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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Iraqi Army

One of the most often repeated criticisms of our invasion of Iraq has been the disbanding of Saddam’s army after the fall. Critics from both sides of the aisle say that this is now clearly an obvious mistake. Here is an example from John Lehman in today’s Washington Post:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was proved right in his keeping the initial invasion force small and agile, but desperately wrong in disbanding all Iraqi security forces and civil service with no plan to fill the resulting vacuum. Certainly it is hard now to understand the logic of that decision.

I don’t get this criticism. Generally this criticism is offered without serious support because the argument falls apart. There is no proof that keeping Saddam’s army would have resulted in something better than we have today. One of the major successes of rebuilding both Germany and Japan was the complete elimination of their prior military institutions. If you want to reform a business or government, sometimes you need to completely throw out the old goverment, especially the parts that were not working. In Saddam’s case, the Iraqi army was a corrupt and worthless institution dominated by the Sunni minority. Although the rebuilding of Iraq’s military had a false start, the military is now a great success. Keeping the old Saddam army around may have provided us with short term gain, but long term, the army would have failed. In modern states, especially new states, the military often becomes and remains the only stabilizing force in the country. If the military is institutionalized into an honorable institution, dishonorable power seekers will have difficulty taking control. Disbanding Saddam’s army was the smart thing to do. Yes, it may have cost more American lives in the short term by delaying stability in Iraq. But, once stability comes, it will be long lasting because the military will be built on a more solid foundation. If we would have kept the Baathist army our problems today would be much worse.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Saurus, saurus, sausus,

Don't you know that Monday morning quarterbacking never requires you to actually do the analysis you just did? You just proclaim that certain judgement calls were obviously wrong and look incredulous at anyone who disagrees. This is part and parcel of the strategy of criticizing a Bush administration action without ever saying why an alternative action would have been better.

6:33 PM, September 01, 2006  

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Monday, August 28, 2006

State of Emergency? State of Chaos

I am casting off my libertarian hat upon listening to Pat Buchanan on Glenn Beck tonight. My free market sensibilities are usually impeccable, but Buchanan makes convincing arguments toward thwarting immigration. America has worked so well because we have all been united around AMERICA. As immigrants have begun to refuse to assimilate, we have seen a loss of a common culture. More and greater government is going to be necessary to contain our ongoing Balkanization. Calls for quotas, more "hate crime" and anti-discrimination laws will bellow louder.

More government offends my libertarian sensibilities. Amnesty is another Neocon foible, one step forward, three steps back. Hmmm. No. More of a Jacksonesque moonwalk, the appearance of foward movement via a backward sliding motion. And I've always had a soft spot for Pat.

I have not yet purchased Buchanan's book State of Emergency, but will be doing so. (Ahem, you may purchase by clicking on the Amazon link on the lower left of this page, assuming cookies are enabled as mine are not, to benefit the John Adams Society.)

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Buchanan has some good points about the immigration problem. Most of us agree with his solution to build a fence and then let attrition take over. At that point, if we can't get enough people to pick grapes, then we should institute a guest worker program.

I have heard that Congress has now actually funded the fence to a tune of $3 billion. That’s a good thing.

Buchanan is often wrong on trade. Free trade is generally better. We should not go out of our way to protect drudgery jobs in this country. However, there are always exceptions to every rule. We should at least consider the anti-trade arguments made by Buchanan and his backers.

8:52 AM, August 29, 2006  

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Outed by Google

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates has denied the request of Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson to be relieved of the requirements of the local rule that obliges inclusion of their home address as part of court filings. Plame and Wilson have asserted claims against various current and former Bush Administration officials.

In denying the requested relief, Judge Bates remarked: "[T]he implicit premise of plaintiffs' motion -- that their residential address is confidential -- is questionable. In less than thirty minutes, the Court was able to ascertain plaintiffs' residential address from multiple publicly available sources, including a database of federal government records."

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I still am having a hard time believing that Fitzgerald is not a partisan Democrat. News was released this weekend that Richard Armitage was the one who "leaked" Plame's name to Novak. Yet, Fitzgerald continued to pursue the case in the whitehouse. What was he looking for?

9:06 AM, August 28, 2006  

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Time for That Rate Cut

According to the AP today:

Wall Street fell for a third straight session Wednesday as fresh signs of a housing slump triggered concern the economy is slowing too fast and could erode corporate profits.

As I predicted, we now need an interest rate CUT.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Do you think Bernanke overshot? Will he put us into a recession?

The increase in oil prices have to be worth at least 50 bps.

The housing market is true. There are 4 houses for sale in my immediate neighborhood. They are all overpriced and have been on the market for months.

8:41 AM, August 24, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

If the Fed had paused between each of the last ten interest rate hikes, we might be about in the right spot today.

But let's see what Bernanke has to say today. (My God, they treat him like Greenspan.)

Houses for sale all over the place here too. Part of this phenomenon is the naivete of homeowners, thinking they're going to continue to see 10% increases when things have gone little more than flat in reality. The old stubborn supply and demand rule is playing a role here in addition to interest rate increases.

9:11 AM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

If the Fed had raised every other time since it started raising, the Fed funds rate would be about 3% or 3.25% right now.

There is a nagging equation out there called the Fisher equation, named after Irving Fisher.

It reads

i = r + pi

Here, i is the nominal interest rate (the Federal Funds rate), r is the real interest rate (the amount of purchasing power you get back over and above what you lent) and pi is the inflation rate.

Everyone agrees that the Fed, in the long run, can't affect r. The real interest rate is determined by the market. It's hard to argue that its not between 2 and 3 percent (or r is between 2 and 3). Further, most policy makers want at least a little bit of inflation since the prospect of deflation, justified or not, scares them. So they shoot for, say, pi = 2.

Thus you really can't get away from the i, in normal times, being around 4 or 5. i = 3 is a bit lower than can be maintained.

9:27 AM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

I thought pi = 3.14159. So little I know . . .

The first 10 increases or so were necessary, I agree. But after that, the last 7, could have used a pause between, if for no other reason than to curb investor anxiety. Then we would be somewhere around 4.5 today?

9:39 AM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

The real problem is that recently, my pi (inflation) has been greater than your pi (3.141592653589).

3:36 PM, August 25, 2006  

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006


According to this article 1/2 of residents in large cities of the Netherlands are not of "western" origin. Most are muslims. Consider this along with the recent article about liberals not having enough babies. In America liberals not having enough babies may result in more conservative rule. In Europe, it could result in Muslim rule.

This fact should be considered for our first debate in September - RESOLVED: WESTERN EUROPE IS LOST.

Could it be that the next great wave of western europeans to the United States will be europeans fleeing the take-over of their home countries? Or will these rising minority populations be "flushed out" before they achieve majorities (as they were in the middle ages in Spain with Muslims and in France with Protestants).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Did Israel Lose?

I have been hearing almost every pundit on the news and talk radio discuss how Israel has lost the current war in Lebanon. They say Israels lost is embolding the arab world etc... They say Israel lost because they did not wipe out Hezbollah.

I still don't buy it. How is it that Israel lost the war? They suffered less than 200 dead in a month of fighting. The Hezbollah dead is uncountable because Hezbollah does not report their numbers. Israel destroyed pretty much all of Hezbollah's infrastructure in southern Lebanon and Beirut. The effects of this destruction will start to have its effects in the coming months.

Further, Israel still occupies parts of southern Lebanon and isn't going to leave until a UN force arrives. It is likely that this UN force will never arrive. What will happen then - Israel will be occupying Lebanon under the graces of the UN? Hezbollah will have to start attacking Israel. Is that a victory for Hezbollah?

I finally found a column I agree with on this war:

In the immediate aftermath of the 1973 October War, there was much joy in the Arab world because the myth of Israeli invincibility had been shattered by the surprise Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal, and the Syrian offensive that wept across the Golan Heights. Even unbiased commentators noted the failure of the Israeli air force to repeat its feats of 1967 while losing fully one-quarter of its combat aircraft to ground fire, just as hundreds of Israeli tanks were damaged or estroyed by brave Egyptian infantrymen with their hand-carried missiles and rockets

Eventually it was decided that Israel won that war. How many planes did Israel lose in the current conflict?


The 2005 National Journal Senate voting record rankings are posted here. It was interesting to see that Rick Santorum only had a 70% ranking. The media has done a good job making him seem like the arch conservative. How was James Jeffords ever a republican. He barely cracks 20%. He is almost worse than Harry Reid.

Dying for your cause

This Islamic cleric gave a speech recently where he argued that dying for your cause is just.

In November 2004, Dr Tamimi told the BBC that he was prepared to be a suicide bomber if the opportunity arose. In an interview which was roundly condemned, he said that 2sacrificing myself for Palestine was a noble cause. It is the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity".

I agree. Dying for your cause can be just. However, the part about having 50 innocent civilians dying with you in a pizza parlor is the part that troubles me.
Perhaps to these guys any western, civilians, military, everyone is the enemy. If that is so, how come we don't treat their civilians as the enemy either? Instead we cry and complain when a civilian in Lebanon cuts his finger.

I heard one leftist a few years ago argue this:

It was just for Osama to bomb the world trade center because as a democracy, U.S. citizens all had a stake in what the U.S. goverment was doing and therefore were liable for the crimes of the government. In contrast, Iraqi civilians were innocent because they were unable to affect the decision making of Saddam Hussein. Therefore it was criminal to target the Iraqi civilians.
Yet, at the same time, Osama claims that he is fighting for the people. With rationalization like this how is it possible to reason with the left (where everything is fake but accruate).

We do it to ourselves. More from the article about the Islamic cleric above:

Dr Tamimi, a prominent member of the Stop The War coalition, is married with three children and lives in Willesden, North West London. After coming to Britain from the Middle East more than 30 years ago, he and his family have become British citizens and live in a council block.

What a joke. Who let this guy into Britain.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Goodbye Chicks, Hello Flatts

In the twin cities this week, it is the changing of the country music guard.

Last Friday, country music's angry girls, the Dixie Chicks, took the stage to the stage of the Target Center to a down-home version of "Hails to the Chief" and extended yet again their multi-city musical critique of the President. Even the Star-Tribune's reviewer was nostalgic for earlier times.

