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Free Markets, Free People

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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Why EPA’s attempt at regulatory overreach would end up killing the recovery

I think we all know that the recovery, such that it is, is very fragile.  And, of course, the job picture remains very poor.  Any GDP growth numbers we’ve seen over the past few months have been fueled mostly by government deficit spending.

So a government that was concerned about jobs and economic growth in the private sector should be concerned with getting out of the way and ensuring that growth is allowed to go forward unimpeded.  Instead, we see any number of roadblocks, such as the drilling moratorium, banking regulations and the like being imposed that are having the opposite effect.

Another example of that is the EPA’s attempted usurpation of powers only Congress should wield.  It is a classic example of a bureaucracy now attempting to make the law instead of follow it.

The EPA has chosen to interpret the 1970 Clean Air Act as a mandate for it to regulate Green House Gasses (GHG), not only in automobiles, but in stationary sources as well.  In fact, as the EPA has testified, it would effect up to 6.1 million stationary sources.    The Clean Air Act gave the EPA the ability to regulate air pollutants that effect health, such as soot, but not the ability to regulate GHG which are not considered to be pollutants as defined by the Clean Air Act. 

The obvious solution here, if that is a concern of the administration, is to have Congress address the Clean Air Act with an eye on updating it to deal with the perceived pollution problems today.  But there’s a very good chance that such changes wouldn’t be made given the present makeup of Congress.  In fact, even when Democrats had an overwhelming majority these past two years, they were unable to pass a Cap and Trade bill. 

Given that reality, it seems the Obama administration has chosen to bypass Congress and allow the EPA to arbitrarily assume the power to regulate GHG.

The impact of such regulation would be economically devastating.  And, in an era of uncertainty, it would only add to the uncertainty.  James Pethokoukis noted that, “the only thing certain about the EPA [greenhouse gas] ruling is more regulatory uncertainty leading to less economic growth and fewer jobs.”

For instance:

Consider Nucor Steel.  The company planned a $2 billion investment that would have created 2,000 construction and 500 permanent jobs.  But the project was curtailed-by more than 50%-largely because of the EPA’s regulations.  Lion Oil, a refinery based in El Dorado, Ark., faced a similar fate:  The EPA’s cap-and-trade agenda was, according to the company, a "critical factor" that delayed a "several hundred million" dollar refinery expansion, slated to create 2,000 jobs.

Add that to this sort of economic impact on one industry:

The American Forest and Paper Association estimates that, “about two dozen new regulations being considered by the Administration under the Clean Air Act, if all are promulgated, potentially could impose on the order of $17 billion in new capital costs on papermakers and wood products  manufacturers in the next five to eight years alone.”

EPA’s proposed regulation would hit everyone, especially small businesses:

The burden of EPA’s regulations will fall disproportionately on small businesses, according to a new study released by the Office of Advocacy in Obama’s Small Business Administration. The study, titled “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms,” small businesses, defined as firms  employing fewer than 20 employees, “bear the largest burden of federal regulations.” Specifically, the report found that “as of 2008, small businesses face an annual regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee, which is 36 percent higher than the regulatory cost facing large firms (defined as firms with 500 or more employees).”

Some of the regulations EPA is attempting to enforce deal with boilers.  “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters.” This proposal is referred to as the “Boiler MACT.”  Boilers are ubiquitous in the commercial market:

The Boiler MACT (maximum achievable control technology) proposal would impose stringent emission limits and monitoring requirements for eleven subcategories of boilers and process heaters. This proposed rule covers industrial boilers used in, among other industries, manufacturing, processing, mining, refining, as well as commercial boilers used in malls, laundries, apartments, restaurants, and hotels/motels.

So obviously imposing new stringent emission limits on boilers is going to effect a broad and deep swath of the economy, correct?  How deep and how broad? 

A recent study by Global Insight estimates that, depending on the policy EPA chooses, the Boiler MACT could put up to 798,250 jobs at risk. The study found that every $1 billion spent on upgrade and compliance costs will put 16,000 jobs at risk and reduce US GDP by as much as $1.2 billion.

