Monday, June 30

A new post?...YUP

I know I's been a long time. But I recently saw a discussion over the Supreme Court's recent decision to guarantee the right of every individual to own firearms and my head almost exploded. It was time for a Boring Political Diatribe.

In case you haven't heard, the Supreme Court, for the first time ever, made a major decision about the 2nd Amendment. Since its passage in 1791, there had never been a clarification by the supreme court of its meaning...until now. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Scalia, the court argued that the amendment's phrasing protected all law-abiding citizens to own weapons for both hunting and self-defense.

So...where to start? For me, the entire situation could not be more ridiculous. And it's part of a bigger problem with our national dialogue. See, since the 1980s (and slightly earlier going back to the 1960s), conservatives have been obsessed with the idea of strict constructionism: the idea that the law of the land should be derived strictly from the constitution. This was a way of trying to undermine the liberal decisions of the Warren Court (which gave us such horrible things as Brown v. Board, the ending of miscegenation laws, and the right to use birth control) because many of those decisions had taken some liberties with strict interpretations of the constitution. So, the movement towards strict constructivism was an attempt to persuade voters that conservative principles were more in line with the ideas of our honored founding fathers, and thus more righteous.

At this point I should mention two things:

One, why we should care about what our founding fathers meant or even if we can is completely mysterious to me. No other country in the world is obsessed with this sort of thing, it is quite strange. Our founding fathers were not geniuses, they made plenty of mistakes, many within our Constitution. Some have been rectified (slavery anyone?) and some haven't (our ridiculous electoral system for one). Additionally, the constitutional convention was attended by 55 delegates. How could we possibly read into the thoughts and minds of 55 people? And of course, everything in the constitution was a compromise, so it is possible that no one fully agreed with any of the wording of the constitution. For me, trying to strictly interpret the constitution based on what we think people in the late 18th century were thinking is just beyond crazy.
And two, many of the conservative attempts to strictly interpret the constitution, just fail on the most basic accounts of common sense. In other words, to say that the interpretation is a strict understanding of the Constitution is either lying or just plain crazy. Coming to these conclusions takes quite a lot of intellectual acrobatics. For example, the 2nd amendment reads:"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." As some quick background, the reason this amendment was approved was because it addressed a major issue from the Revolution. Leading up to the revolution, the British had forbid the colonial militias from carrying arms because they feared insurrection. Not surprisingly, the recent revolutionaries were so outraged by this infringement that they put a law in their new constitution protecting militia's rights to carry arms. Of course, they didn't really think this through: the British outlawed these guns because they rightly feared a rebellion against the government. It was not as if outlawing guns precipitated the revolution, it was just a normal reaction by the British to the coming of a rebellion. To include this amendment in the bill of rights was just to stick it to the British: to show them that Americans were better because they were going to preserve those rights. But no government believes itself to be illegitimate; to allow citizens to arm themselves against the government in a democracy is a recipe for disaster and probably some sort of dictatorial takeover. Honestly, the founding fathers never really thought this one through.
So that is the real background to the 2nd amendment. Notice that it only applies to militias (by the way, soon after, the militias were incorporated into what we now call the national guard). Now, I guess one could argue that the writers of this amendment would not even have imagined a scenario where guns would be outlawed amongst the general populace. For many people of the time guns were used to secure food, so it would have been inconceivable that the government would actually outlaw them. But still, a strict interpretation would affirm only that militias have a right to bear arms. That the founders didn't think about it only affirms my point that we shouldn't look back on them for guidance. Still, conservatives argue that the 2nd amendment is a promise to the American people that they have the right to have guns. How they derive this is a mystery to me: there is no such promise, the amendment specifically protects a militias rights to own guns and the reason it does so is because militias challenge the government. As with all the amendments in the bill of rights, central government's power is challenged and state's rights are preserved. A more open interpretation would only grant that the 2nd amendment gives people the right to have guns only in terms of resistance to the government (ironically, a position that even the NRA finds hard to defend). It makes no mention in any way to the right to own guns for self-protection.

