Friday, June 26, 2009

More on the Kang Nam

News coverage on the Kang Nam seems spotty. Asian Times has the best article I've seen so far.

My interest in this is that President Obama vowed serious consequences for the North Koreans if they persist in their belligerence. So far, the U.S. has done next to nothing, and a U.S.N. spokesman says there are no plans to stop the Kang Nam.

We'll see soon if "serious consequences" means "white flag." But maybe it just means Kim Jong Il won't be eligible for stimulus funds.

6 July update: Kang Nam returns home without visiting any foreign port. According to Chosun Ilbo, economic pressure from Japan on the Burmese junta plus pursuit by the U.S. Navy were responsible. I'm quite relieved that whatever the Kim Jong il regime had planned didn't seem to work. Here's hoping for a continued string of failures for them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

America's Progressives

Maybe we should start with some humor, since so few things are funny lately.

Q: Why does Barack Obama dislike the Second Amendment?

A: Because it's the one thing that stands between him and the First Amendment.

Here's an NY Times column that nicely touches on these themes. Bob Herbert is so over the top, one wonders how even the Times would print this. I've been reading the NRA's analysis of the Obama administration, and there's nothing in it that's over-the-top. rather, there's a great deal of careful documentation of proposals, almost entirely from the Democrats, for draconian gun controls, and analyses of the statements and positions of Obama administration officials.

Herbert cannot fathom even the thought that citizens might need firearms to defend their rights, including against the state. I suppose his is a sensible position...if one believes the state is superior to the individual, and particularly if one believes the state is now in the hands of the new god-like Fuhrer. It's all "gun craziness," "madness," and "hate speech" to him. No doubt it ought to be banned, although progressive fascists don't favor outright bans; some indirect method will have to be found; taxes, or "Fairness Doctrine," or something.

Herbert is right about one thing, though: this isn't about hunting.

Progressivism: the face of America's fascism.

What's happening with the Kang Nam?

What's going on with the North Korean freighter, Kang Nam 1? New York Times doesn't even report on it (nothing for three days).

But there is news:

Reuters quotes a U.S. military spokesman as saying we haven't decided whether to "hail and query" this particular ship.

Agence France Presse reporta that the military junta in Burma denies knowing anything.

Shan Herald (a Burmese dissident news outlet) offers speculation on the likelihood the cargo is munitions.

Associated Press covers the latest North Korean threat to go to war over the sanctions.

Maybe the question should be, what is happening at the New York Times? Apparently they're overwhelmed with the tasks of campaigning for socialized medicine and cheerleading for Obama.

Perhaps they should be given some stimulus funds, so they can hire some news writers.

Update 25 June: North Korea threatens nuclear attack on U.S. And surprise! New York Times covers it. But it didn't make the news alerts they send me (displaced by stories on Farrah Fawcett and Shaquille O'Neal) nor did it make the internet front page.

Still, it's progress. North Korea has finally made it back into "all the news that fits." No mention of the Kang Nam, though.

Monday, June 22, 2009

La burqa? Non, merci...

Vive la France! Et merci bien, M. Sarkozy!

"In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity," Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris.

"The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement - I want to say it solemnly...It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic."

(English language story here.)

Of course, as this photo suggests, there may be room for compromise:

Update 25 June: op-ed from the Tehran Times...interesting enough to be worth a look. It makes an interesting point: "There has to be respect for cultural traditions. It is right and proper, too, that Muslims, when in France or any other non-Muslim country, accept the laws there - providing that those laws do not impinge on their faith, nor do they stop them from exercising their beliefs."

شكراً جزيلاً, Nathalie!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Vengeance of Keynes

From higher altitude than usual (Big Sky MT)...

Keynes returns, with a vengeance. And the destruction of capital is elevated to an economic principle.

Keynesian economics was killed in the 1970s and 1980s. Milton Friedman’s monetarism and the Rational Expectations revolution killed it, and decades of economic theory and empirical research buried it, at least in academic circles. But now, with no theoretical or empirical justification at all, it’s back.

Paul Krugman and now Alan Blinder doubt that the Fed's explosive injections of liquidity pose any risk. And Robert Reich can't imagine that exploding federal deficits are cause for concern. What to make of all this?

Former economist Paul Krugman is simply a political hack, an ideologue who will say anything at all if it suits his political purposes.

But as for Blinder...on the one hand, I wish I could simply say Blinder is nuts. The like of James Hamilton, Nouriel Roubini, and even Ben Bernanke have warned of the dangers of a longer run inflation problem. And despite what Blinder says, the timing issue is not symmetric, either. It's much more likely that the Fed would move too late than too soon in sucking excess liquidity from the economy: Bernanke has explicitly said that his greatest fear is a repeat of the Fed's sharply contractionary actions following the 1929 crash, and that he'd rather see inflation. Also, the data are not observed contemporaneously, there's a substantial lag. What actually is happening in the economy occurss before we can recognize it. Recall that it wasn't until September 2008 that the data were available showing a recession had already started the previous January. As for the wisdom of the bond markets, I'm pretty suspicious. They are subject to foreign central bank demand, which has its own purposes, and also are trying to second guess the Fed, while the Fed is trying to second guess the economy, and no one has a generally accepted theory of exactly how real interest rates and long term nominal rates are exactly generated. Hence, Blinder's cavalier attitude seems crazy to me.

On the other hand, Blinder is a Keynesian, and there's a fundamental difference in how he & I see things. The Austrian *micro*economic view looks at the price level as at best a shorthand abstraction. In this view, inflation is better thought of as an expansion of the money supply, and a monetary expansion cannot be neutral. It shifts relative prices and changes the structure of the economy. If we had predictable uniform " helicopter money" general price increases, no one would care about inflation. We don't have this, of course, and it is the (mis)allocative effects of inflation (however defined) that we fear. In my Austrian view, we are getting these effects regardless.

That said, I am rather doubtful that the Fed is going to remove excess liquidity the way Blinder hopes.

Relatedly, two things of note in the news: 1) Bernanke is in hot water for his alleged participation in pressuring BOA to violate SEC laws; potentially he could even face felony charges. 2) Apparently the Obama administration has proposed rules that would give Treasury some authority over the Fed.

The politicization of Fed policy and Bernanke’s own problems make it that much more unlikely that the Fed can engage in successful contractionary policy.

Of course, none of these concerns really fit the Keynesian paradigm. Keynes is all about generating aggregate demand and aggregate output and employment. It doesn’t matter to Keynes what it is, "it's all good." The issues of misallocating capital can't arise in the model, and as for destroying the value of money, well, that's one of those long run issues.

And then there's Robert Reich. Lawyer Reich knows less about economics than my dear missing Labrador retriever Dushka does. His economic expertise is entirely self-proclaimed. I miss the good old days when Economist Paul Krugman would regularly lambaste Reich for his economic know-nothing-ness.

Even today's Krugman the political partisan has expressed a little concern about the growing debt of late (i.e. since Obama took office). Of course, prior to the election Krugman correctly howled that the growing debt under Bush was a disaster.

The truth is that we are headed for a much worse crisis, as our foreign creditors become increasingly doubtful about our creditworthiness. And Reich's idea that health care reform is going to reduce the debt burden is a fantasy; the federal gov't has consistently failed to run entitlement programs in a fiscally responsible fashion, and they'll fail to do so with health care, for several reasons:

1) Politicians have strong incentive to provide benefits, actions, programs, etc. by increasing borrowing rather than direct taxation. They have very little incentive to be fiscally responsible.

2) Administrators of federal programs have little incentive to control costs in a rational fashion. They'll control costs that *they* face, but these differ from the costs borne by health care consumers and taxpayers.

3) The cost reductions that reformers promise come in large part from improving medical recordkeeping, increased preventive care that supposedly saves by heading off worse problems, and cutting out middlemen. Unfortunately, the med records savings cited are always the best case scenario estimates, and numerous studies suggest these are fictional gains -- from my own conversations with medical professionals I am extremely doubtful about big savings. Preventive care savings really are a fiction, most studies I've seen suggest that while preventive care can certainly provide health benefits, the financial savings are minimal. As for cutting out the middlemen, good luck. When I worked with federal crop insurance programs I had a front row view of bureaucratic incompetence: these programs are very badly run, with a whole new level of middlemen (USDA bureaucrats) added. Don't expect federal health insurance to be better.

But if Reich is right, why, then let's accelerate our accumulation of debt; he thinks it is positively beneficial, so by all means let's spend! spend! spend! No need to worry about the future, in Reich's view, because the certainty of strong economic growth will make it easy for us to pay it off. Deficit spending guarantees free lunches for all!

I could understand if Reich's message terrified people, or if it triggered belly laughs -- but how can this be treated as even vaguely sensible?

But even the Chicago schoolers are now saying that Keynesian stimulus is a necessity, and in true Keynesian fashion, they don't even care if it is wasteful; stimulus is stimulus.

Hence we destroy our capital, our wealth, and our future, as slaves to this defunct economist. No wonder Keynes said that in the long run, we’re dead.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Barack Obama reaches out to Muslims

Here's the transcript of President Obama's speech in Cairo. Read it, don't listen, because you'll need to look at some of it more than once.

