Wednesday, August 31, 2005

UAVs on Border

Fire of Liberty

It looks like US Customs and Border Protection has decided to beef up its ability to patrol the US/Mexican border by putting some extra eyes in the sky via a new UAV known as the Predator B. Though it's a long way from adding more border agents or what the Minutemen did in Arizona, the US Customs and Border Protection seems to be more pro-active in their efforts of preventing further incursion of illegals into this nation. I guess that when folks in the public and the media clamor as much as they have done on the Border Control being too lax in enforcing its laws, you have this response. Let's hope there's more of this to come in the near future.

Wise Thoughts

Fire of Liberty
The historian, multi-talented writer and senior editor of National Review, Richard Brookhiser has some wise and wonderful observations in the New York Observer on the writing of the Iraqi constitution. I wish other folks in this country looked at the process this way. I found these paragraphs very interesting:
We should insist, yet the Iraqis will ultimately do what they want (subject to their own later rethinking and horse-trading). That is what democracy means, and the Iraqis are enjoying a taste of it for the first time in decades——maybe ever——rather than submitting to the judgment of Baathists, Hashemites or Brits. Democracy is tough in the Middle East, where there is no culture of self-rule; Robert Strausz-Hupe, once our ambassador to Turkey, said that the Turks believe in democracy because Kemal Ataturk told them to. Democracy can be tough anywhere; H.L. Mencken defined it as giving people what they want, good and hard. Whatever ensues, we have the satisfaction of knowing that Saddam, who sought to harness W.M.D. programs with the world'’s second-largest oil reserves and the world'’s largest grudge against us, is gone; that the likes of Abu Nidal and the 1993 bombers of the World Trade Center will have to seek terror subsidies elsewhere; and that the Iraqis are better off than when he oppressed them and the oil-for-food program fleeced them. Those are achievements that are both noble and self-interested.

It is arguable, even so, that there were other, more important wars to fight, or that the Iraq war should have been fought differently. We might have trusted Saddam'’s incompetence a little more, and the world'’s intelligence agencies a little less, on the question of actual, up-and-running W.M.D. Donald Rumsfeld has been criticized for not sending enough troops, but if we had sent less, as he originally wished, maybe we would have had more to take down Syria as well. If George Tenet had been fired earlier, we might know what was happening in Iran. These are real questions, and they persist, in different forms, even as the new Iraq struggles for stability. A shame that America isn'’t asking them——one of the limitations of democracy.
Good Ole Rick Brookhiser seems to always step up to the plate and hit a winning run when you need it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Iraq and the Spirit of 76

Fire of Liberty
Amir Taheri has a great piece in The Times that notes the constitution writing process in Iraq will be the first example of the Arab people coming together and forming an American style democracy but with an Iraqi flavor. Unlike past governmental our constitutional experiments in the Middle East that were formed our created from the top down, this constitution involved the people thus drawing the ire of the thugs and tyrants of the area that prefer rule by fiat or violence. It might not turn out to be another Switzerland or America but it will be closer than the current governments of the Middle East offer. (Excluding Israel and Turkey). I thought Taheri made a good point about the significance of the formulation of the constitution in Iraq when he wrote:
This time it was different. Talks on writing the new constitution started soon after liberation in 2003 with a series of town-hall-style meetings in which citizens could walk in and say their piece. For a nation terrorised into silence for half a century this was a moment of catharsis. The process was then formalised with the creation of a multiparty commission to come up with proposed drafts.

For months the shaping of a new constitution has been the theme of popular political debates throughout Iraq. More than 300 conferences were held on the subject throughout the country, allowing an estimated 50,000 people to express the views of countless cultural associations, trade unions, guilds, tribal groups and religious fraternities. IraqÂ’s newly created free media, including more than 150 newspapers and six television stations, almost all privately owned, have brought the debate to every home in the country.

The importance of what is happening in Iraq goes beyond its borders. If, as it now seems likely, Iraq does become a pluralist state committed to building a democracy, it would be hard for the despotic regimes in the region to defend a status quo that has kept much of the Middle East out of the post-Cold War trend towards reform and liberalisation.

The Iraqi constitutional debate has, thanks to the modern media, over-spilt into the whole of the Middle East and familiarised millions of people with terms and concepts regarded as taboo until the fall of Saddam Hussein'’s regime. People are now talking about human rights, democracy, multiparty politics, federalism, gender equality, the place of faith in society, consensus, governmental accountability and, of course, parliaments and elections. New words have been invented to express concepts excluded from the Arab political lexicon by the despots.
I'd say that the Iraqis know more about American/Western style democracy than the Doubting Thomas's and the MSM let on. So keep up the good work.

Freedom: It's a good thing

Fire of Liberty

"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated."

--Thomas Paine - The Crisis

Netanyahu: Strength In A Time of Crisis

Fire of Liberty
It looks like the race for the leadership of the Likud Party and the race for Israel's Prime Minister is about to heat up like the Negev in the summer with Binyamin Netanyahu throwing his hat in the ring against Ariel Sharon. Now while I've been proud of Sharon's stand against the terrorists of Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Arafat as well as his determination to build of the security fence seperating Israel from the West Bank to stop the terrorists from bombing buses and Sbarros in Israel but as of late he has been falling over backwards in his efforts to strike a peace deal or accommodate PA leader Abbas. The biggest problem with such a weakened resolve on behalf of Sharon is that it only increases the resolve of your enemies. Take the recent withdrawal from Gaza as an example. While PM Sharon pushed the withdrawal proposal through the Knesset and weathered the challenges in the Israeli Supreme Court, he was lauded for his gesture of peace by the world community. The only problem with this is that Sharon as the IDF withdrew some 8,000 settlers from their homes (where some lived for nearly 30 years) and leaves the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, the Israeli government didn't get any reciprocal actions from the PA like the renouncement or dismantling of terrorist groups that reside in the PA territories and will soon occupy Gaza.

If Israel has learned one thing from the many decades the have battled terrorists, it is that you don't sit down and give your adversary land that they have used terrorism in the past to get you to turn it over to them. Now it's true that Israel has staved off suicide bombers with Sharon's tough stand on terrorism prior to the withdrawal but after giving up the Gaza Strip(I understand the whole strategic reasoning - see here - for bugging out)., you can be rest assurred that the terrorists will be more apt to commit further acts of terrorism to gain more land from Israel. Israel cannot start showing a weakened hand at such perilous times or they'll see a renewal of the bomb-laden teenagers boarding a bus in one of the many cities of Israel and killing countless innocents to see if Israel will jump. We'll in such perilous times like these, with al Qaeda popping up here and there or Hamas moving closer to the border of Israel, the Israeli people cannot afford to have a leader who looks so weakened in the PA or terrorist's eyes. Well this is where Netanyahu's move to challenge Sharon for the leadership of Likud is so important. As an advocate for not giving the terrorist any quarter without getting something in return as well as being a strong, resolute and well-spoken member of the Knesset (not to mention former PM), Netanyahu will return Isreal to a position of strength. All you have to do is look at what he said in his press conference announcing his candidacy for PM. Here's what the Jerusalem Post reported Netanyahu said to a hall of supporters:
"Our country faces many difficult challenges in the realms of security, the struggle against corruption, and others, and I believe that only one party can take on these challenges and lead the country," Netanyahu began.

"Lately, the Likud, like the whole country, has been greatly shaken up," Netanyahu said, gearing his caustic comments at Sharon.

"The Likud needs a leader who can unite the nation and repair the fissure developing in the country and in the party, someone who represents the [Likud's] principles. I believe that I can do that.

"Therefore I am announcing my candidacy for the head of the party and the premiership," Netanyahu declared. His announcement was met with energetic applause from the audience.
Now you tell me if this is not a man who understands the stakes at hand. With Gaza gone, Israel cannot afford to cede the remaining land of the West Bank and Jerusalem to the Palestinians without something in return. Luckily Netanyahu is not one to back away from his promises that peace deals will only occur with the PA if they dismantles the terrorist groups that threaten to destroy Israel. I'll give Sharon his due for bravely serving his country and threatening his political career to do so but I think it's time for new blood to take over the reigns of Israel and Netanyahu is the man to do it. So good luck BiBi and hopefully you can lead Israel well into the future.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Is it Good to be the King?

Fire of Liberty

I guess you can put Swaziland in the same corner as Zimbabwe. While 40% of the population is infected with HIV, the King is having a large ceremony known as "Reed Dance" where some 20,000 semi-nude virgins parade in front of the King hoping to be picked as the 15 wife of King Mswati. Now most people might find this as just another National Geographic story but just read what the Guardian had to write about this Swaziland tradition:
As absolute monarch of a country where women have few legal rights, he cannot be refused. In 2002 when the king chose a teenager for a wife, his emissaries abducted her from her school. The girl's mother began a lawsuit alleging kidnap, but royal representatives argued successfully in court that the king by tradition has the right to select wives at his pleasure.

