Monday, August 27, 2007
With Carl Levin and Hillary calling for the ouster of Iraq's Prime Minister and MSM pundits carrying on about the alMaliki government falling down on its job, the Prime Minister along with President Talabani(Kurd), Vice-President al-Hashemi(Sunni), Vice-President Abdul-Mahdi(Shi'ite), and Barzani(President of Kurdistan region) got together in private talks and hammered out an tentative agreement on de-Baathification, a law on powers for the 18 provinces, and a law on detentions, and an oil law that will be voted on in September. Now while this meeting is the beginning of a larger debate, it still shows you that no matter how much folks in D.C. hem and haw the government of Iraq is the one who has a better knowledge of Arab and tribe politics and will make the decision. I just hope that they push the laws through in an orderly time.
*Captain's Quarters has more on the Iraqi art of politics.
As with most people that are 30 years old, I can remember how I anxiously waited for 4:00 to arrive so I could see Duke, Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, and the rest of the G.I. Joe spoil Cobra Commander, and Destro's plan of taking on the world. Even more, this cartoon provided youngsters like me a positive image of what patriotic America forces can achieve when they use of ideals and set their minds to do something. Well it looks like the cynics in Hollywood can't stand such images and have fallen back to their old standbys of political correctness and multi-culturalism with upcoming G.I. Joe movie. So now instead of G.I. Joe being the typical elite American hero force taking on evil, the executives in Hollywood have decided to make them into an international military unit known as Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity. One can only imagine this force running around without guns and issuing warrants to militia and terrorists of the while educating them about global warming. For me, I'm tired of the wussification of America by Hollywood and the MSM and will refuse to attend this movie or anything to do with it. I urge my fellow fans of the real G.I. Joe do the same as well.
(ht to Hot Air and Wizbang)
Here's a article in the St. Petersburg Times(FL) on how Lawrence Anthony( a conservation specialist who runs a game preserve in South Africa) with the assistance of the US Army's 354th Civil Affairs Division has made great strides in restoring the zoo in Baghdad and rehabilitating the animals that remained. Even as the American and Iraqi Security Forces are taking on the terrorists and their IEDs, there seems to be a movement towards some kind of peace in Iraq with this current restoration of the Baghdad Zoo. Now this probably doesn't mean a hill of beans to the to the US Senate on our success in pacifying Iraq but it make you proud to see our forces achieving success in Iraq and making it easier to apply the "soft power" that the Democrats go on and on about. I wish Anthony great luck at his current task.
*For more on Lawrence Anthony's interesting work, I recommend you check Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
William Shawcross has a good piece in the Sunday Times
that rightly points out that the world will indeed witness a massive bloodbath in Iraq that will pale in comparison the post-war Vietnam if President Bush acquiesces to the cries of retreat. I just hope some of the politicians take note of Shawcross advice before the push forward a policy that leaves the lives of millions on the lurch for pure political expediency. Furthermore, the soldiers who have died and are currently in Iraq deserve to remembered as valiant warriors who achieved greatness rather than having a "what if?" feeling like the soldiers who served in Vietnam have today.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Here's a good piece by George H. Wittman in the American Spectator that pretty much sums up the fighting spirit of the American soldiers past and present. I just wish more politicians and the larger citizenry would also take note and through their weight behind our troops so they can get things done in the far reaches of the world.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
If you want to see what a socialist/populist economy creates, then you should take a gander at the whopping 7,251% inflation rate in Zimbabwe. Looks like those silly price controls and the other nutty socialist economics aren't paying off for Mugabe and his thugs.
*With Zimbabwe descending further and further into one of Dante's "circles of hell", one can understand why the UK's Ministry of Defense is drawing up plans to evacuate British citizens from the former "Breadbasket of Africa."
Eric Peters has a good piece over at the American Spectator which points out that how the Democrats movement to raise the CAFE standard to 35 mpg causes more harm than good. As Peters notes, Congress should be wary of pushing through this drastic government dictate and seek a more market friendly solution that encourages the auto companies and other entrepreneurs to develop technologies that are friendly to the environment without diminishing the structural integrity of the vehicles or causing massive disruptions in the domestic auto industry. I just hope that Congress weighs the consequences versus the benefit and seek an alternative solution.