I don’t believe any American president has ever before given a speech targeted at all adherents of a particular religion. And I’m sure the U.S. has never before had a foreign policy position towards a particular religion. In the strange new world of Obama-style identity politics, we now have both. What to make of it?

Resetting the American policy approach to the Middle East and elsewhere is long overdue. It makes sense to offer an olive branch to reasonable Muslims, and anyone else for that matter. "We" here at UC greatly appreciate President Obama’s endorsement of the Golden Rule, and his call for mutual understanding and peace. If this were the sole substance of Obama’s speech, "we" might well be applauding. But instead, we're torn between being mystified and aghast.

There’s plenty that might be said about the Obama speech, and for a nice and fair analysis see the op-ed by political scientist Gerald Steinburg in the Jerusalem Post.

But for all that was good in the speech, there was plenty of utter nonsense in Obama’s offering. Consider, for example, his statement "Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace."

That's ridiculous. Muslim clerics issue fatwas calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie, Danish cartoonists, and anyone else whose free speech bothers them. Huge crowds of Muslims demonstrate, and frequently riot violently, on behalf of these bloodthirsty causes. The Muslim organization Hamas calls for extermination of Jews, and works for it. Hezbollah and Al Qaeda - both explicitly Muslim organizations - wage wars against civilians using terror, as does the Muslim Taliban. A Pakistani Muslim once described to me the practice of honor killings, in which fathers would cooperate to murder their own children for the mildest of "moral" offenses (e.g. a boy and girl from different families meeting without permission, but without even physically touching, just meeting to talk) and assured me that while illegal, it was widely regarded as acceptable. During a discussion of religion, another Pakistani friend mentioned that were he home in Pakistan and expressed the rather liberal interpretation of some verses from the Koran he'd just espoused, that his friends would physically beat him. Muslims aren't inherently violent, but there are violent, illiberal tendencies in many strains of Islam. It's common. This is something Muslims need to confront.

OK, this is an obvious criticism, covered well by Steinburg (above). And I suppose Obama's supporters would respond that he's simply taking rhetorical high ground. And after all, we do want Muslims to combat extremism and promote peace, so maybe we're just differing on how best to persuade?

Yeah, OK...

But what to make of these strange points from his speech?

"[I]n the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat."

What??? America restricts charitable giving by Muslims? Really! Since when? In fact, there’s nothing at all like this happening...unless, of course, Obama is referring to the closing of organizations that were channeling funds to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and similar terrorist groups. Or perhaps the ongoing connection of CAIR with Hamas? (The linked story is headlined to make CAIR look like a victim, oddly enough.) It’s bizarre to think that Obama could be talking about this, but what else could it be?

Or try this:

"[America will] create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo."

Yes, wonderful! But this doesn’t already exist? Well, sure, it actually does, in many internet variants. I myself have gone online, although perhaps not from Kansas, to "communicate instantly" with people in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. So what is he talking about?

Or try this:

"So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed."

Now that's just creepy. Only a Muslim believes that Islam was "revealed." Certainly a Christian wouldn't say this. In talking with friends, I've been making a good deal of fun of the claim of that Obama is a Muslim, but here he seems to be saying that Islam was indeed revealed by God. Umm, is the Conservapedia entry on Obama right after all? Say it isn't so, B.O.! (No one in the press will ever dare seriously ask him.)

But say, why did he just receive Saudi Arabia's highest decoration? What's he done to earn it? At least when George W. Bush received it, he'd furthered Saudi interests in deposing Sadaam Hussein and opposing Iran. But why Obama? Why would the king of a feudal royal family that sees itself as the guardian of Islam (and that spawned and finances Al Qaeda as well as the Wahabi version of fundamentalist Islam that guides Al Qaeda) be presenting our new President with the kingdom's highest award? If during the Cold War an American President was awarded, after his first few months in office, "Hero of the Soviet Union," wouldn't it have been seen as at least a little bit suspicious? In this case, "creepy" is the word. Why does our President keep kowtowing to the Saudi king?

How about this:

"And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear."

Yes, yes, that's Article II, Section, umm... no, Article, er, umm... What is this about? Well, he did tell the French that America is a Muslim country, after all.

He goes on:

"That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it."

Yes, that’s the First Amendment, the inalienable right to wear the hijab, and the Federal Code, which makes it a felony to deny this right. Many Federal prosecutors have built their careers punishing hijab "rights deniers"...right? Again, what is he talking about? This is all nonsense.

