Wednesday, April 27, 2011

$4 dollar gas locally

In today's Fishwrap (to use Quimbob's term for the Enquirer), the headline was about $4 dollar for a gallon of gasoline has reached here. No surprise to anyone who drives, prices have been rising for weeks.

Yesterday the news was all about suspending tax breaks for oil companies (as though they need them!) and investigation into the how oil speculation was driving up the price of gas. Now the Fishwrap comes along and explains that it isn't greedy speculators but merely an imbalance between supply and demand. Wait, it gets better. The imbalance is caused by more people driving as a result of the recovering economy.

Oil speculators make money by betting that gas will cost some much in the future. If prices go up, they make money. If prices go down, they lose money. Imbalance of supply and demand is the equivalent of economic psycho-babble. The supply has remained steady, in fact recent reports are showing a surplus of oil. Last time gas prices rose this high, oil was trading at $150 per barrel. Today oil prices are trading at $112.

Demand going up makes no sense. Local communities are cutting public safety and school budgets due to a lack of tax revenues. Those tax revenues come from taxes paid by businesses and residents. If businesses are gone, residents unemployed or leave then those tax revenues drop. Therefore, the contention that demand is increasing as a result of the economy recovering is false.

Another way to disprove the claim of increase demand is look at your own driving habits. People are looking for more fuel efficient vehicles, car pooling, using public transit or simply not driving as much. How is that increasing demand?

The war in Libya spurred the surge in oil prices but only 2 percent of the worlds oil comes from there. Saudi Arabia initially assured the US and NATO that they could increase production to offset the loss of Libyan oil. The $112 price per barrel for crude would seem to support the Saudi's promise. More oil is produced in Nigeria than in Libya yet thus far no one is running claiming the civil war in that country will effect oil prices.

It is easy to see why conspiracy theorists will connect the higher price of gas to the hostilities in North Africa. If this nonsense was tried in France, citizens would be striking throughout the country. Here, we will just mumble to ourselves and shell out more money for gas and consumer goods.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Syrian Army Storms Dara’a, Cracking Down on Rebels

The crackdown by the Syrian government on rebels has led to 400 killed so far. The Syrian government lifted the state of emergency that had been in place for years only to open fire on the rebels. This is not the first time this has happened in Syria. In 1982, at least 10,000 were killed as an Islamist revolt was crushed. Unlike Egypt, the military has no problems attacking the Syrians.

The problems in Syria has serious implications for Lebanon. Lebanon received independence from the French after World War II. Since 1964, portions of the Lebanon/Syrian border have remained unclear and a point of contention. In Syria's eyes, Lebanon is part of Syria and not an independent nation.

It is no coincidence that Hezbollah is based in Lebanon. The Shi'a group rose in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The group receives funding from Syria and Iran, many of the Hezbollah leaders having received training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In addition to an obvious hatred of Israel, Hezbollah also looks to overthrow any "imperialist" rule. Hezbollah also plays a role in Syria's confrontation with Israel over the occupation of the Golan Heights.

Basically whatever Iran says it what happens in Syria and Lebanon. The United States and NATO have jumped into the Libyan situation without much to show for it beyond raising gas prices. Suspicions of a US desire to attack Iran have been mounting under Secretary of State Clinton. The potential seems to have diminished once the rebellions in Egypt and Libya began. Now with hostilities increasing and civilian casualties mounting in Syria, the specter of the United States becoming involved in an area with ties to Iran increases. Unlike Libya, the Iranian military is not distracted attacking their citizens. Unlike Libya, Iran has surface to surface ballistic missiles, Silkworm anti-shipping missiles and very likely nuclear weapons. When rumors first started to surface about the US trying to pick a fight with Iran, we were not engaged with Libya. Unless the Obama administration ceases operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan, I seriously question the US military ability to wage sustained, multiple campaigns with any real success.

The Chinese are watching with amusement as we continue to going further in debt being the world's police force. Then of course one has to wonder, what of North Korea?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Syria sanctions planned by US after Deraa assault

If Syria does not like having sanctions placed on them, would this not lead us to a fourth front? Regardless, from a foreign policy perspective we are drawn thin. We haven't even dared to think about North Korea lately, what if they finally launch an attack? Oil prices are going to rise even faster.

