February 28, 2005

Flat Tax Fever

I posted about Slovakia's Flat Tax and private pension system. John Fund at OpinionJournal documents its success in the former Soviet Union as Estonia, Romania, Georgia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine have all implemented flat rates.

Despite all of its advantages, the flat tax faces enormous ideological opposition. Envy and the lust for the political control that complicated tax regimes can provide are powerful motivations to keep progressive tax systems in place. Karl Marx in "The Communist Manifesto" was among the first to call for "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax" at a time when a flat rate was the norm in advanced countries. He listed it as second in the list of priorities for a new society based on the class struggle.

It is therefore ironic that every country that has adopted the flat tax is a former communist nation--except Hong Kong, the modern originator of the concept, which has seen its new communist rulers retain the flat tax as a centerpiece of its economic policies.

Given all this, why should the U.S. allow itself to continue to see its economic potential limited by a Marxist concept that most nations that followed that path are now fleeing from?


But Silence Dogood thinks:

"...lust for the political control that complicated tax regimes can provide..." Yep, pretty sure you got your answer right there.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 28, 2005 2:44 PM

Clinton '08 Receives Key Endorsement

No surprise, but I do like the headline: Yahoo! News - Clinton: Hillary Would Be Great President

TOKYO - Former President Clinton (news - web sites) said Sunday that his wife, Hillary, would be an excellent choice as the first female leader of the world's most powerful nation.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 1:52 PM

Hangin' with the 87.5%

I like movies, but there's no way I could sit through more than 20 minutes of the Oscars. Music is my life and I can take far less of the Grammies.

I watched zero of last night's show. I'm glad Jamie Foxx won; he was born to play Ray Charles.

And I have always been a Chris Rock fan. That'll get me kicked out of the conservative club. But, Zogby International says most of my GOP buddies were not tuned in last night either.

The survey finds that 25% of American adults plan to watch the annual awards show, while nearly two-thirds (63%) say they do not plan to. Another one-in-eight (12%) have not decided whether they will watch the Oscars or not.

Oscar-viewing habits do have a lot to do with where a respondent lives, and where they line up politically. While four-in-ten (39%) Democrats say they will watch the Oscars, this drops to one-in-eight (13%) among Republicans. Unsurprisingly, political independents split the difference, with 22% planning to view the awards show.

"The Republican/Democrat split really isn't shocking," pollster John Zogby said. "This is the time when Hollywood liberals shine—the awards are dominated by them, and they are their most glamorous."

A racial divide has appeared in this year's awards viewership as well, with 39% of African Americans saying they will watch the program and 23% of whites saying the same—at a time when African American Rock is poised to host, and only three years after Halle Berry and Denzel Washington made history as the first African Americans to win Oscars for best actor and actress. There is also an urban-rural divide, with nearly one-third (31%) of residents of large cities planning to watch Sunday night's program, while half as many rural residents (15%) say the same.


Watched Buffy Season Two, Episodes six and seven, "Halloween" and "Lie To Me." I'd make that same choice any night of the year.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:14 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

OK, I ended up watching most of the Oscar's due to family members who were keen to watch. You would not have liked Chris Rock's opening monologue, lots of Bush bashing, pandering to the liberal crowd? The other part I found a bit annoying was his very "black" slant on humor. He did a taped "man on the spot" type segment where he asked black folks at a local theater if they had seen the nominated films. Most had not. Funny, but I bet you would get the same answer at any local theater, regardless of its location or the racial makeup of the neighborhood. Now the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, there is a liberal elite institution if there ever was one. A movie's nomination and its popularity are far from one and the same. The real divide here is between those few people who truly appreciate a film for its acting, music, or set design, and the rest of us who just want to be entertained.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 28, 2005 2:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I would say that your analysis of the difference between AMPAS and the viewing public is insightful but inverted. The typical viewer truly appreciates the technical aspects of film BECAUSE it is entertaining, while AMPAS is entertained by the fact they can push the envelope of "acceptable" further every year.

Posted by: johngalt at February 28, 2005 2:57 PM

Ward Churchill: Principle vs. Principal

Belmont Club links to a Denver Post story about The University of Colorado's latest attempt to extricate itself from the Churchill contretemps. (Whoa doggies -- that's a bad sentence!)

But the good perfesser has his principles. He is making a brave stand for free speech and the values of anti-capitalism. And he will not be bought, er, cheaply:

University of Colorado officials are considering offering Ward Churchill an early retirement package that could end an increasingly uncomfortable standoff with the controversial professor. ... David Lane, Churchill's attorney, said he has not been contacted about a buyout offer. But, he said, while his primary focus is on protecting Churchill's constitutional right to speak out, he would be willing to listen to a university proposal. "If they offer $10 million, I would think about it. If they offer him $10, I wouldn't," Lane said.

I wish I could really believe that Churchill is an outlier. My guess is that a large portion, if not a majority, of liberal arts instructors at major universities hold similar thoughts. I hope most of them hold more academic credentials but don't guess that they hold wiser opinions.

Being a drop-out feels pretty good this week, perhaps I am just enjoying the sour grapes.

UPDATE: Maybe CU can save a million or two if they can fire him for plagiarism.

But Silence Dogood thinks:

"liberal" arts - it's right there in the name.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 28, 2005 11:50 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I wasn't aware that one of CU's liberal "arts" programs was "Original Works by Photocopier." Ward obviously received an "A" and not just because the instructor approved of his politics.

Posted by: johngalt at February 28, 2005 4:00 PM

February 27, 2005

A Real American Hero

Saturday evening, I met someone you don't meet everyday.

A real American hero.

After our SePA YCOP kickoff meeting, I and three other compatriots (one of which was frequent pstupidonymous commentor and Montgomery County Vice Chair Mark Haupert) went over to Bryn Mawr's Great American Pub for some brews and political conversation.

Whilst the four of us were drinking and discussing the battles of the Revolutionary War (of all things), a young Marine in full uniform walked in, alone, and sat down. A chest full of medals, including a Purple Heart on top of them all.

Immediately the four of fell over ourselves thanking him for his service and buying him drinks. We rearranged ourselves to include him in the middle of our group.

He spoke of General Washington (not President, but General as Washington himself had preferred), and his role in the revolution, as well as the founding of the Marines, and the significance of the decor on an officers hat.

Eventually we got to asking about his medals, particularly the Purple Heart.

The level of humility he showed was incredible. Very humble, speaking very softly, he was just there doing his job, doing what he was asked to do.
A Hero. This was the real deal.

As it turns out, he was with one of the first groups of Marines into Baghdad, and was wounded when changing the barrel on a 50 caliber machine gun. A thirteen year old kid fired an RPG at him. He woke up in Germany.
Incredible.

What struck me the most when speaking to him was how young he looked. He was drinking, so he had to be 21, but he looked like a kid; but most importantly and perhaps most inspiringly, a hero.

But jk thinks:

Semper Fi!

Posted by: jk at February 28, 2005 11:24 AM

February 26, 2005

Egyptian Elections (Yawn)

Yahoo! News - Mubarak Orders Egypt Election Law Changes

CAIRO, Egypt - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered a revision of the country's election laws Saturday and said multiple candidates could run in the nation's presidential elections, a scenario Mubarak has not faced since taking power in 1981.


Hmm. I wonder what prompted that?

UPDATE: Tigerhawk thinks it may have been Secratery Rice's "displeasure..."

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 12:21 PM

February 25, 2005

Bush's Europe Trip

Larry Kudlow posts a complimentary report of the President's European trip and speech in Brussels.

He compliments the Sharanskyesque focus on Democracy, the nod to the Slovakian flat tax -- all worthy of high marks.

He then closes with W's view on climate change, praising his Schumpeterian approach over the European regulatory method.

Then Bush shows his hand on global climate change. But it is not the Kyoto version, which would punish economic growth and drive up unemployment. Instead, the President relies on “Emerging technologies, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, clean coal technology, will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible.”

Now here comes a clear reference to the eminent economist Joseph Schumpeter, who created a model of economic growth that puts the entrepreneur at the center in search of technological advances and applications that launch new long cycles of economic growth. Bush says, “All of us can use the power of human ingenuity to improve the environment for generations to come.”

He then adds, “By researching, by developing, by promoting new technologies across the world, all nations, including the developing countries, can advance economically while slowing the growth in global greenhouse gases and avoid pollutants that undermine public health.” Implicit here is the Schumpeterian concept of invention and innovation through technology to foster growth and better serve humankind. The power of human ingenuity is itself a powerful idea. It takes a free market economy with appropriate tax incentives and open trade to set the framework necessary for non-polluting prosperity. Bush also implicitly suggests the use of nuclear power.

The President ends with the grand vision thoughts of the “principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.” This was a good speech, full of big thoughts. It is characteristic of this president. Cynical intellectuals and media pundits scoff at Bush. But once again the Texan reveals himself to be a man of ideas. Very good ideas, at that.

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 7:10 PM

On Hating Hillary

James Taranto at the WSJ expands a Political Diary post from a couple of days ago into a full column today. In "Hillary's Secret Weapon" he lays down a very plausible GOP failure in '08.

They may help her in the general election, too. One reason Democrats failed to unseat President Bush was that they were blinded by their hatred for him. This made them overconfident, as they mistook their emotions for facts, assuming that because they couldn't stand him, he must be (as one candidate put it) a "miserable failure." They obsessed over nonissues (Halliburton, Mr. Bush's National Guard service), and they failed to realize that their totally negative campaign reflected badly on them, not on Mr. Bush. If Mrs. Clinton is the nominee in 2008, Republicans risk repeating these mistakes.

Sanator Clinton can capture the nomination in spite of some moderate stances, then run right in the general. I am frequently pessimistic in politics, but I think she is virtually unbeatable. Unless the GOP runs Secretary Rice.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 4:30 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

I have a hard time imagining Hilary successfully pulling the wool over the eyes of the voting public, as she clearly intends to do. Bill was slick and handsome, and hadn't espoused the sort of radicalism that is already on Hilary's resume (National Health Care.)

On a visceral level, she's also got to break that annoying habit of saying "um" in unscripted speech. On Russert last week I counted four "um's" in a single sentence.

Posted by: johngalt at February 26, 2005 4:59 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, yeah, without President Bush's oratorical skills, it is hard to see her making it.

With all due respect, brother JohnGalt, that is *exactly* what Taranto is saying. The swing voters are not counting ums; they don't remember Nationalized Health Care (unless they wanted it); and the media have proven that they will not hold her past against her.

And she will get the greatest handlers and coaches you can get. Misunderestimate at your own peril...

Posted by: jk at February 26, 2005 5:37 PM

Slovakian Import

The WSJ Ed page wonders abot a Solvakian import...

President Bush got the warmest European welcome of the week yesterday in Slovakia, where he returned the compliment by hailing its tax reform. "I complimented the Prime Minister on putting policies in place that have helped this economy grow," Mr. Bush said about Mikulas Dzurinda. "The most important responsibility we have at home is to make sure our people can find work. And the President put a flat tax [at 19%] in place; he simplified his tax code, which has helped to attract capital and create economic vitality and growth."

The result has been an economic boom, with growth last year of 4.9%, a plunging jobless rate and a Laffer Curve effect of rising tax revenues. Oh, and by the way, Slovakia has also introduced pension reform that includes private accounts of the kind Mr. Bush is proposing in the U.S. Is there any way we can trade Congress for the Slovakian parliament?

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 4:16 PM

Corporate vs Community

Karl at phillyfuture.org asks (or cites)...

    Would you rather have community or corporate control?

    That's what Free Press asks in a recent piece.

    I think WiFi as a public utility makes sense and if you foster decent competition between public and corporate as in the UPS/FedEx model, great innovation will occur.


Federal law dictates that you if want to ship a letter via UPS or FedEx (or any third party), they must charge you twice the USPS or three dollars. Which ever is greater.
Doesn't exactly meet my standard of competition.

Not exactly the same thing, but it would be if....
The city of Philadelphia let you use Comcast or Verizon if they had to charge you $2/Gb vs $0.50/Gb or free.

Competition and innovation online occur not in delivery, but on content.
Installing wide scale wi-fi, while not trivial, isn't exactly building a Pyramid, a Gothic Cathedral or an Apollo project. There isn't any innovating in installation. Many pockets lined, many dollars changing hands. Call my cynical, but I don't think any new technology will come out of it.

The question is, do I want community or corporate control? With community control, it immediately becomes a political question. And you can get nonsense like this. Corporate control means open the taps, I can sort it out, and if I don't like it, I have options and I can take my business elsewhere.

But around here, I'm preachin' to the choir.

Posted by AlexC at 3:00 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

The ThreeSources Choirboys, Live at Leeds!
The secret to me of community control is the size of the community. WE had a comment thread on Berkeley Square Blog once about a handful on neighbors who would pitch ion to get their rural road plowed.

Once the so called community becomes too large for a single individual to wield influence, then it becomes a commons problem.

The pejorative connotation of "Corporate" never ceases to amaze. A Corporation is no more than a legal framework to shared risk, responsibility and reward; you would think most folks would like that!

Posted by: jk at February 25, 2005 4:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The corporate villain is always the CEO and his cronies. Whenever they earn more than Ralph Nader's "10 times the minimum wage" ceiling, the "community" advocates scream foul. This violates even their sense of "some are more equal than others."

Posted by: johngalt at February 26, 2005 5:09 PM

February 24, 2005

Che - No!

Here is a free blog ad for a great product. I am buying one but we'll see whether or not I have the stones to wear it around Boulder. I'll try the Trident Bookstore/Coffeehouse/CommunistHQ -- that'd be fun.

shirtsquare-commies.jpg


Order your own here.

Alex chimes in:
Don't forget the dirty hippies!
I wear that to remind the 60s refugees I work with.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 2:50 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Riza Rivera thinks:

Don't forget to order one for me and we can get kicked out of Boulder together!!! Riza

Posted by: Riza Rivera at February 25, 2005 3:48 PM

Reason-based Progressives

When I read Jonathan Chait's TNR piece I knew I had to blog it. My first thought was "this is the craziest thing I have ever seen, I have to show everybody how wacko these folks are!"

And I still think they is.

Then reading AlexC's excellent post on Social Security and basic Democratic intransigence, I was tempted to add this as a comment.

But it needs its own post and what I hope will develop into its own comment thread. TNR is not "The Nation;" they are partisan but they are thoughtful. So hear it is. Folks really believe this to be true.

The Cliff Note version is that God comes down (see, we already lost JohnGalt) and tells one political party that the other one is right. Chait is well balanced in his summaries and descriptions, but the thesis is that the thoughtful lefties all say "it's a fair cop!" and turn Conservative ---- but those ideological right wing moonbats, boy...

Now imagine the opposite were to happen. God appears in order to affirm liberal precepts: Current tax levels barely affect economic incentives, social programs provide tremendous economic security at modest cost to growth, and most regulations achieve their intended effects without producing undue distortions. Would economic conservatives likewise abandon their views? Some certainly would, but a great many would not. Economic conservatism, unlike liberalism, would survive having all its empirical underpinnings knocked out from beneath it.

And not because conservatives are necessarily more stubborn. (Indeed, on an individual level, liberals may well be just as stubborn as conservatives.) Rather, conservatism, unlike liberalism, overlays a deeper set of philosophical principles. Conservatives believe that big government impinges upon freedom. They may also believe that big government imposes large costs on the economy. But, for a true conservative, whatever ends they think smaller government may bring about--greater prosperity, economic mobility for the non-rich--are almost beside the point. As Milton Friedman wrote, "[F]reedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself."


I'm no less a partisan hack than Chait (and, yes, he's a much better writer) but I would have little difficulty asserting the exact opposite. The left is driven by ideology and the right wants to optimize growth and have the trains run on time.

My example would be globalization. It has brought untold wealth and diversity to rich and poor, but the left fights it because it doesn't measure up to their standards of fairness.

From the other side Posted by John Kranz at 11:09 AM

Hearts and Minds

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page sums up (free site) a story that was traversing the blogosphere this week.

Druze leader and Lebanese parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt opposed the Iraq war and described Paul Wolfowitz as a "virus." But he has had a change of heart:

"It's strange for me to say this," he recently told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, "but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing."

As, it seems, do the Lebanese. There were mass demonstrations in Beirut last week following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. That was to be expected--a fitting tribute to the man who rebuilt Beirut from the rubble. What's remarkable is that the demonstrations haven't stopped.

On Monday, tens of thousands of Muslim, Christian and Druze protesters took to the streets to demand that Syria withdraw its 14,000 occupying troops and end its de facto control, via its intelligence apparatus, of Lebanese politics. Hundreds of Lebanese expatriates protested outside of Syrian embassies in Paris, Stockholm, London and Kuwait City. The Lebanese Prime Minister has offered to resign; his rubber-stamp parliament will likely be swept in forthcoming elections provided these are conducted fairly

A real opposition front is forming under the aegis of Mr. Jumblatt and exiled figures such as former Prime Minister Michel Aoun, who was ousted by the Syrians in 1990. If this isn't a Ukrainian-style Orange Revolution (yet), it may be the start of what some Lebanese are calling their own peaceful intifada--the "shaking off" of foreign rule.


Lebanon has a great history of pluralism and openness. Restoring it by way of yet another MidEastern democracy would be a huge advancement.

But johngalt thinks:

"Stupid American cowboy... it'll take decades to undo the damage he's doing to World Peace."

Dagny and I are currently reading Sharansky's book. Good stuff.

Posted by: johngalt at February 25, 2005 2:37 AM

February 23, 2005

The Social Security Debate

Senator Santorum was in Philadelphia today talking about Social Security at my alma-mater(*).
YoungPhillyPolitics has a local liberal reaction.

    The Social Security battle has never been about "fixing it," always about starting a process to kill it. And, it looks like Drexel Republicans have come right out and said it.

    From Daily Kos:

      In a surprising display of candor, Drexel College Republicans admitted to knowing the real plan for Bush's Social Security : ending it.

      Today, I picketed at one of Rick Santorum's Privatization town hall meetings at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Anti-privatization forces and Drexel Dems out-numbered Pro-privatization forces and College Repubs. 6 to 1. There were about 40 of us total -- but CNN, the Washington Post, ABC were all covering our anti-privatization protest.

      CNN started filming, so we started to chant "Hey-Hey Ho-Ho, Rick Santorum has got to go!" In response, the Drexel Republicans retorted with their own chant: "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Social Security has got to go!" Our jaws just about jawed as CNN continued to film. We stopped our chant, and let the Repubs take over -- they were doing our job for us!

      Who has been feeding Drexel Repubs the lead paint???


    Well, at least they are honest. Ha.

Of course it's about ending Social Security. As we know it. You really can't chant that, I suppose.

Ulitimately, it's quite simple. With George Bush's ownership society idea, we'll start putting more of our own money into more of our accounts. Sure, now it's 1/3 (or 2/3 depending on your point of view), but sooner or later as the personalization catches on, it'll ratchet up to 4/5, 9/10s, maybe even 100%. At that point, Social Security would become a government mandated personal retirement account.

Despite my conservative neoliberalism (government is not always the best answer), it has to be government mandated because there's always going to be a knucklehead NOT saving for the future and we'll end up footing his bill anyway. Tragedy of the Commons in a way.

I'm a bit of a pessimist, so we should really account for future governments screwing it up, but that's the direction we're heading in right now; and it's a good thing.

Now, if your view of Social Security is a massive government run safety net for all individuals to contribute, and only some to collect from, then yes, Social Security is going to end. But fear not, fellow compassionate American, we're always going to support the handicapped or the infirm, or the tragically wronged with government funds. That's not going away. The ponzi scheme called Social Security is.

One question I'm left with is more of a meta-question.
When did the Democrats become the "let's do the opposite of what George Bush does" party? There was a Social Security crisis in the last decade, the President recognized it then. Did it miraculously fix itself? Was he lying then?

But Silence Dogood thinks:

Thank you, yes I do believe that is the plan for SS and I am for the ending of SS as we know it. My trouble is and always will be how we manage the changeover. Kudos to Pres. Bush for having the guts to put forth a plan, but I can't stand up and cheer until he has the guts to really define the plan. I am a bit of a pessimist too and my rule of thumb is that when a politician describes a new plan and only talks about the good part (that wonderful ownership of compounding interest) you better grab your wallet. Someone needs to define for me how we phase the current SS out. I am almost halfway through my working years, but hey, I can look up past performance of one of the proposed funds and calculate my investment plus interest, and if the Treasury Dept. deposits those funds in my account I am good to go. But since that ain't gonna happen I want to know what kind of credit I am going to get for what I have already paid into SS. That's the not so simple part. There is a big 'ol devil in them thar details. I keep harping on this because there is a law of unintended consequences, like that pointed out about wage restrictions during WWII and the birth of employer paid health benefits. Some of these consequences cannot be foreseen, but some can - campaign finance reform anyone? There needs to be some due diligence here which means talking about how we really transition from our current SS to the new government mandated personal retirement accounts. President Bush makes it sound like he is a gutsy get it done leader, but peek behind the curtain a little and you see a traditional politician promising you a free lunch.

This is where my Dems ought to be. Sadly Alex C. is right, they have become the "against" party.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 23, 2005 10:13 AM

February 22, 2005

Social Security

I have a new favorite magazine. A few years ago, it was "National Review." Then "The Weekly Standard" overtook it. Now, I gotta say I get pretty excited when a new "The American Enterprise" rolls in.

It only publishes eight times a year, so it lacks the news quality of the other two. Yet TAE takes one topic on per issue and brings a dozen great thinkers and writers together to really flesh it out. Then the "Bird's Eye" column contextualizes all of them.

The March 2005 issue, From Alms to Ownership, is a perfect example. Social Security reform is examined from a market perspective by James Glassman, historical perspective by Stephen Moore et al, and a philosophical perspective by William Tucker.

The "Bird's eye" overview is interesting as it describes the America of 1935, giving us perspective on when the plan was engineered. "What a year," it starts out:

The world's first full-color feature film has just been released. Now there are whispers of special-effects-laden Hollywood blockbusters to come over the next several years. Two projects thought to be gestating: an adaptation of a much-anticipated new book called Gone With the Wind, and some kind of musical based on the Wizard of Oz children's stories. More films are also expected from the sensationally popular new comedy team that debuted last year: The Three Stooges.

Meanwhile, the red-hot new entertainment medium of radio continues to boost its audience. Fully two thirds of all Americans now have a radio in their own home. That's almost as many as have electrical service (68 percent). Peeking over the horizon, futurists claim that within just a few years, companies may start broadcasting radio-like signals that can be picked up by boxes known as "televisions"--which not only reproduce sounds but also small pictures! It remains to be seen if there will be any consumer demand for such a novelty.

One gadget that has definitely proven its popularity is the telephone. The proportion of American homes equipped with a telephone stood at 32 percent this year--and saturation is even higher in offices. The absolute cutting edge in communication breakthroughs, though, arrived this summer--in the form of an electrified typewriter invented by International Business Machines.

Even if you can't put down the fabulous sums for an electrified typewriter, relief for achy writing hands and messy fountain pens may be on the horizon. Within ten years, experts believe, it may be possible for ordinary citizens to buy something called a "ballpoint pen" which can be used for months without refilling! Initially, though, you can expect to pay at least half a week's pay for one of these amazing conveniences.


And while America is wiring itself for majority telephone ownership, it is deeply into economic depression and as yet-undiscredited Stalinism holds sway as the wave of the future.
So: Do you want to base your security in old age on a program engineered at the same time as the Model A and the vacuum-tube radio? Has work changed much since the era when slopping pigs for Auntie Em was a typical job? Does the boundary between state and individual look different now that the USSR has gone from progressive polestar to oppressive flop? Has American finance advanced from the decades when the only choices for ordinary savers were the passbook, the mason jar, or the mattress? Are the retirement goals of Americans still the same as in the days when the Bambino retired? Or is it time for Social Security to enjoy a major-league update?

The answer, I think, is obvious. Nothing but a government welfare program could ever last this long in unimproved form. Our transportation networks, our medical services, our economy are all light-years better than they were in 1935. So why are we still stuck with a gramophone/Hupmobile/fountain pen system of public pensions?
[...]
The most important aspect of ownership is not that it makes you rich, but that it makes you free. Ownership gives you independence, choices, a measure of control over your own life. Possessing property can liberate you from capricious bosses and suffocating government alike. Opponents of the Ownership Society completely fail to understand that...


This is the big domestic political issue for this next Congress and this Presidential term. You can read a sampling of these articles online but I would encourage anybody to purchase and read this issue cover-to-cover. You will not see a better exegesis on the conservative position on Social Security reform anywhere.

Threesources regulars: holler and I'll buy it for you or take you out to lunch when you're finished so we can discuss it.

But jk thinks:

Fuzzy math! I see the principal alone at $233,316. (4% of the first 90K, my salary numbers match yours). Joe is a millionaire with less than 10% return, on one sixth of his Social Security -- and the rest of the benefits are still there for his less fortunate friends.

Before lunch, see what happens if you let Joe invest ALL of his Social Security.

My inheritance is not based on leftovers from a 30 year retirement. Just something for Joe's family if some non-union Wal*Mart forklift driver runs him down.

My spreadsheet is http://threesources.com/ss_payments.xls

Posted by: jk at February 22, 2005 6:55 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

You will have to excuse me if I misunderestimated President Bush, but what I heard was that we would only take a small portion of SS - 4 percentage points to put into private accounts. After running these numbers I would have to assume that he meant that 4% of your salary would go into a private account. That would net Joe almost $2.3M at retirement. This is a great option I just don't see how we do the changeover - how to pay SS until some sunset date with 1/3 less money coming in (2004 SS tax is 12.4% including employer contribution). Not sure where your 1/6 number comes from. The real result I like is that this money is not available for the general budget like SS funds. The bad part comes when you figure how much it will cost Uncle Sam to cover the SS payments without 1/3 of the revenue and what that will do to Joe's net return. This says nothing of course about how Uncle Sam pays for defense and all the other budget items without the SS funds in the pot.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 22, 2005 7:40 PM
But jk thinks:

If one is onboard for personal accounts and just worried about transition costs, there are three ways I see to make the switch:

1) Borrow it. I know, I know, the deficit, Reubenomics, bla, bla... But if my house roof is going to fall in in a few years, I can refinance and hope that the value of the house and my income grows to cover it. Likewise, we can finance some payments (easier now before it gets worse). The new investment capital could light up the economy and we would pay off the d e b t as we always have -- through economic growth.

I know I am a broken record on this but, again, we are moving unfunded liabilities (promises on which we won't renege) to securitized d e b t. Only the paper d e b t is increasing.

2) If supply-side is not your thing, let's help it out with some reasonable adjustments to benefits: indexing to prices instead of wages and a transition to a later retirement age. 55-65 no change, 45-55 plus two years, 35-44 plus three years, everybody else plus four years. I would also point out that not everyone is going to immediately reduce his/her payments by 1/3. Older workers will not participate, and some younger workers might elect not to or choose a smaller amount.

3) In compromise for that, I'll risk Larry Kudlow's wrath and permit a rise in the cap from $90K to $115. A small increase for the six figure crowd should be a good trade for personal accounts.

Of course, I wouldn't advocate #3 -- I offer that as a spirit of compromise. But with those reasonable measures I have raised revenue and reduced payments. With this lowered pressure we could certainly finance the rest.

Posted by: jk at February 23, 2005 11:22 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

OK now, who's math is fuzzy? From www.whitehouse.gov :

Personal retirement accounts would start gradually. Yearly contribution limits would be raised over time, eventually permitting all workers to set aside 4 percentage points of their payroll taxes in their accounts.


A young person who earns an average of $35,000 a year over his or her career would have nearly a quarter million dollars saved in his or her own account upon retirement.

First there is a huge difference between 4% of your income and 4% of your payroll tax, i.e. your SS withholding. Specifically, 4% of 6.2% is just under .25% or one quarter of one percent and that is the value I used for my original calculation. I came up a bit short of the quarter million the white house envisions, but where the heck did their number come from? An average of $35,000 over their career? Adjusted for inflation? $35K per year in 2050 is going to be living on the street eating dog food from the can.

Can someone clarify for me 4% of what is going into my personal retirement account?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 23, 2005 11:38 AM
But jk thinks:

I see the ambiguity. And there is, of course, no specific legislation to base calculations on. But if it's 4% of payroll taxes (phased in at that!) then it is not worth the effort. I have to think we are discussing 4% of payroll, coming out of payroll taxes.

President Bush doesn't like "smallball" and I don't see anyone grabbing the infamous third rail for less than a quarter of one percent.

The $35K example is not going to be retiring in a five star hotel in the Bahamas. But that is a quarter of a million that he owns and controls, instead of a gub'mint check that he has to worry about. Seems pretty good for a guy who did not light up the world with career success.

Posted by: jk at February 23, 2005 1:03 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I am afraid I don't get your accounting explanation about trading debt but not increasing it. If all these were long term debts then I think I would agree, but SS is based on cash flow. You have to mail out monthly checks with real dollars, dollars that we currently pay in. If we stop paying in part of that cash then the government will have to borrow to make up the difference.

Now back to "Average Joe" recalculated this time that he puts away 4% of his income annually with no cap at 90K (it's his money, no need for a cap). Now let's assume some more small details in the current Bush plan. (to the extent that those details exist) The official number I keep hearing for these low fee but conservatively managed accounts is 4.6% average annual return. Now the government can issue debt at a projected 3% rate to cover current SS obligations. If Joe elects to have a private account then when he retires he will be responsible for his portion of those SS obligations meaning that his net rate of return is 1.6%. He now retires at 67 with over $308K net in his fund which at first blush seems not bad as you say for someone who did not light up the world with career success. Except that to reach that figure he would have to get his 5% annual raise which is really not bad and thus would retire with a $312K annual salary. So his $308K really isn't going to go very far. The question then becomes what will the actual SS benefits be at that time and can he combine that with his nest egg to provide a livable retirement benefit.

