Archive for April, 2011

NATO Slaughters Gaddafi’s Youngest Son, Three Grandchildren [Update]

Now, if I were an Arab dictator, I would consider the fact that Khadaffi had given up his nuclear weapons in the Bush era, and that left him wide open for the Obama era aggression. But that’s just me. I’m sure that the various dictators, mullahs and brutes won’t come to that conclusion at all.

Update: BTL beat me to the story again – twice today! So I have removed the media report and have left only my comments.

Longtime readers of this blog realize that I am not a fan of any of the Arab/Muslim dictators. I think that they are beneath contempt. However, I can’t figure out why we’re going after Gaddafi and Mubarak, not Asad, and not Achmadenijiad. It’s crazy.

If you assume that we want a world with less violence and less terrorism, our behavior seems counterproductive to say the least. It looks to me like Obama misunderestimated Ghaddafi.

- Aggie

Comments (1)

Atta Boy

Why don’t I feel the thrill of victory?

A Nato air strike in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, has killed the son of the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, a government spokesman has said.

Colonel Gaddafi himself was in the large residential villa which was hit by the strike, the spokesman added, but he was unharmed.

His son Saif al-Arab was killed, as well as three of his grandsons.

Journalists say the building was extensively damaged and one unexploded bomb remains at the site.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the villa was attacked “with full power.”

“The attack resulted in the martyrdom of brother Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, 29 years old, and three of the leader’s grandchildren,” he said.

“The leader with his wife was there in the house with other friends and relatives, the leader himself is in good health, he wasn’t harmed.”

“This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country,” the spokesman added.

Dang it, how many kids of this guy do we have to kill before he gets the message? (All of them, I’m sure.) I guess that’s the way it is in war. You try to kill the other guy, and sometimes his grandkids get in the way. Bummer.

And Obama’s nowhere near the scene of the crime, isn’t that neat? He’s like Professor Moriarty, palpable in all crimes, yet invisible. This is one of those times when “leading from behind” has its advantages.

Seriously for a moment, I have supported Israeli strikes on Palestinian terrorists even when children have been unintentionally harmed or killed. Human shields are outlawed for terrorists as much as they are for more law-abiding folk. But maybe President Obama isn’t made of the same stuff. (Maybe?) Maybe he isn’t made to be a leader, from behind or anywhere else. Maybe he can’t live with the consequences of his decisions. NATO would have known of the possibility, even likelihood, of killing more than just Qaddafi, but they took a shot. In war, once you define your objective, you have to, even if later you may have wished you hadn’t. Which is why Obama wants nothing to do with Libya. Afghanistan and Iraq, where killing and cruelty still take place, are Bush’s wars; Libya would be his. Qaddafi figured His Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama, didn’t have the gonads, and he figured right.



Two readers have mentioned recentl problems with posting comments. This happens from time to time, even to us (though we have our ways around it). If this is an epidemic, let me know. We’ve had to block some very persistent spammers, sometimes by blacklisting certain words or combinations of letters. That might be one reason. Pure mechanical cussedness would be another.

One approach is simply to write a different comment and see if that goes through. If you want your voice heard as is, feel free to send it as an email (though I only check site email maybe twice a day), and we’ll post it, even under your own name.

Also, we butt up against our monthly bandwidth limit more often than I like, and I’m thinking of ways around that. One approach is to limit the number of posts visible on the first page before you have to click for earlier entries. As long as our readers understand that Aggie and I can throw up (poor choice of words, or maybe not) as many as 15 posts in a day, and that clicking to a second page does not mean you’re watching reruns of “Laverne and Shirley”. Alternatively, Aggie and I can exercise greater brevity… yeah, probably not.

Lastly, I am running off a version of WordPress so old, its code is written in Aramaic. I have to upgrade. One of these days. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll all survive.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a benevolent dictatorship to run.

Comments (1)

College of War

If the USA were smart (notice the use of the subjunctive), we’d pay a lot more attention to what happens in Israel:

Several Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, according to WikiLeaks documents obtained by Haaretz. The documents are published here exclusively.

The documents consist of personal dossiers of Palestinian prisoners held in Guantanamo on suspicion of belonging to al-Qaida or to radical Islamic organizations identified with al-Qaida. Some of them are diagnosed as suffering from depression and camp officials recommend supervising them closely for fear they would try to commit suicide.

For example, the dossier of a prisoner who was born in 1980 in a village in the southern Gaza Strip says he is being held in the “high risk” division for “health reasons.” The dossier describes him as suffering from personality disorders with “a long history of manipulative behavior and suicide threats.”

Another dossier tells the story of a detainee who was born in Gaza in 1965 and was seen as a senior al-Qaida activist. “The prisoner has probably been in Osama bin Laden’s company more than once,” the dossier says.

The documents indicate this prisoner was in charge of managing al-Qaida’s accounts for providing logistics for the organization’s combatants in Tora Bora, the mountainous region in Afghanistan where bin Laden and his men holed up in the last days of the Afghanistan war.

Nice neighbors, in other words.

Show of hands. Who thinks it’s significant that radical Islam has a hold on the Palestinians that they would be willing to leave hearth and home (or fire pit and hovel) to wage jihad, and that we’re holding at least a few of them years after their capture? Who thinks that’s newsworthy? Yeah, me too. As I’ve said before, Israel has gained from the WikiLeaks’ revelations, while every other country has suffered.

But I don’t think we’ve learned enough:

The conventional wisdom, especially in the US military, is that the IDF erred in several key areas during the Second Lebanon War. The IDF ceased training for high-intensity warfare. Perhaps more damagingly, the wisdom holds, the IDF adopted a new doctrine based on Effects-Based Operations (EBO), a doctrine that led IDF generals to abandon ground maneuver, and to believe they could defeat Hizbullah from the air. After the war, according to this approach, the IDF simply returned to previous understandings and doctrine, as shown in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9.

Unfortunately, the conventional wisdom that has coalesced in America around the recent IDF operations, based largely on “Back to Basics” and other CSI studies, comes from a superficial understanding of the IDF and of its performance during the two conflicts. These accounts inaccurately portray the IDF in 2006, and miss the nuanced but profound change it went through after the war in Lebanon. The IDF that went to war in 2006 was heavily influenced by societal pressure against accepting casualties and by a prevalent low-intensity conflict (LIC) mindset. Caught without a fully developed doctrine, its performance, while not uniformly bad, was often muddled and indecisive. The experience of the war in Lebanon led to new IDF concepts of maneuver and victory, on display in Cast Lead. The dominant narrative in America attributes the products of the societal and LIC pressures to a doctrine never adopted by the IDF, and fails to recognize the new IDF concepts. Left uncorrected, this narrative puts the United States defense community at risk of learning the wrong lessons from Israel’s recent campaigns.

My recollection is that the Israelis put off a ground offensive into Lebanon for too long. By the time they went in, it was hard-going, but they did make progress. It wasn’t Hezbollah that defeated them, but international pressure to make them stop beating the crap out of the bully who had started the fight. Israel retreated, and left the seized Lebanese territory in the hands of a UN force that acted with less authority than a mall cop. Hezbollah is now more armed than ever.

Whatever Israel learned, it would appear President Obama learned nothing. His left foot in, left foot out, hokey-pokey actions toward Libya prove that he doesn’t have the stomach for battle. Which is fine—but then don’t write checks with your mouth that your fists can’t cash.

“Leading from behind” is how its described. Isn’t that him all over.


Hamsters With Hobbies

Thanks to reader Judi for, in a different context, summing up the writers of this blog. A quick Google search suggests she coined it, but it could apply to no one more than either Aggie or me.

Thanks, Judi!


Is This What Hilary Clinton Meant When She Referred To The Syrian Dictator As A “Reformer”?

Must be.

Rights group:85 killed in latest round of fighting, over 500 killed since revolt began; sanctions target Assad’s brother Maher; Deraa resident: “It looks like [security forces] want to finish their campaign today.”

AMMAN – The Syrian government ordered more tanks into Deraa on Saturday and heavy gunfire was heard in the city as security forces tried to crush a revolt against President Bashar Assad, residents said.

Syrian troops and tanks first swept into Deraa on Monday to quell pro-democracy protests against Assad that have spread across the country of 20 million, posing the biggest challenge to his rule and prompting Western powers to impose sanctions.

Deraa, a southern city of 120,000 people, is the cradle of a six-week-old uprising which started with demands for more freedom and an end to corruption. It developed into a movement to overthrow Assad following a violent crackdown by authorities.

Residents said they could hear heavy gunfire, mostly from Deraa’s old quarter, which is situated on a hill near the Jordanian border and is mostly residential.

Mostly residential? Does that mean mostly civilian?

The Arab Spring is sort of like Recovery Summer – Total Fail.

- Aggie


Romney Speaks!

