Kilroy Was Here
December 15, 2004
The Kilroy Platform: Moral Values, pt1
Over at the Washington Monthly, Amy Sullivan brings up the taboo topic of abortion.
I'll second her general theme. The Democrats need to do something about their abortion position. And with that, I propose the first nail in the moral values plank of the Kilroy Platform: The Abortion Prevention Act
Democrats of all types realize that, in 99.9% of all cases, abortion is a tragedy, an emotional roller coaster that plays with the hearts and souls of families nationwide.
Unlike Republicans, we also realize that government action, in the forms of laws and imprisonment, will do little to prevent abortion. Instead, our government needs a coherent strategy to reduce this tragedy. This strategy should consider the following:
Sex Education The Kilroy Platform believes strongly that all teenagers need detailed sex education stressing abstinance and contraception. While, of course, we do not want teenagers to have sex, and we will encourage them to wait until they are mature enough to accept possible consequences, we realize that shouting at teenagers will not necessarily prevent them from sexual experimentation.
For that reason, we believe strongly in the education of contraception for our teenagers. Teenagers should be taught the different types of contraception, their use, and their effectiveness.
The Kilroy Platform realizes that this is less than ideal, but if the choice is between more abortions or more detailed sexual education, the Kilroy Platform chooses the latter.
Available Contraception The Kilroy Platform believes strongly in making safe contraception readily available. This should include contraception for teenagers, and subsidized contraception for the poor. Of course, we would strongly advise teenagers to not participate in sexual intercourse; however, if they do, we must reduce teenage pregnancy.
Easy Adoption The Kilroy Platform believes that adoption is too hard in this country and too costly. We must make it easier for childless families to adopt and for those who need to put their child up for adoption to do so. Bureacracy must be slashed in this arena.
Ultimately, the Kilroy Platform stresses that the best way to prevent abortion is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. We feel that this is where the most common ground lies. Those extremists who are unwilling to make these charges are less concerned with preventing abortion and more concerned with moral control of the public. We find this view to be undemocratic.
Trouble, Trouble, Boil, and Bubble
Matthew Yglesias examines the housing market.
Shifts in the fundamentals that increase home prices should increase rental prices proportionally, but buy prices have increased faster. If demand for home purchases is rising faster than demand for home rentals, it seems to me that that can only mean that people are buying houses as speculative commodities -- spending more than the house is really worth to them in the expectation that it's value will only increase in the future.
I agree completely. The Rent to Equity ratio of houses has rarely, if ever, been higher. Furthermore, the advent of ARM, interest-only, and no money down mortgages is significantly increasing speculation in the market. I have heard that as many as 15% of mortgages are risky and a spike in interest rates could result in significant sell off.
Furthermore, human bias's are fueling this binge. People tend to invest based upon the recent past, rather than the long term past. If you look at housing markets over the last 30 years, rather than the last 5-7 years, housing prices have rarely appreciated at a rate greater than inflation (California is CPI +2%, Oklahoma is CPI - 1.0%). However, in the hot markets (SF, NY, San Diego, etc.), the last 5-10 years have seen much higher returns. People tend to extrapolate from 5 rather than 30 years, and it gets them in trouble.
Second, as was brought up in MY's comments, real estate is really multiple markets, not one big market. Unfortunately, many people are taking the results in very land-restricted areas (SF, San Diego, Seattle, NYC) and applying those returns to places where land is cheap and development is easy (Henderson, NV, Phoenix, AZ, El Paso, TX, etc.) So a lot of folks are investing in real estate in places where the fundamentals are far worse than they're assuming.
I could go on and on. In summary, if you're looking to buy a place to live, real estate might be a good investment, but if you're looking at real estate as a speculative short term investment, or an investment who's income will cover the leverage you've placed yourself under, you're playing with fire.
December 02, 2004
There's a Bear in the Woods
Kevin Drum recently posted a comparison of the current Islamic fundamentalist movement with fascism of the late 30s, and communism of the late 40s.
What's the point of these historical highlights? Just this: in the five years before 1941, world events made the danger from fascism so clear that when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor even diehard Republican isolationists didn't hesitate to declare war. The argument was over.
Likewise, by 1949 world events had made Soviet aggression clear to all but the farthest reaches of the left. Truman won the debate within his party largely because the threat was so plain that only a small minority could continue to ignore it.
But world events today are nowhere near so clear. 9/11 was a wakeup call, but in the three years since then what's happened that's the equivalent of even a single one of the events described above? There have been some scattered bombings, but barely more than before 9/11. North Korea and Iran appear to be building nuclear bombs, but they've been doing that for over a decade. The Middle East is dominated by brutal totalitarian regimes, but that's been true for as long as there's been a Middle East — and in any case the United States actively supports many of them.
In fact, let me be the first to suggest that the real generational danger to United States peace and security is not Islamic fundamentalism, but Russian nationalism.
Russia is currently becoming more and more anti-Democratic. Russia is backing anti-Democratic measures in the Ukraine. There are lots and lots of small, failing former Soviet States around Russia to invade. The citizenry is souring on capitalism and longs for return to a great nation. Russia has people that really know how to run a police state. Russia, China, and India will all be struggling to be the dominant power in Asia.
Oh yeah, and Russia has nukes.
By 2010, Russia could absorb Eastern Ukraine, Georgia, etc, start building up against China, force the Persian Gulf region to offer up natural resources.
And this time, Russia won't be burdened by a failed economic ideology. They won't be trying to prove that communism is right. They'll just want to win by being the most powerful country in the world.
And with us distracted by a technologically backward, economically weak, idealogically crippled Islamic terrorism, we won't even see this coming.