Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The Troubles In Pakistan

The Taliban, as expected, have managed to endear themselves to another benighted people:

Up to 500,000 terrified residents of Pakistan’s Swat valley have fled or else are desperately trying to leave as the military steps up an operation using fighter jets and helicopter gunships to “eliminate” Taliban fighters.

As the military intensified what may be its most determined operation to date against militant extremists, the UN said 200,000 people had already arrived in safe areas in the past few days while another 300,000 were on the move or were poised to leave.

The escalation of the operation came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani, made a public appeal for unity. In a televised address on Thursday evening, Mr Gilani said: “I appeal to the people of Pakistan to support the government and army at this crucial time. We pledge to eliminate the elements who have destroyed the peace and calm of the nation and wanted to take Pakistan hostage at gunpoint.”

This is pretty much the style of the Taliban, certainly nothing very different than what they did in Afghanistan.

However, there is a difference between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that difference is nuclear weapons. Now most seem to think that the Pakistani army is strong enough to prevent a deterioration of the situation to the point that the Taliban would gain control over the nukes. But that makes a lot of assumptions which may or may not be warranted. It is important to remember that the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and its eventual triumph there is irrefutably linked to support from Pakistan’s government, namely the ISI. Now it may be a stretch to believe the ISI would help the Taliban gain control of Pakistan, but it may not be to much to believe the organization may have mixed feelings about the present operations against the Taliban.

The Taliban needs to be destroyed as an effective organization. Like a type of cancer, the Taliban attacks the very religious core of countries. But only Islamic countries. Its extremist brand of Islam appeals to a certain element of Islamic countries and it is that portion of the population in which the Taliban embeds itself and attempts to exploit.

The very fact that Pakistan is treating the Swat valley takeover by the Taliban as an emergency in which drastic action must be taken to defeat them is an encouraging sign. Previously Pakistan’s government and army were content to give such opposition lip-service and some rather poor attempts to oust them from other territories. Now that the Taliban has all but declared war on the Pakistani nation, we may finally see a real and concerted effort by Pakistan to rid the region of the Taliban. In the end, the overreaching by the Taliban may end up being the best thing that could have happened. If Pakistan is successful in taking the Taliban out, the war in Afghanistan become much more winnable. The remaining Taliban based along the border may not enjoy the same safe-haven they’ve enjoyed for years.

However, should Pakistan fail in its attempt to destroy the Taliban, we may end up with two nations in jeopardy instead of one, and since one has nuclear weapons, we may have no choice but to intervene should it get to that point.

~McQ

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Rising Thugocracy?

First we have the “car czar” threatening investors with audits and vilification, and now we have a report that a union was inappropriately involved in matters in which it should not have been included:

Officials in the governor’s office say a politically powerful union may have had inappropriate influence over the Obama administration’s decision to withhold billions of dollars in federal stimulus money from California if the state does not reverse a scheduled wage cut for the labor group’s workers.

The officials say they are particularly troubled that the Service Employees International Union, which lobbied the federal government to step in, was included in a conference call in which state and federal officials reviewed the wage cut and the terms of the stimulus package.

The SEIU is of the opinion the state is “breaking the law” as it concerns the use of “stimulus” funds. The state sees it otherwise. But that doesn’t explain the inclusion of the union on the call. Said state officials:

During the conference call, state officials say, they were asked to defend the $74-million cut scheduled to take effect July 1. The cut lowers the state’s maximum contribution to home health workers’ pay from $12.10 per hour to $10.10.

The California officials on the call, who requested anonymity for fear of antagonizing the Obama administration, said they needed the savings to help balance the state budget.

Most know that California is a budgetary basket case, but they should also know that SEIU members are the one’s effected by the cut. The phrase which is most chilling in the last cite is that which indicates a fear of “antagonizing the Obama administration” among state workers.

Is that really the atmosphere that should exist between the states and the feds? And, given their inclusion in the call, isn’t it fair to claim that the SEIU has had “undue” influence with the administration?

So how is this different than the alleged inappropriate lobbyist influence the left liked to holler about during the Bush years?

~McQ

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How To Kill An Economic Recovery

Hugo Chávez is in the news again, appropriating and nationalizing more of the oil industry in his country.

