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Topics - DougMacG

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It's the moderator's call, but it seems to me it is time to put the cognitively dissonant left's leading voice into her own category for future search and find convenience.  For the record, I fear her the most right now.  And leftists love her the most.

Author of, [you employ a million people,] good for you.  But you didn't build that.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-P-CoSNYaI[/youtube]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-P-CoSNYaI

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Warren
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/great-352668-warren-elizabeth.html
http://twitchy.com/2012/05/15/fauxcahontas-warren-heralded-as-harvards-first-woman-of-color-hilarity-ensues/
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For today:
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/121514-730656-why-liberal-icon-elizabeth-warren-should-champion-limited-government.htm#ixzz0c8RcNoaU

What Elizabeth Warren Missed in Her Big Bank Tirade  (Crony Governmentism)

Crony Capitalism: Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered a stemwinder speech last Friday on the need for government to rein in Wall Street influence. But it's big government that created the monster in the first place.

Warren, D-Mass., was attacking a "dangerous provision" in the so-called cromnibus spending bill that, she said, stripped a part of Dodd-Frank that big banks, particularly Citigroup, don't like.

Her speech had the left slobbering over itself. Michael Tomasky, writing for the Daily Beast, said Warren's "weekend heroics" made her the "most powerful Democrat in America." The Huffington Post ran a column calling it "the speech that could make Elizabeth Warren the next president."

That's only possible if voters overlook the glaring problem with her argument.

Warren isn't wrong to complain that big business has too much influence over public policy. But that influence isn't the result of insufficient government intervention. It's the result of a government that is too massive and too willing to intrude in free markets.
To take just one example: Up until the mid-1990s, Microsoft had virtually no lobbyist presence in Washington, D.C., and gave almost no money to political campaigns. Then the Clinton Justice Department decided to sue Microsoft for antitrust violations.

By 1998, the company was pouring $3.7 million into lobbying and giving more than $1.4 million to political campaigns. Influencing Washington became part of Microsoft's business strategy only after Washington decided to butt into Microsoft's business.

Warren and her compatriots also fail to understand that big businesses like costly, intrusive regulations when they handicap new competitors.

It's no surprise that Dodd-Frank — which was supposed to rein in the excesses of big banks — not only didn't get rid of the "too big to fail" problem, it hampered community banks that used to compete with the big ones.

"It was not the intent of Congress when it passed Dodd-Frank to harm community banks, but that is the awful reality," Dale Wilson of the First State Bank of San Diego told Congress this summer.

If Warren and her ilk really want to reduce the influence of Wall Street in Washington, they should start by calling for a drastic reduction in the size and scope of the federal government.

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Politics & Religion / Senator Marco Rubio
« on: February 07, 2013, 04:02:59 PM »
Is Marco Rubio worthy of his own thread?  We'll see what the host moderator says.) Marco Antonio Rubio, 'tea party' Republican Senator from Florida has become a leading spokesman for conservative, freedom loving principles.  He could be a short lived phenomenon, but he has all the potential to become an important, transformative figure in a very positive way.

He is at the forefront of a number of key issues, most recently taking a controversial stand on immigration, and was chosen to give the Republican response next week to Pres. Obama's State of the Union message.

Time magazine chose him for their current cover story:  http://swampland.time.com/2013/02/07/immigrant-son/

WSJ columnist Dan Henninger critiques some past State of the Union responses and then says he expects Rubio to hit it out of the park.
http://live.wsj.com/video/opinion-marco-rubio-state-of-the-union-moment/11406B49-1CC3-4A3E-9C31-82790C90AD55.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_VideoModule_2#!11406B49-1CC3-4A3E-9C31-82790C90AD55

So much for keeping expectations low.

Noteworthy is that after rising to become Florida's Speaker of the House at a relatively young age, Rubio won a major, swing state, Senate race by a million votes.  Since then he has been one of the leading, articulate and persuasive voices on conservative principles and how they apply to the issues today.  

He declined to run in 2012 because he had barely started in the Senate.  

Of Cuban descent, he will deliver the address in both English and Spanish.  Some see that as pandering (or un-American?) but I assume the message will be exactly the same to both audiences.  We can judge his message by its content soon enough.

