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Friday, July 14, 2006

Palestinianization of Islam?

This is the choicest part of the discussion between Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn on current events in the Middle East:

MS: [T]he reality is that Iran is behind a lot of what's going on here. This is part of the same war, and Ahmadinejead, if he wants to raise the stakes, should be invited to do so and see where that leads him.

HH: How close do you think we are to the edge of one of those defining, out of control situations, Mark Steyn?

MS: I think we're on the brink of a kind of region-wide war in the Middle East. In a sense, the war has never gone away. Beyond that, I think we're seeing, in effect, the Palestinianization of Arab politics, the Arabization of Muslim politics, generally, and the Islamization of much of the world. And so you might as well fix this thing at source, and nail it where it came from.

HH: Because Israel cannot allow Haifa to be hit with rockets...I mean, they can't.

MS: No, and they don't have that sense that the Europeans have. You know, basically, if you talk to, say, British officials and French officials, they accept the fact they're going to have Tube trains and buses blown up every couple of years now, and they figure they can live with that death scale. Israel is in a worse situation, and can't. So Israel, in a sense, can only win by going on the offensive.

And Steyn also said this:

You know, it wouldn't take much to topple Baby Assad from his presidential palace. And I think when it became clear in the region that for example, Syria was allowing all kinds of insurgents to cross into Iraq, I think it should have been the United States Air Force that should have been buzzing Assad's palace three years ago now.

Finally, Steyn states that the Kos blog and Huffington have written close to nothing about the War in Israel.

States Steyn:

Some of us were worried about radical Islam, and some of us were worried about Al Gore's global warming, and the voting machines, and Dick Cheney. And one of us will be right, and the other will be wrong. And the reality of this situation is it's nothing to do with Bush and Cheney. It's happening in India. It's happening in Israel. It's happening in Bali. It's happening in Russia. It's a planetary-wide problem, and it's nothing to do with Bush and Cheney stealing chads, or any of this other rubbish they go on about.

They are mired in triviality while the most important issue facing the West is Islamic terrorism. Remember Ted Williams did not win the MVP in either of his triple crown years or in 1941 when he batted .406.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Beyond Any Politician's Ability

Peggy Noonan wrote a thoughtful essay today where she recognizes the vast complexity of issues facing modern-day politicians.

Politicians must vote on a variety of topics containing scientific, economic, legal and ethical facets that are well beyond the knowledge of people with education and intellect. There is simply too much to know to decide issues in time for Congressional votes---votes that enact permanent laws that affect the citizens of the US and the world for generations. Certainly these various topics are well-beyond the average citizen's ability to comprehend fully.

Noonan writes:

Why are we asking so much of them? Because everything comes down to law and law comes down to politicians…And yet this is all good for politicians. Because it's good for business. Yes they are overwhelmed and yes they are out of their depth--how could they not be?--but the endless number of questions on which they must legislate leads to an endless number of lobbyists and groups willing to give them money and support in return for a vote.

Besides trying to understanding an issue well enough to make a rational vote, a politician must then be facile in explaining it to the public. Whether it is done to bring a point home to the voter or to avoid appearing ignorant of the subject, politicians provide us with little catch phrases again and again rather than provide in-depth analysis. They are actually unable to boil a subject down to the basics for our understanding. I suspect that if they were pushed harder on any given topic, we would see they have nothing of substance to provide beyond their "sound bites".

Yet, their votes are cast, laws are enacted and the citizens must obey them. And to obey laws, the citizen must understand them. John Stossel recently provided an instance where the head of the EEOC could not apply the Americans With Disabilities Act to a hypothetical hiring scenario. If the head of the government department in charge of employment laws cannot readily apply the law, needs to consult one of the EEOC lawyers for an answer, then how can a businessman with other matters of greater import (like providing a product or service that a fickle public will purchase at a profit) be able to figure it out. And at what cost?

I recently saw former Boston Mayor Flynn questioned about the death at the Big Dig when the concrete-steel brace fell from the tunnel onto the car. Flynn claimed that he knew more than anyone about the construction project but he became an ambassador and left Boston before the construction was completed. He claimed the fault laid with the politicians (Republican naturally)that succeeded him on the project. I wondered how can a politician oversee such a construction project and still feed, educate, clothe, provide moral and sexual guidance, enforce criminal laws (a low priority in Massachusetts), oversee all commercial transactions and myriad other functions, large and small, for the public's benefit while removing all garbage and snow and attending nationally televised Red Sox games and Teddy Kennedy testimonials. All of this is done at the same time! No wonder The Big Dig exceeded the original cost estimate of $3 billion by $15 billion(half of which was paid by US taxpayers) ---and it still fell apart.

Noonan’s answer is simple but true:

It is good to keep in mind, at such a time, that we must let as many questions devolve into the private sphere as possible. Not all can but many can, and on so many issues it's better to err on the side of individual freedom than the authority of the state.

Government and its individual members are not competent enough to handle as many issues as it does. It is best left to the millions of individuals who can voluntarily converge or work solitarily to develop what is in their best interest. (See Hayek)

Proportionality Of Response?

On Greece's statement that Israel is reacting excessively to the Hezabollah bombings and kidnapping.

Greek government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros:

"...Greece calls on the government of Israel to avoid the use of excessive and pointless force which cannot provide a solution to the problem."

Do they want proportionality in 2 years when Iran nukes Israel and Israel unloads its complete arsenal on Iran? That is appropriate?

And why do I mention Iran? Here is Michael Ledeen to answer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bush Losing Russia To The Commies?

Dick Morris offers strong words for Bush, Rice and Cheney regarding their handling of Russia. Per Morris, the civil rights repression in Russia are similar to when it was communist. Add it Russia's involvement with Iraq and Iran, and Morris wonders why Bush did not revoke Russia's inclusion in the G-8 conference. Maybe its oil reserves have something to do with the administrations lack of action.

Concludes Morris:

Richard Nixon once said of Bush senior that the world would ask, “Who lost Russia?” (an echo of his own 1950s question about China) if he did not increase aid to Moscow. Now the question of who lost Russia comes up again. And the answer, surprisingly is President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Rice.

I think Morris is correct but perhaps too harsh given the clear messages Bush has given in speeches in the former Soviet satellite countries. While Russia has its own chechen terrorists to worry about, it seems the President is giving Putin more rope than he would under different world conditions.

Broken Windows and Economics

Without referring to Bastiat by name, Dr. Walter Williams discusses "what is seen and what is not seen" regarding public policy. What is seen is the immediate result. What is not seen is the effect of that policy in other areas. Williams writes:

Under Social Security law, Congress forces workers to set aside a portion of their earnings for retirement. Take a 25-year-old -- let's call her "Mary" -- who earns $40,000 a year. Her Social Security tax is about $2,500. Here's my question to you: Was having $2,500 forcibly taken out of Mary's pay for retirement her best possible use of that money? Mary might have saved and invested several years to open a small business. She might have put it toward private schooling or music lessons for her child, or any number of things that might have made her, and possibly our nation, wealthier in the future.

How about Congress' mandate for more fuel-efficient cars? According to a National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences 2002 report, delivered by Dr. Leonard Evans to the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have contributed to between 1,300 and 2,600 traffic deaths a year. Congress' mandate for higher gasoline mileage leads to the production of lighter, smaller and less crash-worthy cars, resulting in unnecessary deaths. Through technological innovation and natural market forces, cars were already becoming more fuel efficient before CAFE standards were mandated. But more important, how does Congress know whether this loss of life is worth the amount of fuel saved? Do they even know or care about the tradeoff?

Bastiat discussed the case of the vandal breaking a window at a baker's shop. A bystander we will call Dean says it is a good thing for the economy because now a glazier will be hired to replace the glass at $200. Bastiat analyzed how, had the window not been broken, that baker would still have his $200, still have a window and could buy a suit from the tailor and other goods from a number of other merchants. That is a net gain to the economy of $200 rather than a wash where the baker spends the $200 to get back to the starting point.

I would suggest that the baker hold back $25 and purchase Dean a few economics books. If Dean can digest those lessons, the gain to society would be immeasurable.

As Bastiat stated:

[T]he bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

Tax Cuts Did What?

Arthur Laffer basically stated in his famous "Laffer Curve" that government can increase its revenues by cutting taxes to certain levels. The proof is in the tasting of the pudding, per the WSJ:

In the nine quarters preceding that cut on dividend and capital gains rates and in marginal income-tax rates, economic growth averaged an annual 1.1%. In the 12 quarters--three full years--since the tax cut passed, growth has averaged a remarkable 4%. Monetary policy has also fueled this expansion, but the tax cuts were perfectly targeted to improve the incentives to take risks among businesses shell-shocked by the dot-com collapse, 9/11 and Sarbanes-Oxley.
This growth in turn has produced a record flood of tax revenues, just as the most ebullient supply-siders predicted.

In the first nine months of fiscal 2006, tax revenues have climbed by $206 billion, or nearly 13%. As the Congressional Budget Office recently noted, "That increase represents the second-highest rate of growth for that nine-month period in the past 25 years"--exceeded only by the year before. For all of fiscal 2005, revenues rose by $274 billion, or 15%. We should add that CBO itself failed to anticipate this revenue boom, as the nearby table shows. Maybe its economists should rethink their models.

Laffer admitted that revenues can initially increase with tax increases. However, such will not sustain. Sustaining the growth is something we need to reduce the deficit long-term.

You Will Make A Donation! And God Bless Me.

Religions seek the individual to voluntarily offer money to the poor and needy. Actually, the giver has the right to choose to whom he gives. Mere poverty does not necessarily deserve alms. Religion does not seek to have charity given through physical coercion. The reason is that only through voluntary acts does one prove his choice of will towards those acts. And thus, the voluntary act receives blessing.

Read how leading Democrats believe religious faith requires forced giving. More correctly, forcing others to give through state coercion. It shows a failure to grasp the very essence of religion.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Think About Our Security and the NYT

Considering today's news on the horrible Bombay terrorist bombings and the NYT's discosures of security measures taken to combat terrorism, Hugh Hewitt writes this:

When the death scene of Bombay --and London, Madrid, Beslan, Jerusalem, Egypt,Jordan, Bali etc-- is recreated here, then will people look back at the recklessness of Bill Keller, Dean Baquet and other Bush-hating hyper-partisans and demand an accounting.

Is it all just a big game for these folks or does one-upping GW Bush trump being safe from Islamic fascists? Either way, they rank on the side with the bad guys.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time Magazine: Working To Be Wrong

The Time magazine cover story is titled: “The End of Cowboy Diplomacy - Why the 'Bush Doctrine' no longer works for Bush administration.

At least one part of the Bush Doctrine is the right of the US to pre-emptively attack another country when there is reasonable evidence that such a country has credible designs to attack you first. The Bush Doctrine is hated by the Left and thus this cover story announcing its demise.

The argument from the Left is that pre-emption is never acceptable and warfare, if it is ever allowable, can only be used in a counter-attack (i.e. after we suffer an attack). Traditional liberals seem to contend that a pre-emptive attack is acceptable only if the danger is a mathematic certainty (a Monday morning QB approach). I prefer a leader that does not wait until the bombs are heading to San Francisco before hitting the enemy.

Apparently, there are some people who do not want to wait until bombs are raining down on Tokyo. Those people are in Japan.

Per this AP Report :

Japan said Monday it was considering whether a pre-emptive strike on North Korea's missile bases would violate its constitution, signaling a hardening stance ahead of a possible Security Council vote…

Japan was badly rattled by North Korea's missile tests and several government officials openly discussed whether the country ought to take steps to better defend itself, including setting up the legal framework to allow Tokyo to launch a pre-emptive strike against Northern missile sites.

