Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Look Before You Leap

Fire of Liberty

Kevin Hassett has a good column over at Bloomberg.com which points out how the Department of Interior's most recent decision to place the polar bear on the endangered species list. Now while such a decision will be donned a noble gesture towards this great beast of the north(Even if the 25,000 bears live in the wilds of Canada) by the American public and the bureaucrats under the helm of Secretary Kempthorne, Hassett points out that such a move will only open the door to future lawsuits from the "green lobby" who will claim that the decline of the polar bear's environmental is caused by the output of massive quantities of CO2 from countless industries, activities, and autos by humans in this country. I have to say Hasset lays this argument out well when he noted the following:

Attorney and columnist Hugh Hewitt described what that new world will look like: ``Environmental activists will argue that all emissions of greenhouse gases that flow as a consequence of the grant of a federal permit of any sort are now subject to review under the ESA and, crucially, that those permits cannot be issued unless and until the United States Fish & Wildlife Service reviews and approves of the requested permit.''

The fact is, just about everything requires some kind of permit, so just about anything that emits greenhouse gases could be subject to a challenge. The process will rapidly spread the reach of this ruling throughout the energy industry and U.S. manufacturing.

An activist armed with a lawyer can now halt anything he wants. He might even be able to stop you from driving to work or taking a hot shower.

If you consider the chaos that is about to ensue, there really is only one logical solution. Congress needs to act immediately to adopt either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that meaningfully addresses climate change. And while it does, it must revise the Endangered Species Act to acknowledge the fact that global warming is being addressed by this new policy.

It is only a matter of time until the legal chaos ignited by this ruling makes that truth clear to everyone.

This just goes to show you that when a cabinet level department of the executive branch issues out edicts and rules for the truest of intentions they open up a Pandora's box to the environmental zealots who play their games in the courts of the unelected few. No matter how you look at it, the safest bet for this nation is for folks to think before the push forward decisions that will have detrimental repercussions on us for decades to come.

Conservatism's Fate in America

Fire of Liberty

I believe that this most recent editorial in the New York Sun pretty much knocks George Packer's predictions of conservatism's decline on its duff. If there is any problem amongst the base then it would be that Republicans aren't clefting enough to a conservative philosophy with regards to governing.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Building Afghan Highways

Fire of Liberty

Philip Smucker has a good piece in the June 2008 issue of the Atlantic which points out how the building of major highways throughout Afghanistan can make a considerable difference in helping the US Army, Marines, NATO, Afghan Army/Police(As well as its government) forces turn the country from a war zone to a more pacified country. Not only will this massive capital expenditure improve our forces ability to transverse the country in a more timely and secure manner(Even though deadly terrorists lurk around various corners) thus showing out troops are out and about, but it will initiate an economic boom by connecting bigger commerce centers of Afghanistan to the smaller more remote villages and neighboring countries as well as opening these regions to various NGO's who are ready to provide food, medicine, technical expertise and whatever else is required to pull out of the horrors that they have endured under the Soviets and Taliban/Al Qaeda. As with all aspects of counterinsurgency fighting, our military and their allies will be called on 60% of the time to use deadly force, but the other 40% they can improve the peace and achieve a great bit of success by drilling wells, inoculating goats, building schools, set up sewer or trash pickup, or make it possible for a private corporation to build a major highway. So here's wishing the builders of this highway G-d's speed.

*For a more detailed look at this soft power side of counterinsurgency fighting, check out Robert D. Kaplan's wonderful book Imperial Grunts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Weeding Through Clinton's Economic Mish-Mash

Fire of Liberty

Though I have a good working knowledge in economics and tend to turn to this science to explain why ideas being pushed on the election stump or in the well of the Senate are bad for this country. One bit of nonsense that has been getting under my skin lately is Senator Clinton's continued insistence that the oil companies are making "too much money" and should be forced to fork over tons of money in the form of "windfall profits" taxes to the federal government because she says so. Though such populist rhetoric might sound pretty appealing to the general listener of the nightly news broadcast or listen to news snippets on the radio after buying a tank of gas, it doesn't seem to great when they realize such a tax will harm them in the near future. Not only will it such a tax be passed on to the consumer when the oil company tacks this onto the price of gas but it also will push the oil companies to think twice about pulling oil out of the ground or the amount they refine(Even though a new refinery hasn't been permitted to open for the last 30 years due to Clinton and company) for the fear of being taxed for being successful by producing a product that the American people need. The sad thing about this issue is that Senator Clinton and her economic team are a little lax on reading their economic history(And know the everyday voter doesn't have time to do the research) or they'd know that such a policy was launched by the Carter administration and ended up in the waste bin just like the former president was upended be the Reagan juggernaut in 1980. Someone who has read their history is Bloomberg columnist Amity Shlaes who pretty much demonstrates how such an idea of a "windfall profits" tax bad for the economy and will create higher prices to be passed on to the consumer in her May 2, 2008 column "Clinton Caught in Time Warp With Windfall Oil Tax," when she noted the following:

But in 1980 the economy's refusal to recover was baffling some economists. One of their conclusions, published in the New York Times, was that the windfall-profits tax was being passed along to consumers, reducing disposable income and so demand. In other words, it was doing the opposite of what the tax-rebate checks are supposed to be doing this month and next.

Specifically, the Windfall Tax made investment and production at domestic oil companies more expensive. Mobil was right. You needed incentives to want to drill. That deterrent slowed the sort of research that might have made energy less expensive earlier.

A Congressional Research Service paper suggested that the 1980 law actually increased foreign imports relative to domestic production.

So where we are now is that Clinton and her colleagues are backing a move that would strengthen the position of Middle Eastern OPEC members and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

What's more troubling to more is the fact such profits are not deposited to a big Swiss bank account in the name of a select bit of CEOs like the junior senator from New York portends to her audience but is distributed to taxes(Already in the double digit billions), future exploration, dividend payments to shareholders and holders of mutual funds, as well as paying employees and other entities that they deal with as they pull up and refine this "Texas Tea," into gasoline. I for one would say that the Clinton team and others in the Senate should read more economics books before they promote such costly policies but then again you can't expect much but all talk but no thinking coming from the biggest hot-air balloon factory in the country. Thank G-d we have folks like Amity Shlaes and hear wealth of knowledge in economics to weed through such economic nonsense.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A New Ride for Our Military

Fire of Liberty

As a follower of the military and fan of the inventive technology, vehicles, aircraft, and weapons that our armed forces develop or acquisition from the private sector to defend this nation, I have to say that I'm excited about this article in the Christian Science Monitor that points out the current quest of the Pentagon to acquire an a counterinsurgency centric replacement for our current fleet of Humvees. I've looked at the specs and mock-ups of the new vehicles which are known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) and have to say that the private sector is close to producing a vehicle that will indeed protect members of our armed forces but also remain highly maneuverable in dangerous terrain when the feathers hit the fan. I can imagine that the show Future Weapons will air an episode on the JLTV in the near future. Here's a look at my favorites:



Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mugabe's Thugs Continue Reign of Terror

Fire of Liberty

Here's just another example of what the Mugabe regime will resort to in order to remain in power in Zimbabwe. Such vile actions just further reinforce my thoughts on the greatness of the United States.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Glass Half Full Economy - Part II

Fire of Liberty

While the MSM and big mouths in the halls of Congress keep on throwing out invectives about how we're in a "recession" even when the facts as well as the basic rules of economics clearly say we're not even at a point to declare such a verdict. Thankfully, the good folks of the New York Sun editorial board(As well as the WSJ editorial page) have taken a brave stand against such rhetoric and yelled stop with the publication of the most recent editorial "What Recession?". I for one have to say they slugged a stubborn mule square in the jaw when they made the following observation:

We’d like to see stronger growth, like, say, in the third quarter of 2003, when the economy started to get the feel of the Bush tax cuts and grew at an astonishing seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 7.5%. Or the year that began in April of 1983 and ended in March of 1984, when President Reagan’s supply-side measures began to work their incentives and when the American economy grew consistently at a supercharged rate of more than 8%.

