardian Angels guy) to make near impossible for any prosecuters to get anywhere.   The rest of us can't hire attorneys for hundreds of dollars an hour.  Talk about health care making people broke.

Only the millions of people out of work are suffering.   It does make one question the concept of trickle down economics, the wealth gap which gets wider. I continue to have a problem with that.  Yet, when all taken into context,
to me the less intrusive government theory is the least of the two evils.  More regulation makes things worse and does little good.  Indeed government cannot even enforce what they have on the books.

3950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Science on: March 07, 2011, 05:22:12 PM
Here is a picture of the reported bacteria:

http://www.space.com/11049-alien-life-meteorites-skepticism.html
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