Competency and Constitutionality in Question in Obama’s Libyan War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 21st, 2011

The Libyan War as Popular as the Iraq War

The attacks on Libya have been authorized by the UN.  There is multilateral support.  And a coalition of the willing.  So we’re standing on the side of moral authority.  And legality.  Unlike the Iraq War.  At least this is what the supporters of this Libyan operation are saying.  And they speak with a united voice.  Or do they (see EDITORIAL: Obama’s illegal war by The Washington Times posted 3/18/2011 on The Washington Times)?

Five Security Council member states sat out the vote, including permanent members Russia and China, in addition to Germany, India and Brazil. China in particular objected to any action that would compromise Libya’s sovereignty, but did not veto the resolution. This may have been a political move, since the abstaining countries are now in a position to raise principled objections to whatever happens once force is utilized. To claim the United States forged an international consensus seems premature when Resolution 1973 did not have the support of countries representing 42 percent of the world’s population.

Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil oppose this multilateral action?  And that 42%?  It appears that Libya at best may match the Iraq War in popularity.

Very Little Arab Participation in this Arab Matter

All right, we can expect some of this dissent.  But what about one of our allies.  One of the coalition of the willing (see The House of Commons reacts to Libya assault by Peter McHugh posted 3/21/2011 on the UK’s Channel 4 News)?

[The Prime Minister] was just seven minutes into his defence before the first doubt appeared. How would he avoid “mission creep” asked the SNP’s Angus Robertson. Politicians on all sides now use military phrases as short hand for much more serious questions and what he really wanted to know was how do we avoid the Iraq experience when George W Bush said the war was over in days but thousands were to die in the unplanned years that followed…

He said the campaign against Gaddafi was well supported but only Qatar,out of all the arab states were committing troops. Starting a war was easy, said Dennis Skinner, ending it much harder especially if we did not know what would mark the end.

The unease continued to expose itself in a series of interruptions. “What about the £230m of arms we had sold to Libya last year?” asked one MP and “What about Yemen and Bahrain?” said Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Would the Prime Minister resign if British “boots” were ever on the ground in Libya?

The UK and France are the two big European nations in charge of this thing.  And one of them is already having a lot of second thoughts.  They’re worried about mission creep.  It becoming another Iraq.  And for a “well supported” mission, there’s only one Arab state on board.  Strange, for it is Arab killing Arab in Libya.  And the Arab League supported the UN resolution to create the no-fly zone.  This lack of Arab participation can be unsettling for the coalition.  For without Arab participation, it can look like European Christians fighting Muslims on oil-rich land.  And that just won’t be good for the mission.

The Nobel Peace Prize Winner Initiates War

Across the pond, Republicans and Democrats alike are questioning the Libyan action.  Some of the stronger criticism may be coming from Republicans (see Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Says President Obama’s Unilateral Choice to Order U.S. Military Force Against Qadhafi is an Affront to Our Constitution by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett posted 3/21/2011 on bartlett.house.gov).

“The United States does not have a King’s army. President Obama’s unilateral choice to use U.S. military force in Libya is an affront to our Constitution. President Obama’s administration has repeated the mistakes of the Clinton administration concerning bombing in Kosovo and the George W. Bush administration concerning invading Iraq by failing to request and obtain from the U.S. Congress unambiguous prior authorization to use military force against a country that has not attacked U.S. territory, the U.S. military or U.S. citizens. This is particularly ironic considering then-Senator Obama campaigned for the Democratic nomination based upon his opposition to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

Some serious charges there.  But is it only partisanship?  I mean, right now, President Obama isn’t all that popular these days with his war on Libya.  He’s letting down some of his most avid supporters.  Who are no doubt stunned.  Their Nobel Peace Prize winner initiating war?  How can this be?

The Russians Call the Coalition Christian Crusaders after Libya’s Oil

Remember when Hillary Clinton went to Russia with that button?  To reset Russian-American relations?  They got the Russian translation wrong on the button.  But the Russians still praised the Obama administration for the effort.  But they’re not praising him anymore (see Russian Duma Leader Wants Obama Stripped of Nobel Peace Prize by Kenneth Rapoza posted 3/21/2011 on Forbes).

The controversial leader of the Russian Liberal Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky,  said in a statement on Monday that he will ask the Nobel Committee to strip President Barack Obama of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Zhirinovsky said in the letter that the prize, awarded in 2009 for Obama’s historic presidential victory and his work on nuclear non proliferation, was now hypocritical in light of recent missile strikes in Libya…

“These developments in Libya are another outrageous act of aggression by NATO forces and, in particular, the United States,” he wrote, calling it a “colonial policy” with the goal to control Libyan oil…

Zhirinovsky’s protest to the Nobel Committee is most likely a cry in the wilderness.

However, Russian officials have stated no interest in military adventures to punish Gadhafi for waging a civil war against anti-government forces. On Monday, The Economic Times of India reported Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin calling the airstrikes on Libya a “medieval call for crusades.”

Strip the Nobel Peace Prize?  You could say that the missile strikes are a far cry from what he did to win the Peace Prize.  Which was nothing.  He was elected in 2008.  Took office in 2009.  Not a whole lot of time to do anything.  But Zhirinovsky is a small player in Russia these days.  It doesn’t really matter what he says.  Putin is the power in that country.  And he called Obama’s airstrikes a “medieval call for crusades.”

I think we’re going to need another button.

Obama Attacked for Attacking his own Kind

And it gets worse.  Even some of his most ardent supporters are turning on the president (see Farrakhan To Obama: “Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?” by Alan Colmes posted 3/21/2011 on Liberal Land).

You’re a liar and a hypocrite, and I warn my brother don’t let these wicked demons move you in a direction that will let you absolutely ruin your future with your people in Africa and throughout the world…My advice would be, why don’t you organize a group of respected Americans and ask for a meeting with Qaddafi? You can’t order him to step down and get out. Who the hell do you think you are, that you can talk to a man that built a country over 42 years, and ask him step down and get out? Can anybody ask you?

Your people?  Why, that sounds a bit racist.  His people in Africa is code for black.  His people throughout the world is code for Muslim.  Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is slamming Obama for attacking his black brothers.  And his Muslim brothers.  Even though Obama is a Christian.  Confusing, yes, but for whatever reason Muslims around the world (even Gaddafi looks at him as a son) have adopted this Christian as one of their own.

Mission and Command Structure Poorly Defined

So despite all the talk about a multilateral coalition of the willing, the actions against Libya are pretty unpopular.  Which means support will probably not last long.  So they better get in fast.  Complete the mission with all possible speed and efficiency.  Declare mission accomplished.  And get out.  Shouldn’t be too hard (see Confusion Over Who Leads Libya Strikes, and for How Long by Steven Erlanger posted 3/21/2011 on The New York Times).

As the military operation continued over Libya on Monday, there was some confusion about which country or organization is actually leading it, and for how long. France, Britain and the United States are in charge of their own operations, which each have different code names.

The participants are being “coordinated” by the United States, but not commanded by it, according to the French Defense Ministry. The Americans, with the most assets, seem to be the lead coordinator, but Washington has said it wants to step back after the initial phase and have NATO take charge of maintaining a no-fly zone and arms embargo.

Britain wants NATO to take over but France does not, and Italy is threatening to rethink its participation unless NATO takes command.

Okay, so there is some confusion about the command structure.  But if France is the only holdout in turning over command to NATO we should be able to make a persuasive case to them.  Then that problem will be solved.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said in Brussels on Monday that “the Arab League does not wish the operation to be entirely placed under NATO responsibility…

Turkey is also reluctant to have NATO take charge, since it is the only Muslim member of the alliance, has opposed the use of force in Libya and was excluded from a Saturday planning meeting in Paris. But Turkey, which has kept lines open to the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, is likely to allow NATO to run the operation as long as it does not invade Libya with any ground forces or occupy the country.

Okay, that’s a bigger problem.  The whole Arab world is against NATO assuming command of operations.  Perhaps the British and the French can run the coalition.

Washington may be willing to have France and Britain run the operation as a coalition, but that would be hard for the two countries to do without using NATO assets for command and control, most of which belong to the United States. But Washington has never been willing to put its troops under the command of any other nation, one reason that even in NATO, the Supreme Commander Europe, is always an American.

Good night nurse.  Did anyone think this through?  Before we committed to military operations?  The coalition will fall apart before the popular support for the war does.  Command and control issues.  Mission uncertainty (regime change or no regime change).  If we’re this unclear now that we’re in a shooting war, exactly what clarity was there when we committed to the use of force?

Obama says Libyan Civil War is a US Security Threat

Well, the President explains why in a letter to Congress (see Obama explains Libya mission to Congress by Greg Sargent posted 3/21/2011 on The Washington Post).

Qadhafi’s continued attacks and threats against civilians and civilian populated areas are of grave concern to neighboring Arab nations and, as expressly stated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, constitute a threat to the region and to international peace and security. His illegitimate use of force not only is causing the deaths of substantial numbers of civilians among his own people, but also is forcing many others to flee to neighboring countries, thereby destabilizing the peace and security of the region. Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States.

Threatening the United States?  Really?  Losing Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood could threaten our security.  Losing Bahrain to Iran-friendly Shiite control could threaten our security.  But Libya?  While we have suffered at the hands of Gaddafi, it was more tit for tat.  When he retaliated after receiving a military ass-kicking from the US.  His weapon of choice?  Terrorism.  He blew up a Berlin disco frequented by American Servicemen.  And blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  If the pattern follows, we are at greater danger by our action.  Inaction would have been the safer bet for American security.

Note the mention of the “consequences to the national security interests of the United States.” Some Dems are arguing that Obama needs Congressional authorization under the War Powers Resolution, which only allows the President to initiate military action without Congress if America is under attack or under serious threat.

Indeed, Dennis Kucinich is citing this quote from Obama himself back in 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Obama’s insistence that our national security is at stake if Gaddafi is not repelled by force tacitly asserts the President’s authority to invade without Congressional authorization.

Not only are we not safer, there are serious questions about the constitutionality of Obama’s actions.

George W. Bush more Constitutional than Barack Obama

The United Nations Participation Act (UNPA) of 1945 is U.S. law governing our actions with the United Nations (UN).  It defines what the president’s authority is when working with the UN.  And it’s not much (see The false defenders of Obama’s war in Libya by Michael Lind posted 3/21/2011 on Salon).

The only rational way to interpret these sections of the UNPA is to read them as authorizing the president, without congressional approval, to supply fewer than a thousand noncombatant troops to the U.N. for Article 41 actions short of war, and also to negotiate agreements to supply armed forces to the U.N. under Article 43 — but only with prior congressional approval. In Article 42 situations, like the situation in Libya, where the U.N. Security Council calls on members to go to war, the UNPA did not grant the president to act without congressional approval — presumably because the Congress that passed the UNPA understood that all Article 42 enforcement actions approved by the Security Council would have to be separately and independently approved by congressional declarations of war before the U.S. could take part.

Far from delegating the president vast discretion to wage war in pursuit of U.N. requests, the U.N. Participation Act jealously guards the constitutional prerogatives of Congress.

In other words, the Constitution grants war making powers to Congress.  Not the UN.  Or the President.