But two consecutive quarters of 0.6% growth is not bad, when measured against, say, the fourth quarter of 1990 and the first quarter of 1991, when real GDP shrank at an annualized rate of 3% and 2%. That was negative growth, not merely slow growth. Another genuinely bad patch was in spring and summer of 1980. In the second quarter of 1980, growth was negative 7.8%.

What we’re seeing now — a national unemployment rate of 5.1% in March, a stock market whose indexes are up nearly 5% for the month of April — does not a recession make. In the early 1980s, we saw double-digit unemployment rates. In the early 1990s, the unemployment rate reached 7.8%. A 5.1% national unemployment rate is not a recession. There may yet be a recession, but Mr. Krugman & Co. will have to wait a bit more.

This is not to minimize the pain or hardship felt by those who have been affected by the job losses on Wall Street, who face losing their homes in a foreclosure proceeding, or who have been affected by the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas. But the American economy and the capitalist system and open markets are remarkably robust.

I just wish more people in America would just up a basic economic book and discover for themselves some basic facts about such a science rather than depending on politicians and the misinformed MSM for such info. One is always grateful for informative sources like the New York Sun for breaking through the fog of "recession" and bringing forward such facts.

Classic Counterinsurgency In Afghanistan

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good piece by David Ignatius in the Washington Post on how our soldiers are using every tool in their counterinsurgency toolbox to help secure the peace in Afghanistan. I for one have to say that it's good to see such informative details like this with regards to Afghanistan in the MSM.

Energy Security Under Our Own Feet

Fire of Liberty

I have to say that if folks want to free this country up from expensive energy prices and hostile dictators, then they should read Robert Samuelson's most recent column in the Washington Post in which he points out that the solution is greater domestic exploration and drilling. I believe that the observant Samuelson slugged the ball out of the park with regards to the price of oil(And the subsequent production of gasoline) when he wrote the following:

The best we can do is to try to influence the global balance of supply and demand. Increase our supply. Restrain our demand. With luck, this might widen the worldwide surplus of production capacity. Producers would have less power to exact ever-higher prices, because there would be more competition among them to sell. OPEC loses some leverage; its members cheat. Congress took a small step last year by increasing fuel economy standards for new cars and light trucks from 25 to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. (And yes, we need a gradually rising fuel tax to create a strong market for more-efficient vehicles.)

Increasing production also is important. Output from older fields, including Alaska's North Slope, is declining. Although production from restricted areas won't make the U.S. self-sufficient, it might stabilize output or even reduce imports. No one knows exactly what's in these areas, because the exploratory work is old. Estimates indicate that production from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge might equal almost 5 percent of present U.S. oil use.

Members of Congress complain loudly about high oil profits ($40.6 billion for ExxonMobil last year) but frustrate those companies from using those profits to explore and produce in the United States. Getting access to oil elsewhere is increasingly difficult. Governments own three-quarters or more of proven reserves. Higher prices perversely discourage other countries from approving new projects. Flush with oil revenues, countries have less need to expand production. Undersupply and high prices then feed on each other.

But it's hard for the United States to complain that other countries limit access to their reserves when we're doing the same. If higher U.S. production reduced world prices, other countries might expand production. What they couldn't get from prices they'd try to get from greater sales.

I wish that someone would hand the three candidates running for president an occasional newspaper and read some pieces by Samuelson, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Amity Shlaes and others and they'd learn that by increasing the supply you have a great effect on the price of a particular commodity. Until someone emerges with a free market friendly energy policy that advocates greater domestic drilling, the constructing of more nuclear power-plants, as well as introducing non-subsidized/non-food stuffs alternative fuels, this nation will continue to see high prices and unforeseen problems down the road.

*The one thing that all candidates or at least Senator McCain should do to tackle the rising cost of oil is to advocate a strong dollar and point out how the price of oil goes up the more the dollar falls.