Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Honduras Says “No” To Zelaya Reinstatement

The Honduran Congress voted overwhelmingly yesterday not to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya and allow him to finish his term.  The vote saw 111 of the 128 member body reject reinstatement.   That includes no votes from Zelaya’s own Liberal party which holds a majority of seats in the Congress.  There is apparently a deep divide within that party concerning the swing to the left which they see as being influenced by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

This also ends the US brokered deal which would have seen Zelaya return to finish out his term.  The vote, as I see it, should put an end to outside attempts to reinstate Zelaya.  When only 14 out of a body of 128 vote for such a reinstatementj (3 were absent) – especially when his own party holds a majority- I think it is fair to conclude that such a return is not considered to be in the best interest of the country.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Quote Of The Day

It comes from Nile Gardiner at the Telegraph:

As Commander in Chief President Obama has to project leadership, strength and determination before his country and his foes, as well as offer reassurance to Washington’s international allies. All were in short supply in front of the assembled cadets .The speech was less a rallying cry for victory over barbarism, than a dull professorial-style lecture that sought to justify his confused approach to the US mission in a cold and clinical fashion that simply failed to convince or inspire.

Spot. On.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Obama’s Afghanistan Strategy

He said, in 4,579 words what probably could have been said in 500 or so. The 40 minutes were mostly used to justify to the left his decision to send 30,000 additional troops to A’stan.

On the plus side, he made a decision. It took much longer than it should have, and, as I’ll cover further on, it isn’t a great decision by any means, but he did finally decide to do something.

Using the cadets at West Point as a backdrop (they seemed as enthusiastic about the plan as I am) he told the military that the reason this decision had taken so long is he owed them a clear mission before he sent them into battle. Yet reading through his speech, I’m still not clear as to what the military’s mission is.

Certainly at the level of Commander in Chief, you speak in much broader terms when describing a mission, than would a platoon leader getting ready to attack an insurgent stronghold. But there’s a point where “broad” is sort of meaningless. The three broad missions I heard enunciated that I assume comprise the Obama strategy are:

1. Deny al Qaeda safe haven.

2. Reverse the momentum of the Taliban

3. Safeguard the Afghan people

The first is counter-terrorism. Joe Biden’s ninja and drone strategy. It is, I assume, the reason Obama decided to commit fewer troops than Gen. McChrystal asked for. The second and third are elements of counter-insurgency.

For numbers 2 and 3, we remain – even with the 30,000 new troops – woefully undermanned. Gen. McChrystal will attempt to make the best of his assets, but attempting to reverse the momentum the taliban and safeguard the Afghans are two labor intensive (boots on the ground) roles. Also included in the 3rd mission is the training of a competent Afghan security force.

Obama says these troops will deploy by fastest means possible. Additonally he said:

Let me be clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war.

Well let me be clear – deploying troops to a theater of war takes a long lead time. Preparation and training are key. While it is probably true that there were no calls for deployments before 2010, a 3 month delay means 3 months in which the alerted units are shorted vital training time. And now the deployment cycle is going to be speeded up because he’s trying to cover his tail? Guess who suffers to make him look better?

To this point, I’ve laid out a plausible but complex military mission. But it moves from “plausible and complex” to impossible with this line:

After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

Even getting the deployment cycle initiated as quickly as possible, the troops (most likely 3 BCTs, a Marine MEU, 4,000 trainers and a command and control element of 7,000) will take 12 to 18 months to complete their deployment. So how is this a surge if as the last unit arrives in country as the first leaves?

In fact, that line alone initiates all sorts of questions.

What if the Afghan forces aren’t ready? What if the government isn’t yet prepared to fulfill its role. What if the Taliban still have “momentum”? He promised a civilian surge as well – concentrating on agriculture. Who will protect them or are they leaving as well?

Afghan Security Forces (ASF) are not going to be ready in 18 months. Certainly we can train the grunts in that period of time to some level of competence. But it is the leadership that is key. You don’t develop an NCO corps or an officer corps in that period of time. And it appeared the key to this strategy is standing up a competent ASF capable of defending itself and the country against the Taliban.

Obama claims we’ll embed with the Afghan units and fight along side them. But, given that we’ve announced that we’re leaving in 18 months, what if the Taliban decide to sit it out and not engage in battle? They’ve been fighting since the ’80s – what’s 18 months to them? Why not wait until we withdraw and then take on a green ASF with its seasoned fighters?