This coming Friday, Rascall Flatts will play the grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair; and the three boy Flatts are about as far away from their country music sisters, the three Chicks, as one genre will permit.

As a counterpoint to Natalie Maines' recent protest ballads, consider the Flatts' single "He's not the leaving kind," which takes Chief Judge Roy Moore's side of the Ten Commandments controversy. The Flatts sing:

They tried their best to drag Him out
Of a courthouse down in Montgomery
Now they want to kick Him out of school
And take Him off our money
They can take those words off of paper and stone
But He aint gone, no

He ain't the leavin' kind
He'd never walk away
Even from those who don’t believe
And wanna leave Him behind
He ain't the leavin' kind

What a difference a week makes.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Glorious or Notorious?

The Washington Times reports today that the U.S. Supreme Court Justice with the highest name recognition is Clarence Thomas. 1 in 5 survey respondents were able to name him as a member of the High Court.

The article goes on to observe, however, that 3 out of 4 survey respondents correctly identified Larry, Moe and Curly as the Three Stooges.

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

His confirmation hearing certainly commanded more screen time than the other Justices. And he is the Justice the left loves to hate. That he is the most recognizable name on the Court is understandable. What is unfathomable is that the name is recognized by just one-fifth of respondents. I would hope at least that many could recognize the names of ALL the Justices.

8:22 AM, August 19, 2006  

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What Happens When Government Runs Health Care

This Reuters story bemoans the fact that Chinese AIDS patients cannot get the good drugs, leaving the reader to wonder why until the end of the story when they state:

Sources told Reuters that [drug manufacturer] Abbott is asking US$1,000 for a full-year course but the Chinese government is unwilling to pay more than US$400.

Earlier in the story we are told of one patient paying around $19,000 per year to receive the same drugs from clandestine sources. Wouldn't this patient be thrilled to pay $1,000 for a year's course?

Following the disclosure that the drugs are not available because of a stalemate between Abbott and the Chinese government, we are told to blame Abbott:

"In my opinion they are abusing their monopoly," said Moon. "They are abusing the patent rights they have by refusing to supply a life-saving medicine to a population that needs it."

Let's be clear: RUETERS is source of this story, not the Chinese government. Astounding.

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

The news on China's enviable health care system continues today with a story about deaths, one of a 6-year-old girl, and illnesses blamed on poor government regulation of its approved drug manufacturers.

I can't wait for the US to have a completely government-run health care system. We're getting closer all the time, and our governor is headed down that path by calling for a ban on pharmaceutical advertising. Why should there be free speech of an industry that should be government-controlled anyways? (Except sports stadiums. Government sponsored sport stadia, being essential to government function, can promote themselves all they'd like. Why? Because Comrade Pawlenty said so. But I'm getting slightly off-topic.)

1:54 PM, August 15, 2006  

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Terror attacks and flights

I posted this on another blog. I thought it was also relevant here.

The recent arrests of terrorists in London reminded me of the Pan Am Flight 103 (London to NY) that blew up over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. I remember the day well, because I was flying from London to New York at the same time. I decided to spend the first semester of my junior year abroad in London (along with Brian C., a friend I met while attending the UW-Madison. The program was with Ealing College, a small college in the west side of London. Our plan was to fly out in early August and return home on December 21, 1988. We were looking for the cheapest flights, which meant flying from Chicago to NY and then NY to London. Fortunately for us, we flew Continental and not Pan Am.I did not find out about the mass murder until I reached Chicago and heard about it from Brian C's parents. Although at the time I did not know much about the details, and therefore, did not think to contact anyone. I recall hearing someone talking about a "plane crash" in the bathroom in New York (actually Newark), but that is all I knew. We were picked up at O’Hare airport by Brian's parents in the vary-late afternoon and took our time getting back to Madison. (I think we stopped for dinner somewhere). During this time of non-contact (no cell phones then), my sister was frantically trying to locate me. She had left several messages at my friend's parent's house. I made the mistake of telling my parents about my flight time and arrival plans, but I did not provide further details (such as which airline I was flying on). My mother was distraught. I did not actually contact them until roughly 10 hours after the Lockerbie incident. Further, my sister had also contacted my fraternity house (where I was supposed to stay that night) asking if I had shown up there yet and whether anyone knew more details about the flight I was on. This call blossomed into the story that I was indeed on the Pan Am flight. When I appeared at the door that evening, my fraternity brothers were shocked to see me. It turns out that several people in the college program I attended were on the flight - some of them I knew. Chances are, I would have never seen them again, but it is horrific to think about it.

It is creepy to think about it now, but we considered Pan Am when we originally bought our tickets to London. It was one of the few other possible flights that had the return date and time we wanted (noon-Dec 21). However, the Pan Am tickets were more expensive mostly because the Pan Am flight went into Heathrow airport rather than Gatwick. I remember thinking to myself on the long train ride from Gatwick to London whether the extra hassle was worth the cost savings we got from taking Continental!!!It is also grim knowing that Pan Am 103 was only just a flight randomly selected by the terrorists - it could have been our flight....or anyone’s flight. Despite all this, I am still surprised that we have not been attacked again in America by terrorists since 9/11. The conventional wisdom was that we would be attacked. The pundits were wrong. I have a lot of my own theories as to why (outside of intelligence and police work)....but, you have to give credit to the government for preventing these attacks. They have done amazing work.

