Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mullah Missiles

Fire of Liberty
While we watch a large percentage of the GOP in Congress try to out-Democrat the Democrats by offering silly solutions to the rise in gas prices, the Iranians are going about their merry way and pushing forward with their nuclear ambitions. To make matters worse, the Ze'ev Schiff of the Israeli daily Ha'aretz(A left to center publication) has a piece out that reports that the regime in Iranian has stepped up its efforts in fashioning a nuclear device for newly acquired ballistic missiles from North Korea. Here's a look at what Schiff had to report in Ha'aretz:
The missiles are known in the West as BM-25s, operate on liquid fuel and are single-stage. The BM-25 was originally manufactured in the Soviet Union, where the first generation, adapted for use by Soviet submarines and able to carry a nuclear warhead, was known as the SSN6. After the Russians retired the missiles from service, they sold them to the North Koreans, who developed them to carry a heavier payload.

With this purchase the Iranians have leap-frogged over their Shihab-4 missile with its range of 2,000 kilometers.

Iran worked for years on the development of the Shihab-3, which has a range of 1,300 kilometers, and conducted numerous tests. They also developed a cone with improved ability to enter the atmosphere, which meant it was more accurate.

The fact that the Shihab-3, when fired from certain areas of Iran, could hit Israel, spurred Israel on in its development of the Arrow missile, which can intercept the Shihab-3.

The Iranians are known to be at the early stages of developing two more long-range missiles. However American intelligence sources say Iran is at an advanced stage of developing a missile that can carry a nuclear warhead.
So not only does the US have to worry about our allies in the Middle East being hit by these mad mullahs but now we have to worry about our allies in Europe being nuked by such distant reaching missiles. Now the folks in our Congress can keep on harping about gas prices but I'm thinking that they should be focusing on the actions on behalf of Iran. We cannot allow the mullahs to continue their current pace on the development of nukes and the delivery system of such deadly weapons. While I'm on-board with the US and UKs efforts to push for sanctions against the regime in the UN Security Council, I have to say that we should be supporting the true democrats (Students, Intellectuals, Labor Unions and Dissidents) of Iran and their efforts to force a democratic change in Tehran. Such an effort far outweighs an military option but at Tehran's current rate our hand might be forced. So Congress shouldn't get lost in their gas inquiries especially when a deadly regime like Iran is this close to the bomb. Just imagine what will happen with the price of oil if Tehran nuked Athens, Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris or Rome in the near future. So taking on the dangerous regime now will far outweigh what any of these members have done in this current term of Congress.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Seeking an Alternative Fuel via the Free Market

Fire of Liberty

The Christian Science Monitor has a good article by Ron Scherer that shows the best solution to the development of alternative fuels for our vehicles from ethanol, shale, bio-mass(Even scraps from turkeys), used coal and tar-sands which is via the private/free enterprise sector. I'm all cool about the use and development of such fuels as long as the private sector and avoid getting in bed with the federal government and its corporate welfarism of federal subsidies. As long as you let the alternative energy folks remain in the private sector where innovation and a go get 'em spirit exists, you'll see these products come online much faster than if the government was providing them with massive funding and archaic rules and regulations. So here's a cheer for the private sector and its efforts to develop alternative fuels sources. Though these sources of fuel will never completely reduce our dependency on oil or some of them won't be viable or practical (Fuels made from used grease from restaurants will probably not make it because it gets too thick in winter) to buy, it's still a walk in the right direction. You got to love the private sector and its embrace of the ideals of the free market. Keep up the good work ya'll.

***This is where my friend Jason Crosby is right about the high price of gas and oil making folks seek more fuel efficient cars (You got to give it to GM for making flex-fuel cars, trucks, and SUVs even if ethanol is more expensive than regular gas.) as well as allowing energy companies money to invest in greater drilling, exploration as well as the development of alternative fuels like the ones mentioned above. So I'll chalk it up to Jason on this one but I'm still convince that the American public aren't ready for a Yugo that isn't nothing but a sardine can on wheels. All in all it's the people buying the gas and the cars that should influence the car companies efficiency standards rather than a call from Mt. Olympus (Washington D.C.). The market place is a far better judge than the hot-air balloons in our nation's capital.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

South Park takes on Al Gore

Fire of Liberty

I recommend that you try to catch a rerun of last night's South Park in which Al Gore(Friendless and desperate to get attention) is continually warning Stan, Cartman and friends about how Man-Bear-Pig is the biggest danger to the world and that everything else doesn't matter. This pretty much sums up the washed up nature of the former Vice-President and his outlandish scare-mongering crusade on global warming (I guess he forgot that Islamic terrorists and fanatics in Iran and North Korea are trying their best to kill us.). So check out South Park's recent episode (They have this season in a marathon this Saturday(Watch the Prius episode, real funny.)but until then check out Jonah Goldberg's column "Conveniently Missing the Truth" on the former VP and his global warming horror story campaign.

Making Sense out of Gas Prices

Fire of Liberty
Thomas Sowell has a wonderful column out today that pretty much lays waste to the demagogues in the US Congress and their "grand collusion" conspiracy they keep dishing out. As Sowell duly notes, the folks in Congress can keep on smearing the oil companies that provide the energy that keeps our dynamic economy going if they want to but they should also peer into their own lives and take note of their actions that has led to our current gas crunch(Even if it's minute compared to the Arab Oil Embargo in 73). Just look at what Sowell has to say:
No matter how big American oil companies are, there are other oil companies around the world and the price of oil is determined in international markets. As for investigating Big Oil, that has been done time and again already, with nothing to show for it.

Is it rocket science that, when huge countries like India and China have rapidly growing economies, their demand for oil goes up by leaps and bounds? Is it rocket science that, when demand shoots up but supply doesn't go up as much, prices rise?

Prices are a symptom of an underlying reality. Politicians can seize on the symptom and even pass laws dealing with it, without changing the underlying reality.

Prices are like a thermometer reading. When someone has a fever, it is not going to do any good to put the thermometer in ice water to bring down the reading. If you think the fever is gone, it may not be long before the patient is gone, if you don't do something about what is causing the fever.

Ironically, the people who are making the most noise about the high price of gasoline are the very people who have for years blocked every attempt to increase our own oil supply. They have opposed drilling for oil off the Atlantic coast, off the Pacific coast, or in Alaska. They have prevented the building of any new oil refineries anywhere for decades.

They have fought against the building of hydroelectric dams or nuclear power plants to generate electricity without the use of oil. They love to talk about their own pet "alternative energy sources," without the slightest attention to what these would cost in terms of money, jobs, or our national standard of living.

Even when one of their pet "alternative energy sources" -- windmills -- is proposed to be built near them, suddenly it is not right to spoil their view.
Well done Professor Sowell. I have to say that if the politicians want to help out our energy woes then just free up the oil companies from regulations, restrictions and taxes that prevent them from domestic exploration, drilling and production of oil for gas. The same also goes for the building of new refineries, nuclear plants and other sources of energy. The more we go on ignoring or put off the quest for vast amounts of oil, LNG and the alternative sources like nuclear and ethanol(Cut the tariff on imports) the more we face a energy crunch due to a growing demand of "black gold" in other sections of the world. It'd be nice if more politicians had such a clear view of the rise of gas prices but then again they're politicians who go all populist before the cameras.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Good Step in the Right Direction

Fire of Liberty

The Wall Street Journal has a good editorial (See the whole thing at OpinionJournal- It's free via e-mail registration)up today that tries to place the rise in gas prices in a greater perspective and truly identifies the true culprit which is the heavy-handedness of the folks in Congress. Though some folks are calling for a top down solution via government intervention the editorial board of the WSJ is correctly notes that things would improve in the price of gas if the folks we elected would take the brakes off the private sector and allow them to get things done. (How many members of Congress do you know that can explore, drill and refine oil for fuel?) I have to say the WSJ gets it right when they note that Congress should free up the energy sector by doing the following:
Congress could help a little in the short term if it asked the Bush Administration to end the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. That would especially help drivers in coastal states suffering from spot shortages. Naturally, however, the domestic ethanol industry is threatening retribution against any Member who suggests such a thing; so much for industry gratitude.

The GOP might also refocus its attention on legislation the House passed last year to reduce the number of "boutique fuels" to six from 17. These special gasoline blends are required in different parts of the country in the name of reducing pollution. Their primary effect, however, is to raise gas prices and make it difficult to move gas around the country during shortfalls. The Environmental Protection Agency could also ease environmental rules for those parts of the country suffering shortages.

Meanwhile, we're also hearing more about the country's reliance on "foreign oil." But if Congress wants to ease that dependence, it will have to open more of the U.S. up to oil and gas exploration. Had the Senate opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration when the Bush Administration requested it in 2001, some of this oil might now be joining American supplies. The same goes for natural gas drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf. Yet the very Democrats who deplore foreign supplies and shout about high prices vote again and again to block domestic oil exploration.
All in all, members of Congress have got to find a way to knock down the barricades of domestic energy exploration and production. In fact, it seems that Representative John Shadegg of Arizona (R.) is on the same page of the WSJ and calmer heads who see the rise in gas prices via a rising demand and a shortening supply of oil due to congressional restrictions and has made a move in calling for the elimination of tariffs against the imports of ethanol into this country. Here's what National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez pointed out over at the Corner on Rep. Shadegg:
Shadegg Offers Real Help on Gas Prices

Reducing Ethanol Tax Would Offer Immediate Relief

Washington - The law of unintended consequences is the one law Congress never fails to pass, and one of the consequences is the higher gasoline prices we face today. But Congress can bring down prices by cutting the tax on imported ethanol.

"This is a straightforward measure that will bring immediate relief to Americans facing $3-per-gallon gasoline prices," said U.S. Congressman John Shadegg, who today introduced the Ethanol Tax Relief Act. "With the gasoline additive MBTE being phased out, almost every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States is going to require ethanol. But right now our domestic ethanol supply is inadequate to meet this increased demand. As the cost of ethanol rises, so do gasoline prices. The answer is to temporarily suspend the tariff on imported ethanol."

MBTE is used as a fuel oxygenate to reduce air pollution. It currently constitutes 1.4 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply, but Congress' failure to pass MBTE liability protection last year means that MBTE producers are getting out of the business as rapidly as possible.

"Democrats in Washington are suggesting we raise taxes on energy companies - but that is exactly the wrong thing to do," Shadegg said.

The only remaining approved oxygenate is ethanol. In an effort to protect our domestic ethanol industry, the U.S. levies a tariff of 2.5 percent and a 54-cent per gallon duty on imported ethanol. For the time being, however, the domestic ethanol supply is simply inadequate. The result is higher gasoline prices. Rep. Shadegg's bill would suspend the taxes on imported ethanol until January 1, 2007, increasing supply and lowering prices.