An interesting historical note about your referenced article that was sort of glossed over with a reference to average lifespan is that in 1935 a lower income worker had no real expectation of any retirement. This concept that we all get to stop working and spend the last 15 years or so of our life without a job is a fairly recent one. Working your whole life was a reality for lower income workers and is becoming so again with the escalating cost of health care. This is a harsh reality that society may have to accept.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 23, 2005 3:10 PM

Success has many fathers

Trying to honestly appraise the "US went it alone in Iraq" argument, I had to admit real disappointment with our friends to the North. Sure, France and Russia were bought off by UNScam, but the Anglosphere was broken. It should have included Britain, Australia and Canada.

I know Canada has moved left and I know the conservatives up there have failed to construct a national party, yes, I do read Mark Steyn. But that was one country I felt should've been on freedom's side.

Martin will announce 30 troops and a million Canadian dollars (I would normally make a weak currency joke about Canada here, but with the dollar trading at 1.32 Euro today I'll pass...)

Paul Martin to announce that Canada sending 30 soldiers to train Iraqis

OTTAWA (CP) - Canada will contribute up to 30 soldiers to a NATO-led force that will help train the new Iraqi army, senior federal officials confirmed Friday.

The formal announcement will be made when Prime Minister Paul Martin gathers with other leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting Tuesday in Brussels.

Ottawa also plans to contribute $1 million towards a NATO-managed trust fund that will help pay the expenses of Iraqi officers who take part in the program.


Well done, eh!

Hat-tip: Belmont Club

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 12:53 PM

Hey The FDA Did Something Good!

This would be the second time I have written something good about the FDA. I wrote favorably about Dr. Mark McClellan's appointment to be Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Dr. McClellan tried his best with the giant bureaucracy and I was sad to see him leave.

Yet, there is a bright moment at the FDA under acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford. The WSJ Ed page points out (paid site) that at a three day hearing, those who would keep a drug off the market for fear of whom it would harm were forced to account for those whom it could help.

Particular credit here goes to acting FDA Commissioner (now the official nominee for the job) Lester Crawford, for convening an unprecedented three days of open hearings on the issue. Cox-2 critics -- including the FDA's own David Graham, who has been feted as heroic in the press -- were given a fair hearing. But in front of the panel of distinguished outside statisticians and clinicians (read: doctors who actually treat patients), he came off as less than fully scientific and, well, a bit uncaring.

Dr. Graham's case against the acceptability of any increased cardiovascular risk for Cox-2s rests on the relatively small percentage of patients who develop full-blown stomach ulcers from older pain medicines like naproxen and ibuprofen. But that small percentage still means a high absolute number (15,000-plus) of deaths annually from gastrointestinal bleeding. And it utterly misses the point that most vulnerable patients never develop ulcers because stomach discomfort causes them to drop their medications long beforehand. Dr. Graham's implicit advice to the pain patients who can't tolerate those drugs: Grin and bear it.


Grin and bear it. Unless you died of colon cancer while the FDA was dreaming up more hurdles for Erbitux. The drug was finally approved, but 15,000 people died and Sam Waksal and Martha Stewart went to prison. Another day's work for the FDA.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 11:11 AM

February 21, 2005

Death of a Playwright

Arthur Miller died last Thursday. The playwright most famous for "Death of a Salesman" received a lot of accolades, yet some conservative press has veered off "de mortuis nil nisi bonum" and pointed out some problems with his work and his philosophy.

Sugarchuck e-mailed me about Terry Teachout's Wall Street Journal Piece -- he found it very harsh.

Well, Mark Steyn is no friendlier. In today's Spectator, he has a go at Miller's anti-Americanism and the esteem to which he is held in Britain. I liked this line:

Even in his disparagement, Miller was right to grasp that the salesman is a critical American archetype. In the dictatorships he admired, from the USSR to Cuba, you don’t need them: there’s no competition, no choice, nothing on the shelves, and every checkout line in the supermarket is perforce for five items or less. And in a one-party state, politicians don’t need to be salesmen, either — or at least not to their own people: Gorbachev and Castro were very canny in the way they flattered Miller, understanding that a man of such unbounded self-regard judged the health of nations and political systems in the same way he did the health of the American theatre — by how fulsomely they acknowledge his genius. And Fidel and Gorby were applauding long after Broadway had fallen silent.

It's just one more work of art that leans left: I can't not read Steinbeck -- or Stephen King -- because I disagree. I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" every year with my internal economist bound and gagged. I enjoy the art and just know that they're wrong.

Willy Loman is one of the archetypical characters in American fiction. Sugarchuck ranks him with Huck, Tom Sawyer and Gatsby You create a character like that and as Lileks would say you've proven you can "hit the right keys."

Requiescat in pace.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 7:46 PM

Happy Presidents Day

Well, I'm working but the market is closed and the blogosphere is silent -- a pretty dull day. My friends at research arms of major Universities are working today, though they got MLK day off. Worthy of a blog post? We couldn't have had Dr. King without Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Naaah.

But here is an interesting fact: this lawyer claims that there is no paper trail for a legal change from Washington's Birthday to Presidents Day. We all act like it happened, but Jason Bezis says it didn't:

For instance, it has been widely accepted as fact and reported -- by numerous major newspapers and educational Web sites -- that Richard Nixon dubbed the holiday Presidents Day in 1971.

But a Nixon archivist said last week there is no evidence the 37th president signed such a proclamation, which appears to be a myth spread, in part, by an Arkansas newspaper columnist writing in the voice of his dead cat.
Bezis, a onetime calendar monitor at a Livermore kindergarten, a former White House intern and a graduate of George Washington University, has persuaded the World Almanac and the New York Times to ditch Presidents Day for Washington's Birthday.


Kurt Vonnegut made a passionate stance for not replacing Armistice Day with Veteran's Day. I think he and Mr. Bezis both have uphill battles.

I cannot think of two men more worthy of honor than Lincoln and Washington but feel both would be more inclined to have us go to work in their honor -- not hang out at the mall. For the record, I would apply that to Dr. King as well. It would be better to send children to school to learn of his works. That's honor.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 7:12 PM

Uncle Duke, RIP

I was a big Hunter S. Thompson fan way back when. But the last couple of his books I read not only made me question whether he had lost it -- they really made me question whether my original approbation was well placed.

But I don't have to think or write. Lileks has nailed it:

HST killed himself. He never would have “turned his life around” – that’s a hard thing to try when the room’s been spinning for 40 years. Depression? Wouldn’t be surprising. A bad verdict from the doc? Wouldn’t be surprising. A great writer in his prime, but the DVD of his career would have the last two decades on the disc reserved for outtakes and bloopers. It was all bile and spittle at the end, and it was hard to read the work without smelling the dank sweat of someone consumed by confusion, anger, sudden drunken certainties and the horrible fear that when he sat down to write, he could only muster a pale parody of someone else’s satirical version of his infamous middle period. I feel sorry for him, but I’ve felt sorry for him for years. File under Capote, Truman – meaning, whatever you thought of the latter-day persona, don’t forget that there was a reason he had a reputation. Read "Hell's Angels." That was a man who could hit the keys right.

I'll go with that assessment. Requiescat in pace.

UPDATE: When I die, I wish Tom Wolfe would write my obituary

Yet he was also part of a century-old tradition in American letters, the tradition of Mark Twain, Artemus Ward and Petroleum V. Nasby, comic writers who mined the human comedy of a new chapter in the history of the West, namely, the American story, and wrote in a form that was part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention, and wilder rhetoric inspired by the bizarre exuberance of a young civilization. No one categorization covers this new form unless it is Hunter Thompson's own word, gonzo. If so, in the 19th century Mark Twain was king of all the gonzo-writers. In the 20th century it was Hunter Thompson, whom I would nominate as the century's greatest comic writer in the English language.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 10:34 AM

February 20, 2005

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn's webpage is back up (Hat-tip: Samizdata), and his Chicago Sun-Times column is not to be missed (except that it's dated Feb 5, so I have obviously missed it).

Will Europe warm up to Bush climate change?

So much for the axis of ennui. Three years on, one-third of the evildoers is in jail, his people have been liberated, and their country has just held the most free and fair election in modern Middle Eastern history. That last wasn't supposed to happen, either. "They can't have an election right now," declared John Kerry, Senator Nuance himself, in the presidential debates. "I personally do not believe they're going to be ready for the election in January," said Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peanuts. "There's no security there."
[...]
In his third major speech of the week, Reid said . . . well, at the time of writing, he hasn't given a third major speech, but I do hope he does. For every year this guy's on TV as the official face of the party, you can kiss three Democratic Senate seats goodbye. Right now, the Dems are all exit and no strategy.
[...]
Unlike Eurocomplacency or Democratic reactionary torpor, Bush's boldness has the measure of the times. In this climate, you have to push your own changes.


Don't ice it, Mark, tell us how you feel!

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 2:18 PM

February 19, 2005

Poltical Quiz

Here's a variation on the Libertarian Party's "Shortest Political Quiz."
What does it tell me?
If I believe the results, there are a lot of socialists out there.
My results are here.

Posted by AlexC at 9:37 PM | What do you think? [6]
But jk thinks:

I scored 1.5 on the Moral Order axis and -6 on the Moral Rules axis. They seem to think I am some kind of Republican...

Posted by: jk at February 19, 2005 11:49 PM
But AlexC thinks:

1.5! Anarchist! You dirty hippie!

Posted by: AlexC at February 20, 2005 5:20 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Dagny and I took the test together. With very little discussion we chose precisely the same answers. The result:

"Moral Order" 2.5 "Moral Rules" -6.5

So we're even more individualistic than you two cowboys, but lie somewhere between the two of you on the structured morality scale. It's notable that we're all in the same quadrant, however. Hey Silence, how 'bout you?!

Dagny notes that we would have scored higher on the so-called "Moral Order" scale except that the test makes the popular assumption that "moral" is associated with religion and traditional lifestyles.

Here's the rest of our scoring data-
The following items best match your score:

System: Conservatism
Variation: Economic Conservatism
Ideologies: Conservative NeoLiberalism
US Parties: Republican Party
Presidents: Ronald Reagan (96.88%)
2004 Election Candidates: George W. Bush (87.12%), John Kerry (68.59%), Ralph Nader (49.90%)
Statistics

Of the 38112 people who took the test:

2% had the same score as you.
82.3% were above you on the chart.
4.3% were below you on the chart.
13.7% were to your right on the chart.
77.2% were to your left on the chart.

Posted by: johngalt at February 21, 2005 1:24 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I am a Fordite! 0 Moral Order and -3 Moral Rules. There I go, clinging to the middle again. I am in the same half as the rest of you but quite a bit higher up the socialist scale if I am interpreting this correctly.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 21, 2005 3:11 PM
But jk thinks:

Zero Moral Order -- you should get a T-Shirt made with that...

Posted by: jk at February 21, 2005 4:43 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Very good. Yes, I seem to have misplaced my moral compass, I think I left it around here somewhere...

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 22, 2005 2:34 PM

Syrians Want Syria Out

Publius Pundit sees two ironic threads in the latest news from Lebanon. One, that Jacques Chirac stands accused (j'accuse?) of instigating the rebels. (Oui, oui!). The second is that the Syrian people would like their government’s occupation to end. He links to this New York Post story

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- The barrage of criticism aimed at Syria after the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has some Syrians saying it's time to withdraw the 15,000 troops their country has in Lebanon.

This is not yet the opinion of the Syrian government, which has spent the week denying responsibility for Monday's assassination and reaffirming its close ties to Lebanon. But some here feel the Syrian presence in Lebanon has become too troublesome.

"Syria should withdraw its army and intelligence agents from Lebanon immediately, today rather than tomorrow," said Michel Kilo, a prominent Syrian writer.

Their presence is a threat to Syria itself, Kilo warned. "The Syrian people and the Syrian government are the ones suffering as a result."


Ending this occupation seems an achievable goal, and would insert yet another democracy into the region.

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 9:02 PM

February 18, 2005

Great Headline

Isn’t that an odd headline for a story about a bad headline? Maybe I can get an editing job at Associated Press.

The headline reads: Bush Says U.S. Won't Attack Iran This disappointed me -- why would you take something off the table? What about the inaugural address? Is Sharansky out and Brzezinski in?

Turns out that was pretty much the opposite of what the President said:

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Friday the United States does not intend to attack Iran to crush its suspected nuclear weapons project but added that "you never want a president to say never." He expressed hopes that a European diplomatic initiative would persuade Tehran to abandon any such program.

They same folks did the same thing to Secretary Rice.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 6:33 PM

U.N. Perfidy

Larry Kudlow has fixed his CAPS lock key and has written a nice piece on the UN.

He had Claudia Rosett on his show last night. I think it is significant that she wrote about UNscam, not only in the Wall Street Journal, but also in The New Republic. I don't think other non-right-of-center outlets are covering this story.

Larry says:

Who can deny that the ultimate responsibility lies with Kofi Annan? He knew he was helping Saddam Hussein to survive. He knew the program undermined U.N. sanctions. And he knew the U.N. secretariat was living off the corrupt financial benefits of this misbegotten deal.

According to pollster Scott Rasmussen, among those following the story closely: 63 percent believe Kofi Annan should resign; and 72 percent believe Saddam used the program to bribe nations such as France and Russia. Also, only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the U.N.

I believe the U.N. can serve a constructive purpose in problem solving with rogue states such as Iran, Syria, and North Korea. But I also believe Americans will never be confident about the U.N. as long as Kofi Annan is still secretary general. And whatever happens at the United Nations, the United States must always act in its own national self-interest to protect our country.


Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 6:09 PM

Laser Virtual Keyboard



THIS IS COOL.

The virtual laser keyboard (VKB) works by using both infrared and laser technology to produce an invisible circuit and project a full-size virtual QWERTY keyboard on to any surface. The virtual PC keyboard behaves exactly like a real one: direction technology based on optical recognition enables the user to tap the images of the keys, complete with realistic tapping sounds(!), which feeds into the compatible PDA, Smartphone, laptop or PC.

Maybe cooler when it is integrated into my phone or my palm, but goldawgs! This is a good idea.


On the web Posted by John Kranz at 2:48 PM | What do you think? [4]
But AlexC thinks:

It's definately cool tech, but what about the ergonomics of it? Keyboards give way under your finger, a desk will not. I could see it for quick work on your PDA or Blackberry... but give me a keyboard anyday. Especially a Model M...
mmmmm...
http://www.scoutingaround.com/computers/keyboard/Model_M.html

Posted by: AlexC at February 18, 2005 5:58 PM
But jk thinks:

A model M with the caps lock and insert key yanked out -- now yer talkin'!

I wouldn't replace my desktop but I would start using my PDA more and sending more text messages from my phone.

With flexible LCDs and this, a laptop could fold up very tiny.

Posted by: jk at February 18, 2005 6:24 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I say forget the flexible LCD and use this same type of technology for a display. I.e. a miniture projector type display would allow you to use any flat surface such as the tray table on the airline seatback in front of you as your display.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 21, 2005 3:17 PM
But jk thinks:

Yup. Then your cell phone really becomes a laptop.

Posted by: jk at February 21, 2005 6:25 PM

Government Intrusion

From the Detroit Free Press

    Smokers who have bought cigarettes online are starting to get notices from the state to pay up the $2-per-pack cigarette tax they avoided.

    A Canton woman who got a state bill last weekend for $2,500 in back cigarette taxes is among the bulk cigarette buyers learning that avoiding taxes -- the state can go back up to four years -- can be expensive in the long run.

    The state's lost tax dollars were estimated at $1.7 million from just one of 13 online cigarette retailers.

    In a bold push to catch tax scofflaws, the state Treasury Department has subpoenaed the online retailers in other states to get the names, addresses and purchase records of Michiganders who bought cigarettes from them. In virtually all cases, such sales do not include the cigarette tax that must be paid to the state, regardless of who the seller is or how much is purchased.

    So far, the sweep has resulted in letters sent to 533 people the state says bought from just the one online seller.


If the government of Michigan were really interested in stopping people from smoking (as all good governments claim), they would have sent these people "How to Stop Smoking" packets or something.
Instead, they reveal themselves to be what we all knew... just out for the money.

And how long till we all get subpeonaed for purchases on eBay or Amazon or anyone of hundreds or thousands of online retailers?

But jk thinks:

It's not really a matter of efficacy. People who think that taxes should be used to control our behavior won't change because it works or it doesn't.

That said, it's hard to feel sorry for people who sent Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to the U.S. Senate.

Posted by: jk at February 18, 2005 2:32 PM

A Win! (I Think)

We're all jawing about Social Security and permanent tax cuts, but we should take a moment to celebrate a win.

Bush Signs Bill Curbing Class-Action Suits

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Friday signed a bill that he says will curtail multimillion-dollar class action lawsuits against companies and "marks a critical step toward ending the lawsuit culture in our country."


This was an important part of the second term agenda and those of us rooting for the President should be glad for the win.

My sole concern is how happy I am about an anti-Federalist measure. Class action suits are national in scope and clearly belong in Federal court. I am not keen on the good folks of Beaverditch, Mississippi shutting down a major pharmaceutical firm.

And yet, celebrating the motion of authority from state to federal seems importune.

But johngalt thinks:

How do we file a class-action lawsuit against judgement-friendly state judges who have cost all Americans billions of dollars in inflated liability costs? I wouldn't even care if we didn't collect our damages due, so long as we put those judges out of business.

The problem with this band-aid measure is that, eventually, such judges will be found in the federal courts as well.

Posted by: johngalt at February 18, 2005 3:45 PM
But jk thinks:

Two advantages:

1) You can't "shop" for sympathetic judges in the Federal court system. The Trial Bar knew what counties tended to have sympathetic judges and juries.

2) You're hoping that the jury pool improves. Again, the jurisdiction shoppers knew how to find extremely poor counties with easier played jurors.

Posted by: jk at February 18, 2005 4:20 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The Trial Bar also knows which Federal Judicial District has sympathetic judges and juries - the Ninth Circuit.

Don't misunderestimate me, I'm all for this change. I just think it's a stopgap measure, analogous to Reagan's '83 Social Security "Reform."

Posted by: johngalt at February 21, 2005 2:39 PM

Free Lebanon

Publius Pundit says "I guess moral support really does help."

It helped Sakharov and Sharansky when President Reagan called evil by name -- why wouldn't it work in Lebanon.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - President Bush called on Syria on Thursday to withdraw its forces from Lebanon as Lebanese opposition leaders vowed to topple the country’s pro-Syrian leadership.

Voices from across Lebanon’s various ethnic and religious communities, encouraged by the tough anti-Syrian stance of the United States and France, are now telling Damascus and its local allies it is time to go.

Look around the PubliusPundit site. It is dedicated to the advancement of democracy and freedom around the globe -- good stuff!

Hat-tip: Instapundit

But Robert Mayer thinks:

Agreed. It's amazing the impact it has, though. From the inaugural address through the SOTU to now, just hearing the words of America's President in support of them has sent shock waves through the people of unfree countries. It's seems like that alone has moved the world 10 steps closer to ending tyranny already.

Posted by: Robert Mayer at February 18, 2005 1:58 PM

February 17, 2005

A National Party No More?

It seems like there are at least a few Democrats who learned a lesson from November.

    The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has actively recruited at least two abortion opponents to run for the Senate in 2006. And perhaps most symbolically, the party is seeking to enlist Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania's treasurer, to challenge Senator Rick Santorum, a stalwart foe of abortion rights.

    Mr. Casey is the son of former Gov. Bob Casey, a hero to abortion opponents inside and outside the Democratic Party. After trying unsuccessfully to have the party's 1992 platform state that Democrats did not support "abortion on demand," Governor Casey denounced the party for refusing to let him speak at its convention in New York on behalf of other Democrats who shared his views.

    In contrast, the younger Mr. Casey said that Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the party's senatorial campaign committee, had encouraged him to run as an opponent of abortion rights.

    "He was very welcoming and very candid about the party's need to speak for a broad section of Americans," Mr. Casey said in an interview.

    But Mr. Schumer's overture has roiled party loyalists who remain unyielding in their support for abortion rights, exposing a deepening rift in the party. Abortion rights groups that are major financial donors to Democratic campaigns say they may fight Mr. Casey in a primary with a candidate who shares their beliefs.

At least one early (like 18 months early) poll has Casey ahead of Santorum, 46% to 41%.

Politics Posted by AlexC at 7:12 PM

Great NYTimes Editorial

I have given Thomas Friedman a few thumbs-ups on his NY Times columns, and he deserves another today

There is no excuse anymore for Syria's occupation of Lebanon, other than naked imperialism and a desire to siphon off Lebanese resources. If the U.S. government and media really care about democracy in the Arab world, Mr. Hariri's envoy said, then the U.S. has to get behind those trying to rescue the oldest real Arab democracy, Lebanon, from the Syrian grip.

Well, Rafik, this one's for you. I am sorry you won't be able to read it.


Fouad Ajami has a guest editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (Paid site only)
There is talk nowadays of spreading liberty to Arab lands, changing the ways of the Arabs, putting an end to regimes that harbor terror. The restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty ought to be one way for the Arabs to break with the culture of dictators and police states, and with the time of the car bombs. Hariri sought for his country a businessman's peace. His way was a break with the politics of charisma and ideology that has wrecked the Arab world; he believed in philanthropy and practical work. His vision may not have been stirring. But there was dignity in it, and a reprieve from the time of darkness.

Is it my mood today? The most liberal and the most conservative major editorial pages in the country today are calling for war with Syria as surely as William Randolph Hearst called for war with Spain.

As a Sharansky devotee and neo-Wilsonian, I can't run from it, I am just surprised at the idea's velocity.

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 4:43 PM

Sit Down Before Reading This

In policy terms, Kerry probably had a more serious democratization agenda than Bush. But, rhetorically, he never matched Bush's grandeur.
I sent this quote to James Taranto at Best of The Web (did I mention the two times that I was in BOTW? 1 2 Oh. I did?) and said "I don't know which part is funnier."

Kerry's audacious plan to democratize the Middle East? I somehow missed that one, Peter. And I never, never, never, thought even Beinart would say about a Democrat "rhetorically, he never matched Bush's grandeur." (Nuke-uh-ler...)

As usual, Beinart makes other good points in his piece but I wonder if this isn't a fundamental shift in the left. They don't plan to misunderestimate the President. I wonder if we won't see a grudging respect.

But johngalt thinks:

Kerry and the rest of the Dems appear to be relieved that the election season is over and they no longer have to pretend that the President's strategy wasn't working. They're now free to argue, "It's about time he did what I proposed all along!"

Posted by: johngalt at February 18, 2005 3:34 PM

Lord STanley Weeps

The WSJ Ed page is a little disrespectful of my favorite sport, but their middle editorial today contains bitter truth.

As newspaper readers, we have a special fondness for headlines that disclose the end of something we didn't know was taking place. Such as, "Drought in Burma Finally Over." Millions of Americans may have a similar reaction today when they read that "NHL Commissioner Cancels Season." You mean they weren't playing hockey? We hadn't noticed.

Hardy har har...But the analysis is spot on:
The more fundamental problem is that both sides failed to appreciate that in today's competitive sports world they aren't "management" and "labor." They are, or should be, business partners. The National Hockey League is just one of many pastimes bidding for the scarce entertainment dollar. Across a normal season hockey competes with basketball (pro and NCAA), golf, football, professional wrestling, figure skating, and for that matter the circus -- any spectator activity that North Americans pay to watch.

By refusing to compromise, the NHL's powers have only ceded the field to this competition. Of course, they've also hurt their fans by denying them a favorite winter diversion, but we suspect most of those who used to be the NHL's paying customers have been able to find other things to do and watch.


I played, as a kid and a grownup, and do love the sport. Missing a season has been disappointing but strangely not devastating.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 2:38 PM | What do you think? [2]
But sugarchuck thinks:

Cancelling regualr season hockey is a corporal work of mercy; cancelling playoff hockey is a hanging offense. Regular season hockey consists of too many mediocre players spread out over too many teams playing at half speed while playoff hockey shows some of the intensity and speed of pre-pre expansion days. Winning a Stanley Cup is one of sports most difficult challenges and robbing hockey fans of their playoffs is unforgiveable. And it's stupid; really, really stupid.
JK correctly points out that players and owners should see themselves as partners and this is especially true in hockey. When you are selling a sport that draws a smaller audience on ESPN than Pro bowling, you might want to rethink the strike plans. When the replacement programinng on ESPN, college basketball, draws double the viewers of hockey, it's time to get back to work. It is likely that ESPN will cancel their NHL contract next year, and who could blame them. Hockey, because of its speed, does not televise well, so owners and players should be doing whatever they can to enhance their marketablility, not sitting out a season over slices of a shrinking pie.
I live in a state where high school hockey play-offs are televised and when the NHL comes back we will be here. The same won't be true in those parts of the country where the ponds don't freeze and I doubt the tv execs will be in any hurry to get the NHL back on the tube.

Posted by: sugarchuck at February 18, 2005 10:31 AM
But jk thinks:

Okay, I'll come out of the closet. I have watched only playoff hockey for the last five years. You're right, this is a sport with some severe problems, making the strike look even more stupid.

Posted by: jk at February 18, 2005 4:45 PM

Those Bastards!

It seems a drug company improved their product to help patients but -- they did it for money!

The Wall Street Journal broke this story (I remember reading it and thinking about the disparity between the News and Editorial staffs). But it took the New Yorker's anti-capitalist condescension to do it justice.

A friend sent me a link to the Critic At Large column, remarking "I am astonished at the level of bitterness towards drug companies, given that the people I know involved in drug research and development are so committed to improving the lives of patients."

Well, yeah, if they gave it away...

In short, AstraZeneca, launched an internal project to patent an improvement to its Prilosec so that the firm could continue to profit when the patent expired. They modified its structure to seek improvements.

Here's Malcolm Gladwell's take on this nefarious scheme:

AstraZeneca then had to prove that the single-isomer version of the drug was better than regular Prilosec. It chose as its target something called erosive esophagitis, a condition in which stomach acid begins to bubble up and harm the lining of the esophagus. In one study, half the patients took Prilosec, and half took Son of Prilosec. After one month, the two drugs were dead even. But after two months, to the delight of the Shark Fin team, the single-isomer version edged ahead—with a ninety-per-cent healing rate versus Prilosec’s eighty-seven per cent. The new drug was called Nexium. A patent was filed, the F.D.A. gave its blessing, and, in March of 2001, Nexium hit the pharmacy shelves priced at a hundred and twenty dollars for a month’s worth of pills. To keep cheaper generics at bay, and persuade patients and doctors to think of Nexium as state of the art, AstraZeneca spent half a billion dollars in marketing and advertising in the year following the launch. It is now one of the half-dozen top-selling drugs in America.

Oddly enough, the article eventually comes around to defending some pharmaceutical firms, pointing out that doctors or insurance companies could use the generic Prilosec.

Mr. Gladwell may not need Nexium (I could use a hit, reading his column) and feels that isomer selection doesn't rise to his high standards of chemical discovery, but the product was improved. It took scientists and lab techs and time and electricity and lawyers. Shouldn't he be glad it's there if he needs it?

He also hits the "cox-2 inhibitors are no better than Advil unless you have stomach ulcers" meme. Once again, these bastards are just trying to sell us $5 aspirin! I dare say if you have thin blood, ulcers, and are in extreme pain, it is might handy to have it around.

Yes, they're oversubscribed, yes a less expensive alternative probably works 90% of the time. But what if it's for your spouse and the Insurance company says use the cheap one. What are you going to say? What's your attorney going to say?

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 12:15 PM

February 16, 2005

Hail Fiona!

I don't mind being a contrarian, but when nobody agrees with me, I have to question my position and maybe even keep my mouth shut.

But, now that I have one guy to back me up (and a serious guy at that), I will speak my peace (piece?)

I have always been a fan of Carly Fiona of HP. I thought the Compaq merger looked good on paper, and that her refusal to spin off the printer biz augured well for long-term viability of HP.

It's not like some folks disagreed -- all of Wall Street disagreed. And the Hayekian in me has to believe that the market is right. I was disappointed when she agreed to step down -- but again, Wall Street loved it.

Homan Jenkins, Jr. writes a WSJ Editorial that, mirabile dictu, shares my vision:

HP's printers were already going from being appendages of computers to being appendages of digital cameras, with or without a computer involved. The company argues, as a stopgap, that printers help sell computers and vice versa. That's why archrival Dell has recently added printers to its line-up. But, in the long run, HP is positioning itself for the digitization of all media, redrawing the boundaries between computers and consumer electronics. It's already used the imaging lessons gained from printers to roll out a line of plasma TVs.
It's also leading a consortium of companies to establish new standards to permit printers and other output devices to interact wirelessly with the cloud of digital devices that increasingly traffic in digital imagery, including Apple's new photo iPod. Would a stand-alone printer company command the same power to shape these crucial standards?

Jenkins wonders if you can build a business around proprietary ink cartridges (a great cash cow, but HP?) and states that her vision will remain for awhile, even though she has gone.

UPDATE: WSJ sez

Hewlett-Packard Co., a week after directors ousted Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, posted better-than-expected revenue for its fiscal first quarter and offered a relatively strong sales outlook.

No wonder she was fired...

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 7:23 PM

Realignment

It's just anecdotal, but the summary in the WSJ caught my political eye: "Housing starts rose 4.7% in January to the highest level in nearly 21 years as booming activity in the South offset the effects of soggy, stormy weather elsewhere."

WSJ.com - Housing Starts Jump 4.7%, Bucking Forecast for Drop

Stormy, snowy weather in the Northeast and Midwest and heavy rain in the West had been expected to put a damper on building activity -- and indeed, starts did decline in the Northeast and Midwest. Analysts expecting a slowdown pointed to the government's recent report on payroll employment that showed the U.S. construction indudtry shed 9,000 jobs last month.