For those not as interested in foreign policy, what of the radiation that continues to pour out of the Fukushima Daiichi plant? The United States has been experiencing increasing amounts of radiation showing up in food and the atmosphere but there has been nothing out of Washington as to what to do should levels continue to rise.

The Guardian

Libya: western leaders call for Nato to target Gaddafi

First, we were only going to run the no-fly zone until NATO could take over. Then over the weekend we hear the latest, a USAF unmanned aerial vehicle takes out a Libyan rocket launcher. So much for bringing the troops home. Then we heard that no, we really didn't want to target Qaddafi, merely support the rebels to the point where they could do it themselves. Now we hear what should not surprise anyone, the West wants to target Qaddafi. Given the West's ability to pick winners in the game of national leaders, I really think we should take a pass. Qaddafi has been very successful in suppressing any opposition so we really have no idea who could take over in the event Qaddafi steps down or is killed.

Originally I thought we would see $5 per gallon by the summer. Now I'm not so sure we won't see $6.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Syria protests: Syria's security forces fire on protest marches by mourners

To the victor goes the spoils. The Syrian has over 4,100 Soviet built tanks, one of the largest air defense systems (consisting of surface to air missiles and radars) in the region, surface to surface missiles (SS 21) and around 11,000 soldiers. A coastal defense brigade supports naval forces in defending against threats from the sea. It is equipped with SS-C-1Bs and SSC-3 surface-to-surface missiles. Three surface-to-surface missile brigades are each comprised of one FROG-7 battalion, a Scud-B/C battalion and a SS-21 battalion. Syria's total inventory of SSM is estimated to include some 18 FROG-7s, 18 SS-21s, and 26 Scud Bs and Cs.

Two Syrian law makers have resigned and 107 protesters were killed in yesterday's clash. While all eyes have been focused on Libya, the unrest in Syria has exploded. Syrian has a very powerful military and it would difficult for NATO to engage with them while committing forces to Odyssey Dawn. The implications of the situation in Syria are not good for Lebanon. The Assad regime is largely blamed for the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. And what will Hezbollah make of the events in Syria?


Friday, April 22, 2011

Killer Combo of High Gas, Food Prices at Key Tipping Point

Early this week, we saw the first gas prices at $4.00 in Northern Kentucky. Rising gas prices effect all consumer goods as it costs more to ship those goods as fuel prices increase. Any consumer good that requires petroleum as a raw material or in the manufacturing process also increases.

Fuel prices were first predicted to rise as a result of the Libyan conflict. According to a ranking of oil producing countries on the Huffington Post, Libya is ranked 17th. NATO forces, including the US, are spending millions of dollars on a no-fly zone to assist the rebels with no real indication of success. The media has been covering the Libyan conflict since the start but they have largely ignored the war going on in Nigeria. President Goodluck John, who is a Christian from the oil producing Delta region, is battling Muhammadu Buhari who is the former President. He is also a former military leader from the Muslim north. Nigeria is also the 12th ranked oil producing nation in the world. Why aren't we engaged there?


The US is still very involved

From the AFA:

"President Obama has approved the use of armed Predator remotely piloted aircraft in Libya, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon. Gates said their introduction means "a very limited additional role" for the United States that is consistent with Obama's willingness to provide unique US assets to support the NATO-led mission there. The armed Predators' first sorties on Thursday were limited due to bad weather, said Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Chiefs vice chairman, at the same briefing. Unarmed Predators previously flew surveillance missions over Libya, he noted. There are now two armed Predator combat air patrols operating in the Libyan theater, said Cartwright. This means that two Predator aircraft can be over areas of interest at all times. Cartwright said "the character of the fight has changed" in Libya, with Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi's forces staying out of the open and dispersing and "digging in or nestling up against crowded areas" to avoid NATO air attack. The Predators will enable "better visibility" on such targets and help distinguish the Qaddafi forces, he said. They also provide the ability to strike targets in urban areas with less concern about causing unintended collateral damage, he said."

