Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's Next?

The Daily Caller reports that female soldiers in Afghanistan are being "encouraged" to wear the hijab or headscarf with their uniforms. Do you suppose a headscarf will convince Muslim tribesmen that an American woman in cammo BDUs and boots is culturally appropriate? Be serious.

I wonder what is next? Do you suppose the military will encourage GIs to sexually molest young boys? That's another widespread Afghani cultural practice.

No Mystery

I just reread Monday's post from an article by Michael Barone about states with no income tax growing faster than states with the tax, and states without union-friendly laws growing faster than states with them. This is very powerful stuff. If you didn't read it then, go back and do so now.

The recipe for prosperity is not a mystery, it is known. Economist Arthur Laffer was right, lower tax rates can actually bring in greater total tax revenues by encouraging economic activity. Tipping the balance in favor of management, as opposed to labor, also encourages economic activity. Ceteris paribus, encouraging economic activity is what governmental policies should do.

The Horserace

This article from The Hill tries hard to be about NJ Gov. Christie, until you read down and see that it should be about former Govs. Huckabee and Romney. It reports on a PublicMind poll done by Fairleigh Dickinson University, showing how President Obama might run in 2012 against several Republicans who have (or have not) expressed an interest in running.

Gov. Huckabee runs neck and neck with the President, Gov. Romney is nearly that close, and Gov. Christie runs somewhat close, about 6 points back. The article's author, Shane D'Aprile, is excited about the fact that Christie runs ahead of former Govs. Palin and Pawlenty and former Speaker Gingrich.

Of those three, probably the only serious candidate is Gov. Pawlenty whose name recognition isn't yet in the same league with the others. Gov. Christie keeps saying he is not a candidate, so his popularity may be more relevant to 2016.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Dumb

Nobody I know thinks New Jersey is a little piece of heaven. That said, wouldn't you suppose a person with substantial resources (aka, "rich") could find another state in which to live? Maybe even one that was nicer? Perhaps Connecticut, if being near New York City is important, or North Carolina or Florida if staying on the right coast matters?

My choice would be farther west, but then I'm a westerner, I grew up on the left coast. Why do I raise this issue at all? Because of this article, cited in, written by a columnist for the (NJ) Star-Ledger. It's the old "let's soak the rich" ploy, popping up again in New Jersey.

Can we agree that stupid people rarely get rich? And also agree that the wealthy are less likely to be committed to living in a particular community than people with less means? In a country like the United States, raising taxes in one state simply causes most people with substantial taxable income to move to another state.

It sounds like the taxation version of Whack-A-Mole where states try to tax the rich who just pop up somewhere else, in another state.

More Friedman

Tom Friedman of the New York Times weighs in again on the various situations in the Middle East, with particular emphasis on Libya and Syria, and less on Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Since the NYT is about to drop behind the paywall, and out of sight, it is good to have a last look at Friedman's comments on his particular area of expertise.

Friedman ends up praying for our president to have good luck in our endeavors there. I cringe to think how rare good luck is in that part of the world, both for outsiders and for its sad residents. We will need more than luck if our actions there are to turn out to be anything other than a slow-motion train wreck.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Recipe for Divorce

The Dutch speakers and the French speakers in Belgium cannot form a government, they've been at it for 289 days. There are more of the Dutch, and they are, as you might expect, richer too. Go here to see a CBS News article about the governmental stalemate.

I see this as a situation ripe for a split-up. Logically they should divide the country into two sections. Then each section can either (a) become an independent nation or (b) join the adjacent nation where their language is spoken, namely the Netherlands or France.

On the other hand, when did anybody do politics logically?

Political Humor Alert

Go here to see the description of a supposed Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavor, at the Right on the Right website. It is called "Barocky Road," in honor of our president. Read the whole thing, it's all funny.

Quote of the Day

Gerald F. Seib, who writes for The Wall Street Journal, about what makes Gadhafi a troublesome foe:
Col. Gadhafi is 68 years old, has ruled for almost 42 years and has outlasted seven American presidents. When he took power, Barack Obama was in third grade. His greatest asset may not be his army, or even his oil, but the fact that he knows how to sit tight.
We think Obama was then in the third grade, does anybody really know?

