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Archive for July, 2008

(RWN) – McCain wants to start the surge too early, Wesley Clark gets his facts wrong and also claims the Saudis had a hand in calming the violence – the surge has become a bit of a political football in this not yet official presidential contest.

So let’s discuss this as rationally as possible. Yes, the Anbar Awakening had some effect on calming the violence – in Anbar. That’s 1 of 18 provinces and it was something which was growing within Anbar as we began surging our troops. But it hadn’t grown anywhere else at that time. Read Michael Yon about that awakening. I remember talking with him during an interview on WRKO’s Pundit Review Radio and while he thought, at the time, that it was a great thing, it still was quite small and the violence in Iraq still very high.

I remember talking to MG Rick Lynch (Commanding General of the 3rd ID) not long after the surge’s second phase had begun. The most memorable thing he said was that when he and his troops pushed into an area or neighborhood and contacted the local authorities, the first thing they asked, without exception, is “are you going to stay?”

Once answered in the affirmative, he said the local intelligence and cooperation multiplied exponentially. That is how the “awakening” spread.

A good example of that is Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala province (NE of Baghdad). It was a place almost untouched by US forces and a mixed area of sunni, shia and kurds. The entire town was wired to explode. Yet, and this again comes from Yon, our forces carefully took the town, drove out AQ and convinced the insurgents (the 1920 Brigade) that it was in their best interest to join the side of the US and Iraqi Government.

I remember an incident talked about by Michael Yon where one of the leaders of the 1920s Brigades told the US leader there that all they wanted was the US to leave. The US leader told the insurgent leader that he and his soldiers wanted nothing more than to do exactly that. Yon says it then dawned on the insurgent leader that cooperation was the best way to accomplish that. Also understood by this insurgent leader is we weren’t going to go away and try as he might, he wasn’t going to be able to drive us off.

You don’t know how key that is to the success we’ve begun to enjoy in Iraq.

Al Sadr, somewhere in this time frame, also agreed to a stand down of his Mahdi army. Some would like to attribute that to graciousness on the part of al Sadr. But as we’ve seen subsequently, when he did let them loose, it was a tactical decision driven by the fact that he wasn’t ready and didn’t have the assets he needed to directly confront the US. And he also figured that we might instead withdraw.
He was no more ready for the surge of troops than was AQI. Consequently he played the “patriot” by withholding his militia officially while the militia’s “special groups” continued to attack us. Would his militia’s presence have complicated the surge? Of course. But as we’ve seen since, it was a very ragtag lot which were pretty easily defeated in both Basra and Baghdad.

All of this to say the intent of the Democrats is to play down the significance of the surge. They want you to believe that the Anbar awakening was well established and spreading like wildfire and that once al Sadr stood down his militia, that surge, in essence, was unnecessary.

Clark even goes so far as to claim no troops were surged into Anbar. That’s flat wrong. 2 additional Marine battalions were surged into that place because it was still hot.

Had the surge not taken place it is entirely possible that the Anbar Awakening would never have spread outside that province. That’s because Baquba was the new “capital” of AQI and would have remained as such. Given the tactics of AQI, there is little doubt a concerted effort would have been made by them to decapitate the awakening leadership in Anbar as a lesson. Had the surge not taken place, the outlying rings of Baghdad would have continued to see car and truck bombs built at will and used in the capital to continue to fan the flames of sectarian violence. AQI forces would have remained positioned to continue to attack, kill, destroy and encourage more violence. Had the surge not taken place, al Sadr would have had no reason to stand down or restrain his militia.

And this talk, as I’ve heard from Obama, that the surge was about “tactics” is a load of dung as well. The surge was an integral part of a change in strategy. To ignore the fact that we switched our strategy to counterinsurgency warfare is to demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about the operation.

When all is said and done, yes, the awakening was an important development and the stand down of the Mahdi army helped delay an inevitable confrontation (since resolved, btw) and made the surge less complicated, but the fact remains that the major reason that Iraq is in the shape it is today is the surge.

The surge insured and helped spread the Anbar Awakening. The fact that we promised to stay made it easy for tribal leaders in other provinces to cooperate with us. The fact that we surged 30,000 troops into Iraq made it pretty much a no-brainer, in a tactical sense, for al Sadr to stand his motley crew down. And while we’re at it, it also allowed the time necessary to continue the training of the ISF to the point that they were recently able to mount successful major operations in Basra and more recently, Baghdad’s Sadr City.

