Re: Querying Greenspan (Washington Times, 3/15/05) http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20050314-090220-1011r.htm Marketwatch.com article about Greenspan's presentation today: http://cbs.marketwatch.com/news/story.asp?siteid=mktw&dist=nwhpm&guid=%7BCA3CF1FE%2D747A%2D4D47%2DB67E%2DBD1789DDF502%7D To the Editors: Alan Greenspan has, over his last two appearances before Congressional committees, finally taken a strong stand on Social Security and government profligacy. He is the first and most important high-profile expert to point out what politicians on both sides of the aisle are most afraid of: Social Security has allowed our legislators to mask a much higher real deficit than is reported, allowing them to avoid difficult spending choices. If the Social Security surplus had actually been saved or invested last year’s budget deficit would have been about $550 billion instead of roughly $400 billion. Removing this fiscal camouflage by "making the lockbox real" and allowing personal accounts is the best way to increase total national savings and thus to deal with the upcoming financial requirements of baby-boomer retirees. We owe Mr. Greenspan a big thank you for saying what nobody on Capitol Hill has had the courage to say.
http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/03/14/climate.kilimanjaro.reut/index.html The news that Kilimanjaro's snow cap is melting completely for the first time in 11,000 years will cause a loud renewal of calls for international environmental legislation which is not only anti-growth and anti-American, but also based primarily on junk science. Here are a few important points: 1) There have been two major increases in average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere in the 20th century, one of which was before the economy started producing large quantities of greenhouse gases. 2) Longer term analysis of climate shows that long periods of warming and cooling are par for the course. It's only because environmentalists only look at the shortest and most convenient time period for their position that they can attempt to argue that warming is under our control. 3) The vast majority of warming takes place during winter and in the planet's coldest regions like Siberia. This means that some warming is likely to be beneficial. It is only because people are naturally afraid of change that so many assume temperature change must be bad. 4) Even supporters of the Kyoto Protocol admit that it will not lower the average global temperature by more than a fraction of a degree over the next century. Yet it will have enormous economic costs and be close to impossible to implement, as demonstrated by the Canadian government's including $6 billion in their current budget towards the costs of implementation but without any plan to do so. (See this interesting article at www.techcentralstation.com 5) Satellite data, although only available recently, show no substantial increase in atmospheric temperatures (less than 1/20th of a centigrade degree per decade). Much of the increase in temperature measured at ground level is likely due to the heat island effect of our massive increases of size and densities of cities. Global Warming is an issue surrounded by emotion, platititudes and even lies. The best way to deal with this or any other environmental issue is to find solutions which work in concert with market forces rather than fighting them. History shows the latter to be a losing strategy. For more information, highly recommend the following: The Heartland Institute's web site "suite" on the environment at www.heartland.org "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton (An entertaining piece of fiction loaded with facts and specific footnotes for the facts which debunk almost every aspect of the environmental radical movement.) Link at Amazon.com Taken By Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming by Christopher Essex, Ross McKitrick http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/books/1552632121/104-9672676-5729547
This is one of the best articles I've read about the trade deficit, the dollar, and foreign investment. Basically it says that most of the worrying aloud that you're hearing about the trade deficit is baseless. It requires a paid subscription to the Wall Street Journal Online, but I'm trying to get permission to reprint the text of the article here. Until then, here's the link: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111076511677178324,00.html?mod=opinion%5Fmain%5Fcommentaries
Regents balk at Churchill deal Plagiarism allegation stalls buyout proposal http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~2758694,00.html There has been a tremendous amount of pressure put on the University regents not to offer Churchill a buyout, and I hope I've done my part in my own way by getting letters printed in the Denver Post and the Boulder Daily Camera in the past week. The rumor mill was running overtime regarding the buyout being a done deal and someone I know who knows people in high places even told me which regents voted for and against the buyout. Then yet another accusation of plagiarism arose, this time from another professor. I think this is the cover the regents needed to make the right choice and I hope they make the right choice even if it's for all the wrong reasons. This is the text of an e-mail I sent last night to all the regents: Dear Regents, I urge you as strongly as I can not to offer Ward Churchill a buyout. I understand there are issues of ongoing litigation and that a buyout may be less expensive than dealing with a lawsuit that Churchill/Lane might file, but there are much larger issues at stake here. If there is any place where demonstrating the importance of principle is critical, it is at a major public university. I understand that some of you had staked out positions in favor of Churchill when the story of his "Little Eichman" article first broke. Although that article is disgusting and a good reason to loathe Ward Churchill, it is not the reason you must fire him, and there are many of those. From lying to get his first job with the University to academic misconduct to breach of contract, the University's case is absolutely solid. Churchill can make you take time and spend money defending his dismissal