31 July 2007

Iraq: The Bottom Line

And then there's the latest from Iraq. Breitbart informs us that the death total of American soldiers for the month of July was the lowest in 8 months.

This is significant for a number of reasons:
  • there are more American forces deployed in Iraq now than at any time in the last two years. Logically, one would assume that larger numbers of soldiers in Iraq would result in higher losses.
  • the new surge strategy has moved the military from large bases into far greater contact with Iraqis and insurgents. Logically, one would assume increased American presence on the streets would result in higher losses.
  • insurgents are aware of American public opinion, Democrats'* desire to withdraw immediately, and negative press coverage. They are also aware that General Petraeus will report on progress in September. Logically, one would assume they have every incentive to step up attacks and kill more American soldiers.
In each instance, the truth is opposite of the superfically logical assumption which leaves us with only one possible conclusion:


*Call him the exception to the Democrat rule. Joe Lieberman continues to be awesome.

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20 July 2007

Lybberty in Print

This appears in the 20 July edition of the Tri-City Herald.

An American Student in Londonistan
By Jacob S. Lybbert

When news broke of the latest terror attacks in London, I was in Paris with my family, on the last leg of our European vacation. As I watched the news unfold on CNN in my hotel room, I was reminded of the foiled terror attacks last year. I remembered, with annoyance, the two and a half hour wait to get through Heathrow security on my way back from a summer of studying at Cambridge. In both cases, effective collaboration between intelligence services, local police, and a bit of what can only be described as good luck, resulted in zero lives lost.

Terrorists parked cars loaded with an explosive combination of fuel and nails on Haymarket and Park Lane—two major streets in London—just over a mile away from my flat on Edgware Road. When we returned from Paris, just the day after the bombs had been found and defused, we found an increased police presence everywhere we went. But the threat of terror hadn’t diminished people’s appetite for West End theatre or Haagen Dazs ice cream in Leicester Square. If the crowds have been smaller, it is because the summer has been unseasonably cool and wet.

Despite business carrying on as usual, the recent attacks remind me and everyone else that all is not well in the ancestral home of the English speaking people. Like the US, the United Kingdom deals with its own immigration and assimilation issues. The prominent role of medical doctors in the latest terrorist attempt shows that terror appeals to more than just the poor and disaffected. Polling data about the devastating attacks of July 7th, 2005 which killed 52 people and injured over 700 more—commonly referred to as the 7/7 bombings—show that while most British Muslims condemn the attack, nearly 25% believe the attacks were justified. Considering that the Muslim population of the UK is somewhere between 1.6 and 2 million, this means 400,000 to 500,000 think the freedom fighters had just cause.

I’ve been in England on and off for the last year, and in London for the last nine months. In that time, I’ve attended classes, seminars and conferences at a number of universities. I know from reading newspaper reports that British higher education is a fertile ground for terror recruitment. The ridiculous amount of paper work required to get a bank account are evidence of post-9/11 efforts to frustrate money laundering and financing of international terror. My neighborhood consists of people from countries we read about every day in the news—Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran. I get my haircut in a barbershop around the corner by a Kurdish man from northern Iraq. I get my shirts laundered across the street by a friendly man from Jordan. I eat kebabs and curry at shops run by people from throughout the Middle and Near East. They speak Farsi, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi, while I’m limited to English and Spanish. Our communication isn’t perfect, but everyone seems friendly. It’s hard to believe that out of this group could come a fanatic or two, or that one in four of the people I meet on the street are sympathetic to the terrorists.

As I walk around London, I know I have a better chance of being hit by one of London’s famous black cabs than being blown up by a terrorist. I don’t know if it’s the remote chance of another bomb, ignorance, or my desire to somehow show the terrorists that they can’t scare me, but I find myself emboldened to do anything but stay home. And our British cousins? Well, they’d prefer to gather in their now-smoke free pubs and tell stories about John Smeaton, the airport baggage handler from Glasgow who kicked a terrorist in the head.

Jacob Lybbert graduated from Southridge High School in 1999 and Brigham Young University in 2006. He currently lives in London and is working on a Masters Degree in Modern History at University College London. You can contact Mr. Lybbert by emailing him at lybberty@gmail.com. You can also visit his blog at lybberty.com.

