Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Terry Jones, Koran burning and Constitutional rights (Update)

I don’t know what to say about this goof except in this country, he has every right to do what he’s doing.

I may not like it (I don’t like the “piss Christ” or Westboro Baptist Church either), I may not support it, I may see it as unnecessary and inflammatory to some, but then the same can be said of my other two examples as well.  His activities provide no more of a provocation than do the examples.

One of the tough things about rights and freedoms is they also apply to actions we don’t like (as long as they don’t violate any caveats to those rights). 

Many here would like to liken this yahoo’s conduct to shouting fire in a crowded theater.  I don’t buy it.  Shouting fire in a crowded theater can cause panic and irrational behavior by people in the theater because of lack of information and fear for one’s life. It is an immediate response to an immediate action.  Panic ensues, people rush to limited exits all at one time and some get crushed or trampled. It can cause immediate death and injury.

There’s no such parallel in this this story as far as I can see.  Trust me, I’m not at all pleased by the deaths of UN workers in Afghanistan, but it was at the hands of a mob that was whipped up there (not by the act in FL at the time it occurred) and chose – important word – to react murderously.   That’s right, they chose to attack people who had absolutely nothing to do with the event in Florida well after the deed was done.

Others want to invoke “fighting words” as a reason to shut Terry Jones down.  Uh, no.  The only “fighting words” I can imagine came from whomever it was in Afghanistan that whipped that crowd into its murderous frenzy.  My guess is most in the crowd had never before heard of Terry Jones or his deed until that day.  And my guess is the incitement took place in a mosque.

Don’t mistake this for a defense of Terry Jones.  I think he’s a waste of protoplasm.  And I think what he is doing adds nothing positive to the world around us.  But –and again, this is the hard part – he has every right to do it.

I’ll continue to denounce him and would be glad to tell him to his face that his actions are harmful to both people and the cause he supposedly represents – Christianity.

I doubt he’d listen.  Zealots never do.  But as long as he confines himself to the activities he has so far, it’s his right as an American to continue to do them despite how others in the world choose to react to them.

UPDATE: Figures (debt, deficit, out of control spending, over regulation, ObamaCare – all taken care of I suppose):

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday that some members of Congress were considering some kind of action in response to the Florida Quran burning that  sparked a murderous riot at a United Nations complex in Afghanistan and other mayhem.

"Ten to 20 people have been killed," Reid said on "Face the Nation," but refused to say flat-out that the Senate would pass a resolution condemning pastor Terry Jones.

"We’ll take a look at this of course…as to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know," he added.

Here, Harry, let me help you out:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first five words (the fourth one in particular) are all Congress needs to know about this.

~McQ

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10 Rebels killed in coalition air strike

So far the “No-Fly Zone” is going swimmingly.  Yesterday we had a report of 40 civilians killed in coalition air strikes in Tripoli (remember, the coalition’s mission is to protect civilians) and today we learn that the coalition managed to kill 10 rebels in a strike yesterday (they’re supposedly helping the rebels, remember?).

Fog of war?  Eh, yes and no.  Mostly just a piss poor war.  As I’ve mentioned before, any competent army will learn to adapt and overcome when possible and that’s apparently what pro-Gadhafi forces are doing.

First they went to vehicles similar to the rebels making it very hard to sort out who is who on the ground.   Then they took it a step further, according to Reuters:

A Western coalition air strike hit a group of rebels on the eastern outskirts of Brega late on Friday, killing at least 10 of them, rebel fighters at the scene said on Saturday.

A Reuters correspondent saw the burned out husks of at least four vehicles including an ambulance by the side of the road near the eastern entrance to the oil town.

Men prayed at freshly dug graves covered by the rebel red, black and green flag nearby.

"Some of Gaddafi’s forces sneaked in among the rebels and fired anti-aircraft guns in the air," said rebel fighter Mustafa Ali Omar. "After that the NATO forces came and bombed them."

Rebel fighters at the scene said as many as 14 people may have died in the bombing, which they said happened around 10 p.m. local time (2000 GMT)

Wonderful.

Meanwhile it appears the possible, or should I say anticipated end state may be – stalemate?  Really?   That’s what all this effort is about?

U.S. officials are becoming increasingly resigned to the possibility of a protracted stalemate in Libya, with rebels retaining control of the eastern half of the divided country but lacking the muscle to drive Moammar Gaddafi from power.