Time Magazine appears a bit premature in their announcement. How do you retrieve a few million copies of a magazine? You have to try really hard to be that bad.

Protest Like Ghandi- Skip One Meal

While the laughs were minimal in this satiric look at Hollywood's "rolling fast" protest against the Iraq War, Mark Steyn did provide notice of the latest sophomoric attempt at gravitas by this pampered group of egotists.

Liberal Hollywood actors (and we hope they remain liberal) are holding this protest where they... oh, let's have Agence-France Presse explain:

''As Americans get set to fire up barbecues in patriotic celebration of U.S. Independence Day on July 4, anti-war protesters planned to savor a last meal outside the White House, before embarking on a 'Troops Home Fast' at midnight . . .

''Penn, Sarandon, novelist Alice Walker and actor Danny Glover will join a 'rolling' fast, a relay in which 2,700 activists pledge to refuse food for at least 24 hours, and then hand over to a comrade.''

Their determination is striking. And their loss of 4-5 pounds will not hurt them as they prepare for their next role. However, Steyn suggests that Gwyneth and Cameron (the girl one) should do the opposite as an effective means of protest. They could "put on 20 pounds for every month Bush refuses to end his illegal war".

But these actors are unable to recognize silliness of their protest. Writes Steyn:

The problem for the ''activists'' is that the entire anti-war movement is undernourished. Indeed, in all their contempt for America as an effete narcissistic ninny too soft and self-absorbed to stand any pain, even al-Qaida couldn't have come up with as withering a parody of the Great Satan's decadence as a celebrity pseudo-fast. As the great Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean said on his deathbed: ''Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.'' Not for Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fed Revenues Increased Due To Tax Cuts

The NYT reports that the overall deficit will be $100 billion lower this year, even with all of the insane spending increases, because the federal revenues were double what had been estimated.

As discussed below in my “NJ Exodus” comment, dynamic scoring understands how tax cuts generally increase revenues while tax increases generally reduce revenues. It takes a few years to happen but tax cuts increase capital investment and personal wealth. As a result, businesses grow and provide higher wages to employees and higher dividends and capital gains to investors. As well, employment rises as we have seen. The so-called Clinton boom was similarly spurred by the tax cuts of 1994.

Democrats disagree with this explanation per the NYT story:

Democrats and many independent budget analysts note that overall revenues have barely climbed back to the levels reached in 2000, and that the government has borrowed trillions of dollars against Social Security surpluses just as the first of the nation's baby boomers are nearing retirement.

Relevance anyone?

We are talking increased revenues reducing the deficit.

However, while Dems are talking about this government thievery, was it not an important feature of the proposed social security privatization plan? i.e. that Congress would be unable to pocket the private accounts assets as they regularly do to the Social Security “Fund”?

As I recall Dems have been running Congress for a larger part of the past 40 years doing this borrowing from the “Fund”. And has anyone heard a Dem argue in favor of the private account proposal since Clinton was president and suggested it himself?

The real cause of the deficit is spending as stated in the NYT article:

Government spending under Mr. Bush continued to climb rapidly this year, more than twice as fast as the economy. Spending on the war in Iraq has accelerated, to about $120 billion this year. Far more ominously, the nation's oldest baby boomers will be eligible for Social Security benefits in just two years. Conservatives and liberals alike predict a huge escalation in costs of Social Security and Medicare over the next several decades.

No doubt the Iraq War and related terror/security measures are costly. Agree with the strategy or not, we all should recognize that providing national security is the government’s primary function. The expense side of the government ledger or made up of a larger percentage of social entitlement spending. Meanwhile, the Dems apparently recognize the danger posed by social security as baby boomer retirement looms. Still, they oppose privatization?

We see contradictory messages here from the party out of power. Towing the line as things fall apart is quite a message from “Progressives”.

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