Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: June 30, 2009

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.