Thursday, June 30, 2005


I was visiting another blog, half sigma which, despite its lack of good ideas, is so good as to act independently of political parties and brings up good points now and again, like this one about the shuttle program. It got me thinking, and I decided to lay out the practical policy on NASA.

NASA is currently stuck in a rut. It does not have the same kind of aspirations, nor funding, of its heyday back when it was breaking in new frontiers and winning the space race. It is also stuck spending much of its precious little money maintaining a relic of twenty years (the shuttle) that does little for moving forward the United States' interests in space. That said, the only trails it is trodding are that of the International Space Station and exploration in the form of telescopes and the occasional (very occasional) unmanned mission to another planet. The ISS is a disaster, with costs out of control, undependable partners, an unclear goal, no dependable time table, and a design that looks remarkably similar to the same stations the Soviets & Americans were putting up back in the 70's. The explorations are at best tepid, once again, nothing daring as America sends missions to Mars that are more remarkable for their accomplishments relative to their small budgets than any real exploration. Thus stands the problem, now the solution.

In view of the practical ideology, NASA should act much like a specialized government research program. The research is important because it maintains both our economic and political security. Political due to the boundless military applications, and economic due to its endless potential in any number of fields, among them resources, energy, and services. It is NASA's economic duty to open up a frontier so that American companies can exploit it and make it useful. The military applications are already being pursued through the pentagon, thus leaving NASA with the economic. It also has the potential to act as a national ego booster, but any program can do that, if properly executed & publicized. The way for NASA to live by these goals is stay on the cutting edge, always out on a limb and pursuing the most far-fetched, least feasible ideas. It can accomplish this through both grants and aggressive, space race type, programs, like a space elevator, or moon colony. This said, NASA's two main inhibitors are the shuttle and funding. As the budget stands today, NASA ain't getting more funding until other problems are fixed, but the shuttle can be dumped rapidly. After the work on the ISS is completed (we've put too much into it to give up now), the program should be scaled back considerably and NASA should look to a much cheaper replacement so it can use its funds towards the afore-mentioned goals. So stands practical policy on NASA.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Under God

A practical take on a bit of American ideology. All the blather about how unneccessary it is to have "under God" in our various documents and currency is ridiculous, but so is most of its defense. It's ridiculous to give in to a few families that find it "offending", but not because we need to preserve the top spot Christianity had back in 1776. The "under God" is no longer a religious reference. Rather, it refers to perfection (yes, God is a commonly known synonym for perfection, no matter your religion). Putting it in our documents is a sign of our continued humility and quest to be the best we can be. Not only do we recognize that we, and our government, is not perfect, but we also trust that perfection can be accomplished, thus in God we trust. Thus, whereas it is important to recognize that America is not perfect, it is also important to always strive for perfection. This has huge implications, including reaffirmation of our forefathers' genius.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

NYC 2012! / Camp

I doubt anyone tracks this, but Mr. Bloomberg is out do something truly glorious with New York, that is, capture the 2012 Olympic games. Unfortunately, his bid fell apart at the last moment as the planned stadium, over some railroad tracks on the West Side, was vetoed by some state funding committee (what the heck is the state doing controlling NYC's money?!). Fortunately, they got past that and have at the last moment put together a new stadium site over at Queens. It's a long shot, but atleast NYC still has a chance.

On another note, both Benton and I will be gone for atleast the next 10 days. If any members have a brilliant policy idea, feel free to put it down in a comment, but otherwise we are effectively hibernating.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Be Honest

Basic Practical Policy: Unless absolutely neccessary, always be honest about what you're doing. Example: the new stoplights on Ward Parkway that are getting funded by a federal program. If anyone in congress had simply proposed buying all their cities new stoplights, it would have looked like a waste, maybe (you can never tell with them) gotten shot down. But it never got a chance, instead the money was provided under an environmental bill to reduce emissions. Naturally, the best way to reduce emissions is to smooth the flow of traffic by buying everyone new stoplights....

Another example: controversial amendments that get pinned onto non-controversial bills, like opening up ANWR through a budget amendment.

If the policy is what's best, it will be approved, or reflect poorly upon those who torpedoed it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Worlds Best

Its good to know that the politicians are doing one thing right. The US has and is maintaining the world's best military, reaffirmed by this financial times article stating that Europe's defense industry is lagging far behind (20-30% of) the US in new tech. investments. The paper had another article on the same page about Rumsfeld's admonishment of China's rising military spending, apparently now the world's third (what's the second?) highest. Thus although we're safe today, look out for tommorrow, especially since a nation can't just have a good military and be set. In order to keep us secure, we've got to have political and economic security. Right now both are imperilled, the first by our foreign diplomacy and terrorism, the second by deficits, energy, and internal problems, and both by China. China's boost in military spending is in direct correlation to its rising economy. If its economy surpasses us, as many say it will, we're in big trouble. Yet another reason to push ahead the practical agenda.

On a similar note, our military won't be of much use if it always costs so much to execute a war. Iraq is costing somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 billion dollars a year, and that's just an occupation. Honestly, that equates to roughly .5 million a soldier a year. I know we can't short-change our soldiers, but I also know that we can't afford to cough up this much for every war we go to. I think we've got some inefficiencies along the line, and I suspect we're getting ripped off. There is no way we're paying the lowest price plausible when truck drivers are getting 100,000 a year, but then again, the entire idea of contracting out military work is a bad one.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Apparently the United States is sucking up billions of dollars from developping countries to fund our trade and national deficits. This is neither healthy nor sustainable, and if we are to maintain the world's most competitive economy, we have to do several things.

First, we need a new energy policy to reduce our trade deficit. The best current alternatives to oil (nuclear, clean coal, natural gas, solar, eventually hydrogen) include nearly no foreign imports, redirecting billions of dollars that currently go overseas into the domestic economy.

Second, we need to level the playing field. As it stands right now, we cannot compete with China because it's not playing by the rules. Despite the fact that Americans are up to ten times more efficient then the Chinese, they, and nations like them, hold a large part of our huge trade deficit. It doesn't recognize patents, unfairly pins its currency, and cares nothing for the various workers' rights, health, and environmental regulations. As long as they continue these practices we simply cannot compete. To fix this, we need to enact sweeping trade reform, giving the president the right to impose tariffs on nations that do not abide by the regulations we force our own companies to abide by. Not only is this practical, it is also humane. Why should we protect the environment and provide minimum wages to our own workers just to ship the injustices overseas? Yet even this will not entirely fix the trade deficit.

Finally, we need to do some fixing back here. We need to simplify regulations and taxes, provide our economy with the world's best infrastructure, and heighten our education standards so that our students can outperform those of other nations.

Thus, as it stands, it is the practical policy that through energy reform, trade reform, and internal tweaking our currently dangerous trade deficits might be brought back to our favor.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Random Fact

Which has a larger population, Canada or California?

California= 33,871,648
Canada= 32,805,041 (July 2005 est.)

Why? How? Russia has good excuses, Canada has nothing.

On Afghanistan...

Please correct me if my facts are wrong, this region has been neglected by the press & my knowledge is not great. My take on the situation is that there is a well secured capital, where a bastion of NATO troops keeps stability, and then there is the country-side, where they make raids & there is no doubt a growing Afghan military presence, but still strong Taliban elements as well. Most worrisome, a large part (30%?), of their economy is now opium. I just made an important revelation. Checking the facts, it turns out Afghanistan has a larger population than Iraq (and, despite no oil, a larger economy). Why then, are we putting so little effort into the reconstruction? Why is there so little resistance? Is this then the way things could have been if we had taken a different approach to Iraq? Or is this just a really bad situation that's being overshadowed by Iraq? I will seek to answer these questions at a more sane hour.

On Iran...

I must say that the partial successes of Iraq are overshadowed by several miserable failures in the wider Middle East. To begin with, the WMD fiasco allowed, perhaps encouraged Iran to steam ahead with its own nukes. It's always a bad thing to have more nations with nukes, especially hostile ones. This was brought about by the foreign diplomacy that crushed one nation (Iraq) for thinking about nukes while letting another one (North Korea) forge ahead with a full fledged program. This sent the message, "get nukes or get crushed", which compromised one of the only deterrants to going nuclear. To be quite honest, if we were to maintain that policy line, which is acceptable, we should have played real tough with Iran, & when they refused, given Israel the go-ahead. That would have maintained a consistent and strong policy line in the Middle East. Of course if we had never made the WMD argument, we wouldn't have to maintain the policy, but what's done is done. Would the Iranians hate us? perhaps, but does it matter anyway when the people who run their country aren't elected (and hate us anyway)? As it stands, the Iranians have supposedly frozen their arms program, but that is a temporary solution. We should try and work it out peacefully, most effectively if we were to go to Russia (the Nuclear "contractors) and work something out, but if that fails we need to be able to show that we can be serious.

Non! Nee!

Recently the French have voted down the European constitution. This is a good thing. As it stands the current "European" politicians they have are so caught up in their own bureaucracy that they really don't get anything useful done. An anecdotal example of what they have done: they outlawed selling live animals inside, destroying a generations old tradition at my cousin's home town weekly market. Why approve a hugely bureaucratic constitution so that they can do even more harm?

But that is a problem with the excecution, the real problem lays at the root concept. I believe that a key part of Europe's effectiveness is its diversity and fragmentation. A free trade agreement (EU)? fine. A military alliance (NATO)? good. These keep things stable and prosperous, much like ensuring that companies compete on a fair playing field, but anything beyond this would probably only dull Europe's sharp edge. Seeing the current Italian & German predicaments, perhaps even a monetary union was going too far.

This has an important lesson for the US. Much like Europe attains its overall power from its fragmentation, or atleast used to attain it, the state system within the US also grants us a measure of dynamism within government policy. To pose an analogy: businesses compete through capitalism to attain the best economy, states compete through legislation to attain the best policy. Thus I would propose that some of those problems that we all know are problems, for instance healthcare, we leave to the states to solve. After one has come up with a suitable solution, the federal government can then adapt it, or perhaps just leave it to the states, depending on the solution. If a state screws up, no big deal, someone else can save them. If the Federal government screws up, we're screwed.