Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Wise Economic Policy

Fire of Liberty

I have to say that Quin Hillyer's most recent piece over at the American Spectator that lays out a pretty good economic platform that would be very attractive to conservatives and everyday workers. As a conservative I seriously believe that if the senior senator from Arizona would latch onto such an economic platform he could ameliorate a lot of the problems with the base of the Republican party and allow him to pull the "Reagan Democrats" into his fold. While the polls and the MSM might suggest that the American people want the federal government to "do something" with regards to the economy, I think that the American people would heartily open up to an economic policy that puts more of their own money in their own pockets and allows them greater liberty and the freedom of choice in their everyday lives with regards to their retirement, health care, and future paychecks. I just hope that Phil Gramm, Kevin Hassett, and Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, and the rest of of his economic advisers are presenting the Senator with such ideas thus allowing him to motor past the nanny-statism socialism that we find with Clinton or Obama. Let's just hope that McCain lays out a similar plan.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Another Day in Mugabe's Hell

Fire of Liberty

Catherine Philip has an article in The Times(Which has the best coverage on Zimbabwe so far) that points out how Robert Mugabe and his thugs in Zimbabwe have wreaked the economy and the farming community so much that a large percentage of the children flock to the streets to sell their bodies in order to buy bread. Now my realist side tells me not to expect Mugabe and his party to be ousted in this weekend's vote, what with massive voter intimidation by his supporters and a three way race, but I hope I'm proved wrong and the voters decide that 200,000% plus inflation(According to the WSJ Europe editorial page), food shortages, high unemployment, abundant sickness and the horrific depths that their children are stooping to get food is beyond the pail and oust "Uncle Bob." The sooner he's gone the greater the chances that Zimbabwe can dig its way out of the hell that Mugabe and his sycophants has immersed the once "breadbasket" of southern Africa. So let's hope that Mugabe loses his post this weekend.

*For more see here, here, and here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Head Scratching over the Fed

Fire of Liberty

Amity Shlaes has a good column out today, which points out how the Fed is encouraging a mindset of instability amongst the movers and shakers of Wall Street by their continued changing of the rules as they go with regards to who and when they open the agencies discount window. For me it shows you that it's far better to pick something and stick to it rather than keeping folks second guessing.

*Here's Alvaro Vargas Llosa take on the Fed's recent actions.

Useful Idiots, Free Travel

Fire of Liberty

Here's two interesting articles, here and here, which notes that the Justice Department has arranged a Michigan man by the name of Muthanna Al-Hanooti for receiving 2 million barrels of oil(A hearty sum of cash) from Saddam's regime to arrange a junket for some anti-war Congressmen to visit Iraq and make the case against attacking. Now while I'm sure that the Congressmen are truly committed liberals and felt that this gesture was the best thing to do(in their mind) at the time, their actions just go to show you that all dictators since the days of Lenin have a readily available stock of "useful idiots" in the Western world to keep their regime going. Unfortunately, this set of "useful idiots" failed in preserving this regime.

A Matter of Sovereignty Continued

Fire of Liberty

Last October I pointed out in my post A Matter of Sovereignty how the White House was playing with our nation's sovereignty when it issued a memo to the Attorney General ordering that the courts in Texas had to abide by the ICJ and the demands of Mexico, and issue a re-trail for Jose Medellin. Well thankfully President Bush's wishes were denied when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Medellin v. Texas that such an order violated the separation of powers and principles of federalism laid out in the Constitution. So here's a hearty huzzah to the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Interesting thoughts on China

Fire of Liberty

I have to say that Robert Kagan "pinned the tail" on the proverbial donkey when he pointed out the true and violent nature of the Chinese government towards its citizens and its neighbors in his most recent column. Here's a look:

The question for observers of Chinese foreign policy is whether the regime's behavior at home has any relevance to the way it conducts itself in the world. Recall that in the 1990s we assumed there was a strong correlation: A more liberal China at home would be a more liberal China abroad, and this would gradually ease tensions and facilitate China's peaceful rise. That was the theory behind the strategy of engagement. Many still argue that the goal of American foreign policy should be, in scholar G. John Ikenberry's words, to "integrate" China into the "liberal international order."

But can a determinedly autocratic government really join a liberal international order? Can a nation with a 19th-century soul enter a 21st-century system? Some China watchers imagine the nations of East Asia gradually becoming a kind of European Union-style international entity, with China, presumably, in the role of Germany. But does the German government treat dissent the way China does, and could the European Union exist if it did?

China, after all, is not the only country dealing with restless, independence-minded peoples. In Europe, all kinds of subnational movements aspire to greater autonomy or even independence from their national governments, and with less justification than Tibet or Taiwan: the Catalans in Spain, for instance, or the Flemish in Belgium, or even the Scots in the United Kingdom. Yet no war threatens in Barcelona, no troops are sent to Antwerp and no one clears the international press out of Edinburgh. But that is the difference between a 21st-century postmodern mentality and a nation still fighting battles for empire and prestige left over from a distant past.