NATO seems to be filling more of a role of proxy. Early on it was reported that the UK had expended 1/3 of its cruise missile inventories taking out Libyan air defense systems. There was a very real concern that British subs could be sitting off the coast of Libya without any cruise missiles. The US has more depth and greater diversity of weapon systems than the rest of NATO combined. There is no practical way for the US to completely disengage from the no-fly zone. The costs will continue to increase as well the manpower needed to support the no-fly zone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


NATO has taken over command of the no-fly zone. However, US aircraft are still very much involved according to this report from the Air Force Association:

While NATO is now in charge of air operations over Libya, US military aircraft continue to play a critical role in the mission of protecting Libyan civilians and enforcing the no-fly zone, said alliance officials Tuesday. Alone on Monday, a US fighter aircraft destroyed two of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi's surface-to-air missile sites near the Libyan capital of Tripoli, they said. This is in addition to the daily aerial refueling, ISR, and command and control sorties that US assets fly. Since NATO took over command responsibility for the Libyan mission, now called Operation Unified Protector, on April 1, US military platforms have flown more than 800 of the nearly 2,900 total air sorties. Of those 800, more than 150 of them have been to suppress Qaddafi's air defenses. In eight of those, the US aircraft dropped ordnance, according to the officials.

The more cynical amongst you might conclude NATO's role is merely to replace the US as NATO lacks the depth to truly replace US forces. Those same cynics might also point out the most vocal opponent to Qaddafi is France which is not a member of NATO. At over $680 million and counting, I'm not sure what the United States has gotten out of Odyssey Dawn.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Nigeria is an East African nation that does not have a famous leader like Mubarak or Qaddafi. Therefore, much of what has been going on in this country has not made the American media.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, the seventh most populous country in the world, and the most populous country in the world in which the majority of the population is black. The economy of Nigeria is one of the fastest growing in the world, with the International Monetary Fund projecting a growth of 9% in 2008 and 8.3% in 2009.

Last summer, Americans watched in disbelief as the Deep Water Horizon oil spill poured 10,000 gallons of oil an hour into the Gulf of Mexico. BP attempted several botched attempts to cap the well. The threat to the environment, fishing and tourism were thought to be some of the worst in the world. Those comments show just how little we know about the rest of the world. In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil was discovered in Nigeria and pipelines were laid 40 years ago to pump the oil out to the ships in the harbor. As is the case in most African nations, the oil is owned by a Western petroleum company (Royal Dutch Shell) and Nigerians receive only a fraction (less than 10%) of the value. The pipelines crisscross the farmlands leaking oil into the ground and aquifers. Much of the land is covered with the telltale iridescent sheen of oil. Water tastes of oil and causes sickness and death.

President Goodluck John comes from the oil producing delta region and won Monday's presidential poll. The south of Nigeria is primarily Christian. He defeated Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler from the Muslim north. John's victory sparked riots in northern Nigeria which is primarily Muslim.

Authorities in the northern state of Kaduna imposed a 24-hour curfew after protesters set fire to the residence of Vice President Namadi Sambo in the town of Zaria and forced their way into the central prison, releasing inmates.

Stability in Nigeria is critical as Libyan oil production continues to be shutdown. A Muslim rebellion, as has been the case in most of Northern African, could have detrimental effects on Nigerian oil production and global supply. If Muslims do revolt, expect to see UN or other forces being dispatched to keep oil production flowing.

More Here

Monday, April 18, 2011

Libyan Rebels Beat Back Qaddafi Forces’ Attack on Ajdabiya

$4.00 a gallon for gasoline became a reality here. Covington prices hit $4.00. Fuel prices were predicted to rise as soon as hostilities broke out in Libya, however the catastrophe in Japan kept prices down. Now with Japanese industries reopening plants, the increase demand for oil means higher prices at the pumps.

According to Businessweek, oil declined for the first time in four days in New York after Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter, said the global market has adequate crude supplies. Crude oil for May delivery slid as much as $1.19 to $108.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract was at $108.66 at 10:55 a.m. London time.

The no-fly zone has turned the conflict in Libya into a ground war. Gaddafi forces are using rockets and mortars to pound the rebels in Central Libya, especially around the city of Misrata. The rebels lack the logistics and organization to move out. The fighting is centered around the oil producing region which has halted Libyan oil production. This leaves the remaining OPEC producers in position to demand more money for their oil.

