It's always fun to make predictions so here are mine from the perspective of Michigan's West Coast - the cradle of conservatism in the state. (Not saying much, but in a blue state it's worth something.)
Weather: Snow. Lots of it. We've already gotten 60+ inches in Grand Rapids so far so breaking the average of 85 inches shouldn't be too hard. Another straight cold and 100+ inches for winter 2008-2009.
Global Warming: More holes will continue to appear in the argument for man made global warming. Not only will temperatures continue to be depressed but more scientists will 'bail out' from the craze saying the science isn't there.
Michigan Economy: It will continue to post last in the country stats with population shift, unemployment, and drop in GDP. As the auto industry drags the state down compounded by a Democratic House and Governor who are committed to increase spending and revenue. Taxes will go up despite ever decreasing revenues secondary to drops in property values.
National economy: Stinks. It will not go 'in the tank' like 2008 but, rather, limp along throughout much of the year bouncing up and down with repeated stimulus packages. Obama's administration will struggle and be consumed with economic concerns leaving him unable to push forth his ambitious plans for health care.
Health Care: An attempt for universal health care will be embarked upon and will get railroaded by conservative Democrats by late March. Unable to find funding sources for the nationalization of the industry an expansion of national insurance similar to Massachusetts will be adopted as a compromise. However, dark clouds will form for 2010 as physicians begin to feel a greater pinch and look for more relief from the federal government - self inflicted demise set in motion.
Foreign Affairs: The war in Afghanistan will be 'ramped up' by Gates and Obama as troops leaving semi-peaceful Iraq are shifted to the new theater. The new surge will be deemed a success as the Taliban are driven into Pakistan... and the US's increased presence will create more instability in Pakistan. India and Pakistan will continue their hostilities and the US could serve as an excuse to militarize the government in Islamabad unleashing fears of a 'limited' nuclear conflict.
Democratic Party: Dissension will begin to emerge by late July as the economy continues to languish and second-guessing of Obama's embrace of government solutions begins to weigh on the more conservative Southern Democrats.
Republican Party: The party will once again relearn its small government rhetoric and actively oppose (ineffectively early in 2009) Democratic plans to expand government. This will set up a potentially huge gain in the US House for the GOP in 2010. A surprising caste of characters begin to emerge as new leaders for the GOP in late 2009 and early 2010 who will contend with the 'old guard' comprised of evangelicals like Huckabee and Palin.
Sports: The Detroit Lions will win a game, miss the playoffs, and make some suspect draft choices.
I was adamantly against the auto bailout (and the financial sector bailout). I think that the Bush Administration has probably violated its Constitutional authority (with the encouragement of a Democratic Congress that doesn't seem interested in maintaining its Constitutional control of the purse strings) by using TARP money to bail out the auto industry. And as much as I admire many of the folks who write over at LRC, I have to ask: Is this kind of mean-spiritedness really productive? Is it going to change what's happened and win people over? Or is it just going to identify economic libertarians as "tiresome cranks" (see #7 and others).
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's a good idea to call--not the producers, not the politicians but--the consumers all sorts of nasty things for choosing to support the American auto industry with their wallets. Convince me, though, if you think it's so.
At the age of 46, I've finally come to the conclusion that I'm not all that good at predicting what's going to happen. Here are my predictions from December 31, 2007, for what 2008 would look like. I didn't totally miss the mark, but was still in my overly optimistic phase about the possibilities of the Ron Paul campaign. Even given my general failure last year, here are a few of my best guesses for this year. Some have already been tossed out there by others, both on this blog and others.
The economy will continue slow, and the Obama Administration, combined with a Democratic Congress, will do everything in its power to kill the economy completely--by "stimulating" it, and giving bailouts to "vital" industries.
The top 25% of taxpayers (who make more than $60,000 per year) and account for nearly 70% of the tax revenues to the government will be the ones to take a disproportionate hit to their lifestyles. Those are the folks who account for most of the new houses built, most of the new vehicles bought, and much of the discretionary consumer spending done. If taxes go up, these are the folks who will bear the burden. If the only new tax is a higher "inflation tax" these are the people who will be shifting their "discretionary consumer spending" over to paying the regular bills and buying groceries. They won't "go under" because most of them will still be working, and will be doing everything they can to keep their houses, reduce their debts, and feed their families--but the engines of the economy will idle for a while, as they put off buying new furniture, or adding that room onto their house.
Barack Obama's hair will get grayer faster. His daughters will be the subject of intense interest in Washington, and his wife and the Secret Service will have their jobs cut out for them in trying to maintain a shield of privacy so that they can grow up relatively unencumbered by celebrity.
Republicans will start to grow some backbone. The Senate may have enough Republicans to filibuster on occasion. Too bad it didn't happen before now, but better late than never, I guess.
