Archive for January, 2011

Afghanistan, Egypt and Obama

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I have previously posted my opinion that Afghanistan is not worth the cost. I stated my reasons why we should leave here and here and here. Nothing has changed there but a lot is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

Egypt’s escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama’s revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

They have handled it badly. This is a very dangerous time for us. The Egyptian Army seems to be siding with the protesters. That may or may not last.

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be.

But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”

Of course, Mr Chu should not worry as we have wind and solar to take up the slack. Actually, we get our oil from Canada and Mexico but the price of oil shifts with the world’s supply.

The present Obama commitment to Afghanistan is ironic since he promised to bring troops home but he has declared that Iraq was NOT necessary and Afghanistan is. This is slightly crazy. The Iraq invasion was an example of US power being applied in a critical location; right in the middle of the Middle East. Afghanistan is a remote tribal society reachable only through unreliable Pakistan. It has minimal effect on world events. We went there to punish the Taliban for harboring the people who attacked our country. Thousands of them have been killed. We have little of interest there now. We should have left last year.

With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. “By October 2011, the US State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police and this task will largely be carried out by private contractors.” The bulk of American hard power will be locked up in secondary Southwest Asian theater, dependent on Pakistan to even reach the sea with their heavy equipment.

This is not where we want to be. The problem is that Obama and Hillary and the rest of this administration have no concept of strategy.

The Obama administration made fundamental strategic mistakes, whose consequences are now unfolding. As I wrote in the Ten Ships, a post which referenced the Japanese Carrier fleet which made up the strategic center of gravity of the enemy during the Pacific War, the center of gravity in the present crisis was always the Middle East. President Obama, by going after the criminals who “attacked America on 9/11? from their staging base was doing the equivalent of bombing the nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu from which Nagumo launched his raid. But he was not going after the enemy center of gravity itself.

For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

Leftism is making common cause with Islamic terrorism. Why ? I don’t really know. Some of it may be the caricature of Jews making money and being good at business. Some may simply be the extension of animosity to Israel extending to all Jews. The people behind Obama are not free of these sentiments. His Justice Department is filled with lawyers who defended terrorists at Guantanamo. Holder seems uninterested in voting rights cases if a black is the offender. He was even unwilling to say that Islamic terrorism was behind 9/11.

Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when the oil tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

I would add a bit to this from one of my favorite essays on the topic. It compares Gorbachev to Obama.

Nor are the two men, themselves, remotely comparable in their backgrounds, or political outlook. Gorbachev, for instance, had come up from tractor driver, not through elite schools including Harvard Law; he lacked the narcissism that constantly seeks self-reflection through microphones and cameras, or the sense that everything is about him.

On the other hand, some interesting comparisons could be made between the thuggish party machine of Chicago, which raised Obama as its golden boy; and the thuggish party machine of Moscow, which presented Gorbachev as it’s most attractive face.

Both men have been praised for their wonderful temperaments, and their ability to remain unperturbed by approaching catastrophe. But again, the substance is different, for Gorbachev’s temperament was that of a survivor of many previous catastrophes.

Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

In another passage:

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

The turmoil in Egypt is a test that, I fear, Obama and his Secretary of State, will not pass.

UPDATE: The situation in Egypt festers with an ambiguous statement by Obama no help. Here is an example of how Reagan handled the Philippine overthrow of Marcos. A very different approach.

UPDATE #2: A column by Charles Krauthammer is indispensable reading today.

Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.

The House of Mubarak is no more. He is 82, reviled and not running for reelection. The only question is who fills the vacuum. There are two principal possibilities: a provisional government of opposition forces, possibly led by Mohamed ElBaradei, or an interim government led by the military.

ElBaradei would be a disaster. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he did more than anyone to make an Iranian nuclear bomb possible, covering for the mullahs for years. (As soon as he left, the IAEA issued a strikingly tough, unvarnished report about the program.)

Worse, ElBaradei has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such an alliance is grossly unequal. The Brotherhood has organization, discipline and widespread support. In 2005, it won approximately 20 percent of parliamentary seats. ElBaradei has no constituency of his own, no political base, no political history within Egypt at all.

