Thursday, July 31, 2008

Now look who doesn't like stability

It seems like only yesterday that liberals were decrying the instability introduced into the Middle East by the invasion of Iraq. But now that stability seems to have been achieved look who is worried about "confus[ing] stability with US interests." Andy Zelleke and Robert Dujarric argue that the surge has not succeeded by, yet again, raising the bar via re-definition: the real goal of the surge (according to the good doctors) was to build up an anti-Iran coalition, a goal that is not going to be achieved but actually undermined by the success of the Maliki government.

The evidence they offer for this is surprising thin for a Harvard researcher. It seems

Historical animosity between Persians and Arabs, combined with
conflicting national interests, may impede the emergence of a
full-fledged Iran-Iraq axis. Many senior Iraqi Shia leaders spent years
in exile in Iran; and it would be prudent to assume that some of them
have become Iranian agents, whether out of conviction or coercion. It
would also be extraordinary if Iran had not taken advantage of Saddam
Hussein's downfall to infiltrate numerous low-level operatives as well
as senior spies and agents in government, business, the army, and the
clergy into Iraq.
Well, I guess that's it then. We're screwed. I mean, it would extraordinary if we weren't screwed. No way we can beat those clever Iranians. They have agents and stuff.

Odd that this mole-ridden Maliki government just crushed--on its own initiative and against our advice--Iran's proxy Motada al Sadir, but no matter. That was probably just a feint to throw off the neo-cons.

Even if one accepted the "evidence," such as it is, when did success get redefined to mean having an anti-Iran state? If that was the goal Sadaam did nicely. I seem to recall him offing a good million or so Iranians, and if stability gets you down, Sadaam is your go-to guy. Call me one of those neo-con-stability-mongers if you must, but as I recall (from my last vast right wing conspiracy meeting) that the idea was a democratic Iraq whose people busied themselves with trying to make their own lives better rather than pursuing messianic dreams of world domination. On that measure of success the current regime seems set on a course to do reasonably well. Certainly better than the decrepit autocracies that characterized stability in the Middle East for the last 50 years have done. And certainly better than Sadaam Hussein.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bubble Boy

It is not easy being a Messiah. This Washington Post piece notes that Obama travels in a bubble tighter than that of a President. The contrast with McCain is striking. Add up the hours that Obama has had in the public eye in unscripted events and I suspect the number is astonishingly low, particularly if compared to those of McCain.

It is striking that this has not become part of the story in the mainstream press. Imagine if it were a Republican that was out doing $10,000 a plate lunches and meeting only with audiences pre-screened for adoration or Washington pols while a Republican were out on a bus doing completely open town hall meetings? The stories write themselves. You see the lines of limos outside the private fund raising event while the man of the people comes down among the people to hear their voice. And what is wrong with Mr. GQ that he can't speak without a teleprompter?

Right now the arrogance story line isn't catching on, at least the way the mass media polls it (asking people is he arrogant is not the best way to capture what is likely to be more of a vague uneasiness rather than a all or nothing conviction). But the material is there. How long before the media worm turns? Just one too many line reporters left barking questions while a media big foot gets to do another softball interview and the pent up flood of resentment could break all over the anointed one.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hard Hitting Interview From Newsweek

Newsweek's in the tank interview with Obama. The hard - hitting verdict? The candidate is not letting adoration shown for him go to his head. No, "gee, changed your mind about the surge?" or, "think you might want to have a few press conferences?" or "No regrets about going to that hospital even if you weren't able to bring your cameras with you?" The troops whose funding he voted to cut off mid-surge, maybe you would want to say that you were wrong, that they were not making the situation worse but better? Maybe want to congratulate General Petreaus rather than lecture him? No.

With journalists like these who needs lackeys?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jane Hamsher Interviewing Bruce Fein (a black helocopter Republican)

An amazing conversation between these to lawyercrats. They are complaining that people are not up on arms about the Bush administration as very disappointing. People should be outraged. But they don't take this as evidence that the system is working, that people are aware of what was done and have simply concluded that the actions the administration took were, if not justified, at least understandable given the exigent. Being a crytocrat means never having to defer to the judgment of your fellow citizens. Of course they know the real reason why their fellow citizens are not up in arms over what the Bush administration did in the first years after 9/11. The acceptance of the Bush administration's wiretapping policies is evidence of--drum roll please--racism.

One thing that is rather annoying about the conversation is that they never go into the issue of whether FISA's requirement is absolute. After all, the Clinton administration placed wiretaps on Aldrich Ames without going to FISA. Shouldn't he, then, have been impeached?

Points out that about 150,000 people have been murdered since 9/11 and yet no one says we should be at war against murder? Why doesn't someone say we have to suspend the Constitution over that? He also mentions Madison's quote that no society can have peace and perpetual war.

He argues that we can't be at war since we are not fighting a nation state. Since they are not a nation state then we are fighting criminals. Calling them fighters or warriors gives them too much dignity. Then again, calling them criminals is an insult to perfectly respectable criminals.

