Monthly Archives: January 2009

Ending the Mexican Civil War

Quote of the Day: “All great truths began as blasphemies.” — George Bernard Shaw, Annajanska, 1919

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Subject: Mexican Civil War could spill over into U.S.

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You’re not hearing about it yet, but a civil war is raging in Mexico — between drug lords and the government. The Mexican government deployed 36,000 troops to fight this war in 2006, but the problem is getting worse. Here are the disconcerting results . . .

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* There have been more kidnappings in Mexico than Iraq! 1,000 have been officially reported, but human rights groups estimate the real number at 3,000.

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* Despite high-profile arrests but the bloodshed has doubled from 2007 to 2008, with between 5,300 and 5,700 dead in the past year from attacks related to the drug trade. 

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* The city of Ciudad Juárez ended the year with 1,600 of those deaths

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Now this violence is threatening to spill across our border!

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A Diversified Portfolio

Quotes of the Day: “Who are you who wanted only to be told what you knew before?” — Walt Whitman, from “By Blue Ontario’s Shore”

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“A very popular error: having the courage of one’s convictions; instead, it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one’s convictions!” — Friederich Nietzsche

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Subject: Creating a diversified portfolio of Downsize DC campaigns

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Today we want to preview and explain some coming developments in the life of Downsize DC.org. We’ll begin with a comparison . . .

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When you join a political party you’re effectively supporting everything that party stands for, even those stands with which you disagree. And when you vote for a political candidate you’re essentially voting for all the things that politician will do, even those things you loathe. Political parties and candidates are a package deal, an all or nothing proposition.

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DownsizeDC.org is different. You can either take action or not on our campaigns, depending on whether you agree or disagree. It should also be noted that . . .

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We plan to spend the bulk of our money promoting the Downsize DC Agenda, including the “Read the Bills Act” and the “One Subject at a Time Act” — things with which nearly all DC Downsizers agree. Very little of your money, if any, will ever promote things you might oppose.

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But there are a variety of issues that might attract people to our Downsize DC Army. DownsizeDC.org is very much like a store, where you can pick and choose what you will buy. We offer no package deals. Unlike political parties or candidates, we’re not

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Agency Madness

Quote of the Day: “Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work.” – Albert Einstein

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Subject: Agency Madness

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Here are three recent items with something in common . . .

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#1: FDA experts have voted to ban the drugs Serevent and Foradil for asthma patients. The vote isn’t binding, but the FDA generally follows such recommendations. And yet . . .

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  • One-third of these experts disagreed with banning these drugs for adult patients
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  • The leading rationale was that many patients used them incorrectly by not pairing them with a steroid. But what about patients who took the drugs responsibly and correctly?
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  • The total cost of these drugs plus steroids is still cheaper than that of two other asthma drugs, Advair and Symbicort, which were approved.
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In other words, the panel voted to limit the clinical options of doctors and increase the costs for patients.

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The Politician Who Loves the Crisis

Quote of the Day: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” – Rahm Emmanuel, Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff

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Subject: The politician who loves the crisis

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Rahm Emmanuel loves the financial crisis. He sees it as an opportunity. His admission of this fact, which we’ve used as our quote of the day, is breathtaking. 

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Mr. Emmanuel tried to moderate his enthusiasm for exploiting the crisis by claiming that his desire wasn’t for big government, but for good government. But has Mr. Emmanuel ever acted as if good government was consistent with smaller government? We doubt it. 

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Mr. Emmanuel isn’t alone in seeing crisis as an opportunity to make government “gooder” by making it bigger. Donald Rumsfeld famously wanted to exploit the 9-11 attack by “roping in everything,” including Iraq. And that is what they did.

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One “crisis” event was used to create another crisis. Now it’s happening again.

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Consider what this means:

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Abolish the Federal Reserve

Quote of the Day: “We got into this crisis because power was overly concentrated relative to knowledge. What has been going on for the past several months is more consolidation of power. This is bound to make things worse. Just as Nixon’s bureaucrats did not have the knowledge to go along with the power they took when they instituted wage and price controls, the Fed and the Treasury cannot possibly have knowledge that is proportional to the power they currently exercise in financial markets.” — Arnold Kling

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Subject: End the FED

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The stock market rises and then crashes. Housing prices soar and then plummet. The Federal Reserve causes these booms and busts by constantly expanding and contracting the supply of money and credit. 

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Credit expansion by the Federal Reserve increases the demand for producer assets and investment instruments. This causes bubbles in things like stocks and housing. When the Fed then contracts credit to avoid systemic price inflation the asset bubbles burst.

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This is the history of the Federal Reserve — booms and busts, mixed with episodes of economic stagnation and high inflation like the 1970s.

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Even before the Fed was created in 1913 government manipulation of money and credit caused repeated bubbles and contractions. One big source of this mischief was government imposed exchange ratios between gold, silver, and the U.S. dollar. When these hardwired exchange ratios didn’t match reality, problems ensued.

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It’s important to recognize that economic perfection isn’t possible. Investors will always make mistakes. But we would expect these mistakes to be randomly distributed throughout the economy, and occur at different times. What causes a bunch of investment mistakes to cluster in particular sectors at a specific time, causing systemic problems?

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Only government has the power to impose universal conditions on the economy, from the top down, causing investment mistakes to cluster, like they have in the housing market. The government can do this by

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Obama Says Good Things

Quotes of the Day: “I don’t want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution.” — President-elect Barack Obama

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“Under my administration, the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest values and ideals. We must adhere to values as vigilantly as we protect our safety.” — President-elect Barack Obama

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“I think it is important for us to do that not only because that’s who we are, but also because it will ultimately make us safer, and will help in changing hearts and minds in our struggle against extremists.” — President-elect Barack Obama

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Subject: Obama says good things

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Yesterday’s Dispatch made the point that the managers of DownsizeDC.org are philosophically anti-partisan and anti-politician. If you haven’t read yesterday’s Dispatch, we hope you do. The points we made, and the shocking results of a scientific study we shared, are important to us. You can find it on our blog.

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In that Dispatch we asserted that we’re going to apply the same standards to the new president that we applied to President Bush. This means that we’ll not only criticize the new president when he does bad things, but also praise and support him when he does good things. To be honest, we didn’t get many chances to praise Bush.

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But today provides an opportunity to praise and support President-elect Obama.

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This week he introduced his new intelligence team. In doing so he made some very good promises and statements of principle.

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Jim Babka on “The Drive” w/Gary Nolan

Most Wednesday evenings, Downsize DC President Jim Babka appears on The Eagle, 93.9 in Columbia, Missouri, as a guest of (DownsizeDC.org Board Chair) Gary Nolan, who hosts a popular radio talk show called, “The Drive.”
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:::These one-hour appearances are quite wide-ranging and often fun. In this slot Jim isn’t always wearing the hat of President of Downsize DC, but rather that of a co-host of sorts. The topics can range from the silly, to the incredible, to outright crazy. So it goes without saying that DownsizeDC.org does not necessarily endorse the views expressed on the show by either of the hosts. It’s all in good fun.
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:::But it’s also not unusual for them to get into a discussion of real policy import or political impact. There, Jim and Gary have a chance to plug their favorite “Do-Tank,” DownsizeDC.org.
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:::The show airs at 5:07 PM Central time (6:07 PM Eastern, 4:07 PM Mountain, 3:07 PM Pacific). And you can listen online. To listen, go to TheEagle939.com, and click on the “Listen Live” button at the top of the page. Also, consider joining the fun: The national call-in number is 800-529-5572, or if your local then 573-874-9390.

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To Avoid Misunderstandings

Quote of the Day: “We did not see (as a result of brain scans of partisan loyalists) any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning. What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts. None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged. Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones . . . The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data.”
:::— Drew Westen, Director of Clinical Psychology at Emory University

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Subject: To avoid partisan misunderstandings

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We want to be clear. DownsizeDC.org is, by law, non-partisan. But the managers of DownsizeDC.org go one step further. We are philosophically and tempermentally ANTI-partisan. We believe political parties are a problem, not a solution.

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Likewise, we’re skeptical of politicians. Any person who thinks he or she is qualified to make decisions for others, and to coerce others to abide by those decisions, is automatically suspect in our eyes. Politicians, almost by definition, are people who feel qualified to use government coercion to manage other people’s lives.

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We disagree with them. They aren’t qualified. No one is.

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In our view the best a politician can do is work to limit the use of government power. These boundaries are required by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Sadly, most politicians are too impressed with themselves to limit themselves in such a way.

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This fact motivates us to be both anti-partisan and anti-politician.

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Where most people look to parties and politicians for solutions, we

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What Cokie Said

Quotes of the Day:

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“I would ask the Democratic leadership to guarantee that such a bill will not be brought to the floor of the House unless there have been public hearings in the appropriate committees, the entire text has been available online for the American people to review for at least one week, and it includes no special-interest earmarks.” — House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

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“I think the notion of a stimulus package online for a week before its voted on is just delightful. I mean, these bills are normally written in the dead of night with all kinds of things getting in them. … Any big bill, I mean nobody usually knows what’s in it at all when they’re voting on it. That would be real change.” — Cokie Roberts, “This Week” roundtable on ABC, January 4, 2009 (-8:35 mark)

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Subject: What Cokie Said

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Two weeks ago Congressional Democrats wanted to pass an “economic stimulus” bill in time for President Obama to sign it on his first day in office. But now that the stimulus proposals are being criticized from all sides, Democrats are hoping to get something passed by the mid-February recess.

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Meanwhile, Republican leaders are insisting on hearings and a real debate about the bill. They’re also demanding that the bill be posted on-line for seven days before the vote.

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Where did they get that idea?

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They got it from you.

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What We Accomplished

Quote of the Day: “The political spirit is the great force in throwing the love of truth and accurate reasoning into a secondary place.” — John Viscount Morley of Blackburn (1838-1923), Source: On Compromise, 1874

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Subject: What we accomplished in 2008

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We raised and spent roughly $168,000. We used this money to . . .

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Research and write 212 Dispatch messages. These messages had a massive educational impact. The total known circulation of these messages was 4,480,457, plus a huge unknown number of Dispatches that Downsizers forwarded to other people. Downsizers also used our Tell-a-friend system to alert more than 26,000 people about Downsize DC campaigns.

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All of these messages, taken together, not only had a large educational impact, but also recruited 8,754 newly registered Downsizers over the course of the year. This increase in the size of our Downsize DC Army enabled us to pound Congress with

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