But what really set me off was a comment by a conservative pundit who claimed that finally the Supreme Court had stepped in to preserve the rights granted to us in our constitution and had showed those winy gun-restricting liberals a thing or two, as if this was some sort of major constitutional crisis between the powers of government and the powers of the people. In reality, the entire gun control debate is about mobilizing blue-collar voters against the "elitist" Democratic Party. It has no other purpose. As some brief history: "liberals" and the government had no interest in restricting guns until 1920s (with the exception of 1790s when George Washington confiscated the guns of those involved in the Whiskey Rebellion, thus showing that to allow rebellious groups to have guns in the name of overthrowing the government is just plain crazy anyhow) when gangsters started going on killing sprees in urban environments with automatic Tommy Guns. Thus, in 1934, the National Firearms Act outlawed automatic weapons. There was no major protest. In 1938, the U.S. government began regulation of domestic arms sales under the interstate commerce clause, which would eventually lead to the setting up of the ATF. Still no protest. In 1968, in response to the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the government began to register gun owners and disallow certain felons and those with a history of mental illness from owning guns. Still, no major protest, although the NRA shifted its emphasis from a gun-club, to a political organization trying to influence legislation to ensure that gun owners were respected and did not have to pay for expensive permits, etc. In 1986, the Law Enforcement Protection Act was passed that outlawed armor piercing "cop-killing" bullets. Still, no protest, but also in that year the NRA pushed for a Firearms Owner's Protection Act that streamlined the process to gun ownership, but also created heavier restrictions for those involved in armed crimes.

But then came 1994. In 1994, Bill Clinton pushed for two laws: The Brady Bill which forced anyone buying a gun to go through a 5-day waiting period in order to administer a background check and what would be called the "Assault Weapons Ban," which banned semi-automatic weapons. Now the protests started. The NRA was not happy with this bill, they had become accustomed to 12 years of working with Republican administrations and they were being shut out of the process. But more importantly, Republican strategists believed they could use this issue to split blue-collar Democrats and push swing voters into the Republican camp. They painted Clinton, Democrats, and liberals as elitists who didn't understand the importance of guns to many rural families. They claimed that these liberals looked down upon those that owned guns. They claimed that liberals were the ones trying to take away their tradition of gun ownership and hunting. Of course this was psychological warfare. The Republicans were playing on the minds of many Americans who owned guns who were feeling ostracized not by liberals, but by society for owning guns. Many of these swing voters were traditionalists and in an era of rapid change, such traditionalists are logically going to feel uneasy and insecure. Republicans were able to channel these insecurities and direct it against Democrats. Nevermind that the laws did almost nothing to most gun-owners or that repeal of those laws would lead to much higher crime rates in urban areas. Clinton and the Democrats were the bad guys. Not surprisingly, the elections in 1994 were a complete disaster for the Democrats on a surprising scale. The gun issue was cited by many voters in swing states and areas as why they came and voted Republican. The Republicans gained 62 seats in Congress, gained the Senate and the Congress back (the Republican Party had not held the Congress since 1954).

Since then, the Democrats have basically given up on Gun Control. They have bigger fights to fight, I suppose. But Republicans have continued to use this issue to wedge normally Democratic voters from the Democratic Party. The Supreme Court ruling was the culmination of this mobilized outrage and is not based on any reasonable interpretation of the constitution or any interest in reasonable government administration.

Tuesday, February 12


His only weakness: SuperDelegatium

Tuesday, January 29

Well done, TMQ

My sentiments, exactly:

U.S. Congress to the Next Generation --Drop Dead:
Announcing the economic stimulus package agreed to last week by both parties in the House of Representatives, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared that typical Americans can expect to receive a "stipend" of $300 to $1,200. Stipend -- will we get a federally funded sherry hour, too? Calling a government check a "stipend," to make it seem lofty and grand, reflects the modern affection CEOs have for calling the cash they receive "compensation" rather than pay, and consultants and speakers insist on saying they are receiving "honoraria" rather than pay. There is nothing wrong with receiving pay! And no reason to employ euphemisms.