He argues that the reason the Congress is not impeaching Bush is because they are afraid it will come out that they approved of most of these things at the time they occurred.

Now he calls the war in Afghanistan a folly because these people don't have a "crumb" of democracy in their DNA. Lovely.

Friday, July 25, 2008

If these are problems...

Odd report from the Associated Press on how McCain has spent this difficult week, what with Obama garnering all those great visuals. But go to the bottom of the report and see that the polls are tightening in McCain's favor. With problems like these let Obama have all the successes he wants.

The report excerpts from McCain's hard hitting attack on Obama. The speech offers a telling contrast between McCain and Obama. The thing about McCain's speech is its spare, hard-edged and unadorned nature. There is nothing in it that could be called artful and therein lies a sort of art. There are no empty rhetorical "This is the moment" pieces of fluff. Just one declaration after another. I'm right, he's wrong, this is why. Not a trace of fat or decoration.

Completely backwards

David Broder, the keeper of the conventional wisdom, pronounces Obama's European tour a triumph and in doing so shows how upside down the Washington elite's world view is.

"Suddenly, long-standing Obama policies -- direct talks with Iran and a
16-month timetable for withdrawal -- seemed to be ratified by events."

Sorry, but this is so wrong. The 16-month timetable is ratified by the event of victory, a victory that we would not have if we had listened to Obama. His insistence that the surge had nothing to do with the victory we have achieved over al Qaeda, the Sadirists and the Sunni dead-enders. We have set up a democracy in the heart of the Arab world, a world that has had nothing but thug regimes since the end of the Ottoman Empire, and Obama thinks it is nothing.

Even more oddly, he thinks that the surge was so irrelevant to our success in Iraq that it is urgent we try it in Afghanistan.

And, as bad as the Bush administration cave-in on Iran is, sending a diplomat to sit in on talks with the other six parties on nuclear disarmament is hardly the same as inviting the world's leading holocaust denier to the White House for a can't-we-all-just-get-along sit down.

"He handled the expected question about his meeting with Gen. David
Petraeus by saying he perfectly understood the U.S. commander's
opposition to any timetable that would limit his options, but that as
commander in chief, he, Obama, would weigh Iraq's needs against those
in Afghanistan -- and also the domestic economy.

It was a skillful answer, not rejecting Petraeus' views but asserting Obama's own larger responsibility."

I am not so sure that is how it comes off. Dismissing the advice of a man who has been proven right, a man who is telling you that your decision may cost the lives of American fighting men and women, is perhaps not that smart.

Lecturing the General about the need for more troops in Afghanistan while telling him, in effect, that the additional troops he employed in Iraq were irrelevant to the victory we have achieved may not make as much sense to the man in the street as is does to the man in the capitol. Moreover, a man that so clearly refuses to take responsibility for his own words never looks good asserting his own larger responsibilities. His response to the General's advice is simply underlying the developing story line of Obama's arrogance. Does it look like he is smarter than Petraeus or just that he thinks he is smarter? And doesn't it just look like he is sticking to his line because he is too arrogant to change a previous position? A position which he rather oddly reiterated before setting off on his fact finding mission.

To his credit, Broder admits as much: "On the other hand, his saying there was no way to know what would have
happened in Iraq if the United States had followed his advice to start
the withdrawal of troops two years ago and oppose the "surge" seemed
disingenuous. Obama still has trouble admitting when he is wrong."

But if Obama's troubles are, as Broder says, "mild compared to those of McCain," why doesn't Obama get a bounce out of the trip in the polls? Could it be that what the Washington elites hear as cool wisdom sounds to many Americans like callow self-congratulations?

Disturbing but for the wrong reasons

The FBI posts the top ten myths about itself. The intent is to reassure the public that it is not some sort of sinister spying organization. Some of them are fairly amusing, but I find the top two myths both contradictory and disturbing, though not for the reasons the FBI is worried about.

Myth number 2 is "The FBI has files on every American." The item goes on to claim that they only have a file on individuals suspected of being part of a terrorist organization or of having committed a specific crime. This is followed by number 1: "The FBI can't or shouldn't do intelligence." You can't live up to claim number 2 and still be able to live up to claim number 1. Being an effective intelligence requires having files on innocent people.

The job of a spy is to behave like an innocent person. They do a lot of things that are perfectly innocent in isolation but only reveal themselves as dangerous in connection with other acts. Intelligence investigations are looking for very low probability events that are buried in patterns of innocent interactions.

The problem with that is you can't wait to have a file until you have evidence linking some specific individual to a specific crime if you want to be able to anticipate crimes. An intelligence agency must connect the dots. the "dots" are things that don't mean anything on their own but only acquire their true meaning in relation to a lot of other dots, themselves also meaningless on their own. The dots are people as well as actions, and the dots cannot be collected without some kind of file.

