Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Global Warming': It's the Sun

Investor's Business Daily has an editorial that reinforces the quaint notion that the sun has something to do with the variation of temperatures on the earth:
Experiments performed by a European nuclear research group indicate that the sun, not man, determines Earth's temperature. . . .

The results from an experiment to mimic Earth's atmosphere by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, tell researchers that the sun has a significant effect on our planet's temperature. Its magnetic field acts as a gateway for cosmic rays, which play a large role in cloud formation.

Consequently, when the sun's magnetic field allows cosmic rays to seed cloud cover, temperatures are cooler.  When it restricts cloud formation by deflecting cosmic rays away from Earth, temperatures go up.
The editorial goes on to excoriate the defenders of the increasingly indefensible, and nails a few more points before concluding:
The promoters of the faith had a long run.  They've been feted and joined by the media, and conned a good piece of the public into believing their claims of inevitable disaster.  They've made wild amounts of money and increased their realm of influence.

But now it's time for reality to intervene.  For sound thinking to overcome shallow thought and trendy pursuit.  To rely on observable facts.  To move beyond the oppressive reign of junk science.

“Green Jobs Initiative”: Fraud, Waste, Abuse, Failure

I sat and watched, in morbid fascination, the acceptance speech of Obama at his anointing in St Paul in 2008, as his hubris perhaps reached its height (yes, that is an arguable point) when he proclaimed that

I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless [Really?  We have never done that before?]; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal . . .
It was touching to note that the speech was given at night as an apparent deference to his humility, so that the crowd could not be distracted by the sight of the clouds parting.  I was dumbfounded by the arrogance of the statement, and my instant thought was of the story of King Canute the Great when he commanded the tide to recede.

But not even Obama could expect that the oceans would recede at his mere presence.  No, the beauty of his proclamation would be that he would provide the means to heal the planet by providing proven, environmentally-friendly, efficient systems of power to substitute for the gargantuan power system that drives the world’s civilisation.  Surely, we wouldn’t move to limit or cripple our present energy systems with technologies that had not yet been shown to be efficient, or even possible, would we?  Well, “Yes, We Can!”

Just as the administration and the Democrats of Congress maintain a seemingly willful ignorance of the European failed socialist experience in its many forms (political, cultural, economic, . . .), so too the ignorance of the failed European experience with alternative forms of energy.  The country that has bought into the idea of alternative energy sources more aggressively than any other has been Spain.  Yet a report in 2009 by Dr Gabriel Calzada Álvarez of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos has demonstrated the dismal failure of the Spanish drive into the field of wind farms, solar thermal power plants, and other forms of alternative energy.  Part of the Spanish plan has been to create jobs in this new industry, and they have, but at a cost of some $752,000 to $800,000 each.  In the wind industry area, the jobs can cost up to $1.4 million each.  As if this isn’t enough, Calzada goes on to show that each new green job comes at the cost of 2.2 jobs lost elsewhere in the economy.  All this is tied up with efforts in the industry to game the system in obtaining subsidies, profiteering, and other forms of corruption endemic throughout the European experience.  (I recently spent some  time in Spain and I was taken by the blunt assessments of the citizens.)

Other countries are finding that the results are not matching the predictions, such as in Germany and Denmark, as well as the Netherlands:
The Dutch national wind capacity factor is a dismal 0.186.  The German wind capacity factor “is even more dismal at 0.167,” the article said.
Expanding wind power to meet the European Union’s 20 percent renewables target by 2020 meant adding at least another thousand 3 MW, 450-foot wind turbines to the Dutch landscape “at a cost of about $6 billion.”   Not surprisingly, the Dutch people found that to be far too costly – “an intrusion into their lives and an unacceptable return on their investment, especially when considering the small quantity of CO2 reduction per invested dollar.”
And we are still learning that the idea is the same here, as in TexasAnd in Seattle, there is the story of the $20 million stimulus allocation to create 2000 new green jobs, weatherproofing some 2000 homes:
But more than a year later, Seattle’s numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.
 There is also this report from the Orange County Register:
Lowlights of the saga include the recent bankruptcy of Evergreen Solar Inc. of Massachusetts, recipient of $58 million in direct subsidies and tax breaks, including federal "stimulus" funding, but which cut 800 jobs and is now $485 million in debt, with more job losses to come with the closure of a Michigan plant.  Green Vehicles of Salinas received $500,000 in city subsidies, but closed last month without having produced anything of significance, Human Events magazine reported.  The company had promised to create 70 jobs and pay back local taxpayers $700,000 a year in taxes.  
Even the New York Times finds that the programme has not lived up to its promises:
Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter . . . 
Job training programs intended for the clean economy have also failed to generate big numbers. The Economic Development Department in California reports that $59 million in state, federal and private money dedicated to green jobs training and apprenticeship has led to only 719 job placements — the equivalent of an $82,000 subsidy for each one. 
One has to ask: where is all this money going?  Surely it isn't going to the workers.  If not, then where?  This is a massive hemorrhaging of money.

The stories continue, but let me finish up this long exposition with the latest news in the area of electric cars, a major portion of the upcoming green technology and economy.  There are two principal contenders on the market – the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf, but sales have been dismal.  Obama proclaims that these two cars represent “the future” and justifies the large government investment partially on the fact that China has geared up as a major competitor, and we simply cannot lose this race.  But now comes word that China is pulling out of the race:
Beijing appears to be rethinking its singular focus on electric vehicles as a way to reduce fuel consumption and seems ready to revise its alternative-energy vehicle estimates as it becomes increasingly evident that the city’s electric vehicle targets were completely unrealistic.

Beijing – and in some ways, the whole of China – had set out to leapfrog conventional engine technology by developing and manufacturing huge amounts of electric vehicles. In particular, the city had hoped its push to develop plug-ins would give it an advantage over the West in electric vehicle technology. But hopes and dreams don't always jive with reality.

Plug-in vehicle sales in China have been poor and, even though no formal decision has been taken to abandon the nation's grand electric vehicle scheme, some higher-ups in Beijing are reportedly rethinking the policy.
No less than Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, has publically questioned the policy toward alternative power train vehicles.  Warren Buffet, who invested some $200 million in the Chinese company that produces the electric e6, surely must be disappointed in the fact that it has sold only 53 cars since March 2010.

Maybe the electric car technology, and even green technology as a whole, will take off sometime in the future, but it won’t be any time soon, certainly not within the next several years.  This looks like we can file this under the same heading as Obama’s shovel-ready jobs.

President Obama faces political catastrophe in the form of Solyndra -- a San Francisco Bay area solar company that he touted as a gleaming example of green technology.  It has announced it will declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  More than 1,100 people will lose their jobs.
During a visit to the Fremont facility in spring of 2010, the President said the factory "is just a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world. "
It's not his statements the administration will regret; it's the loan guarantees.  The President was celebrating $535 million in federal promises from the Department of Energy to the solar startup.  The administration didn't do its due diligence, says the Government Accountability Office.  "There's a consequence if you don't follow a rigorous process that's transparent," Franklin Rusco of GAO told the website iWatch News.
 This is the third major solar panel company to shut down in the last month.

Update:  The Canadians haven't fared any better in the realm of electric cars.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Syrian Crisis Clarifying Into an End Game?

The Syrian uprising against Bashar al-Assad, the latest member of his Alawite dynasty,  has been marked by steadily increasing pressure by the regime against the dissidents in a variety of cities, but the demonstrations show little evidence of bowing to the pressure despite the deaths of now some 2200 people.  Foreign governments have announced increasing sanctions, but Bashar has shown nothing but resolve to ride this out.  There are two elements though within the last few days that show some movement to the advantage of the demonstrators.

Reuters reports that there are defections from Syrian troops who refuse to fire on demonstrators and resulting battles between them and loyalist troops, with the news that this battle is taking place in the suburbs of the capital of Damascus.
In Damascus, dozens of soldiers defected and fled into al-Ghouta, an area of farmland, after pro-Assad forces fired at a large crowd of demonstrators near the suburb of Harasta to prevent them from marching on the center, residents said.
"The army has been firing heavy machineguns throughout the night at al-Ghouta and they were being met with response from smaller rifles," a resident of Harasta told Reuters by phone.
A statement published on the Internet by the Free Officers, a group that says it represents defectors, said "large defections" occurred in Harasta and security forces and shabbiha [militia] loyal to Assad were chasing the defectors.
It was the first reported defection around the capital, where Assad's core forces are based.
This is after the announcement last month of the defection of a core of Syrian officers, including a major general, and their call for other soldiers to join the movement against Assad, and to refuse to fire upon civilians.  There have been clashes in and around major cities such as Homs, Hama, and Latakia in the west, all with large concentrations of Alawis, though they are everywhere outnumbered by the Sunnis.  It is telling that Alawis are battling in their home areas, but there are now clashes in areas around the capital, where Assad has concentrated the units loyal to him.

Buried within the article toward the end is this tidbit:
Assad's closest ally, Shi'ite Iran, with which he has been strengthening ties to the disquiet of Syria's Sunni majority, has said Damascus must listen to the "legitimate demands" of its people.
Iran warned NATO Sunday against any temptation to intervene in Syria, saying that rather than the defeating a regime it would be bogged down in a "quagmire" similar to Iraq or Afghanistan.
NATO countries which have been active in Libya have been quite clear that they have no interest in intervening in Syria.  Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have been quite clear on this point, so the threat from Iran has no real meaning except for the fact that we have provided a great propaganda opportunity to them.

Nevertheless, the fact that now even Assad’s closest friend Iran, allied to the regime for several reasons, not the least of them being the Alawis’ quasi-Shi’ite nature in a land predominantly populated by Sunnis, is publically announcing that Assad should consider throwing in the towel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Obama: Don't Bother Me

Betsy Galliher of the American Thinker web log posts a contrast between Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard with events in the real world, writing that he chafes at those who try to infringe on his time off, even if the subject involves the internment of the recent fallen from Afghanistan.

Honestly, I tire of even discussing his juvenile preoccupation with public recreation at this juncture in the fundamental transformation, but the image of an obtuse Obama on the course this time around strikes a particularly heart wrenching nerve. 
On his first full day of vacation, August 19th, as Obama golfed one of Martha Vineyard's private courses, at least five of our most elite – some of the 30 victims of the deadly Taliban attack on their Chinook helicopter August 6th – were laid to rest.   Even Obama's ambitious 77 rounds of golf in as little as 31 months failed to numb to the image. . . .
No one believes Obama could have logistically attended the funerals of the thirty fallen, particularly with his busy fundraising schedule.  And in all fairness, Obama did change his schedule to meet the flag-draped coffins returning to the U.S. on August 9th – at which time he posed for a photo, distributed to news outlets and posted on the White House website as the Photo of The Day – regardless of the request from at least nineteen of the bereaved families not to do so.  But nine days later he was throwing humility to the wind and hitting the links, which seems to be par for the course on Obama's lavish romp through public service.   Still, watching our most revered soldiers laid to rest as their Commander-in-Chief putts, seems to prove once and for all the job isn't just outside his comfort zone, it's above Obama's pay grade. . . .
On the other hand, were that soldier my child – revered, expertly trained, selfless in sacrifice, faith, and love of country – and his Commander-in-Chief was on the golf course, knowingly, on the very day his soldier was laid to rest, I would know that Obama leads not only from behind, but in the shadow of my son.
Obama’s insensitivity is not a recent phenomenon.  I wrote of it last Memorial Day, off of Nile Gardiner’s aghast comments in the Daily Telegraph, and pointed out that George W Bush gave up golf entirely out of respect for the sacrifices of American servicemembers and families.  There are those who insist that Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard is no different than W’s to his ranch in Crawford, but the fact is that Bush actually had a home, with a compound to turn it into an adjunct White House.  Obama is fêted by major donors or has the expense account pick up the tab.  Bush actually worked, at a working ranch, and hosted meetings with foreign leaders.  Obama plays golf and shuts down cities for an evening of entertainment.

And now comes the announcement that, in contrast to previous statements that he will not cut his vacation short due to the impending Hurricane Irene strike on the US mainland, Obama will instead return to the White House tonight.  Donald Sensing contrasts this with Bush too.

But one thing that I have not seen in the news about Obama returning to DC is the fact that Martha's Vineyard is in the path of the hurricane.  Now we can know what it takes to grab his attention.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kinky Friedman Endorses Rick Perry

Texas has always had its share of colorful characters.  There is a strong positive correlation between a sense of humor and the ability to handle stress, and just dealing with the early Comanches alone would be enough to make anyone a Robin Williams.

Today, one such personality among the many is Kinky Friedman, erstwhile lead singer in the country musical group of Kinky Friedman and his Texas Jewboys and a candidate for governor in the 2006 election (ending fourth among six).  Despite his campaign being a more serious (but only slightly) Texas version of the Pat Paulson runs for president from the 1960s to the 90s, he managed to gather over 12% of the vote, with a campaign slogan of “Why The Hell Not?” and the stated goal of “de-wussifying” Texas.  He also managed to gather more campaign funds than the Democrat candidate.

Rick Perry has never lost an election; I’ve never won one.  Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world.  On the other hand, I’ve long been friends with Bill Clinton and George W., and Rick Perry and I, though at times bitter adversaries, have remained friends as well. . . .

I have been quoted as saying that when I die, I am to be cremated, and the ashes are to be thrown in Rick Perry’s hair.  Yet, simply put, Rick Perry and I are incapable of resisting each other’s charm.  He is not only a good sport, he is a good, kindhearted man, and he once sat in on drums with ZZ Top.  A guy like that can’t be all bad. . . .

These days, of course, I would support Charlie Sheen over Obama.  Obama has done for the economy what pantyhose did for foreplay.  Obama has been perpetually behind the curve.  If the issue of the day is jobs and the economy, Rick Perry is certainly the nuts-and-bolts kind of guy you want in there. . . . Compared with the rest of the country, Texas is kicking major ass in terms of jobs and the economy, and Rick should get credit for that, just as Obama should get credit for saying “No comment” to the young people of the Iranian revolution. . . .

So would I support Rick Perry for president?  Hell, yes!  As the last nail that hasn’t been hammered down in this country, I agree with Rick that there are already too damn many laws, taxes, regulations, panels, committees, and bureaucrats.  While Obama is busy putting the hyphen between “anal” and “retentive” Rick will be rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.
I've written before about Obama steadily losing Jewish support.  I now feel secure about closing in on the Jewish cowboy vote.

Update: For those who look outside of Texas to find guidance from musicians, there is also the tweeted endorsement for Perry from Gene Simmons of KISS.  His sentiment came as no real surprise, despite Simmons' previous vote for Obama.  As he volunteered in an interview on CNN last May:
“I think [Barack Obama] is actually a good guy.  He has no [expletive deleted] idea what the world is like because he doesn’t have to live there,” the vociferous musician told a rather startled Jane Wells.
Simmons also has specific opinions about Obama's treatment of Israel:
. . . Simmons has on multiple occasions expressed regret for voting for President Obama.  In an interview with CNBC last May, Simmons, who is Jewish, slammed the President for calling on Israel to return to its 1967 borders.

Big Labor Is Losing The Voters?

It is a cliché that politics makes strange bedfellows, but more often than not one finds the usual homogeneous intimates wallowing in a bed of cash.  I wrote yesterday how the trial lawyers are coalescing (call it Big Law) around Obama to fend off the success that Rick Perry has had in tort reform in Texas, lest a potential President Perry duplicate the same success of pro-jobs, anti-lawyer tort reform on a national level, cutting into Big Law’s copious coffers.

On a more permanent basis, there is Big Labor, which (among many other things) has had Obama stack the deck of the National Labor Relations Board with recess appointments of labor attorneys.  The result can most obviously be seen in the NLRB complaint declaring that Boeing should shut down a plant in right-to-work South Carolina in order to focus on the Boeing home base in forced-union Washington.  Obama is also in favour of the card-check rule (disallowing secret ballots in votes for unionising businesses) as well as compelled arbitration by the NLRB if a proffered union contract is not accepted by management.  We also saw how Obama and the Democrats in general supported the public sector (or government) employee siege of Madison, Wisconsin just a few months ago.

I posit that the voting public is starting to understand that unionism, particularly involving the unions that cover government employees as opposed to manufacturing, is stifling job growth in these times of stagnation.  It is to the point that manufacturing or private-sector unions are starting to break ranks with the government or public-sector unions, because they realize that spectacles like the circus of intimidation in Madison shows that the public sector is demanding considerations on the backs of the private sector:

In private industries, union workers are subject to the vagaries of the marketplace and economic growth.  Thus in 2009 10.1% of private union jobs were eliminated, which was more than twice the 4.4% rate of overall private job losses.  On the other hand, government unions offer what is close to lifetime job security and benefits, subject only to gross dereliction of duty.  Once a city or state's workers are organized by a union, the jobs almost never go away.
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post writes on how Big Labor, like Big Law, is forming super PACs that “can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals.”  However, that may come at a Pyrrhic price:
Nevertheless, Democrats should re-examine the degree to which they are dependent on organized labor.  It forces Democrats to align themselves with unpopular positions (e.g. card check, support of public-employee unions over taxpayers), further alienating the great majority of voters who are not union members.
She goes on to quote a left-wing columnist for the New York Times (yes, a bit redundant) who takes the administration to task in the NLRB case against Boeing, including:
Seriously, when has a government agency ever tried to dictate where a company makes its products?  I can’t ever remember it happening.  Neither can Boeing, which is fighting the complaint.  J. Michael Luttig, Boeing’s general counsel, has described the action as “unprecedented.”  He has also said that it was a disservice to a country that is “in desperate need of economic growth and the concomitant job creation.”  He’s right.
Rubin continues, with the point that the voters can see that the term ‘special interest group’ is not restricted to what the Democrats say it means, but includes that most special of interest groups with the labor movement:

This is but one example in which the Obama administration’s favoritism toward Big Labor works against the interests of ordinary workers. . . . One can’t imagine that Democrats would continue to take these positions if not for its excessive dependence on organized labor’s largess.  It is a legitimate issue for Republicans to raise in the upcoming election: Whose side are the Democrats on, their Big Labor patrons or ordinary Americans who are unemployed and underemployed in record numbers?
But Obama has said (repeatedly) that he is focused on job creation, and after months of apparently pondering this weighty topic will now return to Washington from his campaign listening swing through the whitest Mid-west and his vacation on Mount Sinai Martha’s Vineyard to deliver his solution.  This must include the fact that he has hired Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, as his jobs and competitiveness czar, and here T J O’Hara of the Washington Times gives a lengthy analysis of Immelt’s effectiveness (though he buries the lead):
Last year, GE reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion. Clearly, Mr. Immelt knows how to create jobs and compete!

But wait! Only $5.1 billion of the total came from GE’s U.S. operations. How can that be?

It’s because GE has been “exporting” jobs in recent years. It has reduced its U.S. base of business by approximately 21,000 employees and now employs about 53% of its workforce overseas.
 After you arrive at this point in the article, Mr O’Hara takes off with more details that can do nothing other than make a person of reasonable caution query the sense of what Big Labor really wants.  O’Hara sums up at one point:

Are you connecting the dots yet?  We’re denying jobs in South Carolina while creating them in China.  We’re generating revenue in China and for GE, but not taxing GE on those profits in the United States.  We’re making China more competitive in the long-term and exposing Boeing’s U.S.-based manufacturing to more competition in the future.
Yet Big Labor is all in for Obama.  If you were to think that Labor cares about creating more jobs in America (even if only union dues-paying jobs), you would have to question their sanity or their sincerity.  And I do.

Rudyard Kipling wrote of the British soldier (the source of the nickname Tommy) and how he sees through the patronising, hypocritical statements of the British public about how they care about his soul, though they feel he’s a brute.  “And Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – You bet that Tommy sees!”

The American voter is starting to see through the curtain of money covering the Obama machine.  It’s a big curtain though, made even thicker by the pelf of the Democrats’ special interests.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rick Perry Unites, Enrages Trial Lawyers

One of Rick Perry’s decisive accomplishments as Texas governor has been tort reform.  This is starting to shape up in the minds of some otherwise vacillating people as a major factor in their decision whether to support him.  One group where this is really a negative factor (rest assured) is the trial lawyers.

A group that Obama would otherwise label as ‘fat-cat millionaires’ has a large amount of cash that can be deposited in a variety of anti-Perry PACs.  The last time that trial lawyers lined up in such support for a national campaign was in 2004 with John Edwards.
Among litigators, there is no presidential candidate who inspires the same level of hatred – and fear – as Perry, an avowed opponent of the plaintiffs’ bar who has presided over several rounds of tort reform as governor.

And if Perry ends up as the Republican nominee for president, deep-pocketed trial lawyers intend to play a central role in the campaign to defeat him. . . .
Democratic Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn – who, along with his wife, Amber, donated nearly $9 million to Texas candidates and party committees in the 2010 cycle – said he’s in the process of forming “some federal PACs” to take on Perry. That will likely include a federal super PAC that could take in the kind of massive donations that are permitted in Texas. . . .

[Perry] lists tort reform among the core economic proposals of his presidential campaign and mentioned it in his announcement speech. . . . Perry recalled that “back in the ’80s and ’90s, Texas was a very litigious state,” but now: “We passed the most sweeping tort reform in 2003 and it still is the model in the nation.”

John Coale, a former trial lawyer who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years, agreed that Texas had once been the “golden goose” for plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“Now, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, where it’s a very bad place now,” Coale said.

“If Perry’s the nominee, the trial lawyers will come out of the woodwork to support Obama, where I don’t know that they would now,” he predicted. “Most of the guys I know don’t like [Obama], think he’s screwed up the economy or taken Bush’s bad economy and made it worse.  But when your livelihood, your money’s on the line, it concentrates the mind.” 
The article goes on to quote quite a few trial lawyers around the country who would mobilise their organisations and their money to oppose Perry.

If you should wish to quibble with the notion that trial lawyers are a potent force in the Democratis Party and that the Democrats are beholden to them, you should take it up with the former Democratic National Chairman, Howard Dean:
This is the answer from a doctor and a politician.  Here is why tort reform is not in the [Obama health care] bill.  When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right?  And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth.
It is hard to imagine a group more universally disliked than trial lawyers (and John Edwards has done nothing to help).  With enemies like this, powerful though they may be, the possibilities of garnering even more support for Perry's efforts grows all the more. 

Update:  And one of those who understand Perry's accomplishment is Professor Stephen Bainbridge of the UCLA School of Law.

Today's Update on Obama's Decline

The editorial in Investor’s Business Daily is striking in its candor:
In his weekly radio address and elsewhere over the weekend, President Obama blamed Republicans for "holding back" the recovery by blocking his still-MIA jobs plan. This wins the prize for Oval Office hubris. . . .
You can't appreciate the heights of this cynicism without looking at Obama's 2006 memoir, The Audacity of Hope, where he blamed Bush and Republicans for "anemic job growth," "flatlining wages" and not making "tough choices to control spending." All the horrible things he said came from GOP policies back then are umpteen times worse now under his own policies. . . .
It seems all this president knows how to do is talk eloquently about problems or demagogue opponents. When he's not giving speeches, he's demagoguing. When he's not demagoguing, he's giving speeches. He doesn't know how to get much of anything done for the good of the country. 
There is not much that I can add to that, other than to say that there is even more in the whole editorial.  At this rate, there promises to be more of the same as his support continues to wither, even among his staunchest allies.  Maxine Waters (D-CA) seems to be leading the charge (or is at least the loudest) as a self-appointed leader of the black community, as in this sample of her berating an aide to Obama about jobs, trying to shove words into his mouth, such as ‘black’.  If we want to play the Sesame Street game, why don’t we practice with ‘ethics investigation’?  We haven’t heard that one in quite a while.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"What If They Gave a War . . .": Some Thoughts

I saw it again today.  They have occasionally cropped up over the years, though they were more prevalent in the 1970s: that is, the bumper stickers that say “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”  Cute, supposedly pithy . . . but every time I see one, I know that my faith in the Left’s inability to think beyond a knee-jerk reaction is re-inforced.

That sentiment was addressed years ago by Bertolt Brecht, perhaps the most important German playwright of the early twentieth century (a lifelong Marxist and eventually a disillusioned East German), perhaps in reply to a query by Carl Sandburg.  The line is the first sentence of a poem by Brecht, and its use in these smug flights from reality is wildly out of context and reflects a violation of one of my father’s rules: “Don’t read to the first comma and quit.”  An author’s original language always carries more heft, and the poem in the original German reads:
Stell Dir vor, es ist Krieg und keiner geht hin?  Dann kommt der Krieg zu Euch!  Wer zu Hause bleibt, wenn der Kampf beginnt, und läßt andere kämpfen für seine Sache, der muß sich vorsehen: Denn wer den Kampf nicht geteilt hat, der wird teilen die Niederlage.  Nicht einmal Kampf vermeidet, wer den Kampf vermeiden will, denn er wird kämpfen für die Sache des Feindes, wer für seine eigene Sache nicht gekämpft hat. 
It is translated thus:
What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Then the war will come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets others fight for his cause
Should take care: He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle does not avoid
Battle, since not to fight for your own cause
Really means
Fighting on behalf of your enemy's cause.
The area around me trends bluer than blue politically, and this sentiment of enjoying life and liberty at the expense of others wears instantly thin.  Do these people really believe that mankind (I continue to use the politically incorrect term that has sufficed for several hundred years) can simply stop fighting, particularly in a defensive sense, on a whim?  These people, the same ones who, in the romantic social debacle of the 1960s and 70s spoke with such wide-eyed anticipation of the coming ‘Revolution’?  Do they really know how pathetic they are with their snarky, puerile drivel?

The poem mirrors the remarks of John Stuart Mill on the same notion:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.  A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
I could go on, but you get my drift.  Scripture tells us that there will always be “wars and rumours of wars” (Matthew 24:6a) and “the poor you shall always have with you” (Matthew 26:11a).  Being poor does not limit itself to lack of substance in material things. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tripoli & Qaddafi Fall -- What Can We Know?

 Now reports by Libyan news sources withinTripoli itself state that the rebels control “most’ or “90%” of the city (the report has the look of being rushed), and that Qaddafi has fled the city, which in this report indicates that he fled by ship.  Western reports speculate whether he has fled the country, but indications are that he is still in the Tripoli area.  Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, both accused by the International Court of Justice as war criminals, is reportedly captured.

Despite the bumbling support of the US and NATO to the rebels, in an operation that was naïvely expected to last a few weeks at most but instead staggered along for over five months, the rebels have finally prevailed.  The downfall of Qaddafi is overdue by several decades, and I look forward to full justice meted out to him and his regime.

I also look forward to see how western governments, our own in particular, will take credit for the downfall and what precisely that means, considering the bumbling manner that we have shown in trying to determine what our objective has been in supporting the rebels, whoever they turn out to be.  The rebels have coalesced to some extent into a Transitional National Council, but there is no way of knowing how the various factions will sort out power in the new government not yet formed, or even if outside forces, friendly or inimical to the West, will yet lend their weight.

Over an indeterminate time in the (hopefully) near future, I also hope to see clarification of what role Qaddafi has played in any number of international crimes, if there is any access to Libyan government files and interrogations of Qaddafi supporters.  That would include, of course, the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 over Lockebie in Scotland.

I also want to see an investigation of the extent to which Qaddafi’s nuclear weapon programme, which he surrendered to the US and UK after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, cooperated with the Iraqi programme.  We know that he cooperated with the North Koreans and Iranians – was Hussein connected with the Libyan programme in an effort to throw off the scent of the weapons inspectors that he was playing games with?  We should compare documents in Libya with the enormous pile of documents captured in Iraq, which are slowly being translated and assessed, though that would be difficult for the public to know since there have been no reports forthcoming from that effort for quite some time now.

I am also interested in a comparison of the stances of pundits who have said that we had no business in Iraq, but are touting how we fixed the situation in Libya.

Greenhouse Gases May Attract Alien Invasion, Say Global Warming Scientists

I haven’t been able to expound much on my views about global warming.  My time tends to be limited, and the topic is enormous in its potential for copious disquisitions.  My position can best be summarised with the following points: (1) we know that there have been several severe ice ages, and (2) this is not one.

Of course the earth warms (and cools) throughout time, and I seriously question the idea that we somehow have an effect on the weather to anything beyond a negligible degree.  We certainly do not have the capability to stop weather change, no matter how many trillions of dollars we throw at the non-problem, beggaring the world economy.  If the planet does warm up the, what, one degree Celsius over the next century, why is that a bad thing?  What would the advantages be, such as longer growing seasons?  Of course, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the earth has cooled at all since 1998 (see also here).   Toss in the remarkable examples of fraud and arrogance, and you see a world movement in slow collapse, and rightly so.

At any rate, what caught my eye today was an example of stupendous chutzpah in the Guardian, the premier left-wing newspaper in the UK and as you would expect, a typically reliable champion of the ‘save the earth’ campaign.  I have heard some extremely cheeky stories from the Greens and their ‘experts’, but this one takes a sizeable piece of the cake, in a story labelled "Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists".
It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.

Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.

This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by a NASA-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future.

Shawn Domagal-Goldman of NASA's Planetary Science Division and his colleagues compiled a list of plausible outcomes that could unfold in the aftermath of a close encounter, to help humanity "prepare for actual contact".
This “NASA-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University” present some scenarios about how encounters with an extra-terrestrial civilisation might unfold, all of which can easily be gleaned from reading a few issues of Astounding, Asimov’s Science Fiction, or Interzone.  The kicker comes near the end:

"Green" aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet.  "These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems.  It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets," the authors write. 
You just can’t make this stuff up.

Seriously, NASA has to question the quality of the scientists with whom they associate.  And anyone playing Penn State this year – be sure to check out whatever Sci Fi Con that may appear in your area so that you can stock up on costumes when you take on the Nittany Lyleks.

The attached photo indicates that even the Guardian feels the story less than worthy of comment.

Friday, August 19, 2011

John Lewis on Obama: Whelmed

I cannot yet find a reference on the internet, but the Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier today started off with a story that first updates Maxine Waters speaking on how she has "permission" from her constituents to complain about the lack of jobs in the black community.  This is followed up with a report on a job fair near Atlanta, created by Representative John Lewis (D-GA), and how it was overwhelmed by job seekers showing up in the thousands.  A brief interview with Lewis quotes him as saying that he "has no issue with the president", that Obama is a friend, and (what struck me, delivered in a monotone) that Obama is "doing the very best that he can".  That's the best that Lewis can do for his friend Obama?  It's as if he is praising him with faint damns.

My first thought is that if this is the best that Obama can do, then we need someone else. 

I also remember the line from The Rock, the movie about trying to break into Alcatraz in order to prevent a biological warfare catastrophe.  Two characters, played by Sean Connery (the hard-core, former-SAS, military professional) and Nicholas Cage (the academic who has the knowledge of how to defuse the weapon) reach a point where they have to split up to accomplish different tasks.  Connery gives him instructions, to which Cage replies that he will 'do my best'.  Connery's reply is, "Do your best?"  It drips with incredulity, and he goes on to tell Cage that he has to do it, never mind about qualifying it with Cage's opinion about what is his 'best'.  The same applies to Obama.

US Statements of Support For Syrian Rebels: You're On Your Own

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, with the Syrian military firing into crowds of demonstrators in Deir al-Zor and Deraa after Friday religious services.  The same reaction occurred yesterday in the port city of Latakia, and continues in other areas like Homs, suburbs of Damascus, Hama (the traditional center of opposition to the al-Assad hereditary regime), and elsewhere.  The number of protesters killed to date is estimated by some to be over 2000.

In contrast to the stumbling NATO response in Libya, which was launched to protect citizens there against the threat of harm, the response to the actual killing of Syrian citizens has been only diplomatic and economic, through official (though muted) protests and sanctions.  As usual, there has been little effect if any on the Syrian forces attacking their own people.  As I have often cited before, the history of effecting change within a country by only diplomatic and economic efforts has had very limited – practically negligible – success.

Today, though, in a coordinated effort with the governments of Canada, France, Germany, and the UK, the United States escalated the rhetoric with an announcement of freezing more Syrian assets in the US and, finally, a call for Bashar al-Assad to step down from power.  There is nothing to back up that demand, though – we’ve made sure during this most recent uprising in Syria, which arguably started last January, that we have no intention whatsoever of being a material threat to Assad. 

Last March we began a “kinetic activity” (a laughable Newspeak euphemism to avoid uttering anything remotely military-esque) in Libya, in what Obama promised would be an operation that would last “days, not weeks”.  This has since turned into a farcical wack-a-mole attempt to overturn the Qaddafi regime that has lasted for months.  When Hillary Clinton was asked last March about why we could justify an intervention in Libya but ignore Syria as a better example, she tried to stifle a laugh as she explained that there was no comparison.  Well, a comparison in the missions still exists nonetheless, now even more so, and it is telling that the administration refuses to address it in a realistic manner.

Yet in the case of Syria, we persist in the illusion that we are actually trying to accomplish something.  In his statement yesterday, Obama tries to sound somewhat bellicose, but his list of efforts to date is vacuous:
The United States opposes the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, and we support the universal rights of the Syrian people. We have imposed sanctions on President Assad and his government.  The European Union has imposed sanctions as well.  We helped lead an effort at the UN Security Council to condemn Syria’s actions. We have coordinated closely with allies and partners from the region and around the world. The Assad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the globe, and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.
Interesting phrasing – we will take on Libya, who has no real allies, but will shirk from intervening in Syria, who is backed by Iran.  That lesson is not lost on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or any else in the Middle East.

But the key phrase to the Syrians is:
The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria.
As President Obama said this morning, no outside power can or should impose on this transition. . . . We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes.
Translation: You are on your own. 

So let me draw this all together in a coherent piece: The US intervenes with NATO in what amounts to a humanitarian mission in Libya, but we have botched it terrifically.  At the same time (yes, I strongly disagree with Clinton), there is an even greater humanitarian reason to intervene in Syria, but we do not.  And, with the announcements of yesterday, we still won’t.

Mind you, gentle reader, I am not advocating the ‘policeman of the world’ argument.  We have valid national interests to protect, and we must choose how we must carry out our responsibility for that.  Yet playing by the Democrats’ rationale of humanitarian interventions, they have confused observers who are trying to make sense of Obama’s abdication handling of foreign affairs.  He has amply demonstrated the lack of our government’s resolve to maintain a strong military through his downsizing of our presence abroad (even accelerating the process); downsizing the size and capability of our forces at home; showed a confused handling of our foreign commitments (starting immediately with his bungling of the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe); willingly participated in an embarrassing demonstration of our (and NATO’s) intervention capabilities in Libya; he has refused to consider any real material support to Syrians struggling against a deadly, repressive regime, as if ‘just words’ (even his) would be sufficient to carry the day; and he has emboldened our real/potential enemies (e.g., Syria, Iran, Russia).  He relies on diplomatic and economic cajolery while actively emasculating the military power – and resolve – that gives them any meaning whatsoever.

This makes Obama’s final remarks on Syria ominous:
It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.
. . . just . . . not too close.

Update:  Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, a frequent supporter of Obama, is also losing patience and demands -- again -- some sort of coherence or a 'Obama Doctrine' for "governing the use of force to defend civilians against their own despotic governments".  I can't say that I agree with all he says (isn't it the Left who complain about America being the policeman of the world?), but I can understand his frustration. 

And why do we have to wait for Obama to articulate a doctrine all his own?  If you are looking for something resembling a doctrine, then I expect that we already have one, from John Kennedy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”