Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another Liberal Push-Button War

Mr. Quarter saw the piece by David Warren in today's Ottawa Citizen and thought this quote concerning the current hostilities with Libya was too beautifully acccurate to not share here at Mr. Quarter's Corner:

"This is another liberal, push-button war, from the Bill Clinton era; one intended to produce very few allied casualties. .......See what the techies can come up with, working from satellite photos. Hit anything that looks mean on the other side, and spare the rest of the landscape. Just "tilt that playing field" against ... whichever nearly defenceless dictator we have decided to seriously dislike."

How true.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mr. Quarter Admires The Clinton Talent

Yes, it is true! Just as The Deuce fought back regurgitation and admired Obama's temporary restraint in not getting involved in Libya, so does Mr. Quarter admire Hillary's (probably with Bill's guidance in the background) clever manipulation in walking Barry right off the plank. The trap she set for him is truly a thing of beauty and something that the Machiavelli's would have admired.

As reported in the press, there were two factions in the deliberations. One faction, led by Secretary of State Clinton and a bunch of academic weenies on the NSC, backed calls from the French and British governments for a NATO-led effort to assist the Libyan rebels and the resulting "No Fly Zone." The second faction, led by the Secretary of Defense (Robert Gates), opposed any U.S. role in the anti-Qadhafi operation. Hillary's faction won the day and Obama's next move was to go to war.

So now the White House message machine is working in overdrive to get out the narrative portraying Obama as initially opposed to any involvement in a Libyan campaign, but changing his mind at the eleventh hour when a humanitarian crisis appeared inevitable. Seems that the outcome of the debate has pissed off a bunch of liberals in Congress. Mostly because Congress didn't get to weigh in on the decision. Obama consulted with the Europeans, the U.N.,and the Arab League, but he forgot to check with the U.S Senate and House of Representatives before he started shooting with American military. That got Dennis Kucinich to start calling for Obama's impeachment!

So Obama now has 60 days under the War Powers Act to get his support lined up in the Congress. Congress could vote to withdraw U.S. forces after 60 days or could withdraw funding. Either way, the Democrats look split between the pissed off liberals representing the base and the remaining Dems trying to put a good face on supporting what he has done. All at a time when he will need support from the entire party to launch his 2012 re-election bid.

As Mr. Quarter sees it, Obama is now in a completely no win situation that has only negative domestic political consequences. If he continues on course, his base gets angrier and his party more divided. If the end point is anything but a friendly government in Libya, he has failed and the Republicans can point to his failure. If he withdraws without conclusion, he looks weak and appears to have failed. If, by some divine providence, the rebels win and have some affection for America, he looks no better than George Bush looked after Iraq. Think Hillary had nothing to do with setting the trap?

In the meantime, Hillary can sit back and watch, always adhering to the illusion of a loyal Secretary of State carrying out the bosses orders. Brilliant! After this week, Mr. Quarter is convinced that Hillary will challange for the Democratic nomination in 2012.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Deuce Effects U.S. Foreign Policy!

Just three days after expressing support for BHO for his refusal to involve America in Libya's civil war, U.S. naval forces launched between 50 and 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libyan anti-aircraft installations.

Clearly having read my blog, Obama realized he must be on the wrong side of history if an arch conservative was applauding his foreign policy and so reversed course.

And just in case you were wondering, Tomahawk cruise missiles cost $569,000 a copy in 1999 dollars according to the U.S. Navy. Assuming 10% inflation in the ensuing 12 years, that's $625,900 each. If we split the difference between the numbers reported launched today and say 75, that's $46.9 million we just "invested" Libya's future (Democrats never spend money, they only invest money).

If Qaddafi is ultimately overthrown, it'll likely be years before we know if our investment in the Libyan people was a good one. I'm not optimistic.

Oh, one other thing. Hell is still hot...and the world makes sense again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Deuce Supports Obama...WTF?

I think Genghis Khan was a pussy. That's how far to the right I am. But I don't live in his world and so my conservatism expresses itself in ways different than his. First, I see no reason to become involved in world events if doing so does not create a distinct strategic or economic advantage for America. Genghis created the Mongol empire largely to establish his own greatness as a leader and keep his domestic enemies busy fighting other peoples and not him. Secondly, I see no good reason to provide financial or humanitarian aid to to countries that are; our economic competitors; or our strategic enemies; or that simply don't need our assistance. This is especially true when America's economy is as disastrously dysfunctional as it is now. Genghis didn't provide humanitarian aid to anyone but his own people, and largely left them to loot their own humanitarian aid from the people they conquered. He certainly never gave any kind of aid to his enemies.

Hence, shocking as it may seem, I find myself in agreement with The Glorious Leader's reaction to the revolution in Libya and the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in Japan. Hell freezes over later.

Why involve ourselves in Libya? Since Qaddafi's tent compound was bombed by President Reagan in the '80s, missing Qaddafi's but killing one of his daughters, the Colonel has been very quiet and Libya has been largely a non-player in middle east or world affairs. Qaddafi gives a fiery anti-western speech now and again, but does nothing. He does not materially support the rise of Islamic radicalism; he does not materially support Palestinian terrorism against Israel; he does not nor can he sway OPEC to use oil as a weapon against the west. The only exception to this is the Lockerbie bombing, which Qaddafi was almost certainly involved in. In short, Qaddafi and Libya have for the most part not caused problems for America in years. They are far from allies but are weak and ineffective enemies.

That being the case, why jump into the Libyan revolution on either side? If Qaddafi survives the revolt, America continues to enjoy Libya's passiveness. If Qaddafi is removed from power, what replaces him? Western style democracy? Not a prayer that will happen! At best, another dictator seizes tenuous power and Libya remains largely as it is. At worst, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Mullah's take power and yet another radical Islamic state is created to join the Ayatollahs of Iran, the Taliban and Al-Queda in doing everything they can to subvert and injure America. Being purely pragmatic, having Qaddafi remain in power is probably the best outcome. He is a known, and tamed, enemy. Doing anything to assist the rebels would only create a power vacuum to be filled by God knows what...but odds are it would not be good for us. Staying out of Libya was the right call.

Japan does not need our assistance. One of the richest countries in the world, technologically advanced and utterly stable politically, the Japanese are perfectly capable of dealing with the disaster that has befallen them. Their economy will take a huge hit with the expense of cleaning up the wreckage and rebuilding, and especially because of the long-term management of the destruction of the Fukishimi nuclear reactors and resulting radiation fallout.

The Japanese people have a long, tough road ahead of them, but if any nation can overcome this disaster it's them. The world has already seen them standing in long, orderly lines for aid. There's been no looting or price gouging or increase in crime. The little aid America has already given, U.S. naval forces delivering small amounts of humanitarian aid by helicopter directly to the most severely stricken areas, is sufficient aid from the American taxpayer. Private charitable giving is of course up to the individual.

Obama has been taking heat, largely from the right, for not "leading" during this time of crisis, in Libya or Japan. They complain he's playing golf, discussing domestic policy and making his NCAA Men's basketball tourney picks. By leading, they mean talking a lot, giving breathless press briefings and scurrying around providing photo ops, looking like he's engaged and influencing the outcome of both Libya and Japan's business, while in reality doing nothing of substance. That is what most presidents would do, and the press would laud him for being "the leader of the free world." It would be a farce.

As much as I hate it to admit it, so far Obama has handled Libya and Japan just right. I also must admit that I suspect that his reasons for doing so are different than mine, especially concerning Japan. My reasons are practical. The problems in Libya and Japan are not our problems. They may ultimately have some impact on us, but in the long run will likely be relatively minor. In Libya's case it is in our best interest not to interfere, and in Japan's case we can not afford to spend hundreds of millions if not billions in aid that we simply do not have and that Japan can survive without.

In Obama's case, I believe he chose not to involve America in Libya because he saw it as a no-win situation, largely like myself. As regards Japan, I believe he simply doesn't care what happens in Japan, as they are not an "oppressed" people, can not vote for him in 2012 and are in direct competition with some of Obama's best buds...the United Auto Workers.

So, for the first and very likely the last time, I'm in agreement with Barry. It's enough to make me reexamine my entire belief system.

Don't Complain to Mr. Quarter If You Haven't Saved For Retirement

Jacob Lew is the Obama Administration's Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He was also the director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. Mr. Lew recently wrote that "[L]ooking into the next two decades, Social Security does not cause our deficits . . . Social Security benefits are entirely self-financing . . . the trust fund will continue to accrue interest and grow until 2025, and will have adequate resources to pay full benefits for the next 26 years."

This is either a blatant attempt to mislead the taxpayer public or it is an outright lie.

In the OMB official commentary on President Clinton's budget for Fiscal Year 2000, Mr. Lew's office wrote on page 337 of Analytical Perspectives that:

"These [trust fund] balances are available to finance future benefit payments and other trust fund expenditures--but only in a bookkeeping sense. These funds are not set up to be pension funds, like the funds of private pension plans. They do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures. The existence of large trust fund balances, therefore, does not, by itself, have any impact on the Government's ability to pay benefits."

It is well known that Social Security is not currently self-financing and will not be in the future so long as the current system remains in place. The plain facts are that the Social Security shortfall for 2010 was $37 billion and the projected shortfall for the next 10 years is $547 billion. So, absent changes in the nature of the entitlement program that is Social Security, the only scenario where the Social Security trust fund will "have adequate resources to pay full benefits for the next 26 years." is if China and the rest of the world agrees to loan us the money.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mr. Quarter Knows Some People Like This

David Brooks of the New York Times opins that the sense of self-importantance that many in America have may be detrimental! I know people like this - especially relatives. A partial excerpt of this particlularly insightful piece is as follows:

"If Americans do, indeed, have a different and larger conception of the self than they did a few decades ago, I wonder if this is connected to some of the social and political problems we have observed over the past few years.

I wonder if the rise of consumption and debt is in part influenced by people’s desire to adorn their lives with the things they feel befit their station. I wonder if the rise in partisanship is influenced in part by a narcissistic sense that, “I know how the country should be run and anybody who disagrees with me is just in the way.”

Most pervasively, I wonder if there is a link between a possible magnification of self and a declining saliency of the virtues associated with citizenship.

Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project.

Perhaps the enlargement of the self has also attenuated the links between the generations. Every generation has an incentive to push costs of current spending onto future generations. But no generation has done it as freely as this one. Maybe people in the past had a visceral sense of themselves as a small piece of a larger chain across the centuries. As a result, it felt viscerally wrong to privilege the current generation over the future ones, in a way it no longer does.

It’s possible, in other words, that some of the current political problems are influenced by fundamental shifts in culture, involving things as fundamental as how we appraise ourselves. Addressing them would require a more comprehensive shift in values.

Monday, March 7, 2011

And Now, Mr. Quarter's Quote of the Week

"Anyway, while I was taking in the bizzaroland that is South Beach, I began to feel better about my life; that although it has its trials, at least I wasn’t the over-tanned guy who just passed us on a unicycle in Daisy Dukes wearing a white python around his neck and stinking worse than an anchovy’s crotch."

Doug Giles