Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Global War on Terror = PIRATES!!!

Friggin Pirates! What is this, the 17th century?

When will the United States government understand that Islamic rule doesn't equal Al Qaida and 9/11? The reality is that Ethopia doesn't give a damn about what bad happens to Somalia, so they aren't the go-to people to try to work with the new Somali government. Nevermind the guys behind the new Somali regime were the same guys Clinton was fighting before the famous "Black Hawk Down" incident. And now, since we eliminated the popularly supported decentralized Islamic court based government - Somali shipping gets to deal with increases in piracy on the high seas.

Now that's a movie.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

When Are We Gonna Light This Candle?

Patrick Foy over at Taki's Top Drawer has a great article on the growing probability of a full scale war with Iran. Here is a key passage discussing President Ahmadinejad's recent visit to Columbia University in NYC.

The New York tabloids, the fashion plates reading the news at the cable networks, and the more expensive ones at the non-cable networks, and all leading presidential candidates had the same reaction to Ahmadinejad’s visit. One wonders if they were handed the same script and talking points, prepared in one central office. More likely, they just knew what was expected of them. The commentators brought in from the “think tanks” to elevate the discussion were ready to have a cow. These “experts” sputtered predictable, unenlightened accusations at Ahmadinejad, repeating ad nauseam that he is a dictator (preposterous) as well as a “Holocaust denier” (a deliberate distortion), that Iran is working feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons (flat out untrue) which will be used “to wipe Israel off the map” (a mistranslation and another distortion), et cetera. Faced with such hysteria, one could be forgiven for thinking that the world was about to spin off its axis.

It's funny, only online do we learn the reality that many of the key quotes from Ahmadinejad about Israel and the Holocaust were mistranslations and distortions. Not that they matter anyway, but they do whip up the war fever among folks who don't bother to check if the talking heads are telling the truth or spitting bs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Russia Is Not Scared of Iran, Are We?

Today the AP ran a story with the headline, "Rice Says Iran is An Obstacle to US Goals In the Middle East." I am no apologist for Iran, but if they helped bring the Northern Alliance to the table in Afghanistan and they are re-building the infrastructure in Iraq - I kinda wonder what the US Goals really are.

Geography is stronger than rhetoric - the United States cannot isolate Iran in the Middle East any more than the United Kingdom can isolate Argentina in South America. The Iranians have money, technical know-how, and an interest in leading that part of the world - and outside the Iraq-Iran war, they have used those assets in peace.

Most of the story was just bs setting you up for the real story, that the US is backing off on European missile defense until Iran actually tests a ballistic missile. This is interesting because President Putin of Russia never believed the missile shield was about Iran in the first place.

The reality is that it is hard to tell what we are trying to do over there. We don't want "rogue" states with nukes, yet we offer to share nuclear technology with Egypt - home of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. We want peace and stability in Iraq, but we switch support between the Sunnis and the Shiites whenever one side gets too strong - keeping the battle raging in perpetuity. We hail the peacefulness of the Iraqi Kurd Autonomous Region, only to fail to go after the terrorist PKK there and forcing Turkey's hand. Guess what, the IKAR ain't peaceful any more. We give all this rhetoric about peace and stability in the region, while we send special forces into Iran to scout targets for a future attack.

The doublespeak would be sinister and diabolical if it wasn't for the fact that it feels like our foreign policy just doesn't make much sense at all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More GOP Debate Goodness

One of my co-bloggers at Wash U For Ron Paul did a great liveblog of the last GOP Debates in Michigan. Plenty of obvious pandering to the auto unions, and a lot of mindless support of ethanol subsidies. This observation is my favorite.

Huckabee is asked about ethanol, whether the free market should determine whether they are used. Huckabee says it's critical for national security and economic interests to use "biofuels." It's a tremendous boondoggle, in fact, and Huck, a pinko through and through, is pandering. Blathers about "Islamofascism," as if ethanol gives us independence from the Arab world! "We can't wait till another generation." I hate Huckabee.

The reality is that ethanol benefits two groups: the politically powerful corn farmers who grow the now premium priced corn, and the oil industry because now they can sell less efficient gasoline for a higher price. Oh, no one mentioned that 100% petro fuel is both cheaper and more efficient than ethanol. Or the fact that this means that when you buy gasoline with ethanol additives - you are buying more gas more often for a higher price than if the additive wasn't there. Well, now you know.

Corn-based ethanol subsidies disadvantages a lot of folks though: food manufacturers (veggies, beef, chicken, and other protein), sugar producers, and normal folks who get to pay higher prices for well - just about everything.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pols at Americans For Prosperity - Missing the Point

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was truly leading the pack at the Americans For Prosperity event, claiming "extravagant spending" was the reason for GOP Congressional losses in 2006. Of course, overspending is a domestic issue - and never takes into account the $456 BILLION in supplemental expenditures (not including DoD annual budget requests) on the Iraq war. Never mind that Sen. Ted Stevens' "Bridge To Nowhere" or Sen. Clinton's "Bribes for Babies" is just a drop in the bucket comparatively.