Such a deadlock — perhaps backed by a formal cease-fire agreement — could help ensure the safety of Libyan civilians caught in the crossfire between the warring sides. But it could also dramatically expand the financial and military commitments by the United States and allied countries that have intervened in the six-week-old conflict, according to U.S. officials familiar with planning for the Libyan operation.

Ya think?  That’s always a sign of a well thought out, well planned strategy, isn’t it?

What you’re talking about then is a semi-permanent NFZ, because immediately upon its withdrawal, Benghazi would be under siege again.

What a great solution, no?  Split the country, prop up and support some government in the east (an area that produced 20% of the suicide bombers for Iraq and  has admitted jihadis in the governing councils and rebel fighters) and then fly cover for the next, oh, 10 years or so?

Brilliant.

~McQ

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Is a government shut down gaining favor among voters?

Apparently, according to a Rasmussen poll, a majority think a government shutdown would be a good thing if it led to deeper cuts in spending.

I’m not sure how seriously to take this in light of other polls which say Americans want cuts but not to any number of our most expensive entitlements.

That said, let’s look at the numbers in the Rasmussen report.  Again, as far as I’m concerned, the key demographic here is “independents”.  They’re the swing vote in any national election.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Democrats say avoiding a government shutdown is more important than deeper spending cuts. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans – and 67% of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties – disagree.

That works out to 57% of the total saying that deeper spending cuts are more important than avoiding a government shutdown.

To most that would mean the GOP is on the right track pushing deeper cuts.

Oh, and one little note here, just in passing – all of this could have been avoided if the Democratic Congress had done its job last year and passed a budget.  As it turns out, I’m glad they didn’t because just like the health care bill, I’m sure we’d have been stuck with an expensive monstrosity.  But what’s happening now about “government shutdown” is a direct result of Congressional Democrats not doing their job. 

That said, let’s look at another interpretation of the numbers from Rasmussen.  This one shows the divide between “we the people” and “they the politicians”:

There’s a similar divide between Political Class and Mainstream voters. Fifty-two percent (52%) of the Political Class say avoiding a shutdown is more important than deeper spending cuts. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Mainstream voters put more emphasis on spending cuts.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Political Class voters say it is better to avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending at a level most Democrats will agree to. Sixty-six percent (66%) of those in the Mainstream would rather see a shutdown until deeper spending cuts can be agreed on.

Most of those in the Political Class (52%) see a shutdown as bad for the economy, but just 38% of Mainstream voters agree.

So … what is it going to be GOP?  Stick with your guns or cave?

BTW, using the Rand Paul “we spend $5 billion a day in government” standard, a shut down sounds like a money saving opportunity doesn’t it.  Call each day a defacto spending cut.  10 days, $50 billion. 
 
I like it.

~McQ

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Quote of the Day – Wile E. Coyote edition

The perfect Libya analogy via Mark Goldblatt:

Why do I have a sinking feeling that expecting the Libyan rebels to overthrow Qaddafi is like expecting the Coyote to catch the Road Runner . . . and that we’re about to become the Acme Corporation?

Can’t improve on that (unless there’s a way to work Elmer Fudd into it).

~McQ

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Libyan update

Paul Miller, writing in Foreign Policy’s “Shadow Government” gets to the crux of the problem with the Libyan intervention – something the liberal hawks don’t want to admit:

Advocates of the Libyan intervention have invoked the "responsibility to protect" to justify the campaign. But R2P is narrowly and specifically aimed at stopping genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity on a very large scale. It does not give the international community an excuse to pick sides in a civil war when convenient. Qaddafi has certainly committed crimes against humanity in this brief war, but R2P was designed to stop widespread, systematic, sustained, orchestrated crimes. If Qaddafi’s barbarity meets that threshold, the administration hasn’t made the case yet, and I’m not convinced. If R2P justifies Libya, then it certainly obligates us to overthrow the governments of Sudan and North Korea and to do whatever it takes to prevent the Taliban from seizing power in Kabul.

In effect, Miller is accusing the administration of using R2P as cover to do what they want to do, regardless of whether or not it fits the so-called principle.  As he points out it is a selective application that, if it is indeed a “principle”, should be rigorously applied in other countries now.  It won’t be, of course (and that’s fine with me), but it is important to understand that in the list of priority applications of R2P, Libya should be way down on the list and it could even be argued the country shouldn’t even be on that list.  What we’ve actually done is insert ourselves in a civil war.

