Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

Another Obama administration foreign policy “triumph”

In another “foreign policy triumph” for the US, Afghanistan, a client nation of the US for over a decade, is apparently turning to an old patron:

Afghanistan, battered by worsening security, is reaching out to an old ally and patron—Russia—just as the Kremlin is seeking to reassert its position as a heavyweight on the world stage.

President Ashraf Ghani has asked Moscow for artillery, small arms and Mi-35 helicopter gunships for his country’s struggling military, Afghan and Russian officials say, after the U.S. and its allies pulled most of their troops from Afghanistan and reduced financial aid.

“Russia is seizing the opportunity,” a U.S. official said.

Certainly, there are plenty who are aware of the old saw, “the graveyard of empires” and will shrug this off as good riddance. Let Russia deal with it.

Of course the point is that Afghanistan is turning to Russia mainly because it doesn’t have any confidence in the US anymore. We all understand that Afghanistan is both tribal and corrupt. But that goes with the territory, literally and figuratively. Russia is unlikely to worry to much about that.

It also demonstrates on a micro level what we are seeing on a more macro level. With the decline of US influence in the area, Russia is taking the opportunity to assert its own. Whether you care one whit about Afghanistan, this is a disturbing trend. And, just as obvious, our “leaders” haven’t a clue on how to stop the trend. Obviously Afghanistan feels that their worsening security is inextricably linked to US decisions. The country appears to have no confidence in the US.

Unfortunately, that ‘no confidence’ vote didn’t originate in Afghanistan. It has been echoed by other countries in the region as well … to include Israel.

The foreign policy of this administration, that of Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Kerry, have seen the withdrawal of the US in the area and a diminution its prestige and power.

Some may cheer this, but the bottom line is that such actions (or lack thereof) have made the region and the world a much more dangerous place than it was in 2008.


Colleges: First Amendment outdated?

That, at least, is the result of a survey recently completed:

To put some numbers behind that perception, The William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale recently commissioned a survey from McLaughlin & Associates about attitudes towards free speech on campus. Some 800 students at a variety of colleges across the country were surveyed. The results, though not surprising, are nevertheless alarming. By a margin of 51 percent to 36 percent, students favor their school having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty. Sixty-three percent favor requiring professors to employ “trigger warnings” to alert students to material that might be discomfiting. One-third of the students polled could not identify the First Amendment as the part of the Constitution that dealt with free speech. Thirty-five percent said that the First Amendment does not protect “hate speech,” while 30 percent of self-identified liberal students say the First Amendment is outdated.

This is simply the latest proof that colleges and universities in this nation are turning from bastions of free speech and academic freedom to institutions that are enabling and enforcing “speech codes” that student activists demand. The result is the death of “robust intellectual debate” on campus. Now administrations feel moved to “protect” those who are uncomfortable with uncomfortable ideas. And they demand penalties and the quashing of those ideas. The very notion that our great institutions of higher learning have bought into this anti-intellectualism should be an anathema to them. But instead they support these sorts of movements.

Just recently Williams College began an “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series to provide “intellectual diversity” on campus. Ironically, it then disinvited conservative writer Suzanne Venker when, according to the college, her proposed visit was “stirring a lot of angry reactions among students on campus.” Obviously her ideas went beyond “uncomfortable learning”, however Willams College now defines that phrase. But one thing is clear, Williams College is about as committed to “intellectual diversity” as Hillary Clinton is to the truth.

Given all this, is anyone even remotely surprised to see supposed intellectuals who are the products of this sort of education system calling for the jailing of “climate deniers” and the banning of their speech? Free speech is dying in this country and it is doing so in the very institutions that should be its staunchest defender.


Is the UN focus on “global warming” immoral?

Bjorn Lomborg thinks it is.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, he takes exception with the UN’s continued pushing for a “solution” for “climate change”, formerly known as “global warming”.  Lomborg thinks that it ignores the real problems out there and this focus on global warming takes money away from them for what is, at best, a marginal problem.

In a world in which malnourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children’s lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral.

