Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: June 2009

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US Troops Withdraw From Iraqi Cities

Voluntarily as a part of the agreement signed last year by the Bush administration.

Wow.

I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned Iraq at all for months. That in itself is quite amazing.

In 2006 most people were waiting for the Iraqi version of the last helicopter leaving the US embassy in Saigon.  Now, we’re turning over the vast majority of the security work in Iraq to the Iraqis as the people of Iraq celebrate the handover.

Trust me – no one is anymore pleased to be heading out of the cities than US troops.  And for the opponents of the war, it’s pretty hard to deny the success that has been built on the surge and the change in strategy implemented by the Bush administration.

In fact, Obama really hasn’t had to do a thing except accept the plan that administration left in place and execute it.

But …

There’s always a “but”. But that doesn’t at all means everything is smooth sailing and unicorns and rainbows are now in Iraq’s future. Instead it means that for the most part, the Iraqi state is functional and at least minimally able to take care of its own security. It also will probably mean, in the absence of US military might, that some of the old players will again try their hand at fomenting violence in a bid to reestablish their agendas for Iraq.

This still remains a red letter day for Iraq, however. And it also is a red letter day for the region. The question is will they continue to make progress or will we see sectarianism and the violence that usually accompanies it reemerges as US troops withdraw.

There are going to be horrific acts of violence in Iraq for a while. That is just the nature of the beast as the last of the dead-enders do their thing. What we have to hope for is the progress to this date continues, Iraqis think of themselves as Iraqis first (and whatever religious sect or ethnic group second) and work toward a stable and democratic Iraq.

Everyone I’ve talked too who’ve been there since the surge, to include Michael Yon, are very encouraged by what they’ve seen and experienced.

Best of luck to the Iraqi people – it is pretty much now theirs to make or break. We’ll soon see how badly they want what they have.

~McQ

Welcome To One-Party Rule (Updated)

It’s now official: only one party has the reins to power in Washington, DC:

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled Al Franken the winner of last November’s Senate race, putting the former “Saturday Night Live” star on the brink of becoming a United States senator and Democrats on the cusp of holding a dominant 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

In a unanimous 5-0 decision, the court upheld a three-judge panel’s April 14 ruling that Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman in the race by 312 votes out of 2.9 million cast. The 32-page was remarkably decisive, picking apart and rejecting one Coleman legal claim after another.

[…]

If Franken is seated, Democrats would hold a 60-40 majority in the Senate, the largest the party has enjoyed in a generation. Sixty votes are needed to break filibusters, ensuring that if Democrats stay united they would be able to cleave the GOP’s last lever of power in Washington. A Franken “yes” vote on health reform, climate change legislation and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor gives Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) even more of a margin for error on these major votes.

Democrats were already celebrating the result.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty already stated that he would sign the election certificate for Franken if directed to do so by the Supreme Court, so this is pretty much a done deal. Coleman has not indicated whether he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Minnesota Republican Party doesn’t seem to sanguine about pushing further:

Even Minnestoa Republicans – highly disappointed by the ruling – weren’t ready to call for a federal legal challenge.

The Minnesota Republican Party issued a strongly worded statement, saying the ruling “wrongly disenfranchised thousands of Minnesotans who deserve to have their votes counted.”

But the chairman-elect of the party, Tony Sutton, made no mention of next steps, only saying, “As we move forward, our deeply flawed election system must be dramatically improved to ensure our state’s elections are fair, accurate and reliable.”

Assuming that Coleman doesn’t seek cert., or if he does that no stay of the decision is put into place, then Franken will be seated as early as next week. With a vetofilibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Democrats won’t need to play parliamentary games like using reconciliation bills, or the like, and instead will simply shove legislation down the throats of the minority. So get ready for cap-and-trade, government health care, huge tax increases, and a host of other government programs that don’t need and can’t pay for.

The only downside for Democrats is that they can’t credibly blame the fiscal and economic woes on Bush anymore as they will have cornered the political market. I say “credibly” because they will continue to do so, and the media mostly won’t call them on it, but such claims will be laughably false. The real question is, how and when will this come back to haunt them?

UPDATE: Coleman concedes.

Krugman Endorses “Carbon Tariff”

Paul Krugman came out today for “border adjustments” (tariffs) on goods from countries who aren’t participating in economy killing CO2 emissions control taxation.

His argument:

If you only impose restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from domestic sources, you give consumers no incentive to avoid purchasing products that cause emissions in other countries; as a result, you have an inefficient outcome even from a world point of view. So border adjustments here are entirely legitimate in terms of basic economics.

Actually they’re “entirely legitimate” if you swallow the premise Krugman is pushing here, namely that CO2 is a “pollutant” and its restriction is a “legitimate” reason for imposing taxes on both your own economy and the goods coming from another economy which doesn’t agree with the premise. And, of course, this ignores the probable reaction countries hit with this tariff might have.