Speaking of the civil war in Libya, it appears the “rebels” or opposition, which ever you prefer, are a pretty rag-tag crew with little hope of success without an enormous amount of help.   Among the things I’ve read is the fact that there is no real unified single rebel command structure or shadow government.  There are 3 competing factions. 

At the courthouse on Benghazi’s battered seafront promenade, the de-facto seat of the Libyan revolution, a group of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals have appointed one another to a hodgepodge of “leadership councils.” There is a Benghazi city council, and a Provisional National Council, headed by a bland but apparently honest former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who spends his time in Bayda, a hundred and twenty-five miles away. Other cities have councils of their own. The members are intellectuals, former dissidents, and businesspeople, many of them from old families that were prominent before Qaddafi came to power. What they are not is organized. No one can explain how the Benghazi council works with the National Council. Last week, another shadow government, the Crisis Management Council, was announced in Benghazi; it was unclear how its leader, a former government planning expert named Mahmoud Jibril, would coördinate with Jalil, or whether he had supplanted him.

Add to that two competing military chiefs:

One is General Abdel Fateh Younis, who was Qaddafi’s interior minister and the commander of the Libyan special forces until he “defected” to the rebel side. Younis has been publicly absent, and he is distrusted by the shabab and by many council members. The other chief, Colonel Khalifa Heftir, is a hero of Libya’s war with Chad, in the nineteen-eighties; he later turned against Qaddafi and, until recently, was in exile in the U.S. Unlike Younis, he elicits widespread admiration in Benghazi, but he, too, has kept out of sight, evidently at a secret Army camp where he is preparing élite troops for battle.

Uh huh … elite troops that have yet to make their way to the battle.

As to the battle, it’s semi-competent troops against a disorganized rabble.  And, as you might imagine, since the Gadhaif faction has adapted its tactics to mitigate the effect of airstrikes, it is beginning to show:

Many of the idealistic young men who looted army depots of gun trucks and weapons six weeks ago believed the tyrannical 41-year reign of Col. Moammar Kadafi would quickly collapse under the weight of a mass rebellion.

Now those same volunteer fighters, most of whom had never before fired a gun, have fled a determined onslaught by Kadafi’s forces, which have shown resilience after being bombarded and routed by allied airstrikes a week ago.

Some exhausted rebels capped a 200-plus mile retreat up the Libyan coast by fleeing all the way to Benghazi, the rebels’ de facto capital, to rest and regroup. Others remained at thinly manned positions at the strategic crossroads city of Ajdabiya on Thursday.

There’s really no one in charge on the rebel side and of course, that means that they’re simply ineffective.  Indicators of how ineffective they are are obvious.  Also obvious is the lack of discipline which will, in the end, cause their complete and utter defeat:

For many rebel fighters, the absence of competent military leadership and a tendency to flee at the first shot have contributed to sagging morale. Despite perfunctory V-for-victory signs and cries of "Allahu akbar!" (God is great), the eager volunteers acknowledge that they are in for a long, uphill fight.

"Kadafi is too strong for us, with too many heavy weapons. What can we do except fall back to protect ourselves?" said Salah Chaiky, 41, a businessman, who said he fired his assault rifle while fleeing Port Brega even though he was too far away to possibly hit the enemy.

Retreating rebels paused only to wolf down lunches provided by volunteers supporting their cause. Two in mismatched military uniforms took time out in Ajdabiya to sneak into a blown-out police post and smoke hashish.

There are reports that one of the rebel factions has negotiated a deal with Qatr to exchange oil for weapons.  They can trade for all the weapons in the world but without the training and discipline necessary to make them into a competent fighting force, that means nothing.  For instance:

Few, if any, T-72 tanks and BM-21 rocket launchers recovered from government forces who abandoned the weapons during Western-led airstrikes have been brought to the front. Opposition leaders, who say defecting government soldiers are qualified to supervise rebel volunteers, say those same regulars aren’t trained to operate the tanks and rockets.

Operating them is obviously important.  But so is employing the in accordance to some strategy also apparently lacking.  As you can imagine, rebel morale is starting to really sink badly.  No one should find that surprising.

