Monday, January 30, 2012

Green Energy Not Ready for Prime Time

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), a prolific English writer, said, “The whole world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

As our President promised to “double down” on renewable energy, in spite of the bankrupted Solyndra, three more green energy companies, recipients of stimulus dollars, have collapsed.

Evergreen Energy Inc., a developer of alternative fuel products, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a Delaware court on January 23, 2012. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows the company to liquidate its assets while being protected from creditors. Evergreen Inc. has $25 million in debt and $240 million in assets. Without further financing, the company cannot continue to operate its K-Fuel facility in China. K-Fuel is a process of “refining coal before it is burned to increase energy densities and combustion efficiencies which reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Solyndra LLC (solar panel maker) and Beacon Power Corporation (energy storage) filed for bankruptcy last year after receiving government loan guarantees.

Solyndra received $535 million in government loan guarantees and listed in its bankruptcy papers $854.1 million in assets and $867.1 million in debt.

Beacon had $72 million in assets and $47 million debt. Beacon had built a $69 million power plant in New York with U.S. Department of Energy loans.

Ener1 Inc., a manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Manhattan claiming heavy competition from Toyota, China, and Korea, and the demise of a major customer, Norway Think Global. Ener1 had received $118.5 million grant from the Department of Energy. The company has $73.9 million in assets and $90.5 million in debt.

Amonix, Inc., a manufacturer of solar panels that received $5.9 billion in stimulus money will cut 200 employees, seven months after opening a factory in Nevada. (Las Vegas Sun)

It appears that producing clean, renewable energy is not such a cheap and affordable proposition after all. In spite of the green movement’s desire to replace “dirty” fossil fuels at all costs, it is not economically feasible to do so at this time.

In addition, the bad news mounts for the progressives who want to send us back to the Stone Age with their global warming fear mongering. The faux “consensus” that global warming is man-made was challenged again by newly released temperature data showing that earth has not warmed in the past 15 years. The temperature readings came from 30,000 measuring stations.

The infamous University of East Anglia Climactic Research Unit and the Met Office confirmed, “The rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.” (Daily Mail)

As various scientists compare and contrast diverse methods of climate modeling that take into account the influence of solar flares and the significance of CO2 emissions, it is evident that there were severe shortcomings and misrepresentations in the theories, data, and readings advanced by progressives.

Leading climate scientists believe that the sun will no longer emit high levels of energy as it did in the 20th century and will deliver a “grand minimum” of output, opening the possibility of colder summers, very cold winters, and much shorter growing seasons for food. (The Mail)

Some scientists, however, are still very confident that “solar activity is insufficient to offset the dominant influence of greenhouse gases.”

“World temperatures may wind up a lot cooler than now for 50 years or more. It will take a long battle to convince some climate scientists that the sun is important. It may well be that the sun is going to demonstrate this on its own, without the need for their help.” (Henrik Svensmark, Director, Center for Sun-Climate Research at Danmark’s National Space Institute)

One can only conclude that the global warming alarm was manufactured based on insufficient or deliberately misrepresented data. The progressives marched on with their agenda to replace traditional fossil fuel energy sources with a non-existent green renewable energy industry, which bankrupted itself in a short time, and the conservatives did nothing to stop them.

Alice in Wonderland - Further Down the Rabbit Hole

The United States experienced recently the most severe recession since the end of World War II. The housing collapse, the resulting economic downturn, TARP, and various bailouts and economic stimuli resulted in a rapid buildup in federal debt held by American taxpayers, 36 percent of GDP at the end of 2007, 62 percent of GDP at the end of 2010, and 100 percent of GDP at the end of 2011. Our national debt is $17 trillion, on par with gross domestic product.

Almost half of all Americans under the age of 30 do not have a job. One in five men of working age is unemployed. Twenty-five percent of college graduates are without a job with no prospects in sight. There are 13.1 million unemployed Americans.

We have a “progressive” and broken education system, a dwindling military, constant threats of terrorism, nuclear Iran, exploding entitlements and health care costs, illegal immigration problems, endemic government corruption, the Democrat-controlled Congress has not passed a budget in 1,000 days, crushing new regulations, the collapse of the Euro, the violence in Iraq after the departure of U.S. troops, to name just a few.

Our President continues to misrepresent America as strong, concentrating his vacuous teleprompting on class warfare, fairness, and massive tax and spending increases, vilifying the rich who “do not pay their fair share.”

