Sunday, November 30, 2008
Meanwhile the redoubtable Amity Shlaes, scourge of Great Depression Romanticists, is noting the facts: that the New Deal left unemployment at cripplingly high levels. The reason? You can't encourage hiring by raising taxes on business and mandating higher wages.
If there's comfort in all this, it's that while Obama seems intent on imitating the style of FDR, the substance of his economic appointments suggests that he may well abandon his campaign promises in wholesale lots and do the right thing, keeping taxes low and letting people get back to the business of business.
If a President with FDR's style can govern with Coolidge's aplomb, a SWNIDish fantasy will be fulfilled.
But we're still doomed. That's the lowest annual increase in awhile.
"Awhile" is since 2005, literally an eternity ago, when Black Friday sales actually dropped 0.9% from 2004 levels. And you remember what an awful year 2005 was economically.
We are all going to die, except the rich Wall Street plutocrats, who will scavenge our rotting corpses.
The answer will make one ask whether the phenomenon is akin to slowing down to look at a car wreck or to something more positive.
Sarah Palin is second, and no one else is close, per Politico. They base their conclusion on internet searches and other media measures.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
After teaching at a university for 30 years, I have come to distrust the type I think of as "the good student"--that is, the student who sails through school and is easily admitted into the top colleges and professional schools. The good student is the kid who works hard in high school, piles up lots of activities, and scores high on his SATs, and for his efforts gets into one of the 20 or so schools in the country that ring the gong of success. While there he gets a preponderance of A's. This allows him to move on to the next good, or even slightly better, graduate, business, or professional school, where he will get more A's still, and move onward and ever upward. His perfect résumé in hand, he runs only one risk--that of catching cold from the draft created by all the doors opening for him wherever he goes, as he piles up scads of money, honors, and finally ends up being offered a job at a high level of government. He has, in a sense Spike Lee never intended, done the right thing.Ditto from SWNID. Even in our small corner of the higher-educational gameboard, we are less inclined to embrace the highly touted "gifted" student than the unquenchably curious, perpetually adventurous and consistently virtuous one.
What's wrong with this? Am I describing anything worse than effort and virtue richly rewarded? I believe I am. My sense of the good student is that, while in class, he really has only one pertinent question, which is, What does this guy, his professor at the moment, want? Whatever it is--a good dose of liberalism, libertarianism, feminism, conservatism--he gives it to him, in exchange for another A to slip into his backpack alongside all the others on his long trudge to the Harvard, Yale, Stanford law or business schools, and thence into the empyrean.
Our advice to everyone is to get over your abilities and achievements and just do something today that's good and right and interesting.
Conrad Black, whose conviction on fraud certainly induces contrarian thinking, notes many salient achievements, a couple of which we quote:
The U.S. annual economic growth rate has been 2.2% through this presidency, the highest of any advanced country, and the economy expanded 19% in this time, well ahead of other large economies. The same pattern was replicated in per-capita income and spending, investment of all kinds and unemployment, which ran at half a percent below the average of the Clinton years and three full points below the Eurozone. . . .
Bush’s treaty with India, creating an alliance with that country, is one of the most important diplomatic initiatives in the world since Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. But the chief preoccupation of the Bush administration has been the conflict with terrorists and terrorism-promoting states. All who remember 9/11 will recall the very high concern that, as bin Laden promised in his belligerent videos at the time, there would be imminent and frequent sequels. Yet not so much as a firecracker has gone off in the Americas since then, and President Bush deserves much credit that he has not received for this fact.
Similarly David Frum notes some blessed Bushisms, including such seldom-noted achievements as the training of Indian security forces, significant progress against narco-kleptocracy in Colombia, the immediate and effective discouragement of hate crimes against Muslims in the US after 9/11, and the snuffing out new intifada-style uprisings from Palestinians.
All this gives us occasion to rant out a complaint: we are personally exhausted to the point of despair over all the pronouncements that the present economy is the worst since Herbert Hoover was President. With unemployment still at historically low levels, this recession looks set to be one of the shallowest in a series of increasingly shallow recessions since the early 1980s. When shallow recessions are dubbed worst ever, we think it isn't just the recessions that are shallow.
Investor's Business Daily today marks the Iraqi parliament's passage of a security pact with the United States as the best indication yet that the good guys won the war.
Of course, the thing's at a point now where even the candidate who ran in total opposition to American military involvement in Iraq will now see it through to a decent conclusion.
War is always awful. But some things are worse than death, like perpetual enslavement. While it might be better for liberation to come at smaller cost, it came nonetheless.
Once again, we salute those gentle readers who are most personally responsible for this outcome, those noble men and women who wore the uniform and put themselves in danger for the sake of people whom they didn't know.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
No one ever said this would be easy.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
- shameless product placement
- shallow emotional manipulation
- static plot devices (elaborate conspiracies among government insiders)
- implausible gunplay
- inane dialogue
- continuing preoccupation with torture
For portrayal of the brutality of modern warfare in Africa, we prefer the flawed Hotel Rwanda or the disturbingly realized Last King of Scotland. On the awful matter of boys pressed into soldiering, we just finished Ishmael Beah's memoir, A Long Way Gone and hope that somehow someone will turn it into a movie.
We note in passing that one aspect of the show probably epitomizes the shape of things to come. Hyundai is now the obviously-for-promotional-consideration-placed-in-the-teleplay automotive sponsor, supplanting Ford. The future of American automobile manufacturing is in partnership with our South Korean friends and their employees in Montgomery, Alabama, among others.
And only The Office rivals 24 for its in-your-face product placement.
But in the end, we'll still watch the new season. It will divert us until baseball season returns.
And we still recommend Dave Barry's blog on the show.