He has lived abroad for decades. He has less of a residency claim to Egypt than Rahm Emanuel has to Chicago. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a mouthpiece and a figurehead, a useful idiot whom the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to have need of a cosmopolitan frontman.

The Egyptian military, on the other hand, is the most stable and important institution in the country. It is Western-oriented and rightly suspicious of the Brotherhood. And it is widely respected, carrying the prestige of the 1952 Free Officers Movement that overthrew the monarchy and the 1973 October War that restored Egyptian pride along with the Sinai.

The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months.

El Baradei also attempted to intervene in the 2004 US elections by releasing a letter that alleged US forces had allowed radicals to steal hundreds of pounds of explosives in Iraq by failing to guard the facility. After the election, it was proven that the letter was not true. The man is anti-American and a liar.

The Edmund Fitzgerald

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

I ran across this and, since Gordon Lightfoot is one of my favorites, I thought I would post it. It includes underwater video of the ship after it sunk.

Where did the stimulus go ?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Two distinguished Stanford professors of Economics have published an analysis on where the stimulus money went. The results are not surprising but the details are interesting.

During the recent recession, the U.S. Congress passed two large economic stimulus programs. President Bush’s February 2008 program totaled $152 billion. President Obama’s bill, enacted a year later, was considerably larger at $862 billion. Neither worked. After more than three years since the crisis flared up, unemployment is still very high and economic growth is weak. Why have such large sums of money failed to stimulate the economy? To answer this question, we must look at where the billions of stimulus dollars went and how they were used.

Keynesian stimulus packages come in three basic types. In the first type, the federal government puts money directly into the hands of consumers. The hope is that consumers will use the money to increase their purchases of goods and services. In the second type, the federal government directly purchases goods and services, including infrastructure projects, equipment, software, law enforcement, and education. In the third type, the federal government sends grants to state and local governments in the hope that those governments will use the funds to purchase goods and services.

In each case, according to Keynesian theories, the increase in purchases will stimulate additional economic activity over and above the initial increase in purchases. The 2008 stimulus was mainly of the first type, while the 2009 stimulus was a mix of all three types.

The 2008 (Bush) stimulus was of the first type. The Obama stimulus was mixed.

Take a look at Graph 1, which shows both income and consumption in the economy as a whole from the start of 2007 to the present. You can see the big blip in disposable personal income in the spring of 2008 as checks were sent out. But consumption did not increase at all around the time of the stimulus payments. What happened to the money? It went to pay down some debt or was simply saved rather than spent on consumption.1

This should not have surprised anyone. Long ago, the Nobel Prize–winning economists Milton Friedman and Franco Modigliani explained that individuals do not increase consumption much when their income increases temporarily. Instead, they save most of the funds or use the money to pay back some of their outstanding debts. Friedman and Modigliani demonstrated that most people, when deciding how much to consume, consider more long-lasting, or permanent, changes in income. Because one-time increases in transfer payments and temporary tax rebates are, by their very nature, temporary, people should not have been expected to alter their consumption patterns. The Friedman-Modigliani theory, called “the permanent income” or “the life-cycle” hypothesis, profoundly influenced macroeconomic thinking for decades. It was, oddly, ignored in the development and enactment of the stimulus of 2008.

The Bush stimulus was a waste but, at least, it went to taxpayers and was relatively modest compared to what followed.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) repeated this mistake. The amount paid out to households was smaller and delivered over a longer period of time than the 2008 stimulus, but the largest portion of increased payments was made in the spring of 2009. You can see the resulting blip in income in Graph 1.

Again, there was no noticeable effect on consumption. Instead, individuals used the money to shore up depleted bank accounts or pay off overextended credit card bills. As had been true a year earlier, the temporary cash payments failed to create consumption and, as a consequence, failed to increase production and employment.

Graph 1 also illustrates the failure of another recent stimulus attempt: the 2009 “cash for clunkers” program. For a temporary period, this program provided a one-time subsidy if individuals purchased a qualifying new car and simultaneously traded in their old car. The program’s objective was to increase the demand for new cars to spur production and employment.

By definition, a one-time subsidy cannot cause a permanent increase in consumer demand. So what happened? Consumers merely shifted forward in time the purchase of a new car by a few months. This behavior is evident in the lower-right-hand part of Graph 1. Consumption rose sharply as consumers responded to the temporary subsidies, then came right back down. There was no net increase in consumption to bolster the recovery.2

Read the rest.