Obama does leave himself a fall-back position later in the speech when he says:

Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, <em>taking into account conditions on the ground</em>.

If I’m a Taliban commander, I take this as a gift from God. He has not only announced the US’s strategy for the next 18 months, he’s determined mine. The Taliban knows, just as we should, that 18 months is not enough time to train up the ASF into a competent fighting force. The Taliban knows that any COIN strategy is just marking time given this announcement. The people of Afghanistan now know that we will not be there to protect them in 18 months so there is absolutely no incentive to cooperate with us (or the Kabul government) and a huge incentive not too. They certainly know who will be there after our withdrawal and they’ll do their level best to reach accommodation with them.

This isn’t a plan for success. This is a plan for withdrawal and a strong signal to our enemy that if they play the game for 18 months, they can have Afghanistan. Ironically, while taking on his detractors Obama claims he’s not doing precisely what his plan is doing:

[T]here are those who acknowledge that we cannot leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan Security Forces and give them the space to take over.

This plan is all about the maintenance of the status quo while attempting to give the appearance of decisive action. It is certainly not about that. We can argue until the cows come home about the numbers necessary to conduct successful COIN in Afghanistan, but I can assure you no expert would tell you 30,000 are enough. We can give all the lip service we want to saying we’re going to train up the ASF to a level they can take over their own defense, but no expert is going to agree that 18 months is enough. Gen. McChrystal can smile and claim he’s very pleased with the resources he’s been given, but anyone who does an analysis of the missions outlined in the speech know he’s been badly short-changed. If we could beam in the 30,000 troops tomorrow along with 10,000 more NATO troops, it still wouldn’t be enough to do more than “maintain the status quo” – at least for 18 months.

On the other hand, if I’m the Taliban I’m absolutely exultant about what I’ve heard. And I’m immediately into planning a disinformation campaign that will paint the rosiest possible picture in 18 months time. Meanwhile, my forces are basically on R&R for duration (or concentrating in Pakistan) while I sit back and wait out the withdrawal. And when that last C-17 is wheels up out of Bagram, I’m headed into Afghanistan in force. Given that speech last night, they must finally believe that Allah truly is on their side now.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

WordPress Problems (UPDATED)

I‘ve been trying to publish my analysis of Obama’s Afghan speech for 3 hours now, and WP has decided not to allow that for whatever reason.  I’ve rewritten parts, tried to put it up in pieces, whatever – but no go.  But it will allow this – go figure.  Anyway, that’s where I am at the moment – pissed off, frustrated and unable to find the magic key to getting it published.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Still no joy, but you can read my analysis at Blackfive where Typepad had absolutely not problem publishing it.

UPDATE II: Finally pushed it through by using MS Word’s blog feature which does an automatic upload.  I was then able to edit it one piece at a time.  It still won’t let me edit out some hmtl stuff.  Weird day.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Life Lessons

Usually, the kind of story that’s roiling around Tiger Woods right now is not the kind of thing we comment on.  But it is instructive in some ways.

This is Tiger Woods’ wife.

Elin Nordegren

Elin Nordegren

The lesson is this:  As hard as it may be to believe, there is one unchangeable truth about relationships.  No matter how hot the girl is, no matter who she is…there’s a guy out there who’s tired of her sh*t.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

I’d really like to see the math on that…

So, the CBO today, in surveying the success of the American Recovery and Re-investment Act (ARRA,. or as we call it, “the stimulus”, makes the following claim:

Economic output and employment in the spring and summer of 2009 were lower than CBO had projected at the beginning of the year. But in CBO’s judgment, that outcome reflects greater-than-projected weakness in the underlying economy rather than lower-than-expected effects of the ARRA.

🙄

Um.  OK.

It’s kind of hard to argue with that kind of “judgment”.  Your “judgment” may vary, of course.

Not that it matters, because neither you, nor the CBO, have the math to back it up.

Economic output and employment in the spring and summer of 2009 were lower than CBO had projected at the beginning of the year. But in CBO’s judgment, that outcome reflects greater-than-projected weakness in the underlying economy rather than lower-than-expected effects of
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Obama’s Return To Reality

I guess we’re fresh out of unicorns and rainbows and claims to have improved America’s standing in the world today.  As you recall, while in China and during an interview there, Obama made the claim that he had changed the world’s attitude about the US.  And his claim was based on some poll which apparently reflected that.

Well given that the poll he cited was good enough for him to make the assertion then, I’d be interested in how he’d describe this poll’s results (Pew Global Attitudes survey) in probably the most important region to the US right now (remember this is a survey the left loved to deploy annually telling everyone how detrimental GW Bush was to our “image” abroad):

Now those surveys of 2009 bring findings from the world of Islam that confirm that the animus toward America has not been radically changed by the ascendancy of Mr. Obama. In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn’t seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that’s reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.

Eventually the left is going to learn that anti-Americanism isn’t a function of who is in the White House or what party is in power. It is a deep seated resentment in which whoever is in the White House or whichever party is in power is irrelevant.  They simply become the new face of the same nation the world despises. The reasons are varied and mostly irrational. The sentiment is fed by powerful internal political forces who have a vested interest in the continuation of anti-Americanism as one tool for maintaining power in their country. Such sentiment ranges from blatant anti-Americanism (Venzuela and Iran) to more subtle forms (France and Germany) but it persists whether a Republican or a Democrat is in office.

Obama’s return to reality (and hopefully the left’s) – given these numbers – should see him take a more pragmatic and nationalistic view of foreign policy than he has to this point. Words, as those numbers reflect, have failed him – and they were his greatest strength. Despite the favorable press he received as he made his world apology tour, the numbers have pretty well remained unchanged. A smart man would understand that lesson and learn from it. A leader would reorient his foreign policy when it becomes clear his first policy hasn’t achieved its goal (as if a reasonable foreign policy goal should ever be “to make others like us more”). Obviously putting the rest of the world before the US – while fine with the rest of the world – doesn’t change their perception of the US, but instead simply feeds their anti-Americanism. They do like a weaker US.  But that still doesn’t mean they like the US any better.

Obama’s job -should he ever decide to take it- is to put America first in everything he does in the foreign policy arena. He’s not done that and it has not paid off for either him or the US. As I’ve said any number of times, in the anarchy that is international politics, it is much more useful to be feared and respected than to be liked. It’s time the US got back to “feared and respected”. “Liked”, as always, is a bust.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Health Care’s Giant New Bureaucracy

One of the persistent memes with this current round of health care reform is the counter-intuitive belief that adding 30+ million to the health care insurance roles and subsidizing them is going to save money. Another is that there won’t be more bureaucracy – that, in fact, this reform will streamline health care and again “save money”. Just as we’re supposed to “trust” the climate scientists who’re apparently not trustworthy, we’re supposed to believe a Congress which cranks out 2,000 page bills when they say it won’t be a bureaucratic nightmare.

But:

“The legislation lists 1,697 times where the secretary of health and humans services is given the authority to create, determine or define things in the bill,” said Devon Herrick, a health care expert at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

For instance, on Page 122 of the 2,079-page bill, the secretary is given the power to establish “the basic per enrollee, per month cost, determined on average actuarial basis, for including coverage under a qualified health care plan.”

The HHS secretary would also have the power to decide where abortion is allowed under a government-run plan, which has drawn opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

And the bill even empowers the department to establish a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation that would have the authority to make cost-saving cuts without having to get the approval of Congress first.

That’s right – we’re supposed to believe that this huge shift in power and authority to the HHS will be done without adding a single worker, panel, council, department, “task forces” or agencies. There will be no new commissioners, advisors, council, staffers or contract employees. None.

But:

Haislmaier said one the greatest powers HHS would gain from the bill is the authority to regulate insurance. States currently hold this power, and under the Senate bill, the federal government would usurp it from them. This could lead to the federal government putting restrictions and changes in place that destabilize the private insurance market by forcing companies to lower premiums and other charges, he said.

Health and Human Services … doesn’t have any experience with this,” Haislmaier said. “I’m looking at the potential for this whole thing to just blow up on people because they have no idea what they are doing. Who in the federal government regulates insurance today? Nobody.”

The health care reform legislation would rely on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for recommendations as to what kind of screening and preventive care should be covered.