but he can not win the case. Although a buyout might only cost Colorado taxpayers 50 cents each, I and I believe most taxpayers would gladly pay 5 or 10 or 20 times that much funding the defense of the University should you find the courage to do the right thing, and I hope you do. I suggest you also keep in mind that while you might get rid of one problem quickly by giving Churchill a buyout, you'll get another problem which I'd argue is worse: The enmity and anger of tens of thousands of citizens of Colorado who will view you as giving money to a terrorist, and I say that without any exaggeration. Also, you must complete and release the report of your investigation into Churchill even if you fire him or settle with him before it is completed or released. Failure to do so will bring out unending calls of coverup and will almost certainly cost you your positions, in my opinion, and more importantly it will remove any possibility of regaining academic credibility in the mind of the average citizen who must decide where to send his or her children for college. The citizens of Colorado deserve Regents who will stand up for principle even when it might make them look as if they had made bad decisions in the past and even if the unprincipled path is easier. Churchill took advantage of your good and trusting natures. Those of you who were his biggest supporters are the ones he most betrayed and you should not repay his stabbing you in the back by patting him on his. You may contact me by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at xxx xxx xxxx Ross Kaminsky
[This is a piece I wrote for GlobalPolitican.com, an excellent foregin policy and international affairs web site run by my friend David Storobin.] On www.globalpolitician.com, David Storobin (whom I regard very highly as an international political analyst) argues that Iraq War has not been worth its long term strategic cost because of our current difficult and dangerous situation with Iran and with remaining Islamist terrorist organizations. A summary of the facts in the Middle East as presented by Mr. Storobin: • Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are very dangerous, and maybe increasingly so • Iran is not negotiating in good faith about their nuclear program and fully intend to develop a nuclear weapon • For several reasons, Iran wants to destroy Israel • “Iran is everything anyone ever said about Iraq and more” • “US troops are stuck in Iraq...” I do not disagree with any of this. Where I come to a different conclusion is in attributing the causation of these facts to the war in Iraq. Other than the US troops being “stuck” in Iraq, each of these facts would be at least as true had we not taken down Saddam. The Hezbollah issue is exceptionally dynamic given the flux in Lebanon. Much will depend on whether Hezbollah chooses to side with Syria or with their “host” country. On first glance, they appear to be siding with Syria, but they’ll change in a heartbeat based on what maximizes their power. It’s conceivable that Syria will be under so much pressure from other Arab countries as well as the US that they might abandon Hezbollah. While it’s impossible (for me) to predict with great confidence how that might change Hezbollah’s behavior, my guess is that they will be less inclined towards violence without a state sponsor. The same goes, but to a lesser extent, for Islamic Jihad since their state sponsorship is less obvious and less subject to US pressure at this time. In both cases, it is more likely that our actions in Iraq make us safer rather than less safe with respect to groups of this type. While I do not believe terrorist organizations have gotten more dangerous due to the war in Iraq, I do agree that their getting a nuclear weapon from Iran is a frightening thought, but not one which has become more likely due to the war. It is only because Iran has seen that we can occasionally be more than a paper tiger that they are even pretending to negotiate. Had we not gone to war Iran would likely be moving ahead much more secretly and rapidly with nuclear weapon development. I predict that we will see Europeans cautiously bringing out “sticks” to deal with Iran despite their usual predilection for doing whatever they think will annoy us most. Although Iran probably understands that the United States’ military options are limited at this time, both by military and diplomatic constraints, they understand equally well that there is a limit beyond which the US will ignore those restraining considerations. One of these limits would be proof that they had transferred a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group. Israel will likely have a much quicker trigger finger than we will, another thing which can not be lost on Iran and which is not substantially affected by our prosecution of the war. If anything, a side product of the war has been removing some of the United States’ restraint of Israel. More than elsewhere in the world, Middle Easterners respect, fear, and respond to power...and nothing else. The fact that we have demonstrated our own power and our willingness to let Israel use theirs is a clear positive by-product of the war. Iran’s desire to destroy Israel is no more enhanced than is their realization that Israel and the US are more determined than ever to stop them. The combination of the death of Arafat (the father of modern terrorism) and the war in Iraq also increases the chance of some sort of deal between Israel and the Palestinians. If this happens it will be a strong stabilizing force in the Middle East and it will be due at least in part to having gone into Iraq. That said, I am not predicting a quick or easy resolution to the Israel/Palestinian issue in no small part because a large faction of the Palestinians do not want a solution. They still enjoy printing maps which do not show Israel existing. These people will be swept away in the tide of history, swept away by their own people who realize that such ideology keeps Palestinians poor and in constant danger, but it will take time. Back to Iran for a moment: I would mention an interesting interview I heard with Gary Sick of Columbia University and long-time member of the National Security Council in which he argued that American intelligence often simply assumed the worst about other