Want to make Kim Jong-Il soil himself?

November 30, 2010

I can't trust anyone these days!

Just whisper in his ears the magic words, “China is willing to sell you out.” From the The Guardian:

China’s moves to distance itself from Kim are revealed in the latest tranche of leaked US embassy cables published by the Guardian and four international newspapers. Tonight, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said the US “deeply regrets” the release of the material by WikiLeaks. They were an “attack on the international community”, she said. “It puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems,” she told reporters at the state department.

The leaked North Korea dispatches detail how:

  • South Korea’s vice-foreign minister said he was told by two named senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul’s control, and that this view was gaining ground with the leadership in Beijing.
  • China’s vice-foreign minister told US officials that Pyongyang was behaving like a “spoiled child” to get Washington’s attention in April 2009 by carrying out missile tests.
  • A Chinese ambassador warned that North Korean nuclear activity was “a threat to the whole world’s security”.
  • Chinese officials assessed that it could cope with an influx of 300,000 North Koreans in the event of serious instability, according to a representative of an international agency, but might need to use the military to seal the border.

In highly sensitive discussions in February this year, the-then South Korean vice-foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, told a US ambassador, Kathleen Stephens, that younger generation Chinese Communist party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful or reliable ally and would not risk renewed armed conflict on the peninsula, according to a secret cable to Washington.

China has also said that it would not intervene militarily in the event of a North Korean collapse, and that a unified Korea ruled from Seoul could remain a US ally as long as American troops did not cross north of the DMZ; China sees its interests in trade with the US, South Korea, and Japan, not in propping up an increasingly unstable client that doesn’t even serve anymore as a useful buffer.

That, my friends, is the core of a deal that would have cynical power-players like Metternich and Kissinger drooling with anticipation. The only reason North Korea survives is through the shipment of cheap fuel and food across the Yalu river border. If China were to decide that its interests were better served by a reunified and stable Korean trading partner, even if a US ally, then all it has to do is turn off the drip-feed and… Bye-bye bandit kingdom.

While Kim Jong Il is desperately trying to secure the succession for his son, Kim Jong Un, one can see this playing out like the East German collapse and German reunification in 1989-90: the old regime dies off, the new rulers haven’t the skill or will (or both) to maintain control of a failing state, and the regime collapses of exhaustion to be absorbed by its democratic cousin.

The question is what will Kim Jong Il and his military do. As the cables hint, they were probably the only ones among the concerned powers (the US, China, South Korea, and Japan) who had no inkling of China’s real feelings.  Will this knowledge lead Kim to moderate his behavior or the military to remove him, so China doesn’t pull the plug? Will they keep pushing the limits under the assumption that China, in the end, won’t cut them loose? Or, as Allahpundit fears, will they decide to go out in a blaze of glory?

My own guess is that Kim will try to make nice with Beijing and not do anything more provocative than he already has and mollifying them with vague promises of reform, while continuing to secure the throne for his son. Then, when Dear Leader passes on, a transitional regime –with or without Kim Jong Un– will oversee an East German-style endgame.

At least, that’s what I hope. This still has every chance of blowing up in all our faces, mostly due to the unpredictability of those running the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a state.

POSTSCRIPT: Regarding the Wikileaks release, I have three observations

  1. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange needs to meet a bad end, soon. He is harming my country in a time of war; he shouldn’t have gotten this far.
  2. The real fallout of these documents isn’t what they reveal (and much of that validates the Right’s views), but that we look like such idiots when it comes to security that few will be willing to talk confidentially with us for quite a long time.
  3. While the security weaknesses revealed in this scandal reach back at least several years, the response to the Wikileaks revelations has shown the Obama administration as weak and incompetent — and a danger to our national security.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Quote of the day: Sarah Palin on the Wikileaks fiasco

November 30, 2010

Palin. Nightstick. Boom:

The White House has now issued orders to federal departments and agencies asking them to take immediate steps to ensure that no more leaks like this happen again. It’s of course important that we do all we can to prevent similar massive document leaks in the future. But why did the White House not publish these orders after the first leak back in July? What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?

We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.

Think that has some heads exploding in the White House?

You betcha.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Why Keynesian economics is wrong

November 30, 2010

Progressive economics (and, sadly, the economics of some otherwise sensible Republicans) is based on the idea that, in an economic downturn, one relies on government spending to increase domestic consumption in order to stimulate the economy. Sadly, as the history of the 1930s, 1970s and, now, the early 21st century shows, that really doesn’t work. In this video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, the AEI’s Hiwa Alaghebandian explains how Keynesian economics, and thus the entire economic policy of the Obama administration, has it all backwards:

As her former internship supervisor, Dan Mitchell, writes:

The main insight of the mini-documentary is that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) only measures how national output is allocated between consumption, investment, and government. That’s useful information in many ways, but if we want more output, we should focus on Gross Domestic Income (GDI), which measures how national income is earned.

