Bosnia vs. Serbia, round three

For those of you who were in the comments earlier, I found time to get the war crimes post up on Publius Pundit.

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Cat in Germany gets bird flu.

From Yahoo News.

Not inherently troubling on the surface, the problem is that since it’s more difficult to track pets, this opens up a serious question:

Will we have any warning if and when the nightmare scenario occurs, and the virus obtains the ability to jump mammal-to-mammal?

Palestinians bite hand that feeds it, suffer consequences

Gee, all this time, who knew that the only reason Palestine could even pretend to statehood was because the Israelis were paying for it?

I don’t know about some folks, but I’m guessing that “tax transfers” sounds an awful lot like “tribute,” and am having some fairly serious problems mustering the requisite sympathy. Not that I really give a crap about the Israelis, a bunch of perfidious bastards who sell our miltech out to China (the actual real government most likely to shoot us with it) whenever our back’s turned.

But what part of a traditional society, in which the woman are largely not working, has 25% of its population on government “salary?” I’ll tell you what kind of a traditional society… a dead one. You’re talking about a society that is, in effect, one giant infant at the welfare tit.

If the Palestinians want to be a nation, they can build an economy, just like everybody else. And if they want to put into power a bunch of folks who think that war with the only neighbor of theirs willing to make more than token statements on their behalf — that’s right, folks, even the Saudis are pleding chump-change compared to what the Israelis are about to cut off — then they can discover that the greatest freedom, as Terry Pratchett says, is the freedom “to suffer the consequences.”

(And before the peanut gallery pops up with a chorus of “Mexico!,” I’d like to remind everybody that we’re getting back a bunch of people in exchange, so that’s not an apple-to-apple comparison…)

Iran steadily unveiling its North Korean future?

Rooz Online chronicles the continuing brilliant strategy of economic power that is Iran. This time, the propaganda machines are saying that about half the business execs in the country are anti-revolution.

Ahmadinejad’s political strategies never have seemed to have found a class enemy they didn’t like, so the notion that corrupt figures within the mullahcracy would be replaced with loyal Passdaran and Basij members is no giant intellectual leap. Not, of course, that this is going to do anything to improve the condition of the stock market or keep the business community from pulling a Caracas and effectively becoming invisible as it hides from the State. At this rate, as Rooz suggests, it’s going to get to where actually making a profit is criminal.

At which point, one wonders… what will Iran do?
Yes, cause trouble. Duh. No kidding, Spanky. But the Iranian regime’s ability to act abroad is directly linked to its legates. It has no meaningful legions it can send marching, and the government doesn’t trust half its military in the first place. Iran’s influence, in short, is primarily due to its financial muscle.

Oil money or no oil money, if the regime keeps killing the goose that lays the golden egg, it’s going to slowly wind up where North Korea is, but without a serious military. At this point, nukes may be all that save it, because it is now in the position of being effectively the sole backer of the Sadrists in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and now Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. If it can’t provide monetary support to those pawns on the board, they become worthless, as geopolitically useless to Iran’s government as Cuba was to the Soviets in the late 1980s.

And yet, by its very nature, the zahak in power cannot reverse gears and actually allow the policies that would give Iran a thriving economic base from which to truly project power… if matters continue along the time-proven trajectory, it will be no surprise if shortages follow, just as Venezuela, (Venezuela!) is now suffering oil shortages.

All of which bodes poorly for the Iranian people so long as they continue to demonstrate that they crave freedom, but are unwilling to fight for it. As was once quoted in Transylvania to explain why the Vlachs would not revolt against Ceaucescu, “oatmeal does not explode.” The regime is relentlessly unpopular, but so far, a bus driver’s strike in Tehran seems as close as the Iranians have managed to come to co-locating a match and a fuse. The Iranians deserve better than the prospect of lingering on in Cuban or North-Korean-style misery, if they will only dare to roll the dice.

National Animal Identification System?

There’s a lot swirling around on this, and it’s worth paying attention to, even if you’re a complete hive dweller without the foggiest idea of the existence of any animal that’s not a cat, dog, or sidewalk pigeon that isn’t plastic-wrapped and sold by the pound in a freezer section.

Here’s the predictably starry-eyed government blurb.

