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May 24, 2006

For the Wall Before He Was Against It

It's hard to separate reality from parody where John Kerry is concerned. Here is his position on the construction of a border wall between the US and Mexico:

Sen. John Kerry joined most of his Democratic colleagues last week in voting to build a wall along 370 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border.

But he now says that after the wall is built it should be taken down as soon as possible.

"I voted for it," Kerry acknowledged Friday while speaking to the New England Council breakfast.

But in quotes picked up by the Boston Herald, the Massachusetts Democrat added: "If I were making the long-term decision, I’d announce, you know, hopefully it’s a temporary measure, and we can take it down as soon as we have enough people" to guard the border.

Unbelievable. (Hat tip to Alarming News.)

May 24, 2006 at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006

More on the Arsenic and Old Lace Killers

Today's LAT has another article detailing the scams of the alleged old lady murderers. Evidently they were very familiar with the ways of life insurance companies and were very aggressive in asserting their claims.

Today's WaPo also picks up on the story.

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May 23, 2006 at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2006

On Getting 'Heathered'

The former fiancee of the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. McCartney has an open letter in the Sunday Times commiserating with the former Beatle about what it was like to be Heathered. Priceless.

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May 21, 2006 at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

An Old-fashioned Blockade Better Than Bombs?

It is no secret that I'm against letting the current Iranian government get their hands on nuclear weapons. As far as I'm concerned, Iran has been at war with the US since the Teheran embassy invasion back in 1979. We've just been ignoring it, including their role in the Beirut Marine barracks bombing in 1983, in the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, the Revolutionary Guard's attacks on US flagged shipping in the Arabian Gulf in 1987, and their support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. But ignoring a nuclear armed Iran in the hopes that they can be deterred would be, in my view at least, foolhardy.

So far there has been a lot of speculation about the "Begin Option" -- a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear assets like Israel's 1981 destruction of Saddam Hussein's Osiraq reacter. However, there are a number of significant drawbacks to this approach:

  1. We don't know where all of Iran's nuclear facilities are located.

  2. Successful raids against hardened underground targets would require a large number of aircraft sorties and necessitate preemptive attacks to destroy Iran's air force and air defense capabilities, which are widely dispersed.

  3. Destruction of nuclear facilities in or near populated areas would likely produce (possibly significant) civilian casualties and release radioactive materials into the environment.

  4. Any military action against Iran might rally nationalistic elements behind the (generally unpopular) mullah regime.

Of course, the best solution would be for the UNSC to impose tough economic sanctions against Iran. However, this is unlikely, since Russia has important trade ties with Iran and China needs access to Iranian crude. But there still may be another way to impose sanctions on Iran.

Naval Blockade

Maybe I've been reading too many Aubrey/Maturin books, but an old-fashioned naval blockade might be an effective alternative to bombing. (The last US naval blockade was against Cuba during JFK's presidency, and there is some controversy about how good an idea that was.) This blockade could be used to both block oil exports and interdict all imports (possibly other than food and medicines). Stopping Iran's oil exports would cut off the major source of the mullah's revenues, and put great pressure on their already weak economy. (According to the US Energy Information Administration, oil accounts for "around 80-90 percent of total export earnings and 40-50 percent of the government budget.") In addition, preventing imports of machinery and industrial materials would slow development of their nuclear weapons infrastruction. (Iran, oddly enough, imports $4 billion per year in gasoline and other refined products because of a shortage of domestic refinery capacity.)

Blockading Iranian oil exports would, of course, have significant economic impacts throughout the world. Iran currently exports 2.7 million barrels of oil per day (mbd), or approximately 3.2% of world production and consumption. The leading buyers of Iranian crude are Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy and France, who collectively account for more than 80% of Iran's oil sales. But they would not be the only ones affected: cutting off Iranian oil could potentially drive the world market price of crude oil to $100 per barrel or more, at least in the short term.

To lessen the international political backlash against these higher prices, the US administration could offer to, say, voluntarily reduce US oil imports by half of the world shortfall, or 1.35 mbd. The US currently imports about 12.4 mbd, so this would be equal to a nearly 11% reduction in US oil imports or a little more than a 6% reduction in US oil demand of nearly 21 mbd. According to the DOE's latest estimate of US energy price short-term elasticities, US oil prices would have to increase by more than 60% to result in a 6% reduction in US oil demand. Alternatively, the US could release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which currently holds 689 million barrels of crude. This could replace 50% of total Iranian exports for more than 16 months without requiring any increase in domestic prices or decreases in demand. Obviously, smaller oil releases from the SPR could be combined with higher crude prices to allow the US to offset the loss of Iranian exports on world markets for a longer period of time.

The real challenge to imposing a blockade of Iran would be the risk of confronting third party vessels who wanted to challenge the blockade. For example, how would the Chinese government react if US Marines were to board a Chinese flagged tanker to prevent it from entering Iranian waters? Would Russia or China try to challenge the blockade with their Navies? Would the US be willing to risk war with one of these great powers to maintain the pressure on Iran?

I don't have answers to any of these questions, but if the alternatives to a blockade are either accepting an islamic republic armed with nuclear weapons or embarking upon a bloody air war with Iran to destroy their nuclear facilities, I think the idea merits further exploration.

May 20, 2006 at 05:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

Kick'em when they're down department

Slate's press critic, Jack Shafer, really doesn't like former NYT executive editor Howell Raines' new memoir. Seems like Raines' book reads just like the paper he used to run: facts which get in the way of the message are simply ignored.

May 19, 2006 at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Creepy

A couple of old ladies in LA apparently took out multiple life insurance policies on homeless men who were then run and over and killed in pedestrian "accidents." LAPD Det. Dennis Kilcoyne had this to say about the pair:

Our first thought was … they would leave the actual dirty work to someone else. We're not so sure about this anymore…. This is pretty evil."

Arsenic and Old Lace minus Cary Grant and the cuteness. Ugh.

Update

The LAT has a follow-up story with more details on the case. The cops suspect that there may have been other victims.

May 19, 2006 at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2006

QOTD: Carrots? We don't need no stinkin' carrots!

Do you think you are dealing with a 4-year-old child to whom you can give some walnuts and chocolates and get gold in return? They say they want to offer us incentives. We tell them: Keep the incentives as a gift for yourself. We have no hope of anything good from you.



- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Look for the stick sometime in the spring of 2007.

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May 18, 2006 at 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 17, 2006

The Dream That Other People Dream

Science fiction legend Ray Bradbury has "An ode to immigrants" in today's Opinion Journal. Here is an excerpt:

. . . Refuse to see
We be what all the world would like to be.
Because we hive within this scheme
The obvious dream is blind to us.
We do not mind the miracle we are,
So stop our mouths with curses.
While all the world rehearses
Coming here to stay.
We busily make plans to go away. . .

May 17, 2006 at 06:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006

Agent Enzo's Secret Life of Crime

Jeffrey Fleishman and Richard Winton have a great feature in today's LAT delving into Stefan Eriksson's shady past. It is mighty compelling reading.

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May 15, 2006 at 07:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 12, 2006

The Healing Power of the Law

The threat of incarceration miraculously heals a California woman's paralysis. Perhaps "the Sheriff" of California disability law, Jarek Molski, can represent her. For more on the troubled (but fascinating) Mr. Molski, read this piece by Abraham Hyatt in the San Luis Obispo County New Times.

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May 12, 2006 at 07:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack