ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tony - Time To Start the March

It's time to start preparing your forces for an attack on Iran, ideally against the gas refineries and a blockade against the tankers that provide Iran with much of its petrol.

The West cannot allow the soldiers to be put on trial as the result is already known in advance:

Iran warns British sailors may be put on trial

Iran has threatened to try 15 marines and sailors from Britain's Royal Navy for illegal entrance into Iranian waters and won't allow British diplomats to meet with the jailed servicemen.

It is still unknown precisely where the British sailors — 14 men and one woman — are being held, but Iranian officials have said they were "well and sound."

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in New York the sailors committed an act of aggression by sailing into Iranian waters.

"The Iranian authorities intercepted these sailors and marines in Iranian waters and detained them in Iranian waters," Mottaki said. "This has happened in the past as well."

But British Prime Minister Tony Blair has argued the charge of illegal entrance into Iranian waters isn't valid because the Royal Navy crew was actually occupying Iraqi waters at the time.

Mottaki did not specify what the consequences of the charge could be for the Royal Navy crew.

No doubt Rosie will lecture us on the merits of the Iranian justice system and how it's better than the American one.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

STL Post-Dispatch: Shocked that the Dems are Piggish

Or, Military Spending - Now with 17% more pork!

I saw this editorial yesterday and actually laughed out loud. The St Louis Post-Dispatch Editors surely can't expect us to believe that they're surprised that the Dems have larded up an emergency military spending bill with pork:

War and hyporkrisy
Friday, Mar. 30 2007

You would think that if there's one issue that would be free from the stench of
pork-barrel politics, it would be U.S. policy in Iraq.


Congressional Democrats, having parlayed opposition to the war into control of
the Senate and House last November, have larded up President George W. Bush's
request for funding to continue the war with all manner of special interest
legislation, from handouts for spinach producers ($25 million) and lamb growers
($13 million) to $100 million for the next year's Democratic and Republican

The result? The president's $103 billion emergency spending request has become
a $121.7 billion bill in the Senate and a $124 billion bill in the House.

"Funding for the war is not the only critical need worthy of the supplemental
spending," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, Congress'
longtime Prince of Pork. The war, said Sen. Byrd, "must not obliterate every
other concern."

Oh yes it should, at least as far as this emergency spending request is
concerned. If spinach growers and lamb farmers, sugar beet producers and
convention planners need money, let those requests go through the normal
appropriations process. Let their sponsors stand up and account for them. To
piggyback them (so to speak) on a bill to continue paying for the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq is an insult to the troops fighting the wars and to the
American people who are paying for it.

Like earlier supplemental requests for the wars, the new one would be "off
budget," that is, merely tacked onto the federal deficit for our children and
grandchildren to worry about. It will be funded by borrowing, and the largest
holders of the debt will be foreign banks who buy U.S. Treasury bills.

The key issue about the House and Senate bills, of course, is the restrictions
they place on spending the money in Iraq. The House bill sets a September 2008
deadline for bringing U.S. troops home. The Senate bill sets a one-year "goal"
for ending the U.S. presence. The language — as well as the dueling pork
projects in both bills — must be reconciled before the final bill is passed.
But Mr. Bush has threatened to veto any legislation that restricts U.S.
manpower decisions.

Thus a constitutional showdown is in the wind. House and Senate conferees will
decide on language — deadline, goals or unrestricted — and then both Houses
will decide whether to pass it. If they do and the president vetoes it, then
what? Will the president try to fund the war effort without congressional
authorization? Will the Supreme Court step in?

These are critical questions for the nation. Whatever the language of the
final bill, Democrats should strip the pork out of it and have the guts to
fight the battle on its merits.
Brings back memories of Casablanca and Captain Renault being shocked that there was gambling in Rick's club.

I mean, the Post-Dispatch rarely endorses a Republican, so you would think that they would be familiar with what "their side" is planning on doing once they get power.

I mean, surely the P-D knew from the campaign that the Dems were going to tie the hands of our military in completing their mission while at the same time attempt to spread some of the cash to their most important constituencies back home.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Difficulty of Being a Superpower

Or, Why it's so difficult to be on the side of Good, Justice, and the "Western Civilizational Way" in today's relativist society.

The Brits in Iran:

Iran Broadcasts British Sailor's Apology
Mar 30, 7:58 AM (ET)


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - One of the 15 British service members held captive in Iran appeared Friday on the government's Arabic-language TV and apologized for entering Iranian waters "without permission." Prime Minister Tony Blair said Iran will face "continued isolation" if it continues "in this way."