An intelligence agency that promises to not even open a file until they suspect an individual of a crime is promising to always be one step behind.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Like that is a bad thing

Here is what the story line on McCain has come down to this election:

"McCain is now cast as the crabby uncle who visits and shrieks there's
no gin in your house. He grabs the TV remote control, turns off the
cartoons and forces the kids to watch the ancient Mesopotamia special
on The History Channel."

Ok, but without him we might be caught unable to make a martini when James Bond shows up.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pointing Out the Obvious

It is bazzare that Maliki's request for the withdraw of American troops on "roughly" the Obama time table is being treated as a vindication of Obama's policy. The simple fact is that Obama has been calling for a withdraw in 14-16 months for over a year. If we had followed his advice Iraq would be in chaos. That his proposal is now thinkable if not entirely advisable is a credit to the success of the policy he denounced (the surge). Allowing him to take credit for the success of a policy he fought against is just sickening, and exactly what our news media is going to do. Advocating pulling our armies out of Europe in 1945 is not a vindication of those that wanted to pull them out in 1944.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Humorless Haloed Humbug

He who must be worshiped, or at least not made fun of. Is there anything more noxious to a democracy than a leader that can not be made fun of? Bill Maxwell puts his finger on something disturbing about Obamamania.

Being Right on Iraq

Jame Plunkett is had a story about a politician who got too interested in fancy clothes, a cardinal error in Plunkett's estimation. The story proved the deadliness of the error because one day the young politician was hit by a bus and died.

That is a funny story. we recognize it as funny because of the principle correlation does not equal causation (as well as the post hoc ergo procter hoc fallacy). It is true that the young man's demise followed on his burgeoning obsession with clothes, but there is obviously no causal relation.

The same thing could be said of many of the arguments that the left uses against Iraq. It is true that a lot of bad things have happened since the invasion of Iraq by the US, but the causal mechanisms of those maladies are either unrelated to the ones the left warned us about or at odds with the left's warnings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Air-Brush Obama

Someone in the mass media finally calls Obama on their habit of changing history. The Los Angles Times reports how the campaign has taken down the candidate's now embarrassing statements about the surge and replaced them with the candidate's current position which is...., well , I have never been able to figure that out exactly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bipartisan Greed

Froma Harrop argues that both parties are to blame for the Fannie/Freddie crisis. Her arguments are sound enough but seem to cut more against the Democrats than the Republicans. The case against the Republicans is that if they were really free market ideologues they wouldn't bail them out and that they were responsible for making the hedge funds and derivatives legal.

On the first point, so they aren't ideologues. Thank heavens.

On the second point, it is not the use of futures and hedge funds per se that is the problem but the fact that a "private" firm, headed by Democratic power brokers, was allowed to invest in them while being backed by an implicit government guarantee. No? There doesn't seem to be a great run on private firms--real private firms--that traded in such instruments. The only one that has failed so far, Bear Stearns, has apparently cost the tax payers little and private investors much, precisely as a free market ideologue would want it.

Too Big Not to Fail

A trenchant analysis of the Fannie and Freddie saga from Megan McArdle.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Multiculturalism You Can Believe In

Diplomat asks for reduced sentence based on cultural differences.

In the countries he was stationed in as a consular official women just have sex at a younger age. (They also apply for visas at a younger age apparently.) You see, having sex with 14 year olds is not especially frowned on in some cultures (nor, supposedly, is filming the encounters for old times sake), so the judge should have a bit of cosmopolitan sympathy in sentencing.

The defendant also claims to have been wrongfully targeted for investigation because of his prominent involvement in nudist organizations. Some Philistines in the FBI somehow associated walking around naked in mixed company with having an abnormal sex-life and the fact that in his case they just happened to have been right is no excuse. The police took these "out of context." maliciously interpreting them in a bad light just because he likes to be naked in front of little girls rather than the proper context of liking to masturbate in the privacy of his own home while looking at pictures of little girls.

All Evidence Points to Global Warming

Glaciers in California are growing, which is evidence for? That's right! Global Warming. Glaciers get smaller--global warming. Glaciers get bigger--global warming. Why don't these global warming skeptics get it?

Change You Have to Write Down--Quick! Before it Changes!

The difference between Obama's flip flops and McCain's are that the latter can be traced to some change in facts, Obama's only to interests. Obama's changes correlate to changes in his audience or bank account.

Profiles in Fatuity

Krauthammer contrasts hard power and soft power in comparing the efforts of Europeans and Columbia in freeing Ingrid Betancourt. Guess which one comes off better? And as always what is the result for us? "The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard--" To help people oppressed by men with guns you need not diplomats or soft power but other men with guns. And the only nation that has them and is ever willing to use them to help others receives for its troubles only scorn.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

e tu, Johnne?

Look who has come out against illegal alien felons? That is right, John McCain. Obama is not the only one tacking to the center, though somehow McCain getting tough of foreign felons seems more natural than Obama snuggling up with gun owners.