The stimulus bill will cost about $150 billion and consists entirely of deficit spending. The secondary euphemism being employed in Washington is to call the checks "tax rebates." But they are not rebates, meaning partial returns of monies paid -- they are pure borrowing. Which is to say, Congress will award most current American adults $300 to $1,200 each, then send the bill to future American adults. Suppose that instead, each American adult today set aside $300 at 5 percent interest. In 20 years, that money would grow to $800, and likely much more if invested in stocks. Such savings would be good for the U.S. economy, which, since 2001, has seen a negative national savings rate. China's national savings rate is currently almost 50 percent. Savings is one reason the Chinese economy is growing far faster than the U.S. economy; the U.S. savings rate is close to negative-4 percent, and our economic growth is sputtering.

But rather than help the U.S. economy grow in a generous way that forgoes a little today to gain a lot tomorrow, the American people -- through their representatives in Congress -- just reached into the pockets of future citizens in order to spend more on themselves right now. Explain to me why this is considered a populist action by Congress?

Bear in mind, the stimulus package announced last week is only an agreement between the two parties in the House. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Senate currently are scrambling to add their own pet projects to the legislation -- whenever a big spending bill moves, there's always a bidding war in which Republicans and Democrats vie to see who can stage the biggest giveaway. The damage to the national debt might get worse because what's happening now is the environment Congress likes best -- an environment of zero fiscal discipline. Lobbyists for retirees, who already are subsidized by the young, are complaining that their special interest isn't being showered with free money by the stimulus bill; lobbyists for pork-barrel projects that could never withstand logical scrutiny are maneuvering to wrap them in the flag and add them to the stimulus bill. By the time the stimulus bill leaves Capitol Hill, the young might be saddled with yet more debt so that members of Congress can congratulate themselves as they hand checks to politically connected fat-cat donors or to retirees already drawing out of Social Security far more than they put in, plus interest.

Next, recall that on Jan. 4, 2007, both houses of Congress agreed with considerable fanfare on the Paygo measure, which stated that under no circumstances -- under no circumstances, never, regardless of conditions! -- would Congress enact any bill that increases the federal debt. According to the Paygo legislation, the House and Senate are forbidden even to debate legislation that would increase the debt. ("It shall not be in order to consider any bill, joint resolution, amendment or conference report if the provisions of such measure affecting direct spending and revenues have the net effect of increasing the deficit …") Paygo rules specify that all bills causing appropriations increases or tax favors must be offset be spending reductions or tax increases. When Paygo was enacted, many members of Congress from both parties, prominently Speaker Pelosi, patted themselves on the back in public.

National Debt Clock

[Thanks to the United States Congress, the National Debt Clock has been spinning overtime.]

How long did this incredible resolve last? Six weeks ago, Congress passed a reduction of the Alternative Minimum Tax; the bill cut taxes by $51 billion but provides no offsetting revenues. Originally, the measure would have reduced the AMT for the middle class while raising taxes by an equal amount on the upper crust of venture capitalists and hedge-fund managers. All the revenue increases ended up deleted -- hedge-fund managers showered members of Congress with campaign donations -- but the tax cuts were approved. Congress ladled out the $51 billion entirely from deficit spending, then handed the bill to the young. Now, the stimulus package goes even further, at least $150 billion in gravy without spending cuts or offsetting revenue increases. Barely 12 months after pledging never, ever again to add to the federal debt, Congress will add at least $201 billion to the federal debt. The federal deficit for the most recent fiscal year, which ended before either of the new actions, was $163 billion. Congress has, in the past six weeks alone, added more to the federal debt than the entire federal deficit for the most recent fiscal year.It's impossible to be sure, but a rough guess might be that every dollar added to the deficit today represents two dollars subtracted from future economic growth -- which in turn means two dollars taken from the pockets of tomorrow's American adults. This is a cynical exercise, robbing future Americans in order to please voters today, and to inspire interest groups to make political donations to incumbents. When are citizens under 30 going to wake up to the disagreeable fact that the country's current leadership, of both parties, is giving them the shaft in order to heap special favors on current voters who refuse to live within their means? Then handing the young the bill.

Monday, January 28

The campaign in pictures and videos...

I'm just taking a poll: how many of us have pulled this move:

So far, the Clintons haven't been able to pick up much dirt on Obama. The big one has been Obama's long-standing connections to Illinois power broker and sleazeball, Tony Rezko. I bet they weren't happy when someone found this picture (for the record this is not photoshopped):

And lastly, here's a Republican's attempt at reaching out to minority voters:

(Who let the dogs out? At least he didn't tell them they "can't touch this.")

And here's Giuliani wearing some of his less embarrassing atire...a yamaka:

Thursday, January 24

Reich Blasts Clinton

Former Secretary of Labor and avowed Clintonite let it known where he stood in regard to the Clinton's recent attacks against Obama with this excerpt from his blog. (Reich, by the way, ran against a certain Mitt Romney in his attempt to become Governor of Massachusetts. Also, Reich was my professor for one day.)


Bill Clinton's Old Politics

I write this more out of sadness than anger. Bill Clinton’s ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife’s campaign. Nor are they helping the Democratic party. While it may be that all is fair in love, war, and politics, it’s not fair – indeed, it’s demeaning – for a former President to say things that are patently untrue (such as Obama’s anti-war position is a “fairy tale”) or to insinuate that Obama is injecting race into the race when the former President is himself doing it. Meanwhile, the attack ads being run in South Carolina by the Clinton camp which quote Obama as saying Republicans had all the ideas under Reagan, is disingenuous. For years, Bill Clinton and many other leading Democrats have made precisely the same point – that starting in the Reagan administration, Republicans put forth a range of new ideas while the Democrats sat on their hands. Many of these ideas were wrong-headed and dangerous, such as supply-side economics. But for too long Democrats failed counter with new ideas of their own; they wrongly assumed that the old Democratic positions and visions would be enough. Clinton’s 1992 campaign – indeed, the entire “New Democratic” message of the 1990s – was premised on the importance of taking back the initiative from the Republicans and offering Americans a new set of ideas and principles. Now, sadly, we’re witnessing a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics.

Maybe Nice Guys do Finish Last

The Democratic Party and all of its major candidates seems to have agreed to a basic platform:
-Repeal of Bush tax cuts
-Middle class tax cuts
-Universal Health Care
-Out of Iraq with all deliberate speed
- More Environmental Regulation
- Programs to move towards clean energies
- A pledge to keep an eye on corporate greed
- Appointment of judges who will maintain the separation of church and state

This is the same program that Gore had in 2000 and Kerry had in 2004. In some ways, it's also the program Clinton had in 1992. The Democrats, unlike the Republicans, believe that their platform can win and that the only reason they didn't was because of the unliked personalities of their former presidential candidates and their inability to fight an aggressive campaign. That's why this nomination battle has been all about personality.

As such, I leaned towards Obama. Obama ran a campaign that we would all like to see more of: he stayed away from personal attacks, he raised campaign money (and there was a lot of it) from small donors, he dealt firmly and fairly with complex issues, he made his appeal to a wide range of voters, and he made inspiring speeches at the most appropriate times. Clinton, on the other hand, ran the type of campaign that we all hate: after Iowa, she began attacks that were personal and highly distorted, she raised most of her money from corporate and large donors, she used scare tactics to confuse issues and simplify them, and she had clearly changed positions to increase her likelihood of being elected.

But if Machiavelli has taught us anything, and honestly he hasn't taught us much, is that while political decisions may be moral, actual political maneuvering is always amoral. In other words, in politics, the ends (if righteous) will justify the means. I should have kept that in mind before I predicted that Obama would be the next president.

What the Clintons understand, and understood, is that you can't beat Republican sludge with sanitized feel-goodedness. Unless you are a masterful politician, you can't win the political battles unless you're willing to get a little bit dirty. In reality, Clinton's attacks have not been that effective (what has been much more effective are the anonymous campaign materials that have convinced a large percentage of the population that Obama is Muslim), but they have shown Democratic voters that Obama won't be able to handle the heat. What the Clintons are throwing at Obama now is nothing compared to what he will get when he runs against a Republican. Now, I think that McCain, the likely Republican nominee, has ran remarkably clean campaigns so I don't think he'll do much mud throwing, but the Republican machine (Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reily, Fox News, etc.) will do more than enough to make up for this shortcoming. And what Clinton has shown is that Obama cannot even handle her attacks. In this light, Democrats are moving towards a candidate that they know can put up a fight.

Wednesday, January 23

Thorough Article from Joseph Stiglitz

How to Stop the Downturn

AMERICA’S economy is headed for a major slowdown. Whether there is a recession (two quarters of negative growth) is less important than the fact that the economy will operate well below its potential, and unemployment will grow. The country needs a stimulus, but anything we do will add to our soaring deficit, so it is important to get as much bang for the buck as possible. The optimal package would contain one fast-acting measure along with others that could lead to increased spending if and only if the economy goes into a steep downturn.

We should begin by strengthening the unemployment insurance system, because money received by the unemployed would be spent immediately.

The federal government should also provide some assistance to states and localities, which are already beginning to feel the pinch, as property values have fallen. Typically, they respond by cutting spending, and this acts as an automatic destabilizer. Federal assistance should come in the form of support for rebuilding crucial infrastructure.

More federal support for state education budgets would also strengthen the economy in the short run and promote growth in the long run, as would spending to promote energy conservation and lower emissions. It may take some time to put these kinds of well-designed expenditure programs into place, but this slowdown looks as if it will last longer than some of the other downturns in recent memory. Housing prices have a long way to fall to return to more normal levels, and if Americans start saving more than they have been, consumption could remain low for some time.

The Bush administration has long taken the view that tax cuts (especially permanent tax cuts for the rich) are the solution to every problem. This is wrong. Tax cuts in general perpetuate the excessive consumption that has marked the American economy. But middle- and lower-income Americans have been suffering for the last seven years — median family income is lower today than it was in 2000. A tax rebate aimed at lower- and middle-income households makes sense, especially since it would be fast-acting.

Something should be done about foreclosures, and appropriately designed legislation allowing those who have been victims of predatory lending to stay in their homes would stimulate the economy. But we should not spend too much on this. If we do, we’ll wind up bailing out investors, and they are not the ones who need help from taxpayers.

In 2001, the Bush administration used the impending recession as an excuse to cut taxes for upper-income Americans — the very group that had done so well over the preceding quarter-century. The cuts were not intended to stimulate the economy, and they did so only to a limited extent. To keep the economy going, the Federal Reserve was forced to lower interest rates to an unprecedented extent and then look the other way as America engaged in reckless lending. The economy was sustained on borrowed money and borrowed time.

The day of reckoning has come. This time we need a stimulus that stimulates. The question is, will the president and Congress put aside politics to get the job done?

Tuesday, January 22

A diatribe from TMQ

"Suppose the General Manager of the Miami Dolphins Awarded Himself the Same Bonus as the General Manager of the New England Patriots: Last week, this story appeared buried inside the business pages of The Washington Post. Why wasn't the story on Page 1? The Post reports that the blue-blooded five, Wall Street's five top investment banking houses, awarded their management $39 billion in bonuses for 2007 -- a period when those firms combined to earn investors about $11 billion in profits. Merrill Lynch lost $8 billion in 2007, Morgan Stanley $3 billion and Bear Stearns $230 million, yet the executives of these companies were showered with billions of dollars in bonuses. Otherwise, they would refuse to do any work! Which, apparently, would be in shareholders' interest. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley could have done better by their shareholders in 2007 by simply purchasing Treasury bills; a software program designed to make simple conservative investment decisions about market-following mutual funds would have performed better in 2007 than the top management of most investment banking houses. And the software program would not have paid itself billions of dollars in bonuses for screwing up! (TMQ owns no stock in any of the mentioned firms.)

It's one thing when profitable firms shower money on their CEOs and other top brass; often the amounts are indecent, but as long as shareholders come out ahead, the executives have at least some justification for their windfalls. But in the modern milieu of corporate kleptocracy, even when the company does terribly and the CEO makes decisions that blow up in the firm's face, the CEO awards himself hundreds of millions of dollars, anyway. Why is this not seen as white-collar crime?