Democrats--especially Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barney Frank--will be insufferable. Ted Kennedy, if he's still kicking, will make every use of his medical condition, his support for Obama, and his potential legacy to push for Nationalized Health Care. You know what I think of that.
Other things to ponder:
Will the liberty movement take hold? Maybe. The question is whether those who identify with it are interested in just promoting pure liberty, or doing the dirty work of politics that can move us in the right direction, even as we're forced to compromise. The Campaign for Liberty shows some promise, but needs to work on cohesiveness--tough to do with a concept like liberty in a country as diverse as the U.S.--unless one or two big issues challenging liberty show themselves and energize the whole group.
There seems to be an explosion of blogs (including this one) who focus at least partially on questions of liberty, though. I think the genie is going to be hard to get back into the bottle, absent some sort of bizarre, unconstitutional clamp down on the internet. And unless they can silence everyone from talking about liberty, hope endures that the "brush fires of freedom" will start burning brightly.
Those promoting liberty need to understand, though, that there are different perspectives on how to achieve the common goal, and that just because someone disagrees with your methods doesn't mean that they're any less a lover of liberty than you are. Some of the "big sites" have--it seems to me--occasionally devolved into a self-righteous mean-spiritedness that seems intent on criticizing even those who seem to agree with them on the majority of things. The only person who will ever agree with you 100% of the time is you. The question is, do you shut yourself off from interacting with--and forming coalitions with--others, just because they don't live up to your high standards of perfection (and hence accomplish nothing)? Or do you accept that not everyone sees things exactly the same way all the time--even people who are mostly compatible--and endeavor to work with who you can when you can.
Arrogance is not believing that you're always right (I think that deep down, all of us do, until we're proven wrong); it's believing that the other guy is always wrong, even when he agrees with you most of the time.
I started this blog almost exactly 2 years ago. For most of the first year, it was a solo endeavor. Since then, I've been blessed to add a number of new friends to the authorship, and I believe that we've got an exceptional cast of "characters" these days. We are an eclectic team. We sometimes spar with one another. There are a few of us based here in Nebraska who have actually spoken to each other, but most of us have never met face to face--and probably never will. Still, I feel a kinship with every one of our crew, and I hope they feel that way about one another, as well. I like to think that if we all stumbled into a bar (pub, Georg?) somewhere, that we could sit down over a few beers, and have a great time talking (and arguing) politics, and that we'd walk away still liking each other.
For all of us, contributions to the cause wax and wane from time to time. Life intervenes and distracts us. I have a pretty full plate already, which will get fuller after the first of the year when a few of us are going to be doing some "extra" watching of the legislative process here in Nebraska, and nationally. There's a remote job possibility hanging out there, and with the economy being what it is, I'm always on the lookout for a way to contribute to the family income that will be conducive to my still being able to be the "parent on call" when the kids get sick, since my husband's medical practice is sometimes less conducive to that.
Still, no matter what happens, as long as I've got such an able bunch of teammates--Eric Parks, Georg Thomas, Eric Larson, "Robertolibre", Deb Yost, Caleb Cassel, Jayel Aheram, "Triplehash", James--and occasionally some others--I can't see walking away from RSE. I do hope, though, that we can find a way to increase our traffic even more. My attempts at "monetizing" the blog (even to cover the minimal hosting fees) have been pretty hopeless, but we'll keep our eyes open for some possibilities there, as well. The Think Tank portion of the site, administered by my ever faithful tech guru (and daughter's boyfriend), Chris, has undergone some changes this year--and will probably undergo some more in the next few months, as we continue to find the "right stuff" for that portion of the site. You can register over there--and in the last few days, we've even had some interesting discussions on the message boards--and I welcome more use of that feature, as well.
I'm always interested to hear more ideas about what we might do--and if we can do it, we seem prone to giving things a try. And if someone reading this is interested in joining the team in some fashion, let me know. We'd welcome writers, artists, etc.--anyone who thinks they can make a contribution to the eclectic (but mostly political) mission of the site. We'll talk.
In the meantime: stay safe tonight. Ring in the New Years' right--with a healthy first day of 2009. And be of good cheer--without hope, we have nothing.
Stumbled on this speech, given by Dr. Robert Berry last March, when I was wandering around the new Foundation for Economic Education site this morning. Berry's speech is something that everyone interested in our health care mess ought to consider. He offers a sound--and apparently effective--alternative to "universal health care" such as is being suggested by some:
Consider Canada as an example of universal health coverage. One million Canadians do not have a family physician because there are not enough to go around. Last year, the average waiting time between a GP visit and orthopedic surgery was 38 weeks. For an MRI the median wait was 10 weeks–-for a CT scan 5 weeks.
In a June 2005 landmark case, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that “access to a waiting list is not access to health care,” concluding that “delays in the public health-care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”
In Britain, the delays are no better than Canada’s, even though Brits can contract with doctors privately on a limited basis outside of their National Health Service. Over one million citizens await elective surgery there. Delays in dental care are so long that some people have resorted to pulling their own teeth.
The only thing universal about healthcare in these two countries is that it is in short supply and requires waits that can only be described as inhumane or unethical.
Consider another demon lurking outside. For coverage to be truly universal, all doctors must sign contracts with the State and agree to accept its payment. That means the voting majority has the power to dictate to medical professionals their terms of employment – their hours, their schedule, their pay, their ethics.
“The tyranny of a multitude is multiplied tyranny,” Edmund Burke once rightly noted. National health insurance advocates would do well to dust off their constitutions and read where “involuntary servitude” was outlawed in 1865 by the 13th Amendment.
I invite you to consider another, fresh model – my practice – where the uninsured receive affordable medical care without insurance… and where the uninsured and insured receive the same care because I do not accept any insurance.
Be sure to read the rest. Dr. Berry makes clear that much of his reason for embarking on this effort was because of a sense of Christian obligation--and obligation to find a way to support his family and to "care for the least of these"--and he's managed to do so without any government mandate or assistance, and in a manner that is consistent with the free market and the ability to privately contract with his patients--not with the insurance companies or the government.
There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue.
Relatives search among the bodies and the wounded in order to bring the dead quickly to burial. A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.
Mustapha Ibrahim saw all this on Saturday at one in the afternoon, at Shifa Hospital in Gaza. As a field investigator for a human rights organization, he thought he'd been immunized, but nothing prepared him for what he saw. Wounded people whose situation was less than serious were asked to leave Shifa, in order to free up beds. Dr. Haidar Eid is a lecturer in Cultural Studies at Al-Aqsa University. He, too, saw the bodies and the wounded on Saturday. Also the children whose limbs had been amputated.
Some up front reporting from Al Jazeera (remember when our news media used to report like this?):
"Here ya' go Israel, but only use these billions-worth of weapons we supply you with for defensive purposes". Just like our "Defense Department" only uses its weapons for defense. Riiight. I think our own government has shown, with its inane excuses for perpetual war, that all weapons are defensive at all times. Wink wink.
I was a libertarian all along, but not really in tune with anything in Libertarian politics (except very superficially) until recently. I'd heard of Harry Browne, but never really knew much about him. Mike Miller at Liberty Maven shares the late Browne's New Years' Resolutions. Beautiful.
A Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions
by Harry Browne
I resolve to *sell* liberty by appealing to the self-interest of each prospect, rather than *preaching* to people and expecting them to suddenly adopt my ideas of right and wrong.
I resolve to keep from being drawn into arguments or debates. My purpose is to inspire people to want liberty — not to prove that they’re wrong.
I resolve to *listen* when people tell me of their wants and needs, so I can help them see how a free society will satisfy those needs.
I resolve to identify myself, when appropriate, with the social goals someone may seek — a cleaner environment, more help for the poor, a less divisive society — and try to show him that those goals can never be achieved by government, but will be well served in a free society.
I resolve to be compassionate and respectful of the beliefs and needs that lead people to seek government help. I don’t have to approve of their subsidies or policies — but if I don’t acknowledge their needs, I have no hope of helping them find a better way to solve their problems.
No matter what the issue, I resolve to keep returning to the central point: how much better off the individual will be in a free society.
I resolve to acknowledge my good fortune in having been born an American. Any plan for improvement must begin with a recognition of the good things we have. To speak only of America’s defects will make me a tiresome crank.
I resolve to focus on the ways America could be so much better with a very small government — not to dwell on all the wrongs that exist today.
I resolve to cleanse myself of hate, resentment, and bitterness. Such things steal time and attention from the work that must be done.
I resolve to speak, dress, and act in a respectable manner. I may be the first libertarian someone has encountered, and it’s important that he get a good first impression. No one will hear the message if the messenger is unattractive.
I resolve to remind myself that someone’s “stupid” opinion may be an opinion I once held. If *I* can grow, why can’t I help *him* grow?
I resolve not to raise my voice in any discussion. In a shouting match, no one wins, no one changes his mind, and no one will be inspired to join our quest for a free society.
I resolve not to adopt the tactics of Republicans and Democrats. They use character assassination, evasions, and intimidation because they have no real benefits to offer Americans. We, on the other hand, are offering to set people free — and so we can win simply by focusing on the better life our proposals will bring.
I resolve to be civil to my opponents and treat them with respect. However anyone chooses to treat me, it’s important that I be a better person than my enemies.
Yellowstone Park--a hotbed of manifestations of seismic activity anyway--apparently experienced a larger than usual number of mini-earthquakes yesterday. Living some distance away, I wouldn't be that concerned, except....
....Except that earthquakes can be indicative of other seismic activity, I believe--like volcanoes--and the last time a BIG volcano blew in that part of the country, this is what resulted.