Monday, December 17, 2007

Biofuels subsidies: Unintended consequences

Are biofuel subsidies REALLY "going green"? Nope.

Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), known for their global warming alarmism at that, argue that American biofuel subsidies are boosting deforestation in the Amazon. How? STRI's staff scientist William Laurance explains the cascade of effects that occur as the result of $11 billion per year in corn subsidies.

The US is the world's leading producer of soy, but many American soy farmers are shifting to corn to qualify for the government subsidies. Since 2006, US corn production rose 19% while soy farming fell by 15%.

The drop-off in US soy has helped to drive a major increase in global soy prices, which have nearly doubled in the last 14 months. In Brazil, the world's second-largest soy producer, high soy prices are having a serious impact on the Amazon rainforest and tropical savannas.

"Amazon fires and forest destruction have spiked over the last several months, especially in the main soy-producing states in Brazil," said Laurance. "Just about everyone there attributes this to rising soy and beef prices."

High soy prices affect the Amazon in several ways. Some forests are cleared for soy farms. Farmers also buy and convert many cattle ranches into soy farms, effectively pushing the ranchers further into the Amazonian frontier. Finally, wealthy soy farmers are lobbying for major new Amazon highways to transport their soybeans to market, and this is increasing access to forests for loggers and land speculators.

Remember the First Law of Ecology is "everything is connected to everything else." That also applies to market economics.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rumsfeld was right

Forget the liberal media memo that he screwed up and their very reluctant concession that the surge is working. Rumsfeld's "soft footprint" strategy worked.

How did it work? The same way that boxer Muhammad Ali fought his opponents in the past: rope-a-dope.

Defense Secretary Rumfeld’s small-footprint force-protection strategy (to mimimize casualties) meant that Al Qaeda In Iraq couldn’t attack American troops without getting immediately annihilated.

In order to get the “continuing violence” that their allies in the Western media could use to create American defeat on the home front, the Saudi and Iranian proxy warriors in Iraq had no choice but to wage war on the Iraqi people.
The enemy understood the risks: that playing for a "Tet Offensive Revisited" media victory would cost them the war on the ground. This is clear in the letter that al Qaeda #2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, wrote to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the Fall of 2005:

"The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. (In) Other word(s), the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.

This direction has large positive effects; however, being preoccupied with it alone delays more important operations such as taking control of some areas, … That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad."
[From the CENTCOM translation of Zawahiri's letter, May 2006, not identified as coming from Zawahiri, but containing much language in common with the captured Zawahiri letter that was released to the public in October 2005]
And so it was settled. Al Qaeda’s would attack Iraqis, creating media events that the Western media could use to try to lose the war at home. It was understood that this strategy would turn the Iraqis against al Qaeda, losing the war on the ground, but maybe not before the Democrats and their media allies managed to lose the war in America. It would be a race: could the Democrat/ al Qaeda alliance create defeat in America before the American military would win the war in Iraq?
Now it is true that General Petraeus has changed the strategy. But Petraeus' new more aggressive strategy not only puts our troops at greater risk, it also relies upon Rumsfeld's timing:

This has been par for the course for four years. The media knows as well as al Qaeda that this is a race, and it looks now that the race has been won by our military, thanks to the switch to a more aggressive finishing strategy orchestrated by General Petraeus. What has allowed the “surge” strategy to succeed so spectacularly is the Iraqi people’s almost unanimous hatred for al Qaeda, created by the Democrat/ al Qaeda media strategy of blowing up Iraqis. This turn against al Qaeda was fully formed during Rumsfeld’s tenure. To make use of that hatred, all Petraeus had to do was switch from force protection to population protection. Protected from retaliation, Iraqis expressed their hatred of al Qaeda by pointing to the bad guys.
Should we have used the Petraeus strategy from the outset? That’s a little like seeing Ali come off the ropes in the 8th round to "KO" Foreman and thinking: “hey, he should have done that in round one.” Petraeus’ “clear, hold and build” strategy might have worked earlier, but it also might have altered al Qaeda’s strategy. If our troops had been more exposed, al Qaeda might have concentrated more on military targets and less on the Iraqi population, which was the key decision that determined everything. Induce al Qaeda to make a different decision, and who knows how things might have turned out?
Thanks to Alec Rawls at Error Theory.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The appeal of Ron Paul

How can such a wacky man, whose foreign policy is pigheaded isolationism at best, be so appealing? Because on domestic issues, he gets it. Kim Strassel explains.

It helps, too, if voters know you mean it. In nearly 20 years in the House, Mr. Paul can boast he never voted for a tax hike. Nicknamed "Dr. No," he spent much of the time Republicans held a majority voting against his own party, on the grounds that the legislation his colleagues were trying to pass--Sarbanes-Oxley, new auto mileage standards, a ban on Internet gambling--wasn't expressly authorized by the Constitution. He returns a portion of his annual congressional budget to the U.S. Treasury--on principle.

