Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why aren't we them...

A friend compared the Global War on Terror to the Cold War, saying:
"We will have times where it will wax and wane in the severity and attention but will take a long time to break them."
My view is that Communist Russia and fundamentalist Islam are connected in their authoritarian worldview. However, Communist Russians were not willing to die for their cause. This is evident by the rampant corruption in those failed states. Those in power weren't willing to be poor like their countrymen and so the system and the idealogy died for the most part. China is Communist is name only now, and Cuba, well, it's Cuba.

However, Islamists ARE willing to die for their cause (see New York City, Washington, DC on 9/11, as well as Madrid and London bombings). This distinguishing characteristic separates the GWoT from the Cold War.

The difference between "radical" Christians and Islamists is that "radical" Christians don't kill themselves. However, what "radical" Christians and Islamists do want is a governmental system that operates with the Bible as its Constitution and Sharia law, respectively. The only thing stopping "radical" Christians from overrunning America, or the South or making a criminal justice system with Christian values is...our Constitution and liberals.

This brings up an interesting point: What is preventing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson from taking over the country? Are we being saved by our...sinfulness?

That's a thought that's going to fester.


Blogger Kevin Barnes wrote a FAQ about living in India as an American.

Find his answers to questions like these, among many others:

How much do jobs pay in India?

How can you live with yourself for helping to move American jobs to India?

What’s it like raising your kids in India?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Costs of Wars

According to a paper titled "The Economics of the [American] Civil War" by Roger L. Ransom of the University of California, Riverside:

"The Civil War has often been called the first "modern" war. In part this reflects the enormous effort expended by both sides to conduct the war. What was the cost of this conflict? The most comprehensive effort to answer this question is the work of Claudia Goldin and Frank Lewis (1978; 1975). The Goldin and Lewis estimates of the costs of the war are presented in Table 3. The costs are divided into two groups: the direct costs which include the expenditures of state and local governments plus the loss from destruction of property and the loss of human capital from the casualties; and what Goldin and Lewis term the indirect costs of the war which include the subsequent implications of the war after 1865. Goldin and Lewis estimate that the combined outlays of both governments -- in 1860 dollars -- totaled $3.3 billion. To this they add $1.8 billion to account for the discounted economic value of casualties in the war, and they add $1.5 billion to account for the destruction of the war in the South. This gives a total of $6.6 billion in direct costs -- with each region incurring roughly half the total."
A historical inflation conversion chart from Oregon State University show that 1 dollar in 1860 would equal to $23.25 in 2006. (Take 1 dollar and divide by 0.043)

Given a cost of $6.6 billion in 1860 dollars multiplied by $23.25 value, the 2006 cost of the Civil War equals: $139.5 billion.

Going by these figures ($6.6 billion for the Civil War 1860 and $2 trillion for the Iraq War in 2006), the American Civil War cost 1/14 the pricetag of the second Iraq War.

Free-market solutions

A while ago I was listening to a story on NPR regarding the safety testing of infant car seats. Kim Klemen, an editor from Consumer Reports was interviewed and called for federal regulations on the seats to ensure safety.

I remember thinking that Klemen was basically advocating for "bigger government".

The free-market solution to a situation, in which tests on infant car seats shows that one or more are dangerous, would be that consumers would just not by the dangerous ones. Obvious. However, when the company that produces a "faulty" infant car seat slashes the price by 25 or 50 percent, it's a much more viable option for families who may already be on a tight budget.

There is nothing to deter parents from picking a car seat that appears sturdy and indistinguishable from other car seats on the market. The determining factor is the price. They would have to seek out the research on product in say, Consumer Reports, and purchase the ideal seat. How many people do that?

I believe that most "free-market solutions" depend on highly informed consumers making educated choices. However, most consumers don't refer to product reviews. Their purchasing decision in a consumer society are based mostly on price. The free-market solution would assume that the manufacturers of unsafe infant car seats would eventually go out of business because no one would buy their products with the knowledge they were unsafe. Obviously, that isn't true.

The flip side is people like Klemen arguing for more (or better) regulation. These have their own downsides (additional government responsibility, bureuacracy, etc). Assuming the car seats are made in the U.S., providing Americans with jobs and sustaining a market, higher compliance costs can affect the ability to pay labor, off-shoring, etc.

In the end, the highly localized and extreme choices are possibly dozens of injured infants or possible economic downturn.