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18 July 2007

Daily Primer: Oil Companies are Awesome

- Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the Information Technology Agreement. This agreement enabled the technology led expansion of the last decade. Don't believe us? Check out this bit of information from a great article on the impacts of this free trade agreement:
What impact did all this have on the U.S.? The best way to answer is in terms of productivity, which is the single most important metric to gauge the standard of living for any country. From 1973 to 1995, output per worker hour in the nonfarm business sector grew at just 1.35% per year. Then in 1995, productivity growth began to accelerate. From 1996 through 2006 it doubled, to an average annual rate of 2.7%.

The importance of this productivity acceleration is difficult to overstate. At the previous generation's growth rate, average living standards required 52 years to double. At the current growth rate, average living standards need just 26 years to double. This carries profound implications for the well-being of all Americans.
It's this type of growth that makes America the richest nation in the world. This is why our definition of poverty includes households that own multiple tv's and have air conditioning. And free trade doesn't only enrich America, it raises the standard of living of every country that engages with America in these sorts of free trade pacts. It's why Hong Kong is richer than mainland China and why Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea exploded economically over the last 20-30 years.

We should all be free traders and sometimes we wonder that we're not. And then we walk past that pesky "Fairtrade" cafe at school. To see what else we've posted about free trade & business click here, here, here, here, and here.

- Check out this great defense of the oil industry. These guys are politicians' favorite punching bag and it's a shame they even need a public defense. From the article:
There are two American oil industries. One exists only in the minds of its critics, many of whom are politicians. When prices and profits rise, as happens in a cyclical business, the critics demand new antitrust and other legislation. When prices and profits inevitably fall? Silence.

The other American oil industry exists in the real world. It's intensely competitive, innovative and subject to more scrutiny and tougher antitrust enforcement than any other segment of the economy. And it's adept at meeting the diverse and dynamic needs of American consumers.
They endured 15 years of below average profits, finally have a few good years, and now Congress wants to nail them for "price gouging." Does anyone even know what that is? Then, rather than easing regulations that would speed up exploration for new oil supplies (and alleviate our dependence on Middle East oil) or build new refineries, Congress adds more hoops (ethanol, anyone?). All of this combines to make gas more expensive. It's a testament to the market and oil companies themselves that the price of gas has remained relatively low. In fact, when taking inflation into account, the price of gasoline has experienced only mild increases since Americans first started putting it into their Model T's.

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17 July 2007

Gordon Brown Does the Right Thing

Responding the only way they could, yesterday Britain expelled 4 Russian diplomats. Read press reports at the BBC and Sky News.

A quick primer for those not familiar with the case:

Last fall, frequent Vladimir Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko was killed by a heavy dose of Polonium 210. Polonium is a highly refined nuclear material to which few governments have access. British law enforcement followed the clues to Andrei Lugovoi who many suspect has ties to current Russian intelligence organizations and even to Mr. Putin. In typical Soviet-Cold War fashion, the Russian government has refused to cooperate with the investigation and thrown up a number of conspiracy theories to distract attention. The British government finally lost its patience and expelled the Russian "diplomats."

We put "diplomats" in quotation marks because in these instances, the first ones expelled are those suspected of being intelligence officers and usually carry titles like, "agricultural advisor." Those of you who frequent this blog know that we regularly attend the Intel Seminar at the University of Cambridge. Disclosure rules of Chatham House Rules being what they are, we can't reveal the source, but we've been told on a number of occasions by current and former British Intel officers that the number of foreign operatives and scope of spying by Russia and China is as high now as it ever was during the Cold War.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Vladimir Putin was a colonel in the KGB. He was a thug then and remains a thug now. We posted a revealing interview from the Wall Street Journal with Garry Kasparov earlier in the year. Russia under Putin has been dismantling the early democratic gains and is progressively becoming a fitting thugocracy under Putin. Dissidents, political opponents, the free press both at home (and, in the case of Litvenenko) abroad are being jailed or silenced--permanently.

Russia responded to the expulsion with a predictable amount of bluster and bloviation, calling the British move "immoral." Watch for Russia to follow suit on these expulsions with a few of their own expulsions.

But Russia isn't just killing their own. They are actively undermining US interests everywhere from Iraq and Iran to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa, Cuba, North Korea, the UN--anywhere they can try to make themselves a relevant world player. Putin's recent complaints about US missile defense are part of a larger strategy of bullying Eastern Europe and the rest of the EU. In this game Russia holds a strong trump card in the form of oil access which runs from Russia to the rest of Europe. We hope Europe will follow Britain's strong example rather than kow towing to Putin and his cronies.