To sum up:

To sum up: the federal government borrowed funds that it mainly sent to households and to state and local governments. Only an immaterial amount was used for federal purchases of goods and services. The borrowed funds were mainly used by households and state and local governments to reduce their own borrowing. In effect, the increased net borrowing at the federal level was matched by reduced net borrowing by households and state and local governments.

So there was little if any net stimulus. The irony is that basic economic theory and practical experience predicted this would happen. If policymakers had only remembered what Milton Friedman, Franco Modigliani, and Ned Gramlich had said, we might have avoided these two extremely costly policy failures.

There is nothing new under the sun.

H/T Powerline

An assassination attempt that never made the news.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

We have seen the media hysteria about the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and 18 others. The climate of political rhetoric by the right was blamed. The fact that one of the “victims” threatened a tea party member at the memorial service was not considered newsworthy. Now, we learn that even a real assassination attempt on a Republican governor was not considered newsworthy by the legacy media.

In September 2010 Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was scheduled to speak at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City.

At some point, wearing black clothes and a bullet-proof vest, 22 year-old Casey Brezik bolted out of a classroom, knife in hand, and slashed the throat of a dean. As he would later admit, he confused the dean with Nixon.

The story never left Kansas City. It is not hard to understand why. Knives lack the political sex appeal of guns, and even Keith Olbermann would have had a hard time turning Brezik into a Tea Partier.

Indeed, Brezik seems to have inhaled just about every noxious vapor in the left-wing miasma: environmental extremism, radical Islam, anti-capitalism, anti-Zionism and Christophobia, among others.

In his “About Me” box on Facebook, Brezik listed as his favorite quotation one from progressive poster boy, Che Guevara. The quote begins “Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism” and gets more belligerent from there.

On his wall postings, Brezik ranted, “How are we the radical(s) (left) to confront the NEW RIGHT, if we avoid confrontation all together?”

As good as his word, Brezik’s marched on Toronto in June 2010 to protest the G20 Summit, where he was arrested, charged, and deported. “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED,” he boasted

Here we have a genuine attempt at murder of a Republican Governor. No word from the legacy media. I had heard about this recently but the version I read said the Mississippi governor and I could not find the story. Here it is in all its repulsive glory. The linked article blames mental illness and marijuana but his politics had a large role, as well. Maybe that’s why nobody was interested.

Calif. Gun Law Overturned, Media Misses Ruling

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

By Bradley J. Fikes

A new law banning sale of mail order ammunition and requiring registration of handgun ammo purchases was thrown out Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011) by a state judge in Fresno.

That’s the word from plaintiffs, at least. I haven’t found any stories from our friends in the MSM about the decision. Well, I did find one blog post from the LA Times time-stamped 7:32 p.m. More about that later.

The law, AB 962, was signed into law by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October, 2009, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. It was scheduled to go into effect Feb. 1, according to the article.

A search of Google News found stories about AB 962 going into effect, but none about the decision suspending the law.

Superior Court judge Jeffrey Hamilton ruled that the law was “unconstitutionally vague,” according to the California Rifle and Pistol Association, which joined with the National Rifle Association in the lawsuit to block enforcement of the bill.

Here’s another account of the action’s meaning, by C.D. Michel, a gun rights attorney.

“Constitutional vagueness challenges to state laws are extremely difficult to win, particularly in California firearms litigation so this success is particularly noteworthy.  Even so, an appeal by the State is likely, but the Court’s Order enjoining enforcement of the law is effective – February 1, 2011 – immediately regardless.”

While I couldn’t find any Associated Press story about the decision, that august news organization did run a story about a firearms industry show in Las Vegas.

Did the AP drag in Jared Laughner and solicit quotes from Democrats linking the firearms industry to criminal violence? Need you even ask?

The LA Times blog post mostly repeats what other bloggers said hours earlier. But there’s one nugget of new information:

“Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), who authored AB 962, is considering his legal and legislative options, including a possible appeal, said Dan Reeves, his chief of staff.”

But does Kevin de León have legal standing to sue? IANAL, but from what I’ve read, the governor or attorney general hold that power in such cases. (In Proposition 8, Imperial County has appealed, but its standing has not been decided and is in serious question.)