"The U.S. ethanol supply will catch up to demand soon," Shadegg said. "But American families need help now."
Now if you've read my following posts you know that I'm no fan of mandating the use of ethanol(I love that we can make gas from corn or sugar but things have got to develop via the market not by a Washington dictate) because its being subsidized by the federal government and it's too darn expensive to buy in the country due to limited availability, transport costs (Attracts water thus can't flow through pipelines like LNG and gasoline.) as well as a the current tariffs on imports but it seems to me that Representative Shadegg sees the problem and seems to be using his mind rather than his mouth to solve the problem. Here's hoping others in Congress will follow suit.

The Wrong Path to Reducing Gas Prices

Fire of Liberty

William F. Buckley Jr. has a great column out today which notes that while various members of Congress(from both sides of the political spectrum) are squawking in front of the TV cameras about how oil companies have possibly joined in some grand "collusion conspiracy" and are recommending the passage of some new laws to deal with the price of gas, they fail to notice that their efforts and actions will make the situation far worse than the purported crisis at hand. Even more, these populist crusaders are so stuck on appeasing the crowd by taking on the oil companies and avoiding other factors, that are out of Congress's reach, that cause the prices of oil to go up. Just read what Mr. Buckley has to say and you'll see that Congress's current efforts on dealing with the price of gas are definitely the wrong ways to go:
And indignation at oil prices is not intelligently exercised by legislative action.

Factors here to be considered are varied.

-— In the past 20 years, profits from oil and gas investment have been lower than the profits from many alternative economic enterprises. Ten percent profit is normal (and normative). Oil and gas investments have tended to run two or three points lower than that ten percent.

-— To effect an increase in supply requires a lot of investment and a lot of patience. Five to ten years, significantly to increase supply.

-— The stranglehold of OPEC is not easily dealt with by normal economic responses, given that it is a politically controlled oligopoly.

-— The causes of significant shortfalls in oil production are often political. Mexico is off on another nationalistic excess. Nigeria is in turmoil, reducing production. Iraq is almost one million barrels a day under what it used to produce. Iran is a day-by-day disrupter. The Saudis, who in the past, have with their huge reserves acted as a kind of federal bank, are needing to do more development.

There isn't anything the U.S. can do — except keep its legislative fingers out of the stew. And open its blinded eyes to the possibilities of nuclear energy.
Along with expanding nuclear energy, the members of Congress should free up the oil companies and energy producers from excessive regulations, taxes and restrictions the prevent domestic exploration. The best solution to our gas woes is to increase the supply-side of the matter.

Rumsfeld Mans the Ship Well

Fire of Liberty
If you've been watching the news lately, you've noted that some of our retired generals have drawn out their long knives on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld due to their disagreement over the war in Iraq, re-organization of the military, or their complete dislike of the man. For me, I've been a big supporter of our Defense chief for a long time and feel that we would see a complete dissolution of the civilian control over our military if any soldier, retired our active, was able to take down a member of the President's cabinet in this manner. Now if the Secretary of Defense truly violates the US Code of Military Justice, Geneva Convention, or the Constitution, then I'd expect these individuals to go through the proper channels. For me the arguments that Rumsfeld didn't listen tenure or was just rough on them during their tenure (Most of the gang of 8 complaining were either well below the one on one level with the Defense Chief or were retired before he arrived) falls well below a level that requires such an outcry.

In fact while all of these retired Generals are flocking in front of the cameras calling for the head of a man who works long hours everyday defending this nation and preparing our military for the twenty-first century and Islamic terrorism. This tireless work seems to be shining through in the field of transforming the military to be faster, more mobile and deadlier in the new world of warfare(As Professor Larry Elowitz ( my former National Security professor/guru) of GC&SU used to say "The wars of tomorrow will not be fought on the plains of Germany via the Folda Gap.") especially if you read Mark Sappenfield's most recent article in the Christian Science Monitor. Here's a good sampling of why Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is a great asset and monumental figure in the Pentagon and will continue to do so at the pleasure of President Bush:
When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks of creating a faster and more flexible Army, this is where it begins. The idea is to emphasize smaller units like the 1-28, pushing materiel and manpower - like these cooks and mechanics - further down the Army's organizational chain.

By giving these smaller units more resources, the Army is making them more self-sufficient - and that gives Pentagon leaders more options. In the past, the smallest unit the Army could send to any global hot spot was a division of nearly 20,000 troops. By pushing its resources downward, now the Army can mobilize individual brigade combat teams as small as 3,500 troops.

It is a fundamental change brought about by a new security environment. During the cold war, the threat was a massive war against the Soviets, so it made sense to organize the Army into a few massive pieces. Today, however, America is faced more and more with smaller conflicts, and the Pentagon is convinced that this requires smaller pieces that can be moved around the globe more easily.

Yet the changes are already echoing beyond the arcane matter of military organization into soldiers' everyday lives.