By the way, the U.S Preventive Services Task Force is the one which recently told women under 50 they really don’t need mamograms. Yeah – preventive services. They’ll try to prevent you from taking advantage of such services it seems.

And then there’s this:

Critics of the bill said this was an example of how the new bill could empower HHS to alter health care delivery, but Democrats argue they would rather have the government making these decisions.

“There’s an insurance company bureaucrat in between the patient and her doctor right now,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Yes, because everyone knows that government bureaucrats are so much more efficient and caring than insurance bureacrats – which explains the reason Medicare denials are much higher than insurance company denials.

If you want the equivalent of the Post Office or DMV running your health care in the future, support the Democrats and this bill. Because if you are satisfied with what they’re trying to pass, you’ve already bought into the idea that spending a trillion dollars will save money and lower the deficit and that government is always more efficient than the market in delivering anything.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Climaquiddick: Follow The Money

One of the favorite rebuttals of the alarmists – especially when a skeptical scientists scores a point on them – is to point to the scientist’s funding (“he’s paid by oil companies) and attempt to dismiss the science by claiming a bias. The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens does a little digging into the money trail on the warmist side and, unsurprisingly, finds plenty of reasons for the alarmist cause to find what is has found:

Climategate, as readers of these pages know, concerns some of the world’s leading climate scientists working in tandem to block freedom of information requests, blackball dissenting scientists, manipulate the peer-review process, and obscure, destroy or massage inconvenient temperature data—facts that were laid bare by last week’s disclosure of thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, or CRU.

But the deeper question is why the scientists behaved this way to begin with, especially since the science behind man-made global warming is said to be firmly settled. To answer the question, it helps to turn the alarmists’ follow-the-money methods right back at them.

Consider the case of Phil Jones, the director of the CRU and the man at the heart of climategate. According to one of the documents hacked from his center, between 2000 and 2006 Mr. Jones was the recipient (or co-recipient) of some $19 million worth of research grants, a sixfold increase over what he’d been awarded in the 1990s.

19 million. A sixfold increase in funding. And all for being on the side that found what the alarmists wanted found – a human hand in the warming trend. But what’s incredible is how small, in terms of “research grants” the money paid to Jones and CRU was in the big scheme of payouts. There’s gold in that thar “settled science:

Thus, the European Commission’s most recent appropriation for climate research comes to nearly $3 billion, and that’s not counting funds from the EU’s member governments. In the U.S., the House intends to spend $1.3 billion on NASA’s climate efforts, $400 million on NOAA’s, and another $300 million for the National Science Foundation. The states also have a piece of the action, with California—apparently not feeling bankrupt enough—devoting $600 million to their own climate initiative. In Australia, alarmists have their own Department of Climate Change at their funding disposal.

All totaled, about 5 billion in research money out there for the scientist who is able to “prove” what the politicians want proven. And that’s just the beginning of the gravy train:

And all this is only a fraction of the $94 billion that HSBC Bank estimates has been spent globally this year on what it calls “green stimulus”—largely ethanol and other alternative energy schemes—of the kind from which Al Gore and his partners at Kleiner Perkins hope to profit handsomely.

And you wondered why Al Gore had essentially gone silent at this point? Why talk any more when what you’ve schemed to have happen is beginning to happen. One thing a good con artist knows is when to shut up.

Stephens makes the most important point:

Supply, as we know, creates its own demand. So for every additional billion in government-funded grants (or the tens of millions supplied by foundations like the Pew Charitable Trusts), universities, research institutes, advocacy groups and their various spin-offs and dependents have emerged from the woodwork to receive them.

[…]

All of them have been on the receiving end of climate change-related funding, so all of them must believe in the reality (and catastrophic imminence) of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God.

None of these outfits are per se corrupt, in the sense that the monies they get are spent on something other than their intended purposes. But they depend on an inherently corrupting premise, namely that the hypothesis on which their livelihood depends has in fact been proved. Absent that proof, everything they represent—including the thousands of jobs they provide—vanishes. This is what’s known as a vested interest, and vested interests are an enemy of sound science.

Science is not an ends for these eco-religionists, but a means. The “settled science” is faith based, not reality or science based. It’s what they believe. Al Gore, otoh, is simply a grifter who recognized that propensity toward blind faith, fed it and now stands to profit from it.

Which brings us full circle to the CRU and their horrible and scandalous misbehavior. As Stephens concludes:

This is not the sound of settled science, but of a cracking empirical foundation. And however many billion-dollar edifices may be built on it, sooner or later it is bound to crumble.

Or said another way, the alarmists are denying the scandal because of the vested interests so many have in those “billion-dollar edifices” they’ve built over the years of scamming the world about the supposed imminent catastrophe of man-made global warming. There is no settled science regardless of what the White House claims (speaking of vested interests). In fact, it is beginning to appear there’s no science at all to under-gird the hypothesis of man-made global warming. Just some cooked-data that can’t be checked produced by a group of “scientists” who appear to have benefited handsomely from the funding alarmists were paid to help push this scam on the world.

To see this denial in full action, stay tuned to Copenhagen. It is when those who love to describe themselves as members of the “reality-based community” will be on full display – and just as fully engaged in denying reality.

~McQ
[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Obama: Transformational, Consequential And Catastrophic

I definitely lean toward defining his presidency as “catastrophic” in more than a general sense. I read a piece by Jacob Weisberg in Salon that managed to inadvertantly define the idelogocial rift between the right and left very well (not that it is any secret, but it is interesting to see it laid out so blatantly at times) and understand how catastrophic Obama could be to our existing way of life if not vigorously opposed.

In his article, Weisberg is essentially trying to explain away Obama’s lack of accomplishment in this first 10 months in office by saying that should he pass just one of his “transformational” agenda items before his first State of the Union address, he will be the most accomplished president in the last 70 years.

If, as seems increasingly likely, Obama wins passage of a health care reform a bill by that date, he will deliver his first State of the Union address having accomplished more than any other postwar American president at a comparable point in his presidency. This isn’t an ideological point or one that depends on agreement with his policies. It’s a neutral assessment of his emerging record—how many big, transformational things Obama is likely to have made happen in his first 12 months in office.

Of course Weisberg’s “neutral assessment” isn’t at all neutral. His assertion that what Obama is trying to accomplish are “transformational” implies that they’re also positive. And that’s the difference between the right and the left as we consider these “things” Obama wants passed into law. The right, of course, wouldn’t consider passing Obama’s agenda to be an accomplishment at all. In fact, the right considers that agenda to be destructive, not transformational. If the right was to use the term “transformational”, it would do so describe the agenda as destructive to the traditions which made America’s great. Or, more succinctly, the right sees his agenda as an erosion of freedom and liberty and a huge step toward the collectivism of America.

But how does Weisberg – and the left – see them?

We are so submerged in the details of this debate—whether the bill will include a “public option,” limit coverage for abortion, or tax Botox—that it’s easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the impending change. For the federal government to take responsibility for health coverage will be a transformation of the American social contract and the single biggest change in government’s role since the New Deal.

Weisberg sees this huge expansion of government control as a feature, not a bug. This is a “good thing”, and he implies even more would be better. So there’s little doubt that he will consider such an “accomplishment” as wonderful and Obama as a “consequential” president in a most positive way. Meanwhile the right will also see him as a consequential president but in a catastrophic way – essentially changing forever the dynamic that has made America the exception in the world and instead turning it into another western European semi-socialist “paradise” destined for mediocrity and decline.

And guys like Jacob Weisberg will be standing on the sidelines applauding the whole way down. It is that applause, so to speak, that absolutely puzzles the right. We’ve yet to understand, given what this country has accomplished and done in its short history – its short exceptional history – why people like Weisberg want to so fundamentally change it and make it like the rest of the mediocre countries of the world. It’s simply unfathomable to most of us.

Interestingly, many of those who bought into the campaigning Obama’s promise to be “transformational” are finding his definition (and that of the liberal left) as put into practice to not at all be the transformation they were assuming when they supported him. They’re beginning to realize they were gulled. The problem, however, is now they’re stuck with him, can see the catastrophe on the horizon and can’t really do a whole heck of a lot about it. It’s like New Orleans with Katrina bearing down on it. Stuck in town without a bus ride and getting ready to see life become a whole lot worse than it is now.

Obama the political Katrina, about to lay waste to the exception that has been America and Weisberg and his ilk will tout the destruction as an “accomplishment” and be cheering it on the entire time.

That’s just wrong. It’s also why there can never be accommodation or compromise with the political left.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!