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By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

The data is in for April. Here’s what happened:

1. Household personal income (inflation adjusted) rose but every penny – and then some – went into savings or paying down debts. Consumer spending, on which Obama is betting to stimulate the economy, actually fell. None of the stimulus money was sent. None.

2. Meanwhile, to pay for this stimulus spending that didn’t stimulate, Obama had to borrow so much money that long term interest rates have almost doubled since he took office, forcing postponement of abandonment of business expansion and hiring across the board.

What a record!

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Here are the details. In April, personal household, inflation-adjusted income rose by $122 billion. Of that increase, one-third or $44 billion came from the government’s stimulus program. But while personal income was rising, household savings (which includes paying down credit card balances, mortgages, student loans, car loans, etc) rose by $132 billion — $10 billion more than the rise in income. So personal consumption dropped 0.1%.

The stimulus package was a total and complete failure. As predicted, as happened with Bush’s 2008 tax cut, as happened with the Japanese stimulus packages of the 90s, fearful consumers sat on their money and wouldn’t spend it. Keynesian economics didn’t work. Again.

But the debt sure piled up. The deficit quadrupled and is sending interest rates soaring as the government elbows aside businesses and consumers at the loan window, all in a desperate effort to borrow enough money to spend enough money to stimulate the economy which isn’t happening.

As we describe in our new book (out June 23rd) Catastrophe, Keynesian economics doesn’t work. The theory for rational expectations has taken its place. Consumers are not idiots. They know that when their paycheck is fatter – either because of tax cuts or government spending – that it is not the beginning of nirvana but just a short term, one shot respite from hard times. They know the difference between standing in front on an electric fan and a windy day.

Barack Obama has fatally undermined our currency, our solvency, our financial stability, and – ultimately – our economy all to spend money that has had no economic effect!

Is Obama a failure? Not by his lights. His goal was never to stimulate the economy. His goal was to expand government spending and he used the recession as an excuse to do so. And, by this standard, he is a raging success. With the stimulus spending, the government proportion of GDP will rise from about 35% to about 40% and with health care “reform” it will go soaring into the mid-forties, bringing us to parity with Germany en route to France!

But the results are in: None of Obama’s spending is doing anything to help the economy.

Of course, the process of household savings, designed to pay down debt, is very healthy. Economists call it de-leveraging. By the start of the recession, the debt American households owe had risen from 70% of their annual income in 1995 to 140% (excluding mortgages). Now it is on its way back down again. And, eventually, that will lead to a real recovery — If Obama doesn’t wreck the currency and bring on mega-inflation before then. (But he probably will).

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(TimesOnline) – Her thrilling convention speech showed that the Governor of Alaska is a force to reckoned with. But she might be more than that.

The best line I heard about Sarah Palin during the frenzied orgy of chauvinist condescension and gutter-crawling journalistic intrusion that greeted her nomination for vice-president a week ago came from a correspondent who knows a thing or two about Alaska.

“What’s the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?”

“One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let’s be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy.

“The other kills her own food.”

Now we know, thanks to her triumphant debut at the Republican convention on Wednesday, that Mrs Palin not only slaughters her prey. She impales its head on a stick and parades it around for her followers to jeer at. For half an hour she eviscerated Mr Obama in that hall and did it all without dropping her sweet schoolmarm smile, as if she were handing out chocolates at the end of a history lesson.

There’s a powerful danger in the sheer thrill that has followed her astonishing performance that we could get carried away with John McCain’s running-mate. Some of the coverage has a hyperbolic tone to it. Not since Paris handed that apple to Aphrodite has a man’s selection of a woman had such implications for the future of our civilisation.

So let’s stipulate one obvious and important piece of wisdom about US elections. The choice of a vice-presidential candidate rarely makes much of a difference. The pundit class waxes historical in the excitement of the moment but usually the vice-presidential choices go back to playing second banana. However mawkishly we dwell on the mortality of the presidential contenders, it is they who determine the voters’ decision.

This one, to be fair, could be different. For at least the next few weeks the press will follow Mrs Palin’s present and dig deeper into her past, still hoping for some morsel of stupidity or evidence of cupidity to doom her. But in the end, barring such a discovery, this is still an Obama-McCain contest.

