Sunday, November 30, 2008

Emerging Independent Judiciary in Iraq

Briefly:

Here’s a story you don’t see very often. Iraq’s highest court told the Iraqi Parliament last Monday that it had no right to strip one of its members of immunity so he could be prosecuted for an alleged crime: visiting Israel for a seminar on counterterrorism. The Iraqi justices said the Sunni lawmaker, Mithal al-Alusi, had committed no crime and told the Parliament to back off.


Read more.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Impressed by Obama

Obama's strategy thus far, on three major issues, can be characterized as "focus, continue, and engage." The broad outlines are perfectly elegant.

Specifically:

+focus on the economy: little explanation is needed here. Obama has managed to include many major advisors in his administration: Geithner at Treasury, Summers at the National Economic Council, Goolsbee and Volcker on a special recovery taskforce.

+continue with the late second-term Bush approach to foreign policy: The caution here is reassuring to me and seems that it will be generally endured by those further to the left on such issues.

+engage on health care: Obama has chosen to extend internet democracy first to the discussion about health care. This is wise because (a) he can thus engage activists, and perhaps even temper their expectations as they are forced to wrestle with real world issues, even while he postpones immmediate action and (b) he may actually be able to glean a few good ideas as discussants will be able to sift the 'wheat from the chaff' through a participant-run ratings system.

Very impressed.

An Ironic Aspect of the Economic Crisis

One of the perceived causes of the crisis is that Americans do not save enough. Interestingly, many stimulus packages are designed to work only if Americans spend the money that they save.

American Competitiveness

Brooks on Michael Porter, of Harvard Business School, and his suggested response to the economic crisis:

Porter wrote that the U.S. economy has historically benefited from several great assets: an unparalleled environment for entrepreneurialism, a tremendous infrastructure for scientific research, the world’s best universities, a strong commitment to competition and free markets, decentralized regional economies, and efficient capital markets.

But, Porter continued, these advantages are starting to erode. The U.S. has an inadequate rate of reinvestment in science and technology. America’s confidence in free markets is waning. Lack of regulatory oversight has undermined capital markets. Universities have not sufficiently increased graduation rates. American workers do not have a credible safety net. Regulations and litigation have inflated the cost of business. Most important, there is no long-term economic strategy to organize responses to these problems.

Condolences

My condolences to the people of India, a vibrant and justifiably confident democracy. Of course, it is sad again to see fellow Jews targeted in a disconcertingly familiar episode.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obama and Russia

I agree.

Obama enters office signaling that he will continue the policies of President Bush's late second term in Iraq and Afghanistan, and key architects of those policies, starting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will likely keep their jobs. That would leave Russia as the unexpected laboratory for Obama to shape his own foreign policy.


Read more.

Monday, November 24, 2008

GM, New Deal, Etc.

My apologies for my short-term hiatus.

This clip from "This Week with George Stephanpolous" presents interesting discussion about the role of the government vis-a-vis GM and infrastructure projects. The most intriguing idea, though perhaps not presented in the most substantive way possible during this particular interview, is David Brooks discussion of the importance of supporting social networks in the era of an economy dependent on human capital.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Dollop of Buyer's Remorse

I'm not feeling too happy about Obama's advocacy of a GM bailout, especially since it's one of his first economic moves. I don't like the trends it symbolizes.

From newser.com (which reports on Krauthammer and Brooks):

American prosperity relies on creative destruction—the failure of nonviable companies and their replacement by defter rivals. The government endeavors to protect the worker in periods of transition, writes David Brooks in the New York Times, but not the firms themselves. That’s why the auto-industry bailout is a bad idea: Extending the life of the Big Three means preserving their unworkable business models.

The financial bailout ensured that the system itself continued to function, Brooks writes, but “a federal cash infusion will not infuse wisdom into management” at GM, Chrysler and Ford. Charles Krauthammer, in the Washington Post, agrees, writing that the Detroit bailout underlines philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats: “In this crisis, we agree to suspend the invisible hand of Adam Smith— but not in order to be crushed by the heavy hand of government.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Provocative, but Worth Considering

Thomas Sowell writes:

Barack Obama has the kind of cocksure confidence that can only be achieved by not achieving anything else.

Anyone who has actually had to take responsibility for consequences by running any kind of enterprise-- whether economic or academic, or even just managing a sports team-- is likely at some point to be chastened by either the setbacks brought on by his own mistakes or by seeing his successes followed by negative consequences that he never anticipated.


The kind of self-righteous self-confidence that has become Obama's trademark is usually found in sophomores in Ivy League colleges-- very bright and articulate students, utterly untempered by experience in real world.

The signs of Barack Obama's self-centered immaturity are painfully obvious, though ignored by true believers who have poured their hopes into him, and by the media who just want the symbolism and the ideology that Obama represents.

The triumphal tour of world capitals and photo-op meetings with world leaders by someone who, after all, was still merely a candidate, is just one sign of this self-centered immaturity.

"This is our time!" he proclaimed. And "I will change the world." But ultimately this election is not about him, but about the fate of this nation, at a time of both domestic and international peril, with a major financial crisis still unresolved and a nuclear Iran looming on the horizon.

For someone who has actually accomplished nothing to blithely talk about taking away what has been earned by those who have accomplished something, and give it to whomever he chooses in the name of "spreading the wealth," is the kind of casual arrogance that has led to many economic catastrophes in many countries.

A Watershed Moment for Gay Marriage?

The Republican mayor of San Diego, a relatively conservative city, breaks down in this poignant video as he endorses the legalization of gay marriage.

The aesthetics are powerful: Mayor Sanders presents as a genuine, straightforward man who has deep love and concern for gay San Diegans. I think that the symbolism of the man, his city, and his party will help to catalyze a significant change in the political context on this issue over the next few years.

If you'd like to support the mayor, for whom this process has been difficult, you can contact him here.