Saturday, January 15, 2005

Federalism - Not Just For Conservatives Anymore

This from Slate (yes, even conservatives read all sorts of things) The New Blue Federalists - The case for liberal federalism. By Richard Thompson Ford:

"Federalism doesn't suit the typical liberal's self-image, but one of the most persuasive defenders of decentralizing political power was that ultimate object of liberal cosmopolitan admiration (and conservative scorn), a French intellectual: Alexis de Tocqueville argued that the strength and dynamism of American democracy were found in its local communities. He was right: Local and state governments can be more innovative, daring, and proactive in short, more progressive than even the liberal Congresses of distant memory. A growing number of state courts and legislatures have pioneered public-school finance reform, working to ensure that kids from poor neighborhoods are not stuck in inferior schools. Many states have civil rights guarantees that are stronger than those under federal law, especially with respect to sexual orientation discrimination, which federal law does not prohibit. Californians, taking up the slack left by a federal government mired in religious extremism, have just voted to invest $240 million per year of state funding in cutting-edge biotechnology research. In many instances, what progressive states most want from the federal government is that it get out of their way. "

Friday, January 14, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson on Iraq

Victor Davis Hanson is without doubt the most knowledgeable, clearest, and in my opinion the most brillant thinker and writer in the world today. I read everything of his that I can find and over time much of the rest of the world will be also.

Victor Davis Hanson on Iraq: National Review Online:

"...we in our weariness lament the losses of almost 1,100 combat dead and billions committed to people who appear from 30-second media streams to be singularly ungracious and not our sort of folk. We dwell on unmistakable lapses, never on amazing successes just as we were consumed with Afghanistan in its dark moments, but now ignore its road to success. But never mind all this: The long-term prospects are still as bright as things seem gloomy in the short-term but only if we emulate our grandfathers and press on with the third Middle East election in the last six months."

Please read it all, it is worth the time.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Favorite Greenspan Quote

Also from The Weekly Standard - Inflation Points:

"FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD CHAIRMAN Alan Greenspan is famous for his ability to use the language with such precision that it ceases to be a means of communication. He once told a congressional committeeman, who congratulated him on the clarity of his response to a question, 'Then I must have misspoken.'"

Michael Chertoff -Homeland Security

From The Weekly Standard - Law, Loyalty, and Terror: "What we can say is that the government's actions after September 11 reflected a consciousness of history and of the historical moment. Excesses of the past were not repeated. A balance was sought and, I hope, achieved.

That balance was struck in the first flush of the emergency. If history shows anything, however, it shows that we must be prepared to review and if necessary recalibrate that balance. We should get about doing so, in the light of the experience of our forebears and the experience of our own time.

We are at a transition point in the evolution of legal doctrine to govern the armed conflict with terror. How history will judge what has been done is for our successors to determine. The triumph is that our successors will be alive and free to determine that history.

[Michael Chertoff, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division from 2001 to 2003. This article is adapted from remarks he delivered October 10 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law school.] "

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Fiscal Deficits-Not to Worry

The impact of tax cuts generating more tax revenue is becoming evident as well as our growing robust economy. Courtesy of Instapundit a tidbit I hadn't seen elsewhere on December 2004 results at Latest News and Financial Information

"WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. government ran a $1 billion budget surplus in December, helped by a rise in corporate tax payments, the Congressional Budget Office said in its latest budget report released on Friday. The surplus, which compared with an $18 billion deficit in the previous December, helped create a smaller fiscal deficit for the first three months of the 2005 fiscal year, than in the same quarter of the prior year."

For you math majors that is upward turn of $19 Billion period v period Dec 03 to Dec 04. (Had John Kerry been elected this would have been top fold in most US newspapers). Nevertheless, more unreported good news. As a believer in supply-side economics, lower taxes and higher tax revenues make my heart beat happier.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

No Learning Point

I advertise humor so it's past time for a touch.

A Mom is driving her little girl to a friend’s house for a play date. “Mommy,” the little girl asks, “how old are you?”“Honey, you are not supposed to ask a lady her age,” the mother warns. “It is not polite.”“Ok,” the little girl says. “How much do you weigh?”“Now really,” the mother says, “these are personal questions, and really none of your business.”Undaunted, the little girl asks, “Why did you and daddy get a divorce?”“That is enough questions, honestly!” The exasperated mother walks away as the two friends begin to play.“My Mom wouldn’t tell me anything,” the little girl says to her friend.“Well,” said the friend, “all you need to do is look at her drivers license. It is like a report card—it has everything on it.” Later that night, the little girl says to her mother, “I know how old you are. You are 32.”The mother is surprised and asks, “How did you find that out?”“I also know that you weigh 140 pounds.” The mother is past surprise and shocked now. “How in heaven’s name did you find that out?”“And,” the little girl says triumphantly, “I know why you and daddy got a divorce.”“Oh really?” the mother asks. “And why’s that?”“Because you got an F in sex.”

On World Elections and Management Theory

On my way searching for a leadership quote I wanted to use in another context, I came back upon the following Peter Drucker comment that applies to the Palestinian and Iraqi elections as well as the the business and societal challenges we face today:

"In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the internet, not e-commerce.
It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time -literally- substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves.
And society is totally unprepared for it."

Thus sayeth Dr. Drucker. (Sorry I don't have a link, it was in my scribbling, the reference is:
Drucker, Peter F., "Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself," Leader to Leader, 16 (Spring 2000), pp.8-10.

I don't agree that society is totally unprepared for it but some parts are surely a lot more ready than others.

This certainly applies to present day political events as well as management theory and problem solving through and with other people.

U.S. Trade Deficits-Not to Worry

I am not overly concerned about US Balance of Payments deficits and in fact I consider it a sign of strength for now. (Admittedly it won't last forever.) NRO Financial had a nice, readable piece yesterday Global Misunderstanding :
"the very definition of a profitable trade is one in which the individual receives more than he gives. Better yet, the best transactions are not those in which $10 is exchanged for $10 of goods, but instead when exports worth $10 attract imports worth $11.
With the above in mind, it's no surprise that rich countries very often run trade deficits. As for surpluses, 19th century economist Bastiat reminded his readers that a sure way to achieve a trade surplus would be for the country desirous of one to simply sink goods marked for export offshore. This would lead to a favorable balance of trade, all the while insuring that imports meant to be exchanged for the sunken exports would not reach the shores of the country seemingly bent on impoverishing itself.
...[T]hose who worry about trade imbalances are revealing a basic misunderstanding about what causes people and countries to exchange goods, and in the process impart wealth to each other. China's supposed flooding of the United States with goods is not a sign of economic weakness on our part, but instead one of strength. If we're flooded with products, it's because we can pay for them. "

This is basic enforcement of the theory of comparative advantage from Adam Smith in 1776 (a very big year) and David Ricardo in the 1820's. (I may as well do another post on this later since I find it exciting, although I suppose one of the few....) Comparative advantage is the heart of economic thinking.

I am not yet worried about fiscal US deficits either because at current they are cyclical not structural. More on that later as I delve into the need to reform Social Security, Medicare (and health care) in order to avoid structural deficits which I do worry about for the future strength of the US economy and country.

The GWOT and Interrogation

Much nonsense has abounded over the treatment of detainees, terrorists, or suspects. The best article to read is City Journal Winter 2005 How to Interrogate Terrorists by Heather Mac Donald:

"The need for rethinking interrogation doctrine in the war on terror will not go away, however. The Islamist enemy is unlike any the military has encountered in the past. If current wisdom on the rules of war prohibits making any distinction between a terrorist and a lawful combatant, then that orthodoxy needs to change."

If you aren't aware of the City Journal you should be as its free on the web and is very well done. As Bill Moyers says, “Even when I disagree with City Journal, I dare not ignore it.” See it here.

Monday, January 10, 2005

History, Bush & Mideast Elections-Part II

The Washington Post: History Is Likely to Link Bush to Mideast Elections :
"Bush, who keeps a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office and identifies with the wartime British prime minister, has made democracy in the Middle East a signature goal for his administration, rhetorically at least. In November 2003, echoing the idealism of Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan, he called for a 'forward strategy of freedom' that would involve a decades-long effort to promote pluralism in Arab nations. Privately Bush has expressed the belief that success at such an endeavor would be the achievement he would be most remembered for in 50 years.
'I believe democracy can take hold in parts of the world that have been condemned to tyranny,' he told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday. 'And I believe when democracies take hold, it leads to peace. That's been the proven example around the world. Democracies equal peace. And that's what we're trying to advance in this administration.' "

I believe history will regard this as the set of breakthroughs toward resolving the "Clash of Civilizations".

Bill Kristol on History, Bush and Mideast Elections

Bill Kristol on the importance of elections in Palestine and Iraq:
"'His inauguration is bracketed by two events that are very big, very important for the meaning and success of his presidency,' said William Kristol, chief of staff to former vice president Dan Quayle and now editor of the Weekly Standard. 'No one thinks everything changes the day after the elections. But what some people thought was a naive Wilsonian democracy may turn out to be his real legacy.' "

The Palestinian Election

The election of Abbas indeed offers some hope as reflected in this editorial from The Times of London:
"The Palestinian elections offer a glimmer of hope for peace....Hope, exhilaration and relief are all too rare in the Palestinian territories. But after yesterday's election in the West Bank and Gaza, there was a palpable feeling that something had changed."

As Krauthammer and others have pointed out this will not be a smooth road to peace but let's have hope.

Election Protest Continued

I have to defer to the master of commentary and Mark Steyn 's article:
Election protest shows why Dems don't count:
"...when was the last time you heard a fresh policy from a Democrat? The serious arguments about war, social security, immigration and pretty much everything else are all within factions of the right. The Democrats' only contribution is to insist that someone in Halliburton has figured out a way to get the touch-screen voting machines to make Democrats' votes vanish. Democrats' votes are vanishing because Democrat voters are vanishing because Democrat intellectual energy has all but vanished. Or as Republican Congresswoman Deborah Pryce summed up Thursday's Boxer rebellion: ''Their objection is a front for their lack of ideas.''"

Again, read the whole thing if you dare.

Senator Boxer during Election Certification

Sen. Boxer - Election Certification Posted by Hello

No words required.

The Democrats Election Challenge

I couldn't let the Democrats challenge to the November election go without mention so first: ARGUS HAMILTON:
"Congress was sworn into office in the House and Senate chamber in the United States Capitol building Tuesday. Maybe a hundred people in the gallery watched. The gallery is for onlookers and bystanders but the Democrats have to sit somewhere."

The Politics of Disaster

While we are in the disaster mode I can't leave out the politics of the situation. Here's a taste of Mark Steyn's comments in The Australian in Coalition of the giving :
"The path of the tsunamis tracked the arc of the Muslim world, from Sumatra to Somalia; the most devastated country is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and the most devastated part of that country is the one province living under the strictures of sharia.
But, as usual, when disaster strikes it's the Great Satan and his various Little Satans who leap to respond. In the decade before September 11, the US military functioned, more or less exclusively, as a Muslim rapid reaction force coming to the aid of Kuwaiti Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Somali Muslims and Albanian Muslims. Since then, with the help of its Anglo-Australian allies, it's liberated 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That's not how the West's anti-war movements see it. I found myself behind a car the other day bearing the bumper sticker, 'War Is Costly. Peace Is Priceless' which is standard progressive generic autopilot boilerplate, that somehow waging war and doing good are mutually exclusive. But you can't help noticing that when disaster strikes, it's the warmongers who are also the compassion-mongers. Of the top six donor nations to tsunami relief, four are members of George W. Bush's reviled 'coalition of the willing'. " Again, worth a read.

Tsunami Charities

See The Hurley Report for recommendations on charities helping with the tragedy. The two I heartily recommend are Catholic Relief Services and Samaritan's Purse, both addresses can be found at The Hurley Report. One caveat and as President Bush mentioned today, don't forget your normal charitable giving to your church and your other local charities; make the tsunami relief an addition to the causes we must support not a substitution. Thanks.

Bad Things and Innocent People

Many columnists have discussed the religious aspects of the tsunami but the the best so far is, as usual, Bill Safire in the NYT: Read Where Was God?. His concluding remarks:
"Job's lessons for today:
(1) Victims of this cataclysm in no way 'deserved' a fate inflicted by the Leviathanic force of nature.
(2) Questioning God's inscrutable ways has its exemplar in the Bible and need not undermine faith.
(3) Humanity's obligation to ameliorate injustice on earth is being expressed in a surge of generosity that refutes Voltaire's cynicism. "
I regret Mr. Safire's imminent retirement but I doubt we will have heard the last of his wit and wisdom.