Friday, August 11, 2006

No liquids on the plane

News outlets have been reporting lately that no one is currently allowed to bring liquids on planes. This is a pretty benign rule that will affect few people other than for medicines or baby formula. However, I have heard that medicines and baby formula are exempted from this rule.

I also heard that in order to allow baby formula or medicines to pass, the passenger must drink some of the baby formula or medicine in front of security. What a great test!

Reporters are so damn lazy.

I was reading in the Edmonton Sun about Linda Rondstadt. This caused me to write the reporter and the letters to the editor the following missive.

Don't you people have Google?

Regarding your Linda Ronstadt interview she claims

"George Bush is intellectually incurious, which is a nice way of saying it. He is not well educated, not well travelled. He'd never even been outside of the country. Can you imagine? His father was president, vice-president and head of the CIA, and it had never occurred to him to travel outside of the United States."

Doesn't your reporter, Mike Ross, owe it to his readers to spend five minutes on Google to see if this is true? It isn't. Before he was President, Bush travelled to Mexico, China, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. (See here). Is laziness just fine as long as it makes George Bush look bad?

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Its the same old formula. Bush is dumb and Bush manipulates us.

8:25 AM, August 11, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Gee, I'd like to be not very well educated at Harvard and Yale. But the real question is, why were you reading about Linda Ronstadt?

8:25 AM, August 11, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

I suppose my reasons for reading about Rondstadt just blew by you .

11:01 AM, August 12, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

I am so culturally illiterate that your pun itself blew right by me, Pencil. I had to google it. The only song I know by Rondstadt is something about "we're underneath the same stars."

9:49 AM, August 13, 2006  

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Useful Idiot Watch

From yesterday's StarTribune (link)

It's unfortunate that so many of this country's Cuban exiles are more interested in pursuing their political vendettas that they are in seeing a bright future for the Cuban people ("Cubans in Minnesota want a peaceful transition," Aug. 2).

A significant portion of Miami's Cuban exile community consists of individuals whose families were displaced by the Cuban revolution. These families, along with prerevolution dictator Fulgencio Batista, were part of the Cuban elite. This small fraction of the Cuban population owned virtually all of the island's land and possessed most of its wealth, while the majority of Cuban citizens lived in squalor.

Then the revolution came, bringing with it such things as land reform and educational opportunity. Today, Cubans are entitled to a free postsecondary education. Cuba has the highest literacy rate and the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America. It also provides its citizens with a level of medical care that would be the envy of many in this country.

My hope for the Cuban people is that they alone decide the course of their nation after Castro. My fear is that the U.S. government and corporate America will take it upon themselves to fill the gap -- leaving this beautiful island and its dignified inhabitants as a puppet state ripe for political and economic exploitation.


From John Derbyshire in National Review (way back in May 2000) (link)

Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Excellent Post HP. There is also that little problem of where the Cuban health care statistics come from.... Castro's government of course...

We should make a deal with Cuba. Offer Castro (or Raoul) full trading rights in exchange that he must allow total freedom to sell all magazines, newspapers, or other publications printed in the United Sates (we of course would agree that Castro could sell all Cuban publications here - its all about free trade!

Do you think he would accept?

8:40 PM, August 10, 2006  

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Terrorist Plot Foiled

It seems likely that if the news of today's foiled terrorist play had come out on Tuesday, Lieberman would have stomped Ned Lamont in his primary battle. Americans quickly forget about the war we are fighting and have to be constantly reminded.

One more thing about Lieberman... I am no big fan. Lieberman is pretty liberal except for his stance on WOT. Nevertheless, his defeat is a bad oman. It is a tragedy when the other side ceases even to have the same ulitimate goal. If you recall the Kennedy/Nixon debate, Kennedy pointed out that he and Nixon had the same goals in minds only different methods in achieving them.

Today, with some parts of the democratic party, this is no longer true.

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Interesting that the stock market is up today. Supposedly that's because of earnings reports and DESPITE the failed terror plot. I say investors are feeling confident because we are actually stopping the attacks.

I'm impressed that these wayward students from Egypt are actually being sought and arrested. That doesn't sound very sensitive.

1:31 PM, August 10, 2006  

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Adoption Mess

Several people have critisized me for adopting an infant from a foreign country rather than trying to pursue a domestic open adoption. This story is another reason why foreign adoptions are popular.

At three days old, Mark Huddleston's son was placed with a family who eventually adopted him. Huddleston learned of his son when the baby was two months old; he immediately pursued custody. The ensuing legal battle took took two years and the child is now 2-1/2. He may soon be ripped from the only parents he has known and given to a stranger.

Read the rest here....

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

I wouldn't criticize you for a foreign adoption. I only skimmed the story you referenced, but it reinforces the argument that adopting parents must ensure both biological parents have signed away rights and that the adoption is airtight and closed.

