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Monday, May 31, 2010

OIL AND POLITICS

     There's no question that the BP oil spill in the Gulf is a disaster of monumental proportions. Attempts to stop the flow of oil have so far been unsuccessful and the actual damage to the coastal environment and the economies of the area can only be estimated. But, almost since the giant rig burned and sank, the politics of the event have taken off in erratic bursts like so many rockets and flares in a Fourth of July fireworks display; more characterized by heat and intensity than by substance and thoughtful choices. In this current political environment, caution, thorough analysis and attention to the "law of unintended consequences" should be foremost.


     The anti-business Left sees this disaster as a rallying point. "Corporate greed" is the simplistic and ubiquitous mantra chanted by these commentators as if it explained all we need to know about this and possible future spills. Early investigations indicate the proximate cause of the blowout was human error on the rig. Bad decisions made earlier with respect to the procedures and equipment make no sense in terms of major costs savings ("corporate greed") vs. putting a 560 million dollar rig and a producing well worth millions more at risk. Energized by other's misfortune, the super environmentalists and proponents of big government regulation, are already talking about the end of deep water drilling and some would even terminate production on existing wells in the Gulf. There is an increasing drumbeat of criticism of Obama for not showing enough anger and using the presidential pulpit for blatantly political theatrics. Others on the Left are irresponsibly exhorting the public to "take to the streets" in mass protest against BP and the always "evil"(since it's past association with Dick Cheney) Halliburton. What either of these "responses" would hope to accomplish isn't identified.

     Some basic facts suggest a more cautious approach. First and obviously, the well must be capped. Then the technology can be generalized to the off shore drilling industry as a whole and the appropriate government regulations for both prevention and mitigation of future accidents can and should be put in place. The ideological blame game is pointless and divisive. Blaming "Bush-Cheney deregulation" for their "friends in the oil business" has become a stale cliché. Clearly the cozy relationship between the industry and it's regulators is inappropriate but it was Obama's head of the Minerals Management Service that was fired after the recent revelations of lack of diligent supervision.

     The resolution of the BP situation in the gulf has already produced a moratorium on future federal off shore drilling leases and will make it much more difficult to persuade governors of affected states to cooperate, but the future of offshore drilling in the U.S. comes up against several important facts. Current critics are often the same voices claiming that we need to "reduce our dependence on foreign oil" and sending dollars to dictators i.e. Saudi Arabia and Iran. Ignoring the fact that most of the foreign oil imported by the U.S. comes from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, these critics also ignore the fact that the Gulf of Mexico provides almost thirty percent of U.S. domestic production.

     It is simply unrealistic to think that "renewable energy sources" i.e. windmills and solar panels which are used to produce or replace electricity production, can have a significant impact on the need for fossil fuels for decades. Electricity will not drive the transportation industry i.e. trains, planes, ships, and is still years away from having a large impact on automobile use, in spite of the growing trend in the production of hybrids. In the short and medium term, natural gas, which the U.S. has in abundance offers the best alternative to oil and coal based electricity. It also offers the potential for a viable alternative to gasoline powered vehicles. In the long term, nuclear power generation offers the greatest potential.

     The U.S. needs a "comprehensive" energy strategy which includes all the assets currently available; nuclear electrical generation, natural gas, clean coal, wind and solar but also the careful and unpoliticized exploitation of oil resources.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

KAGAN: IS SHE OR ISN'T SHE?

     There has been much media speculation about Elena Kagan's sexual orientation. That is not what this article is about. In terms of her service on the Supreme Ct. it doesn't matter. Her support of the homosexual political agenda is the standard liberal viewpoint and well known based on her strong condemnation of the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy regarding homosexuals. Her broader ideological viewpoint is of more interest and more concern..

     By all the anecdotal offerings from Kagan's colleagues and associates, she is a highly intelligent, hard working and personable individual. While admirable personal characteristics, these are largely peripheral to the political debate that accompanies every Supreme Court nomination. These debates and the nomination hearings that follow, have become highly charged and contentious over the last thirty years or so, at least since the undoing of the Robert Bork nomination during the Reagan Administration in which he was viciously attacked for his conservative views. The general tenor of the debate since then has been over broad judicial philosophy: whether the nominee believes in a "living constitution", ever changing and adaptive to the circumstances of modern life, or the so called "strict constructionist" philosophy which requires the justices to seek out the original intent of the Framers and avoid "legislating from the bench." This latter tendency has been generalized under the label of "judicial activism". Both the conservative bloc and the liberal bloc on the current Court have been accused of this characteristic. This is an important issue because "legislation" coming from the Supreme Ct. is essentially irreversible, except by the Court itself. However, nominees of any ideological persuasion are reluctant to describe themselves as "activists" or would be "legislators" so there is little the Senate can do to discern such a tendency except read the written opinions of the nominees, most of whom in recent times have come up the professional judicial ladder from U.S. District Cts. to federal Appeals Cts.

     Thus the problem with the current nominee, Elena Kagan, who has never been a judge on any level and has no written record by which to evaluate either her legal acumen or her judicial philosophy. The problem however, is essentially academic since based on her background which includes stellar academic performance, the Dean of the Harvard Law School and two years as the Administration's lawyer before the Supreme Ct, in the office of Solicitor General, her confirmation is a given. In fact, only 8% of nominees to the Supreme Ct. have been rejected by the Senate. In the modern era, only three nominees, all by Republican presidents, have been rejected. Perhaps the most obviously liberal justice of all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a member of the ACLU Board and their General Counsel in the 1970s was affirmed by the Senate in a 96 to 3 vote.

     The pre-hearings debate will go on however and after some posturing on both sides over the desirability of "empathy", as cited by Obama, being a judicial characteristic and the aforementioned "living constitution" issue, the social issues will again likely predominate i.e. abortion under the guise of a "right of privacy", gun control, homosexual rights, and now, the status of immigrants. Despite the inevitability of Kagan's appointment to the Court, the White House is vigorously attempting to smooth out the hearing process by portraying Kagan as a "moderate"; a conciliator with a "center-Left" orientation.

     The obvious expectation from all quarters was that Obama, would be true to his own liberal instincts and nominate someone who would support that philosophy. The far Left core of the Democrat Party advocated for someone who would be the Left's Scalia, who they see as an uncompromising and sharp tongued creature of the Right. Obama, ever the political tactician sought someone less controversial but dependably liberal. Kagan seems to fit that bill perfectly. Without a record of judicial opinions and with a record of uncontestable intellectual skills, she will, by adopting the now commonplace position of refusing to answer specific questions about how she might rule on the controversial issues of the day, be assured of confirmation. Her actual philosophical orientation remains of interest however, in spite of the Administration's claims.

     While a senior at Princeton, Kagan volunteered to work on the Senate campaign of former U.S. Representative Elizabeth Holtzman who today, remains one of her supporters for her appointment to the Supreme Ct. If one is "known by the friends we keep" this is revealing. Holtzman is a far Left activist who made a national reputation for her enthusiastic service on the House Judiciary Committee hearings into the Watergate scandal which brought down President Nixon. She was a strong promoter of the feminist sponsored, Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution which became more and more controversial as time went by and failed ratification by the necessary 38 states in spite of Holtzman's work to provide it with a 39 month extension for the ratification process after the original deadline expired.

     Holtzman ran for the U.S. Senate from New York in 1980. During the campaign, New York Republican Senator Al D'Amato said that as a member of the House, she had never voted for a Dept. of Defense appropriations bill. In 2006, Holtzman called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. Holtzman lost the election and afterward,in a Princeton University publication, Kagan wrote; "I absorbed . . .liberal principles early." "More to the point, I have retained them fairly intact to this day." She hoped that the future would be "marked by American disillusionment with conservative programs and solutions and that a new, revitalized, perhaps more leftist left, will once again come to the fore." Obviously some individuals change their political views as they mature and youthful idealism, common in elite universities often wanes with maturity and exposure to the real world . But it is difficult to find such changes in Kagan either from her professional path or her public pronouncements.

     After graduation from Harvard Law School, Kagan clerked for Supreme Ct. Justice Thurgood Marshall, a widely respected civil rights icon but a knee jerk liberal whose votes rarely, if ever, varied from the strong liberal bloc on the Court. Kagan, as Marshall's clerk she could reasonably be expected to have participated in the crafting of those opinions.

     Other current supporters for Kagan's appointment are Robert Reich, liberal former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and current professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Another public supporter is Lani Guinier, who achieved notoriety when nominated by President Clinton for head of the Justice Departments'. Civil Rights Division. When her writings about race and politics became known, Guinier became known as the "Quota Queen." While she denied supporting actual numerical race based quotas, she supported such things as proportional representation for municipal governments to override the "winner take all" procedures common to U.S. elections and thus ensure minority representation no matter how lightly supported. Her book "Tyranny of the Majority" outlines her race conscious legal philosophy. President Clinton, claimed he wasn't familiar with her writings when she was nominated and withdrew her nomination.

     So this is the "moderate" Obama has nominated. Did her service in a law firm, then as Dean of the Harvard Law School, a White House Counsel in the Obama Administration and finally as Solicitor General, cause this "moderation"? Highly unlikely.

"If is walks like a duck and quacks like a liberal. . . " Well, we all know the rest.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

THE REPUBLICAN COMPASS: WHICH DIRECTION?

     Is the Republican Party becoming more conservative; and if so, is that likely to lead to success at the polls?


     Certainly the rise of the Tea Party phenomenon, most of whom self identify as Republicans and most of whom say they are more conservative than most other Republicans, provides some evidence of a movement to the right for the party.

     There was the special election in New York's 23rd district in November, 2009. This congressional seat was the most reliably Republican seat in the nation with Republicans winning since 1873. The candidates were chosen by local party officials since it was a special election. The Republicans chose Dierdre Scozzafava; the Democrats chose Bill Owens and New York's Conservative Party chose Doug Hoffman. Hoffman ran on a strictly conservative platform that included strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Scozzafava and Owens were both pro-choice. Scozzafava was dubbed insufficiently conservative by more conservative Republicans. Tea Party Barbie, Sarah Palin, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty showed up to campaign for Hoffman. A poll taken on October 31, 2009 showed Scozzafava leading only among the funny name community but behind both the Conservative and Democrat by fifteen and sixteen points respectively. Humiliated by the lack of support from the Republican establishment, she withdrew from the election and petulantly endorsed the Democrat candidate Owens. On November 3, Owens defeated Hoffman. Apparently Palin's recitation of her usual bumper sticker slogans, winks and all, and the endorsement of Governor "Who?" weren't enough to influence the outcome. But was this a repudiation of the new conservatism? The Democrats in Washington, after dancing in circles and popping corks, announced that it was so.

     Then there is the case of Arlen Specter who simply jumped ship in the face of conservative opposition. The five term Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, who as a Republican for forty years, built a reputation as a pragmatist and moderate, looked at the public opinion polls in the just held Republican senatorial primary and saw certain defeat at the hands of the more conservative candidate, Pat Toomey. Not ready to head to the rocker on the front porch, and abandon his long political career, Specter searched and found his inner Democrat, changed parties and entered the Democrat primary against congressman Joe Sestak. In a political calculation as stark as Specter's, the Democrat establishment, including President Obama, tossed former Navy admiral Sestak overboard and rallied to their new Democrat colleague's support. In the just held primary, Sestak prevailed by a healthy 54% to 46% margin. A victory by Toomey in November would make another statement about the efficacy of the conservative trend for Republican candidates. Sestak's victory over Specter is being interpreted by some as more evidence of the "anti-incumbent" mood said to be sweeping the country. If that is true, anti-incumbancy would not be a conservative phenomenon as Sestak is a certifiable liberal. However, this election was less clear cut in terms of trends because many voters regarded the party switching Specter as an opportunist simply trying to prolong his career.

     Now we have the interesting case of Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Crist, a popular governor with moderate Democrat and Independent support, seemed a sure Republican victor for the Florida U.S. senate seat which opened up this year with the retirement of George LeMieux, whom Crist, as governor appointed in 2009 to fill out the term of retiring Senator Mel Martinez. But Crist ran into a political hail storm with the candidacy of conservative Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination . As Crist's "moderate" political stance came under fire by conservatives, the polls started changing dramatically and Rubio built a 30 plus percentage point advantage among Republican voters.

     To his credit, Crist did not follow Arlen Specter's defection and announce that he was a Democrat at heart and just wanted to "come home". The Democrats have a viable candidate in U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek, though in a two way race with Rubio he was far behind. Crist, seeking to parlay his centrist image into support from moderate Republicans, Democrats and a significant portion of Independents announced he was leaving “party” politics and would run against both Rubio and Meek as an Independent. The polls immediately showed Rubio's large lead dwindle down to statistical insignificance, making the three way race a toss up and putting Democrat candidate Meek back in contention. (More cork popping emanating from Democrat headquarters in Washington.) By splitting the Republican vote Crist may turn what was once a Republican lock for the senate seat into an early Christmas gift for the Democrats. If so , the question arises; did the Rubio candidacy and his highly conservative image alienate enough moderate Republicans and Independents to become self defeating?

     In yet another example of Tea Party like muscle flexing, conservatives in Utah successfully deposed three term Senator Bob Bennett as the Republican nominee in the November elections. Bennett's sins?; he had voted for the TARP bank bailout in the last days of the Bush Administration and co-sponsored a bipartisan health care bill mandating health care coverage. His two “more conservative" opponents will face each other in a primary later this year.

     In Kentucky, Rand Paul, son of Republican (libertarian) Representative Ron Paul, won a huge victory over his Republican opponent in the recent primary. Paul proclaimed his victory as a message from the Tea Party. More evidence of a "right wing" surge in the Republican Party? Maybe, but these two candidates were seeking to replace long time Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning who is retiring. Former baseball player Bunning was already so far "right wing" that just a little scoot more and he would have fallen completely off the bench. So was Kentucky just continuing a preference, or is Rand's victory a move in a new direction?

     There are many in the Republican Party who ascribed the dramatic Republican losses in the 2006 congressional elections to the idea that the Republican's in Congress had indeed abandoned their conservative principles and acted like Democrats in terms of the growth of government and runaway spending. If true, then the "return" to these principles by a new set of conservative candidates should be productive both for the party and the nation. However, if these "conservative" candidates once nominated seem to be leaning too far to the right to appeal to the more moderate general electorate, then the Republican tent will have shrunk to the point of political irrelevance. A Sestak win in Pennsylvania and a Crist win in Florida would be widely interpreted as such.

     Other races in the November, 2010 congressional elections will provide further answers, but may be inconclusive given the anti-incumbent mood in the country. Will victories for Republican newcomers affirm the move to the right by the party or will it simply reflect "punishment" for incumbents seen to be "out of touch" with their constituents and unable to solve the pressing problems facing the country?

     The new "conservative" candidates would do well to emphasize the economic issues i.e. deficits, debt, jobs, and the growth of interventionist government, which are of primary concern to a broad segment of the electorate and deemphasize the highly divisive and permanently irreconcilable social issues of abortion, gay rights etc. To get elected the new conservatives will still need moderate and independent votes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

OVER USED WORDS AND PHRASES THAT NEED TO DIE

OK, it's time for a rant, or in this age of politically correct euphemisms, a "tolerance challenged exhortation". The information/opinion/commentary overload of which this forum is a part has reduced itself to a feedback loop of clichés', worn out epithets and politically correct nonsense. It's time for a clean sweep of the commentary idiom and a refreshing breeze of new expressions. Here's some candidates for expulsion.


NEO-CONS

Now every conservative no matter how traditional or how "neo" has been anointed with this new pejorative by liberal critics. Few if any of the liberal users have any idea how the term originated; who the term applied to or what ideological point of view it describes. It's simple name calling and it sounds more sinister than "Republicans", maybe.


AT THE END OF THE DAY

This catchy phrase was almost immediately caught up in the political-media "phrase de jure" syndrome and unfortunately refuses to die. How about bringing an "end" to this overused concoction's "days" and using something else like the old fashioned cliché' , "In the final analysis" or the old standby "When all is said and done." Too untrendy I guess.



THAT'S WHAT MADE AMERICA GREAT

According to this "carved in stone" (whoops!) assertion, any policy of any advocate automatically is responsible for all the measures of U.S. "greatness". The usual candidates are immigration, legal or otherwise; the family farm despite its growing obsolescence; free elections, which usually have less than 60% participation; protest marches which often turn into violent confrontations with police; and pretty much anything else from cock fighting, you know angry chickens with sharp things on their feet to Indian casinos that can make the 150 members of the Eastern Omygosh tribe rich beyond their ancestors wildest dreams. What did "make America great"? Well, lots of things but no one thing in particular. Maybe it was the wisdom of the founders and the free market economic system. Naw, had to be the angry chickens.



UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

This ridiculous euphemism is just an obvious ploy to give moral equivalence to illegal immigrants with those who enter the country through the prescribed "legal" channels. The former just forgot to do their paperwork. It's like describing shop lifters as "unreceipted customers". With eleven million inside the borders and a national debate swirling in state legislatures and the Congress , it's OK to say the "I" word.



SEXIST, RACIST AND HOMOPHOBIC

If you're a heterosexual, white, male you are one or more of these. Why? Because you are a heterosexual white male. Don't like Hillary? Sexist! (or it's darker cousin "misogynist"). Of course this only applies to conservatives. You can criticize Sarah Palin all you want because she has been neutered by liberals and doesn't get to wear the Kevlar vest of alleged “sexism“.

Don't like Al Sharpton? "undocumented immigrants"? Muslim terrorist suspects? You need race therapy. Of course this also only applies to conservatives. It's OK to criticize Supreme Ct. Justice Clarence Thomas or Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele because they have been declared "unblack" by the "real blacks" like Jesse Jackson and Sharpton. Now that's a physiological transformation that would make Michael Jackson envious. Too bad he's no longer around to cheer; or is he? Rumor has it that he and Elvis are living together in North Dakota.

Even mentioning that someone in the public eye is gay or lesbian will bring on the label of homophobe. Not signing on to the homosexual political agenda is "proof positive". Been to San Francisco lately? Gyrating “guys” in Speedos on floats in "Pride" parades? Better not say anything. Well, maybe it's more interesting than Saint Phoebe's Girls School Marching Bagpipe Band. And hey, "That's what made America great".



WINGNUTS

Ah yes. How clever. If you don't agree with someone's liberal or conservative point of view they are obviously extremists on the "wings" of their ideologically identifiable group. The problem is, this overused phrase implies the physical impossibility of everyone in the group being on the "wing". Of course being on the wing, even if part of the whole, makes you an incurable "nut". The users of this one are just describing themselves.



NAZI

COMMUNIST

MARXIST

FASCIST


These increasingly popular adjectives are the last refuge of those who have no evidence to support their opposition to conservative or liberal political leaders and their supporters. How could the "land of the free and the home of the brave" have so many leaders with old school European style authoritarian philosophies? Simple; these are increasingly overused examples of schoolyard name calling by the undereducated who have no idea what the terms mean except that they are "real bad". It's just another example of the excesses stimulated by the comfortable anonymity of rallies, demonstrations and the internet but it's mostly just dumb.



AMERICA IS A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS


No kidding! Ever been to "China Town" for sesame chicken or taken a cab in New York City? This over used and politically charged declaration borders on tautology. Every school kid knows that when "Columbus sailed the ocean blue" there was nobody in North America except the descendants of "immigrants" from Siberia  and for the next five hundred years the doors have been open to travelers, until now, mostly from the "Old World". Most developed countries in the world are now multicultural immigrant destinations; France, Middle Easterners and North Africans; Britain, Pakistanis and Carribeans, Germany, Turks; Sweden, Eastern Europeans. Even fairly homogeneous Japan has an immigrant population of Koreans. The statement by itself provides no insights at all with respect to how to deal with the current immigration issues and is simply a weak rationalization for an open border policy. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

THE NUCLEAR PRESIDENT

President Obama has seemingly set an ambitious agenda around nuclear issues. "Seemingly" because the nature of these endeavors and the wider context of his foreign policy vision which is motivated by "reaching out"; "resetting"; taking blame and apologizing, brings up the questions of sincerity, motivation, and effectiveness.

Obama has announced his goal of achieving a "nuclear weapons free world"; not exactly a breathtaking new mission. Since the first nuclear weapon destroyed Hiroshima in 1945, individuals, domestic groups, NGOs, and various UN officials have sought the same thing, only to be hampered by the realities of world politics, especially the Cold War and other international rivalries.

Undaunted by these same realities, Obama recently negotiated and signed a revision of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) which lowered the number of nuclear warheads and delivery systems which the U.S. and Russia could now possess. Is this a significant step towards the broader goal of a nuclear weapons free world? Hardly.
Does this revision significantly reduce the risk of a nuclear exchange between Russia and the U.S.? No. The reasons are based on simple math:
The treaty reduces allowable warheads to 1,550 and delivery systems to 700.

Essentially this does not reduce the ability of either nation to destroy each other and any of the world's other 195 or so nations. Thus it also does not detract from the deterrent value of either the U.S or Russian nuclear weapons arsenal. But it's value with respect to the nuclear free world movement is symbolic only. Coming just ahead of the five year review conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is clear that the new START was intended to pre-empt long standing criticism by non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) that the nuclear weapons states (NWS) were not living up to their treaty obligation to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arsenals over time.

The President has also called for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban for nuclear weapons which the U.S. Senate has previously refused to do. With significant cuts in the numbers of weapons under START, there is a legitimate concern that the reduced inventory actually be reliable. Modernization, and thus testing then becomes and issue.

Obama has also announced a significant revision to the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Defense Strategy. Now  the U.S. will not respond to an attack by non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction i.e. chemical or biological with nuclear arms if that attacking nation is a member of the NPT. It is fair to ask what advantage to the U.S. deterrent policy this change brings? The answer of course is "none". Keeping the nuclear response option open, no matter how remote, enhanced the deterrent posture of the U.S. with respect to it's own national security and that of its non-nuclear allies.

Finally, the Obama Administration changed decades of national security policy by disclosing the actual number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. inventory, formerly highly classified data. No practical reason for this announcement is was provided as it is just another public relations ploy.

Nuclear weapons proliferation is indeed a pressing problem as the programs of North Korea and Iran attest. A recent forty nation conclave hosted by Obama in Washington D.C. attempted to deal with this problem but little was accomplished. At the UN meeting on the NPT, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for "strengthening" the treaty. However, the problem is not the weakness of the NPT as much as it is the failure of will amongst the nations making up the membership of the UN Security Council, the only international body with the authority to impose "mandatory" sanctions against violators of the NPT. The UN's own nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has declared Iran in violation of the NPT yet Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council with veto power, continue to block sanctions. North Korea, a former member of the NPT simply withdrew from the treaty and openly developed nuclear weapons with only a mild response from the international community. President Obama has made continuous threats of significant sanctions to come, but has been unwilling to put together a "coalition of the willing" to impose sanctions outside of the Security Council venue. Such sanctions could not be expected to deter Iran from continuing its nuclear weapons program but it would exact a cost to that activity, give some credibility to the NPT, and be a consideration for potential proliferators in the future.

Putting the prestige of the U.S. presidency behind the dreamlike goal of a nuclear free world seems to be a naive rejection of reality. It will inevitably be seen as disappointing "lip service" by the "nuclear free world" community when few concrete steps are forthcoming.

Since the NPT came into force in 1970, the five nations of the nuclear weapons club has grown to nine with the inclusion of Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea. Iran is said to be just two years away. How many of these nine or ten nations will be willing to give up their nuclear weapons?

Israel?: a tiny country of 7.5 million people surrounded by hostile regimes with whom it has fought four wars of survival and who now confronts an Iranian regime that has stated it's desire to "wipe Israel from the map".? Pakistan or India who have had a hostile relationship for sixty-three years and who have fought three wars? North Korea who has defiantly withstood the political pressure of the U.S. and regional governments and is actively developing delivery systems for it's new nuclear weapons inventory? Even the U.S., Russia and China cannot realistically be expected to give up their nuclear deterrents. China and Russia are distrustful neighbors with Russia trying to reestablish it's regional influence and China engaged in a massive modernization of it's military.

President Obama has much work to do in managing the nuclear landscape that exists. He should not waste his credibility nor contemplate dangerous cuts in the U.S. deterrent capability to please ill informed foreign public opinion or naive activists at home.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

PALIN-BIDEN PRIZE II

The Palin/Biden Prize will be given periodically to editorialists, columnists, commentators, and bloggers who produce articles which are especially factually or intellectually challenged; lack coherence; reflect an obvious ideological purpose; upon sober reflection by the author, are likely to cause a queasy feeling of embarrassment and the desire for retraction; or are just plain dumb.





     This week's Palin-Biden award goes to Randall Amster, self described "peace educator","author", and "activist". Amster's article in Huffington Post, no surprise there, “Black Gold: The Lifeblood of War”, easily fits most of the qualifying categories for the award; "factually and intellectually challenged"; lacking in "coherence"; reflective of an "obvious ideological purpose" and is in it's very essence, "just plain dumb".

     Let me count the ways.

     Amster's stated premise by itself confirms his qualifications for the prestigious prize:

     The explosion of BP’s oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent disastrous oil spill he says, was “a putative (i.e. generally believed?) act of war.”

     This is evidence that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have indeed gone on too long. The anti-war Left has gotten bored with them and is inventing new ones. At least Amster’s tortured logic to support this claim is more amusing than aggravating.

     “. . .wherever there's oil, there's war -- or at least the seeds of conflict ...” Therefore:

The “U.S. will essentially do anything in its power to control as much of the world's remaining oil supplies as it possibly can, either through direct intervention or by proxy.”

But whose oil suppies does the U.S. control besides its own? The Gulf states? Nothing like an oil embargo or OPEC cartel price hike to cast a cloud over this statement. Maybe he was talking about Venezuela, except that Hugo Chavez would choke on his frijoles if someone told him the U.S. controlled his oil. Well, since Amster is a "peace educator", he is probably immersed in the Left's "No ,Blood for Oil" slogan which they tried to apply to Iraq. But the new Iraqi government controls their oil so that doesn't fit either. But reality doesn't stop Amster's follow up conclusion either:

     “Thus, in order to extend the life of the petroleum economy and provide the massive energy inputs that we rely upon , we have to drill deeper and deeper to procure the substance at ever-increasing energy costs in the process. This literal sense of "diminishing returns" is compounded by the attendant toll exacted on our collective health via fossil fuels, as well as the concomitant stratification of wealth and power that subverts any pretense we still hold of democracy. Massive spills and other calamities are part and parcel of this normalization of a warlike attitude toward nature.”

     OK, the war he’s talking about is a metaphor for social and environmental costs associated with the recovery of oil. That sounds a bit more reasonable except for the strange claim that oil exploration is the enemy of democracy , makes us unhealthy and leads to a wealth gap. But wait, his war analogy grows arms and legs as he warms up. Again speaking of the recent off shore drilling rig explosion , Amster declares:

     “Halliburton IS the War Machine: Finally, we come to the most likely culprit in all of this, and a sure sign that indeed this is an act of war. Wherever Halliburton goes, so goes the war machine.”

     Halliburton, a perptetual target of the Left, is of course the international oil field service company that worked on the rig. This assertion leads Amster to cite what must be a leafy green plant induced blog report that North Korea “torpedoed” the Deep Water Horizon platform to cause President Obama to nuke the leaking well to stop the leak and thus embarrass himself at the month long Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review going on at the UN. Amazingly, this story is now circulating on the Internet and actually attracting some tin foil hat wearing believers. Now in fairness, Amster recognizes this fantasy for what it is but he uses it to create another. Lacking facts, Left wing bloggers and conspiracy theorists like to cite each other as sources. Thus Amster gives us this:

     “A YouTube video (. . . more bluntly asserts that "Halliburton Caused Oil Spill," and notes the fact -- confirmed by Halliburton's own press release -- that its employees had worked on the final cementing "approximately 20 hours prior to the incident." Interestingly, one commenter on the YouTube video notes how "that would conveniently explain the North Korean story; [Halliburton] may have leaked this story to the press to divert attention away from alleged negligence."

     Ignoring the fact that nobody to the political right of Jane Fonda would believe such "corporate evil" dumbness, Amster concludes:
     “Wouldn't that just be the ultimate? Halliburton spawns the calamity but pins it on North Korea, and then the nation goes to war whereby Halliburton "cleans up" through billions in war-servicing contracts. “

     So Halliburton purposely, or through sheer incompetence, sabotages the well, then blames it on a North Korean torpedo in hopes of starting a war with North Korea, a nuclear weapons nation, in an effort to gain lucrative “war contracts”. Wow! This deserves the Tom Clancy Award.

     Meanwhile, back in the real world; when BP the owner of the well and operator of the drilling platform and Halliburton, get finished paying the billions that will be awarded by the courts for damages and clean up, they will indeed need long term contracts to recover, but it is fanciful to believe that the executives of those companies see a nuclear conflict as a profit center. But of course there are always the movie rights.

Monday, May 3, 2010

IGNORANCE AND THE POLITICS OF HATE

     Here we go again. People stimulated by the anonymity of crowds and wanting to express a level of anger that they can't really explain in calm, logical terms, are breaking out that arch symbol of hate, the NAZI swastika. The latest event to see the crooked cross was an anti-Arizona rally held in Los Angeles, depicting Arizona governor Jan Brewer, as Hitler. Her crime? Signing a bill passed by the Arizona legislature and supported by 70% of the people of Arizona attempting to deal with the illegal immigration crisis in that state. Nothing new here actually; swastikas have been deployed by morons on the Left against George Bush for years and more recently they showed up at a Tea Party rally demonizing President Obama. In all probability those enamored of the swastika are seriously challenged on actual knowledge of the National Socialist movement in Germany in the 1930s and '40s. They just know it symbolizes something really bad and probably associate it with bald headed guys with tattoos who live in Idaho. Nonetheless it is rhetorical irresponsibility and stimulates the kind of hate it symbolizes.
     Pro-immigration “rallies” in Vista and Santa Cruz, California turned into riots on May 1st, as mobs used their anger at Arizona to rationalize vandalizing businesses. Public officials and media commentators encourage this nonsense by referring to the Arizona law's provision for police to ask for documentation if there is a "reasonable suspicion" that an individual is an illegal alien, as "NAZI like demands to, Show me your papers." Recently, President Obama, to his credit, called for an end to hyper-anger and over the top condemnation by both the radical Left and Right. This no doubt fell on deaf ears of both those extremes but the policy debate in this country that is so important to the democratic process is in indeed in tatters.

     Opposition to the Arizona legislation will be resolved in the courts. The first lawsuit has already been filed and it is an absolute certainty that ACLU whose self appointed mission is to protect us from the application of common sense and ourselves, will file their own law suits. There is also a reasonable probability that the "offending" "papers" section of the legislation will be tossed by one or more courts. That of course won't satisfy the pro-immigration advocates and they will press for the complete nullification of the legislation in it's entirety. Whatever the outcome, that is the proper procedure for resolving political differences and reasonable people of all political persuasions should discourage the use of symbols of past hate from being used as tools of present hate.