*Per Wikipedia, the original title for the episode was 24: Exile. We assume that the producers knew that folks would know it's the series, not Jack, that needed redeeming.
The 70-55 final score indicates that the CCU men comported themselves with competitive dignity. So does their shooting over 70% from the line and over 45% from behind the arc.
Nice job, men! Now, back to class.
- educational accountability
- prescription drug benefits
- elimination of Saddam
- establishment of something resembling a functional democracy in a former dictatorship and terror supporter in the Middle East
- effective programs against AIDS in Africa
- establishment of an alliance with India
- continuing good relations with Japan, Australia, Mexico and Brazil
And Barone's catalog of the land that remains unconquered:
- improvements in China
- getting Russia in line
- nukes in Iran
What we really like is Barone's ignoring of the domestic short term--and Western Europe altogether. His focus is on long-term issues that will affect global living conditions for a generation.
We also note that the non-accomplished issues Barone lists aren't really on the political rader right now. More's the pity.
We'll assume that this means Obama intends to stay in touch with the left-wing money operation that propelled him to electoral victory. It is not a move that suggests moderation or bipartisanship.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
We'll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.
We hate to nitpick, but there are too many silly things said here for us to refrain:
- A two-year "jumpstart" has to be the slowest-motion "jumpstart" ever (Michelle: Where have you been for the last two years? Barack: Jump-starting the car.)
- "Crumbling roads and bridges" is a phrase used by every Democratic candidate in an election cycle. Yet one is hard pressed to point to roads and bridges on this continent-spanning nation that are both genuinely "crumbling" and without plans for repair or replacement already in motion. Our own Brent Spence Bridge, as an example, is the object of massive planning efforts at present. So what's new in that?
- The answer to our previous question is more money sooner for unionized construction workers and their politically connected contractors. This is political payback to Big Pavement and Big Iron, with "prevailing wage" as the backdrop.
- "Moderninzing schools that are failing our children" must refer not to reform of financing or accountability or pedagogy but to construction projects, as it's hard to see how any other education initiative is economic stimulus in the period of two years. So does anyone seriously contend that schools can't educate primarily because they need new buildings, that unready students and unable teachers will be transformed by better bricks and mortar? Call this good money after bad, as revealed by the very way Obama talks about investment in something that's failing (cf. Big Three below). Given that old school buildings are found most often in communities with sharply declining public school enrollment, and one can envision sparkling new, largely empty buildings in which NEA-organized teachers fail their few remaining students.
- "Wind farms and solar panels" will require massive investments in an electricity grid to send the power where it's needed, the creation of as-yet nonexistent technologies to store the energy until it's needed, and the devotion of thousands of acres of rural land or wilderness for environment-altering technologies that will leave a bigger mark on the landscape than oil-drilling or coal-mining ever have. Is it not obvious that plants don't grow underneath solar panels*? Get set for the biggest NIMBY reaction ever when Big Wind announces where its turbines are going.
- "Fuel-efficient cars" we have already explained: the quasi-nationalization of the Big Three whereby they will manufacture cars to fit government specifications rather than consumer demand. This is payoff to the UAW and a formula for perpetual public subsidy.
- "Free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive" works fine as long as oil is at $150 a barrel and up. But now that it's below $50, much closer to the historic price as adjusted for inflation, the numbers don't add up. If the United States commits itself to much more expensive forms of "green" energy (actually not very green), its economy can never be competitive with countries that use more efficient, less expensive "brown" energy.
Missing throughout is entrepreneurship. The Obama stimulus will do nothing to put money in the hands of people who innovate to meet consumer demands. It will prop up existing, relatively unproductive areas of the economy represented by big corporations and big unions, enshrining their eclipsed business models under the banner of innovation for the future.
Whatever the price tag of the Obama stimulus, we expect to find ourselves understimulated. But not undertaxed.
*We noted yesterday that a solar power company with an initial public offering of stock earlier this year is now trading at 11% of the price of the IPO. It's not looking good for alternative energy.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Gentle readers who have never viewed Standing in the Shadows of Motown in its entirety must do so this weekend.
*As the horns stab through the pain, Osbourne moans with lonely agony, and we almost wish we could be broken hearted ourselves.
Of course, this "fee" is nothing more than an additional tax, as trash pickup is not a new service. Currently it's funded out of the city's generous property and income tax revenues.
We think that Dohoney is putting this up as a means of leveraging City Council into action to make difficult cuts necessary to balance the budget. The chance of anyone on Council being reelected after voting in a regressive $200-per-household-per-year tax for an existing service is below zero. We note that Dohoney himself said today that in all his years of government employment, he's never presented a budget that his boss didn't modify. His boss is Council.
We predict that this tax will not come close to enactment. If it does, we predict a very different City Council after next November.
Is this a miracle?
It will be if the plans that are submitted in a little over a week are indeed plans that lead to profitability and not just plans to create cars that run on composted soybean hulls and positive cosmic vibrations.
Just the fact that Democrats said "profitability" warms the SWNIDish heart.
She will not be Secretary of Commerce.
We don't like how all this is coming down. Obama's efforts are looking directionless and ineffective, except that they tend to reflect his need to placate all segments of his party and his desire to push through health insurance legislation as a first priority. But with Clinton retreads and congressional has-beens, it's not bipartisan or change-oriented, and certainly not moderate.
We think that Obama's lack of experience and shallow political alliances are showing already.
Featured content is whining about how Obama is throwing no cabinet-appointment bones to "progressives," proposing that he name Dennis Kucinich to State and Russ Feingold to Justice.
But the cake is iced with the banner ad at the top. It features famous far-left historian and media talking head Howard Zinn with the following pitch:
The Progressive is one of our most important voices, and yet it is facing an acute cash-flow crisis. I'm hoping you'll make a generous tax-deductible gift right now.
