Sunday, March 20, 2005
2 down - 46 to go
First the wagers:
- 2 wagers that OBL will not be caught: very safe - 1,000:1 though one of the tabloids did state the OBL's body is in Syria. If true, then the wager is null-and-void, but feel pretty secure that Syria will never allow National Enquirer (or a clone) to prove veracity.
- 1 wager that the draft will not be renewed: extremely safe - 20,000:1. Despite the National Guard recruitment being down still can't see the draft returning, especially since our manpower need will decrease next year. This time, I do believe the public statements (see below).
- 1 wager that our troop level in Iraq will not go below 50,000 (least safe - 3:2). The wager was minimum, not +/- 5,000 so ignore last month's 45,001. This is an iffy wager, but after the drop next year, how low can the numbers really go with so many 'enduring' bases, that implies a fairly high troop level.
- Mark Warner vs. Hillary. As of today, I would give odds (10:1) that this wager will end up null. Certain politicians can be manipulative & calculating and still be graceful about it - FDR, Clinton, W - but Hillary is not one of them. She's tacked so far to the right that she will alienate her base on the left. If I was going to make this wager again, I would probably go for Richardson. He's a bit of a schlep, but he's centrist with a good resume including Secretary of Energy. Believe he's a better speaker than either Warner or Bredesen. Believe that the nation is ready for someone non-polarizing as Richardson is, and may be ready for a split government again by 2008.
For my standards to judge Bush's 2nd term:
- Portman now takes over for trade, but have heard zero, nada, zip on Doha (3,000:1). I have heard more of CAFTA, but don't really care about it, or am slightly negative on focusing on CAFTA and ignoring the Doha Round. As Foreign Affairs argued "Yet at the same time the United States has also accelerated its "free trade areas" policy, and these ftas -- precisely because they are not broadly multilateral -- are bound to cause serious problems. Aside from the conceptual and practical challenge they pose to the WTO (a point its leaders recognize and often condemn), regional ftas are also fundamentally incompatible with America's national interests. Nowhere is that incompatibility clearer than in East Asia, where local ftas are proliferating, and where all are justified as a necessary response to American initiatives."
- No way in hell the deficit is going down to 1.8% of GDP (900,000:1). Given the recent budget resolution, I'm very doubtful that the deficit will go below 3.0% under Bush.
- Death toll in Iraq will be about 30 this month, and I do have a sense that the US death toll will stay fairly low 20-30 each month for the future. Perhaps it was the election or a combination of the insurgency's burn rate for their resources being too high, or the US troops being better at defending against IED's, but the decrease in US deaths if very noticeable. 13 of the 23 deaths so far this month are from IED's, so obviously they are still a major threat. Today I would give even money that the death toll can go below 20/month for a 3 month moving average (1:1).
Discussing notable events:
Legislature: ANWR was never a hot button with me, and while in principal I'm against the bankruptcy bill (if you give credit cards with >$1,000 limit to someone on the dole don't be surprised if you get burned), not a hot button either. Obviously Social Security privatization is not going to occur, and Clear Skies is not going to pass either. If congress wants to spend their time on baseball steroids or pulling feeding tubes how much energy does that leave for serious matters of state?
International: The middle east is looking more promising than in some time, though the ardor and triumphalism seems to have abated some from last month - the reality of how slow history actually moves has set in. Of the countries talked about, things look best in Lebanon & Palestine. Overall Jane Galt sums up my feelings well:
I think everyone's affected by the natural human tendency to overweight things happening right now! In technicolor! over the future and the past.....Along those lines conservative pundits have been too quick, I'd argue, to embrace recent developments in the Middle East as proof that the Iraq War was right all along. The Arab world is a looooong way from having its first stable democratic government. The triumphalism is just a tad overwrought when we're trying to use the fact that Hosni Mubarrak is allowing multiparty rigged elections to justify the Iraq war.
That said, these are very, very encouraging signs. Here's hoping for hundreds more such.