Focusing on GDI hopefully would lead lawmakers to consider ways of boosting employee compensation, corporate profits, small business income, and other components of national income. Focusing on GDP, by contrast, is misguided since any effort to boost consumption generally leads to less investment. This is why Keynesian policies only redistribute national income, but don’t boost overall output.

The analysis in this video also helps explain why Obama’s so-called stimulus was a flop. The White House genuinely seemed to think a bigger burden of government spending was going to create jobs, but the real-world numbers show higher joblessness.

The basic idea is that increased income leads to increased consumption, not the other way around. One would think this would be common sense, but that apparently assumes a level of economic literacy all too uncommon amongst our policy-makers.

LINKS: MEP Daniel Hannan sums it up in 11 words.

Via International Liberty

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


You think the Greek and Irish crises were bad?

November 29, 2010

Wait until Spain’s economy goes into meltdown. That could be the blow that triggers the end of the Euro:

Economists say that given Spain’s large deficits and poor long-term growth prospects, any failure to achieve government targets for cutting the deficit, and/or any rise in Spanish bank risk, could cause a market panic and turn Spain into the next victim of market contagion.

A financial meltdown in Spain would have repercussions far beyond the Iberian Peninsula. For starters, many analysts believe a debt crisis in Spain would trigger a similar meltdown in Italy, which is the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone, and which suffers from many of the same financial woes that are plaguing Spain. What’s more, Italy has one of the world’s highest public debts, expected to reach a staggering 118 percent of GDP in 2010.

Given the relative size of the Spanish economy, financial turmoil in Spain would likely also doom the single European currency, and with that more than 60 years of European dreams of transforming the continent into a superpower-like United States of Europe capable of counter-balancing the United States of America on the global stage.

Germany, which arguably has more invested in (and also has benefited more from) the European Union than any other country in Europe, is alarmed by the potential unraveling of the euro. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the prospect of serial European bailouts is “exceptionally serious,” and that while she does not want to “paint a dramatic picture,” it would have been hard a year ago to “imagine the debate” now taking place in Europe.

I know about as much about government finances as I do Buddhist theology, but, Chancellor Merkel’s desire to save the Euro aside, it would not surprise me to see, in a crisis created first by a Spanish and then an Italian crash, Germany withdraw from the Euro in order to protect its own economy. Germans already hated the bailout given to the profligate Greeks, and I imagine there’s grumbling about the deal given the Irish. Just wait until they’re presented with a bill from Madrid and Rome. I could well imagine even the Chancellor throwing up her hands and shouting Wir haben genug!

In any event, do read the whole article. It’s a good overview of both the problems Spain faces and the limited options it has to address those problems, given its entitlement-addicted people, inflexible labor market, and the power ceded to the European Central Bank.

Question: If the Euro zone does collapse like the wet paper bag it is, does that kill the European Union, too? In the abstract, the death of that burgeoning bureaucratic dictatorship would seem to me a desirable thing. But it would be potentially very, very messy. As in “We’re angry, resentful, feeling hyper-nationalistic, and we don’t like you” messy.

 


Life with the Nanny President

November 29, 2010

Well, this says it all about how President Obama sees his role in our lives:

In “Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside Obama’s White House,” MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe, a writer sympathetic to the president, reports the prosaic backroom details of the White House struggles from early this year, but occasionally stumbles upon an off-the-cuff revelation that’s much more interesting.

One staffer was conspicuously overweight. The president, in an incident that Wolffe believes proves how caring the man is, took it upon himself to present the aide with a salad for lunch — “then listened to him protest that he could take care of his own health. ‘I love you, man,’ Obama said. ‘I want you to look after yourself. Eat the salad.’ ”

I love you, man. Eat the salad. That is the Obama presidency in a plastic see-through clamshell. (Hold the ranch dressing!) The president loves us. He knows what’s best for us. We should bow to his superior wisdom.

This reminds me of a video Mary Katherine Ham did soon after the inauguration:

Little did she know she was making a documentary, not just satire.

Dear Mr. President:

Thanks for the love, man, but –and don’t take this personally– mind your own business!

Love,

The American People

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Tehran bombings target nuclear scientists?

November 29, 2010

Gee, who could be behind this?

Two separate explosions killed a nuclear scientist and injured another in the Iranian capital Monday morning, official news outlets reported.

Both scholars’ wives and a driver were also injured in the attacks, according to the news agencies. The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering team at the Shahid Behesti university in Tehran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA.

(…)

The assassins, riding motorcycles, tossed bombs at — or attached them to — vehicles of the two Shahid Behesti University professors as they drove with their spouses en route to work between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m..