Krugman then attempts to justify such a “border adjustment” by claiming such a move is probably legal under “international law”:

The WTO has looked at the issue, and suggests that carbon tariffs may be viewed the same way as border adjustments associated with value-added taxes. It has long been accepted that a VAT is essentially a sales tax — a tax on consumers — which for administrative reasons is collected from producers. Because it’s essentially a tax on consumers, it’s legal, and also economically efficient, to collect it on imported goods as well as domestic production; it’s a matter of leveling the playing field, not protectionism.

And the same would be true of carbon tariffs.

What he sort of dances around when he claims this will “level the playing field” is all products, regardless of their origin, will see dramatically increased pricing. The point of the tax is to hopefully steer consumers to domestically produced products which are produced under government approved conditions rather than those from countries like China and India which aren’t playing the game the US wants them to play. Not only will the consumer here be asked to pay for the CO2 offsets imposed on domestic industry, but they will have to pay for offsets for foreign producers as well when the VAT cost is passed on in the price of the goods.

The thinking, obviously, is that if prices are the same, US consumers will buy US goods instead of, say, Chinese goods. The problem, of course, is much of what we consume isn’t made here anymore. So the result would be the US consumer would end up paying higher prices for goods produced in China with no change in behavior by China.

Additionally, China will view this as a protectionist measure, whether the WTO thinks it is “legal” or not. China will simply claim that the US, as a rich country and large “polluter”, should be doing more than they are doing in terms of emissions control, and impose its own “WTO legal” VAT in response. Same with any other country targeted by the US for a tariff.

This is, frankly, an invitation to a trade war. Krugman can wrap his protectionist argument in whatever legality he’d like, but the fact remains most countries effected will view it as an attempt to limit trade and react accordingly. And, of course, by Krugman’s own admission, it is you who will be paying the tariff cost for China and India if this is ever passed into law.

~McQ

Comment “Reply” Problem

It appears there is a problem with directly replying to a comment, i.e. if you left click on reply, it doesn’t thread it under the comment you are replying too.

I have no idea why. We recently upgraded to a newer version of WP and it may be a bug in that.

However, there is a workaround that Billy Hollis noted in the comment section of one of the posts. If you will left click right click [edited by Billy] on “Reply” and open a new tab, the reply you leave will be threaded with the comment.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but we do have a work around until we figure it out.

This situation in Honduras – a first hand report

I have a professional colleague in Honduras who wrote many of us a message yesterday, pleading for help getting the word out about the true situation as he sees it. I don’t know if it’s prudent to give his name at this point.

I requested permission to repost that message here, and he readily agreed. So this is written by a Honduran, directly addressing the rest of world and appealing for us to understand the situation there and take action appropriately:

I seek your advice. I have to find the best way to make all governments, especially the world leaders, understand what is happening in Honduras. I’m gathering IT friends and developers to brainstorm on this and hopefully save our country from terror.

This alias is not political [He refers to the mailing list on which he posted this message] so I won’t write in those terms. But can say that the great majority of my country celebrated the forced departure of our Ex President. He and Hugo Chavez did the best they could to divide this nation, making us fight against each other, but in the end, they made us more united and more aware of what Democracy really is, and embrace it. They’ve done us a favor actually.

Just so you know what happened in one line: Our Ex President was trying to repeat what Hugo Chavez has achieved in four other countries by controlling the national media, bribing top officials and threatening citizens. He wanted to illegally change our constitution so that he could create a one and only Party, do away with national media, change the way referendums are carried and be reelected indefinitely by these false referendums.

If you ask why we voted for him as President in the first place? Well, he presented himself as a normal candidate in opposition to corruption. We basically voted (me included) for him, because we were against the other guy. Little did we know that he would start insulting the USA (country where most of us have family and friends) and befriending all its enemies. He took a hard, hard left. With Hugo Chavez’s money, he bought three TV channels and a News Paper that is delivered “free of charge” to every citizen’s door step. You get 24X7 news on how “Pinky and the Brain” plan to take over the world. His own Party ousted him a few months after being elected President.

You need to know that all of the Churches (all the brands), the Teachers Union, Commerce Chambers, Worker Unions, The Congress, the Supreme Court, the Police, the Armed Forces, everyone has celebrated his ousting. Every single person I know (that did not work directly for him) (rich or poor) is very happy with the actions taken and the new temporary President that we have until November’s elections.

To sum it up we all just had it with this guy and are happy he’s gone. Unfortunately, what I see on the world news is astonishing to us. All Presidents back him up and want him reinstated. Hugo Chavez has troops from Venezuela lined up on our Nicaraguan border. Are we going into war for something that we all wanted as country to stop? Hugo Chavez knows that he has to act soon before the media and world start to see what really happened here. So we have to get the message out as fast as possible.