Women are minors under the law, and cannot have bank accounts or sign binding legal contracts, so the opportunity to become a royal wife with one's own palace and BMW is attractive to many.

The country is stuck in poverty with 66% of the 1.1 million population living on less than a dollar a day. A third are dependent on international food aid.

Last week, unaccountably, the king decreed the end of the umchwasho, a ban on sex with teenage girls. He initiated the rule in 2001, stating that all teenage girls had to wear large woollen tassels around their heads to signify their virginity.

The tassels were said by some girls to protect them from unwanted sexual advances. But the king was among those who broke the ban and had to pay cows as penalties for having sex with teenage girls.
I guess the survival of you population from poverty and HIV is the least of your worries when you have to select a poor and vulnerable child who needs to be in school rather than the King's plaything. And we wonder why Africa is in such despair, could it be the quality of their leadership.

Iraq's Road to Modernity

Fire of Liberty
Mark Steyn has a wonderful piece in the Chicago Sun-Times that takes on the Doubting Thomas's within the media and the US Senate who keep on running around like a Chicken Little crying "the sky is falling" as the delegates in the Iraq constitutional convention hit some roadblock our bumps along the way in drafting the final draft of the Iraqi constitution. Its like these individuals haven't read a lick of history about how the US struggled 11 years to create our constitution or the countless years it took the Japanese or Germans to write a new constitution after WWII. Instead of pointing out some area or dispute between the Sunnis, Kurds and Shia at the constitutional convention as an example of Iraq coming apart at the seems, you'd think these folks would be happy that the Iraqi people are sitting down at a table arguing over the future of Iraq instead of fighting each other in the streets. No matter how messy the process may be it's just an example of the democratic process at work in a land that has endured some thirty plus years of hell under Saddam, so let's give them a little bit of slack if they have a few problems or snags along the way.

As always, Mark Steyn seems to put everything in perspective with his powerful pen , err um, his keyboard. Just take a look:
If you'd been asked in 2003 to devise an ideal constitution for Iraq's very non-ideal circumstances, it would look something like this: a highly decentralized federation that accepts the reality that Iraq is a Muslim nation but reserves political power for elected legislators -- and divides the oil revenue fairly.

And if it doesn't work? Well, that's what the Sunnis are twitchy about. If Baathist dead-enders and imported Islamonuts from Saudi and Syria want to make Iraq ungovernable, the country will dissolve into a democratic Kurdistan, a democratic Shiastan, and a moribund Sunni squat in the middle. And, in the grander scheme of things, that wouldn't be so terrible either.

In Iraq right now the glass is around two-thirds full, and those two thirds will not be drained down to Sunni Triangle levels of despair. There are 1 million new cars on the road since 2003, a statistic that no doubt just lost us warhawks that Sierra Club endorsement but which doesn't sound like a nation mired in hopelessness. A new international airport has been opened in the north to cope with the Kurdish tourist and economic boom. Faruk Mustafa Rasool is building a 28-story five-star hotel with a revolving restaurant and a cable-car link to downtown Sulaimaniya.

To be sure, we shouldda done this, and we shouldda done that. Yet nonetheless Iraq advances day by day. The real quagmire is at home, where the kinkily gleeful relish of defeatism manifested by Cindy Sheehan, Joan Baez, Ted Kennedy et al. bears less and less relationship to anything happening over there. Iraq's future is a matter for the Iraqis now -- which, given the U.S. media, Democrat blowhards like Joe Biden and Republican squishes like Chuck Hagel, is just as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, I recommend that we thank our lucky stars that the Iraqi people are facing such minor issues in the formulation of their constitution. But if you listened to the MSM you'd think differently.

Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam

Fire of Liberty

The Pentagon is introducing two American made vehicles in Iraq to combat the deadly IED's that are planted in the streets of Iraq by the foreign terrorists and Baathist hanger-ons. According to this article in the Washington Times our soldiers will eventually be riding in either the "Buffalo" which is a 24 ton mine-protective coutermine/IED vehicle with a long grappling hook to remove the bombs. They will also be offered a 13 to 19 ton truck known as the "Cougar." From what I've seen at the website of the South Carolina based Force Protection Inc., the new vehichles will provide our soldiers with the much needed heavily armored trucks that make the Humvees look like toy trucks when parked side by side. Here's a look at what our nation can build when the IED situation push us to come up with a solution. If it'll make our soldiers safer in Iraq and helps persuade the terrorists that no matter how big of an challenge they put before us we can beat it, then I say make as many as you can make.

The Buffalo- 24 ton big boy


The Cougar - 13-19 ton little brother.


Thanks to Ladson, SC based Force Protection Inc. for making our soldiers safer in harms way.

Arc of Hope

Fire of Liberty

While the MSM and the blogosphere has placed a considerable amount of time in covering Iraq and Afghanistan as the chief battlefronts in the Global War on Terrorism they tend to put our various anti-terror operations in East Africa especially within the Horn of Africa on the back burner. Though the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of what happens when you put off confronting evil dictatorships who seem to be more comfortable with dealing with terrorists. Had we taken on these nation states before they reached their zenith, we could have eliminated September 11th (with the case of Afghanistan and al Qaeda) or prevented the messy but necessary nation-building in Iraq. So in a effort to ensure these states don't go in the direction of the before mentioned states or a slide into chaos like Somalia or Sudan the US has seen it to be in their best interests to do some preventive maintenance in the region. In the case of the Horn of Africa and East Africa in general, the United States has been since September 11, 2001 helping the various villages of these nations drill wells for potable water, establish health clinics that provide doctors and the much needed medicine to fight diseases like AIDS and malaria or to provide pre-natal care, provide the much needed development aid to help these nations improve their infrastructure or provide seed money for various entrepreneurs who want to create businesses to provide jobs to their fellow citizens, not to mention the military training of friendly forces in the region and naval operations in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to stop the pirates and terrorists that traverse these waters daily. Above all else, such actions on the behalf of the United States builds a bond of trust between the people of these nations and the American forces stationed in the area. By building this relationship the US forces will garner a bevy of help in tracking down the terrorists who infiltrate their borders and offer only death and despair. I'd have to say that columnist Austin Bay, who has been on a tour of the region and our base in Djibouti, sums up the success of such a policy in his most recent piece over at Tech Central Station when he noted:
Huddleston replied with a quick nod. "But the best intelligence is local people, local police. People who know their own area and are able to act for themselves, and take the extremists off the streets."

Guamian National Guard 1st Lt. Joe Cruz had just returned from two weeks in Ethiopia. His unit -- 2nd Platoon, A Company, 1-294th Infantry, Guam National Guard -- had been conducting border security training with Ethiopian forces. "We worked on basic infantry skills," Cruz said, "but also military police tasks. Traffic control. Operating roadblocks."

The task force had just completed a medical and veterinary aid mission in Yemen. Digging wells and helping locals provide clean water are key programs.

"One measure of our effectiveness, Huddleston said, is the people don't believe the (Al-Qaida) propaganda that we're there to poison their animals."

Is this nation-building? Of course it is. Though "nation-strengthening" may be more apt a term.

U.S. and coalition operations in the Horn of Africa are an example of the counter-terror operations the United States will be conducting for the next four decades -- political and economic development programs intertwined with security assistance, security training and intelligence sharing.
Luckily, we have commanders who realize that if we are going to succeed in our mission of preventing the terrorists from creating dens of death within the region then we have to apply all of the tools in our toolboxes to the situation. If they can forego the massive military actions like Iraq and Afghanistan, these various commanders are more apt to spend money doing peace corps actions than firing bullets. (Sometimes though, a show of firepower is necessary in the fight agains radical Islam). No matter how we look at it, the US has found a way to deeply entrench itself in the region to show the people in the nations that there is a far better avenue to follow than the path being presented by al Qaeda and its fellow Wahabbi/Salafist supporters. Though the US faces a challenge in battling al Qaeda they face an even larger battle of influence within the region with the wealthy oil sheikhs of Saudi Arabia. According to Ralph Peters - columnist, retired Lt. Col. in US Army, professor - the folks in Saudi Arabia have been doling out cash hand over fists into building enormous mosques and madrassas within these nations to get a toe-hold back into the nation's that were once gems within the crown of Islam. Just look at what Peters had to say in an Op/Ed in USA Today about the Saudi's grand scheme in East Africa:
In East Africa, this takes the form of pressuring the young to devote themselves to studying the Quran. This prevents Muslims from getting a practical education. As a result, they remain unqualified for the best jobs, which are taken by Christians with university degrees, further exacerbating antagonism.

