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(if I were) King of (the) Forest Posts

Early Presidential Primaries

Whether those states are Iowa and New Hampshire or some others, equally small and compact, there is, notwithstanding the preferences expressed by Derrick Z. Jackson and the leaders of the Democratic party, a benefit to holding our first caucuses and primaries in states that are neither so large as to prevent effective personal politics nor so dominated by a single large media market as to require enormous sums of money even to begin a campaign….

…For your consideration, I would submit that such a move would have made it impossible for some relatively unknown and underfunded but charming southern governor — say someone like Bill Clinton — to have emerged as a serious candidate. And I submit it would likely have prevented some brand-name candidate anointed and bankrolled by the political party establishment — say someone like George W. Bush — from having to confront any serious challenge or insurrection by the dissatisfied centrists who almost made John McCain the candidate in his place.

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A Dearth Of African American Office-Holders

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker attended the 2006 state Republican convention in Massachusetts specifically to hear former Senator Edward Brooke speak, and then used the occasion as an entree to a discussion of why, in a state so notoriously liberal, there had been such a dearth of other African Americans in state-wide offices in the 40 years since Senator Brooke’s election.

His answer — of course? — was the latent racism of white voters. But, if that simple and expected explanation were the whole story, what explains Senator Brooke’s success?
I sent this letter to Mr. Walker to offer an alternative explanation.

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Windfall Profits

Would those calling now for confiscation of that “excess” through a windfall profits tax be equally willing to to make up the “shortfalls” through a windfall loss subsidy during the next down cycle? That would be “fair”, if perhaps unproductive. But I don’t remember any of them being in favor of that in the past. And I can’t imagine it happening in the future.

Rather, in their lexicon “fairness” seems, at least with regard to business, to mean “responsible for losses but not entitled to profits” — risk without reward.

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A Question of Nation

The chaos we are seeing — on the ground and in our own thinking — reflects the dissolution of the “nation” into more fluid and less tractable identities and spheres of interest. Al Quaeda is not a country and yet, in many circumstances, it seems to define and control a “nation” of people who pledge it their loyalty. Iraq was not Al Quaeda but were they really distinct — two “nations” apart — or were they both part of the larger Arab — or was it Islamic? — “nation” to which both claim allegiance and from which the “clash of civilizations” is arising? Is the UAE a country allied with the United States, or is it a culture allied with Arabia or with Islam?

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Property Taxes

The only way rising property values lead to rising tax bills is if the government chooses to treat the tax rate as an inevitable force of nature rather than as the financial throttle which matches total valuation to total revenue; that is, if government chooses to use rising valuations as an excuse to collect and spend more than they could otherwise have done.

There is nothing more needed to control rising property tax bills than for the citizens to demand fiscal discipline and responsibility from their governments.

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Microsoft and Social Responsibility

Just to be clear: In advocating for Microsoft to defy the Chinese government’s censorship orders and to stand up for free expression in China, you are demanding that an American corporation take it upon itself to disregard the local laws of the community in which it operates. You are demanding that it substitute an American standard of civil liberty and an American vision of proper social regulation for the locally determined political and cultural choices.

I find China’s political and cultural choices appalling and hope that Microsoft and its Chinese customers can find a way to subvert them. But what you are suggesting sounds a lot like…Imperialism!

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How to View Illegal Immigration

We routinely view the problem of illegal immigration effectively as one of importing labor. But it is a much more useful paradigm to view it as exporting work, despite the fact that the work doesn’t actually leave the country … If we view illegal immigration as an illicit export of jobs rather than as in illicit import of people, we see a different set of solutions to the problem.

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News or Business?

We seem to live in an era of instant news. Local television stations send out live satellite truck to the middle of nowhere every time a storm moves in so they can broadcast a “live report” of the fact that it is raining or snowing. Presidential candidates debate each other and five minutes later reporters and pundits are declaring a winner and moving on; by two days later everyone has moved on and no one is reflecting on what was said in the cold light of day. Plane crashes and car chases are broadcast in real-time. Every Presidential speech or scandal investigation or policy announcement is speculated upon and judged so much before it happens that the actual event is almost an anticlimax. Every natural or man-made disaster in the world is followed within minutes by reporters taking to the airwaves and into print reporting whatever rumor or misinterpretation emerges from the chaos, most of which must be corrected later because it is so inaccurate as to constitute misinformation. And to what end?

I, for one, would rather be well-informed than instantly informed. Should that not be the real goal of journalism?

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Ideological Appointments

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the supposedly apolitical part of the Federal government — the civil servants who run the bulk of things — have a general antipathy to a conservative political agenda that envisions a much more constrained Federal power. And, so, I don’t think it’s unfair to expect that the appointees of a conservative president, who must overcome that antipathy if they are to move their agenda forward, will share that conservative ideological bent.

That is neither cronyism nor particularly partisan. It is merely a necessity created by the climate in which they must work.

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