Thursday, April 28, 2011

NATO Gets The Credit, We Get The Blame

We spend money, lose credibility, and guarantee our continued slide in world status.

Your wife asks, “Honey, does this sweater make me look fatter or thinner than the other one?” No matter what you say, you’re wrong.

The Tunisian street vendor who ignited himself and a chain reaction in North Africa and the Middle East put the US in a no-win situation. Disregarding any of the issues concerning Libyan intervention --who is right or wrong, Qaddafi, Muslim Brotherhood, etc. -- the US will emerge one way or another with baggage, most likely negative.

The question as to what we should do or should have done is, in my view, unanswerable. Siding with the eventual winner is the only possible way to win politically, and even that isn’t certain. Unfortunately, of course, the President doesn’t have a crystal ball in the Oval Office to pick the winning side. Besides, whoever appears to be the winner today may flip on us in a few short years.

No, it’s hard to imagine any scenario that ends up well for the US. In listening to the 24-hour pundathons, I haven’t heard anyone come up with a conceivable “good” outcome - just which outcomes are least horrible. We will be chastised if the rebels win because we interfered. We will be chastised if they lose, for letting “innocent” people die. At best we break even, but most likely we lose. It’s not a good position to be in.

My prediction, though, is guaranteed: NATO will get the credit - the US will get the blame. If everything should turn out super peachy, NATO will get all the credit, even though we paid for it. Even our apologetic president will give NATO the credit. If everything turns sour, we will get all the blame, plus we paid for it. If some good happens and some bad happens, NATO will get credit for the good stuff and we will be excoriated for the bad stuff. Plus, we paid for most of it – even though France and others have more at stake than we do.

And all this at a cost of a Billions dollars -- even without mission creep, which is already taking place. Let’s hope it’s no more than that, but dollars to donuts it will be by a “fur piece."

Certainly you can’t blame Obama for any of the existing problems in the Middle East; they were there long before he was President. Remember Barry McGuire’s 1965 hit Eve of Destruction, “And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’.’” Obama was four years old.

Sure, had Obama not been an apologetic back seat president to this point in his administration, we would have retained our general standing in the world and kept our respectability up. Who knows, maybe our respect level would have remained high enough that just a threat from us would have frightened Qaddafi into stepping down. Recall that after the US went into Iraq, Qaddafi tossed out his nuclear program as fast as he could. He was terrified we would come after him.

But on this issue, let’s face it; the Middle East is a lost cause and there really isn’t anything we can do. I do care about American interests as far as we can promote them (including the health and safety of Israel), but whether we do so by supporting dictators or “free” democracies is not that important. Supporting whoever is good for us should be our first priority. Hopefully that falls on the side of human rights and democracy. But, as we know, democracy in the Middle East is hard to define. Years from now when Iraq’s democracy is well seasoned, we may have an idea whether the concept is feasible or not. Until then we don’t have a clue. We should leave them well enough alone to decide their own fate except for, as mentioned, protecting American interests.

To that end, Obama is not without serious error in his handling of this crisis. In many ways, his actions have mirrored his presidency to date. First, he dithered around in his usual fashion, dodging questions and changing what we think is his view and what we think he wants, all the while appearing to us and the rest of the world as a weak, indecisive president; impossible to rely on. He said he wanted Mubarek in, then out. He wanted a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians but not to get rid of Qaddafi. Then he said Qaddafi must go. It’s bad enough that you have no idea what to do without opening your mouth and broadcasting it to the rest of the world.

Some might say that Obama, as leader of the free world (questionable designation at this point), was obligated to take a position and place his bets. Maybe. As of now, it’s hard to see how he could have come across any worse had he just kept silent instead of publicizing his dithering. Theoretically he wanted a “joint effort” by other countries and the UN or NATO, which he theoretically got. Obama’s supporters in this action proclaim that he, unlike cowboy George Bush who said it’s “our way or the highway,” was triumphant by gaining approval of the international community. The fact that his joint effort by the “international community” does not include India, China, Russia, Brazil, or Germany (who would, I’m quite sure, like to be included as international players) must be unimportant.

No, Obama timed everything perfectly. He was able to demonstrate weakness on our part, turn over control of our interests and military to a disjointed and non-cohesive committee for a project with no perceived end, make us appear responsible for the outcome and health of the Libyan people who, along with the rest of the Arab world, will not like us when this is all over anyway.