When I requested permission to repost, this was his response:

Dear Billy,

I’m sorry it took this long to get back to you. We’ve been having outages of Internet ever since the 7.1 earthquake that hit a couple of weeks ago. There are many reasons why it was so urgent for us to get rid of this man. He disregarded the whole country for the sake of Hugo Chavez’s interest. Bridges fell down, schools and houses broke down, etc, during the Earthquake. Even before that the roads and hospitals are destroyed by total lack of maintenance, etc, etc. We are losing jobs to economy crisis. Becoming a communist (Marxist) country to make Hugo happy is the furthest thing on our minds. Our real government had to take extreme measures (which we applaud) to oust this person.

I also need to add that our Ex President did not submit a yearly budget to the Congress as our Constitution demands every year. He was hoping to suffocate the Congress and Supreme Court by withholding funds. It is calculated that he spent more than three years budget into his campaign to be reelected (strong prohibited by the Constitution and named as treason). The only way that amount of funds availability is possible is by Hugo Chavez’s oil money. But he never reported any of it to anyone. How can the world expect us to carry a fair trial for this man when he has more cash than several neighboring countries together. Kicking him out of the country was the only way. If this was the 70’s, he would be dead. But like all modern terrorists, they rely on our respect for Human Rights; But that has a limit also.

So yes, by all means, post and repost as much as you can, please. Tomorrow I plan to go around taking pictures and video of the city so you can add them if you wish. I greatly appreciate the support I’m getting from several RD’s. [He refers to a program of Microsoft-oriented software developers.] We are very nervous, scared actually. We know very well that we are right and the media and the Presidents of other countries are wrong and uninformed. To me CNN is the USA’s worst enemy. It’s become ours too.[Emphasis mine]

If he is successful in getting pictures and video, I’ll post them. In the meantime, this corroborates the position set out by McQ in his previous two posts, maintaining that Obama’s response has been… well, let’s euphemistically say “unimpressive”, though my own opinion is that it demonstrates that Obama doesn’t seem to place much value on freedom, here or anywhere else. And don’t get me started on our media.

I wish the Hondurans good fortune in getting through this political crisis. I trust my colleague’s account, and I will be guided by it in my own opinions. You may judge whether you agree.

Obama Immediately Slams Honduras

But not Iran.

Hmmm. And even saying anything about Iran could be considered “meddling” in the internal affairs of another country, per the Obama administration, but apparently working actively within Honduras to stop what it characterizes as a “military coup” isn’t meddling.

Confusing foreign policy.

An interesting aspect of the Honduran “coup”, per Fausta is:

-Tuesday last week the Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections.

– The Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, named a commission to investigate Zelaya. The Commission found (my translation: If you quote it, please credit me and link to this post)

Zelaya acted against the mandates of legal and electoral laws, the Public Ministry, the National Congress, the Attorney General, and other institutions of the State, which had declared the poll illegal.

Additionally, the court weighed in:

Indeed, Honduras’ La Prensa states that (My translation: If you use this, please credit me and link to this post)

An official statement of the Supreme Court of Justice explained that the Armed Forces acted under lawful grounds when detaining the President of the Republic, and by decommissioning the materials to be used on the illegal poll which aimed to bring forth Executive Power against a judicial order.

Other sources verified that the president of the Congress, Roberto Micheletti, will assume the presidency of the republic in a few hours.

Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was detained this morning by the military in compliance with an order of the courts of law.

I’ve also seen a report that the new president, Roberto Micheletti, is of the same party as Zelaya.

As I said this morning I’m not a Honduran Constitutional expert – but our Constitutional expert-in-chief seems to have it all figured out. I think the “why” should be obvious:

Analysts said quick criticism of the coup by Obama and Clinton on Sunday pleased Latin American countries bitter about the long history of U.S. intervention in the region.

Despite Obama’s claim that this would set a “terrible precedent”, the State Department still hasn’t yet made a determination that an actual “military coup” has actually taken place:

Despite Obama’s comments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration was not formally designating the ouster as a military coup for now.

Such a designation could force the U.S. leader to cut off most aid to Honduras. Under U.S. legislation, no aid — other than for the promotion of democracy — may be provided to a country whose elected head of government has been toppled in a military coup.

“We do think that this has evolved into a coup,” Clinton told reporters, adding the administration was “withholding” that determination for now.

The stated reason is they want to leave room for negotiations with “the goal of restoring democratic order in Honduras”.