The MSM has performed poorly here. The professional reporters got beat by those unkempt pajama-wearing bloggers (who truth be told, were sometimes much more professional and aware than the reporters). The Associated Press cranked out a template story linking the attack on Giffords to a gun convention, when it would have served the public better by covering Tuesday’s hearing, with its important ruling.

Yes, I’m a MSM reporter and believe the press can do a public benefit by providing accurate and impartial news to the public. But it’s awfully hard to make that case with the presence of agenda-driven reporters, busily at work presenting their left-leaning bias to the public under the guise of nonpartisan journalism.

– – – – – – – – – –

(DISCLAIMER: This article is my opinion, and not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times).

More Tucson threats

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

UPDATE: I watched This Week this morning and they DID NOT show the outburst from the leftist who threatened the tea party president. Christine referred to it obliquely saying he “could have been considered threatening.” They had the outburst on tape. They could have showed it and let us judge for ourselves.

I should add that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, attending as a friend of Giffords’ went into full campaign mode when asked about the mental health aspects of the story. She went straight to the Obamacare vote coming up next Wednesday. There was no mention of ACLU-inspired barriers to treating the mentally ill before they hurt someone or end up homeless. Nope, it was those nasty Republicans who want to snatch health care from everyone.

UPDATE #2 There are now a few questions about whether Fuller was actually a victim, or this is an attempt (successful so far) to claim victimhood status by a nut. I watched him walk out with the cops and saw no limp or evidence of a significant injury. Knees hurt for a long time and most people would limp one week post GSW of the knee, if they could walk. He drove himself to the hospital. Something’s fishy.

It is well known that Jared Loughner is psychotic and his mass murder last Saturday had nothing to do with politics. He has been obsessed with Representative Giffords since 2007 when he asked a delusional question at a public meeting and got what he considered an “ignorant” answer.

Loughner’s animus toward Giffords intensified after he attended one of her campaign events and she did not, in his view, sufficiently answer a question he had posed, Tierney says.

Tierney, who’s also 22, recalls Loughner complaining about a Giffords event he attended during that period. He’s unsure whether it was the same one mentioned in the charges—Loughner “might have gone to some other rallies,” he says—but Tierney notes it was a significant moment for Loughner: “He told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, ‘What is government if words have no meaning?’”

Giffords’ answer, whatever it was, didn’t satisfy Loughner. “He said, ‘Can you believe it, they wouldn’t answer my question,’ and I told him, ‘Dude, no one’s going to answer that,’” Tierney recalls. “Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her.”

The question was something from his obsession with grammar and his delusion that government could control his mind that way.

Tonight, another agitated person, this time a left wing victim of the shooting last Saturday, threatened a tea party official at an ABC TV taping for tomorrow’s programming. Eric Fuller, a Giffords supporter who may also be mentally ill, was shot last Saturday but quickly recovered and then spent the rest of the week loudly accusing the right of complicity.

I didn’t quite know how to react. I felt like we were in for more, and possibly to be given a coup de grace by this madman that was so vigorously exercising his Second Amendment rights.”

Tonight, he exercised his “rights” by threatening a tea party official by saying “you’re dead !.

The man, J. Eric Fuller, 63, a military veteran who supports Ms. Giffords, was “involuntarily committed for mental health evaluation,” said Jason Ogan, a spokesman for the Pima County sheriff’s office.

Mr. Fuller, who was shot in the left knee and back on Jan. 8, was among several victims, medical personnel and others who attended a special forum at St. Odilia Catholic Church hosted by Christiane Amanpour to be televised Sunday on ABC.

State Representative Terri Proud, a Republican, was sitting two rows behind Mr. Fuller. The topic of gun control came up in the forum, she said, and one of the speakers made a comment about a bill introduced recently in Arizona that would allow faculty members on college campuses with concealed weapons permits to carry guns.

Ms. Proud said she spoke up to clarify the bill’s language. Trent Humphries, the founder of the Tucson Tea Party, who was sitting one row behind her, rose to speak and suggested that discussion about gun legislation be postponed until after the funerals. He started to say that he had also been affected by the tragedy because a neighbor was a victim.