So don’t let the Democrats rewrite history on this one. They were wrong about opposing it and that is what they’re trying so hard to duck. When all is said and done, it was the decision to change strategy and surge troops into Iraq to implement that strategy which played the major role in defeating AQI, turning the rest of the insurgents into allies and driving the Mahdi army off the battlefield, at least temporarily (and later permanently).

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Here’s a surprise: According to Rasmussen, only 49% of voters admit having noticed that the media is trying to install Barack Obama in the White House. It must be summertime; no one is paying attention to the news. But this percentage is sure to go up in light of the MSM’s flagship newspaper, the New York Times, refusing to publish a McCain rebuttal to an editorial supposedly written by Obama.

Another surprise: 24% are so out of touch, they believe that most reporters will attempt to offer unbiased coverage. This is the same percentage that has a favorable opinion of the New York Times. Apparently a quarter of the population has already been assimilated.

At the furthest reaches of the lunatic fringe, 14% think the media will help McCain. That’s probably half the number who think Dick Cheney blew up the World Trade Center.

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Yes, fellow citizens, that well-regarded institution, Congress, is trying to see if they can further add to your woes while trying to do a little “revenue raising”:

[Rep. James] Oberstar, D-Minn., said his committee [House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee] is working on the next long-term highway bill. He estimated it will take between $450 billion and $500 billion over six years to address safety and congestion issues with highways, bridges and transit systems.

“We’ll put all things on the table,” Oberstar said, but the gas tax “is the cornerstone. Nothing else will work without the underpinning of the higher user fee gas tax.”
At the very least, the gas tax should be indexed to construction cost inflation,[Rep. Peter] DeFazio [D-Ore] said.

Indexed to construction cost inflation? Yeah, that’s the ticket – then you never have to go back and pass an increase, do you?

PAYGO? Seems to be a “nogo”. I would guess no spending cuts are imagined or anticipated.

And, of course, no outside groups are involved in crafting the legislation or suggesting this increase, are there guys?

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association is calling for a 10-cent-a-gallon raise and indexing the tax to inflation. With construction costs soaring because of competition for building materials from China and other developing nations, the tax rate would have to be about 29 cents a gallon to achieve the same purchasing power as the 18.4-cent rate imposed in 1993, the association says.

Of course, as if that’s not bad enough, that’s certainly not all that’s “on the table” for next year’s bill (in anticipation of a Democratic president):

Other ideas that will be on the table when lawmakers write a bill next year including more toll roads and public-private partnerships, congestion pricing and user fees where drivers pay a tax based on how many miles they drive.

But, uh, you know, they’re not really going to raise your taxes or anything if they get a Democrat in the White House.

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Well, make that two quotes.

A very accurate analogy regarding the Democrats’ energy plan:

Conservation, efficiency and using oil we hold in reserve for emergencies does not get us more energy. It’s as if we were running out of food and the Democrats were telling us: “Just eat a little less every day.” Great! We’ll die a little more slowly. That’s not what we call a “plan.” We need more energy, not a plan for a slower death.

-Ann Coulter

A profound insight into the real motives of most politicians (particularly liberal):

One of the most naive notions is that politicians are trying to solve the country’s problems, just because they say so — or say so loudly or inspiringly.Politicians’ top priority is to solve their own problem, which is how to get elected and then re-elected. Barack Obama is a politician through and through, even though pretending that he is not is his special strategy to get elected.

-Thomas Sowell

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, or as she is called on the Big Dogs blog, “the worst speaker in the history of Congress,” explained the cause of high oil prices back in 2006: “We have two oilmen in the White House. The logical follow-up from that is $3-a-gallon gasoline. It is no accident. It is a cause and effect. A cause and effect.”

Yes, that would explain why the price of oral sex, cigars and Hustler magazine skyrocketed during the Clinton years. Also, I note that Speaker Pelosi is a hotelier … and the price of a hotel room in New York is $1,000 a night! I think she might be onto something.

Is that why a barrel of oil costs mere pennies in all those other countries in the world that are not run by “oilmen”? Wait — it doesn’t cost pennies to them? That’s weird.

In response to the 2003 blackout throughout the Northeast U.S. and parts of Canada, Pelosi blamed: “President Bush and Rep. Tom DeLay’s oil-company interests.” The blackout was a failure of humans operating electric power; it had nothing to do with oil. And I’m not even “an oilman.”

But yes — good point: What a disaster having people in government who haven’t spent their entire lives in politics! That explains everything. A government official with relevant experience or knowledge about an issue is obviously a crisis of gargantuan proportions.

This must be why the Democrats are nominating B. Hussein Obama, who finished middle school three days ago and has less experience than a person one might choose at random from the audience of “American Idol.”

Announcing the Democrats’ bold new “plan” on energy last week, Pelosi said breaking into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve “is one alternative.” That’s not an energy plan. It’s using what we already have — much like “conservation,” which is also part of the Democrats’ plan.

Conservation, efficiency and using oil we hold in reserve for emergencies does not get us more energy. It’s as if we were running out of food and the Democrats were telling us: “Just eat a little less every day.” Great! We’ll die a little more slowly. That’s not what we call a “plan.” We need more energy, not a plan for a slower death.

But there’s more! Pelosi announced that the Democrats also plan to push for “an historic investment in biofuels, efficiency, conservation and the rest.” The “rest” is apparently what she called our “important and essential” investment in alternative energy.

That certainly would be historic: We would make history by throwing our money away on unproven energy boondoggles that have eaten up untold billions since the 1960s without producing a single net kilowatt of power while we all starve to death.

The proposal to use energy sources that don’t yet produce any energy is like the old New Yorker cartoon with Obama in Muslim garb — no wait, that was a different cartoon. The cartoon is: A scientist has written out his extremely complicated theory on a blackboard and is showing it to another scientist. The theory consists of numbers and characters and takes up the entire blackboard. About two-thirds of the way across, reading left to right, appear the words, “then a miracle happens,” followed by more numbers and characters.

That’s the Democrats’ plan to run cars on biofuels, solar and wind power: Then a miracle happens. The current Democratic mantra on energy is: “We can’t drill our way out of this problem.” Apparently their plan is to talk our way out of this problem.

Democrats are also alleging that the oil companies are sitting on millions of acres of oil but are refusing to drill — presumably because oil company executives hate the American people and perversely don’t want to make money. Manifestly, those acres are being explored for oil or have already come up dry.

If the Democrats really wanted oil companies to find more oil, they’d allow oil companies to drill offshore and to drill in ANWR, which we happen to know is bursting with oil.

But they don’t. They don’t want drilling. They don’t want more oil. They want humans to ride bicycles and then to die. We deserve it: We were mean to the polar bears.

It’s good to know that in the middle of a crisis, the Democrats are still liars. As long as we’re fantasizing about “alternative” energy sources, what we really need is a car that runs on Democrats’ lies.

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Finally, something I’ve been hoping to see, and something which helps restore my faith in real science:

The American Physical Society, an organization representing nearly 50,000 physicists, has reversed its stance on climate change and is now proclaiming that many of its members disbelieve in human-induced global warming. The APS is also sponsoring public debate on the validity of global warming science. The leadership of the society had previously called the evidence for global warming “incontrovertible.”

In a posting to the APS forum, editor Jeffrey Marque explains, “There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution.”

As noted, they’re sponsoring a public debate, which I would love to hear and see. Wonder if Al “The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk” Gore will get an invitation? Wonder if Al Gore would show up if he did (and shouldn’t he give his Nobel back)?

The APS is opening its debate with the publication of a paper by Lord Monckton of Brenchley, which concludes that climate sensitivity — the rate of temperature change a given amount of greenhouse gas will cause — has been grossly overstated by IPCC modeling. A low sensitivity implies additional atmospheric CO2 will have little effect on global climate.

Larry Gould, Professor of Physics at the University of Hartford and Chairman of the New England Section of the APS, called Monckton’s paper an “expose of the IPCC that details numerous exaggerations and “extensive errors”

In an email to DailyTech, Monckton says, “I was dismayed to discover that the IPCC’s 2001 and 2007 reports did not devote chapters to the central ‘climate sensitivity’ question, and did not explain in proper, systematic detail the methods by which they evaluated it. When I began to investigate, it seemed that the IPCC was deliberately concealing and obscuring its method.”

According to Monckton, there is substantial support for his results, “in the peer-reviewed literature, most articles on climate sensitivity conclude, as I have done, that climate sensitivity must be harmlessly low.”

The culprit, per Monckton? Old Sol:

Monckton, who was the science advisor to Britain’s Thatcher administration, says natural variability is the cause of most of the Earth’s recent warming. “In the past 70 years the Sun was more active than at almost any other time in the past 11,400 years … Mars, Jupiter, Neptune’s largest moon, and Pluto warmed at the same time as Earth.”

And here is a rocket scientist from Australia who has also decided that CO2 and AGW are no longer the culprit.

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

Read the whole thing, but the second reason he presents pretty flatly says it all:

2. There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None. There is plenty of evidence that global warming has occurred, and theory suggests that carbon emissions should raise temperatures (though by how much is hotly disputed) but there are no observations by anyone that implicate carbon emissions as a significant cause of the recent global warming.

The ripple caused by a few “heretics” a couple of years agon is turning into a tsunami against the costly fraud of CO2 induced AGW.

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Cost of propping up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pegged as high as $25b, part of housing rescue.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cost taxpayers $25 billion, congressional budget experts said Tuesday, as lawmakers put finishing touches on legislation that would tap the troubled mortgage giants’ profits to help save homeowners from foreclosure.

A costly rescue is just a worry, not a fact at this point. Peter R. Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, predicted in a letter to lawmakers that there’s a better than even chance the government will not have to step in to prop up the companies by lending them money or buying stock.

But Congress is expected to vote as early as Wednesday on a housing measure that would give the Treasury Department authority to throw Fannie and Freddie a temporary lifeline.

It’s part of a plan to let hundreds of thousands of strapped homeowners refinance into more affordable, government-backed loans at fixed rates rather than losing their homes. Defying President Bush, the bill would send $4 billion to neighborhoods hit hardest by the housing crisis — something that has prompted the White House to threaten a veto.

Taking advantage of the momentum behind the election-year housing package at a time when economic woes top voters’ concerns, Democratic leaders planned to include a separate measure to increase the statutory limit on the national debt by $800 billion, to $10.6 trillion.

The housing bill also would create a new regulator and tighter controls on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that own or guarantee $5 trillion in U.S. mortgages — almost half the nation’s total.

And it would create a new affordable housing fund, which would be drawn from the firms’ profits and cover any losses from the foreclosure rescue plan.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson has been pressing to add to the bill temporary power for the government to offer unlimited sums to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a backup plan he says is intended to help calm investors and stabilize financial markets. The firms’ stocks have plummeted on fears about their financial stability in a chaotic housing market where falling home values and rising defaults have contributed to large losses at the companies.

Orszag said it’s most likely that the companies will remain afloat and the government won’t have to put up any money, but there’s a very small possibility that Treasury will have to step in to help cover losses at Fannie and Freddie topping $100 billion. The $25 billion estimate reflects his office’s best guess of how big a federal infusion would be needed.

“This is like two months in Iraq for something that involves, literally, market stability and (calms) global jitters,” said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., the Banking Committee chairman. Dodd said he hoped the legislation would clear Congress by the end of the week.

With financial markets now assuming the measure will be approved, Orszag suggested the cost of inaction could be steep, too.

“It is arguable that if it were not enacted at this point, that the consequences could be quite severe,” he told reporters.

Paulson said in a New York speech Tuesday that Congress needs to quickly approve the Fannie and Freddie support package to make sure they maintain their critically important role in housing finance. He said their operations were “central to the speed with which we emerge from this housing correction.”

“Because of their size and scope, Fannie and Freddie’s stability is critical to financial market stability,” Paulson told an audience at the New York Public Library. “Investors in our nation and around the world need to know that we understand how important these institutions are to our capital markets broadly and to the U.S. economy.”

Later, at the Capitol, he used a weekly closed-door party lunch to try to sell the plan to Senate Republicans.

Paulson told the group that by showing a clear willingness to back up Fannie and Freddie, Congress actually would help ensure that no federal rescue would be needed.

“If you go in strong, it’s less likely that you’re going to have to use the strength,” Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said after the session.

However, Senate critics have charged that the open-ended offer of support exposes taxpayers to billions of dollars of losses.

Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., told reporters that Paulson was trying to “ram down” his proposal to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That, said Bunning, “smacks of socialism.”

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said the companies should be privatized as part of any plan to rescue them.

“If Congress is forced to bail out Fannie and Freddie, I believe that we must take all the necessary steps to protect taxpayers” from a future collapse, he said.

However, many lawmakers in both parties regard a lifeline for the companies as vital to restoring investor confidence and market stability.

“Freddie and Fannie are important mainstays in the American economy, and we need to find solid footing for these enterprises before the economy can recover, right itself and get back on track,” said Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the top Budget Committee Republican.

The $25 billion cost estimate “will pale in comparison to our long-term costs if we do not address this problem now, and so I fully support (Paulson’s) authority to provide funding for these institutions if it comes to that,” Gregg said.

Still, the measure faces delaying tactics from foes who oppose tying it to the broader housing package, particularly the $4 billion in neighborhood grants.

Paulson “may want this bailout so bad that he may give in to that,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. But Democrats “will use this as an excuse to pass some bad policy, and whether or not the president holds the line is the question right now.”

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