COME BACK AND VISIT ON JANUARY 10TH/11TH. I'll post something then!
[C]ountries that wish to join the European Union are prepared to make profound changes to their economic, social, legal and political systems in order to qualify. Indeed, in the run-up to accession, the union has intervened extensively in the affairs of candidate states, but it has done so with the consent of their democratically elected governments. This is regime change, European-style.
The history of the European Union can be told as a story of the expansion of freedom: from the original six postwar democracies in western Europe; to 12 member states, including three former dictatorships in southern Europe; to 25, including many of the former Communist states of central and eastern Europe; and now on to the Balkans, Turkey and, one day, Ukraine.
Turkey's proposed entry into the EU has become some weird sort of Swiftian satire on the crazy relationship between Europe and Islam. Ponder the contradictions of it all. Privately most Europeans realize that opening its borders without restraint to Turkey's millions will alter the nature of the EU, both by welcoming in a radically different citizenry, largely outside the borders of Europe, whose population will make it the largest and poorest country in the Union — and the most antithetical to Western liberalism. Yet Europe is also trapped in its own utopian race/class/gender rhetoric. It cannot openly question the wisdom of making the "other" coequal to itself, since one does not by any abstract standard judge, much less censure, customs, religions, or values...
[W]ith a Germany and France reeling from unassimilated Muslim populations, a rising Islamic-inspired and globally embarrassing anti-Semitism, and economic stagnation, it is foolhardy to create 70 million Turkish Europeans by fiat. Welcoming in Turkey will make the EU so diverse, large, and unwieldy as to make it — to paraphrase Voltaire — neither European nor a Union...
Europe preached a postmodern gospel of multiculturalism and the end of oppressive Western values, and now it is time to put its money (and security) where its mouth is — or suffer the usual hypocrisy that all limousine liberals face.
It is also significant that the European Union's offer has been made to a Turkish government headed by a devout Muslim, Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, who was jailed just five years ago for publicly reciting a poem containing the lines, "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful are our warriors." Mr. Erdogan is now doing everything in his power to meet what Turks call "European standards."
Robert Kagan describes the difference between America and Europe as the difference between power and weakness - American power, that is, and European weakness. This description is sustainable only if power is measured in terms of military strength. In the way that some American conservatives talk about the European Union, I hear an echo of Stalin's famous question about the Vatican's power: how many divisions does the pope have? But the pope defeated Stalin in the end.
try and rouse the progressive mind to a "Save the Italians" campaign and you'll get nowhere. Luigi isn't as important as algae, even though he, too, is a victim of profound environmental changes: globally warmed by Euro-welfare, he no longer feels the need to breed.
Michael Kinsley seems to think that in order for privatization to work, it needs to generate “higher returns for retirees than current arrangements.” It’s as if Kinsley thinks that “current arrangements” were sustainable.
Under current arrangements, the level of benefit growth rises with wage growth. If wages rise by 4%, benefits rise by 4%. Wage growth is typically faster than the inflation rate. So the real value of Social Security benefits rises with time. Meanwhile, demographic changes are underway, such that the ratio of Social Security beneficiaries to workers paying the payroll tax steadily increases. Right now, payroll tax receipts are larger than Social Security benefits, so we can pay all the benefits while still having money left over for the “trust fund.” After 2018 (according to projections) this will be reversed: we will have to pay more benefits than we collect in taxes. The government will have to raise taxes or cut spending in order to pay off the trust fund’s “bonds.” By 2042, the bonds will run out, and the trust fund will be bankrupt. The SSA will still continue to pay a portion of the scheduled benefits, perhaps 70-75%, and the ratio will continue to decline thereafter.
Now, there is something a bit silly about any projection that purports to forecast forty years into the future. Politics is too changeable. We know now that Social Security is not a “third rail.” Bush has campaigned on reform twice and won. Four decades’ worth of politicians will have the chance to change Social Security before this bankruptcy date. And will the generation that retires in 2040 take their sudden benefit cuts standing still? Surely there would be an electoral revolt if the government let that actually happen.
The bottom line is that Congress can take away your benefits at any time. Social Security is called an “entitlement” but that is exactly what it is not, according to the 1960 Supreme Court case Flemming vs. Nestor, in which Nestor was deprived of his Social Security benefits for past membership in the Communist Party—and the Supreme Court upheld this. Social Security is just a transfer, revocable at will by the government. Private accounts would be property rights—a true “entitlement,” the “ultimate lockbox.”