In London, the British Foreign Office denounced the broadcast and said displaying the captives for "propaganda purposes" was "outrageous."

The serviceman, Royal Marine rifleman Nathan Thomas Summers, said he was aware that the incident in which he was seized was the second time since 2004 that British military personnel had entered Iranian waters.

"Again I deeply apologize for entering your waters," Summers said in the clip broadcast on Al-Alam television. "We trespassed without permission."

"I don't know why the Iranian regime keeps doing this," Blair said in a brief statement, "all it does it heightens people's sense of disgust. Captured personnel being paraded and manipulated in this way, it doesn't fool anyone," he said. "And what the Iranians have to realize is that if they continue in this way they will face continued isolation."

Summers was shown sitting with another male serviceman and the female British sailor Faye Turney against a floral curtain. Both men wore camouflage fatigues with a label saying "Royal Navy" on their chests and a small British flag stitched to their left sleeves.

The three were among 15 British sailors and marines detained by naval units of the Revolutionary Guards on March 23 while patrolling near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway for smugglers.

Britain has demanded their release, insisting that they were in Iraqi waters at the time they were intercepted. But Iran has demanded that Britain acknowledge that its sailors had violated Iranian waters, with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki saying Thursday that such an admission would help to secure their release.

Minutes before Summers appeared on TV, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said that he had given a statement.

"We entered Iranian waters without permission and we were detained by Iranian coast guards. I would like to apologize for this to the Iranian people," the agency quoted him as saying.

"Since our detention on March 23, everything has been very good and I'm completely satisfied about the situation," Summers added.

The TV showed pictures of the light British naval boats at the time of the sailors' seizure. The helicopter flying in the background was British, the Al-Alam newscaster said.

Iran has demanded that Britain acknowledge that its sailors had violated Iranian waters, with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki saying Thursday that such an admission would help to secure the release of the 15 service members.

Earlier this week, it appeared the two countries were moving toward a resolution of the crisis. Mottaki told reporters Wednesday that Turney would be freed shortly.

However, the Iranians were angered by tough talk out of London, including a freeze on most bilateral contacts and a British move to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

On Thursday, the council expressed "grave concern" over Iran's seizure of the military personnel and called for an early resolution of the escalating dispute.

As tensions spiked again Thursday, the Iranians rolled back on their offer to free Turney.

On Friday, however, the Turkish prime minister's office said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had indicated his government is willing to reconsider freeing Turney, who is married and has a young daughter.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Ahmadinejad on Thursday evening, said Erdogan's spokesman, Akif Beki. Ahmadinejad told the prime minister that Iran was "willing to reconsider the issue of the release of the woman crew member," Beki said.

Iran claims the British sailors and marines, part of a Royal Navy force patrolling the Persian Gulf for smugglers, were operating in its waters when captured last Friday. The incident came several months into the escalating standoff between Iran and the United Nations over Tehran's nuclear program.

An Iranian news agency reported earlier in the day that Iran's Foreign Ministry sent a message to the British embassy in Tehran calling for a guarantee by London to avoid violating Iranian territorial waters in the future.

Until now, Iran has said the matter could only be resolved if Britain admitted its sailors were trespassing.

Each day that passes without this situation being resolved, the Iranian regime appears to be stronger than it is. Sure, the UN will pass resolutions stating that it has "grave concerns" over the Iranian snatch & grab that took place last week, that will be the most that will come out of that useless body.

No, the problem is that the right thing to do when another country attacks your ship and seizes your citizens is to fight back and there are plenty of options available to the Brits & Americans. The most appropriate one that I've heard is to institute a blockade of gasoline tankers into Iran, since Iran has very little production capacity for gasoline. One the other end of the force continuum would be the full out assault on Iranian command & control, nuclear, and oil infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the moment that any military action is taken by the US or the Brits to free these heroes, the Left in this country will immediately side with the Iranian regime and decry the use of force. In addition, the Left will accuse the Bush & Blair administrations of staging the incident.

Rosie O'Donnell is the perfect embodiment of today's Left, which immediately support the propaganda of our enemies over the facts.

  1. Rosie thinks the capture of the Brits is synonymous with the Gulf of Tonkin

  2. Rosie laughs at Blair's concern that video of the soldiers violates the Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, shots of the Gitmo camps which include fuzzy images of detainees in orange jumpsuits gets significant attention from the Left.
  3. Rosie thinks that it's just us and the Brits against the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the UN is against the Iranian action.
  4. Rosie objects to the characterization of people into Evil or Good.