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Politics & Religion / Trade Issues / Freedom to Trade
« on: October 12, 2011, 08:49:49 AM »
The article below is based in current events today, aimed at our hemisphere, but also summarizes nicely the main benefits of free trade, what I call freedom to trade - a basic economic freedom.  Key points:

1) "There are a billion new consumers that are going to join the middle class in Asia over the next 10 years. We have to have access to them."  In other words, with free trade, whatever you invent or innovate or design or build or just source and sell, the larger the market you can sell into the more return you can earn for your effort.

2) 'access to imports is a key contributor to high U.S. living standards'.  Freedom to buy from far away means the freedom to make the best possible purchase transactions available.  Besides standard of living, this is a key component in competitiveness.  

3) Trade war escalations: "If the U.S. puts up new trade barriers to China and attaches "buy American" provisions to federal spending—as the Obama administration did in 2009 and now wants to do again—other countries are likely to feel justified in moving to protect their own domestic markets."  As with the leadup to the Great Depression, protectionism at home leads to other countries doing the same, and trade wars destroy economies, commerce and wealth.
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203476804576616760650005304.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

The Case for Free-Trade Leadership   WSJ
Mexico's growth in investment and trade, both imports and exports, shows the benefits of open borders.

      By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY

'There are a billion new consumers that are going to join the middle class in Asia over the next 10 years. We have to have access to them."

That was General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt on CNBC Thursday responding to a question about the Senate's 79-19 vote last week to advance a bill that would punish China with antidumping duties if it does not strengthen the yuan.

Bipartisan Washington, as indicated by that vote, is itching to launch a trade war with China. Mr. Immelt warned against it: "Make no mistake. The U.S. will do better if we have a good strong positive engagement with China. I was there last week. It is still growing eight to ten percent. We need to have access to China for our exports."

Too bad President Obama didn't say that.

There is no such thing as a good moment to close markets, but this would seem to be an especially inauspicious time, just as Asians are climbing up the economic ladder, to introduce a policy that is likely to generate reciprocal penalties against U.S. exporters.

But that is only one reason the Senate bill is dumb. The chief reason is that access to imports is a key contributor to high U.S. living standards and American export competitiveness.

A third factor, less often recognized, has to do with the need for U.S. leadership in reaching wider geopolitical goals. If the U.S. puts up new trade barriers to China and attaches "buy American" provisions to federal spending—as the Obama administration did in 2009 and now wants to do again—other countries are likely to feel justified in moving to protect their own domestic markets.

The unintended consequences of a U.S. shift toward protectionism are not hard to predict. Brazil is already loudly complaining about pressure on local industry due to currency weakness abroad—meaning the U.S. dollar. In September it raised duties on some auto imports by 30 percentage points.

Closer to home, Mexico remains vulnerable to internal protectionist forces. Amazingly, the country has stuck to a liberal trade agenda in recent years despite the impact on exports from the 2009 U.S. recession and strong competition from China. But a World Trade Organization commitment it made in 2008 to lift all antidumping duties on some 1,500 Chinese goods this December is stirring up protectionist sentiment. Presidential and legislative elections slated for July will give nationalist populists an opportunity to strike.

The Bombardier manufacturing facility in Queretaro, Mexico

Sensational press coverage of Mexico's narco-violence has obscured the exciting story of the changing economic landscape brought on by openness. In an October economic analysis of the economy, the Spanish bank BBVA says that in 2010 Mexico was among the top 10 destinations in the world for foreign direct investment, which grew almost 22%.

BBVA found that the "main attraction" for that capital was Mexico's "platform" as an exporter of manufactured goods (over $246 billion in 2010) but also as an importer of manufactured goods ($250 billion). Those figures, BBVA said, "place Mexico as one of the economies most open to foreign trade and with the greatest trade activity internationally."

This has allowed Mexico to move up the food chain as a producer. One fascinating development is its evolving role in the global aerospace industry. Using data from the Boston Consulting Group, BBVA found that "in the aerospace category, [Mexico] is the main recipient [in the world] of FDI."