[A]s president, I will expand the Criminal Alien Program. We will require that the federal government assume more of the costs to deport and detain criminal aliens -- because this is a problem of the federal government's own making....

 blog it

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Profiles in Courage

The decline of civilization continues apace.

Post-Soviet Diplomacy

Here is a declassified intelligence report from 1995 where the government is thinking through the concept of deterrence in a post Soviet world. It notes with a remarkable lack of indignation the Soviets' methods of dealing with low level threats by making clear its intention to retaliate in kind. For instance, when Lebanon's civil war started spilling over into taking Russians hostage one of the terrorist leaders got a package with a single testicle from his son. They didn't bother the Russians after that but were otherwise able to carry on their civil war just fine. Why can't we have that kind of creative diplomacy?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dissembling Fareed

Zakaria's latest offering in Newsweek is advise to the US on who we can catch up with the rest of the world.

As with all these articles it starts out with the warning that we are falling behind the more enlightened powers of Europe, this time on energy policy. But fear not, there is hope.

You see we can do more with wind, geothermal and Solar power--with a little bit more nuclear power.

So far so good, but then he goes on to ignore that Bush and McCain have both come out heavily in favor of nuclear power. Why not mention that? Because Fareed is non-partisan, at least when the content of his policy proposals would force him to admit the Republicans have the better of the policy argument.

He then makes the classic 'rising above mere partisan politics' argument saying,

"...even though American research labs are rising to the challenge, government action remains vital. The idea that government should "stay out" is meaningless. It is in knee-deep already; energy is a highly regulated industry. In fact, it's notable that we have low productivity and runaway inflation in two crucial areas these days—food and fuel. Both have been nationalized, protected or subsidized by governments around the world for decades."

Now that is interesting. On the one hand he starts out by claiming that the old conservative saw of getting the government out of the way of the market is outmoded, government has to be involved and already is. But then, as evidence, he gives examples of two industries where government intervention has caused stagnation. That would seem an argument precisely for getting the government out, would it not?

Then there is this,

"In a recent ranking of countries for environmental performance, jointly
produced by Yale and Columbia universities, the United States came in
39th, well behind every other advanced industrial country. (Germany
ranked 13,
Britain 14 and Japan 21.)"

Now that is strange. The first thing to note about this list is that it is not about the environment people live in but what people do to the environment. On any reckoning of how the people of the US live and how the environment affects our health we come out near the top.

But even if you look at the dread carbon production index, how can Japan be behind anyone in environmental performance? Japan is the most reliant on Nuclear energy and mass transit of any industrialized country. They can only come out badly on a list like this if they are ranked on use of "renewables". Nuclear doesn't count because it is not renewable (at least not the way we use it). So Japan suffers because it doesn't use enough wind or solar.

Now that is nice. Use an index designed to rank you as deficient if you don't use wind and solar to argue that you should use wind and solar. Cute.

Replacing the Towers

Seven years and counting. Of course we are no closer to rebuilding the towers, or building anything for that matter.

If it were a question of accounting the matter would be simple, but here we have a clash of identities, of a value rationality conflict. It is one thing when the conflict is between 100 stories and 80 stories--how about some number in between. But it is quite another when the conflict is over what kind of people we are. One side wants a park and a little museum where the exhibits can cover all of man's inhumanity to man to show that we are no narrow minded and understand that the people who committed these acts are victims themselves. They want a memorial that shows we are not motivated by revenge. The other side wants new office towers with Roman Eagles tearing out the guts of the perpetrators through all eternity as they roast in hell. They want a memorial that shows we will not rest until we are avenged. Whichever side you take, it is clear that the nature of the things at stake makes it difficult to compromise.

Nancy's Foreign Policy

It seems that our Speaker of the House has been carrying on her own foreign policy. Her name just keeps turning up in FARC correspondence as a friend and ally. Shouldn't someone be asking her what she talks about when she meets Chavez?

Keys to the Kingdom

Rod Dreher's review of a book arguing that the GOP's problem with working class voters is that it is economically too conservative. The old "cut taxes" rhetoric is as "stale as anything Mondale said in 1984."

Lawyers and the terrorist that love them

in the wake of the Columbian government's brilliant operation to free the hostages from the FARC, the international lawyers at (7/3/08) wonder if the Columbian government hasn't violated international law.

Now given that FARC has violated every international law and tenant of morality imaginable this would not seem to be a particularly burning question. But we are not lawyers. The violation is the rule against perfidy. The government of course claimed to be rebels, and apparently that is against one of the rules (though as far as I knew, it only meant that you were a spy and not entitled to the protections of prisoner of war status if caught. Since those caught by the FARC are either murdered on the spot or used as bargaining chips as their value dictates such protections would be worthless anyway)

The other issue raised is the story the government fed the rebels that they were picking the hostages up to take them to a meeting with some sort of international officials, either the red cross or un people. This, in the lawyers delicate mind, may constitute a violate of the perfidy rule as well. He does raise the important question of whether the Rebels will be willing to deal with the International Organizations in the future as they have in the past.

