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Friday, September 15, 2006

Economic Principles Work Again

US oil demand growth for the first half of 2006 went down from 1.2 million barrels a day to 1.1 million barrels per day. In other words, with the price of gas so high, people have reduced their consumption. Do you mean to tell me that as the price of something rises, the demand decreases? That's crazy!

And as the price for oil increased, people found it profitable to seek alternative sources of oil (like in deeper waters) that were unprofitable at lower per gallon prices. Imagine that.

These Adam Smith guys may be onto something.

Muslims, the Pope and Sean Penn

In reaction to the Pope's recent criticism of Muslim pronouncements of jihad and holy war, Muslim groups claim his comments are motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice.

Muhammad Umar, chairman of the [Ramadan] foundation, said: "This attack on Islam and Prophet Muhammad by Pope Benedict is recognition that he has fallen into the trap of the bigots and racists when it comes to judging Islam on the actions of a small number of extreme elements."

Demands for apology and demonstrations by Muslims burning the Pope in effigy have taken place.

In related news, Sean Penn sees Fascism coming to America. Not from jihadist Muslims like bin Laden. But from Bush, Rumsfeld and Republicans!

Housing Finance and Refinance's Bad Choices

As I have read many reports on the housing market down-turn, be it hard or soft, with the expected recession, mild or severe, I am emotionally affected by what will happen to regular people. And the worry there is that people used ARMs to either purchase over-priced homes or removed equity to refinance at adjustable rates in order to buy nice cars and flat-screen TVs.

Amity Shlaes reports that it is not credit card debt that is problematic. Of the $2.3 trillion borrowed last year, $1.2 trillion of it was home-mortgage debt. $500 billion of that went to buy big ticket personal goods.

Shlaes explains that many to expect a hard road as interest rates climb are the professionals who cannot hold onto their chalets by the sea. With home values in decline, there will be many foreclosures and banks losing money if the forced sale as well. She also states:

There is even good news. “A decline will put houses within their [many Americans who cannot afford to buy homes right now] reach.”

I have a close relative who is now unable to handle the higher costs of the debt service due to dipping into her home's equity over the past few years. She is selling her condo and will likely be a renter for the rest of her years. The choice she made was not forced upon her. I wonder how all of this financial activity by individuals and institutions, smart and dumb, educated or ignorant, can be blamed on any Bush administration policy. And I fear the remedy will be a government program.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Montreal Killer Sounds Deanish

The young gunman, Kimveer Gill, who killed people in the Montreal college hated Republicans, religious people, anyone who supports the American government, Catholics and many other things (see Ace Of Spades reproducing Kimveer Gill's Goth postings). He sounds like Howard Dean.

Europe Keeps Hitting The Snooze Button

Bruce Bawer is an important voice reporting on the failure of Europe to face its impending disaster at the hands of internal Islamic fascists. Author of the book "While Europe Slept", this gay, liberal American living in Europe has provided eye-opening accounts and analyses in articles published in frontpage.com.

Writes Bawer:

In the wake of 9/11, European leaders felt obliged to join America in invading Afghanistan. But the initial show of solidarity by politicians and intellectuals (“we are all Americans”) quickly gave way to declarations that the U.S. – by supporting Israel, buttressing Arab dictators, fostering globalism, etc. – had asked for 9/11. But not Europe. Europe was the Muslims’ friend. Muslims knew this. Hence Europe was safe. This soon became Western European orthodoxy. Only days after 9/11, Norwegian author Gert Nygårdshaug sneered at the idea that there might soon be an attack on “Oslo or Rome or Copenhagen.” He was far from alone in his mockery.

Then came Madrid, London, Bali, Beslan, Mumbai. Van Gogh was butchered; Muslims rioted in France; their coreligionists in Denmark rampaged over newspaper cartoons of Muhammed. The Western European elite played down, even denied, any connection among these events. Yet year by year the truth has become increasingly clear: though the U.S. was the target on 9/11, the front line of the war with Islamism is Europe.

