Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Keystone Pipeline, Delay is the Name of the Game

The four-year saga of the Keystone XL pipeline is a textbook case of the game Washington politicians play. To avoid making decisions that might anger one constituency or another, they appoint a committee or commission a study and then sit back, hoping the report never comes in.  If they don’t like the results, they commission another study.

The application to permit construction on the Keystone pipeline was filed in September 2008. Since then, four reports have been produced on the potential environmental impact of the pipeline—each coming in with essentially the same conclusion. Earlier this month, the US Department of State issued a 2,000-page draft reporton the potential environmental impact of the pipeline. As Business Week concluded: “Overall, the report does not raise any huge environmental red flags.” Yet, the Obama Administration has blocked construction of the 875 mile segment of the pipeline which would carry crude oil produced from Canada’s oil sands to US refineries in the Gulf Coast.

Despite the widespread public approvalfor the pipeline and the report’s conclusionthat “other options to get the oil from Canada to US Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change,” the State Department made no recommendation for or against the project moving ahead. Instead, Kerri-Ann Jones, State’s as­sistant secretary for Oceans and Inter­national Environmental and Scientific Affairs, told reporters, “We’re looking for feedback now from the public to help us shape this going forward” and “We’re very anxious to have a lot of public comment.” Interestingly, the government has already received millions of comments on the pipeline.

It is a complicated matter.

Environmental activists—who are major Obama backers—have been roaring opposition to the pipeline and development of the oil sands resource for years and just last month staged a rallyand engaged in civil disobediencein Washington. They aren’t happy that the latest report didn’t predict a host of environmental catastrophes.  One outspoken opponent is actress Daryl Hannah, who, along with Robert Kennedy Jr., Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, and dozens of others, was arrested for attaching herself to the White House gates. Hannah dismisses the new report sayingit is: “bogus” and “totally wrong, flat out totally wrong.” These environmental activists think President Obama, who has the last say in the matter, should have slammed the door closed long ago.

On the other hand there are several major labor unions, also big supporters of Obama, who favor proceeding with the project, which promises to create tens of thousands of jobs. Then there are the Canadians to think of, they badly want a friendly, nearby market for their oil (already Canada is the leading supplier of foreign crude to the United States).

And, of course, there are the people. Here’s what the Heritage Foundationsays about Keystone: “The project will accommodate up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day, create some 179,000 jobs on American soil, and continue good trade relations with a close ally. The benefits won’t stop with the oil sector, though—the Keystone project will have a positive ripple effect even in areas without the pipeline that will provide goods and services to support the pipeline.”

Environmental activists have pegged their opposition to climate change alarmism. But even the State Department report dismisses such concerns, essentially because blocking the pipeline would not prevent the production of crude oil from Canada’s oil sands. The truth is, environmental groups oppose any use or expansion of fossil fuels in our economy. In a recent debate broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, Sierra Club’s Brune advocated keeping two-thirds of all the world’s oil, coal, and gas reserves “in the ground.”

Factions in Canada have already made it known that the market for oil in China is growing by leaps and bounds, so if production from the oil sands doesn’t flow south to their US neighbors, it can move westto the coast and go by tanker to China—where China’s environmental laws and oil refining industry is not nearly as advanced as the US. Increased emissions would undoubtedly be significant.

Such a development should be of great concern to environmental activists, who know that China is already the number one emitter of so-called greenhouse gases and currently accounts for 70 percent of new emissionseach year—and expanding. Acknowledging that the world will continue its reliance on fossil fuels, Brune says: “The fossil fuels that are produced have to be produced according to the highest standard in terms of protecting our air, our water, our wildlands, and our climate.” If that is really his position, Brune should be campaigning for the pipeline, not blocking it and thereby sending it to China.

A decision on the Keystone XL pipeline should be an easy one for the Administration. Charles Krauthammercalls the decision “the most open and shut case I have ever seen” and says that if Obama refuses the pipeline, “it will really show how partisan considerations way outweigh the national interest.”

With high unemployment still dogging the US labor force, the quick creation of jobs to construct the pipeline and the long-term ripple effects throughout the economy should be welcome. So, too, should be the significant economic effects that will ultimately produce billions of dollars in tax revenues for local, state, and federal coffers.

The other significant benefit of the XL pipeline would be increased energy security and reduced imports that come by tanker from the Persian Gulf and Venezuela (Venezuelan crude is even “dirtier” than what we get from Canada’s oil sands). Can anyone doubt that getting a larger percentage of our oil supplies from a friendly neighbor would be better than continued reliance on less secure foreign sources?

Combined with the growing production of US oil—and the reduction in demand due to the poor economy and increased efficiency of motor vehicles—the addition of Canadian crude would move us closer to the goal of energy self-sufficiency.

Instead of signaling support, the Administration has delayedand delayed—wanting “addition information.” The additional information is in, now a decision is delayed by a 45-day commentperiod, before a 90-day review process begins. Some reports project a September decision. Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines, says “If a decision is pushed past September, the company faces choosing between spending more or delaying startup until mid-2015.” And delay seems to be the name of the game because, according to NASA scientist James Hansen, “fully exploiting the tar sands would effectively mean ‘game over’ for the climate.”


Obama: "Not my fault" - White House to Re-Open

Four days after slamming the doors of the White House closed, Barack "It's-not-my-fault" Obama says he's going to ask the Secret Service if to reconsider. 
Contradicting previous statements, Obama told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News this morning that neither he nor his staff had anything to do with closing the public out of the White House.  This time, he threw the Secret Service under the bus. 

“I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the White House,” Obama said in the interview with Stephanopoulos. “But what the Secret Service explained to us was that they’re going to have to furlough some folks."

"The question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we’ve got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck, who suddenly are seeing a 5 percent or 10 percent reduction in their pay,” Obama said.

Obama's contention stands in stark contrast to the words of Jay Carney, the President's spokesman who specifically announced last week that the White House did, in fact, make the decision to close the doors. 

“In order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last week. 

ABC News also reports that Secret Service officials confirmed that the decision to cancel public tours was made by the White House. 

Not accepting responsibility and flat our contradictions are nothing new to this White House. It's more like standard operating procedure. "What difference does it make?" – Hillary Clinton's Benghazi defense – may well be the motto of the Obama "No-Fault" Administration.

Ryan’s Plan Deserves Kudos, Not Boos

Ryan’s Plan Deserves Kudos, Not Boos
Yesterday, Paul Ryan, Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee, unveiled his plan that would balance the federal budget within one decade. Considering that the nation’s debt (not including the huge future cost of major entitlement programs) is now approaching $17 trillion, one might think political leaders in Washington, D.C. would consider such a proposal. On the Democratic side of the aisle, however, there is no interest whatsoever in taking such a constructive approach.

Democrats in both houses of the Congress and the Obama Administration, along with many media-based pundits, began to loudly criticize the Ryan proposal even before it was presented. They whine that it is soft on some details and that it -- Heaven forbid -- focuses on spending cuts as the preferred way tobalance the budget rather than revenue enhancements (also known as “tax increases”).

Instead of wailing and gnashing of fiscal teeth, Congress and the President ought to be heaving a sigh of relief and heaping kudos on the former vice-presidential nominee, for doing what they collectively and separately have failed to accomplish. The young Congressman from Wisconsin actually put together a thoughtful, substantive and comprehensive budget. But, of course, Washington does not operate with the same logical, problem-solving approach as a business; according to which a proposal would be viewed as a starting point from which to construct a final solution.

In the deeply partisan environment prevailing today in our nation’s capital, a real plan such as Ryan’s is savaged by the other party for every manner of reason; with no effort to, or interest in, working toward an ultimate solution.

Opponents howl that Ryan’s plan slashes government spending so deeply it would -- if enacted -- essentially doom America to a lengthy and massive depression. Yet, if viewed for what it actually is -- a budget providing for a rate of increase in federal spending at a historically healthy 3.4 percent -- the plan envisions robust federal outlays more than sufficient to avoid economic calamity. Indeed, rather than a miserly budget plan causing America’s children to languish in bread lines, Ryan’s budget proposes federal spending of $41 trillion over the next decade -- hardly a draconian approach to budgeting.

Fundamentally, Ryan’s budget recognizes the reality President Obama and his Democratic colleagues in the Congress absolutely refuse to acknowledge: We do have a spending problem. It then proposes what is to the Democrats, unthinkable: reducing spending rather than increasing taxes. The Democrats’ blind and absolute adherence to a philosophy of addressing the budget deficit by seeking ways to increase revenues (“taxes”) thus leads Obama’s Party to refuse to even consider Ryan’s proposal as a collection of ideas from which to negotiate; to them, it is seen as nothing more than an infected bed sheet during the Black Plague -- something to be burned and buried.

Some among the chattering class have been quick to reject the Ryan proposal because it does not address in detail every aspect of the federal budget morass that has given us $1.0 trillion-plus deficits every year in which this president has been in office. Of course, had Ryan’s initial plan, as unveiled yesterday, included every detail of an overhaul of our current income tax and entitlement systems -- systems Rube Goldberg would be proud to claim as his own -- the congressman’s detractors would have scoffed that the plan was “too complex” to work.

Central, of course, to the Democrats’ knee-jerk rejection of the Ryan plan is that it contemplates and incorporates an approach to healthcare reform fully at odds with the sacred cow that is “ObamaCare.”

This alone dooms the plan to the graveyard into which that political party throws any proposal founded on the notion of individual choice rather than government mandate.

Hopefully, Republicans in the Congress -- including the leadership -- will run with the Ryan Plan. It is worthy of adoption not because every member and every faction within the GOP agrees with its every element; rather, the plan should be employed as a visible and strong framework with which to construct for the American people a workable, balanced federal budget within a realistic timeframe that also incorporates vital reforms of the myriad government programs that have been permitted to grow uncontrollably and led us to the brink of fiscal collapse.

Paul Ryan has teed up a worthy proposal; let’s now see if the GOP hits it down the fairway or whiffs it.

Facebook bans conservative blogger for link she did not post

In fact, Sori said, she did not even have access to the Internet at the time the link was posted to "Barracuda Brigade for Our American Girl! 2012," a Facebook fan page for the Barracuda Brigade blog, and she did not learn of the ban until much later in the day when she tried to check Facebook while at her dentist's office.

Early Tuesday morning, all of the administrators for the page received a notice that Facebook had removed an anti-Islamic post the social media site found objectionable.

“Just think, if THE CRUSADES had not ever stopped, we wouldn't be having to put up with stinkin' Muslims in the world and Obama would have never been born," the post said, with a link to an article at Bare Naked Islam that contains a graphic image of a young boy who was decapitated. The image was not posted on the Facebook page. (Note: We did not provide a link due to the graphic nature of the image.)

Some of the administrators were blocked for anywhere from 3-30 days, said page owner Alicia Fix Luke, who was also banned for a short period.

Other administrators escaped punishment, while one moderator was banned for seven days. Moderators of Facebook pages cannot post links, according to Facebook's definition of the various administrator roles.

At first, none of the administrators owned up to the post, but one of them eventually admitted to posting the link, telling Luke in a message that he would "make no apologies" for it.

In his message to Luke, John L. Sulak said that "no threats were made" and the post did not contain pornography.

"So, Facebook, in all their politically correct wisdom 'decided' they did not like this. Yet Muslims can post death threats to non-believers all over Facebook and the net and nothing happens," he wrote.

Sulak said Facebook blocked him for 24 hours, but that is no consolation to Sori and others who were punished by the social media giant for a post they had no part of. Worse yet, while others are no longer blocked, Sori said late Wednesday afternoon that she is still banned for 28 days.

"Talk about targeting and selective enforcement," she said.

In a message to Facebook, Luke said the site "runs a 'Walking Dead' game where the 'beheading' of zombies is not only common place, it’s required for advancement in the game. The images in the game, endorsed and run by Facebook; are dramatically more graphic than the picture in our posting," which she described as a factual story of an actual event.

Sori says that Facebook's action amounts to censorship based on her conservative point of view.

For months, conservatives have complained bitterly about the treatment they have received from Facebook, and many believe they are the victim of viewpoint discrimination.

Recently, the fan page for another conservative blog was targeted by Facebook for closure over something posted by one of the site administrators, but Facebook relented and apologized after Fox News' Todd Starnes reported the incident.

As a result, sites like WePluribUS and Tea Party Community have sprung up, giving conservatives a "free speech" alternative to Facebook.

"Habemus Papam" ("We have a Pope") 
By: Diane Sori

Today, the Holy Roman Catholic Church and Vatican City were aglow in pageantry...beautiful crimson robes...the Swiss Guard...trumpets and prayers...and the majestic bells of St. Peter's Basilica...all heralding the rise of the white smoke from a chimney of the Sistine Chapel signaling that a new Pope had been elected.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was named spiritual leader of the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics. The new 76 year old Pope, the first from the Americas, comes from a part of the world with 483 million Catholics...about 40% of the church's faithful. Choosing the name Francis, Bergoglio honors 12th century Saint Frances, a man know for his simple lifestyle and dedication to 'works of mercy' and shows that Bergoglio wants to unite the church (Franciscans have been traditional rivals of Jesuits over the centuries).

But this man came out of nowhere for he was NOT the favorite going in or even in the group of front runners. Coming in second in 2005 before he bowed out of the running, Bergoglio was chosen following the resignation of Benedict XVI (the first pontiff to resign in 600 years), because he appealed to conservatives in the College of Cardinals, as he held strong against liberalizing trends within the Jesuit order while standing firmly for core doctrine like those before him, and because he appealed to moderates as a continuing symbol of the church's commitment to helping the poor in the developing nations of the world.

And it seems Bergoglio is a pastoral person, a man aware of what life is about. Extremely down to earth and humble, Bergoglio was also chosen because he relates so well to the people...regular folks NO different than you or I. This man rides the bus, cooks his own meals, regularly visited the slums that surround Argentina's capital, and is known for being a man who leads a simple life without the trappings of excess, a man who lives in a small apartment outside Buenos Aires proper, a man who refused to use a platform to elevate himself above the cardinals standing with him as he was introduced to the world, a man who instead of blessing the crowd first, showed humility as he bowed his his head and asked the crowd to pray for him. "Let us say this prayer, your prayer for me, in silence," he told the crowd.

Announced by French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran with the Latin words "Habemus Papam" ("We have a Pope") the new Holy Father, the 266th Pope and the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years, appeared on the Vatican balcony dressed in traditional white papal vestments, and blessed the crowd in St. Peter's Square, estimated to be more than 100,000 people. "Let's pray always for each other. Let's pray for the whole world. May there be a great brotherhood," Pope Francis said in Italian as he even spoke of the lasting brotherhood between Catholics and Jews.

His words were Evangelical like in their simple message...yet powerful in their humility of prayer, the new Pope Frances nevertheless has a tough job ahead of him as the church's recent very public crises show that times have changed and that secrets can no longer be hidden from public view. Pope Francis must restore the trust that has been missing for millions of lapsed Catholics and he must re-energize the base of the faithful. Will this new Pope reform the Catholic Church or will he keep the status quo...will he embrace differences or will he adhere to the rigid orthodoxy of the past...only time will tell as he faces a church yearning for reform yet the institution itself still seems tied to the past.

But for today the Vatican put on her finest as the world...Catholic and non-Catholic alike...watched, for today the majesty...the pageantry...the grandeur of it all honored NOT only the new Holy Father but also honored the faithful for today the man who would lead them was chosen, and if nothing else he deserves our prayers and well wishes for his job will be hard and his path strewn with obstacles. But with faith and God's guidance maybe this most humble of men will bring the church into the 21st century while maintaining all that is good about its past.

I wish you well Pope Francis and may God bless you on this exciting journey.