Baja California is home to 52 of the 232 aerospace companies in Mexico today and 40% of the industry's work force. Honeywell and Gulfstream are two household names that have facilities there. In Chihuahua, Cessna manufactures aircraft wiring sets (called harnesses) and ships them to Kansas for airplane assembly while Bell Helicopter manufactures cabins for commercial units. Jalisco is also an aerospace hotspot, with projects "in place," according to the Mexican-government publication Negocios, for "producing engine components, wiring harnesses, cables, landing system components and heat exchangers." By attracting the Canadian firm Bombardier in 2006, the state of Queretaro has pulled in a host of suppliers. A total of 50 local and foreign firms employ 4,800 workers in what is now "recognized as the strongest Mexican aerospace cluster," Negocios reports.

Increasing labor costs in China, and Mexico's low transportation and logistic costs for the Western Hemisphere, its available human capital, and its respect for intellectual-property rights are all conspiring to attract investors. But none of it would be happening without the opening to foreign trade and investment.

It is true that Mexico has not grown fast enough to satisfy its young population. But that's because Mexican competitiveness needs work. Crucial sectors like telecommunications, electricity and oil have to be deregulated to lower costs; and further opening to competitors like China is necessary.

This will entail tough domestic political battles which, if won, will make Mexico a stronger, wealthier democracy and a better U.S. neighbor. A new wave of protectionist thinking out of Washington is not going to be helpful to market liberals who are trying to stay the course.

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Science, Culture, & Humanities / America's Inner City; Urban Issues
« on: September 29, 2009, 08:06:10 AM »
Brutal video showing a glimpse of a day going home from a high school in Chicago last Thursday:  http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/metro/video_derrion_albert

More info after arrests:  http://cbs2chicago.com/local/derrion.albert.investigation.2.1212436.html

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Politics & Religion / The American Creed/Limited Government
« on: June 12, 2009, 10:33:50 AM »
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't see a topic for 'limited government' - maybe since it hasn't been pursued by either party in our lifetimes.  Could be put as 'way forward for conservatives' but even more important to me is to get reasonable Democrats to remember the value of concepts like 'limited government'.   - Doug

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/06/12/new_bill_ends_government_run_companies_96956.html

June 12, 2009
New Bill Ends Government-Run Companies
By John Thune

The federal government currently holds various ownership stakes in over 500 private companies. This alarming fact, along with the events of recent days in the auto industry, should serve as a wakeup call for all those concerned about preserving the free market principles upon which our nation was founded. As we have been so rudely reminded, government ownership of private companies threatens the fairness of markets, creates coercive business conditions, and allows government bureaucrats to dictate business decisions.

Government ownership interests in private companies create an uneven playing field. Companies aided by the government are given an unfair competitive advantage that private companies do not enjoy. Because of this influence, government entities distort the competitive process and lead to inefficient market outcomes which favor the government-owned entity.

Greater government involvement in private companies also fosters coercion and government manipulation. In the last six months, the federal government has fired CEOs of major corporations, intervened in advertising and production decisions, pressured businesses to make certain decisions and take certain public policy positions, and coordinated "pre-arranged" bankruptcy filings designed to reward the government's "friends." Instead of the private hand of the market guiding market activities, the cold hand of political power is shaping business decisions.

The federal government now finds itself in the strange position of owning 60 percent of General Motors, one of the nation's oldest and largest car companies, and eight percent of Chrysler. To reach this point, creditors who thought they held positions superior to other creditors were sent to the back of the line so that government-favored creditors could receive favorable treatment. Those who opposed the government-imposed solution and the outrageous division of assets were branded as trouble-making "speculators."

Now in control of several private institutions, the federal government will have the power to make management decisions. Instead of being guided by the discipline of the market, however, government owned companies are free to pursue the social goals of government bureaucrats, whether they be certain kinds of cars, loans to preferred demographics, or the latest demands of government-favored unions. Whether these experiments are unprofitable may not matter in the same way that it would for privately-owned companies. Unlike their privately owned counterparts, these government owned companies benefit from untold billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, without any guarantee of repayment in the future.

This state of affairs sounds so strange because it is so new. The heightened degree of government control of our economy is a major deviation from our nation's free-market philosophy. From the beginning of our republic, the economic sector has largely been dominated by privately owned firms competing with one another without the government dictating how these firms should act. But with little warning, we have entered a brave new world in which a large number of private firms are now subject to government control, an economic model perhaps familiar in Europe or South America, but not the United States.

Neither the citizens of this republic nor their elected representatives in Washington voted for this degree of government control over private businesses. Instead, what was supposed to be a short-term program to relieve financial institutions of toxic assets morphed into an uncontrolled and unauthorized bureaucracy extending its tentacles into hundreds of private businesses. With no explicit vote of Congressional approval, the federal government is now in the business of running banks, insurance companies, and car manufacturers.

To stop this dangerous course of action, I have introduced the Government Ownership Exit Plan Act. This legislation would put an immediate end to government purchases of additional direct ownership interests of private companies. It would also prohibit government officials from making or influencing business decisions when it comes to the companies in which the government already has an ownership interest.

It is equally important to set an exit strategy for this unprecedented government intrusion. The Government Ownership Exit Plan sets a hard deadline for the final termination of government ownership interests in private companies and puts our economy back on the path to competitiveness and private ownership, not governmental control. The legislation would require the Treasury to sell any ownership stake in a private entity by July 1, 2010. Revenue from the sale of these assets would be used for debt reduction.

If we do not act now, government ownership of these private entities could persist for decades. If we want to once again promote free market principles and the private ownership of business, it is time to act.

Thune is a Republican Senator from South Dakota.

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Politics & Religion / U.S. Census 2010
« on: May 01, 2009, 09:47:19 PM »
Next year's Census has already begun as I have met workers the last couple of days that are beginning to track the housing units with GPS and preparing to find, count and interpolate results for the number of people living in each jurisdiction in the United States.

This could have been broken down into a rant, a glibness post, an economic discussion, a media issue, an election fraud entry, and an illegal immigration comment but IMO they are all intertwined in this process that should NOT be a political issue but it is so it deserves its own topic.(? We'll see what the boss says...)

First, the direction of the Obama Census was pulled out of the Commerce Department and into the White House because specific and crucial political objectives are at stake. Imagine the media reaction if Bush-Cheney had done that. At the heart of the matter is to make sure we count, interpolate and extrapolate all potential Democratic constituencies, legal or not, at least once and then do some tweaking of the data as we do with global warming temperatures to make sure that the results fit our preconceived notions of what they should or might be.

Second, as I have whined often, the Census workers will be directed to make sure that income of the lower income groups is under-counted so that the rich will look richer and the disparity figures will look as disturbing as possible as that is the premise for the entire current governing philosophy.  As usual we will not count any of major sources of income for the underclass; we will not count subsidized housing as income, we will not count the EBT card as income (Electronic Benefits Transfers, formerly called food stamps etc.) even though they spend just like cash would for the benefits, we will not count free health care as income even as its value starts to climb into the tens of thousands per family and we will not Section 8 housing or energy assistance as income even though these programs often pay 90% or more of a family's housing cost, another 5 digit 'income' stream not counted.

And last for now, at a time when the number of trespassers in this country has reached into the tens of millions, we will spend well over ten billion dollars to send a million and a half ACORN organizers, xx I mean census workers, out to 'accurately' count every person living in this country.  STUPID QUESTION (?): wouldn't this also be a good time to find out who is a citizen, who is a legal, documented visitor and who is trespassing?? And do something about it!  Otherwise aren't we also going to be gerrymandering congressional and electoral vote representation to people who can not even vote in this country??

We will determine citizenship by asking them - just as you might find out if bank robbers robbed a bank - by asking them.

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ACORN was mentioned by Crafty in the voter fraud discussion, but not normally named by Obama as the group where he built his career community-organizing.  This group deserves its own DB topic IMO beyond its connection to the 'Obama phenomenon'.

My awareness of ACORN started with reading the fliers they give to tenants in inner city neighborhoods espousing a philosophy let's say that is different than mine, or of freedom, property rights, or individual responsibility.

On election 2004 in south Minneapolis, I had a personal run-in with them.  They tried all but physically to drag me off a roof to register and vote (in a precinct where I don't live).  They just couldn't take no for an answer.  I was refusing to tell them whether or not I had already voted asserting that it was a private matter and they kept trying to clarify that the question was whether or not I had voted, not who I would vote for.  I kept replying that I understood the question perfectly and still considered it very much a private matter.  At the point where I should have demanded they leave, I realized I was keeping them for the rest of their blockwork for as long as they cared to obsess on me.  It became quite a scene.  Quite clearly you could tell that their organization assignment was to not take no for an answer.  They wanted 100% turnout - or better...