At that point, Ms. Proud said, Mr. Fuller blurted out to Mr. Humphries, “You’re dead.”

Mr. Fuller then began to “behave in a very odd manner,” she said. “He was making inappropriate comments.”

And, so we go as the rhetoric from the left stimulates less disabled adherents to threats and maybe violence. I worry about Sarah Palin’s safety.

The coming energy crisis

Friday, January 14th, 2011

The Obama administration is still in the throes of global warming mentality. They have cancelled leases for oil and gas in the huge deposits in western states like Montana. The vast boom going on just to the north in Alberta has not impressed Interior Secretary Salazar. They want to take millions of acres out of the energy search by naming them wilderness, just as Bill Clinton created a huge wilderness area out of good potential energy fields at the end of his administration. They have not made nuclear power plants any easier to build. The Gulf oil leases are still blocked and the moratorium, while allegedly ended, continues in a slow down. The only energy and his acolytes are interested in is “renewable” such as wind and sun. These are boutique power sources and even these are being blocked by Democratic politicians.

But the project is hardly shovel ready. Several regulatory hurdles remain, and opponents of the wind farm have vowed to go to court, potentially stalling Cape Wind for several more years.

For years the Cape Wind project has been the focusof pitched battles splitting politicians and environmental groups. While some environmentalists are prepared to go to court to stop the project, other major groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, support it.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, whose family compound overlooks Nantucket Sound and who died last year, had opposed the project, saying it was a giveaway to a private developer.

It has taken nine years to get this far. In California, another lefty state, a big solar project is being fought by enviros and Democrats. I wonder if the left wants any energy developed. It seems insane but we are getting very close to a tipping point when there will not be time to build new projects and find more oil and gas.

The Democrats, and the vast array of “activists” whom they enable, have demonstrated hostility to all practical forms of energy production and distribution. This is not just a matter of oil & gas drilling: as we have discussed many times on this blog, the U.S. electrical system faces a problematic future. There is every likelihood that, under a Democratic administration/Congress:

a)The building of new coal plants would go from “difficult” to “impossible”
b)The building of nuclear plants would continue to be virtually impossible
c)Even the building of new natural-gas-fired plants would be severely delayed by environmental lawsuits and regulatory maneuvering based on the CO2-is-a-pollutant theory.

Solar and wind, beloved of Democrats, have their uses, but they also have their limitations. I see no evidence that either Obama or the Dem Congressional leadership has any interest in understanding the technical and economic factors that govern the extent to which these technologies can be practically employed. The intermittent nature of wind and usable sun, the difficulty of storing electricity, the supply-chain constraints which govern the large-scale introduction of any new technology–there is much less interest in these things than in the glib repetition of catch-phrases. And even the use of environmentally-blessed technologies will be greatly inhibited by environmentalist protests against the transmission lines required to connect these systems to the cities that need their power. These activists would, of course, gain great impetus from a Democratic administration.

Obama talks a lot about the middle class. The existence of a large and affluent middle class is enabled by widely available and reasonably priced energy, especially electricity. If electric rates are driven up by a factor of 2X or 3X, as is entirely possible with Democratic policies, there will be not only a direct effect on consumers, but an effect on virtually all workers as U.S. businesses–especially manufacturing businesses but also things like data centers–become less competitive.

Lenin once remarked that “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification.” Our present “progressives” seem more interested in de-electrification. Where the New Deal (and the Soviets) wanted to build hydroelectric dams, today’s “progressives” are, for the most part, more interested in destroying them.

Remember, electrical infrastructure is a long-leadtime item, and if we dig outselves into a deep hole in this matter, it will take a long, long time to dig ourselves out..

That was written in 2008. Read the whole thing. It did a pretty good job of predicting the Obama administration’s policies.

I am worried about the next political killing. Not that Tucson was political.

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

The shooter in Tucson is an obvious paranoid schizophrenic, uninterested in and ignorant of political rhetoric.

Ashleigh Banfield said that Loughner “disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right,” according to an interview on “Good Morning America.” Loughner wasn’t shooting at people, “he was shooting at the world,” Banfield said, according to the report.

The next shooter will probably be very interested in the hate-filled rhetoric coming from the left and directed at talk radio and Fox New, plus of course, Sarah Palin.

