Monday, December 29, 2008

The Historical Roots of Kwanzaa

Apologies for our December repose, but it was a much needed break to reflect on and enjoy the holiday season. In that spirit we thought it appropriate in this week of Kwanzaa to link an informative piece from the archives of the Wall Street Journal. Here is an excerpt:

Kwanzaa was started in the late 1960s by Maulana (né Ron) Karenga--a California civil-rights activist and now a professor--as a series of days for blacks to reflect on "The Seven Principles," which constitute a credo "by which Black people must live in order to begin to rescue and reconstruct our history and lives." The principles themselves are utility, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith, each of which goes by its name in Kiswahili, the major language of the East African country of Tanzania (e.g., umoja, ujima, ujamaa).

Many sources of inspiration have been identified in Mr. Karenga's thinking, most prominently the teachings of Julius Nyerere, the son of a minor chief in rural Tanzania who studied in Britain and returned to his country to lead it to independence in 1961. Nyerere served as Tanzania's charismatic president for the next 23 years.

In 1967, Nyerere announced that ujamaa, often translated as "familyhood," would henceforth be the guiding principle of Tanzanian social and economic policy. He felt that the "relentless pursuit of individual advancement" was not well-suited to African society.

Predictably, Nyerere's version of socialism drove the already low-flying Tanzanian economy into the ground. The forced relocation of 10 million to 12 million peasants into 8,000 "cooperative" government villages (and the razing of their ancestral homes) resulted in badly inefficient land use. The country went from being the largest exporter of food in Africa in 1961 to the greatest importer of food in 1980. Production of sisal, the primary raw-material export in 1960, shriveled to 20% of its peak by the early 1980s. With most of Tanzania's foreign exchange devoted by then to food imports, nothing was left for spare parts for the aging industrial sector or for fuel to get farmers' meager produce to market. It was altogether a disaster.

But you don't have to take my word for it; listen to Nyerere himself. When he stepped down as Tanzania's head of state in 1984, he summed up his tenure in perhaps the five most honest words ever uttered by a world leader: "I failed. Let's admit it."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If the shoe fits... throw it!

By now most have heard about the shoe episode at Bush's recent press conference in Iraq. An irate Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at Bush during a press conference. Of course, many on the Left think that this was great theatre and a perfect ending to the administration of someone they hate so much.

Actually, the episode was a metaphor for what many of us love about George Bush. First, he reacted quickly to avoid the shoe. It was a good throw and if he had not ducked, it would have hit him square in the face. Not only when threatened by shoes, but also when threatened by terrorists, Bush was quick to react. Secondly, after the episode, Bush was laughing and cutting up, showing that he had not the least bit of fear. He waived off his Secret Service guard and watched in amusement as the wacko journalist was subdued. In the face of much bigger and more serious threats, Bush displayed the same courage.

George Bush made many mistakes, but in doing the most important thing, keeping us safe, he succeeded. The world is a better place because of George Bush. I know that last line will drive liberals into apoplexy, but it is how many who love George Bush still feel.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

McConnell Against $14 Billion Bailout For U.S. Automakers

This was just reported by AP:

The top Senate Republican says he's against a $14 billion bailout for U.S. automakers, breaking with President George W. Bush.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the measure "isn't nearly tough enough" on struggling automakers. The Kentucky Republican says a primary weakness in the measure is with the so-called "car czar." McConnell says that post wouldn't have the power to force the car companies to make the tough concessions needed to ensure their survival.


And McConnell says the government shouldn't intervene in some industries and not others.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mandatory Arbitration Provision Could Cost More Jobs

The incoming Obama administration, as part of its effort to appear moderate, has fallen silent on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. That's the proposed law that would take away the right to a secret ballot in a union election and replace it with a "card-check" system.

The polls show that voters overwhelmingly disapprove of workers losing the right to a private ballot on the important issue of whether to unionize. However, there is another aspect of the legislation that has received little attention but could do even more damage than the loss of the private ballot.

