Saturday, December 22, 2007

More Foreign Affairs

I wrote before on the 2008 presidential candidates' essays in Foreign Affairs. This issue, Governors Huckabee and Richardson join the fray:

Gov Richardon's piece is broad and defining, even wonkish, but not unexpected. Richardson's campaign and debate performance has left me utterly unimpressed, but the governor is nonetheless incredibly qualified and, unlike most post-Cold War politicians, actually views foreign policy under a somewhat-consistent lens. I do not know why, if true, he is no longer angling for the VP nod, given that Secretary of State, his best-suited gig, is likely going to Ambassador Holbrooke in a Clinton administration.

Gov Huckabee's writing is a lot like his speaking: One moment he is sensible, the next moment he jumps off the deep end—completely clueless and confused, to the point where you have to ask how his staff lets him go outside so unprepared, and then you remember he does not really have a staff.

According to Gov Huckabee, the current administration is guilty of an "arrogant bunker mentality" and is "vulnerable to the animosity of others:"

Much like a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised.

As an exemplar policy:

My administration will recognize that the United States' main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists. At the same time, my administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.

Those anecdotes are ridiculous and naïve, not folksy and charming, and I have no idea why he attacks something as irrelevant as UNCLOS in his essay's second paragraph—a great start to ridding the US of that bunker mentality, too.

From the CNN 5 June GOP Debate, Wolf asked:

Governor Huckabee, do you have confidence in the government of Iraq, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, that he's going to do what needs to be done?

The governor responded:

I think there's some real doubt about that, Wolf. But I want to remind all of us on this stage and the people in the audience that there's a reason that this is such a struggle. And I think we miss it over here in the West.

Today's the birthday of Ronald Reagan. We all would believe that Ronald Reagan is the one who ended the Cold War and Ronald Reagan is the one who helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But there's a group of people who don't believe that, and that's the Taliban. They believe they brought about the demise of the Soviet Union because of the way they fought in Afghanistan.

And what I want to just mention is that it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog. And we underestimate—grossly underestimate how fierce this dog is and how determined they are to destroy every last one of us.


Anyhow, after reading this article and watching the debates, it should come as no surprise that conservative elites are literally freaking out over the prospect of a Huckabee presidency.

Elsewhere in topic but in the same issue, John Ikenberry on The Rise of China and the Future of the West.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ron on the Amero

One of Rep Paul's wilder conspiracies is the North American Union, "an unholy alliance of foreign consortiums and officials from several governments" conspiring to wrest away US sovereignty, just "like the European Union" did to those poor nations of Europe, through the joining of Canada, Mexico, and the US into a political and economic union.

The Congressman believes the foundation for this conspiracy lies in the creation of a new highway:

By now many Texans have heard about the proposed "NAFTA Superhighway." What you may not know is the extent to which plans for such a superhighway are moving forward without congressional oversight or media attention.

This superhighway would connect Mexico, the United States, and Canada, cutting a wide swath through the middle of Texas and up through Kansas City. Offshoots would connect the main artery to the west coast, Florida, and northeast. Proponents envision a ten-lane colossus the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines, fiber-optic cable lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines running alongside.

The proposed highway is part of a broader plan advanced by a quasi-government organization called the "Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America," or SPP.

Like any good conspiracy, this one is rooted in some truth: There is a proposal to build a transportation network in Texas, facilitating trade through long-haul trucking. And there is a partnership called the SPP, but its a series of summits intended to improve information sharing, primarily to combat terrorism. But Paul finds this highway and summit series just the start:

The ultimate goal is not simply a superhighway, but an integrated North American Union—complete with a currency, a cross-national bureaucracy, and virtually borderless travel within the Union. Like the European Union, a North American Union would represent another step toward the abolition of national sovereignty altogether.

As a nativist and an isolationist, it is easy to see why such a highway—let alone the broader conspiracy—distresses the Congressman. But the North American Union, unsupported by facts, is simply not going to happen.