Last week's buried Post story included this priceless quote: "'To many people, [the bonuses] will be shocking and questionable,' said Jeanne Branthover, managing director of Boyden Global Executive Search. 'People in New York in the world of investment banking will understand it. It's critical that pay is still there or you're going to lose really good people.'" Beyond that executive headhunter firms such as Boyden have a self-interest in running up CEO pay -- this can increase the search firms' headhunting commissions -- consider the reasoning: OMG, we can't lose the really good people who cost our shareholders billions of dollars with dim-witted decisions! The notion that top corporate managers must be paid fantastic amounts because they possess incredible, astonishing expertise often is used to justify CEO pay, even when the managers who claim the incredible, astonishing expertise make foolish decisions. "We'll put billions of dollars of money entrusted to our care into subprime gimmick mortgages backed by no documentation of income; my incredible, astonishing expertise tells me this is totally safe!"

If corporate managers who screwed up received $5.85 an hour, the federal minimum wage, for the year in which they screwed up -- that is, if their wallets were at risk when they perform poorly -- then they might fairly argue for huge bonuses when they perform well. But there is no evidence that the people who made the big investment calls on Wall Street last year (except at Goldman Sachs, which avoided the subprime mess) are any better at what they do than people chosen at random off a Brooklyn street. You bet "people in New York in the world of investment banking" will understand huge executive bonuses paid in the same year as huge losses. What's happening is basically a hustle, intended to enrich the executives while separating the investors from their cash. "People in New York in the world of investment banking" understand that, all right!"

Tuesday, January 15

More Election Coverage

Item #1: Who is Reaganer?
All of the Republican candidates seemed to have given up talking about "issues" or even themselves, and instead have focused on who is more like their hero Ronald Reagan. The way they were talking about him in last Thursday's debate in South Carolina, you'd think Reagan was the second coming of Christ. Everything that Reagan did was brilliant and he is the ideal president that they all aspire to be. I find this to be very disappointing.

I hold the following opinions regarding our nation:
1. Government should strive to treat all of its citizens equally.
2. Government should ensure the prosperity of all of its people.
3. The president should be somewhat knowledgeable and aware of important events.
4. Only people who are not wickedly corrupt should be appointed to serve in high public office
5. The Government should make long-term plans that go beyond the current election cycle in order to safeguard the prosperity of future generations
6. The President should not be viewed and treated as incompetent by his closest advisers.
7. Government and the President should be honest with its people.
8. The Executive Branch should not try to ignore and directly disobey the Constitution (for example, by doing things expressly forbidden by Congress, like training para-military groups in Central America to overthrow democratically elected governments or selling missiles to our nation's #1 enemy)

While many people may not ascribe to these principles, ostensibly this would include all the major candidates for President in the Republican Party, if you do believe in these principles, as I do, you would have to grade Reagan to be one of the WORST, if not THE WORST, President in American history (the current administration exempted). As long as Americans continue to think that Reagan was anything more than a horrible president, future candidates will continue to use Reagan as a historical precedent for their insane policy proscriptions and in fact use Reagan to legitimize those policies.

While I'm at it, let me tackle two more myths related to Reagan:
-Myth #1 Reagan won the Cold War
hehe...I never get tired of this one. In 1991, after leaving the presidency two years before, Reagan finally won the Cold War by charging up a mountain killing Russia's champion warrior, Mikhail Gorbachev, and conquering the last bastion of communist resistance in the Kremlin.
The way people talk about Reagan and the Cold War, you'd think this actually happened. The reality is quite different. Most idiots who claim that Reagan won the Cold War do so based on three theories:
1. Reagan was tough with the communists and they finally caved in because they couldn't take the heat.
2. The election of a fervent anti-communist like Reagan showed that the U.S. was not willing to back down. This lead to the Russians losing morale and giving up.
3. Reagan's massive military buildup could not be met by the Russians, so they folded up rather than compete.

Let's go through these shall we:
First, Reagan did not do anything different with Russia than his predecessors. End of story. It could be said that Reagan used tougher rhetoric, but in reality Reagan was never any harsher with actual Russian officials than say Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, or Carter. All of his predecessors were very tough with communists. More than anything, Reagan used his rhetoric to get elected not to really push around communists, whom he negotiated with regularly.
Second, according to most analysts, the election of Reagan was not seen as very important by most high-ranking communists. The only group that it seems to have affected were those in the military who called for MORE confrontation with the U.S. and demanded MORE influence within the Politburo. Taking into account that the military nearly put an end to Yeltsin's attempt to break apart the Soviet Union, it could be argued that Reagan's bellicose personality nearly entrenched communism for another generation.
Third, it is true that the Soviets backed down from Reagan's ridiculous military buildup. How this lead to the fall of communism is not exactly clear. It still could be said that the buildup did lead to the end of the Cold War, but two things should be kept in mind: one, this was an unforeseen consequence (Reagan had no clue that the Russians were even capable of backing down) and two, the reason the Soviets couldn't compete with the U.S. in military expenditures was that its economy and political support was collapsing. It is somewhat ironic that conservatives that credit Reagan for ending the Cold War neglect to mention that what really ended the Cold War was the inefficiencies and contradictions within communism and a command economy.