We must pick and the price is steep. The brings me to a Ben Franklin quote via The Moderate Voice:

“Friends,” says he, “and neighbors, the taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an abatement.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What defines a "vast majority"

Hugh Hewitt said of the 700-mile fence at the U.S.-Mexico border:

"...the vast majority of people believe the 700 miles of fencing will in fact be effective..."
A Quinnipac University poll taken in mid-November asked:
As you may know Congress has passed and President Bush has signed legislation that would build a 700 mile fence and increase security along the Mexican-U.S. border. Do you think additional measures are needed from Congress to deal with illegal immigrants entering the country or do you think this is enough for now?"
Only 24 percent said that the fence was "Enough for Now". If it's so effective, how come it's not enough?

Blow the system

Commenters on The Moderate Voice, discuss a Robert Novak column:

"The [...] question is how successful the Republicans will be at pulling the blame game off, and how the Democrats will respond to the game ([which] will play into how successful, or unsuccessful the Republicans are).

[The] sense also is that the reason everyone is afraid to “pull the plug” (and they all are), is that no one knows how to without “blowing out the entire power system”. We are truly between a very large rock, and a very very hard place. Whatever [we] do is going to result in bad repercussion."

Most importantly:

" war can last longer than public support for it."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Newt's ideas

Below are ideas proposed by Gingrich. I gotta say, I like them. It's interesting to note that, his ideas are not all conservative ideas (which nixes the notion that all good ideas of liberals are conservative ideas, but that's another story).

Newt's problem is that when he tries to talk about these ideas in the face of criticism or skeptics, he gets very partisan. At that point, he can't see past being a Republican. As far as the presidency, we will have had a guy like that for 8 years and voters may be tired of the partisanship. That's probably the biggest thing holding him back.

Well, that and his name reminds people of a lizard and a Dr. Seuss character.

Bold Solutions for Immigration, Citizenship and Accurate Honest Voting

* Border control for national security with sufficient intensity and accuracy to ensure that no terrorist and no drug dealer can cross the border.
* Make English the language of government while respecting the language background of all Americans and encouraging younger Americans to learn foreign languages.
* Make passing a test on American history in English and giving up the right to vote in any other country key requirements of U.S. citizenship.
* Since becoming a citizen requires knowing English, have all election ballots in English.
* To insure that only legal citizens vote, require every voter to have a photo ID card.
* Cut off all federal aid to any city or county that declares itself a “sanctuary” and refuses to enforce legal immigration requirements.
* Enforce the laws requiring employers to know that their employees are legal.
* Outsource to Visa, Mastercard or American Express (or a consortium of the three) to have an accurate, real-time computerized system for identifying those participating in a worker visa program and for instantly notifying any employer that the person they are about to hire is illegal.
* Create a systematic worker visa program with a biometric card run by the computer card companies to avoid fraud, a background check to eliminate any criminals and a signed contract to obey the law and pay taxes or else be removed from the U.S. within 48 hours for failure to comply.

Bold Solutions for Energy to Help National Security, the Economy and the Environment

* Create a series of incentives and prizes to develop a hydrogen economy and return the Middle Eastern oil supply to being a petrochemical feedstock. A hydrogen economy would be better for America and our allies. A hydrogen economy would be better for the environment (no carbon loading of the atmosphere). A hydrogen economy would be better for the American economy because it would keep at home all the cash we are currently sending to Venezuela and the Middle East.
* While working to develop a hydrogen economy, there should also be an interim strategy to include incentives for conservation and for renewable fuels, including wind, solar and biofuels. It is better to send the money to American farmers than to send it to foreign dictators.
* Create a $1-billion prize for the first affordable car to get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline and be manufacturable at a price of $30,000 or less per car with reliability and performance comparable to a gasoline powered car. This car would probably combine an e-85 ethanol fuel with a hybrid motor using electricity (and allowing a plug-in to absorb the 40% of electricity production currently unused at night) with a composite construction modeled off the Boeing Dreamliners very light and very strong (much stronger than steel) composite.
* A second $2-billion prize should be offered for a car getting 1,000 miles to the gallon of gasoline.

Bold Solutions for the Cost of Higher Education

As higher education costs soar out of sight, liberals focus on subsidizing student loans and larger Pell grants but no one asks why costs keep rising so rapidly:

* Why are textbooks so expensive when printing costs are dropping and specialized publishing on demand is very cheap? There should be a project to produce textbooks at market costs not monopoly costs.
* How much have higher education bureaucracies expanded since 1960 and how much has that added to the unnecessary increase in the cost of education? A new model of flattening the hierarchy and shrinking the bureaucracy should be aimed at lowering the cost of higher education dramatically.
* How much can be saved by encouraging students to learn as rapidly as possible and graduate as quickly as possible? How much do current curriculums both in K-12 and in higher education actually slow students down, waste their time and waste taxpayer money?

Bold Solutions for Permanent Space-based Research and Exploration

NASA has become a slow and paper-dominated bureaucracy. It is proposing to spend billions very slowly and very bureaucratically. It will both waste the taxpayers’ money and actually slow the speed of getting into space. A bold alternative solution would be to:

* Focus the NASA bureaucracy on science projects and inexpensive unmanned space exploration.
* Set aside the money currently allocated for manned space exploration for getting to the moon and Mars and turn it into prizes with bigger rewards for earlier achievements and smaller prizes for later achievements. Entrepreneurial startups and bold adventurers will get into space much faster and more excitingly than a government bureaucracy.
* Change the FAA and NASA rules to make it easy for entrepreneurs and explorers to get into space at a much higher risk than we would tolerate for government programs. Establish an equivalency with mountain climbing as an acceptable risk informed adults could take in space launches.


Before anybody steals my idea, I'm putting it in print.

I'm supporting the U.S. Senator from Illinois, Brock O'Baumaugh for President.

** UPDATE **

Merchandise available here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Homophobes AND Arsonists

I was a Boy Scout (and before that a Cub Scout) until the 8th grade. I got as far as earning a Star Badge.

Along with having a policy that excludes gay troop leaders, they are now burning down forests!

The federal government argued that Boy Scouts playing with fire caused a 14,200-acre wildfire and wants a judge to hold them responsible, allowing officials to seek damages.
In the eastern world that's called Karma.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cost-Benefit and Short-sightedness

The Institute for Analysis of Global Security says:

including the loss in stock market wealth -- the market's own estimate arising from expectations of lower corporate profits and higher discount rates for economic volatility -- the price tag [of 9/11] approaches $2 trillion.
Back in March 2006, the price tag of the Iraq War was predicted to reach $1 trillion or more.

Let's set aside the fact we're talking "trillions" with a "t" here and do a cost-benefit analysis. If we get attacked it costs us two bucks. To attack them costs maybe a buck twenty. Based on that extremely simplified conclusion, we should just nuke them (at a cost of 1 cent) and be done with it. Obviously the big differentiating factor in the analysis is the loss of life.

Should we unleash nuclear weapons on a Third World country because it's cheaper than getting troops killed? Should we send more of our soldiers to get killed over there rather than innocents die here? At least the soldiers were volunteers. Thankfully, I will never be in a position to make that call.

I think Sen. Kennedy's proposal reflects the sentiment: "This guy has already f----d up HUGE, are we going to let him f--k up MORE?".

The proposal is a little short-sighted in that it begs the question: "For which decisions does the President not have ask Congress for permission?" It's kind of like Brutus and Cassius, and the rest of the conspirators who didn't like Caesar and his influence, decided to gut-check his power (rather than assassinate him). But they don't take into account that they too can be gut-checked when they get power.

Related to this, Republicans were just assuming they would be in the majority eternally and never have to worry about having to filibuster something they didn't like.

As far as a surge, I think that word is just for PR purposes. It's meant to give the illusion that something is changing. Even McCain has said he would only support a "surge" if it was sustained and lasting. I personally believe that is not the definition of a surge; it's an escalation.

President Bush would rather stay away from the word "escalation" because it's too closely associated with the Vietnam War. While our troops are in Iraq trying to help they freely admit they are also targets. We're basically giving them more targets.

The Taliban is making a comeback and we're sending more troops to Iraq not Afghanistan, where that guy is...what's his's on the tip of my tongue...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Under the bus

Former President Gerald Ford gave an interview embargoed until his death in which he opposed the War in Iraq. Ford's former press secretary, Ron Nessen, decided to be the true conservative and threw Ford under the bus by implying the president was senile. And his own mother.

"When Ford talked to Woodward, he was 91 years old, or 92 years old. My mother is 95. You know, I'm not sure I'd like to see some of her quotes published on the front page of The Post because I don't think she has the same mental acuteness she had when she was younger."

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Minimum Wage is Racist?

One of the priorities of Democrats in the 110th Congress is to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 over the course of two years. In 1995, the Joint Economic Committee in Congress (made up of a majority of Republicans) published talking points against a raise in the minimum wage. One point stated:

The minimum wage hurts blacks generally.
Other detractors said:
The economic case against minimum wage laws is simple. Employers pay a wage no higher than the value of an additional hour's work. Raising minimum wages forces employers to dismiss low productivity workers. This policy has the largest affect on those with the least education, job experience, and maturity. Consequently, we should expect minimum wage laws to affect teenagers and those with less education.
"Low productivity" workers are those with the "least education, job experience and maturity". It's easy to connect the dots that opponents are saying that those with less education, less job experience and "maturity" are blacks.

Their simple conclusion is that a raise in the minimum wage is racist because of this. Nevermind themselves.

Add to Technorati Favorites