Kinsley is right about one thing: claims that Social Security privatization will generate higher returns for retirees are partly bogus. Higher returns from the stock market will be offset by taxes to pay benefits to current retirees. The economic benefits from privatization flow mainly from a higher national savings rate. But that depends on Congress. If we wanted to balance the budget and shift from a pay-as-you-go to a fully-funded retirement system, we would have to create private accounts, because with the government out of the borrowing business, it would have nowhere to put younger workers’ savings except by acquiring private assets, which is inconsistent with the free-market system. That scenario would be excellent for economic growth. But given the current big deficits, it’s academic.
And privatization alone will not solve the problem of Social Security’s long-run insolvency. To do that we’ll need to raise the retirement age (perhaps by indexing it to longevity) or cut the benefit growth rate by indexing it to the CPI rather than wage growth or introduce means-testing of Social Security benefits. (I say: all three!)
What privatization will do is take political risk out of people’s retirement plans. Since “current arrangements” are unsustainable, young people have no idea what they will be retiring on, and even people in their 50s are nervous. Political risk is unknowable and people have only one choice. Private accounts would substitute political risk with market risk. And market risk allows people to make choices, according to their own level of risk-aversion. (Probably most people would invest private retirement accounts the way IRAs are currently invested, with a portfolio mainly of stocks in youth, shifting into bonds as they near retirement.) With political risk removed, people could have what the current system can never give them: (lower-case) social security.
[U]sing debt rather than payroll taxes to fund current beneficiaries would have one important real effect. It would shift the overall tax burden away from payroll taxes and toward general revenues, which means primarily income taxes. Thus, the transition toward privatization would make the funding of Social Security more progressive, meaning that relatively more burden falls on the rich and relatively less falls on the poor. In that regard, it is somewhat surprising that the Left opposes privatization and the Right supports it...
One effect could be to shift the composition of portfolio holdings so that Americans invest more in stocks and less in bonds. If stocks are under-valued, as they have been historically, this would improve the allocation of capital in the United States. To believe that this will happen, you have to believe that U.S. capital markets are inefficient today, and that their efficiency will be improved by steering more people toward ownership of stocks. Greater efficiency would increase economic growth, which, as Kinsley points out, is a way for privatization to improve the outlook for the future. Conservative economists are inclined to view markets as efficient, so that privatization would not cause such a portfolio shift. Therefore, this is another argument for privatization that is more likely to be supported by the Left (for example, Berkeley economist Brad DeLong) than by the Right.
[T]he democrats may be just as determined in their pursuit of the bomb as the mullahs. Aside from the MEK, which has been frequently compared to a cult, very few of the regime's opponents have openly criticized the nuclear program. "You have a failure of the opposition to engage the nuclear question," bemoans Hoover's Milani. In fact, even longtime opponents of the regime have defended Tehran's atomic ambitions. Ardeshir Zahedi, who served as a foreign minister under the Shah, argued earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal that there's nothing inherently wrong with an Iranian bomb: "A peaceful Iran with no ambitions to export an ideology or seek regional hegemony would be no more threatening than Britain, which also has a nuclear arsenal." And some longtime advocates of republican government in Iran have gone so far as to applaud the mullahs for protecting the country's sovereign right to develop a nuclear program.
[I]n the longer term, China is bent upon and will achieve gross military and economic parity with the United States.
When China was great, it sent out military expeditions by land and sea into a large part of what was for it the known world, and despite robotic protestations to the contrary it will do so again.
This and a persistent blindness in regard to China's probable trajectory are wounds gratuitously self-inflicted, for no country, ever, has had both the mass and income at the margin that the United States has now, but rather than anticipate, meet, and discourage China's military development, as it easily could, the U.S. has chosen to ignore it.
[China] has already begun what it itself might at one time have called imperial expansion, driven not by ideology but the need for markets and raw materials. Major crude oil importation, begun only recently, is already one-quarter the volume of U.S. crude imports, leading China to compete for petroleum not only in the Middle East but in South America and at least six countries in Africa.
what passed for unipolarity is emphatically over [in part] because the strategy of the moment has allowed a small force of primitive insurgents in Iraq to occupy a large proportion of American military energy...
America's vision has been knocked out of focus by its ideals, and when China does develop the powerful expeditionary forces that it will need to protect its far- flung interests, the U.S. will probably have successfully completed transforming its military into a force designed mainly to fight terrorism and insurgencies.
The volume and frequency of blogging will rise and fall based on many things. In the months leading up to the Presidential election the blog world was on fire. Everyone was posting several times a day and reading multiple blogs, chasing threads and posting comments. Since the election things have toned way down. As we approach the Christmas Holidays, I would expect more and more people will be spending time Christmas shopping, visiting relatives, and spending time with their families and thus a lull in blogging.
Is blogging a "tulip bulb craze" or just a passing fad? I think not. There are several blogs that have been around for years and as software and hosting services become easier and less expensive to use, I think more, not less, will blog. Sure, Blog was the #1 looked up word this year and may indicate a short term peak in popularity, which logically will be followed by a sharp decline. However, I predict long term sustained growth (sounds like I'm selling a mutual fund or something...weird).
The medieval age was tyrannized by a demand for spiritual perfectionism, making it hard to accomplish anything practical. Truth, Erasmus cautioned, had to be concealed under a cloak of piety...
To the extent that the left is still vibrant, I am suggesting that it has mutated into something else. If what used to be known as the Communist International has any rough contemporary equivalent, it is the global media. The global media’s demand for peace and justice, which flows subliminally like an intravenous solution through its reporting, is — much like the Communist International’s rousing demand for workers’ rights — moralistic rather than moral. Peace and justice are such general and self-evident principles that it is enough merely to invoke them. Any and all toxic substances can flourish within them, or manipulate them, provided that the proper rhetoric is adopted. For moralizers these principles are a question of manners, not of substance. To wit, Kofi Annan can never be wrong...
As with medieval churchmen, the media class of the well-worried has a tendency to confuse morality with sanctimony: Those with the loudest megaphones and no bureaucratic accountability have a tendency to embrace moral absolutes. After all, transcending politics is easier done than engaging in them, with the unsatisfactory moral compromises that are entailed.
When not portraying them as criminals in prisoner abuse scandals, the media appear most at ease depicting American troops as victims themselves — victims of a failed Iraq policy, of a bad reserve system, and of a society that has made them into killers.
Yet the soldiers and Marines with whom I spent months as an embed in ground fighting units found such coverage deeply insulting. At a time when there are acts of battlefield courage in places like Fallujah and Najaf that, according to military expert John Hillen, “would make Black Hawk Down look like Gosford Park,” media coverage of individual soldiers and Marines as warrior-heroes is essentially absent...
Celebrating military heroism is not glorifying killing. War is a sad fact of existence, but a fact nevertheless. To be heroic can be an indication of character rather than of bloodthirstiness. Moreover, the American military — active in dozens of countries each week, fighting terrorism away from the headlines — is providing the security armature for an emerging global civilization whose own institutions are still in their infancy...
During World War II... news coverage... made heroes of American troops when the facts so demanded, which was often. American troops have changed less than American journalists have. The crowd-pack to which the latter now belong is that of the global media — an upper-income, transnational human herd...
The American media have lavished praise on those who cover life exclusively from the viewpoint of oppressed minorities, as John Howard Griffin did in Black Like Me (1961), or the working poor, as Barbara Ehrenreich did in Nickel and Dimed (2001): Yet to do the same with America’s own working-class troops is to risk censure.
If you'd said before the war that over a year (and 1,000 U.S. fatalities) after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces would still be taking large numbers of casualties in an effort to create a government dominated by Shiite fundamentalists that has little capacity to exercise control over broad swathes of Iraqi territory you would have been labled a major-league pessimist about the venture.
I'm hearing whispers that the evildoers from the State Department on the ground in Iraq are working to prop up a less-tyrannous-than-Saddam strongman, much to the chagrin of their boss, Ambassador Negroponte, and the neocon ideologues. The strongman idea, of course, serves U.S. interests, if they are defined as "something other than total anarchy in a country of 25 million Muslims who now really hate America" or the alternative, "indefinite occupation."
“America offers freedom for free. It’s true that I’ve never been there and I don’t have friends living there either but I keep America in my mind and sole. Hatred was brought to us by the extremists; the enemies of mankind.