This consideration, though, should not be a legal question but a policy question. If the FARC cooperates enough with the UN to make its continued cooperation worth it then the ruse might be unacceptably costly to the government. But this is a question of prudence. The UN is not going to enforce these rules against the FARC. Its pronouncements are only ever going to apply to one side, the side trying to protect its citizens from predatory scum. I recall stories of the FARC posing as police. Is the UN going to go after them? If not, isn't the sole effect of the UN to make it ok for the bad guys to use tools to harm the innocent that the good guys cannot use to protect the innocent? The FARC is so far beyond the the law, being nothing anymore but a terror, kidnapping and extortion operation, that they are entitled to no rights from the international community.

The question is does using the ruse involving NGO's or the Red Cross or any other organization going to result in more or fewer hostages being freed with this organization? Whatever level of cooperation has been achieved the author nowhere suggests that it has resulted in any hostages being freed. If not, isn't refusing to use such a ruse to free hostages in order to free hostages tantamount to sentencing them to continued imprisonment without trial? "Without trial"? Look how the language of courts infects my own thinking. With or without trial is besides the point. They are innocent and would remain innocent, guiltless, even if some revolutionary "court" did convict them.

Information contained in Anastasia O'Grady's article in today's WJS suggests another reason that international law types may be worried about the precedent set by using "borrowed" NGO helicopters in the rescue operation: it makes the habitual cooperation between all too obvious to the outside world. She chronicles the cooperation that left-leaning NGO's practice with the FARC, particularly in their reporting of human rights abuses on either side.

The possibility that the NGOs are tacitly aiding the FARC, as would seem to be the case from the way the rebels readily accepted that an NGO would give them the free use of a helicopter, calls into question the neutrality of the NGOs in the first place. If they can effectively be considered as being on the side of the FARC then their use in the scheme becomes an entirely legitimate ruse de guerre.

One striking thing is that the MSM in the US have paid no attention to the international law aspects of the story. A good story with visuals trumps international law without breaking a sweat.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

To Sensible to be Practical

Economics 101. Though it is something that should covered in any basic economics course, listening to the rhetoric about oil prices from the two major candidates suggests that some basic principles of economics remain opaque to the body politic.

The reason that oil prices are going up even though there is no mismatch between current supplies and demand is that expectations of future price increases are causing producers to hold supplies off the market. If you had a stock that you believed will be worth twice as much 5 years from now as it is today would you sell it, or would you would hold on to it till you could sell it for a lot more? The same with oil.

People who sell a stock that later goes up drastically in price are called stupid. Oil companies that do the same with their oil are called public spirited. Politicians that demand that oil companies act in a pubic spirited way are called courageous. So far, the supply of courageous politicians has far outstripped the supply of public spirited oil companies. Thus, supply first contracted then held steady till the current prices were more in line with the futures market. As current prices have finally caught up with futures markets supply has started to increase (though not in the US, where political constraints have cut off most avenues of increase).

Why do people think that oil is going to be worth a lot more in a few years time, even though currently there is little or no mismatch between demand and supply? Because the demand for oil is expected to increase much faster than was thought just a few years ago. The main reason is the rise of China and, particularly, India. If those countries keep growing at the same rates they are now the demand for oil in the world will far outstrip the supply in the relatively near future.

That is why the futures markets were pricing oil so high. There is nothing exotic about a futures market. An oil future is just a promise to deliver a barrel of oil at a certain date in the future. The price of the future is simply the price at which the number of people willing to pay a dollar for the future barrel of oil equals the number of people willing to sell the future barrel of oil. A few months ago, as markets started to look at the implications of world wide growth rates and decided that a barrel of oil in the future was going to be worth a lot more than they had thought it would be. Futures prices started to rise and, as they did, so did current prices.

So the bad news is that future bad news is being priced into the current market. But that is a blessing in disguise. God’s Viceroy on Earth, the market, is telling us to drill.

Seriously, the futures market is just a signal. And the good thing about it is that, just as you don’t need to have a downward movement in current supply or upward movement in current demand to bring about a big increase in the current market price, you don’t have to have a big increase in current supply or decrease in current demand to bring about a huge decrease in the current price. All you have to do is convince the futures markets that the trends are in the right direction, that the future price of oil will not be radically higher than it is now, and the same mechanisms that have driven the current price of oil up can drive it down just as quickly.

There are two obvious things and as usual the most useful is the most painful. First is increasing supply. It is true that deciding to drill today would not mean any actual oil on the market for 5 to 10 years, but that doesn’t matter. It is the belief about the future tightness of supplies that has driven current prices up; reversing that belief can drive them down just as quickly.

