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As the Senate turns: the GOP keeps getting good news (with update)

With yesterday’s surprise retirement announcement by Evan Byah, another Senate seat moved into the “probably Republican pickup” column. Some think Bayh is positioning for a primary run against Obama in 2012. Like most senators, I expect Bayh does have presidential aspirations, but step one in serving that goal is to avoid a possible career-ending loss in a possible Democrat meltdown. He’ll likely decide later whether to make his presidential run in 2012 or 2016, depending on how vulnerable Obama looks in a couple of years.

A few days before that announcement, this article offered a good summary of the Senate races and their current status. As we already knew, things are getting dicey for the Democrats. The article lists North Dakota (Dorgan’s retirement), Delaware (Biden’s old seat), and Arkansas (Lincoln) as likely GOP pickups. Nevada (Reid), Colorado (Ken Salazar’s old seat), and Pennsylvania (Specter) are also not looking good for the Democrats. Other seats are rated as competitive, including Illinois (Obama’s old seat!), and Indiana. (If you’re keeping score, don’t forget to now promote Bayh up to “likely pickup”.)

The article even floated the idea of a GOP takeback of the Senate, though most think that’s still a distinct longshot. They put it this way:

Picking up ten seats and the majority is almost certainly out of reach for Republicans, although, with a few more strong recruits and some breaks, what recently seemed an impossible dream has become a remote possibility.

The GOP is defending in some places too, and the idea of an anti-incumbent fever eroding some of their gains is certainly a possibility.

I notice that the list of races in the article did not include two that could easily end up being competitive: California (Boxer) and Washington (Murray). Not much polling has been done in either, but what little we’ve seen didn’t show overwhelming strength. Boxer has already drawn some high-profile opponents, and seems to have worked hard to make herself look like a pretentious politician in the last couple of years, which is a bigger liability than usual in this year’s environment.

If the GOP picks up at least four more to go with Scott Brown, that pretty much writes the end of Obama’s collectivist wish list because it overcomes the power of squishes such as Snowe and Collins to hand him a victory. They now look likely to get that many.

Ten looks much harder, but even if they don’t make it, the more they score this time around, the better positioned they are to gain a majority in 2012.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect them to do much with increased power except thwart leftist Democrats. I don’t see a lot of senatorial GOP candidates who are significantly different from the current crowd or from the Lott/Frist group that handed Bush all his big-government requests and the unconstitutional campaign finance bill to boot. Rubio is about the only one with some promise.

If the Tea Party influence continues to grow, perhaps it will result in a few GOP senators considering spinal implantation instead of becoming dreary, complacent politicians assisting the drift to ever bigger government, spending, and debt. But in the Senate, at least, that possibility looks a lot more remote than the GOP taking back control.

*** Update 12:30 CST ***

Neo points out that 86-year-old NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg is in the hospital after a fall. Recall that the Republican Chris Christie scored a surprise upset in the governor’s race there. So yet more uncertainty for the Democrats, because if Lautenberg has to be replaced, it will likely be a Republican replacement.

And, in related news, Obama has decided that the problem is so serious he needs to apply more cowbell to it: Obama’s Save the Senate Tour.

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Iran: Foreign Policy Naivete Yielding To Reality?

Apparently “engagement”, at least when it comes to Iran, seems to be headed to the scrap heap of foreign policy ideas. That’s primarily because such a policy requires both sides to be willing to engage, something many experts tried to point out that Iran has never shown any willingness to do in the past. Candidate Obama wanted to point the finger of failure at the previous administration. But his administration has fared no better. Now, it appears, that administration has finally realized confrontation with Iran serves it best:

Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.

“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”

That’s not to say the spin factory in the White House isn’t trying to claim it’s failure to engage Iran isn’t a “success”:

Instead, administration officials say, the biggest benefit of Mr. Obama’s engagement policy now is not dialogue or understanding with adversaries, but simply a defusing of a worldwide view that the United States is part of the problem, a demonstration that the problem is Tehran’s intransigence, not Washington’s pique.

“What the president has achieved is that he has outed Iran,” a senior administration official said Friday. He said Iran, by refusing to respond positively, had exposed itself as uninterested in a better relationship with the United States.

They honestly think any objective person would believe that the 31 year refusal to “engage” with the US and the rest of the world was the US’s fault? Really? A country which took hostages from an embassy and held them for 444 days while calling the US “the Great Satan” was seen as the “good guy” in this? The intransigence isn’t just a product of the last 8 years. It is a product of the last 31 years. No one with any sense has ever considered the problem there a result of “Washington’s pique”.

However, that brings us to how the term “engagement” is now redefined by the White House:

At a news briefing on Thursday, the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, presented this latest metamorphosis of the administration’s thinking: that engagement is not necessarily about the two adversaries, but rather, about the worldview on America.

Of course it is. That was clearly  what was meant in Obama’s “unclenched fist” speech, wasn’t it?  Apparently the administration’s gameplan is to refuse to admit the failure of its policy and instead just redefine words to fit the present situation.  I can’t say that comes as much of a surprise.