The Employee Free Choice Act contains a mandatory arbitration provision. At first glance, it sounds like a good idea to bring in a third-party -- unconnected to labor or the company management -- to iron out disagreements. But the arbitrator would have extraordinary powers. For example, the arbitrator could impose a binding arbitration agreement upon the union and company. That agreement would last for two years, and the company could not appeal it, even if it forced the company to raise wages.

Canada tried such a system, as the San Francisco Gate notes. It didn't work so well. One arbitrator, for example, forced a company to increase wages by 33 percent. That company then had to cut jobs to pay for the hefty raises. Though all ten Canadian provinces had mandatory arbitration, six provinces have repealed it.

The real problem with mandatory arbitration is that it prevents a company from being light on its feet; it precludes a company from reacting quickly to changing markets. It destroys the flexibility needed to survive perilous economic times.

As we watch the American auto companies, lumbering up to the Hill in search of bailouts, weighted down with expensive union contracts, we should be cautious of legislation that will let arbitrators make companies less competitive.

Even if, by some miracle, labor lets the "card-check" provision be dropped from the Employee Free Choice Act, the mandatory arbitration requirement still renders this a piece of legislation that should never become law.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Old Grey Lady Needs a Bailout

The New York Times has borrowed $225 million against its midtown Manhattan headquarters, according to the International Herald Tribune via Drudge.

The Times has watched its circulation and its stock race toward the bottom. The stock has been downgraded as below investment quality. That's right, the Times stock is officially junk. Trading at $7.64 when the market closed on Friday, it costs less than a pizza. Personally, I'd take the pizza.

To be sure, the Times is confronting the same obsolescence that all Old Media face: the Internet. But the so-called Paper of Record has not done itself any favors running some of the garbage it passes for news and commentary -- like Bill Ayers' rationalization of his terrorist days:

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war. (Emphasis added.)

Well, by that reasoning, those 19 young men who flew planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were only carrying out "symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war" and the like.

Ayers failed to mention that the Weather Underground actually killed people, and the New York Times not only gave him a pass, they publicized his propaganda.

That's why its stock is junk. For all its challenges lately, the market still reflects value.

H/t: Hotair and Drudge

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bizarre Protest Petition Against McConnell

There's a petition going around against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell by a group of "progressives" who don't like the filibuster.

But it's more than just a petition. Perhaps inspired by the Boston Tea Party, these lefties say that if McConnell filibusters anything, they will to pour Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort down the drain, and not buy any more, because Brown-Forman donated to McConnell's campaign.

At least they're not wasting Kentucky Bourbon.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Not So Sure About This

The Washington Post (via Drudge) is reporting that the Pentagon will deploy 20,000 uniformed troops "within the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials."

As strapped as our military is right now, I'm surprised at the timing of the announcement. Perhaps it assumes that the Afghan surge and the retreat from Iraq will be over by 2011 and our troops will have nothing better to do.

The tragedy in India reminds us that we must continue to improve counter-terrorism and homeland security measures. And the hurricane damage locally is a recent example of how the military can help local police in an emergency: those soldiers literally kept traffic moving for many days before electricity was restored to traffic lights. But that was a temporary response to a most improbable disaster, a hurricane in Kentucky.

Could 20,000 troops have proved useful after Hurricane Katrina? Certainly to some extent. But those people who refused to evacuate, knowing the dangers and given a way out, had the right to stay in their homes, even if many of us would have chosen differently. No doubt a big solider in uniform with an assault weapon could have changed a few minds, and and therefore saved lives.

Still, the amount -- 20,000 troops -- and the permanent nature of this deployment troubles me. These troops are not the national guard; it's an active duty combat brigade. The ACLU and the Cato Institute have weighed in against it on the grounds that the deployment would violate the "Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military role in domestic law enforcement." It's the same tension we've seen since 9/11 and perhaps throughout our history: the balance between safety and freedom.