I and every true Iraqi love America because to us she represents freedom and liberation. America untied us from Saddam’s chains and also liberated Yugoslavia from her dictator and liberated Germany before that. History is full of events that support my feelings”
Hazim Al Shammari-Bafgdad/Iraq.
We'll always keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers.
With the huge baby boom generation approaching retirement, many of our children and grandchildren understandably worry whether Social Security will be there when they need it.
We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account, a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away.
FORECASTING exchange rates is an inexact business. As Alan Greenspan, the chairman of America's Federal Reserve, once said, the activity “has a success rate no better than that of forecasting the outcome of a coin toss.” Recent years have borne this out: most currency forecasters would actually have done better if they had simply tossed a coin—at least they would have been half right. Yet over the next few years it seems an excellent bet that there will be a large drop in the dollar.
The dollar has been the dominant reserve currency for more than 60 years, delivering big economic benefits for America, which can pay for imports and borrow in domestic currency and at low interest costs.
Li Ruogu, the deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, said last week that America should put its own house in order—ie, save more—and stop blaming others for its problems. He was right.
Some 60 percent of Germans see their country as being überfremdet - an increase of 5 percent over the number two years ago who believe that the six million foreigners out of 80 million inhabitants are infiltrating Germany. The main target of German xenophobia is the community of three million Muslims, mostly Turks. Some 70 percent of Germans believe Muslims are not suited to Western societies, the German one in particular. Two years ago the number was 55 percent.
German Jews are confronted with rising anti-Semitism. Amazingly, according to the study, two-thirds of Germans consider the conduct of Israel towards the Palestinians the same as the conduct of the Nazis towards the Jews. Paul Spiegel, chairman of the Central Council of German Jews, is not surprised. For quite a while he has noticed that within German society "there is no distinction anymore between Jews, foreigners and Muslims".
[T]he major increase of xenophobia can be traced to persons who consider themselves as politically moderate. He links this trend with a growing feeling of economic uncertainty of Germans. The country, governed since 1998 by Gerhard Schröder and his Social-Democrats in a coalition with Greens, has been suffering for three years from no economic growth. The study shows that 40 percent of Germans expect a worsening of their economic situation.
"Damn, Lancelot Finn is Smart"
As for immigration, in part I think you're right. Certainly the current situation, under which we have large numbers of people without official legal rights, people who are commonly victimized in various ways, is bad. In a way, we are repeating the tragedy of slavery in this country. Once again, we have an ethnic minority working under a different set of rules and conditions than the rest of us.
The last thing we want to do is perpetuate the situation. But the only way to change it is to first enforce strongly the law against hiring illegal immigrants, whether as casual household labor or as farm or factory hands, and second, give those who are here working legal status and a place in society.
When you have a large number of immigrants coming in, wages are pushed down.
Social Security used to be considered the untouchable "third rail" of American politics, but immigration soon may replace it.
Both candidates bobbed and weaved around the subject during the presidential campaign, and neither party has offered credible ideas for reform, fearing the political implications of being the first to propose unpopular solutions to long-ignored problems. A report released last week by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that favors tighter immigration controls, underscores the nation's need to confront the issue head-on.
The organization's analysis of census numbers found that more than 34 million immigrants now live in the United States — about 10 million of them illegally — and that the flow of foreigners into the country came at a steady pace despite recession and recent attempts to tighten border controls. The evidence suggests that bad economic conditions in the United States are still better than in immigrants' native countries, and that changes put in place after 9/11 have done little to curb migration, especially across the nation's southern border.
In this new era, the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants compared to black and white American natives. Americans like to boast of their past success in assimilating millions of immigrants into their society, culture, and politics. But Americans have tended to generalize about immigrants without distinguishing among them and have focused on the economic costs and benefits of immigration, ignoring its social and cultural consequences. As a result, they have overlooked the unique characteristics and problems posed by contemporary Hispanic immigration. The extent and nature of this immigration differ fundamentally from those of previous immigration, and the assimilation successes of the past are unlikely to be duplicated with the contemporary flood of immigrants from Latin America. This reality poses a fundamental question: Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture? By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish).
End immigration as we know it! Alert kf reader M emails to note that
there is one national Democrat making a move to take advantage of the
obvious, yawning opportunity to get to Bush's right on immigration the way
Bill Clinton got to Bush's father's right on welfare. Coincidentally, her
name is Clinton too! ... Here are some recent Hillary quotes collected by NewsMax:
"I am, you know, adamantly against illegal
"Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a
country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry and
exit system so that if we're going to let people in for the work that
otherwise would not be done, let's have a system that keeps track of
[Sen. Clinton said she favored] "at least a visa ID, some kind of
an entry and exit ID. And, you know, perhaps, although I'm not a big fan of
it, we might have to move towards an ID system even for citizens."
"People have to stop employing illegal immigrants. ... I mean,
come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the
street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx; you're going to see loads of people
waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and
Note that this goes well beyond hack Dem grumbling about funding for "first responders" at the border. ... P.S.: If Hillary's attacked by Hispanic groups for these sentiments so much the better for her! Her husband had an unformed, fuzzy image when he ran--he could show his heartening anti-liberal streak by dissing an
out-of-line rap singer. Hillary, in contrast, has a hard, fixed liberal image--and probably needs to crack it with a high profile, revelatory fight against someone or something on the left more powerful than Sister Souljah. How about LULAC? ... 10:04 P.M.
Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country.
If Democrats and urban residents want to combat the rising tide of red that threatens to swamp and ruin this country
the prickly, hateful "heartland,"
Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America... We can focus on our issues, our urban issues, and promote our shared urban values. We can create a new identity politics, one that transcends class, race, sexual orientation, and religion, one that unites people living in cities with each other and with other urbanites in other cities.
"It is first of all clear that the claim that I have a right to do or have something is a quite different type of claim from the claim that I need or want or will be benefited by something. From the first -- if it is the only relevant consideration -- it follows that others ought not to interfere with my attempts to do or have whatever it is, whether it is for my own good or not. From the second it does not. And it makes no difference what kind of good or benefit is at issue... if I claim a right in virtue of my possession of certain characteristics, then I am logically committed to holding that anyone else with the same characteristics also possesses this right. But it is just this property of necessary universalizability that does not belong to claims about either the possession of or the need or desire for a good, even a universally necessary good...
"[T]hose forms of human behavior which presuppose notions of some grounds to entitlement, such as the notion of a right, always have a highly specific and socially local character, and that the existence of particular types of social institution or practice is a necessary condition for the notion of a claim to the possession of a right being an intelligible type of human performance. (As a matter of historical fact such types of social institution or practice have not existed universally in human societies.) Lacking any such social form, the making of a claim to a right would be like presenting a check for payment in a social order that lacked the institution of money...
"By 'rights' I do not mean those rights conferred by positive law or custom on specified classes of person; I mean those rights which are alleged to belong to human beings as such and which are cited as a reason for holding that people ought not to be interfered with in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. They are rights which were spoken of in the eighteenth century as natural rights or as the rights of man. Characteristically in that century they were defined negatively, precisely as rights not to be interfered with. But sometimes in that century and much more often in our own positive rights -- rights to due process, to education or to employment are examples -- are added to the list. The expression 'human rights' is now commoner than either of the eighteenth-century expressions. But whether negative or positive and however named they are supposed to attach equally to all individuals, whatever their sex, race, religion, talents or deserts, and to provide a ground for a variety of particular moral stances.
"It would of course be a little odd that there should be such rights attaching to human beings qua human beings in light of the fact... that there is no expression in any ancient or medieval language correctly translated by our expression 'a right' until near the close of the middle ages: the concept lacks any means of expression in Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Arabic, classical or medieval, before about 1400, let alone Old English, or in Japanese even as late as the mid-nineteenth century. From this it does not follow that there are no natural or human rights; it only follows that no one could have known that there were. And this at least raises certain questions. But we do not need to be distracted into answering them, for the truth is plain: there are no such rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and unicorns." (After Virtue, Notre Dame University Press 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre.)
"People in China do not have [or "enjoy"] the right to free speech."
"The Chinese government violates people's right to free speech."
1) People are rationally self-interested and prefer peace to conflict (predation and defense are expensive - non-optimal – postures for all parties involved). The state of nature is not a fun place.
2) They will (or “ought to” where ought is rational) agree on reciprocal rules of non-harm - "rights". (Think of a variation on the Prisoner’s Dilemma.)