Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: June 23, 2010

Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-23

Italian researchers report that stem cell therapy returns sight to people blinded in accidents. http://bit.ly/bDNbjl #

Journalist who says bad things about me has had terrible, horrible accident. Must be karma, da? #MedvedevTweets #

Hello everyone! I go to Vladimir's house. He has television and American blue jeans! #MedvedevTweets #

Another call to use explosives to close the oil leak. We know it'll work at 5000ft and 2000psi pressure how, exactly? http://bit.ly/d6QXDe #

It just hit me that the last time new home sales were at 300k for a month was the year before I was born. #

Rumblefish will allow YouTube users to purchase royalty-free music for $1.99, for lifetime use in non -profit videos. http://bit.ly/cPzru8 #

On the bright side, Obama now has the opportunity to appoint yet another official that Hamid Karzai hates. More of that smart diplomacy. #

RT @EdMorrissey: If our entire national policy is based on one "irreplaceable" general, then we truly are screwed, and not just in A-stan. in reply to EdMorrissey #

RT @dmataconis @jstrevino: Re:soccer, Eurovision, annihilating Israel, Nutella, appeasement. | One of those things is fantastic! #

With a 77 seat majority in the house and 18 in the senate, and no filibuster possible, the Democrats are still unable to pass a budget? #

New-home sales plunge 33% to 300k, vice expectations of…450k?…Really? Anyway, that's pretty bad. http://usat.me?38981184 #

Canada's spy chief says that a number of Canadian politicians are owned by foreign governments. Hmmm. Who owns ours? http://bit.ly/cjBeza #

Now Mexico is challenging Arizona's immigration law? How about we adapt Mexico's law & watch them freak out. http://bit.ly/cJqH0a #

Watching FOX NEWS, I see a commercial, clearly directed at the ' seeds, for something called the Creation Museum. That's an oxymoron. #

RT @Amuk3 Happy Birthday Joss Whedon! | Feh. Until he brings Firefly back, he's dead to me. But I'm not bitter. #

McChrystal is gone – now what?

Unsurprisingly, President Obama has fired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of our effort in Afghanistan, for remarks made in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

That’s unfortunate, but most people saw it as something that had to be done, given the importance of our Constitutional tradition of civilian control of the military. While a great general, his remarks couldn’t be allowed to stand without punishment.

That said, now what? Given the public remarks of McChrystal and his staff, it seems obvious to any fair observer that our Afghanistan strategy isn’t hitting on all cylinders and “team work” at the top is a buzz word, not a reality.

Maybe what would be easier to puzzle out is what shouldn’t happen now. McChrystal was the architect of the present strategy in Afghanistan. What shouldn’t happen, and would most likely spell final disaster there, is to again change strategies. All of the surge troops deployed to push that strategy forward won’t be in place until August. While McChrystal had asked for 40,000 troops, he only received 30,000. Regardless, the surge, in full, has yet to fully begin.

As we all know, the military piece is only a part of the solution, and, frankly, is a relatively minor one when talking about COIN and the peculiarities of the Afghan political landscape. A huge amount of work remains to be done on the civilian side of things there.

And, apparently, McChrystal is the only one who understands how important it is to form a personal relationship with the government and its leaders as a step toward reforming it and getting it to perform properly and competently with the goal of having it become a real national government:

McChrystal may hold the closest relationship of any American in what often has been a strained relationship with the Karzai government, says Jim Phillips, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. The Obama administration has been critical of Karzai’s efforts to fight corruption, although it has dialed back the rhetoric in recent weeks. “In Afghanistan, personal relations are critical,” Phillips says. “It’s difficult to build trust and working relationships. If McChrystal is suddenly replaced that would be a major blow to the Afghan and American military relationship and the Afghan and American governments’ relationship.”

The civilian team in place – Amb. Eikenberry, Holbrooke and others including the VP – have formed adversarial, even confrontational relationships with Afghanistan’s president and some government ministers. In an honor/shame society, that sort of a relationship is totally counter-productive. Unfortunately, with McChrystal gone, the only buffer to that sort of treatment has been removed as well as any reason for the Afghan government to cooperate.

Despite the remarks that sparked the relief, it apparent that the civilian side of the situation in Afghanistan has not been productive and may be staffed by the wrong people using the wrong approach. A full review of their actions and accomplishments (or lack thereof) to date is more than warranted given how little progress has been made in improving the governing ability of the Karzai government.

