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Society and Morals, National Security, Environment

There have been a number of issues, other than politics, that I wanted to comment on but do not justify a solitary post. Therefore, I am publishing four of my priceless opinions in a single post. (Sorry about the long delay since the last posting. Things have been a bit hectic.)

1. Green Goddess.  Well, it's now been two years of our esteemed president's effort to create so-called green jobs. Approximately $90 billion in economic stimulus funds have been expended into clean-energy technologies, including weatherization, wind, solar power, advanced automotive battery technology and others. President Obama pledged to create 5 million "green collar" jobs during the election campaign. ( I know, another campaign promise!)

To date, the White House admits that only 225,000 jobs have been created and that's by their numbers. That figures out to $400,000 per job, not much of a return on investment. The problem is as I have stated in previous blogs. In comparison to fossil fuels, solar, wind and biomass are woefully inefficient and costly. The reason is deceptively simple. Energy creation requires heat, and the best way to create heat is to burn something containing lots of carbon, like coal.

Solar power relies on silicon solar cells in various configurations. Their efficiency is generally low--less than 25%--even the new thin-film silicon cells. The solar cell relies on the photoelectric effect, where photons of light knock electrons loose in a silicon semiconductor. Most of the photons miss and the electrons struggle to pass out of the silicon chip into an external circuit. This is a messy business electronically, with lots of energy wasted. Wind is unreliable except on the top of Mount McKinley and biomass is a poor source of combustable carbon. (Yes, it creates its own dreaded carbon footprint.)

If your goal is to create jobs, there are much more productive ways to do that. If your goal is to throw away borrowed taxpayer-obligated money, then it's a pretty efficient process.

2. Raptor.  I noted in a prior blog that the Obama administration had canceled the F-22 Raptor, the best multi-role fully-stealthy fighter in the world, at 186 aircraft, less than half the projected USAF needs. Because of the unique nature of this marvelous aircraft (It incorporates specialized antennas imbedded in the wings to intercept radar waves and redirect them harmlessly into space), resumption of production would not be feasible.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley has recently announced that the F-22 tooling would be purchased from Lockheed-Martin at an unspecified cost. However, lest anyone be misled, this will not allow resumption of production. There are specialized production techniques and skills that are/will be gone. This tooling purchase will allow only limited production of replacement parts--not all, like those wings--to sustain the fleet past the 2020's. The Rand Corporation has estimated production restart costs at $17 billion to $18 billion, clearly prohibitive.

Both China and Russia are frantically developing their own stealthy fighter aircraft. I am not aware of any production limitations in their programs.

3. Scan Me, Harry!  I have previously commented on the problems associated with the full-body scanners being expeditiously installed under TSA mandate in airports throughout the country. There have been medical commentaries warning that the backscatter X-Ray radiation employed is not as harmless as the TSA says. It is ionizing radiation and can damage cell DNA in and under the skin, increasing the risk of melanoma.

No foreign nation is instituting the kind of program we are. Italy, for example, has decided to drop their scanner use in its airports. Israel is laughing at us. But now, there is another fly in the soup. It turns out that Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security (HSA) Secretary, who strongly promoted the purchase and installation of these scanners, may have had a little conflict of interest. What our crack investigative media failed to point out was that Mr. Chertoff has a security consulting firm, the Chertoff Group, that worked closely with RapiScan, one of the only two manufacturers of these scanners.

In addition, L3 Communications, the other manufacturer, employs Linda Daschle, the wife of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, as a lobbyist. Also, eight members of Congress own stock in L-3. The largest Congressional stockholder is John Kerry, who owns somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million of the stuff. All have denied any undue influence.

Public service has its rewards.

4. Irony.  Finally, somewhat unnoticed was the fact that this last weekend, specifically January 22, was the 40th anniversary of the issuance of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand. Since that time many millions of babies have been aborted. In 2005, according to the CDC, 800,000 legal abortions were performed, most by Planned Parenthood at $400 a pop.

It absolutely amazes and confounds me that a pregnant woman can walk around proudly wearing a T-shirt with a big arrow pointing down at her belly, with the caption, BABY IN HERE! Yet, if the baby is not wanted, it is a non-entity that can be killed and discarded. I have referred to this as magical thinking, and that it certainly is. (I am not going to comment on the "Philadelphia Horror." I don't have the words to decribe this abomination. Google it if you want to read the story.)

But to the irony. Our esteemed daily newspaper on Sunday, January 23rd, one day after the Roe v. Wade anniversary, initiated a new feature series on infant mortality in the inner city, entitled "Empty Cradles." In the extensive coverage the writers bemoaned the fact that 501 babies died in Wisconsin in 2009. This is sad and certainly justifies attention. The newspaper is to be commended for its concern. But, I'm sorry, beginning this series--"Empty Cradles"-- within one day of the Roe v. Wade anniversary strikes me as huge and tragic irony.

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