“A Pulsar motorbike drove close to Dr. Shahriari’s car and stuck a bomb on his car which after a few seconds exploded,” Tehran police chief Hossein Sajednia was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

The article also mentions another Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated last January.

But, who’s ordering the hits?

Let’s consider: Iran, an aggressive and terroristic nation, is developing nuclear weapons, which no one in their right mind wants them to have. They have repeatedly threatened to drop those weapons on a certain small country nearby, the government of which lives by the motto “Never again” and has been known to deal harshly with enemies who threaten its people.

I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

Via Instapundit.

LINKS: Gateway Pundit has video. Also Hot Air.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Giving thanks for the lone defender of freedom

November 28, 2010

John Yoo, a Korean immigrant to the United States, has written a brief meditation for Thanksgiving on what America’s willingness to stand up to tyranny has meant, occasioned by the North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island. An excerpt:

Wars in both Korea and Vietnam sent important signals to the Soviet Union and China that the United States would continue to resist communist expansion forcefully.  While Korea was a stalemate, and Vietnam a defeat, communism did not spread in Asia and America’s defense allowed nations such as Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, at first, and now others like Indonesia and Maylasia to rise out of poverty.   This all may have served the interests of the United States, but it should not be forgotten that the United States sent its men and women to fight and die on foreign lands so that people they never knew might live a more prosperous, peaceful life.

In the midst of our internal squabbles, the words of an immigrant serve to remind us of the unique role we’ve played in preserving human liberty.


The sea is rising! The sea is rising!

November 28, 2010

If only we had listened to the Goracle!

That’s the global-warming alarmist’s version of Chicken Little’s cry “the sky is falling!” They warn us that, thanks to mankind and the greenhouse gases he pours into the atmosphere, the Earth’s temperature will rise, the ice caps will melt, and coastal cities will be flooded.

Disaster!!

Calm down, little cultist. Your religion may demand that we be punished for our sins against Mother Gaea (Warming and sea-level rise… fire and flood?), but it’s not the catastrophe you think. There is such a thing as land subsidence along coasts, and the sea level has been rising gradually since the end of the last ice age. You don’t need evil spirits greenhouse gases to explain it.

And, all that aside the predictions of disaster from sea-level rise are risible, as Anthony Watts shows, using the History Channel’s dire predictions for Manhattan as an example:

Yeah, [the water level at Battery Park is] headed up, wayyyy up. 2.77 millimeters per year. So, to get the levels in the photo and 3D GE model shown above, we’d need to do some simple calcs.

The Google Earth 3D model is easy. It specifies a 3-5 meter sea level rise, so we’ll call it 4 meters.

For calculation purposes, we’ll assume sea level rise to be linear, and round up the Battery Park tide gauge rate to 3.0 mm per year, which puts it closer to the 3.1 mm per year measured by satellite and published at Colorado State University’s Global Sea Level Page.

4 meters = 4000 millimeters

4000 millimeters /3.0 millimeters per year = 1333 years

Read the whole thing; Anthony uses other examples to demolish History Channel’s hysteria-laced argument, and finds the study of Manhattan’s history of land reclamation since 1640 to be most illuminating. Between the time needed for the seas to rise catastrophically and Mankind’s adaptability and creative use of technology, we’ll be in a new ice age with the water being locked up before we’re ever flooded out.

Rest easy, Chicken Little.


Sunday Book Review: Radical in Chief

November 28, 2010

One of the salient features of the 2008 presidential campaign was the obscured background of the Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama. While the basic facts were known (Born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia, graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, community organizer and state senator in Illinois), certain areas were kept hidden from the public: his school records at Columbia and Harvard, and his state senatorial papers, for example. Thanks to a compliant press more interested in Sarah Palin’s tanning bed than the character and beliefs of a man who might (and did) become president, by Election Day in 2008 we knew little about what Barack Obama believed and what experiences shaped him. While a few researchers raised troubling questions, we instead were left with the image his campaign and media allies projected and protected: a post-partisan liberal pragmatist.

According to journalist Stanley Kurtz in his new book, Radical in Chief: Barack Obama and the untold story of American Socialism, it was all a deception, a lie to conceal the truth: that President Obama is and has always been a committed Socialist.

To tell this story, Kurtz also has to take us through recent history of the American Socialist movement itself, from the crack-up of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the late 1960s through the ideological struggles between the radical Weathermen and NAM factions, on the one hand, and the Democratic-Socialist groups that sought incremental change. The former advocated direct action and confrontations leading to revolution based on an alliance of radicalized Blacks supported by Socialist activists and an “awakened” middle class. The latter felt the United States was not in a pre-revolutionary state (the failure of the government to collapse after Nixon’s resignation stunned many SDSers), and that the best way to advance Socialism was to work through organized community groups (sound familiar?) and sympathetic politicians to pressure corporations from below and above. Changes would be gradual and would involve both creating entitlements that would be hard to take away, and “non-reforming reforms,” that would purport to fix a problem while actually making it worse and, eventually, precipitating a crisis that would make the American people open to Socialist solutions. The infamous Cloward-Piven strategy is one example.