The Constitution cannot be amended by statute. It cannot be amended by treaty. It cannot be amended by precedent. It cannot be amended by public opinion poll. It cannot be amended by election result. It cannot be amended by humanitarian pity. The U.S. Constitution can only be amended by the procedures set forth in Article V of the Constitution itself.

People are free, if they wish, to propose a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would read as follows: “The President of the United States shall have power to initiate war on his own authority, without the prior approval of Congress; provided, however, that Congress may refuse to appropriate funding for the continuation of a war the president has begun.” Such an amendment would create the situation that many people falsely claim to be the case today. Until such an amendment is ratified and goes into effect, however, the law of the land remains what it has always been, and President Obama’s war in Libya, even if it is moral, prudent and legally authorized under international law by the Security Council, is plainly unconstitutional.

Obama is president of the United States.  He swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  He did not swear an oath to the UN.  His authority is defined in the U.S. Constitution.  And it is clear he exceeded his constitutional authority.

Obama supporters are just exasperated to no end.  Because they know that George W. Bush went to war in Iraq with more Constitutional authority.  And this fact is just killing them.

The Libyan War already a Mess

The international community is not united in the attacks on Libya.  There is dissent within the coalition.  Uncertainty about mission.  Exit strategy.  Disagreement over command and control.  And legality.  It’s a mess.  It begs the question why Obama would do this to himself.  Especially with the 2012 elections around the corner.  He looks at the world through political eyes.  One can only assume that he has a plan to make this work to his advantage.  But it sure is hard to see how from here. 

Or is it just like JFK’s/LBJ’s whiz kids during the Vietnam War?  Completely out of their element.  Inept.  And making one bad decision after another.  Guess we’ll find out at the 2012 election.

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Barack Obama Attacks a Muslim Country with Oil. Just Like George W. Bush.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 20th, 2011

Bombs for Humanity

So we’re bombing Libya.  Why?  What’s the mission?  And our exit strategy?  Vietnam protester, John Kerry, explains on Meet the Press (see Kerry, Levin Defend Timing and Scope of Libya Response by David M. Drucker posted 3/20/2011 on Roll Call).

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” from Cairo, described the activities of U.S. military forces in Libya as a “humanitarian initiative” that was wholly unconcerned with removing Gaddafi from power…

 “The goal of this mission is not to get rid of Gaddafi,” Kerry added. “That’s not what the United Nations licensed, and I would not call it going to war. This is a very limited operation that is geared to save lives. … It is not geared to try to get rid of Gaddafi, he has not been targeted.”

So the mission is NOT to get rid of the guy that’s doing all the killing.  Yet we want the killing to stop.  Interesting.  And we’re making this information public.  So Gaddafi knows this.  That we’re not targeting him.  Or trying to remove him from power.  So his choices are surrender and die.  Or keep fighting and live.  Seems to me like he has an incentive to keep on doing what he’s doing.  And not to stop killing his own people.  Like I said, interesting.

As far as plans go, this sounds like a pretty bad plan to me.  In fact, it sounds pretty FUBAR.  Because it ignores how dictators stay in power and do the horrible things they do.  Dictators are protected by an inner circle.  Each has a vested interest in the other.  The inner circle keeps the dictator in power.  And the dictator keeps the inner circle living well.  As long as the dictator lives, the inner circle lives.  So if they are fairly certain he will live, they know their best future is with him.  And there’s only one way to make that happen.  By crushing the rebellion.

 “We’re not policing Libya,” Kerry said. “We are engaged in a humanitarian initiative to prevent the slaughter of innocent people, to prevent a dictator from dragging people out of hospital beds and they disappear.”

“What you’re missing here,” [Karl] Levin added, “is this is the world that has made a decision. … It is not just we the United States. The president has taken the time to put the world community together.”

The president put the world community together?  Hillary Clinton was talking to the French president (Nicolas Sarkozy) and the British prime minister (David Cameron).  Obama was doing his NCAA brackets.  And planning his vacation to Brazil.  Even Clinton was growing frustrated with Obama’s inaction.  It’s almost as if he wants plausible denial when this war, his war, fails.

Obama was for Removing Qaddafi from Power before he was Against It

So what if the plans go as planned?  We blow up a lot of stuff.  Kill a lot of people.  But leave Gaddafi in power.  What then?  What is the endgame?  What will it be like after our military involvement is complete.  If our military involvement ends (see U.S. stresses limits to military role in Libya by David Morgan posted 3/20/2011 on Reuters)?

Gates spoke amid growing concern among U.S. politicians over the scope and nature of the Libya mission and after an acknowledgement from the top U.S. military officer that the assault on Gaddafi’s forces could lead to an impasse…

President Barack Obama has called in recent weeks for Gaddafi to step down but U.S. officials have emphasized that is not the goal of the United Nations authorized attacks on Libya. The United States is eager to avoid similarities to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and ouster of President Saddam Hussein.

An impasse?  Hell, we can have that without the mission.  So why bother?  And what about the mixed message?  Obama said Gaddafi had to go.  But U.S. officials say he doesn’t?  Is anyone driving this bus?  Does anyone know what we’re doing?  And why?  An astute military man would sense all this indecision.  And see opportunities.  Even a lowly colonel.  Who hasn’t been promoted in decades.

The Qaddafis call Obama Hitler, Brutus

And what about Colonel Gaddafi?  How’s he taking this?  Is he ready to surrender?  To hand over power to the opposition forces?  To go forward in peace because he saw the error of his ways?  Not quite (see A Call from the Colonel: Gaddafi and His Bunker by Howard Chua-Eoan posted 3/20/2011 on Time).

“We defeated Italy when it was a superpower like you,” he said comparing Washington to Rome, Libya’s former colonizer. “You will be defeated like Hitler and Mussolini… You are the new Hitler.” He brought up America’s defeats in Vietnam and its self-debilitating invasion of Iraq. He raised the image of Osama bin Laden “that weak man” who he said defeated the U.S. “We will be victorious. You will die…”

“We have been wronged,” he declared. “Those who have been wronged will always win. There is no justification for this attack. It’s a colonial crusade. Islam will win. Libyans will win.” “We will not let these Christian nations take our oil… We are now giving Libyans weapons, machine guns. Every citizen will be armed…You will not be able to land here… We will destroy those who support you in Benghazi…. We will defend our own country, inch by inch… We will be victorious. The coalition of the devil will be defeated.”

And there is the perfunctory Western criticism.  We’re Christian Crusaders trying to take and colonize Muslim land so we can have their oil.  You know, the usual shtick.  Of course, this carries a lot of weight in the Muslim Middle East.  It will resonate with the masses.  Well played, Colonel.  Perhaps his son will be more reasonable (see Qaddafi’s son: Airstrikes are “big mistake” by CBS/AP posted 3/20/2011 on CBS News).

“One day you’ll wake up and you will find out that you were supporting the wrong people,” Saif al-Islam Qaddafi told ABC’s “This Week…”

Saif said if the U.S. wanted to help the Libyan people, they should “liberate Benghazi from the militia and the terrorists.”

“It was a big surprise that, finally, President Obama – we thought he’s a good man and friend of the Arab world – is bombing Libya,” Saif told “This Week” host Christiane Amanpour.

When asked whether Libya would retaliate against the strikes by attacking civilian airliners, Saif said this was not their “target.”

“Our target is how to help our people in Libya, especially in Benghazi,” he said.

So we’re supporting the wrong people.  Gee, I hope not.  That would be embarrassing.  Of course, if the Muslim Brotherhood rises from the ashes to lead Qaddafi-free Libya into the Iranian camp, we’ll know that we did.  Time will tell. 

And how about that personal dig?  At Obama?  That good man and friend of the Arab world.  Et tu, Barack?  Et tu?  I guess that Apology Tour really resonated with the anti-American elements of the Middle East.  At least they’re not going to target civilian airlines in retaliation.  This time.  Unlike that other time.  When they blew up Pan Am Flight 103.  Over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The Arab Coalition Faltering because Obama is just another George W. Bush

Not having Gaddafi be more open to surrendering and dying may complicate things a bit.  He seems willing to sustain the bombing damage until we grow tired of the war and go home.  Or until the coalition falls apart (see Arab League condemns broad bombing campaign in Libya by Edward Cody posted 3/20/2011 on The Washington Post).

The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya and said Sunday that he would call a league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention…

Moussa’s declaration suggested that some of the 22 Arab League members were taken aback by what they have seen and wanted to modify their approval lest they be perceived as accepting outright Western military intervention in Libya. Although the eccentric Gaddafi is widely looked down on in the Arab world, the leaders and people of the Middle East traditionally have risen up in emotional protest at the first sign of Western intervention.

A shift away from the Arab League endorsement, even partial, would be an important setback to the U.S.-European campaign. Western leaders brandished the Arab League decision as a justification for their decision to move militarily and as a weapon in the debate to win approval for a U.N. Security Council resolution two days before the bombing began.

It’s a delicate line our friends in the Middle East must walk.  They may want to help the West.  But they cannot really look like they are.  Or, if they are, they can’ t look overly enthusiastic about it.  Because many of our friends have populations they have to appease to prevent civil war.  And if you think it’s hard for us in the Middle East, try to walk a mile in their shoes. 

So this could be a little posturing on their side to save face in the Arab world.  Or, perhaps, they just didn’t know establishing a no-fly zone requires gaining air supremacy.  Meaning we can fly wherever we want.  But they cannot.  And to do that we have to take out all of their air defenses.  So Qaddafi may pick off a member or two of the Arab coalition disturbed by the intensity of the bombing.  And he always has his friends.  Those darlings of the liberal left.

As U.S. and European military operations entered their second day, however, most Arab governments maintained public silence, and the strongest expressions of opposition came from the greatest distance. Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Evo Morales of Bolivia and former Cuban president Fidel Castro condemned the intervention and suggested that Western powers were seeking to get their hands on Libya’s oil reserves rather than limit the bloodshed in the country.

You gotta love this.  The liberal left’s guy, President Obama, gets us into another war.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, their idols in Latin America have to stick up for the bad guy in this war.  It’s like the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact all over again.  When the Left had to stop loving their idol, Joseph Stalin, because he made a deal with Adolf Hitler.  The Left just must be beside themselves.  Because even their idols are saying Obama is going into Libya for the oil.  Just like George W. Bush in Iraq.

Islam Lutfi, a lawyer and Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt, said he opposed the military intervention because the real intention of the United States and its European allies was to get into position to benefit from Libya’s oil supplies. “The countries aligned against Libya are there not for humanitarian reasons but to further their own interests,” he added.

Even the Muslim Brotherhood says Obama is after Libya’s oil.  Just like George W. Bush in Iraq.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry, which previously criticized Gaddafi’s crackdown, on Sunday expressed “doubts” about U.S. and European intentions. Like the Latin American critics, it suggested that the claims of wanting to protect civilians were just a cover for a desire to install a more malleable leadership in Tripoli and make it easier to exploit Libya’s oil.

Even Iran says Obama is after Libya’s oil.  Just like George W. Bush in Iraq.

Christians Attacking Muslims on Land with Oil

So much for the Apology Tour.  If they treat a guy that has bent over backwards to the Muslim community like this, it’s obvious that the Obama approach in the Middle East was wrong.  And naive.  Not only has he damaged relations with our friends and allies, but he got zero goodwill for the effort.

And here we are.  Another ‘Christian’ coalition attacking another Muslim country with oil.  Already the Muslim anger is building.  And the question that begs to be asked is this.  How did we not see this coming?

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Obama Going all George W. Bush in the Middle East?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 19th, 2011

Fighting Wars on the other Side of the World

In 1775, the shooting in the American Revolutionary War began.  The world’s superpower, the British Empire, had planned on taking some arms away from local rebels.  Some shots were exchanged at Lexington and Concord.  And the small British force retreated to Boston.  The rebels harassed the British column the entire way.  The war did not begin well for the British.  And it would end like it began.  Not well.  The British formally recognized the United States of America 8 years later with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

The British outclassed the Americans in every way but one.  Lines of communications.  The British lines were some 3,000 miles back to Great Britain.  About a 6 hour flight today.  Then, a couple of months by ship.  By contrast the Americans held the advantage of short, interior lines.  We could ‘hit and run’ and melt back into the surrounding country.  Like we did in 1775 during that British retreat.  As we did throughout the war.  Though General Washington wanted to defeat the British in a decisive battle, he would not get the chance to meet the British in such a battle until 6 long years later at Yorktown.  Unable to win a decisive battle, he did the only thing he could.  Not lose a decisive battle.  The American Revolutionary War was a war of attrition.  The British sued for peace when the cost of continuing the war was greater than the British people were willing to pay.  As wars are wont to be with such long lines of communications.

Military planners have learned this lesson.  You are probably familiar with a more recent war that was similar.  Where a world superpower was involved in a war of attrition half way across the world.  In South Vietnam.  The Americans came into the conflict to support South Vietnam from Communist North Vietnam.  There is no South Vietnam today.  Like the British some 200 years earlier, we won the military engagements but just couldn’t win the war.  When the cost in blood and treasure became too great, we met in Paris, too, to end the war.  We signed the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.  And we learned the British lesson of 1783.

Winning the War is Easier than Winning the Peace

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, George H. W. Bush assembled an international coalition and threw the Iraqis out of Kuwait.  Operation Desert Storm was an overwhelming victory.  However, Bush was heavily criticized for ‘not finishing the job’ in the Gulf War.  His critics said we should have gone on to Baghdad to remove Hussein from power.  We didn’t.  For a couple of good reasons.  First of all, the coalition included Arab nations.  They only joined to repel Hussein from Kuwait.  Not to remove him from power.  The other reason was that if we toppled Hussein we would own Iraq.  And we would probably end up there for years trying to ‘win the peace’.

Following the Gulf War there were uprisings throughout Iraq.  The world watched hopeful that he would be overthrown by his own people and democracy would break out.  It didn’t.  He suppressed the rebellions brutally.  So brutally that no-fly zones were established in the north over the Kurds and in the south over the Shiite population.  But we didn’t invade.  And he remained a thorn in our side.  And his people suffered.

After 9/11, the US invaded Afghanistan.  Then Iraq.  The official reason was his weapons of mass destruction that he never documented destroyed.  He had used chemical weapons against the Iranians.  And the Kurds.  Being a ‘supporter’ of terrorism there was worry he might provide these weapons to a terrorist.  So there was that reason.  The other reason was a little more convoluted.  Osama bin Laden was a Wahhabi Sunni.  He had ties in Saudi Arabia.  And there was a large Wahhabi population in Saudi Arabia providing funding to al Qaeda.  The Saudis were reluctant to shut down this funding for fear of a rebellion by the Wahhabis against the House of Saud.  But there was one thing that worried them more than the Wahhabis.  Shiite Iran.  By invading Iraq we forced their hand.  They had a vested interest in seeing us succeed in Iraq.  And in our war against al Qaeda.  We made progress against al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.  And the Saudi started to shut down their funding.  The Iraq War was a success.  But the one drawback was that we now owned Iraq.  And winning the peace was nowhere as easy as winning the war.  As George W. Bush learned.

Obama Commits Military Force in Libya

The US has some very important friends in the Middle East and North Africa.  Among these are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  To name a few.  These are nations with Sunni populations and/or Sunni governments unfriendly to Iran.  Egypt made peace with Israel and kept the Suez Canal open for international trade for decades.  Saudi Arabia peacefully coexists with its neighbors and is the largest oil exporter in the world.  Except for the oil embargo of 1973, they have maintained the flow of that oil at market prices to Western economies.  The US Navy’s 5th Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain.

These nations aren’t perfect.  Saudi women can’t drive a car, for example.  But they’re stalwart US allies.  One of these nations was pretty progressive as well as being a staunch US friend.  Egypt.  Egyptian women were about the freest in the Middle East, second only to Tunisia.  Egypt and Tunisia, though, were suffering economically.  Had high unemployment.  And a Muslim opposition unhappy with their ‘Western’ ways.  The largest organized opposition group is the Muslim Brotherhood.  And they can be best described as being more simpatico with Iran.  When Egypt had their uprising, the Obama administration called it a democracy uprising and called for Hosni Mubarak to give up power.  Without considering who would step into that power void.  Which did not go over well with Mubarak.  Or the Saudis.

Now Libya is burning.  Qaddafi is attacking his own people.  The US dithered for weeks.  While the Libyans cried for help.  Even other Arab nations cried for our help.  But we did nothing.  Even though Qaddafi is not a US friend.  And was a sponsor of terrorism.  As the carnage mounted, though, someone took action.  The French of all people (see U.S. Missiles Strike Libyan Air-Defense Targets by David Kirkpatrick, Steven Erlanger and Elisabeth Bumiller posted 3/19/2011 The New York Times).

American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war…

The campaign began with French warplane missions even before the end of an emergency summit meeting in Paris, where leaders, reacting to news that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were attacking the rebel capital city of Benghazi on Saturday morning despite international demands for a cease-fire, said they had no choice but to act to defend Libyan civilians and opposition forces.

France has a Muslim problem.  They had some riots a few years back in some Paris Muslim suburbs.  Where young Muslims were unemployed.  Unhappy.  And not all that willing to assimilate into French culture.  Though they want to live in France.  So there’s been tensions between the French and their Muslim population.  So it says a lot that France was on point in this attack on a Muslim country.  Yes, at this time the international community, including some Arab states, approve of this action.  But you play with fire whenever you attack a Muslim country.  Especially if they have oil.  And Libya has oil.  In fact, it’s some of the finest oil in the Middle East.  A low-sulfur sweet crude.

When the international community was coming together against him, Qaddafi was defiant.  Warned us to stay out of their internal affairs.

“Libya is not yours. Libya is for all Libyans,” he wrote in one letter, read to the news media by a spokesman. “This is injustice, it is clear aggression, and it is uncalculated risk for its consequences on the Mediterranean and Europe.

“You will regret it if you take a step toward intervening in our internal affairs.”

Colonel Qaddafi addressed President Obama as “our son,” in a letter jarring for its familiarity. “I have said to you before that even if Libya and the United States enter into war, God forbid, you will always remain my son and I have all the love for you as a son, and I do not want your image to change with me,” he wrote. “We are confronting Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, nothing more. What would you do if you found them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? Tell me how would you behave so that I could follow your example?”

Could this be why the Obama administration was so reluctant to act?  Because of a father-son relationship between Obama and Qaddafi?  You gotta admit this is a strange thing for Qaddafi to say.  Makes you wonder just what was the extent of Obama’s apology tour in the Middle East.  One thing for sure, it will give fuel to those who think Obama is a Muslim.  I mean, it just doesn’t help when the bad guy calls you a son.

Regret?  We should take that threat seriously.  After some military encounters with Libyan losses in the Gulf of Sidra Qaddafi retaliated with the bombing of a German disco frequented by US troops.  When we discovered his connection to that bombing we bombed Tripoli.  In retaliation for that bombing he had a bomb smuggled aboard a 747.  Pan Am Flight 103.  Brought down on Lockerbie, Scotland.  So he has a history of getting even.  Which we need to be on guard for.

Obama now Owns Libya

So it’s war.  Missiles are flying.  People are dying (see Libya: British forces launch missile attacks on Gaddafi by Colin Freeman, in Benghazi and Sean Rayment posted 3/20/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

Explosions were reported at an airport east of Tripoli as a British Trafalgar Class submarine and US Navy ships and submarines stationed off Libya fired 110 Tomahawk missiles at 20 targets in what one source described as a “night of carnage”.

The missiles targeted Libyan command and control centres, radar installations and surface-to-air missile sites. Libyan officials said the attacks were “barbaric” and causing civilian casualties…

British sources and Pentagon officials said Nato would undertake a “battle damage assessment” of Libya’s military during daylight hours and would decide whether to continue with further attacks.

Sources at the Elysée Palace said Britain, France and the United States had assumed the “leadership” of the coalition in early talks between the Prime Minister, Mr Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State. The “extremely purposeful conclusion” of the early talks was endorsed by the full meeting, where speakers included Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general.

Well, President Obama has his third war.  Pretty impressive for a guy that said he would get us out of Iraq (he didn’t).  That he would fully prosecute the Afghanistan War to victory (he hasn’t).  And he wouldn’t nation-build like his predecessor.  George W. Bush.  He now may.  There’s no way Qaddafi can withstand the military force now aligned against him.  So he will lose.  But what then?  Who will fill that power vacuum?  In an already unstable and changing Middle East?  He can say what he wants about Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s different with Libya.  This happened on his watch.  And he now owns it.  It will be up to him to win the peace.  Or lose it.

Those naval operations against Libya will be based out of Bahrain.  I sure hope he doesn’t encourage any more ‘democracy’ uprisings while we’re using that base for combat operations.  It would be a shame to lose that base during the middle of these operations.  And by a shame I mean a complete and utter disaster.  Because that would greatly extend our lines of communications.  And history has shown what that can do in war.

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Government’s Insatiable Greed will always Keep Smoking Legal

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2011

The FDA may Ban Menthol Cigarettes

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you.  When you go to the hospital part of your diagnoses includes “Do you smoke?”  And your answer to this question will determine your treatment.  It’s that bad.  And we all know it.  Have known it for the longest of time.  The only thing keeping smoking alive in this country appears to be cool celebrities who smoke.  And kids who want to be cool emulating cool celebrities who smoke. 

Well, it looks like things may be changing.  Cigarettes now fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA.  And they may be doing something to put an end to this filthy habit (see FDA panel says ban on menthol cigarettes would benefit public health by Andrew Zajac, Washington Bureau, posted 3/18/2011 on The Los Angeles Times).

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel Friday said that “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States…”

Antismoking groups hailed the panel’s advice and urged the FDA to follow through with a ban.

Yeah, well, don’t get your hopes up.  It is unlikely that the government will ever ban menthol cigarettes let alone tobacco products in general.  Why?  They’re addictive.  Well, yeah, you say, that’s why the FDA wants to ban them, yes?  They’re bad for you AND they’re addictive.  I mean, what government that cares for its people wouldn’t want to ban these horrible, nasty things?  I’ll answer that with one word.  Taxes.

Tobacco companies also warned that a menthol ban would lead to a large black market, loss of tax revenue and make it easier for underage kids to smoke.

The 12-member advisory committee acknowledged that development of a black market was a possibility, but left it to the FDA to determine the seriousness of the threat.

A black market is serious.  Because it would only compound the loss of tax revenue problem.  And that’s what the government sees when they look at cigarettes.  A very lucrative stream of tax revenue.  And they will never turn off that spigot.

Big Government Loves Big Tobacco

For the non-smokers out there, have you noticed the price of a pack of cigarettes?  They’re pretty expensive.  But it’s not the tobacco companies making them expensive.  It’s government.  There’s federal and state taxes.  And some cities even add their own tax.  They’re all jumping onto the gravy train.  They thank God for the tobacco companies and their addictive products.  They’re great for taxing.  And even suing.  Government just loves them.  And the last thing anyone in government wants (at any level) is for anyone to quit smoking.

Let’s start at the top and work backwards.  The federal excise tax currently on cigarettes is $1.01 per pack.  State taxes vary.  Virginia, where they grow tobacco, adds $0.30 per pack.  The lowest tax is Missouri which adds only $0.17 per pack.  New York tops the states and adds $4.35 per pack.  All the other states fall somewhere in between, averaging $1.45 per pack.  (All cigarette tax data pulled from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids).

Some cities and counties add their own tax.  New York City adds $1.50 per pack.  Chicago adds $0.68 on top of the $2.00 Cook County adds.  As you can see, cigarettes can be very lucrative to government.  As long as no one quits smoking.  So you can be pretty sure that government won’t ever kill this golden goose.

Balancing Budgets on the Backs of Addicted Smokers

But governments can get greedy.  That dirty, sexy money can do this to you.  It’s intoxicating.  And there’s just so much of it.  So they keep raising their taxes.  But sometimes they go too far.  Because it’s a small world after all.  And there’s another state just a short drive away.  Across the border (see Chicago Cigarette Tax: Study Shows 75% Of Chicagoans Buy Cigarettes Out Of City by Will Guzzardi posted 5/20/2010 on The Huffington Post).

According to the University of Illinois at Chicago, 75 percent of sampled cigarette packs found on the streets of Chicago come from out of the city, costing roughly $120 million a year in revenues…

When the packs were collected in July 2007, state and local taxes on a pack of cigarettes in Chicago totaled $4.05. They were only $1.37 outside of Cook County. This made Chicagoans 60 percent more likely than their collar-county counterparts to shirk cigarette taxes.

Increase taxes and sales drop.  And ‘black market’ activity increases (smuggling out-of-state cigarettes across the border).  A very profound lesson that so few in government ever learn.  Because of their greed, of course.

The fear of sending business to Indiana may poke a hole in the ambitions of state lawmakers hoping to create a budget for the coming fiscal year. With Gov. Pat Quinn’s controversial plan to increase income taxes unlikely to come to fruition, the state is at a loss for new revenues. And cuts to public services like education have been met with vocal opposition.

Legislators have repeatedly argued that a new cigarette tax would help stave off some of those education cuts. But with the General Assembly already on recess and no resolution in sight to the budget mess, this new report may only serve to impede consensus in an increasingly fractious legislature.

Hmmm….  Using cigarette taxes to pay for education?  Funny.  Those law suits against Big Tobacco and the high taxes on cigarettes were always to counter the ill effects of smoking.  Or so said government.  Could Scott Walker be right in Wisconsin?  Could the salary and benefits of public sector workers be so great that they have to take money from health care to pay for them?  Perhaps.

New England/New Jersey Adopt Reaganomics

Of course, one state’s financial woes are another state’s gift.  Especially for those businesses near the border (see NH, RI, NJ buck trend, propose cigarette tax cut by The Associated Press posted 3/18/2011 on Yahoo! Finance).

Bucking a national trend of raising cigarette taxes, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island have considered reducing theirs, hoping to draw smokers from other states and increase revenue…

It’s very unusual for states to lower the tax, University of Illinois at Chicago economics professor Frank Chaloupka says. The increase in sales isn’t enough to offset the drop in state tax revenue, he says.

Instead of lowering the tax, states have enacted 100 increases over the past decade, he says.

Of course, they’re applying the opposite lessons of Chicago.  Cut taxes, increase sales.  And decrease black market activity.  At the expense of their high-tax neighbors.  Chicago would love to hate these states.

Smoker Aaron Evans stopped Thursday at a convenience store in Haverhill, Mass., for a sandwich and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. The pack cost him $7.13. A couple of miles away, a bigger pack of the same smokes would cost him $5.99 at a market in New Hampshire, which already has significantly lower taxes than Massachusetts.

That’s the funny thing about people.  They just don’t shop for the best price when shopping for a plasma TV.  They ALWAYS shop for the best price.  And if lower taxes are only 15 minutes away, guess what?  People will save money and drive the extra distance.  Even if they have to buy in bulk to offset the added cost of driving.

Danny McGoldrick, research director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said other states aren’t cutting their tax rates in these tough fiscal times because they need the money. Raising the tax, he said, produces revenue despite resulting in a desired decrease in the number of smokers.

But state Rep. Christine Hamm, a Hopkinton Democrat, called the move “fiscally stupid.”

“No state has cut their tobacco tax and seen a revenue increase,” she said.

I can think of a state that cut taxes and increased revenue.  The United States.  When Ronald Reagan cut the tax rates, federal receipts nearly doubled by the time he left office.  Cutting taxes works.  For a very simple reason.  People have more money to buy more things.  If they spend all of their disposable income on cigarettes, they may not eat out as often.  And a waitress may lose her job.  Who then has to cut back on her spending.  And so on.  The more money you keep in the private sector, the more economic activity there is.  And the more economic activity there is the more taxes government can collect.  But this is another profound lesson that so few in government ever learn.

Cigarette Taxes Pay for Public Sector Workers

For all their talk government doesn’t want smokers to quit smoking.  That’s why they will NEVER ban cigarettes.  They make far too much tax revenue on smokers.  And cigarettes are better than alcohol.  Because you can smoke and drive.  Smoke at breakfast.  Stand outside and smoke at work.  Smoke at dinner.  At the bar.  After sex.  Hell, to government, smoking is sex.  Nothing is better.  They can tax the bejesus out of it.  And because everyone knows smoking is bad for you people accept these outrageous taxes.  Even smokers.  Because we so demonize them that they think, well, yes, I guess I deserve it.

And the ill health effects of smoking?  It’s a pretty specious argument when municipalities are raising cigarette taxes to pay for their public sector workers.  When you raise cigarette taxes to pay for teachers you’ve lost that argument.  Which leaves nothing but greed.  And this is why cigarettes will always be legal.  And taxes will be high.  Because of government’s insatiable greed.

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LESSONS LEARNED #57: “Environmental policy is a zero-sum policy; save the planet, kill man.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 17th, 2011

DDT gets rid of Mosquitoes and Malaria

No one thinks much about malaria in big American cities.  Because they’re modern, paved cities.  So there aren’t a lot of mosquitoes.  At least, not like there used to be.  In colonial times, summers were bad.  Anywhere there was standing water.  Thomas Jefferson hated to be anywhere near tidewater areas during the summer months.  Because people got malaria.  He thought it was the air.  It wasn’t.  It was the mosquitoes.  Unpaved areas in tidewater streams just bred mosquitoes wholesale. 

As our concrete cities grew these wetlands went away.  As did malaria.  In the United States.  Other nations, though, were not so fortunate.  Especially sub-Saharan Africa.  Where malaria kills hundreds of thousands of children each year.  Why?  Because much of sub-Saharan Africa is impoverished.  With no modern, paved cities.  And it’s a mosquito paradise.  For awhile, that is.  Because man stepped in and used chemistry.  Created a miracle synthetic pesticide.  DDT.  And went to war against mosquitoes.  Campaigned especially fiercely in the tropical countries that really favored mosquito breeding.  Armed with DDT, it was a lopsided war.  Areas that saw millions of people infected by malaria each year had less than a hundred people infected after the DDT campaign.  It was a huge success.  Chemistry saved the children.  It was so successful they also used it in agriculture.  Food yields improved with the resulting pest elimination.  The mosquito and other pests were on the run.  But then an unlikely ally saved them.  Rachel Carson.

Carson wrote Silent Spring.  Published in 1962, she saved malaria.  And started the environmental movement with her attack against chemistry.  It was hurting the environment.  DDT was thinning egg shells.  And some other nasty stuff.  And perhaps it was.  But there were two uses of DDT.  Heavy agricultural uses.  And the lighter anti-malaria uses.  Some of the things she cited may have been more on the agricultural side.  In any event, environmentalism was born.  DDT fell out of favor and nations banned it or discouraged its use.  And malaria returned in force, killing hundreds of thousands of kids each year.

Firebreaks stop the Spread of Wildfires

Smokey the Bear says only we can prevent forest fires.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  We can’t change the weather.  Oh, sure, we can change the climate by warming the earth with manmade greenhouse gases, but we can’t make it rain.  Or stop the lightning.  Put the two together (a long time without rain then a lightning storm) and it will start a forest fire/wildfire.  And there’s nothing we can do about it.  Well, there’s nothing we can do to prevent it from starting.  But we can limit the severity of the wildfire.  By cutting firebreaks in the forest.

Dried trees burn very well.  And dried brush makes excellent tinder.  As a forest burns, the trees burn and flick off embers.  The wind blows the embers downwind.  Where they land on dried brush (i.e., tinder).  A fire smolders.  Then takes hold.  Flames grow.  And jump to the trees.  Which flick off embers.  That blow downwind.  And so on.  This is how fires travel.  And sometimes you can’t stop them.  They get too big to try and douse with water.  So they burn.  And the only thing that will stop them is the lack of fuel.  And this is where a firebreak comes in handy.  If you cut firebreaks into the forest at strategic locations the fire will spread until it comes to one of these fire breaks.  The embers flicking off of trees will then fall harmlessly on the firebreak.  Where there is no fuel.  And the embers will burn out.  Without starting a new fire.  Depending on the strength of the winds and the width of the firebreak, you can stop a lot of fires.  As long as there isn’t a rat living in the area.

Fire struck Riverside County outside Los Angeles in 1993.  It was huge.  And hungry.  That fire advanced and ate everything in its path.  Trees.  Brush.  And houses.  Homeowners in Riverside Country wanted to plow in some fire breaks to protect their homes.  Unfortunately for them, they shared their habitat with the kangaroo rat.  Which was on the Endangered Species List.  And plowing in those firebreaks may have harmed those rats burrowed shallowly in the sandy soil where all that tinder was growing.  So they were forbidden to cut in those firebreaks.  To save the rat.  And the fire burned through their houses.  And kept on burning.

The Food Chain Turned Upside Down

The San Joaquin Valley in central California is one of the most fertile farmlands in the world.  The Westlands.  Some call it the food basket of the world because they grow so much stuff there.  The San Joaquin River is fed from the snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and drains into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.  And it’s from this delta the government has helped the farmers pump water to irrigate their farmlands.  That is, until drought hit the area.  And a little fish.  A tiny smelt.

In the Delta there lived a fish.  This fish was on the Endangered Species List.  And this fish liked to hang around with man.  And the things man built.  Like water pumps.  With the prolonged drought, those irrigation pumps were pumping a lot of water.  And apparently killing a lot of smelt.  That were hanging around the pump inlets.  So a federal judge ruled in 2008 to shut off the irrigation pumps.  To save the fish.  And they did.

Without water farmers can’t farm.  So land went unused.  Farmers planted fewer tomatoes.  And fewer of their other crops.  Worse, some farmers had to destroy some of their healthy crops.  Such as almond trees that took 30 years to grow.  Without water they’d died.  And dead trees attract pests.  That can spread to healthy trees.  So it was either cut down some of their trees.  Or face pest infestation and lose all of their trees.  So food production in the fertile San Joaquin Valley dropped.  There was less food.  Which, of course, raised food prices.  All to save a small fish.

Diverting Corn from Dinner Tables to Gas Tanks 

Some say that we have to find an alternative to oil.  Because oil will run out one day.  Soon.  They’ve been saying this for decades.  And we haven’t run out yet.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is that they say it will run out because of our increasing demand for gasoline to drive our cars.  And that rising demand one day will exceed the oil supply.  One of their solutions?  BiofuelsEthanolFlex FuelE85.  Made from corn.  Our food.  And others.  For we feed a large part of the impoverished world with our surplus corn.

Back in the summer of 2008, gas hit $4/gallon.  That hurt.  The pain was so bad that it made people change behavior.  They bought smaller cars.  Hybrids.  And cars that ran on the ‘cheaper’ E85 (ethanol).  Which sold for something like fifty cents less than unleaded gas.  It seemed like quite the bargain.  Until you used it.  As those who had a significant commute to work soon learned.  One tank of gas let you commute to work for a whole week.  A tank of ethanol?  It didn’t take you quite as far.  People often learned this the hard way.  After having to stop in an unseemly part of town to refuel late night on the way home from work after hearing that ‘low fuel’ chime unexpectedly.  Those of us who did soon switched back to gasoline.  Why?  To prevent late night surprises like that again.  And because we just don’t like pumping gas.  Or, should I say, ‘fuel’.

You see, ethanol has less energy than gasoline.  So it takes more of it to go as far as gasoline takes you.  When you crunched the number you were actually paying more using the ethanol.  Because you were buying more of it.  Which brings us back to the interesting argument of why we have to replace oil.  Because our growing demand will eventually use it all up.  Now, let’s apply that logic to ethanol.  And the fact that it takes more ethanol to drive as far as with gasoline.  What does that tell you?  They will divert an enormous amount of our corn crop from dinner tables to gas tanks.  Making less food available for us.  And for export.  Which will do what?  That’s right.  Make some people go hungry.  And increase food prices.

Trading Humans for non-Humans

Advancements in environmental policy come at the expense of man.  Every time they protect an endangered species man has to yield ground.  When we fight global warming it is man who makes the ultimate sacrifice.  We have to lose some liberty.  Pay more for food.  Or eat less.  When they ban life-saving chemicals people die.  Hundreds of thousands of them.  Especially children in sub-Saharan Africa.  All in the name of saving the planet.

Environmentalists are okay with this.  For they must know about it.  And yet they pursue their agenda.  So they don’t mind the zero-sum game they play.  Trading humans for non-humans.  Because they favor the non-humans over the humans.  So when it comes to saving the planet or saving man, their choice is an easy one.  They save the planet.  And kill man.  For the human dead are acceptable collateral damage in their war to save the planet.

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Energy Drives both Food Prices and the Economy. And Politics.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2011

The Left Promotes and Attacks Electrical Power

The Left wants to get rid of the internal combustion engine and make all cars green.  Plug-ins.  Cars with batteries that charge by plugging them into electrical outlets.  They say it will break our dependence on foreign oil.  And stimulate the economy with new green technology.  For the same reason they want to dot the landscape with high-speed electric trains.  They want to make everything electric.  Because electric motors don’t pollute.

At the same time there is an all out assault on electrical generation in this country.  The nuclear power industry (the closest to a ‘green’ useful source of electricity we have) has been stalled since 1979 thanks to The China Syndrome and Three Mile IslandHydroelectric dams (another ‘green’ source of useful electricity) kill fish and alter the ecosystem.  So we can’t build them anymore.  With two down they’re turning their sights onto fossil fuels.  And they’re locked and loaded (see E.P.A. Proposes New Emission Standards for Power Plants by John Broder and John Collins Rudolf posted 3/16/2011 on The New York Times).

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first national standard for emissions of mercury and other toxins from coal-burning power plants on Wednesday, a rule that could lead to the early closing of dozens of generating stations and is certain to be challenged by the utility industry and Republicans in Congress…

She estimated the total annual cost of compliance at about $10 billion, in line with some industry estimates (although some are much higher), and the health and environmental benefits at more than $100 billion a year. She said that households could expect to see their electric bills rise by $3 to $4 a month when the regulation is fully in force after 2015.

With the country struggling to come out of the greatest recession since the Great Depression they want to raise the cost of energy?  For what?  Health and environmental benefits they pull out of the air (there are no ledgers anywhere totaling these costs)?  To offset one of the highest regulatory costs to come down the pike in history?  This is insanity.  One has to ask do they want to push the nation into a depression?  Or are they that ignorant in things economic?

She said that installing and maintaining smokestack scrubbers and other control technology would create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 permanent utility sector jobs.

Okay, we increase the cost of electricity forever but we get a few temporary construction jobs.  Construction jobs aside, if you do the math, each of those new permanent jobs will end up costing us over $1 million each year.  In addition to their wages and benefits.  All paid for by the electrical consumer.  The fact that they talk about this as a good thing shows their utter ignorance of things economic.  And contempt for the consumer.

The National Association of Manufacturers said the proposed rule would lead to higher electricity prices and significant job losses.

“In addition, electric system reliability could be compromised by coal retirements and new environmental construction projects caused by this proposed rule and other E.P.A. regulations,” said Aric Newhouse, the group’s vice president for government relations. “Stringent, unrealistic regulations such as these will curb the recent economic growth we have seen.”

Manufacturers use a lot of electricity.  The more they have to pay for it the less they can spend elsewhere.  The new utility costs will always be there.  To stay competitive in the market, they will have to offset that permanent increase with cuts in their operating costs.  Translation?  Layoffs.  Or they simply will not hire new people.  Instead they will make capital investments to increase their productivity.  And use fewer people.  This is how they do things when costs go up.  Either that or they will send manufacturing operations out of the country.

What Happens in Vegas isn’t much these Days

Economic activity is driven by disposable income.  That’s the money you have left after paying the things you have to pay for just to subsist.  Food.  Mortgage.  Gasoline.  Property taxes.  Those kind of things.  Once we pay these, we can splurge on economic stimulation with what’s left over.  Dinners out.  Movies.  Vacations.  And gambling (see The Penny Slot Economic Indicator by Douglas French posted 3/16/2011 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

Those at the Fed and in the financial press are telling us that the economy is turning around. Corporate America is ginning up profits so prosperity on main street can’t be far away…

However, if gaming trends in Nevada are any indication the middle class is hurting. Tourism and gaming peaked in 2007, with middle America making the trek to the gambling city to sit down and play a little blackjack (or 21). Latest figures have blackjack revenue down 31 percent from 2007, the Las Vegas Sun reports.

Last year was the first time baccarat, a game favored by Chinese high-rollers, generated more revenue than blackjack. But the $1.2 billion in baccarat revenue pales next to the $2 billion that penny slot machines generated…

So Las Vegas is limping along dependent on high rollers from China and low rollers playing penny slots. “This is why Vegas got hammered,” Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor says. “It needs the middle market.”

Casinos worked in Las Vegas because people went to Las Vegas to lose their money.  It’s a destination city.  All the other cities who opened casinos to cure their budgetary woes saw no magic.  The middle class just spent their money at the casinos instead of at the movies or the restaurants.  And by taking staycations.  We spent the same amount of money in the community.  We just spent it at different locations.

The recession may be over according to Washington, but it’s not over for the middle class.  Because they haven’t returned to vacationing in Las Vegas.  Why?  They don’t have as much money as they used to have.  And prices are going up.  A double whammy.  They have less to spend and subsistence costs are on the rise.

If Energy Costs Rise Food Costs Rise

In the summer of 2010 the Obama administration was touting their summer of recovery.  Declaring that their stimulus spending had ended the recession.  They were a bit premature.  Unemployment is still close to 9%.  Despite all of their quantitative easing.  They printed a lot of money.  Didn’t help.  Worse, on top of stubborn high unemployment, prices are going up on almost everything (see Wholesale prices up 1.6 pct. on steep rise in food by the Associated Press posted 3/16/2011 on Yahoo! Finance).

Wholesale prices jumped last month by the most in nearly two years due to higher energy costs and the steepest rise in food prices in 36 years. Excluding those volatile categories, inflation was tame…

Food prices soared 3.9 percent last month, the biggest gain since November 1974. Most of that increase was due to a sharp rise in vegetable costs, which increased nearly 50 percent. That was the most in almost a year. Meat and dairy products also rose.

Energy prices rose 3.3 percent last month, led by a 3.7 percent increase in gasoline costs.

Separately, the Commerce Department said home construction plunged to a seasonally adjusted 479,000 homes last month, down 22.5 percent from the previous month. It was lowest level since April 2009, and the second-lowest on records dating back more than a half-century…

Food costs, meanwhile, are rising. Bad weather in the past year has damaged crops in Australia, Russia, and South America. Demand for corn for ethanol use has also contributed to the increase.

Prices rose 1 percent for apparel, the most in 21 years. Costs also increased for cars, jewelry, and consumer plastics.

Some would love to see $4/gallon gasoline again.  It would push people into electric cars and mass transportation.  But there’s a downside.  A big one.  Higher energy costs make everything more expensive.  Even our vegetables.  Because those vegetable don’t appear by magic in the grocery store.  They travel long ways on trucks that burn diesel fuel to get to the grocery store.

Food and energy are tied at the hip.  If energy costs rise food costs rise.  And when you siphon some food off to make low-energy ethanol that no one wants that just increases food costs more.  We should use food for food.  And oil for fuel.  It’s more cost efficient.  And consumers will have more money left over to stimulate the economy with.

The Left Makes a Very Poor Argument Against Nuclear Power

And speaking of energy, nuclear energy is in the news these days in a big way.  But not in a good way.  Japan has some reactors that were hit with a one-two punch of earthquake and tsunami.  The tsunami took out the cooling systems.  So there’s a little trepidation over these plants right now.  And absolute glee as anti-nuclear people exploit this for all it’s worth.  They’re saying, “See!  That’s what could happen in America right now.  And in Europe.  We need to stop all nuclear power.”  I’m paraphrasing, of course.  But you get the gist.  Why, some are even playing loose with facts.  Even lying.  And some are writing top 10 lists why nuclear power is bad and why solar and wind are good (see Too Cheap to Meter: The Top 10 Myths of Nuclear Power by Michael Rose posted 3/15/2011 on The Huffington Post).

The best way to generate new power for the long term is not to build nukes but to invest in large scale solar and wind, coupled with natural gas as a transition in the short term.

The problem has been coordinating the power produced when the wind blows and the sun shines, distributing the power and storage. There are solutions to all of these. “You need to link up the disparate sources to compensate for when the wind is blowing and the sun isn’t shining,”

Coordinating the wind and the sun?  Really?  That should be our energy policy?  And how will that work during a major blackout?  Like the Northeast Blackout of 2003?  Can solar power really run all our air conditioning systems during the dog days of summer?  Our fossil fuel-fired plants can’t always do that.  Can you imagine a hot summer without those high capacity plants?  The inevitable blackouts won’t be rolling.  They’ll simply be scheduled daily during air conditioning weather.

The nuclear industry has asked for loan guarantees from the Federal government because the banks looked at the risk and took a pass. With the loan guarantees in hand the companies can get financing and if they default, or walk away from the projects (which is what happened before) the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. “It’s the same as if you defaulted on your mortgage and the Federal government had to step in to pay the banks back,” said Hirsch.

We saw above how new regulations are going to cost the coal-fired plant operators.  The new regulations will probably force some plants to shut down.  This is the fear of regulation.  Uncertainty.  If you change the rules midway through the game there’s a good chance you’re going to end up losing in the end.  Power plants are costly.  They are difficult to build because of the regulatory hoops you have to jump through.  It is a very high-risk game.  And nowhere are the risks and regulatory hoops greater than nuclear power.  These plants take even longer to build.  Are far more costly because of the regulatory compliance costs.  And have by far the greatest uncertainty because of the length of time from drawing board to operating on line because of these regulatory hurdles.  This is why banks don’t want to invest.  Because the government can change the rules and prevent a plant from ever going on line, leaving the bank to eat the construction costs.

It’s true that building the reactors does create jobs, but these disappear when the reactor is complete. And there are staff positions for running the reactors, providing maintenance and security but not enough to warrant the high costs and risks…

Ironically some fear that building new nukes will chase jobs away because electric rates will have to dramatically increase to pay them off. “No state ever created a net increase in jobs by raising electric rates to commercial and industrial customers. Such a policy drives jobs out of many businesses to create relatively few permanent jobs at the new reactor,” said Bradford.

Funny.  The same arguments work for other federal stimulus spending.  Those short-term construction jobs are good when they’re trying to pass a stimulus bill.  But it’s not good if it will stimulate nuclear power.  And they say here that increasing the cost of electricity will kill jobs.  Meanwhile, increasing the cost of electricity by adding new regulations for coal-fired plants will increase jobs.  Costs are funny that way.  Sometimes they’re bad.  Sometimes they’re good.  Sometimes they’re rooted in reality.  Other times, in fantasy.

France is pointed to as demonstrable proof that nuclear power can be affordable and safe. While it’s true France gets about 75% of its electricity from nuclear power and that it has avoided a large scale disaster but we don’t know very much about their accident record since its industry is nationalized and run behind a veil of secrecy…

It also adds to the costs of the producing nuclear power which is one reason French electric rates are 20% above U.S. rates despite subsidies, according to Bradford.

So, yes, France has energy independence.  And they haven’t had a nuclear disaster.  But that doesn’t mean anything.  They could.  Just because they didn’t doesn’t mean they can’t have a China syndrome next week.  Or tomorrow.  So we should proceed as if they will.  Despite their safety record.  And the cost?  Interesting.  Because the source they cite paints a little different picture.

The present situation is due to the French government deciding in 1974, just after the first oil shock, to expand rapidly the country’s nuclear power capacity. This decision was taken in the context of France having substantial heavy engineering expertise but few indigenous energy resources. Nuclear energy, with the fuel cost being a relatively small part of the overall cost, made good sense in minimising imports and achieving greater energy security.

As a result of the 1974 decision, France now claims a substantial level of energy independence and almost the lowest cost electricity in Europe. It also has an extremely low level of CO2 emissions per capita from electricity generation, since over 90% of its electricity is nuclear or hydro.

In mid 2010 a regular energy review of France by the International Energy Agency urged the country increasingly to take a strategic role as provider of low-cost, low-carbon base-load power for the whole of Europe rather than to concentrate on the energy independence which had driven policy since 1973.

Energy independence?  Low fuel costs?  Almost the cheapest electricity in Europe?  Extremely low CO2 emissions?  And the International Energy Agency wants them to be the provider of “low-cost, low-carbon base-load power for the whole of Europe…”  I don’t know.  These sound like good things to me.  Talk about being a bit disingenuous.  And by a bit I mean a lot.  Clearly they are cherry-picking some facts to forward an agenda.  Speaking of which, back to the HuffPo.

All civilian nuclear programs create spent fuel that can be reprocessed into weapons grade plutonium. This is what Iran, North Korea, India and Pakistan have done.

It doesn’t take much. At first you needed a chunk of plutonium about the size of a softball now it’s down to the size of a golf ball. “If a country has done its engineering, it can take about a week to go to a bomb,” said Gillinsky. “Safeguard inspections are too late.”

And here we come to why we use the energy we use.  Because it’s concentrated.  A little bit of nuclear fuel goes a long way.  Just like our fossil fuels.  That’s why our cars run on gasoline.  Because it’s easy to store and it’s highly concentrated.  With a small tank of fuel you can drive a very long way.  While carrying your whole family.  And a lot of your stuff.  That’s why we don’t drive electric cars.  You can’t do any of this in a battery-electric car.  The battery takes up too much space.  And you just can’t go very far on a charge.

Solar farms and wind farms are not concentrated sources of energy.  The very term we use to describe these generating ‘plants’ tells us this.  You need so many of them that we call them ‘farms’.  Not ‘plants’.  And even with a large footprint their electricity output won’t come close to what the power plants using concentrated-fuels can produce.  A couple of reactors on a small site can power a large city.  It would take a very large plantation of solar panels and windmills to produce the same amount of electricity.  And they will only produce when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.  Our concentrated fuel-fired power plant will be there 24/7, day or night, rain or shine.

Will the Great Recession turn into the Great Depression II?

Never before has our energy policy been in such a mess.  The children have taken control of policy.  They’re promoting fanciful solar panels and windmills no doubt while dreaming of unicorns and sugar plum fairies.  They don’t understand energy.  Or economics. 

Energy costs.  Construction costs.  Fuel costs are recurring.  While construction costs are one-time.  Therefore, the best economic policy would be to minimize fuel costs.  And coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear do just that.  You get huge amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel.  Especially nuclear.

Yes, sunshine and wind are free.  And you can’t minimize fuel costs more than free (except with nuclear that can use some nuclear waste to produce more fuel).  But the infrastructure cost to make solar and wind provide meaningful amounts of energy are staggering.  A nuclear plant can sit on a small footprint out of the way.  While solar and wind farms will take acres of land.  Or water (for offshore wind generation). 

While they play with energy and economic policies, consumer costs rise everywhere.  And will continue to do so.  As a direct consequence of their policies.  Consumers pay more.  And the greatest recession since the Great Depression drags on.  Perhaps turning recession into depression.  Could the Great Depression II be around the corner?  I hope not.  But one can’t rule it out with the current administration.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #57: “Environmental policy is a zero-sum policy; save the planet, kill man.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 15th, 2011

What do Cows and Dinosaurs have in Common?  They’re both a little Gassy.

Bovine flatulence contributes to global warming.  That’s a theory at least.  Cows fart.  It’s a byproduct of the digestion process.  Like with people.  As things break down chemical things happen.  It releases nutrients.  And gas.  Methane.  Until nothing is left but solid waste.  The nutrients help other things grow (people, animals, plants, etc.).  And the gas just dissipates into the atmosphere.  Or annoys your significant other when you do it under the covers.  We poop the solid waste.  As do cows.

But farts aren’t just fun and games.  Because the chemical compound for methane is CH4.  That’s one Carbon atom and four Hydrogen atoms.  In other words, methane is a hydrocarbon.  As in carbon footprint.  Yes, that’s right, methane is a greenhouse gas.  And cows are indiscriminately farting it out like there’s no tomorrow.  And the larger the human population gets, the more cows we raise for food.  Which means more cows are farting.  Which creates more greenhouse gases.  Which leads to more global warming.

So you can see it’s a problem.  All this farting.  I mean, it’s one of the theories why the dinosaurs went extinct.  Dinosaur farts.  Of course this raises an interesting point.  Currently, man is causing global warming by raising more and more cows to feed our growing population.  Among other things.  Man wasn’t around for the dinosaurs, though.  They killed themselves off without any help from man.  Which can mean only one thing.  That global warming predated man.  Or the dinosaur theory is a silly theory.

It’s Man or the Environment

So while smug environmentalists may enjoy the smell of their own farts, they want to cut back on bovine flatulence.  And the easiest way to do that is to just have fewer cows.  Reduce the food supply.  And gamble with our lives with that smaller food supply.  That’s because they worry about the planet today.  They don’t care what happened in the past.  Whether dinosaurs raised the earth’s temperature more than man has ever done.  Or that there were ice ages.  And that those ice ages ended.  Without man’s help.

Once upon a time the glaciers covered a lot more of the earth than they do today.  And when they last melted there were no man-made greenhouse gases.  Except maybe a camp fire or two.  And the occasional fart.  Man did less than at any other time in his existence to warm the planet.  Yet the planet warmed.  So much so that the glaciers moved farther than they have in the last 2,000 years of man’s existence.  Something warmed the planet back then.  And it sure wasn’t man.

But today it is only man who is responsible for global warming.  With his man-made greenhouse gases.  From our polluting industries.  Or from the cows we raise to eat.  Man has been the curse of this fair planet.  And the more advanced he got the greater his environmental destruction has been.  In fact, the environmentalist will say that the world was a better place before man came along to spoil it.  And a lot of what they do today tries to right this great wrong. 

Bigger, Heavier and Safer or Fuel Economy

Engineering is a balance between tradeoffs.  Take cars, for example.  There are two driving features of cars these days.  Safety.  And fuel economy.  They’ve made a lot of safety innovations in the last few decades.  Seatbelts.  Crumble zones.  Airbags.  Telescoping steering wheels.  And the list goes on.  And we added a lot of these because of that other feature.  Fuel economy.  To get better gas mileage we made cars smaller.  And lighter.  And a smaller and lighter car does not fare well in an accident with a bigger and heavier car or truck.  So the tradeoff between fuel economy and safety really became a tradeoff between fuel economy and people.

The environmentalist is okay with this.  In fact, they added to this tradeoff.  With the emissions equipment they want.  Catalytic converter.  Secondary air injection.  Evaporative emissions control.  Etc.  Pop the hood on a car today and much of what you see is for emissions control.  More equipment added to the car.  Some of which is belt-driven.  Increasing the car weight.  And the engine load.  Requiring weight reductions elsewhere to meet required CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations.  Thus making cars less survivable in accidents.

Some will argue, though, that cars are safer today than when they were all big and heavy.  Well, yes, cars are safer today compared to the bigger and heavier cars we used to drive.  But if you put seatbelts and airbags into those bigger and heavier cars, they would be safer than the cars today.  How do we know that?  Because we have cars today that are a lot like those bigger and heavier cars of yesteryear.  We call them SUVs.  And they are very popular.  Especially with parents who have kids to drive around.  Because they are bigger and heavier and safer.  And parents are more than willing to spend a little more in gas to drive those big honking things around to protect their kids.

From Global Cooling to Global Warming

But there are other tradeoffs besides fuel economy and people.  There’s the tradeoff between energy and people.  As populations grow they need more energy.  The energy of choice is electricity.  Produced by power plants that burn fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas).  Fossil fuels are, of course, hydrocarbons.  Those poor, hated, misunderstood hydrocarbons.  When we burn these to make electricity we create greenhouse gases.  And you know what that does?  That’s right.  Global warming.  At least, that’s what the environmentalists tell us.

There was another alternative.  Nuclear power.  It’s clean.  But there was a big problem with that.  A movie.  The China Syndrome.  And then Three Mile Island.  Both in 1979.  A growing nuclear power industry came to a screeching halt.  And we haven’t built another nuclear plant since.  The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island released a negligible about of radioactive steam into the atmosphere.  But the safety features worked as designed.  There was no China Syndrome.  But there was a movie.  And that was enough.  Nuclear power became the redheaded stepchild of energy generation.

There wasn’t a lot of talk about global warming in 1979.  Back then we were still talking about global cooling and the approaching ice age.  Then things changed.  The Nineties were all about global warming.  So not only did we shut down the nuclear industry, they so attacked fossil fuels that opening a new power plant was a regulatory nightmare.  So by the end of that decade our energy demands were taxing our energy supply.  Blackouts were becoming more and more common.  The elderly and infirmed suffered during these power outages.  Some died from heat stroke because there was no air conditioning.  With no escape from the heat there was other trouble.  Hot temperatures created hot tempers.  Often resulting in violence.  Looting.  And murder.

The Smug and Pretentious

The theory of global warming is a theory.  And not a very good one at that.  As those emails leaked from the University of East Anglia clearly showed (they were massaging the data to support the theory).  And making policy based on this theory has consequences.  It has altered the free market.  Regulated our lives.  Reduced our liberty.  And killed people.

No surprise, really.  Because environmentalists hate man and his impact on the planet.  So a few deaths along the way is a small price to pay.  And it thins out the herd of some of the less desirable.  Those who drive.  And energy hogs who use air conditioning.  But the environmentalist will live in his air conditioned ocean-side mansion (Al Gore).  But that’s okay.  Because some people have to show the way for the rest of us.  Not by example.  But by telling us how to live our lives.  Because caring is enough for them.  Makes them special.  Better than us.  So these smug and pretentious can sit back and enjoy their big carbon footprints.  And spend their days enjoying the smell of their own farts. 

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From Socialism to Jihad, Women just can’t Catch a Break

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 14th, 2011

Venezuelan Socialism as Unfair to Woman as American Conservatism

Conservatives want to defund Planned Parenthood because they use our tax dollars to perform abortions.  They say they don’t.  That they provide a lot of healthcare services for women.  And it’s those services they use our tax dollars for.  Not the abortions.  Of course, they don’t separate these services so it’s hard to tell.

One would expect this from someone on the political right.  But a socialist?  Never.  In socialism you’d think everything people wanted people got.  That’s the whole point of socialism.  Equal outcomes.  Anything available to one person is available to all people.  That’s why they have high taxes.  To make sure the poor can get whatever the rich can.  Unless it’s a boob job (see Chávez Tries to Rouse Venezuela Against a New Enemy: Breast Lifts by Simon Romero posted 3/14/2011 on The New York Times).

Between 30,000 and 40,000 women here undergo the procedure each year, according to estimates by the Venezuelan Society of Plastic Surgeons…

The president, however, made it clear that breast augmentation did not square well with his revolutionary priorities. He said that among the thousands of letters he receives from supporters, one arrived asking for his help for a breast lift, which could cost as much as $7,000. “Of course I had to reject it,” he said.

Who is he to say who can and cannot have a boob job?  Who made him God?  Apparently in Venezuelan socialism the rich can have things the poor cannot.  The next thing this tin-pot dictator will do is deny abortions to poor women.  Just like American conservatives.  The bastard.

Women and Christians need not Apply

You’d expect this kind of thing in the Middle East where they frown on drawing attention to female body parts.  But not from Hugo Chávez.  I mean, he’s the darling of the liberal left.  Hollywood loves him.  Feminists look to him to liberate their sisters south of the border.  And dream of seeing him without his shirt.  Yeah, they’re smitten with him, all right.  And now this?  Boy, they must be pissed.  And they’re probably not going to be much happier when they hear what the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) wants to do in Egypt (see Brotherhood sticks to ban on Christians and women for presidency posted 3/14/2011 on Al-Masry Al-Youm).

A leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egypt’s largest opposition group, said on Monday that the MB’s new “Freedom and Justice Party” would continue to stick by its view that Christians and women are unsuitable for the presidency.

They’ve come a long way, baby.  Just not with the MB.  Wonder if they’ll let them get a boob job.  Or an abortion.  Probably not.  At least, I don’t think the MB will foot the bill.  Should they rise to power, that is.  Could be worse, though. 

They Like to Keep them Barefoot and Pregnant, Too

Pretty woman.  Fascinating.  Are a wonder.  Sipping coffee.  Dancing.  How they make, a man sing.  Proof of heaven, as you’re living.  Pretty woman.  Yes.  Pretty woman.

That’s how Stephen Sondheim feels about them.  In song, at least.  (If you don’t recognize the lyrics, they’re from the 1979 musical Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.)  And most of us in the West.  We’re smitten with them.  And, really now, who isn’t?  For Sondheim’s lyrics ring true.  It’s universal.  Why, they’re even softening up in the most conservative parts of the Middle East.  Al Qaeda is launching a fashion magazine for the woman who has nothing and should be happy about it (see Al Qaeda Launches Women’s Magazine posted 3/14/2011 on The Daily Beast).

Probably won’t find this at your local newsstand: Al Qaeda’s media network has launched a new magazine called Al-Shamikha—”The Majestic Woman”—which bears some similarities to popular glossies like Cosmopolitan and Glamour…

Al-Shamikha offers plenty of advice, including how to find the right man (by “marrying a mujahideen”), how to take care of your skin (by staying inside and covering your face at all times), and touches a bit on health and the importance of good manners.  But while Cosmo’s cover might have a woman in some fashionable garb, Al-Shamikha features a niqab-clad woman clutching a sub-machine gun… It has all the attractions of a traditional women’s magazine, mixed in with strict lessons in jihad, like “not [to] go out except when necessary.”

Substitute ‘a man with a good job’ for ‘mujahideen‘ and lose the sub-machine gun and it sounds like they’re describing the pleasant life of June Cleaver or Donna Reed.  Of course, the left hates these women.  Because they were subservient to their men.  Just cooks in the kitchen.  And whores in the bedroom.  Barefoot and pregnant.  Guess they must hate the ladies of Al Qaeda, too.  For staying home instead of leaving the house to pursue a career.

And you just know that none of these women have access to a boob job.  Or an abortion.  The horror.  The horror.

The Real Oppressor and Degrader of Women Please Stand Up

The feminist left will support a Hugo Chávez every day of the week because he hates American conservatives.  And they will support Islam every time over Christianity, too.  Because in their eyes Christianity has oppressed and degraded women.  And denied them abortions.  But the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  So they support Islam whenever it’s up against Christianity (such as the Muslim community center near Ground Zero controversy).  And it doesn’t matter if it’s the most hard-line conservative branch of Islam to ever come down the pike.  Because they just so hate Christianity.  And all the June Cleavers and Donna Reeds in the world.

Remember Carrie Prejean?  Christian?  Miss California?  Topless photos on the Internet?  Oh, yes, that Carrie Prejean.  Not too shabby for an oppressed Christian society, is it?  I mean, women just don’t have the freedom to get into a scandal like that in other countries around the world.  Especially some countries with a non-Christian religion that really frown on that kind of thing.  But given the choice, the feminist left will always side with that non-Christian religion against Christianity.  No matter how much more oppressive it can be.

And the international sisterhood suffers for their myopic political agenda.

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Anti-Nuclear Crowd yearns for Chernobyl in Japan

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 13th, 2011

Enough of Exploiting Japan’s Disaster for Political Gain

First it was an environmentalist saying global warming caused the 8.9 magnitude earthquake.  A sure grasping of straws in their quest to move man back into the cave.  Then it was anti-nuclear power Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, who said we should learn from Japan’s near Chernobyl-like disaster.  And move back into the cave.  And now it’s Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chiming in (see “Put the brakes” on nuclear power plants: Lieberman by Will Dunham posted 3/13/2011 on Reuters).

“I don’t want to stop the building of nuclear power plants,” independent Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

“But I think we’ve got to kind of quietly put, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming on line,” Lieberman added.

Put the brakes on?  What, he wants to slow down from the breakneck speed we’re building new nuclear power plants and bringing them on line?  That’s going to be pretty hard to do considering the speed we’re going at.  I mean, when was the last time we built a nuclear power plant in the United States?

It’s not about what happened at the Fukushima Power Plant, it’s about what hasn’t Happened

We’re missing the big picture here.  The nuke plants didn’t kill or wipe out cities yet.  Like the earthquake-tsunami one-two punch has.  Let’s not lose sight of that little fact (see Nuclear Overreactions posted 3/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Part of the problem is the lack of media proportion about the disaster itself. The quake and tsunami have killed hundreds, and probably thousands, with tens of billions of dollars in damage. The energy released by the quake off Sendei is equivalent to about 336 megatons of TNT, or 100 more megatons than last year’s quake in Chile and thousands of times the yield of the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima. The scale of the tragedy is epic.

Yet the bulk of U.S. media coverage has focused on a nuclear accident whose damage has so far been limited and contained to the plant sites. In simple human terms, the natural destruction of Earth and sea have far surpassed any errors committed by man.

So in the grand scheme of things, the Japanese nuclear plants are minor players in this great tragedy.  Even that embellishes their role.  Much of Japan lies in waste.  Because of the earthquake and the tsunami.  The nukes so far have been innocent bystanders in the death and destruction.  But it’s all we focus on.  Even though they haven’t really done anything yet.  But under the right set of circumstances that don’t currently exist…they could.   So we use the big ‘what if’ to further shut down the already shutdown American nuclear power industry.  Why?  Simple.  Because congress can’t place a moratorium on earthquakes or tsunamis.

So back to that question.  When was the last time we built a nuclear power plant in the United States?

But more than other energy sources, nuclear plants have had their costs increased by artificial political obstacles and delay. The U.S. hasn’t built a new nuclear plant since 1979, after the Three Mile Island meltdown, even as older nuclear plants continue to provide 20% of the nation’s electricity.

So Senator Joe Lieberman wants to tap the breaks on a car that’s been parked and in the garage since 1979.  How does he do it?  Where does the genius come from?

No coal.  No oil.  And now no nukes.  Translation?  No power.  I guess we should practice our hunting and gathering skills.  Because we’re going to need them when we move back into the cave.  Of course, we’ll have to eat our food cold.  You know.  Carbon footprint.  From those foul, nasty, polluting campfires.

In America, Coal, Oil and Nuclear Power all Wear Black Hats

Some in Congress just love the planet so much.  They want to get rid of coal and oil and replace them with clean energy.  Which means nuclear power.  Because windmills and solar panels just won’t produce enough power.  Especially when they want us all driving tiny little electric cars that are going to suck more juice off our strained electrical grid.  And just how strained is our electric grid?  Remember the Northeast Blackout of 2003

High summer currents caused power lines to sag into untrimmed trees.  As lines failed some power plants dropped off the grid.  This strained other power plants.  And other power lines.  More lines failed.  More plants dropped off the grid.  This cascade of failures didn’t end until most of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario lost power.  It was huge.  And if you experienced that hot, stifling, August blackout, you know that windmills wouldn’t have helped.  There was no breeze blowing.  And solar panels wouldn’t have helped you sleep at night.  Because there’s no sun at night.  No.  What would have helped was some big-capacity power generation.  Like a coal plant.  An oil plant.  Or a nuke plant.

Energy demands increase with population.  And with electric cars.  We need more generation capacity.  And the only viable green solution is nuclear power.  And now we’re dilly dallying about the dangers of clean nuclear power because of what didn’t happen in Japan (see Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl by William Tucker posted 3/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), a longtime opponent of nuclear power, has warned of “another Chernobyl” and predicted “the same thing could happen here.” In response, he has called for an immediate suspension of licensing procedures for the Westinghouse AP1000, a “Generation III” reactor that has been laboring through design review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for seven years.

Talk about the irony of ironies.  The Soviet-era nuclear reactor at Chernobyl was the most dangerous ever used.  That reactor went ‘Chernobyl’ because of its design.  A graphite core that caught fire.  And no containment vessel that let plumes from that fire spread radioactive fallout throughout western Russia and Europe.  If the Soviets had used the type of reactor that’s getting all the media attention in Japan, there would have been no Chernobyl disaster.  And now the irony.  Rep. Markey wants to suspend licensing of the world’s safest nuclear reactor (the Generation III) by citing the world’s most dangerous reactor that Japan doesn’t even use. 

But facts don’t matter when you’re just against nuclear power.  No matter how safe the Generation III design is.  Or the fact that it doesn’t even need cooling pumps. 

On all Generation II reactors—the ones currently in operation—the cooling water is circulated by electric pumps. The new Generation III reactors such as the AP1000 have a simplified “passive” cooling system where the water circulates by natural convection with no pumping required.

Despite this failsafe cooling system, there are calls to stop the licensing.  To put the brakes on.  To move back into caves.  All because of what didn’t happen at Fukushima.  What didn’t happen at Three Mile Island.  But what did happen in a Hollywood movieThe China Syndrome.  (But that’s a whole other story.)

If a meltdown does occur in Japan, it will be a disaster for the Tokyo Electric Power Company but not for the general public. Whatever steam releases occur will have a negligible impact. Researchers have spent 30 years trying to find health effects from the steam releases at Three Mile Island and have come up with nothing. With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.

What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The problem has been with the electrical pumps required to operate the cooling system. It would be tragic if the result of the Japanese accident were to prevent development of Generation III reactors, which eliminate this design flaw.

Looking at Japan with Awe and Reverence

Japan has been nuclear since 1966.  They now have some 53 nuclear reactors providing up to a third of their electricity.  Yes, Japan lies on the Ring of Fire.  Yes, Japan gets hit by a lot of tsunamis.  And, yes, they now have a problem at a couple of their reactors.  But the other 50 or so reactors are doing just fine.  Let’s stop attacking their nuclear program.  So far they’ve done a helluva job.  And the Japanese know a thing or two about nuclear disasters.  They lived through two.  Hiroshima.  And Nagasaki.  Which make Chernobyl look like a walk in a park.  If anyone knows the stakes of the nuclear game, they do.  And it shows.

We should be looking at Japan with awe and reverence.  If they can safely operate nuke plants on fault lines and in tsunami alley, then, by God, we should be able to do it where things aren’t quite as demanding.  And should.  It is time we put on our big-boy pants and start acting like men.  Before we give up on all energy and move back into the cave.  And down a notch or two on the food chain.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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Japan’s Nuke Plants/Coastal Communities withstood the Earthquake but not the Tsunami

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 12th, 2011

The Awesome Power of Water

Japan’s most powerful earthquake caused a lot of damage.  But the tsunami’s damage may be even greater.

In 1923 the 8.3 magnitude Kanto quake killed 140,000 people.  In 1995 the 7.2 magnitude Kobe quake killed 6,400 people.  The 8.9 magnitude that just hit may have even killed fewer people.  The official count just recently exceeded 1,000.  But we’ll never know.  Japan’s buildings may have withstood this quake.  But the tsunami that followed made coastal communities just disappear. 

In Minamisanriku some 10,000 are missing.  That’s more than half of its population.  And that’s just one coastal community.  Others no doubt suffered the same fate.  The water just came in so fast (see The town that drowned: Fresh pictures from the port where 10,000 people are missing after it was swept away by the megaquake by Jo MacFarlane posted 3/12/2011 on the UK’s Daily Mail).

It only took a few minutes for the 30ft wave to wash the town away with terrifying force. The locals desperately tried to escape to higher ground. But most did not stand a chance.

During an earthquake you can stand in a doorway.  If the building survives you’ll probably be okay.  But there’s not much you can do when a 30 foot wave races toward you.  Other than run away.  To high ground.  Because a 30 foot wave is about as tall as a 3 story building. That’s a lot of water.  And nothing will stop it.

Never let a Good Crisis go to Waste

First it was an environmentalist looking to exploit the Japanese earthquake in the name of global warming.  Now an American congressman wants to exploit the earthquake to hinder the growth of nuclear power (see Japan quake disaster shows U.S. at risk of Chernobyl-type event by Alexander Bolton posted 3/12/2011 on The Hill).

Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, warned Saturday that the U.S. is vulnerable to the type of nuclear accident that has sent waves of fear through northeast Japan…

Markey said he hoped the Japanese would act swiftly to bring the situation under control and avoid a Chernobyl-style disaster.

I’m glad he made this statement.  Because I don’t know if the Japanese knew the full extent of what they were facing.  I mean, they’re only up to their elbows in it.  How could they see things as clearly as a politician in Washington?  I’m sure the Japanese ambassador will bestow him with gifts, grateful for this erudite observation.

Chernobyl-style disaster?  I doubt it.  He’s comparing apples to oranges.  Different reactor design (the Chernobyl reactor was a unique Soviet-era design considered to be the most dangerous reactor type in the world).  Different technology.  Different safety precautions.  And, due to its physical size, no containment vessel.  Nothing at all like the Japanese reactors.  Or the American ones.

Japan’s reactors did okay during the earthquake.  Their problems didn’t really start until coastal areas disappeared in the wake of the tsunami.  Yeah, it’s possible that the US Pacific coast could suffer a similar seismic event.  It does sit on the Ring of Fire.  But earthquake-tsunami one-two punches are more probable in Japan than they are on the US Pacific coast.  What happen in Japan could happen in the US.  Just as a meteorite could crash into a nuclear reactor.  Anything is possible.  But the odds favor certain events in certain places. 

Here’s a newsflash.  Life is dangerous.  Driving in a small, fuel-efficient car is dangerous.  Your odds are greater dying in one of those cars than in a nuclear accident.  But we’re not going to stop building small cars, are we?  And neither should we use what’s happening in Japan to further hinder an already hindered industry.

Is it Chernobyl bad or Three Mile Island Bad?

So what is the danger with those nuclear reactors in Japan?  A lot of people are opining.  And they’re not saying the same thing.  So who do we believe?  Depends on which experts you trust more (see Health risk from Japan reactor seems quite low: WHO posted 3/12/2011 on CNBC).

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Saturday that the public health risk from Japan’s radiation leak appeared to be “quite low” but the WHO network of medical experts was ready to assist if requested.

So CNBC has a source that says it may not be that bad.  While The New York Times has a source that says things are bad and can get worse (see Danger Posed by Radioactivity in Japan Hard to Assess by William Broad posted 3/12/2011 on The New York Times).

“The situation is pretty bad,” said Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear physicist who advised the Clinton White House and now teaches international affairs at Princeton. “But it could get a lot worse.”

Even Japanese officials appear to be contradicting each other (see Japanese Government Confirms Meltdown posted 3/12/2011 on Stratfor).

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said March 12 that the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear plant could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core, Japanese daily Nikkei reported. This statement seemed somewhat at odds with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano’s comments earlier March 12, in which he said “the walls of the building containing the reactor were destroyed, meaning that the metal container encasing the reactor did not explode.”

How about hearing from a guy that isn’t there but went through his own nuclear reactor crisis.  In Pennsylvania (see Three Mile Island Meltdown: Richard Thornburgh’s Advice for Japan by Eleanor Clift posted 3/12/2011 on The Daily Beast).

Richard Thornburgh is watching the developments in Japan with a keen sense of déjà vu. He had been in office as Pennsylvania governor only 72 days when he was confronted with a potentially catastrophic event at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor near Harrisburg. It was resolved without cost to human life, or the environment, which by no means is certain in Japan.

Though what occurred in Japan is the result of a natural disaster, the Republican says, the challenge officials face is identical: “To get a grip on what the facts are.”  That’s difficult when you’re dealing with complicated technology and an abundance of experts, often with their own agendas…

Thornburgh’s advice to his counterparts in Japan is to “just keep plowing ahead on getting a grip on the facts. Make sure the right experts are in place. The quality of the facts is going to determine the quality of the outcome…”

Watching the television coverage of Japan disaster and the ominous news of an explosion at one of its nuclear power plants, he cautions that “there’s nothing inherently unsafe about an explosion—it depends what exploded.” The Japanese have paid careful attention to safety and standards, unlike the Russians, who confronted a similar catastrophe with their reactor at Chernobyl in 1986. When he visited Chernobyl years earlier, Thornburgh recalls, it didn’t even have a containment facility.

So what exactly did explode (see Nuclear power industry watches warily as Japan’s aging reactor is hit hard by Joel Achenbach posted 3/12/2011 on The Washington Post)?

The explosion was not nuclear. Industry officials said it was created by the release of hydrogen gas that mixed with oxygen and exploded.

The building around the reactor vessel is partially destroyed, but Japanese officials say the primary vessel and the reactor core within are intact.

“If the reactor vessel is breached . . . then this radioactive stuff starts coming out in copious amounts,” said Robert Alvarez, a former senior adviser to the Department of Energy who studies nuclear power at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

Well, perhaps we know this much.  A non-nuclear explosion occurred.  There is no real radioactive fallout.  And we can compare and contrast what we know now about what we knew then. 

As at Fukushima, the Three Mile Island accident was triggered by a disruption of water flow to the reactor. Several instruments failed and operators did not realize that pressure was building inside the reactor. A heavy secondary containment shield ultimately prevented all but a tiny amount of radiation from escaping into the environment.

The Chernobyl disaster, in contrast, was caused by a crude reactor design and at least six fatally flawed decisions by operators during a risky test. A huge power spike and the bad decisions drove the reactor out of control. An explosion then blew the reactor apart and spewed radioactive debris for a week.

Unlike U.S. and Japanese nuclear plants, Chernobyl lacked the heavy shielding that eventually halted the Three Mile Island disaster – and that all of Japan desperately hopes will prevent Fukushima Daiichi’s unit one from melting down.

Yes, there’s uncertainty.  But it appears that what’s happening in Japan is less Chernobyl.  And more Three Mile Island.  If it turns out this way this won’t be so bad after all.  And it will say a lot about Japan’s nuclear power industry.  For Three Mile Island didn’t get hit with an earthquake AND a tsunami.

Right now all eyes are on the nukes.  People are holding their breath.  Once they secure the power plants, though, it will be anticlimactic.  For the real work will then only begin.  The cleanup.  The rebuilding.  And the wakes. 

God give the Japanese strength.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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