For instance, says Lomborg, according to a recent study, if the UN spent .57% ($570 million) of the $100 billion climate-finance goal on mosquito nets to help control malaria, it could reduce malaria deaths by 50% by 2025 and save approximately 300,000 lives.

Instead, the UN is more interested in the world’s largest wealth redistribution scheme.  Somehow the scam has rich nations happy to pledge their citizen’s money and poor nations lining up to receive it.  How much will actually go toward addressing the real problems Lomborg highlights is anyone’s guess, but if history is to be a guide, not much.  There’s a reason the poorer countries are poor and that has much to do with who is in charge.

Anyway, Lomborg points to the obvious, or at least what should be obvious, in terms of this rush to be “green” and what the world (and the UN) could be doing instead:

Providing the world’s most deprived countries with solar panels instead of better health care or education is inexcusable self-indulgence. Green energy sources may be good to keep on a single light or to charge a cellphone. But they are largely useless for tackling the main power challenges for the world’s poor.

According to the World Health Organization, three billion people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution because they burn wood, coal or dung to cook. These people need access to affordable, reliable electricity today. Yet too often clean alternatives, because they aren’t considered “renewable,” aren’t receiving the funding they deserve.

2014 study by the Center for Global Development found that “more than 60 million additional people in poor nations could gain access to electricity if the Overseas Private Investment Corporation”—the U.S. government’s development finance institution—“were allowed to invest in natural gas projects, not just renewables.”

Wow.  Electricity.  Its been with us for over a century.  We all know its benefits.  We all know how well its access could help lift those without it out of poverty.

Yet the UN is more interested in chasing the chimera of “global warming” and its unproven science.  The reason, of course is power.  Money and control equal power.  And this scheme with $100 billion changing hands under the auspices of the UN offers undreamed of opportunities for those in the UN to engage in an unprecedented level of graft.  There just isn’t the level of opportunity in helping the world’s poor gain electricity.

As you’ve heard many, many times … follow the money.


Why is Bernie Sanders so popular?

Essentially three reasons – youth, “progressive” leftists and economic illiterates.  And, yes, they can be all three.  But not necessarily.

Back in May as Sanders was emerging as a presidential candidate, many were caught by surprise that an avowed socialist could pile up the numbers he was getting.

Bernie Sanders, a Senator for Vermont and currently the only declared challenger to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is the only member of Congress to describe himself as a socialist. For much of the Cold War socialism evoked images of military parades in Moscow’s Red Square, but for Sanders, and many of America’s self-declared socialists, their aim isn’t to bring revolution to America but to make America more like Sweden and Norway.

And, of course, that’s precisely what we’ve seen Sanders continue to do – tout the European model to hide the well-deserved reputation that socialism really has among the historically literate.  Apparently it has worked.  YouGov did a poll at that time and discovered the source of Sanders support.  While 52% of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism, only 26% have such a view for socialism.  Where is that favorable view to be found?

 Among younger Americans, however, attitudes are a lot more divided. 36% of under-30s have a positive view of socialism, while 39% have a positive view of capitalism.

Among older Americans, who actually lived through the era of socialism and watched its pernicious effects, only 15% view it favorably while 59% view it negatively.  So we have a whole generation growing up who have no experience seeing the reality of socialism played out in front of them.  Instead they’re pointed to a couple of socialist Potemkin villages and told that’s how it can be.  Don’t expect them to read the recent trashing of the Nordic model that is so obvious to those who have even an inkling of economic savvy.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised, as the Democratic party continues to move further left, that they support socialism more and more.

Democrats (43%) are also much more likely than either independents (22%) or Republicans (9%) to have a favorable view of socialism. Democrats, in fact, are as likely to have a favorable view of capitalism (43%) as socialism. While only 9% of Republicans see socialism in a positive light, 79% have a good view of capitalism.

History, apparently, has no relevance with the left.  Nor do facts or economic laws.  They’re sure that the only reason the magic of socialism hasn’t been successful and produced the utopia they’re sure it promises is it just hasn’t been done right … yet.

To a good portion of them, Bernie is the man to make that happen.

And, probably just as important is this is the same contingent that helped put our current occupant in the White House and keep him there for 2 terms.