Should Obama relent (and we think that Waxman as chair of Energy and Commerce is plenty for self-styled "progressives"), we anticipate bake sales, 5ks and telethons to fund green energy initiatives and health insurance spending.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Obama does not appear determined to guide his ship to the center. Others have hands on the tiller. They pull left.
Join these tangible political developments with the very public nostalgia for disastrous New Deal policies (is anyone asking what tangible good the New Deal did to ameliorate the Great Depression?) and behind-the-scenes complaints from left-wing Dems about the appointment of Clinton-era veterans (seen as insufficiently liberal merely by virtue of their association with Dogpatch), and one has a prelude to political disaster.
SWNID tends toward buoyant optimism, but these moves make us dread an unnatural combination of FDR-like interventionism plus Carter-like incompetence.
Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that leftfully-elected Senator Al Franken insists that the ballot pictured here ought to be challenged as a vote for Norm Coleman and taken as a vote for Al Franken.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The new big story is that AG Janet Reno cried on his shoulder after her courageous move to have youthful Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez removed from his relatives' Miami home at gunpoint.
We don't know what this trip down memory lane says about Holder presently. We do think that everyone who criticized the Bushies for immorality and ineptitude owes them an apology for applying to them a different standard than the one applied to the Clintonistas.
For every Katrina, there was a Waco.
If so, listen to the piece from NPR's Day to Day piece today on the pending nomination of Tom Daschele (listen to audio linked on the page) to Health and Human Services. Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington editor, states flatly that the problem is employer-based health insurance and says that a single-payer plan is the obviously simple solution. Elving sees Daschele's nomination as an indication that Obama intends to move away from employer-based health insurance and toward a single-payer system, albeit less suddenly than the Clintons tried to.
At no point does Elving even mention Obama's specific health care proposals, as it's clear enough to him that whatever specifics Obama offered were so much campaign window-dressing. The real substance will be in the legislative process, in which every Congressperson will be hang her or his special ornament on the Christmas tree of nationalized health insurance.
We appreciate the frankness of this journalist's analysis. And we wonder only why the President-elect is not being accused of having practiced the politics of fear and deception.
But let's make no mistake: both parties recognize that the employer-based provision of health insurance is problematic. One party wants to encourage market-based solutions by removing tax incentives for employer-based insurance. The other wants a government-based solution.
You know, those who say, hey, go bankrupt so you can cut back on what the unions have won — the unions have already made some concessions. But, you know, we've had enough anti-union activity, and enough increase in income inequality in this country. I don't want to set a precedent that bankruptcy now is a way in which you undo what gains unions have been able to hold on to.So in Frank's view, the right thing to do is to tax nonunion auto workers making Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, BMW, Mercedes, or Hyundais so that UAW workers can continue to cost their employers 50% more to employ.
When would this largesse end? Well, never, unless some genius can figure out a way to overcome the inherent competitive disadvantage of spending $1.50 on labor for every $1 your competition spends. Of course, once you find that means, your competition will imitate it, and you're back at your disadvantage. So the federal money must continue indefinitely as the means of offsetting the expense.
Of course, Frank has more. Uncle Sugar will supply "health care" [sic, read "health insurance"]:
Health care, by the way, is also on the agenda. Health care is a real problem, and we have burdened all American industry with a bad health care system that's tied to your employment. One of the things I very much look forward to is working with the new president so we change the health care system. And going forward, if they have to stay with health care the way it is now, yeah, that's bleak. But what I am hoping is that we will get a change in the health care system that will reduce the burden that we put not just on the American auto industry, where it's more expensive to build a car in America than in Canada because of health care.
Um, Congressman Frank, we're talking about a competitive disadvantage with other plants in the United States, where the workers get employer-provided health insurance. So if you get your nationalized health insurance, the Big Three's costs go down, but so do all the other manufacturers', and they're still at a disadvantage. N.B. that everyone's taxes go up too, but we'll count that as a wash as well.
We also call attention to Frank's insistence that an auto bailout be conditioned on Detroit retooling to make green cars. Never mind that there's no market evidence that Americans want to buy green cars. Having companies that sell cars is clearly not the agenda.
So what Frank envisions is automobile manufacturers receiving perpetual subsidies from taxpayers to employ unionized workers at above-market costs to make environmentally acceptable cars that may never be bought by anyone. We rest our case.
Chapter 11, anyone?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
CPS has an awful time distributing spaces in its popular magnet programs, even as its other schools continue to struggle. But it has been our experience, not to mention that of other gentle readers, that the confusion of signups is worth it. In the end, a form of sanity generally prevails, and most folks get what they sought.
Or at least we hope they did. Some of our peeps asked us about signup strategies. Our advice, as it is in nearly every situation, was to play it cool. Don't panic, don't prove you're a Parent of Extreme Devotion. Just show up on time, not early.
Plesinger seems to indicate that everyone went home happy. We hope that's really everyone, including the folk who just showed up on time.
Update: One SWNIDish peep reports enrollment success and confirms that some folks got pretty testy about the chaotic process. We await other firsthand reports.
Since liberalism began, it has operated on the myths that Stephens enumerates and SWNID has constantly reiterated: that genuine liberalism has not yet been tried, that Evil Geniuses of conservatism manage to steal elections and dupe the public, that bad luck (assassinations, poor timing, squandered political resources) have heretofore thwarted liberal efforts.
Meanwhile, in the election just finished, 21% of voters identified themselves as liberal, down from 22% in 2004. Conservatives held steady at 34%. So much for 2008 being a major political shift to the left.
We thought that the Democrats voted against a return to the Clinton era.