10:08 PM, August 09, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

I read the article and agree that it's a mess. But I agree with Scribbler also. Adopting a baby from any country into a stable home is a heroic act. It saves, or at least incredibly positively alters, that baby's life. Where is it written that babies born in the U.S. are more worthy of that saving?

7:39 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I agree scribbler. I was not passing judgment on the issue of father's rights that is discussed int he story, I was only pointing out why it is an issue that is best avoid.

I think there should be some waiting period after a child is born with out an identified father. The hospital would be required to make a reasonable effort to locate the father or at least publish notice of the waiting period. Perhaps one month would be reasonable. The father would have one month to make a claim. After the month is over, the father has no more rights.

Harsh, I don't think charity is behind the adoption of most foreign infants. Most people adopt foreign infants or any infants for the same reason people have kids the natural way - to have a family. Maybe it's selfish, but is having kids a selfish act?

9:03 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Sure, having kids is a selfish act. I feel better knowing that adopting a child is equally selfish.

It's been said that selfishness is a virtue. The most good is done in the world through selfishness. The marketplace couldn't operate without selfishness. But I digress, and this may be a separate post someday.

11:05 AM, August 10, 2006  

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No mention of hezbollah

Lebanon's Prime Minister wrote an op-ed piece today in the Washington Post. Basically, the PM argues that Israel needs to leave now and everything is Israel's fault.

No where in the Op-ed is there a single mention of Hezbollah's existence in southern Lebanon. I am not kidding. Who comes up with this stuff or expects to believe it. The Lebanon PM reminds me of when King Hussein of Jorden took Saddam's side in Gulf War I. How ridiculous.

For something very scary, read this piece in the Journal yesterday about Iran's apocalyptic vision. This paragraph was very enlightening:

The phrase "Allah will know his own" is usually used to explain such apparently callous unconcern; it means that while infidel, i.e., non-Muslim, victims will go to a well-deserved punishment in hell, Muslims will be sent straight to heaven. According to this view, the bombers are in fact doing their Muslim victims a favor by giving them a quick pass to heaven and its delights--the rewards without the struggles of martyrdom.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Interest Rate Pause?

Is Bernanke finally going to listen to little ol' me and pause the 2-year string of interest rate hikes?

A story in the Star Tribune today opines, "there is still some uncertainty over the Fed's next move because while the economy has been slowing, inflation pressures have been rising."

This scenario combined with continued interest rate hikes would almost certainly return us to the stagflation of the late 'seventies.

The Strib goes on, "The Fed's favorite inflation gauge, which is tied to consumer spending, showed core inflation — excluding energy and food — rose by 2.4 percent in the 12 months ending in June, the fastest clip in 11 years, and above the Fed's comfort zone of 1 percent to 2 percent."

This is a simplistic test. You CAN'T remove energy from consumer spending. Oil prices are built into all tangible goods. Transportation of products is not an insignificant portion of the consumer price, and the general cost of doing business in almost all circumstances is influenced, if even to a minute degree, by energy prices.

Further, the Fed does not give its tightening or loosening measures enough time to work before making its next decision. I predict that the Fed will actually need to ratchet the rate down in the next six months.

Holding my breath . . .

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

. . . And then he had to ruin it by saying "some inflation risks remain," letting all the air out of the stock market. So let's start drilling for oil, eh? Everyone else is doing it.

Ah well, let's take the pause for now. Anyone taking odds on seeing a 1/4 point rate reduction sometime in the next six months?

2:05 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...


There is a market for these bets.
This market is still putting a 56% chance that rates will be increased one more time by the end of the year.

Via Bloomberg,

Futures Traders Pare Bets on Rate Increase by End of the Year

Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Futures traders pared bets that the Federal Reserve will boost its overnight lending rate between banks by the end of this year after the central bank ended its streak of 17 consecutive increases.

The yield on the federal funds futures contract for December fell 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 5.34 percent at the Chicago Board of Trade. It suggests a 56 percent chance of an increase to 5.5 percent from 5.25 percent by the end of the year, down from 68 percent yesterday.

In their toughest decision since Chairman Ben S. Bernanke took the Fed's helm in February, central bankers are counting on economic growth slowing enough to damp a pickup in prices. If they make the wrong call, policy makers may have to clamp down harder in coming months and risk smothering the expansion.

St. Louis Fed President William Poole said last week he was ``50-50'' about whether to keep lifting borrowing costs.

The Fed on June 29 lifted the benchmark interest rate by a quarter-percentage point to 5.25 percent, the highest since January 2001.

The decision today represented the first time in 18 meetings of the central bank's Federal Open Markets Committee since June 2004 that the rate was not increased. The next meetings of the FOMC, which votes on the rate moves, are on Sept. 20, Oct. 25 and Dec. 12.

Futures are agreements to buy or sell assets at a set date and price. Contracts on interest rates are settled in cash. Fed funds futures settle at the fed funds effective rate, which is the average of all overnight rates for the month.

An increase in the Fed's target to 5.5 percent by December would raise the average overnight rate in that month to 5.411 percent. The rate on the fed funds futures contract is derived by subtracting the contract's price from 100.