Facing that, would you save  your money to upgrade or expand?  Expansion, of course, means more jobs.  Upgrading, however, means less.  And that’s where the EPA would take us.

Then there’s ozone.  The EPA wants to tighten the already stringent standard on ozone.  What the EPA has proposed is to change the standard from 75 ppb to a range of 60-70 ppb.  Here’s a clue as to how preposterous that is – Yellowstone National Park has 67 ppb of ozone as we speak.  So yes, Yellowstone would go from an “attainment” area to a non-attainment area.  That means it gets shut down until it comes into compliance.

That would also be the same for any area.  What does that mean?

Based on 2008 air quality data, a standard of 65 ppb would create 608 new non-attainment areas, while a standard of 70 ppb would create 515 such areas. These areas would be highly concentrated in manufacturing regions and states relying on coal for electricity.

Those counties and cities deemed to be in a non-attainment area would then have to put together a plan as to how to reach attainment (buy offsets from neighboring areas which are in “attainment”) and submit that to EPA.

But here’s the problem.  The new standard would most likely remove from the attainment list many who are now there and move them to the non-attainment list.  Result?  No offsets available to buy:

Consider the case of Ohio. Many areas of the state are still trying to meet the 1997 standard. A further revision now would greatly complicate state efforts to achieve attainment. Bob Hodanbosi, Ohio EPA’s Air Pollution Division Chief, estimates that if the ozone standard is set at 70 ppb, 47 of 49 monitors in Ohio would exceed it; if it were set at 65 ppb, all 49 monitors would exceed it.

In case you’re wondering it takes about 100 ppb of ozone to begin to effect your health.  So there’s really no need to move it from 75ppb.  And, as you can see in the case of Ohio, moving it down 5 points would put most of the state in “non-attainment” and moving it down 10 points would put the entire state in “non-attainment” and require exceedingly costly fixes.

Result?

The costs to Ohio workers and consumers could be severe. For example, in the Cincinnati-Dayton region, assuming an ozone standard of 70 ppb, production would decline by $14.8 billion, killing 91,700 jobs in 2030.  If EPA chooses 65 ppb, the costs in 2030 would nearly double, and 165,000 workers would lose their jobs.

And that’s in one state.

This is the threat posed by the EPA’s attempt at regulating something they have no authority to regulate.  It is being imposed by regulatory fiat.  

There’s a bill in the Senate right now that will prevent the EPA from usurping those powers and imposing those regulations.  It’s the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act (S. 482).  It is also known as the McConnell amendment.  It is worth supporting.

Not worth supporting are the Rockefeller amendment which only delays the inevitable (and essentially cedes the premise that the EPA can do this) by two years.   No-go.

Neither is the Baucus amendment.  Here’s how Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) describes the smoke and mirrors in that amendment:

The amendment is modeled on the EPA’s "tailoring rule," which temporarily exempts smaller sources-schools, hospitals, farms, restaurants-from the EPA’s cap-and-trade regulations.  That sounds good, but the rule blatantly violates the law, as the EPA changed the emissions thresholds established by Congress.

Hence the Baucus amendment:  It would codify the EPA’s permitting exemptions for stationary sources that emit fewer than 75,000 tons a year of greenhouse gases.  This exemption, which is actually more stringent than the EPA’s, purportedly is designed to help farmers and small businesses.  But as with the Rockefeller bill, it allows the rest of the EPA’s cap-and-trade agenda to move forward.  So businesses and farmers would still face higher costs for diesel and fertilizer, while small businesses would face higher electricity costs. 

The American Farm Bureau is wise to the false charm of the Baucus amendment.  It testified recently that, even with limited permitting exemptions, "Farmers and ranchers would still incur the higher costs of compliance passed down from utilities, refiners, and fertilizer manufacturers that are directly regulated as of January 2, 2011." 

Or said another way, the Baucus amendment also validates the premise that the EPA has the power to regulate GHG and just sneaks it up on us over a longer time period. Both are unacceptable. These amendments are supposed to come up for votes very soon. If you are an activist type and want to weigh in on this with your Senator, I’d recommended you push for passage of the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act (aka McConnell amendment).

Require those types of decisions be made by elected officials who are accountable to their constituencies, not appointed officials accountable to no one.

~McQ

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Libya: Are there "good" civilians and "bad" civilians?

I have to ask because it seems we’ve decided we need to hit Tripoli – the center of the Gadhafi base and a city in which there’s been no real fighting and certainly not any threats of civilian massacre. I also ask it rather facetiously. I think it is obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub against each other that the mission is no longer just to "protect civilians" but it has indeed become "regime change".  Check out the CNN vid:

 

 

So, one has to assume that the critical nature of ensuring Libyan civilians aren’t harmed is much more of a concern in Benghazi than in Tripoli.  No bombing or missile strikes in Benghazi, multiple examples of each in Tripoli.

The excuse?  Well we’re now attacking targets with even the “potential” of harming civilians.

Yeah, where I come from we call that rationalization – an effort to justify doing something other than what you were first cleared to do. The euphemism in common and specific use today as it pertains to military operations is “mission creep”.  We are right smack dab in the middle of doing just that.

Ed Morrissey makes the salient point and asks the proper questions:

Now the US says that NATO may start attacking Tripoli itself, presumably to get to Gaddafi’s command and control functions, which makes perfect sense if the mission objective was regime change. There are no reports of massacres in Libya’s capital at the moment, at least none which NATO or the White House have publicized.If the mission is the protection of civilians, which is what the UN mandate states (which Obama said he would not exceed in his speech Monday night), how will bombing Tripoli accomplish that?  We will increase the odds for significant collateral civilian losses, not decrease them.

Don’t expect questions to be asked or, if they are asked, to get any straight answers.  Well other than being told there are things in Tripoli with the “potential” to harm civilians.

Yeah … JDAMs and Tomahawks.

~McQ

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Ed Shultz– patriotic “chicken hawk?” Dissent is now “unpatriotic” …

Frankly this sort of stuff is just funny as hell, in an ironic sort of way.  The ever consistent left.  Remember when  any dissent, as long as it was the left dissenting and George Bush was the target, was the height of patriotism?

Yeah, not so much anymore.  Check out this from Ed Schultz.  Ed Schultz for heaven sake, talking about dissent and war:

ED SCHULTZ: Republicans are attacking the Commander-in-Chief during a time of war! . . . There should be no debate: we should be kicking [Gaddafi’s] ass . . . Whose side are you on, Sarah: are you with the terrorists, Sarah, or are you with the President of the United States? . . . And I have to ask the question tonight: where is the patriotism from all of these war-hawks? Where’s the patriotism of the Republican party? . . . What about being a patriot? . . . So the question now for the doubters who are out and about: why don’t you support the president? . . . We’ve been talking about the lack of patriotism from prominent Republicans . . .  Laura [Flanders] what about the patriotism?

Sometimes I have to wonder if these guys are like geese and just wake up in a new world everyday, because they apparently just don’t remember the Bush years at all or what they said during that time. And just as apparently they don’t seem to remember when they argued that dissent was as patriotic and American as apple pie.   As I recall Ed Schultz was the voice of dissent about Iraq – in fact he liked to brag about that fact.  Change each of the names above to “Ed Schultz” and it would be precisely what he whined about and pushed back against when he was the target of such nonsense.

But now, suddenly, because it fits his agenda apparently, he’s what I can only assume he’d have called a “chicken-hawk” a few years ago.  And he’ll brook no dissent, by gosh.  You’re simply “unpatriotic” if you disagree. 

Ed Shultz – another irony impaired  lefty blowhard with no integrity who has a memory as long as … well you pick the proper metaphor, but whatever you choose, it’s not very long at all.  You can see the clip of him “leaning forward” on MSNBC here.

~McQ

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Quote of the Day–Marco Rubio debt ceiling edition

Write it off to me being cynical about what any politician says, but while I like what I hear from Rubio in this WSJ op/ed, I wonder if, in fact, he’ll end up sticking to his guns:

Americans have built the single greatest nation in all of human history. But America’s exceptionalism was not preordained. Every generation has had to confront and solve serious challenges and, because they did, each has left the next better off. Until now.

Our generation’s greatest challenge is an economy that isn’t growing, alongside a national debt that is. If we fail to confront this, our children will be the first Americans ever to inherit a country worse off than the one their parents were given.

Current federal policies make it harder for job creators to start and grow businesses. Taxes on individuals are complicated and set to rise in less than two years. Corporate taxes will soon be the highest in the industrialized world. Federal agencies torment job creators with an endless string of rules and regulations.

So to summarize, Rubio sees a need to find ways to help the economy grow and to keep the national debt from not growing.  Okay, sold.   Next he sees existing federal policies – those, one assumes, include taxes and regulations – as one of the main obstacles to economic growth and one of the main contributors to national debt.  Again, check.  I think, in the main, he’s right.

Here’s the QotD:

We’re therefore at a defining moment in American history. In a few weeks, we will once again reach our legal limit for borrowing, the so-called debt ceiling. The president and others want to raise this limit. They say it is the mature, responsible thing to do.

In fact, it’s nothing more than putting off the tough decisions until after the next election. We cannot afford to continue waiting. This may be our last chance to force Washington to tackle the central economic issue of our time.

Well yes and no.  The defining moment in American history seems to arrive every couple of years when Congress routinely raises the limit again and again.  We’re now at a level that almost matches the yearly GDP with no end in sight if you look at the projected budgets for the next 10 years.  So is this particular vote on the debt ceiling really a “defining moment in American history”?  Only if Congress refuses to raise it.   Otherwise, it is business as usual.

Wit ill it be business as usual or a “defining moment in American history”?  I agree with Rubio that as it stands Congress and the president have obviously decided covertly that they’re not going to “tackle the central economic issue of our time” at the moment.   So where does that leave Rubio?

Well, here’s his position:

I will vote to defeat an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

No tax reform, regulatory overhaul, cuts to discretionary spending, balanced budget amendment as well as reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, no Rubio “yes” vote?

That’s what his statement says to me and anyone familiar with the “goings on” in Congress know -given Rubio’s list of “must haves” before he’d vote “yes” – it is a virtual impossibility.  Not going to happen – at least not anytime soon. 

I would then deduce that Rubio is a permanent “no” on any legislation coming along in oh, the next 20 years, that raises the debt ceiling.  Because, watching politics in Washington for all these years has convinced me that until it all crashes and burns, those folks aren’t going to really do a thing.

And I think Rubio knows it too:

Whether they admit it or not, everyone in Washington knows how to solve these problems. What is missing is the political will to do it.

I’ve seen no indicator that there is now a real will to do it, even after the wave election washed over 60 Republican freshmen into the House and upped the minority numbers for the GOP in the Senate.  Oh there’s talk, of course, but I see the usual turf protection and re-election concerns already beginning to cloud the once clear mandate that said “fix this mess”.  I see knees becoming weak and spines beginning to buckle.

Rubio stakes out a pretty unambiguous position here – not that I think he’s going to be able to stop the debt ceiling from being raised.  On the contrary, I think we’ll see it raised many more times in the coming years.   But I’m wondering how true Rubio will remain to his pledge here.  It will be an interesting exercise to watch a supposedly principle driven and incorruptible Tea Party candidate work in the atmosphere of Washington DC that almost demands “team play” and compromise to “get along” or advance.  He and Rand Paul, along with Allen West (R-FL) in the House are my “white mice” in this Tea Party experiment.  I want to see how true they stay to their pledges, how well they resist the Washington gravitational pull and resultant sell-out that usually occurs. 

I, for once, hope my cynicism isn’t rewarded as it usually is.

We’ll see.

~McQ

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Want to get your blood boiling?

Watch this:

Someone … anyone … other than some nonsense ordnance, what was the purpose of this little exercise except the usual exercise in power?

And have you ever seen a more blatant lie before in your life?

Petty bureaucrats doing petty things to infringe upon your freedoms.  A freakin basketball goal in a cul-de-sac.  Guess all the big problems in the city and state are solved.

Marvelous.

~McQ

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