Monday, November 17, 2008
We urge gentle readers to encourage the verification of the definition by supplying the information to the fine people who maintain this helpful web site.
The LA Times story is here. Westmont has posted photos here. They're cleaning up and will reopen December 1.
We note that these matters did not seem to be a concern when Mrs. Clinton was merely a candidate for President. Secretary of State, however, is a job that calls for only the most trustworthy individuals, so careful vetting is of the highest importance.
The anniversary provides the backdrop for the upcoming holiday production from Know Theater of Cincinnati, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. The award-winning musical employs a cast of children to explore the story of L. Ron Hubbard and his highly profitable, made-up religion.
Meanwhile, Google shows well over half a million hits for the combination "Barack Obama" and "anitchrist." However, we urge gentle readers to exercise due caution. Many of these hits are from liberal, pro-Obama sites complaining about Republicans feeding rumors about Obama being the antichrist to their gullible evangelical supporters.
After all, we know Obama is not the antichrist. He's not Romanian!* No less an authority than Hal Lindsey,** who has been warning the world of the antichrist's immiment appearance for over a generation, said back in August in the esteemed WorldNet Daily that Obama clearly is not the antichrist but does provide a foretaste of what the antichrist's reception will be like.
*Or is he?
**See also the views of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, who seem pretty sure that no antichrist worthy of the name could be an American.
Friday, November 14, 2008
PuppyProfits.com seems to be one: a proven system for getting rich in the growing industry of dog fighting.
We commend this highly informative site to our gentle readers for their thoughtful consideration.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Palin, it seems, does have a political future. Her discourse is cliche-ridden but fluent and coherent, about what we've come to expect from national leaders.
Apparently the Obamanoids aren't happy with Kerry, Richardson, Hagel, or Nunn as alternatives. They're obviously right on that, except for Nunn. We assume this means that Lugar said no or did something to offend The One.
Hillary would be better than anyone except Nunn on this list, though Nunn would be better for Defense if BO doesn't want Gates to stay. But we think she still belongs as Majority Leader. That keeps her close, but not so close that Bill will lurk nearby.
Bill has no ticket to the Senate. But he does in an executive-branch department. He'll be the unwelcome guest at every event if Hillary runs State. He'll have to stay mostly sidelined if she's in the Senate.
We find much to affirm in Sheridan's analysis. Right now, political opinion is about as volatile as commodities or securities. Which means it's not at a point of accurate valuation. Saying Bush is a jerk is like saying stocks are worthless. That's just how they're valued at the moment.
Among other points, Sheridan notes that Bush's persona was part of his offense:
His stubbornness, which is courage if you look at it a different way, was amplified for foreign audiences a thousand times by the Texan accent. In rejecting elite American opinion, he too often looked as though he was rejecting international opinion. In dismissing The New York Times, he seemed to dismiss Europe.
Funny, but this reminds us of how we felt about Clinton, who always seemed to us like the guy at the high school football game who wanted to talk to our girlfriend too much. Not that we actually had a girlfriend then. Not that we're still bitter about that. Uh, never mind.
OK, Clinton was like the guy who always turned in his paper late but talked the teacher into giving him full credit anyway. And he manipulated his girlfriend into writing it. And she was the one we really wanted to date. Not that we're still bitter. Uh, never mind again.
Back to the point:
We think a guy who crushed an international terrorist organization and overthrew two brutally totalitarian dictatorships deserves some credit, even if he mangles the language and smirks a lot. We also think that Bush was extremely correct on three massive issues where Congress wouldn't budge--immigration, Social Security and health insurance reform--as we have elaborated SWNIDishly for some three years. We expect future generations to ask why folks didn't do what Bush said.
By the way, we are ready to bet $1 with the first willing gambler that Osama Bin Laden will either be dead of natural causes or still at large in 2012 and again in 2016.
Well, doctors say there's no such thing, per an AP story today. Some dogs don't shed much, but all dogs provoke allergic reactions in some measure in people who are allergic.
So there's the first campaign promise that is crushed by harsh realities. Too bad it was a promise to the Obama children. "Yes we can!" is now "Subject to reality check."
We invite gentle readers to suggest other things that don't exist, the non-existence of which will impede progress toward the Obamanoid Utopia.
We start with the obvious one:
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The media have been terrible in explaining how the homegrown car companies landed in their present fix, when other U.S. manufacturers (Boeing, GE, Caterpillar) manage to survive and thrive in global competition. Critics beat up Detroit for building SUVs and pickups (which earn profits) and scrimping on fuel-sippers (which don't). They call for management's head (fine -- but irrelevant).
These pre-mortems miss the point. Critics might more justifiably flay the Big Three for failing long ago to seek a showdown with the UAW to break its labor monopoly. In truth, though, politicians have repeatedly intervened to prevent the crisis that would finally settle matters.
The issue at hand is the future of the UAW, not the future of automobile manufacturing in the United States. Nonunion shops like Honda, Nissan, Toyota, BMW and Daimler (minus Chrysler) are doing fine making and selling cars in the US despite miserable sales.Once upon a time, businesses facing economic hardship were reorgainzed by the courts in a process known as bankruptcy. Chapter 11 would give GM, Ford and Chrysler the opportunity to void their UAW contracts and compete for labor like everyone else. The Dems will instead seek to keep the courts, normally their preferred forum for political change, far from this issue to protect their Big Labor patrons.
On the side we note and interpret the convergence of two seemingly unrelated elements of all this. One is that Obama leaked to the press (via surrogates, no doubt, but doubtless from him, as he was the only person in the room with Bush) that Bush asked for support for free trade with Colombia in exchange for support for the Big Three Bailout. The other is that Caterpillar is an example of a company that has reorganized under financial difficulty, managed to keep a UAW workforce, and is very profitable in manufacturing. As it happens, Caterpillar is one of the companies that would stand to profit most from free trade with Colombia, along with its UAW workforce.
