Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: December 2009

1 2 3 9

More From The “Settled Science” Of Global Warming

This little nugget from Science Daily:

Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, only about 45 percent of emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere.

Hmmm … now if this is true (notice how, unlike alarmists, I still skeptically caveat my acceptance of this research until I see verification) it would put a very large dent in the argument for the draconian measures the warmists are attempting to write into law in various countries around the world, wouldn’t it?

Or at least it should. So why do I have this feeling that if true it will be mostly ignored.

Experience I guess.

The research was done by Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

[Knorr] reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.

In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades.

The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

I left that last line in there so that you understand that it is indeed published research and most likely his peers will try to replicate his analysis using his methods and data. As I recall, that’s how the scientific method works. We’ll see how “settled science” reacts to that if it should be validated.

Unfortunately, it leaves me still on my quest to find the answer to the following question: “If rising CO2, as science has told us, lags global warming by 800 years and is an “effect” of such warming, how in the world did it suddenly become a “cause” of such warming?

And I’m no closer to getting the answer to my second question either: “What is the optimum temperature for the “globe”?”

Any assistance in answering them would be greatly appreciated.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Obama’s Emerging Foreign Policy

Fouad Ajami has a must-read article in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he lays out the emerging Obama foreign policy. In essence, however, he sums it up quite nicely in the subheading of this article: “No despot fears the president and no demonstrator in Tehran expects him to ride to the rescue”.

Instead, what they can expect is high-sounding rhetoric giving lip-service to past American foreign policy ideals (freedom for all, democracy, etc) with little or no action. As Ajami points out, there is no intent to live up to the rhetoric; the intent is to stay above it all. He calls it a “cold-blooded” foreign policy in which America withdraws, for the most part, from the world and takes more of an observer’s role. As for all that high minded rhetoric read or listen to any Obama speech on foreign policy and you’ll hear it. But Hillary Clinton provides the ground truth of the situation when she said, “Ideology is so yesterday”.

This administration has no real interest in the foreign policy agenda. But it can’t really admit that, since, as we all know, foreign policy is one of the primary jobs of the chief executive. However anyone with the intellect of a sand flea has been able to discern that this president’s interests are found more in the domestic agenda than the foreign policy agenda.

With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the “progressives” holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. The decision to withdraw missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic was of a piece with that retreat in American power.

In the absence of an overriding commitment to the defense of American primacy in the world, the Obama administration “cheats.” It will not quit the war in Afghanistan but doesn’t fully embrace it as its cause. It prosecutes the war but with Republican support—the diehards in liberal ranks and the isolationists are in no mood for bonding with Afghans. (Harry Reid’s last major foreign policy pronouncement was his assertion, three years ago, that the war in Iraq was lost.)

As revolution simmers on the streets of Iran, the will was summoned in the White House to offer condolences over the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, an iconic figure to the Iranian opposition. But the word was also put out that the administration was keen on the prospect of John Kerry making his way to Tehran. No one is fooled. In the time of Barack Obama, “engagement” with Iran’s theocrats and thugs trumps the cause of Iranian democracy.

As we’ve discussed many times, this is a man who wants to have it both ways. His “strategy” for Afghanistan wasn’t to do what was necessary to win the war, but what was necessary to win over most of his critics while still appeasing most of his base. In the case of his foreign policy, “engagement” is simply a device used to give the appearance of doing something while, in reality, doing (and accomplishing) very little.

In the Darwinian anarchy that is the world, leaders of the various tribes notice any weakness in those who’ve assumed leadership. And they instinctively exploit it. What 2009 has done is serve notice that the United States is a weaker nation to all those who want that and will take advantage of it. What 2010 will most likely bring is the expected exploitation of that situation. What forms or in what fashion that exploitation will occur is anyone’s guess at the moment (although astute observers will be able to point to probable actors and actions), but as Ajami points out with his little parable about Lebanon and Syria – reality is already adjusting the actions of the players, and not at all to the advantage of the United States or peace throughout the world.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Obama Administration – Still Trying The Blame Shifting Game

I don’t know about you, but the attempt to continue to blame Bush for every failure of the Obama administration is getting to be quite old. In fact, it has become sort of a game – how will they manage to turn this is such a way as they can overtly or through implication, blame Bush.

Of course the latest attempt is the NWA bomber. Two simultaneous tracks on this one. First is the usual implication that this is an “inherited mess” from the previous administration. While I’m willing to concede some inheritance of problems from any previous administration, this isn’t one of them. I might be inclined to give such a concession on Jan. 20th of this year. But it is Dec. 31st, almost a full year since this administration has been in office and in charge of our security. This is their baby, not the previous administration’s.

Secondly, the claim that Bush didn’t take the flack Obama has when Richard Reid tried to detonate his shoe bomb. A couple of points. That was within months of 9/11 and plans and strategies were still being implemented. Additionally, Bush had been talking about terrorism in general since 9/11. So speaking out on this particular act of terrorism wasn’t a particularly necessary thing.

We’ve been doing this for 9 years since then. Almost one full year of it has been on the Obama watch. When the Ft. Hood shootings went down, the administration tried to play it down as something other than an act of terrorism, and then, belatedly and grudgingly acknowledged the possibility of such. Now we have this occurrence and again, we have an administration that looks inept and incompetent (“the system worked”) and again engaged in trying to downplay the significance of the attempted bombing and security breech.

Amazingly, Maureen Dowd most succinctly characterizes why this is much more significant a failure than Richard Reed (an act that took place well before the TSA and all the procedures designed to protect us):

If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?

This is a complete and utter failure of the system – and had it happened on the Bush watch, I’d say the same thing. But what I wouldn’t be doing, a year into the Bush administration, is blaming it on Clinton.

All the “dots” they love to talk about were there. What wasn’t there was any attempt to connect them. That says “FAIL” in big bold letters. And that “FAIL” falls squarely on the shoulders of the administration in charge at the time of the “FAIL”. That would be the Obama administration. And repeated attempts to pass it off to someone else are becoming both tiresome a bit worrying. It is time this President and his administration accept the fact that they are in charge and responsible for everything that does or doesn’t happen on their watch. For military officers that’s leadership 101. For this crew, it seems to be anathema as they continue to try to pass the “responsibility” buck on to others. It reminds me of children who try to avoid blame by pointing to their siblings and claiming it’s all their fault.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Where Is Our Secretary Of State On This?

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has spoken out about the violence in Iran and the repression of the protesters, calling the violence against them by the state “disturbing” and hailing the “great courage” the protesters have demonstrated.

He further stated:

“The tragic deaths of protesters in Iran are yet another reminder of how the Iranian regime deals with protest,” he said.

“Ordinary Iranian citizens are determined to exercise their right to have their voices heard. They are showing great courage.

“I call on the Iranian government to respect the human rights of its own citizens – rights which Iran has promised to respect.”

Of course speaking out like this in support of freedom and democracy – something US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said would remain the policy of the United States – has drawn an expected reaction from Iran’s Manouchehr Mottaki:

Mr Mottaki said the protesters “should not be encouraged by a few… statements by certain countries”.

He added: “They should not pin their hopes on them. Britain will get slapped in the mouth if it does not stop its nonsense.”

Mr Mottaki’s speech was broadcast on Iranian television with an English translation on screen.

“The lowly and downgrading remarks by some foreign officials show the black stain on their record in their… contradictory interactions.”

Oh, my. A “stern rebuke”. How ghastly. I’m sure Miliband is forever scarred.

Obviously, it is this horrific toll that is keeping our brave Secretary of State from speaking out on the violence and injustice now occurring in Iran. Instead it is left up to an NSA spokesman to make the denunciation.

NSA? So they’re now conducting our foreign affairs.

Where in the world is Carmen … er, Hillary Clinton?

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!



NWA Bomber A Result Of”Systemic Failure” And “Systemic Looting”?

President Obama said the attempted Northwest Airlines bombing was the result of a “systemic failure – an outright rebuke of Janet Napalitano’s “the system worked” remark. Almost 9 years after 9/11, we’re still having trouble seeing the “dots” much less connecting them. Everyone who should have known about this guy seems to have known about him yet he was issued a visa, allowed on an airplane to the US and almost killed over 200 people despite being on a watch list and having been reported as a potential terrorist by his father.

So yes, I’d agree with the “systemic failure” characterization. It sounds like there were plenty of dots and again no connecting. For instance, if he’s on a watch list, why is our State Department issuing him a visa? Shouldn’t they a) have checked that watch list or b) routinely run his name by the CIA and/or whoever maintains that watch list? Why have a watch list if no one is watching?

But, over and above that, you have to ask “why” after spending billions upon billions on aviation security wasn’t a fairly common explosive easily detected by bomb detection equipment detected by said bomb detecting equipment? After all, even if the CIA and State Department fumble the ball, couldn’t it be picked up technologically by the “system” at the airports designed to detect bombs?

Well, that brings us to the looting part of the title. Ask Sen. Chris Dodd where the money for that sort of equipment went. Apparently he managed to divert it to one of his pet projects which he figured had a higher priority than that of the lives of airline passengers. Here is the text of the amendment he introduced and was passed diverting funds for aviation security bomb detecting equipment to what the Washington Examiner calls a “notoriously ineffective program”:

Purpose: To provide additional funds for FIRE grants under section 33 of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974)

On page 77, between lines 16 and 17, insert the following:

SEC. X (a) The amount appropriated under the heading “firefighter assistance grants” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” under by title III for necessary expenses for programs authorized by the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 is increased by $10,000,000 for necessary expenses to carry out the programs authorized under section 33 of that Act (15 U.S.C. 2229).

(b) The total amount of appropriations under the heading “Aviation Security” under the heading “Transportation Security Administration” under title II, the amount for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems under the first proviso under that heading, and the amount for the purchase and installation of explosives detection systems under the second proviso under that heading are reduced by $4,500,000.

(c) From the unobligated balances of amounts appropriated before the date of enactment of this Act for the appropriations account under the heading “state and local programs” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” for “Trucking Industry Security Grants”, $5,500,000 are rescinded.

You can’t get anymore specific than that. This too should be considered a “systemic failure” that is all too common in Washington DC. Obviously we have no idea whether equipment that 4.5 million might have bought would have been in place in Amsterdam to catch that bomber, but we do know that pulling it ensured it wouldn’t be somewhere, to include Amsterdam. And Democrats wonder why people don’t take them seriously when it comes to national security?

Just another, in a long line of reasons, that politicians like Christopher Dodd are the problem, not the solution, to many of our security issues. They don’t take it seriously and engage in behind the scenes looting of the very security mechanisms we’ve given our politicians as a security priority for pet projects. My guess is, other than what is found in the Washington Examiner, the analysis of what went wrong won’t contain anything about this shameful and irresponsible action by Dodd and the Democrats. But it damn well should.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Health Care Reform – Left and Right

In case you missed it, which is entirely possible, it appears one of the potential “show stoppers” for the reconciliation of the health care reform bill between Democrats in the House and Senate is no longer an issue. Surprisingly that would be the “public option”.

A week or two ago, the House Whip, Rep. James Clyburn, made it clear in an interview that the House wouldn’t be rubber stamping the Senate’s version of reform. No sir. Because, you know, the House isn’t some second class legislative body and it has certain requirements that must be in a bill, such as a strong public option, before the support of House Democrats can be considered to be behind it.

That, of course, was then. Now Rep. Clyburn is singing a different tune:

“We want a public option to do basically three things: create more choice for insurers, create more competition for insurance companies and to contain costs. So if we can come up with a process by which these three things can be done, then I’m all for it. Whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

When asked by CBS host John Dickerson whether he could give his support to a bill that has no public option, Mr. Clyburn said “Yes, sir, I can.”

I’m sure that Clyburn actually meant he wanted something which created more “choice for the insured” vs. “insurers”, but nevertheless his defense of dropping the public option is exceedingly weak by anyone’s standard. That’s not to say dropping it is a bad thing – obviously I’d like to see the whole bill dropped. But that’s not going to happen. However it is interesting to watch the willful self-delusion necessary to state the Senate bill does these things parroted by someone who was adamantly against the Senate’s version of the bill because it lacked that very thing he now says it contains.

And, of course, it doesn’t “create more choices for the insured” or more “competition for insurance companies” and it certainly doesn’t “contain costs”. It mostly increases government’s intrusion into the market by mandating coverage (Who is going to monitor and enforce that? Government.), requiring insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions (Monitor? Government. Result? Increased cost.) and increase taxes (Enforced by? Government. Result? Increased cost, although not “direct”.).

It also leaves a significant portion of the uninsured uninsured. Well, not really. They either self-insure or pay a fine (or, got to jail). In fact, this bill is so bad that even the ever dependable statist hack Bob Herbert is having problems swallowing the “major accomplishment” line on this boondoggle. He’s not at all happy with one particular provision in the bill. Methinks it’s probably because Mr. Herbert knows he’s one who will be paying for it:

The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.

The so-called “Cadillac health plans” are those which cost more than what the government (via the Senate bill) has decided cost more than what it arbitrarily has designated as a “cost-effective” health care plan. In other words, it has declared a certain amount paid for health care coverage to be “enough” and anything over that excessive and taxable. The entire intent of the bill is to make those who enjoy better health care insurance benefits pay for the privilege through a tax penalty which will then subsidize those who don’t have insurance to the tune of 150 billion.

As Herbert realizes, that means a number of things might happen, none of which translate into “if you like your coverage, you can keep it”.

The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services.

Notice how it is in the private market that these “proponents” seem to be aiming their “cost cutting” knife. Tell me – how does cutting costs in these private plans at all effect the 89 trillion in future benefit obligations of Medicare and Medicaid? That’s where the unaffordable costs are. Isn’t that the area where government should be focusing its “cost cutting” effort? Sure it claims it will cut 500 billion from Medicare – something absolutely no one believes will be done. But this so-called “cost cutting” measure aimed at “Cadillac plans” is pure and unadulterated semantic nonsense.

There’s no benefit in terms of “cutting costs” to be found in taxing them. It’s a revenue stream, pure and simple. The “cost savings” rhetoric is purely to dupe those who don’t know any better. It does nothing to “cut costs”.  In fact, it increases the cost of those plans. But it does accomplish two “progressive” goals – it levels the benefit field so the vast majority of people, most likely including the entire middle class, is on “equal footing” with everyone else, especially the “poor”. In fact, only the rich will enjoy Cadillac plans after the Senate gets done with it (oh, and the Senate of course, which has exempted itself from what we proles are allowed to have).

The other goal it will supposedly accomplish is ration health care consumption without calling it that (increasing the cost will impose self-rationing). And, it will do it through cost. Yes, irony of ironies, that was exactly the complaint progressives used to support government intervention in this market. But as we all know, the left is irony impaired. By jacking up co-payments to levels that hurt, people will indeed be less likely to consume health care. But that’s not a “cost cutting” measure no matter how badly progressives want to characterize it as such. Because someone will be consuming health care. It’s a finite product and government is in the middle of expanding the market by millions and millions at a higher cost (pre-existing conditions) than before.

Newt Gingrich is out there saying Republicans should be running on repealing this bill (obviously assuming it will pass and be signed into law). I agree. This is the perfect platform and perfect example of government out of control. The good news, if there is any, is the bill is structured in such a way (taxes begin immediately, benefits don’t kick in for 4 more years) that it can be repealed before the damage is done.

Unfortunately, and I say this based on history, the Republicans most likely won’t have the stomach to just repeal it and return to the status quo, or even better, pass legislation that enables the market (tort reform, sell insurance over state lines, etc). My guess is they’ll get wobbly and assume they have to pass some sort of nonsense that appeases the whining on the left. Of course it won’t appease the left’s whining – their compromises never do – but it will compromise the Republican’s principles – again. That’s assuming the same old faces that got the GOP in the mess it now finds itself in are still running the show then. I think you get my point.

So, in summary, the stage is set to pass this monstrosity. The stage is also set for the GOP to use its passage as a platform for electoral success and its eventual repeal. If even Bob Herbert understands that his travesty does much more harm than good, then the average voter is going to pick up on it as well. And since it is going to effect that average voter immediately while they see no benefit from the increased taxation, the GOP should have a very strong case to make. But they better have their ducks in a row and be willing, for a change, to actually stand on principle and then once in power, have the spine to implement those principles and do what is necessary to roll back government intrusion, power and spending.

And that, of course, is the weakness of the plan – the GOP has never, ever, shown it has the cajones to live up to its principles once in power. That’s because the perks of power are just too seductive and the incentives of the existing political system work at odds with any stand to limit them.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Inside Our OODA Loop

Something that’s been bouncing around inside my head the past couple of days is that it really seems like al Qaeda (and terrorists in general) have gotten inside our OODA Loop.

For those who don’t know, you can find a really good description of the OODA Loop here and a good summary here. Briefly it’s the decision cycle (“observe, orient, decide, act”) of those engaged in some sort of struggle or competition. The faster and more accurate one’s decision cycle, the more quickly he can disorient and defeat his opponent. By forcing your opponent into a defensive posture, where your moves are not readily or easily discerned, you can outmaneuver and even control what your opponent does — hence, you are inside his OODA Loop. So when I say that the terrorists have gotten inside our OODA Loop, I mean that we are fighting them from predictable, even enemy-dictated stances that make it easier for them to survive and continue fighting.

To some extent, of course, that’s almost entirely what terrorism is designed to do: i.e. affect our decision-making process in such a way as to turn the populace against the government. The terrorists attack soft targets, and the government responds by restraining the freedom of its own citizens, maybe even going overboard. In fact, in countries where a considerable amount of freedom is the norm, most if not all such government restrictions will seem like they are going overboard, because only the terrorists really know how and when they are going to attack next (recall the famous IRA admonishment to Margaret Thatcher: you have to be lucky every day; we just have to be lucky once). The people eventually get tired of the restraints and overbearing policies of the government and either demand a stop to the war against the terrorists or join the terrorists’ cause. Indeed, the whole concept behind Petraeus’ counterinsurgency was an attempt to reorganize our OODA Loop in a way that was not affected by the terrorists’ actions. The idea was to win over the populace to the coalition side by taking the fight to the terrorists and protecting the citizens. When it comes to fighting terrorism on as a nation, however, we don’t seem to have any similar strategy, and that appears to be helping al Qaeda, et al.

That’s not to say that the terrorists will ever truly defeat America and the West, because that’s not ever going to be possible. Militarily, whether speaking in terms of strategy, tactics, policy or just sheer power, they are simply no match for us on any level. Even so, they have become somewhat adept at pushing our buttons in a way that makes us turn on one another, thus weakening our resolve. Keep in mind too that they don’t have to “win” in this struggle, they just have to tie. If we leave Iraq and/or Afghanistan before those nations are able to effectively capable of governing themselves in a peaceful manner, including the ability to keep terrorists at bay, then they will count that as a victory and we will face an emboldened enemy. If we react in predictably defensive ways to every terrorist act, and let them dictate how our government rules her citizens, then we hand them all the controls they need to thrive. And when we do that coupled with a near-pathological fear of offending a protected class of persons, even when we have some really well-founded reasons for distrusting a certain, easily identifiable class of persons, we practically write a script for the terrorists to help us implode.

Just consider how we treat foreign nationals who wish to come to America. On the one hand we keep productive, job-producing citizens out, while allowing watch-listed BVD-bombers easy access:

The question on the visa is critical. No one has a right to a visa to the US. If we have credible information that someone constitutes a threat — and a father’s testimony should be considered at least credible enough to hoist a red flag or two — then the visa should be canceled until more investigation can take place. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re kicking out Anatolie Vartosu for being too successful in America while keeping Adbulmutallab’s visa in place because we’re just not sure he’s a radical jihadi. It’s as ridiculous as doing strip-searches on Grandma while allowing a Nigerian on a watch list to pass through two sets of security without a patdown.

The whole point the watch-list and no-fly lists, not to mention the ridiculously random and complicated TSA security measures in general, was to prevent another 9-11 from happening. Yet the only people whom seem to be at all hampered by these government restrictions are those who have no intention of blowing up airplanes.

So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new policy prohibiting passengers from moving during the last hour of a flight. Also, no pillows or blankets during that last hour.

In addition to keeping with its usually [sic] tradition of making policy on a reactionary [sic] basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.

[...]

TSA … equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.

If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.

That’s one way of explaining how the cycle of terrorist act/government restriction/citizen agitation works. Or, you could say that al Qaeda is inside our OODA Loop. And we can’t seem to find an effective way to remove them.

Well, that’s not entirely correct. The best way we’ve found of dealing with terrorists is by taking the fight to them, and forcing them to fight for their own ground. When we did that, we severely disrupted their ability to form and execute new plans, and made it increasingly difficult for state-supporters to remain hidden or passive. Of course, our government still took the ridiculous, theatrical approach to safety at home anyway, so the system isn’t fool-proof. Essentially it’s Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy writ large in a place that’s not sanguine about a military presence, but where plenty of us will whine and moan if the theater doesn’t put the show on anyway (while remembering to annoying everyone equally, even if our business cards declare us to be soldiers for Allah). We put them on the defensive, and that’s right w.here they belong now.

Victor David Hanson predicts that we will see the Obama administration start heading that way in the near term, and perhaps it already has. I hope that’s right. Because taking our foot off the gas is not getting the job done. It just lets the enemy get back to steering our bus in the direction they want. Back inside our OODA Loop.

Riots In Iran: Obama Administration Gets A Second Chance

What do I mean by that?  Well, the first time this happened when the elections were disputed during the summer, the administration was anything but supportive of the dissenters.  In fact, while it engaged in a full-up diplomatic attack on Honduras for doing what its Constitution demands, the administration all but ignored the turmoil in Iran.

Of course the excuse given by apologists for the administration claim that the administration felt there was more to be gained by “engaging” the rogue regime vs. backing a movement that may actually see that regime toppled.  Obviously, given what has happened this week in Iran, those dissenting there haven’t been waiting on Obama’s blessing or support.  The movement has been simmering since the election and again violence against the regime has broken out in the streets of the country in a battle against the oppressive mullocracy.

At least eight anti-government protesters, including a nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran’s opposition leader, were shot dead yesterday as the smouldering confrontation between the regime and the so-called Green Movement finally erupted.

Early reports put the number of dead at five, but as clashes continued late into the night, Iranian state television reported that the number of dead had risen. A report on the website of state television put the number of dead as high as 15 and quoted the Ministry of Intelligence that more than 10 were members of “anti-revolutionary terrorist” groups.

The other five who reportedly died during the bitter clashes in the Iranian capital were killed by “terrorist groups,” Iranian TV claimed.

Analysts heralded the start of what could be a bloody endgame as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured on to the streets of Tehran and other cities and fought running battles with the security forces. Opposition websites claimed that some policemen had refused to fire on demonstrators.

This isn’t something which is happening in some isolated city in Iran, or just Tehran for that matter – this is a movement that has gone national and is gaining support.

Question: Wouldn’t it be in our best interest and the best interest of the region and world if the current regime fell? Obviously there’s some “what if” to be done here, like “what if the replacement regime is worse”? Hard to imagine given the supposed agenda of those now rioting in the street, but it is certainly remotely possible. But it would seem to me to be a risk well worth taking given the present regime.

So, of all people, that brings us to Hillary Clinton, a speech she recently gave in Georgetown and a “put your money where your mouth is” moment.

Ms. Clinton said that the administration, “like others before us, will promote, support and defend democracy.” She pledged that it would publicly denounce abuses by other governments and support dissidents and civil society groups.

Really? Well, here’s your chance, Ms. Clinton. Here’s a chance to positively effect the lives of an oppressed people. Here’s a chance to help bring down an oppressive regime and actually “promote, support and defend democracy”. Here’s a chance to “publicly denounce” the abuses of the Iranian regime.

Imagine if you will, the effect of that regime actually falling. It would immediately have an effect in both Iraq and Afghanistan where our soldiers battle insurgents backed by the country. It would also have an effect on the greater middle east, removing one of the mainstays of support for both Hamas and Hezbollah. And it would kick one of the supports out from under other dictators, such as Hugo Chavez, who continues to make noises about acquiring “nuclear capabilities”.

In fact, enabling and supporting the dissident movement in Iran would be one of the smartest things we could do right now. Any distraction that puts Iran off its gain is a good distraction in terms of the rest of the world and specifically the US. Shouldn’t that be the overriding reason for our foreign policy – what is good for us? Isn’t it the job of our government to pursue that aim?

So what are these words from Clinton and the Obama administration? Empty platitudes or policy?

Over the next few weeks we should be able to make that determination as they react (or don’t) to the situation in Iran.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Napalitano Concedes “System” Didn’t Work

Apparently what was clear to every other person in the land has just recently become obvious to our DHS Secretary:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded Monday that the aviation security system failed when a young man on a watchlist with a U.S. visa in his pocket and a powerful explosive hidden on his body was allowed to board a fight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The Obama administration has ordered investigations into the two areas of aviation security — how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened — as critics questioned how the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged in the airliner attack was allowed to board the Dec. 25 flight. A day after saying the system worked, Napolitano backtracked, saying her words had been taken out of context. “Our system did not work in this instance,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”

Taken out of context? The fallback claim of every yahoo caught saying something stupid or inane. In fact, there were any number of signals which should have had this guy shunted off to the side for a more thorough check – like the warning his father had given the US embassy.

Officials said he came to the attention of U.S. intelligence last month when his father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, a prominent Nigerian banker, reported to the American Embassy in Nigeria about his son’s increasingly extremist religious views. In a statement released Monday morning, Abdulmutallab’s family in Nigeria said that after his “disappearance and stoppage of communications while schooling abroad,” his father reached out to Nigerian security agencies two months ago. The statement says the father then approached foreign security agencies for “their assistance to find and return him home.”

The family says: “It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day.”

Some questions:

How can a Muslim student, whose name appears on a US law enforcement database, be granted a visa to travel to America, allegedly acquire an explosive device from Yemen, a country awash with al-Qaeda terrorists, and avoid detection from the world’s most sophisticated spy agencies?

Every intelligence agency across the world is fully aware that the targets of choice for al-Qaeda and its numerous affiliates and sympathisers are airliners – preferably those flying to the US. Yet Abdulmutallab seems to have avoided detection in both Nigeria and Holland when he passed through the various security checks at Lagos and Schiphol airports respectively. [How? -ed.]

Embarrassingly for the Washington, Lagos airport had recently been given the “all clear” by the US’s Transportation Security Administration [Why? -ed.], an agency established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks which was supposed to improve the security on American airliners.

Bottom line – if you want to make security more effective without increasing the hassle factor for everyone, there is a solution: start profiling.

Yeah, that’s right – if you’re warring against the Mongols, you don’t go looking for Latvians. It’s time we started pulling the “Mongols” out of line and checking them thoroughly. For instance, had this guy undergone a check for explosives, they’d have gotten him early:

Security experts said airport “puffer” machines that blow air on a passenger to collect and analyze residues would probably have detected the powder, as would bomb-sniffing dogs or a hands-on search using a swab. Most passengers in airports only go through magnetometers, which detect metal rather than explosives.

If, as a matter of routine, such travelers were sent through such devices or checks, do you think it might further diminish the threat of such attacks and cause them to look for different venue for their attacks?  Might it also put pressure on Muslims everywhere, when singled out as a threat because of their common link to the terrorists,  to clean up their radical elements?

Instead, you can count on the Obama administration, via the TSA, to make the new and reactive rules both draconian and applicable to everyone and pretend the 800 lb. gorilla in the room doesn’t e. But real security doesn’t play “political correctness”. It identifies the threat as specifically as possible, details characteristics of those who comprise that threat and then focuses its limited resources on them. That isn’t what we do, and we know why. And that’s why guys like Abdulmutallab and Richard Reid find ways to get on aircraft with explosive devices.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Are We Needlessly Scaring Ourselves To Death?

I think we many times become overwrought about things without ever really taking the time to put the threat into perspective. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight throws some numbers out there for us to consider as we assess the latest terrorist attempt. Taking the decade of October 1999 to September 2009 (stats for this month and others following September are not available yet) and even including the 9/11 attacks (TSA didn’t appear until after those) there have been six terrorist acts or attempted terrorist acts involving aircraft. Silver breaks down the numbers:

Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 mles flown.

Wow. Not a huge threat. I take many more chances with my life in Atlanta traffic every day. But, to put it in even better contrast, how about the old stand-by: How do my chances compare to being struck by lightning?

There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

So in answer to the title is an unqualified “yes”. That’s not to say we shouldn’t maintain an awarness on flights of idiots like this last one and do precisely what the passengers did to thwart his attack. But then we know not to stand on a hilltop in a lightning storm wrapped in copper wire too. We take proper precautions, but we don’t obsess over it.

Given these stats and what we have to go through to fly now, I’d say we’re past the obsessive stage and into the downright parnoid stage.

We do this alot anymore. Maybe it is the proliferation of mass communication which seems to magnify the significance of the story without providing any context like Silver has. Guys like this latest wannabe bomber are not a great threat to us.

We average 50 commercial crashes a decade and have since the 1950s. Yet for all those decades we happily climbed on board understanding that our real chances of being in an airline crash were really very small.  And as you can see, given those numbers, your chances of being in a non-terrorist caused crash are significantly higher than those caused by terrorism. Yet it is the “terrorist” attack over which we obsess.

Life’s a risk. We know that and risk ours everyday. We do so because we know that in reality the risk we take is very low and not doing so would limit how we lived our lives to a very mundane and boring routine. We’d hate it. And we normally pride ourselves in understanding that we must take risks to live life to the fullest.

I can’t help but think that every attempted or failed attack like this one that drives the neurotic over-reaction that follows is considered a victory by our enemies. We need to quit enabling that.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

1 2 3 9