Emphasizing his campaign mantra of “hope and change,” the President stated in his union address, “The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated, and remote. That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.” Was not the intent of our Founding Fathers to balance powers by creating three distinct branches of government?

By guaranteeing equal outcomes for all Americans, regardless of one’s merit, and encouraging mediocrity and sloth, this administration continues to de-develop America.

He made scant mention of Obamacare, its challenge in the Supreme Court, its bankrupting costs, Social Security crisis, energy crisis, the Solyndra scandal, the denial of the Keystone XL pipeline, the expensive and bogus green initiatives, and illegal “recess appointments” while Congress was not in recess.

The President forgot to mention his visit to Brazil in March to secure contracts for oil. “We want to work with you. We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and, when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.”

Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company will pump 4.9 million barrels a day by 2020 from an ultra-deep sea of oil. The President of Brazil signed instead contracts a month later with two state-owned Chinese companies. China had offered Petrobras a $10 billion loan in 2009 on the promise that Petrobras will ship oil to China for 10 years.  

Curiously ignored was the fact that the U.S. is exporting for the first time in 62 years, gasoline. We started exporting gasoline in late 2008. We have exported 430,000 more barrels of gasoline a day than we imported in September 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In case you are scratching your heads in bewilderment because you are paying $4 to $4.50 to fuel your car with Diesel or could be paying record high gas prices this year, consider this. The U.S demand for gas has dropped 10 percent (from 9.6 million barrels per day in 2007 to 8.8 million) and we have excess refining capacity.

Recession, fuel-efficient vehicles, higher prices, use of ethanol as ingredient in gasoline, decline in travel, decline in use of jet fuel and Diesel, caused the drop in demand for gas. Prices should drop based on the supply-demand model, however, we are paying $100 per barrel of crude from OPEC countries.

We are still importing plenty of crude oil; we are dependent on foreign countries for over half the crude. However, we export gasoline now to Brazil, Mexico, and Chile where demand for gasoline is stronger. Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP, and Chevron are happy to refine crude to make gasoline for the rest of the world.

President Obama said in his State of the Union speech that the future of America is a “future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.” Yet he denied the Keystone pipeline XL days before, a pipeline that would have carried oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. At the same time, he squanders money on ephemeral green energy such as the bankrupt Solyndra, the faulty electric Volt that nobody wants to purchase, and expensive renewable energy.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D- West Virginia) said, “President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is a major setback for the American economy, American workers, and America’s energy independence.”

Obama could have created 20,000 shovel-ready jobs and 179,000 jobs by 2035 with the Keystone pipeline. He could have granted offshore oil leases – only one was given in 2011. He could have reversed the 40 percent reduction in oil and natural gas production on federal lands, a decade long drop.

Instead, the President announced in front of Cinderella’s Castle his latest plan to create jobs by increasing tourism to the United States. He signed an Executive Order on January 19, 2012, “establishing visa and foreign visitor processing goals and the task force on travel and competitiveness.” He also created another bureaucracy,, the new Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation. Tapping tourism as a creator of American jobs, “This is the first time our country has had a national strategy and set goals for the amount of visitors we want to welcome.”  The interagency tourism and this quote were so troubling on many levels.

During the week on January 25, 2012, 1,600 economic and political elites and 40 heads of states met in Davos, Switzerland for the 42nd World Economic Forum to find ways to reform capitalism because they found it “outdated and crumbling.” Perhaps they are planning to replace it with global crony capitalism.

Preoccupied with the global economy in light of the recent downgrade of credit worthiness of 12 EU countries, including France, discussions centered on deficit of leadership in Europe, social responsibility, and environmental issues. The ever-present Occupiers protested the “self-proclaimed elites.”

Our 236-year old monolithic sovereign rock called America had been chiseled away by domestic and international socialists/communists for the last hundred years. They are now sledgehammering big chunks from our rock of freedom. Why do we allow it? Why is a failed utopia so tantalizing to Americans?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Divergent Paths - The Vision of Our Founding Fathers vs. the Plan of Marx

Marx believed that the bourgeoisie exploited the proletariat by keeping them in chains. He urged, “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.” Classical socialists believed that socialism was an imperfect stage before communism, where the means of production were owned by the state and workers were paid hourly for their work.

Margaret Thatcher had once said, “The problem with socialism is that, at some point, you run out of other people’s money.” She was referring to the deliberate attempt by a centralized socialist government to confiscate by various means and redistribute wealth they viewed as unfairly earned at the expense of the masses.

Communism abolished classes and the workers were paid for their needs not for the work they performed – “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” This brings to mind the motto Romanian workers adopted under communism in order to survive: “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”

There is no such thing as “equal” or “shared” (“communis” means “shared” in Latin) in communism. There is equal misery, equal suffering, equal mistreatment, and equal poverty. We shared constant shortages of food, rationing of necessities, water, energy, and heat.

Marx said, the proletariat does all the work. It is only fitting that they share the wealth. What wealth? The one that the Communist Party elites confiscated by force from its citizens after they were thrown in jail for being “bourgeois?”

Karl Marx, “the original hippie,” was negligent with his own family and “detested manual labor, preferring to dream up ideas about mooching from others and spreading their wealth around.” A report written in1852 by a Prussian police agent described a man who rarely washed, combed, or changed his linens, idle for days on end, an intellectual Bohemian. (Michael Savage, Trickle Up Poverty)

“There is not one clean and solid piece of furniture to be found in the whole apartment: everything is broken, tattered and torn…in one word everything is topsy turvy…. When you enter Marx’s room, smoke and tobacco fumes make your eyes water so badly, that you think for a moment that you are groping about in a cave…. Everything is dirty and covered with dust. It is positively dangerous to sit down. One chair has three legs. On another chair, which happens to be whole, the children are playing at cooking.” (Michael Savage, Trickle Up Poverty, 64, quoting Eugene Kamenka, The Portable Karl Marx, 41-42)

Marx cherished his philosophical ideas more than his responsibilities to his family because he relied on wealthy patrons such as Friedrich Engels, communist sponsors, and inheritances to care for his family. He died a pauper. (Michael Savage, Trickle Up Poverty, 65)

The failed socialist experiment at Jamestown, Virginia, taught us that, when people worked the land together, some were lazy and did much less work, while others, who worked harder, resented the slackers. The whole commune nearly starved to death. The following year, land was divided again to each family, and the settlement thrived and had extra food to trade for other needs.

Marxism does not work because greed and jealousy exist. Not everyone is so altruistic that he/she is willing to work extremely hard for the good of everyone.

Capitalism does work because of self-interest. One individual’s hard work to achieve self-interest enables Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” (the price system) to push everyone else to greater economic achievement. Waiting on the dole and the spreading of wealth is the death of initiative, respect, dignity, honor in a good-day’s work, and the desire to improve one’s standing in society.

Self-interest also breeds charity. Communist elites were never charitable except to themselves. People living under communism were not charitable to strangers. They performed volunteer activities involuntarily under the forced directions of communist rulers.

The population in communism hoarded food, enabled black markets to thrive, and engaged in bartering stolen goods or raw materials from work in order to survive. They tended to steal even public items that were fastened or nailed down if they could be sold for recycling.

There was no private property in communism because it created unfair competition. However, if a citizen was part of the ruling regime elites, he/she could own as much private property as they wished or as fast as they could steal it from the hapless proletariat and from the common means of production.

In the socialist and communist “utopia” I experienced, the proletariat was given free health care, education, and transportation. In reality, we had to pay for transportation and anything else at subsidized prices. Health care so dismal and constant shortages due to rationing created a huge black market. Medical care was pathetically inadequate and life had no value. People were killed by malpractice with no accountability since everybody worked for the ruling communist regime for meager wages and the omnipotent government could not be sued. Doctors, nurses, teachers, and engineers were told where to live, where to practice their trade, and how much they could earn.

Modern socialists in Europe advocate and run bankrupt welfare states with a nanny mentality of cradle to grave entitlements. Exceptionalism is punished, “global citizens” are shaped by socialist schools, and “groupthink” is rewarded. Most inventions of the modern world were the result of individual creativity and exceptional talent of one individual not of groups “brainstorming.”

Communist China did not start to make economic progress until the centralized bureaucracy lessened its stronghold on the population and allowed individual creativity and entrepreneurship to thrive. People were forced to do everything in society against their will.

Norman Matoon Thomas (Nov. 20,1884 – December 19, 1968), a leading American socialist and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America, explained best the status of socialism in the U.S.:

“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.” He continued, “I no longer need to run as a Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party. The Democrat Party has adopted our platform.” It appears that they have reached that goal.

Why would French or Greek citizens work hard if the government cannot fire them? Those who lack a work ethic and are lazy should be fired. Why would welfare Americans find work when they are encouraged to stay home and receive undeserved checks from the taxes of hard-working Americans? Socialism is forced on America by an ever-increasing federal bureaucracy.