Myth #2: Reagan= Tax Cuts, Tax Cuts, Tax Cuts, and more Tax Cuts
There have been many surreal moments during this election cycle. I have two favorites. One was an exchange in a debate between Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee that went like this (paraphrased):
Thompson: I fear that Gov. Huckabee may not be willing to follow the Reagan model. He raised taxes in his state and he has endorsed liberal economic policies.
Huckabee: In Arkansas we cut taxes 63 times. And trust me, there were plenty of people who were not happy about it, but I still cut taxes because I believed that our government was too big.

In other words, 63 tax cuts was not enough.
The other also involved Huckabee, but this time with Romney:
Romney: Now answer me frankly, did you or did you not raise taxes in your state?
Huckabee: I built roads and bridges and schools-
Romney: That's political talk. Are you going to answer the question?
Huckabee: When I first took office we did need funds for some improvements, but once those were finished I worked to cut the fat out of the state's government. I cut taxes 63 times in my ten years as governor.

This is the state of the debates between Republicans. Who can cut taxes faster, quicker, more often and craziest deserves to be president. 'What 9.2 trillion dollar debt?'

I won't bother to mention how stupid this is and that supply-side economic theory was discredited 15 years ago and that every reasonable economist thought the Bush tax cuts to be insane and that the Bush tax cuts have been a huge failure, but I will mention Reagan. Reagan raised taxes. Twice. As Governor of California, not only did Reagan raise taxes but he did little to prevent the continued growth of state government. As President, Reagan repealed his own tax cuts once it became obvious that...well.. they were insane, making the country bankrupt, and destroying the economy.

Item #2: Civil Rights Faux Paus

Recently, Hillary Clinton made the following statement: "Dr King’s dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done."

There are three things to be said about this:
One, I don't mind politically incorrect statements...unless they are from a politician ...from a party that I'll be voting for.
Two, related to the first, why the hell did she say this? Why is this even relevant. Is she writing a book on the history of the civil rights movement? She's running for president, why do I need to know her particular interpretation of historical events. What was her point? The closest I've come to answering this question is that she's comparing MLK to Obama and pointing out that change only occurs when an experienced leader (like Johnson) is able to work with the system and get things done. All I have to say to that is...Hillary Clinton is no Lyndon Johnson.
Three, she's just wrong. Her interpretation is simplistic and not entirely accurate. The Civil Rights movement was a grassroots movement who's major leaders included Martin Luther King. There would have been no Civil Rights Act without pressure from prominent figures like King and there would not have been a Martin Luther King if not for the individuals who risked their lives and livelihood to stand up for justice on a daily basis for decades. LBJ just didn't wave a magic wand and get civil rights legislation passed. The turning point came when Congress was willing to go ahead with it. This happened first with the grotesque violence that occurred on the March to Selma, which spawned the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the killing of Civil Rights workers in Mississippi, which spawned the Voting Rights Act. In fact, LBJ was UNABLE to get civil rights legislation passed. If anyone should be credited, it should be the racist Southerners whose violence outraged the nation enough to forego their own racist inclinations and allow their representatives to pass some meaningful legislation. I will give LBJ credit for one thing he did all on his own: affirmative action. I should point out that the executive order that established affirmative action took no wrangling or just took will to do it.

Item #3: Romney's last stand
Today is the Republican Primary in Michigan. If Romney doesn't win, I will consider his candidacy over. If Romney can't win in Iowa where he spent more campaign money than anyone in that state's history and he can't win in a state that neighbors one that he was governor of and has overlapping local news and he can't win in Michigan where his father was a three time governor, where can he win?