The Saudis and their accomplices know exactly what they're doing. They don't want a "separate but equal" system. Separate and unequal does the trick, creating a sense of deprivation, of being cheated, among Muslims and driving a wedge down the middle of fragile societies. The last thing the bigots of the Arabian Peninsula want to see would be prosperous, patriotic, well-integrated Muslim communities in Africa.

Nor is this slow-motion jihad confined to the coast. It takes still uglier forms in the interior. Saudi money and arms smuggled from Yemen keep tribal strife alive in northern Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and, of course, Somalia.

During my stay in Kenya, nearly a hundred tribal people were massacred near the Ethiopian border. The religious undertone of the slaughter — which included the executions of schoolchildren — — was played down. The Kenyan government fears a wider conflagration and quietly accepts its inability to control its northern borders. But extremist sentiment is growing, while Kenya's policy of benign neglect collapses.
All I can say is that the US should continue such good work and hopefully all of their efforts won't go unnoticed amongst the people in the region. If we stop the terrorists in their tracks early on, we'll eliminate the chances of having to fight wars like Iraq and Afghanistan in the future. Let's pray for their success.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Clean Energy

Fire of Liberty
William Rusher, former editor of National Review and a distinguished fellow of the Claremont Institute, has a wonderful column over at WorldNetDaily. Rusher noted that while the US media seems to be preoccupied in purporting a supposed "energy crisis" because the price of gas and heating oil are going up but fail to note that various activists in the United States are so blinded by their belief in "the cause," that they prevent individuals from solving our energy problem or using clean sources of energy. As you know, the environmentalists talk a good game in solving our energy problems but when it comes to putting the solutions in their neighborhood they seem to join the Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) cheering section. One area they seem to take an active stance against is nuclear energy. Here's Rusher's take on the environmentalists take on the subject of nuclear energy:
Of course. There is always – and always has been, for the virtually past half-century – nuclear power: a source of energy that is literally inexhaustible and (unlike fossil fuels) virtually pollution-free. As a matter of fact, back in the 1960s when the environmentalists were first warming up, and zeroed in on coal and oil as the villains that were polluting the environment, their lawsuits always included canned paragraphs pointing out that there was a splendid source of energy available that caused no pollution whatever: nuclear power!

Later the environmentalists revised their pitch and stopped promoting nuclear power, since it involves radioactive waste products that require careful disposal. Instead, the American people were encouraged to assume that every nuclear power plant was a ticking atom bomb that might "go off" at any time, killing hundreds of thousands of people. This fear may have been bolstered by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukrainian Republic of the former Soviet Union, but the International Atomic Energy Agency's years-long investigation concluded that design flaws, the flouting of safety procedures and the lack of a "safety culture" among the Soviet administrative agencies resulted in the disaster, which spewed radioactive material into the environment and has been linked to dozens of radiation-related deaths.

But the safety of nuclear power generation in America deserves to be legendary. Even the famous accident at Three Mile Island killed not a single soul. As a matter of fact, there has never been so much as one radiation-related fatality in any American commercial nuclear power plant. According to some studies, sharing a common wall with the San Onofre nuclear power plant will contaminate you with less radiation in a year than you can get by living in Denver.

What's more, France, Japan and Taiwan (to mention only three examples) leave the United States in the dust when it comes to relying on nuclear power. Yet in the United States the hysteria against nuclear power plants roars on, and not a single new plant has been constructed in three decades. The industry has been forced to content itself with maintaining those already constructed.
You'd think these folks in the environmental fight would welcome a pollution free energy source that would eliminate all pollutants that create their much ballyhooed bogeyman "global warming." Let's hope cooler heads will prevail and convince firebrand environmentalists like Robert Kennedy Jr. and Greenpeace that we have clean sources of energy and it's known as nuclear energy. Then again, they'd lose the whipping post and would fade into the ether which no self respecting environmentalist(especially a Kennedy) is willing to do.

Ole Abe: A Uniter not a Divider

Fire of Liberty

Here's a wonderful illustration by my good friend Jason Crosby. We were talking the other day and about all of the pro-war and anti-war folks are duking it out over the airwaves and in the newspapers from their encampments in Crawford, Texas. I noted that I had no problems about people protesting or supporting the President and the War but I seem to draw the line when folks start pushing ideas that are detrimental to the well being of our troops while they are fighting for freedom in a foreign land. After several days of reading and reflection, I asked Jason if he'd draw me an illustration of Abraham Lincoln refereeing a fight between two warring groups and reminding them that "A house divided against itself can not Stand." Lincoln's wonderful words remind us that even though we might not like the war or even the president, we are still passengers on the ship known as America. Since were all on board this ship its in our best interests to support our soldiers 100% and make sure they succeed in their mission of allowing the Iraqi people the ability to develop a democratic state in a sea of Middle Eastern hostility. If they fail in Iraq one can be rest assured that our ability to take on Islamic fundametalism will be greatly diminished. So let's support our troops and bid them G-d's speed in their mission.

Iraq: Everybody has their Black Dog Days

Fire of Liberty

While several people are lamenting that Iraq seems to be heading towards chaos because the folks writing the constitution keep on extending the deadline on the final draft of the constitution due to several roadblocks or disputes between the varying parties/groups within Iraq, they seem to forget that this nation faced a bevy of problems itself when the delegates met in Philadelphia to write its constitution. Though there's a lot of books out there on the problems and disputes that faced our founding fathers in the creation of our wonderful constitution, I thought you'd find this column by John Avlon in the New York Sun very informative. Hopefully after you read Avlon's wonderful piece you'll have a better understanding of what troubles that our founders witnessed and addressed in their quest to place this powerful capstone on a nation that had endured so much to be a free nation and how these disputes seem to be universal fact that seems to occur within all other nations that come together to form a written constitution. As you know, politics or constitution writing is like making sausages, you don't want to see what goes on to make it but you have no problems eating and enjoying them. Now I know that Iraq is a Arab Islamic nation and lacks the history and cultural experiences that the West has endured but one thing I do know is that when a nation decides to turn and embrace the tenets of democracy it's best that they take time in getting things right even if that means several years down the road. We can throw together a constitution that satisfies everyone in the West but since the people in Iraq have their own culture and history, the might need to approach certain things more slower than the West but in the grand scale of things, the Iraqi people are moving in the right direction towards creating a model democracy that has been non-existent in the Middle East (Aside from Israel and Turkey) I think Avlon summed this point up in the following:
Such a tortuous timeline makes Iraq's one year goal for agreeing to and ratifying a new constitution seem positively - and perhaps naively - ambitious. Naysayers who insist that all the important issues facing the first Arab democracy must be dealt with completely in this document are not being realistic. In order to forge compromise, America's founders declined to deal with our original sin of slavery, punting it for succeeding generations to address. This perhaps made civil war inevitable, but only by that time were our civic institutions strong enough to survive such a fight. Likewise, as we judge Iraqi efforts to incorporate women's rights into a religious culture unaccustomed to such modern innovations, we would do well to remember that women in America were denied the right to vote until a constitutional amendment the 1920s. This was less than ideal, but we were still a democracy and a comparative beacon of freedom to the world. Concerns about the intended influence of Islamic law on the Iraqi constitution may prove well founded (hasn't anyone in that part of the world heard of separation of church and state?), but Islamic democracy is a work in progress.

Now the process of ratification for the Iraqi constitution has begun, with a nationwide referendum scheduled for October 15. This process will surely be fraught with complications. But Iraqi democracy, struggling to be born in an inhospitable part of the world, does not have the luxury of a search for perfection that leads to paralysis. In a time of high-stakes transition, doubt cannot be allowed to be in the driver's seat. We must believe that patience and persistence will lead to progress, as it did in our case, when success was far from certain. That constancy of purpose led Benjamin Franklin to reflect on how during the difficult days of the Constitutional Convention, he would stare at the half sun painted on the back of a chair in the room and wonder whether it was an omen of dawn or dusk for the republic. "Now," Franklin said, "I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, not a setting sun."
All I can say is I bid the folks in Iraq a good fortune and hope they can form a lasting government that will set about a sea-change towards democracy in a region wrapped in turmoil and tyranny. No matter how you look at it, the future of the West could revolve around how things go down in Iraq. If we can't win a viable future for Iraq then we could lose a powerful weapon from our armory. Let's get this one right so we don't have to keep answering as many 911 calls from the region. I prefer to have a large array of friends at our side in the region rather than a swamp full of snakes and crocodiles that are waiting to attack us if we ever slip. So my prayers go out for the success of this nation and the future of Iraq. I'm willing to wait, how about you.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Birth of Democracy around corner in Iraq

