Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Refreshing Bit Of Candor

Radioblogger has coverage of Joel Stein's piece ("I don't support the troops") in the Los Angeles Times, as well as Hugh Hewitt's interview with him. You get the feeling he vocalized lot of things that other people on the left feel, but don't have the courage to say.
This column has been greeted with crickets at Daily Kos; I'd be interested to see their take on it.

More Mexican Army Border Incursions

Michelle Malkin has a great post about the Mexican Military crossing the border in support of the drug trade.
Mexican soldiers and civilian smugglers had an armed standoff with nearly 30 U.S. law enforcement officials on the Rio Grande in Texas Monday afternoon, according to Texas police and the FBI.
Mexican military Humvees were towing what appeared to be thousands of pounds of marijuana across the border into the United States, said Chief Deputy Mike Doyal, of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department.Mexican Army troops had several mounted machine guns on the ground more than 200 yards inside the U.S. border -- near Neely's Crossing, about 50 miles east of El Paso -- when Border Patrol agents called for backup. Hudspeth County deputies and Texas Highway patrol officers arrived shortly afterward, Doyal said.
This is going to be a campaign issue in the next election; it's time to deploy our own military along the border. When Mexican military units cross our border, they need to be met with much more firepower than they're seeing at the moment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ron Brownstein On Energy Policy

The L.A. Times occasionaly runs a thoughtful article, and this one from Ron Brownstein makes some good points:
America already bars oil imports from Iran; but if Iran withheld some of the 2.7 million barrels of oil it exports daily, the U.S. would suffer from the rise in international oil prices. (Oil prices are already rising just because of Iran's threats to close the spigot.) And for that we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Since the first oil shocks in the 1970s, the U.S., inexcusably, has allowed its dependence on oil imports to grow, from about a third then to about three-fifths now. Fuel economy for America's vehicles is virtually no better today than it was 15 years ago, according to federal figures, as small fuel-efficiency gains in passenger cars have been offset by a shift toward gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles. Washington hasn't raised fuel-economy standards for passenger cars in two decades.

More expensive gas will encourage somewhat more conservation and greater demand for fuel-efficient cars. But Washington can't rely on the hidden hand alone to solve the problems it has been too timid to tackle. The federal Energy Information Administration, in its most recent long-range projection, estimated that market pressures would increase automotive fuel efficiency only modestly over the next quarter-century. As a result, the EIA projects that by 2030, the U.S. will import 62% of its oil, up from 58% now. That means another generation of subsidizing — and remaining vulnerable to — regimes that threaten our security.

Monday, January 23, 2006

State Of The Union 2006 Preview

The Washington Post has an article predicting three broad themes for Pres. Bush's upcoming SOTU address on Jan 31. One of the themes, according to the Post, will be energy prices.
To help address rising energy costs, Bush said the administration will push development of new technologies and alternative and renewable fuels to make the nation less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Depending on how broad and bold his proposals are, he may rock the markets enough to offset Iran's influence on prices. I hope he goes deep; the 2006 and 2008 elections could very well depend on it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Why Is Hillary Calling For Sanctions On Iran?

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/01/19/D8F7RAL81.html

Is she a principled opponent of the idea of a nuclear Iran? Maybe, but I doubt it. Sanctions against Iran would cause the price of oil to go through the roof, and Democrats know that expensive oil would result in a pretty strong anti-incumbent election. If Hillary gets her sanctions, a disastrous oil shock happens on the Republicans’ watch, and elections are just around the corner.
So not only does oil fund terrorism, but for people as creative as Hillary, it can be used to manipulate domestic elections.
And how do Republicans respond? Try this:

"You know what? What makes our economy grow is energy. And Americans are used to going to the gas tank (sic), and when they put that hose in their, uh, tank, and when I do it, I wanna get gas out of it. And when I turn the light switch on, I want the lights to go on, and I don't want somebody to tell me I gotta change my way of living to satisfy them. Because this is America, and this is something we've worked our way into, and the American people are entitled to it, and if we're going improve (sic) our standard of living, you have to consume more energy."

-Iowa Senator Charles Grassley

Now, to be fair, I know that not all Republicans think like Grassley on this issue (I don't, and I generally identify as Republican, or at least conservative). But if you are a Republican strategist looking at the elections on the horizon, I think you look at implementing a huge conservation campaign and substantial incentives for more economic cars- whatever you need to do to stabilize the price of oil.
If you're a Democrat, call for sanctions in order to raise the price of oil on the Republicans' watch. Or, focus on the Bush Administration's ineffectiveness at getting sanctions imposed, and accuse them of endangering our national security. Either way you win, assuming the Republicans don't take swift action geared towards conservation and/or diversification of fuel.

Blankley On Borders

Tony Blankley has this column discussing borders incursions by the Mexican military in support of drug runners.
Given the competition between various smuggling factions over different smuggling routes, they are probably purchasing the military's protection against their peers. In any case, though, this really highlights the pretense in Vicente Fox's "outrage" over our plans to build a border fence.
This issue is not about immigration; it's about security. Let's not allow policymakers who crave the Hispanic vote to frame this any other way.

Tom Bevan: Radical Islam's Engine

Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics.com has posted an editorial about the reasons for radical Islam's success. Quote:
The greatest irony of all, however, is that the West continues to fuel the terror machine by remaining dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Though obscured from view for years, the connection between oil-rich states and the funding and export of radical Islam became quite obvious after September 11, 2001.
Since then, however, the United States has achieved precious little progress in moving toward energy independence.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Will You Shed A Tear With Me For Wal-Mart?

Here's an article Glenn Reynolds referenced; it deals with Wal-Mart in Maryland.

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=011606A

Quote:

Although the motivation of the liberals was to raise the well-being of Wal-Mart workers, it is far from clear that this will be the consequence. Low-skilled workers cannot receive more in compensation than the value of their labor. If Wal-Mart is forced to increase the share of compensation that comes in the form of health benefits, then it will have to decrease take-home pay. If it cannot decrease take-home pay, then it will have to reduce its reliance on low-skilled labor or cut back on operations altogether.
If Wal-Mart were to raise prices by 1%, that would more than pay for health benefits for their employees. That would function almost like a tax passed on to the consumer, one we would pay without blinking- no one would even notice. No Wal-Mart shopper would be financially burdened by that; we would still walk out of there amazed at how little money we paid for our purchases. Either 1) The author believes that Wal-Mart's prices are determined by Immutable Laws of the Universe, and therefore any extra business costs can only come out of worker salaries, 2) He forgot that Wal-Mart does in fact have the ability to raise their prices by a fraction that nobody would even notice, which, due to their astounding business volume, would cover their employees' health insurance and then some, or 3) He willfully chose to ignore that possibility, and decided to go the drama-queen route: "Look at what this wonderful market mechanism Wal-Mart has to do to its employee salaries because of the actions of these cruel, misguided liberals; they have no choice but to inflict more suffering on the humble associates or go out of business! For shame!..." Why Arnold Kling and other libertarians gravitate towards false dilemmas like they do is beyond me.

That said, I think Maryland's plan was really ridiculous, forcing Wal-Mart to pay a certain percentage of their corporate income to employee health care expenses. It would make a lot more sense to me to place a sales tax of 1-2% on large businesses in the state, the proceeds of which would go to cover state public health expenses. Companies that are providing a certain level of coverage for their employees could file some paperwork and get an exemption from the tax due to their assumption of the costs of providing an acceptable level of health care to their employees.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Your Petrodollars At Work In Samarra

The New York Times has a story with interviews with Iraqi insurgents who have turned against Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq. Here's a telling segment (italics added):

An Attack's Repercussions

Samarra, north of Baghdad, had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda's fighters. In desperation, a local sheik, Hekmat Mumtaz al-Baz, traveled to Baghdad in September to meet with Iraq's defense minister and ask for help, said one of the sheik's aides, Waleed al-Samarrai. A few weeks after the visit, the sheik was shot dead by Qaeda gunmen in his yard.


The account was confirmed by a member of the tribe, and a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Baghdad. Mr. Samarrai spoke in an interview in Al Wasat Hospital in Baghdad, where his brother, Salim, the sheik's bodyguard, who was wounded in a fight with Al Qaeda, was convalescing.

The tribe was furious, and its members tracked down the three men who carried out the killing. Elders from the tribe held a trial in a local farmhouse and interrogated the men for days. They said they worked for a fighter from Saudi Arabia who bankrolled the attacks, Mr. Samarrai said.

The Samarrai brothers said Al Qaeda's appeal was based less on religion than on money. The Iraqis who killed the sheik were believed to have received $500 to $1,000 for the job, and the same amount for dozens of other similar killings, Waleed al-Samarrai said. He said local insurgents had changed allegiances, lured away by Al Qaeda's money.

Our petrodollars are funding the assasinations of local leaders who are trying to work within the framework of the new Iraqi government to bring security to their towns.
True, this war is not being fought over oil, but it is definitely being fought because of oil.

Record Transfer Of Wealth To OPEC Nations

The Financial Times is reporting that our oil consumption is resulting in record revenues to terror-sponsoring countries. When OPEC countries have increased revenues, here are the ways they spend our money:

Al Jazeera (read the columns in "opinion", and have a glance at their war coverage...)
Wahabbi literature in American mosques
Improved IEDs for killing American soldiers, resulting in a poor security situation in Iraq and a more expensive war with no end in sight
Financing for the Mehdi Army of Moqtada Al-Sadr
Salaries for Jihadist clerics
Subsidies for suicide bombings
More funding for Islamic Jihad (headquartered in Syria)
Purchase of anti-American sentiment among our neighbors, some of whom are close to Mexico, and thus, our border

What is the aggregate dollar cost of dealing with each of these threats?
Oil is definitely the most heavily subsidized source of energy in the world. Wouldn't we be better off subsidizing alternative energy sources until they no longer need subsidies and we are free from oil?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

State Surpluses This Year...

The Deseret News (Utah) has an article on state budget surpluses; this constitutes a pretty severe indictment of the recent $250 billion transportation bill.
Quote:
Around the country, revenue surpluses are the norm, with many states seeing a boost in revenues thanks to increased jobs, a recovering stock market and booming real estate sales, according to a report released by the National Conference of State Legislatures. All told, 42 states have reported revenue collections that are above expectations, and budget officials in more than half of the states are optimistic that the upward revenue tick will continue for the foreseeable future.
I think it would be helpful for people to change the language we use when we address our representatives about these things. When a Congressperson says "I brought home $____ to our district this year," we should ask them to rephrase that and tell us how much federal debt they brought home to their constituents. "How much more debt do I owe as a result of the earmarks you put in the budget?..."

Will Posture For Remittances

The latest from Mexico on border issues.

Quote:

Diplomats from Mexico and Central America on Monday demanded guest worker programs and the legalization of undocumented migrants in the United States, while criticizing a U.S. proposal for tougher border enforcement.
Meeting in Mexico's capital, the regional officials pledged to do more to fight migrant trafficking, but indirectly condemned a U.S. bill that would make illegal entry a felony and extend border walls.
And they said that with a straight face?
Here is the appropriate response for the President:
"We appreciate your 'pledge' to enforce your and our immigration laws, and we pledge to make it much easier for you to honor your pledge, by securing our border against illegal immigration. As for your criticisms of our plan to build a wall along the border, I would remind you that border security is one of the fundamental elements of the modern nation-state, and the idea needs neither defense nor explanation."

Joe Klein: How To Stay Out Of Power

Here is a great read on the Democratic Party's unseriousness on matters of national security. You cannot expect to win elections if you are mentally living in August 2001. More specifically, you cannot expect to win elections if you think border security is "anti-immigrant." You cannot expect to win elections if you think presidentially-authorized wiretaps of terrorists are a bad thing. And you cannot expect to win elections if you consider retreat to be the ideal strategy for the war in Iraq, by consulting everyone but the troops on the front lines. Video... Courtesy of Michelle Malkin

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Getting Tough With Iran

Here's a fun editorial from Newsday: Iran Must Hear A Resounding "No!"

It takes a remarkable position, arguing that if we get together with other countries and draft a stern letter to Iran in the Security Council, ruling out force as a possibility, Iran will come around and stop their nuke program. The pen truly is mightier than the sword (!)...

How Not To Convert Gas To Power

Here's an interesting article from the International Herald Tribune, regarding Vladimir Putin's use of gas supplies as a tool of intimidation with neighboring countries (hat tip: RCP). I like their definition of energy security:
"Energy security" is cited by many but defined by few: if it has any real meaning for the United States and Europe, it means diversification in the sources and types of energy so that suppliers cannot force political acquiescence on dependent customers. Russia has a potential role to play in reducing energy insecurity for the United States and Europe by diversifying energy supply sources. But the dispute with Ukraine has illustrated the danger that Russia's emergence as a global energy power may itself create new vulnerabilities through dependence on a country willing to use its energy power for political coercion.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Putin's Vindictiveness In Russia's Energy Policy

From the Telegraph.

Quote:
With a quarter of its gas supplied by Russia, Europe is facing serious disruption and price rises for as long as the dispute rumbles on.

Moscow turned off the tap at 10am after Ukraine refused to sign a new contract with the Russian state monopoly Gazprom quadrupling prices.

Critics of the Kremlin say the rise was punishment for the Orange Revolution in 2004 which brought in a westward-leaning government that promised to remove Ukraine from the Kremlin's sphere of influence.

The American State Department said that "such an abrupt stop creates insecurity in the energy sector in the region and raises serious questions about the use of energy to exert political pressure".

No state's energy security should be dependent upon the good behavior of other states. Look at the quote from the U.S. State Department. This incident "raises serious questions..." That is wrong. Oil-rich countries have the power to wreak havoc with countries that depend upon them, and until that dependence is gone, we are not free of their ability to ruin our economies in a very short time.