December 31, 2007

If You Think There's Hypocrisy Now...

The blogosphere has pointedly noted environmental hypocrisy: all the private jets at the Bali conference, for example. Glenn Reynolds often says that he'll take it seriously as a crisis when the people who say it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis.

There's a definite pecking order among Gaia worshippers. The Important People fly in on private jets to give speeches to the Significant People, who arrive in their high-end SUVs and learn what sacrifices Gaia requires of the Little People. It brings to mind classical brahmin-controlled India or pharaonic Egypt under the priesthood.

But that will be as nothing if and when significant life extension occurs.

Picture the high priests of Gaia urging that the technology be forbidden--and using it themselves. Picture televangelists (and mullahs, perhaps) condemning it as diabolical because it evades God's judgment and man's just reward in heaven--and using it themselves.

December 27, 2007

The Bhutto Assassination

My first reaction[1] is that Condoleezza Rice should resign. She's been blundering around in over her head, and, in view of subsequent events, this is definitive:
Let me just say that we have an unfolding story in Pakistan. There appear to be authoritative sources, Pakistani television, saying that a state of emergency is going to be declared. We’ve not heard from President Musharraf, to my knowledge, yet.

I just want to be clear that the United States has made clear that it does not support extra-constitutional measures because those measures would take Pakistan away from the path of democracy and civilian rule. And whatever happens, we will be urging a quick return to a constitutional order, we will be urging that the commitment to hold free and fair elections be kept, and we’ll be urging calm on all the parties.
If she doesn't have the grace to resign, Bush should fire her.

Fat chance of either.

[1] I say 'my first reaction' because it's not clear who is responsible for the assassination. The above comments presume that it isn't Musharraf's people. It would be nice if we had an intelligence service capable of making that determination--correctly.

Follow-Up. From Andrew McCarthy at NRO:
It is the new way of warfare to proclaim that our quarrel is never with the heroic, struggling people of fill-in-the-blank country. No, we, of course, fight only the regime that oppresses them and frustrates their unquestionable desire for freedom and equality.

Pakistan just won’t cooperate with this noble narrative.
For the United States, the question is whether we learn nothing from repeated, inescapable lessons that placing democratization at the top of our foreign policy priorities is high-order folly.

The transformation from Islamic society to true democracy is a long-term project. It would take decades if it can happen at all. Meanwhile, our obsessive insistence on popular referenda is naturally strengthening — and legitimizing — the people who are popular: the jihadists. Popular elections have not reformed Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Neither will they reform a place where Osama bin Laden wins popular opinion polls and where the would-be reformers are bombed and shot at until they die.

We don’t have the political will to fight the war on terror every place where jihadists work feverishly to kill Americans. And, given the refusal of the richest, most spendthrift government in American history to grow our military to an appropriate war footing, we may not have the resources to do it.

But we should at least stop fooling ourselves. Jihadists are not going to be wished away, rule-of-lawed into submission, or democratized out of existence. If you really want democracy and the rule of law in places like Pakistan, you need to kill the jihadists first. Or they’ll kill you, just like, today, they killed Benazir Bhutto.
Like Instapundit often says, read the whole thing.

December 24, 2007

The Internet

IMO without the Internet Hillary Clinton's campaign likely would have successfully maintained its image of inevitability, and the Iraq situation likely would have been pushed toward collapse like Vietnam was.

That's not to say that Hillary won't be nominated. It's not to say that the Iraq occupation will be salvaged. And it's definitely not to deny that Iraq may have been an even more dubious strategic decision than Vietnam.


Added December 26, 2007. In particular, I don't think that the antiwar spin after Tet would have succeeded--even given the idiotically unrealistic expectations the Johnson administration had created--if the Web had been available. Now Instapundit links to a warning that a Tet is coming in Iraq.

December 23, 2007

Rachel Davis and the Decline of the West

Instapundit responds that a Tennessee student Rachel Davis was suspended from high school for defending herself against assault. As of this writing, 141 out of 450 people in an online poll believe that the suspension was justified.

A California high school teacher replies that
The principal at my own son's school expects--and I kid you not--that students will curl up on the ground into a fetal position and hope that someone else goes running for help.
This insane outlook is not confined to otherworldly educators; it is pervasive.

Nicholas Sarkozy opposes firearms ownership and declares that you may not shoot dead a home invader who turns out to be unarmed.

Tony Martin...John Howard...

No wonder that Islamists take us for pushovers.

I haven't pulled a trigger since basic training long ago. I don't own a gun, but the right to purchase one is very important to me.

Afaic the right to self-defense is a fundamental human right. IMO a government which denies this right is, or will ultimately become, a despotism. A populace that consents to such government powers deserves to be serfs. I'm skeptical that such a civilization will survive, and I'm pretty sure that it won't progress.

December 21, 2007

Jew Lawyers Scheme Against Their Country!

A primary inadequacy of Bush's war leadership is his failure to articulate the nature of the struggle. (That failure may well be rooted in a failure to conceptualize the nature of the struggle, which in turn may well be rooted in his mental laziness. But I digress.)

The Israelis would never be that naive, right? Wrong, according to the JPost Pasionara (caveat lector! although her current column is plausible, she often gets carried away):
While the soldiers and general public view the (Hizbullah) war as a failure, one sector of Israeli society sees the war as a great triumph. For Israel's legal establishment, the war was a great victory. It was a war in which its members asserted their dominance over Israel's political and military leadership.
Mazuz effectively asserted that international law prevents victory in war when he argued, "The laws of war, or international humanitarian law doesn't concern itself with relations between two states, but with the relationship between civilians and states. That is, it places the two warring states on one side of the divide and the citizens of the two states on the other side, and the goal of international law is to protect the citizens of the two states and to say: You're big kids. You want to fight, go fight, you have rules… and the rules aim to minimize as much as possible the consequences of the war."

By so arguing, Mazuz demonstrated that he views the goals of legal advisers as different from and indeed in conflict with the goals of political and military leaders. The goal of the latter is to defend the country from its enemies and to win wars. As Mazuz and Mandelblit see things, lawyers are tasked with protecting enemy populations from the IDF.

The distinctive way that legal advisers define their responsibilities has had an enormous impact on the military and the political leadership of the country. It is not that the internalization of the lawyers' approach has made the IDF or the Israeli government any more moral or law abiding than they have always been...

What has changed is the focus of military and political leaders in conducting war. Before the advent of legal dominance, commanders and political leaders devoted themselves to winning wars. Today they concentrate their efforts on avoiding criminal indictments.
(HT: Instapundit and National Review) This brings to mind the Internet rumor that during the overthrow of the Taliban, a Predator-drone operator had Mullah Omar targeted, but the commander (Franks?) insisted on checking with a military lawyer before giving permission to fire. By the time the lawyer okayed the attack, Omar was gone.

December 19, 2007

The Sabotaged Fence and Our "Elites"

See the previous post for a link about the fence.

Suppose the American people finally resort to installing a Putin and he goes after our elites the way Vladimir goes after his enemies. If the Enlightened People think I'll go in the streets on their behalf, they should think again.

For perspective: IMO America is in decline and we are heading for stagnation or, at some point, collapse. However, the decline is not irreversible.

Afterthought. Maybe the best realistic 2008 outcome is a caretaker who will minimize our decline until, heaven willing, the country produces another real leader. (Reagan restored the country for a generation, but time and entropy happen to us all.)

Every Time I Suppress My Misgivings about Fred Thompson, He Gets in the News

When I read that Congress sabotaged the border fence, I hit the roof:
It’s important to me that a Presidential candidate have an executive track record. The lack thereof has been my primary reservation about Thompson and one of my primary reservations about Obama.

However, when the government reminds me of a bordello, I’m not going to seek out the candidate with the most experience in brothels.
Right afterwards, I saw this:
Fred Thompson: Lazy as charged
By: Roger Simon
Dec 19, 2007 01:35 PM EST

WAVERLY, Iowa — When is retail politics not retail politics? When candidates refuse to get off their big buses and go do it.

Fred Thompson rolled into this small town on the Cedar River in north-central Iowa on a giant brown bus Tuesday. He also had a van, an entourage of guys with earpieces and a press aide.
So the sum total of Thompson’s day in Waverly was meeting with a newspaper editor and saying nothing and then meeting about 15 people in a warm firehouse and saying nothing.

When he was supposed to go out and find voters in shops and diners, talk to them and answer their questions, he decided to skip it and get back on his luxury bus instead.

That’s not retail politics. That’s not Iowa. And that’s not laconic. That’s lazy.
Is Thompson running because his young wife wants him to?

Shades of John Kerry.

Follow-Up. I don't have time to post links, but the above article has been discredited as a hit piece. IMO Thompson should stay in the race and, without becoming a full-fledged supporter, I've made a small donation to his campaign.

December 14, 2007

"There You Go Again"?

Obama to Clinton: “Hillary, I’m looking forward to you advising me as well.” Zap!

It's unthinkable that Bill Clinton would ever lead with his chin the way Hillary did.

December 9, 2007

If True, This Is Gobsmackingly Stupid.
Even Worse, It's Adolescent.

From the Jerusalem Post:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly said in Annapolis this week that her childhood in the segregated South had helped her to understand the suffering on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I know what its like to hear that you can't use a certain road or pass through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I know what it is like to feel discriminated against and powerless," Rice told a closed meeting of Arab and Israeli representatives, according to the Dutch representative at the summit, Franz Timmermans.

"Like Israelis, I understand what it's like to go to sleep not knowing if you will be hurt in an explosion, the feeling of terror walking around your own neighborhood, or walking to your house of prayer," Timmermans quoted Rice as saying, the Washington Post reported.

Rice described her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, during the era of segregation and the killing of four young girls in a bombing at a Baptist church in 1963. She reportedly said the bombing, which killed one of her classmates, helps her understand the fear of terrorism felt by Israelis.
I'd like to think that this report is inaccurate, but Rice was appointed by The Most Brilliant Man Harriet Miers Ever Met, who is the son of the man who selected Dan Quayle for the Vice Presidency.

Memo to Condoleezza Rice: Smarts, hard work, and sucking up will take you only so far. There comes a point at which real talent is essential.

Memo to the whole No Small Ball administration: If you manifestly lack the talent to achieve great things (and are mentally lazy to boot), you shouldn't try.

December 7, 2007

A Modest Proposal Regarding the Border Fence

Just brainstorming:

If Mexico refuses to patrol their border, we should build and garrison the fence on their side.

Come to think of it, I'd be willing to expedite US citizenship for Mexicans and other Latinos who would serve a term guarding the border. Carefully screened and supervised Mexicans, that is: the work might be dangerous and the potential for corruption significant.

Monitor the real fence with a virtual fence.

December 3, 2007

A Modest Proposal for Maria Shriver

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a viable governor of California, but he is ineligible for the Presidency because he is not a natural born citizen.

Yet it's sometimes argued that the Clintons are circumventing (the spirit of) the Constitution's 22nd Amendment, which limits Presidents to two terms.

If the Clintons can do an end run, why can't the Schwarzeneggers?

If Maria is President, Arnold can run the US like Prince Albert ran the UK.

Which party's nomination should the Schwarzeneggers seek? It doesn't matter.

Not only is there California's bloc of Electoral College votes, but the whole country would flock to see "Pumping Iron with the Kennedys".

Afterthought (December 15, 2007). Mike Dukakis succeeded in skedaddling out of Massachusetts onto the national ticket while his financial mismanagement could still be swept under the rug. Schwarzenegger might not be as lucky.

December 2, 2007

Demagogues and Ben Franklin

Benny is often quoted to the effect that people who would give up liberty for temporary security deserve neither.

It's an obvious point once you realize it, so the trick is to keep people, perhaps including yourself, from realizing it. The populist demagogue proceeds by promising security in the language of challenge and renewal.

As for the GOP, the admirable Virginia Postrel quotes one Daniel Weintraub:
PS to my Republican friends: I know CNN did a lousy job picking the questions and half of them came from people with links to Democratic candidates and causes. But they didn't pick the answers. The candidates still had their say. And in two hours of yakking, I don't think I heard a single sentence expressing confidence in the ability of individuals to pursue happiness on their own. Isn't that what the Republicans are supposed to be all about?
My gut reaction is that 'compassionate conservatism' is more dishonest, and ultimately more pernicious, than Clinton's and Obama's shticks.

IBD on the Dollar

(HT: Dinocrat) Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
Others see in the dollar's slump a metaphor for America's future — one of decline and waning influence in the world.

To be sure, the dollar is down almost 40% against the euro since 2001. Against the pound, it's off almost 44%. It's even down against the yen, by nearly 13%.

But put in perspective, these declines are neither dangerous nor even undesirable. Over the long-term, the dollar is well within normal bounds. After years of rallying due to massive flows of investment into the U.S., the dollar has simply come down to Earth.

To say it has "collapsed" or "plunged" is simply wrong — as the chart above shows.
The weak dollar, by making U.S. goods more competitive overseas, will sow the seeds of future growth through booming exports, more domestic jobs and a new surge in investment from overseas to snap up bargains in the U.S.

That's not a cause for concern, but of celebration.
IBD tiptoed gingerly toward the obvious, but managed to ignore it completely by the end of the editorial. Let's let the dollar drop further so we can celebrate even more. Yaaay!!! George Bush is smart! Strategery!!

The dollar advanced because the world believed that America--the country that won the Cold War--the country that wired the planet--would lead humanity into the future. The dollar is declining because the world no longer believes that.

Afaic American decline is obvious, but it is neither inevitable nor irreversible. Nor is it accidental. Who benefits? On the left, there are obvious culprits: the trial lawyers, the social-service apparatchiks, the NGO nannystaters, the deathwish Greens, etc. I have no doubt that a similar rogues' gallery exists on the right.

November 29, 2007

The Rich are ewww Breeding...

People who can afford it are choosing to have several children, and sages in the media are sneering:
In richest Manhattan, an alarming trend has risen from the primordial ooze that is hedge-fund money. This trend is flooding the chic nursery schools,clogging the fashionable secondary schools and sending many a billionaire from a sports car into a giant gas-guzzling Denali. Yes, the hot accessory of 2007 is children—but not just one or two. It seems that fashionable women in Manhattan just can’t stop popping them out...

But I believe (subscribing to the maxim that the rich are just like us, but with more money) that there is more to this boomlet than just showing off. Perhaps they are trying to keep their numbers up so their kids don’t have to venture to Second Avenue for a play date. Perhaps the loneliness and isolation of wealth in the face of global suffering is causing the baby blitz.
See also:
It seems the rich are pumping out children (almost) like it’s 1899. Yes, the latest conspicuous consumption is conspicuous reproduction - uber-rich women giving birth to the beginnings of a softball team: three, four, five, even six, children.

Hey, what’s the biggie if they can afford it? Well, the question is, can the rest of us?

There’s something in this that stinks of what I call “show brats”: children as the latest fashion accessory. Less well-to-do people have them, too — they just have fewer of them, and are less apt, simply by virtue of income, to pass their children’s rearing off on “the staff.”
Is such writing the sign of a social conscience, or are very different attitudes embodied in the wannabe-hip NYC commentary?

I can't think of a better prognosis of a civilization's vitality than its people choosing to reproduce. Coming among many troubling cultural indicators, this news is extremely welcome.

Encounters While Grocery Shopping

I ran into Barack Obama at the supermarket and he asked for my support. When I declined, he asked if it was because he was black. No, I said, it was because it is irresponsible of him to run for President without executive experience, ideally as governor.

I got in the deli line behind Condi Rice, who told me she could never be bothered to run for President, but might accept the office if people asked her very very nicely. I said I wouldn't be asking her. Condi inquired if that's because she is black and female, and I replied that it's because she already seems in over her head running State. I did thank her for helping me realize how important an executive track record is.

In the checkout line, I told Fred Thompson he had my good regard but not my support. When Fred asked if the issue was his Southern accent, I said I'd just had that discussion with Barack and Fred should get a replay from him.

On my way out, Hillary Clinton demanded my vote. I raised the executive-experience issue and she snarled that she had a successful governorship and Presidency to her credit. Then she shouted that junk food would be illegal when she had something to say about it, grabbed my shopping bag, and threw it in the trash. Mike Huckabee was nearby, smiling during Hillary's tirade. He looked like he wanted to chime in but decided not to.

I really wanted to get home, but John Edwards came up to me in the parking lot. I said, "Look! What happened in the mall? An ambulance just drove in there," and he ran off.

All this time Jeb Bush had followed me around without saying anything, but he nodded effusively every time I mentioned experience. Mike Dukakis was collecting shopping carts in the parking lot, so I called him over and introduced him to Jeb. As I got in my car, a babbling Al Gore pointed at it and tried to block my way; he barely jumped aside as I ignored him and drove off.

November 24, 2007

A Transcendent New Metascience:
Quantum Ecocosmology

I founded it after reading "Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'" (here).

In Peter Woit's post, commenters WB and anon. come to the edge of the crucial conceptual chasm, but unfortunately they shy away from--anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it re the Templeton Prize--the bold cognitive leap which I take herewith:

The Multiverse is an All-Nurturing Overmother Who shelters Gaia and her sister worlds. Negative thinking releases cosmic cognitive pollutants that threaten not only Gaia but also her sisters and the Overmother Herself.

Toni Vernelli is on the right track, but stronger measures are needed.

Think globally multiversally, act locally.

Afterthought. Although biology and, arguably, computational science are ascendant, traditionally physics has been first among the sciences. Perhaps, like some civilizations, a science decays from within before it is overthrown from without.

November 19, 2007

Noteworthy Speech By Giuliani


Afterthought. Consider this extract about Clinton and the Spitzer proposal for driver's licenses for illegals:
First she was for the idea and supported Governor Spitzer who wanted to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Then she was against the idea. Then she was for and against the idea and then finally she said it should be decided on a state-by-state basis.


This is the only time in her career that she’s ever decided anything should be decided on a state-by-state basis.

You know something? She picked out absolutely the wrong one.


Right? I mean this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution, the borders of the United States, immigration...
Is this a coded way of asserting that state and local governments cannot take action against illegals?

November 17, 2007

First Impression of the 2008 Candidates

Qualified: Giuliani and Romney.

Arguably qualified: Clinton, Thompson, McCain, maybe even Richardson.

At least the field is better than the Three Stooges of Bush, Gore and Kerry.

Help might be on the way.

November 13, 2007

To Secure--with Manacles--the Blessings of Liberty for Ourselves and Our Posterity

The AP reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) - A top intelligence official says it is time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information.
This guy should be fired and barred from working for the government, and any government contractor, ever again.

I doubt that even J. Edgar Hoover at the height of his power would have dared go this far.

Kerr's speech is here. Note the chummy interplay with the moderator.

Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address is here.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Yes, there's a war on. Yes, technology changes things. But Eisenhower spoke when the threat--the external threat, that is--was far greater than it is today.

Hillary Rodham Nixon

I didn't read Morris's book, but some time ago I perceived a similarity between Hillary Rodham C and Richard Milhous N.

Afaic the similarity is pretty obvious...I'm just linkin' to my thinkin'...

November 12, 2007

Climate Change

I remarked at Dinocrat that
I’m a global warming skeptic, not a global warming disbeliever.
I view anthropogenic global warming as
...a great issue for aging boomers who ‘had issues’ in the 60s and continue to have issues today. Al Gore has written:

We have the opportunity to become the Greatest Generation, responding to our climate debate – but only if we take urgent action to limit global warming.
Given the demagoguery, looniness, and civilizational deathwish among alarmists, it’s hard to keep an open mind about anthropogenic global warming. I support research on climate modelling and measurement, and I support research on reversible climate engineering. For example, Gregory Benford seems to be thinking constructively.
Linking to a news report on geoengineering, Instapundit warns
Be cautious.
Indeed. That's why my comment above specified reversible climate engineering.

November 9, 2007

Who But a Bigot Would Oppose an Employment Nondiscrimination Act?

Via Instapundit and Volokh, I see that
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 — The House on Wednesday approved a bill granting broad protections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, a measure that supporters praised as the most important civil rights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 but that opponents said would result in unnecessary lawsuits.

The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, is the latest version of legislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974.
Golly, who but a bigot is against nondiscrimination in employment?

I do not believe that this issue is serious enough to warrant federal intrusion into the private sector. Similarly, I oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment's intrusion on the states. The number of Republicans and Democrats who crossed party lines in both pieces of legislation is roughly comparable.

Afaic ENDA, like the FMA, is grist for a partisan constituency, an episode in the culture wars, and pork for lawyers.

I don't view either the so-called religious right or the so-called progressive left as qualified to govern the most advanced society of the 21st century. Nevertheless I concede that these factions may dominate our governance. If so, the odds that America will not remain the center of gravity of human progress will become a near-certainty.

A plague on both their houses.

November 8, 2007

Recycled Imbalances, Imbalanced Recycling

Dinocrat warns:
The massive build-up of unrecycled liquidity in a few exporting nations is one of the preeminent financial dangers of our time, and so far almost no one seems to be talking about it.
A scenario: You notice that public- and private-sector mismanagement has made the US economy wobbly, so you convert your large trove of dollars into a currency that you expect to hold its value against the dollar. You use that currency as collateral for sustained cumulative shorting of the US stock market, converting the proceeds of the short sales into the robust currency. When your selling precipitates a market break, US equities and the dollar crash together and your short-covering yields a dual profit.

IMO this kind of financial warfare is not in China's interest at present, but perhaps some oil producers would find it to their advantage and maybe there are hedge funds that bet on such a double-crash scenario.

November 7, 2007

The Dollar Should Stock Market May Be an Election Issue

On 19 January 2001, the day before Bush was inaugurated, the S&P 500 closed at 1342.54. As I write twenty minutes before today's close, it is at 1482.93. In recent years the annual standard deviation has been about 10%; historically it's been more like 20%.

There seems to be at least a one-in-eight chance (my estimates for various scenarios range from one-in-eight to seven-in-twenty) that Bush will leave the White House with the market lower than when he took office eight years before--lower in terms of a dollar which has plunged under his stewardship.

It's the economy, stupid. If the average citizen endures a recession or worse, it would intensify nostalgia for Clintonian prosperity--but how suitable is Hillary to cure a sick economy? Romney, on the other hand, has strong executive experience in the private, nonprofit and government sectors. Mitt's economic credentials are stronger than Giuliani's, and he seems a better choice than Rudy or Hillary to lead a turnaround. But if the Bush-Rove-Delay-Lott economic chickens are home to roost in 2008, how can a Republican, no matter how well qualified, be elected President?

Afterthought. Heaven forbid that the foregoing clears the way for a demagogue. A demagogic President would compound the damage while blaming Bush for the consequences.

November 5, 2007

The Dollar Should Be an Election Issue

This is disgraceful:
Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Gisele Bundchen wants to remain the world's richest model and is insisting that she be paid in almost any currency but the U.S. dollar.

Like billionaire investors Warren Buffett and Bill Gross, the Brazilian supermodel, who Forbes magazine says earns more than anyone in her industry, is at the top of a growing list of rich people who have concluded that the currency can only depreciate because Americans led by President George W. Bush are living beyond their means.
Conceivably the damage that the Bush-Rove-Delay-Lott Republicans have done to America's standing in the world economy will eventually eclipse Bush's incompetence as a war leader.

This should be an election issue but, in the political big leagues, the straight talk required is probably perceived as electoral suicide.

Afterthought. During the Clinton-era Internet bubble, America was leading the world into the future; when the bubble burst, much of enduring value survived and continued to grow. During the Bush-era real estate bubble, America fabricated funny money; the aftermath is cruddy reposessed property.

November 4, 2007

The Pakistan Coup Etc

After a period of encouraging indications from Iraq, this wake-up call was unwelcome but probably inevitable. I remain inclined to believe that the Iraq invasion was a gross strategic blunder: that is to say, it would have been a strategic blunder if we had a strategy. While General Petraeus may turn a looming defeat into a victory, it's a victory in a battle that should not have been fought at this time.
Back when "Mission Accomplished" Bush was riding high, I would sometimes ask his supporters why we invaded secular Baathist Iraq when the enemy was Islamism. A typical response was that I didn't understand strategery guh-yuk guh-yuk.

Hear the wisdom of The Blessed Condoleezza:
Let me just say that we have an unfolding story in Pakistan. There appear to be authoritative sources, Pakistani television, saying that a state of emergency is going to be declared. We've not heard from President Musharraf, to my knowledge, yet.

I just want to be clear that the United States has made clear that it does not support extra-constitutional measures because those measures would take Pakistan away from the path of democracy and civilian rule. And whatever happens, we will be urging a quick return to a constitutional order, we will be urging that the commitment to hold free and fair elections be kept, and we'll be urging calm on all the parties.
This tripe comes from America's top diplomat, who is a former National Security advisor and a former provost of Stanford University. What should our enemies and friends, and the American people, think?

Looking at the presidential line of succession, I go down to #5 (#6 if Bush is included) before seeing anyone likely to grow into the job.

Possible mitigations:
1. The military takeover in Algeria was not expected to block the ascendancy of Islamism there, but to date it has done so.
2. Bad leadership on our side does not mean that the enemy's leadership is superb.
3. An election is coming up. When I see a photo of Bush and Putin (or Bush and Vicente Fox, for that matter), I am embarrassed. I cringe. I might not feel that way with Hillary or Mitt in the picture, and I'm sure I wouldn't feel that way with Rudy. Thompson has yet to convince me that he wouldn't seem outclassed by Putin. Heaven save us from Obama and Edwards: like Gore and Kerry, they probably would be even bigger embarrassments than Bush. (And if we get another incompetent administration, embarrassment might be the least of my worries.)

November 2, 2007

"Lesbian" Hillary: Cui Bono?

Apparently Kausfiles was the pebble that triggered the Webalanche. Who tapped that pebble and who positioned all the dirt that is now sliding?

A Karl Rove hit job? It's true that Rove has left the White House, but it seems premature for the Republicans to go after Clinton this way.

Yet surely no diversity-celebrating Democrat would ever do such a thing...

(This post has speculated about the origin of the rumors, not about their validity or implications. Nevertheless, the possible Saudi connection warrants clarification. It's hard to see why the sexual allegation, whether or not it is verified, would be relevant to my voting decision.)

Afterthought. If Clinton were rendered toxic, Edwards' chances for a VP nomination would improve. The robotic Al Gore who blundered away the 2000 election couldn't have coordinated this kind of hit, but, come to think of it, I don't really know all that much about the upgraded model.

Second afterthought. And I was startled to realize that Obama's name never for a moment crossed my mind even though I've come to distrust him.

October 31, 2007

Agrarian Virtues

Victor Davis Hanson writes
...My maternal grandparents lived to be 86 and 91; their two professional daughters, my mother and aunt, died at 66 and 49 respectively. My paternal grandfather lived to be 81, his son, my father died at 75. The older generation lived pretty much in one place, rarely if ever traveled, and set their schedule by the natural year. They worked within sight on their farmhouses, ate much of what they grew, and were up at 4 and in bed at 9 or 10.

My parents, in contrast, entered the rat race and all that entailed, and toward the end of their lives understood the toll it took. I don’t want to romanticize farm life; I found it brutal and dangerous, but the wear is of a different sort.
Even if a virtue is made out of necessity, it is still a virtue.

A critical question--no less critical for being obvious--for individuals and civilizations: how, if at all, can the indispensable time-tested virtues be created without the harshness and brutality of necessity?

October 30, 2007

Ungrateful Peons

Not surprisingly, Randstad is a business-staffing firm that deals in temps and contractors.
Eric Buntin, managing director of marketing and operations for Randstad, said the survey indicated people had not changed their behavior as office layouts changed, becoming more open, so people heard colleagues talking and knew more about their home lives.

"If you were sitting in your office with the door closed no one would be able to hear you unless you were very loud but if you open the door then people hear everything, blurring the lines between personal and work lives," Buntin told Reuters.

"People are not taking into account that the workplace is very open now and they need to think about that interaction with their colleagues."
Are office layouts changing because of vast impersonal forces like encroaching Ice Age glaciation?

Randstad has announced that
Randstad Holding nv has fully completed the acquisition of the German staffing company Team BS as announced on September 14, 2007.
Sounds like a good fit.

October 27, 2007

Socks the Cat

Dinocrat comments that Socks was once a Clinton prop but has now become anti-Clinton ammunition.

The moral: there's more than one way to spin a cat.

Amendment 5a to the US Constitution

This story started normally:
Three Sentenced to Prison in Microsoft Fraud Case

The trio were involved in a scheme to purchase more than $29 million worth of software that was steeply discounted for academic institutions, and selling it to non-academic entities, in violation of the Microsoft agreement. These convictions were the result of "Operation Cyberstorm," a two-year undercover investigation into software piracy and related crimes by agents from FBI, IRS and REACT Task Force.
Fair enough, but the kicker is the last sentence:
...A fourth defendant, William Glushenko, 66, pled guilty to a charge of misprision of a felony—knowing of a crime and failing to report it—and was given one year probation and 100 hours of community service.
What?! The Fifth Amendment protects people against self-incrimination, but not incriminating others is a crime?

There may well be legitimate extremes like misprision of terrorism, but at first blush this strikes me as inconsistent with a free society.

Oh yeah, I forgot: if you're innocent, you have nothing to fear.

October 13, 2007

Toward 'Transnational' Internet Control

A few years ago there was a push for 'transnational' control of the Internet. Is that President No-Small-Ball's next Big Idea? (Keeping my fingers crossed: sarcastic hyperbole about this administration can be hard to achieve.)

As it happens, the administration has just contributed to the transnationalist case:
After a Marin County website was hacked to redirect users to a pornographic Web site, the GSA stepped in and obstructed every state and local website in the state of California
For the children of course:
The General Services Administration, which shut down the sites, apologized for the inconvenience on Thursday and said it would try to find a more targeted solution for similar problems in the future.

"GSA is responsible for the integrity of all the .gov Web sites it manages," the agency said in a statement. "The potential exposure of pornographic material to the citizens and tens of thousands of children in California was a primary motivator for GSA to request immediate corrective action."
If I were reading this in Frankfurt, Tokyo, Beijing, Rio, etc., I wouldn't be feeling very supportive of the USA as a fiduciary for domain-name registration.

October 11, 2007

Doris Lessing on Isms

I know Doris Lessing primarily by reputation--a reputation which has just been enhanced--, but some time ago I came across this:
"Great things have been achieved through feminism. We now have pretty much equality at least on the pay and opportunities front, though almost nothing has been done on child care, the real liberation.

"We have many wonderful, clever, powerful women everywhere, but what is happening to men? Why did this have to be at the cost of men?

"I was in a class of nine- and 10-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men.

"You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives."

Lessing said the teacher tried to "catch my eye, thinking I would approve of this rubbish".
See also her essay 'Unexamined Mental Attitudes Left Behind By Communism'.

October 9, 2007

KGB's Penalty for This Would Be...Severe

The NY Sun (HT: Instapundit) reports
WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda's Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence after the leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that we had penetrated the enemy's system.

The intelligence blunder started with what appeared at the time as an American intelligence victory, namely that the federal government had intercepted, a full four days before it was to be aired, a video of Osama bin Laden's first appearance in three years in a video address marking the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. On the morning of September 7, the Web site of ABC News posted excerpts from the speech.

But the disclosure from ABC and later other news organizations tipped off Qaeda's internal security division that the organization's Internet communications system, known among American intelligence analysts as Obelisk, was compromised.
Shock and awe. Slam dunk. Mission accomplished.

Our elected officials understand that the aforementioned intelligence community needs to be fired pervasive power:
Saying that "we live in a dangerous world" and people "want to have security cameras," Mayor Bloomberg is making the case that New Yorkers need to get used to being watched.
During a demonstration of the surveillance control room in a police precinct in London's "square mile," which has a camera on every corner, Mr. Bloomberg said New York is "way behind" when it comes to cameras on subways and buses. He said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority "just has to get us this kind of technology."
Once upon a time we were warned that the USA lagged the Soviets in military and space technology. Today we are warned that we are behind the curve in constructing a police state.

October 8, 2007

Fixing Dysfunctions with Dysfunctions

Sheila Bair, the head of the FDIC, is a lawyer who apparently has never held a private-sector job (afaic "Senior Vice President for Government Relations of the New York Stock Exchange" doesn't count as such). However, she knows how to solve the housing crisis: if creditors track down debtors and offer them easier terms on their mortgages, all will be well. In particular, ARMs should not be reset and teaser rates should be made permanent.

Bair is "frustrated" that creditors are not getting with the program:
For instance, for owner occupied housing where the loan is current ... just convert that subprime hybrid ARM into a fixed-rate mortgage. Keep it at the starter rate. Convert it into a fixed rate. Make it permanent. And get on with it.
Compassionate conservatism to the rescue!

The political class is running the country not by solving problems, but by offsetting them with new problems and aggrandizing power in the process. Unless we change course, the day will come when all reserves of societal capital are exhausted.

October 7, 2007

(No) Snap UK Election

Apparently Gordon Brown is not calling one. While Labor's recent fumbling and slipping in the polls obviously have a lot to do with the decision, maybe Brown has decided to ram through the cession of additional UK sovereignty to the EU. The longer the furor about that has to die down, the better Labor's electoral chances will be.

Incidentally, a Tory pundit declares:
Gordon’s colour now will be yellow
Why not tell Brown to keep his cotton-pickin' fingers off British sovereignty? (Its very well-wishers have called the GOP the Stupid Party. Apparently the syndrome extends across the Atlantic.)

October 2, 2007

Senate Resolution on Partitioning Iraq

Gateway Pundit (HT: Instapundit) criticizes the Biden resolution, which apparently has caused an uproar in Iraq.

Reasonable people can disagree about the resolution--I have qualms about some of the wording--, but it claims to be consistent with the Iraqi constitution. If Iraqi politicians are really atwitter about it, maybe, per some GP comenters, it's because they prefer to blame others for their troubles instead of solving their own problems.

However, the Senate parses the Iraqi constitution while routinely flouting ours. Do as we say, not as we do?

Maybe the Senate advocates a strong national government only when that's easy, e.g. enabled by a law-abiding or docile public. Would the Senate acquiesce to future US separatist agitation that invoked PC multiculturalism? De facto, maybe it already has.

September 27, 2007

"Silence in Syria, Panic in Iran"

According to Instapundit, the September 6 Israeli raid on Syria may be panicking Iran.

I too have made that small hop of the imagination. Heh.

September 22, 2007

Sarah Palin

IMO Alaska's Governor Palin might fill out into presidential timber along Reaganesque lines.

There's a blog pushing her for VP, but Glenn Reynolds says she should run for Ted Stevens' seat.

Viewing Palin as a potential POTUS, I have doubts about both suggestions. Re VP: most of the recent Vice Presidents who became President did not have successful administrations. Re Instapundit: Palin needs more than two years of executive experience before running for President; furthermore, the modern Senate has not been a viable launching pad for presidencies (though Clinton may change that).

On the other hand, national-level experience would help Palin if she seeks higher office. If the GOP had a clue, they would put Palin on their presidential farm team and help her acquire such experience.

Of course, if the GOP had a clue they wouldn't have lost Congress.

September 20, 2007

Military Rule: A Modest Proposal

So the mortgage mess has put us at risk of recession or worse, and what does the establishment want? Cheap labor and cheap votes, of course!

According to the LA Times, immigration legislation is back:
The first to come up is expected to be the "Dream Act," a bill championed by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) that would give conditional legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age.


Durbin plans to attach the bill as an amendment to a defense funding measure scheduled to come before the Senate today, his staff said.
Durbin is putting this kind of amendment onto a military bill during wartime.

The Roman Republic used to appoint dictators to deal with emergencies. Eventually this practice led to autocracy, but it was viable for a long time. Maybe we need a Constitutional amendment authorizing the military to take power for a limited period, e.g. the balance of a presidential term, if in their judgment the security of the nation is at risk.

The foregoing is meant as brainstorming, not as a serious proposal. However, something is very wrong with most or all of our civilian establishments: political, business, academic...

September 16, 2007

The Boomers

It is quite possible that the baby boom generation is the single worst generation of Americans that this country has ever produced.
There was considerable overlap between the subsets of the Great Generation respectively characterized as 'the best' and 'the brightest'. The boomers changed that.

I fear our best are no longer our brightest and our brightest sneer at our best.


The New England Patriots have been marketed as the epitome of family wholesomeness. To some extent I willingly suspended my capacity for disbelief and bought into the story.

I'm now a New Englander, but the reports about Belichick's somewhat messy divorce and Brady's kid didn't sit well with my Midwestern roots. Of course the full stories are not known, and my lack of approval is not the same as condemnation.

Then the taping thing--it's not worth the time to dig out links--came up and my attention was pulled back to the team. As the affair grew, I found the same link about the NFL commissioner as this poster did, and reached the same conlusion: Goodell's objectivity is in question and he should have recused himself from the affair. This was even before the Patriots' confiscated film was leaked to the media.

NFL football is a game, played for overly high stakes. To be good at the game requires a variant of martial virtue, but it does not necessarily make one admirable across the board. After my spasm of pro-Patriots indignation, I'm going to resume my resolution to ignore sports and focus on my business.

September 11, 2007


Never forget.

September 7, 2007

I was tempted to soften on Bush. Then he put himself back in the news. (#2 & #2.5)

From the Washington Times (HT: Instapundit):
Congressional Democrats are trying to undermine U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' credibility before he delivers a report on the Iraq war next week, saying the general is a mouthpiece for President Bush and his findings can't be trusted.

"The Bush report?" Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said when asked about the upcoming report from Gen. Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq.

"We know what is going to be in it. It's clear. I think the president's trip over to Iraq makes it very obvious," the Illinois Democrat said. "I expect the Bush report to say, 'The surge is working. Let's have more of the same.'"
The timing of Bush's Iraq visit is partisan and provocative. Maybe he doesn't care because he has the votes he needs--but if the day comes when he needs every vote he can get, this occasion will not be forgotten.

The Democrats' statements are reprehensible, but it is Bush who has exposed the military, i.e. Petraeus, as a target for political mudslinging.

Addendum. From Iraq, on to Australia and the APEC meeting:
"Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit," Mr. Bush said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
Mr. Bush quickly corrected himself. "APEC summit," he said forcefully, joking that the confusion was because Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (though neither Australia nor the United States is an OPEC member).

The president's next goof went uncorrected, at least immediately. Talking about Howard's visit to Iraq last year to thank his country's soldiers serving there, Mr. Bush referred to them as "Austrian troops" - though the official text released by the White House and posted on fixed it to "Australian."

After his speech, Mr. Bush confidently headed out - the wrong way.

He strode away from the lectern on a path that would have sent him over a steep drop. Howard and others saved him, redirecting the president to center stage, where there were steps leading down to the floor of the theater.

The audience remained quiet throughout the president's remarks, applauding only when he was finished.
Did the audience applaud because they saw Bush heading toward the dropoff?

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald notes:
What an irony. When the leader of the free world comes to town, the first casualty is freedom. Parts of the city look like a war zone, wreathed in five kilometres of fencing wire. Helicopters buzz, jumpy police bark at motorists. Riot cars tear through the city; the new water cannon lies in wait. Some city workers are forced to shuffle like prisoners through a series of chook runs. Laws are passed to give police extraordinary powers to search, detain, confiscate. There is a fenced-off "restricted" zone and a wider "security" zone.
...But the clampdown on civil liberties is so over the top, the restrictions extending so far from the key venues, that some believe the Premier, Morris Iemma, has an ulterior motive in mind - to annoy the citizens of Sydney so much they will vent their anger on John Howard at the federal election.
Even if the qualifier is true, the use of his visit for partisan games is itself an indication that the American president is not respected.

September 2, 2007

Toward a Modest Proposal about the Mortgage Mess

Bernanke speaks:
the mortgage market has become more like the frictionless financial market of the textbook, with fewer institutional or regulatory barriers to efficient operation. In one important respect, however, that characterization is not entirely accurate. A key function of efficient capital markets is to overcome problems of information and incentives in the extension of credit. The traditional model of mortgage markets, based on portfolio lending, solved these problems in a straightforward way: Because banks and thrifts kept the loans they made on their own books, they had strong incentives to underwrite carefully and to invest in gathering information about borrowers and communities. In contrast, when most loans are securitized and originators have little financial or reputational capital at risk, the danger exists that the originators of loans will be less diligent.
And this holds even more for derivatives.

The big financial houses that make big money from peddling toxic financial waste as portfolio vitamins don't want regulation--but if they must endure regulation, they want a lot of it because the costs will overburden their nascent competitors. (To rectify the financial system and economy, more lawyers should get paid more money...yeah, that'll do it.)

If sunlight is the best disinfectant, the first thing to do is to get all these instruments into the sunlight. After they are assessed, society can assess how the markets should be regulated in order to keep them reasonably free and efficient.

A very rough thought follows. For starters every piece of US-traded paper--CDO, CMO, OTC derivative, etc.--should be posted on a publicly accessible central database together with the most recent transaction price and rating. Confidentiality of buyers and sellers should be respected, but the rating agency/agencies should be revealed[1].

Let this data be swarmed over by think tanks and legions of rabid dissertation-seeking finance graduate students and tenure-hungry junior faculty. Even with modern computer processing, that's going to take time. Only after an overall picture emerges should regulation be structured.

Formatting requirements should be kept simple to minimize the reporting burden. The USA should take the lead--the mess is primarily due to the negative consequences of our financial innovation--, but we might wish to team internationally.

The danger is that such regulation will drive business offshore and, like Sarbanes-Oxley is said to have done, further erode American leadership of global financial markets. A way to offset that is to maximize transparency and minimize complexity. The goal is that listing in the database, by creating confidence, will add value to an instrument relative to a similar one that is unlisted offshore. Ideally, once the system is in place, participants will recognize its value and its mandatory nature will almost be beside the point; I'd like to say that it could eventually be relaxed, but, given the proclivities of Wall Street wise guys, I hesitate to do so.

Clarification. This post was begun in September 2007 but not published until late January 2008. I wanted to develop a more cogent formulation, but finally realized that
It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

[1] Update May 12, 2008: During an interview, George Soros proposed something similar.

August 31, 2007

The Law: It Keeps Growing and Growing...

A legal working paper claims that judges consistently rule in a manner which expands the scope of the legal profession and the privileged standing of lawyers (HT: Instapundit). A speech by Dennis G. Jacobs, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to that effect is transcribed in the May 2007 Fordham Law Review (PDF here).

Are these two documents inconsequential--neither mentioned Warren Burger's bygone warning--or will society begin taking the issue seriously?

Two big legal fish have been hooked recently. Richard Scruggs (tobacco companies) has been indicted for criminal contempt:
(Federal Judge) Acker feels Scruggs did not comply with an injunction in December, refusing to hand over documents from E.A. Renfroe, a claims-handling company working with State Farm, back to the company's attorneys.

Instead, Scruggs gave them to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Acker recommended to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin that she pursue criminal contempt charges, but she declined. That's when Acker enlisted the special prosecutors.
William Lerach (securities law) has left the firm he founded, which is dropping his name, to defend himself against plaintiff-kickback charges:
Sources familiar with the matter said in June that Lerach and founding partner Melvyn Weiss had rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty and serve prison sentences.
It remains to be seen whether all the above is the beginning of a trend. Skepticism is warranted: Burger's warning made no more difference than did Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex.

Addendum May 31, 2008. The worthy Professor Barton, author of the working paper mentioned above, has written another one, which "argues that the shared characteristics, thought-processes, training, and incentives of Judges and lawyers lead inexorably to greater complexity in judge-made law."

August 26, 2007

China: Westward Ho?

Dinocrat discusses an example of how China's prosperity is migrating inland from the coasts.

Currently China's growth is export-driven. There might come a point at which it is driven by a mandate to bring prosperity to the interior, thereby creating internal markets for Chinese products. Perhaps a Chinese version might emerge of the Turner thesis of the frontier's effect on the American character. (By titling a post 'The Wild West', Dinocrat comes to the verge of this hypothesis. Note that the upgrading of the Chinese interior goes hand-in-hand with urbanization, which was not the case in the USA.)

A growing China has an obvious interest in the energy resources of the Middle East. As it climbs toward its ancient place as the Central Kingdom, might it not 'accept' the obligation to 'assist' its fellow primal civilizations, i.e. might China not concoct its own version of Manifest Destiny? And wouldn't it be ironic if restoring Mideast Christianity were part of the pretext?

August 24, 2007

Should Mortgages Go Back to the Future?

Victor Davis Hanson is usually thought-provoking:
I Guess We Forgot the Laws of the Past

There used to be certain laws about mortgages, wisdom slowly acquired through past boom and bust cycles of American history. You got a fixed, usually 30-year mortgage. You paid 20% down. And you bought a house whose debt payments did not eat up more than 30-40% of your monthly income.

Tales of wild real estate riches and speculative profits, even if true, meant little, since a home was more than just an investment. Somehow all that was forgotten with no or little down payment loans, adjustable-rate or interest only schedules, and excess purchased square footage.

Apparently the idea was either to appreciate yourself into 2nd and 3rd mortgage equity, or to expect interest rates magically to go down and thus lower payments, or to buy and sell/buy and sell yourself into a mansion. So the house of straw is now tragically collapsing, and the old wisdom of the past being relearned.
From the abstract of "Do Households Benefit from Financial Deregulation and Innovation? The Case of the Mortgage Market" (Public Policy Discussion Paper No. 06-6) by Kristopher Gerardi, Harvey S. Rosen, and Paul Willen from the Boston Fed:
The U.S. mortgage market has experienced phenomenal change over the last 35 years. Most observers believe that the deregulation of the banking industry and financial markets generally has played an important part in this transformation...This paper develops and implements a technique for assessing the impact of changes in the mortgage market on individuals and households.

Our analysis is based on an implication of the permanent income hypothesis: that the higher a household’s future income, the more it desires to spend and consume, ceteris paribus. If we have perfect credit markets, then desired consumption matches actual consumption and current spending on housing should forecast future income. Since credit market imperfections mute this effect, we can view the strength of the relationship between housing spending and future income as a measure of the “imperfectness” of mortgage markets. Thus, a natural way to determine whether mortgage market developments have actually helped households by decreasing market imperfections is to see whether this link has strengthened over time.

We implement this framework using panel data going back to 1969. We find that over the past several decades, housing markets have become less imperfect in the sense that households are now more able to buy homes whose values are consistent with their long-term income prospects.
The full text is available at the above link.

Excesses and malfeasances should be corrected and their recurrence should be disincentivized, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The possessions that pioneers loaded on their prairie schooners were important--not just for survival, but to create a new and better future. So, too, the lessons of history are important.

August 22, 2007

America, O America...

Lawyers have showed up faster than a fly-by-night mortgage broker would approve a 2% teaser ARM with a balloon payment.
"It's a three-part business cycle now," said Don Lampe, a partner with the law firm Womble Carlyle, whose specialty is mortgage matters. "Boom, bust and recrimination..."
No fan of the bar, I must acknowledge that Mr. Lampe deserves a niche in the historical record for that.

August 17, 2007

A Feminist? Me?

I took the feminist quiz that Dr. Helen linked last week. My rating:
You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man). You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights... I don't see why believing that makes me a feminist.

August 16, 2007

A Modest Proposal for CBS

Since CBS paid Don Imus to be an abrasive jerk, I'm inclined to believe that he was treated unfairly when CBS fired him for being an abrasive jerk.

It is rumored that Imus is returning to the air, possibly even to his old job.

A better idea for Les Moonves: have Imus replace Katie Couric as anchor of the evening news.

(Having never watched or listened to Couric or Imus afaik, I am objective and unbiased in the matter...)

August 15, 2007

Tin Ears at the Mint

The Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins were not accepted by the public. Presumably in the hope that the third time is the charm, the Mint is trying again with a series of dollar coins commemorating the Presidents. According to the Mint site, the dollar coins are 'historic change'. No comment.

Mint Director Edmund Moy speaks (with an eye on postretirement career options?):
"Vending machine companies are spending up to $1 billion a year in maintenance costs due to paper jams," he said. "More use of dollar coins will mean less in maintenance costs."
Compassionate conservatism in action: when vending machine companies are hurting, the government has got to move.

There is also a First Spouse Coin Program under which gold coins are struck with Presidents on one side and their First Ladies on the other. 'First Spouse' jars my ear: if 'First Lady' offends enlightened sensibilities, how about 'Presidential Spouse'? IMO the upscale PC crew that would insist on 'First Spouse' will not collect these coins, and the term repels traditionalists who might do so.

August 13, 2007

The Next Post Will Be My Fourteenth

I'm triskaidekaphobic, and my prose is too prolix.

August 12, 2007

Collectivist Indoctrination in Seattle Elementary School

This has been kicked around the blogosphere: I saw it at Dinocrat and other places I can't remember. The post title and the links give the gist; I won't recapitulate.

However, I have a small quantitative point to add. Searching the teachers' article for the word liberty yields no hits. Searching for free gives only this passage:
As children finished their drawings, we gathered for a meeting to look at the drawings together. The drawings represented a range of understandings of power: a tornado, love spilling over as hearts, forceful and fierce individuals, exclusion, cartoon superheroes, political power.

During our meeting, children gave voice to the thinking behind their drawings.

Marlowe: "If your parents say you have to eat pasta, then that's power."

Lukas: "You can say no."

Carl: "Power is ownership of something."

Drew: "Sometimes I like power and sometimes I don't. I like to be in power because I feel free. Most people like to do it, you can tell people what to do and it feels good."

Drew's comment startled us with its raw truth. He was a member of the Legotown inner circle, and had been quite resistant to acknowledging the power he held in that role. During this discussion, though, he laid his cards on the table. Would Drew's insight break open new understandings among the other members of the inner circle?
(Boldface mine.) The single free stands bracketed by multiple powers. In fact, searching for power gives 44 (forty-four) hits.


August 11, 2007

Fleeing America

The Euro has appreciated by almost 50% against the dollar on Bush's watch, but that's not the only thing to be concerned about.

I happened to check on a foreign stock I'd once bought on the New York Stock Exchange, but couldn't find it...? Foreign companies, citing high administrative and regulatory costs, are delisting from the NYSE in droves.

Such costs presumably contribute to the decision of many American companies to go private, and to the number of IPOs which are occurring on foreign exchanges rather than in the US. Then there's the situation with securitized American mortgages.

Will the world's financial traffic reroute around America the way the Internet routes around censorship? My guess is that we're not at that point yet, but if it happens it will happen faster than people expect. If the next president is also incompetent, that might be enough to trigger the shift; if the next two are, IMO that should do it.

This ought to be an issue in the next election.

Displacing America as the world's financial nerve center would be wrenching for all involved. Whatever arrangement followed might become worse than the current one. But the Bush administration--not to mention the Democratic and Republican parties who concocted Sarbanes-Oxley--has flagrantly thumbed its nose at the electorate, and apparently they have not yet learned from the consequences.

Afterthought. Although Oxley has conceded that Sarbanes-Oxley went too far, perhaps the establishment is still in denial about its consequences at the margin. The law enhances upper management's personal responsibility for a public company's financial statements. Combine American civil litigiousness and scalp-hunting criminal prosecutions like the Conrad Black trial--not that Black is a paragon--, and it's not surprising that foreign CEOs decide they don't need the aggravation.

August 7, 2007

Slim and Bill

The world's richest individual may no longer be Bill Gates, but Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. This Wall Street Journal article is currently free but may eventually go into the pay archive:
The Secrets of the World's Richest Man
Mexico's Carlos Slim makes his billions
the old-fashioned way: monopolies
Mr. Slim's strategy has been consistent over his long career: Buy companies on the cheap, whip them into shape, and ruthlessly drive competitors out of business....

His control of Mexico's telephone system has slowed the nation's development. While telephones have long been standard in any American home, only about half of Mexican homes have them. Only 4% of Mexicans have broadband access. Mexican consumers and businesses also pay above-average prices for telephone calls, according to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development.
There is no obvious successor to the patriarch's empire. That gives some Mexican officials hope that one day the state can regulate his companies. Says one high-ranking official: "When Slim dies, we can finally regulate his kids."
I have no problem with this per se.

(In defense of America's cowboy reputation, I assert that if our Mr. Bill were as free to act monopolistically as Carlos Slim is, it would be no contest. Gates is not as free: Microsoft was reined in by the courts.)

Sensible regulation of monopolists presumably benefits our economy. If a titanic illegitimate monopoly damages the Mexican economy, presumably that is no concern of the United States.

However, we are undergoing massive illegal immigration. To what extent is this due to the lack of opportunity in the stifled Mexican economy? Does the situation increase the radical US-unfriendly left's attractiveness to the Mexican electorate?

Is America in effect subsidizing the fortunes of Slim and those like him?

August 5, 2007

Goose Creek, SC...Again

Two foreign Arab students were arrested after a routine traffic stop. Explosives--fireworks, according to the students--were found in the car. See here and here.

They might be terrorists or jihadis: dilettantes or pros. They might be punks. They might be damfool college students. They might be from privileged families and believe that they can disregard American laws.

We're at war. But if the detainees are not terrorists, they should not be tossed onto our ever-expanding flypaper of laws and regulations. If they're jihadis and/or terrorists, treat them accordingly. If they're not, give them a figurative slap on the rear end and deport them or let them go back to school, whichever is prudent.

Wartime authorities should err on the side of caution, but Goose Creek has made itself notorious. After the 2003 drug raid during which police burst into a high school with police dogs and guns drawn, Internet wags were calling the place Goose Step. (The incident has been settled for $1.2M.)

Time may tell.

August 4, 2007

I was tempted to soften on Bush. Then he put himself back in the news.

In 2006, an average of almost 100 motorists died daily in passenger vehicles and large trucks and on motorcycles.
Most significantly, fatalities of occupants of passenger vehicles—cars, SUVs, vans and pickups—continued a steady decline to 30,521, the lowest annual total since 1993...
according to the NHTSA.

May the Minneapolis toll stay comparatively low: under 20, or even 15 or less.

It's bad enough that lawyers are swarming the situation, looking for any deep pocket that can be linked, however peripherally, to the bridge:
Private contractors and the insurance companies that represent them could face hundreds of millions of dollars in legal claims arising from the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge, attorneys familiar with such cases said Friday.
And the Bushes, both of them, made separate visits to the site while people were working after the accident. Conceivably the rescuers appreciated the visits, but in their place I'd be angry to be interrupted by rigamarole.

From a White House press release:

I'm here with the Secretary of Transportation, because our message to the Twin Cities is, we want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible; that we understand this is a main artery of life here; that people count on this bridge and this highway system to get to work. There's a lot of paperwork involved with government. One of our jobs is to work with the Governor and the Mayor and the senators and the members of the Congress to cut through that paperwork, and to see if we can't get this bridge rebuilt in a way that not only expedites the flow of traffic, but in a way that can stand the test of time.

I make no promises on the timetable. I do promise that Mary Peters, the Secretary of Transportation, is going to be in charge of this project. I do promise she's going to listen to the local authorities to find out what the folks here need. I do promise that when she sees roadblocks and hurdles in the way of getting the job done, she'll do everything she can to eliminate them.

There's a lot of paperwork involved with government. Republican Bush states this as a given. Even Jimmy Carter did better.
One of our jobs is to work with the Governor and the Mayor and the senators and the members of the Congress to cut through that paperwork,... The people who are responsible for the stifling unnecessary paperwork mug for the cameras as they offer to help with it. ...and to see if we can't get this bridge rebuilt in a way that etc. So the most powerful man in the world flies halfway across the continent and says he's going to "see if we can't get the bridge rebuilt." I do promise that Mary Peters, the Secretary of Transportation, is going to be in charge of this project. He puts the Secretary of Transportation in charge of building a single bridge in the upper Midwest. I do promise...I do promise...I do promise... None of these promises involves anything for which he is accountable.

Minnesota's Republican governor let it be known that he's open to a tax increase. Times are good, and Minnesota is a prosperous state. If a rainy-day fund hasn't been established for this kind of emergency, the political establishment is irresponsible, to put it as kindly as possible.

Naturally, Congress has gotten into the act.

More from Republican governor Pawlenty:
While the searchers continue their work, efforts are under way to build a replacement bridge. Congress and the President are expected to provide $250 million for a new structure. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says that's appreciated, but there may be a need for more federal money.

"We view the 250 as a wonderful gesture and a very, very meaningful step. But we also may be asking them, will be asking them for additional help," Pawlenty said.

Bridge industry analysts say the cost of building a new Interstate-35W bridge could be as high as $350 million. During a news conference in the park by the old Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Pawlenty said he wants the new bridge finished as quickly as possible. While the governor spoke a steady stream of people walked by to view what they could see of the collapsed bridge.
Hey, fiscally responsible Republican governor, maybe you won't need to raise taxes because you can get money from the federal government, in whose coffers it spontaneously materializes.

This wasn't Hurricane Katrina. Prosperous Minnesota has about 5 million people, 3 million of whom are in Minneapolis-St. Paul. $350M divided among 5M people comes to $70 each. Spread over say 20 years, that's hardly overwhelming even after interest is added. Although Minnesota has a AAA credit rating and the economic outlook was just upgraded from stable to positive, I don't want to be mean (in either sense) or doctrinaire. If the state asked the feds to cover the interest on a bond or for a no-interest loan, I wouldn't dismiss the idea out of hand. But when the federal government gives a blank check, the state has no incentive to control costs. (Maybe that's the point: the money may serve to increase the "role" of the federal a civilian bridge.)

"The President protects you from other people's Congressmen."

"The Democrats are the mommy party and the Republicans are the daddy party."

Yeah, right.

August 3, 2007

NC Flag-Desecration Charges Dropped

See here for background. In brief, a NC couple provocatively prominently displayed an upside-down American flag in front of their home to express their political concerns. Apparently incited by local National Guardsmen (!), a lout with a badge newbie county deputy told them to stop and, according to witnesses, broke into their house when they refused. Police swarmed the property and arrested the husband.

I can't stand sanctimonious obnoxious goo-goos. I wouldn't have condoned scrawling a nastygram on the
Kuhns' sidewalk or TPing the house, but it wouldn't have perturbed me very much either.

However, illegal use of force by law enforcement, egged on by members of the armed forces, overrides my distaste for the victims. The responsible officer should be fired and perhaps charged and, although I grit my teeth to write this, the Kuhns should get a fat settlement from the county.

August 2, 2007

Today's Date: August 2, 2001?

Dinocrat notes that the recent increase in consumer confidence returns it to its pre-9/11 level.

I have not felt so anomic about the future since the Carter administration.

Objectively, things are much better today than they were then. However, back then I drew on the invisible psychic capital that comes with youth. What would I be thinking if things today were as bad as they were under Carter? I hope not to find out.

Parasitic(?) Lawyers

There's been a kerfuffle in the blogosphere about the social value of lawyers. Ward Farnsworth's guest post at the Volokh site apparently started it, Classical Values and others joined in, and Instapundit linked.

Nowhere in my (unthorough) scanning of these posts and comments did I notice a reference to Warren Burger's warning:
We may well be on our way to a society overrun by hordes of lawyers, hungry as locusts, and brigades of judges in numbers never before contemplated.
I gather that Burger is not regarded as an eminent Chief Justice, but you'd think that his position alone would give his comment classic status among anti-lawyer critics.

Maybe Burger is anathema to Republicans because he presided over Roe v. Wade, and anathema to Democrats because he was a Republican.

Addendum 20091127. The Time cover about lawyers is here; the cover story is here.

July 31, 2007

Is Bush a Dry Drunk?

Ellen Ratner's thought has crossed my mind as well. Alcoholics who quit drink without dealing with the psychic aftereffects are sometimes described as stark raving sober.

Maybe Bush rationalizes the symptoms as divine guidance.

Of course, Gore exhibits similar self-righteous inflexibility. In 2000, Bush seemed the more human of the two. Afaik Gore (or Kerry or McCain or Howard Dean, for that matter) have never had drinking problems.

July 27, 2007

Beverly Sills May 25, 1929--July 2, 2007

I missed the breaking news and learned of her death by chance.

I'm not much of an opera person, but I finally got a recording of 'The Barber of Seville.' The female lead was a singer with talent but a reputation for being difficult. The performance didn't make much of an impression. Figaro Figaro Figaro la la la la la...fine, okay, but I'm not an opera person.

Then for whatever reason I bought another recording with Sills in the role. The thing just came alive. I'm still not an opera person, but I'm an admirer of Sills as a performer. And for what she surmounted in human terms. And for what she achieved after singing.

A tribute site is here.

July 22, 2007

Moon Landing

Friday was the anniversary of the first moon landing. Tax dollars were well spent, as they were on Voyager etc. Hubble.

A salute to all involved in Apollo. May we soon return to the will and in numbers.

We sent men to the moon while sending conscripts to an ill-thought-ought overseas war. While disrupted by racial and generational turmoil. While in a half-century sumo match with another superpower. It's a glib claim that the country is not what it used to be, but such assessments are properly left to history.

Back when technological progress was characterized by the space race, the foundations of the Internet were being laid.

A salute to those who persevere in obscurity.

July 19, 2007

Attn John Doe: Keep Quiet or Get Sued

I give the Republican party a higher failing grade than I give to Democrats. That doesn't mean I trust the Republicans.

Congress has considered a measure that would protect citizens from being sued if they report suspicious behavior that is potentially terror-related. According to Michelle Malkin, Democrats have succeeded in deflecting the measure despite a clear majority in both houses.

In the Polipundit post about this, I commented that Republicans called for public pressure on the measure, but they were listless about rallying such support.

No surprise that the Democrats don't want to do anything anytime that might restrain any trial lawyer anywhere under any conditions, but could the Republicans also be playing politics here?

Might they let the measure fall just short, at least for a time, in order to create a national-security campaign issue? I don't want to believe that, but I'm unable to disbelieve it.

Update 20070731: The immunity provision has been restored in somewhat diluted form. Analysis, links, and a sensible call that a pro bono organization be formed to protect John Does from legalistic retaliation are here.