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Saturday, December 14, 2002

Supply Side Truths and Myths-Chris Burgwald e-mailed me asking for feedback on a pair of economic essays, one on tax rates and one on the relative importance of deficits. I'll get to them in more detail in the next few days, but I wanted to get one thing that has stuck in the back corner of the public's mind for a quarter-century; that supply-siders think tax cuts will raise revinues; A Salem Radio News (evangelical outfit used by many Christian radio stations) newcast piece on the Freidman nomination had that thought this morning. This was the germ of the Kemp-Roth proposal of tax cuts that Reagan adopted. Tax rates were cut by 25% and revinues didn't fall off significantly. However, the Reagan tax cuts started with a top personal tax rate of 70%; it was a lot easier to make the Laffer Curve case that those high tax rates were counter productive. However, with the top rates down to the 40% realm (39.6% IIRC), it might be harder to justify the idea that tax cuts will raise revinues. They will reduce revinues far less thn Keynesians would think, for the lower rates will stimulate investment and economic growth. I think were on the left slope of the Laffer Curve. However, even if tax revinues are reduced by a tax cut, the better economy might help the commonweal more than the government spending that those higher taxes supported. So, I don't think its fair to say that supply-siders think a tax cut will raise revinue. It would be fair to say that they think it will be good for the country. Expect some in-depth posts on the topic next week.

The GOP and Racism-Part IV-The Bigot Vote-I've stumbled into The Daily Kos this week via Instapundit; his coverage has an interesting mix of thoughtful commentary from the left side of the aisle with just enough questionable digs at the right to make it frustrating. However, he could probably say the same about me in reverse. Here's part of his Friday night close on l'affair Lott.
This has been a good week for Democrats, but a bad week for our country. We have learned that the leadership of our ruling party is beholden to some of the worst elements of our society. It is uplifting that many people, of all ideological stripes, have spoken against Lott and what he stands for. But he remains in power, and that is a blight on us all.
I'm going to disagree with Kos here. This isn't a bad week for our country, even if this week has given Lott, and conservatives secondarily, a black eye. It is a good week in that our leaders have almost unanimously come forward to denounce bigotry and forced segregation. You had the president come forward to say "Every day that our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals[.]" To think that this is a good week would be to assume that the forces of bigotry had a good week. Is the GOP beholden to bigots, as Kos suggests? To the extent that the GOP is opposed to positive discrimination for blacks and favoring a more color-blind approach to fighting discrimination, they wind up getting the bigot vote, as the Republican position is more appealing to them. Would the Democrats have the Senate without the bigot vote? Probably. However, I could rattle off "some of the worst elements of our society" that vote Democratic for the party's policies. Democrats might get the child pornography vote, the pedophile vote and the prostitute vote based on their policies; not that the Democrats support all of the above but that their policies would indirectly aid them. Suggesting that "The Democrat Party is beholden to child pornographers, pedophiles, prostitute and pimps" would be just as over the top as Kos' line that the GOP is beholden to bigots. Lott's sins are in being too cozy with bigots and not fully recognizing the evil of it. The good guys in the GOP are starting to do something about that.
I can respect libertarian Republicans. I believe strongly that government can and does play a powerful role in improving the lives of people. That's why I am a Democrat. But libertarianism is an intellectual honest philosophy, and one that I can respect. I'll never belittle a conservative making honest libertarian arguments. It's the Lotts of the world that make me hate Republicans. And, like it or not, they are a powerful (and perhaps dominant) force in the GOP. That I can't respect. Bigotry and religious self-rightousness shouldn't be the political opposites to the Democratic Party. It would be nice if the GOP just argued (honestly) for smaller government and pro-corporate policies. Those can be honorable concepts (despite my disagreement with them).
As much as my conservative buddies will cringe to hear me say this, I like that first paragraph, with the exceptions that my faith in government isn't quite as strong as Kos' and that I'd say "That's one of the reasons I'm not a libertarian" rather than "That's why I am a Democrat" The second paragraph has a germ of truth as well; the redneck wing of the GOP makes quite a few people (including myself) uncomfortable joining up. However, I think Kos is lumping all religious conservatives into the redneck camp. He creates a good straw man-"Bigotry and religious self-rightousness shouldn't be the political opposites to the Democratic Party." I agree with that statement, and everyone in my Augustinian Posse would most likely agree as well. No one will come out in favor of self-rightousness. However, Kos implies that this is what the GOP stands for; Democrats would like to run against bigotry and self-righteousness. Liberals commonly use the phrase self-righteous to blast the religious right, but if you look at the word, it's the left that is just as likely (at least) to be self-righteous, to be right with ones self. The religious conservatives that they blast are trying (in theory) to get right with God, not themselves, thus the addition of the prefix self- brings a blanket judgement upon people of faith in the GOP. If you want to argue for abortion rights, for a sex-education policy that is neutral towards promiscuity, for same-sex marriages, against school vouchers and for aggressive euthanasia polices (to name a few policies), feel free to do so. However, to advance that agenda under the flag of calling your foes "self-righteous" isn't overly honorable. Another things that makes the "Bigotry and religious self-righteousness" statement toxic is it indirectly labels religious conservatives as bigots. I don't know if there is any data to back this up, but I find people in evangelical churches to be less bigoted when compared to their non-church-going peers. The liberals would like to conjure up the image of a Baptist deacon Klansman; the reality (at least in my areas of Michigan, Ohio and Florida) seem to be just the opposite, as people take seriously that everyone's a child of God and that racism is a sin. Churches are still segregated, but that's not due to blacks not being welcomed into majority-white churches where I've been. There are some churches where a big chunk of bigotry that are still around; one pastor friend of my sister got run out of a Assemblies of God pastorate when he wanted to reach out to the black part of that southern town and the redneck powers-that-be in the church didn't like it. However, such bigotry is fading. For instance, the Church of God-Anderson (sponsor of Warner Southern) is in the process of merging separate black and white state offices in the South. The fact that there still are two racially-split organizations is embarrassing to right-minded CoG folks; dividing up power between the two existing sets of officers in a new merged system is more the hold-up than racism .

Edifier du Jour-1 Kings 2:1-4(NASB)
1 As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, 2 "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. 3 "Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'
The command is easier for the modern believer, for a simplified system came in with Jesus' death. We no longer have to worry about sacrifices, but I thing that the core of what David said here applies to the modern believer; if we follow God, we will succeed in what He has for us to do. That doesn't mean we won't have a hangnail or a fender-bender along the way, but on things that are important to God, we will succeed if we stay close to Him.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Evening Musings-Nice piece on Lott and cross-burning over at Blithering Idiot. I agree with his take on the issue of Lott and echo his sentiments on cross burning. I don't like Hannity's tone on this; when he tries to equate Lott's praise of Thurman with Clinton's praise of an equivalently segregationist Fullbright, he forgets that Clinton praised the man in general, while Lott's in deep doo-doo over supporting an avowedly racist campaign of 1948. Sulik has a good line that sticks with me "And Mark, with all due respect, I think the people of America can distinguish between a gaffe and a statement of support for intolerant way of life." I'm beginning to wonder if I can distinguish between them. Lott's pattern is to support intolerant people in his conservative sphere; distinguishing between supporting intolerant people and supporting intolerance is where I'm getting fuzzy. I would prefer that he step down voluntarily-it doesn't appear that he will, given this mea culpa this afternoon. I'm on the verge of a second 180 on the issue. Does fighting intolerance require getting rid of Lott as majority leader, allowing the Democrats to have a field day with the issue? Will it hurt the GOP in 2004. Yes. However, will it help the GOP for the very long haul to make that stand. Possibly. Tactically, it might be best to let him stay, but might it be better for the very long haul to get rid of him?

Democratic Fun and Games-The Democrats haven't got rid of Terry McAuliffe yet, but the Florida Dems forced state party chair Bob Poe out, replacing him with Tallahassee mayor and AG primary candidate Scott Maddox. I haven't seen either of them in action, but Poe seems more of a technocrat while Maddox has a bit more bite and liberal fire in the belly. That could work to the Democrats advantage to have a party chair who can be a forceful spokesman, especially when they don't have any statewide state elected officials. However, that is a two-edged sword, if he puts his foot in it, the rest of the party's stuck playing damage control. The only thing more awkward that a Republican having to do a tax increase is a Democrat having to do budget cutting. Back up in my old stomping grounds, incoming Governor Granholm has a $1.5 billion deficit to deal with. She says she won't raise taxes, but I remember 20 years ago when a rookie Democratic governor (Jim Blanchard) came into office pledging not to raise taxes and flip-flopped when he saw the budget numbers. Should be fun to watch this winter.

Midday Musings-It's the end of the semester-just got done with the last regular class session of the term; exams are Monday and Tuesday of next week. Everyone say Amen! The students weren't exactly happy campers, with a bad case of end-of-termitis compounded by an oppressive patch of rain that's all but turned the quad between my office and the Student Center into an extention of the Everglades; we're under a tornado watch 'til noon. A 24-point curve on the last pre-final Personal Finance exam didn't help matters; I gave them a too-detailed exam on investments and saw quite a few crash-and-burns. The Pope allowed Cardinal Law to pack it in, as expected. I'm suprised it took this long. The Pope's appointed Bishop Richard Lennon as the acting head of the Boston archdiocese. Would the restroom in the Bishop's office be the Lennon John? This is precious--North Korea accusing the US of piracy over their Scud boat. First of all, wasn't it the Spanish who snagged it? Second, after admitting to kidnapping Japanese folks, I'm not sure they're exactly holding the moral high ground. The supply-siders would prefer Milton or even David, but they're stuck with Stephen Friedman as the new head of the National Economic Council. His work with the deficit-hawk Concord Coalition makes some people uncomfortable with the pick, hoping for someone who's more a fan of tax cuts. It depends on what form the hawkishness comes from. If he holds the lid on spending, that's not bad, but if they start to look to repeal scheduled tax cuts, as Democrats would like, then we could be in for a brawl.

Edifier du Jour-Isaiah 40-27-31(NASB)
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 29 He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Verse 31 is one of those verses that you hear so often that it becomes old hat. Waiting on the Lord is hard in our microwave culture. Waiting on the Lord to give Eileen the strength to tackle a job was hard; she needed a lot of time to recover from the traumas of her teaching job, which took all she had and then some. My intellect wasn't any help in that healing process; the best therapy for me to deliver was to just pray for her and love her and wait for the Lord to heal her spirit. However, the wait paid off. She started a new job working as a bookkeeper over in Lakeland yesterday; it's not as lucrative as a teaching job, but it's a lot less stressful; she won't be taking the work home with her, neither figuratively or literally. She has the energy to do things after work, like lead the worship at our home group last night and to be a prayer warrior able to minister to people. We're getting into a sense of normalcy that we haven't had yet as a married couple; we've had three months of emotional trouble-shooting during her teaching job (and my professor duties) and six weeks of her between jobs. Waiting on the Lord to get us to this point is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do; the prayer, dedication and 24/7 devotion of being a husband is something you can't prepare for. However, it's worth it. Through it all, I've received a love and acceptance from her, that even in her most depressed times, makes the struggle of being her soul-mate well worth it. She has her first full day of work on the new job today as I finish up the last day of classes of Fall semester. While she might not use her Masters in Christian Education on the job, I know that she'll be used of God off the job, as I sense her becoming one of those great ladies of the church who is everyone's shoulder to cry on. Her emotions, like mine, can be a burden and disabling from time-to-time, but when the can be used to be empathetic with people, it makes the downsides of being a tender-heart well worth it.

What Did You Learn In School This Year, Uncle Mark?-I just had the last Macroeconomics class of the semester Thursday morning; the final’s next Tuesday. You learn almost as much teaching a class as you do taking it; having to present material to students makes you have a deeper understanding of the concepts. Here are some things that struck me over the last four months while teaching Macro: Unemployment-First of all, the Phillips Curve (inflation inversely related to unemployment) is dead and cremated, but someone forgot to tell the next of kin. It only works when the inflation is demand-driven. The oil-shock stagflation of the 70s put it in the ICU and the technology and tax-cut boosts to aggregate supply of the 80s and 90s created a low-inflation, low-unemployment economy that delivered the coup-de-grace to the Curve, leaving traditional economists scratching their heads. The other thing that struck me was the increase in the labor force over the last quarter-century. Not only do we have fewer stay-at-home moms, we have more older workers still working and a greater use of the handicapped. Also, better utilization of minorities has helped. Exchange Rates- Exchange rates are simpler than people think; the demand for a currency is the demand for the stuff (goods, services, investments) that the currency can buy and the supply of the currency is the demand of your citizens for the stuff in the other country. If people don’t want to buy a country’s stuff (are you listening in Ottawa?), the currency will go down in value. Monetary Policy Throw the IS-LM graph set in the Dumpster with the Phillips Curve. The standard Keynesian monetary theory assumes that cash doesn’t earn interest; by raising interest rates, you could cause speculative demand for cash to drop (since the opportunity cost of holding cash as an investment just went up), thus decreasing the demand for money. However, the growth of money-market mutual funds and interest-bearing checking accounts means that cash does earn interest, and that interest rate will tend to go up and down with longer-term interest rates. If the slope of the yield curve (difference between long-term and short-term interest rates) stays the same as interest rates change, then the opportunity costs of holding cash remains stable. Thus, the speculative demand for money is rather insensitive to interest rates. Once we’ve razed Keynes, That leaves you with the classic monetarist equation of Price Level * Real GDP = Money Supply * Velocity of Money [number of times money changes hands in a year]. If you want to keep prices stable, change the money supply at the rate that GDP changes, assuming that velocity stays the same. That’s much less fun for the Fed, but seems to explain things better than the Keynesian model. Aggregate Supply The more I think about this, the more out-of-the-loop most liberal economists seem. Keynesian economics was developed to explain the Great Depression and came up with an honorable hypothesis for the situation. The economy had excess capacity. Consumers weren’t spending and business didn’t want to be investing in new plant and equipment when the stuff they had was sitting idle. So, let’s have government pick up the slack and start spending to boost aggregate demand (AD). Do we want to raise taxes to pay for the spending? Nah, we’ll borrow it. With interest rates low and business not doing any investing anyway, the deficits will suck up money that was lying fallow. Is all this extra spending inflationary? Nah, we’ve got excess capacity in the economy to use, since the aggregate supply (AS) curve is flat for now. The problem with Keynesian economics is a lot like the Maginot Line; it was designed to fight the previous war. It works in a recession, when goosing demand by deficit government spending can be done without creating inflation and depressing aggregate supply. However, if you’re not in a recession, such policies will be counter-productive, as the extra spending will be inflationary and cause AS to shrink due to higher interest rates from the big deficits causing the cost of capital to rise (a.k.a. the Crowding Out Effect). In relatively good times, policy needs to shift from goosing demand to goosing supply. That means cutting taxes (which helps AD, too, but Keynesians prefer spending to tax cuts), reducing regulations and encouraging productivity and new technology to encourage people to invest in new plant and equipment and new businesses. Keynesians largely ignored the supply curve, assuming that it was a given, flat in recessionary times and near vertical (maxed out, extra demand only creates inflation) in “full-employment” times. However, not every ignored the AS curve. Now, we have economists who recognize that boosting the supply of goods is important; their emphasis on supply got them dubbed “supply-siders.” Liberals didn’t like it, for it challenged their Keynesian assumptions and implied that smaller government was better for the economy. I knew this before, but I’ve become more assured in the usefulness of the supply-side critique this semester. I’m tempted to write my own textbook in the next few months to use in my class; however I’d try and not quite do it as a stuffy a manner as the standard-issue textbook. If I get the project completed, it might also serve as a good examination of the intersections of politics, finance and economics, which would be a good read for the concerned citizen as well as the econ crowd. I'd think about posting a few pages at a time, letting my loyal readers give feedback as it goes along, adding and expounding on the text as we go, with the goal of having a serviceable book (or a good supplement to a standard text) by next fall.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