The other thing, the non-fun thing, is keeping demand down. This can be done most efficiently by keeping the price of gasoline high. Advocating such a policy is also a highly efficient way to lose an election. That is unfortunate. As prices come down demand will go up, leadin us into the same problem we are in all over again. A tax on gas that went up as market prices went down such that the price was kept at around $4 a gallon would be a relatively painless way to avoid this. But of course, this solution makes far too much sense to ever be adopted in a democracy, let alone a democracy in an election year.

As for the effects of the oil prices on our economy are bad enough, our dependence on third world oil has an even worse effect on the political systems in those countries. There is a well-developed literature in both political science and economics on this question. In economics, the problem goes by the name of “the resource curse.” There is a well documented negative correlation between natural resources and democracy. The basic argument is that having a large, exportable commodity both increases the incentive to stay in power and provides the means to do so. The more oil you have as a proportion of your GNP, the more likely you are to be a dictatorship (case in point, Nigeria).

If you come from an undeveloped country that has a commodity as valuable as oil in large quantities the amount of money to be made by being the one that controls the rights to that commodity far outstrips the gains to be made from, say, starting a business or developing manufactures. Moreover, once you are in power, control over the commodity allows you to stay in power. Using the money it generates you can buy more muscle and political protection, as explained by Tom Hagen in Godfather I when arguing to the Don for taking Solatzo’s deal and going into narcotics (is there any principle of political science the Godfather doesn’t explain?).

Again the solution, like the sliding gas tax mentioned above, is as obvious as it is politically impractical. Still, we can always hope for the return of the British Empire.

The Disgrace of our Farm Bill

Miami Herald has a nice article on the disgrace of our 290 billion dollar farm bill. As bad as it is taking money from American consumers to subsidize rich farmers it is even worse to destroy third-world agriculture in Latin America and Africa. McCain had the guts to stand against it, and St. Obama? Do you really need to ask?

This is why I find the opposition and even disdain for McCain from the young libertarians so perplexing. Sure, McCain is not perfect on these issues and his grasp of the theoretical reasons that such measures are wrongheaded is surely very tenuous. But that makes Obama's bald pandering all the more inexcusable. Moreover, the grasp of economics is not all that important in cases like this where what is right and what is politically expedient are so starkly distinguished. The real need is not for a cleaver politician but a courageous one. The real need is for a man willing to do things that cost him. Looking at Obama and John McCain can anyone doubt who that man is?

So What do we do about it?

Dozens of e-mails in the rebel computers show that the FARC
commanders and Chávez were building what they referred to as a
''strategic relationship'' to strengthen the Bolivarian movement in the region.

There are at least eight references to an estimated $300
million in financial assistance that Chávez had pledged to the FARC rebels. In addition, the e-mails show that the FARC had agreed to give military training in irregular warfare to the Venezuelan army, and that the Colombian rebels even had an ''office'' at Fuerte Tiuna, the headquarters of Venezuela's military command in Caracas.

''The strategy was to create an international mediation group fashioned after the Contadora group that mediated in the Central American conflict in the 1980s, but aimed at consolidating Chávez's leadership in the region, and at using Chávez's clout to achieve international diplomatic recognition for the FARC,'' a senior Colombian official told me in an interview last week.

So what do we do about it? We know he is sponsoring terrorism, in effect making war on a neighboring country through the most despicable methods, and the "Human Rights Community" says nothing? Oh wait, they did manage to chirp something about the terrorists Geneva Convention rights may have been violated. Good thing they are on the case.

Vigilante Justice

Nice point made here by Fraser Smith about flight 93: they voted before they made their move against the Hijackers. "Before they acted, they made a plan - and then they voted on it.
That's what we do in our country. We vote. That's what we've fought and
died for from the beginning." From the beginning until now. Now the UN votes on it, or a judge tells us if it is ok. Good thing there wasn't a human rights activist on board. He would have demanded they wait till after the plane crashed and had a trial.

Try a Gun

Oh what to do, what to do? Thus laments Dr. Wittes on the question of how we are to deal with Osama bin Laden, were he to fall into our hands. How about this: kill him?

We were certain enough of al Qaeda's responsibility to invade a country and drop bombs on it etc., in order to retaliate for 9/11. Opponents of the Iraq war and of American foreign policy in general are at pains to draw attention to their agreement with this policy. There seems to be pretty general agreement that bin Laden is the head of al Qaeda. How can we say al Qaeda's actions are sufficiently evil and sufficiently well-know to justify such levels of violence and killing of innocents and insufficient to warrant the one man we can all agree is guilty? Churchill had it right. This is trial by combat. Make a little list. Kill him and get it over with.

Thus spake the Weasel

Here is Obama on Iraq, giving us a nicely executed tripple backtrack with a "you're like so hung up on details" and a "historically, I have made it perfectly clear thrown in for style. Here is a more detailed account from the New Republic. Obama only called for a withdraw of American troops in 2006 (something to keep in mind when you hear the word "historically" when he talks about his position). Seriously, when even the French think you are a weasel it is time to look in the mirror.