Now that the Libyan conflict is ground based, and the rebels are stalled, the question is when does NATO/US start moving some ground support? Early in the conflict we heard talks about the United States supplying arms to the rebels. Apparently those aren't enough. Rising oil prices could lead European leaders and the Obama administration to move forces in as a "police action" to secure the oil fields. The same justification was part of the reason why coalition forces were sent into Kuwait. Yes Kuwait had been invaded by Saddam Hussein but in so doing, he controlled a significant amount of the world's crude oil. Libya produces around 2 percent but as we now see, even two percent can create a significant impact at the pump.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Urban Area Antiterrorism Program Takes Big Budget Hit

I am at a loss to understand the way things are decided in Washington D.C., let alone DHS. On one hand, DHS and their lesser child TSA assure us that invasive security screenings for aircraft are necessary because of the terror threat. The on-going conflicts throughout North Africa and the Middle East certainly would support the assertion of increased threat from terrorists. But then you read something like this where the UASI funding are being reduced?

UASI funds address the unique multi-discipline planning, operations, equipment, training and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas, and help them prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from acts of terrorism.

Stranger still is the decision maker behind this is none other than Peter King who back in January declared radical Muslims as the greatest threat to homeland security. If so, why reduce funding for UASI now? I understand the government needs to make cuts and from a budgetary standpoint I don't have a problem. I'm just trying to understand Napolitano and King who seem to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.

NTI: Global Security Newswire

Friday, April 15, 2011

Twenty-five years ago

Twenty-five years ago on April 15, Air Force and Navy strike aircraft dealt a blow to Libyan dictator Muammar' Qaddafi's arrogance and overt support of terrorism. While a force of F-111s from RAF Lakenheath, Britain, (taking off on April 14, 1986) struck targets in Tripoli, including Qaddafi's headquarters, Navy strike aircraft from the Sixth Fleet pounded sites in Benghazi. A host of USAF and Navy platforms supported the mission, which President Reagan ordered after a string of deadly terrorist attacks were traced back to Qaddafi's regime. The raid came at a cost. Capt. Paul F. Lorence and Capt. Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci were killed when their F-111 went down, presumably to hostile fire.

France would not allow overflight of its airspace for the F-111s to fly around the European coast than back into the Mediterranean. El Dorado Canyon pushed USAF crews and aircraft "to the absolute limits of their capability. Yet they prevailed, destroying key targets and shocking Qaddafi."

Fast forward 25 years. Air Force aircraft are once again flying over Libya to deal with his misdeeds, this time against his own people. France is now one of the countries providing aircraft to the now fly zone under Odyssey Dawn.

Female Colombian snipers 'fighting to defend Col Gaddafi in Libya'

Ah, where to begin on this? Female Colombian snipers are making $1000 a day plying their trade in Libya. This should not come as no surprise. Back in the day, Gaddafi offered members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) free training facilities in Libya in exchange for training on remotedly detonated bombs (at the time, PIRA was the foremost experts on radio detonated bombs). The Colombian snipers are most likely part of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a Marxist terrorist group that Gaddafi has worked with in the past. Gaddafi would have been more than happy to support a group opposed to US oppression.

Now lest some of my fellow Americans start throwing stones, please read about a little endeavor called the School of the Americas or SOA (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC). Housed at Ft Bragg, courses were taught in Spanish to military of various South and Central American countries. Unfortunately, a number of graduates of the SOA and WHINSEC have been accused of human rights violations and criminal activity in their home countries.

In August 2007, according to an Associated Press report, Colonel Alberto Quijano of the Colombian army's Special Forces was arrested for providing security and mobilizing troops for Diego León Montoya Sánchez (alias “Don Diego”), the leader of the Norte del Valle Cartel and one of the FBI’s 10 most-wanted criminals. Yes, he was a graduate of WHINSEC.

The SOA/WHINSEC also gave the US a cadre of mercernaries to choose from. The United States is not any less adverse to using mercenaries (now referred to as private military companies or simply "contractors") than any other country. The French Foreign Legion, for example, is nothing more than a bunch of mercenaries that allow the French "plausible deniability" since Legionaires are not French citizens. Those contractors filling the Blackwater (now Xe) ranks are just as likely to come from Bolivia as Baltimore.

Libya is a case study as to how modern warfare is waged. The use of mercenaries are not a modern invention after all. The Hessians fought for the British during the American revolutionary war. General Chenault's Flying Tigers were also a mercenary force. The problem people forget is that mercenaries, PMCs or contractors work only as long as they are under contract. Once the money runs out, the very same people can be shooting at their former employers.

Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive la Légion Etrangère


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Devil You Know

Back in February, protesters demanded Mubarak step down. The world rallied around the protesters and before long, Mubarak was forced out. This was initially seen as a good thing and the army would install a provisional government. I've always liked that word, "provisional" which means serving for the time being. Provisional has no real time-limit and reminds me of another word, "interim", which usually means something that stays around longer than it should. Apparently the Egyptian army is not quite the benevolent provisional government and reports are surfacing of protesters being tortured.

The situation in Egypt caused the West to become giddy with excitement when North Africa's number on bad boy, Gaddafi, started to see protesters in Libya. Unlike Egypt however, Gaddafi controlled the military and Libyan rebels did not fare as well as the Egyptians. Enter the United States and NATO to save the day with the establishment of a no-fly zone. Except somebody like Gaddafi who has remained in power for over 40 years is not easily removed by having his aircraft grounded. His army was still able to kick the snot out of the rebels and take back areas formerly controlled by the rebels.

The United States got to fork over $680 million (and counting) for our part in the no-fly zone. By the way, contrary to reports by President Obama and NATO, US aircraft are still flying missions over Libya. Seems no one else has Hogs (A-10s) and Spookys (AC-130U) which are excellent out taking out ground targets but begs the question, wasn't the mission a no-fly zone? If Libyan jets and air defense are out of the picture, what is left to do?

Gaddafi has made his point and is now willing to negotiate. He promises to stop using the "dark side" on the rebels and in return the US and NATO promise to stop shooting big holes in all of his ground forces. For $680 million, the US and NATO has achieved status quo.

The whole matter got me thinking about what would happen if there were a rebellion in the United States? To say it is far-fetched neglects our own history. The Civil War was a rebellion with Confederate States secession from the Union.

Who would support such a operation? Well BRICS would be a good candidate. This is a fairly new economic council akin to the G20 but consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. China is on track to become the second largest economy and would have a huge say in the G20, United Nations and BRIC. What if they decided to train and fund a US based rebellion?

If the federal government was ousted in some way, the United States would continue as a regional conglomerate of states governments. The state governments would rise to fill the void (which is sort of what the Constitution is all about). Medicaid, Social Security, and federal pensions would be the toughest to supplement. Otherwise, I'm not sure states such as California, New York and Texas would even notice. There would be a throw back to each region printing its own currency. G20 and BRICS would be quick to start partnering with these new economies (Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Alaska, all produce oil).

Would we see a military provisional government? Perhaps and perhaps not. Unlike Egypt or Libya, each branch of the US military has a fairly large staff of senior officers. Getting all branches to cooperate under such circumstances would be difficult. In most countries, the Army is usually is the largest branch. While the US Army is large, so is the US Navy. There would be a lot of in-fighting. The Air Force and Marine Corps are too small to usurp the other two but they are large enough to be disobedient. They might also be distracted by Russia or Chinese military maneuvers. I don't see a no-fly zone since we have nuclear weapons, but the threat of some kind of attack could keep the US military spread too thin to focus on running the country.

The other problem would be all of the police and sheriff departments. While no match for the military, they could form their own smaller fiefdoms. The combined US military would deplete itself dealing with all of the large metropolitan police departments or sheriff's offices. Not to mention, the governors would still have their National Guards. Unlike active duty, the National Guard is local and would be much more inclined to protect their homes and families than to follow the orders of the active duty (under this scenario). The Tenth Amendment would ascend all others.