The movie "Path to 9-11" showed us the penalty for ignoring obvious acts of terrorism and evidence of escalation. Leader in the blindered view is France. The clock is ticking.

Playing The Hand After The Cards Have Been Turned Over

John Kerry's WSJ editorial claims:

Former CIA case officer Jim Marcinkowski argued the Valerie Plame leak hurt "the credibility of our case officers when they try to convince an overseas contact that their safety is of primary importance." Former CIA agent Larry Johnson, a registered Republican, said it "speaks volumes" that President Bush held no one accountable for the leak of an agent's identity.

He needs to read some papers a little more closely. The leaker was Richard Armitage, a staunch opponent of the Iraq War and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell. Armitage leaked the information about Valerie Plame being a CIA employee to Robert Novak. And as Novak states today:

But they cannot fit Armitage into the left-wing fantasy of a well-crafted White House conspiracy to destroy Joe and Valerie Wilson. The news that he and not Karl Rove was the leaker was devastating news for the Left.

Manufacturing a White House controversy in the face of fact is a common tactic by the Democrats since 2000. The willing liberal press provides their talking points to obfuscate issues. And other than desk-jockey Plame's outing by Armitage and her hubby Joe Wilson, what real CIA agents have been ever been truly identified publicly by the White House?

But we have a new issue for Democrats. Today, the judge in the Saddam trial in Iraq stated he was not a dictator. The Dems can harp on Bush's invasion of a peace-loving democracy. Didn't the Michael Moore movie show us a Middle Eastern Wonderland before our invasion? That is as reality-based as most of their other pathetic but somewhat successful political attacks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Conservatives in Hollywood

Great line from Kaus:

If you put Hollywoods's entire network of right wing people in David Horowitz's living room, you wouldn't have much trouble getting to the hors d'oeuvre tray. If you tried to put Hollywood's network of left wing people in the Los Angeles Convention Center, the fire marshal would close it down.

Forced Charity Is Unlawful and Immoral

Walter Williams reminds us that 9-17 is Constitution Day. He also reminds us of the intent of the Constitution: To lay out a framework of government holding very limited powers, especially regarding spending on entitlements and pork (what Madison called “objects of public benevolence”).

Williams gives examples of comments by Madison, Jefferson and subsequent presidents to deny public funding of relief to various victims and needy Americans. He quotes both Madison and Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson…[wrote] "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."

James Madison explained the constitutional limits on federal power in Federalist Paper No. 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined . . . [to] be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce."

What Americans do not grasp is that the federal spending comes from taxes. And taxes are coerced from each of us at the threat of imprisonment. Therefore, the spending should go to only limited areas proscribed by the Constitution. However, we are forced to contribute to “charity” that we may not approve (ones that work directly against our personal interests) or that we deem a low priority compared to other needs we may choose to fund. By the government taxing and spending outside of the Constitutionally limited areas of “war and peace”, the government substitutes its ideas of what we should contribute to rather than where the actual money owners choose to spend or not spend it.

Where is the greater good from allowing citizens to retain more of their property?

After paying the salaries and benefits of the government bureaucrats who dole out the proceeds, what gets to the needy is a small percentage of the gross amount. Meanwhile, charity is an individual choice. We are closer to God when we voluntarily provide for the needy. It is not God’s work to pass a law and force all taxpayers to contribute to your personal pet project. It is the opposite of God’s work.

Let people hold onto 90% of their gross income and watch the level of charitable giving increase. And what benefits flow from those citizens who merely place their extra cash in the bank? The good from that is that banks will use the money to provide capital for the financing of businesses and increase employment and wealth for all Americans. Not a bad benefit.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Refusal To See What Is In Plain Sight

The multi-culti Left assign the mark of bigot to all who recognize the Islamic commonality of world terrorism. Yet, profiling is a common process as man intakes information and seeks an explanation and a conclusion through logical comparisons. Mark Steyn finds we have gone nowhere in preventing another 9-11 when so many refuse to address the commonality of the terrorist.

