Free Markets, Free People

France


France Claims US Is “Occupying” Haiti

Or at least the French minister in charge of humanitarian relief, Alain Joyandet is making that claim:

“This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,” Mr Joyandet said.

Well, yeah, but it’s also about coordinating the flow of traffic in and out of a single runway airport, something which is bound to get a few hackles up. And that’s caused Joyandet’s outburst. He’d apparently been in a scuffle in the control tower of the airfield with the US commander there over a French evacuation flight. It seems he came out on the short end of the confrontation, thus the outburst.

But he’s not the only one complaining:

Geneva-based charity Medecins Sans Frontieres backed his calls saying hundreds of lives were being put at risk as planes carrying vital medical supplies were being turned away by American air traffic controllers.

See previous commentary about the one runway airport. Perhaps a little coordination with those at the airport concerning the arrival of such flights might help integrate them into the landing plan vs. just showing up and demanding a priority for landing?

Just a thought. Of course, my bet is had we relied on the UN, the airport still wouldn’t be functioning. And had the French taken over the aiport, the same criticisms leveled against the US would be leveled against them. In this case, given the situation, they’re just inevitable.

And someone else is having his usual say about the US:

Speaking on his weekly television show, [Hugo] Chavez opined that the U.S. mission in Haiti was a ruse to initiate military occupation.

“I read that 3,000 soldiers are arriving, Marines armed as if they were going to war,” Chavez said. “They are occupying Haiti undercover.”

President Obama signed an executive order to send 7,000 U.S. troops to the ravaged country as aid organizations attempt to distribute food and water to the survivors.

Chavez, a frequent critic of American intervention, praised the humanitarian effort in Haiti but questioned the need for so many troops.

“Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals – that’s what the United States should send,” Chavez said.

Of course the US has sent doctors, medicine, fuel and field hospitals. But there has to be security as you push these assets out into the community to ensure the lawlessness which has been seen in various areas doesn’t effect the efficiency of the rescue operation. 7,000 troops to provide that sort of security is not a large force (about 1 BCT plus).

Haiti, however, has provided Baby Hugo with another opportunity to break out the anti-Amerianism.

I’ve got to tell you, with the reaction of France and Venezuela to a freakin’ humanitarian rescue mission, it doesn’t seem as if the Obama global, bowing, scraping and apologizing tour produced much goodwill. This doesn’t sound any different than the carping heard when that other guy was around.

~McQ


The Polanski Thing

I don’t get it.  Where’s NOW?  Where are all the women’s groups?  Where are all the agitated ladies yelling “no means no!”  Where are the children’s rights organizations demanding Polanski’s extradition?

And what in the world is going on in Hollywood?  If ever anyone wanted to point to the decadence in our country this provides the example.

Here, let’s let Kate Harding provide a little clarity, shall we:

Roman Polanski raped a child. Let’s just start right there, because that’s the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in “exile” (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never — poor baby — being able to return to the U.S.).

Got that? He raped a child. He plead guilty to a lesser charge, but in fact he raped a child. Then he fled. You tell me, if it was some poor Wal-Mart frequenting, no-name red-neck who had done that 30 years ago and then taken off and hidden out in a double-wide for all this time, Hollywood would be having benefits for the victim and howling for the blood of the rapist. The women of The View would be demanding justice. Dr. Phil would be on Oprah telling the world of the long-term trauma and effect this sort of event can cause. Nancy Grace would be pounding the podium and telling the world this isn’t about the forgiveness of the victim, but justice.

Instead, as Harding points out, we’re hearing every excuse in the book from the glitterati (not necessarily the one’s I’ve named) as to why Polanski should skate. He’s been in “exile” for 30 years. Really? He’s lived in France. Although some may consider that to be a form of “exile” few prisoners convicted of rape would consider living there, fathering 2 children and generally enjoying the lifestyle of the rich and famous to be “exile”, much less punishment.