But let me try to explain why Mrs Palin, whatever impact she might have in November, may be a figure of real consequence in our lives.

It’s partly about what she represents and partly about what she has already done, but mostly about where she and her ilk might take the Republicans – and possibly America.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Left falls again and again into the old trap of underestimating politicians whom they don’t understand. From Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to George Bush and Mrs Palin, they do it every time. Because these characters talk a bit funny and have ridiculously antiquated views about faith, family and nation, because they haven’t spent time bending the knee to the intellectual metropolitan elites, they can’t be taken seriously.

So the general expectation was that Mrs Palin would stumble on to the stage in high heels, clutching her sprawling, slightly odd family (five children! how weird), mispronounce the name of the Russian Prime Minister, mutter a few platitudes about God, and disappear for ever to a deafening chorus of sniggers.

No one paid much attention to the fact that she had been elected governor of a state. Or that she got to that office not because, unlike some politicians I could mention, her husband had been there before her, or because she bleated continuously about glass ceilings, but by challenging the entrenched interests in her own party and beating them. In almost two years as Governor she has cleaned out the Augean stables of Alaskan Government. You don’t win a statewide election and enjoy approval ratings of more than 80 per cent without real political talent.

Never mind all that. She didn’t have a passport! She was a former beauty queen! It was so axiomatic that she was a disaster that I was told by lots of savvy men – with deliciously unconscious sexism – that the real problem was what the choice said about Mr McCain and his judgment: cynical, irresponsible, clueless. It was as if Mrs Palin wasn’t really a human being at all, but an article of Mr McCain’s clothing that showed his poor taste, like wearing brown shoes with a charcoal suit.

So here’s why she matters.

First of all she offers an opportunity for an ailing Republican party to reconnect with ordinary Americans. She’s conservative, but her conservatism is not that of the intolerant, uncomprehending white male sort that has so hurt the party in recent years. She is much closer to a model of the lives of ordinary Americans – working mother, plainspoken everywoman juggling home and office – than any Republican leader in memory.

The contrast with Mr Obama is especially powerful. The very fact that Mrs Palin didn’t go to elite schools but succeeded nonetheless – the very ordinariness with which she so piquantly jabbed Mr Obama on Wednesday – is what will make her so appealing to Americans. And as a pro-life conservative she debunks in one swoop the enduring myth that all women subscribe to the obligatory nostrums of radical feminism.

But there’s more to it than that.

The Republicans have decided that they are not going to make the mistake Hillary Clinton made and run against the effervescent Mr Obama on the premise of experience.

Experience hasn’t got Americans into a very comfortable place. They want change. Before he signed up to some of the less attractive Republican attitudes this year, Mr McCain’s career had embodied that change – the anti-establishment candidate running against his own party. Now he is joined by a woman who, in her short career, has done the same thing.

Democrats think that Mr McCain, with the social conservative Mrs Palin, will launch an old-fashioned culture war at them, using her appealing manner to drive a populist assault on the familiar Republican issues of God, guns and gays.

Perhaps this Manichean interpretation will prove true. But I suspect that it misses the real appeal of the Republican team. The opportunity for McCain-Palin is not reaction, but reform – a reform rooted in a distant conservatism that could be due for a comeback

Hailing from Arizona and Alaska, the Republican ticket has a chance to rekindle a western conservatism different from the old Yankee paternalist sort or the Bible Belt version. They like their guns out there (some still kill their own food) and they are pro-life and deeply pro-America, of course. But at a time of grave challenges, the themes of economic freedom and opportunity, the resistance to the idea that government holds all the answers, could resonate with voters.

This is an election, as the Democrats have realised all along, about an America on the cusp of change. With the moose-hunting, establishment-taunting Mrs Palin at his side, Mr McCain might represent a bigger change than the one that his opponents are offering.

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Apparently Barack Obama has chosen a running mate who operates in the fine tradition of the Democratic party; a candidate  who huffs and puffs and blows himself up.  At one time s/he could get away with it but thanks to the era of instant communications and non mainstream media it will be a bit harder as Hillary Clinton’s imaginary excellent adventure dodging gunfire demonstrated.
Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) will fit in well with this crew; as he has a long history of huffing and puffing with the best as Hot Air and a few other blogs are discovering and reporting.
In a 1987 New York Times article, E.J. Dionne reported on a series of blunders by the Delaware Senator that knocked him out of contention.  This list includes plagiarism, misrepresentation of his educational achievements, and telling a voter about his big, big brain:
The tape, which was made available by C-SPAN in response to a reporter’s request, showed a testy exchange in response to a question about his law school record from a man identified only as ”Frank.” Mr. Biden looked at his questioner and said: ”I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.”
He then went on to say that he ”went to law school on a full academic scholarship – the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship,” Mr. Biden said. He also said that he ”ended up in the top half” of his class and won a prize in an international moot court competition. In college, Mr. Biden said in the appearance, he was ”the outstanding student in the political science department” and ”graduated with three degrees from college.”
Well, if we measured political IQ, Biden might barely show up on the scale.  As Dionne notes later in the article, Biden got one degree from college, a double major.  He didn’t get a full scholarship to law school; he got a partial scholarship and received grants to cover the rest.  He didn’t graduate in the top half of his class, as he asserted to “Frank”, whose IQ score has been lost in the mists of time.  In fact, Biden came in 76th in a class of 85 which isn’t even close. (snip)

What was Biden’s excuse at the time?  “I exaggerate when I’m angry.”

Stay tuned for more.  The blogs will go where the liberal media won’t and the glare of instant communications will reach many who aren’t waiting for that 3am text message about the latest from the Obama camp.

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(RWN) – McCain wants to start the surge too early, Wesley Clark gets his facts wrong and also claims the Saudis had a hand in calming the violence – the surge has become a bit of a political football in this not yet official presidential contest.

So let’s discuss this as rationally as possible. Yes, the Anbar Awakening had some effect on calming the violence – in Anbar. That’s 1 of 18 provinces and it was something which was growing within Anbar as we began surging our troops. But it hadn’t grown anywhere else at that time. Read Michael Yon about that awakening. I remember talking with him during an interview on WRKO’s Pundit Review Radio and while he thought, at the time, that it was a great thing, it still was quite small and the violence in Iraq still very high.

I remember talking to MG Rick Lynch (Commanding General of the 3rd ID) not long after the surge’s second phase had begun. The most memorable thing he said was that when he and his troops pushed into an area or neighborhood and contacted the local authorities, the first thing they asked, without exception, is “are you going to stay?”

Once answered in the affirmative, he said the local intelligence and cooperation multiplied exponentially. That is how the “awakening” spread.

A good example of that is Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala province (NE of Baghdad). It was a place almost untouched by US forces and a mixed area of sunni, shia and kurds. The entire town was wired to explode. Yet, and this again comes from Yon, our forces carefully took the town, drove out AQ and convinced the insurgents (the 1920 Brigade) that it was in their best interest to join the side of the US and Iraqi Government.

I remember an incident talked about by Michael Yon where one of the leaders of the 1920s Brigades told the US leader there that all they wanted was the US to leave. The US leader told the insurgent leader that he and his soldiers wanted nothing more than to do exactly that. Yon says it then dawned on the insurgent leader that cooperation was the best way to accomplish that. Also understood by this insurgent leader is we weren’t going to go away and try as he might, he wasn’t going to be able to drive us off.

You don’t know how key that is to the success we’ve begun to enjoy in Iraq.

Al Sadr, somewhere in this time frame, also agreed to a stand down of his Mahdi army. Some would like to attribute that to graciousness on the part of al Sadr. But as we’ve seen subsequently, when he did let them loose, it was a tactical decision driven by the fact that he wasn’t ready and didn’t have the assets he needed to directly confront the US. And he also figured that we might instead withdraw.
He was no more ready for the surge of troops than was AQI. Consequently he played the “patriot” by withholding his militia officially while the militia’s “special groups” continued to attack us. Would his militia’s presence have complicated the surge? Of course. But as we’ve seen since, it was a very ragtag lot which were pretty easily defeated in both Basra and Baghdad.

All of this to say the intent of the Democrats is to play down the significance of the surge. They want you to believe that the Anbar awakening was well established and spreading like wildfire and that once al Sadr stood down his militia, that surge, in essence, was unnecessary.

Clark even goes so far as to claim no troops were surged into Anbar. That’s flat wrong. 2 additional Marine battalions were surged into that place because it was still hot.

Had the surge not taken place it is entirely possible that the Anbar Awakening would never have spread outside that province. That’s because Baquba was the new “capital” of AQI and would have remained as such. Given the tactics of AQI, there is little doubt a concerted effort would have been made by them to decapitate the awakening leadership in Anbar as a lesson. Had the surge not taken place, the outlying rings of Baghdad would have continued to see car and truck bombs built at will and used in the capital to continue to fan the flames of sectarian violence. AQI forces would have remained positioned to continue to attack, kill, destroy and encourage more violence. Had the surge not taken place, al Sadr would have had no reason to stand down or restrain his militia.

And this talk, as I’ve heard from Obama, that the surge was about “tactics” is a load of dung as well. The surge was an integral part of a change in strategy. To ignore the fact that we switched our strategy to counterinsurgency warfare is to demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about the operation.

When all is said and done, yes, the awakening was an important development and the stand down of the Mahdi army helped delay an inevitable confrontation (since resolved, btw) and made the surge less complicated, but the fact remains that the major reason that Iraq is in the shape it is today is the surge.

The surge insured and helped spread the Anbar Awakening. The fact that we promised to stay made it easy for tribal leaders in other provinces to cooperate with us. The fact that we surged 30,000 troops into Iraq made it pretty much a no-brainer, in a tactical sense, for al Sadr to stand his motley crew down. And while we’re at it, it also allowed the time necessary to continue the training of the ISF to the point that they were recently able to mount successful major operations in Basra and more recently, Baghdad’s Sadr City.

So don’t let the Democrats rewrite history on this one. They were wrong about opposing it and that is what they’re trying so hard to duck. When all is said and done, it was the decision to change strategy and surge troops into Iraq to implement that strategy which played the major role in defeating AQI, turning the rest of the insurgents into allies and driving the Mahdi army off the battlefield, at least temporarily (and later permanently).

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In a tightly controlled dieting experiment, obese people lost an average of just 6 to 10 pounds over two years.

The study, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, was supposed to determine which of three types of diets works best. Instead, the results highlight the difficulty of weight loss and the fact that most diets do not work well.

The researchers followed 322 dieters, 277 men and 45 women. The dieters were assigned to follow one of three types of diets — a diet with about 30 percent fat, based on American Heart Association guidelines; a Mediterranean diet; and a low-carbohydrate diet based on the Atkins diet plan. The study was partly financed by the Atkins Research Foundation.

The trial was conducted at the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, Israel, an isolated workplace that has its own medical department.

In addition to regular meetings and telephone calls with dietitians for the participants, the plan included nutrition counseling for spouses and a revamping of the food served in the center’s cafeteria.
Because the center is in an isolated area, the dieters consistently ate lunch, the largest meal of the day, in the company cafeteria, where food was color-coded to help dieters comply with their eating plan.

The biggest weight loss happened in the first five months of the diet — low-fat and Mediterranean dieters lost about 10 pounds, and low-carbohydrate dieters lost 14 pounds.

By the end of two years, all the dieters had regained some, but not all, of the lost weight. The low-fat dieters showed a net loss of six pounds, and the Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate dieters both lost about 10 pounds.

Researchers said the results sound modest, but they said the small weight loss had resulted in improvements in cholesterol and other health markers.

“In order to keep participants on the diet for long term as a way of life, we did not impose extreme diet protocols,” said Iris Shai, the study’s lead author and a registered dietitian at the S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition. “More dramatic diet protocols could probably reduce more weight for the short term, but participants would have dropped out.”

There were subtle differences in the three diets studied. Men did better on the low-carbohydrate diets, losing 11 pounds compared with about 9 pounds for the Mediterranean diet.

Women fared best on the Mediterranean diet, losing about 14 pounds compared with about 5 pounds on the low-carbohydrate plan.

For all dieters, there were improvements in the ratios of good to bad cholesterol.

“This suggests that healthy diet has beneficial effects beyond weight loss,” Ms. Shai said.

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