Will Obama, Pelosi and the UAW do the reasonable thing in all this? The leak suggests not.
Our President-Elect appears to be set to "rule" in precisely the way that his thin but consistent legislative record suggests.
We remind gentle readers inclined to rant in response that, among other things, the esteemed Mr. O'Rourke still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that any part of the conservative coalition except the libertarian part is legitimately "conservative." Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, George Will and SWNID disagree.
But not as much as we disagree with the ascendant Ruling Party of our shaky Republic.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Yesterday, Valerie Jarrett, an old Obama friend and now co-chair of his transition team, used "rule" as the verb to refer to Obama's upcoming actions as POTUS.
We hope that such minor embarrassments will help the triumphant mute their smug disparagement of the outgoing administration's smugness.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are
Coming soon: Obama Win Causes Religious Right to Obsess over Coming Obama-Induced Crises, Onset of Tribulation
Many journalists will parrot the party line that Japanese and other manufacturers got ahead of their US competition in the manufacture of fuel-efficient cars. We think the problem lies elsewhere.
First, there's the matter of what the Big Three owe present, future and former employees thanks to two generations of labor contracts negotiated with the UAW. They're on the hook for pensions and health insurance for retirees, aside from current employees' wages and benefits. Labor costs for the Big Three are substantially higher than for Japanese, Korean and European manufacturers who operate stateside.
Second, there's the matter of CAFE standards. These require that the Big Three divide their entire "fleet" of manufactured cars into two groups, domestic and foreign. Their domestic fleet must then meet certain overall standards for fuel efficiency. With their high domestic labor costs, the Big Three can only make money on big, expensive cars if they're made in the US. But they have to make and sell small, cheap cars at a loss to be allowed to sell the ones that are profitable and meet CAFE standards. Worse, if they import cheap, efficient cars from their overseas plants, they don't count against CAFE standards for the domestic fleet. That last bit, by the way, was the demand of the UAW: it has no effect whatsoever on actual, overall fuel efficiency.
We think that the Big Three have made some dumb business decisions along the way also. They have that in common with other businesses. Ford, for instance, built unreliable cars and then muddled their marketing on top of it. But one can easily misunderestimate the degree to which the government from which the Big Three now seek a bailout is responsible for the mess that they're in.
But given the exchange of political parties just completed over the last two years, we expect that whatever proceeds to become an expensive compounding of existing problems. CAFE will get more strict. Discussion will focus on saving "well-paying" jobs, which is to say jobs on terms acceptable to the UAW, whether economically viable or not. CAFE will get stricter. All this will be rhetorically supported with talk about the failure of the Republicans to regulate properly, the Golden Age of American Manufacturing when everyone who worked belonged to an AFL-CIO affiliated union plus the Teamsters and the gap between rich and poor was narrower, and how the executives and their massive salaries and bonuses are the true bad guys.
The question is how long folks will believe that story.
There may be another tale developing that will be revealing. More or less simultaneously, the tax credit for buying a Toyota Prius and other Toyota and Lexus hybrids has run out. It will soon run out on Honda's hybrid too. Meanwhile, gasoline is below $2. The economic incentive for buying such vehicles has officially evaporated and will perhaps leave both manufacturers with a lot of unwanted cars to sell and a lot of manufacturing capacity that needs to be retooled. Such things happen in freer markets. But in more regulated markets, they happen with greater frequency and severity.
No, says prophet Al Gore. The Internet is.
Gore says that the Obama victory shows that people can work together on the Internet to make "a collectively intelligent decision." And so the next project for collective intelligence is to address climate change, of course.
Um, has anyone told Mr. Gore what the predominant uses of the Internet are? Consider the following list and ask whether these are indications of collective intelligence:
- celebrity gossip
- sports fantasy leagues
- social networking
- blogs like this one
Still, we want to take up Gore's challenge. So here's our contribution to the collectively intelligent decision on climate change.
What should we do about climate change? Adapt!
Thursday, November 06, 2008
And this is why I can't share the sense of satisfaction I sense in some of my "prophetic" friends. I believe the first step in culture making is not creating (let alone condemning, critiquing, or consuming) but cultivating: keeping what is already good in culture, good. American Christians, on the right and the left, have been painfully bad at cultivating. We want to jump to "transformation" and "impact" (words generally used on the right) or to "resistance" and "revolution" (favored words of the left). We often seem incapable of seeing ourselves first as gardeners: people whose first cultural calling is to keep good what is, by the common grace of God, already good. A gardener does not pull out weeds because she hates weeds; she pulls out weeds because she loves the garden, and because (hopefully) there are more vegetables or flowers in it than weeds. This kind of love of the garden—loving our broken, beautiful cultures for what they are at their best—is the precondition, I am coming to believe, for any serious cultural creativity or influence. When weeds infest the garden, the gardener does not take the opportunity to decry the corruption of the garden as a whole. She gets patiently, discerningly, to work keeping the garden good.
But that's not even the heart of the thing. We urge reading the whole essay.
Wal-Mart also does well in good times, as the less well off do better and shop more or move up from Family Dollar.
Meanwhile, the President-Elect and his Congressional Majority (a name for a rock band?) are on record as supporting card check, i.e. allowing unions to organize workplaces with an open petition of employees as opposed to a secret ballot.
If card check passes, Wal-Mart will be the first target for organized labor, and its biggest prize.
If a year from now Wal-Mart is not doing so well, it will mean one of two things: either the economy is so totally in the tank that no one is buying anything or Wal-Mart's workforce has been organized via card check. In the latter case, the economy will be headed to the tank.