That sort of move by him has become so routine that it almost isn’t news anymore. But this particular sentence caught my eye and reminded me of what we’ve seen here as well:

This move forms part of a broader assault against the private sector, which Mr Chávez has increasingly blamed as Venezuela slides into recession.

Vilification is a political tactic in use by a certain type of politician, and anyone paying attention to what has been going on in this country has seen it deployed in earnest against the wealthy and certain industry sectors in the US in the last few months. The health care industry is next. And, as in Venezuela, the government is being offered as the best alternative. Yet watching Venezuela, most understand the ramifications of moves such as Chavez is making on the long-term viability of Venezuela’s economy:

But analysts say that by shifting its problems onto its suppliers, PDVSA is storing up even bigger problems for the future. Not only does it lack the ability to operate as efficiently as the service providers, but it sends a grim signal to companies considering investing in Venezuela. Consequently, future oil production is under threat.

While the moves taking place here aren’t as drastic as those in Venezuela, they’re just as problematic. Government appointed board members on auto company boards and government calling the shots in the financial sector aren’t direct takeovers, but they portend a level of government meddling unseen here before. And health care and energy are next.

The key word in the quoted paragraph above is “investing”. Investors are very wary about both the auto and financial industries at this point. They’re wary of the auto industry because government is essentially throwing the bankruptcy procedures out of the window and those investors which should be guaranteed the first seat at the table for the recovery of their investment are now being vilified as “greedy” and pushed to the side. Any reason they or any other investor should take a monetary stake in either of the government controlled auto companies again? And given the experience with autos, don’t you suppose investors in the financial sector are having second thoughts?

Investment is the road to recovery in recessionary times. The moves Hugo Chávez is making in Venezuela are exactly the wrong moves in terms of economic recovery (not to mention being a complete violation of property rights). While not as drastic as Chávez, the moves the Obama administration have made are sending a similar signal to investors.  And that doesn’t bode well for a swift economic recovery.

Health care and energy are next.

~McQ

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Podcast Posting Delay

Yes, we did do a podcast.  I have the recording and everything.  he reason you don’t see it because right after I finished recording it, I had to take Apollo to the emergency vet hospital.

Apollo had an “inverted prepuce”, causing Paraphimosis. I’m not going to tell you what that is.  Look it up.  (Be aware though, that if you look up “Paraphimosis”, you’ll probably get a NSFW result.  Even at Wikipedia.) Apparently, even though he was neutered as a pup, when Contessa goes into heat, he has…urges.  Which led to today’s complication.

So, I’ve spent the last 3.5 hours at the vet’s.  But they got his thingy put back in, and he’s resting now.  Any by “resting”, I mean stoned to the gills on a Valium and opiate cocktail.  Here’s pics of the little stoner as of about 15 minutes ago.

Vets have the best stash.

Vets have the best stash.

Have you ever looked at your paw, man?  I mean <em>really</em> looked at your paw?

Have you ever looked at your paw, man? I mean really looked at your paw?

He’s zonked out with a cool compress between his legs, to keep the swelling down.

Anyway, I’ll try to get the podcast up tomorrow.

More recent pics of the dogs from last week below the fold, for those who are interested.

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This Is “Rich”

I‘m still amazed that many people who put their support behind Obama in the presidential election, are suddenly discovering things about him they don’t like.

Really? Now they discover Obama is a class warrior? It comes as no surprise for those of us who took the time to assess where he came from and what (little) he’d done.

Suddenly, the rich are concerned that the guy they backed may not be what they hoped he was (notice that’s the correct context in which “hope” should be used when “hope and change” is spoken):

Some of Barack Obama’s richest supporters fear they have elected a “class warrior” to the White House, who will turn America’s freewheeling capitalism into a more regulated European system

Ya think? What was your first clue – his remarks about “spreading the wealth” to Joe the Plumber or the thousands of other things he said which might imply such a tendency?

And as an aside, America’s capitalism is about as “freewheeling” as a modern waterslide is “death defying”.

Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, a free enterprise think tank, said Democrats in Congress were unnerved by the president’s latest plan to raise $210 billion over 10 years from multinational corporations.

The money is needed to pay for a national debt that will double over the next five years; and triple over the next 10 years to $17.3 trillion. But the crackdown already faces fierce Democratic resistance.

“These big companies are based in New York Boston, Seattle and Silicon Valley, where Democrats dominate,” Mr Edwards said. “Obama’s tax plan is already cleaving him from his big corporate supporters,” he said.

