Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pawlenty, the Un-Somebody

7-up is the “UnCola”. By avoiding a lot of the negatives of other possible Presidential candidates, Tim Pawlenty is the Un-Candidate – a refreshing alternative to the other contenders. The question is who or what is Pawlenty the “un” to? Team T-Paw needs to figure out who they are attempting to displace if they want to win the nomination. I say he should be the “Un-Romney”.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pat Buchanan is forcing me to defend Obama

There's a lot to criticize in President Obama's handling of the Libya situation, but that hasn't gotten in the way of Pat Buchanan's uncanny ability to be wrong.

Buchanan's 3/25 column:
When Greek patriots sought America's assistance, Daniel Webster took up their cause but was admonished by John Randolph. Intervention would breach every "bulwark and barrier of the Constitution."
"Let us say to those 7 million of Greeks: We defended ourselves when we were but 3 million, against a power in comparison to which the Turk is but as a lamb. Go and do thou likewise."

But Randolph, and by extension Buchanan, don't have the history quite square.  Our rebel colonist forefathers had help.

Quoting directly from Wikipedia, bold added:
France, Spain and the Dutch Republic all secretly provided supplies, ammunition and weapons to the revolutionaries starting early in 1776. After early British success, the war became a standoff. The British used their naval superiority to capture and occupy American coastal cities while the rebels largely controlled the countryside, where 90 percent of the population lived. Then, the Continentals' unexpected victory and capture of a British army at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777 convinced France to openly enter the war in early 1778, bringing the revolutionaries' military strength into balance with Britain's. Spain and the Dutch Republic—French allies—also went to war with Britain over the next two years, threatening an invasion of Great Britain and severely testing British military strength with campaigns in Europe—including attacks on Minorca and Gibraltar—and an escalating global naval war. Spain's involvement culminated in the expulsion of British armies from West Florida, securing the American colonies' southern flank.

French involvement proved decisive, with a French naval victory in the Chesapeake leading to the surrender of a second British army at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781.

I guess "Foreign aid for me, but not for thee" is Pat Buchanan's creed.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What they messed up in Firefox 4

Mozilla has been pretty good about allowing the user to customize the interface. Of course, it seems that every time there's a new major release I spend the first twenty minutes trying to undo all the “improvements” the UI team made. Likewise with Firefox 4, I immediately set about trying to get my old environment reestablished.

And good Lord, did they mess it up. It's never a good sign when there's a Lifehacker post titled “How to Fix Annoyances with Firefox 4's New Look”. The saving grace is it's a little easier to tinker with than Chrome, and it's not worse than Chrome in most ways when tinkering is not possible.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Libya: Yoda, Kant, and Other Dime Store Philosophising

(1) Yoda - The Empire Strikes Back:
Do, or do not. There is no try.

This is only a slight oversimplification of my biggest problem with Obama's offensive in Libya.  If we're going to intervene in Libya, then damn it, make sure the job gets done. Don't just lob a few cruise missiles and hope for the best. Make change, oh light-bringer!

But if we're not going to go all the way, then don't bother.

(2) Having recently read the War Powers Resolution for the first time, I am starting to grasp the controversy surrounding it.  I think the general idea of a war powers resolution is probably Constitutional, but I have doubts about specific provisions in the current document.

Generally speaking, I think Obama's actions in Libya are most likely Constitutional, though I am amazed by the naked hypocrisy of those like Joe Biden, by whose standards Obama should be impeached.

(3) If we are to be the world's policemen, where does it all end? How do we decide where to get involved? Why Libya and not Bahrain?

My answer: Supererogation.  If we are to use a humanitarian justification for intervening in Libya, that does not obligate us to intervene everywhere.  It should be plain that the US literally can not be the world's police force.  Therefore, injecting the Kantian principle that "ought implies can", we are not obligated to police the world.  But that should not preclude supererogatory intervention in certain circumstances of our collective choosing.

How are we to decide which cases?  A capital-C Conservative answer might be when it is in the US national interest to do so.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Potent Quotables: Osama bin Buffett

The Oracle of Omaha:

Over the weekend, Buffett joked with CNBC, saying, "I'm going to be the Osama bin Laden of capitalism. I'm on my way to an unknown destination in Asia where I'm going to look for a cave. If the U.S. Armed forces can't find Osama bin Laden in 10 years, let Goldman Sachs try to find me,"

Goldman and other banks received regulatory approval last week to start buying back shares and raising their dividends and it looks like Goldman wants to seize this chance to buy back the shares Buffett owns.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Whither the Powell Doctrine

How does the action against Libya stand up to the lauded Powell Doctrine?

Copy and Paste from Wikipedia:
The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States:

1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
7. Is the action supported by the American people?
8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
Throw this in too:
Powell has expanded upon the Doctrine, asserting that when a nation is engaging in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve decisive force against the enemy, minimizing US casualties and ending the conflict quickly by forcing the weaker force to capitulate.
From this, I add the following conditions:
(A) Decisive force used.
(B) Minimal US Casualties
(C) Quick resolution through enemy capitulation.

Let's run down the checklist...
  • National security interests?  I guess so. Libya has oil, and Qaddafi has American blood on his hands.
  • Clear attainable objective?  No, and I'll come back to that in a bit.
  • Risks and costs analyzed? Probably not, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt and overlook it.
  • Non-violent measures exhausted?  Yes.
  • Plausible exit strategy?  No.
  • Consequences considered? Maybe.
  • Support of the American people? I think so, for now anyway.
  • Broad international support.  Yes.
  • Decisive force? No.
  • Minimal US Casualties? Yes, probably.
  • Quick resolution through capitulation? Probably not.

The overarching problem is that there are two potential objectives, and each objective creates different Powell-esque difficulties.

Assume the stated objective, which is the prevention of a humanitarian disaster, namely the ruthless slaughter of civilians in rebel territories.  That is a conceivably attainable objective, but commits coalition forces to enforcing a no-fly zone (and possibly other actions) indefinitely, thus violating the "exit strategy" criterion, and arguably the criteria about decisive force and quick resolution.

Assume what some believe is the unstated objective, that Bushian, Rumsfeldian expression, "regime change".  It should be obvious that decisive force is not currently deployed (and may not even be available).  It may or may not turn into "Iraq II" in that scenario, but a prolonged engagement with ambiguous results cannot be entirely discounted.

I don't think Powell's analysis is the be-all-end-all of military decision making, but it's interesting to me that this engagement seems to casually violate so many criticisms that Obama and others made of the Bush administration not too long ago.

I'm not saying this mission is doomed, just that it's poorly planned and poorly articulated. I can imagine a happy scenario where the coalition arms the rebels while providing a full range of air support functions, eventually leading to the overthrow of Qaddafi. But a lot of puzzle pieces need to come together for that to happen, and that's certainly not what's being sold to the American public right now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roundup: DCGOP shot at, MI muni bk law, TPaw vid, federal junk cleaning

(1) Somebody shot out the windows at the DC Republican headquarters.  Probably some tea-party nutter...

(2) The new shape of municipal bankruptcy? Michigan considers "financial martial law" bill. (Maybe the folks in Harrisburg should be looking at this.)

(3) Pawlenty has a new video where he criticizes "crony capitalism". Yes, more of this please. Less Michael Bay.

(4) Dems think twitter will save them.  No.

(5) Apparently there's $823k in the stimulus to pay for people to teach uncircumcised African men how to wash their genitals after having sex. How stimulating.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Roundup: Newt ♥s Philly, Ethanol, MinWage, Casey Cowboy Poetry, etc

(1) When Newt announces for President, he's expected to do it in Philly.

(2) Is isobutanol a good bio-fuel alternative to corn ethanol?  Let's hope so.  If anything is to save us on the green energy front, it will be new technologies, not subsidies for the old and busted ones.  If this isobutanol process is everything it's cracked up to be, it would make the previous holy grail of cellulosic ethanol look rather lame.

(3) From the "cutting off the bottom rung" department ... How bad a policy was the minimum wage increase? It might be responsible for over 40% of the unemployment rise we've seen since 2006.

(4) Let it be known -- Bobby Casey voted to save cowboy poetry festivals.

(5) An anti-appropriations committee?  Long overdue.

(6) Trading in onion futures contracts is illegal.  Who knew?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Funding Both Sides of the Culture War

The Mo-Joe crew (sans a vacationing Joe Scarborough) was flippantly dismissive of the NPR exposé video that got a development exec axed.  In the tape, the NPR executive describes Tea Party folks in racist terms.  Carl Bernstein in particular seems hung up on the culture-war aspect of the NPR battle.

Problem is, conservatives are tired of funding both sides of the culture war.

(video from the Daily Caller, because MSNBC's player is a pain.)

I guess they find the argument so tedious because they presume to have won the culture war, as if "war" was a suitable metaphor.  Did I miss the moment when Larry Flint planted a flag somewhere unmentionable and won the culture war?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Ideology as a Scare Word

Both sides do it, but the left seems to get away with it more often.

A New York Times editorial yesterday called for Democrats to hold firm against the "reckless" budget cuts called for by Republicans, then blaming a subsequent government shutdown on those same Republicans.  Here's how the NYT described the programs under the GOP first swath:
But this is not a moment for another difference-splitting deal. The House wants to carve $61 billion out of the government for just the next seven months, which would throw hundreds of thousands of people out of work and kill off scores of vital functions. Many of them, like funding for health care reform, environmental regulation and Planned Parenthood, are on the Republicans’ ideological hit list. The latest deadline for an agreement is March 18; without one, the government would close. 

Cuts to the unconstitutional Obamacare implementation and pulling in the EPA regulatory power-grab are about creating a pro-growth economic environment where job creation.  The cuts to Planned Parenthood are admittedly ideological, but take the entirely sensible position that, with money being a fungible commodity, an organization that is the biggest abortion provider in the country shouldn't have the support of the US taxpayer.

The NYT's position that government programs are necessary for sustaining our feeble economic recovery are no less ideological than the Republican positions they attack.

"Ideology", and any linguistic derivation thereof, is an essentially meaningless pejorative, carrying even less intellectual force than when certain conservatives label President Obama a socialist.  It is a sophistic hoax to claim everything the NYT wants is logical and pragmatic, while everything championed by the other side is tagged "ideological" -- shorthand for irrational and imprudent.  And it is an especially bold position to take when the Times' philosophy has not produced adequate results, and the electorate has shown quite a few Democrats the door.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bobby Casey as Liberal as Al Franken

National Journal's new legislative ranking has PA Senator Bob Casey Jr. tied with Al Franken (MN) and Tom Udall (NM) as the #15 most liberal Senator based on 2010 votes.

The rankings suggest Casey is more liberal than Dick Durban, John Kerry, and Barbara Boxer.