31 October 2009

Ryan Decker: Obama & Trade

In it, he highlights the hypocrisies of President Obama's foreign policy--more particularly, his pledges to change course from the supposedly unilateralist approach of President Bush and move towards a foreign policy that would make him (& presumably the US) the koolest kid on the planet.
during the presidential campaign, Obama’s foreign policy promises were inherently contradictory. On the one hand, he promised a less unilateralist and belligerent foreign policy, supposedly in opposition to Bush. On the other, he promised to renegotiate NAFTA and slow pending trade agreements, prompting public concern from U.S. trading partners. For anyone who understands that trade policy is foreign policy, these promises were clearly crises waiting to happen. Closely related to the campaign was Obama’s bestselling book, in which he admitted that labor unions had been crucial to his political career and therefore deserve special treatment from him (page 119).

The other item of context is Obama’s careful behavior at international forums for addressing the financial crisis. At the G-20 and other venues, Obama and his deputies urged countries to avoid damaging trade protectionism. The lessons of Smoot-Hawley were fresh in the minds of officials concerned that protectionism could spark a race to the bottom.

Given his campaign rhetoric and history with unions, there was always a chance Obama would be an anti-trade president. This concern has been magnified by his foot-dragging on the Colombian free trade agreement (and others), crucial to Washington’s relationship with the regionally besieged Latin American country, but angering to unions. Many had hoped, however, that Obama’s campaign rhetoric about careful foreign policy and his promises at the G-20 would prevent a U.S.-initiated, belligerent trade war.

Any countries that trusted Obama’s trade policies—and therefore foreign policies—have now been proven wrong.
Click the link to read it all; it's worth your time.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

30 October 2009

Weekend Happiness

No playoffs this year, but for the first time in a long time, with GM Jack Zduriencik running the show, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

I don't really care who wins the World Series, but I do like former Mariners Raul Ibañez and Jamie Moyer. So, go Phillies.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

29 October 2009

There Is An Alternative To Obamacare

Several, actually.

Republicans have done more this summer than just take pot shots at the economy-reorganizing plans coming out of Democrat controlled committees.

From the Chicago Tribune (h/t Scott L.), hardly a bastion of conservative, Republican-friendly commentary:
Over the summer and fall, Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced six -- yes, six -- health care reform proposals. You didn't hear? Well, those plans didn't produce much of a ripple because Democrats dominate the Congress.

We don't agree with everything in these bills. But the GOP proposals contain smart ideas to increase choice and competition in the health insurance market -- a powerful Republican counterpoint to the Democrats' expensive plans. The ideas include:

--Let insurers sell policies across state lines. That would loosen the strangling state-by-state regulations and unleash competition to drive premium prices down.

--Give people who buy insurance in the private market the same tax breaks as those who get it through employers. Now, employers that offer coverage get a tax break on the premiums they pay for employees. And employees don't pay taxes on the value of the coverage they receive. People who want to buy insurance in the individual market should get the same tax breaks. That would help millions of people acquire coverage.

--Expand the ability of small businesses, trade associations and other groups to set up insurance pools to offer coverage at more attractive rates.

--Control health costs in part by reining in the medical malpractice system that raises insurance premiums and forces doctors to order tests to protect themselves from lawsuits. Limiting certain kinds of damage awards would reduce spending on health care by about $11 billion in 2009, or about one-half of 1 percent, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. Think about that in human terms: Reform would save millions of patients the expense and trauma of unnecessary tests and procedures.

These excellent ideas could expand coverage for the uninsured without cratering the federal budget or curbing the competition and innovation that drive the U.S. health care system. Republicans should keep pushing them -- and ruling Democrats need to give them a full and fair hearing.
Look, if leftist Democrats' real goal were to insure health care for the 5% of the US population that remains uninsured and to lower the costs for the remaining 95%, they would at least consider the Republican plans.

But it's patently not their goal.

Some of them, maybe, are open to conservative, non-socialist solutions.

A few more don't care about the relative efficiency of the system or the inherence loss of liberty in a government-run plan.

The ones who really bother me are those who want more power and more control over their fellow Americans. These are the ones to whom I frequently refer whose condescending attitude knows no bounds.

They think they know better. Yet, they willfully ignore the lessons of the failure of the command & control economies of the 20th century (USSR, &c.). For these leftists, the plan always failed because the right people weren't in control or because the plan just needed to be tweaked or given more money.