Instead, what it all boils down too is he’s an artist and artists are different than the little people and should be treated differently. I mean, don’t you know they don’t have to follow the rules?  Haven’t you watched the awards shows or followed their lives on Entertainment Tonight? It is they who get to define what is good or right, or so they believe. They can ignore the rules and flaunt them, because, you know, they have a talent which millions enjoy. That makes them special and certainly more special than some floozy 13 year old child who’s life has come to  nothing in comparison.

And besides, Polanski escaped justice long enough, thanks to our friends in France who refused to extradite an admitted child rapist, that he’s should be allowed to slide, or so his defenders rationalize.

The fact that she’s forgiven him (since justice was never done, what other choice did she have but bottle it up and let it poison her life?) and wants to avoid the publicity is understandable.  Her mental health has demanded she find a way to put this behind her because the justice system was never able to bring her any sort of satisfaction or closure.

However, this isn’t really about her anymore – it’s about child rape and the simple fact that it is never right, never excusable and is always punishable, no matter how long it takes to track the perp down. That’s justice. You can’t drag Bubba out of the trailer and put him in jail for however long is appropriate if you can’t drag Polanski back from Switzerland and do the same.

~McQ


Calling Out Iran (update)

Appearing before microphones at the G-20 conference, the Presidents of the US and France along with the PM of the UK made an announcement concerning Iran:

President Obama and leaders of Britain and France accused Iran on Friday of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying the country has hidden the covert operation from international weapons inspectors for years.

Appearing before reporters in Pittsburgh, Mr. Obama said that the Iranian nuclear program “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.” French President Nicholas Sarkozy, appearing beside Mr. Obama, said that Iran had deadline of two months to comply with international demands or face increased sanctions.

Essentially the argument is the facility is too big for the manufacture of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes and can only exist to enable the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

American officials said that they had been tracking the covert project for years, but that Mr. Obama decided to make public the American findings after Iran discovered, in recent weeks, that Western intelligence agencies had breached the secrecy surrounding the project. On Monday, Iran wrote a brief, cryptic letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying that it now had a “pilot plant” under construction, whose existence it had never before revealed.

So now Iran has been called out. That’s the easy part. Increased sanctions are promised. That’s the hard part. Russia may possibly come on board (we’ll see if the unilateral decision to remove the missile defense shield from eastern Europe), but China is an unknown (although the Chinese foreign ministry recently said it was not in favor of increased sanctions). That’s assuming the Obama administration plans on working all of this through the UN.

One of the sanctions that the US and others are considering is one which would restrict the importation of gasoline. While Iran sits on a sea of oil, it has very limited refining capacity. It must import most of what it uses. Cutting those imports would seriously effect the country. However Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez, during a recent visit with Iran, promised to provide the regime with gasoline. That could set up a confrontation between the US (and others) and Venezuela. Hugo Chavez might finally get the confrontation with the US he’s been claiming was coming very soon.

This is about to get complicated and nasty. December is the date in which France has demanded compliance with international demands. In the interim, both sides are going to be scrambling to line up their allies. And then there’s the wild card – Israel.

This will be an interesting couple of months. But one question I have – why wasn’t this presented to the UN before the president of Iran spoke?

UPDATE: Dale sends me a link to this article by Simon Tisdale at the Guardian in reference to this story:

…Now it seems the Iranian regime has been caught red-handed, and clean out of trumps, by the forced disclosure that it is building, if not already operating, a second, secret uranium processing plant.

The revelation will bring a triumphal roar of “told you so!” from Bush era neoconservatives in the US to hawkish rightwingers in Israel. The likes of former vice-president Dick Cheney and UN envoy John Bolton, and the current Israeli leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, have long insisted that Tehran’s word could not be trusted.

Yet the argument about who was right and who was wrong about Iran is hardly important at this juncture…

As Dale sarcastically notes:

Yes. Whatever we do, let’s not try and keep track of who was right and who was wrong about Iran. We certainly wouldn’t want to have a track record of foreign policy reliability we could consult in the future.

Because this is about, uh what was it again, oh, yeah, change!

~McQ


CO2 – Is This Where We’re Headed?