In the eyes of Rosie and the other idiots on the Left, nothing the US or British does is right, good, or justified. Everything the Iranians say is given weight and taken at face value.

This video from the Heritage Foundation discusses the mind of the Modern Liberal and demonstrates how Rosie can arrive at these positions (supporting Evil) on a consistent basis.

*** UPDATE ***
I failed to mention in my original post that we (the US and the Brits) have been making a fatal mistake in our foreign policy, especially as it regards the Axis of Evil and their supporters (like Chavez, Castro, etc). For too long we have inverted Teddy Roosevelt's advice to "speak softly & carry a big stick." Newt Gingrich was on Charlie Rose the other night and made this very point. We have become so reliant on the UN and their inability to act on anything that we (the Brits and the US) resort to what is considered harsh rhetoric in international diplomacy simply to get the UN involved.

So, the US says that Korean continuation of a nuclear program would not be allowed - and it continues. Launching ICBMs by the NoKo's would not be tolerated - and when it happens, it is. Testing a nuclear device would not be tolerated - and when it happens, it is. Iranian nuclear program would not be tolerated - and when President Tom has a production to celebrate Iran's nuclear program, we do nothing.

This consistent practice of Speaking Loudly and Carrying a small stick is going to doom us in the future. When the Iranians snatched the Brits, the Western response should have been, "We expect our forces to be returned within 30 days" and leave no implied threat. When 30 days expire, blockade and military strikes would ensue.

There's no need for bluster. As VDH puts it in this column:
‘It’s completely outrageous for any nation to go out and arrest the servicemen of another nation in waters that don’t belong to them.” So spoke Admiral Sir Alan West, former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, concerning the present Anglo-Iranian crisis over captured British soldiers. But if the attack was “outrageous,” it was apparently not quite outrageous enough for anything to have been done about it yet.

Sir Alan elaborated on British rules of engagement by stressing they are “very much de-escalatory, because we don’t want wars starting ... Rather than roaring into action and sinking everything in sight we try to step back and that, of course, is why our chaps were, in effect, able to be captured and taken away.”

One might suggest, not necessarily “sinking everything in sight,” but at least shooting back at a few of the people trying to kidnap Britain’s uniformed soldiers.

Indeed... If they approach your ship with hostile intention, light it up. If they successfully cart off your soldiers, give them some time for the necessary logistics, but leave no doubt as to the seriousness of your position.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

USA Today painting a rosy picture for the Venezuelan economy?

Regular visitors to ARC may know that I've got a thing with Hugo and his idiotic economic policies. "Oil-for-Chickens" and "if it's a business, nationalize it" are not economic policies which will lead to improved lives for the people of Venezuela in the long term.

Today's USA today seems to paint a rosy picture of the Venezuelan economy and throughout the article, the hardships which are starting to impact the Venezuelan people are glossed over. Here's the article, which I'll interrupt with comments throughout. I apologize in advance.

Venezuelan consumers gobble up U.S. goods
Despite political tension, U.S. companies do well

By David J. Lynch

An audacious anti-American president is steering his nation on a socialist course. USA TODAY examines developments in this vital supplier of oil to the USA.

VALENCIA, Venezuela — You might think a country headed by the ferociously anti-American President Hugo Chávez would be a lousy place for American companies to do business.

Think again. Amid an oil-fueled boom, scores of well-known U.S. corporations are notching impressive sales in Venezuela. This nation of 26 million people is entering the fourth year of a robust economic expansion and, despite sour relations with the United States, consumers are gobbling up American cars, appliances, fast food and shampoo.

Few manufacturers are doing better than General Motors. The automaker last year sold a record 92,000 cars and trucks in Venezuela and expects to reach almost 160,000 this year. "The industry is going really fast. … Today, I have a waiting list for every single product," says Ronaldo Znidarsis, 42, GM's local managing director.

GM, which has sold cars here since World War II, literally can't make vehicles fast enough to satisfy Venezuelan buyers. Its local plant, housed on "General Motors Avenue" in an industrial district near this city's airport, added a third shift in 2006 and is running flat-out producing more than 20 models.

But rather than expand capacity to meet ravenous demand, GM — like other U.S. companies — is importing additional products. With Chávez, a self-described revolutionary, promising a grandiose "socialism for the 21st century," new multibillion-dollar investments are just too risky.