But that's the problem with these grand social plans: The right people don't exist and eventually you run out of other people's money.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

28 October 2009

Bret Stephens' Superfreakonomics Review: 'Climatologists, Like Everyone Else, Respond To Incentives In A Way That Shapes Their Conclusions'

Spot on, per usual (h/t Scott L.).

This week, Stephens takes aim at the Holy Church of Climate Change (formerly the Holy Church of Global Warmism). In it, he reviews Steven Leavitt & Stephen Dubner's follow-up to their smash-hit, Freakonomics.

In Superfreakonomics, they point out, very clearly, the way climate researchers respond to incentives like everyone else--that they aren't entirely disinterested observers. Additionally, they provide an honest look at some of the real costs and real possible solutions to global warming. Theirs is a small foray into a cost/benefit analysis of the global impacts of warming.

The response has been predictable. For Gore and other members of the Holy Alarmist Church of Climate Change, the solutions cannot possibly be based on a cost/benefit analysis or be relatively easy (even if they are). Stephens:
All these suggestions are, of course, horrifying to global warmists, who'd much prefer to spend in excess of a trillion dollars annually for the sake of reconceiving civilization as we know it, including not just what we drive or eat but how many children we have. And little wonder: As Newsweek's Stefan Theil points out, "climate change is the greatest new public-spending project in decades." Who, being a professional climatologist or EPA regulator, wouldn't want a piece of that action?

Part of the genius of Marxism, and a reason for its enduring appeal, is that it fed man's neurotic fear of social catastrophe while providing an avenue for moral transcendence. It's just the same with global warming, which is what makes the clear-eyed analysis in "SuperFreakonomics" so timely and important.
For them, global warming is a chance to reorder society entirely, earning huge profits (for Gore in Green Venture Capital and others in government rent-seeking--but it's all tied up together) and most importantly, acceding to themselves ever-greater amounts of power and control over the lives of men & women around the world.

Because they know better. Because they are smarter & more talented & more sophisticated & better educated & above all, more righteous than you.

So, if you don't want to be in the first group sent to the re-education camps (aka public schools where you're served small bits of reading, writing, & arithmetic, in between out-and-out global warming & other liberal indoctrination), you better prostrate yourself before the prophets of climate change destruction.

Oh, and don't forget to buy your carbon indulgences offsets

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

20 October 2009

Another Indictment Of Obama's Foreign Policy: Bret Stephens: We've Heard The Words, 'What's Been The Record?'

Obama's policy has been "engagement," to no positive result and to the utter ignorance of how despotic leaders view his appeasing posture.
It takes a remarkable presumption of good faith, or perhaps stupidity, to imagine that the Burmas or Sudans of the world would reciprocate Mr. Obama's engagement except to seek their own advantage.

It also takes a remarkable degree of cynicism—or perhaps cowardice—to treat human rights as something that "interferes" with America's purposes in the world, rather than as the very thing that ought to define them. Yet that is exactly the record of Mr. Obama's time thus far in office.

In Massachusetts not long ago, I found myself driving behind a car with "Free Tibet," "Save Darfur," and "Obama 08" bumper stickers. I wonder if it will ever dawn on the owner of that car that at least one of those stickers doesn't belong.
As my old man put it to me the other day, the Obama administration is still stuck in campaign mode. They're attacking Fox News (h/t Matt L.) rather than, you know, trying to bring on utopia like he promised in 2008.

Obama voters: This is what you get for listening to & believing his sweet nothings. Unfortunately, those who helped elect President Obama won't bear the true cost of his election--that's borne by the poor, starving, & liberty-less in China, Sudan, Iran, & Burma (to name but a few).

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

16 October 2009

Dr. Ronen Bergman: 'Specter Of Renewed Fighting Between Israel And Hezbollah Looms... Large'

Dr. Bergman has perhaps the best network of Israeli sources of any reporter in the world--certainly the best network of Israeli Intel sources. This is as clear-eyed of a look at the situation in the Middle East--specifically the situation involving Israel, Hezbollah-Lebanon, & Iran--as you will get:
in February 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, the organization's military commander and Nasrallah's close associate, was killed in a car bomb in Damascus. The assassination of the man who topped the FBI's most-wanted list prior to Osama bin Laden was a severe blow to morale, as well as to Hezbollah's strategic capabilities. Nasrallah was convinced that the Mossad was responsible, and vowed to take revenge "outside of the Israel-Lebanon arena."

The Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, which is also responsible for protecting the country's legations abroad, has been on high alert ever since. But as of today, Hezbollah has not exacted its revenge. This fact was a topic of discussions at a high-level secret forum of Israel's intelligence services that took place from late July to early September.

Israeli officials raised four possible reasons for Hezbollah's failure to act, all of which reflect its current weakness.

First, no replacement has been found for Mughniyeh, whose strategic brilliance, originality and powers of execution are sorely missed by Hezbollah.

Second, Israel's intelligence coverage of Iran and Hezbollah is far superior today to what it was in the past. Planned attacks, including one targeting the Israeli Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, have all been foiled. The Israeli security services have warned Israeli businessmen abroad of possible abduction attempts by Hezbollah. They also shared information with Egyptian authorities that led to the arrest of members of a Hezbollah network who intended to kill Israeli tourists in Sinai. The arrest of these operatives resulted in sharp public exchanges between Egypt, Hezbollah and its Iranian masters, when Nasrallah admitted that these, in fact, were his men.

Third, Nasrallah cannot afford to be viewed domestically as the cause of yet another retaliation against Lebanon. Any act of revenge that he contemplates needs to be carefully calibrated. On the one hand, it needs to hurt the enemy and be spectacular enough to stoke Hezbollah pride. On the other hand, it cannot be so murderous as to cause Israel to respond with force. To complicate matters further, Israel has made it clear that because Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, despite the fact that the party that it backed lost in the recent election, any Hezbollah action against Israel would be viewed as an action taken by the Lebanese government. Thus Israel would regard Lebanese infrastructure as a legitimate target for a military response.

Finally, there are the Iranians. Their primary focus is on proceeding with their nuclear program without unnecessary distractions. Tehran's main concern is that a terror attack that can be linked to Iran would result in the arrest of its agents overseas, who are currently procuring equipment for its uranium-enrichment centrifuges.
Read it all.

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14 October 2009

Bret Stephens: Far From Being An Aberrant Choice (For The Nobel), President Obama Was The Ideal One, Scandinavianally Speaking'

The peace Nobel is a much misunderstood prize. With the exception of a few really grotesque picks (Le Duc Tho, Rigoberta Menchú, Yasser Arafat), a few inspired ones (Carl von Ossietzky, Norman Borlaug, Andrei Sakharov, Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi) and some worthy if obvious ones (Martin Luther King, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk), most of the prize winners draw from the obscure ranks of the sorts of people the late Oriana Fallaci liked to call "the Goodists."

Who are the Goodists? They are the people who believe all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstanding. Who think that the world's evils spring from technologies, systems, complexes (as in "military-industrial") and everything else except from the hearts of men, where love abides. Who mistake wishes for possibilities. Who put a higher premium on their own moral intentions than on the efficacy of their actions. Who champion education as the solution, whatever the problem. Above all, the Goodists are the people who like to be seen to be good.

Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler, who won the Peace Prize in 1931, was a Goodist. In 1910 he wrote that "to suppose that men and women into whose intellectual and moral instruction and upbuilding have gone the glories of the world's philosophy and art and poetry and religion . . . are to fly at each others' throats to ravage, to kill, in the hope of somehow establishing thereby truth and right and justice is to suppose the universe to be stood upon its apex."

The First World War, which began four years later, rendered a less charitable judgment on the benefits of moral and intellectual instruction. Yet Butler later became a leading campaigner for the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war as "an instrument of national policy." This monument to hope, which won U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg a Nobel in 1929 (France's Aristide Briand had already won it in 1926 for the equally feckless Locarno Pact), was immediately ratified by dozens of countries, including Japan—which invaded Manchuria in 1931; and Italy—which invaded Abyssinia in 1935; and Germany—which invaded Poland in 1939.

Characteristically, the Nobel Committee awarded no Peace Prizes for most of the Second World War: not to Franklin Roosevelt for turning America into an arsenal for democracy; not to Winston Churchill for rallying Britain against the Nazi onslaught; not to Charles de Gaulle for keeping the flame of a free France alive; not to the U.S. Army Rangers for scaling the heights of Pointe du Hoc on a June morning in 1944; not to Douglas MacArthur for turning Japan into a country at peace with itself and its neighbors.

