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Ten year boom in government expansion?!?!

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 4:00 pm - December 31, 2011.
Filed under: Big Government Follies,Post 9-11 America

Just caught this in a piece Megan McArdle penned on the growth in Washington, D.C. (that had Glenn linked on Instapundit):

In the next few years, it’s reasonable to expect that the ten year boom in government expansion will come to an end.  Does that mean that the DC housing-and-retail boom ends with it?  Will population stall?

Ten year boom?  Guess that undermines the theory of George W. Bush as a budget cutter and deregulator.

RELATED: So, DC has nation’s biggest increase in population growth*?

Slow Blogging/Economics Bleg

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:18 pm - December 30, 2011.
Filed under: Blogging,Economy,Family

I apologize for not blogging as much as I normally do, even as much as I would like, but am now on a vacation with my family in Florida and when the choice comes down to reading/writing about politics and spending time with my siblings or nibblings, well, I prefer the latter.  You could kind of say it’s not really a choice.

Anyway, in between conversations about the merits of dump trucks with my youngest nephew, his Dad, the younger of my two brothers-in-law, and I have been debating economic policy with my sister’s husband defending the “macroeconomic” policies of the incumbent Administration.  He recently shared with me this article from the Economist arguing that expansionist (i.e., big government policies) spared us a second Great Depression. I have read the article twice and, not having all the data at my fingertips, have only partially been able to refute it.

So, my bleg.  Have any of you seen any articles/blog posts taking issue with said article (linked above).  Also, I recall reading a recent blog post (with data similar to this one) showing how unemployment didn’t begin its steep upward ascent until after the Smoot-Hawley tariff and Hoover’s expansionist policies (that is, unemployment had remained relatively low for about a year after the market crash of 1929 which supposedly caused the Great Depression).  Do any of you have a link to that post?

If you have any such information, please leave it in the comments or e-mail me.

And if I were to buy my brother-in-law a book that best summarizes libertarian economics, including an explanation for how market forces could have spared us the ravages of the New Deal, please let me know.  I was thinking of getting him Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.  Is there a better book out there?

He has been very civil in his discourse, eager to listen and ever ready to respond with arguments not innuendo.  So, I want to encourage his interest — and hope to change his mind, hence wishing to provide information laid out by someone with a far greater understanding of economics than I.

The GOP presidential field & “this extraordinary moment”

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:36 am - December 28, 2011.
Filed under: 2012 Presidential Election

In a comment to my post on the possibility of a Ron Paul victory in Iowa, our reader davinci expressed his grudging backing of a certain candidate:

I was undecided for much of the year, then went with Gingrich for about a month. But as a history prof, he should know better than to pressure and intimidate federal judges he disagrees with. That showed his lack of a constitutional grounding, and now I grudgingly am with Romney. I hope if he’s elected that he will at least pursue a moderate conservative agenda. But that may be too much to ask of him.

If the field remains as is it has been, with only the announced candidates, then, I, like our reader had been until recently, remain undecided. Like many voters in Iowa, I’m frustrated by my inability to find a candidate who “seems ready for this extraordinary moment.”  (Via Jennifer Rubin.)  At least I have a few more months to make up my mind.

Now, to be sure, some conservatives, like my friend John Hinderaker contend that Mitt Romney is ready to confront the challenges facing this country.  (Via Glenn Reynolds who also links John Hawkins‘s critique of the candidate.)  In his endorsement, that Minnesota blogger left out one of the former Massachusetts governor’s key accomplishments:  his management of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In the wake of a bribery scandal, Romney was tapped to take over the Games “which had faced serious potential financial difficulties before his arrival” and turned things around.  (Despite the difficulty of his task, I could find no evidence Romney whined about the crisis he “inherited” from the original Olympic management team.)  Yes, he has administrative expertise, but he has not shown a longstanding commitment to conservative principles.

Like Bill Kristol, I wish some candidates “who have stood aside” would reconsider that decision and, for the sake of the country, “step forward”.  The crises we face as a nation are great, and the incumbent seems oblivious to their magnitude.   (more…)

On wealth & happiness

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:54 pm - December 27, 2011.
Filed under: Happiness,Random Thoughts

After visiting a college classmate recovering from surgery in her northern California home, I had a nice (long) breakfast with a high school classmate who lived in the neighboring town.  As we caught up on our lives since those difficult days of adolescence, we shared stories about lessons learned and classmates encountered in the years since graduation.

When the conversation turned particular classmate, I had in my head a particularly vivid picture of her mother, a cold woman married to a very successful local business executive.  She wore an unusual amount of makeup and didn’t strike me as a very happy person.

Perhaps, seeing that woman’s (apparent) misery was the first time it occurred to me that financial well-being does not equate to emotional fulfillment, that is, you don’t need to be rich to be happy.   This is not to say that poverty equals happiness.  We do need enough to provide for the basic necessities of life — and a little bit extra to pursue our passions.

Even the wealthy face their emotional problems.  Recall that one of the richest heiresses in recent years, Christina Onassis, was unhappy throughout much of her adulthood, having attempted suicide.  Back in 1897, the American poet Edward Arlington Robinson wrote of Richard Cory, who, although he “richer than a king/. . . .Went home” one day and “put a bullet in his head.”

Perhaps our cultural fascination with superwealthy celebrities like the Kardashians is related to a certain delight in their various misfortunes, reassurance that while they may have more money than Croesus, they still suffer the slings and arrows that most of us do, perhaps even more so.

972 days (since Democratic Senate passed a budget)

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:18 pm - December 27, 2011.
Filed under: 112th Congress,Media Bias,Where's the Scrutiny?

Every time your Democratic friends and interlocutors accuse the House Republicans of being an obstructionist “do-nothing” chamber of Congress, remind them of this fact: as of today, December 27, 2011, it has been 972 days since Senate Democrats passed a a budget.

And during that nearly three-year period, the president’s party enjoyed a supermajority in that legislative chamber for two full years, with a filibuster-proof majority for almost seven months. January 24, 2012, the same day as the president’s State of the Union address will mark the 1,000th day since the chamber his party controls has passed a budget. Wonder how many media outlets will remind us of that fact.

Oh, and “annual budgets cannot be filibustered.

It took House Republicans only 104 days after returning to majority status in the House to pass a budget.

Now, to be sure, the president did propose a budget for FY 2012 and it did come up for a vote in the Democratic-majority Senate.  Problem is is that it didn’t garner a single Democratic vote.

Do hope we see more scrutiny of the Democratic budgetary failure in our mainstream media.  But, I’m not holding my breath.

Obama to ask for another hike in debt limit

Every now and again, you’ll run into an Obama supporter who will insist that the Democrat has not raised government spending. Now, not even five months after the conclusion of the debt ceiling negotiations this summer,

The White House plans to ask Congress by the end of the week for an increase in the government’s debt ceiling to allow the United States to pay its bills on time, according to a senior Treasury Department official on Tuesday.

The approval is expected to go through without a challenge, given that Congress is in recess until later in January and the request is in line with an agreement to keep the U.S. government funded into 2013.

Seems House Republicans failed on this one, agreeing to keep the U.S. government funding through the end of Obama’s first term, rather than requiring him to come back to Congress when the debt rises above a certain figure.

Wonder what happened to that “net spending cut” that Obama has been proposing “throughout” his presidential campaign?

Could Ron Paul win Iowa?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:48 pm - December 27, 2011.
Filed under: 2012 Presidential Election,Freedom

Ever since Newt Gingrich started slumping in the polls, a number of pundits and bloggers have been wondering if Ron Paul might end up winning the Iowa cauci. He has a dedicated base of supporters. And currently leads in the RealClear Politics average:

Dedicated supporters are more likely to show up on a cold winter night to vote for their guy.

Commenting on Ron Paul’s surge, Byron York wonders if Paul’s supporters are, “in fact, Republicans“.