2:53 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

56% isn't an overwhelming margin, though I imagine few think there will be an actual rate cut. I'm still going out on that limb, even if it is wishful thinking.

Rationally, another hike would hurt the economy further. Much of what was fueling the economic growth, in addition to capital gains tax cuts, were new housing starts. Those have tapered off as interest rates have climbed, obviously. I understand that the rationale for increasing interest rates is to curb the appeal of debt, but mortgage debt isn't such bad debt to have. Consider that renters were buying homes and that all boats were being lifted by that rising tide.

Again, I say a simple look at consumer price increases, energy and food aside, is not a sufficient indicator of consumer demand as energy prices have been artificially raising prices of all goods.

Without genuine economic growth and a decrease in unemployment, further interest rate increases will do harm to an economy that wants to take off, and I believe a small cut is warranted.

Consider too that baby boomers are still investing in the stock market, and that is a more worthy place for their money than in bonds, as their investment in the market will provide the capital to increase employment both directly and through trickle-down economics.

I don't pretend to understand this more than you, Pencil, but I am questioning the automatic inflation-necessitates-rate increase-philosophy. Did it work in the Seventies?

The Fed needs to be more conservative and wait longer between manipulations before further tinkering is warranted.

4:40 PM, August 08, 2006  

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Raul Needs our Help

With Fidel unlikely to return to power, we only have Raul to worry about. "Only" isn't the best word, as "Raul Castro [is a] ' Stalinist,' who is 'as brutal or more brutal than Fidel Castro,' " according to Cuban expert, Jaime Suchlicki in this AFP story.

Here's how we can help:

"The question is now how long Raul Castro, 75, would be able to perform the job he inherited. He drinks too much when he is under stress and he's now likely to drink even more," said Latell, who wrote a book called "After Fidel: The inside Story of Castro's regime and Cuba's next leader."

Anyone want to chip in and send poor, stressed-out Raul a case of vodka?

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Raul has not been seen since power was supposedly transferred to him.

If either Fidel or Raul could be seen, they would have been seen.

2:55 PM, August 08, 2006  

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Translation Requested

Last Saturday, Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the Keynote Address at the American Bar Association's annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii.

While the reporting on the Justice's remarks has been breathless about his searing insights and brave challenges for the organized bar, viewing the video clips that have been made available by the ABA (click here to see), I had quite a different impression.

I have no idea what the man is saying.

The Justice hints at a whole range of big ideas, but does not move on to develop any of them. At one point, Kennedy thunders "the whole purpose of the Constitution is to arise above the injustices and inequities that we can't see," before gliding on to another topic.

And so I am left to wonder which of these items is true:

(1) It is me that is dense; and I am simply not clever enough to follow the Justice's meaning.

(2) A lot of folks at the ABA Convention had no idea what this man was saying, but did not want to admit to their courtroom or boardroom rivals that they were not "hip" or "smart" enough to grasp the Justice's nuanced delivery.

(3) Justice Kennedy is the perfect speaker for a lawyer's convention on a tropical island: He has grave and purposeful tones, with the thinnest patina of substance.

So, does anyone here speak luau?

Blogger Ex Nihilo said...

Maybe he was auditioning for the Lt. Frank Drebin part in a Naked Gun sequel, or maybe he had to wing the speech for lack of prep time. I wonder how much he was paid.

1:02 PM, August 08, 2006  

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Jason's Back

All is right again.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

confucian or confusion

Here’s a puzzle:

support = capital and technology
Iran is supported by China
Hezbollah is supported by Iran
Hezbollah fights Israel
Israel is supported by the U.S.
U.S. consumers support China
China supports the US?

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Interesting logic. You could also argue that China supports Israel. After all they lend us billions every year which we turn around and spend on military activities and foreign aid for Israel.

China may sell stuff to Iran, however, I dont think they are lending Iran money.

4:36 PM, August 05, 2006  

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Civil War in Iraq

Why is this a surprise? I predicted civil war in Iraq a year ago, asking why we hadn't tried to split up the three disparate groups (Shiites, Sunis and Kurds) into states, even calling for a new Kurdistan. Are we really to believe the administration didn't think civil war was a possibility until now?

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

If there is a "civil war" in Iraq, it will not be among Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia. The civil war will be amongst the shia - the Iran faction represented by Sadr vs. the non-Iran faction, which currently controls the Malaki government. It will be the same conflict that occurred with Sadr in Najef in 2003.

In the end all these wars are proxies with Iran. We should wait to wage the sadr fight until the israel conflict is ended. At that point it will be easier to get the other arab countries to back us in the conflict with Iran.

The Sunnis and the Kurds will end up supporting the non-iran faction.

9:40 AM, August 04, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

The violence so far has been among the Shiites and the Sunnis, possibly with some outside terrorists assisting. Whether Iran is stirring something up with the Shiites, I cannot say. But this civil war has been brewing since the establishment of the new government in Iraq, and I contend that trying to force the Sunnis and Shia to get along under one government is attempting to mix oil and water.