The GOP and Racism-Part III-What About Positive Discrimination? The most contentious issue, other than possibly school busing, in the black-white front goes under the heading of affirmative action. While some permutations of AA are less contentious, like expanding a company's college recruiting program to include historically black colleges or to post job openings in black-oriented publications as well as more general ones, the ones that require what I'll call positive discrimination get the most flak. We're not going to see too much open discrimination today; even the worst bigot knows better than to say "we don't hire [insert bad word here] in this place." However, there is a modest amount of subtle discrimination, where blacks aren't automatically shown the door, but aren't included in proportion to their percentage of the population. Some of this will be due to lower education levels; you don't have too many people of color in Ph.D. programs for you have fewer people of color with masters degrees to get into the programs. However, some of this will be due to people either being outright racist or colored by racial stereotypes, making them less willing to hire/admit blacks. Should we have some way of giving blacks the "benefit of the doubt" in hiring, given the tendency to stereotype? Should it be a tiebreaker, so that the tie will go to the minority? You could make a case for that, but what about the cases where it is close but not quite a tie? Does the minority get an extra 1%? 5%? 15%? We've now ventured into the area of positive discrimination, where we're discriminating because someone's black, but discriminating in their favor. In education, such positive discrimination will get young minorities in a notch (or two) over their heads. Kids that would be ready for a community-college level of work are put into regional colleges, while the kids that would be a good fit for the regional colleges get placed in the prestige state schools. Being a notch over their heads, the students will tend to underperform compared with their non-minority (here, Asians and white Anglos are "non-minorities") colleagues. A minority student is better off graduating from Central Michigan than flunking out of the University of Michigan. Thus, such AA programs at the undergraduate level seem to be counterproductive to the minority students. Access to college isn't the issue at the undergraduate level, for community colleges will accept essentially everyone, and students can go there, get their grades and skills up and be able to transfer to a better school later. Graduate school is a different problem; they are selective by nature. There is no we'll-take-everyone law school or medical school. If there is a smaller crop of minority students getting out of bachelor degree programs, then the bias-free selection process will tend to underrepresent minorities. The question then becomes whether society is better served by a better educated but non-minority professional or a poorer-educated but minority professional. Is the medical system better off with the white guy who got a 3.3 in his science classes in college or the Latina who got a 2.8 in her science classes? Will her rapport with the Hispanic population make her a better doctor in a barrio hospital, overcoming being a bit fuzzier about medical theory, or are we better off with the Anglo guy who's a bit klutzy with Hispanic culture but understands the science of medicine a bit better? Good question. The Supreme Court's going to tackle that one next year. I'm uncomfortable with a purely color-blind system, for I think that the subtle racial and cultural stereotypes will screw minorities a bit. However, I'm more uncomfortable ("less comfortable" is better grammar, but it's doesn't describe it as well) with a system of positive discrimination, for minorities are frequently subject to a PC version of the Peter Principle, where they're promoted to a level of incompetence and left there. I think a more color-blind system will be advantageous for all concerned. The political and emotional capital that is spent defending affirmative action could be used to improve education and improve respect for other people; for AA only will get someone into a position that they have the credentials for. Quick question-would a black college-aged kid be better off with a high school degree and an AA-based job market or a college degree and an officially color-blind (but mildly stereotyping) job market? Here's the upside of my color-blind system. Minorities will be ready for the jobs and schools that they do get into, for they will have the same (or a bit better, if some low-grade racism is at play) credentials as their non-minority peers. Effort would be made in improving the K-12 education of minority kids rather than fighting over what piece of the college pie each racial group gets. Minorities will know that they got themselves where they're at because of their talent and knowledge rather than as a favor to their skin color. Non-minorities will know that everyone got there on merit and that they weren't discriminated against in order to get minorities there. The one downside is that the low-grade racial stereotyping will continue. However, I think that not putting in positive discrimination to offset it and punishing such stereotyping when it becomes apparent is less toxic than the current system.

The GOP and Racism-Part II-Ghosts of Racism Past-Here's an open question; how much of the income and educational disparity between whites and blacks are due to present racism and how much is due to past racism? I'd argue that the lion share of the problem is due to the residual effects of past racism. A quick mind-experiment; let's say that God decides to eradicate racial stereotyping at 2PM this afternoon; people will pay less attention to skin color than they pay attention to eye color. Whiles won't get extra nervous at black youths and blacks won't be resentful for the ugly looks and bad treatment they used to get from some whites. If that's all God does, single black moms will still be single moms, undereducated black youths will still be undereducated. There will still be an inverse relationship between skin darkness and wealth, education and income and a positive relationship between skin darkness and incarceration, substance abuse and single-parent households. At that point a small-l liberal economic policy would be focused on helping young people get a good education, have a high sense of value of themselves and others and to avoid premarital sex and the single-parent households that they help produce so as to avoid the poverty that will result from the alternative of a poorly-educated, misanthropic and promiscuous populous. It will also focus on helping poor adults make ends meet and help undereducated adults get an education. Such a policy will help the youth and help the poor regardless of skin tone. Over time, the children of the poor will get better educations than their parents did and be less prone to having kids out of wedlock than their moms. As the years go by, researchers studying the relationship between skin tone and economic well being noticed that the difference were diminishing. By 2030, the differences between blacks and whites were cut in half and were down to 5% of their 2000 levels by 2100. However, by 2100, it was getting harder to find really dark-skinned people, for the skin tones were becoming a more-uniform light brown, as people didn’t care that they weren’t marrying on racial lines like they were before. OK, end of fairly tale. Or is this a fairy tale? We can fight the majority of the problem that is based on lack of education and poverty by setting up education and poverty-fighting programs; the two aren’t that far apart, as a good education will help people get good jobs. However, we still have a smaller part of the racial disparity that is due to current racial stereotypes.We still have people (both black and white) who get nervous around black male youths; even Jesse Jackson’s admitted that he’s more nervous around black youths that white youths. Young blacks will get the eagle-eye when they go shopping and be prone to being pulled over for “Driving While Black” by cops steeped in the perceived crime-proneness of black youths. However, once we get past the black youth=crime magnet issue, you don’t have a lot of racial stereotyping left. Does the typical white American have a negative stereotype of a black rug-rat, or grade school aged kid? Not really. A black grandmother? There, the stereotype is of a positive, caring-to-a-fault mama. Black grandpas? Not that I can think of. Of younger black women? A little bit of the promiscuous and boisterous (“Hey, girl!!”) welfare-mother, maybe, but 90% of the stereotype problem is from the guys. However, the key to this changing will be acculturating young people to be respectful of others, respectful of themselves and to value education. A secondary key will be for adults to learn to count to ten before applying stereotypes about young people, especially black males. If youngsters feel respected by society, they’ll be more willing to be part of it. If minority youngsters don’t feel that respect, they will become anti-social and look down on the people who are trying to fit in and get a good education as “acting white.” I’d argue that black-white relations are more of a cultural than a racial issue. A black person who speaks solid standard English and dresses nicely will get little flak from the whites he encounters, while the thicker the Ebonic accent and the hip-hopier the clothes get, the more of a cultural gap there will be. Such cultural gaps can be bridged in time; minorities can learn to speak and dress more like the rest of the crowd when their outside of their enclaves and the majority can learn to understand that the new styles and accents don’t equate to ignorance. If we focus our efforts on getting youngsters a good education and instilling a sense of respect and make a simultaneous effort to get adults to give young minority youth a chance, we can solve the lion-share of the racial problems in a generation. We still have a lot of single-parent homes and anti-social males from the current generation to deal with, but as they grow older and a newer, better-mannered crew of youngsters grows up, the stereotype of the crime-prone black male might gradually become a thing of the past. I hope this doesn’t open up too much of a can of worms, but I think the racial divide is very bridgeable and needs to be focused on the education and acculturation of the minority youth as well as educating the rest of us to give those youth a fair shot.

The GOP and Racism-Part I-Defining Our Terms-I'll have more on this later, but I'll start my venting process with this look at the definition of racism. Here's the definition of racism per my office copy of Webster's New World Dictionary
n. 1 a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc., that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races 2 any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc. based on such beliefs---rac'ist n., adj.
Does the GOP have any policies that persons of African descent have less character than those of European descent? None that I know of. Does the GOP have policies that say that persons of African descent have less intelligence than those of Eurpoean descent? None that I know of. Does the GOP have policies that say that persons of European descent are superior to those of African descent? None that I know of. Does the GOP have policies that seek to maintain racial purity? None that I know of. Does the GOP have a program or practice of racial discrimination or segregation? None that I know of. However, that last line can be called into question. While the GOP doesn't have any policies in favor of discrimination or segregation, one could argue that they aren't doing enough to fight de-facto segregation and fight discrimination. The fights of today is how to correct the segregated housing patterns that have developed over the years and the majority-minority neighborhood schools that result and whether to institute some sort of quota or racial-preference system to help offset the discrimination of the past (and present). What the GOP can stand fairly accused of is being unenthused about school busing and of not wanting positive-discrimination for minorities today to offset the negative-discrimination of the past. Being in favor of local schools isn't inherently racist and nor is seeking color-blind employment policies. More on this after lunch.