Cap-and-trade is only the beginning. France is mulling a CO2 tax on its citizens:

The French government plans next year to begin making heavy users of household and transport fuels bear more of the tax burden. President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to say in coming weeks that such a shift is necessary to nudge French citizens toward cleaner alternatives.

The tax would reportedly start at about 14 euros (or $20) for each ton of CO2 emitted, and could rise to levels of around 100 euros ($143) for each ton by 2030. That could mean substantial increases in the price of gasoline and diesel, as well as a sizable jump in the cost of keeping homes warm.

Nudge French citizens? What is government doing nudging its citizens toward anything to do with their energy usage? Quite simply government, at least in France, has decided that citizens must conform to its priorities (proven or unproven) and thus uses its power to tax to “nudge” people into the behavior it prefers?

Is that a proper function of government? Only if you believe government is infallible and should be the arbiter of what constitutes the “proper” way of living. Trust me, such a belief has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, choice or liberty.

But skeptics say the idea may have less to do with clean energy, and more to do with a desire on the part of Mr. Sarkozy’s government to find new ways to keep the national debt in check.

Heh … the skeptics may be on to something. We have the same sort of problem in this country which is why I imply that cap-and-trade is only the beginning. Once implemented government will use the precedent (“we’re controlling industrial CO2 emission, now we need to control “private” CO2 emissions”) to tax citizens on their use. It’s all about revenue and this source is perfect – created, literally, out of thin air.

As usual, the socialists in France (and elsewhere) are without a clue:

In addition, members of the opposition Socialist party have slammed the plan, suggesting it would unfairly burden lower income citizens — particularly those who are obliged to use their cars.

Segolene Royal, a former presidential candidate, has instead called for direct taxes on gasoline and other energy companies.

Because everyone knows that a direct tax on “gasoline and other energy companies” would never be passed on to “lower income citizens” who are “obliged to use their cars” and “unfairly burden” them, would they?

~McQ


A Closer Look At European Health Care

We continue to hear how wonderful it is as compared to the horrible US system.

But is it? One of the fundamental truths of any health care system is you have infinite demand meeting finite resources (beds, doctors, availability, etc). Whatever system a country has, that truth doesn’t change.

So, regardless of system, there is going to be some sort of rationing. It is unavoidable and inevitable.

Now add a desire to control and cut costs associated with the provision of health care to the mix (the promise of every one of these government systems). On the one side, as European nations have done, access to health care is expanded to include everyone. On the other hand, these same nations attempt to control health care costs.

The result? Very mixed. France is always held up as the exception to the rule that government health care can’t be both good and inexpensive. But a closer examination seems to indicate that it isn’t an exception at all:

A World Health Organization survey in 2000 found that France had the world’s best health system. But that has come at a high price; health budgets have been in the red since 1988.

In 1996, France introduced targets for health insurance spending. But a decade later, the deficit had doubled to 49 billion euros ($69 billion).

“I would warn Americans that once the government gets its nose into health care, it’s hard to stop the dangerous effects later,” said Valentin Petkantchin, of the Institut Economique Molinari in France. He said many private providers have been pushed out, forcing a dependence on an overstretched public system.

Why have private providers been “pushed out”? Because government has provided health care “cheaper” than do private providers (and obviously at a loss given the deficit). Notice I said “cheaper”. That doesn’t necessarily mean “better”.

And the same thing is being seen in other European health care systems which are considered “models” of government run health care:

Similar scenarios have been unfolding in the Netherlands and Switzerland, where everyone must buy health insurance.

“The minute you make health insurance mandatory, people start overusing it,” said Dr. Alphonse Crespo, an orthopedic surgeon and research director at Switzerland’s Institut Constant de Rebecque. “If I have a cold, I might go see a doctor because I am already paying a health insurance premium.”

Cost-cutting has also hit Switzerland. The numbers of beds have dropped, hospitals have merged, and specialist care has become harder to find. A 2007 survey found that in some hospitals in Geneva and Lausanne, the rates of medical mistakes had jumped by up to 40 percent. Long ranked among the world’s top four health systems, Switzerland dropped to 8th place in a Europe-wide survey last year.