But robust activity in the South offset the declines in other regions. Starts climbed 19% in the South to 1.139 million units -- the region's highest level since February 1984's 1.187 million. Housing starts in the South accounted for more than half of the nation's building activity last month. Meanwhile, new construction fell 24% to 150,000 in the Northeast and 13% to 330,000 in the Midwest. Builders in the West broke ground on around 540,000 new homes, a 1.9% increase.


Ummm, isn't that a signal of more than expected growth for the most GOP dominated part of the country? Already, as Joel Kotkin writes in the Weekly Standard, folks are moving out of the Euro-cities to Cities of Aspiration
What differentiates these two Americas is not so much politics, but perspective on the future. Cities of aspiration like Reno accommodate job growth and attract young families who hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.
They offer an environment that most of our forebears--wherever they might be from--would recognize as distinctly American. In the places people are leaving, what might be called Euro-America, the focus is on preserving older urban forms, cultivating refinement, and following continental norms in attitude, politics, and lifestyle.

Right now the demographic, economic, and political momentum belongs to the aspirational cities, places like Reno, Boise, Orlando, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City. They attract the most new migrants from other parts of the country, and an increasing number of immigrants from abroad. They have experienced some of the nation's sharpest increases in their numbers of new families.


Demographics definitely favors the red states; the WSJ article makes me wonder if it's not more pronounced than previously thought.

But johngalt thinks:

I wonder, how many of those "housing starts" in the South can be attributed to rebuilding from the most recent hurricane season?

Not that I disagree with your basic premise, however.

Posted by: johngalt at February 16, 2005 3:24 PM

The Social Security Fight

Pete du Pont (I supported his brief Presidential bid way back when...) nails it in his OpinionJournal piece today. The solidarity seen in opposition to President Bush's Social Security reform is philosophical:

Ultimately the argument isn't about investment accounts, or stocks or bonds or "gambling" or "insecurity." It is about socialism versus individualism, about Attlee's social justice and Hillary's common good and Chomsky's economic solidarity. AARP CEO William Novelli is in favor of allowing the government to invest Social Security surplus funds in the stock market, but against allowing individuals to do so--exactly the socialist argument, that government should control the distribution of the nation's wealth.

When you increase an individual's wealth, he becomes less dependent on government, and his attitude towards government changes. Socialists can't allow that, for it erodes their fundamental principle that social justice can only be achieved when important segments of the economy are under government control.

And that is why today's very liberal Democratic Party is so vehemently arguing against personal ownership of Social Security market accounts. The government's Social Security system is socialism's last redoubt, and must be preserved at all costs.


Along the way, he points out that the AFL-CIO, AARP and government employees all use the type of plan W is proposing, even as they fight it.

I'll go further and point out that they have a lot to lose. Much of the government control agenda has been repudiated of late; Social Security remains one of the few popular forms of coercion. Any individualization would severely damage the progressives' agenda.

But Silence Dogood thinks:

Yep, Federal employees and federal non-profit employees have been under Social Security since 1984. See http://www.ssa.gov/history/1983amend.html for the whole text of the law. It includes:

Covers under Social Security the following groups: (1) Federal employees hired on or after January 1, 1984; (2) current employees of the legislative branch not participating in the Civil Service Retirement System on December 31, 1983; and (3) all Members of Congress, the President and the Vice-President, Federal judges, and other executive-level political appointees of the Federal Government, effective January 1, 1984.

Once again this administration is doing a masterful job of linking together unrelated things like Iraq and the 9/11 terrorists. Now it is private accounts and fixing Social Security. Like some kind of cross between hypnosis and a Pavlov's dog experiment Bush is out stumping for his proposal talking about the looming Social Security shortfall in one breath and his private accounts in the other. It will probably work if he continues to say both in every speech. Do a poll about 6 months from now and I bet 50% of the respondents will indicate that having private accounts will fix the monetary shortfall in SS. The subtle sleight of hand and quiet whispers about changes to the benefit calculator and increases to the FICA tax cap thread lazily through your mind, never quite reaching your consciousness - you are feeling sleepy, very sleepy.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 17, 2005 10:10 AM
But jk thinks:

Some clarifications for my pal Silence:

My analogy is not a loan to invest, it is a loan to pay off an unrecorded obligation, such as parents loaning a child money for a car or a down payment on a home. Said child might restructure the mortgage and repay. Like financing the transition costs, this seems to increase d e b t on paper, but doesn't change in reality.

I think that lower income workers will benefit the most from providing Social Security as a heritable asset. A surviving spouse or child could use the money to finance a new business or buy a home. Perhaps the very act of accumulating wealth would inspire more thrift and a predilection to savings (bringing us full circle to the claim that that's exactly what some opponents would not appreciate...)

Yup, the market goes up and down. But the private accounts take advantage of dollar averaging. If you always buy $100 of stock a month, you buy more stock when it's cheaper.

In the last decade before retirement, you should move to bonds and fixed securities, so even if you retire in a trough, you are okay.

Lastly, I love your point about this being for those not born yet. You're not expecting your grandma to navigate this complexity when she can't program her VCR, you're offering choice to your grandchildren, who will learn to read on a flexible LCD laptop.

Posted by: jk at February 17, 2005 11:23 AM
But johngalt thinks:

So much to respond to here...

Good catch on the change to add federal employees to Social Security. (Although pre-1983 employees are grandfathered out.)

Silence has implied that a little bit of socialism is a good thing, while too much or none at all is bad. He's also said he agrees with "the concept of moving toward a privatized plan" but he is "very concerned about the specifics of the changeover from the current plan. Basically will it be managed in an equitable fashion for all involved?"

By "equitable" I'll take your meaning as fair, rather than equal, which would in fact make you a "hard core socialist." So how do you determine a "fair" management of a plan that extracts an indeterminate amount of tax from every honest and productive citizen and in turn promises to repay him some arbitrary and ever increasing amount starting at some arbitrary date and continuing for the rest of his indeterminate life regardless of the amount of tax revenues available to make good on that promise? Fair to whom? The promissor? The promissee? How about whoever is trying to be a producer at the time? When is fairness for him taken into account?

Most frightening of all Silence's comments is this: "I generally find that trying to identify the underlying philosophical reasons for disagreement not all that helpful in coming to a compromise. I am more interested in how the system gets changed than why."

Politicians seek compromise. Rational men seek correct outcomes. If you have no philosophical base then you have no way to judge what is correct. Doing something without regard for the "why" is like a million monkeys banging away on typewriters - a result is achieved but it has no value.

Posted by: johngalt at February 18, 2005 3:29 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Yes, equitable as in fair, not equal. You make some very good points however about the difficulty in doing that. They bring to my mind another set of items that is incorrectly becoming linked together, private savings accounts as proposed by President Bush, 401K plans and Social Security. As they would say on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others. In many respects SS has more in common with life insurance than private investments. The system is not designed to provide an equal payout to all participants, in fact it, like life insurance, counts on the fact that some participants will live longer, and some shorter lives. By not providing inheritable value it counts on using excess from some participants to pay for others. While not "fair" one only has to look at the difference in premiums on a whole life policy versus a term life policy to get an idea of how much more we would have to pay for that kind of coverage. As to JK's point that even poor people would benefit from and be more empowered by personal savings that assumes that the person has the capability to save at all, something than many at the poverty level do not. For those the current system is better as it removes the risk of running out of money if they should live longer, a risk that increases as the size of the savings diminishes.

As for frightening John Galt, I suspect that our utopias are not that different. I am however a hard core pragmatist. By this I mean that although my ideal would be for each of us to pay our own way and all to do that effectively I understand that the reality is that there are those who will not due to things within and those beyond their control. I also understand reality to be that we as a society have made a choice to provide for those folks in some way. I just look at the issue starting from where we currently are, not where I feel we should be. From there I look to what I think is a realistic improvement toward my ideal. I don't think this in any way diminishes my convictions.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 22, 2005 3:13 PM
But jk thinks:

Gotta get the last word before this falls off the page...

Silence, I said "I think that lower income workers will benefit the most from providing Social Security as a heritable asset. A surviving spouse or child could use the money to finance a new business or buy a home."

Exactly the case that these people are having a tough time saving (25% payroll taxes don't help, but that's another story). The government is, with a private account, forcing them to save. This strikes me as a better alternative than just taking money away from them and it giving it to rich old people.

Posted by: jk at February 22, 2005 4:29 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Provided they are "lucky" enough to die before their money runs out.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 22, 2005 5:44 PM

"V-Day"

In the words of my wife, who is a genuine genius, this is "not my style" but I find it interesting anyway. And it's timely, being that V-Day is the counter-culture, feminist, alternative to St. Valentine's Day.

I am, of course, familiar with The Vagina Monologues and considered it a feminist "feel good" play. Having no interest whatsoever in seeing or reading it, I hadn't realized it's philosophical vacuity. I'll leave it to Christina Hoff Sommers to give us the gory details in Sex, Lies and the Vagina Monologues (warning- adult language) but, as I mentioned in the comments to Competence below, the play dramatizes and glorifies statutory rape. The enobling aspect in this instance is that said rape is a lesbian affair.

But worse still, in my (ahem) "humble" opinion, is VM author Eve Ensler's least common denominator treatment of romantic love between men and women, popularly celebrated by Valentine's day. Because there exist men who commit violence against women, she says, no one should celebrate the existence, or value, or joy that results when any man treats a woman with reverence.

This attitude is the manifestation of collectivist ideology in the subject of human sexuality - "No woman may be desired so long as any are undesirable!"

Philosophy Posted by JohnGalt at 12:57 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I've inured to toleration of most lefty foolishness, but have always been extremely bothered by V-Day and the Monologues.

It strikes me as the Class Warfare of Love (I may save that for an album title...) these people must discredit what they can't obtain.

A friend of this blog once told me that he saw a performance of The Vagina Monologues but that "it wasn't very good -- you could see her lips move..." That joke and your excellent post may help me come to terms with this annual annoyance.

Posted by: jk at February 16, 2005 1:40 PM

February 15, 2005

The Laffer Curve

It always works -- and yet everybody is still surprised.

Well, not Larry Kudlow. His new blog is now providing follow up commentary for his new show (sniff! The one without Jim Cramer). It is a very effective format: watch the show, read the blog, buy the economist action figures...

He blogs about a great segment with Senator Jon Kyl and his effort to extend the Bush tax cuts. Here's the close:

Meanwhile dividend and capital gains tax collections are rising at a double-digit pace according to the most recent monthly Treasury statement in the non-withheld personal income category. At lower tax-rates, more investment is generating higher tax collections. Sound familiar? That's right, the scenario conforms to Arthur Laffer's curve.

Always works, always surprises...

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 5:05 PM

For This We Elect Republicans?

Sensing that the government was not doing enough to hamper innovation and destroy valuations in the pharmaceutical sector, Congress has sprung into life:

Yahoo! News - New Board to Check Drugs After Approval

WASHINGTON - The government is setting up a monitoring board to keep checking on medicines once they're on the market and to update doctors and patients on risks and benefits.


I guess I'll just short Pfizer and learn to live with Multiple Sclerosis -- they got a public to protect!!!

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 4:39 PM

"Allies"

I don't do it often, but if I ever blog an NRO piece I feel like I'm trespassing on JK's turf. Forgive me, JK.

William F. Buckley, in atypical brevity, lays out the interests of the Six Parties of Asia-Pacific nuclear detente. In a nutshell, America has much to lose from a North Korean nuclear first strike, but our friends in South Korea and Japan, and our "friends" in China and Russia have much more at stake. You see, while the American heartland is some 10,000 miles from the potentially charred and radiating remains of North Korea's industrial and population centers, the other four parties are not.

This is encouraging for America's safety, and does much to explain why W can afford to direct his attention toward Iran and Syria while Baby Kim dithers and babbles. But there's another tactic Mr. Bush may be applying, most likely in private, with the Chinese. If not then Jonah Goldberg suggests in today's Corner he give it some thought. Borrowing from a 2003 Charles Krauthammer column:

What to do when your hand is so poor? Play the trump. We do have one, but we dare not speak its name: a nuclear Japan. Japan cannot long tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea. Having once lobbed a missile over Japan, North Korea could easily hit any city in Japan with a nuclear-tipped weapon. Japan does not want to live under that threat.

We should go to the Chinese and tell them plainly that if they do not join us in squeezing North Korea and thus stopping its march to go nuclear, we will endorse any Japanese attempt to create a nuclear deterrent of its own. Even better, we would sympathetically regard any request by Japan to acquire American nuclear missiles as an immediate and interim deterrent. If our nightmare is a nuclear North Korea, China's is a nuclear Japan. It's time to share the nightmares.

The War on Terror is a global campaign and it's time the Chinese started pulling their weight.


But jk thinks:

No, no, well done!

I really think that NorthK has "Misunderestimated" President Bush and played right into a trap.

Dr. Krauthammer and WFB are right on here. Without China's support, NK would disintegrate even more rapidly. We have brought pressure to bear and it does not have an American face.

Next stop: Syria, kids. We've just pulled our ambassador.

Posted by: jk at February 15, 2005 4:45 PM

February 14, 2005

I'll Miss the Team

I was suspicious last week. Now it looks official. The CNBC website is promoting Kudlow & Company James Cramer has his own show called Mad Money.

I'll still gladly watch Larry, but I will miss Jim's influence as a pro-growth, pro-business Democrat. I'll try his show as well but my hunch is that I'll turn more toward Larry.

Posted by John Kranz at 6:29 PM

Vote With Your Feet

Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata catches an interesting ratio. It seems 500 protestors marched on the US Embassy in London, taking exception to America's decision to back out of Kyoto.

Yet the same BBC estimated "thousands flocked" to the opening of a new Ikea store. Brian sez:

I think this contrast well illustrates the relative pulling power of shopping for bargains compared to political demonstrating, and shows that Western Civilisation will not necessarily be collapsing under the weight of its idiocy any time soon.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 2:13 PM

Happy Valentine's Day

I hope all (both) readers have a great Valentine's Day, with just enough candy and affection.

Accused of injecting politics into everything, I will link to Reason Magazine's My Privatized Valentine: A martyr for state-free marriage In this piece, John Coleman posits that St. Valentine himself would have supported less state intrusion into marriage:

In his second inaugural address, President Bush highlighted the preeminent importance of liberty and individual responsibility noting, "In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character—on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self."

This Valentine's Day, let's live up to this call and spark a revolution in commemoration of the occasion—the very revolution alluded to in Bush's latest, and most eloquent speech. On February 14th, take a loved one to dinner. Reach out to those who are lonely. But if you really want to honor the martyr, join in the battle to take matters of personal character—matters that should precede governmental authority—out of the hands of the state.

Amen to that! Hat-tip: Glenn

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 1:27 PM

February 12, 2005

"72"

Douglas Adams was wrong. The answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is not 42, but 72.

Seventy-two is the number of compounded APR-years it takes for the value of an investment (or debt) to double. A thousand dollars invested at 4% APR will become two thousand in 18 years. At 12% APR it takes only 6 years. But the real difference in these two investments is revealed when you consider not how fast it doubles, but how many times it doubles in a given amount of time. That thousand dollar investment doubles only once in 18 years at 4%, but three times at 12% - a six thousand dollar difference in the same amount of time.

This little example of Benjamin Franklin's 18th century principle illustrates why it is so much better to invest in stock mutual funds than in bonds or CDs or savings accounts. It also reveals the critical importance to investment success of the other exponential term in the compounding equation - TIME.

I'm making this point now because of a critical flaw in the SSSP (Silence Socialized Savings Plan) as revealed on these pages as a comment to JK's pointed critique of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Silence wrote:

Now, the Silence Socialized Savings Plan (SSSP) is not a tax, but annual dues to be a member of the "Ownership Society". Instead of having social security deducted from your paycheck, you will be presented with a bill along with your 1040 form for your portion of support for social security. These funds can be withdrawn tax and penalty free from a 401K, IRA, or other tax free or tax deferred plan. During the year you may invest the money you otherwise would have had deducted in any way you choose. In April (or pick a month) you pay your annual dues to social security. Any excess you have earned due to wise investments is yours to keep. In this manner everyone is guaranteed a social security benefit as is the case today and yet has the opportunity to control those funds and possibly earn a profit.

First there are the obvious criticisms, like changing what it's called from "tax" to "dues" and the fact that while some may earn a profit, many will suffer losses making this essentially a margin call against your own money. But there's also a structural flaw in the plan, since it only allows individuals to keep their money invested for a maximum of 12 months, and with an average balance of one-half the ending "dues" payment. One could easily dwarf the return on reinvestment of the annual proceeds of this plan by investing their monthly cigarette or lottery ticket budget instead.

Ben Franklin's "Rule of 72" is a powerful concept that belongs in the curriculum of every primary school, middle school and high school. I find it appropriate that it's mention on this blog was inspired by the namesake of Franklin's nom de plume.

But jk thinks:

And for you math freaks (er, well, me...), the explanation is available at:
http://invest-faq.com/articles/analy-rule-72.html

The approximation works great for returns of 1-25%. If you're gettiung a better return than that -- you don't need any approximation!

Posted by: jk at February 12, 2005 7:53 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

The concept of compound interest is not in question. I will certainly give you that just holding your money for 12 months may not leave you with much profit to invest, I just consider that a little is better than nothing. This is the same principal that says you can save money by paying your property taxes annually rather than having some taken out in escrow for you each month with your mortgage payment. Certainly also being able to invest a portion of your Social Security in an interest earning account rather than paying it to Uncle Sam is a great idea and will likely net you a nice gain. The trouble is, how does Uncle Sam then pay current recipients? Since the trust fund is an accounting entity and not real money and taxes will not be raised that seems to leave borrowing. I am not an accountant, buy in my world money, even the fake trust fund stuff cannot be in two places at once. It cannot be in my account and be paid out to current retirees. This seems akin to taking out a loan against your 401k to open an IRA.

Like 9/11 terrorists and Iraq, private accounts and refinancing Social Security are not one and the same. The refinancing comes from adjusting benefits differently and/or changing the retirement age. The private accounts will allow palatable decreases in benefits, but not until the reductions are phased in. Promises seem to be being made to anyone over 55 that they will receive the full current benefits. I know there are huge holes in my understanding of macroeconomics, especially on the whole federal budget scale, but how you square the cash flow escapes me. I wonder if Douglas Adams isn't closer to the mark than you think in that much of this overhaul plan is obscured by that force field known as the "Somebody else's problem field". Don your peril sensitive sunglasses and let's go for a ride!

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 16, 2005 12:09 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"Refinancing" Social Security? The President is talking about "strengthening" or "fixing" the immoral thing, not "refinancing" it.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/social-security/
I Googled "refinancing social security" and got eight hits for leftist or left-leaning outlets followed by your ThreeSources comment (and then about 8000 others). The President and those who support his effort don't talk about "refinancing" because they don't want to shovel more money into SS, they want to fundamentally redesign what it does and how it works. The ownership society is not just a good idea, it's what people want. It is also morally justifiable. Freedom is on the march.

Posted by: johngalt at February 18, 2005 3:06 PM
But jk thinks:

Woohoo! Silence! Way to get us up on the Google(r) charts!

Posted by: jk at February 18, 2005 3:35 PM

February 11, 2005

The Blogosphere Claims Another...

I hate to be this flippant. But Eason Jordan, like Dan Rather, would have "gotten away with it" without a blogosphere to hold him accountable.

Larry Kudlow notes that this story was driven exclusively by the blogs, yet somehow everybody knew it -- even US Senators!

The blogosphere has gained near immediate influence and credibility with its ability to widely disseminate alternative media coverage. (These days, “alternative” more often than not means “true.”) Powerhouse bloggers such as John Hinderaker, Glenn Reynolds, and Hugh Hewitt, among many others, have flexed their muscles and badly bruised CNN on this story.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 7:29 PM

Nobel Prize

Dan Henninger has a great idea for the Nobel Peace Prize this year: The Iraqi Voters.

While the Nobel Committee has made some bad decisions in the past (Henninger also says they could give it to Arafat again for dying...) they have occasionally made good choices -- and this would be one:

"Abdul Karim Abboud, 54 years old, lives close to the Abu Hanifa mosque in the district of Azamiya, an area of Baghdad inhabited by a Sunni majority. Early in the morning, the man left his home accompanied by his wife to cast their votes. On their way to the polling center and not far from their home, gunmen started to shoot randomly to scare people and prevent them from voting. The wife received a bullet in her shoulder. Abdul Karim carried his wife back to their home and left her with their daughter. He left his home again, heading for the polling center. After casting his vote, Abdul Karim went back to his wife. He said: 'This is for Iraq and its freedom.'"

The whole column is, of course, great.

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 12:31 PM

February 10, 2005

Competence

Bret Stephens of the WSJ Ed Page says he was there in Davos and was an eyewitness to Easongate.

His short piece is worth a read as a balanced view from someone who was actually there. He doesn't call for Jordan's head but he closes with a good point:

And that was it--the discussion moved on. I'll leave it others to draw their own verdicts, but here's mine: Whether with malice aforethought or not, Mr. Jordan made a defamatory innuendo. Defamatory innuendo--rather than outright allegation--is the vehicle of mainstream media bias. Had Mr. Jordan's innuendo gone unchallenged, it would have served as further proof to the Davos elite of the depths of American perfidy. Mr. Jordan deserves some credit for retracting the substance of his remark, and some forgiveness for trying to weasel his way out of a bad situation of his own making. Whether CNN wants its news division led by a man who can't be trusted to sit on a panel and field softball questions is another matter.

The more I read on the Ward Churchill story, the more I get the same feeling. How did this academic lightweight become a tenured professor and department chair at CU?

Neither of them should be fired for their stupid and false comments, but clearly, neither has earned his rank.

But johngalt thinks:

The evidence is mounting that the university faculty and administration made this academic lightweight a tenured professor precisely BECAUSE of his stupid and false comments.

Eason said what he wanted to believe until he realized he had zero evidence. If Eason did not operate in a system where accountability still matters then he would have done what Churchill did. Hold a rally to thump his chest and scream that he gets to be right if he wants to, and nobody can do anything about it because he's not answerable to anyone.

I hear the radio talking heads say that it doesn't matter that Churchill preaches violence and victimhood because "five years from now these kids will be driving BMWs and going to church like the rest of adult America." This is in large measure true (except the church goin'). But what ideals will each one hold in his heart, buttressed by his mind which was taught not to think, but to believe in the doctrines of his "dear old professor?"

One such ideal is that "Americans deserve to be killed for their exceptionalism." What do you suppose that does to one's desire to become exceptional?

Posted by: johngalt at February 11, 2005 3:21 PM
But jk thinks:

Twixt Ward Churchill and Tom Wolfe, I would really attempt to talk most people out of a traditional undergrad program at a large, State University.

You can call it sour grapes from a dropout, but I would advise a young person to try a small specialty school. If not a Hillsdale or Pepperdine, or one of the religious schools in National Review (sorry, johngalt!), to at least pick a small school on the basis of their willingness to allow independent thought.

Posted by: jk at February 11, 2005 7:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

JK, I'm afraid you should have ended your first sentence at "program." You endorse "one of the religious schools in National Review" but consider this from a National Review editorial:

http://www.nationalreview.com/lopez/lopez200502151017.asp

"Father Kevin William Wildes, the school's president, goes into the usual knee-jerk free-expression and diversity muck in his letter — "Loyola University, like any university, is committed to the free expression of ideas and the rigors of debate."
(...)
"Father, your religious order teaches about right and wrong, right? I know it used to, anyway."
(...)
"Phew — Loyola might not endorse statutory rape. Maybe Catholic Loyola does stand for something besides an open door to whatever pop culture or special-interest groups say it has to let in. That's some maybe, though. One that the 27 other U.S. Catholic colleges and universities (according to the Cardinal Newman Society) who also had VM on campus this year ought to ponder."

Posted by: johngalt at February 15, 2005 2:32 PM

February 9, 2005

Fear Society

On my second day in confinement, I asked a guard, "Do you know why I am here?"

"I don't know," she replied. "Your interrogator will tell you."

The next day, I was taken to a room down a long corridor and told to sit down. A fat hand with an agate stone ring set an interrogation form in front of me. Then he began asking about my Web log, which has hyperlinks on it to Western feminist groups.

"Do you accept the charges?" the interrogator asked.

"What charges?"

"That you have written things in your Web log that go against the Islamic system and that encourage people to topple the system," he said. "You are inviting corrupt American liberalism to rule Iran."


This is the story of a young Iranian woman who spent 36 days in prison for blogging.

Sharansky talks about free societies and fear societies but it is so easy to forget.

I had a European houseguest last week who thinks that poverty in the former Soviet Republics is just as bad as Communism was. It pained me that a young man who had lived under tyranny did not really value liberty. But this is the difference. Times can still be hard but when you can speak up in the public square, where you could not before, you have made progress.

I cannot help but feel that President Bush was speaking to this woman in his inaugural address. Those who didn’t get the speech didn’t understand.

Hat-tip: Virginia Postrel

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 5:33 PM

Those Sophisticated Europeans

How dare we think that our upstart society has anything to teach them:

She said the man was taken to Heath Hospital but could not confirm his condition.

It was reported that the man told his friends: "If Wales win I'll cut my own balls off."
After the 11-9 victory in the Six Nations clash, the man is reported to have gone outside and [excerpt edited for compassion and dignity...]


Whew, Alex, aren't you glad the Eagles lost, now?

Hat-tip: Pillage Idiot

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 2:15 PM | What do you think? [3]
But AlexC thinks:

Testicles are off limits in wagering. This guys was nuts... or was in possesion of them.

And I've been rooting for the Iggles only enough for them to lose in the Super Bowl. And I've been proved right, AGAIN.

Posted by: AlexC at February 9, 2005 2:38 PM
But johngalt thinks:

After witnessing a friend throw a ringer in horseshoes I quipped, "If you can do that again with the next throw I'll give you twenty bucks!" He smiled, he threw, and I was speechless.

Before I paid my wager I briefly entertained the idea of reneging, but quickly realized my personal honor was worth more than twenty bucks. If I were ever drunk and stupid enough to make the wager this poor wanker did, I assure you that the value of my honor would pale in comparison!

Posted by: johngalt at February 9, 2005 3:29 PM
But jk thinks:

I don't think it has the moral rectitude of being a wager -- I fear it was some bizarre, Welsh form of celebration...

Posted by: jk at February 9, 2005 5:02 PM

Dear Leader Upset at Film's Depiction

Surprisingly, North Korea is upset about Team America.

    The caricature of North Korea's "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-Il, in the film, "Team America: World Police," is striking a discordant note among North Korean officials, and probably their supreme leader himself, despite his well-known love for private viewings of foreign movies.

Sometimes the truth hurts, Kim.
    A Czech newspaper, Lidove Noviny, reports that a North Korean diplomat complained that the film "harms the image of our country." He was even quoted as saying, "Such behavior is not part of our country's political culture."

Apparently rampant starvation doesn't hurt the image of his country.

In related news, Michael Moore was also upset about his role in the film, joining international Islamo-fascists, the Film Actors Guild and their members Hollywood and the French.

But jk thinks:

Presumably, Matt Stone and Trey Parker are very upset that others have taken offense and are currently drafting apologies...

Posted by: jk at February 9, 2005 2:41 PM

What Happens in Davos...

Instapundit linked this, but in case you missed it, go read Iowahawk's What Happens In Davos, Stays In Davos Funny!

Posted by John Kranz at 11:24 AM

W's Book Club

I read Sharansky's "The Case for Democracy" because I had heard how much the President had enjoyed it and believed in its content.

The WSJ Ed Page today gives us two more titles on the Presidential book list (paid site, sorry!): Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, and the surprise entry of Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons." While many are stunned by the last pick, my buddies at Dow Jones (and I) defend it:

Our reaction is a little different. For starters, it's hard to credit the idea that Mr. Bush is a cretin when Mr. Wolfe is a favorite author. On the contrary, both men have succeeded largely because they are in touch with the kinds of cultural currents the liberal establishment rarely notices (or considers beneath notice). Mr. Wolfe himself noted just before the election that "I would vote for Bush if for no other reason than to be at the airport waving off all the people who say they are going to London if he wins again."

I'm holding my head high because I have read and enjoyed each of these. I am learning just enough history after a life of ignoring it to become intrigued with a specific period. The rise of factionalism and party politics over Jefferson's two terms is full of interesting characters like Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, George Clinton, &c. But it is also the time when the ideals of the revolution were put into pragmatic application.
And the Wolfe book is important because it is popular. Zeitgeist is a pretentious word even for a pedantic buffoon like me, but Wolfe has captured it in the 80'2 with Bonfire, the 90's with "Man in Full," and now the 00's.

Lastly, I am not claiming that the President is an intellectual, but I think it is time for those who claim that he is not intellectually curious to tame their attacks a bit. So, I'll just sit around and wait for that to happen...

President Bush Posted by John Kranz at 10:51 AM

February 8, 2005

Duty

I can't let Johngalt get all the posts in the "Philosophy" thread. I followed an Instapundit link to What's the Rumpus?: "My duty is to my heart" . . . Kate Marie says:

I just watched Mulan II (I have two young girls), and -- I kid you not -- "my duty is to my heart" appears to be the explicit message of the film (as it was in the Princess Diaries II). In the immortal words of Ryan O'Neal at the end of What's Up, Doc? -- that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If you want a succinct and hilarious refutation of the idiotic notion that one's duty is to one's heart, watch the "Be Like the Boy" episode of The Simpsons.

If you want, however to really understand duty, watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." There are a million good reasons but the over-arching theme is the metaphorical weight of her preternatural abilities.

I enjoyed the first Mulan, and think that most people are too hard on Disney. My liberal friends thought that white people weren't evil enough in "Pocahontas" and my Second Amendment friends bristle at "Bambi."

Yet "My duty is to my heart" sounds like the motto of the times. At least one friend of this blog that I know has instead chosen to show his daughters a real female role model: Buffy!