~McQ

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The Future Consequences Of Energy Stupidity

I’m not sure how else to characterize this in a strategic and national security sense:

Canada, faced with growing political pressure over the extraction of oil from its highly polluting tar sands, has begun courting China and other Asian countries to exploit the resource.

The pressure is coming from the United States. The “pollution” is carbon. But the bottom line is the tar sands are going to continue to be exploited in Canada. The question is, to whom will the oil extracted go?

With the US backing away, the answer, apparently, is China.

In the most significant deal to date, the Canadian government recently approved a C$1.9bn (£1.5bn) investment giving the Chinese state-owned oil company Petro­China a majority share in two projects. Prime minister Stephen Harper said: “Expect more Chinese investment in the resource and energy sectors … there will definitely be more.” China’s growing investment in the tar sands is seen in Canada as a useful counter to waning demand for tar sands oil from the US, its biggest customer. The moves, which have largely gone unnoticed outside north America, could add further tension to efforts to try to reach a global action plan on climate change.

[…]

The projects, which will begin coming on line over the next decade, are seen as crucial to a long term strategy of finding new sources of energy as China’s economy continues to expand.

How about that … a country with a “long term strategy” in which it seeks sources of new energy for future growth. Not so in the US where Ken Salazar’s Interior Department seems to be using every means available to it to slow down the possibility of finding and bringing new carbon based resources on line for future consumption:

The Interior Department has informed Congress that it will take over two years to complete an environmental study needed to allow major seismic surveys of Atlantic coast oil-and-gas resources – a timeline that industry groups allege is too slow.

In an early February letter to House and Senate appropriators, Interior provides a timeline for completing a “programmatic environmental impact statement” on the effects of seismic testing and other assessment techniques.

It anticipates a “record of decision” – which is the final agency sign-off – in mid-April of 2012.

If I’m not mistaken, that will put us 4 years into the decision to allow drilling in the OCS. And, of course, seismic surveys and their effects are well known and have been for decades. The seismic surveys would update decades old surveys.

The point, of course, is these new Interior requirements completely derail the timeline established by the Interior Department in 2007:

Interior’s 2007-2012 offshore leasing plan calls for a lease sale off Virginia’s coast in 2011, although the sale could be delayed.

No company is going to bid on leases until those seismic surveys are complete.

The long range consequences for the US of these sorts of short sited policies should be obvious. And I don’t expect them to get any better any times soon despite the promises President Obama made in his State of the Union address.

~McQ

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Terrorism = Burglary

Counterterrorism Czar John Brennan made a comparison this weekend that has landed him in hot water. Speaking at the Islamic Center at New York University on Saturday and apparently in response to a question about recidivism among the Gitmo inmates who had been released, he said the rate was about 20%.

Ok, that’s arguable, but it is a number that has been tossed around by any number of people. That isn’t what got him in trouble. If we stipulate that the 20% of terror suspects released have returned to extremism or outright participation in terror activities, most would consider such a rate unacceptable. In fact, most would not be happy with recidivism at all, but understand that 0% is most likely an unrealistic expectation.

But Brenan thinks 20% isn’t so bad:

“People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, say ‘Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity,'” Brennan said. “You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”

Indeed, the recidivism rate for property crimes is quite high according to the Department of Justice:

Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

But violent crime, more akin to terrorism – not so much:

Within 3 years, 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide.

This apparent acceptance of 20% recidivism by terrorists has to inspire tremendous confidence in the public to know the guy who is supposedly engaged in fighting terrorists equates them with the kid who popped the lock on your car and stole your GPS and finds the 20% rate nothing to get excited about . Yes, to him a burglar and someone who blows up embassies are pretty much the same. And he’s quite satisfied that only 20% are going back to burglary, er, blowing up Americans.

Quite satisfied.

~McQ

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The Purpose Of The Health Care Summit?

Any number of people, myself included, have warned that the upcoming health care summit isn’t something the GOP really wants to involve itself in because it is a setup for something else. There’s something fishy about it. Other say those advising against it are paranoid and that the event provides Republicans with a great venue for making it clear they have always had plans and ideas concerning reforming health care.

I think it is becoming increasingly obvious the skeptics are most likely right. A very closed process – in which the GOP was excluded and closed-door meetings and backroom deals were common – is now suddenly open? And televised? It makes no sense except as a move to set up another move.

What would that other move be? Well first, consider the fact that the president and Democrats are unwilling to even consider scrapping the present Senate version of the bill and start over. If that doesn’t raise red flags everywhere, I’m not sure what would. Why, if the idea of the summit is to discuss everyone’s plans and ideas for health care reform, wouldn’t a clean slate be necessary?

Quite simply because that’s not the real purpose of the summit. The purpose of the summit is to justify reconciliation. There, I’ve said it. What Democrats need is cover to do what they feel they need to do in order to pass the Senate bill intact and then have the Senate use the reconciliation process which only requires a simple majority to fix certain parts of the bill to the House’s liking.