Marxism, named after Karl Marx (1818-1883), is a mixture of philosophy, social history, economics, and “social justice” propaganda: Dialectical Materialism, Historical Materialism, and Marxist Economics.

For Marx, philosopher Georg Hegel’s dialectic – the contradiction between subject and object - was a “reflection of the actual contradiction between workers and employers under capitalism.” Modern man is alienated from his true nature because he has no tie to the product of his labor for which he earns a wage, Marx said.

Based on the history of class struggle, Marx believes that competition for resources divides society into “mutually antagonistic classes.” Poor workers “could be inflamed to believe that the capitalist system would always be disadvantageous to them.”

Das Kapital (Capital) promoted the idea that the “bourgeoisie” made profits by exploiting the “proletariat.” Workers were “exploited” when the value of goods produced exceeded the wages paid, thus creating “surplus value.”

Agitating class envy, Marx claimed that bourgeois competition forced them to exploit workers more. When they refused to exploit more, the capitalist would be forced into bankruptcy or bought out by someone who would continue the exploitation. Low wages would persist, the proletariat would rebel and would replace capitalism with socialism/communism. Marx imagined a “complete mechanization of production, so that any man could do any job.”

Marx acknowledges, “Capitalism is the most powerful mode of production available.” Yet abolition of private property is the crux of the theory of communism.

Marx and Engels introduced the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which was used by Lenin and Stalin to defend their totalitarian rule.

Marx believed that abolishing private ownership of the means of production by force and dictates, the proletariat would crush the resistance of the bourgeoisie. Lenin envisioned a dictatorship by a minority party, not by a democratically chosen majority.

Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto ,“exploitation and class warfare will destroy the national barriers between members of the proletariat, and the proletariat has a duty to overthrow the ruling classes in each nation.”

When the proletariat ruled, the following would happen:

-          No private property

-          Progressive tax

-          No right of inheritance

-          One centralized bank

-          Centralized credit

-          Centralized communication

-          Centralized transportation

-          Means of production owned by state

-          Equitable distribution of population density across the country

-          Free education (in the communist society I experienced, free education was rationed)

-          Combine education with production and agriculture

-          Industrial armies

-          Agricultural armies

-          Equal wages

As I sat in my high school class during Scientific Socialism lessons, with eyes glazed over by sheer boredom, I wondered how anyone could make such a deceptive ideology into a science. I could never say it, lest I went to a Gulag.

Stepping outside into our real world, there was no egalitarian society in communism, there were chronic shortages of food while the communist elite ate well and stuffed themselves.

We certainly had two distinct classes: the workers and the communist apparatchiks/the “intellectual proletarians”/the “cultivated proletarian artists.” Some had a fifth grade education, like the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, a cobbler, and his equally uneducated wife who presented papers at international forums, stolen from seasoned Ph.D.s who did not dare cross the “Mother of the Country” or challenge her faux credentials.

The common denominator of the communist rulers was that they were agitators and street organizers who had learned “how to be good commies” at brief seminars. For their servitude and help in oppressing the masses, helpful idiots and underlings received extra food, better housing, and comfortable professional jobs in spite of their lack of qualifications.

“Workers of the world” did not unite to overthrow capitalism as Marx wished, on the contrary, in 1989, the workers united and threw out communism in Eastern Europe as a failed ideology, economic, and societal system.

Our founding fathers believed in and respected private property as the cornerstone of our Constitutional republic. Belief in God and family were the keystones.

A majority of Americans today subscribe to the ideas that:

-          Character is the single most important attribute in a leader

-          Respect and honor are laudable traits

-          Entrepreneurs are our economic lifeblood and deserve what they make

-          The rich and entrepreneurs help enrich us all

-          American ingenuity promotes wealth

-          American generosity saves many nations in times of peril/need

-          Families are the building blocks of society

-          Guns prevent evil from taking over

-          Stoked class envy and hatred is un-American

-          Hyphenated labels are divisive and destructive

-          Illegal and unchecked immigration are dangerous to this country

-          Multilingualism is a divider

-          Global warming scare is junk science

-          Liberalism is a failed ideology

-          Military strength deters aggression (“Si vis pacem, para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war, said the Romans.

-          National security is the first responsibility of the federal government

-          “Political correctness is the liberal version of fascism”

-          Quotas should not exist

-          Tax rates should be flat and everybody should pay taxes

-          Unions have outlived their usefulness

-          “Vigilance is the price of freedom”

-          “Welfare robs people of their dignity and is the poison of capitalism”

-          We are responsible for our own destiny, not government or society

-          Government is not the solution, out-of-control government is the problem

“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shall not covet’ and ‘Thou shall not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable percepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.” (John Adams, A Defense of the American Constitutions, 1787)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Attack on U.S. Sovereignty - The Law of the Sea Treaty

Adopted in 1982, The Law of the Sea Treaty was initially called the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) and aimed to implement a set of detailed rules that would control the oceans, replacing the 1958 (UNCLOS I) and 1960 (UNCLOS II) United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea. The European Community and 162 countries have joined the Convention.

“Negotiated in the 1970s, the Law of the Sea treaty was heavily influenced by the New International Economic Order, a set of economic principles first formally advanced at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the 1970s and 1980s,” calling for redistribution of wealth to the benefit of third world countries.

President Ronald Reagan rejected the treaty in 1982 because it demanded technology and wealth transfer from developed countries to developing nations as well as adopting regulations and laws to control oceanic pollution.  Jurisdictional limits on oceans included a 12-mile territorial sea limit and a 200-mile exclusive economic zone limit.  The treaty would regulate economic “activity on, over, and beneath the ocean’s surface.”

In spite of the many pros and cons, in March 2004, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended by unanimous vote that the U.S. sign the treaty.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power, opposes the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) on several grounds, including the loss of National sovereignty.

In order to ratify a treaty, the President needs two-thirds majority vote from the Senate. According to Sen. Mike Lee, treaties must represent U.S. economic and security interests.  Our economy and navigation rights have not been affected by the fact that we chose to reject the treaty. He finds the loss of National sovereignty and mandatory dispute resolution included in the Law of the Sea treaty quite troubling.

The International Seabed Authority (“the Authority”) has the power to distribute “international royalties” to developing and landlocked nations. “So hypothetically, a U.S. company that has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing clean and safe deep-sea mining machinery would be forced to give a portion of its profits to countries such as Somalia, Sudan, and Cuba – all considered to be developing nations by ‘the Authority.’” (Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah)

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, supports the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). He believes that this treaty provides rules to handle future underwater minerals, gas, and oil exploration and shipping on new water routes opened by receding Arctic icepack. His support is predicated on the premise that the Arctic icepack melt will be a constant in the future.

According to Sen. Mark Begich, “The United States is the world’s leading maritime power. Only by ratifying the treaty can it protect freedom of navigation to advance our commercial and national security interests, claim extended continental-shelf areas in the Arctic – an area believed to be twice the size of California – as other nations are already doing, and use its provisions to protect the marine environment, manage fisheries and appoint Americans to help resolve disputes.” (The American Legion Magazine)

According to the Heritage Foundation, innocent passage through an area is already protected under “multiple independent treaties, as well as traditional international maritime law.”  Few countries deny passage to the U.S., given its naval superiority.  Under the Law of the Sea Treaty, “intelligence and submarine maneuvers in territorial waters would be restricted and regulated.” It is thus not in the national security interest of the United States to ratify this treaty.

The treaty requires policies that regulate deep-sea mining, requires rules and regulations to control and prevent marine pollution, and requires the control of corporations who cannot bring lawsuits independently. They must depend on the country of origin to plead their case in front of the United Nations agency.

“Some proponents of the treaty believe that it will establish a system of property rights for mineral extraction in deep sea beds, making the investment in such ventures more attractive.”

President Reagan objected to the Principle of the “Common Heritage of Mankind,” which dictates that marine resources belong to all mankind and cannot be exploited by one nation.

To spread the wealth, the UN “Authority” must regulate and exploit mineral resources by asking companies to pay an application fee of half a million dollars, recently changed to $250,000, and to reserve an extra site for the Authority to “utilize its own mining efforts.”

A corporation must also pay an annual fee of $1 million and up to 7% of its annual profits and share its mining and navigational technology. Mining permits are granted or withheld by the “Authority” which is composed of mostly developing countries. (Heritage Foundation)

Any kind of maritime dispute, fisheries, environmental protection, navigation, and research, must be resolved under this treaty through mandatory dispute resolution by the UN court or tribunal which limits autonomy. Disputes should be resolved by U.S. courts. (Heritage Foundation)

The United States provisional participation in the Laws of the Sea treaty expired in 1998. Should we consider the ratification of another treaty that has the potential to further chip away at our National sovereignty?