Morning Musings-I'm still getting used to the concept of a Southern Christmas season. It brings a good chuckle when some of the secular seasonal songs, such as Let it Snow or Winter Wonderland, come over the radio. This morning was a good example of "what's wrong with this picture." I'm bringing in a plate of brownies for the Business School Christmas party from the car (thanks, hun-I do most of the cooking at Chez Byron, but Eileen owns the baking concession) this morning in mid-60-degree weather while a pair of sandhill cranes come a-honking noisily in from the southeast to land in the marshy area just south of the parking lot. Toto, I don't think we're in Michigan anymore. Jason Steffens lays out the case against Pete Rose's reinstatement to baseball. I agree with the basic premise, but would be willing to consider lifting the ban if he made a proper acknowledgement and apology, something Rose has yet to do. Jason points out a good, if a bit cold, rant from Rob Neyer on the topic. NORAD, prepare for the left to go ballistic. Dubya's signing an executive order allowing federal contracts to go to religious organizations while still allowing those organization to hire on theological grounds. I'll look forward to seeing what the Catholic bloggers do with this one, but the media's making a big deal over the (seemingly center-left) Voice of the Faithful calling for Cardinal Law's removal. I'm wondering what took VOTF this long. The bigger story seems to be the number of priests who are calling for his removal-sounds a bit like insubordination to me.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 8:26-28(NASB)
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Maybe those moderates should save the money on the Berlitz Baptist set and pick up Spiritese; it's a lot easier. You don't have to learn the vocabulary and the school's language lab's open 24/7. Seriously, there are plenty of times we don't know what to pray, or have a gut feel of what to pray for but don't have the words. No probemo. Just pray away and let the Holy Spirit fill in the blanks. Even if it sounds like gibberish and nowhere near a "prayer language" that the Pentecostals talk about, let it rip; God knows what you need and will provide it regardless of whether you've got the details right on you spiritual shopping list. Remember that it will work out, whatever it is that you're going through, in a way that is acceptable to God.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Reply From a She-Moose? Illinigirl chimed in on my Centrist Party post of yesterday
My reaction as I read this post: until you get to the hypothetical platform for the party, Mark gives a pretty good description of your average Republican. With a few notable exceptions -- I would buy that your average Republican is more likely to be religious and centrists would likely be more in favor of environmental restrictions -- I am having trouble determining which centrist qualities in this description are not really Republican-lite ideas. Mark or anyone else -- want to take a whack at it? Convince me.
Well said, madam. The swing voter is "Republican-lite" and needs to be scared into voting Democratic. The Democrats are good at scaring people into believing that they need to be protected from the greedy Bible-thumping rednecks. The trick for Republicans is to point out that (1) We're not greedy, we're looking out after the best interest of the country; big government and big taxes does more harm than good. (2) We might be a bit more religious than y'all, but you agree with us more than the if-it-feels-good-do-it crowd. (3) Even with Sen. Lott's troubles, we aren't racists, unless the failure to follow Jesse Jackson's every proclamation is the definition of racist. True, we could be a bit more sensitive at times, but I'd make the case that the rightmost 20% of the GOP is less racist than the Black Caucus. The GOP can make those cases with a little effort and a deft touch. As for the Northeastern moderates, there is a cultural divide between them and the evangelical conservatives in the GOP. They're more comfortable culturally with the more-secular Democrats, but are conformable with Republican values on economics and foreign policy. For the older moderates, they long for the day when the GOP didn't have all these Bible-thumpers raiding their country club. For the younger moderates who grew up on the sexual revolution and feminism, the traditional morality of the conservatives seems like a throwback to a different universe. What they need to do is to learn to speak a little Baptist. Ask Steve Forbes. Back in 1996, he ran as a moral moderate with a bad Episcopalian accent, being pro-restrictions on abortion and sniping at the Christian Coalition. Before the 2000 campaign, he learned to speak rather fluent evangelical, learning how to talk about moral issues that his East Coast circle didn't talk about much. As a result, he made some inroads into evangelical circles in the runup to the 2000 campaign, before his snippiness and the McCain Express did his campaign in. If the moderates won't learn Baptist, conservatives need to learn how to speak Oprahese. We need to promote tax cuts as being compassionate to the taxpayer and to the economy in general. We need to show the emotional and physical benefits of chastity and marital faithfulness and show the real downside of abortion. Once we start speaking the same language, moderates and conservatives will get along better than you would thing.

Greed Is-Mr. Claybourn has been thinking about greed and economics this morning. I don't have time to have a full responce right now, but this essay from January from my baby blogging days is worth looking at, looking at the twin concepts of helping the poor and giving our selfish nature an constructive outlet. P.S. Welcome to the Daily Kos visitors flooding in-I know what an Instalanche looks like, now I've been a-Kos-ed.

Hold It, The Corpse Just Moved--I heard Lott interviewed on Hannity's radio show on the way home this afternoon. Liberals won't believe it, but I think my argument below about him being more insensitive than racist holds water. I don't quite buy his "error of the head rather than of the heart" line, but I think his pro-Dixiecrat lines in 1980 and this month were pro-modern Strom rather than Jim Crow 1948 Strom. He might have been far enough removed from the effects of Jim Crow to have the evil really sink in, or was acculturated to minimize the damage done. Nonetheless, it was a bad error in judgement. It's not worth a censure on the floor; if we start down that route, we'd have half the Senate in the dock for idiotarian things that they have said. The next question is whether this is sufficient cause, when added to his relative ineffectiveness as Majority Leader, to have him be forced to step aside. The issue at hand is more of perception than reality. Lott wasn't dancing cheek-to-cheek with the Black Caucus before this faux pas; he merely redemonstrated an insensitivity to the problems of racism rather than being racist himself. This will be a minor issue in 2004; a certain number of attack ads are going to be run regardless of whether Lott is pushed aside. My question is whether there will be more of those ads if the Senate Republicans show him the door or if he stays on as majority leader. If the Republicans do decide to get rid of Lott, who will be the next Republican to be targeted for insensitivity? It might encourage a game of gotcha from the black left. They could then string a half-dozen less-than-PC statements from Republican leaders and proclaim a pattern of racial insensitivity (or overplay the hand and call it racism) in GOP leaders. By making it an issue worthy of getting rid of Lott, we would then make racial insensitivity an issue. If we ignore the issue, or at least say "that was stupid but merely misguided and a bit insensitive, get over it," then things will move on to other issues. Al Sharpton and Tom Joyner will carp on it 'til the cows come home, but they'll carp on it 'til the cows come home if Lott is executed at high noon on the White House lawn. We'll get some attack ads, but we'll get them anyway; the NAACP isn't going to fall in love with the GOP in the next 23 months. I'm going to do a 180, folks. Lott may be more valuable in place than out of place, for getting rid of him will spill blood in the water for the left's sharks to get into a feeding frenzy over.

Majority Leader Trent Lott (1995-2002) R.I.P.
The news that Lott gave a comparable pro-Dixiecrat speech in 1980 should spell his demise. It will give the liberals more cause to brand him as insensitive to bigotry at best and racist at worst (and most likely). Daschle's done a 180 and has joined the chorus. While the liberals out there will disagree, I don't think Lott's significantly racist. However, he's insensitive to the issue of south's Jim Crow past and has failed to fully point out the downside of the Dixiecrats (no, spellchecker, not Dixie Rats, but close). This 1980 speech shows that it wasn't the first time he advocated the Dixiecrat cause, so the excuse that it was a slip of the tongue rings a bit more hollow today than it did this weekend. Here's the problem I see with the Daschle 180 on Lott; if the Democrats start flooding the zone, will the Republicans instinctively come to Lott's defense, or will they do damage control and show him the door? Ari Fleisher had to say that the president had confidence in Lott, but somehow that sounds like the vote of confidence that a GM gives to a head coach two weeks before he's fired.