Look, I am no Cindy Sheehan; no peacenik am I. I am also not blaming Bush for going in there. I was as gung-ho as the rest of you and as thrilled when we nailed Saddam. But we're just not going to get anywhere further in Iraq. We're trying to force something that will never happen. Were it up to me, I'd wall off that whole portion of the world and let them sort out their own problems. Throw up the Star Wars shield, ensure our own fuel supply, and we're covered. The entire Middle East is a loser for us.

11:37 AM, August 04, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

There won't be a civil war in Iraq between the sunni and shia. The sunni only represent 15% of the people. How could the sunni expect to win a civil war? Further, one of the purposes in abandoning the old Iraq army was to end sunni domination of the civil institutions. Which appears to have worked, even though many argue (like Hillary Clinton) that disbandoning the army was a mistake.

Don't despair. It will be a long fight. We are battling an ideology. They are battling an ideology too. If democracy takes root in that area, conservative Islam is dead.

Iraq is an emerging democracy, with a lot of problems. We should continue to actively support it just as we did Italy, Greece, and Germany after World War II.

1:29 PM, August 04, 2006  

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Will the Wall look like this?

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Hmm, I prefer that the wall be built to keep people out rather than keep people in.

It seems that every great civilization has to build a massive wall at some point. Rome built them in Britain. Ancient China built one.

And those walls worked (at least for a few hundred years).

9:39 AM, August 03, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

I'm not opposed to the wall. I was just being not-very-funny. I am serious about what kind of wall we're talking about. Is 2 billion enough to build a real wall? Or is this something to make us feel good? Are we talking about some barbed wire strung along a couple hundred miles of the border or a cement block and mortar structure running the whole length. I know 2 billion is not enough for the latter unless we employ the illegal labor to which we've become so accustomed.

Yes, S'aurus, the walls you referenced worked for some purpose or another. They also required years of slave labor to complete. (I can see Sheriff Joe Arpaio contributing his workforce.)

Are we going to build something that will work? Or are we being bought off again?

10:33 AM, August 03, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I hear that there will be 400 miles of fence and 500 miles of vehicle barriers.

Building a fence is like building a subway. The most difficult part is building the first bit.

But we need to be more positive about it. INstead of grumbling right away. We should say: Thats great, if the part of the fence works we can build more.

5:49 PM, August 03, 2006  

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Our new Fence

News Flash

The Senate just voted to fund a fence on the Mexican border at $2 billion. The good thing is that out of all the immigration talk, the only thing that has occurred is funding for a fence and 6000 more troops on the border. There hasn't been any guest worker program, none of that.

Isn't that a small victory for congressional republicans? Perhaps Festivus will cool down a little.

Fun Day

Muslim fun day was cancelled yesterday in Britain.

Not everyone was dissappointed:

...the fun day had caused some consternation: a non-Muslim couple scheduled to hold their wedding at the park's hotel complained to newspapers that event organizers told them the bride and female guests would have to cover up. The park promised the party would be exempt from the rules. A park spokeswoman said the wedding would take place as planned.

I wonder whether all the guests would have actually "covered up." I am sure some soccer fans would have been at the wedding. They are all used to behaving with the rules.

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

I would never have put "Muslim" and "fun" in the same sentence. But there they are, right next to each other. Huh. That's like hearing about a National Organization of Women Fun Day.

8:12 PM, August 03, 2006  

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Judicial Rorschach Test

A sometime Chairman of the Society is fond of remarking that "members of the John Adams Society don't have a single litmus test of conservatism -- we have thousands."

Below is one possible "test" that I would like to try out here:

A recent Los Angeles Times article (available here) describes how volunteer Judge Pro Tem Bruce R. Fink was dropped from the Los Angeles County Superior Court's roster of part-time judges.

Judge Fink's dismissal follows from a July 14 hearing in which Fink, upon learning that Petitioner Aurora Gonzalez was an illegal alien, stated that he was going to "count to 20" and if she were still in his courtroom "she gets arrested and goes to Mexico."

Ms. Gonzalez had come to Superior Court requesting a restraining order against Francisco Salgado, her husband of six years, whom she accused emotional and verbal abuse and of threatening to report her to federal immigration officials.

The case raises a number of interesting issues:

(1) Should Ms. Gonzalez's immigration status matter when she seeks relief from the State Courts of California? If it does, should the rules be different in the context of claims of domestic violence or other breaches of the peace?

(2) Should a state court judge ever enjoin a person from threatening to report illegal conduct to federal authorities?

(3) Was Judge Fink an appropriate candidate for dismissal because of issues relating to judicial temperament or was he dropped from the roster of part-time judges because his views on immigration were politically out-of-step with Court superiors?

I would be interested to know what visitors to this site see when they view this "inkblot."

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

What a ridiculous case. The problem with illegal activity is that it can be bad for you.

Allowing such a thing would be the same liberal logic used to punish people for shooting trespassers.

11:27 AM, August 02, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Had Ms Gonzalez's husband been accused of violence against her or her children, I would say the judge had a duty to find out whether a crime had been committed before shipping them both back (is the husband also illegal? The report doesn't say) or handing down a sentence and then shipping them both back. But "emotional and verbal abuse?" I don't see a crime beyond Ms. Gonzalez's illegal residency. The judge could have been a nanometer more sensitive -- not to Ms. Gonzalez, but to the PC crowd -- and silently called in Immigration (who would have proceeded to set her up with nicer housing and medical care, etc). The judge's only misstep was in not being circumspect as to his own fate.