But back to the command options. It is critical that the Obama administration signal its intent to continue with the McCrystal/Obama strategy. It appears with the naming of Gen. Petraeus as the new commander, that is exactly the sort of a signal being sent. While it is a little of a step-down for Petraeus, politically and most likely tactically and strategically, it is an excellent choice. He is certainly familiar with the strategy and while he may tweak it, he’ll probably keep it mostly intact.

However, it will be interesting to see how Petraeus interacts with Eikenberry and Holbrooke. Remember the effectiveness of the Petraeus/Crocker relationship. No such dynamic has ever existed in Afghanistan. While the civilian side can probably skate on the McChrystal relationship, they’re going to have a much more difficult time doing the same thing with a more politically savvy David Petraeus, who most people consider to be a national hero.

Secondly, and just as importantly, the administration needs to make it clear that their June 2011 withdrawal date is “conditions based” instead of “firm”. A firm date is a signal to the bad guys that all they have to do is hunker down and wait it out. Making it conditions based makes the point that we’re not going to abandon Afghanistan. That, in and of itself, would go a long way to helping change the attitude in Kabul. If the “firm” commitment is kept, the Karzai government has no reason or incentive to make the effort to cooperate with the US strategy and may go out on its own to make a deal with the Taliban.

Keeping the “firm” withdrawal date can and will do more damage to the effort in Afghanistan than the Taliban could ever do.

Lastly, a caution – it is being reported by numerous sources that “the present strategy is falling out of favor” with many of Obama’s close advisors. Another change in strategy would also be fatal to the effort there.

As it happens, and as mentioned, Petraeus is a good choice both politically and strategically. But our effort in Afghanistan is in more trouble than an intemperate general’s remarks, and if some more big changes aren’t made, mostly on the civilian side, it is going to fail.

~McQ

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Obama Orders Louisiana To Halt Berm-Building

I’m beginning to think that the comparisons of Obama’s management of the oil spill to how Hurricane Katrina was handled are completely inapt. In reality, it looks more like the Obama administration should be compared to the storm itself.

Louisiana has been busily building berms about a mile out from the coast to halt the infiltration of oil into its sensitive marshes, wetlands and prime fishing areas. This process was greatly delayed by federal red tape, and now that the state has permits in hand it’s being order to stop because, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, it’s doing it wrong:

The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about the dredging is being done.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who was one of the most vocal advocates of the dredging plan, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, pleading for the work to continue.

[...]

Nungesser has asked for the dredging to continue for the next seven days, the amount of time it would take to move the dredging operations two miles and out resume work.

Work is scheduled to halt at midnight Wednesday.

Pat Austin is trying to understand the federal obstruction, but finds that political reasoning is the only thing that makes sense of it all:

I’m trying to see both sides here; I’m trying to understand the “coastal scientists” who contend that the berms will “change tidal patterns” and lead to more long term erosion of the islands, but if the islands are killed off by the oil what difference does it make? To borrow from Greta Perry’s analogy, if my house is on fire, what does it matter what room I try to extinguish first? It’s all doing down.

[...]

It seems that the feds are doing everything they can to cripple Louisiana’s own response to this crisis. Bobby Jindal reached his exasperation point long ago when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, If you’re not going to fix it, get out of the way and let us do it ourselves! From the moratorium, and Salazar’s promise to appeal the strike down of that moratorium, to the crazy red tape on the berm projects, to shutting down the skimmer barges for 24 hours, and now this?

Well, we could get the idea that Team Obama was trying to neutralize Jindal’s response, as if he were threatened by Bobby Jindal, or something.

For Billy Nungesser part, he isn’t taking this lying down. He fired off a letter to Obama demanding to be allowed to move forward with the coast-saving project … or else:

Plaquemines parish president Billy Nungesser is furious, drawing a line in the sand with the White House!

[...]

Nungesser is targeting President Obama as the only hope for continuing the work. In harsh letter he spelled out an option.

“Don’t shut us down, let us lay the pipe three miles out and then let us move the dredge so we will be down less than a day and we’ll refill the hole,” Nungesser said.

He also issued a threat to the President in the letter if he didn’t do something to help.

“It says if it shuts down, I’ll be on Anderson Cooper at nine…and it won’t be pretty.”

Nungesser also pushed Jindal to, in effect, damn the torpedoes and move full speed ahead:

“I asked the governor to let me stay out there tonight on the dredge, let em come out there and take the permit away.

Tell them the radio not working. We’ll smash it with a hammer.”

I’m actually a little surprised that Jindal hasn’t already taken this approach, citing exigent circumstances and daring Obama to shut him down.

Stepping back for a moment, does anyone else see the connection between the Arizona (and others) illegal immigration law, Gen. McChrystal’s insubordination, and Louisiana’s current predicament? Lacking any coherent direction, policy or plan, these people and entities are forced to take the reins over their particular situations only to be hindered by the Obama administration when they do, or worse, vilified and ridiculed. The lack of leadership creates a vacuum, and people like Jan Brewer, Gen. McChrystal, Bobby Jindal and Billy Nungesser are trying desperately to fill it. If there were ever a clear indication that Obama is an incompetent leader, this it.

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Feds shut down Louisiana dredging operation – after approving it

Yessir – we have a unified plan and it is being executed to perfection to contain the Gulf oil spill.

Or not:

The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about where the dredging is being done.

The Army Corps of Engineers issued permits to build the berms (and President Obama had 360 million allocated for that construction) which are now almost complete. The Fish and Wildlife Department, however, has now pulled those permits and told the state it must move the operation two miles further offshore to satisfy their concerns.

As you might imagine, that’s not made the president of the parish involved in the construction of the berms very happy:

“Once again, our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil,” Nungesser wrote to Obama. “Furthermore, with the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms, we are being put at an increased risk for devastation to our area from the intrusion of oil.”

Nungesser has called Adm. Allen, BP and the White House trying to get the order lifted. None have responded to his calls. I have no idea what BP could do – it’s a federal thing – but I guess he figures maybe they could apply some pressure.

Nungesser’s letter includes an emotional plea to the president. “Please don’t let them shut this dredge down,” he wrote. “This requires your immediate attention!”

Sorry he has a general to fire, something, which thankfully for the administration, has taken the spill off the front pages.

And they wonder why people keep calling the federal effort “chaos” and continue to try to figure out who, if anyone, is in charge.

~McQ

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House Dems: No time for budget but plenty of time for campaign finance reform

The House of Representatives has a constitutional obligation to pass a yearly budget, through which it then appropriates money (taxes) for the business of government. Supposedly no budget, no spending.

But Congress has, over the years, hit upon a legislative convenience called a “continuing resolution” where it simply picks a figure from the sky, passes it and continues funding government sans budget. The only possible hope for stopping such a practice is a president who insists on a budget and promises to veto continuing resolutions.

That, of course, isn’t going to happen with this White House. No budget is going to be passed by Congress either – at least not until after November. And there’s a reason they’re engaging in this classic bit of nonfeasance. If they pass the budget they must before the November election, they’ll have to explain the trillion dollar deficit that is anticipated in the plan to their constituents. Can’t have that, can we?

On the other hand, they have plenty of time to try to pass campaign finance reform again. In fact, the House plans on taking it up on Thursday. When it comes to curtailing freedom the Democrats have an uncanny ability to rush things through – and especially if the legislation is likely to help them come November.

Congress – again ignoring the people’s business for the party’s business.

Last but not least, Democrats, knowing they have to either find a new revenue source in lieu of cutting spending have decided they’re not bound by President Obama’s tax vow.

I know, I know – you’re shocked, right?

~McQ

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Chavez tightens grip on Venezuela

In all the hype about the McChrystal story and the focus on the Gulf spill, you may have missed this story about Hugo Chavez’s continued destruction of the Venezuelan economy:

Venezuelan army soldiers swept through the working class, pro-Chavez neighborhood of Catia in Caracas last week, seizing 120 tons of rice along with coffee and powdered milk that officials said was to be sold above regulated prices. “The battle for food is a matter of national security,” said a red-shirted official from the Food Ministry, resting his arm on a pallet laden with bags of coffee.

How dare they not heed price controls? Meanwhile, in the ultra-efficient state machine bureaucracy, things are going swimmingly:

Critics accuse him of steering the country toward a communist dictatorship and say he is destroying the private sector. They point to 80,000 tons of rotting food found in warehouses belonging to the government as evidence the state is a poor and corrupt administrator.

120 tons confiscated. 80,000 tons allowed to rot. You can do the math.

“We are bringing order to prices,” Trade Minister Richard Canan told Reuters during the Catia raid. “There are traders who are taking these products to the black market … That is a crime and our government will continue to target these stores.”

Food prices are up 41% this past year. Price controls. If you don’t think you’re paying enough now, try them.

~McQ

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