Strange Bedfellows-I find it odd that both Dick Armey and Bob Barr are hooking up with the ACLU. It seems to be an odd alliance, even with the conservative duo's libertarian streak. Why not start a new non-partisan group (call it Americans for Due Process ) that would go after the current tendency of the Justice Department (both Clinton and Bush) to cut corners on protections of the accused and protections against over-searching, as well as putting a curb on the desire to get a database on everything collectable. The ACLU has enough of an anti-religion brand name to be salable on the right, but a non-partisan (no, the ACLU isn't pure Democrat, but close) civil liberties outfit could sell on the right. However, the left could get more following on the right if it didn't overplay its hand, like this Daily Kos paragraph
Still, it's good to see the Right (or at least its libertarian wing) get over its hatred of the ACLU. The organization is really the last line of defense between an administration hell-bent on using fear tactics to erode our hard-earned, hard-fought civil liberties.
This assumes that the Bush administration is using fear tactics and the goal is to erode civil liberties. The tendency of law enforcement is to get as many tools as they can to catch the bad guys; this trend pre-dates the current administration. The Clinton administration proposed a number of intrusive terrorism-fighting proposals that were opposed by both left and right at the time. The goal of both administrations is to protect the country, not to erode liberties; the erosion is minimal for citizens but problematic to legal immigrants The problem with having the ACLU be the point person is their tendency to be hyper-vigilant on establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment to the extent that they interfere with the free exercise side of the equation, especially in schools. They also will reflexively side with defendants and prisoners on any question regarding police/prison officials behavior. This gives the ACLU the reputation of being the friend of militant atheists and criminals. This gives them the reputation party-poopers who want to see criminals get off on technicalities and want to tear down manger scenes on the City Hall front lawn. If you rewind the clock a half-century, the ACLU was in the forefront of a lot of official abuses, stopping police brutality, willy-nilly searches and forced confessions, as well as cracking down on de-facto establishment cases such as where a state-written prayer was a daily requirement. However, the stance of the modern ACLU of thinking that the public square is to be a religious-free zone and that any argument between a prisoner or defendant and the state should side against the state makes them counterproductive. The protections against abuses of state power upon religious minorities and defendants of the 50s and 60s have turned into abuses of judicial power against the police, against prisons and against people of faith. However, many of the things that the current Justice department is asking for is troubling. For now, the focus of the "expanded powers" is upon Islamic immigrants and on allowing looser wiretapping laws, allowing the checking of e-mails. Much of this is needed and is a negligible change in the civil rights of Americans. Some of these changes are to adapt wiretapping law to reflect modern telecommunications; wiretapping a guy's house and work is one thing, but pagers, cell-phones and e-mail add a twist to search law. One area where I'm troubled is the unlimited detention of people on visa violations. If this were being done against citizens, there would be more of an uproar. Also, many of the legal safeguards that are in place for normal criminal investigations aren' t there in visa cases. The ACLU and other liberties groups should focus on the more egregious abuses, such as the indefinite detentions, national ID cards or the proposed megadatabases on all citizens, and chill on the minor tweaks of search law.

Blogosphere Musings-I found this piece from Suzanna Cornett on leaving mail in your car interesting, and not just for the idea that a enterprising thief will know that you're at work, where you live and that you're not at home. However, check out this passage
If the thief is quite clever, he might also make the connection that there's more likelihood that no one is at home if the mail belongs to a woman. Not many house-husbands, Lileks notwithstanding.
The matter-of-fact reference to Lileks was interesting. He's not a household name nationally, but he is a household name in the Blogosphere for being one of the better and wittier writers around. She was safe in assuming that we all knew him. There is a community developing of intellectual-leaning folks around the world with its own lingo (permalink, fisking, idiotarian) and heroes, and it's interesting to see it develop. Might this turn into a new form of old-boy network? We have a network of lawyers, college professors, political professionals and other savvy folks that could be drawn upon for future administrations and future campaigns. Let's fast-forward four years to Christmastime 2006, just before the 2008 Invisible Primary kicks into full gear. The conservative wing of the Blogosphere coalesces around a candidate. I can quickly think of quality contacts to start campaigns in Deleware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsyvania, Tennessee and Virginia. If such a cadre of people got behind a candidate and were able to drum up support amongst the others bloggers and readers that might join us in the next four years, you could see a blog-inspired presidential run. Not that this will happen, but if the Blogosphere flooded the zone for an otherwise obscure governor or senator, could they make the difference in getting a campaign into a viable status? [Update 12-12 10AM-Ruffini does a excellent riff off of this piece. He rightly added that we have girls in this cyber-old-boy network; that's one phrase that's hard to make gender-neutral, old-kids network doesn't quite do it. If he didn't refer you here first, go and read it]

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 2:1:6
1 Now after Jesus was (1) born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of (2) Herod the king, [1] magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 "Where is He who has been born (3) King of the Jews? For we saw (4) His star in the east and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, "(5) In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 '(6) AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL (7) SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"
A couple of things come to mind here. The first is that God chose a lowly town to be the birthplace of the Messiah. Why not have him born in Jerusalem? No, this was to be a trip of humility. The second is the symbolism of the shepherd. Shepherds are about lowest of positions in that culture; it wasn't something you wanted your kids to grow up to be. Also, remember that sheep are stooopid and rarely do the right things on their own. This is both a humbling position for the Messiah to be in and even more humbling to have Israel declared almost too stupid to live. We are poor lost sheep who have lost their way, baa, baa, baa. Thankfully, we have the Good Shepherd to show us the way.

Ammendment 9 Bait-and-Switch We could have some fireworks down the line as the new class size state constitutional amendment gets implemented. This looks to be an issue that will find its way to the state Supreme Court and our politicians don't look good as a result from this piece.
Horne and Bush, however, defended the prospect of the class-size amendment cost being less than first suggested. Bush said it was because U.S Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami and the sponsor of the amendment, has agreed that state officials can meet the intent of the amendment by lowering class sizes on a districtwide average. "When the organizer of the amendment says we can lower the average two students per district, that changes a lot of the dynamics to this," said Bush, who still plans to ask lawmakers next year to borrow $3 billion to pay for 12,000 new classrooms in the next five years. The money would come from a tax now charged on cell phones, cable television and satellite dishes.
Minor problem- that's not what the text of the amendment says.
To assure that children attending public schools obtain a high quality education, the legislature shall make adequate provision to ensure that, by the beginning of the 2010 school year, there are a sufficient number of classrooms so that: 1. The maximum number of students who are assigned to each teacher who is teaching in public school classrooms for prekindergarten through grade 3 does not exceed 18 students; 2. The maximum number of students who are assigned to each teacher who is teaching in public school classrooms for grades 4 through 8 does not exceed 22 students; and 3. The maximum number of students who are assigned to each teacher who is teaching in public school classrooms for grades 9 through 12 does not exceed 25 students.
Note the each teacher part. If someone's got a kid in a elementary school with 25 kids in the class, they'll be in court, even if the school district average is 17. They can use statewide average for now in the reduce class sizes by two each year phase, but I think the courts would side with a parent if the state tried the bait-and-switch that Bush and Meek are proposing. Also remember that it could easily be the poorer parts of a district that will tend to have more kids and have more crowded classrooms, making Meek's liberal backers even more litigious. Wait for the liberals to accuse Bush of having this district-average proposal being one of the devious plans he joked about during the campaign.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Tokin' Opposition-Don't quite know what to make of this debate-it appears that Canada is about decriminalize marijuana possession. The opposition Alliance party doesn't like the government proposal; they want the possession limit to be 5 grams rather than the proposed 30 grams. I'm not an expert, but having enough for 50 joints on one's person sounds like a trafficker. However, even the so-called conservatives are going wimpy on this one. Alliance MP Randy White said "They will decriminalize. The Americans will not like it[.]" No kidding, Sherlock.

Axis of Evil, No?-The North Koreans are working on their export industries. Nice, except they're exporting Scuds to Yeman. Or at least tried to; the good guys stopped the boat in the Arabian Sea.

Afternoon Musings-Mr. Claybourn, as are many college students, is in low-blog mode due to the end-of-semester cram-for-finals and crank-out-term-paper crunch. While you're writing those term papers, remember that your professor has to read them all, so don't accuse him of sadism. Sadomasochism, perhaps, but not sadism. Interesting new blog on my radar, the Daily Kos, a left-leaning political junkie. I haven't seen the guy for the long haul, but he seems to bring something to the table. He might be a blog equivalent to the New Republic, someone whose liberal but worth reading nonetheless. His proposal for a Political State Report seems promising, where he's hoping to get bloggers (from both sides of the aisle) from every state to give on-the-ground feedback on how politics is happening from a local perspective. The Lott thing seems to be dying down, he's taken the foot out of his mouth and given it a good rinse with a mouthwash. Gore is going over-the-top, overstating what Lott said; just when you thought he was doing a Ralph Nader imitation, he starts doing his Sharpton shtick. The usual suspects on the black left are following the standard script. However, Daschle is taking the high road, or is that the good cop creating the proper distance from the NAACP-and-company bad cop.