Forget complexity and nuance, single issues and conventional wisdom rule campaigns (at least from news cycle to news cycle). So, given that Mitt Romney is the default leader of the race for the Republican nomination (by virtue of his being the last man standing against McCain last time), and given that our state health care law bears his name (at a time when socialized medicine is a millstone around the neck of any candidate, including Obama), how does he expect to carry it off?

Let’s listen:

“I went to work to try and solve a problem,’’ Romney said. “It may not be perfect — by the way, it is not perfect.’’

The statement was in response to a question asked of the former Massachusetts governor after he delivered a short address that was equal parts patriotic fervor and attacks on President Obama’s economic policies. For many Republican voters, however, how Romney handles the health care question could determine the success of his expected candidacy.

“I was hoping I’d get that question,’’ Romney joked before launching into the reasons he backed the state efforts to vastly extend health care coverage when he was governor. Massachusetts, he contended, had to do something to control rising health care costs and persuade residents to buy insurance rather than go to emergency rooms for care.

“In my state, we were spending hundreds of millions of dollars giving out free care to people who could take care of themselves,’’ Romney said.

“Some parts of that experiment worked, some parts didn’t, some parts I’d change,’’ Romney said.

But as he defended the state plan, he again called for repeal of Obama’s national overhaul, saying it unfairly mandates a one-size-fits-all system on each state.

That’s not bad, I think. It certainly has elements of the truth. Whether it will satisfy the Republican primary voter (conservative, as the Democrat primary voter is moonbat), I have my doubts.

Not to defend Romney, but merely to provide context, this is a difficult state in which merely to be a Republican, much more to win office as one. We do elect Republican governors (Weld, Cellucci, Romney) to act as, well, governors on the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and its wanton ways. Once you’re in the corner office, there’s very little you can actually do, given the Democratic majority. God knows you can’t beat ‘em, so you might as well join ‘em.

But I don’t buy that any more than you do. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see how the Democrats would take a worthy goal like health care affordability and turn it into an obscenity. That’s what they do. And if you lent your support, as well as your name, to that obscene act, you deserve what you get.

But one last bit of context: this was years before the conservative backlash and the Tea Party and Chris Christie and Michele Bachmann. Even before Sarah Palin woke up the base. You go to political war with the political army that you have.

Just because RomneyCare became a model for ObamaCare doesn’t make Romney responsible for Obama/Pelosi/Reid’s cluster[bleep] of a bill. In fact, Romney was doing, however misguidedly, what we want states to do: experiment with solutions to their own problems. If we don’t like RomneyCare, that’s on us, and on us to remedy it.

The millstone may be too heavy for him to stay afloat, but I begin to see a possibility of him chipping away at it just enough to keep breathing. Eventually, we may grow more tired of it than he is.

I think Romney can beat Obama: in fact, I guarantee it. Winning the nomination will be the tough part.

Comments (3)

Israel Is A Happy Place [Update]

Update: Yikes! BTL had already covered this and I missed it. He gets up way too early… I have a slightly different take, so I’ll leave it up.

Some of you may wonder where I got the obscure story about some meaningless town near Sydney, Australia (see below) and their struggles with money and Jew hatred. “Aggie, where do you find this weird stuff?” you query.

Caroline Glick fills me in.

The beginning of this article is definitely worth a trip to the link. She points out the irrationality of giving the Palestinians anything in advance of the September vote at the UN. She pokes fun at Netanyahu and at all the Nervous Nellies who worry that the rest of the world hates Israel. (I say that we can’t change their hearts, only our Creator can do that, but in the mean time, we might as well enjoy life. And the Israelis are enjoying life.)

Happily, these warnings are completely ridiculous. UN General Assembly resolutions have no legal weight. Even if every General Assembly member except Israel votes in favor of a resolution recognizing “Palestine,” all the Palestinians will have achieved is another non-binding resolution, with no force of law, asserting the same thing that thousands of UN resolutions already assert. Namely, it will claim falsely that Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza are Palestinian territory to which Israel has no right. Israel will be free to ignore this resolution, just as it has been free to ignore its predecessors.

The threat of international isolation is also wildly exaggerated. Today, Israel is more diplomatically isolated than it has been at any time in its 63-year history. With the Obama administration treating the construction of homes for Jews in Jerusalem as a greater affront to the cause of world peace than the wholesale massacre of hundreds of Iranian and Syrian protesters by regime goons, Israel has never faced a more hostile international climate. And yet, despite its frosty reception from the White House to Whitehall, life in Israel has never been better.

According to the latest data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s economy grew 7.8 percent in the last quarter of 2010.

International trade is rising steeply. In the first quarter of 2011, exports rose 27.3%. They grew 19.9% in the final quarter of last year. Imports rose 34.7% between January and March, and 38.9% in the last quarter of 2010.

The Israel-bashing EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner. And even as Turkey embraced Hamas and Iran as allies, its trade with Israel reached an all time high last year.

These trade data expose a truth that the doom and gloomers are unwilling to notice: For the vast majority of Israelis the threat of international isolation is empty.

The same people telling us to commit suicide now lest we face the firing squad in September would also have us believe that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is the single greatest threat to the economy. But that lie was put paid this month with the demise of the Australian town of Marrickville’s BDS-inspired boycott.

Last December, the anti-Israel coalition running the town council voted to institute a trade, sports and academic boycott against Israel. Two weeks ago the council was forced to cancel its decision after it learned that it would cost $3.4 million to institute it. Cheaper Israeli products and services would have to be replaced with more expensive non-Israeli ones. [Heh. - Aggie]

Both Israel’s booming foreign trade and the swift demise of the Marrickville boycott movement demonstrate that the specter of international isolation in the event that Israel extricates itself from the Palestinian peace process charade is nothing more than a bluff. The notion that Israel will be worse off it Netanyahu admits that Abbas has again chosen war against the Jews over peace with us has no credibility.

SO WHAT is preventing Netanyahu and his colleagues in the government from acknowledging this happy truth? Two factors are at play here. The first is our inability to understand power politics. Our leaders believe that the likes of Sarkozy, Cameron and Merkel are serious when they tell us that Israel needs to prove it is serious about peace in order to enable them to vote against a Palestinian statehood resolution at the UN. But they are not serious. Nothing that Israel does will have any impact on their votes.

So what is the problem? The problem is the United States of America in the Age of Obama.

When the Europeans forge their policies towards Israel they are moved by one thing only: the US.

Since 1967, the Europeans have consistently been more pro-Palestinian than the US. Now, with the Obama administration demonstrating unprecedented hostility towards Israel, there is no way that the Europeans will suddenly shift to Israel’s side. So when European leaders tell Israelis that we need to convince them we are serious about peace, they aren’t being serious. They are looking for an excuse to be even more hostile. If Israel offers the store to Abbas, then the likes of Cameron, Merkel and Sarkozy will not only recognize “Palestine” at the UN, (because after all, they cannot be expected to be more pro-Israel than the Israeli government that just surrendered), they will recognize Hamas. Because that’s the next step.

… The only group of Israelis directly impacted by the BDS movement is the Israeli Left. Its members – from university lecturers to anti-Zionist has-been politicians, artists, actors and hack writers – are the only members of Israeli society who have a personal stake in a decision by their leftist counterparts in the US or Europe or Australia or any other pretty vacation/sabbatical spots to boycott Israelis. [This is a beautiful thing, as Martha would say. Do you realize how badly this group wanted Obama elected? Their dreams came true. - Aggie]

And because the movement threatens them, they have taken it upon themselves to scare the rest of us into taking this ridiculous charade seriously. ….

The time has come for the vast majority of Israelis who aren’t interested in the Nobel Prize for Literature or a sabbatical at Berkeley or the University of Trondheim to call a spade a spade. The BDS haters have no leverage. A degree from Bar-Ilan is more valuable than a degree from Oxford. And no matter how much these people hate Israel, they will continue to buy our technologies and contract our researchers, because Cambridge is no longer capable of producing the same quality of scholarship as the Technion. [I wonder if a degree from the Technion is more valuable than a degree from MIT? - Aggie]

I sure hope she’s right. it is such a happy image, isn’t it? I can tell you for sure that the economic malaise that we are suffering here in the US is absent from Israel. When I first visited, in the early ’70s, they were a poor country. You could feel it in the quality of food, particularly in the meats. Today, it is a thriving, happy place with all sorts of fascinating cuisines and an exciting culture built on the preferences of Jews who have fled there from all over the world. Good for them. I can think of no other people who deserve this good fortune more than the Israelis.

- Aggie

Comments (2)

The Face Of Jew Hatred In Australia

They wanted to boycott Israel, but it would cost too much money!

Don’t you just love the way these purer than the driven snow Lefties cling to their morals until said morals start to cost money? I won’t bother to quote, just go to the link. I am suppressing my desire to say snarky things about the Church of England, the British Commonwealth, and the history of antisemitism. But let the record show that they were delighted to dump on Israel until it turned out that it would cost them 3 million bucks. I wonder what the transition point is for the lovely Australian ethicists? Would they have boycotted Israel if it only cost two mill? Too high? One million? Half a million? How deep is their compassion and concern for human rights? I believe that boycott would have happened if the cost had not exceeded a pair of tickets to a “football” (soccer) match plus a couple of yummy Roo (kangaroo) burgers.

- Aggie


Very White of You

Aggie has followed the trend of the groups most loyal to Messiah Obama (which is very close to Massa Obama, when you think about it—if you think about it) being hurt, or at least unhelped, by his policies. Minorities, young people—it’s hard out there for the simps.

Here’s the latest:

Many of the groups that Obama needs to turn out most enthusiastically in 2012—particularly young people, African-Americans, and Latinos—are still suffering the most as the economy crawls back from the Great Recession. That dynamic looms like a crack in the foundation for Obama’s reelection, which relies on those groups surging to the polls in 2012 after their participation sagged even more than usual in the 2010 midterms.

The continued strain on the groups at the core of Obama’s coalition underscores the political stakes in his recent turn toward deficit reduction. Obama’s pledge to reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion over the next 12 years has allowed him to shift the debate from whether to reduce the deficit to how. That’s much stronger terrain for Obama and Democrats—as demonstrated by the sharp backlash many congressional Republicans faced in town halls this week over the GOP’s proposal to convert Medicare into a voucher (or premium support) system.

But many liberal strategists fear that Obama could win this battle and lose the war in 2012. These critics argue that the tactical benefits of embracing greater deficit reduction come at a high cost: By agreeing that Washington must tighten its belt, the president has essentially precluded additional large-scale government efforts to stimulate growth and create jobs. “You are really conceding whatever the growth we have is the growth you are going to run with—and maybe even a little less, because you are going to start cutting spending,” says veteran liberal activist Robert Borosage, codirector of the Campaign for America’s Future.

To Borosage and like-minded critics, that means Obama is consigning himself to relatively high levels of unemployment in 2012. The risk is especially great among the groups that Obama most needs to mobilize. In the latest federal figures, unemployment stood at 15.5 percent among African–Americans, 13.4 percent among young people, and 11.9 percent among Latinos. In each case, those figures are down since January but still higher than when Obama took office—and considerably higher than among whites (8.3 percent).

We white people with jobs are appreciative (even if we’re not going to vote for you), but we wonder what your base thinks of these numbers. Let us stipulate that they will still vote for you in overwhelming numbers—that’s what bases do—but the Peggy Josephs of the nation, who have learned to their regret that you won’t pay their mortgages, might rather stay home (if they still have a home) than turn out and vote for your sorry a**.

Rush has been saying recently that if the election were held today, Obama would lose in a landslide. He doesn’t say who would win, only that Obama would lose. Given the discouragement of these unemployment numbers, and the disillusionment of the independents (also documented in numbers), he’s probably right. But that may be only because there is no named opponent. Against actual opposition, his reelection has a real chance.

Comments (1)

Caroline Glick Reads Us


But we sure read her:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s response to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s peace deal with Hamas would be funny if it weren’t tragic. Immediately after the news broke of the deal Netanyahu announced, “The PA must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both.”

Netanyahu’s statement is funny because it is completely absurd. The PA has chosen.

The PA made the choice in 2000 when it rejected Israel’s offer of peace and Palestinian statehood and joined forces with Hamas to wage a terror war against Israel.

The PA made the choice in 2005 again when it responded to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza with a tenfold increase in the number of rockets and missiles it fired on Israeli civilian targets in the Negev.

The Palestinians made the choice in 2006, when they elected Hamas to rule over them.

They made the choice in March 2007 when Fatah and Hamas signed their first unity deal.

The PA made the choice in 2008 when Abbas rejected then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of statehood and peace.

The PA made the choice in 2010 when it refused to reinstate peace negotiations with Netanyahu; began peace negotiations with Hamas; and escalated its plan to establish an independent state without peace with Israel.

Now the PA has again made the choice by signing the newest peace deal with Hamas.

IN A real sense, Netanyahu’s call for the PA to choose is the political equivalent of a man telling his wife she must choose between him and her lover, after she has left home, shacked up and had five children with her new man.

It is a pathetic joke.

Glick’s point is that Israel has been made to feel that in order to win favor from the “international community” (or at least avoid its condemnation) it must concede and concede again to the Palestinians. Who have demonstrated no interest in concessions or even peace, only the total annihilation of the state of Israel.