I know the above is highly unlikely and there are dozens of reasons why it would not happen. But I think to dismiss it outright ignores the lessons that we are seeing in the Middle East. Turn about, after all, is only fair play.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Japan ups nuke crisis severity to match Chernobyl

Shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster, the French and the Russians agreed that the disaster was much worse than the Japanese would admit. Now the Japanese have reluctantly admitted that yes, the disaster is a level 7 which means it is the worse possible nuclear disaster:

"The new ranking signifies a "major accident" that includes widespread effects on the environment and health, according to the Vienna-based IAEA. But Japanese officials played down any health effects and stressed that the harm caused by Chernobyl still far outweighs that caused by the Fukushima plant."

Now what this really means is that we have an out of control nuclear reactor. Unlike Chernobyl, the Daiichi plant is not land locked. This seems to be why the Japanese feel no culpability in allowing hundreds of tons of radioactive water to go into the Pacific. Radiation levels are already beginning to show up in milk. Vermont is banning the use of rainwater for the purposes of drinking. In all of this, our government has remained remarkably silent.

The United States had its own crisis, Three Mile Island, to contend with. That catastrophe tapped out at a Level 4. Interestingly, the long-term effects of Three Mile Island is still not full understood. Until the Daiichi catastrophe, most people probably only thought Chernobyl and Three Mile Island were the only catastrophes. However, the United States has its own legacy to assess the effects of long term nuclear exposure.

The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington, operated by the United States federal government.

Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the manufacturing process left behind 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m³) of high-level radioactive waste that remains at the site. This represents two-thirds of the nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume.

Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup.
Source: WIkipedia

Daiichi is on par to make Hanford look like a picnic. Food prices have already been sky-rocketing as a result of the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Now with Japanese food being banned by most Asian countries, the cost of other Asian foods will climb even further. We are heading to some major crisis here and I'm not sure our government knows what to do.

My Way News

Thursday, April 7, 2011

General: U.S. may consider troops in Libya

Secretary Gates smugly announced that this would "not happen under his watch". What a bunch of bull! A local talk show had a father on the other day. His son is finishing up a rotation in Afhghanistan and is going for training police actions followed by a deployment to Libya. CBS News reports supports the father's claim: "WASHINGTON - The United States may consider sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force that could aid the rebels, according to the general who led the military mission until NATO took over."

CBS News

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant

The Japanese have been trying to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi plant by injecting first sea water, then fresh water, and most recently paper and sawdust. The fuel rods continue to superheat and may have turned partially molten. The Japanese have underestimated the severity of the disaster and overestimated their ability to handle it. According to the New York Time, "Among other problems, the document raises new questions about whether pouring water on nuclear fuel in the absence of functioning cooling systems can be sustained indefinitely."

The Daiichi plant went critical when the earthquake/tsunami combination shutdown the power grid. Without power to operate the cooling pumps in the reactor, the fuel rods quickly burned of the coolant in the system. Because the Daiichi plant in on the coast, water was the logical solution as it was in abundant supply. Unfortunately, the use of water has significantly degraded the structural integrity of the containment vessel. It will take months to stabilize the plant to enough to effect repairs but continuing to pour water into it presents two problems. One, as previously stated injecting water may accelerate damage to the reactor. Second, all of the water being injected becomes radioactive and presents the problem of disposal. Reports show that the water around the plant contains over 7 million times the legal limit of radiation.

The Russians had perhaps the best idea; entomb the reactor in concrete and boron. The Japanese desire to maintain face may have prevented them from accepting this option which would have meant the situation was beyond their ability to control.

If the plant continues to be cooled by water injection, it raises the risk of additional explosions that can spread radioactivity in the air. Reports are increasing that blue neutron beams can be seen from the nuclear fuel. Daiichi is not just a Japanese problem. The insurance rates are skyrocketing and food prices will soar even higher (prices were already rising due to the Libyan no-fly zone).

All of this causes me to agree with Brother Farrakhan, with whom I normally don't, when he criticized President Obama for not taking charge here in the US. What is the US doing about the potential of radiation exposure? What happens if Japanese goods start showing up with radiation? If there are explosions and radiation becomes airborne, what will the US do to prepare citizens?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yemen opposition appeals for international help

I'm not sure what is more concerning, the trend towards having NATO/UN forces rush in to support rebels or the fact that most of the troops in the Middle East are from the same European countries that originally colonized these countries?

Neither the United States nor Europe can continue to to send troops into every country that has an opposition group that doesn't have a means of politically challenging the incumbent. I know, I know, guys like Gaddafi are "dictators" but most of these leaders have been in power for a long time. Forcing a sovereign leader out with military force, regardless of his particular style of leadership, is a recipe for disaster.

The United States more than any other country has a spectacularly bad record of supporting the wrong opposition group leader. History shows that often rebel leaders make equally poor rulers as they will spend a lot of time getting revenge for the sins of the former regime. You need only look to the US backing the former Shah of Iran and his use of his secret police, SAVAK, which led to the Tehran Embassy crisis, the ascendancy of the Ayatollah Khoemeni and the end of the Carter Administration.

In the meantime, the French seem hellbent to rekindle anti-colonial sentiments with their heavy handed involvement in the Ivory Coast. Another sovereign nation is invaded because a European nation finds their ruler unacceptable. You can spin this however you wish, the more important thing is how other African and Middle Eastern nations may view the French response.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Japan Nuke Plant Operator to Dump Radioactive Water Into Ocean

I wondered what was going to happen to all of that radioactive water that was used in cooling the fuel rods. The answer is frightening and depressing. Frightening in that radiation being spread amongst the oceans. Depressing in that with all of the technology the Japanese have, this was the best answer they could come up with?

NATO Asks U.S. to Continue Libya Air Strikes

A student asked me last in week in class why the US is involved in Libya which is a NATO operation? He was trying to make a point that both NATO and UN have a large collective military capability when you take into consideration all members collectively. In theory, this makes sense but in practice reality does not match theory.

Case in point, NATO is asking the US for more airstrikes because only the US has the aircraft that can accurately strike in all weather conditions. Specifically, NATO needs US A-10 and AC-130 aircraft to remain on-station. NATO lacks these types of close air support that can strike Libyan forces that are in close proximity to civilians.

Apparently NATO is skittish after one of their airstrikes last week left 40 civilians dead.

The US is turning into Michael Corleone in The Godfather III when he says, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"

ABC News

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ivory Coast

Aid workers in the Ivory Coast have discovered the bodies of up to 1,000 people in the town of Duekoue.

According the Telegraph: The apparent massacre came despite the presence of United Nations troops and - if confirmed - will cast a shadow over Mr Outtara’s assumption of the Ivory Coast’s presidency after a four-month battle to oust Lawrence Gbagbo, the former president who lost the November election but refused to step down.

So why is the Ivory Coast (or Cote d'Ivoire) of importance? From the CIA Factbook:

In December 1999, a military coup - the first ever in Cote d'Ivoire's history - overthrew the government. Junta leader Robert GUEI blatantly rigged elections held in late 2000 and declared himself the winner. Popular protest forced him to step aside and brought Laurent Gbagbo into power. Ivorian dissidents and disaffected members of the military launched a failed coup attempt in September 2002. Rebel forces claimed the northern half of the country, and in January 2003 were granted ministerial positions in a unity government under the auspices of the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Accord.

In March 2007 President Gbagbo and former New Force rebel leader Guillaume SORO signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. As a result of the agreement, SORO joined GBAGBO's government as Prime Minister and the two agreed to reunite the country by dismantling the zone of confidence separating North from South, integrate rebel forces into the national armed forces, and hold elections. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of rebel forces have been problematic as rebels seek to enter the armed forces.

Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and a significant producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil. Consequently, the economy is highly sensitive to fluctuations in international prices for these products, and, to a lesser extent, in climatic conditions. Cocoa, oil, and coffee are the country's top export revenue earners, but the country is also producing gold.

Gold and cocoa are two reasons that the French are especially concerned. The Ivory Coast has no real ability to get at its own gold. Cocoa takes over 5 years for the plants to mature to where they start producing fruit. Cocoa is an extremely time consuming endeavor and most farmers are opting to grow other crops that are easier and produce profits more quickly. Cocoa can only be grown in a certain latitude and many of these countries are choosing to abandon cocoa for other crops. This means soon Snickers and Milk Way may start costing as much as a gallon of gas.

If the Ivory Coast destabilizes, then the troubles will now have spread to West Africa. Liberia and Sieria Leone amy become embroiled in civil war as well.