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 11:34 AM | What do you think? [7]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Wouldn't the true objectivist view be that there is no duty whatsoever? You do things because you choose to, because it furthers your goals or aims, or simply makes you happy. Duty implies an obligatory task or service, a moral obligation to an entity, service or cause.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 8, 2005 3:37 PM
But jk thinks:

Now that you mention it, the Ayn Rand version of Buffy is pretty hard to picture: "Kill your own damn vampires! It's really not my problem!"

However, I can see her digging "Firefly," Whedon's cancelled series really promoted liberty and achievement. There is a movie, "Serenity," due in April that continues this story.

Posted by: jk at February 8, 2005 5:46 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You are right, Silence. In the sense that "duty" is a moral obligation to an entity or cause, it is a man's "duty" to use his rational mind in service to the cause of his (entity) heroic life (cause).

Dagny took the meaningless admonition "my duty is to my heart" and replaced "heart" with "mind" to illustrate the principal flaw - that one's emotions should be preeminent over reason in directing his actions. You are correct that the duty is not TO one's mind, but to USE one's mind.

The name of the philosophy that holds there is "no duty whatsoever" is "Libertarian."

Posted by: johngalt at February 9, 2005 3:05 PM
But johngalt thinks:

JK, you too are confusing Rand with a Libertarian. Rand said that every man must pursue the ideal of his own life, based on his particular talents and abilities. If Buffy has an unusual proclivity for killing vampires then that's what she should do, as an achievement of her own heroic life. If Spiderman has an unusual ability to defeat the most extraordinary criminals then his own life is unfulfilled, less than ideal, if he chooses not to do so.

This invocation to "be all you can be" as it were, is the same reason why multi-billionaires continue working despite being set for life. One does not achieve his highest potential by cashing out his chips and playing golf for the rest of his life.* The reason for doing this work and taking these risks is not duty to others but to one's own heroic ideal. (The actual, metaphysical ideal, not whatever one rationalizes is his ideal.) The person who suffers the greatest harm if he fails to live up to it is... himself.

* Unless he's a pro golfer.

Posted by: johngalt at February 9, 2005 3:19 PM
But jk thinks:

Fair enough -- "The Incredibles" comes to mind.

But when Vampires must be slain, yet our hero would prefer to attend a school dance, does she not veer precipitously close to altruism?

Posted by: jk at February 9, 2005 5:43 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Dagny says, "No, she's merely choosing her vocation over her whim. Altruism is not a function of which choice she makes, but why she makes it. If she chooses to kill Vampires because it's her vocation then she's achieving her ideal. If she does so against her own interests but to save others, particularly if she believes it will result in some sort of external approbation, then yes, she is knee deep in altruism."

Blogging is better when done with one you love. :)

Posted by: johngalt at February 9, 2005 10:52 PM

February 7, 2005

Kudlow on Condi

It's great when your heroes support each other. Larry Kudlow writes a fantastic and well deserved paean to out new Secretary of State. I have to reproduce it in full:

Sec. of State Condi Rice is fast becoming my new hero. News reports of her earliest public diplomacy during her trip to London, Europe, Turkey and Israel show clearly that she is following Pres. Bush's vision of freedom, democraticization and liberty in her conduct of US foreign policy. She chided Russian backsliding. Also cited Ukraine, Afghanistan, Georgia and Iraq as places that were building the institutions of democracy. She also said America and Europe should work together in "the great cause of the spread of freedom and liberty."

Colin Power conducted very little in the way of public diplomacy, didn't travel much and seldom if ever spoke the language of freedom and democracy. Believe it or not, now the nation's chief diplomat appears to be in full support of Presidential policy. Norman Podhoretz was completely right: Bush will not relent, Rumsfeld was asked to stay while Powell was not, and Bush's close aide Rice intends to apply the principles of freedom and democracy as a new standard to guide the conduct of international relations. Bravo Ms. Rice! And let me state again how wrong Peggy Noonan was in her criticism of Bush's inaugural speech.


We talked about Ms. Noonan before. Sugarchuck and I are convinced that she is indeed smoking crack...

Second Bush Administration Posted by John Kranz at 2:08 PM

Mr. Leader

George Will has done yeoman work on Social Security reform. He uses his trademark historical erudition to deflate the arguments of those who oppose assetization.

In his Newsweek column, he voices a belief of mine: Progressives, by not trusting, understanding, or believing in capital markets demonstrate themselves unfit to lead. Will whacks the four most visible Democrats: Gov. Howard Dean, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Barabara Boxer, and...

The fourth, and most important, is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who seems determined to earn the description Teddy Roosevelt applied to President John Tyler—"a politician of monumental littleness."
[...]
Reid's hyperbole suggests that Deanspeak is contagious. In Reid's televised "response" to the president's State of the Union address—written before the address—he disparaged the idea of voluntary personal retirement accounts funded by portions of individuals' Social Security taxes as "Social Security roulette." This is the crux of the Democrats' argument against Bush's plan: Equities markets are terribly risky—indeed, are as irrational and risky as roulette. Think about that.

Roulette is a game without any element of skill. By comparing the investment of some Social Security funds in stocks and bonds to gambling on roulette, Reid is saying that the risks and rewards of America's capital markets, which are the foundation of the nation's economic rationality and prosperity, are as random as the caroms of the ball in a roulette wheel. This, from a national leader, is amazing.


Amazing, indeed. Our capital markets are superseded only by liberty itself as the growth engine of our prosperity.

These people want to lead us through the forest at night, but they do not believe in light.

Hat-tip: WSJ Political Diary

But jk thinks:

I think that the Government will provide only very conservative funds and that fees will be negotiated to be very low and possibly the same across all investments. I am actually concerned that the government will not provide enough in the way of an aggressive growth fund that might be good for younger workers. I do not believe that any of Mort's discovered ignorances would affect any of the workers in a private Social Security Plan (though they would in the SSSP, jk is arguing Silence for more gub'mint control...)

I'll take you at your word that Republicans did indeed ignore Democratic calls for reform, though I suspect that Democrats just wanted to raise taxes, thereby increasing the SS Surplus that they were able to spend on domestic programs. Sorry if I am selling them short, I'd love to be corrected.

As to specific merits of the SSSP, I appreciate the move toward self-sufficiency, it just seems to me pretty close to the ideas of the Bush plan, lacking only the Federal oversight that people are not putting all their retirement on "red 13."

Posted by: jk at February 9, 2005 2:33 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

The phrase "government will...provide" twice plus two calls for government control. Ok you imposter, what have you done with the real JK! If you are the real JK, what was the plot of Buffy episode 3, season 2? Ok, I kid, but who would have imagined you calling for government control to keep investors from being foolish? (Nanny state anyone?) I see your point of course, trying to head off a bailout down the road. Where I differ from President Bush's plan (as I understand it, and I admit my understanding is entirely questionable) is in the funding of the current system. Bush's plan would pull money out of the current funding to allow the private accounts. We currently pay out over 90% (and rising) of what we take in and the "surplus" actually consists of treasury notes, or money that has already been borrowed to pay for other programs, so how is this not borrowing money to invest? I.e. the money I get to invest and thus don't pay into Social Security will have to be borrowed by the government to pay for current benefits. Without changes to benefits like retirement age or adjustments to the cost of living increases Bush's plan doesn't alleviate the fiscal problem either. I think his plan actually does include the aforementioned benefit cuts. (or "benefit adjustments" as Republicans might like to call it) These will have the real effect on solvency, the privatization seems thrown in on top as a nice smoke screen. Perhaps I am too harsh and his plan like mine is a method to slowly move dependency away from government paid retirement, but with the immediate cut to money taken in to allow for private accounts, how does this not accelerate the depletion of the surplus?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 11, 2005 11:48 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Silence said, "My basic concept with the SSSP is to slowly move people's dependence away from the government for their retirement." I think you've also admitted that this is the essential goal of the Bush plan as well. But then you lament the gradual shift of current FICA taxes toward independence because... it threatens the government's ability to provide for people's retirement. If you want to go for a swim then you've got to get in the water. Whether you start by dipping your toe or by jumping, either way you gotta get wet.

In order for you and the rest of the Bush plan critics to feel comfortable with it, you first have to come to grips with your very first statement on the matter: "Privatized gain, socialized loss." Until you concede that a man is entitled to everything he earns and nothing that his neighbor has then you'll chase your tail incessantly trying to have it both ways. Unless you enjoy that sort of thing, eventually you have to choose sides. One is right and the other is wrong, but at least you'll know which side of campus to hang out on!

Posted by: johngalt at February 11, 2005 3:07 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

True enough John Galt, and I at less then half way through my paying in stage am ready to take the plunge. But what of those who have finished or nearly finished paying in? Cut their benefits right now? Some how the adjustment has to be made on both ends so that the money coming in equals the money going out. Perhaps this could be some sort of incrementally adjusting system where for those already retired the benefit stays the same and for those not yet retired the benefit and the withholding are lowered by an amount based on years until you start collecting. (Here is where I need to concede the details to folks with more economics knowledge than myself.)

You are also correct about chasing our tails with the privatized gain, socialized loss, but my reading of political reality is that the bailout will be inevitable, either directly or through things like emergency medical care. This is what prompted my description of Social Security taxes as being akin to dues to belong to our society.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 11, 2005 4:41 PM
But jk thinks:

Season Two, Episode Three was "School Hard," most notable for Spike's attendance at Parent Teacher night and his meeting of Joyce (Buffy's mom). Good episode...

silence, I'd remove government control of Social Security in a heartbeat. But I am the pragmatist around here. That's not gonna happen, so I will try for the most viable reforms that provide personal responsibility. I think the most viable is a Thrift Savings Plan style system that would provide a limited selection of low fee conservative funds.

You recognize (as few Democratic Senators seem to) that we are trading unfunded liabilities for secured liabilities, that part of it should not be the big deal that it is. I am completely in favor of reducing benefits pari passu with investment into private accounts. I think it is fair and freedom-enhancing. I would do as much of this as was politically feasible. And, as a pragmatist, I will take a lot less than I wanted in hopes that a small step now could be expanded later when younger workers are demanding more..

Lastly, I would certainly honor the promise made to those who have paid in. I think you and I still have time to do a little better with a partially privatized plan, but I would give every worker 50 and over a choice of the original deal into which they have been (if only metaphorically) paying.

Posted by: jk at February 11, 2005 6:10 PM
But johngalt thinks:

A condition of giving "every worker 50 and over a choice of the original deal into which they have been paying" is that said "deal" must not enslave every worker 49 and under to their elders. THIS is what is really "broken" in Social Security: its moral basis.

Silence desires that "for those already retired the benefit stays the same" but the current program inexplicably links the inflation adjustment of current benefits to wage growth, which is HIGHER than inflation. For those benefits to "stay the same" then the indexing basis must be corrected as Bush has proposed.

Posted by: johngalt at February 13, 2005 1:40 PM

60's Refugees

A writer for San Fransisco's Chronicle makes another comparison to Vietnam.

    The voters came to the polls in huge crowds, ignoring insurgent attacks and casting their votes under the protection of U.S. troops. International observers praised the process, calling it a triumph of democracy and a defeat for tyranny.

    Iraq 2005?

    No. South Vietnam in September 1967.

    As we now know, South Vietnam's experiment in democracy didn't work out well. Communist forces launched the Tet Offensive four months later, forcing the U.S.-backed government almost to its knees, and finally conquered the nation seven years afterward.


Except that Tet was a victory for the US. It was the media's perception of the Tet Offensive and it's biased reporting in the direction of a loss that made it a "victory" for the Vietcong.

So I guess in that respect, Iraq is a lot like Vietnam. Left wingers and their useful idiots in the media are trying to beat us at home.

But Silence Dogood thinks:

If we had stayed with our support of Chalabi and the INC then I would see your analogy to Vietnam. (Ignoring of course the longstanding position of most Republicans that there is no analogy to Vietnam) The big difference here is the general population's support of the democratic government alternative. This support did not exist in South Vietnam and that is what doomed the war to failure, not biased liberal reporting. (We liberals are all powerful, but we are not that powerful) The Tet offensive was a military victory in the traditional sense that land was captured and strategic initiatives were met. But just as in Iraq, when it comes to using the military to achieve democracy the traditional military victory of routing the undemocratic forces and capturing their land is just the first step toward achieving the ultimate goal.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at February 11, 2005 12:37 PM

The Power of Pride

Iraq hasn't fallen apart yet...

    With a hero who gave his life for the elections, a revived national anthem blaring from car stereos and a greater willingness to help police, the public mood appears to be moving more clearly against the insurgency in Iraq (news - web sites), political and security officials said.

    In the week since national elections, police officers and Iraqi National Guardsmen said they have received more tips from the public, resulting in more arrests and greater effectiveness in their efforts to weaken the violent insurgency rocking the country.


Nothing like a personal investment a system to bring out the pride in people. Iraqis' are now sure that their country belongs to them, and now they want to clean it up. Really clean it up.

But johngalt thinks:

I note another important statement in this article:

"But in interviews over the past week, officials and Baghdad residents cited what they called a renewed nationalist pride since the elections that they said may be dampening anti-American sentiment, and may be starting to dispel Iraqi tolerance and support for the insurgents."

Isn't this the same "nationalist pride" that contrarians in the US cited as the reason why our troops are "part of the problem, not the solution?" This one sentence turns that entire argument on its head. The reason for lukewarm response to US and Iraqi law and order on the streets of Iraq's cities is the fear and distrust of one's fellow citizens that is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes. Again, from the article:

"Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the interim finance minister and a powerful figure in the Shiite-led coalition expected to dominate Iraq's new National Assembly, contended that the elections created a sense of solidarity that helped dissolve an Iraqi aversion to trusting neighbors, a habit ingrained during the Hussein era."

Posted by: johngalt at February 7, 2005 2:34 PM

February 6, 2005

Ward Churchill-Absolutely Wrong

The past week has been entertaining, enlightening and maddening for all of us who call the University of Colorado at Boulder "alma mater." Although I attended CU over twenty years ago, I consciously restricted my presence on campus to the engineering and sciences buildings. I knew that there was something wrong on the A&S side of campus but I didn't understand what it was. Now, 20 years later, I understand it completely.

Ward Churchill is not an anomaly, he's just not as patient as the rest of his Marxist brothers. He says things like "US out of Iraq"..."US out of Europe"..."US out of South America"..."US out of North America"..."There are no absolutes"..."The 9-11 attacks were correct"..."Bond traders killed at the WTC were little Eichmanns"..."I've engaged in armed rebellion for over 20 years"..."Your homework assignment is to carry out follow-on attacks to 9-11." (In his own words.) For anyone to believe that Professor Churchill is the only one preaching these anti-life ideals to our college youth is to miss the entire raison de etre for liberal academics: The destruction of right and wrong. One-time liberal feminist Tammy Bruce wrote a book about it. While not precisely identifying the causes she does a good job of documenting the result. Bruce cites "...a slippery slope of selfishness, immorality, and cultural laziness" as well as "moral relativism." But selfishness (even in her definition of the word) immorality and cultural laziness (whatever that is) do not excuse acts of murder. What is necessary to bring about this travesty is to first convince our so-called "enlightened" citizenry that "there are no absolutes" and that "every action and idea is subjectively moral. This is the true threat of Ward Churchill and his ilk.