We suggest monitoring Wal-Mart's stock price as a means of assessing the economy's prospects and the new administration's success. It closed today at $13.34, up $0.70 or 5.5%, on a day when the market as a whole took another cold bath.
We venture the prediction that this movie will not work.
The true, classic Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard) perfected their routines with countless hours of live performance in vaudeville. So in Hollywood studios given miserable scripts and lousy direction, they nevertheless created timeless comedy classics, at least as far as the world's 12-year-old boys are concerned.
No amount of talented writing, clever direction or high-tech special effects can replace the woodshedding that enabled the original Stooges to knock heads and gouge eyes with comic perfection.
We preemptively urge all gentle readers to stay away from this upcoming abomination.
One is the announcement of Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills [no kidding!]) that he wants to give up his chair of the House Governmental Oversight Committee (a.k.a. the Democrats' show-trial committee) to challenge John Dingell (D-Detroit [again, no kidding: can one imagine a more class-oriented political battle?]) for the chair of the House Energy Committee. Waxman's move is easy to interpret. With the Democrats in control of the government, there will be no show trials (that this obviates the threat of hearings about Bush administration misdeeds is at least mild comfort to a Republic that would like to look forward instead of backward), so Waxman wants another platform. His move to Energy means that he intends to make oil company profits and carbon emissions the subject of his media events for the foreseeable future. If he gets his way, assume that America's energy future will consist of bicycles, rickshaws and composted sewage.
The second development, not a surprise at all, is Obama's invitation to Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff. No one represents the dark side of the present Democratic Party better than Rahm-bo. He's the shrewdest operative among the Clintonistas, a brilliant fundraiser and a ruthless enforcer. The question is whether he will be Obama's Luca Brasi or Pelosi's . . . or both.
The latter is the worst outcome, as it means that Obama will work for his party's left. He doesn't have to, of course. He financed his campaign with grassroots donations, so he can tell MoveOn where to GetOff. Whether he will remains to be seen, and Emanuel's disposition in the matter will be an ambiguous indicator until things really start to roll.
Emanuel is presently ruminating his decision. Publicly he says he will base the decision on his commitment to his family, the constituency that elected him again to Congress, and his commitment to public service. We don't doubt that he's really asking himself which route advances his own bid for power. At which end of Pennsylvania Avenue he judges the balance of power to lie will tell much about the next eight years.
The question that lies before us is whether our future is center-left or just left. So far, the signals are at best ambiguous, like Obama's entire campaign.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
First, we affirm all that is affirmed by the founder of Crunchy Conservatism, Rod Dreher. His commentary on NPR today says just about all that SWNID would say, with two exceptions.
Exception One: The GOP must also stop doing things that antagonize the growing number of voters who aren't persons of pallor. Hammering on immigration, legal or otherwise, is wrong on many counts, including informed self interest and basic human morality, in our view. But it's also killing the Rs at the ballot box. The same may be said for the kind of subtle racism that still infects Republican rhetoric forty years after Nixon invented the Southern Strategy. No more talk about "real Americans," OK?
Exception Two: Dubya has been a massive drag on the party politically for the last three years. But it's time, or it will be eventually, to recognize him not as an inept president but as a president who presided with an impressive record of successes in extremely difficult times.
We're thinking about this Future of Republicanism thing. We ruminate on expressions like "opportunity," "responsibility," "self-determination," "economic enfranchisement," "environmental realism," "efficiency," "human dignity," "global democracy," and "international vigilance" as objects of hope versus fear. Governor Jindal will need a thoughtful platform and a clear way to speak about it when he runs against President Obama in 2012.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
The current Democratic leadership--the deservedly maligned Reid and Pelosi--aren't skilled. They lead a Congress with more dismal approval ratings than the less deservedly maligned Bush.
So, here's the deal, Mr. President-elect. Get your peeps to do the following:
- Throw Mrs. Pelosi overboard and make the more moderate and sensible Steny Hoyer Speaker of the House. Mrs. Pelosi has got on the last nerve of the electorate. Hoyer is at least a bit of a mensch.
- Tell the world that Hillary has earned leadership of the Senate, and more quietly set aside the inept Mr. Reid.
President-elect Obama, we implore you to use your impressive gifts for communication to help all Americans understand the experience of people of color in our Republic. Take up the noble task carried out by Washington, DuBois, Wright, and Ellison of describing the human experiences of those who have been routinely dehumanized. Tell it as one who, not the descendant of plantation slaves but of free Africans, is both an insider and an outsider to the black community in the United States. Challenge that community to become the engine of its own transformation. Challenge the majority culture to listen to the experience of those who live alongside them. Appeal to the better angels of everyone's nature to make racism and its devastating effects genuinely and not just prospectively a matter of the past. Your election can be about more than marginal tax rates if you do.
We promise more helpful advice in days to follow. Keep reading, Mr. President-Elect!
Obama pledges to be bipartisan and transformational in approach. So we're keeping that in the SWNIDish mind as we make our nominations. Gentle readers must note well that these people we think Obama ought to nominate, not that we predict he will.
Secretary of State: Obama named Indiana Senator Richard Lugar as one to whom he listens a lot on foreign policy. We say, put the old guy in charge of Foggy Bottom. He's nothing if not a realist and straight shooter.
Secretary of the Treasury: Paul Volcker is the obvious choice. The savior of the American economy in the years bridging Carter's Malaise in America and Reagan's Morning in America, Volcker will resist the urge to inflate the currency and beggar our neighbors.
Secretary of Defense: There's hardly a living Democrat able to take on this gravid task. So Obama ought to show his smarts and his magnanimity to reach out to a quasi-Democrat who opposed him in the election. Joe Lieberman is the man for the Pentagon. And Obama can justify it to his more partisan supporters by quietly noting that Lieberman's elevation will mean the appointment of a more faithful Democrat to his seat for the remainder of his term.