Peter Daou (Huffington Post) is less measured than I on this one: "With women being stoned, raped, abused, battered, mutilated, and slaughtered on a daily basis across the globe, violence that is so often perpetrated in the name of religion, the most our president can speak about is protecting their right to wear the hijab? I would have been much more heartened if the preponderance of the speech had been about how in the 21st century, we CANNOT tolerate the pervasive abuse of our mothers and sisters and daughters."

Obama again:

"Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong, and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation."

They still do serve as chattel slaves in Muslim communities. The only slave I ever met was a black man owned by a Mauritanian Muslim (this was in West Africa). But more importantly, the plight of the Palestinians has nothing in common with that of American slaves. The Palestinians have had repeated opportunities to negotiate a peace settlement with the Israelis, and have refused. In his time, Arafat rejected his opportunity for a settlement with Israel. Now Hamas openly calls for the killing of Jews everywhere in the world, and the obliteration of Israel.

But back to the President:

"Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist."

Hamas has no past agreements to recognize, unless he means the Hamas Charter, which openly calls for literally exterminating Jews. Tolerance for genocide is malicious and deeply offensive as well. And Hamas did handily win an election against Fatah, and then used violence to drive Fatah from Gaza. So far, using violence doesn’t seem to have hurt Hamas' efforts in unifying Palestinians. It's probable that if a fair election were held in the West Bank tomorrow, Hamas would win over Fatah...which is why Abbas just postponed elections again.

And this:

"On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation."

Gaza is not occupied, and neither is most of the West Bank. And if it’s 60 years of occupation he means, then he’s referring to the existence of Israel as "occupation." Is he taking a position on "right of return?" Or the eventual elimination of Israel? (I suspect the vagueness is intentional; Obama can be all things to all people, if he is careful.)

"I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons."

The very next day, Russian Army Chief of Staff General Nikolai Makarov, speaking on behalf of the Kremlin, announced that the Russian nuclear arsenal is "sacred" and that Russia will never give it up, but will strengthen it. And Iran subsequently announced it would accelerate its nuclear programs, North Korea continued preparing an ICBM for launch, and the IAEA released two reports: one that Iran has been accelerating its nuclear activities, including those that seem to be weapons related, and another that the Syrians seem to be up to some secret atomic research as well.

So score one for Obama here; these countries are all concurring with him that no one country gets to pick and choose who has nukes and who doesn't.

(BTW, I regret my intermittent access to internet keeps me from linking to each of these stories, but a bit of Googling on the reader’s part should find them. Feel free to provide links in the comments.)

Well, there's more:

"Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility toward any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."

No Western country has dictated what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. France has maintained a strict policy of laicity, of keeping state institutions secular, and hence has prohibited the wearing in public schools of symbolic Muslim garments such as headscarves and burkas, just as they ban open display of crosses. This is a wise policy, and the French have it because of their experiences with bloodstained alliances of church and state. Turkey has this as well. Obama's slap at our secularist friends in both countries is despicable.

"I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal,"

No one has suggested otherwise. What many critics of headcovers point out is that often Muslim women don’t choose. Despite what they might say once outside the home, the decision is physically forced on them there, by men.

"I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality."

NPR interviewed several Muslims around the world after the speech, and several pointed out that this didn't make much sense, because in many, probably most Muslim countries there are ample opportunities for education for women. But was Obama even referring to Muslim countries here? It’s France (OK, and Turkey) where a woman with a headcover might have difficulty entering a public classroom. So who knows what Obama meant? It sounded politically correct, so that should be sufficient.

Of course, we can't simply leave it at politically correct cooings, we need a bold plan for action:

"On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world."

"On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health."

Ah, good! Another new volunteer corps, an entrepreneurship summit on how to build, umm, foundations(?) and cartels(?!), a new fund, new centers, new political appointments of science envoys (?), green jobs, more digitized records, health care for all... say, isn’t this also the Obama plan for America? (Digitized records? How many of these countries have records to digitize? And even if they do, why would we want to do it?)

I don’t know what to say, this is all very bizarre. Is he just spouting campaign rhetoric? Given his record so far, it would be unreasonable to simply assume he doesn't mean what he says. He’s definitely a man who executes bold, sweeping plans. Good grief, has he cleared all this with our Chinese financiers? (I won't even bother to ask about the Constitution.)

Early in his speech, Obama approvingly quotes John Adams in the Treaty of Tripoli, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." But Obama entirely misses the point: the United States were neutral with respect to Islam, they had no position on it. Obama sets himself up as a partisan of Islam and Muslim countries, if not a Muslim himself, and promises American support in building the Islamic world.

Whether he's serious or not, this is going far, far beyond the bounds of legitimate Presidential authority. He is out of control. It's bizarre, and dangerous as well.