Now while the Democrats and the "experts" in the MSM are aghast that President Bush's would use our abandonment subsequent aftermath of the Vietnam War as an example of what would happen in Iraq if the United States pulled up stakes and left our allies on the lurch before the fight is over, there are several noted historians and military analysts who give credibility to the President's argument. Two experts who have made a career of studying the military and our actions in Vietnam are Mackubin Thomas Owens and Peter W. Rodman who have written several good pieces here and here offering some insight into how President Bush is right to use Vietnam as an analogy to what can happen if we fail to continue our counterinsurgency fight in the land between the two rivers. Aside from these important essays, here are several books out there that gives us a better understanding of how Vietnam is similar to Iraq(At least in the counterinsurgency and foreign and diplomatic policy of the fight.):
Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965
by Mark Moyar
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam
by Lewis Sorley
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam
by John A Nagl
Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972
by Lewis Sorley
The Savage War of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power
by Max Boot
*I'd say that this editorial from the New York Sun pretty much sums up the President's argument on Iraq.
Colonel Ralph Peters has a fine piece in the NY Post which points how General Petraeus is not only achieving a military victories on the battlefield of Iraq with his counter-insurgency strategy but is also achieving some political victories at the local and tribal level. Here's a look:
* And post-combat operations are now Iraqi-centric, not futile attempts to turn Iraqis into Americans. "Involve the local people," the general states, laying down a non-negotiable rule. "Instead of firing, we're hiring locals" and putting them to work, he stressed. While providing dependable security is fundamental, it's not enough. Economic issues can be fundamental. And the people need the services only a central government can deliver - while the new approach empowers local government, it avoids doing so at the expense of fatally weakening the Baghdad authorities.
Instead of backing mammoth, hyper-expensive construction projects designed in Washington, our new approach prods Iraqis to fix their existing infrastructure. Iraq's utilities won't be state-of-the-art, but they're beginning to work again: Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it took a profound change of mindset for us to get there.
Nor will Iraqi democracy mimic our own. Petraeus works systematically with Iraq's time-honored social structures, exploiting the levels of trust and control already in place. Instead of trying to replace tribal leaders with out-of-towners, we now focus on developing mutually supporting relationships between respected local authority figures and the feds from Baghdad.
The general's recognition that locally recruited security forces have the immediate trust of the local population has been critical to the entire effort. Even with the surge, we lacked the forces to do it all ourselves. Petraeus recognized that, yes, all politics is local - and so is security. So he pushed hard for reconciliation programs to engage former enemies who now want to work with us to drive out al Qaeda.
Meeting rebellious Sunni Arabs halfway is yielding impressive successes. For just one example among many, 1,700 fighters who belong to a former insurgent group have been vetted and brought on board to serve their community in Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad. And no, contrary to media myths, we are not arming our former enemies. Iraqi tribes already have all the weapons they need. The issue is which way those guns are pointed - and they're now aimed at our mutual enemies.
Could things go wrong down the road? Things can always go wrong. But when your former enemies are killing your worst enemies, it sounds like a pretty good deal.
Also, instead of massing behind the walls of large bases, our troops now live and serve beside their Iraqi counterparts, giving us a deeper understanding of the Iraqi way of doing things, of the opaque-to-outsiders fault lines in the population. Petraeus acknowledges that we're doing things today that should've been done four years ago. The learning curve was steep.
And myths abound. Contrary to a common misperception, tactical commanders didn't have adequate funds they could disperse early on - and, in Iraq, money does buy loyalty. Funds to jump-start local economies and employ young men are vital to inhibiting insurgent recruitment. Multiple tours in Iraq have convinced Petraeus that "Money is a weapon." Not every project we're providing with seed money now will meet OSHA standards - but this is Iraq, not Connecticut.
From working with tribal leaders to investing time and money at street- level, it's essential to "understand the Iraqi style" of doing things. It's counterinsurgency judo: working with the weight of tradition, instead of fighting a losing battle against it.
Unlike the various senators and congressmen who sit in D.C. and wax on and on about the ouster of al Maliki, General Petraeus has gotten to the meat of the situation and understands that Iraq is a grass-roots society that and gets things done at the tribal/local level. So while the prospective candidates for the DNC nod in 2008 are saying that Iraq's problems cannot be solved by the pure application of military power just don't understand the whole counterinsurgency plan or are against operations in Iraq because George W Bush is on board with the mission. Here's hoping Petraeus keeps up the good work and Congress doesn't rip victory from the jaws of defeat.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Here is a great piece in National Review Online by Michael O'Brien which notes that the Pentagon is awarding the Freedom Award to some of the unsung heroes in the corporate world who are going out of their way to give back to the heroes who serve us everyday on the battle fields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
I'd say that this leader in the Times pretty much lays out a credible strategy in how to deal with the opium poppies and the heroine trade that emanates occurs everyday in Afghanistan. (Such wouldn't work in South America due to the fact cocaine and marijuana aren't dual use products like opium poppies.)
Monday, August 20, 2007
After reading this editorial in the Washington Examiner, I think the Democrats running Congress should be very mindful in what the haven't made into law before they start praising about what they have accomplished. I'd say that you won't hear Reid and Pelosi rambling on and on about the "culture of corruption" with the most recent RePork Card from the Club for Growth.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Amity Shlaes has a good column on post-Katrina New Orleans which points out a study that shows how various communities in the Crescent City are far better at coming together under the own initiative to recover and rebuild their neighborhoods while politicians sit there in D.C. and blow hot air. Here's a sample:
As someone who lives in a small community and a great admirer of Edmund Burke's "little platoons," I place greater trust in my neighbors, local government, and the State government are far better at solving a problem that might pop up than the sclerotic federal government. The sooner we embrace this idea and shy away from feds the better off we will be.
What about the rebuilding record? The scholars found wonderful stories, all local. Broadmoor in New Orleans was part of the city hardest hit. A month after the hurricane, it was still 10 feet underwater. The Broadmoor Improvement Association managed to rebuild three-quarters of its structures by joining with non-profits, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and other companies.
In New Orleans East, the Vietnamese-American community rebuilt its Catholic church, providing a rallying point for a healthy return of citizens from Texas and elsewhere. One priest from the church drove around the South showing Katrina refugees pictures of fellow parishioners to lure them all back.
In neighboring Mississippi, small and large businesses were crucial in the reconstruction drive. Though the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. outlet in Waveland was destroyed, the company opened a temporary shop under a tent in the parking lot. The citizens began to feel they could find their own way to recovery. Mercatus calls this supply-side strategy ``build it and they will come.''
``There was nothing that was even halfway resembling normal,'' a woman told study interviewers. ``When businesses open up and they start being full, operational, it reminds us what normalcy used to be like.'' Speaking of a Rite Aid drugstore that opened after the storm, she said: ``I didn't go in to buy anything. I just went in to walk around and be normal.''
In other words, these little communities steered clear of the kind of civic malady described above.
The scholars found that reconstruction ordained from above had less positive results. The much-publicized ``Road Home,'' a state-federal program that provides cash to rebuild damaged homes, has completed contracts with less than a third of the 180,000 applicants. The complex program requires third-party involvement and much paperwork.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Here's an article in the Washington Times which points out that the federal government is going to task the US Border Patrol with the duty of recruiting agents to help build some 70 miles of fence by September 30, 2007. I for one think that the US government shouldn't be taking our border guards off their jobs of securing our border from illegal aliens, human smugglers, drug mules, criminals and G-d knows what else from entering our nation to participate in doing a job that a private contractor is well versed and prepared in doing so. As Congressman Duncan Hunter notes, the US has $1 billion in funds set aside to build a fence but the proper agencies won't spend the cash to do so. One doesn't have to look too far tons of contractors who could build the whole border fence and come in well below the $1 billion mark. Let's just get to building the fence. The sooner the better.
If you remember from my posts last summer then you know that I'm not a great fan of Israel's PM Ehud Olmert and its centrist government over their land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians(Who still won't renounce violence against Israel), miserable execution and coming up short in the war with Hezbollah(should have finished them off), economic policies and various other actions that weakens Israel and its ability to effectively take on the terrorists that are on their Northern, Western, and Southern borders. As a great supporter of Israel, I'm well aware of the fact that this tiny nation only remains safe from outside aggressors when it has leaders who take on threats, understands the necessity of maintaining the nation's borders(The 1967 borders) and is competent in executing such actions. Thankfully the 95,000 members of the Likud party have decided that now is the time to return the party of Menachm Begin and Ariel Sharon back to the mantle of power by nominating Benjamin Netanyahu as their new leader to contest the general election against Ehud Olmert(Kadima) and Ehud Barak(Labour). As a former Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Ambassador to the UN, Terrorism analyst, and author, Netanyahu is well versed and prepared in dealing with a myriad of complex problems to ensure his nation's best interest in the near future. Now while a great amount of things can happen in a three way race in a parliamentary system, I believe Israel would be best served in electing Netanyahu in the next election. I wish him good luck.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
From past knowledge of the cable networks like MSNBC, CNN, liberal bloggers, and most of the MSM, I presume that they are probably jumping on this story in which Governor Mitt Romney was confronted by an anti-war activist with a question about how he could favor the war even though his five sons are not serving in uniform. Now while I'm all for individuals asking such questions, I'm perturbed by the fact that the AP reporter Glen Johnson made an effort to leave out parts of the Governor's full comments to make him look odd or cast him in a bad light in an effort to create a controversy.(I'll give Mr. Johnson credit for identifying the lady as an anti-war activist and noting the Gov has donated some $25,000 of his own money to some seven military support organizations.) Thankfully, the Romney camp has provided the audio of the whole event in order to let the American people make their own decision on the Governor's answer. Here's the audio:
For me, I'm tired of these silly "chicken-hawk" questions and others which a more tabloid and less substantive for a person running for the President of the United States. What I'm interested in is the candidates' stance on fighting terrorism, Iraq, taxes, judges, illegal immigration, trade, health insurance, energy, infrastructure and countless other issues that will effect this nation and future generations.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Thomas Sowell has a good column out today which notes that when it comes to politicians choosing between boring or mundane projects like building/repairing bridges or flashy projects that will make good copy and pretty pictures in the news-cycle, the politician is always going to choose the later. In fact, these politicians are always going to shy away and neglect these much needed projects for flashy projects as long as these projects remain in the political sphere. As Sowell notes, the people of America will be better served if the government stepped aside from the building and maintenance of our bridges and roadways and placed it in the private sector. Here's a look:
Even more, as Steven Malanga notes in his Wall Street Journal piece(See earlier post), the state and local government generally construct contracts with the private sector that handsomely benefits the government through several years. If politicians think the voters get excited about flashy tax payer projects just imagine how they'll be if these projects are paid by the proceeds from these projects being handed over to the private sector. Here's hoping that more governments see the light.
What really needs to be done is to change the incentives.
While most bridges in the United States are owned and operated by government agencies, there are times and places where bridges have been owned and operated by private companies, just as numerous other goods and services are provided through the marketplace.
How would that change the incentives?
A company that has to get the money to build and maintain bridges or other infrastructure through the voluntary actions of people in the financial markets, instead of being able to extract money from the taxpayers, is going to find financiers a lot more finicky about what is being done with their money. People who are putting their own money on the line are going to want to have their own experts taking a look under the bridges they finance, to see where there are rust, cracks or crumbling supports.
When people know that the lawsuits that are sure to follow after a bridge collapses are going to drain millions of dollars of their own money -- not the taxpayers' money -- that keeps the mind focussed.
Those who like to think of the government as the public interest personified may be horrified at the idea of turning a governmental function over to private enterprise.
Politicians who want to hang onto sources of patronage and power will of course encourage people to look at things that way. But the track record of privately run infrastructure will compare favorably with government-run infrastructure.
But that is only if we stop to compare -- and to think.
As you know, I'm pretty much in opposition of the government creating massive subsidies for alternative fuels in order to lead us down the road of reduced dependency to foreign energy. Like I've said in the past, I'm all for the creation of alternative fuel sources like ethanol(cellulosic), hydrogen, coal and even super battery technology but I have a serious problem when the government gets into the world of energy production via excessive regulations and massive subsidies much like we see going to the ethanol makers. As long as the government shells out billions of dollars to various companies and farmers to keep on producing this fancy moonshine, we will have an industry that will be an inefficient industry propped up by the government dole rather than being an industry that lives and dies by the actions of a free market and the demands of the consumer. Until we get the government out financing the production of ethanol and leaving it to the private sector, which should be on the energy companies dime, we're going to continue to see the depletion of our valuable cropland and forests to plant such crops, thus less land to grow produce to fill our grocery stores, less feed corn for pigs, chickens, cows, which will result in more expensive groceries for the American people. No matter what, the free market is a far better place to look towards alternative fuels than government subsidies.
Someone who has taken notice of how venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are better players at this than the government is Bloomberg columnist Kevin Hassett who points out in a recent column that Congressman Devin Nunes(R-CA) is pushing forward legislation which would establish a futures market for alternative fuels. Now while I could try to explain the Congressman's good idea, I figure you'd be served better by what Hassett's own words. Here's a look:
If you want some action in the next few years, you can operate in existing markets. If you want to buy the right to sell your alternative fuel for the equivalent of $70 at any time in the next couple of decades, you are out of luck.
The Nunes solution is to have the government create a market for long-run put options for alternative fuels. This would give those who have constructed qualifying facilities the right to sell (or ``put'') their product at a minimum price to the government should the actual price drop below that.
If you are planning to invest a couple of billion dollars in a coal-to-liquid plant, then you could purchase a U.S. government-backed option that would guarantee you a minimum price of, say, $70 a barrel. If the actual price is above that, you can sell your product for more than that. If the price drops below $70, the government pays you the difference between the market price and $70.
The price of these futures contracts would, under the Nunes bill, be set at auction. Accordingly, the policy would probably raise revenue in near-term forecasts. In the long run, taxpayers would be taking on a risk that oil prices will drop, but that risk is a natural one for them take.
If oil prices fall so low that the government must pay lots of money to alternative fuel providers who have purchased these options, then that would mean the economy will be booming because of the low energy prices. In addition, tax revenue will be flowing in, and the Treasury's coffers will be full.
The beauty of this policy is that it should remove a major source of uncertainty for those who would produce alternative energy. This should increase the amount of money that flows to this area and lower the cost of capital for alternative fuel providers. In other words, it uses markets, and not subsidies, to solve our problems.
While this might not be a big topic at a dinner party or make it through Congress, it far outshines the Democrats' horrific energy bill that increase subsidies and forces energy companies to spend a certain portion of their profits on the production of alternative fuels, which in turn results in corporate welfare on the taxpayers dole and the companies passing the added cost onto the consumer. I just hope that the Congressman gets a shot at passing such a bill to start us on the right track to greater energy independence.
Here's a good editorial in the New York Sun which points out how Senator Schumer(D-NY) and similar politicians in D.C. are so good at raising taxes and spending the money of American taxpayers on their own pork projects which prevents the citizens from keeping their own money and directing it towards their state highway funds or investing in the private entities who build and maintain our bridges and roadways. Someone who seems to have a good bit to say about how the taxpayers and the states in general would benefit if these roads were taken out of the hands of the government and moved into the private sphere is Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute. See here for his most recent piece in the Wall Street Journal.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Now here's an approach towards the environment that is more in tune with my thinking.
It's far better than the government regulation policy being pushed by Gore, the Green movement, and a Congress controlled by the Democrats. See here for what the current climate bill running through Congress would do to our economy.
*Here's a piece by Roger Scruton in the American Conservative that provides a good look at a green conservative philosophy.
Now while the situation is far from perfect in Mesopotamia, one can't help but notice from reading the most recent reports by John Burns or the most recent op/ed in the NY Times by Brookings Institute scholars Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack(liberal scholars who have opposed the war) that the current counterinsurgency operations under way in Iraq are making great strides. In fact it seems that these reports of an emerging sea change in Iraq is gaining some traction with the American public. According to the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll some 31% of the public view the surge as "making the situation better" which is up from 22% a month ago while the percentage saying the surge is "not making much a difference" has dropped to 41% from 51%. Even more, the numbers of those saying things are worse fell from 25% to some 24%. While the US military and the diplomatic has a lot of rows to harrow before they can call their work quits in Iraq, these poll numbers show that the American people have a far greater confidence in Generals Patraeus, Odierno, and the commanders in the field leading our soldiers to victory in Iraq than the squabbling that goes down in the halls of Congress. Here's hoping that the generals are left to do their work well beyond the magical September that the Democrats and some squishy Republicans are carrying on about.
*In case you missed it, check out this clip of a recent Fox News Sunday interview with Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack:
*Here's a good piece on how the tide is slowly turning within Iraq.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
This afternoon I came across a story in which Democrats were blaming the war in Iraq(Or Gov. Pawlenty vetoing a 7.5 cents tax on already pricey gasoline) for soaking up funds from bridge repairs in the US(And in general Minnesota) and this evening I came across a story over at WABC 77 that had Congressman Don Young(R-AK) saying we've got to impose major taxes on this nation to rebuild our infrastructure.(I don't find Young's statement that shocking due to his love of Highway pork which is why Alaska gets the biggest outlays from the feds on highways.) I myself don't understand why the Democrats and some Republicans are so quick to jump on the bandwagon on raising our taxes when all they have to do is focus on spending our tax dollars on useful things like highways, national security, printing money rather than throwing it towards useless pork that Congress loves so dearly. Someone who sees through the non-sense in Rush Limbaugh who made the observation that Minnesota has over a $2.1 billion surplus and it receives a bevy of pork from the feds. Here's a look at Minnesota's piece of pork:
|This is just a list of pork in Minnesota. A new $776 million Twins stadium to be paid for with a Hennepin County sales tax increase approved by state legislators with no voter referendum, $97.5 million for the North Star commuter rail line, $34 million in subsidies to ethanol producers that have seen a 300% increase in profits in the last year, and yet they're still being subsidized, $30 million for bear exhibits at the Minnesota and Como zoos, $12 million to renovate the Schubert Theater in downtown Minneapolis, one million for a replica Vikings ship in Morehead. Other states are building drag racing museums. They run around and say they don't have enough money to fix the bridges. They don't have enough money to deal with the infrastructure. The thing is with liberals they'll never have enough money, no matter how much they raise, no matter how much they increase taxes.|