These were the soldiers and statesmen who did more than anyone else to assure the survival of freedom in the 20th century. Being Goodists, however, the Nobel Committee chose instead to lavish its honors on people like the wan New England pacifist Emily Greene Balch (in 1946), the tedious British disarmament obsessive Philip Noel-Baker (1959) and the Irish antinuclear campaigner and Lenin Prize Winner Seán MacBride (1974).

These names don't exactly spring to mind as having made a lasting and genuine contribution to world peace. Nor, one suspects, will history lavish its highest honors on Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Wangari Maathai, Mohamed ElBaradei, Al Gore or Martti Ahtisaari, to name some of this decade's winners. They are merely the Frank Kelloggs and Seán MacBrides of the future.
Ah, the "Goodists." All that Hitler/Stalin/Ahmadinejad/Chavez/Jong-il/bin-Laden chap needs is a little diplomacy--a little hope & change.

Sound familiar?

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12 October 2009

Markets Solve Energy Crisis, Natch

Don't listen to the Luddites and Malthusians. They're wrong, again.

America is not going to bleed its wealth importing fuel. Russia's grip on Europe's gas will weaken. Improvident Britain may avoid paralysing blackouts by mid-decade after all.

The World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires last week was one of those events that shatter assumptions. Advances in technology for extracting gas from shale and methane beds have quickened dramatically, altering the global balance of energy faster than almost anybody expected.

Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, said proven natural gas reserves around the world have risen to 1.2 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for 60 years' supply – and rising fast.

"There has been a revolution in the gas fields of North America. Reserve estimates are rising sharply as technology unlocks unconventional resources," he said.

This is almost unknown to the public, despite the efforts of Nick Grealy at "No Hot Air" who has been arguing for some time that Britain's shale reserves could replace declining North Sea output.

Rune Bjornson from Norway's StatoilHydro said exploitable reserves are much greater than supposed just three years ago and may meet global gas needs for generations.

"The common wisdom was that unconventional gas was too difficult, too expensive and too demanding," he said, according to Petroleum Economist. "This has changed. If we ever doubted that gas was the fuel of the future – in many ways there's the answer."

The breakthrough has been to combine 3-D seismic imaging with new technologies to free "tight gas" by smashing rocks, known as hydro-fracturing or "fracking" in the trade.

The US is leading the charge. Operations in Pennsylvania and Texas have already been sufficient to cut US imports of liquefied natural gas (LGN) from Trinidad and Qatar to almost nil, with knock-on effects for the global gas market – and crude oil. It is one reason why spot prices for some LNG deliveries have dropped to 50pc of pipeline contracts.


The US Energy Department expects shale to meet half of US gas demand within 20 years, if not earlier. Projects are cranking up in eastern France and Poland. Exploration is under way in Australia, India and China.

Texas A&M University said US methods could increase global gas reserves by nine times to 16,000 TCF (trillion cubic feet). Almost a quarter is in China but it may lack the water resources to harness the technology given the depletion of the North China water basin.

Needless to say, the Kremlin is irked. "There's a lot of myths about shale production," said Gazprom's Alexander Medvedev.

If the new forecasts are accurate, Gazprom is not going to be the perennial cash cow funding Russia's great power resurgence. Russia's budget may be in structural deficit.

As for the US, we may soon be looking at an era when gas, wind and solar power, combined with a smarter grid and a switch to electric cars returns the country to near energy self-sufficiency.

This has currency implications. If you strip out the energy deficit, America's vaulting savings rate may soon bring the current account back into surplus – and that is going to come at somebody else's expense, chiefly Japan, Germany and, up to a point, China.
Please, when listening to 'Prophets of Doom,' take their alarmist warnings with a healthy dose of skepticism. This applies specifically and perhaps most importantly to the High Priests of the Holy Church of Climate Change (long live Mother Gaia).

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

09 October 2009

Obama's Nobel: I Saw This And Thought It Was A Joke (UPDATED)

But then I remembered that they also gave one to Jimmy Carter.

And Al Gore.

And Yasser Arafat.

And I said to myself, "yeah, makes sense."

Like Ace said, somewhere (h/t Matt L.):
High school kids want to be popular. Nations want to be prosperous, secure and in America's case, a force for good in the world.
And like Bob & Tom said on the radio this morning (also, h/t Matt L.):
isn't this a bit like awarding super bowl MVP right now?


