Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: March 4, 2011


Chavez’s relationship with Gahdafi says more about Chavez than Gahdafi

Hugo Chavez is really interested in pulling his good friend Moammer Gahdafi’s bacon out of the fire.  Did I say bacon – how insensitive of me.  Let’s just call it “fat” and leave it at that.

Yes, Hugo is good buddies with the guy who is in the middle of doing whatever he can to hold on to power to include bombing his own people.  And, of course, Chavez is also using it as an opportunity to blame the US and divert attention from the atrocities his good buddy is ordering committed daily:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called for an international good will commission to mediate in Libya; in contrast the U.N. Security Council over the weekend voted for tough restrictions and possible war crimes charges against the Libyan regime.

On Monday, Chavez said Gadhafi, "has been my friend and our friend for a long time," in remarks broadcast on Venezuelan state television.

And in comments made on Thursday, Chavez described alleged preparations to invade Libya as "a madness, and in front of that madness, as always, the Yankee empire that tries to dominate the world, at the cost of fire and blood."

You’ve got to love a guy who can delude himself so completely.  He’s the prototypical autocrat.   And he’s watching tyrants very similar to himself falling one by one. 

And you have to laugh at how lame it is when he tries to push it all off on "the Yankee empire”, when we’ve got an administration that has been mostly silent about everything and was so timid that it sent a commercial ferry for its evacuees instead of using the military.  Yup, “the Yankee empire” is just dyin’ to lay a little “fire and blood” on the world.

So Hugo Chavez, now the head of the dictator protection league, peddles his “peace plan”, with an eye to keeping a mad man in power.

Yeah, that ought enhance his reputation.

~McQ


Polls against Walker similar to polls against ObamaCare

One of the Kossaks has a post up about the polls showing WI Governor Scott Walker on the wrong end of them as he moves to fix the WI budget and curtail the power of public sector unions.

Poll after poll is telling Scott Walker the same thing: you are on the wrong side of public opinion. While early polling can fool you, we now have substantial data both from the nation and from Wisconsin.

[…]

The bottom line is that Gov. Walker has overplayed his hand with the public. Every Republican governor who is trying to curtail collective bargaining is at risk for being seen by the public as taking rights away, not balancing the budget. That can be done with givebacks (and the public is all for that, especially through negotiation.) But trying to curtail collective bargaining is seen by the public as the power grab it really is. The polls leave no doubt.

My reaction is, “so what”?

I mean I seem to recall poll after poll telling Obama and the Democrats that Americans didn’t want the ObamaCare monstrosity.  But we were reminded that he’d won and elections have consequences.

Is that no longer true?

~McQ


Welcome to reality–Obama admin prepares for possibility of new Islamist Regimes in Middle East

Apparently the moon pony contingent is slowly fading from prominence in Washington DC and the administration is preparing for what now seems most probable  outcome in the Middle East – the new “post-revolt” regimes may be distinctly “Islamist”.   Note the word – not “Islamic”.  Most of them are that already.  The term used in the Scott Wilson Washington Post column is “Islamist”.  And Williams says:

The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, acknowledging that the popular revolutions there will bring a more religious cast to the region’s politics.

However, apparently they want to diminish any concern by pretending that such an outcome isn’t really that significant:

The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region.

"We shouldn’t be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations. "It’s the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam."

That speaks to a basic misunderstanding of the role of Islam “in the politics of these countries”.   Unlike Western countries, there is no “separation of church and state” in an Islamic country.   Islam is about politics, governing, the law, you name it.  It is as much a political system as it is a religion.  And that’s why assurances such as those the White House is putting forth here are just not accurate.   The “behavior of political parties and governments” are going to be fundamentally grounded in … Islam.

That takes us to the term “Islamist” which most have used to distinguish the broader religion of Islam to those who have hijacked it and made their version an aggressive theocratic and expansionist version of the religion.  Islamist included the Taliban and Al Qaeda as well as other murderous and anti-Western groups throughout the Middle East.

However, WaPo wants to assure you that it’s just not as bad as you think:

Islamist governments span a range of ideologies and ambitions, from the primitive brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots that heads a largely secular political system.

Unmentioned, of course, is Turkey’s new belligerence and aggressiveness toward Israel and its seeming turning away from the West and apparent desire to be a, if not the, power broker in the Middle East.  The “largely secular political system” in Turkey is much less so than it was a decade ago when that party took power and it is likely to be even less so as it retains it.

But, you say, what’s made the administration suddenly take off its rose colored glasses and begin assessing anew the probable outcome of these revolts? 

None of the revolutions over the past several weeks has been overtly Islamist, but there are signs that the uprisings could give way to more religious forces. An influential Yemeni cleric called this week for the U.S.-backed administration of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be replaced with Islamist rule, and in Egypt, an Islamist theoretician has a leading role in drafting constitutional changes after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power last month.

A number of other Islamist parties are deciding now how big a role to play in protests or post-revolution reforms.

David Warren made the point that no “Walesas or Havels” have emerged in these countries to steer the revolutions down the path of democracy.  And that’s true.  But the Islamist equivalents are emerging – and attempting to subvert the revolutions to their own ends.  And, as Warren points out, they have an advantage:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

They don’t have to do much selling of their vision, they have the institutions and traditions of Islam to turn too and it just isn’t a very big leap from “Islamic” to “Islamist”.  Democracy and freedom, on the other hand, have no such institutions, traditions or leaders to turn too.  So when figuring probability, it is clear which scenario enjoys the most probable outcome.

