March 11, 2007

Column Intro of the Day: Robert Kagan in the Washington Post

Great question (HT Hugh Hewitt):

A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn’t work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.

Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy.

It’s really a business question too, and it applies a bit more to papers and media outlets other than the Post, which has shown occasional sanity (starting at the link’s third paragraph) while others have totally lost their bearings. If the Surge succeeds (and it’s barely started, so who knows?), aren’t readers, listeners, and viewers going to wonder who’s been feeding them a load of rubbish about “the hopeless situation” for 3-plus years?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, Mar. 12: Michael Fumento criticizes Kagan for “boosterism” (HT Captain’s Journal) and at least one factual error. Fair enough; yours truly certainly isn’t counting any chickens before they’re hatched, so to speak. That doesn’t change the fact that the Formerly Mainstream Media has put itself on a limb, and it will be a very painful fall if it is sawed off. It should never have gotten to this point, and never would have, if they had stuck to doing their real job.

RIP, Neild Oldham: The Man Who May Have Forced the Kelo Settlement

Filed under: Economy,Marvels,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:43 pm

The original obituary of Neild Oldham is in the New London Day, where it will only be accessible without a paid subscription for a short while. Fortunately, it is also available at the Some Things Considered blog. Don’t fail to read it.

Mr. Oldham’s name appears at three posts (here, here, and here) relating to what became known around here as Kelo Crunch Time, the period during mid-2006 when it appeared that the City of New London would exercise its newly-minted Supreme Court-granted power of eminent domain to evict and impose an onerous settlement on Susette Kelo and the remaining Fort Trumbull holdouts.

What Oldham did during Crunch Time may very well have been what forced New London’s recalcitrant City Council to negotiate with Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell after it had previously refused.

Council had voted to begin initiating the eviction process when Oldham and his Coalition to Save the Fort Trumbull Neighborhood, in a space of less than 2 weeks, gathered and submitted 586 signatures (over 200 more than needed) to call a voter referendum on whether the properties of the final holdouts should be taken. Though I doubt you’ll ever get them to admit it, I think it is very likely that because they knew that the petitions would be ruled valid, that the desired referendum would therefore be held, and that the city would almost certainly lose badly at the ballot box, Council decided to bargain again with Governor Rell, leading to the ultimate settlement.

I read Oldham’s obituary and came away with this thought: What a piece of work. And though we certainly would not have seen eye to eye on every issue, that’s meant as a compliment. I must believe that he is dearly missed.

Investing in Index Funds for Retirement Is an Idea to Consider

Filed under: Soc. Sec. & Retirement — Tom @ 10:01 am

A post yesterday discussed the controversy over whether the financial-services industry has duped millions of Americans into saving too much for retirement. Conclusion: I doubt it.

The post ended with a question: So is there a way to save a lot for retirement without lining the industry’s pockets excessively?

Here’s a two word answer to consider — Index Funds:

A passively managed mutual fund that tries to mirror the performance of a specific index, such as the S&P 500. Since portfolio decisions are automatic and transactions are infrequent, expenses tend to be lower than those of actively managed funds.

“Tend to be lower” can be quite an understatement. Index fund expenses can be as low as 0.10% – 0.20% of assets, while it is not at all unusual for actively managed funds (funds that try to beat the market, but often don’t) to have expense levels of 1% or more. Lower expense levels mean that, in essence, you get to keep more of your returns.

What’s more, with a true index fund you know exactly how your money is being invested — i.e., in all of the stocks or bonds that are in that particular index.

Since there is no substitute for doing your own homework, reading prospectuses, etc. and because this site doesn’t give specific investment advice, I’ll stop there.

Positivity: Philly Cardinal Takes Message to YouTube

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

Great idea:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Archdiocese of Philadelphia hopes to add salvation to the seemingly endless list of things Internet surfers can find on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s YouTube.

Just clicks away from videos of stupid pet tricks, the archdiocese has started posting weekly Lenten messages from Cardinal Justin Rigali on the popular video-sharing site. His first video has gotten nearly 16,000 views.

The archdiocese got the idea after having success streaming video on its Web site. Spokeswoman Donna Farrell acknowledged some early concerns about the other content that can be found on YouTube, but she said all the feedback has been positive so far.

More messages are planned for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.

“The Catholic church needs to be in the public square spreading the word of God,” Farrell said.

More dioceses should jump on this.