Fact Checking

The Associated Press has a nice article that appears on Yahoo News, the thrust of which is to quote various things President Obama said last night about our military activities in Libya. They then contrast those presidential statements with what the AP knows to be true, based on their reportage. Here's the money quote:
There may be less than meets the eye to President Barack Obama's statements Monday night.
This is called "fact checking" and it is nice when the AP does it. BHO's speechwriters should have checked the content themselves before they let the boss deliver the speech. Perhaps the WH should hire people with experience?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Barone on Demographics

Michael Barone, who writes for the Washington Examiner, has pulled some interesting insights out of the recent census. For example:
Metro Los Angeles and San Francisco increasingly resemble Mexico City and Sao Paulo, with a large affluent upper class, a vast proletariat and a huge income gap in between.
State policy matters. What about the impact of taxes? He finds:
The eight states with no state income tax grew 18 percent in the last decade. The other states (including the District of Columbia) grew just 8 percent.
Is there any possible way you can attribute that to chance? Neither can I. My home state of Wyoming is one of those eight.

How about state policies vis-a-vis unions in general, and public employee unions in particular? The data says:
The 22 states with right-to-work laws grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew just 6 percent.
The 16 states where collective bargaining with public employees is not required grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew 7 percent.
These outcomes suggest pro-growth policy choices at the state level. Barone's entire article is worth your time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Libya Not a Vital U.S. Interest

On Friday I wrote that Libya was "truly none of our business." On Sunday Defense Secretary Gates said Libya wasn't a vital interest of the U.S., although he allowed that it was some sort of interest.

I guess President Obama had to start his very own war, even though he ran as a peace candidate. I'll bet many of his supporters on the left are bummed.

Now we hear that getting out of Libya will be "a matter of months." Anybody want to bet on "years?" Go here to see the story on the ABC News website.

What About Huckabee?

Four years ago I watched Mike Huckabee campaign, and said to the other DrC, "Governor Mike is one of the best natural campaigners I've ever seen. He does "likable" so well; he doesn't have rough edges."

I don't agree with him on a number of social issues, but he sure comes across as a nice person. In other words, I don't know if I'd like him as president but he'd be a nice pastor of your church. Unfortunately the same might have been said of that presidential loser Jimmy Carter.

I believe presidents need to be tough enough to send in the troops and the bombers when necessary. Carter wasn't, I wonder if Huckabee would be?

Huckabee pulls down good poll numbers when people are asked about a GOP presidential candidate. See this article in Politico which treats him reasonably well.

Paywall = Irrelevance

If reports are true, next week the New York Times again goes behind a paywall. That is, only those who have subscribed will be able to view content online.

The Times tried this once before and discovered nobody paid. What did occur was that the Times became dramatically less relevant to current discussions, many of which take place online.

Links to the often interesting columns of David Brooks will be missing from this and other blogs. Missing, that is, unless Brooks is syndicated to newspapers which do not follow the Times behind a paywall.

Some op-ed content of The Wall Street Journal has been behind a paywall for months now. I often find there are ways to link to this content if I am creative; perhaps the same will be true of Times content.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Love the Irony

You have to love the irony. We spend money and lives to protect Muslims and what do we get in return? Hatred, of course, what did you expect? John Hinderaker of Power Line blog has posted pix from around the world showing just how much "love" our recent actions in Libya have generated.

I suspect that, had we not acted, we'd get more or less the same reaction. The same ugly reaction ... at a much lower cost in dollars and lives. Unless the folks pictured simply want to be left alone.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Steyn Strikes Again

One of our favorite geopolitical satirists, Mark Steyn, points out the absurd contradictions in what passes for U.S. foreign policy. Writing for the Orange County Register about Afghanistan, Steyn says:
American forces have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan for a decade: Doesn't that seem like a long time for a noncolonial power to be spending hacking its way through the worthless terrain of a Third World dump?
And about Libya, Steyn opines:
Libya, in that sense, is a classic post-nationalist, post-modern military intervention: As in Kosovo, we're do-gooders in a land with no good guys. (snip) The intended result is likely to be explicitly at odds with U.S. interests.
I'm not certain why we cared if the mad colonel was killing his people. Wouldn't a statement of disapproval have sufficed in Libya, as it has in so many other places that are truly none of our business?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Unrest in Yemen

While the goings-on in Libya are getting most of the attention, with some attention being given to Bahrain and Syria, Stratfor argues we should be tracking the disintegration of Yemen.