Did I mention that we get to pay for most of it?

All so that NATO can get the credit. And we can get the blame.

Mercer Tyson

The Economy, Environmentalists, Oil, and Nightmares

There’s an environmentalist under my bed, Mommy. Make it go away.

How many times do we have to go through an oil crisis with skyrocketing gas prices and a hit to the economy before we will get the freakin’ monster out from under the bed?

There is no monster, of course. But as long as we think there is one, it’s no different than actually having one. So, it is time - has been for a long, long while - to change our thinking. Exorcise the oil monster.

The problem with this particular monster is that it’s alive and well in the minds of reactionary, stubborn, dream-laden (or should I say nightmare-laden) environmentalists who perceive a non-existent problem. An oil spill or chemical leak and we have instant legislation that affects us negatively for years to come.

Look, here’s the problem and solution in a nutshell. It’s not that tough.

1. We use too much oil. Use less oil. Create alternative forms of energy.

2. We are dependent on foreign entities for large portions of our oil. Drill and refine considerably more of our own oil.

3. Our economy is dependent on energy - including lots of oil. See above.

4. Many of our “enemies” are getting enriched because of oil. See above.

5. We don’t have enough alternative energy. See above.

As with many of the “Blueprints” for the future thrust upon us by progressives and liberals, this whole push to limit oil production in the US and encourage development of alternative energy sources is 90% fantasy and 10% legitimate. Even the 10% legitimate part is fraught with problems and gross inefficiency. Take for instance the Cash for Clunkers” program:

According to Edmunds, only 125,000 of the 690,000 purchases would not have been made without the incentives, and with $3 billion spent, that works out to $24,000 per car.

William Chameides of Duke University (from Wikipedia) with reference to the carbon emissions emitted in the process of making a new car said that in order to offset the carbon footprint of the new car from a clunker, the average driver would need to drive the car about five and a half years; with trucks, the figure jumps to eight or nine years of typical driving.

-The price of used cars increased significantly due to the drop in supply, thereby impacting anyone (especially poor people) who needed to buy a used car.

Resources were allocated to production of new cars that to some degree would have been steered to other products and services.

Perfectly good capital assets (cars) were destroyed, even though they had years of functional use left.

Charitable organizations that depend on donations of used vehicles saw such donations plummet.

All this so we can see an immediate spike in emissions (from production) and then gradual reductions so that after 5-8 years we will break even on total emissions. Incredible when you consider reaching the same result by simply increasing the MPG requirements for new cars.

Similarly, anyone familiar with the financial aspects of solar programs and the ethanol industry knows that sorely-needed taxpayer dollars have to date been poured down a large rat hole as well.

Unfortunately, the Dems’ best intentions on environmental issues are usually misguided and poorly conceived, and have been fraught with unintended (but predicted) consequences, because they are formulated and put into action by wishful-thinking politicians with no common sense. Compliment these programs with incompetent administration by governmental agencies, and, well, you know what happens. Botch job. And one could argue this is the good 10%. This isn’t to say we should stop pursuing alternative energy solutions: just that we need to develop them in an economically sensible way.

Now, here’s what the 90% fantasy part costs us-

- Skyrocketing gasoline prices. The increase in gasoline costs all of us, from the average commuter to the on-the-road salesman to the building contractor to the elderly person who stays at home but pays higher prices for all her purchases.

- Lost jobs to countries that aren’t afraid of drilling for and refining oil.

- An enormous number of jobs lost to other countries in manufacturing and production. Lots ‘n’ lots of jobs.

- Filling the pockets of hostile countries with our money. Sure, we get most of our foreign oil from Mexico and Canada, but it is still a world market when it comes to price.

- Vulnerability. Our economy and national defense are at risk as long as we are not in control of our own energy sources and supply.

I got tired of my mother telling me to be careful when I wanted to go out at night. I got tired of my kids telling me to “butt out” of their personal lives when they were in high school. I get tired of missing three-foot putts. But I am really tired of the argument “Well, starting now won’t help for years,” so we don’t drill for oil and we don’t develop nuclear energy. Had we ignored this shortsighted reasoning over the last 40 years we would be in much better shape today. If we start ignoring that excuse now and formulate a realistic energy policy, we can avoid this conversation in the future.

And yes, changing course now will have an immediate, though small, effect on prices for oil. How much is uncertain, but most economists agree that expectation of increased oil production will have some beneficial effect on current prices.

Am I advocating giving up on alternative energy programs? Not in the slightest. Spending tax dollars in conjunction with private enterprise to develop sustainable energy that is viable is a worthy venture. But we should not force economic dependence on new programs until we know how to implement them and know they will work - not just hope. Easing restrictions on nuclear power and dams can go a long way in meeting our electrical needs over a longer term. We know they work. The coal industry - also under constant attack - is grossly underutilized. We need to start promoting these industries instead of vilifying them. We need to treat these industries as our salvation instead of our nemesis. And we need to drill, baby, drill.

A farmer doesn’t quit growing his best crop hoping that some new crop will work. Similarly, stopping U.S. production of oil before we had adequate alternatives in place was pure idiocy. Still is.

“It’s the economy, stupid.” If the main issue for elections is always the economy as the oft-quoted statement says, then a main sub-issue in the next election should be energy. And that means oil. Drill, baby, drill.

Of course, we might become great friends with oil exporters in the Middle East, and Mexico may stabilize. Then our oil problems will be trivial. And, of course, other emerging industrial countries like India and China are going to use restraint in polluting the air, and will agree to send our manufacturing jobs back to us in a sign of good will. And, of course, the environmentalists will put away their pipe dreams for the benefit of the American public.

In the mean time, will someone please get the monster out from under my bed? I can’t sleep.

Mercer Tyson

Protecting – Not Threatening – Voting Rights

While leveling ridiculous charges against Republican lawmakers, a New York Times editorial demonstrates contempt for “civil” discourse and diminishes voting rights and responsibilities in the process.

If you caught the April 26th editorial by The New York Times “The Republican Threat to Voting,” you managed to read some pretty nasty, biased, and misleading information. Not unusual, considering the source. But, really, is there no decency at all over there?

The purpose of the article was to portray Republicans in state houses all over the country, who are attempting to pass legislation requiring government-issued or photo ID’s to vote, as attempting to block voting efforts by “the young, poor, and African-Americans” because they traditionally vote democratic. The Times stopped short of saying the legislative actions by Republicans were illegal, but stated: “There is still time for voters who care about democracy in their states to speak out against lawmakers who do not.” Now, apparently, Republicans do not care about democracy because they want the voting process to be legitimate.

Among the misleading or biased statements by the Times:

-“Spreading fear of a nonexistent flood of voter fraud.” I guess they haven’t been paying attention. Voter fraud is difficult to prove, but there is no doubt disturbing discrepancies have consistently appeared everywhere, much of it having to do with faulty registration procedures by left-wing organizations. Requiring photo ID’s goes a long way towards making phony registrations less effective.

-The Advancement Project, an advocacy group of civil rights lawyers, correctly describes the push as “the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.” Gee, they could have called it the largest legislative effort to guarantee voting rights – might have been more accurate, or at least fair. But who needs fairness when you are pushing a point of view?

-The Times noted that the Kansas law was written by Kris Kobach, who also wrote Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. Uh, er, I believe that was the anti-illegal immigrant law.

-The Texas bill “would also reject student IDs, but would allow anyone with a handgun license to vote.” Of course, a driver’s license or photo id is required to get the handgun license, but, again, that’s all trivial.

As noted in the editorial, the Supreme Court has already upheld Indiana’s voter ID requirement in a 2008 decision. Could that be because the court takes the right to vote seriously? Actually, probably not. The court most likely used legal principles (what a concept!) to decide the case. It is clear, however, that the Times does not take the voting privilege seriously at all. They obviously believe anyone should just be able to waltz right up to the booth and cast a ballot.

The Times, in making the point that most of the legitimate citizens that will be turned away for lack of a proper form of identification are likely democratic-leaning voters, may be correct. Nevertheless, the right to vote is an important constitutional right – conferred on American citizens. Protecting the sanctity of the vote requires as much effort to make sure only legitimate voters vote as making sure that those with the right to vote are not denied. However, it is up to officials to make sure that votes are not cast by those not authorized, and to legal citizens to make sure their own voting rights are kept intact. If it isn’t important enough to take the time to get a proper id (which is not nearly as difficult as The Times would have you believe) then how important is it? No one is being denied here. They are only being asked to take some responsibility -- provide a proper id.

Again, the left-wing Times assumes the “young, the poor, and African-Americans” are less capable than others. That’s insulting.

