Thursday, June 30, 2005

Soaking the Rich in Berlin

In a desperate bid to maintain power, Gerhard Schroeder, who pandered to leftist anti-Americanism during Germany's last election, now appears ready to destroy the country's economy in order to gain a few more hard left votes.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's pledge to impose a punitive wealth tax on Germans earning more than €250,000 (£166,500) a year met howls of protest from economists and opposition parties yesterday as the government prepared for an early general election this autumn.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's pledge to impose a punitive wealth tax on Germans earning more than €250,000 (£166,500) a year met howls of protest from economists and opposition parties yesterday as the government prepared for an early general election this autumn.

The controversial plan for an additional 3 per cent tax on the wealthy who now pay 42 per cent income tax, were unveiled by Mr Schröder's ruling Social Democrats at the weekend as part of the party's election manifesto.

The once mighty German economy, formerly the engine of Europe, has been declining rapidly over the past decade as years of leftwing quasi-socialist economic policies have finally caught up with Berlin. Unemployment remains near double-digit levels, innovation has stalled, and competition from Asia is sheering away market share from Germany's traditionally dominant industries, especially luxury automotives. Add to this mass immigration of increasingly extremist Muslims who refuse to assimilate and a demographic decline of native born Germans that threatens to send the entire German welfare state into collapse. And what has Gerhard Schroeder done to address these issues? He's alienated Germany's most powerful ally, the US, in favor of a dalliance with France, a country without military of economic might, and now he plans to drive away Germany's remaining productive talent through brutal taxation.

The new tax would go towards funding education and scientific research. "I believe that the very many people, who are much better off than the average members of our society, are patriots enough to recognise that they also have to do something for the future of our country," Mr Schröder said.

But the proposal was instantly condemned by senior economists and opposition parties. Bert Rürup, one of the government's own economic advisers, said the wealth tax was "pure political symbolism without any economic sense".

Dirk Niebel, the general secretary of Germany's liberal Free Democratic Party described the proposal as "bonkers, times 10" and pointed out that the government had only recently reduced top tax rates for high-income earners. "Now they are planning to do the exact opposite," he said.

Sadly, the German people, despite a front row seat to the bankruptcy of socialist economics, apparently never learn.

But opinion polls suggest two-thirds of the German electorate are in favour of a wealth tax. The measure was the latest attempt by Mr Schröder's ailing Social Democrats to win back leftwing supporters who have been deserting the party in droves in protest at the government's unpopular economic reform programme. Last month, the party was indignantly rebuked by German business leaders for drawing up a list of so-called "locust companies" which were alleged to have moved in on German concerns, sacked workers en masse and engaged in unbridled asset-stripping.

Attacking the wealthy is the tried and true tactic of the left, which never works in practice and only results in worsening economic conditions. Mr. Schroeder's new tax, if implemented, will only drive more talented Germans to seek jobs and fortunes abroad, further weakening the deteriorating German economy. It's economics 101, but Mr. Schroeder has already demonstrated that he cares less for what is in Germany's interest than in keeping his office.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Islamists Exploit Unprotected Border

The danger at Americans resulting from Washington's obstinate refusal to secure the US-Mexican border has become well known to the American public, whose sentiments apparently mean nothing to the Bush Administration, the GOP and the Democrat Party. Now, the leading propaganda outlet for the Islamist movement worldwide is producing an expose to point out America's greatest vulnerability to its audience.
The Arab TV news network criticized by the new Iraqi government and others for its anti-American bias and willingness to carry the messages of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, is headed for the U.S.-Mexico border to document how easy it is to enter America illegally.

Al-Jazeera has contacted Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leader Chris Simcox to try to arrange interviews. Simcox, who rejected the request for cooperation with the TV network, says al-Jazeera, seen by millions throughout the Arab world and elsewhere, is producing an hour-long documentary news special on lack of security at the U.S. southern border.