Stratfor is known for its thorough essays. Notice the distinctly tribal nature of the problems they describe, echoing what Tom Friedman says. Hat tip to John H. at Power Line for the link.

Friedman Weighs In

Thomas Friedman writes on foreign affairs for The New York Times, sometime with considerable insight. Here he takes on the rolling revolutions popping up like mushrooms across the Middle East. Having reported from the region for several years, Friedman has a reasonable grasp of its politics.

His description of countries like Yemen and Libya as "tribes with flags" is apt. Pay attention to his insight about Bahrain, which also describe the situations in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and, until it formally split, Sudan. It was certainly the situation in Saddam's Iraq.

BTW, I'm actually feeling some sympathy for President Obama. His inaction was criticized unmercifully until he finally gave in and acted in Libya, after which he has been badgered unmercifully for acting. I hope it isn't the same people criticizing action who formerly criticized inaction. Looks to me like a no-win situation he found himself in.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An Interesting Trend

A study reported by the BBC suggests that organized religion is on the way out in nine of the countries they examined. The nine countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

Statistical modeling of human behavior tends to be overly simplistic, but polling data has been showing the trend from which they extrapolate. More European countries would have been included except for their substantial and growing Muslim minorities which tend to be somewhat devout.

Real Problems

The Associated Press has leaned substantially to the left in recent years. That said, they still have some people who know politics and write useful stuff, including this article by Philip Elliott on the shortcomings of the various likely GOP presidential candidates. I find the problems identified to be essentially correct.

Every member of the wannabe pool has problems of one sort or another, problems President Obama's minions will use against the GOP nominee in 2012. However, we need to remind ourselves that the challenger's characteristics are not overwhelmingly important unless absolutely disqualifying. Let's remember why.

When a sitting president runs for reelection, that election is essentially a referendum on the president's performance during the first four years. If a majority of voters think that performance was okay, the president gets a second term. If a majority think it wasn't okay, we get a new president.

If modern American politics continue in the discouraging pattern of the last two decades, the 2012 election is likely to present us once again with a "lesser of two evils" choice. Wouldn't it be great if that dilemma did not recur?

Monday, March 21, 2011

They Were Spies

Go see this Weekly Standard article on Morton Sobell and the Rosenbergs: Ethel and Julius. If there was ever any lingering doubt about their guilt, this should erase it. These lovelies were committed supporters of the Soviet Union, active spies.

The information they passed along was used to kill American GIs in Korea. The Rosenbergs deserved what they got (death) and the rest of the ring should have gotten the same.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Home Ownership A Good Deal?

Here is a CNBC/USA Today article which argues that home ownership isn't a good deal for most people. I've seen this argued before and, on narrow economic grounds, they are correct. Other investments pay greater returns.

What the article misses is that home ownership via a 30 year fixed rate mortgage is a form of forced savings. Forced savings are important in a society where most people have great trouble disciplining themselves to save and invest.

Presuming the owner doesn't repeatedly refinance to take out equity, paying off a mortgage is a way of accumulating savings. At retirement the household has a nest egg to provide rent-free housing, to draw down via a reverse mortgage, or to sell.

For many people their home will be the only nest egg they have. If they rent, they'll have nothing. While not economically optimal, something (in the form of a paid-for home) is much better than nothing; better for the home owner and better for our society.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Browning Model M1911

The legislature in Utah has designated that wonderful old blunderbuss, the .45 caliber Browning semi-automatic Model M1911, as the state firearm. It was adopted by the Army 100 years ago to replace the .38 revolvers then carried by officers. Go here to see a Reuters story about Utah's action.

I fired one several times as a young man when I had excellent eyesight. The bullet traveled so slowly that, if the light was right, I could actually see the bullet arcing away from me. On the other hand, that .45 round put down whatever it hit, meeting its design criteria.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Heartburn at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

If a presidential election were held today, President Obama would lose handily. This article in National Journal reports polling data that says fully 50 percent would vote for someone other than Barack Obama, while only 40 percent would vote for him.

I suppose the remaining 10 percent haven't a clue, which if anything seriously understates the true frequency of cluelessness. Two questions I'd like to see polled: How many voted McCain last time but will vote Obama this time? How many voted Obama last time but will vote for someone else this time? I think those numbers would be revealing.

All Cultures Are Not Equal

William Ratliff, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, and echoed at Yahoo News, talks about the impact of cultural values on economic and political development. He cites regional sources that conclude the cultures of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East are not, for the most part, compatible with rapid economic development.

Ratliff does not itemize anti-development cultural values, but he does list the pro-development values of Asia. His inference is that traditional cultural values of the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa do not include some or all of these pro-development values:
(1) education is an expressway to success for individuals and nations; (2) goals should be far higher than mere survival and pursued over the long haul with single-minded diligence and a demanding work ethic; (3) merit should be sought out and rewarded; and (4) frugality and focus must guide the expenditures of funds and energies.
Imagine the progress that would have resulted if, over the decades, Brazil had put the energies expended on Carnival instead into economic development.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Your Government in Action

The miserable green police have struck again. The Wall Street Journal has a discouraging article reporting that federal energy-saving regulations have made most people's favorite clothes washing machine, the top loader, almost a thing of the past.

The bottom line: if your old washer is giving you trouble, you'll want to seriously consider having it repaired instead of replacing it. You'll also want to stockpile a lifetime supply of incandescent lightbulbs, before they too become unavailable.

A Pattern Emerges

Stephen Glover, writing for the U.K.'s Daily Mail:
The crisis in Libya has revealed that there is no unity of purpose among Western nations, no common agreement as to where their interests lie, and a terrifying absence of American leadership.
We too have noticed that "terrifying absence of American leadership" in our foreign policy. Meanwhile here at home, Jonathan Allen of Politico reports that in Congress:
Democrats on both sides of the Capitol say they have no idea where the White House stands or who’s running the show.
Do you see a dismaying commonality here? We do.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

Wall Street Journal reporters Chester Dawson and Yoshio Takahashi, quoting Toyota President Akio Toyoda from a recent press conference:
Mr. Toyoda also said the company was "not ready" for non-Japanese executives on its board.
This from the President of the world's largest auto company; in a nutshell, Japan is very xenophobic. Our money is okay but we aren't.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Conservative and Feminist Too?

Kay S. Hymowitz, writing for City Journal, here does a very interesting job of trying to understand how women can be both feminists and conservatives. She admits to being a liberal but tries to be balanced, and mostly succeeds.

Hymowitz ends up concluding it is certainly possible that a woman can care more about multi-trillion dollar deficits and national security than she does about day-care and glass ceilings, more about equal opportunity than equal outcomes. If you read her article, pay particular attention to her final paragraph, which alludes to the demographics of conservative women: most are married.

Computer as Appliance

It took the automobile nearly a century to almost become an appliance. By appliance, I mean its users no longer need some tinkering ability, no longer must know when it needs this or that. A refrigerator is a true appliance.

With the IPad by Apple, the computer has covered that same distance in less than fifty years. This article in The Wall Street Journal by Virginia Postrel notes the genius of the IPad is there is absolutely no way to tinker with it. The basic IPad is even more unitary than the modern car. There is no hood to open, no tires to check.

Yes, you can add apps, which is like adding ski rack or a visor CD holder to your modern auto. And like the auto, you are expected to buy a new one every few years when the manufacturer stops providing software support for the older model, the equivalent of an auto running out of warranty.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Travel Blogging

Have spent the last three days in Houston, at a professional meeting in a downtown hotel. A nice city for a conference, decent restaurants and attractive architecture. Many of the people at the meeting were Texans and it once again reinforced my opinion that most Texans are very nice people, congenial folk.