The Call of the Bull Moose-Matthew Yglesias makes this pitch for the moderate Republicans in the northeast to start their own party
I do wonder, though, what keeps northern moderates like Collins, Snowe, Chafee, Pataki, Giuliani, Romney, etc. in the southern-fried GOP. I can see why they don't want to cross the aisle and become Democrats, but why not just, well, pull a Strom Thurmond and start a regional party that would compete in the Northeast. It would hardly be worth it for the GOP to mount candidates against them, and America's single-member constituencies are ideal for this sort of regionalist appeal. Of course, anyone joining such a party would never get elected President, but none of these people are ever going to get elected president anyway. And they'd hold the balance-of-power in the House and Senate and be able to steer a course between both the Confederate nostalgia of the Republicans and the union-backed governmentophilia of the Democrats. I'd still (usually) vote for the Democratic candidate against my hypothetical third party, but politics would be more interesting and I think this strategy would definitely serve the interests of GOP moderates better than their current plan.
What would such a party stand for? First, let’s look at who would be the “target market” for the party and work from there. The swing voter that the party seeks is a secular-leaning middle-class voter. The voter might be a church-goer but isn’t overly religious; he isn’t fond of the modern cultural conservative. They are “old-school” in their morals (although they don’t always practice them) but don’t have the stomach or the desire to force that upon others. On the flip side, they don’t like a liberal anything-goes world-view to be installed or to go back to Ozzie and Harriet. They are egalitarian in that they believe in equal rights for women and minorities but aren’t fans of affirmative action. They’d side with football over pure equality in a Title IX fight and (a bit grudgingly) allow for male-only priests/pastors in churches who want it, but are equal-pay-for-equal-work and equal-opportunity feminists otherwise. They have no problems with black and Hispanics in general, but don’t want them to get special treatment. They have roughly equal disdain for rednecks and Afro-America race mongers. They’re heterosexist but not homophobic. They don’t want to see gays to be attacked or banned from working, but don’t like the idea of same-sex marriage and are queasy about giving homosexuality equal billing when teaching children about sexual issues. They don’t like big government but like the idea of a safety net, especially for the elderly. They have a vague understanding that big government slows things down, but they like the security and the do-gooder warm feeling that comes from having a solid program for helping the poor. They are pro-military but are cautious about using it. They know that a strong military is needed, but respect the lives of the people that are doing the fighting (on both sides) and want to be able to do this good work on a budget. They are law-and-order folks but keep half-an-eye on the police to keep them from becoming Big Brother. They have little to fear from the police as long as they don’t get too much of a lead-foot, so they’ll tend to side with the police in legal questions. They have little to hide from a snoopy government, but will oppose overly intrusive measures on a basis of old-fashion don’t-tread-on-me independence. They love America but don’t look down their nose at the rest of the world. They know that people are coming to America in much bigger numbers than they are leaving, a great piece of evidence of the US being the best place to pursue life, liberty and happiness. They’ll disagree with the people who bash America for all its faults even if they might agree with many of the left’s criticisms. They are fans of education and want the best for their kids; they’re open to suggestions in this area. They are supportive of public education, but aren’t wedded to it as the only option. They don’t want it used as an indoctrination tool of the left or of the right. They are sensitive to the environment but don’t want to bring the economy to a screeching halt in the process of protecting it. Going down this list, many of these aren’t that far from the Republican stance on most issues. They would like the Republicans on policing, on pro-American attitudes and on the military. They lean Democratic on the environment. Their gut attitude leans Republican on sexual morality, on education and on the size of government and taxes, but can be brought to the left if the issues are framed to favor the Democrats. What then would a Centrist Party platform be like? Sexual morality- be against same-sex marriage while outlawing any discrimination against sexual preference in non-religious employment. Emphasize being chaste before marriage in sex ed while also giving good contraceptive training. Abortion- The party might decide to agree to disagree on the issue and not have it in the platform. The swing voter is pro-restrictions on abortion but not in favor of an all-out ban. In theory, a Supreme Court decision allowing regulation of abortion would allow abortion law to move in their direction, away from the no-restrictions current law. However, some will be afraid of the law moving in a too restrictive manner. Education-An emphasis on learning the basics. Pilot programs for vouchers might be looked into, as would reforms that would reduce public school bureaucracy and get more teachers into the classroom. Tax credits for college, especially for students in technical fields, would be a plus. Bilingual education would be in a streamlined, get-the-kid-to-learn-English-quick format. Taxes-A long look at tax simplification, seeking to lower middle-class tax brackets by trimming various corporate and individual tax credits and making depreciation schedules a bit less generous. Crime and Policing-An emphasis on community policing and catching small problems before they become big ones (fixing broken windows theory). Environment- Emphasize on clean air and water, working on practical ways to cut pollution. ANWAR can stay pristine for now. The party would be open to tweaking the Endangered Species Act, but supportive of the basic concept of protecting species. Military/National Security- Status quo, but with an emphasis on creating a quick-reaction capability; being able to get troops to point A in a hurry. Missile defense will continue, but at a guarded pace to ensure against cost overruns. Serious reviews of airport security and other post-9/11 tightening in order to see if all the red tape is needed. Social Security/Elderly- A push for Medicare prescription coverage; either through insurance vouchers or by making it an integral part of Medicare, leaning towards the government-run option. The party would also back Social Security reform that would insure current retiree benefits while moving towards a partial privatization of the system. Welfare- solid work/study requirements coupled with aid for ex-welfare parent to help them transition out of welfare. This might mean extending Medicaid to some of the working poor. That platform would have the prospect of getting 40% of the vote. However, it that became the Republican platform, it would have the prospect of getting 70% of the vote. It’s not a supply-side platform and not a cultural-conservative platform, so it will be difficult for such a platform to get the Republican nomination. It doesn’t kowtow to any of the liberal power groups, so it will be difficult for such a platform to get the Democratic nomination. If I’m right in saying that it would get 40% of the vote, with the remaining 60% being evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, what is keeping such a party from forming? Both parties would adopt parts of the Centrist party platform in order to draw Centrist voters to them. Democrats could propose a tough-love poverty-fighting welfare program and tell the NEA to cool it on education reform. Republicans could show more of a green streak and think about Medicare prescription coverage a bit harder. However, on balance, the platform of the Centrist Party here that would be the preference of the swing voter is a moderate Republican platform; Centrist voters have to be scared off of the Republican side, typically by fear of an insufficient safety net, insufficient environmental protections or fear of an overly moralistic Religious Right. Parties tend to lean towards the center of political gravity in a region. There is a ongoing tug between nominating a centrist, who can bring in swing votes but will be a watered-down version of what the rank-and-file really wants, and nominating a “winger” who will do the things the activists like but will have a harder time winning swing voters. In a more secularized, less growth-oriented Northeast, the swing voter is a notch to the left of the national center, so the Democrats tend to be more liberal (for they can run someone they really like and still have a good shot of winning) and the Republicans tend to be less conservative. Republicans in the Northeast run on some version of the Centrist Party platform, for a standard-issue conservative platform won’t sell there. Should the centrist Republicans form their own party? On a national scale, such a party would split the GOP down the middle, resulting in a number of current Republican seats going to Democrats. For the party to be effective outside the Northeast, it would have to bring some DLC types on board as well to bring the moderate Democratic vote on board as well. Such a joint declaration of independence would be difficult to engineer. An independent but regional party would be problematic. Currently, there is a conservative/libertarian protest vote against many centrist Democrats; having to run as a Centrist Party candidate and go up against a conservative Republican that would get 10-15% as a protest vote would cause quite a few Centrists to lose to Democrats. That Centrist bloc would then be a swing vote in a tightly-controlled Congress; they would then negotiate with the Democrats and Republicans for chairmanships and compromises on the big issues of the day. A Centrist bloc in the Electoral College could be the swing vote in a tight election-picture 2000 with Florida going to Gore in a squeaker, but 20 Northeastern Centrist electors holding the balance of power; the could negotiate with both major-party candidates for cabinet posts or impose electoral gridlock until their needs are met. Would the loss of seats from having to fight a two-front war be worth the power that such a third party would hold? Good question. If they were to have some moderate Democrats join them, it would be a force to be reckoned with.

Edifier du Jour-Psalms 42:1-2
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?
The theme of Sunday's sermon was whether we are desperate for God. I couldn't stand for that alter call and I'm still trying to figure out whether it is confidence or complacency that is holding me back. The confidence I'm talking about is that God is right there 24/7; the deer might not be panting much if he knew that brook is right by his side all the time. The desperate man's object of desperation is what he doesn't have or is afraid of losing. The believer has the Holy Spirit as his counselor and won't lose it, so that knowledge (at least to me) should mitigate that desperation. The complacency part that I worry about is that I'm settling for a very lame relationship, that God has so much more to offer than I'm allowing Him to give. Problem is, I'm not sure what to ask for. I'm in Santa's lap 24/7 and I don't know what gift to ask for. Should I ask to be desperate for more of Him? Should you ask, too?

Monday, December 09, 2002

Afternoon Musings-Bryan Preston weighs in on l'affair Lott here. One problem I have with some of the conservative critiques of the critics of Lott is that N-bombs of prominent Democrats, including Robert Byrd's "white [t]igger" remarks, go unpunished on the left while a bad joke from Lott gets grilled. Here's an interesting question that I'm running through my mind-is a racial epitaph worse than the epitaph-free praise of an avowedly racist campaign? Is it worse for someone whose largely color-blind to drop a N-bomb than to lend support for bigots. I'm not suggesting that Lott be hounded out of the Senate-the people of Mississippi will have their chance in 2006 to give him another term. However, I don't think he served the Republican cause well prior to this and he has made himself a liability for his lack of judgement with C-SPAN cameras running. _____ Paul Musgrave has an interesting take on John Snow.
But what really disturbs me is his resume. This guy's like Tom White, George W., and Dick Cheney--he's got "access capitalism" written all over him. He left DoT to work for CSX--and he walked in as a VP. In Japan, they call this the "descent from heaven," when a senior ministry official goes to work for a company his ministry regulates. Can anyone say "conflict of interest?" Not in this White House, apparently. Paul Krugman's been hitting on this subject off and on for a while, but because it's only one lone Democrat saying this, I think Republicans have been ignoring the office. You can't be the party of free markets if you continually hire people who only achieved success because of who they knew, not what they could do. When Indonesia did things like this, we called it crony capitalism. When we read about Chinese officials running corporations, we call it corruption. In five years, when we talk about the Bush White House, I'm afraid we'll call it Teapot Dome Redux.
This isn't a big revolving door. Bush was a businessman who went into politics later in life. Cheney ran Halliburton between stints in Republican administrations. Snow did a stint as a government official, then worked in the private sector for a quarter-century before returning. What should high-ranking members of the opposition party supposed to do until their party returns to power. Must they have jobs at colleges or think tanks while they await their return from exile or could they earn a living in the private sector? If you want someone with expertise in a field, you might just turn to someone who has worked in an area for a while. Yes, that means that a businessman might be biased towards businesses, but a liberal lobbyist/think-tanker might be biased in favor of his old bosses as well. You work towards avoiding conflict of interest, but you're not going to avoid biases; in fact, administrations might look for someone who's both an expert and agrees with their view of how things should be done. That last Teapot Dome spot was a cheap shot. If you remember your history, that involved a Navy official leasing Navy oil reserves at bargain prices to his cronies during the Harding administration in the early 1920s. We might have business people who favor business in general, but we've yet to see any direct cronyism anywhere near the Teapot Dome level; there were quite a few Enron alums in this administration, yet it was allowed to go under without any intervention. There isn't too much that Snow can do in the Treasury Department to aid CTX; if he were Transportation Secretary, he'd have to be watched like a hawk. I don't like his corporate pedigree much (I'd rather have more of a small-business advocate there) but don't assume he's corrupt because he a corporate guy.

A Quick Primer on Deprecation Saw the first salvo from the left on the Snow nomination over at Josh Marshall’s
Turns out Snow's company, CSX, also has some pretty good tax attorneys. In three of the last four years, according to this press release from Citizens for Tax Justice, CSX paid no federal taxes even though it showed a profit in each of those four years.
Financial statement accounting differs from tax accounting. For financial statements, you take depreciation based on the expected life of the item. If the item is supposed to last 25 years, you'd write it off at a 4%/year clip. However, tax accounting, under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), typically allows for a quicker write-off of assets; for instance, automobiles are written off in five years and most manufacturing equipment is written off in seven years. This will typically mean that companies can write off more deprecation for tax purposes than they can for financial statement purposes. This would then mean that a company can legitimately have net income on their financial statement and a net loss (due to the higher depreciation) on their tax form and thus no taxes. In this 2000 10-K report, CSX stated
Depreciation is provided using the composite straight-line method over estimated service lives. In 2000, the overall depreciation rate averaged 3.0% for all roadway and equipment.
However, railroad track, cars and locomotives are a seven-year items, tank cars are 10-year items and railroad structures are 20-year items. That would mean that CSX would be able to write off about 15% of their asset value a year; the tax difference between the 3% and 15% figures would show up on the books as deferred taxes. Thus, CSX might be legitimately paying no taxes, and even getting tax rebates if they are getting tax credits for certain activities. If the CTJ wants to cut depreciation and tax credits, fine, but calling Snow and others freeloaders for living under the tax code as written isn’t helpful. Is the person getting a refund via the Earned Income Tax Credit a freeloader? “No, because they’re the working poor and not a corporation.” However, they’re both working under the law as written.

I'm Melting! I'm Melting!1-There appears to a lot of melting of the artic and Greenland icecaps, but it appears to be just normal fluctuations in ice coverage. Here's a great cop-out phrase
According to scientists, surface melt on Greenland was the highest in recorded history - and extended to elevations previously untouched by melt - while the amount of Arctic sea ice also reached a record low. While some of the accelerated melting appears to be linked to natural atmospheric oscillations, human influence could not be ruled out, said the scientists. Greenland glacier and sea ice melt, combined with disappearing permafrost, the northern expansion of vegetation, and increased fresh water run-off present a "compelling case that something is going on," said Larry Hinzman, of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
However, these folks would like that something to be global warming, so that they can put the brakes on industrial economies before we get to sing The Green, Green Grass of Nome. 1Sorry, watched the tail-end of The Wizard of Oz last night

Writing a New Chapter in United's History-Chapter 11-UAL finanally filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcy protection this morning. The airline will keep flying, so ticket-holders are safe for now. This will give them time to trim costs and work out deals with creditors; a billion dollars of debt was due later in the week, so this filing gives them that time. I don't think loan gaurentees and subsidies are the answer here. The airline industry needs to trim costs as hightened security procedures and various telecommunications items and e-mail make travel less attractive. Should the government take the hit for the whole thing or should stockholders and creditors take it? Methinks the latter. Air travel will continue, possibly with a few layoffs and cancelled routes, without the government help.

Moral Bankruptcy?-"Priest Go Against Law"-hey, that sounds like something out of the Daniel Berrigan obituary this weekend as the world lost an militant peacenik. No, they're talking about people bashing Cardinal Law; he's heading to the Vatican for consultations. Maybe this time he'll be asked to retire or be kicked upstairs to some Vatican position; I don't think he's the guy to preside over the mess in Boston.

Sugar Wars-There was a rumor floated during the Loiusianna Senate campaign that the US was about to liberalize imports of sugar from Mexico, displeasing the sugar cane industry there. Rob Dreher’s working on a piece on the issue, and I sent him this quick write up. Here's a quick history of the sugar issues; American sugar producers were afraid of increased US exports of corn syrup to Mexico would lessen the sugar consumption in Mexico and create a surplus that would head to the US. A side-deal was arraigned prior to the passage of NAFTA in 1993 that limited sugar imports from Mexico to the US through 2008. John Breaux was a big backer of that side deal, seeking to protect the sugar cane growers in Louisiana. Agricultural economics aren't my strongest suit, but this deal seems to be bad for the US consumer, driving up the cost of sugar. Sugar is a product that is highly tariffed, so that the world price of sugar sans tariffs is much lower than what we pay domestically. This will be a small step in driving the price of sugar down, which helps the economy but makes the sugar industry have to work a bit harder and smarter for their keep. Here's a list of agracultural tariffs that will are covered by NAFTA-quite a few tariffs will be eliminated at the first of the year, including quite a few US specialties such as wheat, soy and poultry. If you look at the 2008 list, frozen orange juice and peanuts are due to have Mexican tariffs lifted in 2008, while US tariffs on corn, sugar and dried beans are due to expire then as well. If the Bush administration is looking to move the 2008 list up, that would be positive for both economies. It will make sugar less expensive here and give the frozen OJ market a boost (nice for central Florida). The sugar cane producers to the south of here won't like it, nor will the cane growers in Louisiana. It is a good move for practically every state save Louisiana. Florida has a sugar/OJ trade-off while Michigan will have a sugar beet/bean trade-off. The Midwest will love the lifting of the corn tariffs. This is good politics in most places and lukewarm in Florida and Michigan; it's only bad politics in Louisiana.