Of course another aspect of the rebels is their makeup.  As SecDef Gates said yesterday it’s a “pick up game” for that side.  There are approximately 1,000 trained fighters according to rebel sources.  But there are also other fighters within the mix (and probably some overlap).  As one admiral said in testimony before the Armed Services Committees, there’s a “flicker” of jihadis.

In fact, it seems more than a flicker:

A former leader of Libya’s al Qaeda affiliate says he thinks “freelance jihadists” have joined the rebel forces, as NATO’s commander told Congress on Tuesday that intelligence indicates some al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists are fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Former jihadist Noman Benotman, who renounced his al Qaeda affiliation in 2000, said in an interview that he estimates 1,000 jihadists are in Libya.

Obviously such an estimate has to be taken with a grain of salt – the number, not the fact that AQ jihadis are involved.  We know al Queda is involved:

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited "around 25" men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are "today are on the front lines in Adjabiya".

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists," but added that the "members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader".

Al-Hasidi fought in Afghanistan against NATO and for the Taliban until he was captured in 2002 in Pakistan.  He was released in 2008 in Libya.

Also worrying:

Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, "including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries".

We’ll see, if that’s true, if they begin popping up in Gaza and Afghanistan.  In the meantime, given the above, who again is our enemy?

Finally, amid a couple of high level defections, it is reported that the Gadhafi government has sent a special envoy to the UK for some secret meetings.  Speculation has it that he’s there to negotiate an exit strategy.

High level defections usually indicate instability in a regime and the rats attempt to save themselves before the ship sinks.  But Gadhafi has already survived a round of such defections.  And with rebels falling back in disarray with low morale, the situation just doesn’t lend itself to a persuasive argument that Gadhafi would be trying to find a way out.

The envoy is a senior aide to Gadhafi’s son Saif.  Here’s what some believe is being presented:

Some aides working for Gaddafi’s sons, however, have made it clear that it may be necessary to sideline their father and explore exit strategies to prevent the country descending into anarchy.

One idea the sons have reportedly suggested – which the Guardian has been unable to corroborate – is that Gaddafi give up real power. Mutassim, presently the country’s national security adviser, would become president of an interim national unity government which would include the opposition. It is an idea, however, unlikely to find support among the rebels or the international community who are demanding Gaddafi’s removal.

The argument is “anarchy is a distinct possibility” and would see the wholesale slaughter of civilians.  So, the compromise position is we’ll put dear old Dad on the sideline, one of the sons will become an interim president and we’ll also include those rebels in the interim government.

Sounds like a stall to me.   But then, the stall makes sense if you’re about to push the rebels back into Benghazi and you’d like to see if you can’t waive off NATO airstrikes for a bit by a little “good faith” negotiation, eh?

No cynicism there – just Gadhafi being Gadhafi.  He knows that’s unacceptable but it may buy critical time.

Bottom line: the rebels are in trouble, I don’t think theGadhafii government is in danger of imminent collapse, NATO’s mission becomes more difficult by the day (and probably less effective) and this thing could drag on for months, even years.

Aren’t you glad we’ve inserted ourselves in the middle of this war of choice?

~McQ

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NATO: We may have to bomb you to save you

The building debacle in Libya grows even more absurd and funny in a sad sort of way. 

As NATO takes over control of airstrikes in Libya and the Obama administration considers new steps to tip the balance of power there, the coalition has told the rebels that the fog of war will not shield them from possible bombardment by NATO planes and missiles, just as the regime’s forces have been punished.

“We’ve been conveying a message to the rebels that we will be compelled to defend civilians, whether pro-Qaddafi or pro-opposition,” said a senior Obama administration official. “We are working very hard behind the scenes with the rebels so we don’t confront a situation where we face a decision to strike the rebels to defend civilians.”

Well that answers my question about ‘good’ civilians and ‘bad’ civilians although a Vatican representative in Tripoli reports that coalition air strikes have killed 40 civilians in that city.  This is apparently one NATO can’t waive away as Gadhafi planting corpses to look like NATO is causing civilian deaths.

I love the line about “working very hard behind the scenes with the rebels” about the problem.  I assume those would be the CIA agents in the country as a result of a secret order by President Transparency?  Hello, Congress?  Yeah, don’t worry about it, I’ll call you from Brazil.