Now I'm at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport - yes, the title is a bit grandiose, very Texas. Looking out the window at planes of the now-combined fleets of Continental and United is very strange. They adopted the livery - colors and tail art - of Continental but eventually all the planes will carry the United name. An interesting way to make employees of both airlines feel like they are still valued.

This far south spring has already arrived, it was shirt-sleeve weather today in Houston, very pleasant. Later in the year it will be very humid and hot, not at all pleasant to those of us from the dry states. BTW, don't forget to set your clocks and watches ahead tonight when you go to bed. Daylight savings time is upon us, beginning tomorrow.

Washington Weirdness

Jonah Goldberg, conservative writer and son of blog-maven Lucianne Goldberg, has penned an excellent column on the less-than-muscular efforts to trim the federal deficit. His column appears here in RealClearPolitics. He does a good job of suggesting exactly how minuscule the proposed budget cuts actually are.

Quote of the Day

Andrew Ferguson, author of the book Crazy U, being interviewed online by Russ Smith for a piece in Splice Today. The topic is college admissions:
The key to understanding higher education in America is to realize it’s a highly competitive industry run by people who 1) don’t think of themselves as competitive and 2) refuse to believe it’s an industry.
I've spent a lifetime associated with colleges and universities; Ferguson is largely correct. Universities are rife with delusional thinking, fiercely defended as Lawrence Summers discovered. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Krauthammer on Social Security

Columnist Dr. Charles Krauthammer, writing here for the Hartford Courant, explains how the Social Security system actually works. In the process he abuses the President and his aides for lying about the system's true nature.

Krauthammer says the key thing to know is that the so-called "Social Security trust fund" consists of U.S. Treasury bonds. When, in order to pay benefits, the system has to cash those bonds to supplement the revenues being collected from current payrolls, the Treasury has three choices. These are (1) raise taxes, (2) borrow more money, or (3) print money. All three have negative consequences.

Raising taxes reduces spendable income and depresses the economy. Borrowing raises the already huge deficit and transfers the costs plus interest to our children and grandchildren. Printing money devalues the dollar and creates inflation; raising prices for everyone and destroying the value of people's savings. None of these approaches are popular.

There is, of course, a fourth choice, one available to Congress but not to the Treasury. Cut Social Security payments. This choice is generally believed to be political poison. Everybody knows that most old folks vote.

Payments can be cut by raising the retirement age, so retirees draw fewer years of payments. Payments also can be cut by adjusting less robustly for inflation, allowing the value of benefits to sink. Payments can be cut by means testing. All of these ways are indirect. Or payments can simply be made smaller. And any of these benefit cuts can be made to affect only future retirees, or include present ones.

It is a situation with few really good choices, and no popular ones. Politicians thinking about entitlement problems quickly begin to envision rocks and hard places, close together. Nevertheless, as Krauthammer says, the problem is solvable, albeit painfully.

Quote of the Day II

James Taranto, of The Wall Street Journal, describing the practical effect of public employee unions:
This is a scheme in which "unions"--similar in form to actual industrial labor organizations--collude with politicians to direct taxpayer money to the unions themselves (in the form of dues), to union members (as extravagant benefits) and back to the politicians (campaign contributions).
What a slick confidence game; one worth fighting for as we've seen in Wisconsin.

Quote of the Day I

Demographer Joel Kotkin, writing for Forbes, about the new Census data for California and what it portends:
In places where San Francisco-like fantasy politics preside, expect to witness a growing class and ethnic divide, with consequences that could prove catastrophic to the future of our increasingly diverse society.
This is a good article, contrasting the fate of the tree-hugger coastal regions where I grew up with that of the agricultural central valleys where I lived as an adult. I know them both and I think he has it right.

The Islamism Hearings

If you didn't have time to watch the hearings on Islamic extremism and domestic terrorism being held by Rep. Peter Hill, never fear. We ride to your rescue.