It is this latter faction that became dominant and in which, according to Kurtz, Barack Obama found a home.

Kurtz traces two threads that converge in Chicago: the rise of Socialist-dominated community organizations and Barack Obama’s intellectual awakening as a community organizer that lead him from New York to Chicago. The former covers community organizing’s origins as a largely Socialist profession and takes us through both well-known groups, such as ACORN, and more obscure (outside of the Socialist community) ones, such as the Midwest Academy and UNO of Chicago. We encounter Socialist activists who are nearly household words these days -Bill Ayers, for example- and others who are influential behind the scenes, such as Greg Galluzzo, Harry Boyte, and Heather Booth. All of these and more became part of Obama’s network as a community organizer and a rising politician. He benefited from their connections, and they later benefited from the money and influence he could funnel their way as a board member on several foundations and as a state senator.

The other thread traces Obama’s intellectual development. Kurtz touches on his teenage association with Communist Party member Frank Davis in Hawaii and his open Marxism-Leninism at Occidental College, but focuses on his introduction to the combination of Socialism and community organizing at the two or three Socialist Scholars Conferences he attended while a student at Columbia University, and on his exposure tothe Black Liberation Theology developed by James Cone, which lead him to… Chicago and Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

As Kurtz shows us this complicated and tightly-woven tapestry, he wants us to bear two things in mind: first, that the strategy of the modern incrementalist Socialists has been to disguise their Socialism (except among themselves), knowing that most Americans would reject doctrinaire Socialism if offered openly. Instead, it is clothed in terms of pragmatism and community and American values to make the program palatable to more people, only revealing the Socialist goals behind the community organization’s plans to a dedicated few. Second, that Barack Obama himself adopted this deceptive strategy to disguise his own Socialist leanings as he presented himself to the targets of his organizing efforts and then the voters.

Along the way, Kurtz examines the controversies that arose during Obama’s campaign -the associations with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, his service on the boards of the Woods Fund and the Chicago Annenberg Project, and his membership in the ACORN-controlled New Party- to see what the truth was. In each case, Kurtz concludes, either by direct documentation or strong deduction, that Barack Obama and his allies have at best been misleading or have flatly lied about these and other issues. He also shows that, had the mainstream media even done a modicum of genuine investigative work, much of this could have been uncovered, likely derailing Obama’s presidential aspirations.

In the end, Kurtz seeks to answer two questions: Is President Barack Obama a Socialist, and, now that he is in office, does his past matter? He answers both in the affirmative. Kurtz argues, and I agree, that the weight of the evidence shows that Barack Obama was not only a committed Democratic-Socialist in his early life, but that there is no evidence he ever changed his beliefs, either as a state senator or as president. Indeed, Kurtz uses the example of the supposed craziness of pushing ObamaCare in the face of terrific opposition and at great cost to the Democratic Party to show Obama following the strategies of an Alinskyite community organizer, willing to take a short-term setback to get a long-term, irreversible change. Instead of crazy, Kurtz says, Obama may be crazy like a fox.

Regarding his second question, Obama’s past matters now because, as the President and his allies have gone to such lengths to hide these Socialist values, it is only through studying his days in New York and Chicago that we form a clear idea of the path on which he wants to take America as its president. Should he run for reelection, they will again try to present him as a pragmatic problem-solver seeking to bring people together for common solutions. (This time, one expects, they’ll be greeted with guffaws.) It is up to us, since the major media will hardly help, to bear in mind the truth of Obama’s past to see through the moderate-liberal haze and focus clearly on the Democratic-Socialist reality.

Radical in Chief: Barack Obama and the untold story of American Socialism is an excellent book that should be on the short list for all those interested in modern American politics and the direction of the nation. Stanley Kurtz takes the complex stories of man and movement and, through extensive research and with meticulous footnoting, presents them in a clear, compelling fashion that makes a strong case.

Highly recommended.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Truth to Power: “Just who the Hell do you people think you are?”

November 27, 2010

First it was Conservative Daniel Hannan shredding then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the European Parliament. Now we’re treated to Nigel Farage, Member of the European Parliament from the UK Independence Party, ripping the EU leadership a new one for their statist, anti-democratic arrogance in the Irish financial crisis. Sit back, my friends, and enjoy:

Rock on, Brother Farage!