The plan is currently voluntary, but it’s explicitly intended to become a mandatory agriculture regulation, which puts this front-and-center as something that needs to be discussed.

Small farmers are up at arms, because whereas the NIAA members responding to “stakeholder surveys” are big producers like Monsanto and Cargill (you know, the folks who run the ugly feedlot farms spreading disease in the first place?), who would only be required to have a “premises identification system,” small producers would be required to track each and every animal… a bureaucratic nightmare which they say would effectively put them out of business.
Oh. And the big boys don’t have to register their homes with the feds, either.

That’s bad news if you raise animals for any other reason than for mass meat production. If they’re right, you can effectively write off anybody who’s trying to keep endangered or older species alive… and homesteaders (for you hive people, that’s “people who raise their own food”) would certainly face an undue and unreasonable regulatory burden that would have almost no effect in actually stopping animal disease.

Worse than that, it looks, from the NAIS’ own admission, that the folks pushing the program are precisely the ones who would benefit from the mandatory sale of the technology to farmers. This is openly corrupt: not that this should be any surprise, since it is the USDA, after all, but its shamelessness is still galling, even as it has been forced to backpedal from its original idea of maintaining a Big-Brother-like registry of every horse owner and 4H kid in the country.

Luckily, us locals down here in Texas have bitched up a storm, and TAHC is slowing down to take a serious second look about how this sucker gets implemented. Because as the federal version is written now, I have to say that the small-time folks are right: with its emphasis on uniformity whether or not it’s actually appropriate, this is at least as much about control as it is about disease prevention.

Media has lost its mind on Iraq, UAE…

Besides the rampant misinformation and complete demogoguery regarding Dubai ports, as one shell company effectively replaces another, now we wake up this morning to hear the AP furiously getting it wrong on yet another count…

“Iraq on the verge of civil war,” the radio news announcer gleefully notes, with a hint of raspberry-lime “we told you so” clearly audible.

It is? Really? Well, not according to Omar at Iraq the Model… it would seem that any one of the things he’s mentioned might have been discovered by our AP information betters…

1. Sistani has forbidden revenge attacks.
2. Attacks occurring are predictably Sadrist.
3. Talabani pledged to rebuild the shrine out of his own pocket.

And there’s more, not that I’d want to try to steal Omar’s thunder… but you’d think that maybe somebody in the media might have clued into at least one of these things, you know, since they have all these resources devoted to finding out what’s going on and all, and not immediately jumped to conclusions…

But, nope, that would involve reporters and the news actually doing their jobs.
Put one more on the blogosphere’s scoreboard. Unfortunately. (But, good on you, Omar!)

Bush is right on UAE port call.

Congress needs to collectively shut the hell up.
The process by which the Treasury Department negotiates with port management is available to anybody in the federal government, and to any regular person who’s willing to get off his butt and file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.

The port company’s government connections are a non-issue: we do lots of business with corporations with government ownership, and they’ve already agreed to go a step past the voluntary security practices other longshoremen-management firms would have to do.

I’m sorry, but all this uproar over “Arabs will control our ports” boils down to two things:

1. A truly pathetic attempt by the Democrats to finally seize upon some issue in order to try to look “tough on national security.” (It ain’t gonna work.)
2. Outright racism.

Yes, folks, I said racism, and I meant it. Here’s the analogy: going all Chicken Little because “the Arabs will control our ports” is absolutely no different than some old white lady walking around terrified of black men because the latter have a higher violent crime rate.

Yep, that’s it. Sure, the Saudis started The Wahhabi War, and most Wahhabis by historical fact are from the Arab world. Sure, the UAE has occasionally played ball by making calls we didn’t like. They also give us basing rights, etc., and squishing this deal would do immense damage to precisely those parts of the UAE which is most inclined to work with us, while simultaneously empowering those who aren’t.

But none of that matters. This is a call on basic ethics. If you get your panties in a twist engaging in collective judgment on the entire Arab race, because a subset of them happen to be our deadly enemies (and my three regular readers will know that I am not exactly squeamish where it comes to foreign policy), then guess what: you’re making a racist judgment call, and should have the balls to admit it. Congress is wrong. The AM radio geeks are wrong. The newspaper-pundit “chattering classes” are wrong. They’re all wrong, wrong, wrong, and the degree to which they act like they don’t understand President Bush’s position is a reflection on their own moral myopia.