Not only will infantrymen train more frequently with soldiers they would rarely have seen in the old system - as was on display in the predawn workout. But as members of the Army's newly created brigade combat teams, they all will also spend three years at one post - training together, living together, and eventually going to war together.
So keep up the good work Secretary Rumsfeld, the people are with you. Here's hoping that these Generals, who are calling for the ouster of the Defense Chief, will find a way of curbing their anger and egos long enough to offer useful alternatives to fighting the war in Iraq or Rumsfeld's management style but then again we're talking about Generals. Anyone remember Gen. George McClellan or Gen. Douglas MacArthur?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saving the Principles of the Party

Fire of Liberty

The editors over at National Review Online have a good editorial out that proposes the legislation and work that the Republican Congress must do to stave off an assault by the Dems this fall. If the leadership in Congress and the White House follow such advice they'll be saved to fight another day.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Republican Congress losing sanity and principles

Fire of Liberty

Now if you think gas prices are high now just imagine how expensive the price will get once the busy-bodies in Congress starts fooling around with the law of supply and demand by proposing tighter controls or greater regulations on oil companies. Nixon pushed for price controls in the late 60's and early 70's and we were almost crippled by the lack of gas due to the low prices set by the government (folks bought a lot of gas at a low price and suppliers but also ran into a little thing called supply and demand). This might help relieve things in the short run and boost the members of Congress for elections but the best solution is to build more refineries, more domestic drilling (Gulf of Mexico, California coast, ANWR), exploration of alternative sources of petroleum like shale and tar sands as well as reducing strict regulations and the horrific federal gas tax. Republicans won't win in 2006 if they drop their ideas on capitalism and smaller government and resort to pure populism. Principle far outweighs popularity any day. These folks need to remember that they won in 80, 84, 88, 94, 00, 02, 04 because of standing on principles of small government and private enterprise.

Rolling the mullahs up in a Persian Carpet

Fire of Liberty

Well it looks like there's some folks in the White House and the State Department who are formulating some non-military responses to the regime in Iran. As I've been saying for some two years, it's far better to take down the regime via an internal regime change than launching an attack(This tool should still be laid out on the table) on Tehran. This road might get rough for the true democrats and dissidents within and outside of Iran but it far outweighs a long drawn out fight against Iran. One thing I would recommend is that the State Department sub-contract the money and support of this movement via an outside or private source like an NGO rather than leaving the "made in the US" sticker on it like it is now. If the folks at State, Defense and the White House remember the lessons of the Cold War and the take-down of the Soviet Union then they'll have great success in dethroning the mullahs. Here's wishing the democratic movement in and outside of Iran good luck.

Fixing Illegal Immigration South of Rio Grande

Fire of Liberty

The Washington Examiner has a good editorial up on the "reconquesta movement" that seems to be threaded throughout the illegal immigration protestors who have gone to the streets recently. Here's a sample:
"Aztlan"” is the ancient Aztec word for the lands of California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, which more radical Hispanic activists have long claimed were stolen by "gringos"” from Europe and that are now to be retaken via massive immigration that eventually produces Hispanic majorities at all levels of governance. But whether expressed more moderately by groups such as FSMA or more radically by explicitly separatist voices like MEChA, Aztlan is the animating spirit of the Reconquista movement. That spirit is reflected in remarks like this by a former California state secretary of health, education and welfare: "“California is going to be a Hispanic state. Anyone who doesn'’t like it should leave."

Behind such calls looms the dismal Mexican economy, which, as author and historian Victor Davis Hanson notes in the latest Claremont Review of Books, desperately needs the flow of workers to the U.S. because they send an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion back home annually. Plus, there are the immense costs shifted from Mexico to our education, health care and law enforcement systems that must serve the needs of the waves of immigrants, legal and illegal. Those of us living north of the border are thus subsidizing corruption south of the border that enables Mexican politicians and their wealthy friends and family members to live the good life without being held accountable for the millions of Mexicans who suffer grinding poverty and hopelessness.
Let's hope someone in the Mexico find a way of dissolving such extremist thoughts and changing their economy into a growth zone. See, illegal immigration isn't just an American problem it's something that could be nipped in the bud partially by the Mexican government reforming its economy. Here's hoping for such action.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thinking Economically

Fire of Liberty

As I read the papers and hear the various comments about price gouging(Gas prices in particular), protectionism, and "fair trade" rather than free trade coming from the likes of Chuck Schumer, Lindsey Graham and others, I'm beginning to think that these individuals must have slept through Economics 101 to come up with such comments. Now I know that such powerful folks like those in Congress won't pay me no mind but if they did, then I'd refer them to get caught up on the science of Economics by reading Tim Harford's wonderful book The Undercover Economist. While most books on the "dismal science" can be a bit boring or wonkish, Harford has written a accessible primer that will shed a brighter light on the subject and wipe away the falsehood's and outlandish statements being doled out by members of Congress. One individual that really enjoyed the book is C.R. Hardy who has written nice review of The Undercover Economist over at National Review Online. Here a lot at what Hardy has to say about this gem of a book:
Harford strikes at economic illiteracy closer to home as well. His book opens with a fascinating discussion of the price of a cup of coffee. Doesn't Starbucks price gouge? Just what is captured in the price of a thing? Doesn't the coffee industry exploit poor farmers in Brazil? Who exactly is getting rich off my $4.15 café mocha? It turns out that classical economic thinking about scarcity power, incentives, market structure, distribution, and self-interest go a long way toward illuminating the flaws in our arm-chair answers to these and other questions. Harford also covers plenty of other engaging topics in the same manner, such as auction design, health care policy, and how to get drivers to curtail car usage in congested areas.

The Undercover Economist should be placed in the hands of any young person looking for a quick introduction to economics, any older person who missed out on Economics 101, or anyone who took Economics 101, but was not able then to realize that it applied to real life.
Now I'm no expert on the study of Economics but with what I read and know, I'd say that The Undercover Economist is a good book to go to if you want to learn more on this useful science.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Release Jude Shao from China

Fire of Liberty

I hope that President Bush brings up the imprisonment of Jude Shao in his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao this Thursday. For me, I prefer our President to push for the freedom of an American citizen from a Chinese jail rather then spending all his time on valuation of the yuan.

Pushing the Mullahs Out of the Roost

Fire of Liberty
As the mullahs of Iran rattle their sabers and continue their quest for the bomb the international community seems to be at an impasse over what to do with the regime after it resumed enrichment of uranium. While the US, UK and France are up for imposing sanctions on Tehran, you have the Chinese and Russians backing away from the table and pushing for more negotiations. In fact if you read or listen to various foreign policy experts on what to do with Iran they seem to dismiss the threat as being five to ten years down the road and point out that 164 centrifuges is far from what's needed to make a nuclear bomb. With this at hand these experts continue to argue that the West should continue to talk to the regime and seek a diplomatic solution because the folks in Tehran are pragmatic and just want nuclear power. Now these old "diplomatic hands" can play down the threat of the regime and push for more talks with the regime over the future of the nuke program but in the long run this strategy just falls into the hands of Iran. The more we talk with the regime, their scientists will continue to push forward and enrich greater quantities of uranium which can eventually be placed atop a Shehab-3 or Shehab-4 ballistic missile that could be launched in the near future against Israel, Europe or our troops stationed in the region.

I'd say that its fine to wish for a diplomatic solution for ending Iran's nuke program but its hard to see the regime acting rationally, what with the talk and actions that have been coming out of Tehran. If you've read my previous posts on Iran, you know that I'm a hawk who believes that the best solution for the mullahs is to unravel the regime from the inside by supporting the freedom movement outside of Iran as well the students, intellectuals and labor unions who battle with the regime everyday. If we provide the moral,political, and economic support we'll have a better solution to the problem than what the talking heads have to say. Along with my call for the toppling of the regime from the inside the editorial board over at National Review Online has also called for the US to take such steps. Here's a sample of what they had to say:
Or, to be more precise, the Bush administration must recognize that it never had an Iran policy. It chose instead to second the policy devised by France, Germany, and Britain, which rested on the premise that Iran's rulers could be bribed and browbeaten into submission. This was never a reasonable assumption. Since its birth in 1979, the Iranian theocracy has shown pure contempt for the norms that govern relations among sovereign states: by permitting the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran; by declaring a fatwa on a British subject; by orchestrating a 1994 massacre at a Jewish center in Buenos Aires; by murdering 19 U.S. airmen in the Khobar Towers bombing of 1996; by subsidizing terror attacks and armed militias in Lebanon, Israel, Iraq. Is there now — was there ever — any reason to think the mullahs will play by the rules?

The problem with Iran is precisely not its nuclear program. The problem is the regime. We have every reason to think this regime would use its arsenal to threaten the U.S. and its allies, and to extract concessions inimical to our interests. Nor can we exclude the possibility that the mullahs would actually launch their nukes. Consider Hashemi Rafsanjani, that celebrated "moderate," exulting that the Muslim world will "vomit [Israel] out from its midst," since "a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy [it]." Nuclear deterrence operates on the assumption that your foe is rational. Things start to break down when a significant part of its ruling establishment fancies itself on divine mission to evaporate the Zionist Entity in a mushroom cloud, roll back the Great Satan, and usher in a paradisiacal rule by sharia. That's not a regime to bargain with. The goal must be to remove it from power.

This does not mean invasion and occupation. But it does mean getting serious about supporting the Iranian democracy movement. The contradiction of Iran is that its people, the most educated, moderate, and pro-Western of the Muslim Middle East, are ruled by the most aggressive Islamists in the world. It wouldn't take a large expenditure to catalyze that tension. President Bush routinely declares his support for the cause of Iranian democracy — something that, according to a dissident inside Iran who recently spoke to National Review Online, has made a deep impression on his countrymen. Why, then, has Bush's administration failed to give material aid to the Iranian democrats?
Now an internal toppling is the best option in dealing with the regime in Tehran but if the regime goes hot with nukes in the near future then I'd expect the US to take them program out. Let's save us all of the trouble and just support the true democrats in Iran who are itching to push their terror masters out of the roost once and for all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Full French Retreat

Fire of Liberty

Well it seems that the French government finally folded to the angry protests of students and the militant unions. Instead of introducing some reforms that would liberalize the French economy and create an environment that was more conducive to reducing massive unemployment, the French government has taken another spanking from the unions and the nutty students and has scrapped the CPE law and is offering subsidies and tax incentives for companies who take on 18-26 year olds. So once again the French politicians choose socialism over capitalism to solve the problems but the only thing this will do is cause the unemployment rate to stay in the cellar (What businessman do you know would be silly enough to accept these cash payments and take on a new hire who might not be a good worker.)and will just add one more burden on the economy. You'll never erase the 23% unemployment rate amongst 18-26 year-olds and an overall unemployment rate of 9.7% by pushing more and more of the government's nose into the tent of French businesses and economy in general. As Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush(ok he spends a lot of money but his tax cuts have paved the way for a 4.7% unemployment rate) and Margaret Thatcher demonstrated time and time again, the pathway to a robust economy is by getting the government off the people's back by reducing taxes and by reducing the governments strangle-hold on businesses by eliminating regulations. While these are only a sample of what the great individuals did to spur on their respected economies it still demonstrates that less government is far better than too much government. All in all, the French government remains committed to the status quo of socialism and high unemployment rather than a robust economy. As the French say C'Est La Vie (That's life).

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Finding Solutions on Illegal Immigration

Fire of Liberty

Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a great Q&A with Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies. If you want to see an intelligent and serious study of the problems that tend to bubble up with regards to the massive illegal immigration at our Southern border, you only have to check out the CIS web-site. For the meantime read what Camarota has to note in the Q&A about what a blanket amnesty being proposed in the Senate would mean to our federal and state public services. Here's a look:
Q: When we talk about social services and whether illegals pay more in taxes than they get in services, the number $10 billion a year is often used.

A: The $10 billion is what I estimated. They use $10 billion more in services at the federal level than they paid in taxes. ... The kicker for me is, if we legalize illegals and they began to pay taxes and use services like legal immigrants with the same level of education, the cost would roughly triple. An unskilled illegal immigrant is costly but an unskilled legal immigrant is a fiscal disaster because, although presumably he is being paid on the books and he pays his taxes like he's supposed to, he is now eligible for everything, or a lot of things, but he still doesn't make any money.

That's the problem. The reason immigrants create a fiscal cost is not because they are illegal. They create a fiscal cost because they have very little education and people with very little education don't pay much in taxes, because they don't make very much. But they tend to use a lot in services. If we legalize them, it makes the problem much worse.

Think about this: every unskilled worker who's paid on the books mostly gets our $32 billion Earned Income Tax Credit. That means that every unskilled worker comes with a bill. That's one of the reasons the costs explode so much if you legalize illegal immigrants. Right now, I estimate that illegals are getting one-tenth of what they are entitled to but if they began to get the EIT fee like legal immigrants, with the same level of education, well, the costs would go up 10 fold. That's a welfare program a lot of conservatives like, but it's also one that's very expensive.
So we can talk all we want about making the 12 million illegals legal but we would be doing a disservice to the American citizenry and the 25 million immigrants who came here legally. Thanks for folks like Steve Camarota and the wonderful folks at CIS for keeping us up on the problem of illegal immigration.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Secure The Border First

Fire of Liberty
Well it looks like the US Senate failed to produce the 60 votes to invoke a cloture motion on the amnesty bill. So for the moment it looks like the so-called compromise wasn't as big as the news was touting yesterday. As I noted yesterday, the US Congress shouldn't be dabbling into an amnesty bill but should be tackling the whole issue of securing our border from the massive influx of illegal aliens(I'm opposed to all forms of illegal alien activity).

While the folks in the Senate think that they're relieving the whole issue of illegal immigration by offering an amnesty to some eleven million folks they are ignoring the plight of US citizens living in the Southern-Border states. Almost everyday these people are bothered by a constant stream of people from Mexico trespassing on their property living tons of trash, drug paraphernalia, and Lord knows what else. Aside from littering these individuals also wreak havoc on the resident's ranches by breaking down fences, disturbing their livestock, injuring their dogs, as well as threatening or inflicting bodily harm to the home-owner/rancher who stands in their way.

I for one would be hopping mad if such a thing was happening daily and all the folks in the US Senate we're discussing granting amnesty thus opening the door for millions more. Now illegals already here are a big problem but it's a heck of a lot better to deal with the question of 11 million than 15 to 18 million. Someone who seems to be on the secure-the-border page(worry about the rest later) is Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer who points out in his most recent column that we should just construct a huge hulking wall/fence along the border and patrol the heck out of it with beefed-up border patrols and cameras. He notes that if the border folks can demonstrate that if they can effectively secure our border and shut-down the current wild and raging river of illegals crossing over then they could then tackle the question of what to do with the eleven million already here. I think Krauthammer pretty much summed up the feelings of a lot of Americans who see the border security run amok and just want them secured with the following:
Forget employer sanctions. Build a barrier. It is simply ridiculous to say it cannot be done. If one fence won't do it, then build a second 100 yards behind it. And then build a road for patrols in between. Put cameras. Put sensors. Put out lots of patrols.

Can't be done? Israel's border fence has been extraordinarily successful in keeping out potential infiltrators who are far more determined than mere immigrants. Nor have very many North Koreans crossed into South Korea in the last 50 years.

Of course it will be ugly. So are the concrete barriers to keep truck bombs from driving into the White House. But sometimes necessity trumps aesthetics. And don't tell me that this is our Berlin Wall. When you build a wall to keep people in, that's a prison. When you build a wall to keep people out, that's an expression of sovereignty. The fence around your house is a perfectly legitimate expression of your desire to control who comes into your house to eat, sleep and use the facilities. It imprisons no one.

Of course, no barrier will be foolproof. But it doesn't have to be. It simply has to reduce the river of illegals to a manageable trickle. Once we can do that, everything becomes possible -- most especially, humanizing the situation of our 11 million existing illegals.

If the government can demonstrate that it can control future immigration, there will be infinitely less resistance to dealing generously with the residual population of past immigration. And, as Mickey Kaus and others have suggested, that may require that the two provisions be sequenced. First, radical border control by physical means. Then shortly thereafter, radical legalization of those already here. To achieve national consensus on legalization, we will need a short lag time between the two provisions, perhaps a year or two, to demonstrate to the skeptics that the current wave of illegals is indeed the last.
From the looks of recent polling, it seems that a fence and other ideas of securing our borders seem to be gaining more strength amongst the US citizenry than the MSM is letting on. Thank G-d that there's folks in the US House of Representatives who understand the necessity of securing our border and are actively working on such a solution.(Maybe the US Senate should take note. At least they have a two week break to hear from their voters and have a rethink.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Air France: A Mirror Image of France's Atrophied Economy

Fire of Liberty

Boris Johnson, who's a British MP, has a good piece in the Daily Telegraph(UK) about his most recent run-in with the folks at Air France. After observing the Gallic work habits of slothness and inefficiency, Johnson lays out a good argument on why France's economy is in such a chaotic state and how they'll continue to remain in the same shape if folks keep on raising hell in the streets about laws and measures that try to alleviate the situation. After reading the following, you'd think the folks in France would appreciate Villepin's gesture:
As anyone who has dealt with French baggage handlers can testify, the French devote less time to their work, when they work, than any other European country. They manage 39.1 hours per week, compared with 42.2 hours in Britain and 42.6 hours in Poland; and then there are the growing numbers of French who do not work at all.

The number of unemployed - the number of jobless people in France who might make more zealous bag handlers, who might show some gumption and get an innocent passenger on his plane - is now at a six-year high of 10.2 per cent of the work force.

Youth unemployment is at a terrifying 23 per cent and rises to 50 per cent in some suburbs; and yet there is almost no way of getting these people into jobs, because in France there is almost no way of getting the shiftless and idle out of their jobs, especially in the state sector.

In order to fire someone, French companies with more than 600 employees must go through legal procedures lasting 106 days. It costs French companies 2.6 times as much to fire a 35-year- old as it costs an English company; and of course there may be some people out there who are sometimes nervous about losing their jobs, and might wish that they had the kind of protections enjoyed in France.

But that is to miss the central economic reality, an understanding that was at the heart of the British labour market reforms of the 1980s, changes that have been very largely responsible for the 52 consecutive quarters of growth enjoyed by Britain and unemployment currently low by European standards.

The point is that if you make it easier to fire, you also make it easier to hire: and that is the way to get the economy moving. Anyone who cares about the future of the European economy - and it matters deeply to us, the fate of our leading trading partners - should get out to Paris and support de Villepin in a counter-demonstration.
Then again this is probably how things will remain in France especially after witnessing Chirac and Sarkozy's capitulation to the militant unions(Most in France are communist/hard-line socialists) and the rabble-rousing students. One can foresee that the French government will shy away from passing any meaningful legislation towards liberalizing their economy in the near future. Even Sarkozy, the presumed Presidential winner in 07, will have a hard time getting anything done with the economy because he has shown his hand and the labor unions know what it takes to make him do their bidding.

Nutty Senate Compromise

Fire of Liberty

While the MSM keeps on touting a big breakthrough in the US Senate with regards to the current illegal immigration bill, they fail to report that this breakthrough is nothing more than a fancified amnesty bill that turns a blind eye to some eleven million illegals. To me it would be a whole lot easier to just enforce our current laws, beef up the border patrol, push for greater fines against companies and businesses that hire illegals. All of these combined will slow down the flow of illegals into this country rather than create some silly new guidelines like the following:
- Illegal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years could receive legal status after meeting several conditions, including payment of a $2,000 fines and any back taxes, clearing a background check and learning English. After six more years, they could apply for citizenship without having to leave the United States.

- Illegal immigrants in the country for between two and five years could obtain a temporary work visa after reporting to a border point of entry. Aides referred to this as "touch base and return," since people covered would know in advance they would be readmitted to the United States.

- Officials said it could take as long as 13 to 14 years for some illegal immigrants to gain citizenship. It part, that stems from an annual limit of 450,000 on green cards, which confer legal permanent residency and are a precursor to citizenship status.

- Illegal immigrants in the United States for less than two years would be required to leave the country and apply for re-entry alongside anyone else seeking to emigrate.
So basically the Senate is going to nullify and excuse illegal activity by offering them a quicker path to citizenship and a $2,000 fine because they were lucky enough to move here five or more years ago while telling the others that have been less than five but more than two years to report to the authorities or and apply for a temporary work visa.

Personally, I don't really think that such a policy will dissuade millions of other illegals from crossing over the border because they'll wager that in twenty years or more they'll be given a similar deal much like their predecessors received in 1965 and 1986. In reality, the folks in the Senate(Democrats and Republicans) are willing to allow illegals to remain in our workforce thus keeping their friends in agri-businesses, garden & lawn, construction industries happy with low paid but industrious workforce. Basically you can stay here but by G-d you're going to work in "Jobs Americans Won't Do." So this mean that when Juan, Jose and Vicente become citizens of this nation(If they've been here five years or more)then they'll refuse to do such work thus requiring another crop of illegal immigrants who willingly to come across the border. What's even more absurd is that these turkeys in the Senate(There's some fellows like Sens Cornyn(R-TX) and Kyl(R-AZ) working on legislation that honestly deals with illegal aliens) really think that they're tackling the problem of illegal immigration by giving millions of illegals a "get out of jail free" card but they're just making life more difficult for future generations of legal Americans.

Here's hoping that the legislation coming out of the Senate fails to get 60 votes and is filibustered to its death or is killed in the Senate and House conference. Let's secure the border and the heck with securing the pockets of the folks who take advantage of illegal aliens by paying them paltry sums of money under the table.

For more on this see here, here, and here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Crescent City Council Foolishness

Fire of Liberty

Josh Wexler, a book vendor in New Orleans, has a good piece over at National Review Online that demonstrates one of the main reasons why New Orleans will continue to remain in the muck of poverty for a considerably long time to come. Here's a brief preview:
After two months away, I was happy to return home after evacuating this past summer. When I returned in the fall, I found most of the city was still in shambles. While today so much of New Orleans remains a graveyard of empty houses and boarded storefronts, there has been a vital force pushing outwards from the few neighborhoods that remained relatively intact despite Katrina. Some of the most encouraging sights to me have been the signs of economic life organically rising up in the city'’s public spaces — shops flowing out onto the sidewalks, outdoor flea markets (often organized by neighborhood bars), garage sales after people have sorted through the property in their flooded homes, trailers parked in the French Quarter serving food to locals and tourists, mobile vendors serving food to workers in devastated areas. People have a deep attachment and an abiding commitment to this place that is on display as folks spend their days rebuilding their homes, their businesses, and their lives.