Fire of Liberty
While several folks in the media and the blogosphere seem to continue to pile up one negative complaint about the situation in Iraq being imperfect because the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds are fussing about one aspect or the other in the constitution or some small incidences in which various members within the Sunni population are fighting with each other, they fail to notice that the people of Iraq are participating in their own decisions for the first time over the future of their nation. Its easy to condemn the efforts of our government trying to make it possible for the Iraqis to create a model of democracy in the region in an effort to make the Arab Muslim Middle East an area that will cast aside the ideas of strongmen/dictators that have been the model of the region for all these years. If this means giving the Iraqi people the opportunity to use the G-d given rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness to create a government that will be an oasis in the region then the battle is well worth it. This formation of an oasis of democracy in such a dangerous part of the world, it will make this one less nation that is hostile to our nation and provides us one more shining example of how this war is against radical Islam and not the general Arab Islamic peoples in the Middle East. I'd have to say that's Gerard Baker probably put this argument in a more clear and concise manner in his most recent column in The Times. Take a look:
The reason is that the apparent stability that Saddam provided for us was a false stability. You can'’t treat a people as he did for 30 years and not create the conditions for explosive violence with long-term implications for your own people and way beyond your own borders. Indeed what we are seeing now is not what would have happened in the absence of Saddam, but the consequences of what Saddam did to his own people for all that time. You cannot build an international order by embracing tyranny for half the world — we tried that in Iran and Saudi Arabia and Indonesia for decades. We didn'’t get stability; we got violence, much of it directed at us.

In any case, the criticism of the Iraq constitution-in-progress is overdone. It is not a perfect model of democracy; it was never going to be. But neither does it enshrine an Iranian-style Islamic law. Not the least important evidence for that is that Iraq'’s Shia leadership, having watched with disdain and alarm events to their east, have no desire to model their country on the powder-keg theocracy next door.

The most important thing about the document is that it is, above all else, Iraqi. It was constructed by Iraqis and if it is approved by referendum, it will represent the will of the people. Self-determination remains, as it has done for a century now, the only real basis for lasting international peace.

The sweet neocons have got many things wrong. They may have been naive about how easily and quickly a free Iraq would emerge from Saddam'’s ruins. They may underestimate differing levels of ethnic, religious and political resistance to democracy. But the path of chaotic freedom down which they want to nudge the world remains a better route than the alternative, supposedly realist approach to international affairs that we have tried in the past. That, I'’m afraid, winds up being nothing less than sympathy for the devil.
It'd be nice if the folks who keep going around noting the sky is falling and everything is going to hell would just sit back and take a drink and looked at the situation in Iraq from a more objective and wider angle then they'd realize that there is a silver lining to all grey clouds. There might be bumps and setbacks on their road to a democracy but they're getting their one day at a time. You've got to say that Churchill's dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried," seems to ring true especially to the Iraqi people.

Also, check out the Draft Iraqi Constitution for yourself and see what the Iraqi people will get to vote on. Now it's a heck of a lot longer than ours (I like my Constitutions short and sweet but this one is about the same length as Spain's constitution that emerged some years after the death of Franco) but it'll do for a nation emerging from a dictatorship like the one created by Saddam.

Tropical Breezes: Democracy Movement in Cuba

Fire of Liberty
It seems that El Hefe is having some troubles keeping his police state together in Cuba. After 46 years of Castro's jack-boot tactics of suppressing freedom of speech and assembly as well as his continued application of Soviet style economic policies it seems the people are looking for alternatives and aren't afraid to do so. Though the odds of hearing or seeing any stories from the MSM on the ever-growing freedom movement in Cuba and the fact that members of the US government have met with these groups in Cuba is very low, I can assure you the New York Sun is on the ball. Just look at what the NY Sun wrote in a recent editorial about the democracy movement and events in Cuba:
The most recent repression traces back to a May 20 gathering at Havana at which at least 150 dissidents demanded democracy and the release of political prisoners. Mr. Gomez Manzano was one of the organizers. After this unusually strong showing, Mr. Castro apparently felt compelled to send in his paramilitary to suppress a small annual opposition commemoration on July 13. A wave of arrests followed just more than a week later.

Since July 22, 50 opponents of the regime have been arrested, of whom 15 remain in jail, including Mr. Gomez Manzano. Seventy-five dissidents were arrested in 2003; 61 of them are still behind bars. The government has launched a campaign of intimidation against other leaders. For example, a crowd of pro-government thugs recently surrounded the house of Vladimiro Roca for several hours, hurling invective at him as they tried to block an anti-government meeting.

Mr. Castro has managed to weather many storms during his 46-year reign, but there's hope that this time might be different. "I think we are at the tipping point," a senior program manager at Freedom House, Xavier Utset, told the Sun. The dissident movement is gaining ground, Mr. Utset said. The movement is developing into a full-blown civil society that is less afraid of the government, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, Stephen Johnson, said.

The regime also is fraying at the edges in more serious ways than ever before, a former staff member of the National Security Council, Otto Reich, told the Sun. A 15-year downward economic spiral triggered by the end of Soviet support is sinking the country further into poverty and stagnation, and aid from Hugo Chavez's Venezuela isn't nearly enough to solve the problem. Hurricane Dennis wreaked havoc on a Cuban infrastructure that was already crumbling.

A recent visit by Senator Specter turned up the heat even further. The senator met with dissident leaders just three weeks after Mr. Castro had claimed in a speech that the opposition was dead. As Ms. Clyne reported, dissidents say the visit gave a major moral and political boost to their movement by showing the support of a high-profile American senator for freedom in Cuba. President Bush last year created the new post of "transition coordinator" to oversee American support for the downfall of the current government and to aid a democratic replacement when that downfall happens, a post the president filled late last month by appointing Caleb McCarry in a move that angered Mr. Castro.
I'd say that the people of Cuba are finally reaching the point where they can see the burning beacon of freedom in the distance but still have miles of rough road ahead before they reach the goal of casting aside 46 years of Castro's tyranny once and for all. Let's just hope more folks within our government and the media start advocating the democracy movement in Cuba like the New York Sun does. The time for change in Cuba is budding and will blossom via our unmitigated support.

Japan reaching Population Dearth Sooner than Expected

Fire of Liberty

It looks like the Japanese population is declining faster than it was predicted. According to this article in the Financial Times the Japanese population declined by 31,000 in the past six months which means that at this rate the population is expected to peak at 127 million some two years before it estimated target date of 2007. I guess when you have such an aging population that was so wrapped up in pursuing their careers or deciding on just not to have children seems to be playing havoc with the population, which in turn will force more and more young people to work longer and pay more taxes to sustain pensioners and to keep the world's second largest economy chugging alone (Its rather sad that the youth of Japan not only have to carry the pensioners and the economy on their shoulders but also have to find time to start a family and have the right amount of people to keep the Japanese birth rates at replacement levels.) Out of everything I've read so far on what the various politicians in Japan have proposed in solving this population dearth, I'd have to say that economy minister Heizo Takenaka, offered the best assessment so far. Heres what Takenaka had to say:
"From now on, the total population of Japan will start falling,"” he said. "That means if we don'’t create a system in which the private sector can carry more responsibility, the burden on taxpayers and on the state will become unsustainable."

Mr Takenaka, who is also minister for postal reform, said privatising the giant post office - the world's biggest financial institution - was a litmus test for whether Japan'’s citizens understood the urgency of the challenge.

"This is a choice between big and small government," he said, adding that in decisive moments of its history, such as after the war and following the oil shocks of the 1970s, Japan had shown a remarkable ability to embrace swift change.
I just hope the people of Japan understand the challenge ahead of them and re-elect the Liberal Democratic Party to ensure that reform goes through to take so weight of the under 30 crowd in Japan. Aside from that, the only other advice I can offer is that the young folks to get started on making some babies(Its preferable that they are all married) to keep the population at an appropriate replacement rate (about 2 kids or more would about do it).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oil: Cost vs Price

Fire of Liberty
Yesterday, I brought to your attention Thomas Sowell's column which noted that the folks in the media and in the halls of Congress are calling the current rise in gas prices as an ever growing crisis but continue to put up blocks to prevent any domestic drilling or seem to create policies that are intended to solve the problem of but only makes the situation worse. Well today, Sowell continued his discussion on the rise in gas prices in yet another fine piece. This time, Dr. Sowell gives his readers a little economics lesson on the difference between the cost of oil and the price of oil especially for those people cheering on the government to do something to reduce or keep the price of oil at a moderate or even low price. Just look at what Sowell has to say about the whole confusion over prices and costs amongst the American public:
Even at $60 a barrel, most of the oil that is known to exist is too costly to extract. How much will be extracted depends on how much higher the price of oil goes -- and how much new technology can recover more oil at lower costs.