Ummm, wait a second. If everything is going gang-busters in Venezuela and GM couldn't meet demand, wouldn't they be investing in the country - resulting in more and higher paid jobs for the people of Venezuela? Nope - Because you never know when Hugo might decide that your industry is vital to national security and take it over. This paragraph seems to gloss over this fact... and there's more to come.

"Commercially, the country's in a good moment. But I don't think this is sustainable in the long term. … The truth is there's no more investment coming in," says Michael Penfold, former executive director of Venezuela's investment promotion agency.

From an annual level that fluctuated for much of the past decade between $400 million and $700 million, investment from U.S. companies last year collapsed to no more than $50 million, according to Edmond Saade, president of the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Caracas.

GM's last major investment here, a $55 million paint shop, occurred seven years ago. Economywide, the lack of investment means Venezuela's economic growth is producing fewer jobs and higher inflation than it otherwise might.
No doubt Chavez will take the mantle of victimhood and blame a capitalist conspiracy against his socialist utopia.

Venezuela's unbalanced growth is reflected in statistics on the growing trade between the two political antagonists. The U.S. exported to Venezuela $9 billion worth of products last year, up 89% from 2004. Cars, oil field equipment, chemicals and computer gear were among the leading items.

Venezuela's shipments to the USA also rose, but by only 49%. And almost all of its $37 billion in exports to the USA were crude oil and other petroleum products. Venezuela has made little progress diversifying its economy: Oil revenue accounts for more than three-quarters of Venezuela's exports and about half of its government budget.

Aides to Chávez deny any problem. Alberto Muller Rojas, one of the president's top foreign policy advisers, insists that foreign companies are investing. Venezuela also compares favorably with such market-friendly countries as Chile in terms of the ability of foreign companies to repatriate profits, he says. "If you've been to a shopping mall here, you've seen how socialism is killing us," he said sarcastically.

Few leaders are as passionate in their anti-Americanism as Chávez, a former military officer re-elected in December with 63% of the vote. He's accused the U.S. of seeking a global dictatorship that "threatens the very survival of the human species" and routinely accuses President Bush of plotting to overthrow or assassinate him.

As relations between Caracas and Washington continue to deteriorate, some companies with significant local manufacturing and distribution arms have grown gun-shy about discussing their Venezuelan operations. Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Cargill, Kellogg and 3M all declined interview requests. 3M employs more than 350 people in Venezuela, Kellogg more than 200 workers.

By most measures, Venezuela is booming. The economy grew at an annual rate of more than 9% each of the past two years; this year, it's expected to slow somewhat to a still-healthy 7%.

Under Chávez, the government has directed a torrent of oil money into the domestic economy, jacking up spending on health, education and training programs. Government spending shot up to 41% of gross domestic product from 33% the year before, according to the Institute of International Finance. The president also has lavished benefits on his military, granting sweetheart deals on new cars to graduates of the officers academy. Many of the vehicles are built by GM.
So, the economy is growing, but only because Chavez is throwing oil money into the pot by buying a bunch of SUVs for the military.
The American presence here is reflected along the highway between Caracas and Valencia, 100 miles to the west. Billboards for familiar names such as Maytag, Goodyear and McDonald's line the road. "This market is a very good market for U.S. companies," says Saade. "They're selling a helluva lot of product."

For now. The question is how the mercurial Venezuelan leader will treat the private sector in the future.

Chávez, who said earlier this month that he was re-reading Che Guevara's writings on Soviet economic policy, vows to construct a homegrown socialism that will improve on the discredited models of the past. He came to power in 1998 after Venezuela's embrace of market-oriented policies known as the Washington Consensus backfired and deepened poverty.
Now, Chávez, 52, is redirecting oil revenue to help the poor. But the Venezuelan president has not defined the precise contours of the socialism he seeks, leaving a pronounced air of uncertainty about the future. The government has ripped up contracts with four oil industry giants engaged in development of its Orinoco Belt region, wanting to renegotiate more favorable arrangements. And when Chávez announced in January that he would nationalize Electricidad de Caracas, an electric company, and telecommunications provider CANTV, the stock market plunged by one-third.

But Chávez's decision to pay for the foreign-owned stakes rather than seize them outright eased investor fears. Venezuela paid AES Corp. $739.3 million for Electricidad de Caracas and paid Verizon $572 million for its stake in CANTV, helping the Caracas exchange rebound about 15% from its mid-January low.
Would be curious to know what those stakes would go for to another private firm instead of the government which has a unique tool in its negotiations - guns.

Still, it's not clear whether additional companies will be nationalized. And executives wonder where the government's proclivity for regulation will end. Price controls in some sectors already have led to shortages of products such as meat. Yet, inflation continues to rise, topping an annual rate of 20%.

Shortages AND inflation? crazy!
"It's a completely new ballgame. We just have to see how we can play," says Saade. "I'm not sure how, at this point."

Some companies aren't waiting to see what happens. Procter & Gamble, which maintains its Latin American headquarters in Caracas, has been gradually reducing the number of personnel it has in Venezuela while shifting some manufacturing operations elsewhere in Latin America. "P&G has been phasing out very quietly," says Robert Bottome, editor of the VenEconomia newsletter in Caracas.

Doug Shelton, a P&G spokesman, said he could not confirm any changes in the company's Venezuelan operations without being provided more specifics.

Meanwhile, at GM, Znidarsis is drawing up plans for another record year. A native of São Paulo, Brazil, the 42-year-old finance specialist could be a poster boy for the globalized auto industry. Since joining GM more than two decades ago, he's done stints in Detroit, Zurich, Singapore, Shanghai and South Korea.

In Venezuela, he enjoys a market of motivated buyers. The boom means middle-class Venezuelans have plenty of cash. Controls on foreign exchange keep the money trapped in the domestic market, and rising inflation means consumers who dawdle face higher prices. Interest rates are low, making car loans attractive. The government also provides a partial value-added tax exemption for some small cars and trucks, which this year will act as an effective 11% price cut.
So, you have a lot of cash, but it's not worth anything. I wonder if inflation was factored in to stat about the Venezuelan GDP booming...
Demand is so strong, GM has been able to increase prices an average of 6% in real terms. "Venezuelans see a vehicle as a way of saving money. It's a hard asset," Znidarsis says.
And here's the kicker. GM is having a gangbuster year because Venezuelans see it as an investment. It's not because they're flush with cash and the economy is booming - it's because people see where things are heading and want to get their hands on a hard asset that may be worth something as things go into the tank.
That's one reason graphic designer Karen Lopez, 25, bought a Chevy Spark last month after idling on a waiting list for five months. "Everyone said that the dollar would shoot up, and prices would rise on everything, including cars, because of the instability of the (December) elections. So I hurried. … In the five months — from September to February when I got the car — the price went up from 19 million bolivars ($8,837) to 21 million ($9,767)," she said.
A 10% increase in price in 5 months. No wonder GM is having a great year!
Selling cars here may be easy. But building them is another matter. The Valencia factory is one of GM's most complex, producing scores of different models from small commuter cars such as the Spark to hefty Chevy TrailBlazer sport-utility vehicles. The 24-acre factory employs almost 3,200 workers.

One bottleneck is the country's principal seaport, Puerto Cabello. Each day, vessels bearing about 1,700 shipping containers arrive in the northern port. It can process only about 1,000 of them, leading to backlogs for manufacturers like GM that rely on imported parts.

The government in December also introduced without warning a new regulation that makes it more difficult and time-consuming for manufacturers to import needed parts. Now, to purchase the U.S. dollars needed to pay his foreign suppliers, Znidarsis must obtain a certificate from the Ministry of Light Industry and Trade confirming that domestic parts aren't available. GM must obtain separate certificates each time it orders one of several thousand parts.

Paperwork delays are complicating the task of stockpiling the proper amount of each part for just-in-time production. Assembly lines at local Toyota and Ford plants earlier this month were slowed or stopped by the new regulation.

Troubles on the horizon... the added regulation will not help the Venezuelan people, as supply shortages are on the horizon and prices will skyrocket.
So far, GM appears to have navigated the tricky Venezuelan scene better than most. But it's hard to know how long the good times will continue.

" '07, I believe, is going to be a great year. The reason we don't show 2008 and the out years (on forecasts) is that it's a big question mark. If petrol prices stay the same, and there's no significant change in government policies, then '08 could be reasonable," says Znidarsis. "I don't know about '09."

Let's face facts: The Venezuelan government is dismantling its own economy and the people of Venezuela see the writing on the wall.

That USA Today skirts around the fundamental problems in the Venezuelan economy and tries to paint a rosy picture for US companies and the Venezuelans is pretty sad. That many on the American Left see Hugo as their hero is troubling for us at home.

But Hugo's actions in Venezuela is hurting the very people he claims to be helping. Of course, the poorer they become, the more the poor will need Hugo to save them.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler