Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

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Posts Tagged ‘disaster’

A massive foreign aid failure

Posted by Richard on January 13, 2011

Today is the first anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. According to the news report I saw tonight, over $11 billion in foreign aid has poured into Haiti since then. And a million people are still living in tattered tents. What's wrong with this picture?

I find it difficult to believe that, in Haiti, you can't build a permanent structure — at least a simple one-room cabin that could shelter a family of four — for a thousand bucks or so. $11 billion amounts to $11,000 for each homeless man, woman, and child, or $44,000 for each family of four. Heck, that would buy a decent 2500 sq. ft. home in Detroit.

So why are a million people living in tattered tents? Where has the money gone? Is there any kind of accurate accounting for how the funds have been spent? 

I doubt it. What matters to the people in charge isn't the outcome, but the intentions

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Turning an accident into a catastrophe

Posted by Richard on June 28, 2010

In a Financial Post column, Lawrence Solomon provided much more detail about the Dutch offers for help in the Gulf oil spill that I posted about ten days ago. It's clear now that the Obama administration has turned an accident into a catastrophe that could have been averted (emphasis added):

Some are attuned to the possibility of looming catastrophe and know how to head it off. Others are unprepared for risk and even unable to get their priorities straight when risk turns to reality.

The Dutch fall into the first group. Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. “Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour,” Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn’t capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana’s marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.

… The U.S. government responded with “Thanks but no thanks,” remarked Visser, despite BP’s desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer — the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment — unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn’t good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per millionif water isn’t at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it.

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer — but only partly. Because the U.S. didn’t want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

There's more. Far superior Dutch dredging vessels aren't being permitted to build protective berms. Instead, the Dutch have been asked to train Americans to do the work. The Dutch are perplexed.

To be fair, Solomon noted that the US also turned down Dutch help with the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. "Not invented here" syndrome and an inability to get priorities straight aren't unique to the Obama administration. Although I'd argue that in the wake of this unprecedented accident, they've taken insane environmentalism, protectionism, and loyalty to their labor union base to new heights. Or depths, depending on your perspective. 

(HT: Carpe Diem)

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Electronic Armageddon

Posted by Richard on June 22, 2010

The National Geographic Channel's Explorer program is re-airing "Electronic Armageddon" tonight at 6 PM EDT. The episode is about a threat that could knock out 70% or more of America's power grid for months and permanently destroy countless electronic devices:

What do future presidents need to know about existential dangers this country could face? Explorer investigates the science behind the dangers of a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse, or HEMP. Picture an instantaneous deathblow to the vital engines that power our society, delivered by a nuclear weapon designed not to kill humans but to attack electronics. What could happen if an electromagnetic pulse surged to earth, crippling every aspect of modern society's infrastructure?

An EMP event could be caused naturally by the sun, or it could be caused by a terrorist or rogue state attack. Imagine, for instance, a nuclear Iran putting one of those 1500-mile missiles it's been testing on a freighter, sailing it to somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, and firing it to create an EMP high over the heartland. 

If you miss the show and want to know more about the EMP threat, visit EMPACT America. You'll find lots of information and resources, including the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. There are also several interesting discussions of this issue in the email archives (AprilJuly 2009) of ACT! for America, the activist arm of the American Congress for Truth. This is one of them.

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Change! Dutch offer of help with oil spill accepted!

Posted by Richard on June 17, 2010

The Obama administration has now accepted one of the thirteen offers of help with the oil spill cleanup from foreign countries, a mere 54 days after the offer was made (emphasis added):

Three days after the Gulf oil rig explosion, the Netherlands offered to send in oil skimmers to pump oil off of the surface of the ocean. The Obama Administration turned them down because they were not 100% efficient and small amounts of oil would be pumped back into the Gulf with the excess water. EPA regulations do not allow for residue water to contain any oil. So rather than use equipment that was not 100% efficient the Obama Administration chose to let all of the oil run into the Gulf. This is not just bad policy, it is criminal.

Since the Obama Administration turned down assistance from The Netherlands at least 125 miles of Louisiana coastline has been ruined by the BP oil spill. Tar blobs began washing up on Florida’s white sand beaches near Pensacola days ago. And, crude oil has also been reported along barrier islands in Alabama and Mississippi.

According to The Examiner, the Dutch offer was to fly in the skimmer arms for mounting on American ships, not to send Dutch ships. So apparently I was wrong to suggest that the administration refused the offer because of the Jones Act and the administration's ties to labor unions. The refusal was instead due to the administration's mindless adherence to dumb EPA regulations and its utter stupidity (emphasis added):

As of June 8th, BP reported that they have collected 64,650 barrels of oil in the Gulf. That is only a fraction of the amount of oil spilled from the well. That is less than one day’s rated capacity of the Dutch oil skimmers.

Turning down the Dutch skimmers just shows a total lack of leadership in the oil spill. To just leave the oil in the water because regulations do not allow you to pump slightly polluted oil back into the ocean is just plain stupid. The small amount of oil pumped back into the ocean with the Dutch system is tiny droplets of suspended oil that will be quickly broken down by naturally occurring bacteria.

Well, at least they've wised up. And it took them less than two months. 

Still, does the phrase "a day late and a dollar short" ring a bell? 

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Refusing foreign help with oil spill cleanup

Posted by Richard on June 16, 2010

The President's first Oval Office address, on Day 57 of the Gulf oil spill, was mercifully brief. But it was also pretty light on content. Stephen Green summarized one of its main points nicely: "Hurricanes are easy. Leaks are hard."

The President insisted that his administration is in complete control and right on top of this thing, and that they've got the best scientists and experts advising them. But he failed to explain why the administration ignored the experts' advice — and in fact misrepresented it — regarding the offshore drilling moratorium announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

There was the predictable pitch for a "new energy economy" — the absurd argument that the government can create jobs for everyone and make us all better off by forcing families and businesses to switch to energy sources costing up to ten times as much as coal and oil.

The President also didn't explain why his administration has turned down a baker's dozen offers of help from foreign governments that have the equipment and expertise to greatly speed the oil cleanup. But the Heritage Foundation has an explanation: 

… Just three days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the Dutch government offered to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms and proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands. LA Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) supported the idea, but the Obama administration refused the help. Thirteen countries have offered to help us clean up the Gulf, and the Obama administration has turned them all down.

According to one Dutch newspaper, European firms could complete the oil spill cleanup by themselves in just four months, and three months if they work with the United States, which is much faster than the estimated nine months it would take the Obama administration to go at it alone. The major stumbling block is a protectionist piece of legislation called the Jones Act which requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens. But, in an emergency, this law can be temporarily waived, as DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff did after Katrina. Each day our European allies are prevented from helping us speed up the cleanup is another day that Gulf fishing and tourism jobs die.

Now, why do you suppose such an internationalist would blow off all those offers of help from our European allies and insist on us going it alone? Why would he refuse to temporarily suspend a stupid 90-year-old protectionist law at the cost of greatly increasing the damage to the Gulf Coast environment and the livelihoods of its residents? Two words: labor unions. 

Or maybe Rush Limbaugh is right, and the Obama administration doesn't want a quick resolution to the problem. Maybe this is another one of those fortuitous (for them) crises that Rahm Emanuel doesn't want going to waste. It's an opportunity to further extend the reach of the federal government, to tightly regulate and control another significant sector of the economy, to ram through "cap-and-tax" or something similar.

Or maybe it's just incompetence and ineptness.

Stupid? Evil? Or simply in the pocket of the labor unions? I don't know. But I can't think of a fourth alternative. 

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The tragedy that was virtually ignored

Posted by Richard on May 12, 2010

For five days, I've tried to write about the horrific 1000-year flood that inundated middle Tennessee and portions of Kentucky and Alabama, and that virtually destroyed the entire city of Nashville when the Cumberland River rose 48 feet. And about the shameful behavior of the national news media and the Obama administration with regard to this disaster.

But I've been a bit under the weather, and somewhat preoccupied, and I'm just not going to get it done. So I'll simply ask you to watch the two videos below. And read this. And this.

What happened in Nashville and the thousands of square miles that were flooded was a tragedy. The media's handling of the story was an outrage.

If you can spare a few bucks, please donate to the Nashville Red Cross or one of the other relief organizations mentioned at the end of the second video. Thank you.


[YouTube link]


[YouTube link]

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