January 27, 2009

Mitt Romney

Romney returned to Massachusetts to run for governor. He won and had a successful first term. He chose not to seek reelection in 2006, presumably in order to focus on preparing a Presidential campaign.

Rhetorically gifted Deval Patrick upset an establishment candidate for the Democratic nomination and easily won the general election to become the state's first black governor.

Suppose Romney had braved the odds and defeated a charismatic black challenger in a Democratic year. He would have entered the 2008 primaries as the sitting conservative governor of a liberal state. He would have been the natural candidate to oppose Obama (and his record would have have been clearly stronger than Hillary's). Picking Palin as VP would have secured the support of the religious right and swung a few female votes. IMO his chances would have been far better than McCain's (and don't forget that McCain had taken a small lead before his intemperate reaction to the financial crisis). IMO the financial crisis would have strengthened his candidacy.

The moral also applies to Hillary 2004:

He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all.

January 22, 2009

Obama's First Inaugural Address

The text is here.

In contrast to many online reactions, I liked it at first reading. (Is much of the widespread negative tone online due to the fact that it's easier to criticize than to formulate something defensibly constructive?)

A key paragraph:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
As an American exceptionalist in my fashion, I was pleased to read that. IMO a major, essential part of American exceptionalism is the USA's unique opportunity to become a template for a modern post-tribal society.

Unfortunately, I do not see how creating protected classes and quotas--almost fifty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964--is a step in this direction. It is necessary to accentuate tribal distinctions in order to dissolve them? Ben Tre logic?

January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King Day

My gut impression: King does not strike me as a great moral leader. He strikes me as a great political leader who harvested a ripe moral issue.

This is meant as objectivity, not as criticism.

January 15, 2009

Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?

Bank of America, which supposedly was going to save Merrill Lynch's role in the financial system, now wants more TARP money to absorb Merrill's losses. After its stock nearly tripled from its recent low, Citicorp is plunging again.

Barney Frank and Phil Gramm have indignantly declared themselves blameless. Bernanke is an expert on the Great Depression, but he let Lehman fail. Paulson was going to buy up troubled assets, and then he wasn't. (Geithner didn't do his taxes correctly.)

This as though we'd broken the Japanese code in 1940 and then let Pearl Harbor happen anyway.

Addendum. Someone--I didn't save the link--argued that a binding government guarantee to cover unforeseen Merrill losses must have been part of the inducement for BofA to do the acquisition. Plausible but not compelling, IMO.

January 14, 2009

Instapundit and Porkbusters

Glenn Reynolds harrumphs about government waste and links to the Porkbusters site. As I type, its front page has not been updated since 2* May 2008. About Porkbusters:
Porkbusters was conceived of by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame in the fall of 2005. Seeking help implementing his vision, he approached N.Z. Bear (now "out of the bear cave" and known also by his given name, Rob Neppell) and Porkbusters.org was born.
Ah, yes, a visionary. Experience has made "visionary" a dirty word to me...

I liked Instapundit a lot more when Reynolds had the 'If you have a modem, I have an opinion' logo.

January 12, 2009

Tax the Internet and Save the Planet!

The logical but (as-yet) unspoken corollary to this.

Addendum. Times commenter Don L of Hartford, CT anticipated the above post, using words identical to my title.

Addendum 20090114. US News reports that both Google and Alex Wissner-Gross, the author "quoted" by the UK Times, dispute the report. Network World:
Wissner-Gross said he did discuss Google with the newspaper in broad generalizations, in that Google uses energy, and that the generation of that energy would cause CO2 to be released.

However, Wissner-Gross said one of The Sunday Times writers seemed eager to confirm the seven-gram figure and link it to Google. The researcher said he did not do so. Wissner-Gross said he saw a draft of the story before publication and suggested some changes, but those edits were not made.

Efforts to reach the writers at The Sunday Times were unsuccessful.
How shocking to learn that a major newspaper might be slanting the news according to a predetermined agenda...

January 4, 2009

Climate Change

Several bloggers have noted that the Huffington Post, of all places, has published a slam against Gore and his shtick.
IMO the real issue is not whether warming--ditto for cooling--is real and (if real) humanly caused. The real issue is whether we can make a determination with enough confidence to warrant immediate reengineering of our economy.

I don't question that there are forces that tend to warm (or cool) the earth. I don't doubt that the magnitude of each of these can be estimated reasonably well, but I am dubious that the short- and long-term feedbacks can be adequately quantified. I doubt that every relevant force has been identified.

And I am completely unconvinced that reliable predictions can be made about the resultant of offsetting forces.

It's possible that in the foreseeable future the climate will continue muddling along; it's possible that warming or cooling will emerge as an overriding ecological threat. However, it would be foolish or worse to reconfigure our civilization on the basis of what is understood today.

January 2, 2009

Roger Ehrenberg

After I've been thinking a semblance of normalcy is returning and watching the stock market move upward, this is chilling:
...the economic underpinnings of the US have become so fractured that it risks being marginalized on the global stage. This "change in fundamentals" that is creeping up on us? Our creditor's willingness to hold dollar-denominated assets in general and to finance our persistent budget deficits in particular. This is the real credit crisis facing the US.

Why are things different this time? The Great Depression is held up as the singular economic event in the US to be avoided at all costs. The Government put "safety nets" in place to help those who cannot help themselves in difficult times. But this doesn’t tell the whole story. We, as a nation, have been spending far beyond our means for generations; so much so, in fact, that the purported safety nets place a greater risk to our future than the risks they were created to avoid...
(Boldface mine.)

Bad News and Good News

The bad news: Whatever Happened to Silicon Valley Innovation?, asks Business Week.

Since Business Week covers have a reputation as contrary indicators, the good news is that What's Wrong With Silicon Valley (And How To Make It Right) is this week's cover.
I wonder whether much--not all--of what Silicon Valley has done should be called exploitation rather than innovation. In particular, I'm thinking about the creation and basic infrastructure of the Internet. Libertarian purists are not keen to note that the Net is a child of the military-industrial complex.

January 1, 2009

I'm No Fan of This Guy, but He Has a Point

Chris Weigant:
Two images will bookend the history of George W. Bush and Iraq: the "Mission Accomplished" banner, and an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at Bush's head.
Some would prefer a photo of Bush being led away in chains and orange pajamas, but IMO such criminalization of foreign-policy decisions would significantly accelerate our decline.

Find a rationale to throw him in jail for gross economic mismanagement and you've got my attention.