On the stump, Mr. Paul whips up crowds with his libertarian talk of "less taxation, less regulation, a better economic system." While Mitt Romney explains his support of No Child Left Behind, Mr. Paul gets standing ovations by promising to eliminate the Department of Education. Rudy Giuliani toys with reducing marginal rates; Mr. Paul gets whoops with his dream to ax the income tax (and by extension the IRS). Mike Huckabee lectures on the need for more government-subsidized clean energy; Mr. Paul brings cheers with his motto that environmental problems are best solved with stronger property rights. His rhetoric is based on first principles--carefully connecting his policies to the goals of liberty and freedom--and it fires up the base.
Compassionate conservatism" was a smart move on George W. Bush's part, maybe even necessary to win. The GOP was dogged by a reputation as the heartless party, amplified by the 1995 government shutdown and the clunky Dole campaign. And it had learned from the success of welfare reform that message matters. Many Republican voters believed Mr. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was just that: a way of selling conservative reforms. Tax cuts would help the working poor. Vouchers would help minority kids. Charities would fare better getting people off drugs than government bureaucrats.

Mr. Bush got his tax cuts, but voters found out too late that he was no small-government believer. School vouchers were traded away for more education dollars. A new Medicare drug entitlement has added trillions to the burden on future taxpayers. Government-directed energy policy is larded with handouts to political patrons in the corn and ethanol lobbies. A lack of budget discipline encouraged a Republican Congress to go spend-crazy, stuffing bills with porky earmarks. Much of this was simply a Republican majority that had lost its way. But at least some of it was promoted by Bush advisers who specifically argued that "compassionate conservatism" was in fact a license to embrace Big Government--so long as Big Government was promoting Republican.
As for me, I look at libertarian economics and cheer. I look at their constitutional emphasis and cheer. I look at their "anything goes" policies on drugs and sex, and I wince a bit, because the real world doesn't work that way. I look at their foreign policy and recoil in horror, because the real world *definitely* doesn't work that way.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Al Qaeda in Iraq -- The NYT still can't admit it

From a New York Times Baghdad report:

Three days ago, a prominent Sunni extremist, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, called for an escalation of attacks against local residents who aligned themselves with American forces.

Mr. Baghdadi is the purported leader of the Islamic State in Iraq, a militant group linked with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign led.
Cliff May, a former Times reporter, notes at National Review Online that the NYT just can't stop its weasel wording:

Maj. Gen Kevin Bergner has repeatedly said that--based on intelligence obtained from the captured al-Qaeda leader Khalid al-Mashhadani--it is clear that Omar al-Baghdadi is only "the fictional head" of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a character played by an "actor . . . they use another individual to be his voice."

Why does al-Qaeda do that? Bergner says: "To put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al-Qaeda" in Iraq. Bergner adds: 'The Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al Qaeda in Iraq . . ."

Here’s the kicker: It appears the fictional character of Omar al-Baghdadi was created by the al-Qaeada leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Know what al-Masri means? It means “the Egyptian.”

It’s hard to believe that Times editors are ignorant of all this. More plausibly, like many opponents of the war, the Times is invested in the narrative that the U.S. is a foreign occupier being fought by an indigenous Iraqi resistance movement. Evidence
contrary to that narrative is not fit to print.
Of course, the New York Times has decreed, as a matter of editorial style, that al Qaeda in Iraq--which it insists on calling "al Qaeda in Mesopotamia"--is a "homegrown" Iraqi group that has nothing to do with al Qaeda, which has nothing to do with Iraq, uh, Mesopotamia.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bah, Humbug! The Growing War Against Christmas

Have you noticed how a growing number of businesses no longer say "Merry Christmas" on the phone or in their stores?

Have you seen how stores are celebrating "Happy Holidays," not "Merry Christmas" in their advertising and store displays?

They want money for the Christmas celebration but intend to deny even the existence of Christmas.

I've noticed that the vast majority of Jews and other non-Christians have no problem hearing "Merry Christmas" from someone, or even saying it themselves. After all, it is meant in a spirit of good cheer and best wishes.

Only a handful of politically commiecrat liberal activists and liberal media elite have a problem with it.

Many retailers have sadly caved into this liberal commiecrat assault on Christmas.

Perhaps they just need to be told by the good guys to buck up and not listen to the Scrooges of the Left.

Dr. James Dobson has put together a list of stores and their policies about calling a spade a spade and declaring Christmas "Christmas", or not.

In your own daily life:

1. Say it: Say "Merry Christmas". And if someone says "Happy Holidays," reply with joy "Merry Christmas." Don't lose an opportunity. (If they wish you a Happy Chanukah in response, thank them, smile and give the thumbs up. I like Jews with pluck).

2. Your cards: Make sure your Christmas cards don't say "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" like the leftist Political Thought Police want. Proclaim Christmas in Christ-centered cards, even if you are not particularly religious, just to piss off the Left.

3. Christmas Purchases: Avoid shopping at stores that fail to say Christmas in their ads or in the stores. Feel free to let the manager know, it can help change the policy.

Finally, here's a spoof on anti-Christmas—you'll like it. Click here for Happy Ramahanukwanzmas.