Attorney General: Obama needs someone with prosecutorial experience who will be clearly tough on terrorism. That's none other than America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
Secretary of the Interior: It would be fun to humiliate Al Gore by offering this to him. But he just might take it. We suggest Mark Tercek, president of the Nature Conservancy, one of the few sane environmental groups out there. Tercek is a former exec with Goldman Sachs, a better background than the Sierra Club or the Senate.
Secretary of Agriculture: The most important agricultural agenda is eliminating subsidies, which will boost trade, global development, food supplies and productivity. Ron Paul is right on this issue. Give him a job.
Secretary of Commerce: Robert Rubin should return to Treasury and succeed Paul Volcker after the old man has had about eighteen months. In the meantime, let him run commerce. He's the last of the Democratic fiscal conservatives with national stature.
Secretary of Health and Human Services: We want a thoughtful, informed, experienced individual who knows how to communicate as the Obama administration tries to turn the medical world upside down. How about TV doctor Tim Johnson, famous for his many appearances on Good Morning America?
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: This portfolio needs an innovative thinker, someone who understands the economics of the underclass and the dynamics of economic change for them. It calls for Brown University Professor Glenn Loury.
Secretary of Transportation: There's an easy one. The future of American transportation is the efficient, flexible bus. We nominate Megabus president Dale Moser.
Secretary of Labor: Since Obama is all about the card check and other boosts to organized labor, he needs a labor secretary who can keep big labor from overrunning American productivity. This job calls for a skilled consensus builder and negotiator. Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory was an early Obama supporter and has all those qualities. We say make him the surprise choice for Labor.
Secretary of Energy: Did you know that America's largest ethanol company just filed for bankruptcy? Or that the other companies have stock trading at $1 or below? Green fuels are a bust when one ignores fundamental economics, like the way falling oil prices can torpedo investment in new energy sources. Someone with the political savvy to manage all this and communicate it to the public is desperately needed in this job. That person is Sarah Palin, of course.
Secretary of Education: No more coddling of teachers unions and ineffective public school districts. The department of ed. needs a no-nonsense demander of results. We nominate DC Chancellor of Schools and Teach for America Alumna Michelle Rhee.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Let's see if money can be put where the mouth is and if past sins can be atoned. We nominate John Kerry.
Secretary of Homeland Security: The Dems need a wise hand on this. Sam Nunn is just the guy, and will be ready to step into Defense should the need arise.
Postscript: Obama is commonly compared to another man from Illinois. If he can assemble a cabinet as diverse as this Team of Rivals, he will have surpassed his saintly forebear.
Monday, November 03, 2008
POTUS and Sidekick: The election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be historic and entertaining respectively. We look for a turn to the left on all major issues, with quick reactions from the center and right that will once again demonstrate that Democratic party unity is an oxymoron. In those limited cases where Obama manages to do something (look for marginal tax rates to rise, trade deals to go sour, and military spending to be limited), the economic and geopolitical impact will be negative. We also regret that Obama looks unable to speak to the issue of race, where he once seemed to have the greatest potential as an agent of change. To reserve a place at the "I told you so" table, vote for McCain and Palin. But have the courtesy to remove your campaign paraphernalia, unlike the dinosaurs who still have their Kerry-Edwards gear on their cars.
US Representative, District 1: SWNID was ready a few weeks ago to vote against the venerable Steve Chabot because of his two votes against the financial bailout. Having heard him explain his vote--he wanted to pass legislation that would have rewritten upside-down mortgages as the root of the problem--we are reconciled to the principled conservative gentleman from Cheviot. Steve Driehaus is one of the many fiscally and socially conservative candidates that Democrats are running this year, but a dependable vote on all things conservative is hard to top. Chabot gets our vote, and we expect him to prevail.
Ohio Attorney General: Both major party candidates are well qualified and have good records of public service. We'll actually give the nod to Richard Cordray, the Democrat. We think that the clueless Ted Strickland is best served when his smarter friends, like Cordray and Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.
Ohio State Representative, District 3: Dale Mallory is most definitely the weakest link in the distinguished Mallory political clan. His first term in Columbus has been utterly undistinguished. But his opponent is the persistent Republican placeholder candidate Theo Barnes, who is amazingly on record endorsing the mandatory sick leave amendment that even its sponsors have withdrawn. Vote Mallory, simply because there's no real choice and Mallory is at least well connected.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice: Incumbents Maureen O'Connor and Evelyn Stratton are part of the conservative bloc of the Ohio Supremes. Their opponents, Joseph Russo and Peter Sikora, are connected to organized labor interests. Keeping Ohio open for business, which it barely is at present, requires conservative justices.
Judge, Court of Common Pleas: SWNID has little use for that mercurial fixture of Hamilton County Republican politics, Pat DeWine. His opponent, Norma Davis, is endorsed by loads of labor unions with little stake in common pleas judges except for general political gain. We give a reluctant nod to DeWine.
Judge, Court of Common Pleas: Fred Nelson has a gold-plated legal resume. Jerry Metz has the endorsement of the Democratic Party and lots of unions. Vote for Fred, who is superior in every way.
Judge, Court of Common Pleas: This is a tight one. Jody Luebbers is currently on this bench. She has a good record, good experience, a magic name in Cincinnati and the endorsement of the Democrats. Russell Mock is a municipal judge with a good record, good experience, no magic name and the endorsement of the sheriff and county prosecutor. We'll give the nod to the prosecutor's man.
Issue 1: This initiative will provide an earlier filing deadline for ballot issues. Vote yes to curtail the brinkmanship that's played with signatures for ballot initiatives.
Issue 2: This initiative will allow Ohio to issue bonds to pay for environmental projects, including brownfield cleanup. That's a necessary thing for an industrial state, and an appropriate thing for which to borrow money. Vote yes.
Issue 3: This constitutional amendment will guarantee property owners reasonable use of the water that runs under and next to their properties. Such measures are necessary in a time when state and local governments are happy to appropriate land for almost any conceivable use. Vote yes.
Issue 4: This would have been the amendment to mandate paid sick leave for full-time employees. What would have been better named the Send Jobs to Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania Act was withdrawn by supporters when Ted Strickland flipped from supporting to opposing the idiotic bill. So it's gone from the ballot. But note well: supporters said they had a pledge from Obama for a federal mandate for paid sick leave. We figure this will be among the many broken promises of the first one hundred days, but from little acorns . . . .
Issue 5: This is one of three mighty important ballot matters. Issue 5 will limit the terms of so-called payday loans. The loan companies complain that customers should be free to enter into contracts in which they are charged outrageous rates of interest, claiming that these rates are still better than bounced checks or credit card overages. We say that usury is usury and vulnerable people need protection from it. Vote yes. (Sorry, libertarians, we think government has a role in promoting virtue.)
Issue 6: Here's the second biggie. This noisy issue will establish a noisy casino near quiet Wilmington, Ohio. Forget all the noise about jobs being created. They'll simply be shifted from one casino to another, like it matters that it's in Wilmington instead of Rising Sun, Indiana. Gambling adds zero to domestic product. It transfers wealth instead of creating it. It is generally accompained by other vices when it arrives in a community. Always vote against gambling. Always. Even though we're already awash in it. No, no, a thousand times a thousand times no.
Issue 7: This initiative will limit the use of robotic cameras at intersections. We say vote no. Cameras take pictures of everyone, but only the bad guys suffer as a consequence.
Issue 8: This is the third big issue, on proportional representation on Cincinnati City Council. Brought up every so often by nostalgic members of Cincinnati's antiquated Charter Party, PR would use complicated mathematical algorithms to assign ranked votes to candidates for city council. The result, supporters say, is that candidates with a relatively small but dedicated constituency could be elected to council. We ask rhetorically, "And that is somehow a good thing?" For an example of PR, study the Israeli Knesset, certainly one of the most fractious political bodies in the world. Improvement for Cincinnati City Council will come when the charter is ammended so that a small number of members are elected at large and a larger number are elected from districts. Vote no on PR.
What to do in other precincts nationwide: Plug your address and zip into the SmartVoter ballot-bot and find who and what are on your ballot.
What to do Tuesday evening: Go to bed when they call Pennsylvania for Obama. McCain needs PA if he's going to thread the needle. Alternately, if North Carolina goes blue, go to bed. You'll need your sleep going into the next eight years. If Driehaus wins Ohio 1, watch out in the House. If McConnell loses KY, watch out in the Senate. But we think nevertheless that grassroots politics will make no majority safe for overreaching Democratic liberals. So go to bed.
What to do forever: Don't vote early unless you can't vote on election day. Stuff changes sometimes, so think gray until you have to make the decision. And don't sweat politics. What really matters transcends politics. All the political blather on this blog is little more than entertaining conversation around the water cooler.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
While we still stoically expect an Obama victory, we can yet imagine the opposite, especially if Tuesday looks like a classic TV episode about another historic election.
If the likely happens and Obama rules in 2009, we note that liberals are unlikely to get what they want. Not only do budgetary constraints work against their agenda, so does the reshaping of the Democratic caucus. Obama is certainly on the left of his party, but many new Democratic Congressmen will be "Blue Dogs," fiscally and socially conservative Dems, who may number over 60 in the House. These will be enough to stand in the way of anything radical and, in their view, irresponsible. Obama may face the possibility of alternative budgets or legislation passed by a coalition of Republicans and Blue Dogs, much like the previous Democratic President who had majorities in both houses.
Meanwhile, pundits now read the entrails as indicating the Dems will fall short of a 60-seat supermajority in the Senate. Even if they get one, those Dems vulnerable to challenges from the right in 2010 will be cautious.
Chins up, conservative brethren! The Republic will endure.
*Because Democrats stay out later collecting giveaways and can't answer their phones?
Today we reap a large harvest from recent reading.
First, in our pursuit of the perfect satirical novel, we add three lightly delightful reads: Alexander McCall Smith's Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld Entertainments, entitled Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and In the Villa of Reduced Circumstances. Through the experiences of the protagonist, a hopelessly eccentric and self-absorbed scholar of the philology of romance languages, Smith manages to ridicule academics, just about every major European country, the United States and Latin America.
Second, in our very selective indulgence in contemporary "literary fiction" (whatever that marketing term actually means), we enthusiastically endorse The Kite Runner. All the classic elements of a classic story are here: love, family, country, betrayal, weakness, tragedy and redemption. We kept expecting the book to turn to the maudlin, but it managed (as did Dickens?) to make the turn away from sappiness at just the right point.
We haven't seen the movie, and in keeping with our general advice and practice, we recommend against seeing the movie until one has read the book. Great books are seldom made into great movies, though many great movies have been based on average books. By reading before viewing, the memory of the movie's images don't interfere with the reading imagination.
We also read Atonement awhile back. A masterfully written book, we find it disappointing morally (so we simply skipped the movie). N.B. that doesn't mean we are disappointed that the characters acted immorally; if so, we'd be disappointed in the Bible, which most definitely doesn't disappoint us at all. We are disappointed that the narrator offers something as "atonement" that most certainly is not that thing, even in weak form. The Kite Runner addresses similar themes with more courage, and in our reading connects at a deep level to the true story of atonement that we cherish.