Info ~ travel musings for the masses

Posts from the Current Events Category

Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard University and columnist for Newsweek, spoke his mind on the foreign policy decisions by the Obama administration and it seems, took the MSNBC hosts off guard. Professor Ferguson is by no means a conservative so my guess is that the MSNBC personalities were looking at the interview as being easy going. His description of the Obama administration’s attempt at foreign policy is spot on:

As far as I can see, President Obama’s strategic concept is “I’m not George W. Bush. Love me.”

If you can’t see the video, you can visit MSNBC and watch it here.

It should be noted that the one host seems a bit disgusted with the whole interview and you can hear her choke a little after Niall so bluntly states his case.

It is difficult to write about this day in history. So, I’ll let the President do the talking. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to Congress, given on December 8, 1941. Let us remember those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor and those who, because of the attack, would go on to fight and die in World War II.

USS Arizona - Pearl Harbor Memorial

To the Congress of the United States:
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

A quick thought for Tuesday. A lot of the hubbub over education involves funding, or the lack thereof. The notion that education is underfunded is not supported by fact, instead, the facts point the other direction, that federal education spending has seen enormous growth since the 1960s.

Maybe we should be looking at how money is spent rather than how much money is doled out. Being in the education field I can guarantee that there is a lot to learn.

I have never been a BlackBerry user and if I have my way, I will never be one. The recent pandering to the Saudi government over data monitoring is just one more arrow in my quiver of reasons not to support Research in Motion by buying their products.

Now, I am not naive, I know the U.S. government has policies in place to monitor phone and internet traffic, but I do not see them bullying companies to turn over the data. Instead, they’re sly and probably employ a large number of hackers to help them monitor the airwaves. What bothers me about Saudi Arabia is their need to push the issue of monitoring under the guise of “safety” rather than what they really want, which is to know what their citizens are doing when they are not being watched in public. Sharia is the law of the land and as such, personal freedom takes a back seat to governmental moral “clarity” and cleansing. In plain terms, this ability to monitor BlackBerry traffic is going to be used not just to watch for terrorist activity but to enforce Sharia

The BP spill is bad, I think we all agree about that, but it could be much, much worse. First, a little umbrella so that people do not poop all over this site because they think I am defending BP. British Petroleum and the companies that worked for them on the Deepwater Horizon are definitely responsible for the spill and should be held accountable. Now that that is out the way I can get on with the purpose of this post.

In 1979 a well named Ixtoc I was being drilled in the Gulf of Campeche about 62 miles offshore. At some point in the operation drilling mud circulation was lost and the well experienced a blowout. The blowout preventer was, at the time, not in line with the drill collars, rendering it ineffective. The spill is almost exactly the same except for the fact that Ixtoc I was in 161 feet of water. In the end, Pemex, the national oil company of Mexico and the owner of the well, lost 3.5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Rather than paying residents on the coast of Texas who had experienced damage or loss of livelihood, Pemex claimed sovereign immunity and spent only $100 million to clean up the spill.

Ixtoc I Spill

The Ixtoc I spill has gone on record as being the worst accidental spill in history (incidentally, the worst spill in history was Saddam Hussein burning the Kuwaiti oil fields). Until the BP leak is completely sealed up and the areas effected by it cleaned, we will not know the full extent of the damage and how it compares to Ixtoc I, but I am going to guess that Ixtoc I will still take the prize as the worst accidental spill in history.

BP could have done the cowardly thing and run away from this spill much like Pemex did in 1979 but they made a conscience decision to clean it and fix it. Sure, their handling of the issue has been less than perfect, but they could have turned tail and run, leaving the British government to decide what to do. I really wish what was reported on the news was not the same old, “worst disaster in history”, not just because it isn’t true, but because it’s sensationalism at its worst.

A lot of folks are calling for the suspension of deepwater or even offshore drilling and I think that is a poor way to go about the future. The Deepwater Horizon tragedy is the first U.S. offshore spill in 40 years. It was the first offshore spill on a rig anywhere in the world in 20 years. These incidents are few and far between and yes, while there should be more rigorous safety checks on the platforms, the idea that getting rid of offshore drilling would completely rid the world of oil disaster one-offs is absurd. Rather than blaming the oil, blame the people who caused the spill and figure out ways to keep it from happening again.

The BP oil disaster has been on everyone’s mind lately and for good reason. We won’t know the full affect on the region for months or maybe years and the spill is another haphazard mistake from BP, the last one being the Texas City refinery explosion. I know BP will clean up the mess, it’s their responsibility (though the federal government by law has a responsibility as well), what bothers me is the chatter on the internet and television about boycotting British Petroleum.

I saw these two things this morning and decided that something, no matter how little audience I get, needed to be written. There seems to be a large misunderstanding of how the industry operates and how people are able to pump gasoline into their cars each and every day. I aim to clear that up, if only by a little bit.

First, it needs to be known that oil is traded and sold at a very fast pace all day long. Because of this, refineries share crude oil, or feedstock. This type of sharing allows the refineries to be constantly supplied and making end products. Some refineries only make more feedstocks, usually for chemical plants. Others produce gasoline and diesel fuel and chemicals. The gasoline that is produced is moved to terminals that are located all over the country in strategic places. These terminals are privately owned and are essentially holding facilities for gasoline. There is no segregation of brand at these facilities, just stockpiles of fuel.

The local gas stations then send their trucks to the terminal to buy a load of fuel for sale at their station. En-route to the gas station the truck driver may mix an additive to the fuel depending on what brand it is being sold under (Chevron, Shell, etc.) and then pump the fuel into the underground tanks at the station. What you end up with is the exact same gasoline at every station, minus the additives. There is no discernible way to know where your gasoline came from. Even though a gas station has a BP logo, Shell may have been the one to refine the oil.

The same essentially goes for other oil based products.

What is the point in all of this? Well, the idea that one can boycott BP and make it go under is based on the false premise that one can distinguish BP gasoline from any other. In all of this, people are looking for someone to blame, to make pay and they’ve understandably gone after BP. However, at the same time, these same people could actually be making a difference by volunteering to help clean birds or scoop up crude. But, I guess it’s easier to attempt to boycott something that is near impossible to boycott rather than actually doing something.

I apologize for my many posts on the TSA and the current security issues at airports but the situation has deteriorated so quickly that it is hard to keep up.

Over the past couple of days a couple of bloggers and news reporters have been served subpoenas because they published TSA Security Directive SD-1544-09-06. Both Steven Frischling and Chris Elliott were served subpoenas by the DHS to learn the identity of the source who had provided the TSA directive. Mr. Frischling believes that the TSA is taking security seriously and that is why they want the name of the source. I agree with him, but the methods that the DHS and TSA have used seem extreme. Most of the directive is just procedural stuff and would have come out as people flew, so why all the fuss?

The TSA wants to make sure they close as many holes in their organization as possible to insure functional security. If people are leaking things that will eventually become public what is to keep them from leaking confidential information? In that regard I understand the need to know the identity of the leak. However, coming down full force on these reporters is not the way I would go about it.

Hopefully the hassles from the TSA will stop and this administration will realize that making “Top Secret” documents public is not as much of a priority as having safety cover the different methods of travel. Mr. President, fire the TSA.

The New York Daily News is reporting that Amsterdam-Schipol International Airport will start putting full body image scanners in place in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. On top of that, the Dutch are pushing for the full body scanners to be deployed in airports across the 27 countries that make up the European Union.

While the average traveler sees these machines as a necessity to prevent terrorism, and yes, in this case they may have worked, I see them as a nuisance. Even more annoying than the machines are the people who want them in place but do not want profiling of any kind to be used at airports. So, it’s alright to look at someone nude on a computer screen but picking people out of a line because they fit a profile is horrible?

Where do we stop though? If a terrorist is able to carry out an attack after passing through the machines, what’s the next step? Does everyone have to have every article of luggage and every part of their body searched before the get on a plane? What about airport workers? At some point, the searches and nuisances will get so bad that people will just stop flying… Then what?