ACORN is also tied to the mortgage meltdown as forced 'community reinvestment' anti-capitalism is part of their mission.
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Relevant NY Post story yesterday: "BARACK'S 'ORGANIZER' BUDS PUSHED FOR BAD MORTGAGES"

http://www.nypost.com/seven/09292008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/os_dangerous_pals_131216.htm?page=0

By STANLEY KURTZ

September 29, 2008

WHAT exactly does a "community organizer" do? Barack Obama's rise has left many Americans asking themselves that question. Here's a big part of the answer: Community organizers intimidate banks into making high-risk loans to customers with poor credit.

In the name of fairness to minorities, community organizers occupy private offices, chant inside bank lobbies, and confront executives at their homes - and thereby force financial institutions to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgages to low-credit customers.

In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it.

THE seeds of today's financial meltdown lie in the Community Reinvestment Act - a law passed in 1977 and made riskier by unwise amendments and regulatory rulings in later decades.

CRA was meant to encourage banks to make loans to high-risk borrowers, often minorities living in unstable neighborhoods. That has provided an opening to radical groups like ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) to abuse the law by forcing banks to make hundreds of millions of dollars in "subprime" loans to often uncreditworthy poor and minority customers.

Any bank that wants to expand or merge with another has to show it has complied with CRA - and approval can be held up by complaints filed by groups like ACORN.

In fact, intimidation tactics, public charges of racism and threats to use CRA to block business expansion have enabled ACORN to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contributions from America's financial institutions.

Banks already overexposed by these shaky loans were pushed still further in the wrong direction when government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began buying up their bad loans and offering them for sale on world markets.

Fannie and Freddie acted in response to Clinton administration pressure to boost homeownership rates among minorities and the poor. However compassionate the motive, the result of this systematic disregard for normal credit standards has been financial disaster.

ONE key pioneer of ACORN's subprime-loan shakedown racket was Madeline Talbott - an activist with extensive ties to Barack Obama. She was also in on the ground floor of the disastrous turn in Fannie Mae's mortgage policies.

Long the director of Chicago ACORN, Talbott is a specialist in "direct action" - organizers' term for their militant tactics of intimidation and disruption. Perhaps her most famous stunt was leading a group of ACORN protesters breaking into a meeting of the Chicago City Council to push for a "living wage" law, shouting in defiance as she was arrested for mob action and disorderly conduct. But her real legacy may be her drive to push banks into making risky mortgage loans.

In February 1990, Illinois regulators held what was believed to be the first-ever state hearing to consider blocking a thrift merger for lack of compliance with CRA. The challenge was filed by ACORN, led by Talbott. Officials of Bell Federal Savings and Loan Association, her target, complained that ACORN pressure was undermining its ability to meet strict financial requirements it was obligated to uphold and protested being boxed into an "affirmative-action lending policy." The following years saw Talbott featured in dozens of news stories about pressuring banks into higher-risk minority loans.

IN April 1992, Talbott filed an other precedent-setting com plaint using the "community support requirements" of the 1989 savings-and-loan bailout, this time against Avondale Federal Bank for Savings. Within a month, Chicago ACORN had organized its first "bank fair" at Malcolm X College and found 16 Chicago-area financial institutions willing to participate.

Two months later, aided by ACORN organizer Sandra Maxwell, Talbott announced plans to conduct demonstrations in the lobbies of area banks that refused to attend an ACORN-sponsored national bank "summit" in New York. She insisted that banks show a commitment to minority lending by lowering their standards on downpayments and underwriting - for example, by overlooking bad credit histories.

By September 1992, The Chicago Tribune was describing Talbott's program as "affirmative-action lending" and ACORN was issuing fact sheets bragging about relaxations of credit standards that it had won on behalf of minorities.

And Talbott continued her effort to, as she put it, drag banks "kicking and screaming" into high-risk loans. A September 1993 story in The Chicago Sun-Times presents her as the leader of an initiative in which five area financial institutions (including two of her former targets, now plainly cowed - Bell Federal Savings and Avondale Federal Savings) were "participating in a $55 million national pilot program with affordable-housing group ACORN to make mortgages for low- and moderate-income people with troubled credit histories."

