March 29, 2006

Senate Insanity?

Posted by TMLutas

Are Senators crazy? This is the thought that occurs after reading Tony Blankley's latest. The US electorate is piling on in one direction and the US Senate is piling on in the opposite direction.

This is a recipe for electoral suicide and US Senators are not notable for senseless acts of political suicide. So why are they doing it? The Senate and House have amply shown that presidential leadership on an issue does not bring an automatic assent. The Dubai Ports World explosion shows that.

So why do it? This is where Blankley is really falling down on the job. He doesn't even ask the question because to ask the question is to answer it. What bad outcome is viewed as likely to happen if Mexico and the rest of Latin America doesn't have its unemployment woes significantly addressed by liberal US immigration policies? What kind of turmoil is brewing south of the border if we don't have a guest worker program? What bad effects are going to happen in the USA if the inevitable political instability of another 5 million mexicans get shoved back over the border (almost certain to be unemployed) leads to regime change in Mexico? Are these countries really that unstable?

It seems that 3/4ths of the Senate thinks that they are and are willing to risk their careers to avoid that bad outcome. This is a rare bit of political courage, especially since few seem to be willing to point out how humiliating it is for Mexico that they can't create enough jobs to absorb their own population's workers. Pointing out that reality is also a recipe for instability.

March 27, 2006

Clintons caused bird flu

Posted by TMLutas

An interesting article on the history of H5N1, otherwise known as avian flu, dated its earliest breakout in Hong Kong In 1997. This is interesting and nice in a public health specialist sort of way but wait, there's more.

The Moscow News carries a story that the head of the Russian Communists accuses the US of launching H5N1 as biowar. All the stories that I can see carry it straight and nobody does the math. He's not accusing the warmongering neo-con bushitler McChimpy crew. No, it's the Clintons who would be responsible. Davos jet setter superstar Bill is the guy who's to blame.

Maybe he put it in some rejected cocaine that flew out of Mena airport...


March 21, 2006

War on Men?

Posted by TMLutas

On the surface an anti-Bush screed, Ruth Marcus seems much more unhappy with the resurgence of the idea of manliness.

"The problem of manliness is not that it does not exist," Mansfield concludes. "It does exist, but it is unemployed." Well, um, excuse me, but I think -- it's just my opinion, now, maybe you disagree, and I'm sure we could work it out -- Mansfield has it exactly backward. Manliness does exist. The problem is that it's overemployed -- nowhere more than in this administration.

Think about it this way: Is a trait exemplified by reluctance to ask directions -- "for it is out of manliness that men do not like to ask for directions when lost," Mansfield writes -- really what you want in a government deciding whether to take a country to war?

The problem is, of course, that we now know that there were paid plants throughout the world's ruling elite whose self-interest trumped their national interest and they flat out shilled for Saddam Hussein. A consensus oriented administration would never go to war in those circumstances even when it was absolutely in the country's best interests to do so.

So what do we have then? A recipe for how to stymie any consequence for international bad actors. Spread the money around the Davos set and watch the West tie itself in nots, unable to forge consensus as your paid disrupters keep any consensus brief and unproductive. I won't insult the fairer sex to say that allowing the nation to be perpetually taken for suckers is a feminine trait but that's the clear implication of the author. Sad, really.

The truth is that sometimes doing what is right, bucking the consensus, and seeing things through to the end is what we need. In this president we have that. I hope that's true for the next one too, no matter what form their gonads take.

March 20, 2006

State Supported Terrorism

Posted by TMLutas

The Bush administration is in a bit of a bind now that the EU is starting to officially fund Hamas. I really didn't believe that they would be that stupid. We're giving arab states who finance terrorism a hard time. Do EU officials think that they're going to be exempt?

The Death of UIA: Hurrah

Posted by TMLutas

The key threat to Iraq's cohesiveness has never been Kurdish separatism or Sunni insurgency. It has always been that the Shiites would maintain cohesiveness for too long and dominate the early government. When the Shia have a united front, they cannot be turned aside and that means that they don't have to engage in the give and take and decent treatment of minorities because they don't have the proper fear that tomorrow they will be in the minority. This dangerous period may soon be passing. We'll know for sure in a few days. If SCIRI bolts UIA it's dead, as dead as Poland's Solidarity is dead. Thank God for that. And this means that the new government is depending on Sunni votes, an entirely positive outcome which will hopefully accelerate the transition of Sunnis from out in the cold and shooting at the system to being players inside the system and fighting those who want to tear it down.

If UIA dies, Sadr has an important decision to make. Does he go in opposition or does he enter into a national unity government and get what power he can? Or does he go for the brass ring and go all the way outside with his military wing? The last would be an utterly foolish choice but his backers may not give him an option. It's always been a mystery to me how tightly Iran hold's Sadr's strings. Here's another opportunity to find out.

HT: The Fourth Rail

March 17, 2006

No Death Threats Pleas

Posted by TMLutas

Apparently, some idiot threated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on an internet chat room, saying that

"OK commandoes, here is your first patriotic assignment ... an easy one. Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor have publicly stated that they use (foreign) laws and rulings to decide how to rule on American cases. This is a huge threat to our republic and constitutional freedom ... If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."

This is odious, intolerable, and insulting in more than one way. You just don't do assassinations when peaceful means are at hand to correct abuses. This is Thomas Jefferson, "right of rebellion" 101 stuff. Justices are subject to removal for high crimes and misdemeanors and if Justice Ginsburg is using foreign law inappropriately, the House and Senate know how to run an impeachment and removal trial. They've done it before.

To say that its time to kill a justice is to say that not only is the Justice not fit to serve but that the Congress is too corrupt to do its duty as well. For the good of the country, the guys on the right need to root out and stomp on such irresponsible talk quickly and firmly. We don't need this.

March 16, 2006

The Sources of 'The Will to Kill'

Posted by TMLutas

Brian J Dunn usually does better than this:

When I've discussed dealing with Iran I've mostly focused on the need for regime change. But I've always assumed that it would be a military coup-driven change resting on the support of the people who will be grateful that Iranians are toppling the mullahs. I've not had much faith in the ability of the Iranian people to pull down the regime in an Insert-Your-Color-Here Revolution.

Strategypage notes that people power revolts rely on a regime too reluctant to unleash the forces of the security apparatus on the people--either from moral sensibilities or fear the guys with guns won't shoot at the people if ordered to do so. And the Iranian regime is more than happy to kill and has the killers reliable enough to do the job:

The problem is that neither Dunn's article nor the underlying Strategy Page article actually look at this hundred thousand man force and what makes them reliable killers for the regime. This is reducing a key political player to a bunch of myrmidons, cardboard cutouts, imitations of human beings with complex emotions and motivations. This will not do for serious analysis.

It's crucial for any sort of internally driven revolution to understand these men and what motivates them. If it's money and power, can they be bought? If it's fear of the hangman, can they be given pardons or guarantees of comfortable exile? If it is out of religious fervor, are their mullahs that could turn them with a well written fatwa declaring that they must change sides?

No matter what the answers are, it is in the details of the motivation of the hard men defending the mullahs that will determine if a people power revolt is possible. Not all of them have to be turned, just enough to make resistance hopeless and demoralize the regime to the point where it negotiates a surrender.

It is very likely that intelligence agencies from various countries have pursued this information and that a pretty good map of regime military/paramilitary/police motivations exist, unit by unit. That's not the kind of thing that is going to go open source intelligence anytime soon. But it behooves us on the open side to recognize the limits of our analysis and to point to where the obvious holes are instead of filling them in with our own prejudices.

March 15, 2006

Iran's Financial Crack Binge

Posted by TMLutas

From a larger story:

Iran's long-term planning calls for vigorous efforts to reduce the size of government and to curb subsidies to state-owned entities, which account for an estimated 75 percent of the economy. But the Ahmadinejad budget boosts spending by 25 percent and envisions a 31 percent increase in spending on state enterprises.
The 2006 budget also calls on the government to use up to $40 billion of its foreign cash reserves -- generated from oil sales -- to meet the fiscal year's spending needs, in spite of long-term plans calling for restraint.

So how much does Iran have in financial reserves? How deep are they digging into the till?

According to the International Monetary Fund, Iran has foreign exchange reserves of $30.6bn (€25bn, £17bn) in hard currency and $9bn in foreign, possibly illiquid, assets. Mr Mojarrad estimated total foreign exchange receipts for the Iranian year ending March 2006 at $52bn, with $42bn from oil sales.

By any measure, emptying your foreign reserve bank accounts in one year is a financial crack binge. Inflation's looking to spike up to 30% instead of the previous more "normal" 13%. This looks like an economy that's on the brink of going over the edge into the territory of regime threatening instability when even "normal" levels of support are only at 30%.

So what are its escape routes? Higher oil prices and/or a war of conquest that results in more money/resources for the state are the only two that appear handy. For higher oil prices, somebody else's production needs to be taken out of circulation. Iraq instability and oil infrastructure destabilization throughout the gulf are possibilities. Increasing the availability of exports by reducing domestic oil consumption is a third. If that's not enough and a populace distracting war is needed, the only likely target is Iraq's southern oil fields. Perhaps the US better brush up its war plans with Iran. Oh wait, they already are. I hope they have a "defend the Iraqi border" section.

March 14, 2006

Punishing the Demagogues Next Time

Posted by TMLutas

Jim Geraghty, commenting on the death of the Dubai Ports World deal, notes:

3) Those who demagogued this issue and helped organize the campaign of misinformation… got away with it. No consequences. No deterrence from using this tactic again. Expect to see it again in the near future.

No matter where you come down on the deal, there was a clear element of demagoguery to the resistance to it. This is the kind of support that one should be ashamed of, that fans flames high and is not in the best interests of the country. It's going to come back, stronger than last time. Will the other side be ready, and with what?

March 11, 2006

The Firm Kill III

Posted by TMLutas

This is third in a series on options between the invasion now! crowd and TPMB's soft kill for Iran scenarios.

The thought occurs that there might be other firm kill options short of invasion. How about delivering Ayatollah Montazeri out of house arrest and to freedom in Najaf where he can preach openly in return to Iran as he chooses? This is not smile and convert via connectivity unless you think that connectivity at the barrel of an HRT member is a "soft kill".

The regime has an entire cast of religious figures under house arrest that are too important/influential to kill but do not support the regime. I can't imagine why their continued unjust imprisonment has to be a constant, an untouchable factor of safety for the current regime in Iran.

March 07, 2006

Another Individual Blog Goes Dark

Posted by TMLutas

Donald Sensing is signing off on his individual blog. He was always on my daily read list, first up ahead of Instapundit, in fact.

Unlike the millions of teenagers who blog a bit and then drop their blogs, Rev. Sensing had an audience, an impact, and an influential group home. He'll be updating his thoughts (when he has time) on Winds of Change.

March 06, 2006

Seat Swap?

Posted by TMLutas

Jonah Goldberg is willing to pay more for an aisle seat. He wants the airlines to change their ticketing practices. Instead, maybe he should talk to these people instead? Why shouldn't the guy who has booked early get the extra $5-$20 to sacrifice his comfort?

March 04, 2006

The Peril of Direct Election

Posted by TMLutas

The New Yorker recently ran a puff piece on a new proposal for the direct election of the President of the US. It astonishes me how such a piece ignores the greatest problem with the system, the increased influence that corrupt urban political jurisdictions will gain in the proposed system and the increased incentives for everybody to cheat.

Corrupt city administrations that engage in vote stealing often don't much matter for federal elections. they uniformly go one party legitimately so they don't change the party balance in the Congress. They are located in states that vote reliably for one party or the other and thus don't affect the Electoral College. Thus, they've been left to fester, a problem for the gubernatorial races and local administration but an electoral nullity. With direct election, this all changes.

Every stolen vote becomes a stolen vote that matters. Every election glitch that causes votes to be lost becomes a crisis for the system. And if even one state decides to monkeywrench the thing, the whole system might come crashing down.

It's a disaster in a 50 state federation.

March 03, 2006

Get Better Sound Proofing

Posted by TMLutas

Not entirely work safe but nothing outrageous.

Hamas Choosing Isolation

Posted by TMLutas

President Bush laid out two conditions for normalization of Hamas with the US. Stop maintaining separate military/paramilitary units and recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel's right to exist was established as part of the League of Nations Mandate system which carried through to the UN. According to several articles, Hamas has rejected the latter. This is going to isolate the regime. It's a regrettable outcome, but it was always the most likely one. That doesn't mean that jumping to the most likely outcome would have been the right thing. Russia was right to meet with Hamas in order to clarify which way they are going, though it will do them no favors for their own reputation. I suspect the Quartet drew straws on who was going to have the honors.

Now the palestinian people, and just as importantly the palestinian elite, have to be taught that democratic choice is not just an isolated event but it's a repeated process that has consequences. With Hamas choosing isolation and nonrecognition of Israel, the process will unfortunately be painful.

The Soldier Poll

Posted by TMLutas

I was listening to the Hugh Hewitt Show on the WIND-AM stream and heard the most extraordinary thing. Hugh accused a major international poll taker, John Zogby, of purveying anti-american propaganda for hire. Things absolutely shouldn't be left there. But the solution seems pretty simple. Call up a ME pollster or two and commission a poll with the right questions, the right methodology, do it transparently, and publish the results, letting the chips fall where they may.

For a national radio show like Hugh Hewitt to throw out accusations like this but not go out there and do some polling to determine definitively what's up is unfortunate. We should do better. The troops deserve it.

March 02, 2006

Striking a Blow Against Islam

Posted by TMLutas

It's just a throwaway line in a larger story but here's another sign of Islam's brittleness:

"This land has had a great history for thousands of years that pre-dates Islam," I said.

"Yes," Nadir answered, "an immoral history."

I had never heard of such a thing, but Nadir's idea, like Khaldun's, was part of Islam's all-encompassing nature. If you had it, you needed nothing else. "If I find one thing," Nadir said, "one thing that the Koran doesn't cover, I will renounce the faith." But Nadir could never find that one thing because Islam served as the source of everything. Unlike Even, I was beginning to feel that this, not the hedonism of the west, was the real problem of limits.

Islam's blindness to what came before, it's insistence that the Koran has no history. These are weak points, points of brittleness that can be struck. These are points that should be struck.

The Firm Kill II

Posted by TMLutas

Iraq is starting to float the idea that Iran is behind the Samarra Golden Mosque bombing. If this is followed up by a trail of more and more clear indications that it was Iran, this really lays the trail for Iraqi action against the current Iranian regime, what we have here is an early effort to create the conditions for a new war, this time not against Iran per se, but merely its current regime.

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

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