Dr. Crespo’s point is simply an astute observation of human nature. If something doesn’t directly cost the user, why would the user ration the use of such a benefit?

The use, however, still costs someone or something. The doctor must be paid, the institution must be paid, etc. So in the end, the only way to control costs is to cut payments. Eventually, the incentives to enter the health care field become less attractive (unless you like long hours, overrun waiting rooms, minimal time with patients, being second-guessed by a bureaucracy and making much less than a private system allows for compensation) and there are fewer that enter the field. Hospital beds then drop, hospitals merge and there are fewer specialists available to serve the population as Switzerland is discovering.

And then there’s the lack of innovation to face.

Bureaucracies are slow to adopt new medical technologies. In Britain and Germany, even after new drugs are approved, access to them is complicated because independent agencies must decide if they are worth buying.

When the breast cancer drug Herceptin was proven to be effective in 1998, it was available almost immediately in the U.S. But it took another four years for the U.K. to start buying it for British breast cancer patients.

The promise that has been made in the US is health care reform will return the decision making to the doctor. But that’s simply a false promise given the priorities of the reform we’ve been promised. It is to cut cost and make care “affordable” to all. Somewhere is a bureaucracy in waiting which will decide what “affordable” means – and it won’t include your doctor.

So you can expect innovation to begin to slow. Why invest billions when a bureaucracy will decide whether or not it’s a medicine or treatment worth the cost. The same bureaucracy will also decide what it will pay for your innovation. Of course, if the innovator can’t recover the cost of development and make a profit as incentive toward more innovation, the probability exits the developer will simply stop such research.

“Government control of health care is not a panacea,” said Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London think-tank. “The U.S. health system is a bit of a mess, but based on what’s happened in some countries in Europe, I’d be nervous about recommending more government involvement.”

Words of wisdom most likely to be ignored by our legislators here. And the unfortunate thing is it will not only destroy an excellent health care system here, but, given the level of government spending forecast, tank the rest of the economy as well.

~McQ

[HT: Carol D]


A Million French Can’t Be Wrong …

Yes, it is spring and that means protest season in France (note the previous attempt in January didn’t turn out too well due to global warming effects).  This time, though, it’s not the “youths” doing the protesting.  Instead we are treated to union driven protests.

 The reason?

The protests, which drew substantially more people into the streets than a similar outpouring Jan. 29, were depicted by union leaders as part of a sustained campaign to pressure President Nicolas Sarkozy to do more to defend French people against the economic upheaval that has unfurled across the planet since the fall. In particular, they called on him to raise low-end wages and unemployment benefits and to make it harder for business leaders to fire employees when profits sink.

It's a win-win - Kerry goes too!

It's a win-win - Kerry goes too!

And we complain about our liberals being economic ignoramuses. Per the French mob, the ticket to recovery is to raise wages, raise unemployment benefits and prevent businesses – which most likely pay for those unemployment benefits (not to mention higher wages) – from letting workers go when their profits sink. Wow … economics worthy of Timothy Geithner, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

See, the French really deserve our Congress for their legislature. They’d be absolutely perfect together. Simpatico. Nancy Pelosi would be the toast of Paris and Harry Reid – ok, even the French wouldn’t put up with Harry Reid, so let’s not get too carried away. But seriously, have you ever seen a mob and a Congress (or administration for that matter) that thought so much alike?

It’s like a marriage made in heaven. The Congress and administration could transfer themselves to a country where the economic damage has already been done and the economy is already chronically lethargic, the welfare state is established to include universal health care and the control they seek over industry and business is already in place. They’d be happier (and have much less work to do ruining their economy even further), we’d be happier (trust me, we would), and my guess is the French would just swoon over Obama.

And he’s about right for them – they’ve always believed in style over substance, always thought more of themselves than others have and always had a sense of hubris which never equaled their performance.

It’s freakin’ perfect.

Why didn’t we think of this before?

~McQ

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