The sweeping city-council measure, introduced by my councilwoman, Renee Gill Pratt, outlaws the very activity that has restored life to city sidewalks. The penalty for engaging in such commerce or for displays, signs or advertisements for outdoor sales? Six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

This is precisely the wrong direction for our government. With all that needs to be done to get this city up on its feet, it is unconscionable that the city council would be wasting its limited capacities on such obstructionist efforts. Fortunately, they didn'’t waste too much time according to our local newspaper, the Times-Picayune: The measure passed 7 to 0, with no discussion. Nor did they waste any time notifying the public of a possible ban.
Why can't these folks on the city council understand that their actions are making the recovery of New Orleans even harder. Then again these are the same folks that took guns from the citizens of the Crescent City during the flooding rather taking on the looters and gangs that threatened the city. Go figure.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

French Retreat

Fire of Liberty

This just proves my point that when you reveal a weakness in your armor to militant groups like France's labor unions they'll go for the jugular and won't back down until they kill are render harmless the things that they dislike. Well today it seems the protestors are getting their way due to the simple fact that President Chirac and Interior Minister Sarkozy are splitting away from Villepin in supporting a more watered down version of the CPE.(And folks think Villepin was standing firm because of his political future.)I guess President Truman's old adage: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog" is also true in Paris as well. Its too bad that the labor unions have such sway in France and are willing to keep the economy locked in the dumps but then again we're talking about France.


Fire of Liberty
Well last week the White House at the behest of Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta(Who's the only Democrat in the Cabinet)has decided to put their nose further into the tent of the private sector by imposing even greater CAFE standards on the American automakers. It's all well and good that the folks in the Bush administration are so concerned about lessening our dependence on foreign oil but imposing greater standards on the car makers is not the way to solve the problem. Instead of playing such pressures on the car industry(Ask the folks at Ford and GM who are being laid off. I don't think the management of these respected companies need this new head-ache) we need to start tackling the problem at the supply end which means we should start pushing legislation that frees up the energy sector to start drilling for oil in the dark recesses of ANWR, offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and California, build more refineries throughout the nation(not just in Louisiana, Texas and California), exploring older wells with new technology and getting more out, investing in technology and processes that derive oil from things like tar sands(Canada) and shale(Colorado).

All of these approaches are far greater than letting the heavy handed federal government insert themselves into the board rooms and design rooms of a private company that has seen its better days. You keep on applying such standards and you'll discover that while we might increase the fuel mileage of trucks, SUVs and Cars we also push the American auto industry further off the side of the cliff until they hit rock bottom where the US government will place the burden on tax payers. So we'll have more fuel efficient cars as well as a multi-billion dollar bailout in the future. O joy.

Now while my common man language is a pretty good way of arguing against the federal government imposing these non-market driven CAFE standards(I'm thinking GM and Ford know far better about cars than the bureaucrats in D.C.)it lacks the oomph of Detroit News columnist Thomas Bray. As a free-marketer and resident of car-town USA I'd have to say that Bray has a better read of what's going on than what Mineta and the folks in D.C. hatching such a policy. In fact I'd have to say that Bray pretty much lays waste to the whole CAFE standards talk in his latest column when he notes:

Indeed, CAFE, first enacted in 1975, has been accompanied by a steady rise in consumption of foreign oil, thanks in large part to the refusal of environmental zealots to allow more exploration and drilling here at home. And to the extent CAFɉ actually reduces demand for oil, it works to hold down prices - which in turn makes it cheaper to drive. Americans have responded by greatly increasing the miles they drive, undercutting the broader goal of reducing use of carbon-based fuels.

As the National Academy of Sciences agreed in 2001, moreover, CAFɉ kills. To meet mileage standards, automakers were forced to make lighter cars, which happen to be less safe in a crash. The NAS estimated that up to 2,600 extra deaths occur each year because of CAFÉ -- as many Americans as have been killed in Iraq since the war there started.

Sure, automakers will meet the standards. But if, as many critics claim, the world is running out of oil, the market will force serious adjustments anyway. With gasoline pushing $2.50 or even $3 a gallon, consumers already have cut their demand for SUVs by 15-30 percent, for example - even before President Bush offered up his Jimmy Carter-esque lecture on our "oil addiction."

Detroit has long been a handy whipping boy for those in Washington and elsewhere who like to whip up fears about the carbon economy, a rationale for increased government control over the lives of everyday Americans. But Washington's meddling - anybody remember the oil price controls of the 1970s, or the Justice Department's effort to bust up the supposedly indomitable General Motors in the 1960s? - is an even bigger reason the industry has been unable to respond as nimbly as it might to its newer, younger competition.

I know that a Republican President named George W. Bush won in 2004 but damn if it doesn't look like Al Gore, John Kerry, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are directing our energy policy. Go figure. I'll stick with my gguzzlinging vehicles cause I favor my life and the safety of my family.

Congrats Gators

Fire of Liberty

O.K., so I misjudged the GMU Patriots inability to go toe to toe with the Gators. As much as I hate to say it, I'm pretty proud that the Gators are snacking on Bear meat after their impressive win last night.