I understand that in addressing the Islamic world it's highly desirable to speak respectfully and calmly, and to offer the olive branch to those willing to accept it. But it is at least as important to speak the truth, and to represent individual rights and America's interests. Those are ominously, frighteningly lacking in Obama's speech.

What the hell is going on?

SCOTUS to enforce property rights?

Unforeseen Contingencies certainly hopes so.

If you're still wondering why financial markets are slow to recover, ask yourself how much you'd invest if you thought that politicians could cancel your contracts, and rights, at will, whenever they deemed it expedient.

Chrysler's long term bondholders have legal priority to Chrysler's assets. The Obama administration's attempt to strip them of these property rights had better be stopped; capital markets won't function without secure property rights.

Of course, causing capital markets to malfunction may be the idea.

May the Supreme Court do the right thing and stop this abuse of Presidential power.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The American Catastrophe part 3: Obama's rush to national socialism

I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Great Falls Montana, racing to get something posted before they close and my fast internet connection turns into a pumpkin.

Our catastrophe continues.

I used to wonder what it might have felt like for someone like Ludwig von Mises to have witnessed the rise of the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s, or for someone like Ayn Rand to have seen the Soviets solidify their hold on power in Russia. I'm now getting a taste of it. Barack Obama and his administration are staging a kind of revolution, a putsch, that promises to eliminate what's left of individual liberty in America. Obama and company are racing us down the road to serfdom.

This viewpoint might not be politically correct, and the mainstream media treats it as entirely over the top, but then there's really no serious discussion either in politically correct company or the mainstream media of the direction and implications of Obama's policies. And the Obama policies are clearly socialist, and are concentrating enormous power in the hands of government officials. Consider just a few points:

• Treasury now holds essentially unchecked power to intervene in capital markets as it sees fit. Geithner himself argues that this mandate is perpetual, essentially permanent.

• The Federal government has taken controlling positions in the insurance, banking, and automotive industries. Obama promises that by the end of this year it will also essentially have taken over the health care industry. The government is also intervening heavily in energy, through regulation and subsidy.

• Despite claims from Obama and co. that they are unwilling owners of the economy, there’s substantial reason to think they've intentionally exacerbated the economic crisis in order to justify these nationalizations.

• Despite claims from Obama and co. that they hope the nationalizations will be short-lived, they've acted to block banks from paying back bailout funds, and they have no plan at all for ending the nationalizations.

• Despite claims from Obama and co. that they have no intention of actively managing nationalized firms, they are doing so, e.g. in the auto industry.

• The net effect of these developments is that the Federal government is seizing what Lenin identified as, and Obama calls (in his budget proposal) the "commanding heights of the economy," and is giving indications of establishing what is effectively a form of central planning (one more akin to that of the Third Reich than that of the USSR).

• The Federal government is also likely to "bail out" otherwise bankrupt states, such as California. If so, once the Federal government has "nationalized" state governments, there'll be no vestiges left of federalism. We'll have an unchecked central government that controls the economy.

• If the EPA does indeed receive power to regulate carbon dioxide, there's no aspect of life that won’t be subject to executive branch regulation. The 60 day comment clock is ticking on this one, and there's great danger it will come to pass.

• Obama is maintaining and expanding the Bush policies on domestic spying.

• Obama’s Secretary of Transportation spoke in favor of mandating a GPS unit on every vehicle in America for purposes of tracking and taxing miles driven. He was subsequently ordered to shut up on this, and now simply talks about his role in modifying citizens' behavior.

• And, and, and...the list goes on.

• Couple all of this with Obama's accelerated fiscal and monetary irresponsibility, madness that makes Bush’s policy look almost responsible. (Note that most of the above was begun by George W. Bush; Barack Obama is Bush on steroids. It's bizarre how his cult of personality has blinded his supporters to this.)

It’s dreadful. Every bit of this is about central planning and allowing bureaucrats to impose their wills over the individual citizen. None of this is compatible with individual rights, nor with the rule of law. It's very dangerous, and unchecked, potentially the most serious threat to civilization that has occurred in my lifetime.

None of it is very surprising; I've feared this long before I ever heard of Barack Obama. Once George W. Bush began on the course of continued deficits, easy money, and unchecked power for domestic spying and the like, the pieces were in place for dictatorship. Now we have a popular, charismatic leader who is only too happy to grab Bush's institutional legacy and solidify it. But then what would you expect?

I’m going to expand on these issues in subsequent posts. I'm working on some comments on Obama's very strange address to the Muslim world, as well as some economic analysis. This is serious trouble. We’d better use free speech while we still have it, and UC intends to do so.

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