Al-Jazeera reporter Naisser Hssaini mentioned the increase in apprehensions of illegal aliens known as OTMs – other than Mexicans. These foreigners increasingly include Arabs, Muslims and others from the Middle East. The reporter also mentioned his familiarity with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement police of catching and releasing OTMS – particularly those not specifically known to be on any terrorist watch list.

'The group has been denied requests for interviews by Minuteman Civil Defense Corps organizers but they still insist on filming the groups’ activities along with the rest of the media during a July 4th weekend mission near Arivaca, Arizona,' said Simcox.

Simcox has contacted the offices of Arizona's two Republican U.S. senators – John McCain and Jon Kyl – to invite them to do interviews with al Jazeera, 'so perhaps they can explain to the viewers of this news outlet just how secure America's borders really are.'
Senators McCain and Kyl have made it clear that they don't give a damn about border security and couldn't care less about the possibility of terrorists sneaking across the border, or the destruction of American culture via Mexican colonization. Senator McCain, however, never wastes a chance to get his face on TV, so he'd probably jump at the chance to appear on Al-Jazeera. Anything to get more votes for his run in '08.

Mr. Simcox notes that his group has alerted the border patrol and various officials in Washinton about al Jazeera's presence at the border. Unlike the federal agencies and officials he cites, however, Mr. Simcox appears to have a realistic understanding of the Arab TV network's motives.
'Would we allow Japanese or German television to film the unsecured border during World War II?' asked Minuteman spokeswoman Connie Hair. 'These people broadcast to the enemies of America. It's not a news story, it's recon.'
The better question is: would the US of 1942 permit a German of Japanese news agency to reconnoiter the southern border to publish news accounts of American vulnerability? Of course not. But then, the US in 1942 would have secured the border if it was thought to be a threat. In 1942, Washington was fighting a real war, not a rhetorical one.

In a related note, border patrol agents on the southern border note an considerable increase on non-Mexicans crossing the border into the US. Unfortunately, because of Washington's incredible inaction, there is little they can do about it.
So-called 'OTMs,' Border Patrol-speak for the bureaucratic term Other Than Mexicans, have become agents' worst nightmare in the past year.

Their growing numbers, a lack of detention space and an increasingly exploited immigration law loophole force agents to release them soon after catching them.

Undocumented Brazilians are crossing into South Texas in large numbers, and for the first time, more OTMs are being detained in the Rio Grande Valley are than undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

Agents say it has highlighted a broader problem: the Border Patrol's shift in strategy since 9-11 has rendered its traditional migrant-deterrence mission useless.

'We're selling ourselves like prostitutes,' said an agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector, one of several who only would comment anonymously due to fears of disciplinary reprisal.
No surprise. The Bush Administration has prostituted itself - and the whole nation - to Mexico. And we will all reap the inevitable whirlwind.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sapping our Strength

Despite the rosy rhetoric emanating from the White House, the Iraqi insurgency is not dying down. The insurgents cannot defeat the US military in any particular encounter where significant resources are brought to bear, nor can they hope to physically drive the US from Iraq. But they don't have to. The insurgency, which comprises a mix of mostly Iraqi Sunnis, angered at their group's fall from power, and a smaller number of non-Iraqi Muslims drawn from across the Islamic world (though almost exclusively Arabs), scores all the propaganda points it needs with its worldwide audience of Muslim extremists by continuing the fight. Every dead Marine, every wrecked humvee, every downed Apache helicopter simply provides that much more fuel to the growing Islamist fire. It is no coincidence that so many of these attacks are filmed - the extremists have mastered the craft of creating propaganda and understand well the effect that two or three minute video clips downloaded from the Internet showing the immolation of US assets has on Muslim males 15-30 all around the world. The recruitment value of these exercises justifies their cost in the extremists' eyes. Worse, Iraq now serves as a perfect training ground to which extremists bring their new recruits for real-world experience in urban combat. Those who survive return home (and a lot are returning home to Europe) having obtained great skills and basking in the unifying experience of battling the enemy. The inurgency will not end because not winning serves the Islamist cause even better than military victory would. It allows the Islamists to claim the moral high ground for being the "underdog" whilst generating lots of easy propaganda with low-cost explosives. Since the Islamist worldview is based entirely on religious fantasy, even a loss becomes a victory. Death - even the slaughter of hundreds of Muslim civilians - is seen as triumph, so long as it rebukes the hated American plans for a democratic Iraq.

Unfortunately, the White House appears to stagger about, lost entirely in its own neo-con driven fantasy land. Recently, US Vice President Richard Cheney made the stunning statement that the Iraqi inurgency was in its "death throes." Upon what evidence did Mr. Cheney make such a claim? Wishful thinking would seem the best answer. Challeneged by Senator Edward Kennedy a short time later, US General John Abizaid, currently commanding US forces in Iraq, was forced to admit that the insurgency had remained steadily potent for at least the last six months and showed no signs of losing steam. General Abizaid, perhaps fearing for his job, would not directly say that the vice president was talking nonsense when various senators brought up the contradition between his statements and Mr. Cheney's, but made clear that he stood by his analysis that the insurgency wasn't going away any time soon.

This weekend, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was himself grilled relentlessly by the Senate last week, tacitly admitted to US television that the insurgency was a long term problem probably without a solution.

Rumsfeld acknowledged that there is no military solution to ending the insurgency and that the talks with Iraqi insurgents were part of a search for a political solution to the war. "I mean, foreign troops are not going to beat the insurgency," he said. "It's going to be the Iraqi people that are going to beat the insurgency and Iraqi security forces. That's just the nature of an insurgency."

He also pointed out, on Fox News, that "insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."

If Messrs. Rumsfeld, Cheney or Bush think that the US can sustain its presence in Iraq for a decade or more, they have drastically miscalculated. The occupation's financial burden ($5 billion+ a month) is rapidly draining the already empty US treasury and the slow drip of American casualties has soured the American people on the occupation. Mr. Bush, forced to use his precious and declining political capital to prop up public support for his Iraq adventure, now finds that he hasn't the clout in Washington to pass any of his ambitious second term agenda. Sitting in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush must be feeling an uncomfortable sympathy for Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Of course, Iraq isn't Vietnam. It more closely paralells the US occupation of the Phillipines exactly a century ago. Having liberated the Phillipines from Spain heavy hand, Washington expected the Fillipino people to go along with its plans to remake the country into a US-style democracy. A nationalist resistance developed, fostering a brutal insurgency which resulted in atrocities on all sides and lingered, painfully for years. In 1905, the US could afford to combat that insurgency for ten years. In 2005, our expensive high-tech army and huge foreign debt may does not permit that luxury. Worse, as the US expends its men, material and attention on Iraq, China continues to undermine the US around the world. China, as a manufacturing superpower, represents a greater threat to the US (and the West) than all the Islamist fanactics ever born. But while the US remains bogged down in Iraq, it cannot effective counter the growing Chinese economic/military campaign to marginalize the US as an Asian power. China is fast becoming the Bush administration's second blind spot, after immigration, and future historians will judge him harshly for it.

Worse for the US, the ideological nonsense currently fashionable in the West Wing has put the US at a disadvantage when trying to counter Chinese soft aggression. The Wilsonian crusade that began in Iraq has spread - albeit less obviously - to all other parts of US foreign policy. Instead of the hardnosed realpolitik practiced by the US througout the Cold War, American foreign policy now seeks to "spread democracy," even at the cost of alienating potential allies like Putin's Russia.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom echoing from the White House and the sundry neo-con pundits, the US should begin withdrawing its forces from Iraq as soon as possible. Arm the new Iraqi government to the teeth and let its forces exact their revenge on their former Sunni oppressors. The Shites are more than capable of the task and will carry it out with dispatch. So long as Washington provides a steady stream of munitions, the Shia-dominated government of Iraq has little to fear from the Sunni insurgency and will liquidate it fore more convincingly that the US ever would. Once the US has been "liberated" from the burden of Iraq, it can focus fully its attention and resources - economic, diplomatic and military - on the very real and very potent threat of China.