What if the government did nothing about oil prices? Rising prices would lead people to reduce their use of oil and lead producers to drain some of the more costly oil out of the ground.

Many people in politics and in the media seem to be alarmed about the rising cost of gasoline and of the petroleum from which it is made. But they only seem to be. What they are really alarmed about are the prices -- and prices and costs are very different things.

Prices are what pay for costs. The government can impose price controls on gasoline or petroleum tomorrow but that will not have the slightest effect on the cost of oil exploration or the cost of extracting and processing the oil that is found.

When the costs are no longer being fully covered by prices, production is likely to be cut back, whether it is the production of oil or anything else. This is not speculation. This is what has been happening for literally thousands of years, going back to price controls in ancient Rome and Babylon.

Yet price controls have always been popular politically, despite being counterproductive economically. After all, how many votes do economists have and how many voters know economics?
I just wished more people in Congress and the media would have a better understanding of economics than what little bit they seemed to have learned. My best advice for everyone is to pick up Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lession or Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics: A Citizens Guide to the Economy as an essential tool to tackle or understand the world of business and commerce.

A Message of Faith

Fire of Liberty
While I've been carrying on and on about the various happenings within the US and Iraq, I forgot to say something about Pope Benedict XVI's homecoming in Germany last week when he attended the six day World Youth Day festival in Cologne. Though the media noted that some 400,000 individuals attended this celebration of Christianity and the homecoming of the new Pope in Germany, they seemed to overlook the Pope's meeting with an ecumenical mix of fellow Christians as well as Muslims on the problems that confront the faiths of Abraham. Though some individuals tried to skew the Pope's meeting with these individuals as a condemnation of the Muslim faith, I'd have to say he was approaching the situation as a man of G-d who is able to differentiate good from evil. Here's what Jabeen Bhatti had to write in the Washington Times about the meeting with the Pontiff:
Yesterday, Benedict urged Christians and Muslims to learn from mistakes of the past, alluding to the Crusades, which began in 1095 and lasted for hundreds of years.

"How many pages of history record battles and even wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the name of God, as if fighting and killing the enemy could be pleasing to Him?" he asked. "The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion."

The pontiff urged Muslims to take responsibility for teaching their children and to "guide and train them in the Islamic faith."

"Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted," he said. "Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation."
There no moral relativism with this man, he's has decided to wade into waters that few dare to dwell and tell people things that they might not want to hear. I just wish that more religious leaders within the Muslim faith would find the courage to stand up to the members of their own faith who continue to promote jihad. We'll see though. At least we can hope.

Cuba's Fahrenheit 451

Fire of Liberty

It's rather interesting to hear all of these people who call-in on C-SPAN's Washington Journal and make bombastic statements like "America is a fascist country" or "President Bush and the Republicans are a bunch of book-burning theocrats," while they ignore actual book-burning and the suppression of freedom of thought and press that occurs daily in El Hefe's "Worker Paradise" of Cuba. Why aren't these people devoting more energy in decrying the actions of Castro who is locking up various librarians because they carry books that talk about freedom and democracy or are critical of totalitarianism in all forms. Just look at what Nat Hentoff wrote in his most recent column over at the Washington Times had to say about Castro's maximum security police state:
We were talking about Fidel Mr. Castro's recurring crackdowns on those remarkably courageous Cubans who keep working to bring democracy to that grim island where dissenters, including independent librarians, are locked in cages, often for 20 or more years. Mr. Bradbury knew about the crackdowns, but until I told him, was not aware of Mr. Castro's kangaroo courts (while sentencing the "subversives") often ordering the burning of the independent libraries they raid, just like in "451." For example, on April 5, 2003, after Julio Valdes Guevara was sent away, the judge ruled: "As to the disposition of the photographic negatives, the audio cassette, medicines, books, magazines, pamphlets and the rest of the documents, they are to be destroyed by means of incineration because they lack usefulness." Hearing about this, Mr. Bradbury authorized me to convey this message from him to Fidel Castro:"Istand against any library or any librarian anywhere in the world being imprisoned or punished in any way for the books they circulate.

"I plead with Castro and his government to immediately take their hands off the independent librarians and release all those librarians in prison, and to send them back into Cuban culture to inform the people." Among the books destroyed through the years by Fidel's arsonists have been volumes on Martin Luther King Jr., the U.S. Constitution, and even a book by the late Jose Marti, who organized, and was killed in, the Cuban people's struggle for independence.
Now tell me who's the real tyrant after seeing this information on Cuba. People can make all of these silly comments and try to tear this nation apart with such blind rage and hatred towards our duly elected leader, but they seem to forget that their is a real tyrant 90 miles off the coast of Florida who is keeping his jackboot on the necks of the Cuban people while throwing various books, manuscripts and documents on the "Communist Revolutionary" pyre to keep his police state like he wants it. So I recommend anyone who feels like making such horrific claims towards our President should turn their fire towards Castro where it truly deserving.

P.S. Check out Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 too see what Castro is doing. Good movie as well.

Border Blues

Fire of Liberty
Rich Lowry has a great article over at National Review Online that points out that various governors from several Mexico border states like Arizona's Janet Napolitano and New Mexico's Bill Richardson seem to be aware of the groundswell of concern amongst the American public about illegal immigration run amuck. Now even though the folks on Fox & Friends seem to be overjoyed that New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson has stepped up to the plate to stem illegal immigration. The only problem with such a reaction is that these same Democratic Governors who are declaring illegal immigration a "national emergency," were the same people who created the emergency in the first place by pushing through legislation or policies that promote illegal immigration into these states. I mean just look at what Lowry noted in his piece:
Richardson has been a conventional Democrat on immigration. He signed a bill giving illegal immigrants living in New Mexico in-state tuition at its public colleges. New Mexico is one of the few states in the country that gives driver's licenses to illegals. Napolitano has been similarly hostile to the enforcement of immigration laws.

There is little sign yet that these newly border-conscious Democrats will actually get tough on illegals. They appear to be trying the Hillary Clinton tack on immigration, which is to sound pro-enforcement while not doing much. Clinton declared at the end of last year, "I am ... adamantly against illegal immigrants." But John Fund of the Wall Street Journal notes that in a recent speech before the Hispanic group La Raza, the only immigration measures she talked about were in-state tuition for the children of illegals and amnesty for illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in the U.S.

Richardson defends New Mexico's extended hand to illegals on grounds that the state is "immigrant friendly" and has to be "practical." What's impractical is the idea that immigration enforcement can be a matter of simply better policing along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. Interior enforcement has to be part of the solution, including a crackdown on employers who hire illegals and steps to signal to illegals that they aren't welcome here. It is nonsensical to say, as Richardson and Napolitano are in effect saying, "Gee, the border is too porous, but we're going to give illegals the same privileges as citizens when they get here."
I guess when you're trying to run for President or you're facing a tough talking challenger like Napolitano is facing against Goldwater in the 2006 Governor's race, you'll say about anything to get elected or re-elected. It'd be nice if they actually did something about the problem rather than wallpaper it over will a shiny media blitz like Richardson has done. Until they do something like ending the programs that encourage illegal immigration or enforce the US immigration laws, the nation will continue to see illegals crossing over our borders.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gia we Worship Yee

Fire of Liberty
Jackson Kuhl has a good article over a Tech Central Station that points out how folks who have elevated their enviromental activism to the level of a religion can take things too far. In this case, several scientist have proposed a policy in which they would transplant various animals like elephants, cheetahs, antelope and various other animals into the North American Great Plains in an effort to revive various species of animals that have been extinct since the Pleistocene period some 12,000 years ago. Its rather ironic if you think about it, that in their ferver to restore animals similar or remotely related to the mammoths, mastadons or cheetahs that have been extinct for some twelve millennia, these scientists would be endangering or even eliminating the weaker species that currently live in the region. So I guess they are so devoted to saving a dead species that they're willing to destroy another. Well such is true with a lot of environmentalists who are more than willing to impose environmental restrictions or solutions but are not willing to place them in their backyard much like the Kennedys and Cronkites are for wind farms turbines but don't want them some 15 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Hyannisport or Martha's Vineyard because it might obscure their view. I guess they never see the irony in the whole matter.

While these scientists might think their going to re-introduce such animals into the North American continent but they won't actually be introducing them to the wild but will be housing on a wildlife sanctuary. So what they're proposing is just another big zoo with animals from Africa in it, sounds like Wild Adventures without the rollercoasters. Another thing that they need to be wary about is reintroducing animals like these to the climate of the Great Plains were it gets pretty darn cold in the winters compared to the hot jungles and plains of sub-Sahara Africa. Has anyone ever seen pictures of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana or Colorado in the Winter. If these scientist took animals who are used to hot weather almost year round and put them in the climate of the Great Plains, they are just asking for more animals to die from the cold winters. All you've got to do is read David Laskin's The Children's Blizzard to understand how terribly cold this region can get in the winter. If people cannot master their way through the cold and they had the proper clothing, how in the world are animals unaccustomed to the severe weather are going to fare. Can anyone say elephant or cheetah sickel? (Unless their trying some sick re-enactment of the Ice Age to see how the cold weather affected the mammoths or mastadons but then again they had a shaggy coat that the elephants won't have. It's a quirky thought but who knows?)

I'm all for people taking care of the environment and preserving animal species but sometimes people can take some things rather too far. Seems to me that this idea needs a rewrite.

Arthur Koestler turns 100

Fire of Liberty
Stephen Koch has written a wonderful remembrance of Arthur Koestler who would be 100 years old today. For those either too young to know or just out of the loop on Cold War intellectuals, Arthur Koestler was one of the first fellow traveller aside from George Orwell to reveal to the world the tyrannous nature of the communism especially within the Soviet Union . While the West was generally kept in the dark about Stalin's acts in Ukraine and the various show trials that resulted in the death and imprisonment of millions of Russians and Ukranians by the lies written by New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, they would learn the true nature of this regime when Koestler published his earth shattering novel Darkness at Noon in 1940. In fact, this book was probably one of the most influentual books along with Whittaker Chambers' Witness in convincing President Reagan very early in his life the horrific nature and true evil of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Don't take my word on the impact of this novel, just read what Koch wrote in his remembrance of Koestler work in the New York Sun:
Yet art it is. "Darkness at Noon" stands not just as a great indictment of the Soviet Terror but as an enduring vision of the diseases of reason. Rubashov, a sometime hero of the Russian Revolution, finds himself a defendant in the purge trials of the late 1930s. The trials are obvious frauds: Rubashov has done nothing wrong. Yet he is doomed: All hope abandon, ye who enter here. Mingling torture with "rational" persuasion, the secret police set out to make Rubashov "confess" to a criminalized revision of his whole existence, condemning everything he has served and believed. They succeed. Rubashov submits and bows before the minions of the lie. His thoughts, he admits, were not always innocent. History has made him "objectively" guilty; if the Revolution must be right, Rubashov must be wrong. It is the triumph of the collective lie over individual truth. Their debate is an insane quarrel about the moral authority of terror and the merits of murder as a higher form of humanism. Rubashov and his killers dance around each other like mongoose and cobra. It is the insidious intellectual passion of their exchange that makes the book so compelling. "Darkness at Noon" is a novel of ideas, but a fierce one, sweeping us to its murderous conclusion with cold, ardently reasoned fury.
Though I enjoyed the wonderful outline and assessment of "Darkness at Noon," I seemed to be drawn more into the story of the risky journey he went through to get this awesome story out to the world. It's rather strange that this hasn't been made into some action/adventure film. Though you'll never see a movie on Koestler, you can always read this:
It puts the young Koestler's own beliefs on trial. He conceived the book at the age of 32, in 1938. By then he was already a somebody. He'd been a star journalist in Weimar. In the German Communist Party, he'd become a favored protege of Willi Munzenberg, that "red eminence" who was a founding father of the culture wars, the Comintern's great propaganda master in Europe.

During the late 1930s, as the Great Terror consumed communism worldwide and Stalin inched toward his alliance with Hitler, Koestler began to back away. In the spring of 1939, with Europe on the brink, the incipient renegade went with his new British girlfriend, Daphne Hardy, to a shabby villa in the south of France, where he began to write the novel. He was hard at work when the Nazi-Soviet Pact precipitated World War II. Koestler hurried back to Paris, still reasoning his way, page by page, toward Rubashov's suicidal submission - working until the French government packed him off to a concentration camp for enemy aliens at Le Vernet.

After a campaign for his release got him back to Paris - and Daphne Hardy - he worked non-stop, barely escaping a second internment, and finished the book. Then France fell. Daphne Hardy managed to spirit her English translation - the only duplicate typescript - across the channel. Koestler's own escape reads like the "Casablanca" without Ingrid Bergman. Forging a false identity, he joined, and then fled, the French Foreign Legion. He finagled false papers. He made his way to the Spanish border; then to Oran; then to Casablanca; then to Lisbon.

When he got to England in November, the Battle of Britain was in full force; the Communists and Nazis were allies; civilization stood on the brink. Koestler was instantly interned - yet again - as an enemy alien. Another campaign got him out, but meanwhile Daphne Hardy had arranged for "Darkness at Noon" to be published by Cape. Koestler walked out of his British prison into fame.
So happy 100th Mr. Koestler and thanks for revealing the truth of the Soviet Tyranny so early. We owe you a debt of gratitude.

Gas Prices Will Go Down like they did in the 1980's

Fire of Liberty

Here's New York Times' columnist John Tierney's take on the whole high gas prices that everyone in the MSM seem to be carrying on about non-stop. Anyway, Tierney notes that while various folks keep on predicting that the price of a barrel of oil will reach into triple digits within the next decade are fooling themselves. The reason is that they fail everytime to look at prices through the prism of economics. In fact Economist Julian Simon debunked such canards in the 1980's when pointed out that the prices of commodities or energy will go down over time as humans perfect their techniques through pure ingenuity. So whenever people start moaning and crying about the price of gas/oil going up some two to three times higher in the next decade, just refer them to Julian Simons' wonderful book The Ultimate Resource 2 or for a more modern version just check out Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills wonderful book The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy. If you doubt that this is true, take a look at what Tierney had to write:
Julian took up gambling during the last end-of-oil crisis, in 1980, when experts were predicting a new age of scarcity as the planet's resources were depleted by the growing population. Julian had debunked these fears in "The Ultimate Resource," which showed how human ingenuity had kept driving down the price of energy and other natural resources for centuries.

He offered to bet the pessimists that oil or any other resource they chose would be cheaper, in real terms, at any date they picked in the future. The ecologist Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb" and "The End of Affluence," took up Julian's offer and chose copper, tin, and three other metals worth $1,000 in 1980.

When the famous bet was settled 10 years later, the value of the metals had declined by more than half. As usual, people had found new ways to get the metals as well as cheaper substitutes, like the fiber optic cables that replaced copper telephone wires.
So just cheer up when you see these high energy prices because they will go down or be adjusted to correspond with what we make an hour. When you look at it from an economics standpoint, everything looks less dramatic. So take it easy.

Gas Prices

Fire of Liberty

As usual, when the prices of gasoline start going up we see various politicians and talking heads yacking it up about this being a "crisis," and start demanding or promoting government intervention. The only problem with such actions is that whenever the federal government starts butting their noses into anything dealing with the economy (aside from tax cuts and privatization) or pretty much anything not noted in the Constitution, is that things get worse instead of easing the problem. What they need to do is make it easier for energy exploration offshore or in ANWR or building new refineries by removing strenuous environmental restrictions. While I could rap on about how we can decrease the price of gas/oil but I figured I'd let Thomas Sowell give you one of the best arguments on the issue that I've read. Just read what he wrote in his recent column:
Today production is being held back, not by price controls, but by political hysteria whenever anyone suggests actually producing more oil ourselves. Organized nature cults go ballistic at the thought that we might drill for oil in some remote part of Alaska that 99 percent of Americans will never see, including 99 percent of the nature cultists.

People used to ask whether there is any sound if a tree falls in an empty forest. Today, there are deafening political sounds over oil-drilling in an empty wilderness.

Nor can we drill for oil offshore, or in many places on land, again for political reasons. Nor can we build enough refineries or even build hydroelectric dams as alternative sources of power.

Many of the same people who cry "No blood for oil!" also want higher gas mileage standards for cars. But higher mileage standards have meant lighter and more flimsy cars, leading to more injuries and deaths in accidents -- in other words, trading blood for oil.
That just about sums it up.

Taking a Measure on Middle East

Fire of Liberty

Michael Barone notes in his most recent column that the Middle East is experiencing a sea change in their attitudes towards the US's efforts in the region not to mention that the democracy bug seems to be spreading. As Barone points out, these nations as well as the US are seeing this sea change via a set of metrics such as improving Iraq's infrastructure by a certain time, numbers of days it takes to draft a constitution, not mention a change in the overall attitudes of people within the neighboring nations of Iraq. Just look for yourself:
Most importantly, support for terrorism in defense of Islam has "declined dramatically," in the Pew report's words, in Muslim countries, except in Jordan (which has a Palestinian majority) and Turkey, where support has remained a low 14 percent. It has fallen in Indonesia (from 27 percent to 15 percent since 2002), Pakistan (from 41 percent to 25 percent since 2004) and Morocco (from 40 percent to 13 percent since 2004), and among Muslims in Lebanon (from 73 percent to 26 percent since 2002).