countries such as Iran (and as they did with Iraq). While the worst might be true and while we must be prepared for the worst, we must also consider in our dealings with Iran that our intelligence could be wrong. For example (and this is my example, not Mr. Sick’s) it could be a very dangerous but clever ploy by the Iranians to sound as if they’re proceeding down the nuclear path while not actually doing so. A little imagination could think of interesting reasons to play this very high stakes game. I’m not arguing that this is what is happening, but I have the same sense Mr. Sick has that we do not always have our minds open to other possibilities beyond the “obvious” or the “worst case scenario”. It is probably true that “Iran is everything anyone ever said about Iraq and more”. The key is to keep the Iranians (and even the Europeans) unsure about how we will react. Generally I prefer our country’s policies on such things to be predictable, but this is a complicated game and requires serious strategery. Bush did well in that regard recently when in answer to a reporters question he said “Suggestions that we are about to attack Iran are ridiculous.....But no options are off the table.” It might have sounded like a Bush-ism, but I believe it was a well-calculated tactic in the ongoing mind game with the Mullahs. In summary: • Terrorist groups are losing state sponsorship to a significant degree which means losing weapons, protection, and especially financing. • The regional powers and players finally have respect for our willingness to use power and our willingness to let Israel use theirs if necessary. • Iran is very dangerous and complicated but no more so than before the war. Even the Europeans are now getting more interesting in stick and carrot rather than just the fine vegetable plate. • US troops are temporarily stuck in Iraq in fairly large numbers, but will soon be stuck in Iraq in numbers too small to cause our military options to be limited due to the fact. Furthermore, having troops “stuck” there has serious strategic advantages in our ability to project power, both in terms of rapidity, familiarity with terrain, and with the subtle but unmistakable force of the world simply knowing we’re there. Thus, although I agree with David Storobin’s description of situation on the ground in and around Iraq, I reach a very different conclusion about its ramifications: I do not believe the war in Iraq has done anything but help us in our strategic position in the Middle East. I have long believed that history would prove Mr. Bush correct in his assertions regarding the power of freedom. Although there are still many dangerous days and months ahead, it appears that history might be upon us sooner than we expected.
I'm attending a meeting today, so I won't have time for my usual several postings. I'd like to offer one of the funniest things I've read in a long time, a modest proposal by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute on how to deal with the huge increase in Boulder's prairie dog population. Caldara: Prairie rats should just eat lead (Boulder Daily Camera, 3/6/05) http://www.dailycamera.com/bdc/opinion_columnists/article/0,1713,BDC_2490_3596026,00.html
The Claremont Institute/Colorado has published a long and detailed report on the case against Ward Churchill, why there are substantial grounds to fire him completely separate from free speech issues, and why the strucuture of the University of Colorado's review, including the participating personnel, are not "structured so as to warrant public confidence in its findings and recommendations." It's great work by this new (to Colorado) organization and well worth reading for anyone who is interested in the Ward Churchill fiasco and its implications for higher education in general. Read the Whole Article Here
Spain Muslims Issue Fatwa Against Bin Laden (AP, 3/10/05) http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=535&ncid=535&e=5&u=/ap/20050310/ap_on_re_eu/spain_bombings_fatwa A Spanish Muslim cleric has issued a fatwa (Dictionary.com: "A legal opinion or ruling issued by an Islamic scholar") against Osama Bin Laden saying that his basing terrorism on the Koran makes him an apostate. (Dictionary.com: "One who has abandoned one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles, or a cause.") It's a tremendous story and I suggest you click on the link above to read the whole thing. I don't know if it's actually significant but this can't be bad news.
Re: Private accounts seen as 'solution' (Washington Times, 3/10/05) http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20050310-121432-2383r.htm To the Editors: Democrats must be smiling at the prospect of Republicans dividing and conquering themselves over Social Security reform. Beyond simply reforming the system there is a tremendous amount of political power and capital at stake. Democrats and particularly unions believe that defeating President Bush on this issue will turn him into a lame duck two years early. They may be right. This is what big-spending Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Norm Coleman should keep in mind. Paul Ryan has it right: the best strategy for Republicans is to move away from and not towards the Democrats. If the Republicans end up having to compromise, they’d better start from a position where a compromise does not equal defeat.
Re G.O.P. Senators Balk at Tax Cuts in Bush's Budget (NY Times, 3/10/05) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/10/politics/10budget.html? This year's budget process is already setting up a more strident and public battle among Republicans than we've seen in a long time. This fight pits "liberal" Republicans like Olympia Snowe who are trying to make a deal with their colleagues versus "conservative" Republicans like Paul Ryan who are fighting for fiscally responsible principles which they hold strongly. In particular, the Senate does not have the stomach to make sensitive but justified spending cuts but many House members do. With the exception of the Medicare drug benefit, President Bush is on the side of Ryan and friends, and if I were a betting man I would be too. However, all involved Republicans must be aware of dividing and conquering themselves, something the Democrats can now see as a tantalizing possibility.