What made this program different from others, the paper added, was the participation of Fannie Mae - which had agreed to buy up the loans. "If this pilot program works," crowed Talbott, "it will send a message to the lending community that it's OK to make these kind of loans."

Well, the pilot program "worked," and Fannie Mae's message that risky loans to minorities were "OK" was sent. The rest is financial-meltdown history.

IT would be tough to find an "on the ground" community organizer more closely tied to the subprime-mortgage fiasco than Madeline Talbott. And no one has been more supportive of Madeline Talbott than Barack Obama.

When Obama was just a budding community organizer in Chicago, Talbott was so impressed that she asked him to train her personal staff.

He returned to Chicago in the early '90s, just as Talbott was starting her pressure campaign on local banks. Chicago ACORN sought out Obama's legal services for a "motor voter" case and partnered with him on his 1992 "Project VOTE" registration drive.

In those years, he also conducted leadership-training seminars for ACORN's up-and-coming organizers. That is, Obama was training the army of ACORN organizers who participated in Madeline Talbott's drive against Chicago's banks.

More than that, Obama was funding them. As he rose to a leadership role at Chicago's Woods Fund, he became the most powerful voice on the foundation's board for supporting ACORN and other community organizers. In 1995, the Woods Fund substantially expanded its funding of community organizers - and Obama chaired the committee that urged and managed the shift.

That committee's report on strategies for funding groups like ACORN features all the key names in Obama's organizer network. The report quotes Talbott more than any other figure; Sandra Maxwell, Talbott's ACORN ally in the bank battle, was also among the organizers consulted.

MORE, the Obama-supervised Woods Fund report ac knowledges the problem of getting donors and foundations to contribute to radical groups like ACORN - whose confrontational tactics often scare off even liberal donors and foundations.

Indeed, the report brags about pulling the wool over the public's eye. The Woods Fund's claim to be "nonideological," it says, has "enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government 'establishments' without undue risk of being criticized for partisanship."

Hmm. Radicalism disguised by a claim to be postideological. Sound familiar?

The Woods Fund report makes it clear Obama was fully aware of the intimidation tactics used by ACORN's Madeline Talbott in her pioneering efforts to force banks to suspend their usual credit standards. Yet he supported Talbott in every conceivable way. He trained her personal staff and other aspiring ACORN leaders, he consulted with her extensively, and he arranged a major boost in foundation funding for her efforts.

And, as the leader of another charity, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Obama channeled more funding Talbott's way - ostensibly for education projects but surely supportive of ACORN's overall efforts.

In return, Talbott proudly announced her support of Obama's first campaign for state Senate, saying, "We accept and respect him as a kindred spirit, a fellow organizer."

IN short, to understand the roots of the subprime-mort gage crisis, look to ACORN's Madeline Talbott. And to see how Talbott was able to work her mischief, look to Barack Obama.

Then you'll truly know what community organizers do.

8
Politics & Religion / Abortion
« on: September 14, 2008, 10:20:28 PM »
Respectfully answering a post that opposed Palin on issues and listed "choice" first, I thought it was time to open the unmentionable topic of abortion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) The fetus (little one) is alive

2) It is of the human species, and

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

Are not all three of these true???

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

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

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

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


9
Politics & Religion / Palin phenomenon
« on: September 08, 2008, 09:01:17 AM »
Even if she fails miserably and becomes a trivia question in history, I think she has already earned her own DB topic.  :-)

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

If you want to preview for the VP debate you can see a Gubernatorial debate from 2006 on C-Span at http://cspanjunkie.org/?p=407  Unlike her current opponent, she makes her point clearly and then stops talking. The woman has talent.

10
Politics & Religion / Death of NATO
« on: September 02, 2008, 08:15:04 PM »
I would add to the thesis below, death of the UN also.

September 1, 2008
Farewell NATO
by Victor Davis Hanson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That stately Santa Rosa orchard? When it finally was toppled, uprooted and cut up, we all nearly wept — but my grandfather had new varieties of plum trees planted in its place by the next spring.

11
Politics & Religion / US-Africa
« on: February 17, 2008, 04:47:30 PM »
A largely untold story that Bush brought to light with his current trip there...

http://www.heritage.org/Research/Africa/wm1817.cfm

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

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

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

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

Real Outcomes from America's Successful Engagement with Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

There is substantial agreement by both sides of the political aisle on the need to forge close relations with African countries and work together to promote economic growth, stability, and good governance. Congressional action to support these programs is critical to maintaining America's efforts to replace poverty with prosperity in the continent. Congress should support these initiatives and programs so that America can continue its efforts to guide Africa into a brighter future.

12
Politics & Religion / U.S. Senate Races of 2008
« on: January 29, 2008, 08:33:29 AM »
Here is a thread to start watching the Senate. The Presidential thread has been a great place to both read and post during this already bizarre and frustrating year.  The Senate and House races are more local in focus, but national and global in importance.  I hope others will join in here and help keep a watch across the country.

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

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

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

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

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

Al Franken commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-bLcv7bs84&feature=related or linked at alfranken.com.  Mike Ciresi commercials are posted at: http://www.ciresi.tv/

Unfortunately Sen. Norm Coleman, as a Democrat-lite (with an R) centrist and former Democratic mayor of St. Paul, he doesn't have much of a conservative core to "fight back' with.

13
Politics & Religion / Bridges and Infrastructure
« on: August 22, 2007, 09:53:07 PM »
This post could have gone into 'Science' but I think the topic, if discussed, will quickly move to politics.  I wrote earlier that  "I twice drove over an 8-lane, 2000 ft. bridge within 3 hours of it tumbling into the Mississippi."  The story is national but it is a particularly big deal here since it is still down and quite a few people died, 13 I think.  My flippant mind tells me the force that brought the bridge down was gravity and the onus was on the engineers to tell us why it shouldn't fall.

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

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

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

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

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

By Laurie Blake, Star Tribune

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

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

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

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

Sensors in the bridge detect freezing temperatures before ice forms and activate the potassium spray to prevent ice formation.  The liquid will squirt out of nozzles in an arc 4 to 6 inches high, so motorists will see the spray. The deck surface will be wet.  The plastic nozzles are about an inch thick and 11 inches in diameter. The spray will reach most of the bridge and vehicles will spread it across the entire deck.

14
Politics & Religion / Venezuela
« on: June 08, 2007, 10:00:56 AM »
I didn't see an English language thread for Venezuela, so I hope this can be a place to exchange information and views.

It's nice to see Denny (captainccs) post.  I remember his wisdom on investing and life posted elsewhere.  I was concerned for his safety when I saw a gap between posts of Chavez dissent on his site at softwaretimes.com. 

I wonder what people in Venezuela can or should do to get their country back, and I wonder what people in the U.S. and other countries can or should do to help.

Here is a Reuters (English) version of the Douglas Barrios story since I can't read the Spanish version. Click on the link to include the protest photo with the story.

http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-6-7/56241.html

Students Take TV Fight to Venezuela Congress

Reuters,     Jun 07, 2007

Thousands of students and university rectors and professors march for freedom of expression in Caracas. (Photo)

CARACAS—Students took their 11-day-old protest over President Hugo Chavez's shutdown of the last nationwide opposition television station to Venezuela's Congress on Thursday, in a rare appearance by the opposition in the legislature.

Addressing the 167-member body, where there have been no opposition lawmakers since 2005, student leader Douglas Barrios said daily demonstrations against the closure of RCTV would continue.

"Today our classes are in the street," he said in remarks that were broadcast nationally.

At one point, Barrios took off his T-shirt in the signature red of Chavez, saying Venezuelans could refuse to wear the government uniform—a reference to the opposition's charge that Chavez intimidates people into displaying support for him.

The closing has become the rallying cry for a nascent pro-democracy student movement that critics of the president hope can help fill a void left by a weak opposition in the polarized OPEC nation.

Congress, which has granted Chavez the power to rule by decree, organized a debate over the station's closure between pro- and anti-government students and the government required all Venezuelan television and radio to broadcast the session.

The anti-Chavez students—part of a mainly middle-class movement that has at times drawn tens of thousands onto the streets—walked out after the first pro-government speech, complaining the event was politicized.

They were escorted past Chavez supporters outside by security forces with anti-riot shields. Some were driven off in a troop carrier.

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