Don’t get me wrong: if you’re a Democrat making legitimate political hay in an election year… go for it. It’s an atrocious foreign-policy call for the sake of scoring a couple of electoral points, almost as bad as Bill Clinton shilling for the Wahhabi assholes and proclaiming on t.v. to Musharraf that the Danish cartoonists should be prosecuted… but atrocious foreign-policy calls are a knee-jerk reflex for the current crop of top-ranked Democrats, and shouldn’t surprise anybody.

There’s a lot about Bush I really don’t like. There’s even more on which I quite frankly think he sucks. This isn’t it. This is why we don’t live in a democracy. The self-righteous mob is dead wrong, and acting reprehensibly. It will be a literal shame on this nation’s honor if political grandstanding and racism are allowed to set a precedent of security-justified economic “reverse dhimmitude” and do permanent damage to our relations with the Arab world.

VERY light blogging this week.

I’m not on vacation, but I’m unusually busy both at work (where I often am in hurry-up-and-wait mode) and at home. I’ll have some stuff here, a new post upon Putin and Polish/Hungarian politics up on Publius soon, as well as at least one shot over to Sciolist hopefully by Friday.

Educational Apartheid

This is just a quick note in support for the Lizard Queen’s entry on education: “Back to Basics.

My buddy and neighbor being a teacher, and me wanting to be, we’ve been discussing this. I’m going through the teacher certification process, and one of the things that has been rammed down our throats, time and time again, with reference to study after study’s empirical support, has been this simple notion:

Effort, more than any other factor, defines a
student’s likelihood of high achievement in school.

We don’t have to belabor this. We all know very bright folks in high school (sorry, there’s an instinct to call them “kids,” but, really, they’re not. They’re psychologically-deranged adolescents who are adult in every sense of the word except for emotional stability and the accumulation of experience-based wisdom. In simpler cultures, these folks are already shouldering an adult’s load, and the fact that they’re sheltered from that in ours is simply a sign of the complexity of our society. Okay, off my personal soap box.) — Likewise, most of us know somebody who isn’t particularly bright, but has “made it” in life to a position significantly cushier than their smarter but lazier colleagues… through dint of simply continuing to do their best, and then to make their best a little better.

If every career educator knows that effort is the number one factor… then why has the Education Establishment been so hot-and-bothered to divide student classes between higher and lower-IQ students and track them into “college bound” and “send them to shop class” academic tracks? If our Establishment wanted all kids to go to college, they’d put everybody in the college-bound track, and throw a greater proportion of their resources into helping folks who were having a hard time staying afloat.

Because what it boils down to now, with or without their parents’ awareness, is that some bureaucrat is defining what minority percentage of the student population gets to escape a second-rate education and take the classes that will actually prepare them for success in the outside world. The rest of them get to hang out with less funding, less-rigorous standards, and usually less-motivated teachers… certainly less hope of getting into a good four-year school for the training they’ll need to make the big money.

Which, btw, isn’t a swipe at trades. We need good tradesman, and many a nose-in-the-air liberal arts graduate student would be reduced to tears by trying to juggle the mental burden involved in a plumber’s typical day. I know, I’ve been there, watching some of my peers laughing down their noses at guys who could fold and spindle them into origami birds simply by talking about how you handle different kinds of concrete. Ya wanna talk concrete? Do you have any idea how much there is to know about conrete? This stuff is hard, and that’s why a skilled tradesman can command such a high hourly rate. But some of these tradesmen will go through their careers never quite finding their places, because they’re kick-ass tradesmen and craftsmen who should have been kick-ass chemists, mechanical engineers, and doctors.

And we need those folks, too. Lots and lots of them. Kids should be getting a schooling that will give them an actual choice in the matter by the time they get to their high-school counselor, rather than being shunted into “oh that’s too hard for them-land” for the sake of some administrator’s convenience.

SOCOM finally to get relaxed ROE?

Article here.

If the guy reading Rumsfeld has both his ears on right (and it seems from his stuff earlier that week that he does), it looks like SOCOM’s finally going to get its hands untied and be able to do more black-team work.