Mercer Tyson

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Obama Plays Dodgeball Again

Did he leave in the middle of that speech – or did he just never show up? In a rerun of his campaign speeches, Obama again started up the class warfare argument. And again, reason is absent.

I listened to the President present his budget reform “bill” promising to cut $4T from the deficit. I listened, and I listened. And I listened some more. There must have been some mistake, because I think all I heard were re-runs of his old speeches. Actually, it sounded like something he said in 2007, during his campaign. Lots of promises, no details, and paying for it with fantasies.

Just kidding. I listened to his speech and got all choked up – it was beautiful. His concern for my well being was overwhelming. In fact, his speech was so good, that if I owned a baseball team, I would borrow his speech writer. My first speech would go something like this:

“I have good news! Next year we will be an excellent team. Odds are we will win the division title and the World Series. Here’s my plan. We will get Ryan Howard, Albert Pujolz, Derrick Jeter, Buster Posey and Josh Hamilton among others, along with Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw. They will all work for $50,000 per year plus expenses, so we can afford to sell hot dogs for a buck and beer for 75 cents.”

Of course, I would have a better chance of buying a baseball team and accomplishing that than Obama’s “plan” will accomplish bringing down the deficit – or even getting approved.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post) said “Obama made the moral case for what it means to be a Democrat.” Yes he did. Of course, there is very little reasonable moral case for being a democrat, just the normal delivery of promises, which Obama does very well.

Jonathan Cohn (New Republic) saidThat was a clear, unambiguous, morally grounded defense of the welfare state…” Yep. That it was. Especially grounded. I guess he is finally showing his true colors. Here comes the “fundamental change” he promised. Time for the Feds to hire some guys to go out and find some working stiffs, take their money, and then find someone sitting on a couch and give it to him.

Get the picture? If you are a responsible person and work hard, get out your wallet.

Just a couple of questions for the Commander in Speech.

-Have you been reading anything lately (besides the teleprompter) about “your” health care bill? It is going to raise costs, not lower them. And that doesn’t even take into account gross governmental inefficiencies inherent to Federal Programs.

-What do you think “rich” people do with their money? Stick it under their mattresses where it can rot? Or do they invest in things that create jobs? Your assumption is that the income of the rich will remain the same if you take their money. Doesn’t work that way. Take their money and their revenues and the government’s will drop - and so will the number of jobs.

- Let’s see, because of our unsustainable debt, you want to “invest” money we don’t have in green jobs and technology, which has proven so far to be an absolute bust. Do you know something we don’t know? Is there a magic wind or solar bullet we don’t know about? Nice! Please let us know what it is, though. Some people I know (not me) are skeptical. They think you are being frivolous “investing” in unproven technologies, sending our jobs overseas and making our businesses sluggish and unresponsive. If we just knew what magical energy solutions you have in mind we could plan our dwindling reserves to last until just before we go over the cliff, or at least before a gallon of gas costs $8.00.

Okay, back to the here and now. Here’s a concrete example of Obama’s ideological, ironical idiocy. He wants to eliminate charitable deductions for wealthy taxpayers. If Ralph is in the 35% tax bracket and donates $100,000 to a charitable organization, he saves $35,000, so his net cost is $65,000. If you eliminate the deduction and therefore Ralph doesn’t donate, the charitable organization gets zero, Ralph has $65,000 more spendable money to buy whatever wealthy people buy, and the government has an extra $35,000 to do social work. Sounds like a loss of $65,000 to social causes. Factor in the Feds propensity for inefficiency and that $35,000 will turn into $10,000. That’s a net loss of $90,000 for social causes. And mean, wealthy Ralph has an extra $65,000 to spend.

No, Mr. President, you are wrong. It is a spending problem. Decrease spending, decrease taxes, and revenues will increase. If you are worried about our children inheriting a world not as good as ours, you are correct to worry. With your plan we will have a windmill in the back yard so we can operate a clock radio cheaply and solar panels which will generate enough electricity to run the rest of the house - as long as we can afford the panels. And, of course, there will be a horse in the barn to pull the car. But wait- doesn’t a horses flatulence, contribute to global warming?

Paul Ryan’s plan may have some deficiencies and some pain, but it will work. Your plan, along with lots of pain, will not work. Go read Ryan’s plan again (did you actually read it yet?). If you are serious about reducing the debt, start with his plan, not yours.