Believing that NAFTA, or even this highway, is a Trojan horse for a currency union is absurd. But it has spurred Rep Paul to fight against eminent domain abuse, a cause in need of a leader.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tyler on Ron

Tyler Cowen on Rep Ron Paul:

I haven't followed Ron Paul closely, and while I like many of his libertarian ideas, I am discomforted by his overall anti-intellectual demeanor. He strikes me as the kind of person who has a natural attraction to conspiracy theories. However he is only allowed to believe the ones that coincide with his libertarian ideology. Which isn't so many (most of those theories are dreamt up by non-libertarians and thus have anti-libertarian elements), and that means he ends up sounding more somewhat sensible than he really is.

I don't doubt Paul's sincerity, but I would like to know his theory of why most economists—even market-oriented ones—don't agree with him on monetary policy. I suspect he thinks he knows some secret that others do not.

There's what a politician believes, and how a politician believes. As I get older I put increasing weight on the latter. As a protest vote, Ron Paul seems fine, but hearing him or reading about him just makes me depressed. A good rule of thumb is not to get too excited about any candidate whose actual election would make the Dow lose thousands of points.

Indeed, this is the nativist candidate who said:

Federal Reserve policies also benefit big spending politicians who use the inflated currency created by the Fed to hide the true costs of the welfare-warfare state.

Such a view is an incredibly naïve and abecedarian take on US monetary policy. Federal revenue from seigniorage and open market operations pale in comparison to revenue from taxation, which is how the government funds our "welfare-warfare" state. Rep Paul continues:

Congress' constitutional mandate regarding monetary policy should only permit currency backed by stable commodities such as silver and gold to be used as legal tender.

To the contrary, you have to look pretty hard to find commodity prices, over any reasonable interval, that are stable. The only way to convince yourself otherwise would be to look at a commodity priced in a currency while said currency was pegged to that commodity.

Price of Gold and Silver December 2004 to December 2007

I could only generate the chart for the last three years, but the numbers are still all over the place. Time to stop mislabeling the Congressman's paleoconservative conspiracies as libertarianism.

Krugman at Google

Paul Krugman visited us a couple of days ago, speaking on the current state of the economy:

I have said it before but I shall say it again: When not likening the current administration to Khmer Rouge, Dr Krugman's economic elucidation expertise is without peer.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hoop Conjecture

Is this leak by a Clinton staffer the first sign of her campaign's implosion?

On the eve of the final Iowa debate before the Jan. 3 caucuses, Clinton campaign insiders are increasingly questioning the cautious, poll-driven approach taken by Mark Penn, Hillary Rodham Clinton's top political aide, sources familiar with the situation say.

With Clinton barely holding her own against Barack Obama and John Edwards in Iowa, dissatisfaction is growing with Penn, who some say has mistakenly run Clinton as a de facto incumbent.

"There are two people who have come up with this strategy—Hillary Clinton and Mark Penn," said a top Clinton ally, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Mark wanted to run her, basically, for re-election, and we are seeing what happened."

Probably not, but we are looking at a campaign that originally considered her nomination if not her election a lock, and now they are forced to face a very real chance of failure. You can see the panic in moves such as the Senator Obama drug comment.

Also interesting is that President Clinton is pushing for more aggressive attacks:

Bill Clinton—along with former White House hands—have counseled her to adopt a far more aggressive approach with Obama.

Penn, sources say, has counseled moderation, believing an attack would elevate her already-high negatives and drive her too far to the left to win a general election.

A by-the-polls campaign with an overarching fear of moving too far to the left? Sounds like the first Clinton presidency.

The latest Iowa numbers have Senator Obama besting Senator Clinton by three points on average (and as much as nine points in one poll). Intrade is currently pricing an Obama victory at 60% compared to Clinton's 35. For a campaign that continues to disappoint, those gains are impressive.

Snow in Boston

I suppose I was not entirely aboveboard when I told Marlena that last winter was representative of the season.

Newbury St, Boston
Newbury, between Fairfield and Exeter

Newbury St, Boston
Newbury & Exeter