11:57 AM, August 02, 2006  

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006


This is the kind of stuff I always hoped that we would be doing in the war on terror. Maybe we do, you just never hear about it. How cool!

ISRAEL today hacked into the television station of Hezbollah, emblazoning
images on the screen showing pictures of corpses and claiming the Shiite militant group's leader Hassan Nasrallah was a liar.

At the very least we should be hacking into Venezuelan and Iranian TV.

NeoCons Living Hand to Mouth

Andrew Busch contrasts the follies of NeoConservatism with the tried and true strengths of PaleoConservatism today in a WSJ column titled After Compassionate Conservatism, Republicans need not fear the hard edges of their ideas. To be fair, the NeoCon and PaleoCon labels are my own. Busch lines us up instead as Compassionate Conservatives, or semi-conservatives minus the fiscal restraint, versus traditional, limited government conservatives such as Hayek, Goldwater and even Gingrich.

The thrust of Busch's peeve is that we no longer attempt to educate the populace about the virtues of limited government, that we are instead merely trying to buy votes by appeasing one group or another. For long-term success we need to be teaching the principle that limited government creates a happier and wealthier society for all. It took two decades for Barry Goldwater's message to reach the voters in the form of a Reagan presidency. Compassionate conservatism is short-sighted.
It is notable that hardly anyone has promoted compassionate conservatism as the best available policy. Hardly any of its advocates have attempted to demonstrate that limited government, from the standpoint of good policy, is no longer a preferable option. Yet the starting point of policy should always be the question of what is best for the country. Indeed, Republicans have long maintained that good policy will ultimately be good politics, even if in the short term it is not always so. Translating that precept into the terms of the current controversy, if Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Barry Goldwater, and Reagan (not to mention the framers of the Constitution) have been invalidated--if the laws of economics and the laws of human nature have changed so that centralized state power no longer threatens prosperity, liberty, or civic virtue--then by all means, the argument for limited government should be allowed to slide into disuse. If not, Republicans must find a way to make the argument for limited government more compelling.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I agree, we need to bring back small government.

Although there is some evidence that we are getting smaller governemnt. For example, in 1994, gov spending was over 22% of GDP, today it is around 20%. 20% is higher than the 19% in 1998, nevertheless the trend is still down from 1994.

George W. Bush proposed the largest small government program ever - the idea to partially privatize Social Security. But, everyone criticises him anyway - they call him a big government conservative. I don't recall Reagan proposing such a reform. All Reagan did was raise FICA taxes.

As a percentage of GDP, Bush cut taxes more than Reagan. There is some myth that Reagan cut more taxes. That is just not true. In 2003 fed tax revenues as a percent of GDP was 16.4%, contrast this to the 16.8% in 1983 under Reagan., Still, Scribbler and her allies blast Bush for being big government and praise Reagan for the champion of small government.

Perhaps the problem with all the complainers like the Scribbler is that they can't think big about small government (like Bush was doing with Social Security and taxes). They can only think small about small government.

I am tired of all the complaining. It's draining. Conservatives today dismiss facts and pragmitism almost as fast as liberals do.

1:23 PM, August 01, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

His point is more that we are not doing enough to convince the great unwashed that liberty is worth achieving.

He and I both give Bush credit for the tax cuts, but Busch claims Jr only cut taxes because of lessons learned from Bush Sr. And the tax cuts have stimulated the economy giving S'aurus the GDP he is touting. But where are the spending cuts?

And again I have gotten off track from the main point: we are not inspiring the next generation of conservatives as Goldwater and Reagan did. We need to be painting the big rosy picture of Morning in America, of greater happiness and wealth for all through a smaller government, of liberty and freedom from the chains of a tax-hungry government. Compassionate conservatism lacks all of these lessons.

11:48 AM, August 02, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

You have a point. GWB does not inspire conservatism the way Reagan did regardless of the actaul facts. Reagan never cut spending either, but you could argue that he inspired the 1994 revolution, which did cut spending.

GWB will inspire in his own way. Future presidents will be helped or hindered by the myth of GWB.... (If Bush was here he would have kicked their asses, not played footsie).

1:50 PM, August 02, 2006  

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Talk Radio Happenings?

What's the big announcement on KSTP today? Interesting that this earthshattering news has been trumpeted for release today at 2:06 p.m. on the same day that Jason Lewis is returning to the Twin Cities airwaves on a rival station (KTLK 100.3 FM). (Actually, I believe Jason starts airing next week. Tonight there is a bash to celebrate his return.)

What could AM 1500 do that would warrant such a buildup? Could they move even further to the left? I've ruled out some possibilities: Soucheray really isn't a "national" type of show. A major line-up shake-up has been so done. And done. And done, ad nauseum.

Anyone with a clue?

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Tell me they're not announcing live broadcasts of, say, Twins games. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

12:31 PM, August 01, 2006  

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