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15 July 2007

Rosie O'Donnell & the Amoral Market

We read it in the aforementioned comments over at the Seattle PI about the fairness doctrine and we read it in a post our buddy made on cougarboard.com. We refer, of course, to the hokey notion that because media outlets are controlled by supposedly "conservative" business interests, that makes the media outlets they control ipso facto conservative.

Nevermind the fact that in the last several election cycles, most businesses donated almost equally to both the Republican and Democratic parties. Where they don't give equally, it is based on who they think has the best chance of winning, not ideology. They want to support whoever will eventually be sitting on the Ways and Means Committee--regardless of political party. Ignore also the fact that few businesses are controlled by some small cabal of middle aged white males who, along with trying to gain monopolistic control of their industry, work tirelessly towards their ultimate goal of playing puppetmaster with the US government. Come on. Aren't we too old for these crazy conspiracy theories?

Capitalism, markets, business--these things are neither Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. The market is neither moral nor immoral. It seeks only profit. This guiding principle applies equally to the media. If a corporate interest believes ratings will rise and with it their profits, they will keep Rosie O'Donnell on the air until the public tires of her. If Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or Keith Olbermann makes them money, they will continue to fund production of their shows. The same thing applies (obviously) to conservative media. These businesses didn't pull their advertising from Air America because of politics, they stopped buying airtime because Air America didn't have enough listeners.

Wake up. If there are dollars to be made, and one company will ignore the opportunity because of some ideological difference, you can bet your bottom dollar that their competitor will step in and take advantage of the opening. They don't care if Democrats, Republicans, Communists or Atheists buy their widgets, they just want to make a profit. That's business. That's capitalism. That's the amoral market.

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13 July 2007

Fairness Doctrine & Fox News

We may not agree with Senator McCain about campaign finance or immigration or a number of other things, but we admire his stalwart support of the current surge in Iraq. McCain gets it. He understands that retreat and loss in Iraq would result in hundreds of thousands maybe millions of deaths there and a huge setback in the War on Terror. McCain is willing to lose a Presidential election because of his unpopular yet principled stand. That's what leaders do. It's unfortunate some of his fellow Republican Senators aren't willing to take the same risk with their elected position. Senator Gordon Smith, we're talking about you. Just because the Democrats are willing to play politics with the war, doesn't mean you or Senator Domenici or anyone has to. Senator Lieberman's win last fall is proof that elected officials can want to win in Iraq and persuade their constituents to re-elect them. We're embarrassed to share our alma mater with Senator Smith.

Meanwhile over at the Seattle PI, their liberal readership is debating a "fairness doctrine for media." It seems control of CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post and the overwhelming majority of newspaper editorial boards is not enough for them. They want to legislate fairness in the one bastion of conservative thought--talk radio. It's telling that this legislation targets only one segment of the media. And such legislation begs way too many questions for us to even raise in this paragraph. Suffice it to say that we agree with Bruce Chapman, author of the op-ed that started the debate. If they want a "fairness doctrine," let them apply it to broadcast and print media as well as talk radio. Or they could just let free speech rule and permit the market to do its job.

One follow up item: if you read the first couple dozen comments, you'll read a lot of blather about how horrible Fox News and Rupert Murdoch are--you know, how they "distort" the news. They're afraid Murdoch and other "conservative billionaires" will control all media and give it their personal spin. Can anyone name another politically influential conservative billionaire? We can name a bunch of liberal ones--George Soros, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett--the list goes on. It's all part of another favorite liberal trope, that the rich are all conservative, white, and male. Right, and John Edwards--$400 haircuts and all--is a man of the people. We guess that's 2 out of 3.

But back to Murdoch and Fox News. The loony-left--especially those of the nutroots variety--love to bash Fox News. Not all liberals feel this way, many of them watch it, as evidenced by the fact that it regularly trounces its competition. What are we to conclude from this? That conservatism is popular despite the famously low ratings of Republicans and their leader, President Bush? Come on libs, think harder and try again. Fox News is popular because they peddle a particular brand of politics that appeals to elements in both parties--it's called populism. This explains why a true conservative outlet, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, is so insistent on editorial autonomy if Murdoch's Newscorp is successfull in its bid to purchase Dow Jones, the parent company of the WSJ. If Murdoch and Fox News were the conservative spin machine the loony left claims, you would think that the partisans over at the WSJ would positively love to be owned by Murdoch's Newscorp. But they're not. In fact, since the Newscorp offer was announced, Dow Jones ownership has been actively searching for other offers while simultaneously negotiating editorial independence in the event of a sale to Newscorp.

Another point about the wildly out of touch theory that all conservatives are rich or maybe that the rich are all conservative. The founding conservative publication, National Review, with William F. Buckley Jr. conservatism's founding father, have almost never turned a profit (homer nods: thanks Morgan) in their more than 50 years of publication. They regularly have to engage in drives to raise the funds necessary to support the magazine. Which of John Edwards' "two Americas" subscribes to National Review?

A footnote to the point about the WSJ. You'll note that we said the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. It's important and worth pointing out that their editorial bias, unlike the New York Times, does not bleed into their news reporting. That is to say, that like the rest of the mainstream media, the average beat reporter at the Wall Street Journal has about a 70% chance of voting for John Kerry in the last Presidential election. It's a fact of life that the profession is dominated by people with left leaning political beliefs.

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12 July 2007

Inconvenient Questions

A question posed in the comments section of a recent blog by our beloved critic and friend of this blog, Raisin, prompted us to write a series of questions that ended up far larger than we intended. These, then, are a series of inconvenient questions we, in turn, would like to pose to the liberal-left (or angry left or loony left, whatever), netroots, Democrats in Congress and certain Republican Senators. You'll excuse us if they are (mostly) rhetorical.

We start, therefore, with Raisin's question.

Must we or anyone watch every film Moore produces? Who is Michael Moore that every American should watch and value his opinion? Does anyone believe that the lies of earlier films give this one or any future film any degree of credibility whatsoever? Do you really believe that 9/11 was a Bush/CIA/Mossad/Oil conspiracy to get us into a shooting war? Do you really believe that Bush lied about intelligence to get us to go to war? And this, despite the overwhelming amount of intelligence supporting his decision? And the overwhelming support of everyone in Congress (including the dems)? And the overwhelming popular support?

Should we listen to Moore or anyone else just because he hates President Bush and opposes the current war? Is that enough? Is our credibility standard so low? Is it possible that we are so disenchanted with the current administration that we will listen to anyone who opposes Bush? Is this why the loony left likes Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez or believes Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad, simply because they too hate George W. Bush?

Has the Patriot Act denied you any freedoms or infringed on your privacy? Have you or anyone you know lost any of their civil rights? Has the economic boom of the last 4 years put you in a tighter financial spot than you were in under Clinton? Have Bush's "tax cuts for the rich" made you poorer? Has free trade cost you your job?

So, you didn't think we should have gone to war, do you think leaving now will erase that "mistake?" Do you really think things will get better? That Al-Qaeda wont thrive in the vacuum or launch new terror attacks from its new hom in Iraq? Or Iran? Or that Shiites wont kill Sunnis and Sunnis kill Shiites? Or that the Kurds wont declare independence and cause war with another American ally, Turkey? In sum, do you honestly believe that American withdrawal wont result in complete regional chaos?

Do you really believe that the loss of life in Iraq since the war began will be anywhere near the loss of life if American troops withdraw prematurely? Have you learned nothing from America's history of retreat in Vietnam, Beirut, or Somalia? Do you think that the EU or the UN will help guarantee world peace and safety--like they did in Rwanda (oh wait, bad example) or finally did in the former Yugoslavia (oh wait, that was largely the US that solved that "european" problem) after more than 250,000 people had been killed or they are now doing in Darfur? For those of you who think we should be doing more in Darfur: how can you ignore the logic of your argument in favor of intervening in Darfur while also arguing for withdrawal in Iraq? Aren't we even more responsible to the people of Iraq?

Do you really believe that European hate of America is anything new, that it started with George W. Bush? Are you familiar with the "peace" movement of the '70's and '80's? Or perhaps the opposition to Reagan's attempts to win the Cold War? Or, to take another tack and put you in their shoes, if you owed your WWI and WWII liberation (and subsequent loss of power and prestige) and winning of the Cold War and the brunt of fighting Islamofascism to another country and people, wouldn't your initial gratitude also turn into resentment?

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10 July 2007

Captain Republican

Got Mitt?

We celebrate our 200th post with this picture of our brother, Captain Republican. Matt is one of the student liaisons at BYU for the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign.

We found this graffiti while walking along the grand canal in Venice, Italy. Seems Mitt has Italian supporters. We don't condone graffiti nor do we approve of poor spelling, but we have to appreciate their verve. For those of you curious few wondering what book Matt is carrying, it's The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

Yes, we know this is the true meaning.

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