But Don't Question Their Patriotism

want to read about American victories in the mass media? No problem, there are plenty of such stories--in foreign newspapers. Click on the link to read one from the Times of London. Want more? Here is another bit of pro-American propaganda from those Neo-con stooges the French and their running dog lackey, Ali al-Saadi.

McCain's Problem?

Article on McCain's problem with teleprompters is contrasted with the boy wonder's ease with them. It is a sad commentary that the man who is willing to put himself out there and take any question for hours at a time but can't speak with a teleprompter is the one that has a problem while one that thrives on the fake authenticity of the device but limits his press conferences to a few questions is the one who does well. Why doesn't Obama have to hire consultants to help him answer questions on his own? Because the foam heads and their media allies see to it that it isn't necessary. The complaints about his inaccessibility to the press and public will have to wait until after they have gotten him into the White House.

Friday, July 04, 2008

into the lion's den

another strange incident, this time with Obama himself telling the story, where he is cast as bravely imparting a truth to a hostile audience. This time the story is Obama courageously telling a Detroit audience of auto makers that they would have to make more fuel efficient cars. They applauded and at the end of the speech gave him a standing ovation.

Why make up or imagine a story like that. Wouldn't it be more conformable to his vanity to remember the truth? After all, getting Detroit auto executives to find something commendable in a proposal that is against their immediate interests is an achievement. Why not play that up?

What is going on with the left is some sort of need to establish for themselves an identity as non-conformists, underdogs bravely telling the truth to a recalcitrant world. If the world agrees with you then you haven't been progressive enough. There is a sort of need to be persecuted, else you are not being truthful enough.
They must see themselves as the keepers of a high and enlightened truth that the masses cannot grasp on their own, that they are afraid to face. Winning an argument, or worse yet, not encountering an argument at all, calls into question their moral superiority.

It is a bit like their attitude toward race. They must bring up again and again how they are able to look past race and prejudice, so much so that they can't stop bring ing up race and prejudice and seeing it when it isn't there. For if it isn't there then what are they? It is the inverse of the white poor of the old South who needed blacks around and for them to stay poor so they themselves would have someone to be better than. If you are not more evolved than a Detroit auto executive that who are you more evolved than?

the military and our media patriots

Awe inspiring ceremony in Iraq as the largest re-enlistment ceremony in history takes place without a quiver of interest from our media. The re-enlistment is twice the size of the already high rates of re-enlistment from last year. News? Sign that the surge is working? Naaahhh.

Lawyers and the terrorist that love them

in the wake of the Columbian government's brilliant operation to free the hostages from the FARC, the international lawyers at (7/3/08) wonder if the Columbian government hasn't violated international law.

Now given that FARC has violated every international law and tenant of morality imaginable this would not seem to be a particularly burning question. But we are not lawyers. The violation is the rule against perfidy. The government of course claimed to be rebels, and apparently that is against one of the rules (though as far as I knew, it only meant that you were a spy and not entitled to the protections of prisoner of war status if caught. Since those caught by the FARC are either murdered on the spot or used as bargaining chips as their value dictates such protections would be worthless anyway)

The other issue raised is the story the government fed the rebels that they were picking the hostages up to take them to a meeting with some sort of international officials, either the red cross or un people. This, in the lawyers delicate mind, may constitute a violate of the perfidy rule as well. He does raise the important question of whether the Rebels will be willing to deal with the International Organizations in the future as they have in the past.

This consideration, though, should not be a legal question but a policy question. If the FARC cooperates enough with the UN to make its continued cooperation worth it then the ruse might be unacceptably costly to the government. But this is a question of prudence. The UN is not going to enforce these rules against the FARC. Its pronouncements are only ever going to apply to one side, the side trying to protect its citizens from predatory scum. I recall stories of the FARC posing as police. Is the UN going to go after them? If not, isn't the sole effect of the UN to make it ok for the bad guys to use tools to harm the innocent that the good guys cannot use to protect the innocent? The FARC is so far beyond the the law, being nothing anymore but a terror, kidnapping and extortion operation, that they are entitled to no rights from the international community.

Democracy doesn't have to mean peace

Nathan Sharansky is hopeful about the prospects for democracy in the
Middle- East with continued military success in lraq . What he should
be worried about are the prospects for continued peace with the success
of democracy. There is nothing to stop a democratic Middle-East from
democratically deciding to kill the Vars. Indeed, that maybe the
winning ticket in some of those countries. That might be the royal road
to electoral success in some of those places. Instead of competing on
the basis of who can best deliver peace and prosperity the may compete
on the basis of war and dead Jews. It didn't seem to hurt the Nazis.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

super size those french fries

Our allies the French areactually acting like allies. It wonder if it will rub off on the Democrats?Nah. still, I can dream, can't I?
This could be really good news I the Bash administration will only act on it. of course, the main thing is to get it done. The only way we can realistically stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon at this point is military action. But unless the Bush administrationreally picks up the ball and runs with it all will just fable into another round of talks at the U.N.
On a less serious note, the good fun that could be had in the campaign by putting the Democrats to the left of France are just to good even for Mr. "I won't stoop to that sort of campaign" campaign McCain to ignore