David Paul Kuhn who writes for RealClearPolitics has a breezy summary that makes both sides look more than faintly ridiculous. The topic is serious but there is sadly no way to hold meaningful bipartisan hearings about it.

Catch 22 at Fort Hood

The Army will reprimand 9 officers who, it alleges, should have said or done something before Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot 45 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13. Go here to see the Associated Press story

The Army bends over backwards not to offend any Muslim, until he acts on his stated beliefs. The policy makes some twisted sense; there are probably a dozen other Muslims in the Army, saying roughly what Hasan said, who we hope will never act on their beliefs.

All nine reprimanded officers, and probably many more, knew Hasan was a nut job, an Islamic extremist, but said nothing for fear of being labeled as "racists" or insufficiently multicultural. As long as he didn't do anything violent, he could say what he chose with impunity because he was a minority.

Punishing these nine officers is a sick joke, a true Catch 22. They will be punished for following a seriously wrong Army policy, sacrificed to Army expediency and the need for scapegoats.

WaPo Supports Islam Hearings

The Washington Post editorially agrees with the thrust of Rep. Peter King's Congressional hearings on anti-American radicalization among American Muslims. Surveys show most Americans agree.

By exhibiting occasional independence from the Obama administration, as it has done here, the WaPo demonstrates why it has the better claim to being our national newspaper.

More on Turkey

Here is the Washington Post's take on developments in today's Turkey. As you would imagine, the WaPo is not slightly amused by the arrest of several journalists.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


For some years there have been those who argued that Islamic nations need not become anti-Western in their foreign policies. Watching what is happening in long-time ally Turkey suggests this is becoming less true, even as we watch.

For example, this article in Deutsche Welle notes that Turkey opposes European calls for a no-fly zone in Libya. This, while trying to be admitted to the EU and already a long-time member of NATO. If nominally secular, non-Arab Turkey cannot align itself with the West, how long before Saudi Arabia and Indonesia follow suit?

Few like to admit that, day by day. a clash of cultures is developing like a slow motion train wreck. This outcome is sad; I predict future historians will conclude it didn't have to happen. Our politicians have been too lame to prevent it. Hat tip to for the link.

Madison As Tripoli

Or maybe Wisconsin as Libya? The statehouse in Madison is overrun with protesters and union goons. The story is here reported by the Associated Press, on the website of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Forty-two years ago student protesters did something similar on the campus of San Francisco State University. President Samuel I. Hayakawa had them summarily tossed out. He knew where to tell rude people to stick their "nonnegotiable demands."

They need Dr. H, or his clone, in Madison, Wisconsin. I hope Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker calls out the National Guard to clear the building.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

David Broder, R.I.P.

We note the passing of the dean of our nation's political reporters, David S. Broder, at age 81. More than most, Broder let the facts tell the story. Less than most did he inject his own biases. Among those who follow politics, he will be missed. See his obituary in the fortunate paper for which he mostly wrote, The Washington Post.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brooks and Books Revisited

After I wrote the blog entry you see below about David Brooks' new book, I heard him being interviewed about the book on the News Hour tonight. I have to say I found his thesis less than compelling.

Based on what Brooks had to say about his book's content, I would not recommend the book.

Maybe Pawlenty?

Jonathan Chait writes an appreciation of Governor Tim Pawlenty as a likely GOP candidate for president. The article appears in The New Republic.

Chait's reasoning isn't bad; much of what he says makes sense to me. See what you think.

About Brooks and Books

Gentle readers have noticed David Brooks' name listed on my Favorite Links column. A mildly conservative New York Times columnist and PBS News Hour contributor, Brooks is, among other things:
A skillful popularizer of academic research in a wide variety of fields.
Go here in The New Republic to read a review by Alan Wolfe of Brooks' latest book. The book is The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, (Random House, 424 pp., $27).

I haven't read this book and cannot evaluate it. However, I find Brooks an interesting read when he is reflecting on current social science findings.