9-11 was no "failure of imagination" as described by NYT Thomas Friedman. Steyn explains:

Islamist terrorists had indicated their interest in U.S. landmarks, and were known to have plans to hijack planes to fly into them. But men like John O'Neill could never quite get the full attention of a somnolent federal bureaucracy. The terrorists must have banked on that: After all, they took their pilot-training classes in America, apparently confident that, even if anyone noticed the uptick in Arab enrollments at U.S. flight schools, a squeamish culture of political correctness would ensure nothing was done about it.

Is it Cop's Work or World War?

Part of the difference of opinion in this national "dialogue" we have been having regarding terrorism and 9-11 is a core disagreement over the enemy. Many see 9-11 as solely an act by a distinct group going by the name of Al Qaeda. If you restrict your analysis solely to Al Qaeda as the enemy, then bringing Bin Laden to justice would be your focus. Any other forays against a Saddam, Sadr or Hezbollah are a distraction.

I believe world events before and since 9-11 show that the Islamic terrorists are more like the Mafia with a common goal to destroy the West (and specifically the US and Israel) while creating an Islamic caliphate. The view is world-wide borne of an inferiority complex. The former view makes the battle more defensive in nature and akin to police work. My view sees many fronts of interwoven alliances where differing levels of aggression or strategies are needed.

In this very long Symposium on Frontpage.com Jamie Glazov interviews Tom McInerney, Andy McCarthy, Jed Babbin and, one of my favorites, Ralph Peters on 9/11: Five Years Later.

Glazov asks:

[H]ave we, after five years, deciphered exactly who our enemy is? Surely it was not al Qaeda alone that attacked us on 9/11, but a force that can, arguably, be legitimately labelled as Islamo-Fascism. If we can agree that this ideology is our enemy, what is it that we need to do to defeat it?

Peters' answer is realistically positive:

I've been privileged to spend a good bit of time not only in the greater Middle East, but, over the past half-dozen years, on the far fringes of the Islamic world. Religions--all religions--as practiced on earth are what men and women make them. At least for now, our problem is with the stagnant, suffocating forms of Islam practiced from North Africa through Pakistan. Elsewhere, I've found Muslims remarkably tolerant and spiritually healthy--faiths change on their frontiers. We only hear about the handful of terrorists and extremists in Indonesia, for example. But, outside of Aceh and a few urban neighborhoods, Indonesian forms--plural--of Islam are humane and absorptive (if sometimes downright weird). In Senegal, Muslims have resisted Wahhabi missionary efforts and want no part of Bedouin Islam. I found the Senegalese startlingly pro-American (and increasingly disenchanted with the French). I believe, firmly, that the long-overdue liberal reformation in Islam is coming--in Michigan or Ontario.

My point: Blanket condemnations of Islam are stupid and counter-productive.

But then he is realistically pessimistic, not about the US's future but, about Israel's future:

[Israel] may not have one. Europe couldn't care less if Tel Aviv and Haifa disappear under mushroom clouds. Israel's remarkable success is as embarrassing to Europeans as it is to Arabs. Israel's only meaningful allies are in the English-speaking world.

Read the whole interview.

Equally limited and legalistic was an opinion voiced to me recently that Israel's response to Hezbollah was at least over a border intrusion versus the US war with Iraq that had no border or other seeming provocation.

First, borders today are relatively meaningless when missiles, hijacking of international flights and attacks upon embassises and US military units outside of the US territory are concerned. While we used to use the concept of "the water's edge" to denote a natural defensive border, today there are no such things.

Second, ham-stringing us to merely countering the acts of terrorist monsters means we must await some horrendous act. Then we may respond? And responses engender more second-guessing. What we have seen in the media reports about Israel's response to Hezbollah, that the defensive response must also be "proportionate", is ludicrous. That term's meaning is fraught with semantic license I choose to avoid for the sake of self-preservation. Leave the semantics to those living in the theoretical world. My family and friends live in the real world.

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