Makes me wonder whether Robert Kaplan’s post-embed briefings and first publication got some attention (since his big theses were by his own admission simply what he was being constantly told by guys at the pointy end), or whether the boys on the Potomac really are starting to get the big picture on their own. Heh.

The sad journey of Arnold Schwarzenegger

He has finally been beaten-down to where the only policy proposal he can think to make and credibly get taxed is to introduce “price increases” on fuels, in order to fund alternative-fuel research.

Yes, that’s right, folks… Mr. Fiscal Responsibility is going to make California more economically competitive by raising gas taxes. He’s going to punish the poor bastard in Oak-town who’s already paying insane gasoline taxes by raising same, in order to make some upper-middle class politically-correct yuppie feel better about the fact that she’s driving a deuce-and-a-half to work on I-80 every morning.

Then he’s going to make every company in the state report their emissions. If an accountant on the fourth floor had bean tacos at lunch, what emissions schedule will that fall under, Governor?

Sure, there are environmental groups out there who are terrified at the thought that the world might possibly get as warm as it was in the fourteenth century, where some areas that are green now were deserts (much of southern Italy, for example). But, on the other hand, they were able to raise crops in Greenland, which is now a frozen hell. I’m not too worried.

But I am worried that the collective legislators of our state with the largest economy (perhaps not for long), can think of nothing better to do with their time, and no problem that might perhaps be more important, than screwing over the minimum-wage single mother whose fast-food job doesn’t lie on a bus route, in order to make a desperate attempt to keep Greenland frozen.

I can see the bumper-stickers now.

KEEP GREENLAND FROZEN!
What do we want? Frozen Greenlanders! When do we want it? Always!

Tax reform… “Hrm, I know! Let’s drive a stake through the heart of the economy!”

And that’s precisely what Senators Wyden and Emanuel propose to do. As unveiled this morning in the WSJ editorial pages, they lay out the rationale for a “Fair Flat Tax.”

Of course, the fair flat tax is neither… taxing 15, 25, and then 35% for individuals, and laying down a flat 35% corporate tax. No capital gains tax! What a miracle! Instead, they’re going to jump the capital gains into the general income category, effectively doubling said tax, and driving a stake through the capital generation process that is the heart of the economy and job-creation.

What are these two morons thinking?

They’re thinking “Our aim is not to soak the rich, but to make the tax system fairer.”

(And we’ll proceed by defining “fairness” not by reducing the middle class’ taxes, but by soaking the rich! Yes, senators, you’re right, there’s something unfair about a cop making 70k being taxed at 25%, while some CEO is taxed at 15% on his capital gains… assuming we’re all sufficiently stupid to buy into this argument and assume the CEO gets no actual salary, the *fair* solution would be to chop the cop’s tax rate, not double the CEO’s!)

And they’re thinking “wealth and income should be treated equally,” according to what they wrote in the WSJ… so, wealth should be taxable? Not content with having paid taxes on income once, should wealth now be the standard of taxation?

Some folks just popping by may protest that I’m just beating up on these guys because they’re Democrats. Not so. I’ve got high hopes for Bredeson and others in the Democratic Party, who stand a chance of actually rescuing the party from the gutless, whinging, politically-correct cult-of-Marxism theocrats who have owned the party for the last twenty years. And I hope that they put the continued electoral hopes of morons like this in the trash can, where they deserve to lie until future historians read their writing with as much of a bemused chuckle as folks get when they look at early models of the solar system.

The proposed legislation is fundamentally ignorant, based on leftover, badly-reheated class warfare rhetoric, and, fortunately, is absolutely, utterly, dead on arrival. For which any of us in the actual middle class — a.k.a, who aren’t civil servants — and whose jobs therefore actually depend upon Economics 101, should be grateful.

Somebody should take both these two senators to the woodshed, and keep them there until they can plot a supply-demand curve.

Arguments for Islamist Governments

In this editorial, the Telegraph comes close. No banana, but close:

Unlike Hamas and Hizbollah, the Brotherhood does not have a military wing.
Having renounced violence as a means of gaining political power, it should be
allowed a fair crack at the presidency at the end of Mr Mubarak’s fifth term in
2011.

Actually, if Churchill is correct about honesty being the best policy, and I believe he is, then the best possible thing that could happen would be for everybody to simply get out of the way and allow Egypt and any other place that wants to be run by Islamists…. to be run by Islamists. I’m sure that my argument has detractors, but here are some quick defenses.

The Competency Defense
Hamas, et al, are fundamentally unsuited to government, and thus the death-fetish “caliphates” of the extremists will be exposed for the adolescent comic-book delusions that they are. Hezbollah’s third-rate fascist government can barely keep an economy afloat, and Hamas can’t even figure out whether it can form a government, let alone do anything with it.

The Consistency Defense
It’s hypocritical to say that “the people should govern, but only if we like what the people have to say.” If we stand for freedom, we should stand for freedom. Point-blank.

The Transparency Defense
It’s also good to know who your friends and enemies are, so that you are able to act with moral clarity.

The Civilisation Defense
It’s said that Islam is incompatible with modernity. Thus far, no openly Islamist government has been able to pull it off… though Morocco is making strides, and big ones, in that direction. If Islamists think they can create a superior society according to those mores, they should be allowed the chance to prove their case.

Seriously, it remains to be seen to what extent a popularly-supported, relatively clean Islamist government — in stark contrast to the utterly corrupt mullahcracy in Iran, or the toadlike House of Saud — could produce a superior civilisation than, say, the “secularism = crushing religion” postmodern euro-states, which are militarily helpless and a half-step away from demographic collapse.

Similarly, would such a society be more efficient and thus able to outcompete the Russian Lakedaimonian Despotism (hat tip: Andrew Blair), or the traditional Mandarin Fascism in China?

We’ll never know, and neither will they, unless they’re given that chance.

The Political Evolution Defense
Once in power, the Islamists have to either root out corruption and fix potholes in the streets, or else:
1. Sink into globally-irrelevant miasma
2. Prop up the regime with foreign adventurism (with historically predictable results)
3. Be replaced by popular dissatisfaction
All of these work out to our advantage in the long term, since properly-running governments with a free citizenry are more efficient, and can easily outcompete despotisms. In fact, 1 tends to lead to 2, which tends to utterly fail, leading to 3… which tends to result in proper popular governance.

The Humility Defense
As an American, I want to see the world in peace and freedom. Under no circumstances do I want this country to try to run the world or preach at it. If the muslim world will collectively get over its death fetish and actually decide to stop murdering all their non-Islamic neighbors… what do I care how they order their societies?

Claude Salhani: misunderstanding geopolitics

In this post on SpaceWar, Salhani posits that our options vis-a-vis our opponents in the Syrian and Iranian regimes are limited, and that we even need to continue giving aid to the Palestinians, rather than force them into Iran’s camp.

Now, maybe it’s b/c I’m fighting the last of a fever and my brain hurts, but it seems to me that Salhani doesn’t get it. We want Hamas to be utterly dependent upon the mullahcracy, for several different reasons:

1. It increases the overall financial pressure on the mullahs.
2. It increases Saudi concern that the mullahs’ version of Islamism will gain influence, rather than their own product, based on the Wahhabi model, and potentially dries up some Saudi funding where they’re buying influence elsewhere. After all, it’s no surprise that the International Food Bazaar here in Irving (where I used to be a customer) started selling anti-semitic hate literature as soon as the local mosque was completed.
3. By centralising financial support, it makes it all the easier to pull the rug out from underneath the mullahs’ legates and janissaries when, rather than de-fanging the snake by taking them on one at a time, we de-snake the fang by freeing the Iranians from the mullahcracy.
4. Transparency, transparency, transparency. Whereas the Saudis are schizophrenic, giving us significant help behind the scenes while simultaneously enforcing an ideology so vicious that their own citizens flee the muttawa on sight, with Hezbollah and increasingly with Hamas, there is simply no doubt. Since the US prefers to solve its problem with a combination of stilettos and nine-pound sledgehammers, any increase in transparency is to our advantage.

But, I could be delirious… wheee…..

Russia and Hamas: it ain’t about Hamas…

As usual, A Step at a Time has one of the best quick analyses I’ve read on this. There’s nothing hard and fast, but it has the unmistakable “ring of truth.”

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