O Eats Crow

Normally left-leaning Washington Post political columnist Dana Milbank describes the evolution of President Obama's position vis-a-vis the terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay:
He began his presidency with a pledge to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year. Within months, he realized that was impossible. And now he has essentially formalized George W. Bush's detention policy.
Obama has formalized the hated detention policy of the despised George W. Bush? How does the White House chef prepare crow, Mr. President?

A Wrongheaded Approach

The developed nations have been approaching Somali pirates as criminals; attempting to apprehend and try them. Obviously this hasn't been working. A new approach is needed.

I propose declaring seagoing Somalis an outlaw group. Allow no Somali craft of any size to put to sea.

To accomplish that end, sail into Somali harbors and sink all boats and ships found there. Destroy everything larger than a surfboard or kayak. Problem solved.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Samuelson: Social Security = Welfare

Robert Samuelson, who writes for RealClearPolitics, says Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all forms of welfare. He advocates means testing these three programs, an action which would make their being welfare very explicit.

Samuelson defines a welfare program as follows:
First, it taxes one group to support another group, meaning it's pay-as-you-go and not a contributory scheme where people's own savings pay their later benefits. And second, Congress can constantly alter benefits, reflecting changing needs, economic conditions and politics. Social Security qualifies on both counts.
The political magic of the Social Security system has been that while everybody pays, everybody also collects, earning it widespread support. What Samuelson fails to deal with is that public support for Social Security will drop precipitously if it is explicitly described as welfare and benefits are means tested.

When the affluent, who vote in large numbers, understand that they will pay into Social Security all their working lives but never draw anything back out, their present support for the system will disappear.

Quote of the Day

George F. Will, columnist for The Washington Post, debunking claims that Obama's world view is "Kenyan, anti-colonial:"
Obama's natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America's academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson.
Faculty are uniformly anti-colonial, albeit more Keynesian than Kenyan. To date, Obama's foreign policy is as unrealistic as Wilson's surprise.

You may also want to see John Podhoretz's reflections on the Will column, published in Commentary.

Son of Blade Runner?

There is a rumor on the wind that a prequel or sequel is planned to the classic science fiction film Blade Runner, which starred Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer. See this The Week article on Yahoo News for details.

As Edward Davis of Indiewire is quoted as saying, the key will be the involvement of director Ridley Scott. Scott started in films as a production designer and it shows in his directorial work. His original Blade Runner is the most richly imagined and depicted dystopia ever filmed, a masterpiece nightmare Hispano-Asian future Los Angeles.

I wish Alcon Entertainment, purchaser of the rights, all the best.

Cook Handicaps the GOP

National Journal's Charlie Cook, considered a top political analyst, has looked at the likely GOP candidates for president, and drawn interesting conclusions. Cook finds there is no Republican frontrunner; a situation that is quite unusual.

Furthermore, most of the plausible candidates are current or former governors. Although Cook doesn't mention it, the field suffers from a charisma deficit. The only two with pizzaz - Palin and Gingrich - also suffer from high negatives.

On the other hand, charisma should be less important in 2012 than it was in 2008, when Obama was a fresh, new face. Whatever else he may be in 2012, Obama will be neither fresh nor new. Reelecting him will achieve no civil rights milestones, electing him did.

A second term election is essentially a referendum on the president's first-term performance. Obama will have to run on his record; the GOP nominee will run against that record.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Barone on Unions and Taylor

Michael Barone writes an interesting article for The Washington Examiner on the interaction between unions and Frederick W. Taylor's "scientific management." His point is that American unions became what they are in opposition to private firms utilizing Taylorism to make work more efficient and more hateful.

Public employee unions have copied the successful private unions (e.g., UAW, UMW) in controlling work rules, fighting merit pay, insisting on seniority as the basis for promotion, etc. Oddly, public employers have rarely, if ever, utilized the principles Talyor espoused, principles that shaped private employer unions.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quote of the Day

The National Review's Jay Nordlinger, quoting the University of Chicago's Edward Zorinsky, on the topic of academic recruitment:
First-rate people want first-rate colleagues; second-rate people want fifth-rate colleagues.
My misspent life in academia suggests this observation is very true. Most of our recruits proved to be fifth-rate or lower, often much lower.