Whereas once, she (and we) would have been content merely to point out the hypocrisy, unfairness, and bigotry in such a policy, now she (and we) offer a more vigorous response:

The time has come for the vast majority of Israelis who aren’t interested in the Nobel Prize for Literature or a sabbatical at Berkeley or the University of Trondheim to call a spade a spade. The BDS haters have no leverage. A degree from Bar-Ilan is more valuable than a degree from Oxford. And no matter how much these people hate Israel, they will continue to buy our technologies and contract our researchers, because Cambridge is no longer capable of producing the same quality of scholarship as the Technion.

And it is well past time for our leaders to stop playing this fool’s game. We don’t need anyone’s favors. Abbas has made his choice.

Now it is time for Netanyahu to choose.

Gotta love that put-down of Ox-bridge.

But what is true for Israel is also true for all of us. Why should we want to win the favor, or even avoid the opprobrium, of the people we expose here every day? You don’t like my conservatism? Let me introduce you to my representative above.


Bacon Tastes Good. Pork Chops Taste Good.

From Pulp Fiction to your breakfast table (well, maybe not some of you), via the Wall Street Journal:

Bobbie Jean Pope, the 81-year-old mother of C. Larry Pope of Newport News, Va., can’t afford her bacon.

“I said, ‘Mom, I’ll get you some bacon.’ And she goes, ‘I can’t afford y’all’s meat anymore! Why is y’all’s meat so expensive?’ And I said, ‘Mom, you ought to understand why it’s expensive—it’s ’cause our costs are so expensive.’”

Mr. Pope is the chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer by volume. He doesn’t mince words when it comes to rapidly rising food prices. The 56-year-old accountant by training has been in the business for more than three decades, and he warns that the higher costs may be here to stay.

He’s something of an evangelist about his trade: He boasts that Smithfield employs some 50,000 people, many of whom are high-school graduates and immigrants others would consider “hard to hire.” It’s a “good business” that “gives people a good start.”

It’s also a business under enormous strain. Some “60 to 70% of the cost of raising a hog is tied up in the grains,” Mr. Pope explains. “The major ingredient is corn, and the secondary ingredient is soybean meal.” Over the last several years, “the cost of corn has gone from a base of $2.40 a bushel to today at $7.40 a bushel, nearly triple what it was just a few years ago.” Which means every product that uses corn has risen, too—including everything from “cereal to soft drinks” and more.

What triggered the upswing? In part: ethanol. President George W. Bush “came forward with—what do you call?—the edict that we were going to mandate 36 billion gallons of alternative fuels” by 2022, of which corn-based ethanol is “a substantial part.” Companies that blend ethanol into fuel get a $5 billion annual tax credit, and there’s a tariff to keep foreign producers out of the U.S. market. Now 40% of the corn crop is “directed to ethanol, which equals the amount that’s going into livestock food,” Mr. Pope calculates.

Food price inflation isn’t a problem confined to America’s shores. “This ethanol policy has impacted the world price of corn,” Mr. Pope says. The Mexican, Canadian and European industries have “shrunk dramatically. . . . We have an unsustainable meat protein production industry,” he says. “We’re built on a platform of costs, on a policy that doesn’t make any sense!”

Nor does the science. The ethanol industry would supply only 4% of the nation’s annual energy needs even if it used 100% of the corn crop. The Environmental Protection Agency has found ethanol production has a neutral to negative impact on the environment. “The subsidy has been out there since the 1970s,” Mr. Pope says. “If they can’t make themselves into a viable economic model in 40 years, haven’t we demonstrated that this is an industry that shouldn’t exist?”

So what’s the solution? First, Mr. Pope says, get rid of the ethanol subsidies and the tariff. “I am in competition with the government and the oil industry,” he says. “It’s not fair.” Smithfield’s economists estimate corn prices would fall by a dollar a bushel if ethanol blending wasn’t subsidized. “Even the announcement that it is going away would see the price of corn go down, which would translate very quickly into reduced meat prices in the meat case,” he says. Imagine what would happen if the mandate and tariff were eliminated, too.

He also advocates lifting regulatory and tax burdens on business. “I fundamentally don’t understand the logic of corporate income taxes,” he tells me. “If I have a 35% tax, all I do is take that 35% tax and I transfer it into the price of bacon and the price of pork chops.”

He also foresees companies and farmers going out of business because they can’t pass the price increases along forever.

So, we have a policy that’s inflationary and detrimental to businesses and jobs—with no environmental impact except a negative one—yet it appears to be here to stay. I’d say that represents today’s conventional “wisdom”.

Comments (2)

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »