Friday, December 9, 2011

NPR: Small Business Owners Really WANT to be Taxed, Of Course

Culled from the viscous surface of my Facebook feed comes this little nugget from NPR, which (shockiest of shocks) maintains (or, rather implies) that small business owners --the people whom the GOP is striving to protect by opposing the imposition of "Millionaire Surcharge" taxes as part of a deal to extend the payroll tax cuts-- have not spoken up in opposition to those surtaxes...because they just don't care about this stuff.

In typically tendentious NPR fashion, the point is made that no small business owners were willing to step out and oppose the redistributive tax ideology of this Administration. Does this mean that they were unwilling to expose themselves to the protests, boycotts, and organized smear campaigns (or worse!) of outraged Leftists, which are the near-inevitable fate of individuals and businesses that make themselves too conspicuous in their embrace of free-market principles? Can it be that they are trying to protect their profits by not so exposing themselves?

No. Of course this means that there is no support for restraining tax rates in the interest of promoting growth, and that the GOP is merely being the obstructionist meanie that it always is, ever vigilant for ways to make this Administration fail...leaving it for the ever-reliable NPR commenters to fill in the inevitable "RACIST" blank, among other tedious canards.

And no need to look too closely at the fact that the only business owners who spoke up for this editorial --in support of the Administration's would-be policies-- were on record as contributors to Democrats. Why, that's just a coincidence, you mouth-breathing Capitalist troglodytes.

SIGH Clearly, not enough people are thinking deeply enough on these matters. If only there were some more accessible medium for clarifying the terms of the debate....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Hence (unstructured musings)

Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is a scattered shadow of what it once was. A fragile but viable democracy hangs on in Iraq. There have been no successful mass-casualty attacks on soft targets in the US in ten years. Something is finally rising from the hole at Ground Zero. Afghanistan...well, it is just not what it used to be for aspiring Jihadists.

Despite the best efforts of Liberal Democrats, "Anti-War" Progressives,  and their strange bedfellows on the Paleoconservative and Libertarian Right, things are unambiguously better now, Global Counterinsurgency-wise than they were ten years and one day ago, in a host of important ways.

But I still watch footage of that chilly Tuesday morning, a decade ago, and feel as though a dangerous fire is still smoldering under the wreckage, somewhere.

The other night, Nickelodeon was running a marathon of "Friends" episodes. After I got over the initial shock and dismay that the episode I watched (which I remember watching when it first aired) had been made 17 years ago (!!), I found myself, as I so often do, scanning the background of the establishing shots, and seeing those Towers on the skyline. I suppose there is something unhealthy about this. Just the sight of those marvelously stark rectangles, rising from a thicket of lesser buildings, is oddly restorative for me. It enables me, for just that moment, to position myself in a headspace in which vicious Jihadist murderers had not rammed a jagged dagger through the tender skin of my innocence and idealism.

But they did. Those Towers are gone. Forever. And thousands of lives have passed from infinite possibility to mere remembrance. And yet, as Mr Hengist ably laid out in today's post, there remains a growing cadre of dangerous fools who urge us to "just get over it, already."

No, dangerous fools. I will not. Not now. Not ever.

Because the next feeling I have when I look at the Towers in film and video, right after the warm and comfy one of a world in which my main concern was adjusting to marriage, and getting my Psychology license, and finding the best possible cappuccino, is rage. Smoldering, caustic rage. That the kind of  atavistic hatred which moved the muscles of those 19 hyperempowered psychopaths was allowed to fester and to find a means of expression, such that it pierced so many lives, enrages me. That the full import of that abominable act still eludes so many, and that they can still --with all seriousness-- attribute it to something which is the "fault" of the open, pluralistic society whose very openness provided the means for that horrific spasm of bloodletting...enrages me.

As I said before, I  loved those Towers. I loved the fact of them. I loved the aesthetic of them. I loved the meaning of them. I loved the commerce, and the clarity, and the sheer exuberant simplicity of them (even if these things were mostly hidden from the transnational progressive consciousness which lived in that much younger version of me at the time). My rage is the the fire which was ignited in me at the time, and it has not gone out. I hope it never does. That fire is the engine which keeps fresh in my mind the degree to which I cherish the very things which those cancerous zealots sought to extinguish, the very things which so many dangerous fools are still trying to aid them in extinguishing. The freedom to think and act and trade and (refrain from) worship(ping) as I choose, to view women and homosexuals and fellow agnostics and atheists and people of faith as equals, to differ with them in a spirited and open dialogue, to tilt a pint with them as I do so. To love them, even as I work with all my might to move this Nation in a direction which is altogether orthogonal to the vector along which they would steer it.

For the guidance system of those planes is still active. It is still aiming for the symbols and foundations of a civilization which it has never matched, and which it can only muster the wherewithal to destroy.

And I will be damned if I will let it.

(Edited to add link in last paragraph [evidence that Paul Krugman needs to find a nice, quiet place with a lot of mirrors, far away from decent people], and address an oversimplification)

ADDENDUM: Re-reading the above, it occurred to me that it might seem strange to see a psychologist speaking positively of rage. Fair point. To clarify, what I feel is the kind of rage that smolders, deep down, but is not altogether squandered in mere stewing. It is jacked into the power systems, its energy yoked to the motivational systems which feed such things as blogging, voting, campaigning, and maintaining situational awareness (both of the 'scanning a crowd for suspicious activity' sort and the 'keeping abreast of global events' sort).

So, I suppose there are really two fires smoldering here: the one which feeds the virulent fantasies and hatreds of the individuals and organizations which would like nothing more than to perpetrate an encore to the events of 9/11/01...and the one in me, and in others, to extinguish the first. They are both dangerous...but the latter is a hazard to those who, unlike the innocents on that horrid day, most assuredly have it coming.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Forget 9/11? Fuhgeddaboudit, Pal.

[by Mr.Hengist]

Now, me, I’m not big on anniversaries, not even my own birthday. Just not caring, is all. When I was a kid I looked forward to my birthday, sure – presents! – but as I got older, for a variety of reasons, I grew out of it. There’s no day I set aside for celebration or remembrance of anything anymore, and that’s just me. I’m not against this kind of thing but it doesn’t resonate with me.

That’s why the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has come and gone these blogging years without comment from me, although 9/11 marked perhaps the darkest days in my life and set in motion changes in me which were, for me, profound. It’s in the days leading up to the 9/11 anniversary that people reflect on that day and how we move forward. E.J. Dionne Jr. has phoned it in with his September 7th, 2011 column, “Time to leave 9/11 behind”.

As the title promises, the first line delivers:

“After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind.”
It’s a familiar refrain, one I’ve read from Liberal pundits since, well, shortly after September 11, 2001. We shouldn’t use this as an excuse to make war, we’ve gone off-track, we need to understand that we were attacked because we’re hated, and with good reason, we need to make amends so the world will love us again and we’ll all live together in the world with harmony and respect for cultural diversity, and then unicorns will fart rainbows, blah blah blah, blah blah, blah.

Although the Liberal MSM never stopped airing the pictures and video of the planes hitting the towers (look, big explosion!), even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 they wouldn't air the pictures or video of the jumpers. Those were the victims above the inferno in the towers who jumped to their certain death rather than stay and succumb to the smoke and flame. What hell that must have been for those office workers that the better option was to jump from the top floors of a skyscraper. Not a few, either; surviving rescue workers described having to be exceedingly cautious when entering or exiting the towers to avoid being crushed by a random person falling from the sky, and how unnerving it was to hear the bodies thumping on the sidewalk every couple of minutes. Why the media embargo? While not graphic, they were horrifying, and they angried up the blood. Americans were, by and large, ready to unleash our war machine, but already the imploring chorus of restraint was stirring from the anti-war left, who saw us as having gotten our just desserts - Blame America First.

It only took a half a year or so for the focus to shift, as the Lefties knew that this war business wasn't going to treat them well. Modern Liberal Democrats are not the leaders you want in charge in a time of war, and they knew it, so on the whole they thought this 9/11 thing was taking domestic and foreign policy in all kinds of wrong directions. Like hamsters running the wheel for hours on end, they get tired and rest for a spell but soon enough they're back at it. It's their hobby horse and they're not getting off it, because we can't change policy until you people get over the hurt. So, like, it's sad & all, but can't you just leave it in the past? Besides which, you deserved it.

“As a nation we have looked back for too long. We learned lessons from the attacks, but so many of them were wrong. The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself.”
I’ll refrain from rebutting the arguments that Dionne neglects to make himself, but suffice it to say, he’s wrong, wrong, wrong. We learned valuable lessons from 9/11, and perhaps not well enough, and our response has left us stronger, not weaker. Hey, if Dionne won’t make the case against, I’m don’t have to make the case for.

“Reflections on the meaning of the horror and the years that followed are inevitably inflected by our own political or philosophical leanings. It’s a critique that no doubt applies to my thoughts as well. We see what we choose to see and use the event as we want to use it.”
I suppose it would be unfair to point out that Dionne, perhaps tellingly, focuses on how we choose to “use the event as we want to use it”, because in essence, I agree with this paragraph. Let’s just say, for now, that E.J. Dionne and I disagree on all the particulars.

“This does nothing to honor those who died and those who sacrificed to prevent even more suffering. In the future, the anniversary will best be reserved as a simple day of remembrance in which all of us humbly offer our respect for the anguish and the heroism of those individuals and their families.”
“But if we continue to place 9/11 at the center of our national consciousness, we will keep making the same mistakes. Our nation’s future depended on far more than the outcome of a vaguely defined “war on terrorism,” and it still does. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy. But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies.”
Long have the Liberal-Left fervently implored us not to take 9/11 so hard. Let me start hitting a couple of the specifics here:

First of all, it’s arguable whether we place 9/11 “at the center of our national consciousness”, but if that’s the case then it is so for reasons which are far beyond the ability of anyone to simply wish it away. 9/11 will gradually diminish in importance as time stretches the distance between the now and then, but what Dionne and his ilk have either never grasped or simply wanted to make not so, is that it was an event on the order of magnitude of Pearl Harbor. It is both tiresome and insulting to hear from Dionne et al that we should just get over it. Not happening, not anytime soon.

Then there’s the part where he acknowledges that “Al Qaeda is a dangerous enemy”, but “our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies”. I don’t think it’s necessary to belabor the obvious contradiction here, as these two ideas are mutually exclusive. What Dionne means - but apparently lacks the skill to put clearly - is that Al Qaeda will never succeed in reestablishing a caliphate. It's either clumsiness or intentionally intimating that, in some sense, we are really threatened by Al Qaeda.

In the sense that Al Qaeda will never succeed in their mad fantasies of a worldwide caliphate, Dionne and I agree. I wouldn't be entirely sure of their chances for a regional caliphate, nor would I take off the table the possibility of various other states in the being absorbed into the orbit of this yet-to-be established caliphate. At any rate, I wouldn't want to establish odds, as I think they're pretty long on even the most modest of their goals.

This is an entirely separate question from whether Al Qaeda is an ongoing threat. They are. A diminished, less capable threat, not to be underestimated, but pursued to the ends of the Earth and exterminated wherever they are, no matter how long it takes. Further, Al Qaeda is but one organization of many that are like-minded and equally dastardly. The point I'm driving at is that what Dionne wants is for us to go back to 9/10, and I'm here to tell you this a mad fantasy of Liberal-Leftists. They've probably got a better chance of realizing their fantasy than Al Qaeda does for realizing theirs.

“We asked for great sacrifice over the past decade from the very small portion of our population who wear the country’s uniform, particularly the men and women of the Army and the Marine Corps. We should honor them, too. And, yes, we should pay tribute to those in the intelligence services, the FBI and our police forces who have done such painstaking work to thwart another attack.”
I presume Dionne is preferentially giving shout-outs to the Army and Marine Corps based on casualty figures, but really, all of our armed service members have borne an extraordinary burden. One of the lessons we should have learned from the military engagements of the last decade is that our military is inarguably too small to do this without having to resort to extended tours of combat duty. Whether you support the war(s) or not, the presumption that we have the ability to fight such wars can no longer be taken at face value - or be relied upon as a part of our defense posture. If the possibility of going to war to defend, say, Taiwan or South Korea, is off the table because it would outstrip our capacity to effectively prosecute that third front, then that’s an excellent argument for augmenting the size of our armed forces because weakness invites attack. That lesson was, alas, not learned.

Still, it’s worth noting that Dionne doesn’t go the route of infantilizing our armed forces by talking about them as if they were children forced to go to war, or as bloodthirsty killbot murderers leaving a wake of devastation and suffering. I wish more antiwar folks were as decent as Dionne is here.

Hey, I wish for a lot of things.

“It was often said that terrorism could not be dealt with through “police work,” as if the difficult and unheralded labor involved was not grand or bold enough to satisfy our longing for clarity in what was largely a struggle in the shadows.”
Here Dionne constructs a straw man but doesn’t even bother to knock it down. Let me set it on fire by pointing out that one of the problems with using law enforcement to prosecute a war is that law enforcement is, by varying degrees, reactive rather than proactive. Without probable cause, how to apprehend suspects? How to obtain sufficient evidence to obtain the issuance of arrest warrants, and under what standard of law do we operate – ours, or the laws of a foreign country? To what degree to we constrain and expose our law officers by working with a foreign government in the investigation? By way of example, let me point out that when it was determined that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, the Bush Administration demanded he be turned over to us. The Taliban responded that, no, they would be doing no such thing, but they would consider extradition if we could present a case to an international court of law, and besides which, they had no idea where he was, although they would be happy to pass along any message we might wish to send him.

[Go back and read the rest of that last sentence now that you've stopped laughing at how the Taliban were demanding we persuade an international court of law.]

Further, law enforcement is subject to the legal constraints of a civil society rather than an effectively lawless badlands or an actual rootin’ tootin’ battlefield. In that kind of environment it is impractical to the point of being an impossibility to maintain the integrity of a chain of custody for physical evidence, and even the problematical nature of the reading of Miranda rights makes the notion of a legal battlespace, quite frankly, bizarre. Proverbially speaking, it’s bringing a knife to a gunfight, or in this case, an arrest warrant to a gunfight. OK, the FBI carries guns, but up against RPGs, AK-47s, IEDs and, well, you get the picture.


“Forgive me, but I find it hard to forget former president George W. Bush’s 2004 response to Sen. John Kerry’s comment that “the war on terror is less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement operation.”
“Bush retorted: “I disagree — strongly disagree. . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.” What The Washington Post called “an era of endless war” is what we got, too.”
“Bush, of course, understood the importance of “intelligence gathering” and “law enforcement.” His administration presided over a great deal of both, and his supporters spoke, with justice, of his success in staving off further acts of terror. Yet he could not resist the temptation to turn on Kerry’s statement of the obvious. Thus was an event that initially united the nation used, over and over, to aggravate our political disharmony. This is also why we must put it behind us.”
What is obvious to Dionne in Kerry’s statement is left unstated, and it deserves to be fleshed out. I won’t do his work for him, but I will point out that intelligence gathering and law enforcement operations do not preclude warfighting as a means of confronting enemy conspirators and combatants. For a couple hundred years now, the U.S. has used all of these tools in the prosecution of war.

The disconnect between these two ideas – those of Kerry and W – is that W was responding to the unstated premise in Kerry’s statement: that we can use intelligence gathering and law enforcement to mitigate the threat of Al Qaeda without waging war.

The political disharmony Dionne laments is a direct result of the disagreement between these two ideological camps over this question. What’s more, that disagreement was fueled by the political calculus of Democrats who parlayed an issue of national security in order to get more political power, which is simply unconscionable.

I’m sure Liberals will take exception to that statement, but let me preempt their howls by asking this question: how else do you explain the promises of candidate Obama, which were very much in alignment with the spirit of anti-war Liberals, to the actions of POTUS Obama? From the continuance of warrantless wiretaps, to the dramatic expansion of drone airstrikes, and the extension of the Patriot Act, to the Libyan war, and so on, it seems obvious that POTUS Obama has fallen far short of the standards he set for himself. I’m not trying to use these reversals as a cudgel against POTUS Obama, but rather, to point out that, in reality, as POTUS Obama either knew or learned, our country is not well-served by prosecuting a war as if it were a matter solely for intelligence gathering and law enforcement.

While I'm at it, let me also point out how disingenuous the Left has been over these past years. Yeah, yeah, when W was in office, the Constitution was shredded, he thought himself a king, the republic was doomed, and America as we knew it was being destroyed by the evil Republicans, damn those soulless ghouls. The Left marched by the tens of thousands, they did, to stop the wars and take back America! When they did take back America, or at least the government - which, surprisingly, still existed, and still somehow allowed free elections - Democrats won all three branches of government and those very same policies were met with... muted grumbling. Only the far left still seems to be waving their pitchforks, but mainstream Liberals have given their guy a pass.

“In the flood of anniversary commentary, notice how often the term “the lost decade” has been invoked. We know now, as we should have known all along, that American strength always depends first on our strength at home — on a vibrant, innovative and sensibly regulated economy, on levelheaded fiscal policies, on the ability of our citizens to find useful work, on the justice of our social arrangements.”
I’ll defer to Dionne that “the lost decade” is a phrase used with some frequency in Liberal circles, but that phrase has no currency on the Right. At any rate, American strength is not dependent on the false choice Dionne presents. Our economy must be strong in order to have a strong national defense, and our national defense can only be strong if our economy is strong. We can’t have one without the other, but regardless of economic circumstances in our national defense we must wage war on those who wage war against us. It always pays to destroy our enemies, even though it costs us.

“This is not “isolationism.” It is a common sense that was pushed aside by the talk of “glory” and “honor,” […]"
… aaaand let me stop Dionne right here and call out this BS. Glory and honor were never used by the Bush Administration to justify warmaking; this is a shameless manufacturing of a lie to serve Liberal dissent. We did not go to war in Afghanistan or Iraq for glory, period. We did not go to war against Afghanistan or Iraq for honor, either. We did not go to war against Afghanistan or Iraq for treasure either, but I digress. Dionne would like to portray hawks and neocons as warmongers seeking glory and honor, but Dionne forgets that these are the facile accusations of the Liberal-Left, now so ingrained as to be taken as self-evident truths. Recall what I said above, about how accusations against their political opposition are first taken as a possibility, then as probably true, and from there a certainty.

“[…] by utopian schemes to transform the world by abruptly reordering the Middle East — and by our fears.”
Here Dionne is alluding to the neocon ambition of upsetting the apple carts of the undemocratic Middle East dictatorships and facilitating the emergence of representative republics. It’s a shame that POTUS Bush largely gave up on that ambition in his second term, but it’s somewhat encouraging to see the possibility of that dream coming to fruition in some parts of the Middle East today as a part of what’s being called the Arab Spring. You might think that current events would have Dionne thinking twice about calling such a scheme utopian, but, well, apparently not.

“While we worried that we would be destroyed by terrorists, we ignored the larger danger of weakening ourselves by forgetting what made us great.”
And what made us great? Glory? Honor? I’d like to address this statement but as it stands I can’t make heads or tails of it and I’m not about to flesh out his argument that isn’t made so that I can rebut it.

“We have no alternative from now on but to look forward and not back.”
We can do both, unless you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Of course, Dionne has been arguing that we shouldn’t look back, not that we can’t, so this statement is simply empty rhetoric, and it’s just so very lame, but it does set up his final paragraph:

“This does not dishonor the fallen heroes, and Lincoln explained why at Gettysburg. “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground,” he said. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” The best we could do, Lincoln declared, was to commit ourselves to “a new birth of freedom.” This is still our calling.”
It’s nice that Dionne concluded his piece with a quote from that venerated Republican Lincoln, whom we all hold dear to our hearts, but the conclusion of his piece ends up right where it began, with Dionne lazily waving his arms, chanting, “Forget, forget, forget.”

So let me sum up my fisking with this:

9/11: Never Forget.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Walter Pincus and "Selective Recall"

[by Mr.Hengist]

VPOTUS Dick Cheney has a new book out, and Liberal poindexters are using their column space to take their shots. It would be instructive for Liberals to go back over the blogposts and newspaper columns from the W years, as the sheer volume of unsubstantiated allegations and demonizing insinuations is staggering (ah, for the good old days of civil discourse, patriotic dissent, and speaking truth to power...).

As a general rule, in my observations, Liberals go through several stages to arrive at their buy-in to a conspiracy theory or belief that a Republican has committed a high crime. First, the speculation that the crime may have been committed. Having accepted that, it naturally follows that the crime probably was committed, and from there it also follows that it was committed – nay, it must have been committed, and so the buy-in is complete – and, remarkably, this process seems to take virtually no time at all, and requires no additional evidence beyond sheer speculation. From Enron to war-for-oil to the Plame leak, Liberals seem always to be ready and eager to believe the worst of their political opposition based on nothing more than speculation. Dissuading a Liberal of these delusions is a difficult, sometimes impossible chore; Liberal bloggers, columnists, pundits, and occasionally politicians, are often eager to embrace these slanders but loathe to set the record straight when their targets are exonerated. A debunked meme that damages their opposition is merely an inconvenience, like an opportunity lost, which may yet be salvageable given a grace period - one long enough for memories to fade, whereupon the smear is resuscitated.

If nothing else, Cheney's book should prompt the fools to apologize to Bush Administration officials and their fellow citizens for the BS they've propagated. It's too much to hope for, of course, but it's also interesting to scrutinize pieces like these to note which memes they've abandoned, versus those to which they still desperately cling - or hope to revive.

Walter Pincus takes a stab at Cheney ("Cheney’s recall is selective with ‘In My Time’", WaPo, Sep 05, 2011), and I have some observations to make.

"Take the former vice president’s version of the controversial trip that former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson took to Niger at the request of the CIA in February 2002 to check on allegations that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from that country. It eventually grew into a major event involving disclosure of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, as a covert CIA operative and the questioning of 16 words in President George W. Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union speech."
“I wrote about it all at the time. I also was caught up in the leak investigation into the disclosure of Plame’s identity and the perjury trial of Cheney’s then-chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, where I testified that he was not the one who told me of her CIA employment.”
Let me start out by giving some credit to Pincus: he does mention that he testified that Libby wasn’t the one who outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. What he doesn’t mention here, or throughout the piece, is that Plame’s CIA employment was disclosed to Novak by Richard Armitage, the right-hand man of Colin Powell, something that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald learned at the very beginning of his investigation in December of 2003. Let me also note here that Fitzgerald nonetheless continued his investigation of the identity of the leaker, which he already knew, presumably as a fishing expedition to snag someone within the Bush Administration, presumably on some other charge. That's what Libby was prosecuted on - a charge of perjury, perjury committed during six hours of questioning, when he contradicted his prior testimony, during a deposition that should never have taken place. He wasn't the only one who perjured himself; several journalists did the same thing, but they weren't prosecuted - Libby was, because as an Administration staff member his scalp was the only one worth taking, after so many years of otherwise fruitless investigation. Also of note, and as an aside, Armitage only admitted to his disclosure after he was safe from prosecution and Novak had already made it public.

“In his book, Cheney wrote he began reading newspaper stories in late spring 2003 about an unnamed former U.S. ambassador who went to Africa in 2002 for the CIA to check on whether Iraq was buying, or trying to buy, uranium for its nuclear weapons program. The ambassador had returned, said the story was not true and thus appeared to contradict Bush’s speech when he said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Wilson’s lie appeared to contradict POTUS Bush’s 2003 SOTU 16 words? Prima facie it didn’t, did it? Joe Wilson could have reported back that he's found evidence directly refuting what British intelligence told us, but that wouldn't change the fact that British intelligence told us that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. That's because Wilson had only gone to Niger, and Niger isn't the only country in the continent of Africa that exports uranium (Hello, South Africa! Also, the Central African "Republic", the "Democratic Republic" of Congo, Gabon, and Zambia!), so nothing Wilson found in Niger would necessarily have bearing on the British intelligence report or the 16 words in POTUS Bush’s 2003 SOTU.

This is something that, even at the time, Liberals didn't quite seem to grasp. It's always been remarkable to me that this has been overlooked by Liberals since the beginning, and it's a matter of reading comprehension and simple logic. Joe Wilson did not refute the SOTU 16 words because he could not. I mean, really, how hard is this?

“One of the stories Cheney read — but did not note in the book — was a May 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed column by Nicholas Kristof, which said, “The vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger.” Kristof had learned in a background conversation with Wilson days earlier that the CIA had sent Wilson to Niger to follow up on questions posed by Cheney at a morning briefing. Wilson, who interviewed present and former Niger officials, said he reported back that the uranium story was not true.”
Well, yes, Joe Wilson did say that. His public account of his mission to Niger was varied - no, wait, strike that - Joe Wilson simply lied. A different account Wilson relates in his book: he met with ministers of Niger and asked about whether Iraq had sought to buy uranium from them. He was told that indeed, an Iraqi envoy had come to inquire about increasing trade with Niger, and that was told that international scrutiny was too great after 9/11 and that any such trade deals would have to wait until things had cooled down. What Wilson failed to note was that Niger has only negligible exports aside from uranium (none of which (coal, animal hides, cowpeas, etc.) were forbidden from importing under U.N. sanctions against Iraq), and, oh, by the way, this Iraqi guy turns out to have been the Iraqi public envoy for nuclear matters.

Fact is, Joe Wilson lied about almost every important thing he said in relation to his mission to Niger, and about subsequent related events. He was not, as he strongly and repeatedly insinuated, sent there by VPOTUS Cheney. He did not report back that Iraq had not sought uranium from Niger. He did not review the forged Nigerian document for the CIA and inform them that it was a fake. It was not Dick Cheney who revealed his wife to be a CIA employee.

“On the broader point of the 16 words in Bush’s State of the Union speech, Cheney’s book discusses discusses [sic] the internal White House debate after Wilson’s July 6, 2003, public statements over whether an apology should be made for including the British report that Hussein had been seeking uranium from Africa. Over Cheney’s objection, the apology was eventually made by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
“Cheney writes that a later British inquiry into their statement declared their claim was “well founded.” The British inquiry concluded that it had different sources reporting that “Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999” where there were indications “this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium.”
"Left out of Cheney’s book is a CIA document — relevant to the 16 words — that was sent to his office in June 2003 but made public at Libby’s trial. It summarized previous reports, including one dated March 2002, that disclosed the information on the 1999 delegation came from a former Niger official who said only that he “believed Iraq was interested in discussing yellowcake [uranium].” But a later CIA report, dated Sept. 24, 2002, referred directly to the British information that was subsequently used in Bush’s speech. At that point, the CIA questioned the credibility of the British sources and said it had recommended the British withhold their report."
Yeah, the CIA says a lot of things. They often contradict themselves. They are large; they contain multitudes. In this case it seems churlish to selectively cite this doubt cast on their initial endorsement of the British report, as the subsequent British investigation into the matter has vindicated it. Pincus presents this to cast doubt on the wisdom of including the 16 words in the SOTU, but in hindsight, the British conclusion of the veracity of their own intelligence findings vindicates VPOTUS Cheney’s judgment in the matter.

"In 2004, Charles Duelfer, in his final report of the Iraq Survey Group which studied Hussein’s nuclear program after the U.S. invasion, said, “ISG has uncovered no information to support allegations of Iraqi pursuit of uranium from abroad in the post-Operation Desert Storm era,” meaning after 1991.
Perhaps Cheney has not read Duelfer’s report."
And again, whether the ISG found proof or not is irrelevant in light of the confirming evidence we've had since before the war began. In his piece Pincus is strongly implying that Iraq never sought uranium from Africa as was stated in the 2003 SOTU. Perhaps Pincus never read Wilson's book – or the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Pre-War Intelligence.

The importance of whether Iraq was trying to buy uranium cannot be understated. Iraq, as led by the Hussein dictatorship, was a nation with an extensive history of manufacturing and using WMDs, and an equally extensive history of anti-American and anti-Western hatred. As a nation without any means of using uranium for peaceful uses, there could be only one reason for acquiring uranium: weapons manufacture. In a post-9/11 world where a fanatical terrorist group could get their hands on such a weapon, this provided a critical piece in the justification for war on Iraq.

This is what Joe Wilson undermined with his lies, and with it he undermined the President during a time of war. In his piece, Pincus reissues a credibility Joe Wilson never deserved - and he has the nerve to accuse VPOTUS Cheney of selective recall.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Recovery From Unusual Attitudes"

This started out as a reply to Mr Hengist's most righteous fisking of WaPo's Eugene Robinson, but it really started to look like a post unto itself. So here we are.

Robinson's blatherings are, alas all-too characteristic of the desperate delirium tremens which beset the Left as the rivets are systematically popped from the wings of their world-view ('Hey, nothing happened when we lost the first few! Guess we can ditch a few more...Wait, what's that wobble?...'): 

The European Super-Nanny is making like the Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" ("'Tis but a flesh wound!!"). All the Keynesian stimulus spending here at home is having pretty much the effect you'd expect from applying a defibrillator to a patient slipping into a diabetic coma. The Tea Parties are maddeningly/bafflingly failing to go away, lose elections, or start lobbying en masse for racial purity or putting Jesus on Mt Rushmore.

I almost feel sorry for them...between attacks of chortles and guffaws.

The dynamic has been the same for so long, that any change can only be seen by Leftists as pathology: The hard Left has dragged the Democratic party further and further to port, while a squishy-center-Right GOP has had rather a flaccid foot on the starboard rudder pedal. What force there has been in that countervailing direction has been so confoundedly conflated with Social Con issues that it's been unable to gather as much traction with a population which was not sufficiently attentive to the fiscal/federalist issues to see past the clouds of brimstone. And so the ship of state has swept in a leftward spiral so comprehensive as to be undetectable to the vast majority of folks who don't pay really close attention to such things. It's a situation eerily akin to that which resulted in the death of JFK, Jr, as his small plane swept in a long descending curve --utterly unnoticed by the seat of his pants and his untrained middle ear-- toward the choppy seas off Martha's Vineyard (link is to a really interesting article, with more levels of meaning and relevance than I'd expected to find for purposes of illuminating this small point. Worth your time).

That has now changed. With the Tea Parties, the small-government, fiscal-restraint message has risen to the top, at just the time when the public was paying attention (and yes, reciprocal causation is surely in effect here). It has outshone (though by no means obliterated) the SoCon channel, and assumed a position of a firm, energized counterforce to the sinister slippage that's dragged us so far off-true.We begin to see evidence of the emergence of that dialectic I've been prattling on about for so long. And it's about time!

Are there excesses of ideological purity on the Right? Of course. "Go ahead and default! Make my day!" is not a tenable position (if for no other reason that it puts the decision of what obligations will be met squarely in the hands of a POTUS who can hardly be trusted not to make those spending decisions such that they'll deliver the maximum hurt to people who will be inclined to blame the GOP). But how different is this from the cacophony of Progressive fantacism from the other side ("Hey, what we really need is a bigger stimulus...and a Single-Payer healthcare system...and Big Cuts to the military...and to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol..."). The trouble, it seems, has been that the zealots on the Left have had a seat at the table, while those on the Right were mainly yelling from the foyer. 2010 changed that, with the predictable result that things have gotten...well...unpredictable.

It's this latter point which seems to have been at the heart of S&P's decision to downgrade the US' creditworthiness from "Superdoubleplus Excellent" to "Merely Superb." Of course there's going to be unpredictability as the American political trajectory realigns itself. You can't alter the course of such an immense vessel and not expect a fair bit cavitation and wake turbulence. What S&P did was to issue a traffic advisory for the vicinity of that vessel, and one can hardly blame them for it....that is, unless one's entire narrative is predicated on the notion that there has been no bias, and so no need for a course correction (except maybe [further] to the Left). For such folks, these Tea Party Freshmen are the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, gremlins with crowbars, grinning on the wings, or whatever other metaphor makes you twitchy enough. Just a bunch of troublemaking hooligans, holding the stately State hostage for...somethingorother.

Yes, things are like to get a mite messy for a while, and investors (and voters!) should take note, and take precautions. But messy is what freedom is supposed to be. This is especially true during periods of transition, which we are surely in. It is the apparent direction of that transition which has Leftists (at least those who are paying attention) so nervous. And so they are bound to make the agents of that change into villains, and to try and tar the messengers who see the writing on the wall as mere graffiti artists. All in the hopes of planting the memes deeply enough to escape notice, that Left is Straight, Center is Right, and Right is Down.

But, to the great (and deliciously Schadenfreudig) consternation of Eugene Robinson and his like, more and more folks appear to be learning to fly by their instruments.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oh, and Put It On the Children's Tab

[by Mr.Hengist]

Republicans are a bunch of terrorist hostage-taking criminals for trying to impose their ideological insanity upon the nation, according to the excitable and apoplectic Left. In actuality they failed to bring fiscal sanity to our budget process - caved - and the can has once again been kicked down the road. Europe is circling the fiscal drain, America is trying to catch up with them, and Eugene Robinson is mad at the GOP. Oh, and the sun rises in the East, and - there! - I'm done with trite clich├ęs for the time being.

Let’s have a look at the talking points Robinson has regurgitated for us this time:
“The so-called analysts at Standard & Poor’s may not be the most reliable bunch, but there was one very good reason for them to downgrade U.S. debt: Republicans in Congress made a credible threat to force a default on our obligations.”
Well, no, they didn’t; that power rests solely with the POTUS. In the event that the Federal Government does not have enough money to pay all its bills, the POTUS has the legal authority and obligation to allocate what monies are available on a discretionary basis. In that context, Robinson’s statement could be taken to mean that he believes the POTUS would not have prioritized our debt obligations, but that would be giving him too much credit.

“This isn’t the rationale that S&P gave, but it’s the only one that makes sense.”
Like most Liberals, when their opposition states something which doesn’t gibe with their worldview, they discard what they’ve been told and substitute their own fantasies. I believe him when he says that S&P’s rationale doesn’t make sense to him, but the problem lies with Robinson, not S&P.

"Like a lucky college student who partied the night before an exam, the ratings agency used flawed logic and faulty arithmetic to somehow come up with the right answer."
In short, Robinson likes the result, but the reasoning is in conflict with his worldview, so he's openly discarding it but keeping the conclusion. The right answer, for Robinson, is that America should be downgraded because of the intransigence of the GOP, so long as that downgrade can be pinned on them. To the extent that S&P was critical of anything that might make the Left look bad - well, that's just crazy talk!

Take a moment to review the actual document issued by S&P. S&P’s rationale for the downgrade is that the deal won’t stabilize our fiscal situation, and with an additional $2.4T increase in debt, that’s correct. They also say that the differences between the parties are “contentious and fitful” and that the debt ceiling has become a political bargaining chip, and that’s also correct. As far as bridging the chasm between revenues and spending, S&P notes simply that the two sides can’t agree on spending cuts and/or tax increases. S&P does not take sides in that debate.

“And no, I can’t join the `we’re all at fault' chorus. Absent the threat of willful default, a downgrade would be unjustified and absurd. And history will note that it was House Republicans who issued that threat.”
Not exactly true, since the decision to default would lie with the POTUS. At any rate, history will also note that the POTUS threatened to veto any bill which did not extend the debt limit sufficiently to get us past the next election. To get him past the next election - and the Left has no problem with that.

“There is no plausible scenario under which the United States would be unable to service its debt.”
That's true - in medium term. Not servicing the debt would be a choice, not a necessity, and that choice lies with the POTUS.

“If political gridlock were to persist, our government would be able to pay bondholders with a combination of tax revenue and funds raised by selling more Treasury bills.”
Tax revenue alone would cover our debt obligations and avert default, albeit without enough left over to meet other obligations. Treasury bills could not be sold, however, unless they came from the Social Security “Trust Fund” in which case every T-note sold would lower our debt by equal measure, allowing for us to borrow that much more.

“And in the final analysis, as Alan Greenspan noted Sunday on `Meet the Press,’ the United States `can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that.’ I know this kind of talk is horrifying to Ron Paul and others who believe we should be walking around with our pockets full of doubloons, but most of us find paper money more convenient.”
... aaaaand, just like that, there it is. No apology, no regret, no pleading for the possibility of considering the necessity of doing the unthinkable. That last-ditch seawater-on-the-reactor cut-off-your-leg-to-save-your-life nuclear bomb of fiat currency mismanagement is casually put on the table with snide contempt.

Sure, the Treasury could simply create as much money as we owe and pay it off that way, and if it really were no big deal, why isn't Robinson wondering why we haven't done it already? $14T in the hole? Clickety-Clack, the Treasury can create that amount. Heck, why stop there? Why not turn that minus sign into a plus sign! Why not fill our coffers with $140T and fix this deficit problem for the foreseeable future?

The answer is this: “printing” our way out of this would rightfully be considered a default, both by the rating agencies and the rest of the world. It would literally destroy our economy, and, by the way, we’d never be able to borrow again. The result looks like Zimbabwe, and here, Robinson floats the idea as a viable alternative.

Eugene Robinson: charitably speaking, you are an idiot.

“What happened this summer is that Republicans in the House, using the Tea Party freshmen as a battering ram, threatened to compel a default.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Aside from the repetition of the false assertion that the Congress could force a default, Robinson has the dynamics of this completely inverted. The Republicans did not “use” the Tea Party freshmen; the Tea Party freshmen held firm and forced the Republicans to get a better debt deal. He writes in the WaPo, but does he even read it?

“More accurately, they demanded big budget cuts as the price of raising the debt ceiling. If the Senate and President Obama did not comply, the Treasury’s access to capital through borrowing would have been cut off.”
Well, one could have simply said so, but what’s a Liberal opinion piece without throwing up partisan hyperbole?

“The government’s cash flow would have been slashed by 40 percent, leaving not nearly enough to fund essential operations, pay entitlements and also service the debt. Somebody was going to get stiffed. Paying interest to bondholders could have been given priority over competing obligations such as salaries for our people in military service and Social Security checks for retirees. But for how long?”
OK, so did the House Republicans threaten to default or was default always an option of the POTUS? As Robinson admits here, it was always an option. Social Security, on the other hand, was never threatened; as I described above, the “trust fund” – which has in excess of $2T – is guaranteed convertible into U.S. dollars and allows for an equal amount to be borrowed through the sale of regular Treasury bills. Sure, it exchanges one IOU for another, but the SS recipients would get paid. In fact, we could do that and not touch tax revenues at all, for a while.

That, by the way, is the answer to, “But for how long?” For a while, until we can get more tax revenue and/or cut our spending. A better question would be, "How, by Crom, did we get to the point that 40% of our spending has to come from borrowing?" There's a reason this keeps getting called "unsustainable." It might be a debate worth having whether we should increase taxes or not, but when our elected officials keep finding new entitlements to grant (as noted below), it's easily demonstrable that no amount of taxation will ever sustain the nanny state they envision.

“S&P, however, gave a host of largely bogus reasons for its action. Why am I not surprised? This is a firm that aided and abetted the subprime crisis — and the devastating financial meltdown that ensued — by giving no-risk ratings to dodgy securities based on mortgages that should never have been written. The firm’s credibility is spent, as is that of the other ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch.”
The reasons S&P gave for the downgrade were far from bogus, but Robinson is correct in that the ratings agencies were complicit in the financial meltdown. However, the assertion that S&P’s “credibility is spent” is contradicted by the ensuing drop in the market. Obviously not, then, eh?

“Initially, S&P pinned the downgrade on the sheer size and weight of the mounting federal debt. Treasury officials noticed that S&P had made an error in its calculations, overstating the debt burden by a whopping $2 trillion. This discovery negated the ratings firm’s rationale — so it simply invented another.”
Reading this, you might be led to believe that those numbers alone formed the basis of S&P's rationale for a downgrade. Not so; Robinson is outright lying here. I've already linked to the original S&P report and it's worth reading. What's really more compelling here is that this “mistake” appears to be anything but a mistake. Here’s what appears to have happened: S&P used actual budgeting numbers vs. the Administration’s having used CBO numbers – and the CBO uses assumptions dictated by the WH, and those assumptions are completely implausible (The WH numbers assume that baseline expenditures grow with a nominal GDP increases of 5%/yr while inflation sits at 2.5%.) This is what Liberals are calling a “math error.” S&P revised that part of the budget analysis as the Feds implicitly threatened to strongarm S&P by holding hearings.

“Instead of basing its argument on economics, S&P made an ill-advised foray into political analysis. In its `revised base case scenario,’ the firm assumed that all the Bush tax cuts will remain in place past their scheduled expiration at the end of next year — even for households making more than $250,000 a year. But Obama vows not to let this happen, and S&P apparently fails to understand that after the election he will be in the strongest possible position to stand firm.”
It's amusing to read Robinson chastise S&P for making "an ill-advised foray into political analysis" when his own political analysis is so deeply flawed, and then to see that he in turn has no qualms in blundering about on his own ill-advised forays into economic analysis. You’ll recall that, the last time around, Democrats wanted to keep $298B of the $366B in “Bush” tax cuts. The Dems also promised to eliminate the Doc Fix as a part of the “savings” of Obamacare, but then reneged on that in a matter of months. Really, when you consider all the things POTUS Obama said he’d do, or not do, and then ended up doing the opposite – well, one can hardly blame S&P for a lack of faith. Heck, even in the midst of this Mexican hatdance around the fundamental problem of unsustainable entitlements the Obama Administration created a brand new entitlement.

“Obama should have made clear from the start that if necessary he would take unilateral action, based on the 14th Amendment, to ensure there could never be a default.”
Actually invoking the 14th Amendment for this purpose would have precipitated a constitutional crisis and, if his own party didn’t have control of the Senate, would surely and rightly have led to his impeachment. What’s more, the validity of any T-bills issued under such circumstances would have been of dubious authenticity and would therefore have commanded a high premium for the risk of their turning out to be worthless. Another excellent plan, Robinson.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fracking Unbelievable

Presented for your cringe-worthy reading...well..."pleasure" just doesn't seem to fit, as you will see. 

Recently, a not-very-close relative (by marriage) whom I will refer to as "Moderate," (as she risibly refers to herself in her Facebook profile...though between pretty much her every position and that of the DNC there's not enough daylight to support the photosynthesis of a forest-floor fern) posted this NYT (Natch) story about hydraulic fracturing (and, the gods help me, I fear the day will never come when my BSG-loving soul will cease to chortle like Beavis when I hear the word, "Fracking," [huh-huh...see?!]). She commented thus:

"Moderate": Drill baby drill....our EPA Chief says there's no evidence of fracking threats to water. Anyway, who cares? It's Texas and no amount of scientific evidence will prevent them from drilling for black gold. Florida will even send over the Sweet Tea...just stay away from our Coasts. :-)  [Gee, I wonder how she feels about Texans...and why...]

NOOCYTE: Billions of dollars of domestic revenues, thousands of American jobs, more supply on the global markets (and so less gelt for glorified Bedouins and socialist nut-jobs), and thus far no convincing evidence of environmental damage. What's the down-side? Am I missing something?

Moderate”: It's in Texas and, acknowledging all the upsides, as you've enumerated, I'm all for it. Where we differ is I don't believe for one minute that fracking is not a hazard, regardless of Lisa Jackson's testimony. It took Medical gurus decades to determine Eggs are GOOD for us. Seemed a no brainer to me, which is why we've always eaten them. Have the opposite, no brainer instinct on fracking, where scientific analysis is in its infancy. As long as it's not happening off the Florida Coasts, and my drinking water isn't being piped in from Houston, I'm happy to support it. ;-) [heart-warmingly altruistic, innit?]

Occam's Stubble (“Moderate's” husband [Note: English is not his first language, so no fair judging on writing skills...no fair, and hardly necessary, as you will see...]): There are 1000 "secret" chemicals used in Fracking.

Noocyte: It's a fairly straightforward matter to test groundwater on an on-going basis. The proprietary nature of the chemicals involved in the activities of companies engaged in highly competitive extraction procedures does not change that. If impurities are found, then investigations will ensue, and countermeasures implemented. It's not like there is any shortage of watchful environmentalist eyes on this (informed by the aesthetic, "instinctive" aversion to industrial development which is their stock in trade). Given the lack of evidence of harm thus far, and the immense benefits of the technology, it seems only sensible and sane to proceed. And, for once, that sense and sanity appears to be winning the day.

Occam's Stubble: Lack of evidence? So why all the secrets? Its not a competitive issue that IP ["Intellectual Property] can not cover. As a Chemical Engineer, I understand the process and there is much harm. There is marketable value and benefits, but there is much harm to the extent the industry was made exempt legal action. See the documentary GasLand on HBO. [BWAAAA-hahahaha!!!]

Noocyte: Thousands of wells, years of data, sworn testimony of numerous experts (from across the whole political spectrum), and the lack of ONE case of demonstrable harm tied to the process itself (as opposed to localized mishandlings of safety procedures).....versus one widely-discredited piece of cinematic agitprop. I'll take Door #1, thanx.

Not all secrets are conspiracies; industrial espionage is a real threat viz an emerging technology where any slim advantage can score a company (which is investing $tens of billions) critical market share.

Random Drone: gasland explains it all. It is devestating [sic{k}]

Moderate”: If a substantial number of GOP members on the Hill had their way, there would be no investigations of anything and the EPA wouldn't exist, so who/what would be conducting investigations? We should trust the gas industry to police itself? <...lol>

To reiterate, Texas is welcome to Frack away and let's give them massive tax subsidies to carry out their environmental hazards. I'll be happy to reap the benefits and none of the health risks. ;-) [After all, they're only Texans!]


Occam's Stubble: [NOOCYTE], you surprise me. Pulverizing, liquefying the underground with water, mud and tons of "secret" chemicals, poisoning aqueducts [citation?], gas leaking all over the place [ibid], into the water wells, the air, etc, etc, [ibid, ibid]  there is harm [because I say so] . To say this is safe for the areas people around it, it is ludicrous. You probably also believe the Golf spill caused no harm as well [based on...]. No sea mammals dead. No pollution for years to come. Yes, when a secret group of oil, gas executive met with Cheney [I was WONDERING when he'd show up!] , hide their agenda, created new laws exclusive to them, bending existing laws, effectively making them exempt to the Clean Water Act and many other EPA mandates, then its corporate conspiracy to weigh the risk of benefits vs harm [HORRORS!]. To say, there is no harm is ludicrous [not necessarily...but then, I never did say that, did I?]. There is no corporate conspiracy, beside the fact IP is good enough, the land was divvy up even before they had the land deeds. And when it couldn't be taken for the cheap, they went in sideways underground to quicksand the earth [that is, there are fewer drill points, and a smaller above-ground footprint...and this is a BAD thing...]. There are clusters of environmental and health issues, and many close settlements. Hey, we live in the society and we all need the energy. But so suggest it is clean, no harm, you surprise me. Thought you were more smarter than that.

Noocyte: So, by way of arguing your point, you simply repeat your assertion, but include more adjectives, in order to make hydrofracturing sound more like rape (since everyone knows that the best way to make a scientific argument is to evoke an emotional/aesthetic reaction), and to throw in the perception of consensus/authority (technically known as the "C'mon! *EVERYBODY* knows this; whatsamaddawitchoo?!" mode of argumentation). And in a final flourish to make a logician leap with glee, you throw in the venerable "I thought you were smarter than this" variant of the "No smart people would disagree with me" argument. Real tour-de-force, there.

Let me try: These companies are engaged in a contest with each other to find the best formula for most effectively flushing the goopy black (and potentially explosive...can you *PROVE* that it's not a mortal danger down there?...) tarry stuff from between the layers of Mother Earth's otherwise pristine crystals, infusing these ingredients in such a way that spider-web-like filigrees of delicate fissures spread and grow to allow the toxins to flow out. What sensible and sensitive person would want to stand in the way of this cleansing ritual? It's perfectly *OBVIOUS* that this is so, regardless of what anyone (with questionable motives and uncertain moral fibre) might say to the contrary.

Better yet: Point me to a SINGLE conclusive bit of evidence that Fraccing has contaminated drinking water (hint: you won't find one), released levels of methane into the air and water that exceed what happens naturally (ditto), or had any other higher-than-error-variance effect on any natural system whatsoever (trifecta!). Talk to me about the results of the EPA study, when they come out in 3 months or so.

And please try to do better than "Gasbags" or whatever by way of supporting documents. If I had $100 for every documented falsehood and distortion in that sad waste of videotape, I could drill my own damn well.

Possibly Sensible Skeptic: [Noocyte].. ?: to what do you refer to to prove your point: an article, TV documentary, personal work experience or all of these? JA [Ed: “JA” = Just Asking”]

Noocyte: [Potentially Sensible Skeptic]: multiple sources. Can provide sample links later, but I'm on mobile at the pool, and wee keyboard is a PITA for such things. Suffice to say, I don't single-source anything, not even/especially not the things with which I agree. Multiple sources and layered vetting insulates me against...well...against things like Gasland.

Potentially Sensible Skeptic: [Noocyte]...Thx

Moderate”: Science is not my strong suit [clearly] and I won't pretend to know this technology. That's why I married a chemical engineer. :-)) [Well, then....nah, I'll be good...] I'm convinced fracking is detrimental [what was that part about not pretending...?] but Texas is a state with a mindset that doesn't care about environmental hazards as evidenced by history. Let them frack away, and I'll be happy to be a recipient of more plentiful US Oil.

Noocyte: [Potentially Sensible Skeptic]: As promised, here is a slice of the sourcing I've done so far on this subject:

Scientific American article raises legitimate questions, debunks assorted “Gasland” myths, and indicates no evidence of groundwater contamination:

http://...www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=us-investigates-safety-of-natural

And here's a report from the Geological Society of London, drawing on both US and UK data, again showing no evidence of environmental harm from hydrofracturing:

http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/gsl/pid/9936;jsessionid=BB88DCFA6E9CB1D16C42E5438165C91C

Here's a link to an EPA study from 2004, which actually deemed fracking to be sufficiently low-risk as to merit no further study (which it's subsequently getting anyway, which is a GOOD thing...but which paints a picture of the history of the subject's treatment):

http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/uic/pdfs/cbmstudy_attach_uic_resp_to_comments.pdf

Finally this article from Popular Mechanics discusses a fracking-related accident in PA, showing that the contamination which resulted from that accident was related to specific hardware problems at the site, and NOT to the process itself:

http://m.popularmechanics.com/science/8521/full/

That should do for now, as I have no wish to SPAM this thread. But it's a fair sample of the sorts of vetting which needs to be done on...well, ANY subject, but especially on one which partakes of such strong emotions and connects with so many fundamental (and generally unspoken/unacknowledged)
assumptions.


Occam's Stubble: [Noocyte], you're wrong and there is plenty of evidence [which I will now proceed to NOT provide], but more importantly, for any scientist, its common sense [Funny, here I was thinking that science was one of the ways we protected ourselves from the "Common Sense" of "Authorities..." What a silly peon I've been. To the Camps with me, then!]. I think my credentials as a chemical engineering [Hey, I wonder if this guy might be a Chemical Engineer or something...]  suggest I do know more about "pollution" than you do, so I won't bother wasting my time with such nonsense.[QED, GIGO]

Otherwise Smart Person: I have no comment on fracking; I simply don't know enough about the technology to say. *But* as for the downside, 4 words: burning more fossil fuels! In the short run, and for my lifetime...I'll be selfish and say let's do it and get off the Saudi, er, tit, as it were, and lower the fuel prices. However...in the (not so) long run, and I mean in another 50 years - after I'm gone hopefully - God help those on this planet who will be dealing with all the fallout from our ever worsening global warming scenario!...If we can plow $$$ into this, we can also plow money into alternative energies! The technology is there. ....and please don't ask me to provide sources for global warming due to burning of fossil fuels. That shipped sailed long ago. Basically 98% of the world climate scientists say so - that's good enough for me....!

[...]

Noocyte: [Otherwise Smart Person]: The fossil fuels are going to be burned anyway, within any reasonable time frame. The alternatives lack the reliability, energy density, and scalability to change that to any meaningful degree in the near term. The question, then, becomes: "who profits from them?" As you note, the Saudi udder leads back to a metabolism which adds nothing to the world but cultural and geopolitical flatulence. If instead that voluminous lucre were to flow into American coffers, it would serve to enrich a society which is unmatched for innovation and inventiveness. If *any* society stands a chance to take the increase in economic dynamism which such profits would provide, and leverage it toward the development of such things as core taps, tidal power, on-orbit solar generation, evolved fission (thorium and pebble-bed systems, as well as reprocessing+), and eventual fusion power, it's certainly NOT the Clown Princes of the dune states. And it's sure as shootin' not that basket-case Chavez and his sulfurous sludge (not to mention his oil).

+...and, alas, as I noted on another thread, we can scratch Germany from that pursuit!


Occam's Stubble: [Noocyte], Go visit a Petroleum Plant, geez, don't you smell that crap when you on 95 or near the airport [because everyone knows that nothing in nature smells bad, and everything that smells bad is a hazard]. This stuff is BAD and weighing it against the society gains/risk is a DIFFERENT matter altogether, but quit the bullshit that this stuff isn't harmful [ummm...No?]. You are talking to a Chemical Engineer and I've worked on Coal, Oil and Nuclear and the waste factor is the common problem and there is simply a long history of the cluster side effects. Pleezzzzz.

Occam's Stubble: And for the layman, Gas was also part of my work, including extractions from all known sources including COW MANURE! [Seriously, what could I possibly add at this juncture?!]



[Ah hell: So I threw in one more comment. What can I say: I'm a tinkerer...] 


Noocyte: Final note: I'm dismayed to have to point out that, were one to re-read my posts on this thread, nowhere would one find me making the definitive assertion that hydraulic fracturing is *harmless.* The reason for that is that.... I. Don't. Know.  What I *have* said is that scientific analysis had thus far quite failed to demonstrate harmfulness (that is, failed to disprove the null hypothesis), and, given this, it is sensible to proceed, with continued study and oversight, in light of the ENORMOUS benefits to our society of exploiting these PRODIGIOUS indigenous energy reserves.

But, if subsequent analysis were to show statistically significant evidence that fracking is as harmful as gargling plutonium at an outdoor Cher concert...without sunscreen, then I'd be first in line to demand substantial modification --or outright dumping-- of the procedure.

Funny thing about science: one of its chief benefits to our civilization is the degree to which it *protects* us against the "Common Sense" of those who cloak themselves in the mantle of one sort of Authority or another, and demand that we acquiesce to the "no-brainer" assertions which they deem themselves to be above having to support with such dreary minutiae as..you know...*evidence*.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Environmentalist Victory! One Step Closer to a Utopia of Stone Knives and Bear Skins!

I am authentically pissed about this!

It reveals a level of information processing for which a central nervous system is altogether optional, a primitive tropism more suited to algea than anthropos. It is just the sort of unreflective herd-'thinking' which led me to cease --with extreme prejudice-- referring to myself as an "Environmentalist" a long time ago.

Yah, let's turn a net energy exporter into a land of rolling brownouts (when the wind dies down) and imported Russian gas (when you don't offend them), because of the great risk represented by all of those infamous German earthquakes and tsunamis....oh...wait...

Agent K: "A person is smart. People are dumb, dangerous, panicky animals, and you know it!"

In-fracking-deed. Alas, Dr. Crichton, you left us too soon!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Afghanistan: They'll Cut (a deal) and Run

[by Mr.Hengist]

The initial reports had the casualties at 80 dead and 120 wounded in Charsadda, Pakistan, on May 13, 2011. The attack was loosely targeted at a training center for Pakistani security forces. One bomb killed cadets and, notably, bystanders at a nearby market. The second bomb, by design, killed first responders tending the victims of the first bomb. In this how the Taliban expressed their sympathy and anger, in deeds fitting their words, at the U.S. having sent ObL to sleep with the fishes. In deeds, how like ObL and Al Qaeda; their aims and methods make for a well-suited match. It's a timely and poignant reminder of why we unleashed our fury on them in the aftermath of 9/11, and a rebuke of our having let so many flee to safety. We should have done a better job of cutting off their escape routes and killed them in in far larger numbers.

POTUS Obama reluctantly fulfilled his campaign pledge by increasing our troop presence in Afghanistan by paltry numbers. Having done so, POTUS Obama is now once again looking for the exit. Instead of redoubling our efforts in response to Taliban atrocities, the Administration "has accelerated direct talks with the Taliban" and "U.S. officials say they hope [this] will enable President Obama to report progress toward a settlement of the Afghanistan war when he announces troop withdrawals in July." Let's hope the Taliban don't cut a deal until at least the next round of U.S. elections so that we can replace these Democrats before they can run away.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two Shots and a Splash

[by Mr.Hengist]

The news came late and I was already visiting the Land of Nod, during which all I could dream about was making stock. Vegetable & meat stock in my slow-cooker. All night long, dream after dream. I kept waking up and thinking, "Augh, another one - why can't I have better dreams?" I've been planning on making that dream come true this weekend when I'll use my slow-cooker for the first time to make vegetable/meat stock, and I've been sort-of looking forward to it, but spending a whole night dreaming about is kind of lame.

When I woke up and checked the news I learned that another dream had already come true. A desire, really, not a dream - an angry, blood-lust desire for death upon that POS ObL. I read the banner headline and, as is typical of me, I had no reaction but an unverbalized need to read more, to learn more, to put the headline into a context into which I could weigh its veracity. ObL dead, they say, but we know that many of Al Qaeda leadership have been declared killed many times, only to pop up alive again whack-a-mole style. The more I read the more certain I became that it was a believable claim, although I will admit that when I read that the body had been dumped at sea I had my first verbal thought, which was "How convenient." I'm a skeptic by nature. I guess it just takes time to sink in when the news is big; further reflection elevated the probability of the truth status of this news to high. OK, look, I hadn't had any coffee that early in the morning and, in retrospect, it probably would have helped things along. The news started to sink in when I got into the shower.

ObL is dead. Well, good.


Surprisingly, that's all it's amounted to for me, in terms of the emotional resonance it's had on me. Not triumphalism, not jubilation, not even satisfaction. Pity, that; I'd hoped to get more mileage out of it. Granted, I'm not one for celebrations in general, but I've gotten more jollies out of finding a stray sawbuck on the sidewalk. I'm not sure why. I still feel anger and sadness at 9/11 when I think about the horror of that day, and I still feel the hot anger and bloodlust well up when I think about the jihadists and their evildoings. I don't know and I'm not going to dwell on it because it's not important. ObL is dead and that's a good thing, even if that's all there is to it for me.

Kudos to our combined intelligence and military which carried out the mission, with well-deserved accolades to follow. Surely the kill-team need never buy their own drinks again. Kudos to the Obama Administration for following through with the pursuit and having the cojones to execute when the opportunity was established. Really, you have to hand it to POTUS Obama: candidate Obama said he would go into Pakistan to get high-value targets, and, by Crom, he has. He's long-since stepped up the missile attacks inside of Pakistan, and with this mission he's ordered a boots-on-the-ground assassination of a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, highest value target. May the Cambodianization of Pakistan continue until we've reached a satisfactory outcome.

There's snark and criticism to be had at the expense of the Obama Administration, yes, but it's mostly persnickety. I will add the following thoughts:
- Assassination mission against ObL, not "kill or capture": good. The potential for intelligence gleaned from interrogation has little promise in this case. Let's face it: there's nothing we could offer to coax it out, and this administration would probably not extract it by force. The fiasco of trying to apply the due process of a civil prosecution which we've already seen with the Gitmo detainees would go to 11 for ObL; better to avoid it altogether.

- Burial at sea: good. For exactly the reasons given for doing it, it's good. Granted, my first impulse was far more excessive even than Glenn Beck's ("wrapped in bacon"), so much so that I will not sully this blog with my dark and profane fantasies, but I've reconsidered the matter and the disposal of the corpse as it was done was the correct strategic decision, IMHO.

- The ever-changing details of the mission: sadly, it's to be expected. I've come to the point where I note with a mental "Asterisk of Doubt" all information we get in the opening days of crisis. Even seemingly unmistakable chunks of a story can later turn out to be altogether wrong.

- Not releasing the ObL kill-photo: my loss. I'd like to add it to my collection, as a trophy. At any rate, the era of photographic "proof" has passed for this kind of thing, as everybody knows that, given enough time and a motivated forger with good photoshop chops, one can fake such a thing. It reminds me of a podcast to which I'd listened of an event at the Heritage Foundation, "The Role of Psychological Operations in Strategic Communications" in which one of the speakers describes talking to Afghan villagers after 9/11 and how they didn't believe it happened, even after being shown video. Oh, they knew about airplanes, sure, because airplanes flew over the skies of Afghanistan, but skyscrapers? Why, everyone knows you can't build a building that high! They were convinced it was some kind of Hollywood trickery. At any rate, there is an accounting to be made amongst the Leftists who oppose the release of the ObL death-photo yet clamored for the release of Abu Ghraib photos - another time, surely.
Not surprisingly, there's a chorus from Liberals that the death of ObL means we should get out of Afghanistan. As if that was ever the point. Well, I'll give the hippy-dippy peaceniks credit for consistency on this: when things go well, they see that as a reason we can finally leave, and when things don't go well, they use that as an argument for why we should leave. They did that for Iraq just as they're now doing it for Afghanistan; it's sort-of an unfalsifiable assertion in that regard.

This is why it's important for the Obama Administration to make it clear that our fight wasn't just against Al Qaeda, but rather it is against the jihadists who seek to destroy the West and subjugate the world under Sharia Law. Sadly, of course, he won't do any such thing, as neither he nor Democrats in general seem to believe any such thing.

At the very least there must be a dear price to be paid by Pakistan for their complicity and aid to Al Qaeda, and the jihidists who fight us and our Allies in Afghanistan and India and elsewhere. Perhaps Obama has the temerity to cut off aid; I suppose it possible he might more closely ally the U.S. with India. I'm ready to be pleasantly surprised - but not hopeful.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts on the End of Osama

I have just quaffed my last shot of Paddy's Irish whiskey, purchased in Ireland, which I've been saving (since 2002!) for this very occasion. It's been confirmed that Osama bin Laden has --at long last-- been removed from the equation.

Some of my friends have been expressing unease about the celebratory frame with which we greet the death of another person, however ghastly his acts in this life. This disquiet is to their credit, in a broad, humanistic sense...I suppose.

After all,  we all begin as infants, seeking milk and warmth and comfort, innocent and without stain.

But those who grow to make it their life's work to deny these things to others have parted ways with the mass of humanity to whom very much empathy is owed. I am not unmindful of the loss at the heart of Osama's loss of heart. But nor am I inclined to shed a tear for the stilling of that cold, twisted organ.

The world is now a fractionally better place.
 
Some expressed discomfort with the 'eye-for-an-eye' quality of Osama's death, expressing a preference for a more New Testament approach to such things. Maybe it helps to think of this more as a "render unto Caesar" thing than an 'eye for an eye' thing. It is not mere vengeance nor even 'retributive justice' to end the life of one who actively and passionately strives to end the lives of others. As I said, a while back, whatever one's narrative of how it arises, the chilling subordination of essential human empathy to the merciless logic of ideology must be resisted with every sinew of our civilization, for the sake of civilization itself.

This was less an act of  'payback' than it was an immune response.
 
Some have voiced misgivings about the potential for retaliatory strikes, to avenge the death of  'the Emir.'  This is not a concern which is lightly brushed aside. It is a very real possibility. However, one of the few things for which I all-but-unreservedly give credit to this Administration in its otherwise feckless and incoherent foreign policy is the blistering tempo of operations --via drone strikes, primarily-- against the command structure of al Qaeda within Afghanistan and (arguably more importantly) Pakistan. The capacity of that organization to mount operations has been very severely degraded compared to its past capacity to project force. By no means can the will of al Qaeda to inflict retributive damage be discounted. However, the logistical and command-and-control capacities of that organization have been scrambled quite devastatingly. This is not to say that the "franchise operations" which have come terrifyingly close to snuffing out countless lives in recent years will not land a blow, which they will attribute to revenge for their fallen leader. But can anyone seriously argue that such strikes would not have been in the offing in any case? If anything, timetables may be accelerated to seize the occasion, thus providing more opportunities for critical, actionable errors and breaches of OPSEC.

It's been a while since OBL could realistically be called the head of the snake. But this is one mortal coil about whose shuffling off I have no qualms in hailing most heartily.

The whiskey, after all, did age most deliciously!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Keynes/Hayek Throw Down

(H/T to Mike-The-Lone-Reader-Of-The-'Cyte)

I am in awe at the sheer density of awesomeness in this vid. I'd seen it linked elsewhere, but was deterred by the 10-plus-minute runtime. Silly, silly 'Cyte. It's a pugilistic rap-battle, pitting the top-down, interventionist Keynesian model against the free-market, Classical Liberal position of F. A. Hayek. Hilarious and well-produced, and informative, and surprisingly balanced.

Worth. Your. Time.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Failure To Launch

I was thinking today about how fitting it was for President Obama to be present at today's final launch of another Shuttle. After all, I thought, who better to preside over the end of an Endeavor? But I suppose this works, too.

Anyway, that scrubbed liftoff was very much on my mind as I read this piece from Investors about the Reagan Administration's recession recovery and that of 44 (H/T to Instapundit).

I remember in the 80s how righteous I felt as I poo-poohed "Trickle-Down Economics" (and isn't that just an infelicitous pairing of images!). The difference from then to now is akin to that from rocket fuel to corn-based ethanol.

We'll be lucky if we clear the gantry at this rate.

UPDATE: Bad link fixed.

Transparency

To borrow a formulation from Glen Reynolds:

They told me that if I voted for John McCain, freedom of the press would be stifled. And they were right!

UPDATE:  Well, if I'm gonna be scooped, it might as well be in as fitting a manner as this!

UPDATE: Grf! Fixed another bad link. Thanks to Mr H for alerting me to another installment of the Blogger Follies.