Having been forced to accept the obvious, don’t expect the administration to give up all its moon ponies.  There will still be plenty of rationalization which ignores the fundamental differences between what “secular” in the West means, and what it means to Islam.   You can expect to see “Islamism” and “Islamist” defined down:

Paul Pillar, a longtime CIA analyst who now teaches at Georgetown University, said, "Most of the people in the intelligence community would see things on this topic very similarly to the president – that is, political Islam as a very diverse series of ideologies, all of which use a similar vocabulary, but all quite different."

Yeah, “Death to Israel” doesn’t mean the same thing in Egypt that is does in Gaza.  And Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban don’t necessarily represent what an “Islamist” regime would look like, do they?   And don’t forget, as they continue to try to throw Turkey around as an example of “not so bad” – Turkey has been slowly changing from a true secular democracy to an Islamist state.  And the change has not been a good one for the interests of the US.

The White House has an internal study that it is studying and is still believing that there are good Islamists and bad Islamists:

The report draws sharp distinctions between the ambitions of the two groups, suggesting that the Brotherhood’s mix of Islam and nationalism make it a far different organization than al-Qaeda, which sees national boundaries as obstacles to restoring the Islamic caliphate.  

The study also concludes that the Brotherhood criticizes the United States largely for what it perceives as America’s hypocritical stance toward democracy – promoting it rhetorically but supporting leaders such as Mubarak.

"If our policy can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we won’t be able to adapt to this change," the senior administration official said. "We’re also not going to allow ourselves to be driven by fear."

Really?  Have you been watching the timidity with which this President has faced the change in the Middle East and N. Africa?  This sudden equivocation about “Islamists” is a statement of fear.  A firm stand against the Islamist movement taking over any of these countries vs. standing up for secular democratic movements in those lands is evidence of fear.  The equivocation about the word and the accommodation the administration seems ready to make with some “Islamists” says all that needs to be said. 

There’s a reason “Islam” and “Islamist” are defined in a particular way.  What the administration is trying to do is blur those lines substantially in order to make what was and has been unacceptable to the US suddenly acceptable (at least to the degree to which “Islamists” appear “secular” to these rocket-scientists). 

We have been at war with “Islamists” for a couple of decades.   Is this redefinition of “Islamist” the first sign of our capitulation?

~McQ


February Employment Situation

Once again, the headline unemployment number for February, which droped from 9.0% to 8.9%, hides much weakness in employment, despite the 193k new payroll jobs. Indeed, the BLS’ own U-3 unemployment rate, which is calculated in a similar fashion to mine, increased from 9.8% to 10.4%.

For my methodology, the numbers look like this:

Civilian noninstitutional population: 238,851,000
Historical participation rate: 66.2%
Proper labor force size: 157,641,660
Actually employed: 138,093,000
Actual unemployment rate: 12.4%

At the end of the day, we need another 8 million new jobs to bring us back to full employment.


How alarmists have hurt their AGW cause

Science is about discovery, the expansion of knowledge, how things work and what that means.  What it is not, or shouldn’t be, is an accessory to politics.  Politics isn’t about any of those things.  Politics is about the application of power to move things in a particular direction.  So when pure science teams up with politics to become advocacy “science” bad things are most likely to happen.

The IPCC report specifically, and climate science in general, are learning that the hard way.  James Taylor, who seems open to the AGW arguments,  asks the salient questions generated by the last IPCC report and subsequent findings.  Using  Godfather II as an analogy, he sets up the point:

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report was as straightforward as Frank Pentangeli’s earlier confession that he had killed on behalf of Michael Corleone. “Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms,” IPCC reported.

That was in 2001. Now, however, with an unprecedented number of major winter snowstorms hitting the northeastern U.S. during the past two winters, the alarmists are clamming up and changing their tune faster than Tom Hagen can fly in Vincenzo Pentangeli from Italy to aid his brother in his time of trouble.

He’s absolutely right – there was no equivocation in the report.  A leads to B.  They said the same thing about hurricanes – warming would lead to many more and much more powerful storms.  Instead they’re at a historically lower level.   Glaciers, snowcaps, all sorts of predictions have been found to be false.

When James confronted the IPCC on this, he got the sort of mushy answer you might expect:

During the question and answer portion of the UCS press conference, I quoted the IPCC Third Assessment Report and asked Masters and Serreze if they were saying IPCC was wrong on the science.

“I would say that we always learn,” replied Serreze. “Have we learned a great deal since the IPCC 2001 report? I would say yes, we have. Climate science, like any other field, is a constantly evolving field and we are always learning.”

Really?  What happened to “the debate is over” and “the science is settled”?

For years, alarmists have claimed “the science is settled” and “the debate is over.” Well, when was the science settled? When global warming would allegedly cause Himalayan glaciers to melt by 2035, or now that it won’t? When global warming would allegedly cause fewer heavy snow events, or now that it will allegedly cause more frequent heavy snow events?

You can’t have it both ways and have it be called “science” can you?

~McQ