Support for suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq has also declined. The percentage reporting some confidence in Osama bin Laden is now under 10 percent in Lebanon and Turkey, and has fallen sharply in Indonesia.

Similarly, when asked whether democracy was a Western way of doing things or could work well in their own country, between 77 percent and 83 percent in Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and Indonesia say it could work in their country -- in each case a significant increase from earlier surveys. In Turkey, with its sharp political divisions, and Pakistan, with its checkered history, the percentages hover around 50 percent.
I'd say that President Bush's decision to enter into Iraq and clear out one of the many fever swamps of the region has done more to change the attitudes than what any UN committee or Arab League meeting or action could have accomplished. You wont find many world leaders in this decade who are willing to take on such a challenge with all of its pitfalls like President Bush has done in Iraq. And from the looks of it, things are going good.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Things are Changin' for the Best in Iraq

Fire of Liberty

James S Robbins has a good piece over at National Review Online on how the Sunni Iraqis are joining with their brethren in Iraq and taking on the foreign terrorists who offer nothing but death and despair to the Iraqi people. When you have Grand Ayatollah Sistani issuing a fatwa to call all people in Iraq as an "Iraqi" rather than classifying people by their religious or ethnic distinction of "Sunni," "Shia," or "Kurd," instead of promoting a sectarian/ethnic civil war like Zarqawi seems to want as well as Sunni clerics issuing fatwas encouraging people to register to vote on a constitution that al Qaeda has issued a death warrant on anyone thinking about or actually voting on the document, you know that the Iraqi people are ready to take back their streets. So while naysayers like the Senators Chuck Hagel(RINO-Neb.) and Russ Feingold (Dem-MN) go on national TV saying everything including our mission in Iraq going to hell and calling for an immediate pullout, the Iraq people are standing up to the foreign terrorists who have found their way to their streets thus endangering their families. I guess these Senators want to pull the flying carpet out from under our troops and the Iraqi people much like Congress did to our troops and the people of South Vietnam in the 70's. We saw what happened when we left Vietnam, let's not make the same mistake. I think we owe the 1,864 soldiers who have died trying to initiate a change in a region that has seen enough death at the hands of dictators and terrorists. If this means one less nation in the region being a chief terror center then the effort is definitely worth it.

Think of each Arab country in the Middle East as a ravaging fire and the US military as a big grouping of firefighters. As they put out more fires, they ensure a far safer environment for the people of these countries, neighboring, as well as the world in general. So I would say that the Iraqi people are sending a clear signal to these Senators and the rest of the withdrawal crowd - to use the words of David Soul (Starsky & Hutch) "Don't give up on us baby." I might sound corny but it's the truth.

Further Thoughts on Gaza Withdrawal

Fire of Liberty

Last week I noted that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will just embolden the terrorists to launch more and more attacks on Israel in an effort to force them to hand over more land until Israel is nothing. Now I'm still beholden to the argument that the terrorists are emboldened by such concessions but I've made a slight adjustment to my view on the whole withdrawal. After reading various pieces by Peter Worthington (see here) and David Frum (see here), not to mention a considerable amount of contemplation, I have to say that pulling out these 8,000 Israelis and the IDF soldiers who protected these settlers was actually a strategic masterpiece in disguise. By removing the settlers from the region the state of Israel has freed up a lot of assets to devote to the overall security of the country while leaving the Gaza Strip in the hands of the Palestinians to make either a devil's playground for murderers like Hamas or something resembling a state. No matter what, the Palestinians and the kleptocracies of the Middle East won't have Gaza to hold above Israel's head. Whatever might occur, at least Israel will be secure within its own borders and ready to deal with any threats that might come its way. I didn't like to see Israel forcing its own people out of their home while the PA didn't have to make and concessions on constraining terrorist activities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad but if it means Israel (One of three democracies in the Middle East (Turkey and Lebanon being the others)) can have a better foot to stand on in its fight against Islamic terrorism, so be it. Say what you will but Israel is probably one of best friends to have in the region.

Robert Moses: A Builder's Journey

Fire of Liberty

If you're a fan of History and watch C-SPAN's Book TV, you more than likely ran across Historian Robert Caro and his wonderful book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, which presented an in-depth look at the massive building projects that master architect/builder Robert Moses built in New York City during the 20's and 30's as well as post WWII. If you want to look at the good as well as the bad aspects of massive building projects in a large city, then this book is for you. But since most of us don't have time in our busy schedules to read Caro's 1,246 polemic on Robert Moses, I figured this article by Francis Morrone in the Art and Letter section of the New York Sun would be a good starting point. So enjoy this fine piece and discover something new about the city that never sleeps. One thing I learned from the article is that the UN actually intended to move its Headquarters from New York to Philly until Governor Nelson Rockefeller stepped in and asked for Moses' help.

I'm actually glad the UN stayed because I think it would've tarnish the Liberty Bell and the whole "Spirit of Liberty." So thanks Mr. Moses, we owe you a debt of gratitude.

China: The Real Police State

Fire of Liberty

Sometimes I'll come across various websites or articles where some misinformed individuals claims that the United States is becoming a police state. Well, they should take a look at what is a real police state looks like before they make such crazy statements. If we start creating a special attack squad to quell one's G-d given right of Liberty (In this case, the right to demonstrate/protest) then I'd agree that we were marching towards a police state.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Stirring Words

Fire of Liberty
Here's what Lincoln wrote to a mother who lost two sons during the Civil War. I pretty much agree with Lincoln's sentiments and believe they're pertinent words with our fight in Iraq. Ole Abe has a way with words, see for yourself:
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln
I guess some folks who walk around calling this war a horrific event will never be satisfied. I guess we need to return to a time when people understood what a soldier's death meant and how much it hurts the President to read the reports of the soldiers dying in Iraq. There is a silent majority out there who understand this sacrifice and knows the President's sentiments and anguish during the war.

The Professor at his New Post

Fire of Liberty

Paul Wolfowitz seems to be a good fit over at the World Bank (Like I doubted his abilities). Take a look at what the Financial Times has to say.

Honest Abe to the Rescue

Fire of Liberty

As I was reading over some articles and columns on the various happenings in Iraq and within the US, I came across an Op/Ed piece by David Gelertner in the LA Times that reminded me of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. While the popular myth -especially in the South - is this was a speech called for the freeing the slaves, it was actually a speech commemorating the deaths of the soldiers who died on the plains of Pennsylvania in their effort to preserve the Union that the Founding Fathers set in motion in 1776. In the same manner that Lincoln recalled the tragedy of losing such a large amount of America's population during this three day battle, we continue to be reminded in our daily course of life via the local radio, newspapers and by grieving mothers like Mrs. Sheehan that we are losing soldiers in Iraq. While the people of this country who are opposed to us entering into Iraq a will continue to jaw-jaw about us getting out of Iraq because we've lost some 1,850 soldiers (Lincoln oversaw 23,049 Union Deaths and 28,000 CSA deaths - He was the Prez of the US so he mourned their lose, even if he was pulling for the Union) who call for the US to call it quits in Iraq should at least read the fine words of President Lincoln and think real heard about how this applies to our situation today. So take a gander at Lincoln's famous speech that he delivered on the grounds where so many soldiers had died some five months before:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...
Sherman said "War is Hell," but it took Lincoln to scratch through all of the muck and mire of the Civil War to note something that has become a universal truth in this nation, which is that we should all pull together to honor the troops who have died fighting in Iraq but we should also ensure that we see the mission through these trying times. Throughout my life, two things seem to hold true and that is they fight for G-d and Country. Now I'm sure that G-d will be there all the time but I'm not so sure if they're convinced that their Country is behind them, what with all of these negative stories in the press. So wake up all ya'll protesters and opponents of the war and breathe in the wise words of Abe Lincoln .

Friday, August 19, 2005

Get over it.

Fire of Liberty
I just read that Paul Krugman says Gore would have won the recount in Florida in 2000 but the Economist turned Journalist forgot to read this article in the May 15, 2001 issue of USA Today headlined "Newspapers recount show Bush prevailed" see for yourself:
"George W. Bush would have won a hand count of Florida's disputed ballots if the standard advocated by Al Gore had been used, the first full study of the ballots reveals. Bush would have won by 1,665 votes — more than triple his official 537-vote margin — if every dimple, hanging chad and mark on the ballots had been counted as votes."
When will the people of the left get over 2000 like Republicans did in 1960. No time soon, I guess.

The Bear meets the Dragon: Should we Worry?