What isn’t clear, however, is whether or not what happened wasn’t a result of “democratic order” and legal. For instance:

Jason Steck, writing at Real Clear World Blog, explains

what is happening in Honduras may be an example of a coup that is not only legal, but mandatory

because, in Honduras’s case, the military has been endowed with a role in maintaining democratic governance; this time their task was to delivery Zelaya safely out of office and into the airplane to Costa Rica.

If this all ends up being constituitonally legal,  it will be interesting to see how Obama backs off his previous statements or whether, instead, he continues to characterize the arrest of Zelaya as a “coup” to play to the leftist crowd now “pleased” with his initial reaction.

Regardless, I’m less than impressed with Obama’s reaction to world events in Iran, North Korea and now Honduras.

~McQ

Sotomayor Overturned? (Update)

From Twitter a minute ago:

NYT NEWS ALERT: Supreme Court Rules for White Firefighters in Affirmative Action Case

This could give new legs to the opposition of Sotomayor’s nomination.

Again, developing …

UPDATE:  The Washington Post confirms.

New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

The ruling could alter employment practices nationwide, potentially limiting the circumstances in which employers can be held liable for decisions when there is no evidence of intentional discrimination against minorities.

I’d say that’s a fairly significant ruling and certainly the opposite of what Sotomayor held. Of course, if Sotomayor was on the court right now (and hadn’t had to recuse herself for hearing the case in a lower court) she wouldn’t have made any difference since David Souter, the justice she’s slated to replace, voted in the minority.

More here.

~McQ

Honduras

It seems what has happened in Honduras is being characterized by most as a “military coup”. However Fausta, who has been following it all very closely, seems not to be sure that is the case. Instead she and some others are characterizing it as the military enforcing the orders of the Supreme Court and Congress.

Not being a Honduran constitutional expert or even really knowing whether that is legally permissible under their constitution, I’ll leave it to others to decide what the action really is. However, from Fausta, some background info that will get you into the picture. It is all about a referendum which President Manuel Zelaya wanted to hold concerning his term in office which is constitutionally limited to one term. Zelaya wanted to be able to serve another and decided a referendum would do to make that happen. The Supreme Court of Honduras declared such a referendum illegal. Zelaya essentially told them to pound sand (a very Jacksonian reaction):

Background on the referendum, which Zelaya insisted on in spite of it having been declared unlawful:

* When the armed forces refused to distribute the ballots, Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, and the defense minister, the head of the army and the air force resigned in protest.

* Yesterday the Supreme Court ordered by a 5-0 vote that Vásquez be reinstated.

* Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal ordered authorities to pick up all the ballots and electoral material, which were held by the country’s air force.

* The country’s Attorney General requested yesterday that Congress oust Zelaya.

* The courts have declared the referendum unlawful. Last Tuesday the Congress passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections. Congress has also named a commission to investigate Zelaya.

This is the first coup in Honduras since 1982 when a democratically elected civilian government came to power .

So the question remains, was the military acting on its own or under the orders of some other constitutional body that had the legal right to order the removal of the president? It may turn out that both sides acted unconstitutionally and illegally. However it should be noted that the Honduran Attorney General had weighed in on the situation:

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out.

So it is conceivable that the military was acting under the AG’s orders.

What Zelaya was trying to bypass is this provision in the Honduran Constitution:

Title VII, with two chapters, outlines the process of amending the constitution and sets forth the principle of constitutional inviolability. The constitution may be amended by the National Congress after a two-thirds vote of all its members in two consecutive regular annual sessions.

Apparently, at the moment, all is calm and quiet in Honduras. The Congress has accepted a “letter of resignation” from Zelaya which Zelaya (who is in Costa Rica) says he didn’t write. The Congress has also voted to make their head the new president.

Reaction has been swift and negative. The OAS said it would refuse to recognize the new government. President Obama said he was “deeply concerned” and called on Hondurans “to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic charter”, whatever that means.

It certainly seems that at least one party was trying to circumvent the “rule of law” in this case. Whether the others who removed him were remains to be seen. But the Obama administration is sticking by its one-note foreign policy song:

“We think this can be resolved through dialogue,” said the senior administration official.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez, with all his new Russian military equipment is rattling sabers in Venezuela as he sees a part of his Bolivarian Socialist revolution go astray. Of course the first knee-jerk reaction is to blame it on the US. In fact the Obama administration claims to have tried to stop the “coup” when it learned about it (some might see that as “meddling” in the “internal affairs of another country”).

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, blamed “the Yankee empire”, and threatened military action should the Venezuelan ambassador to Honduras be attacked; President Evo Morales of Bolivia described Mr Zelaya’s removal as “an assault on democracy”.

Of course both Chavez and Morales have stagemanaged similar assaults on their own Constitutions and managed to pull them off to their advantage.

As Drudge would say – developing …

~McQ

Podcast for 28 Jun 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situations in Honduras and Iran, and the cap-and-trade energy bill.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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