Let us hope, however, that Republicans don’t discount the essence of the libertarian Republican’s appeal:  the Texas Congressman has long been unequivocal in his opposition to big government.  He may have some rather isolationist views on foreign policy and may have showed a lack of good judgment in publishing his newsletter, but on domestic issues at least, the candidate is in tune with the times.

If he is to be successful in November, the eventual Republican nominee bears that in mind.  Should the nation be so fortunate as to see that nominee replace the incumbent come January 20, 2013, he must needs act in the spirit of Ron Paul’s domestic agenda, that is, on fiscal issues.  And perhaps even monetary ones.

A CONCERN: Ex-Aide: Ron Paul Foreign Policy is ‘Sheer Lunacy’

UPDATE:  Ace on Ron Paul and the racist rantings in his newsletter:

There are a lot of people who find it implausible that Barack Hussein Obama didn’t know the basic tenor of the Reverent Wright’s sermons of hatred. It is unlikely in the extreme, they reason, that Obama could have missed each one of Wright’s hateful, anti-semitic seethings — these statements were too pervasive to believe he just happened to miss every single one of them.

Well, the old-line racist/neoconfederate ravings in Paul’s newsletters (for which he was paid; people paid for this, and he profited) were more pervasive. (more…)

Obama marked down

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 10:30 pm - December 26, 2011.
Filed under: HopeAndChange,Obamania

Welcome Instapundit Readers!!

Seems Obama memorabilia is on clearance.  Even at the Food Mart near Lost Hills, California off I-5, these “collectors’” plates hadn’t been selling well until today — when they had many travelers journeying between the two deep blue metropolitan areas of the (once-)Golden State:

Thanks Glenn for linking so quickly!

WaPo runs Solyndra story on day after Christmas

The left-leaning daily in our nation’s capital is finally reporting on an Obama administration scandal, but do wonder if they are doing so deliberately on a day when most people aren’t paying much attention to the news.

At least they do report how “infused” the green technology program was “at every level“:

Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.

The records, some previously unreported, show that when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra.

Via Instapundit.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 3:39 pm - December 25, 2011.
Filed under: Christmas

Saxby — the original PatriotPooch — wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas from South Carolina.

20111225-153710.jpg

Good tidings for all. And a very special Merry Christmas to our men and women in the US Armed Forces who have recently come home from Iraq. God Bless you and your families.

John (PatriotPartner) & I also wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

20111225-170610.jpg

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Merry Christmas from a Jewish GayPatriot

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:07 am - December 25, 2011.
Filed under: Holidays

In our first year blogging, I wrote a piece on why I, as Jew, wish people a Merry Christmas.  Then, as now, I felt it absurd that people try to strip this season of his sacred significance to Christians who celebrate today the birth of their Savior.  Knowing how holy this day is to those of that faith, I’ve keeping up my tradition, wishing people a Merry Christmas, wanting to share their joy with them.

Tomorrow, I’ll be doing just that with my brother-in-law, celebrating Christmas with him and my sister in their home as per their tradition.

Below, in slightly revised form, I include (as I did in 2009) my original “Merry Christmas” post.

In 2004, when then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lit what most of us (including Jews) know as a Christmas tree. Some reporters sensed a controversy because his Democratic predecessor had called the decorated evergreen a “holiday tree.”

You see, that Democrat, like too many in our society, strove to eliminate all references to religion in public ceremonies and holiday displays. They seem to think that the Constitution has created some sort of wall of separation between church and state. Unfortunately, that expression (“wall of separation“) comes not from the U.S. Constitution, but from a letter of Thomas Jefferson. The actual text of the First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (quoting only the first part of the amendment referencing religion).

And frankly, this Jewish writer just doesn’t see how calling a decorated evergreen tree a “Christmas Tree” represents the establishment of religion. Or why it is so offensive.  Indeed, a few of my friends worry that they might be offending me if they wish me a “Merry Christmas.”

Those very individuals, however, some of them devout Christians, are touched when I wish them “Happy New Year” at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). When I lit the Chanuka candles with gentile friends on this holiday’s fourth night, they were touched that I would share the festive tradition with them.

Why should non-Christians be offended by a Christian’s sharing his or her joy in celebrating a religious holiday of his faith when delight in sharing our joy in celebrating ours?

If someone wishes us a “Merry Christmas,” they speak from their heart, wanting to share the spirit of this festival (sacred to them) with us. So, let’s welcome their good Christmas wishes, even when expressed to their non-Christian fellows. (more…)

Mitt Romney gets one (big) thing right

In his interview with the editors of the Wall Street Journal, Mitt Romney showed that he understands the core issue facing conservative voters today:

So it is also notable that now Mr. Romney describes the core failure of Mr. Obama’s economic agenda as faith in “a wise group of governmental bureaucrats” rather than political and economic freedom. “It is a refrain that we have seen throughout history where smart people are convinced that smart people ought to be able to guide an economy better than hordes of individuals pursuing their self-interest,” Mr. Romney says, “the helter-skelter of free people choosing their course in life.”

The Republican presidential candidate says he never intended to run for office again after 2008 [, but] drawn back into public life amid Mr. Obama’s bid to “fundamentally transform” the country, to use the president’s own words, into “an entitlement society,” to use Mr. Romney’s.

“America can continue to lead the world from a values standpoint, from an economic standpoint, and from a military standpoint,” Mr. Romney avers. He says the coming election represents “a very simple choice” between Mr. Obama’s “European social democrat” vision and “a merit-based opportunity society—an American-style society—where people earn their rewards based upon their education, their work, their willingness to take risks and their dreams.”

Emphasis added.  Read the whole thing.  He gets that the major problem of the Obama administration (and even, to some extent, the Bush administration that preceded it) is to prefer the judgment of a handful of experts in Washington, D.C. (drawn from and at university campuses) to that of millions of Americans and the entrepreneurs among us acting independently in cities, suburbs, towns and hamlets across the country.

This is not to say I’m backing Romney, only to point out that he sees the stakes.  The article goes on to recount more episodes from the interview which makes Mr. Romney seem, at least in his approach to governing, more like Bill Clinton than anyone else.  He is wonkish, “highly analytical,” as he puts it, “driven by data”.

And like that Democrat, he does understand the tenor of the times and tapers his policies toward them.

From a small government point of view, that is not entirely a bad thing.

Of Maggie & Movies

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:54 am - December 24, 2011.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV,Patriotism,Strong Women

In her column yesterday, Peggy Noonan demonstrated the qualities that have caused me to dub her the Athena of punditry:  she offers a particular feminine insight into recent cultural moments, a woman’s wisdom.

Just read her reflection on the death of Steve Jobs and wonder.

Although she is slightly critical of the soon-to-be-released movie about the greatest Western European politician in the past fifty years, contending it never grants the Iron Lady’s political views “any sympathetic legitimacy,” it does suggest “Mrs. Thatcher’s defiance of the snobs while depicting her defeat of the snobs.”

Noonan goes on to wonder why as “The left in America has largely thrown in the towel on Ronald Reagan, but in Britain Thatcher-hatred remains fresh”, contending it is because Mrs. Thatcher is a woman.  Is that it?

I don’t know.  Near all of my male conservative friends hold the Iron Lady in high regard, honoring her as we do the Gipper.  This applies to my straight male friends as well as my gay male friends.  But, maybe it’s different across the pond.

Finally, Peggy laments the decline in movies where “David Lean wouldn’t be allowed to make movies today, John Ford would be forced to turn John Wayne into a 30-something failure-to-launch hipster whose big moment is missing the toilet in the vomit scene in Hangover Ten.”  She ends with a quote from an Iraqi military officer whom she had asked to identify the big thing he’d come to believe about Americans in the years they’d been there:  “You are a better people than your movies say.”

We are.  If only filmmakers today believed what their counterparts of a previous generation knew in their hearts to be true.  Americans are a good people.

It’s Peggy.  Read the whole thing.