Snow Job-When I read the headline,"Snow to Replace O'Neill" ,I thought "Tony Snow doesn't have a background in economics, but I think he'd do a good job." Wrong Snow, it's CTX president John Snow that's rumored to have the job. Unfortunately, he's coming in with the resume of a corporate insider. Here's a biography from earlier in the year when he was Tiffin University’s commencement speaker. He seems to be a Republican transportation geek, having served in the Ford transportation department before going up the CTX corporate ladder. He looks like a better choice to replace Underperformin' Norman Minetta at Transportation that to be the new Treasury Secretary. While being head of a big railroad doesn't bring out too many red flags, his multiple corporate directorships, including Verizon (telecom conflicts?) and USX (steel tariffs, anyone?) might be interesting points of conversation in a confirmation hearing. Mr. Snow might be a great economic mind up to the challenge of being Treasury Secretary, but the resume looks like that of a corporate good-'ol-boy that was on the Bush team's campaign donor Rolodex. He'd better be good, or he'll have some rough sledding getting any traction in Washington. [Update 9:25-here's a bio from USA Today-he does have a Ph.D. in economics and did a stint as a economics professor while working on a law degree. He still has too much of a corporate pedigree, but he might just do.]

More on Lott-I don't think Lott's an out-and-out bigot, as some people (such as Sullivan here) have suggested, but that he's insensative to the issue. As a white southerner, he can empathise with the attitude of many that the anti-discrimination push has gone too far and that the modern quota-type system is counter-productive. People with that mind-set can range from honestly color-blind folks who would have stood with the civil rights folks in the 50s and 60s were they old enough to do so to the old-school bigots. I think Lott's closer to the first catagory than the second. However, the bigots in that block need to be faced down and the stereotypes that their attitudes are typically based on addressed. Many white politicians, especially conservatives, don't feel comfortable being seen as a freind of political correctness. However, there's a difference between castigating someone who said indian when he was supposed to have said native-American to backing a cause that favored the exclusion of blacks from the voting booth and the better parts of our culture and economy. Lott might of been in a joking mood when he talked about the '48 vote, but it's not something to joke about. I don't like being on Jesse Jackson's side on this on either, Dr. Reynolds, but he happens to be right this time. This is more than just using a bad word; had Lott had dropped an N-bomb, we'd not be in this position. We don't have any significant political movement that deserves the oppobrium that we give Nazis, but the Jim Crow backers come about the closest. Entertaining the idea that it was a good thing isn't funny. If Lott is retained as majority leader, the GOP will have someone who talked appovingly about a racist party heading up it's Senate contingent. Any attack ads stemming from that would be partly justified.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 8:35-39(NASB)
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
One of the advantages of God being transdimensional is that He can be (and arguable is) anywhere, anywhen he wants. His love and calming, guiding presence can be with us anytime; you don't have to be in a church or your customary prayer chair. Life may try to keep you from sensing that, but His love's an omnipresent thing.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Getting Rid of the Dixiepublicans-One of the problems that Republicans have is that they inherited the Wallace Democrats in the 1970s. The Republicans cooped the law-and-order motif of the redneck populist Democrats like George Wallace and brought quite a few people who were raised in an era where being bigoted was not only permissible but politically proper. We're starting to see the death and/or retirement of that breed of politician; such bigotry is no longer politically acceptable. Such people make people like myself uncomfortable with the title "conservative," for such bigotry isn't something I want to conserve. In the last thirty years, the fight has shifted from being between discrimination (anti-black conservatives) and a color-blind policy (liberals) to being between discrimination (pro-black liberals) and a color-blind policy (neoliberals and conservatives). The people who grew up with the civil rights pushes of the 60s and 70s are comfortable with blacks and women as equals; it's unlikely that a flat-out racist politics would get a majority hearing. I'd venture that the Republican party of 2002 is more progressive on racial issues than McGovern's Democratic Party of 1972. However, that progress isn't seen that well by the media; conservatives are still seen as a bunch of rednecks. How many of those media folks treated a elderly black gentleman to lunch the last three Sundays like I've wound up doing? I can't take the credit for that; people from our home group at church had befriended Frank while witnessing in the poorer section of Lake Wales and have kept that friendship going even when Frank got Alzheimer’s and he would up in a Winter Haven nursing home. They make sure he gets to church and we usually treat him to lunch afterwards; Fred and I take turns paying for the gang ($1.19 All-American meals at McDonalds and a 2/$1 apple pies aren't budget busters) and I've wound up doing so the previous two weeks as well as today's birthday party for Fred at Fazolli's. That's not the GOP that we hear about in the news; Fred, that guy who has that senile black guy in tow, has a "I don't beleive the liberal media" on the back of his pick-up. The modern GOP isn't the bunch of rednecks that we're implied to be. That's why such open-mouth-insert-foot episodes like Lott's need to be squashed quickly.

Dixiepublicans-I'm not sure quite what to think about this Trent Lott whopper of a faux pas (via Fritz Schranck), where he stated in a Strom Thurmond going-away party that he was proud Mississippi voted for him for president in 1948. Let's wind up the wayback machine and remember what the Dixiecrats were up to; they wanted to keep segregation in place. Would the world have been a better place with that redneck persona in place? It would have been unlikely that Thurmond would have gotten elected, so talking about him being President is near pointless; if Thurmond had gotten enough electoral votes to change "Dewey Defeats Truman" to "Dixiecrats Throw Election to House," you would have been more likely to see some sort of Truman-GOP coalition rather than have Truman kowtow to the Dixiecrats, given the anti-racism streak in Truman. Thurmond's racial attitudes improved over the years, but that's not a vote Mississippi should be proud of. What then to do with the speaker of such commentary? Would a couple of RINO protests block his election? All it would take is three Republicans to say "if you keep Lott as speaker, we're abstaining" or two active defectors to return us to Majority Leader Daschle. I think that might happen. If it doesn't, you'll have the attack ad to end all attack ads ready to rumble nationwide. If you show Lott the door, then the ad only plays when Lott runs for reelection. It's time to show him the door; the survival of the party might be at stake. Keeping in on board will turn him into a younger Thurmond or Helms and be as toxic to efforts of reaching out to blacks as Pete Wilson's Prop 187 push was to Hispanics.

Morning Musings-Landrieu hung on to her Senate seat, winning the runoff 52-48. Ruffini, as expected, has the breakdown; Terrell seems to have lost the turnout war, failing to get the vote out in areas where her Republican co-challengers did well in November. We've got a Saddam peace offensive-he's even apologizing for the Kuwait invasion. Let's see how long this last. Ten days? The favorites held serve in college football, with Miami, Washington State, Georgia and Oklahoma all winning their games. The WSU was big; If I understand the BCS dilemma, the Orange Bowl gets first pick of the two at larges, and they'll likely pick either Iowa or Notre Dame over USC, who has a gaurenteed BCS spot due to being co-champ of the Pac-10 and in the top 4. That will leave the Rose Bowl forced to take USC, setting up a double-unappetizing all-Pac-10 bowl game with one the teams from in-town. Here, we worry about movies bombing; in Bangladesh, they're bombing movie theaters, four of them at one. Not good, sounds like some hard-case Islamist group that doesn't want people enjoying themselves.

Edifier du Jour-Romans 7:1-6(NASB)
1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
You can't convict a dead man, is that it? One of the frustrating things when a mass murderer either commits suicide or dies in a shoot-out with the police is that we don't get to administer a proper trial and serve justice in the standard way. We've short-circuited the Law when we've attached ourselves to Jesus; he already died and has imparted his death to us. Could this be where the Catholics get the idea that post-conversion (or post-baptism for them) sin isn't really sin? If we're dead to the Law, then the law is moot in our case and we're not guilty of sin. It's not that we didn't sin in the sence of doing something God doesn't want us to do, but we got off of the sin charge on the technicality that we're officially dead and thus can't be charged with the sin. We're not innocent, to be sure, but we are deemed not guilty.

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