In defense of the self-styled Cherokee anti-American insurgent, the Faculty Assembly of the University of Colorado has issued this academic gobbledygook statement. I have summarized each of their paragraphs below, in English:

Diversity of ideas is the lifeblood of a strong university environment that is necessary to advance the boundaries of knowledge.

All opinions are necessary for the advancement of knowledge, and challenging the status quo is an indispensible element.

The public is not smart enough to understand the preceding principles, but has called for "censure and punishment" of Professor Churchill because his "controversial, offensive, and odious...writings contravene accepted thinking and community sentiment." [Contravene: syn. - disaffirm, hinder, inpugn, negate, repudiate, violate]

The University must resist these pressures because its mission and philosophy are to encourage expression of the "most unpopular sentiments."

Academic freedom has limits but we don't know what they are, so we propose a discussion about it.

The Laws of the Board of Regents describe the University's strong support for the aforesaid undefined principle of academic freedom. The faculty of CU's Boulder Campus reconfirms its adherence to the principle of "anything goes."

So you can see that Churchill is certainly not the only one on the Boulder campus who believes that one man's wrong is another man's right, or that there are no absolutes. [Really? Are you sure? Absolutely sure? Absolutely sure that there are absolutely none?]

The Denver talk radio scene is ablaze with calls for Churchill's firing for a number of reasons. He is "insensitive" or "callous" or "a liar" or "advocates violence." Colorado's governor has added his substantial voice to this chorus. The problem is that these reasons are virtually impotent in the face of the "academic freedom" argument. Such arguments depend on democracy or "common sense" for their triumph, because they are only effective when the majority agrees. But the ultimate goal of the opponents of the status quo is to indoctrinate enough of our youth that eventually the "common sense" means something else.

What is needed is the moral courage to judge the professor's ideas as wrong on the basis of an individual's right to life and liberty and security in his person and effects. Yes, our Constitution guarantees an individual's right to free speech, no matter how abhorrent. But it is also the right of a free society to choose not to teach the morality of death, and give it equal footing with the morality of life, in its institutions of higher learning.

Philosophy Posted by JohnGalt at 1:39 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I've been going with Glenn on the importance of Academic freedom but I think that it falls apart because there is no diversity.

The American Enterprise looked at faculty registrations last year http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.18346/article_detail.asp and CU came out far more left wing than U Cal Berkeley. I stand by my contention that the tenure system does nothing but protect the Churchill's of the world. Chomsky and his pals are really under no threat from speech attacks, but the entire academic franchise is under threat from the relativism that this post decries.

Posted by: jk at February 7, 2005 10:40 AM

Brother Ray

Blogs allow people to float ideas and see if they can gain currency, which is certainly a plus. Some ideas are so good and yet so unattainable, however, it makes one pine for what could be. In this pile I would place "Vaclav Havel for UN SecGen" and this concept for the Georgia State flag:




I had blogged about this last June. And I had to look it up after seeing "Ray" last night on DVD. The movie is superb; go buy the DVD if you haven't seen it. Some actors seem born to play a certain role and Jamie Foxx's performance is unquestionably one of those.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 12:40 PM

February 5, 2005

The Janitor was Otherwise Engaged

James Taranto at OpinionJournal - Best of the Web spots an interesting tale from the world of academia. A seminar is given at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, by Amy Nell of Concordia College. The description includes:

In November 2004, Osama Bin Laden released a tape giving his recipe for a healthy nation. This seminar would dissect his message and use audience participation in doing so. Discussion points would include counterterrorism methods, the possibility of peace, empathy etc. The aim of this seminar would be to help understand the position of Osama Bin Laden as presented in the video and explore in what ways the origins of terrorism are to be found, not in some foreign citizen, but in the actions we take out of fear, hate and retribution.

Save you a seat? The funny part is that a little Internet search allows Taranto to find that Ms. Nell's position at Concordia is that of photographer for the school newspaper.

It has been suggested that the newest Tom Wolfe book "I Am Charlotte Simmons" might start to turn some away from the classic idea of higher education. The book is of course fictional but it's not, which is Wolfe's gift as a novelist. I don't have kids but I would have to ask if this were what I am saving money to provide? Is this what my child is working for?

The big contretemps in Boulder this week is the cancellation of Ward Churchill's speech in New York and efforts to fire him from the University.

Professor Glenn sez that firing Churchill is too far and risks academic freedom to fire a tenured professor.

It may be too much, even for a dorky idiot as Churchill (there's a phrase I never thought I'd write) but I think that the tenure system and general protections afforded professors is exactly what has tarnished the franchise of academe. Another CU prof told a friend that the female students he was coarsely harassing could complain all they wanted -- he, as a tenured professor was untouchable. As Taranto says, "Great Moments in Higher Education..."

If these professors are damaging the franchise, they should not be permitted to hide under the protection of tenure.

There is very little alternative market for parents or undergraduates, but at what point does one balk from a Charlotte Simmons experience and opt for a small private, religious or specialty school?

From the other side Posted by John Kranz at 2:17 PM

February 4, 2005

Comparative Advantage

I have a few gripes with the crew at National Review. I have enjoyed the magazine for some time, worship William F Buckley, and especially appreciate their principled, libertarian stand on drugs.

But I cannot join them on immigration. Reasonable people may differ on the benefits vs. cost, or discuss the rate of assimilation. Professor Hansen certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for his "Mexifornia" thesis.

Yet Rich Lowry's "Mow Your Own Lawn" piece is now regaining currency as John Derbyshire and one of his readers noticed a reference in the State Of The Union:

A reader: “I'm writing to you hoping that you will be most likely be sympathetic to my gripe with one small portion of the SOTU speech last night... How has it suddenly become acceptable that if you are American it is OK to turn your nose up at certain types of jobs. I work in the investment business now but I would say the majority of jobs that I have had since the age of 15 fall into the category of occupations that the President of the United States has implicitly granted me permission to say that as an American I am to good for: house painting, construction, landscaping, dishwashing and shipyard work. Are America's teenagers all taking internships at Goldman Sachs during the summer or are they sitting on the couch playing video games while ‘guest workers’ mow their lawns?”

Of course Derb agrees, saying "I shovel my driveway, mow my lawn, and crimp my own RJ45s!"

That's swell if it makes you happy (and who doesn’t enjoy crimping a new CAT-5 cable...) but do you want the person who is going to cure Cancer shoveling her walk? The guy who is going to make a 2 ounce laptop mowing his lawn?

It's called comparative advantage, gang. We ALL get richer when we let Bill Gates popularize computers and have Al Gore invent the Internet. Let the workers who need the other work have the opportunity.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:06 AM

Name the Dissidents

Dan Henninger wonders why we don't know the names of Iran's Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov or Sharansky.

It's a failing of western media but it is also a failing of the State Department. I don't think most Americans realize that Iranian democracy dissidents exist -- and those that do don't realize their numbers. A few high-profile dissidents would captivate the national attention and further draw the parallel see between the two fronts for liberation: Reagan's Eastern Europe and Bush's Mideast.

By the time the Berlin Wall fell, Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and others were already household names in the world. In 1968 the New York Times had published Sakharov's essay, "Reflection on Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom." These were the years in which the word "dissident" entered the lexicon. What has the West--governments or media--done for the dissidents of the Middle East? Very little.

Jay Nordlinger has done yeoman work on this topic in Cuba and China. It's time we know some names.

Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 10:36 AM

February 3, 2005

Political Capital

In all, the President's State of the Union Address was a stunning model of a better future for America and the world. For nearly an hour on Wednesday night, George Bush outlined his vision of reforms in taxation, regulation, health care, torts, Social Security, immigration, government spending (finally!) and more.

While I strongly support and endorse meaningful reforms in all these areas, the most striking words I heard were the ones that challenged our "allies" in the middle east to increase liberty in their own societies.

"To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, the United States will work with our friends in the region to fight the common threat of terror, while we encourage a higher standard of freedom. Hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

And his warning to hostile regimes in the region:

"To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act -- and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.

Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium re-processing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

Like the man said, "Talk is cheap" but this is the kind of talk that I once feared I'd never hear from an American president in my lifetime. It appears the successes in Iraq have given him the confidence to press on with his ambitious agenda. An agenda that, if successful, is destined to make him one of the greatest presidents in history.

But jk thinks:

Glad you beat me to this post! I have company "suits" visiting from Europe this week and it is all meetings all the time.

I PVRed (TiVoed) the speech and agree wholeheartedly. The foreign policy part was stunning -- an excellent continuation of the Inaugural. The Social Security bits were also superb.

I could've lived without the nod to a marriage amendment and there were a few spending items that were wince-making. But this is a President who doesn't want to play "smallball" and I think he will pursue the important policies.

And yes, very likely one of the great Presidents.

Posted by: jk at February 3, 2005 10:51 AM
But jk thinks:

Glenn has a great roundup on Instapundit today. I liked this line of his:

"He's spelling out the Bush Doctrine more clearly than he's done before."

Sugarchuck and I are waiting to see what Peggy Noonan thinks. We're both big fans but he "thinks she's been smokin' dope." Amen.

Posted by: jk at February 3, 2005 11:20 AM

February 2, 2005

Ideas Matter

One hundred years ago today Ayn Rand, Alisa Rosenbaum, was born in Soviet Russia. The suffering she witnessed in that socialist "utopia" convinced her that collectivism is an evil, i.e. anti-life, ideology. Obviously the experience alone was not enough to provoke that conviction, since her own sister emmigrated to America years after Ayn but preferred to return home instead. Ayn was a unique individual who possessed an important belief, acquired in her youth and held to her dying day. That belief was that ideas matter.

A senior fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute writes of this "youthful" belief that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one's mind matters, in 'The Appeal of Ayn Rand.'

The conviction that ideas matter represents a profound dedication to self. It requires that one regard one’s own reasoning mind as competent to judge good and evil. And it requires that one pursue knowledge because one sees that correct ideas are indispensable to achieving the irreplaceable value of one's own life and happiness. "To take ideas seriously," Rand states, "means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true," that you recognize "that truth and knowledge are of crucial, personal, selfish importance to you and to your own life."

Do not confuse this simplification of the idea of "independence of mind" with the relativism of modern liberals, which holds that every idea is valid to the person who holds it and therefore no idea is any better, nor any worse, than another. One's mind must be independent of obedience to any authority, human or divine, but tirelessly connected to objective reality by reason, logic, and the scientific method.

The advice Rand offers the young? Think, reason, logically consider matters of truth and morality. And then, because your own life and happiness depend on it, pursue unwaveringly the true and the good. On this approach, the moral and the practical unite. On this approach, there exists no temptation to think that life on earth requires compromise, the halfway, the middle of the road. "In any compromise between food and poison," she writes, "it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit."
...Hold your own life as your highest value, follow reason, submit to no authority, create a life of productive achievement and joy--enact these demanding values and virtues, Rand teaches, and an ideal world, here on earth, is "real, it's possible--it's yours."

Is there any wonder why Rand is so reviled among the men who preach any of the various forms or degrees of collectivism?

Philosophy Posted by JohnGalt at 2:14 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

John Fund notes the "Randiversary" in the Political Diary:

Ayn Rand, the late philosopher of unbridled capitalism, would be amused at how her admirers are marking the 100th anniversary of her birth today. The Objectivist Center will be hosting a symposium on her work at the Library of Congress, one of the oldest government buildings in Washington D.C. What's more, several of the speakers will be guilty of pulling down government paychecks, including GOP Reps. Ed Royce of California and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Actually, Ms. Rand has long exercised influence in the government circles she so scorned. "[Ayn Rand] was clearly a major contributor to my intellectual development, for which I remain profoundly grateful to this day," Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said. Objectivists also note that figures as diverse as Sen. Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas have been influenced by her ideas, although they hastily note that Ms. Clinton soon "turned to the dark side."

Lately, Rand's uncompromising individualism has been getting attention even from nondenominational sources. A postage stamp bearing her image was issued last year. Her ideas clearly influenced the new animated action film "The Incredibles." And, of course, her books still sell at a rate of more than 500,000 copies every year in a plethora of languages.

Elite circles have always sneered at the starkly drawn individualism of Rand's novels. They never "got" her appeal. An editor at Macmillan Publishing went so far as to turn down her book "Anthem" saying that Rand, a political refugee from the Soviet Union, "did not understand socialism." Actually, it turns out that it was her Soviet persecutors who were blind to its failings. Today, Rand's books not only outsell those of Karl Marx, but are taken a lot more seriously.

Posted by: jk at February 3, 2005 3:07 PM

February 1, 2005

Senator Kennedy Was Right

Actually, the senior Senator from Massachusetts spoke erroneously, misled, and showed very poor political form speaking against the war on the eve of the first free elections. But:

I could support his call for an immediate troop reduction. Would it not be an important symbol of our desire to hand the country back? I don't want to cut and run, but if we brought 10,000 troops home and positioned it as bringing fighters back and sending trainers in, it would accomplish several objectives:

  • demonstrate our lack of empirical aspirations ;

  • start the handover to the free, elected Iraqi government;

  • show the folks back home that a victorious end is in sight

  • save money and rest some of our forces.

No schedule for removing future troops, no deadlines. Just a good faith show of returning power to Free Iraq.

But johngalt thinks:

JK, I am stunned to read this from you. Election or no, the handover of government functions to Iraqis was started long ago. An artificial troop movement may be good PR but it will have no bearing on the arrival date of a "victorious end." Such an outcome has been apparent to me since the drafting of an interim constitution. It seems to be apparent to Kennedy and Kerry now too, along with Zarqawi and the rest of the fellow travelers, since their rhetoric has intensified of late.

And how can the imbeciles who've been lamenting the "foolishly low" troop strength levels for the past 22 months now make a case that we have too many soldiers there? Please. Even when Iraq is fully self-sufficient we will have a larger than normal embassy security contingent and the analog of US forces in Europe based in Iraq instead. Not so many as are there now, that is for sure, but shouldn't capturing or vaporizing al Zarqawi first be more important than some transparent gesture?

Posted by: johngalt at February 1, 2005 4:24 PM
But jk thinks:

I don't think it would be a transparent gesture. It would be a very real gesture that will help us and show that the transfer proceeds. I agree that the transfer is an ongoing process.

And actually, brother Johngalt, one of the things I like is its opposition to "we need more troops." I thought that was a positive.

Can’t please all the folks all the time I guess…

Posted by: jk at February 1, 2005 6:42 PM
But AlexC thinks:

I haven't seen any mention of a Germany/Japan/Phillipines style military basing system in Iraq or Afghanistan.
We were stayed in Germany to keep the Soviets from overrunning the west, as well as keeping an eye on the Germans.
Can't we do the same in Iraq? Keep an eye on Syria or Iran and kill every last one of Zaraqawi's crew?
I'm for drawing down the troops, but not abandonment.

Posted by: AlexC at February 2, 2005 11:13 PM

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