The old “bait and switch” of solar energy

Solar energy has been touted by those who support its wide use as a completely “clean” way of producing electricity.

But reality gives lie to that claim.  Take the Ivanpah plant in the Mojave Desert for example. It sits on 5.6 square miles of mostly undisturbed public land that was home to desert tortoises, a species threatened with extinction, among other wildlife.  It fries birds in flight regularly.  Environmentalists concerns were ignored.

Why?  Because it was an Obama administration priority, whether it is important to anyone else or not.

Said Obama when it opened:

“With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy. And we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy that will help lower our reliance on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.”

Except it not only doesn’t lower our “reliance on … oil”, it is a large user of fossil fuel.  Yes, that’s right – it has a huge carbon footprint.

Data from the California Energy Commission show that the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014 – its first year of operation – to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold for power plants or factories in California to be required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions.

The plant, the recipient of $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees as well as $600 million in tax credits, uses natural gas to preheat water for steam.  It is only after the water is preheated that the solar energy is applied to finally produce the steam to turn the generators.  And on cloudy days?  Yes, all natural gas and nothing but natural gas.

And the enviros?  Well, David Lamfrom, desert project manager of the National Parks Conservation Association, is pretty sure this isn’t what they signed up for.  He points out that this isn’t a solar project but instead a hybrid project which uses both solar and fossil fuel to generate electricity.

“It feels like a bait and switch,” Lamfrom said. “This project was held up as a model of innovation. We didn’t sign up for greener energy. We signed up for green energy.”

The Obama administration lied about the project?  My goodness – the next thing you’ll tell us is “if we like our health insurance we won’t be able to keep it”.

Oh, wait.


Russia’s military not as bad as reported

Apparently not. Looking at the operations in Syria, the NYT says:

Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.

In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.

Of course we’ve been advised, for years, that the Russian military was only a shadow of its former self under the USSR.  And while it certainly isn’t as potent as when Russia was the USSR, it is apparently vastly more potent than we’ve been led to believe.

Another factoid from the article:

Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.

The bottom line, of course, is we still have a much more powerful military – but we’re in the middle of cutting back on it both in manpower and spending.  And, of course, that sort of power is only important if your potential enemies know you’re willing to use it.  Russia is demonstrating that willingness.

Russia is also “field testing” its equipment and it is “blooding” its troops.

Not to mention rallying “allies” to the Russian cause.  China has sent forces to Syria.  And the latest?

On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special forces units are on the ground in Syria, citing evidence from intelligence reports. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes.

Isn’t normalization with Cuba wonderful? Isn’t that reset with Russia working out well?  It sure has been rewarding so far.


The US in a “weak” position in Syria, notes Putin

Noting the obvious, Vladimir Putin pointed out that the US is in a very weak position concerning Syria:

Russian President Vladimir Putin continued a war of words with the U.S. over Syria, calling its policy weak and lacking in objectives as his air force carried out fresh bombing raids in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

“I don’t really understand how the U.S. can criticize Russia’s actions in Syria if they refuse to have direct dialogue,” Putin told reporters Thursday during a visit to Astana, Kazakhstan. “The basic weakness of the American position is that they don’t have an agenda, though we’re keeping the door open” for high-level discussions with Washington, he said.

Of course, the administration had an answer:

“We’ve said that we’re not interested in doing that as long as Russia is not willing to make a constructive contribution to our counter-ISIL effort,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Russia has their own agenda and it’s an agenda right now that they’re pursuing on their own.”

I suppose that’s so … but so does the US and it is apparent there really isn’t any desire for “dialogue” unless the US can have its way.  And it is a basic understanding in negotiations that the weaker party doesn’t have as many choices (if any) than the stronger party.  The US is certainly in the weaker position having ceded control of the Syrian conflict to Russia.  Also, don’t forget that the US withheld military aid to Iraq until Iraq made political changes it wanted to see happen.  What did Iraq do?  Well, it bought its fighter aircraft from Russia instead (likely with US money).

As for the possibility of talks.  Well, it seems that NATO partner Turkey has figured out a way to have them:

Russia and NATO member Turkey are establishing “lines of communication between our militaries in connection with events taking place in Syria” amid tensions over violations of Turkish airspace, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov told a conference in Moscow on Thursday, Interfax reported. Turkey and Russia can find consensus on Syria, Umit Yardim, the Turkish ambassador to Moscow, said at the same meeting.

Interesting and telling.

Foreign affairs, for this administration, is a disaster.  And they seem determined to make it worse instead of better.


Oh, yeah … the “debate”

Also known as a free prime time commercial for the Democratic party.

Much has been made of the Hillary “enemies” comment.

Meh.  I actually agree with Jonah Goldberg:

1. This should properly be considered a Kinsley gaffe in that she accidentally told the truth.

Absolutely … since the early days of HC, she’s always fallen back on the VRWC as a reason for her bad press.  She just made it official last night … among others she considers Republicans “enemies”.  Which, of course, would give any Republican that warm, fuzzy feeling if she were ever elected President – God forbid.

That said, here’s the important part:

2. Even though it was gaffe, it won’t get treated as one by the media because it doesn’t sound like one to their ears (for all the obvious reasons).

Indeed.  And don’t forget it was a media type who asked the question.  But again, enemies you’re most proud of having – Republicans?  My goodness.  Jim Webb made her and the others look petty and small.  But that won’t play in the media either.


3. It wasn’t necessarily bad politics — in the primaries. The Democratic base largely shares her Manicheanism when it comes to the Republican party these days.

Exactly.  She was singing to the choir last night and as far as the choir is concerned, the tune was perfect.
So don’t expect anything to come of that supposed “gaffe” except grumbling and mumbling among the right.


If only everyone else would do this …

Instead of running around (and talking) in circles.

You’re going to say things that are going to offend and outrage some people (regardless of what  you say – politically you’re on the other side, so that, in and of itself is “offensive”), even if what you say isn’t really offensive or outrageous.

[Ben] Carson’s response to the howls of the PC left is the right one: We’ll call it “apathetic conviction.” He’s not outraged by the outrage; he simply doesn’t care. The outrage bores him. And no response is better calculated to rob critics of their power than boredom. You’re offended by my comments? I’m trending on Twitter? Wake me when the shame-storm is over, and then let’s debate my arguments on their substance.

And that’s the way to handle it.  As soon as you back down or apologize, they own you.  When you jut your jaw out and essentially say, “welcome to the real world, now grow up”, they’ve lost their power.  Carson’s response is an adult’s response.

Time to take these children’s pseudo-power away from them.


Bottom line in the Middle East

And it is fairly obvious from here:

Maybe Putin will save Assad, maybe he won’t. But people and governments in the Middle East will long remember that Obama’s definition of leadership meant abandoning our allies in Baghdad, showing the back of his hand to our friends in Jerusalem, cozying up to the liars and killers in Tehran, waging an effete air campaign against ISIS, and dithering while Syria descended into an almost unimaginable humanitarian crisis.

In the broader region, Obama’s leadership left Libya in ruins and wide open to ISIS penetration, alienated Egypt, decreased our leverage in Pakistan, and accomplished almost nothing in Afghanistan except to turn it into a safe haven for pederasts.

Obama’s disastrous failure to lead in the Middle East has helped to flood Europe with refugees and potential terrorists, encouraging the rise of Putin-like far-right parties throughout NATO and the EU. Meanwhile, Moscow appears set to flagrantly violate Obama’s New START agreement, building up its arsenal of deployed nuclear warheads above the impending caps. Our own arsenal continues to shrink, already well under the 2018 limits.

However, the president does see an opportunity coming soon to turn all this around, telling Kroft that “my definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris.”

Obama fiddled with the thermostat while the world burned.

So I’m off the grid for a few days (enjoyably so) and find not much has changed.

And, given that, now we’re in the middle of “reaping the whirlwind”.

Meanwhile, the dope in the White House is all about fighting “climate change” which apparently doesn’t deal with whirlwinds.  His Secretary of State reminds us he’s “concerned” about the Russians and the Middle East, which, you know, is pretty proactive for this administration.

And our erstwhile or, perhaps “former” allies in the region?

They’re shopping for a new patron.