The GOP has recently passed (January 14, 2012) a resolution exposing United Nations Agenda 21 as “a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control that was initiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).” 

“According to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, National sovereignty is deemed a social injustice.” United Nations treaties and programs want to force “social justice” through socialist/communist redistribution of wealth from developed nations like the U.S. to third world countries.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Obama's Six Agency Merger - Smoke and Mirrors

The President has decided, after spending trillions of dollars, that it was time for an “effective, lean government.” Like most of the promises he made, the intention is suspect. He wants Congress to give him greater power to merge six major economic agencies into one.

The six departments in question are the Commerce Department, the Export-Import Bank, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

To support his move, Obama uses a bizarre example to exemplify government inefficiency. “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

For starters, the Interior Department is not in question. The administration says that 1,000 to 1,200 jobs would be cut through attrition and the merger would save $3 billion dollars over ten years.

Considering the out-of-control spending this administration has engaged in the last three years, $300 million a year is a drop in the bucket. It is more about “smoke and mirrors,” a political attempt to help the Obama re-election by portraying him as an advocate for a lean and effective government.

Combining organizations is not about simplifying government but the political appearance of reducing the size of government. The move is tied to Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) and the Executive Order of March 2010. The Senate did not fund the NEI in the 2012 Commerce Appropriation. He thinks Congress will fund his NEI if it appears that he is streamlining his outlandish spending.

The National Export Initiative (NEI) is a plan that he unveiled in the 2010 State of the Union address. Obama promised to “double U.S. exports over the next five years and support 2 million American jobs” by creating an export promotion cabinet (to oversee government programs and special financing for farmers seeking overseas market opportunities) and tougher enforcement of international trade laws.

Congress is also resisting reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. It is my opinion that a bank should remain independent of a six-organization merger. Should a bank be tied to such a powerful combined organization?

Brendan Buck, spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner, said, “American small businesses are more concerned about this administration’s policies than from which building in Washington they originate.”

The Commerce Department controls domestic and foreign business, trade, economic development, technology, entrepreneurship (job creation), and business development. The Commerce Secretary, with a budget of $7.6 billion and 47,000 employees, also covers divisions such as Census Bureau and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Export-Import Bank, the official U.S. export credit agency founded in 1934, finances the export of U.S. goods and services. The official export credit agency of the United States, the Export-Import Bank has a budget of $89.9 million and 391 employees. Export-Import Bank does not compete with private sector lenders and guarantees loans from U.S. banks to foreign businesses that buy U.S. made products.

The U.S. House of Representatives delayed a long-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and the decision to raise the lending cap to $135 billion from the current $100 billion limit.

“Airlines of America (AFA), the trade union that represents leading U.S. carriers, insist that Congress make fundamental changes to how the bank operates as part of any increase in the lending cap. The group argues that the bank finances loans to foreign carriers at favorable terms unavailable to domestic carriers, putting U.S. airlines at a competitive disadvantage.” Foreign airlines with investor grade credit rating should secure financing from other banks, not the Export-Import Bank. (USA Today)

General Electric’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Boeing’s James McNerney wrote to House leaders that failure to increase the lending cap could lead to the loss of thousands of U.S. jobs.  Boeing is arguing that the Export-Import Bank terms help Airbus.

Obama’s administration supports the higher cap. The President cited the Export-Import bank for funding a multibillion-dollar deal for Indonesia Lion Air to buy 230 Boeing jets. A $636 million direct loan from the Export-Import Bank to finance the sale by Siemens Energy of gas and steam turbines to be installed in Saudi Arabia was hailed as a success of “in-sourcing” 825 jobs in North Carolina. I could be mistaken but Siemens is a corporation with high credit rating that can borrow money from the private sector, not from a taxpayer-sponsored bank.

“Reauthorizing the bank and expanding its lending cap is an administration priority, and we will continue to work closely with Congress to get this done,” said Amy Brundage, White House spokeswoman. (USA Today)

Office of U.S. Trade Representative advises Obama on trade issues, develops and coordinates international trade policy and oversees negotiations. Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative, is Obama’s Cabinet member since 2009. His office has a budget of $51.3 million and a staff of 227 employees.

Interestingly, Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative is also the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a non-voting member of the Export-Import Bank Board of Directors, a member of the National Advisory Council on International Monetary and Financial Policies, and is on the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is “an innovative and independent U.S. foreign aid agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty.” Isn’t “global poverty” one of the favorite pet projects of liberals and UN Agenda 21?

