Friday, February 10, 2012

Top 10 Reads of the Week - February 10, 2012

The Political Transformation of Barack Obama - James VandeHei [Washington Post]
There are two indisputable facts about politics.
The first is that every modern president in the fourth year of his presidency resorts to the cheap political stunts, broken promises and truth-fudging it takes to win reelection in what has been and will be a 50-50 nation. The reason is simple: Politics is not clean-living; it’s survival. 
The second is that Barack Obama, for all his talk of moving beyond conventional political tricks, is doing just that, which wouldn’t be so glaring had it not been for his incessant call for a newer, cleaner and more transparent paradigm for American politics. 
So much for the high road: Victory is more important than purity... Read the Rest

Slow and Infuriating - Mark Hemingway [Weekly Standard]
Last Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder was called to testify before Congress. His attitude toward  his questioners was by any measure unbecoming of his office. At one point he actually demanded he be “given some credit” for his performance as attorney general. Though, bad as that outburst was, it was slightly less petulant than the earlier insinuation that his critics are racist.
One hopes Holder isn’t expecting kudos for his handling of the Fast and Furious scandal—the reason for his latest testimony. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was once again seeking an explanation for the gun-running operation under which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) transferred some 2,000 weapons to Mexican criminal gangs, including weapons later used in the killing of at least one American, a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Ostensibly, the purpose was to trace the organizational networks of narcotraffickers, but little effort was made to keep track of the guns, and many have not been recovered. There’s simply no law enforcement rationale for the scheme that makes any sense... Read the Rest
A Fairness Quiz for the President - Stephen Moore [Wall Street Journal]
President Obama has frequently justified his policies—and judged their outcomes—in terms of equity, justice and fairness. That raises an obvious question: How does our existing system—and his own policy record—stack up according to those criteria?
Is it fair that the richest 1% of Americans pay nearly 40% of all federal income taxes, and the richest 10% pay two-thirds of the tax?
Is it fair that the richest 10% of Americans shoulder a higher share of their country's income-tax burden than do the richest 10% in every other industrialized nation, including socialist Sweden?
Is it fair that American corporations pay the highest statutory corporate tax rate of all other industrialized nations but Japan, which cuts its rate on April 1?... Read the Rest
Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust - Juliet Eilperin [Wired]
John Doerr was crying. The billionaire venture capitalist had come to the end of his now-famous March 8, 2007, TED talk on climate change and renewable energy, and his emotions were getting the better of him. Doerr had begun by describing how his teenage daughter told him that it was up to his generation to fix global warming, since they had caused it. After detailing how the public and private sectors had so far failed at this, Doerr, who made his fortune investing early in companies that became some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names—Netscape,, and Google, among others—exhorted the audience and his peers (largely one and the same) to band together and transform the nation’s energy supply. “I really, really hope we multiply all of our energy, all of our talent, and all of our influence to solve this problem,” he said, falling silent as he fought back tears. “Because if we do, I can look forward to the conversation I’m going to have with my daughter in 20 years.”
As usual, Doerr’s timing was perfect. Just weeks earlier, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth had won an Oscar for best documentary. (Gore is now a partner in Doerr’s green tech team at the VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.) Interest in climate change had never been higher. And as the economy recovered from the dual shocks of the Internet bubble and 9/11, Doerr’s fellow Silicon Valley VCs were already looking to clean technology as the next big thing. What followed was yet another Silicon Valley gold rush, as the firms on Sand Hill Road were pulled along by the promise of new fortunes and the hope that they would be the ones to wean America off of fossil fuels. The entrepreneurs and tech investors who had transformed media and communications were ready to make Silicon Valley the Saudi Arabia of clean energy... Read the Rest
Strangest Photo I Saw This Week

Immortality: The Next Great Investment Boom - Eric Markowitz [Inc.]
There's no denying it: America is getting old. By 2030, the number of Americans older than 65 will have grown by 75 percent to 69 million, and 20 percent of the population will be older than 65—compared with only 13 percent today.

But what if "getting old" wasn't really "getting old?" What if aging—at least the physical deteriorations that accompany it—was something that could be prevented? It's a lofty idea, but it's one that a new breed of biotech start-ups, scientists, and prominent investors are beginning to tackle... Read the Rest

The Poisoned Politics of Keystone XL - Joe Nocera [New York Times]
On Monday, Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, traveled to China for a week of high-level meetings. He brought with him a handful of his cabinet ministers, including Joe Oliver, his tough-talking minister of natural resources who, until recently, had been withering in his scorn for the opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which President Obama rejected a few weeks ago. The pipeline, of course, was intended to transport vast oil reserves in Alberta to the American refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Oliver no longer talks so freely about the environmental critics of the Keystone pipeline; all of Harper’s ministers have been instructed to stop making comments that might be construed as interfering in the American presidential election. But there are other, more diplomatic, ways to send messages. Like going to China with your cabinet members and cutting energy deals with a country that has, as The Globe and Mail in Toronto put it recently, a “thirst for Canadian oil.” Oil, I might add, that may be a little dirtier than the crude that pours forth from the Saudi Arabian desert — that is one of the main reasons environmentalists say they oppose Keystone — but is hardly the environmental disaster many suppose... Read the Rest

Planned Parenthood's Hostages - Robert George and Carter Snead [Wall Street Journal]
The Susan G. Komen Foundation, an organization dedicated since 1982 to fighting, and one day curing, breast cancer, decided to extricate itself from the culture wars by discontinuing grants to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortions. The grants Komen had been making amounted to $650,000 last year, funding some 19 local Planned Parenthood programs that offered manual breast exams but only referrals for mammograms performed elsewhere.
The reality is that Planned Parenthood—with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion—does little in the way of screening for breast cancer. But the organization is very much in the business of selling abortions—more than 300,000 in 2010, according to Planned Parenthood. At an average cost of $500, according to various sources including Planned Parenthood's website, that translates to about $164 million of revenue per year... Read the Rest
Indiana Leads The Right-to-Work Charge - Shikha Dalmia [Reason]
Last week, Indiana became the first state in a decade (and the first state in the Rust Belt) to adopt a right-to-work law. This means that Indiana’s working men and women, like their comrades in 22 other states, will no longer have to pay mandatory dues to union bosses as a condition of employment. Big Labor was apoplectic, even threatening demonstrations at Sunday’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis, although saner heads prevailed, averting a PR disaster for unions.
But regardless of how Big Labor feels, Indiana’s law will go down in history as the watershed moment that decisively stemmed the awesome power it has exerted on American politics for about a century... Read the Rest
Audacity of Dishonesty Hijacks Truth in Lending - Editors [Investor's Business Daily]
Obama acts as if the private sector bears all the responsibility for the mortgage mess. But he and his attorney general know it's merely a scapegoat for the reckless government housing policies they and their ilk drafted and enforced in the run-up to the crisis.
Starting in the mid-1990s — in a historic first — it became federal regulatory policy to force all U.S. lenders to scrap traditional lending standards for home loans on the grounds they were "racially discriminatory.".. Read the Rest
Farewell to the Free Market? - Nicole Gelinas [City Journal]
In the years leading up to 2007, the rules necessary to govern a flourishing market economy broke down, producing a financial and economic crisis. Rather than responding to the crisis by fixing those rules, the West aggressively repudiated market economics, and the repudiation continues to this day. Through their actions, which have lately involved everything from European debt to the American financial system to house prices in Britain, government officials around the world have revealed a disturbing assumption: that they can decide how to allocate resources better than markets can. No longer, it seems, do Western governments use investor signals as valuable feedback in devising effective policies; instead, they ignore those signals and plow ahead with their policymaking, leaving chaos in their wake. Often, in fact, public officials actively mute market signals in a vain but destructive attempt to impose their own will on struggling economies... Read the Rest
The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

In truth, this is kind of a PG version of the real Funniest Thing I Saw This Week, which was more than a little bit too edgy for a family blog. If you care to see the real deal, click over to But don't say I didn't warn you.

In The Know Panel Analyzes Obama's Furious, Profanity-Filled Rant At Nation

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