LINKS: Roger Kimball, who thinks MEP Farage asked an excellent question.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


What we believe: American Exceptionalism

November 27, 2010

Bill Whittle concludes his series on what American conservatives believe with a look at a hard-to-define concept: that America and the American people are exceptional among the nations of the Earth:

Whittle talks about four measures that illustrate this exceptionalism: military, scientific, economic, and cultural dominance. With just 5% of the world’s population, for example, we produce 24% of the Earth’s GDP.

But these are just external signs of the internal qualities that make the United States and her people exceptional; behind them all stand the ideas that create the conditions for the success measured by Whittle’s four yardsticks. Among them are limited government, the idea that humans can rule themselves and that government needs only a few powers; free markets and private property, connecting effort with reward and aligning private interest with public good; and the rule of law, applied equally to all without regard for wealth, religion or ethnicity. Whittle touches on these at the end and, through them, ties his whole series together.

Of course, these ideas are ideals, things to strive for, even though we often fall short. And America itself is an ideal, Winthrop’s “shining city upon a hill,” meant to inspire us and the world, even if the reality is often blemished. Yes, the same nation that proclaimed all Men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights also held millions in slavery. But it was the ideal of America that demanded they be set free even at the cost of a devastating civil war and that the struggle continue for another hundred years, until the neo-slavery of Jim Crow was torn down.

And it is in that overriding ideal of America that American conservatives believe.

LINKS: Ed Morrissey is also impressed.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


November’s Porkers of the Month

November 26, 2010

We have joint winners for this month’s Porker Award from Citizens Against Government Waste and Reason.TV: Senators Tom Carper (D) of Delaware and George Voinovich (R) of Ohio, who want to raise the federal gasoline tax 135% so they and their buddies can use even more of the Highway Trust Fund for purposes for which it was never intended, such as hovercrafts.

No, really:

Congratulations, gentlemen. Well done!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The President had a transvestite nanny??

November 26, 2010

Via Hillbuzz, from a New York Times  article on Obama’s days in Indonesia:

Mr. Obama’s family rented the guest house inside a compound belonging to a prominent physician. There, according to the neighborhood’s longtime residents, the young Obama, who had already experienced differences in class and religion in his short stay in Indonesia, was exposed to another aspect of Jakarta’s diversity.

His nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia’s relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta’s streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.

I leave further comment to the audience.


Restraining Leviathan: allow the states to repeal federal law?

November 26, 2010

The US Constitution has not been amended very often in its history – just 27 times since 1789. It’s a document that’s generally functioned well and Americans are rightly leery of monkeying with it. The 18th amendment, establishing Prohibition, is an example of a mistake that was later repealed.

However, in times of national ferment, Congress and the states have amended the document to fix serious problems: the 12th amendment reformed our method of electing presidents and vice-presidents, which had come to a crisis in 1800 under the original system. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were passed to eliminate the evil of slavery and protect the rights of newly freed African-Americans. The 17th amendment took the election of senators away from corrupt or deadlocked legislatures, while the 19th recognized the right of women to vote.

And so it is today, with so many people concerned about an expanding federal government, that proposals are being floated to amend the Constitution in order to bind Washington within its limits. The Daily Caller has an article about one, the Repeal Amendment, that seems to be on the rise thanks to voter anger:

Rapidly growing support for the “Repeal Amendment” –  a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a vote by two-thirds of the states to repeal an act of Congress —  symbolizes the intense level of anger Americans have with Washington, according to observers.

In September, Virginia stood alone as the only state where leaders in the state legislature had shown an interest in passing the amendment, but that number has now grown to nine states.

State legislators in South Carolina, Florida, Utah, Indiana, Texas, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Georgia have since expressed interest in the amendment.

Hits on the RepealAmendment.org website have mushroomed over the past month, and the amendment has garnered support from Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, according to “Repeal Amendment” executive director Marianne Moran.

Moran also sees future opportunities for legislative support in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Dakota, among others.

“It just restores the balance of government between the states and the federal government as the founding fathers had originally intended,” Moran said. “The fact we have nine states already onboard shows the momentum, and I think the groundswell [of support] is the Tea Party.”

One might also call this the “10th Amendment Protection Act,” since it’s aimed squarely at defending the rights of the states and the people against federal encroachment.

The constitution makes the amendment process difficult, as it should when dealing with something so fundamental and important: passage by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and approval by three-fourths of the states, or by a specially called convention, whose proposed amendments would also require three-fourths approval. And not every amendment proposed has been approved. The article rightly points out that the Repeal Amendment would have to clear this same hurdle, made more difficult by the fact that Congress would have to agree to give up some of its power.

But, it can be done. The 17th Amendment was passed after a national consensus in its favor arose and pressure was put on Congress in the form of state calls for a constitutional convention. By 1910, nearly two-thirds of the states had issued such calls and the Senate, which had resisted reform, realized it had better act before the Article V threshold was crossed. The same kind of national consensus, represented in the various Tea Parties and the recent election results, could put similar pressure on Congress to act before the states do it for them. As the article points out, state legislators would have a direct interest in seeing this amendment passed, as opposed to many others that cross their desks.

So, what do I think of the proposed Repeal Amendment? After initially being highly skeptical, as I think any conservative should be, I’ve come to favor it, especially since the Democrats and their Big Labor and other leftist allies have laid bare their progressive-statist souls for the world to see over the last few years. Their program threatens a fundamental transformation of the United States into something never intended.

Another check and balance is needed.

My one reservation is that I believe the two-thirds limit is too low. Allowing states to repeal federal law is equal in my mind to the power to approve amendments to the Constitution and should meet the same standard: consent by three-fourths of the states. (This is the same standard Professor Randy Barnett uses in his proposed Bill of Federalism, of which the Repeal Amendment is a part; I commend the whole document to your attention.) That disagreement aside, I now think this is a good and necessary change.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if, under a president who thinks the Constitution is fundamentally flawed, the people agreed and fixed the flaw by hogtying DC?

It would be amusing, to say the least.

UPDATE: More at Big Government.

UPDATE II, 12/5/2010: Ed Morrissey is very skeptical of the proposal for a repeal amendment. My reply. Moe Lane takes on liberal lunacy over the proposed amendment.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Allen West: the man gets it

November 25, 2010

And he’s gaining fans in the UK, too. You can read Delingpole’s words at the link; I’ll just leave you with Col. West’s remarks on Meet the Press:

Congressman-elect West is a refreshing change from the usual BS shovelers in DC: clear-sighted, direct, and unabashed in his dedication to American principles.  I mean, how many congressmen or senators do you hear talking about seeing the world in Machiavellian or Kantian terms? He’s going to make a lot of Lefty heads explode over the next few years.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Giving thanks for private property

November 25, 2010

Sure, that sounds pedantic and dull – who needs a lesson in the value of property rights to a free and prosperous society, especially on a day when we celebrate turkey and football… oh, yeah, and family, too?

We do.

In an era when government feels more and more able to take your property and do with it whatever it wants, and when one of our two major parties is dominated progressive leftists and the president himself is a socialist, when all the currents of our society seem to be pushing us against our will toward collectivism (and collective penury), we need to be reminded of the lessons our ancestors learned about the value of private property and free markets. And yes, there’s a direct connection to Thanksgiving. First, a video from Reason.TV, via Big Government:

Reporter John Stossel takes the story of the near-tragedy and eventual salvation of the Plymouth Colony further, explaining for us the lost lesson of Thanksgiving:

What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons. The problem has been known since ancient Greece. As Aristotle noted, “That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.”

If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free-rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty.

What private property does — as the Pilgrims discovered — is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there’s a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.

(…)

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know their future products are safe from confiscation, they take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

So there you have it, folks. When you sit down to that big turkey dinner and pass the potatoes, think back to the real lesson of Thanksgiving and give thanks for what made it possible: private property and free markets.

LINKS: Power Line quotes extensively from Professor Paul Rahe on Plymouth: America’s First Socialist Republic. Allahpundit cites some liberal rebuttals at Hot Air.

PS. I also want to give thanks to my blog-buddy, ST, who’s been gracious enough to let me play in her sandbox these past few months. It’s been a lot of fun, and I look forward to even more.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Could we look dumber? Mmm… No.

November 24, 2010

This has to be a leading candidate for the Intelligence Screw-Up Hall of Fame: NATO, US, and Afghan officials thought they were negotiating with one of the Taliban’s top leaders and were making progress toward a settlement… Until it turned how he was a fake:

Coalition and Afghan officials have believed for months that they have been in direct talks with Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, one of Mullah Omar’s top two deputies, but have discovered that the person they have been in talks with faked his identity, The New York Times reported.

Mansour and Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, a former detainee who became the Taliban’s top military commander in the south after his release in December 2007, were appointed by Mullah Omar to lead the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s executive council, in March of this year. Mansour took over the administrative role, and Zakir became the Taliban’s top military leader.

Zakir and Mansour replaced Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was taken into custody by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate earlier this year after he supposedly tried to conduct negotiations with the Afghan government. The terms of Baradar’s detention are unclear; some officials say he was not arrested but merely placed into protective custody.

Mansour was the Minister of Civil Aviation and Transportation during the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. He also served as the shadow governor of Kandahar province after the Taliban were ejected from power during the US invasion in 2001.

The fake Mansour approached NATO and Afghan officials months ago, and “was initially given a sizable sum of money to take part in the talks — and to help persuade him to return,” The New York Times reported. Officials became suspicious about the identity of the man only after the third meeting. The man’s identity could not be confirmed; he was unable to return to the meeting with other Taliban leaders, and his demands were radically different from the Taliban’s stated negotiating position.

No one seems to know who this faker was, but, man, get him a spot on cable selling blenders! He could be the new Billy Mays! “But wait! For only $19.95 million, not only will you get peace in Afghanistan, but we’ll all become Mennonites, too! Call now!”

Face, meet egg. In fact, meet a full dozen of them.

My friend Jimmy Bise has a great rant on this, but I have to quibble with his blanket assertion that this shows our intelligence in Afghanistan is lousy overall. We do have excellent “human intelligence” penetration of the Taliban and the Waziristan region of Pakistan; that’s how we’ve been able to get information on the movement of Taliban leaders for our increased campaign of Predator strikes – it’s not all coming from communications intercepts.

But, clearly, we didn’t know enough about Mullah Mansour to even know what he looked like before the meeting, indicating a serious gap in our knowledge of the Taliban leadership. Worse, in my opinion, this incident smells like something that happened because of pressure from political leaders back home (including our own) to pursue “all avenues for peace” and an exit from Afghanistan. By leaning on the generals and intelligence officers in the region, pressure was created to find someone to negotiate with, so, when this con artist waltzed in, he was accepted by someone who said his bona fides were “good enough” and decided to take a risk.

And thus was a humiliating fiasco born.

This is just a guess on my part, of course, but it seems a reasonable one.

There’s no doubt this hurts our reputation, especially in the Af-Pak region, where the regional culture is based strongly on concepts of shame and honor. We just shamed ourselves with this act of buffoonery, and thus fewer legitimate sources will be willing to work with us, because we look incompetent.

And, in this case, we were.

ADDENDUM: this isn’t the only time we’ve been played for suckers in an intelligence operation, of course. One incident I recall reading about years ago involved sending a lot of gold to what we thought were anti-Communist subversives in Poland right after World War II… Only it turned out the whole thing was con by Polish intelligence and we’d been giving gold to the Polish government. In other words, we’ve been fooled before and will be again, someday; the job now is to find out why in this case and make sure it never happens again.

UPDATE: Luckily, Iowahawk has found another mullah for us to negotiate with.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Pennsylvania Governor: “We lost because people don’t vote logically.”

November 23, 2010

No, really. That’s what he said. It couldn’t be because the majority rejected mistaken policies they didn’t want, policies that are failing miserably. Yeesh.

Patronizing, arrogant, condescending. Maybe Andrew Klavan wasn’t just being funny.

Then again, perhaps the election of an obviously far-Left* senator to the presidency proves Ed Rendell is right.

*(It would have been obvious if the media had bothered to do their homework, that is.)


North Korea: When tiny dictators attack

November 23, 2010

He’s just ronery

North Korea’s Psychotic in Chief Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il has thrown another temper tantrum and, just as with the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, this one has turned deadly:

North Korea launched a massive artillery barrage on a South Korean island Tuesday, killing two South Korean marines, wounding at least 19 other people and setting more than 60 buildings ablaze in the most serious confrontation since the North’s sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

South Korea immediately responded with its own artillery fire and put its fighter jets on high alert, bringing the two sides – which technically have remained in a state of war since the Korean armistice in 1953 – close to the brink of a major conflagration.

(…)

South Korea called the shelling of the civilian-inhabited island of Yeonpyeong, which lies near the disputed maritime border separating North and South Korea, a breach of the 57-year-old armistice that halted the Korean War without a peace agreement.

The North fired an estimated 200 artillery shells onto the island, and the South returned fire with about 80 shells from its own howitzers. The attack began just after 2:30 p.m.

Naturally, the usual suspects around the world have condemned the attack with the usual words, from President Obama to the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Kim’s patrons in Beijing. And, like all the other times he’s acted out, nothing will be done other than perhaps a sternly worded expression of concern and maybe a meaningless sanction or two — followed by offers of foreign aid.

Despite the breathless invocation of a “major conflagration” in the Post article, what this is not is a restart of the Korean War. Artillery exchanges aside, there have been no major troop movements in the North (which would be very hard to hide in this day and age) or any other observable preparations to invade the South.  And, were this the start of an invasion, the North would certainly open up with the thousands of artillery tubes they have pointed squarely at South Korea’s capital, Seoul. And, if the first goal of any regime is survival, then invading a country guarded by 28,000 US soldiers is tantamount to suicide, even under a President as weak as Barack Obama. So, no, this is not the start of round two.

But, if not, then what is it?

The first key to understanding North Korea is the aforementioned survival imperative and the need for dynastic continuation. Kim not only wants to ensure that his regime survives, but, like any good monarch (even if dressed in Stalinist clothes), he wants to pass it along to his son and heir, Kim Jong-Eun. Since a democratic opening, market economy, free trade, and the attendant prosperity is out of the question for the proprietor of the worlds largest prison camp disguised as a nation, how else does Pyongyang go about meeting these two goals?

That brings us to the second key, the nature of the regime itself: North Korea is best described as a mountain-bandit state, extorting what it can from the world by occasionally acting crazy and scaring everyone else with the prospect of devastation if the bandits are not appeased.  It’s all an incredibly cynical act, put on because North Korea simply cannot produce what it needs to survive. As Aidan Foster-Carter wrote in a great article at the Asia Times:

Importantly, “mountain bandit” is not just an insult (like James Cagney saying “you doity rat”). Rather, like “guerrilla” or “partisan”, it’s a concept – but a different and less forgiving one. Whereas the guerrilla may have had a noble cause, bandits are cynics: they’re just in it for the money. And they are parasites: unable to produce anything of their own, they prey instead upon the productive and law-abiding.

This, I must say, seems a highly apt analogy for North Korea today. Pyongyang’s militant mendicancy over its nuclear and missile activities is basically bandit behavior, demanding money with menaces. Pay up, or else: that’s the subtext. (The unspoken rider: And we’ll be back for more in due course.)

And, sure enough, they’re back. Consider what’s happened in recent months:

  • The sinking of the Cheonan.
  • Kim’s illness and the need to assure his son’s ascension to the throne.
  • Barack Obama’s humiliating performance at the G-20 summit and the bilateral trade negotiations with South Korea.
  • The sudden revelation of North Korea’s new nuclear facility, which should have surprised no one. (“North Korea? Cheating? No way!”)
  • And now the artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong island.

All this is standard operating procedure for bandits: they need goods other people have, and the great protector of those people (the USA) is in a weakened state, averse to actually taking strong action. Time to rattle some sabers and demand tribute.

So, the combat at Yeonpyeong has two purposes: first, to scare the rest of the world into giving North Korea what it needs to survive, food and fuel. Second, the threat of war with America keeps Kim’s generals busy, so they don’t have as much time to plot an “unfortunate accident” for the Dear Leader’s heir apparent. Kim may be powerful, but other players in the regime are surely not happy with his family’s apparent lock on the top job.

So, what should Seoul, Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, and other concerned parties do? The Chinese, naturally, want a return to the six-party talks that, so far, have produced nothing. The last thing they want is for the West to take actions that might finally precipitate their ally’s collapse, with the inevitable political, security, and humanitarian crises.

On the other hand, doing nothing (or issuing statements of concern that would amount to the same thing) will only lead to further obstreperous behavior, as the Bandit King turns the screws a bit more to get what he wants. Kim and his buddies have to be shown there is a price, and not just another round of meaningless sanctions. Whether this means a retaliatory attack on North Korean military assets, a full-scale blockade, or something else, I don’t know. It’s possible that any action would trigger the war everyone wants to avoid – or the regime failure so many fear. Yet passively submitting to Kim’s aggressions, whether by ignoring them or giving him what he wants, seems unacceptable, too.

As with anything dealing with North Korea, it seems the only choices are bad ones.

LINKS: More from Claudia Rosett, who writes about Pyongyang’s extortionate diplomacy. Richard Fernandez reminds us of Secretary Clinton’s meaningless stern warning  during the Cheonan incident. Hot Air, where Ed also thinks this does not mean war (we hope). I wrote earlier about the Korea problem. Allahpundit muses on the risk of war. Finally, if war is afoot, would Dear Leader really be touring a soy sauce factory?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


When science fiction meets reality, Air Force edition

November 23, 2010

One of the problems pilots encounter when flying combat missions is the blind spot, places where an enemy plane might lurk unseen, such as behind or directly below. Wouldn’t it be nice if our pilots could see in all directions, at once?

Well, a new gadget from Northrup-Grumman, the Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System, promises to make that wish come true. A pilot can even see through the cockpit floor:

As the video makes clear, there are uses for the DAS besides dogfights, including faster identification of ground-based defenses and highly detailed views of the ground or seas surface, even in poor viewing conditions. (And note how often desert/dust environments were used as an example. Hello, Tehran?)

America has traditionally compensated for having a smaller military in terms of numbers by maintaining a technological edge over likely enemies; better equipment and tactics compensates for numerical inferiority. Granted, this is a marketing video designed to make the product look as sexy as possible to Pentagon buyers, and defense contractors have a bad history of over-promising, but if this tech comes even partway close to its potential, it will be an amazing advance in sensor technology and give our pilots a heck of an edge in combat situations.

As I often like to say, we have all the best toys.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,157 other followers