The most political new kind of politician

A few days ago in the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes contended that President Obama has been “utterly transparent . . . , it’s abundantly clear that he has one thing in mind these days: getting reelected.

The Democrat showed this most recently in the back-and-forth with House and Senate Republicans over the payroll tax cut–when he dropped the surtax on millionaires.  In order to score a political point or two (and he may have scored as many as three), he offered a tax cut that wasn’t paid for.  Recall that he faulted his predecessor for giving us “tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 that were not paid for.

And now he’s gone and done the same thing.  He’s given us a tax cut that’s not paid for.

It’s all politics for him.  He postures as a tax cutter without offering compensating cuts.  He hasn’t offered a plan to cut the deficit, heck, heck, he didn’t even put forward a budget this year that could garner a single Democratic vote in the U.S. Senate.  Instead of bring people together, as he promised in his campaign, he’s dividing us — so he can rally his base and win votes.

“If Republicans had championed the payroll tax reduction,” Barnes quipped, “Obama would no doubt be accusing them of bankrupting Social Security.”

FROM THE COMMENTS:  Kurt calls the “payroll tax cut extension. . .  a ridiculous political gimmick”:

it would be laughable if it weren’t so indicative of much greater problems in our political system. How was it the press could even seriously report on the “payroll tax cut extension” being worth $1,000 a year to someone who makes $50,000 when this latest vote was only over a two-month extension, or about $166.67 of that $1,000? And when has passing legislation that expired in two months ever been a sign of good or mature governance? A serious press would have called Obama and the Democrats on their divisive attempt to pass ridiculous legislation only for the purpose of scoring a few political points.

Indeed.

Meeting GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger

Earlier today, I had the chance to sit down for a pleasant lunch with Fred Karger, a one-time political consultant who has tossed his hat in the ring for the GOP presidential nomination and contends he is the first openly gay candidate for a major party’s nod.

He is nice guy and our conversation was wide-ranging.  I pressed him on the numerous emails I have received from his campaign attacking his fellow Republicans  – and even the faith of two of his rivals.

Today, he said that his primary issue is balancing the federal budget.  He also pointed out how most of the gay groups in Washington have been entirely indifferent to his campaign, saying that the “Republican Party has been more hospitable than the D.C. gay groups.”

Hmm. . . . not where have we heard that before?

….And What About North Dakota?

Earlier today, Dan asked “What’s the Matter With Kansas“?  The answer is, of course: NOTHING.

The same question & answer go for the booming state of North Dakota.  In that case it is ENERGY that is fueling the state’s employment. 

When it comes to creating jobs, North Dakota has found the right formula. The state has the largest percentage increase in employment over the past year and was the fastest of all 50 to recover from the recession.

The reason is simple: energy production.

“North Dakota has been the poster child for what can happen when we unleash free enterprise and allow states to develop and commercialize their resources,” Heritage’s Nick Loris wrote recently on The Foundry. “North Dakota is drilling at record pace.”

The state’s unemployment rate is 3.4 percent, the lowest in the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that North Dakota added 17,300 new jobs over the past year, which represented a 4.5 percent increase — the largest in the United States.

Showing them all up: Texas.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

According to Jim Geraghty, the stste’s “unemployment rate is 6.5 percent, more than two percentage points lower than the national average. For what it’s worth, the rate is down two-tenths of a percentage point from last month. Kansas’s unemployment rate has been consistently below the national average, peaking at 7.6 percent in the summer of 2009.”

Guess it must be that conservative “populist movement that has done irreversible harm to the material interests of the common people it professes to love so tenderly“.

Maybe we should ask Thomas Frank what’s the matter with California where unemployment is currently three percentage points higher than the national average.  Democrats have run both houses of the California legislature for the past 14 15 years.  Can’t recall the last time they ran either in the Sunflower State.

So, DC has nation’s biggest increase in population growth*?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 3:00 am - December 22, 2011.
Filed under: Big Government Follies

According to Liz Farmer at the Washington Examiner:

The District’s population grew faster than any state in the nation this year, an influx led by Americans moving into the thriving city, new Census Bureau data show.

The population grew by 2.7 percent from April 2010 to July 2011, according to data the Census Bureau released Wednesday. The increase of more than 16,000 residents already equals half of the city’s total population increase during the 10 years before April 2010.

Now, although the increase was “led by the number of births, not people moving in”, slightly “over half of the city’s new residents moved from another state over the last year, according to the figures.”  Here’s one clue as to why this is going on:

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray noted the swell in 2011 marked the first time since the early 1940s that the District has led the nation in population growth by percentage. Last year, the city posted its first 10-year population gain since the 1950 census.

Emphasis added.  What was going on in the early 1940s?  Oh yeah, the federal government was expanding in order to fight World War II.  And there’s this:

Anirban Basu, founder and chief executive officer of Sage Policy Group in Baltimore, said migration within the states tends to be driven by the job climate and federal spending in D.C. helped sustain it during and after the recession.

Guess those Obama supporters who have been insisting that their guy hasn’t increased the size of government weren’t aware of this fact.

*since census.

Co-opting Republican issue, Obama experiences slight rebound

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 8:10 pm - December 21, 2011.
Filed under: 112th Congress,2012 Presidential Election

Even Karl Rove agrees that Republicans blundered on the payroll tax issue.  They may be right “on principle and on policy“, as Charles Krauthammer puts it, but they’ve “lost the optics”, as Rove contends.

This has been a rare victory for the president due in large part to a divided GOP. “Republicans,” write the editors of the Wall Street Journal

have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

House Republicans yesterday voted down the Senate’s two-month extension of the two-percentage-point payroll tax holiday to 4.2% from 6.2%. They say the short extension makes no economic sense, but then neither does a one-year extension. No employer is going to hire a worker based on such a small and temporary decrease in employment costs, as this year’s tax holiday has demonstrated. The entire exercise is political, but Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.

Indeed. And as Ed Morrissey has pointed out, the payroll tax issue has helped the incumbent in public opinion polls:

In short, Obama has rebounded slightly in job approval, but has had no real change on the economy and job creation.  His pursuit of the payroll tax cut extension has clearly helped him gain some middle-class credibility in the last six weeks, something Republicans should keep in mind, but we’re not looking at a major rebound as long as Obama remains as underwater on the economy as this poll shows.

Fascinating how Obama has achieved this rebound by co-opting a traditionally Republican issue, lower tax rates. (more…)

Newt Gingrich and Gay Marriage

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 7:30 pm - December 21, 2011.
Filed under: 2012 Presidential Election,Gay Marriage

Just because I criticized various media outlets — and others — who misrepresented Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s exchange with a gay Iowa Democrat (who, by his own logic, should be a big supporter of former Vice President Dick Cheney) does not mean I support the candidate.

Although I have impressed with how the former Speaker has conducted himself in debates and with tendentious reporters, I have a number of concerns about his record and his temperament.  Not just that, he often makes some rather unusual — and unnecessarily polarizing — statements.

For example, in the exchange which excited all the hullabaloo today, he could have told his partisan interlocutor that he should consider all the stands a candidate has taken rather than focusing on just one in making up his mind, that a voter will find that he will disagree with each candidate on at least one issue.

When he recently expressed his opposition to gay marriage, he said:

I believe that marriage is between a man and woman. . . . It has been for all of recorded history and I think this is a temporary aberration that will dissipate. I think that it is just fundamentally goes against everything we know.

He could have simply left off at the word, “history”, but to call a debate that has been going on for at least a decade a “temporary aberration” is simply absurd.  And to contend that the notion “fundamentally goes against everything we know” suggests a lack of imagination on the issue.

Now, to be sure, some radical advocates of gay marriage do want to destroy the institution, but most gay couples who have sought state recognition of their unions as marriages in jurisdictions which allow them to do so share the same values — and aspirations — of straight couples who do the same.  Many elect monogamy.   (more…)