But publicly that’s a highly unpopular idea. That doesn’t change the fact that it is the only way Democrats can do this. So they need a demon. They need “obstructionists”. They need “the party of ‘no'” to be as uncooperative as they can make them and have that on public display.

Republicans seem to have at least an inkling of this. They know, or at least are pretty sure, that the Democrats have already agreed among themselves to use the reconciliation process. The latest member of the GOP to point to this was Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he questioned the sincerity of Democrats and the president concerning this planned summit. In this case I think his political instincts are good. I think the GOP should hold out for some major concessions prior to any such meeting.

However all of that, one of the advantages of the invitation – given the desired outcome – is it becomes a win-win for Democrats even if Republicans don’t show up, at least by their calculation. They want a “party of ‘no'” and not showing up would demonstrate that even more handily than showing up would. Politically it is a very smart move.

The GOP needs to be ready to handle that sort of negative publicity when it comes as it most assuredly will. They need to point out what the real purpose of the summit was, that there was no desire on the part of Democrats to negotiate (given their pre-summit stance) or actually include Republican ideas and that Republicans simply chose not to participate in a sham designed to make them look uncooperative and justify the use of an unpopular procedure.

Not an easy roe to hoe, is it? Politically, the move by Obama and the Democrats is brilliant. The question is, will it actually bear the fruit that he and the Democratic leadership hope it will? While all of that political theater may work exactly as they wish, Nancy Pelosi may not have the votes necessary to pass the Senate bill.

That could end up being the final irony – the bill fails in the House because of the reelection concerns of members in marginal districts and a Democratic distrust of their colleagues in the Senate.

~McQ

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Podcast for 14 Feb 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael  and Dale discuss the Republican desire not to be seen as the “Party of No”; China, the Euro, and the Dollar; and what seems to be a fundamental shift in the assertions of the AGW crowd.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

The Olympic Game Break Podcast

Subject(s):

Republicans: Are they going to go to the health care summit? And what about the “bi-partisan” jobs bill the put together. Do they still not “get it”?

Economy/Economics: Would China flex its economic muscle by selling a few billion in bonds to make a point? And what about Greece and the EU? What does that foretell for the US and the world? Are we really in a recovery?

Global Warming: An amazing interview with Dr. Phil Jones seems to indicate the beginning of a bit of a walkback.

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All of a sudden, it’s OK to question the conclusions of climate alarmists

Following on Phil Jones’ tentative walkback, we’re starting to see articles like this one, questioning the very foundations of global warming.

“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama.

“The story is the same for each one,” he said. “The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

So are we warming at all? Besides Phil Jones admitting that there’s no statistically significant evidence for it since 1995, the article above casts more doubt:

Terry Mills, professor of applied statistics and econometrics at Loughborough University, looked at the same data as the IPCC. He found that the warming trend it reported over the past 30 years or so was just as likely to be due to random fluctuations as to the impacts of greenhouse gases. Mills’s findings are to be published in Climatic Change, an environmental journal.

“The earth has gone through warming spells like these at least twice before in the last 1,000 years,” he said.

Naturally, the usual suspects are sticking to the “global warming is definite” position. The article quotes Kevin Trenberth, who was involved in the Climategate scandal, as one of them. Another is the head of the Met Office that seems to be hellbent on working warming into their weather predictions.

We seem to have passed a tipping point in the last few weeks. At the very least we’ve moved from global warming/climate change being discussed as a quasi-religious cause being crammed down everyone’s throats to having some genuine debate about the data and the science.

Not to say there are not holdouts; some people won’t give up their religion easily. Most American legacy media outlets have been silent, for example, and the comments on the article above still contain the usual ears-in-fingers-I-can’t-hear-you entries. However, if the best the Daily Mail can come up with to defend global warming are those already caught up in controversies of their own, that in itself is an indicator of just how much the debate has changed.

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AGW – The Phil Jones Interview: So Much For Settled Science

An amazing interview with Dr. Phil “hide the decline” Jones from the East Anglia University CRU. Jones granted an interview to the BBC. You can read the whole thing here.

A couple of excerpts.  On the question of “settled science” so beloved of those who like to use it like a club to stifle discussion:

Q: When scientists say “the debate on climate change is over”, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean?

A: It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.

Or, “no the science isn’t settled”.  In fact, it is far from settled.

And to the question of how unique this particular period is?

Q: Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?

A: […] So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.

That should take care of the smug assurances of the AGW alarmists that there’s no need for further debate or science.  Jones doesn’t back off stating his belief that most of the recent climate change is a result of man, but it is clear his science isn’t as strong as it was once believed to be.

Newsbusters has some analysis covering some of the other questions in the interview, to include the Medieval Warm Period, “hide the decline” and temperature measurements.  Note that Jones cites his CRU’s temperature measurements, the Met’s temps and NASA/GISS.  All have been called into question by other scientists.

Then add in all the mistakes and unsourced, unpeer reviewed “facts” included in the IPCC report, it is apparent that the AGW claim to scientific relevance is at least on life-support.

~McQ

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