28 March 2011

Obama's incoherent Libya speech was par for the course

I found the speech utterly incoherent.

The United States is an indispensable leader, but our leadership must be dispensed with. We had to act because Gaddafi is an intolerably brutal dictator, but we can't remove him from power. Every country is different - for example, in Libya, Gaddafi used force against his own citizens, which violates our core values. By contrast, in Iran "change is fiercely suppressed."

The gratuitous and mean poke at Iraq policies of the past was par for the course. I can't remember a speech he's given that did not include a dishonest smear of somebody.

The repeated references to the youth leading a wave of freedom was aimed at the Democratic base, in my view. It's the same silly talking point that's been all the buzz at Daily Kos and Huffington Post since the union hirelings and indolent students descended on the capitol: "Look! Madison is just like Tahrir Square!"

The president remains an empty suit, and his incompetence will continue to make the world a much more dangerous place.

22 March 2011

I'm not opposed to all wars...

I suffer no illusions about Muammar Gaddafi. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Libyan people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Gaddafi poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Libya will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an attack on Libya without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

Of course you have guessed by now that the above is part of Barack Obama's speech against the Iraq War, with names and place substituted to reflect the current war.

Just food for thought.

10 March 2011

No, the Wisconsin protests are nothing like the Tea Parties

Some analysts are beginning to postulate that the protests in Madison, Wisconsin may turn into a larger sort of wave in favor of Democrats. I don't see it. I think there are a few disconnects in Wisconsin that suggest it will be tough to expand the protests to a greater political movement:

1. The disconnect between the apocalyptic protest rhetoric and reality.
Tea Partiers warned of the dangers of Obamacare and the stimulus. Since those things passed, none of the promised benefits have come to pass, and all of the dire warnings have been proven true. Deficits are at catastrophic levels, the economy remains in its doldrums, Obamacare has been ruled unconstitutional, and health insurance costs have skyrocketed while availability has shrunk.

By contrast, we are not going to see Wisconsin teachers in poverty next year - or ever. Their pay, benefits and lives just won't really change all that much. They'll still earn above the median income, as they do everywhere in America.

2. The disconnect between abstract "disapproval" and real-world disapproval.
People may say that they favor "collective bargaining rights," but it's difficult to imagine that very many of them could articulate exactly what they mean by this. It's even more difficult to imagine that, seeing government workers in Wisconsin remaining unionized next year, they will be at all angry about how Republicans took away...what?

3. The disconnect between disapproval and action.
Don't be misled by the apparent size of the protests in Madison. Unions have organized protests, and bussed in out-of-state protesters. This is probably the biggest contrast with the Tea Parties which were, and remain, completely un-organized, grassroots movement. People who wanted to join a march got in their cars and drove there. That is a level of enthusiasm that can't be matched by the Wisconsin protests.

The participants in Madison are hardcore Democrats - unionized government employees and campus leftists (it is a big college town, you know.) They certainly will vote against Republicans in 2012 - but they did that in 2010, also. Those crowds just don't contain the same numbers of former Independents as did the Tea Party events.

Anything can happen in politics, and I'm not one to suggest that Republicans have some kind of irreversible grasp on power. But they are much more likely to lose their majorities because they've disappointed the Tea Party crowd than because they ticked off hardcore democrats in Madison, Wisconsin.

08 March 2011

HOV lanes make traffic worse - because that's what they were meant to do

Joan Didion on Traffic | The Weekly Standard

Whenever I am out on the overcrowded freeway, looking over at the empty HOV lane, it occurs to me that those lanes serve no purpose other than to make traffic much worse. No sane person could expect them to accomplish anything else, and there can therefore be no other motive.

It turns out, my impression is factually correct.