Fire of Liberty

Peter Brookes has a great column on the dangerous partnership emerging between the Russians and the Chinese and how it will have a detrimental affect on the region. I found his solutions on minimizing this relationship very interesting, take a look:
First, the Pentagon must make sure the forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review balances U.S. forces to address both the unconventional terrorist threat and the big-power challenge represented by a Russia-China strategic partnership.

Second, the United States must continue to strengthen its relationship with its ally Japan to ensure a balance of power in Northeast Asia - and also encourage Tokyo to improve relations with Moscow in an effort to loosen Sino-Russian ties.

Third, Washington must persevere in advancing its new relationship with (New) Delhi in order to balance Beijing's growing power in Asia and take advantage of India's longstanding, positive relationship with Russia.

And be ready to deal. Russia has historically been wary of China. America must not ignore the possibilities of developing a long-term, favorable relationship with Russia - despite the challenges posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin's heavy-handed rule.
I don't know about dealing with Putin but I'd rather be cordial with him being he has a lot of nukes and the wealth of resources to keep them. I just hope we'll keep our eye on the ball in the present and future, no matter who the Prez is. As always our fight to keep the flames of freedom burning is an ever vigilant affair, let's keep it that way.

The Iraq War was a Good Choice

Fire of Liberty

For all of those people who have posted comments comparing President Bush and his administration to such scum like Hitler and Goering they should try to read more history and stop picking up quotes from the various left wing/extreme right wing websites. Until you can find any comment our speech from President Bush or his administration that calls for the complete exterimination of a race or mentions the "Master Race," then lay off the comparisons. You know you've beaten a liberal at their game when they start quoting the maniacal ramblings of Hitler or Georing to make their argument against the war in Iraq or the Global War on Terrorism.

As for this "Bush lied" argument, maybe the people who promote such ideas need to look back on President Bush's speech before the nation in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 7, 2002. During this speech he noted three arguments for attacking Iraq, 1.Saddam was suspected of having weapons and had used them in the past (Though we never found an enormous stockpile after the fact, we made an assessment based on US, British, French, Russian, German, Israeli, as well as UN intelligence that all said Saddam had them.), 2.Saddam was a big sponsor of terrorism and might have made a Faustian deal to provide these terrorists with WMD. When Saddam sends checks of $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and allows terrorists like Abu Nidal and makes deals of accommodation - see here ,here, and here - with terrorists since 1998, the President had sufficient evidence to worry about al Qaeda spreading its wings with the backing and support of a nation like Iraq that has the money to spend. 3.President Bush also argued that our intervention in Iraq was also motivated by the continued thuggish nature of Saddam -see here - towards his people (rape rooms, acid baths, putting people feet first in industrial shredders, cutting people's tongues out, chopping off hands, gouging eyes or just the systematic murder of people.). Just read Kanan Makiya's masterful book The Republic of Fear, to see the true nature of Saddam. As the chief promoter of freedom and democracy throughout the world, the US cannot turn a blind eye to such a blatant violation of human rights that occurred in Iraq under Saddam. 4.President Bush noted that by liberating Iraq from the clutches of Saddam's tyranny and giving them the chance to plant a democracy within the corrupt and evil Arab regimes of the Middle East, would exacerbate the turn towards peace and away from the darkness of terrorism. By giving the people of Iraq their G-d given rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness as well as their own self-government laid out in a constitution, we will be able to establish a beacon that others will follow. It might not be an American style democracy but it's far better than what Saddam and the other despots in the region had to offer. It's sad that close to 2,000 soldiers have died in Iraq but if this reduces the breeding ground and the reach of terrorists like bin Laden and his ilk then it well worth our effort. So lets get off this academic discussion on why we went to war and focus more the issue at hand which is winning the fight in Iraq by standing behind our troops and supporting their commander-in-chief.

As for the canard that we fought in Kosovo and Iraq for minerals, I'd like someone to cite or show me proof where any such deals have occurred and some press release from doesn't count. In reality, we could have made deals with the regimes in Yugoslavia or Iraq by dropping sanctions but we intervened because the human rights of Muslims in these countries were being infringed upon when these regimes sent out their death squads against them and the high and mighty UN continued to ignore their plight because Annan said he could work with these devils. It's rather sad that people can sit back and ignore actual acts of evil and terrorism being committed by aggressors but somehow find the US at fault for stepping in and stopping such acts when no other nation chose to act.

Last but not least, I'd like to respond to the snarky comment about calling the US Army recruiter because I support the war. For one think, I'd be proud to sign up for the fight but unfortunately I'm confined to a wheelchair due to having muscular dystrophy. With that at hand, I formed Fire of Liberty to offer my hand in this effort to demonstrate on why we should dismantle the swamps in which the evil forces of this world reside. I might not be able to fight in the trenches in Iraq but I'm putting myself into the war effort by supporting the troops who willingly joined the military to do the dying for the spread of democracy and a fight against terrorism. It sure beats spending my time calling for our troops to turn tail and run in a time of danger. I think Jonah Goldberg shot down the "chickenhawk," argument that anti-war folks seem to throw up against supporters of the war. So if you want to barb with me then I'm all for it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Special Calling

Fire of Liberty

Anne Morse has an great article over at National Review Online that shows a very different take on Casey Sheehan than what his mother and the media camped out in Crawford, Texas seem to forget. Morse reminds us that Casey Sheehan re-upped in the military and as a devout Catholic, he saw his career in the US Army as a calling from God. Casey Sheehan seems to have something in common with a considerable majority of the brave souls within our armed forces, which is they feel their contributions making a significant difference for their nation and the GWOT. If you want to find a more moving dedication to the loss of Casey Sheehan and his fellow "brothers in arms," then this is a good piece to read.

I'd like to add a few words about Cindy Sheehan and her continued vigil on the outskirts of President Bush's ranch. Now I will never know the pain that a mother must go through with the loss of a child but I'd have to say that this two week media bazaar has caused more harm to Cindy Sheehan than she knows. Every day the American public take note that Casey's mother continues to embrace politicos and activists like and Michael Moore, who are standing behind her to promote an agenda rather than out of a devotion to Casey. Sheehan's year long campaign and camping trip into the sweltering heat of Texas has actually damaged her family bond - which is a very important place to turn in such a time of grief - too the point that her husband filed for divorce and her children calling for her to come home where she's more than needed.

Instead of fighting this seemingly losing battle on the air waves throughout the month of August, Cindy Sheehan could find a more worthwhile area to pay tribute to her son. Now I know she is a radical in her opposition to the actions of our nation's military but she could devote her energy and her PR skills to help make the life of the various soldiers who have been seriously injured in Iraq and their families more comfortable or she can raise funds to make sure our troops have the much needed supplies and comforts in Iraq that we take for granted here in the states. It would be real nice if Mrs. Sheehan takes a deeper reflection on what Casey would have wanted rather than what mom wants. No matter how much invective she might spew out to the media or how much I might dislike what she says, I offer bid her peace and offer a big thank you for her son's sacrifice to this wonderful nation.

A Little Grace Goes A Long Way

Fire of Liberty

Not only does Max Boot know a lot about foreign policy and history but it seems he knows a thing our two about the NFL. In this wonderful piece over at the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal website (registration required), Boot takes on the loudmouth, rabble-rousing wide receivers who seem to complain way too much for the enormous paychecks they receive. Boot notes that the jobs of wide receiver requires a pompous "me-too," mentality but sometimes class and talent seem to be the qualities that make better players. I'd say that it's about time the talented retake the field from the "athletes" who look good making asses of themselves on TV because they're only making $7 million instead of $12 million a year ,that the QB isn't showing them the love or heaven forbid the coach told them to "shut up." Luckily, Boot reminds us that they're indeed is those gems that show up and play ball with no questions asked and love every minute of it. Just see for yourself:
This set of incentives can create players who make the average Hollywood star seem humble and down-to-earth by comparison. But not always. There are numerous honorable exceptions to these generalizations--none more notable than the redoubtable Jerry Rice. The man who holds all the major receiving records is known not for nuttiness but for durability and dedication. He's still at it: At age 42 he's still trying to play in the NFL even if it means being a fourth-stringer for the Denver Broncos. It is no coincidence that the soft-spoken former 49er sports three Super Bowl rings while the loud-mouthed combination of Messrs. Owens, Moss and Johnson has a grand total of one. If any member of this trio wants to ascend to the real Hall of Fame--and each has the talent to do so--he needs a healthy helping of Rice.
Just because its a rough sport it doesn't mean that the players have a right to be jerks on our TV screens. Even if you make all the money in the world, the players in the NFL should act like adults and handle things with more grace. I'd prefer a high quality football game every Sunday rather than hearing or watching some antics that are more familiar to the thuggish nature of the players in the NBA.

If you love football as much as I do, then check out Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column over at It's well worth the read.