I fear that the torrent of hate and slander that has poured from the left, including the “paper of record” the New York Times, will agitate some leftist radical and we will have an ugly incident. Libertarian (and gay) Dutch politician (and professor), Pim Fortuyn was assassinated three weeks before the next election by a Green and “animal rights” activist.

However, words have power and if someone is called a racist often enough, an impressionable mind may decide that saving the world from the latest Hitler will require that person’s murder.

Some version of that scenario appears to have taken place in the Netherlands on May 6, 2002, with the political assassination of Pim Fortuyn, a rising star in Dutch politics who could possibly have become the next Prime Minister. A man identified only as an “animal rights activist” shot him down in the street near a radio station.

Certainly Professor Fortuyn’s notoriety played a part in his being targeted. Both the media and Dutch politicians in the ruling party attacked him mercilessly in the most disparaging language. Prime Minister Wim Kok called him a fascist, as did the European press. Anyone who objects to massive Muslim immigration is branded automatically as a racist, xenophobe and fascist. Mr. Fortuyn was regularly compared with real right-winger Jean Le Pen, although aside from the immigration issue, the men had nothing in common.

The assassin was a typical leftist activist.

A vegan animal rights activist accused of the murder of the controversial Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has confessed, public prosecutors said on Saturday.
Volkert van der Graaf is reported as saying he saw Mr Fortuyn’s far-right views as a threat to vulnerable sections of society.

Note that Fortuyn’s speeches were principally concerned about Muslim immigration. For that position, he was called “far right” and a fascist. This person who did the killing that was obviously being called for by leftist politicians and the media, had nothing to do with Muslims. He was responding to the rhetoric from the political left.

I fear we may see a similar attempt this year as the next election begins to raise the temperature of political speech. I hope Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin have good security. She is probably the most vulnerable and I really worry about her safety.

US education compared to other countries

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

This post at Powerline is so good and so complete that I am going to copy it here without further comment. I do this to keep it for future reference, not because I want claim any credit.

We frequently read about how poorly the United States does when it comes to K-12 education. Our educational system is said, based on this or that study, to be lagging behind those of other developed nations, thus placing our economic competitiveness at risk.

As with certain other metrics through which the U.S. is sometimes compared unfavorably to other countries, I always wonder whether the comparisons that find our education system lacking are “apples to apples.” In other words, do they compare how well various countries educate similarly situated populations?

Robert Samuelson sheds some light on this question in the context of a recent study of the reading skills of 15 year olds in 65 school systems around the world. It shows U.S. students doing slightly above average among the 34 relatively wealthy nations in the study. We’re well behind Shanghai and South Korea, and we trail Japan and Belgium as well. But we’re slightly ahead of France, Germany, and Great Britain.

However, the picture looks different if one examines the American scores by race and ethnicity. Non-hispanic whites in this country score as well or better than non-hispanic whites in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia – all of which are in the top ten worldwide overall. In other words, I submit, these countries rate ahead of the U.S. not because they are better educators but because they have a much more homogenous population.

The same picture emerges if one compares the test scores of Asian Americans to the test scores of students in Asian countries. Here, we remain below Shanghai, but surpass Japan and South Korea.

I don’t mean to say it’s okay that blacks and hispanics do poorly as long as non-hispanic whites do well. The achievement gap is a problem that should be addressed through expanded school choice and other reforms.

But, as Samuelson argues, there are real limits to the ability of schools to compensate for external problems such as broken homes, lack of assimilation, and indifference to education. And if the issue is how well our schools are doing compared to schools in other countries, the comparison really should be based on similarly situated student populations.

There are similar statistics about other social pathologies like murder. The non-Hispanic white murder rate in the US has been lower than Europe’s for many years.

The shooting in Tucson

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

I have had a house in Tucson for the past five or six years. It is in Gabriel Gifford’s Congressional district. I know the corner of Ina Road and Oracle Road where the shooting occurred. I know and like Tucson and Arizona. I would rather be living there than here because I have serious fears about California’s future while I think Arizona is now in pretty good hands. They had a housing bubble but they have more sensible people in that state government.

Gabriel Gifford’s district includes some of the most affluent areas of Tucson. To be re-elected, she had to be a “blue dog” Democrat. She has an appealing personal story. Her father is a sheriff of a neighboring county and her husband is an astronaut. I would not have voted for her because she had a very attractive opponent but there was very little of the animosity in that election that there was in other district races. Some of her constituents were unhappy about her healthcare vote. She had gotten the message and voted against Nancy Pelosi for minority leader of the Democrats, one of 17 Democrats to do so.

The press conference by the Pima County sheriff yesterday was disgraceful. I watched the whole thing. He went over and over his theories that harsh political discourse was somehow a cause of the shooting. He repeated the whole mantra three times by my count. Other than that, he provided very little information, for example, declining to give the suspect’s name when everyone with an internet connection knew what it was. I think he may have been reacting to personal distress as he probably knows Ms Gifford’s father and has known her for a long time. I also suspect he is a Democrat as Tucson is a rather left wing city being the site of the University of Arizona. The City Council has been very left wing and several members were defeated in the previous election as they had spent far too much money on frivolous projects, some of which had never been completed.

There is a lot of wild talk on left wing web sites, some of which is being rolled back as Daily Kos and the DNC scrub web sites of similar images and rhetoric as conservative sites and people they are attacking. A lot of it has been scrubbed but some people have found Google caches.

Like this DLC “targeting map.”

There has been a lot of talk about how “angry” Arizona people are. Well, maybe they have reason to be angry. The Obama administration has sued the state to try to stop an Arizona law that merely enforces a federal law that Obama seems disinterested in enforcing. Arizona is overrun with illegals immigrants, drug violence is 60 miles away in Mexico and auto insurance rates are sky high because of car theft. Someone I know had a LoJack system installed in his car. When he realized the car was stolen, the police activated the locator and the car was already 60 miles into Mexico.

Some of the angry rhetoric comes from a sense that the people have lost control of the government since Obama was elected. The health care bill was opposed in every poll of public opinion. The Republican minority was completely opposed. Yet, the bill was passed by procedural maneuvers never before used to pass legislation of this magnitude. As the people have learned more about the bill, they like it less. Nancy Pelosi told us they have to pass it so we can find out what is in it. Yes, the people of Arizona are angry. But it had nothing to do with yesterday’s shooting.

The young man is obviously a paranoid schizophrenic. His ramblings on a You Tube video contain the typical delusions of schizophrenics. He goes on about the government controlling minds through grammar. He appears to be obsessed with grammar and goes on about introducing a new currency for which he will be the Treasurer. These are the delusional ravings of a psychotic. There appears to be some level of disappointment that he is not associated with a political ideology, especially the tea party. There are already think pieces about “violence”, by which they mean talk radio and Fox News, just as Clinton did after the McVeigh bombing in Oklahoma.

By day’s end, the argument that the political right—fueled by anti-government, and anti-immigrant passions that run especially strong in Arizona—is culpable for the Tucson massacre, even if by indirect association, seemed to be validated by the top local law enforcement official investigating the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D).

This refers to that disgusting press conference by the Pima County sheriff. They even have a video of his rant.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, an elected Democrat, at a news conference Saturday evening.

Yup, I guessed right.

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” said the Democrat. “Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”

Another Democratic strategist said the similarity is that Tucson and Oklahoma City both “take place in a climate of bitter and virulent rhetoric against the government and Democrats.”

Isn’t it odd that movies about the assassination of George Bush are not considered too extreme ?

I think Representative Gifford will recover as the gunshot wound track passed from her temple out her forehead, probably missing her brain. A family friend said she is now in induced coma, no doubt to minimize cerebral edema from the contusion to the brain from the shock wave. I don’t know if the Democratic party will recover from its disinterest in debate and its tendency to try to demonize its opponents instead of argue with them.

UPDATE: Here is more detail on this strategy the Democrats, especially the left wing Democrats, had to use any incident like this to attack Republicans, especially Sarah Palin. It is ironic that Daily Kos and other far left blogs were “targeting” Giffords for a primary challenge a year ago. She is one of the few blue dogs left in Congress.

UPDATE #2: The sheriff may be making outrageous statements to cover up the fact that his office dropped the ball on this kid.

They know him quite well from many telephoned threats to various people. The fact that his mother is a county employee may have be a motive to treat him with kid gloves. That blew up in their faces and it will eventually come out.