It appears that Ron Kirk is a very influential man in three of the six government agencies that Obama wants to collapse into one.

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is presented in the mainstream media as helping U.S. businesses to establish a presence overseas. In actuality, they lead the way to Sustainability and help the implementation of UN Agenda 21. The OPIC Annual Report of 2010 states that “OPIC support projects that:

-          Are environmentally and socially sustainable

-          Are compatible with low- and no-carbon economic development

-          Respect human rights, including the rights of workers and affected communities

-          Avoid or provide mitigation and compensation for any negative impacts

-          Provide timely project information to affected people

-          Are undertaken in countries that are taking steps to adopt and implement laws that extend internationally recognized worker rights”

It appears that OPIC is more concerned with implementation of UN Agenda 21, low- and no-carbon economic development, thus eliminating fossil fuels, and international worker rights.

According to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) environmental and social policy, “OPIC and its partners and stakeholders work together to further the common aim of bringing sustainable prosperity to developing countries around the world,” at the expense of U.S. economy and its citizens. It appears that this corporation, created in 1971, with a budget of $54.9 million and 215 employees is busy leading the way to UN Agenda 21 sustainability and elimination of fossil-fuel based economy.

The U.S.Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) gives grants to open emerging markets for increased exports of U.S. manufactured goods and services. Since our net exports, exports minus imports, is usually a negative number and thus a drag on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Trade and Development Agency’s work with its $50 million budget and 50 employees has little positive impact on U.S. net exports. We have imported more than we have exported for years and the trend is not likely to change.

The agency claims that they have identified $3.6 billion of U.S exports directly attributable to USTDA-funded activities. The agency also boasts that for every dollar spent by the agency, USTDA’s export measure grew to over $58. It is not clear how they arrived statistically at such a claim. The agency’s projects focus on clean energy, transportation, telecommunications, and environmental services. This leaves out agriculture and other manufacturing sectors.

The Small Business Administration oversees the U.S. small businesses that “create 90 percent of new jobs and receive 23 percent of all federal contracts congressionally mandated by the Small Business Act.”  Karen Mills, the SBA administrator, would be elevated to Cabinet-level rank, an insignificant and deceptive move. Instead, the SBA’s budget should be increased substantially and federal program significantly for America’s main job creator.

As the evidence clearly suggests, President Obama’s attempt to merge six federal agencies into one is just a smoke screen for other agendas – it is not about streamlining government, saving $300 million a year for ten years, or just a transparent attempt at getting re-elected. More complicated relationships, interests, and outcomes are at stake.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Guantanamo Care Trumps ObamaCare

Four hundred air miles from Miami, Florida is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval base in a country with which U.S. does not maintain diplomatic relations, Cuba. In 1903, U.S. leased 45 square miles of land and water at Guantanamo Bay for use as a coaling station and later as a refueling station.

The treaty was ratified and signed by both governments in Havana in December 1903 for $2,000 gold coins per year. In 1934, the lease was renewed by granting Cuba and its trading partners free access through the bay and the payment of $4,085 in actual dollars, not gold. To end the lease, both U.S. and Cuba must agree or the U.S. must abandon the base property.

Relations remained stable until the Cuban revolution in the late 1950’s. Since January 1, 1959, the territory outside the base remains off-limits to civilians and U.S. service members. Official diplomatic relations with Cuba were cut off by President Eisenhower in January1961. Some Cubans sought refuge on the base. Relations have been strained with the Castro government.

Of the original 380 who were allowed to stay and work on the base, there are 30 remaining. Of the 3,500 commuters in 1959 who were allowed to leave communist Cuba each morning and return in the evening through the North East Gate, only two remain today. They take retirement checks each month to the Cubans who retired from the Naval Station.

Thousands of Haitian refugees were processed through the Guantanamo base over the years during the violent coup of 1991 and the earthquake in 2010.  Asylum seekers who make it across the border by land or intercepted at sea by Coast Guard vessels live temporarily in migrant facilities on base until are processed to third-party countries in Latin America.

The Naval Station has a self-sufficient base, which houses 5,337 people, mostly civilians and 2,103 military. A desalination plant produces 1.2 million gallons of water per day and the power plant 350,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day.

The Naval Station is separated by Guantanamo Bay and it can be accessed by AMC Rotator flights that land on the Leeward side of the base. The bay can be crossed by utility boat and ferry to the Windward side of the base where the prison is located.

In the wake of 9/11, the base started to incarcerate individuals captured by the U.S. military during execution of the War on Terror. The first prisoners arrived at Guantanamo Bay on January 11, 2002.

The “enemy combatants,” a term coined by the Bush administration, have the legal status of unlawful combatants without protections under the Geneva Conventions. After legal fighting, the DOJ dropped in March 2009 the term “enemy combatant” from its legal lexicon and “established a new criterion for detention that did not rely on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress in September 2001.”

President Obama called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay detention facility and signed an Executive Order that called for closure by January 22, 2010. Many detainees were released to countries like Spain, France, Austria, Tunisia, Portugal, Ireland, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Belgium, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Slovakia.

Controversy over the proper venue to try such individuals captured on the battlefield dragged on. The DOJ wanted the detainees tried in federal court in New York. Congress halted plans to close Guantanamo Bay by giving final approval to a defense-spending bill, which blocked detainees from being transferred to the U.S.  President Obama signed the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, which banned the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the U.S.

Holder announced that defendants would be tried before a military commission, thus ending in April 2011 Obama’s plan to try the accused 9/11 conspirators in federal courts.

On its tenth anniversary, Guantanamo Bay still houses 171 detainees down from 550 in 2005 and 779 in 2002. The detainees started a hunger strike on January 11, 2012, inspired by U.S. liberal activists with bleeding hearts for terrorists and criminals. Deutsche Welled interviewed the UK based legal group Reprieve, representing 15 detainees, about the “lack of hope that now pervades the camp.”

These are no boy scouts, they range from bomb makers, bridge bombers, terrorist trainers, terrorist financiers, recruiters and facilitators, high value detainees who were Osama Bin Laden’s guards, and at least five who are directly tied to the 9/11 attacks. Some detainees could have been released but no country wanted them. Some who had been released, committed new terrorist acts or returned to the battlefield. According to the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, “detainee assaults on the guard force occur on a regular basis.”

According to the ACLU, our government spends $70 million annually to house the 89 prisoners who have been cleared for release. The Bush administration has released 532 prisoners while the Obama administration only 68. “Six prisoners died in custody by apparent suicide, one as a result of a heart attack, and one died of cancer.”  Military commissions at Gitmo spent $12 million in 2011. (ACLU)

Detainee programs include a social program (recreation, sports, prayers, family phone calls, mail), intellectual stimulation program (books, magazines, puzzles, newspapers, handheld electronic games, movies, satellite television), an instructional program (literacy, second language classes, art classes, computer classes, personal finance and business), a library with more than 25,000 titles, newspapers and magazines in 15 different languages, video games, DVDs, CDs, and a full-time librarian.

Living conditions exceed what is required by the Geneva Convention: Three meals a day that meet cultural dietary conditions and special diets, shelter, clothing, personal hygiene items, prayer beads, rugs, copies of the Quran in the native language of people from 40 countries, and mail. Detainees are visited by the Red Cross quarterly.

The most interesting aspect of the camp is health care. Medical services are available to detainees around the clock, seven days a week. Prisoners are treated in a dedicated medical facility with state-of-the-art equipment and expert medical staff of more than 100 people. There are 20 inpatient beds, physical therapy, pharmacy, radiology, and a single-bed operating room. Intensive care is offered at the Naval Station hospital and specialists can be flown in. A separate facility offers mental health care. Immunizations are given to detainees because none was available in their home countries. Prosthetic limbs are provided and cancerous tumors removed.

As you contemplate the coming rationing of health care in Obamacare, consider Guantanamo care: there is one medical staff for every two detainees and one primary care provider for approximately 45 detainees. The U.S. national average is one primary care provider for every 880 citizens.

As you wait eight hours to see an emergency room doctor, weeks to see a general practitioner, or six months to get an appointment with a specialist, examine Guantanamo Care: 129,000 meds dispensed annually; 4,650 sick call visits; 3,600 provider appointments; TB screenings conducted via the most accurate method available; colon cancer screening; 10 colonoscopies; 370 annual dental procedures; 470 radiology and physical therapy services; numerous consultations in cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, radiology, urology, dermatology, audiology, orthopedics, ophthalmology, optometry, podiatry, and pulmonology. (Joint Task Force Guantanamo)

Can we afford to keep Guantanamo open? Can we afford to close it? Based on the valuable information obtained from various detainees, details that saved innumerable lives, the nature of the dangerous individuals, and the cost associated with Gitmo’s maintenance, the questions seem difficult to answer.