Anyway, back to the point at hand – the NATO warning about civilians seems much more in the spirit of the UN resolution than does helping rebel forces by bombing opposition units as the rebels advance or striking Tripoli in an obvious (but denied) attempt to facilitate regime change.

So if NATO is so hot to ensure the rebs don’t kill civilians and doesn’t plan on letting Gadhafi do it, it appears NATO is the only one doing it right now.

Oh, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, Andrew Sullivan is having a melt down over all of this.  He has a bad case of the vapors:

It’s so surreal, so discordant with what the president has told the American people, so fantastically contrary to everything he campaigned on, that I will simply wait for more confirmation than this before commenting further. I simply cannot believe it. I know the president is not against all wars – just dumb ones. But could any war be dumber than this – in a place with no potential for civil society, wrecked by totalitarianism, riven by tribalism, in defense of rebels we do not know and who are clearly insufficient to the task?

To answer Sullivan’s question – no.  At least I can’t imagine a dumber one, but then there’s always the possibility that our leader may manage to find one.  Expect it to happen the next time he decides on a foreign junket.  As for Sully – that’s what blind and unquestioning love does for you, big boy.  Maybe next time you’ll remove the blinders and ask some pertinent questions of your candidate of choice – like what in the world have you ever done that qualifies you for this job?

Wait, I’m talking about the left here, aren’t I?

Nah … not going to happen.

Anyway, back to the issue:

The increasing murkiness of the battlefield, as the freewheeling rebels advance and retreat and as fighters from both sides mingle among civilians, has prompted NATO members to issue new “rules of engagement” spelling out when the coalition may attack units on the ground in the name of protecting civilians.

It was unclear how the rules are changing — especially on the critical questions surrounding NATO’s mandate and whether it extends to protecting rebels who are no longer simply defending civilian populated areas like Benghazi, but are instead are themselves on the offensive.

“This is a challenge,” said a senior alliance military officer. “The problem of discriminating between combatant and civilian is never easy, and it is compounded when you have Libyan regime forces fighting irregular forces, like the rebel militias, in urban areas populated by civilians.”

Of course it is “a challenge”.  It’s worthy of “Mission Impossible”.  As this mess, this civil war ebbs and flows, telling red and blue from white is going to verge on impossible.  And with reports of Gadhafi arming civilians (one assumes to enable them to defend themselves) NATO also gets to decide whether or not armed civilians are fair game.

This is the sort of situations you find yourself in when you commit to “dumb wars”.  But then our fearless leader knows all about “dumb wars”, he doesn’t want to fight them.  And yet, there he is, fighting one in Libya.  You can hear Sully crying from here.

~McQ

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Quotes of the Day–liberal irony edition

Seriously folks, Victor Davis Hanson got me laughing so hard today that I almost coughed up a lung. 

What struck me as so funny?  His characterization of the left and Lybia Libya.   His article nails it.

Quote one:

Even liberal television and radio commentators cite ingenious reasons why an optional, preemptive American intervention in an oil-producing Arab country, without prior congressional approval or majority public support — and at a time of soaring deficits — is well worth supporting, in a sort of “my president, right or wrong,” fashion.

He calls that the “war mongering liberals” and claims it may presage a move by the left to pre-Vietnam days of “hawkish ‘best and brightest’”.  Still laughing over that possibility.

Quote two:

Conservatives have complained that opposition — especially in the cases of then-senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden — to George W. Bush’s antiterrorism policies and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was more partisan than principled. Obama ended that debate by showing that not only can he embrace — or, on occasion, expand — the Bush-Cheney tribunals, preventive detentions, renditions, Predator attacks, intercepts and wiretaps, and Guantanamo Bay, but he can now preemptively attack an Arab oil-exporting country without fear of Hollywood, congressional cutoffs, MoveOn.org “General Betray Us”–type ads, Cindy Sheehan on the evening news, or Checkpoint-like novels. In short, Obama has ensured that the antiwar movement will never be quite the same.

Tell me you’re still not chuckling, huh?  I mean check out that laundry list of, uh, accomplishments that Obama has “embrace[d]” or “expand[ed]” upon.  It was that list that had the left in a high hover for almost 8 years when Bush was in office.  Obama?  Meh, not so much.  It is absolutely telling that the “anti-war movement” now appears to have been about as principled as Jimmy Swaggart.  Long on preaching, making signs and talking about high minded principles.  But when their choice of a prez does the same or more … pretty much crickets. Remember the rumble about “preemptive” war? “War of choice”?  “Dumb wars”? Done and done.

While there are some on the left that have been consistent in their positions, they’re few and far between.

So, is your irony meter pegging out yet?  No?  Try this – quote three:

The media serially blamed a supposedly lazy Ronald Reagan for napping during military operations abroad. George W. Bush was criticized for cutting brush at his Texas ranch while soldiers fought and died in Iraq. Obama rendered all such presidential criticism mere nitpicking when he started aerial bombardment in the midst of golfing, handicapping the NCAA basketball tournament, and taking his family to Rio de Janeiro.

Inconsistency?  Not our media.  Bad “optics” are only for the right.  Of course they’re no worse than our President or the left in general.  But the irony impairment of all those folks remains a serious condition.

Quote four:

After Bush’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, many war-weary Americans believed that we would never again get involved in a Middle East war. But now, with Obama’s preemptive bombing of Libya, giddy American interventionists are again eyeing Iran, Syria — and beyond!

I keep thinking back to Robert Gates at West Point this year and his line about how any president who gets us engaged in another war in the middle east needs to have his head examined.

Uh, I think it is about time, don’t you?  Some may argue it is well past time.

~McQ

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Obama’s so-called “energy policy” speech

I hesitated putting "policy” in the title because it really isn’t a policy.  It’s is a series of tired claims, mostly incorrect, unsubstantiated or flat out untrue.  There’s also a good bit of dissembling in the speech.  Examples:

Now, here’s the thing -– we have been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon.  I remember because I was in the middle of a presidential campaign.  Working folks certainly remember because it hit a lot of people pretty hard.  And because we were at the height of political season, you had all kinds of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians — they were waving their three-point plans for $2 a gallon gas.  You remember that — “drill, baby, drill” — and we were going through all that.  (Laughter.)  And none of it was really going to do anything to solve the problem.  There was a lot of hue and cry, a lot of fulminating and hand-wringing, but nothing actually happened.  Imagine that in Washington.  (Laughter.)

The truth is, none of these gimmicks, none of these slogans made a bit of difference.  When gas prices finally did fall, it was mostly because the global recession had led to less demand for oil.  Companies were producing less; the demand for petroleum went down; prices went down.  Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up.  Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it’s not surprising that oil prices are higher.  And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents.

Consider this bit of nonsense.  The man who said it has been in charge of all of this for two years now.  And he’s absolutely right – nothing has happened.  And while he’s right about the result he’s attempting to wave away, as is his habit. It is a serious problem that we have the ability to affect.  But it can only be affected if we do something that will positively change the balance.  Like increase drilling.

So while he has a little fun calling “drill, baby, drill” a “gimmick” it is a much more coherent energy policy than he puts forward.  It, at least points to something which will result in more oil and more independence from foreign producers.  And, as I understand it, that’s supposedly a goal of his.

Anyway, his posturing then produced this derisive laugh-out-loud moment for me with his next remarks:

The point is the ups and downs in gas prices historically have tended to be temporary.  But when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices.  And that’s because you’ve got countries like India and China that are growing at a rapid clip, and as 2 billion more people start consuming more goods — they want cars just like we’ve got cars; they want to use energy to make their lives a little easier just like we’ve got — it is absolutely certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply.  It’s just a fact.

So here’s the bottom line:  There are no quick fixes.  Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t telling you the truth.  And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for a secure, affordable energy future.

Of course it’s a fact if you limit what is supplied to the market.  However, given the recoverable resources we have in this country, that fact can be considerably ameliorated by, gee I hate to have to repeat it, but “drill, baby, drill”.  Of course if you energy policy is to make war on the American energy sector and clamp down moratoriums on drilling while letting loose the EPA to make everything more expensive through it’s attempted regulation of GreenHouse Gasses (GHG), then not only are there no “quick fixes”, but the bill that will come due the American citizenry is guaranteed to cripple the economy in a lasting way.

We have domestic coal, natural gas and oil resources – recoverable resources – out the wazoo.  Enough coal for 400 years at present level.  And not just any coal, but high quality coal.  In fact we have 28% of the world’s coal.  We have natural gas for over a 100 years at present levels and oil for 60 years at present levels.  Given that, “drill, baby, drill” sound like more than just a gimmick, doesn’t it?

Then we go on to a blatant untruth:

I talked about reducing America’s dependence on oil when I was running for President, and I’m proud of the historic progress that we’ve made over the last two years towards that goal, and we’ll talk about that a little bit.  But I’ve got to be honest.  We’ve run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades.

We are now importing more foreign oil than we were when Barack Obama took office, primarily because of the moratorium.  There has been no – let me say that again, no – “historic” or other “progress” toward that goal. We are, in fact, in worse shape than ever.  With the rising demand that Obama notes, keeping domestic oil companies from expanding their operations is simply the worst thing we could do.  Yet we see exactly that happening to this day.

So, given that, this isn’t going to happen:

And today, I want to announce a new goal, one that is reasonable, one that is achievable, and one that is necessary.

When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day.  By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.  That is something that we can achieve.  (Applause.)  We can cut our oil dependence — we can cut our oil dependence by a third.

Sorry, under the current regime, that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of happening.

And that brings us to our second derisive laugh-out-loud moment:

Now, today, we’re working to expedite new drilling permits for companies that meet these higher standards.  Since they were put in, we’ve approved 39 new shallow-water permits; we’ve approved seven deepwater permits in recent weeks.  When it comes to drilling offshore, my administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill.  So any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve “shut down” oil production, any claim like that is simply untrue.  It might make for a useful sound bite, but it doesn’t track with reality.

Or it could be true, huh Mr. President:

The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration reports that production in the Gulf of Mexico is in decline, forecasting a decline of 250,000 barrels a day from Gulf production, due partly to the moratorium and restricted permitting.  While the annual production figure for 2010 was greater than 2009, EIA’s month-by-month production figures show a peak in May of 2010, and a relatively steady decline since.

So as usual, our transparent President is playing word games with you. As for the 7 deepwater permits issued in recent weeks (funny how those happen to pop out of the pipeline whenever Salazar or Obama is going to make a statement about energy), most of the permits have gone to drilling sites in which the drilling had already been underway and was stopped by the moratorium.  New drilling?  Not so much.

And how poorly does this President and his administration understand the industry they’re constantly attacking?  Not very well at all:

Moreover, we’re actually pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities that they’ve already got.  Right now the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where they’re not producing a single drop.  They’re just sitting on supplies of American energy that are ready to be tapped.  That’s why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentives that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources.

Apparently there is oil under every lease and it is of equal value and all you have to do is stick a drill in the ground and boom, gusher!  In fact, here’s the reality:

Companies pay millions of dollars to acquire these leases (each lease costs at least $250,000 and some have gone for more than $100,000,000), further fees for renting the leases and the leases have a finite term.   If a company does not produce oil or gas from a lease then they are required to return it to the government.  In other words "use it or lose it" is already the law.

These are very successful and sophisticated companies that are engaged in this business and it makes no logical sense for companies to pay millions of dollars to purchase leases, sit on them for 10 years, and then give them back to the government. They make money by supplying the American economy with the energy it needs to grow, not from sitting on assets. The level of capital expenditures by the industry to develop these leases demonstrates their commitment to find oil and gas. For example, the industry spent more than $37 billion (with a B) in capital expenditures to develop deep water Gulf leases issued between 1996 and 2000. In addition they paid more than $4 billion (with a B) in bonus bids to obtain those leases in the first place. With that level of investment, it is hard to argue that the industry is not working hard to develop the leases it owns.

Finally, these arguments simply ignore the basics of the oil and natural gas industry. Companies purchase leases for the right to explore for the resources. You don’t know if a lease actually contains oil or natural gas until you move forward and drill an exploratory well. Companies purchase a large portfolio of leases to give them the greatest opportunity to find oil and natural gas. They work hard to survey and study all of their leases with the hope that they can narrow the list down to a subset that have the best likelihood of actually containing oil or natural gas. However, it is not uncommon for a company to spend $100 million to drill a well and find no oil or natural gas. In fact, companies drill more wells that have no oil or natural gas than wells that actually do.

So again, you see the President of the United States spinning something that just isn’t true to try and cover his administration’s war on the oil and natural gas industry.  This is all political grandstanding.  It is the use of the bully pulpit to play CYA. 

Well, it’s not working.

Finally:

Now, in terms of new sources of energy, we have a few different options.  The first is natural gas.  Recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves –- perhaps a century’s worth of reserves, a hundred years worth of reserves -– in the shale under our feet.  But just as is true in terms of us extracting oil from the ground, we’ve got to make sure that we’re extracting natural gas safely, without polluting our water supply.

That’s why I’ve asked Secretary Chu, my Energy Secretary, to work with other agencies, the natural gas industry, states, and environmental experts to improve the safety of this process.

Obama is suddenly a natural gas supporter.  Well sorta.  He says he is, but if you read carefully what he says above, you can seen the combinati9n of interests he cites – other than the natural gas industry- are a recipe for slow, slow movement.  The more current example is what is going on with the oil industry.  That is precisely the process he’s outlining for the NG industry and the exploitation of those resources.

Believe it or not, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may have summed up the current administration’s real energy policy best:

Over the past two years, the administration has undertaken what can only be described as a war on American energy. It’s cancelled dozens of drilling leases. It’s declared a moratorium on drilling off the Gulf Coast. It’s increased permit fees. It has prolonged public comment periods. In short, it’s done just about everything it can to keep our own energy sector from growing. As a result, thousands of U.S. workers have lost their jobs, as companies have been forced to look elsewhere for a better business climate.

Consider this: just three of the areas we could tap in Alaska are thought to hold enough oil to replace our crude imports from the Persian Gulf for nearly 65 years. So the problem isn’t that we need to look elsewhere for our energy. The problem is that Democrats don’t want us to use the energy we have. It’s enough to make you wonder whether anybody in the White House has driven by a gas station lately.

Indeed.

And unfortunately, that’s not a laugh-out-loud moment.

~McQ

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Libya: Military Science 101 at work

I noted the other day that once Gadhafi’s forces figured out how to adapt to the coalition presence and tactics, they’d probably begin to swing the momentum back to their side.  Why?  Because they’re better trained and equipped than the “rebels”.  According to AP that has already begun:

Gadhafi’s forces have adopted a new tactic in light of the pounding that airstrikes have given their tanks and armored vehicles, a senior U.S. intelligence official said. They’ve left some of those weapons behind in favor of a "gaggle" of "battle wagons": minivans, sedans and SUVs fitted with weapons, said the official, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss sensitive U.S. intelligence on the condition and capabilities of rebel and regime forces. Rebel fighters also said Gadhafi’s troops were increasingly using civilian vehicles in battle.

The change not only makes it harder to distinguish Gadhafi’s forces from the rebels, it also requires less logistical support, the official said.

This was both predictable and inevitable (the same thing happened in Kosovo). 

Think about it – what is the hardest thing to distinguish?  Whether or not a civilian vehicle is occupied by good guys or bad guys.  Make your side pretty much identical from the air to the other side and it makes the job the coalition has undertaken much harder.  That’s precisely what the Gadhafi troops have done.

AP also throws this out there:

The shift in momentum back to the government’s side is hardening a U.S. view that the poorly equipped opposition is probably incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention – either an all-out U.S.-led military assault on regime forces or a decision to arm the rebels.

I hear a lot of talk about the US (or others) arming the rebels and how that will make the difference.  Nonsense.  While not having the weaponry that the other side has is indeed a disadvantage, it isn’t the rebel alliance’s biggest problem.  Their biggest problem is they’re an untrained and undisciplined rabble.  And an untrained and undisciplined rabble confronting even marginally trained troops with at least a modicum of discipline are going to lose if all else is equal.

While weapons may help, they certainly won’t make the difference. 

So:

The battlefield setbacks are hardening a U.S. view that the opposition is probably incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

I assume our “unique capabilities” will again be in demand as others “volunteer us” to be a part of the “intervention” that seems inevitable.   Obviously Obama doesn’t want this going on for long but it appears that Gadhafi and his supporters have both the will and the means to defy Obama’s wish.  That leaves the US with the specter of a long and drawn out civil war with the coalition ineffectively hanging out at 30,000 feet.

Finally, we find out today that the CIA is operating among the rebels.  Given their huge history of success in these sorts of endeavors, that has to give you a warm fuzzy feeling, huh?  And while I wouldn’t technically claim it violates Obama’s “no boots on the ground” pledge, it does stretch it a bit.

~McQ

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