Hollywood to hurt Middle Class and export more American Jobs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 15th, 2013

Week in Review

James Cameron is going to make 3 Avatar sequels.  Three big block buster movies.  Generating a lot of economic activity.  Something the United States can generate a lot of tax revenue from.  To fund all those programs that liberals love so much.  Especially Hollywood liberals.  For those in the movie industry tend to be far left.  Cameron himself was applying for U.S. citizenship.  But when Republican George W. Bush won reelection in 2004 he chose to remain a Canadian.  You just can’t get much further left than that.  But how can you fault him?  Just look at all the taxable income he will create for the IRS with those three Avatar sequels (see James Cameron says he will shoot 3 ‘Avatar’ sequels in New Zealand by the Associated Press posted 12/15/2013 on CP24).

Director James Cameron says he plans to make three sequels to his 2009 sci-fi blockbuster movie “Avatar” in New Zealand…

Cameron says he plans to complete principal shooting on the three movies at one time, perhaps over a period of about nine months.

New Zealand’s government has agreed to a 25 per cent financial rebate. Cameron didn’t disclose an exact budget although he says he expects economies of scale will help the three movies together cost less than $1 billion.

Guess there will be no taxable income generated from filming these movies.  Forcing the IRS to squeeze more from those who don’t export American jobs.

Filming in New Zealand?  Shooting three movies at one time for economies of scale?  A 25% financial rebate?  Amazing, isn’t it?  The left does everything within their power NOT to use costly union labor or work in locations with costly regulations in the United States.  Yet they champion union labor and costly regulatory policies.  They are all for them.  As long as they can escape their costs by filming in a foreign country.  To satiate their greed.  Putting more money into their pockets instead of paying a living wage to an American.

And it’s the Republicans who have a war on the middle class?  Go figure.

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New Zealand Immigration does not allow Fat People into their Country because of Health Care Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 27th, 2013

Week in Review

As Obamacare moves closer to full implementation the mass of personal data the government will collect on us is concerning many.  Our medical files will have everything from our Social Security numbers to comments that we may drink too much.  But what harm can come from government having a wealth of private information about us?  It’s not like anyone has ever hacked into a government computer (the Chinese).  Or a branch of government ever violated our Constitutional rights (the IRS).  So really, now, how could a government-run health care system tracking our personal data harm us (see Chef told he’s too fat to live in New Zealand posted 7/27/2013 on CBC News)?

A South African chef has been told by authorities in New Zealand that’s he’s too fat to be permitted to live in the country…

…immigration officials told him he did not have “an acceptable standard of health” and his work visa would not be renewed, Fairfax NZ News reported.

At 5’8″ tall, Albert Buitenhuis has a body mass index of more than 40, which lands him in the medically obese territory.

An immigration spokesman said all applicants with a body mass index of more than 35 are investigated.

The spokesman said the chef had been rejected because his obesity put him at “significant risk” of health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and hypertension.

He added that the department’s medical assessors have to consider to “what extent there might be indications of future high-cost and high-need demand for health services…”

New Zealand has the third highest obesity rate among developed countries, behind the United States and Mexico, according to a 2012 report released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Interesting.  Obamacare may track our weight to determine how much to charge us for our Obamacare premium.  But they are doing nothing to secure our border.  Allowing God knows how many obese Mexicans into the country.  Who are as obese as we are.  And are at risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and hypertension.  Requiring more costly Obamacare resources.  So they will punish us for our obesity.  But not the Mexicans entering the country illegally.  For they are sacrosanct.  We can’t even ask them for an ID when they try to vote.  But you know that you and I will have to pay an obesity tax under Obamacare.

New Zealand has a mixed health care system.  It was once a national system.  But they have since mixed in a few private sector elements.  To control the out-of-control costs of national health care.  And because the government is footing a portion of the health care bill the government can do pretty much whatever they want when it comes to any health care issue.  In this case immigration is a health care issue.  Because immigrants are people.  And people eventually require health care.

This is the frightening part about Obamacare.  Because it lets the government punish our behavior if they choose.  Or our thoughts.  Overweight?  That’ll cost you.  Especially if you’re an enemy of the state.  Like those Tea Party groups harassed by the IRS.  Something that couldn’t happen if we kept our health care in the private sector.

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New Zealand, Denmark, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada are the top 5 Countries for Business

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 17th, 2012

Week in Review

Once upon a time the United States was the place to be if you wanted to go into business.  It was once so business-friendly in the United States that they overtook one of the world’s greatest empires.  The British Empire.  And caused great concern and consternation in Europe with their growing economic prowess.  As American became the world’s greatest economic power.

But those days are gone now.  When George W. Bush was president the US was still the best place in the world to run a business.  But in President Obama’s first year in office we slipped to the number two spot.  In 2010 we fell to number 10.  And in 2012 we slid even further to number 12.  And with President Obama winning a second term things aren’t likely to improve.  For President Obama is clearly not as good as George W. Bush.  Who kept America the number one place to do business in the world (see New Zealand Tops Our List Of The Best Countries For Business by Kurt Badenhausen posted 11/14/2012 on Forbes).

The U.S. continues to lose ground against other nations in Forbes’ annual look at the Best Countries for Business. The U.S. placed second in 2009, but it has been in a steady decline since. This year it ranks 12th, down from No. 10 last year. The U.S. trails fellow G-8 countries Canada (No. 5), United Kingdom (No. 10) and Australia (No. 11).

Corporate taxes continue to put a damper on American businesses…

It is not just the rate that hinders the U.S., but also the complexity of the tax code. The typical small or medium-size business requires 175 hours a year to comply with U.S. tax laws, according to the World Bank. Overall the U.S. ranks 55th out of the 141 countries we examined in terms of its tax regime. The world’s biggest economy at $15.1 trillion, it also scores poorly when it comes to trade freedom and monetary freedom.

New Zealand ranks first on our list of the Best Countries for Business, up from No. 2 last year, thanks to a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. New Zealand is the smallest economy in our top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in four of the 11 metrics we examined, including personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption…

We determined the Best Countries for Business by grading 141 nations on 11 different factors: property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance…

Ranking second on our list is Denmark, on the strength of its technology, trade freedom and property rights…

Hong Kong ranks third. Its economy, highly dependent on international trade and finance, remains one of the most vibrant in the world. Credit one of the world’s lowest tax burdens and a high level of monetary freedom…

Singapore comes in at No. 4, ranking in the top 20 in all but one of the 11 metrics we measured…

Canada slid from the top of the rankings in 2011 to No. 5 this year, losing ground on innovation and technology… However Canada remains among the best countries in the world when it comes to trade freedom, investor protection and the ease of starting a new business.

Congratulations New Zealand, Denmark, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada.  You are the 5 best in the world.  Perhaps one day the US can emulate the great things you are doing.  For we have lost our way.  Let’s hope that you don’t, too.

If there was any further proof that we need to reform our tax code this is it.  Tax compliance costs are sucking capital out of our businesses.  And hindering economic growth.  As evidenced by one of the worst economic recoveries of all time.  There’s a reason for this.  It’s the tax code.  And costly regulatory compliance costs.  Which does not encourage entrepreneurship.  But kills it.  For with today’s red tape you need an army of tax accountants and tax lawyers to start up a business.  Which doesn’t exactly encourage someone with a great idea to spend their life’s savings to go into business.

With another 4 years of pushing America down the list expect one of the worst economic recoveries of all time become even worse.  For this is not a climate to create jobs.  Expect continued high levels of unemployment.  And a worsening of the economy.  For we ain’t seen anything yet.  As President Obama told Russian president Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”  Which means he’ll be able to do what he really wants to do in the next four yours.  Which means the first four years were as good as it’s going to get.  And it probably won’t get that good again.

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Britain and the US should follow New Zealand’s example of Public Sector Reform

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

Ruth Richardson was Finance Minister of New Zealand from 1990 until 1993.  During that time New Zealand reformed their public sector.  Something she believes Britain needs to do to help pull it out of its financial troubles.  And it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing for the U.S. to do either (see Want to reform government? Start with the Civil Service by Ruth Richardson posted 8/9/2012 on The Telegraph).

New Zealand underwent a radical reform of the public sector nearly three decades ago, [as] Minister of Finance I knew it was crucial to secure a results-driven and accountable public sector. The NZ public sector performance management system broke sharply with the bureaucratic norm…

The UK Government faces the same urgent imperatives that New Zealand did. A crippling fiscal position; an inefficient and unaccountable public sector; and a bureaucracy incapable of innovation…

I learned that success in government relies on ensuring that the forces of productivity and innovation, so crucial to lift private sector performance, must equally be allowed to make themselves felt in the ranks of the Civil Service.

New Zealand, like the UK, used to be burdened by a typical bureaucracy . The system served its own ends, behaved in a wasteful and unaccountable fashion and there was a complete disconnect between resources and results…

And so the public sector performance management system for which NZ has become renowned was instituted.

We introduced contracts between Ministers and the heads of government departments to focus them on our priorities. And to sharpen accountability we put these heads of departments onto fixed term contracts, rather than providing them with jobs for life. We then let these managers get on and manage their organisations.

We also radically changed the way the way we managed our budgets. We made departments account properly for their assets, so that they would value them better. We made them report their performance in a way that every citizen could understand. These changes were important in allowing us to monitor the performance of services, were central to holding heads of department to account and were crucial in the quest to do more with less in fiscally straightened circumstances…

It is hardly a surprise that the old guard – the unelected government with real staying power – are lining up to oppose reform. But their arguments are discredited by our experience in New Zealand…

The real crux of the matter is – why should civil servants have jobs for life? The real life “slumdog millionaire” from Mumbai, who wants to use his winnings to take India’s tough civil service exam so he can win a secure and prestigious lifetime job”, is so typical of the species and the problem. And why shouldn’t they be accountable for their performance?

Do more with less?  Accountability?  That’s crazy talk.  No wonder the career civil servants are fighting similar reform in Britain.  And in the U.S.  Why would they want that when they can have prestigious lifetime jobs?

In the U.S. they don’t call them civil servants anymore.  Not when they work for the federal government.  No.  Civil servant was too demeaning for their prestigious stations in life.  Now we call them federal workers.  The very sound of it elevates them above us.  The civil society they serve.

It is hard to initiate this type of reform, though.  Because the people who can initiate this reform are served well by these civil servants.  For the more people that work for government the more votes they will get.  As civil servants tend to vote for the people who want to expand government.  Not shrink it.  Because few people will vote themselves out of a job.

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New Zealand to publish Literacy and Numeracy Standards despite School Principals’ Opposition

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

The education system hierarchs are circling the wagons.  This time in New Zealand.  For they are under assault.  By parents.  Who want a means to measure the quality of their children’s education.  And principals oppose these parental thugs for good reason.  They don’t want parents to know that they may not be very good in their jobs (see Data release ‘sad day’ by JONATHAN CARSON posted 8/8/2012 on the Waikato Times).

A Waikato education leader says it is a ”sad day for New Zealand education” after the Government announced plans to publicly release National Standards data today.

Education Minister Hekia Parata this morning confirmed that schools’ literacy and numeracy achievement levels will be published on the Ministry’s website in September.

She said it would allow parents to see how their child’s school was performing…

Waikato Principals’ Association chair John Coulam said principals in the region opposed the data being made public.

”What is of concern is that people who look at the data, unless they understand education, they can be making misleading judgements.

”Looking at data released on a website won’t show the hardworking teachers in the school, it won’t show the added value that’s made by a school – all it will show is that there are students that aren’t achieving, and there will always be a tail.”

So hardworking teachers’ efforts won’t appear in this data because the non-hardworking teachers’ poor efforts will bring the scores down?  The data won’t show how well a school does in other areas besides literacy and numeracy?  And what educational skills would these be?  Teaching the importance of diversity?  The evils of global warming and the necessity of a carbon tax?  I bet young students can tell you an earful on global warming even if they have poor literacy and numeracy skills.  Because it’s like that in the U.S.  Where the public education systems appear to be teaching our students more of what’s good for the public school system (teaching them to vote Democrat) than what is good for the students.  Strong literacy and numeracy skills.

Parents want the best education for their kids.  That means holding schools accountable.  And if they don’t look at the quality of the product of their education (literacy and numeracy skills) how else are they going to hold schools accountable?  Especially if they have non-hardworking teachers lowering educational scores?  Education is the only industry that we are supposed to accept whatever they say about their product.  Can you imagine any other industry getting to do that?

“You wouldn’t understand how to read a chemical analysis report.  So you shouldn’t.  Just trust us when we say that the smoke out of our stack and the discharge out of our plant into the river is clean.”

“Clean?  Okay.  Thank you very much.  I feel better now.  And I will let my children swim downstream of your discharge.”

Can you imagine that happening?  I dare say you can’t.

Education isn’t complicated.  That’s why private schools thrive.  People who can afford it will send their kids to private school.  Because they know they will come out of those schools with better literacy and numeracy skills.  Not because their kids will learn skills other than literacy and numeracy.  Because that’s what you need to advance into the workforce.  Or into higher education.  You have to be good in math.  And you have to be able to express yourself intelligibly both verbally and in writing.  This is what parents want for their kids.  To give them the best chance of succeeding in a high-tech world.

That’s all parents want from their education system.  And to do that they have to know what schools are good.  And what schools are not.  So they can improve the weaker schools.  Which would allow every child to have the best chance to succeed in the high-tech world.

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Street Prostitution makes Life Difficult for Families on those same Streets

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

It’s the world’s oldest profession.  And a crime in most parts of the world.  But a victimless crime.  When it’s between two consenting adults.  Of course that is open to debate as a lot of the women in the industry may have entered it in less than voluntary ways.  But for the sake of the argument let’s say that it is a victimless crime and that it is always between two consenting adults.  Between unmarried and otherwise unattached consenting adults.  Then of course it would be a victimless crime.  Prostitution.  For whose business is it what two consenting adults do in private (see New Zealand sex workers, community ‘poles’ apart by Christine Roberts posted 7/17/2012 on the Daily News)?

Prostitutes have allegedly destroyed over 40 parking-sign poles in South Auckland in the last 18 months by dancing on them to solicit clients, according to a booklet endorsed by the Auckland city council and obtained by the New Zealand Herald.

The Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board of the Auckland city council published the booklet, which contains personal accounts from locals about their interactions with street prostitutes, as part of its fight to ban sex workers from soliticiting clients in areas near homes, schools and sports grounds.

“Prostitutes use these [street signs] as dancing poles,” Donna Lee, a manager of two local business districts in South Auckland told Fairfax NZ News…

New Zealand has boasted some of the most liberal sex-working laws in the world since it decriminalized the sex trade in 2003.

Lee said that business owners in her neighborhood have become so resigned to the situation that they no longer report it to local authorities and clean up their properties — which are often littered with condom, drugs and human waste — on their own…

Local John Lee said he decided to move from Papatoetoe, a suburb northwest of Manukau, when he found two people having sex on his property.

“A couple against the fence were copulating and my ten-year-old daughter was awake and screamed out at them and that’s when we decided we have to go,” he said,” John Lee told TVNZ.

Apparently that’s the problem.  These consenting adults aren’t doing their business in private.  They don’t appear to be very mindful of property, either.  Public or private.  And they’re not very clean.  Or care about the environment.  Littering the pristine planet with soiled condoms.  Which aren’t very biodegradable.

It’s easy to say you support liberal sex-working laws.  To say that you’re enlightened and liberal on social issues.  Unless it’s happening around your house.  In front of your daughter.  Then it’s a different matter.  When people are not considerate of those around them.  Because we want our children to be able to enjoy being children.  And not step on soiled condoms.  Human waste.  Or drug paraphernalia.  When they step out of their home.

Everything changes when you become a parent.  It’s why parents tend to be conservative on social issues.  Because they have to protect their children.  And it’s a whole lot easier to do when street prostitution is illegal.  As well as drugs.  It’s why many liberals become conservatives as they grow up.  Because they become parents.  And once they do their world changes.  They see it’s not all about them anymore.  That life isn’t just about the here and now.  It’s about the future.  Their children’s future.  And all that stuff they rebelled about against their parents?  Well, they eventually understand why their parents did what they did.  And find themselves doing the same.  Continuing the good fight.  For their children.

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New Zealand attacks America for Subsidizing and Protecting their Farmers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2012

Week in Review

You’re probably not familiar with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  But it’s a pretty big free-trade deal.  Or an attempt at one.  But few Americans have heard of this.  Including members of Congress.  Who can’t get any details out of the Obama administration about the current negotiations.  Which are primarily held in secret.  But they’re talking about it in New Zealand.  And they are even less happy about these negotiations (see NZ must stay staunch on TPP by Matthew Hooton posted 6/16/2012 on The National Business Review).

The Americans want us to pay more for Nikes, entertainment and pharmaceuticals, weaken Fonterra and tinker with Telecom.

It’s a deal we’ll gladly do if they stop subsidising and protecting their farmers, and give us unfettered access to their market.

That, roughly, is the deal on the table for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The risk is that our trade negotiators will buckle, conceding the former without gaining the latter.

Instead, they should walk unless New Zealand and our free-trade allies get everything we want.

The TPP began as a New Zealand and Singaporean-led initiative in the 1990s, privately encouraged by the Clinton Administration.

Its purpose was to provide a genuine free-trade path for those members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum who meant it.

You sure hear a lot from the government about China’s unfair trading practices.  Saying their idea of free trade isn’t fair trade.  But ‘fair trade’ depends on one’s perspective.  Apparently.  For when the Chinese trade at an advantage to the Americans that isn’t fair.  But it is fair to trade at an advantage to the New Zealanders.  Funny how that works.

Free trade is good.  Free trade is fair.  Because of David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage.  Where countries produce what they can produce most efficiently.  And trade for what others can produce more efficiently.  Thus all countries use their available resources most efficiently.  And create the greatest amount of wealth from their resources.  Thus maximizing wealth creation for all trading partners.  And increasing their standards of living.  This is what free trade gets you.  Even when it comes to the farm.

Some in Britain fought against the repeal of the Corn Laws for the longest time.  Mostly the landed aristocracy who liked selling their crops at high prices.  Because if their markets were open to U.S. farm exports pouring out of America that competition would force them to lower their prices.  And they didn’t want that.  They wanted the British to pay higher prices for their food.  So they could earn more.  But they eventually repealed the Corn Laws in Britain.  And food prices fell.  Good for the hungry.  Bad for the landed aristocracy.  But good for the British Empire.  Which reached its greatest wealth and glory during the second half of the 19th century.  Because of David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage. 

Interesting that after the British Corn Laws the Americans would be protecting their farmers.  Less than a century later the Americans caused the Great Depression in part by trying to protect their farmers (the mechanization of the farm caused food prices to fall leading to the farm loan defaults, price supports, tariffs, etc.).  And still are.  Forcing Americans to pay higher food prices.  By keeping less costly food out of the market.

People may attack free trade.  As they may attack free market capitalism.  But what we have isn’t really free trade.  Or free market capitalism.  It’s more rent-seeking mercantilism than the profit-seeking capitalism that replaced it.  For awhile, at least.  The progressives launched their attack on capitalism around the turn of the 20th century.  And have been fighting it ever since.

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New Zealand is Actively Looking for new Petroleum Deposits while President Obama Remains in a State of Denial

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 9th, 2012

Week in Review

Petroleum fuels the modern world.  It’s what drives our trains (at least the diesel-electric ones).  It makes our airplanes fly.  Our cars drive (the vast majority of them).  And our trucks.  For the trains and cars that don’t use petroleum the electric generating plants do use it or another fossil fuel (like coal or natural gas) to make the electricity that moves the things petroleum doesn’t.  Life as we know it couldn’t exist without petroleum oil.  Sadly, though, the leader of the world’s largest economy doesn’t like petroleum.  And his administration is working aggressively against oil.  Wherever they can they have prevented new petroleum from coming to market.  Unlike they’re doing in New Zealand (see NZ puts 23 oil and gas exploration permits up for tender posted 6/8/2012 on Share Chat).

The government department is looking for companies to explore the onshore and offshore areas from 2013. The blocks cover over 40 kilometers of offshore seabed and 3 kilometers of land in the Waikato, Taranaki, Tasman, the West Coast and Southland. Tenders close on Oct. 15.

“The blocks cover a number of petroleum basins and a variety of environmental settings and resource types to attract a range of potential explorers with different expertise and interests,” David Binnie, general manager of New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals, said in a statement.

The New Zealand government understands that petroleum fuels the modern economy.  So they are inviting companies to come to their national lands and seas to explore for petroleum.  Meanwhile President Obama is shutting down oil exploration where he can.  (And if he could on private land he would do that, too.)  He said ‘no’ to the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada.  And he’s pouring hundreds of billions of tax dollars into green energy businesses that have a penchant for going bankrupt.  And yet the modern economy still runs on Petroleum.  What is wrong with this picture?

President Obama.

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Shell New Zealand spending Hundreds of Millions of Dollars looking for Something in the Great South Basin to Sell

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 6th, 2012

Week in Review

Bringing fossil fuels to market is expensive.  People look at the profits these oil and natural gas companies make and cry foul.  But few look at the cost side.  Which is very, very steep (see Shell NZ takes control of exploration in Great South Basin by ALAN WOOD posted 5/4/2012 on Stuff.co.nz).

Shell New Zealand has taken over control of a joint venture exploration in the Great South Basin, saying there are good indications of natural gas after $100 million of exploration in the “frontier” area.

However, to push into full development the explorer would need to find a field of a similar size to Maui off Taranaki, given that it would be need to spend $10 billion-plus on a processing facility if gas was found, the chairman of the Shell companies in New Zealand, Rob Jager, said…

Shell has assumed operatorship of the New Zealand exploration licence PEP 50119 in the Great South Basin from joint venture partner OMV New Zealand. The venture partners had spent about $100m exploring the area, including $50m early on, then another $50m on a just-completed seismic survey…

The cost of drilling a single offshore well in New Zealand was in the order of $200m given the expense of bringing a specialised rig from somewhere like the Gulf of Mexico…

“Certainly we would hope that we would be in a position to start seriously thinking about looking for and contracting a rig in the next six to 12 months … so you’re not looking at drilling realistically until the summer of 2014/15.”

Let’s add up the numbers.  Just to explore cost Shell New Zealand $100 million.  Drilling a single well will cost another $200 million.  And then the special natural gas processing equipment is another $10 billion.  All of this spent, of course, before they earn a dime of revenue off of this field.  That’s a lot of money. 

When you look at profit as percentage of revenue the oil companies aren’t as profitable as some other companies.  Such as Apple or Microsoft who are by far more profitable.  Yet we attack the rich oil companies as being too rich.  Who have to risk hundreds of millions of dollars JUST to see if there is a CHANCE that there may be something down there they can sell.

Despite all of this once they find something down there to sell they can bring it to market to sell in less than a year.  And that includes that $10 billion processing facility.  Incredible.  Compare that to the ‘smart’ green energy of the future.  That the Obama administration invested heavily into.  Only to see a string of failures.  And lost taxpayer money.  Just look at what the oil companies can do without any help from the government.  Some would even say while fighting the government’s attacks on their industry.  While the ‘smart’ green energy of the future has been working on government money for close to 4 years with NOTHING to show for it.

Perhaps it’s time to stop attacking the oil companies who are giving us the oil and natural gas we crave and need without the government subsidizing it.  And turn some of our anger on all that wasted taxpayer money on the ‘smart’ green energy of the future which is proving NOT to be the smart investment.

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LESSONS LEARNED #25: “War is costly. Peace, too.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2010

AT THE HEIGHT of the Roman Empire, the empire reached from North Africa to Britannia (England), from Hispania (Spain) to Mesopotamia (approximately modern day Iraq).  When Roman power ruled the civilized world, there was peace.  The Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The Romans built empire through conquest.  And Rome grew rich with the spoils of conquest.  For awhile, peace was only those quiet intervals between growth and conquest.  But with secure borders, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  For some 200 years.

Life was good for the Roman citizen.  As well as for those living in the empire.  The Romans modernized the provinces they conquered.  Made life better.  Even for the conquered people.  Although there were those who hated being subjugated by a foreign power.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father’s fathers.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don’t belabor the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?

Reg: What?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that’s true, yeah.

Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.

Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.

Matthias: And the roads.

Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…

Revolutionary III: Irrigation.

Revolutionary I: Medicine.

Revolutionary IV: Education.

Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.

Revolutionary V: And the wine.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!

Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.

Loretta: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it; they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Hahaha…all right…

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Revolutionary I: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

(From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, 1979.)

Maintaining a peaceful empire is costly.  As people got more accustomed to peace and plenty, they began to complain about taxes.  Citizens refused to volunteer to serve in the Roman Legions maintaining that peace.  Barbarians began to serve in the Legions.  Some rose to command them.  Some Roman commanders came from the very people they were fighting in the border regions.  Soon Rome would rely on mercenaries (hired soldiers) to defend their borders.  All of this cost the empire.  It had to pay more and more to maintain the loyalty of the military.  Ditto for the huge bureaucracy administrating the empire.  And they lost control.  Trouble on the borders and economic collapse ended the peace.  And, ultimately, the empire.  The civilized world broke down and collapsed.  And barbarian leaders on the borders, hungry for conquest, attacked.  Plunging the former Roman provinces into war and instability.

RISING FROM THE ashes of the Roman Empire were the seeds of new empires.  And the ground that proved most fertile was the northern limit of the old empire.  England.

England started to assert herself with the growth of her navy.  With her borders secured, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  Again.  For about a hundred years.  During the Industrial Revolution.  After the defeat of Napoleon. 

Imperial Britain stretched across the globe.  The sun never set on the British Empire.  And wherever she went, she brought the rule of law, modernity, a sound economy and political stability.  Her old colonial possessions went on to be some of the richest, most prosperous and peaceful nations in the world.  India.  Australia.  New Zealand.  South Africa.  Canada.  And, of course, the United States of America.  She achieved her century of peace (Pax Britannia) by a balance of power.  She maintained peace by intervening in disputes, often on the side of the weaker nation.  She prevented stronger, aggressive nations from threatening her weaker neighbors.   And she provided a safe environment for the weaker nation to live peacefully in the shadows of stronger, more aggressive neighbors.

For a hundred years Britannia kept the peace.  In large part due to her Royal Navy, the most powerful and potent navy at the time.  If you ate any imported food or used any imported goods, it was thanks to the Royal Navy that kept the world’s sea lanes safe.  But this peace came with a price.  The rise of nationalism, the quest of new empires to establish their own overseas colonies and a change in the balance of power in Europe with the rise of Germany added to that price.  And then a shot fired in Sarajevo by a Serbian terrorist ignited a tinderbox.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip started World War I.  The most bloody and expensive war at the time, it bankrupted Great Britain and ended her empire.  And left the world a less safe place. 

From the ashes of World War I rose new leaders with aspirations of world conquest.  Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini.  Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler.  Communist Russia led by Joseph Stalin.  Imperial Japan led by Hideki Tojo.  And the nation that led the victors in World War II would, by default, become the new world power.  The new world policeman.  The United States of America.

SO WHAT HAPPENED during the inter-war years that led to World War II?  War exhausted Britain and France.  Neither had the stomach for another war.  Britain continued to rely on the Royal Navy for protection (as an island nation, sea power is indispensable).  France built fixed fortifications (the Maginot Line).  Both were primarily defensive strategies. 

In America, General Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of battleships to air power by sinking a battleship with an airplane (greatly flustering the naval high command).  Colonel George S. Patton developed an armored doctrine for an unenthused army and eventually transferred back to the horse cavalry.  Meanwhile, Imperial Japan was building aircraft carriers.  And Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia developed air and armored doctrine while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935 to rebuild the Roman Empire and make the Mediterranean Sea a Roman lake once again.  Nazi Germany launched World War II in 1939 by an armored assault on Poland with tactical air support.  Poland resisted with horse cavalry.  And lost.  Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 to destroy American naval power in the Pacific.  They did a lot of damage.  But the American carriers, their prime objective, were at sea.  They would eventually meet those carriers later at the Battle of Midway.  Where they would lose four of their best carriers and many of their best aviators.  This tipped the balance of power in the Pacific to the Americans.

America was ill-prepared for war.  But American industry, the Arsenal of Democracy, ramped up and built the planes, tanks, guns, rifles and ships that would win the war.   It would come with a heavy price tag.  Global wars typically do.  Had there been a balance of power that would have checked the territorial ambitions of the aggressor nations, it would have been a different story.  Of course, having the power is one thing.  How you use it is another. 

France had more tanks than Germany before the outbreak of hostilities.  But the Nazis quickly overran France.  Why?  Doctrine.  France’s doctrine was to hide behind the security of the Maginot Line.  It was a defensive-only strategy.  She developed no armored doctrine.  The lesson they learned from World War I was that armies killed themselves attacking fixed defenses.  Germany, too, learned that lesson.  So their doctrine called for going around fixed defenses with fast-moving armor spearheads with tactical air support (i.e., blitzkrieg).  Formidable though the Maginot Line was, it could not attack.  And if the Nazis didn’t attack it, it did nothing but concentrate men and firepower away from the battle.

WHEN WE PULLED out of South Vietnam, we agreed to use American air power if North Vietnam violated the terms of the treaty ending that war.  Watergate changed all of that.  Even though JFK got us into Vietnam, it became Nixon’s war.  And a vindictive Congress wouldn’t have anything more to do with it.  The North tested the American will.  Saw that there was none.   Attacked.  And overran South Vietnam.  The message was clear to tyrants.  America will quit in the long run.  Especially after a large loss of life.

Other ‘retreats’ would reinforce this perception.  Especially in the Arab world.  The withdrawal from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marines’ barracks.  The withdrawal from Somalia after the Somalis dragged dead American troops through the streets of Mogadishu.  The Arab world even saw the victory in Desert Storm as a retreat.  The anti-American Arab world said that our invasion was about oil.  That what we really wanted was to topple Saddam Hussein and take his oil.  It was just another Christian Crusade into holy Islamic lands.  When we didn’t do that, the Arab world saw it as another American retreat.  That America didn’t have the will to endure a bloody battle to conquer Iraq. 

So some in the Arab world would test America.  Al Qaeda.  Headed by Osama bin Laden.  They started small and became more daring.  World Trade Center bombing.  Tanzanian Embassy bombing.  Kenyan Embassy bombing.  Khobar Towers bombing.  The USS Cole attack.  And they paid little for these attacks.  America didn’t fight back.  But their luck ran out on September 11, 2001.  Because America finally fought back.

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER one, Osama bin Laden, belonged to the conservative Sunni sect of Islam called Wahhabi.  They have a large following in Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabi have a delicate relationship with the Saudi Royal family.  They disapprove of the Western displays of wealth in the House of Saud. 

Al-Qaeda was a shadowy enemy.  We confronted them in the mountains of Afghanistan where the Taliban gave them a safe sanctuary.  We attacked.  Knocked the Taliban from power.  Drove al-Qaeda underground.  But we could not stop their funding.

Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia financed 9/11.  And the money continued to flow.  The Saudis would not intervene on behalf of America.  They feared any crackdown on the Wahhabi could unleash a civil war.  So America needed leverage to get Saudi cooperation.  And they found it in an old nemesis, Saddam Hussein. 

A Sunni minority ruled Iraq.  The Saudis did not like Saddam Hussein.  However, they liked the balance of power he offered to Iran.  Iran was Shiite.  As much as the Saudis did not like Saddam, they disliked Shiite Iran more.  This was the American lever.

After some diplomatic gymnastics, the invasion of Iraq was set.  The Saudis thought we were bluffing.  They didn’t believe we would invade Iraq.  Never in a million years.  If we didn’t do it in Desert Storm when we had the force in place to do it and didn’t, there was no way the Americans would amass another coalition and redeploy forces to the region again.  Especially because America doesn’t like long, drawn out, bloody wars.  Which an invasion of Iraq would surely be.

They asked us to remove our forces from the Saudi bases.  We did.  Now they were getting nervous.  That was the political game.  Make some noise to show the Arab world you weren’t an American toady.  But, secretly, you want those American forces to remain.  That American presence did provide security.  And stability.  After the invasion of Kuwait, it sure looked like Saudi Arabia would be next.  It was only that large American force in the desert that changed that inevitability. 

The Americans invaded.  And conquered.  Now the Saudis had a vested interest in helping the Americans.  They needed them to be successful in Iraq.  To contain Iran.  The lever worked.  The Saudis stemmed the flow of Wahhabi money to al-Qaeda.  The invasion of Iraq proved to be one of the most effective battles in the war on terrorism.  

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that a balance of power can lead to peace.  It has also shown that a superpower can enforce a larger peace.  But it also has shown that there is good and bad when it comes to power.  The Romans could be cruel, but so were most in that time.  The road to empire, after all, started out simply as a quest to provide a buffer between Rome and the hostile barbarians on her borders.  Rome, then, expanded in pursuit of peace.  (Initially, at least.)  And then used her power to maintain peace.

Many view Great Britain as the successor to the Roman Empire.  And many view America as the successor to the British Empire.  These powers share many things (rule of law, an advanced civilization, political stability, etc.).  Perhaps the greatest, though, is a powerful military.  And how it was/is used.  As a powerful deterrent to an aggressor nation.  To protect trade routes.  To maintain peace.  Malign these empires/nations all you will, but the greatest periods of world peace were due to their military power.  And their will to use that military power.  Expensive as that was.  Is.

So, yes, wars are costly.  Peace, too.  Sometimes, though, we must fight wars.  But we can avoid a lot of them.  By a peace-time military force that acts as a deterrent.  Because there are bad guys out there.  Who only respect one thing.  And it isn’t diplomacy.  Often the only thing preventing them from waging a cruel war of conquest is a potent military and a willing leader to use it.  If a tyrant knows he will face a military consequence for acting, he may not act.  When he knows that consequence will be devastating, he will not act.  But if he knows a nation hasn’t the military power or the will to use military power, he will act.  Just as Hitler did.  As Mussolini did.  As Tojo did.  And as Osama bin Laden did.

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