It seems that the GOP candidates (save Ron Paul) are returning to the old school GOP strategy of attacking any kind of liberal domestic program or expenditure as excessive. The only problem is that we weren't dumping hundreds of billions of dollars in the sand in the 1980s and 1990s (even during Gulf War I). The party faithful will eat up the nostalgic rhetoric like twentysomethings over Transformers - but those who look at the math will find their rhetoric ringing hollow.

The strangest thing was the ghost of the Laffer Curve haunting the conference. The article indicates Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson all made references to it - although Giuliani stands out again by stressing the revenue benefits of the theory vs. the benefit to the taxpayer. It's funny, all this "self-condemnation" over spending - yet few calls to simply cut spending across the board (again, save Ron Paul).

This "bring back the good 'ol days of the GOP" is nothing but cotton candy laced with LSD. The reality is that you can't create a credible image that is equal parts George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Without Contractors, There Would Be No War in Iraq

Perhaps that is a good thing.

The truth of the matter is that US troops cannot accomplish the mission in Iraq without contractors. Never mind what John Edwards tells you. He would have you believe that Blackwater USA are storm troopers from Star Wars, and we must "bring democracy back into our military." Ok, that last bit made zero sense. The truth is that of all the scandals in the GWOT - Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, secret CIA prisons - the shootout that is still under investigation pales in comparison. In fact, Blackwater has 100% fullfilled its mission of keeping diplomats and VIPs alive and in one piece.

Security contractors like Blackwater take care of VIP protection, logistics, and other vital missions in Iraq to free up soldiers for combat duty and patrol. According to the Washington Post, there are over 100,000 security contractors in Iraq - which rivals the size of the uniform military there. The number speak the truth, and we cannot prosecute the GWOT in Iraq without private help.

If Sen. Edwards wins the Presidency and makes good on his promise to eliminate the security contractors, he may as well bring the soldiers and marines home too.

Has McCain Even Read The Constitution?

There are so many explanations why Sen. John McCain is having money troubles. Blowback from McCain-Feingold is one explanation (don't cross the lobbyists), another could be the fact that he really hasn't read the course material for running this country.

Here is what he said on Saturday regarding Christianity and the Constitution.

Later, McCain said, "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values." He added that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

Wow, really? Because the actual U.S. Constitution says this (First Amemdment):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

The bold piece is important - the Constitution explicitly forbids establishing the US of A as a Christian nation. This is of course in reaction to the feuds in Europe where countries like the United Kingdom are explicitly Christian (Anglican Protestant to be precise) by law.

I understand the need to pander to the Religious Right, but gee - making statements out of whole cloth is what Value Voters would call "lying."

Where Are You Gonna Get $20 Billion A Year?

Everyone loves babies. We take pictures of them, we say they are cute even when they aren't, and politicians phrase every possible stance in terms of "protecting the children." Sen. Hillary Clinton took that bit one step further: she wants to give every baby born in the US $5000 a piece. The idea is to put the money in a savings account, so that they can use the money for college or a house down the line.

Unfortunately, the math gets in the way of the reality. First, such a program would cost $20 billion - $5K for the 4 million kids born every year. Unless the program is handled like Social Security, where the government could borrow against it, it basically amounts to a larger version of the Earned Income Tax Credit - which actually sounds good. Unfortunately, the only there are only three ways to pay for such a program: cut something else (HRC would never do it), raise taxes, or increase deficit spending.

The real problem with Sen. Clinton's program however is that giving every kid five large isn't going to encourage saving. When interest rates are low, the economy is in spending mode, not saving mode. And if the interest rate on a savings account is less than the rate of inflation - it doesn't make sense to save anyway.

It sounds bad, but thanks to inflation you are better off going into debt - because the money you pay back is worth less than the money you originally borrowed. If you get a low enough rate on your debt - you may even come out ahead. It's also why young people are encouraged to invest in high risk/high return stocks and funds for their 401k - they need to beat the rate of inflation while they are young and can work.

What would make more sense is a $5K credit for the parents when they have a kid. Baby expenses are huge - and if they can get a tax break that first year, it would lead to fewer headaches. But no one would ever go for that.

Tax Cuts Mean Nothing During The GWOT

Fred Thompson doesn't talk a good game. He supports Bush on the war (like every other GOP candidate save Rep. Ron Paul), yet he is for limited government and decreasing government spending. Frankly, those two views are mathematically incompatible.

Some have seen this chart, but many have not.

The numbers are old - but the proportions are similar. Half of the Federal Budget, what you and I pay taxes into, is spent by the military. This doesn't include additional expenditures requested by the administration to go into Iraqi and Afghan missions. You can't cut a program here and an entitlement there and claim you have reduced the size of government. Nor will tax cuts make much difference in the economy when we are burying billions in the sand on the other side of the world.

You are either with GWB and the Global War on Terror, or you are for limited federal spending. You can't be both.

I Didn't Want To Do This

But I am sick of the level of political discourse in this country. It's almost as if people say thing just because the tenor of the syllables of the words they make sound pretty - so they must make sense. They don't.

And I will tell you why.