The good news in this, of course, is that Congress has to pass the legislation that enables this, and per Edwards, they’re getting cold feet. The reason is also obvious – any “cleaving” of Obama from “big corporate sponsors” also means the rest of the Democrats suffer the same fate.

The level of taxation necessary to pay for the profligate spending now taking place will have to be massive as anyone with a 5th grade education understands. But the Dems also understand that any taxation that takes place must be other than income taxes because it is important to maintain the mirage that “95% of all Americans” are getting tax cuts. That leaves “the rich”, corporations and smoke and mirrors.

The rich have been identified ($250k or more), corporations are on the block with much higher taxation in the offing. So the investor class and the engine of the economy are under assault. The smoke and mirrors show? Wait until health care and cap and tax trade hit. 100% of Americans will be paying large sums for both.

But back to the point – the deeper we get into the Obama administration, the more we come to understand how gullible a good portion of the American public appears to be. There is a certain level of satisfaction with the buyer’s remorse being seen among many of his supporters as they see what their vote has actually bought. I sure hope they don’t shop for other important items as badly as they apparently shop for presidents.

~McQ

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“Star Trek” – My Review ***With Spoilers***

The short review is simple.  If you are really devoted to the current Star Trek canon, you won’t like it.  For everyone else, you’ll probably like this movie.  Taken on it’s own, it is a good movie, albeit with a few minor problem here and there.  And most people won’t even notice the problems.

The acting is very good.  Chris Pine’s performance as the young Jim Kirk is especially well done.  When the guy is on the screen, you just have to look at him.  And he has the character of the young Kirk down pat:  Brash, womanizing, risk-taking, and self-confident. Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy is also well played, and we even got an “I’m a doctor, not a physicist!” out of him.  Zachary Quinto expresses the conflict between emotions and logic that plagues his character with surprising subtlety.  Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is, for practically the first time in 40 years, an interesting character, with a story and a life.

The dialogue is sharper and wittier than we’re used to seeing in a Star Trek movie, and the wit pops up in unexpected places, like Capt. Pike’s first encounter with Nero, the Romulan villain of the piece:  “I’m Captain Christopher Pike, of the Federation starship Enterprise.” “Hi, Christopher, I’m Nero.”  The back-and-forth banter between the Spock and McCoy characters that was so much a part of the original series is presented well in the new movie.

The action in the film is practically non-stop, with hardly any time to catch your breath.  So, the film is tightly scripted, which makes the 2.5 hour running time seem like much less.

Based on the above, I rate the movie very highly.

I did mention some problems though, and I’d like to address them.  I can’t do that, though, without giving away some spoilers.

Do not read any more, unless you’re willing to encounter serious spoilers.

This is your last warning.

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Another Saturday Bush-era Backpeddle

Another “horrible Bush-era rule“, uh, er, kept:

The Obama administration on Friday let stand a Bush-era regulation that limits protection of the polar bear from global warming, saying that a law protecting endangered species shouldn’t be used to take on the much broader issue of climate change.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that he will not rescind the Bush rule, although Congress gave him authority to do so. The bear was declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act a little over a year ago, because global warming is harming its habitat.

So why is this interesting (and important)?

The US Environmental Protection Agency designated polar bears an endangered species last year, because their habitats were disappearing as ice-caps melted.

Environmentalists seized on the ruling, arguing that endangered species were entitled to heightened protection under US law and that the government was therefore obliged to crack down on the carbon emissions causing global warming.

The Endangered Species Act bars federal agencies from “taking actions that are likely to jeopardise the species or adversely modify its critical habitat”, and lays down civil and criminal penalties for people that kill or injure designated animals.

But?

But the Bush administration passed a rule exempting “activities outside the bear’s range, such as emission of greenhouse gases” from prohibition.

Which, apparently, the Obama administration has found to be the proper rule:

It is this rule that the Obama administration has decided to let stand.

Because, you see:

“The Endangered Species Act is not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation’s carbon emissions,” Mr Salazar said.

“Instead, we need a comprehensive energy and climate strategy that curbs climate change and its impacts.”

While I’m not so sure about Sec. Salazar’s last point, I agree whole-heartedly with his first.

The usual suspects, of course, are livid – but then they spend most of their life livid.

~McQ

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