These days, China watchers talk about it becoming a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system. But perhaps we should not expect too much. The interests of the world's autocracies are not the same as those of the democracies. We want to make the world safe for democracy. They want to make the world safe, if not for all autocracies at least for their own. People talk about how pragmatic Chinese rulers are, but like all autocrats what they are most pragmatic about is keeping themselves in power. We may want to keep that in mind as we try to bring them into our liberal international order.

It would serve the White House and the State Department best if they took note of Kagan's excellent article and thought twice about attending the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. While such a move might anger the Communists in China and create and military brouhaha(Just look at the ramming and forced landing of our EP-3 on Hainan Island, launching missiles towards Taiwan and other actions.), I believe it's probably one of the best acts we can do to demonstrate to the Chinese government that democratically elected governments cannot stand the horrific crack-down on the people of Tibet.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Success in Iraq

Fire of Liberty

If you want to truly understand how our soldiers have reversed the tide in Iraq then I suggest that you check out this in-depth piece on General Odierno by Frederick and Kimberly Kagan. In this thorough piece we learn how General Odierno (Who has been rotated back to Texas. In fact Stuart Koehl discussed in a recent piece in the Weekly Standard on how such higher command rotations are causing problem in the military.) and his staff took the counterinsurgency policy established by General Petraeus(As well as a reflection of General Creighton Abrams efforts in Vietnam) and applied it to Iraq thus fundamentally changing the tactics of our military in the area of operations by transitioning the force from one who is garrisoned behind blast walls and only patrols during the daylight hours into a force in which the military forces live and immerse themselves within the various neighborhoods of Baghdad and outlying towns thus allowing them to work with the population in a combined fight against Al Qaeda and its various allies. Now while the MSM and various politicians will find a way to play off the gains of our forces in Iraq, I think it would mean if the American people to look at this excellent piece by the these analysts.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Classic SNL skit

Fire of Liberty

Here's an oldie but goodie from Saturday Night Live.(When the talent was near the best.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Our Ingenious Soldiers

Fire of Liberty

Here's an interesting piece their forefathers adaptation of tactics and equipment throughout by Joe Pappalardo over at the Popular Mechanics website that points out the ingenuity of our soldiers who crew the Stryker units in Iraq. As a reader and student of history, I hark back to days of the ancient Greeks after the Persian Wars, American colonial army, Wellington versus Napoleon, The Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, our current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I'm reminded of how the modern day soldier and generations of soldiers share one universal truth, which is that technology and techniques that you deal with in the proving ground and with the service academies generally are thrown out the window when the hit the battlefield and it rigorous conditions. It also shows you how the soldiers(In particular the eventual victor) in these wars tend to overcame all odds before them and improvised their equipment and tactics to overcome the enemy. Even more, this improvisation benefits the newer soldiers who rotate into the war zone and allows the manufacture of their equipment to improve the tanks, vehicles, weapons and other components to the soldiers conditions and standards. So give it up to the ingenuity of our soldiers and the generations of soldiers before them.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fuel Tanker Deal

Fire of Liberty

Now while Lou Dobbs, Democratic politicians from Washington state, Boeing, and its union are angry for the Pentagon awarding a fuel tanker contract to EADS and Northorp Grumman, I for one have to applaud the fact that the government let the free market prevail through a fair bidding process. I think this piece by David Freddoso over at National Review Online sums up the arguments why the American taxpayer be proud that this contract was awarded based on who can deliver the planes at a cheaper price rather than by nationalistic ties or what pleases members of Congress. I don't like the fact that the whole project won't be based in the US, but I'm still happy with the fact that this contract will bring some 2,000 jobs to Mobile, Alabama and will create some 25,000 support jobs in this nation. As with all things defense related, I believe Boeing won't be waiting too long for future contracts. So let's give a hand for Congress(And Senator McCain) for revealing the initial fraud that was committed on behalf of Boeing, in the original fuel tanker deal, and opening the fuel tanker deal up to a bidding process that respects the concept of a free market.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Opinion versus Fact

Fire of Liberty

I have no doubt that a lot of the anti-war crowd, members of Congress and the Democrats running for president(At least their staff) will be flocking to their local bookstore or heading over to Amazon to pick up a copy of Joseph Stiglitz's most recent book "The Three Trillion Dollar War," in an effort to hit President Bush, Senator McCain and supporters over the head with an argument that their support of the War in Iraq is costing the US government and the American people a tremendous amount of tax dollars that could be spent at home. While these candidates and their advisers might think that the work of this Noble Prize economist will be a great trump card for the ever expanding primary and an eventual national campaign against McCain, I suggest that they take a good look at Amity Shlaes most recent column before they head too far down this road of argument. Here's a look:

`Vast and Huge' Cost

Non-budgetary and interest costs are an important part of the Stiglitz calculation. The authors worry about the deficit. The conflict's costs, they say, ``are certain to be vast and huge and will continue for generations.''

The rebuttal to this argument starts with oil. Professor Steven J. Davis of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business challenges as ``unwarranted'' their argument that even $5-$10 of the per barrel increase is because of the war.

The 2003 drop in oil production by Iraq accounted for less than 1 percent of world production. Overall, world oil output went up from 2002 to 2006.

The authors' description of the war's cost as ``vast'' or ``huge,'' conjures images of unprecedented financial sacrifice. But by the standard method of calculating costs of wars, defense spending as a share of gross domestic product, Iraq's price is improbably modest.

Back in 1986, the year before Ronald Reagan threw out his ``tear down this wall'' challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev, defense spending was 6.2 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In 1968, the year of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, it was 9.5 percent.

`Peace Dividend'

In 2005, 2006, and 2007, defense spending was about 4 percent of GDP -- as low as during the early 1990s, when the U.S. was enjoying the ``peace dividend'' after the Soviet Union's collapse.

As for the budget deficit, it is likely to range between 2 percent and 3 percent of GDP this year, a humdrum level nothing like the heroic 30 percent deficit Washington ran as it prepared for D-Day.

Yet it is the Stiglitz-Bilmes ``what-would-have-been'' argument that will prove most contentious. Back in 2006, Davis and two colleagues made their own counterfactual case, seeking to analyze the costs of the theoretical alternative to war against Iraq: containment of Saddam.

Davis found that the costs of containment in Iraq would have been big. In certain situations, they even would have been ``in the same ballpark as the likely costs of the Iraq intervention.''

Good News

In a phone request for an update of his paper this week, Davis said sending additional U.S. troops last year, the ``surge,'' increased costs enough to make the war yet more expensive -- but not by trillions of dollars.

And where in the ``Three Trillion'' calculus does the new good news fit in, such as the International Monetary Fund's prediction that Iraq's GDP will increase by 7 percent this year?

The message of this book is that the war can be blamed for America's failure to reform domestically. If this is true, then Washington would have used the period of 1991 to 2001 to rewrite Social Security and Medicare. It didn't.

I'd say Schlaes has done a good job in putting lots of holes in Stiglitz's whole argument by looking at the data and reaffirming Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's quip that "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

Good Video

Fire of Liberty

Say what you will about Senator McCain, but you have to agree that he makes one heck of a campaign commercial. I'd say this is a good way for McCain to "set the narrative" and introduce himself to a large subsection of the American public. From the looks of this article by Glen Johnson in the DC Examiner, Senator McCain is drawing up a good game-plan in fortifying his message and launching a successful campaign for that big house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here's a look at the video:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Give a Little Help to Our Friends

Fire of Liberty

I'd have to say the editors over at National Review Online knocks it out of the ballpark with regards to Columbia when they recommend that the US Senate push through the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Not only will this agreement open up Colombia to a large array of our goods but it will also strengthen our relationship with this pro-American Andean nation in an region of Chavez friendly nations. So take a look at this fine editorial.

Another FARC bites the Dust

Fire of Liberty

It looks like the FARC leadership is having a pretty hard time in the jungles of South America. First there was the pursuit and eventual killing of Raul Reyes, second in command of the narco-terror group, by the Colombian military. Secondly, there was the death of Ivan Rios, who according to the Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, was killed by his own men in the mountains of Colombia. Now while this is a long way from being a death kneel for the FARC, it does fill me with great confidence that the leadership of these murderous terrorist are just as fearful of its own people as they are of the Colombian military. I just hope the Colombian government puts greater pressure on the FARC and its beleaguered leadership in an effort to keep the terrorists on the move and second guessing their every move in an effort to prevent any reprisal attacks on the government or innocent civilians. I'd have to say that Aaron Mannes over at The TerrorWonk blog has a good run-down on the recent take down of Rual Rios and other details on Colombia's forty plus year war with the FARC.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It Happens

Fire of Liberty

I'd have to say that this is a unique way to create an alternative energy source. Now while I'm not so sure about the efficiency or the economic viability(free of government subsidy) of this fuel, it's a march in the right direction. The only problem is finding folks who'll work in this enterprising venture, but then again if you pay enough money folks will arrive in droves.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ethanol's Sad but True Nature

Fire of Liberty

Now here's an piece from the American Spectator that offers up yet another reason why the American people shouldn't be all "fired up"(To borrow a phrase from Obama) about this nation promoting ethanol as a new alternative fuel.