Monday, September 1, 2008

Generally Speaking

The General’s Dilemma

David Petraeus, the pressures of politics, and the road out of Iraq.
by Steve Coll
See Article Here

Victory in Anbar (Wall Street Journal)
Two years ago, on September 11, 2006, the Washington Post stirred an election-year uproar with this chilling dispatch:

"The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there . . ."

But there was something we could do: Pursue a different counterinsurgency strategy and commit more troops. And on Monday, U.S. forces formally handed control of a now largely peaceful Anbar to the Iraqi military. "We are in the last 10 yards of this terrible fight. The goal is very near," said Major-General John Kelly, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, in a ceremony with U.S., Iraqi and tribal officials. Very few in the American media even noticed this remarkable victory. MORE

'Stop! Or We'll Say Stop Again!'


Hitching a ride on the dorsal fin of the ocean's most feared predator - the great white shark - doesn't normally come with a return ticket. But Michael Rutzen regularly swims and even claims to socialise with sharks who view him not as a convenient takeaway meal but as a fellow ocean traveller.

With apologies to comedian Robin Williams, that's the line that comes to mind when weighing the European Union's declaration yesterday on Russia's continued occupation of Georgia.
At a special meeting in Brussels, EU national leaders told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to abide by the terms of a French-brokered cease-fire, including a pullback of Russian troops to their preconflict positions. If he doesn't do so, they warned, they will hold another meeting.

That's all.....

Well, that's almost all. The European leaders did make one concrete "threat." The EU said it would freeze negotiations with Moscow on a new economic cooperation agreement if Russian forces haven't pulled back to their pre-August 7 positions by next Monday. But this is meaningless. It had taken the Europeans months to agree among themselves to begin the talks, and even before the Russian invasion of Georgia Eastern European leaders had signaled that their countries were unlikely to sign off on any deal anytime soon. Nor was Moscow pushing very hard for it.  MORE

Changes in Politics

by Thomas Sowell
One of the few political cliches that makes sense is that "In politics, overnight is a lifetime."
Less than a year ago, the big question was whether Rudolph Giuliani could beat Hillary Clinton in this year's presidential election. Less than two months ago, Barack Obama had a huge lead over John McCain in the polls. Less than a week ago, the smart money was saying that Mitt Romney would be McCain's choice for vice president.
We don't need Barack Obama to create "change." Things change in politics, in the economy, and elsewhere in American society, without waiting for a political messiah to lead us into the promised land...... The Anbar handover is above all a tribute to the hundreds of Americans who have fought and died in places like Fallujah, Ramadi and Hit over these last five years. Over the horizon of history, we tend to recall only the successes in previous wars at such places as Guadalcanal, Peleliu and the Chosin Reservoir. We forget that those wars and battles were also marked by terrible blunders and setbacks, both political and military. What mattered is that our troops, and our country, had the determination to fight to an ultimate victory. So it is with the heroes of Anbar.    MORE

At 150, Central Park Is a Perfectly Balanced Masterpiece


Shark pictures show amazing killing display
This year, with surprisingly little fanfare, Central Park is celebrating its 150th birthday. Five years ago, there were fireworks and daylong festivities to mark the sesquicentennial of the city's decision, in 1853, to build a great urban park in the middle of Manhattan. But it was in 1858 that the municipality finally decided upon the so-called Greensward plan of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and it was in that year as well that the great work began.  MORE

The wildlife photographer Chris Fellows spends over half of each year waiting off the coast of South Africa to capture the sharks at their grisly work.

Sharkman hitches ride on great white shark

Oh, yeah....about that recession.......

The Recessionistas Were Decisively Wrong
By Jerry Bowyer
The story behind 3.3 percent second-quarter GDP growth.

As of this week, and a revised GDP-growth number of 3.3 percent
for the second quarter, we now know most authoritatively that the recessionistas
were wrong.

The housing crisis wasn’t created by free-market capitalism, but by government meddling. In particular, the crisis is rooted in a raft of government regulations that forced banks to ignore traditional lending standards — such as credit history, income, and neighborhood economic conditions — and instead embrace non-culturally “discriminatory” lending practices based on racial-identity politics. Once the banks were forced to make loans based on political, rather than financial, criteria, and once Fannie and Freddie were forced to buy these loans in the secondary mortgage market, collapse was inevitable. In addition, there is no wealth effect from falling home prices.

People generally don’t spend based on the value of their homes, partly because people almost never know the value of their homes. Furthermore, for every seller taking a bath during a down market there is a buyer getting the deal of a lifetime. Predictions about consumer attrition simply have not materialized because, as Milton Freedman taught us, spending patterns are based on long-term income expectations. For this and many other reasons the much-heralded consumer collapse has yet to appear.

Now let’s look at what did happen. The 2003 tax cuts increased wealth in every segment of the economy, sparking a multi-year boom. But these tax cuts were passed with expiration dates, and the first Bush-tax-cut expiration occurred at the end of last year when small businesses lost some of their ability to take a tax deduction on purchases of business equipment. As the chart shows, this event coincided with a trough in the economic cycle. This past winter, congressional Republicans successfully fought to add the small-business tax breaks to what otherwise was a useless stimulus package, and the market for business equipment recovered in the spring. Voilà — the economy snaps back to 3.3 percent GDP growth.

Will the New York Times and the rest of the media storm-crows who spent most of the spring and summer cackling the “recession” word admit their error and reverse course? I think you already know the answer to that question.

The U.K. pound fell below $1.80 for the first time since April
2006 after mortgage approvals dropped to the lowest level in nine years and
manufacturing contracted, adding to evidence of a looming recession.

Solo Exhibition of paintings by Jared Joslin.August 14- September 13, 2008.
354 N Bedford DriveBeverly Hills, CA
August 14- September 13, 2008

Labor Day Update

Here's the best comparison of Barack Obama's and Sarah Palin's experience.....Which one sounds more prepared? (a great read)

And here's some background information on why the Govenor of Alaska would have significant National Security and International experience (more than a Senator, even one like Joe Biden)

There's also a new term that you may come to hear in the near future from Barack Obama and the Democrats: "educational debt". Don't worry, you already knowwhat it means: reparations. It's just another of those links between Obama and William Ayers; you know, the neighbor down the street that he just said hello to.

Russia to US........Get over it!
Russia's decision to send troops to Georgia has set a new standard for defending its national interests and the United States must learn to live with it, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

"Through its response to the Georgian aggression, Russia has set a kind of standard for reaction, which fully complies with international law," Lavrov told students of Moscow's diplomatic college in a speech to mark the start of the new academic year.

"Russia has returned to the world stage as a responsible state which can defend its citizens."

Any doubts about this should have been dispelled by its action in Georgia and recognition of two pro-Russian provinces as independent states, said Lavrov, whose harshest words were addressed to Washington and NATO.

"America needs to acknowledge the reality of the post-American world and start adapting to it," Lavrov said. "An attempt to live in its own unipolar world has gone on too long, and this is dangerous in every respect."

NATO’s Disastrous Georgian Fudge
Roger Cohen has a thoughtful perspective on how NATO, and then subsequently George Bush, drastically mis-steped during the April summit meeting. The split evidenced by Russia's grab of Georgia's provinces, was some time in the making, and as well, it will not be corrected in a short period. Once again it demonstrates to me the truth that allowing small transgressions to go unaddressed, leads to large transgressions. And, just as in the NYC turn-around that Rudy Giuliani initiated by targeting hundreds of minor crimes for enforcement, the West should have, and now needs to, focus the same way on Russia's transgressions.

In retrospect the NATO summit declaration of April 3 about Georgia and Ukraine seems almost criminal in its irresponsibility: “We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”That lofty commitment emerged from a Bucharest meeting so split over the two countries’ aspirations to enter the Atlantic alliance that it could not even agree to offer the first step toward joining, the Membership Action Plan that prepares nations for NATO.

It is unconscionable to declare objectives for which the means do not exist, and to paper over European-American division through statements of ringing but empty principle. The history of the so-called “safe areas” in Bosnia, Srebrenica among them, is sufficient testimony to the bloodshed lurking in loose commitments.
The great Bucharest fudge succeeded only in infuriating the Russians without providing the deterrence value of concrete steps for Georgia and Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, then Russian president and now prime minister, made Moscow’s fury plain to President Bush afterward in Sochi, but Bush, no surprise, was asleep at the wheel. .......No, the West was not wrong to extend NATO to the former vassal states of the Soviet empire in central Europe and the Baltic. The debt incurred at Yalta and the indivisibility of a free Europe demanded no less.....Russia will pay a price for what it’s done. It’s angered China, opened a Pandora’s box for a state with its own breakaway candidates, and lost its international law card.

Rather than a new cold war, we’re in a new broad war with several players, headed by China, and Putin’s Russia has placed short-term gain before long-term interests.

So the West should not overplay its hand. Breaking off arms reduction and missile defense talks with Russia is in nobody’s interest. Nor are cheap shots like throwing Russia out of an (ever less relevant) G-8.

But nor can the West be cowed. It must shore up the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, with financial and other support. It must keep the trans-Caspian, Russia-circumventing energy corridor open. It must bolster Ukraine’s independence. And, at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in December, it should replace Bucharest blather with basics: a Membership Action Plan for Georgia and Ukraine.

Resolve tempered by engagement won the cold war. It can help in the broad war.

EU united against Russia agression, says Brown
Gordon Brown today warned that there could be no more "business as usual" with Russia in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Georgia.

The Prime Minister, attending an emergency EU Summit in Brussels to discuss the crisis, said all 27 member states were united in their condemnation of Russia's "aggression" against its smaller neighbour.

Have we misunderestimated George W Bush?

A thoughtful, and appropriately lengthy, review of George Bush's actual vs. his perceived legacy at this time. More will come, and like many of his predecessors, he'll be much more appreciated in hindsight.
We may think we've got the measure of the 43rd President of the United States, the most unpopular man to have occupied the White House in modern times. But we'd be wrong, argues Rupert Cornwell. At home and abroad, the Bush years have seen real achievements – and history may judge him far more kindly than his critics would have us believe

Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century
Get ready for Cold Weather.

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted. The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth.According to data from Mount Wilson Observatory, UCLA, more than an entire month has passed without a spot. The last time such an event occurred was June of 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749.
three previous such events -- the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums, have all led to rapid cooling. On was large enough to be called a "mini ice age". For a society dependent on agriculture, cold is more damaging than heat. The growing season shortens, yields drop, and the occurrence of crop-destroying frosts increases.
If that occurs, I guess we'll be burning anything that we can get; wearing fur will be smart; and property values in Florida, Arizona and New Mexico will skyrocket.

On a related note, the following article in the Times (UK), highlights to me what I realized while living and working in Europe for five years. Most Europeans who viewed the US as a poluter, actually had no idea about how "green" literally and figuratively the US was. Their perspective that we lack respect for the environment was usually based on our obvious display of material wealth, and our extravagant (to them) consumption of goods. It seemed to me that underlaying their critique of our environmental chops, was basically, envy. When you actually compared how we have protected and revived our environment in the US, to most European countries, we come out way ahead. Despite that, it's still easier for most of the world to cast the US as the environmental bogeyman. America is not an environmental villain

There is still a lot that can be said in its defence that is lost in the insults. The first point is the depth of the environmental tradition in American culture. The American reverence for the wilderness goes back before even the explorers who pushed the frontier westwards - back to Native American culture.......
A second point in America's favour is that the environmental laws which it passed in those decades are some of the world's toughest....... The US also moved quickly, when a 1976 National Academy of Sciences report found damage to the ozone layer, to ban chlorofluorocarbons from aerosols, a move resisted initially by the European Union.

What is more, America enforces these laws, even if their application is challenged in court. In contrast, while the EU has been prolific in passing ambitious regulations on environmental standards, the marvel is how patchily they are enforced......MORE

And as a fitting end to today's post.........

100 things to do before you die
Creator of the eponymous travel guide '100 things to do before you die', Dave Freeman, died this week. Click here to see his definitive list of life-changing experiences in pictures. Click here to see his definitive list of life-changing experiences in pictures.

New Orlean's Hot 8 Brass Band


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