The Europeans are so mad that they weren't the ones to elect Barack Obama.
Or, like My Old Man said:
Is today April 1? This shows what a joke this [the Nobel Peace Prize] is.
But wait, there's more: I just got an invite to join someone's Facebook group (yup, I'm popular too): Help Barack Obama win the Heisman Trophy!

Then, of course, there's this: Nobel Peace Prize For Awesomeness

This is so utterly ridiculous, I almost wonder if this is a send-up of Obama. But then I remember how seriously these Nobel folks take themselves and realized that no, it is not a joke.

This is so outrageous, I almost feel bad for President Obama--I mean, this makes two weeks in a row that the Europeans (who are more in love with him, even, than the leftists) have made a clown of our President.

For shame. Does the office of the President of the United States mean nothing to these people?

UPDATE 10 October 1:09am BDT: Jansen G. does me one better and writes something intelligent about Obama's Prize:
So, Obama got awarded a peace prize for yet another promise, this time for promising a nuclear free world. After having added this venerable achievement to his trophy case, I have to say, Obama has done quite well making promises. US Senator? Check. President of the United States? Check. Nobel Peace Prize? Check. Though, all this makes me wonder: are any of these promises contractually enforceable? Because I'm not seeing much, if any, performance.

As for the substance (if you can call it that) of this Nobel Peace Prize, Obama promised reconciliation in the M-E, climate change, and a world free of nuclear weapons. Has there been any performance of any of these promises? No! Obama's speech in Egypt has had little affect on the contentious realities in the M-E, largely b/c it failed to address the real source of conflict (US involvement in anything related to or impacting M-E oil flow).
Performance on climate change? The conference on climate change doesn't start until December and its a virtually guaranteed failure given the interests of BRIC et. al.

And while Obama may believe in the ideal of a nuclear free world, he knows just how dangerous in addition to impractical an ideal it is. No one in their right mind believes disarming nuclear arsenals will do anything but create even stronger incentives for horizontal proliferation, further destabilizing already pressing crises. And that's just the catch. Obama either (A) disingenuously attempts a halfhearted, impractical endeavor to dismantle nuclear arms resulting in planned failure that potentially destabilizes a system that's fenced-in the powerful incentives of the prisoner's proliferating dilemma, or (B) he abandons the thought of an attempt to rid the world of weapons and goes down as one of the world's most undeserved Nobel Peace Prize winners. The obvious and preferable option is B, to continue to indulge in the proven double standard of the "powers-that-be." But one has to think that eventually these myriad of catch-22's that Obama promises his way into will expose him for the 'serial breachor' of promises he is.
Obama is an archetype with which, thanks to teen movies, we are all familiar: the popular kool kid who only hangs out with the leftist dork when no one else is around. And then, because the dork has a crush on the kool kid, he/she endlessly makes excuses for Obama.

Obama's apologists will always have a reason for why he was/is unable to deliver on his sweet nothings.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

05 October 2009

Checking In With General Petraeus

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the face of the Iraq troop surge and a favorite of former President George W. Bush, spoke up or was called upon by President Obama “several times” during the big Afghanistan strategy session in the Situation Room last week, one participant says, and will be back for two more meetings this week.

But the general’s closest associates say that underneath the surface of good relations, the celebrity commander faces a new reality in Mr. Obama’s White House: He is still at the table, but in a very different seat.

No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr. Bush gave him 20 minutes during hourlong weekly sessions to present his views in live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washington’s journalism establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.

The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd — but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administration’s debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
(h/t Matt L.)

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02 October 2009

Checking In With Tim Pawlenty

All you guys who hate social conservatives (Mike Huckabee), conservatives whose positions have changed/evolved over the years (Mitt Romney) and otherwise smart people who occasionally say dumb things (Sarah Palin--but you still love Average-Joe Biden!), are going to love Tim Pawlenty.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been quietly assembling the blueprint of a presidential campaign and will announce Thursday the support of a group of high-level political strategists and donors, complemented by a handful of top new media consultants, POLITICO has learned.

Pawlenty, under the radar of D.C.’s political community, has locked up some of the key operatives who engineered then-President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign — a significant feat for a little-known Midwestern politician.

The moves underscore, and will lend credence to, the emerging belief among many establishment Republicans that Pawlenty is becoming the sole viable alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential Republican primary rival. The Minnesota governor has even gone so far as to contact some of Romney’s former supporters.
Congratulations to Liz Mair, a friend of this blog, who has joined Gov. Pawlenty's PAC.

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