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Scalia's self-contracition

Brave attempt to charge Scalia of incoherence if not hypocracy. The flaw is that the case revolves not around the pre-1800 Constitution or the scope of the right in question but the scope of the Court's authority. The scope of the Court's authority is prescribed by Congress and has never, NEVER, extended to enemy combatants in the 800 year history of the writ (with a couple of 20th century marginal exceptions). If one concedes at the outset that the Court deals with anything it wants to then the similarities exist. But even then, note how weak the similarities are. If they are similar on the grounds that they involve the pre-1800 Constitution (a telling phrase right that--was there a later one written that our history books pass over? Don't answer that, Justice Kennedy). And what Supreme Court cases do not involve the scope of a right? Finally, Wasn't the 2nd amendment case about the very existence of the 2nd Amendment right?
clipped from

The gun case and the Guantánamo litigation in fact have much in common. Both concern governmental efforts to deal with a risk of deadly violence. Both involve interpretations of the pre-1800 Constitution: the Suspension Clause of the 1789 document, and the Second Amendment of the 1791 Bill of Rights. And in both the Court had to decide a novel question about the scope of the right in question.

 blog it

Alice in Lawyer Land

My God, they are actually going to do it. They have just struck down the detention of the first Guantanamo detainee out on the basis of a civilian court hearing.

It turns out the court was not satisfied that the evidence against the detainee came from an objective source. The source was the government of China and its evidence against was against a Chinese national of Uighur descent. The Court even allowed itself some humor, saying that the government's reasoning came perilously close to the Alice in Wonderland logic "that whatever the government says must be treated as true, thus rendering superfluous both the role of the Tribunal and the role that Congress assigned to this court."

Funny, I don't remember the Congress being involved? I thought the Court had decided on its own to expand its jurisdiction in the face of Congress' decisions, but never mind. The Alice in wonderland comment is nice too, in that all the Court is claiming that whatever it says should be regarded as true, not the "government." The debate is over venue, who makes the decision. It is necessarily coming down to whose decision has to be regarded as true because of who says it, that is, who has the authority.

Courts are allowed to get things wrong because they presumably err on the side of protecting the innocent. But that is an illusion. They err on the side of not using force. This may or may not protect the innocent. It may, in fact, imperil them to a far greater degree than the most tyrannical government.

But the red Queen has spoken. And what could be more Alice in Wonderland like than the demand on the part of the Court that the evidence against terrorists come from a source that can be regarded as "objective"? Who is objective about terrorism? If we found such an entity would we find its objectivity admirable? Is it the fact that China bares particularly hard feelings against terrorists that aim to over throw its government that its evidence is to be disregarded? Or do we regard everything that the Chinese government says as unreliable?

The latter is a particularly interesting proposition, for isn't gaining the assent of the Chinese government the sine quo non of international legitimacy? It is, after all, the potential threat of a Chinese veto on such matters as Darfur, Zimbabwe and Burma that apparently makes interfering with genocide in those countries an illegal act.

In any case, the man admits he is an enemy of China. Do we now send him back to China? That is, after all, presumably where you go when you are freed from incarceration by a foreign government. The Court has left the question of remedy open--courts need never weigh options. The fact that its remedies might even be worse for its intended beneficiaries is a question that court never has to face.

Now the Pentagon employees that asked for confidentiality in the case have had their requests denied by the Court, saying that their requests lacked 'specificity.' Apparently they have to have had some specific threat from Islamist terrorists to merit privacy. Just the general policy the enemy has of killing our intelligence officials, let alone the common sense notion that who are personnel are and where they live might be something we would want to keep secret, is not satisfactory to the Court.

Who exactly is qualified to assess the worth of intelligence? Intelligence officers? No. They are now just writers. Their true judges are the literary critics of the court. Whatever deep judgments they are able to make based on years in the field and repeated dealings with a foreign intelligence service are now nothing. Our dealings with foreign intelligence services will now be reduced to DAs meeting with colleagues from different jurisdictions. The decisions will not be about their own judgments of the character of the source, the evidence and the object of their decision but only on how it will play before a DC court judge. Not much chance of the Chinese reaching that bar. Nor for any other intelligence service, for that matter. Expert-ism has met its match. Expert judgments reign supreme in every other field except the protection of ourselves and our allies from terrorists. Those judgments will now be the purview of the literary jesters at Court. The Red Queen also made type II errors. Unfortunately, when someone says "off with their heads," it is usually that of a father who wanted to send his daughter to school.

We will now wait for intelligence from "objective" nations. Afghans and Iraqis presumably need not apply.